Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Richie Birkenhead: Part II

When I was in college in the mid to late nineties, I was in this girl’s dorm room, and she was apparently one of your biggest stalkers. She had a shrine to you on one of her walls. There were pictures of you in Underdog and Into Another, but what surprised me was she had a few pictures of you on a beach, wearing really weird stylish clothing with the super fly sunglasses and space age shoes. They were professionally shot. How did you get into modeling?

Richie: I didn’t. A friend of mine was the designer. She’s a British designer named Katharine Hamnett. It was her line. I never did any modeling before, or since. Terry Richardson, who is a New York photographer, was doing this campaign, and that whole campaign was having people that weren’t “models” model Katharine Hamnett clothes. We did a shoot at Coney Island. It was me, my girlfriend at the time, and a bunch of other people. He (Terry Richardson) was huge sort of a cult art/photographer guy. He still does a lot of fashion stuff, but he really pushes the envelope as far as sexuality and vulgarity and stuff.

How did it end with Chuck Treece? Was he out of the band before Underdog broke up?

Richie: Yeah. Underdog was a power trio for a while. We were the Rush of hardcore. He just bailed. He was getting kind of flakey, and you know, he didn’t live in New York. I forget exactly how it went down, but I think he got offered money to play drums for some Bad Brains shows. It was more money than we could give him at the time. But the band was sort of beginning the process of breaking up anyway, I guess, in hindsight. But yeah, he just kind of bailed on us. There were no hard feelings or anything. Guitarists for Underdog were kind of like drummers for Spinal Tap.

There was a bit of time between when the 7” and the LP came out. It seemed like it took forever for Vanishing Point to come out. Is there a story?

Richie: No, it was kind of laziness. We just loved touring and playing live. And then we were like “man, we got to put a record out one of these days.” So literally, I just started taking the phone calls from these small labels that wanted to put the record out, and I went to see Keith from Caroline Records. I think our whole deal was seven grand, or something. I basically knew nothing about the business at the time, and said yes, basically to the first label I decided to answer phone calls from. But yeah, it was basically just laziness. We enjoyed touring, and didn’t really care about getting into the studio to put stuff out. We just loved playing live.

How did the last unreleased Into Another record end up getting bootlegged? What was it called? Soul Control?

Richie: Actually, that was the working title. I’ve seen bootlegs of it on eBay where people got a lot of the song titles wrong. That album, we never finished mixing actually, so I don’t know how they got a hold of it. We each had a CD of rough mixes, so maybe someone duped one of those. I know that once, someone swore up and down to me that, someone that I knew, swore to me that he’d never copy it or let anyone ever hear it, and it wasn’t long after that I started seeing copies of it. But it could’ve been any one of us that leaked it to the wrong person. But yeah, it’s an unfinished record. It’s kind of a bummer that it got out there. I would love to see it re-released. We’re kind of working on that now, getting the rights back from Hollywood and finally mixing it and releasing it.

You used to live with Porcell. What’s one thing that a lot of people just don’t know about the guy?

Richie: I’m not sure what people don’t know, but he’s one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. He’s absolutely hilarious. Like side-splitting hilarious guy. He’s a very neat guy. Very meticulous guy. He takes incredible care of his…here’s something people may not know. I don’t know if he’s still this way, but he has phenomenal dental hygiene. The guy flosses multiple times a day and takes incredible care of his teeth. Better than anyone I’ve ever known.

Tell me about singing for the Captain Kangaroo children’s show.

Richie: Wow. We’re going back. My Mom is a composer of lyrics, songwriter, she writes Broadway musicals, and she used to write for children’s television shows. So, when I was very little, so she just asked if I wanted to sing some of the songs that she wrote for a television show, and I did. I got paid whatever scale was back then, and the money probably into my college fund or something.

Were you a regular on the show?

Richie: Well actually, it was my voice. They were like the first rock videos. They would have footage of horses running, and a song about horses with kids singing these things usually, sometimes adults. There was only a handful of people who sang for the show, and I was one of them.

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