Blake Richardson is a charming dude with a lot to share. His brash Carolina accent is inherently friendly and it’s hard not to feel at home whilst chatting with him. One of the most talented drummers in the world, he remains a surprisingly funny and always intelligent dude. Digging into his thoughts about what this life on the road has brought him was an interesting and humorous experience.
How the hell are you?
Doing great. Little on the tired side, three days left on the tour and I’m getting a little down. I’m getting old. I can’t do this as well as I used to! (Laughter)
What is it like starting to age and touring heavily?
It’s not so bad. I joke about how I’m old but I’m only thirty one. The drummer of Enslaved is almost fifty and he’s still killing it. If you see guys like that who are killing it, or the guys in Meshuggah who are also older, and they are doing better than they ever have. It shows you that it’s possible. There’s little things though like “My elbow used to not hurt after playing a show and now it does.” Little things like that bother you from time to time but it’s no big deal.
Have you had to adjust your life around that?
You start to trying to eat a whole hell of a lot better. I remember touring in my early twenties and being able to eat anything I wanted. I notice now that food affects me, I never used to have to do that. Now I try to get some decent food while I’m on the road.
That builds into something else I was curious about. Is Tommy’s kid still on the tour?
No. He was on the road for about a week when we were on the West Coast.
What was that like?
He was a road dog! I feel like I complain more than that little three year old kid. It’s funny because sometimes if we finished early he would be up front with his toys so we would have playtime before he went to bed. It had a family vibe and that was nice.
Was it weird being the band with a kid backstage?
It was at first. Even when Tommy told me he was having a kid, but that’s part of getting old man! Somebody in your band is going to take that first step and have a kid. It’s like when your friend has a kid or get married and it’s just like “Man that’s crazy!” but it’s awesome. It does remind you that you’re getting older, especially when I realize he’s already three! Time flies!
Obviously you’re playing really cerebral music, and what fascinated me about this new record is that you have this Yes-vibe that you don’t really get on other records. What spurred that blast to the past?
We always have really been keen on bands that had that sort of older prog style and current bands that throw some of that stuff in there. We are big fans of Pain of Salvation, and they will throw in touches of that. Dan our bass player is a huge Yes fan too, pretty much any riff you hear that sounds like Yes, Dan probably wrote it. It was always a direction we wanted to take to see how it would go.
Now I said Yes because it was the obvious choice, but where their other ones that came in?
King Crimson of course. Maybe not so much musically but rhythmically there is a lot of stuff I try to emulate that they do. Some of the wackier stuff reminds you of old Zappa.
Is that something we can expect more of in the future?
Maybe. It’s hard to tell. I never know what direction we’re going to go in. The next record might be heavier but it might be more progressive. We don’t know.
Correct me if I’m wrong but I’ve felt there’s been a shift from the heaviness in recent years…
I think there has been. I think we’ve always been a heavy band and we’ve always liked listening to heavy music, but getting older you lose the aggression you had when you’re younger. I still love that first BtBaM record. It doesn’t mean you don’t listen to heavy bands anymore it just means that playing it is not something that is as organic as it was when you were younger. It feels contrived in a way. If we don’t feel like playing heavy music then we won’t lie and do that. I honestly think that’s a part of getting older, that happens for a lot of people.
And that’s kind of the point of prog, for the musician to reflect the artist…
Yeah! That’s a great point. We’ve always had that mindset of wanting to see what this band was going to turn into and how it was going to evolve. We wanted each record to have its own sound while still playing what we wanted to play.
And that’s reminiscent of Enslaved!
Exactly! When you go through their discography you see this evolving change in their music from album to album. Even with stuff like Mayhem it’s sort of prog in a way because a lot of their records sound very different. I’ve always liked bands that do that and where their records don’t sound exactly the same. It gets old if its the same thing over and over again. Except for Cannibal Corpse. They can just keep going. It’s not exactly the same, but even the latest one has throwback riffs to really old Cannibal Corpse. They are the one contradiction. I never want them to get weird and change. That’s their thing. They’ve kept it real and stuck to what they know and do what they do.
I was a little surprised to hear you name drop Mayhem…
Musically I’m not a huge fan but I just thought it was cool that their albums are so dynamically eclectic. I’ve always been a fan of that. You’ll listen to one record and then flip a couple records forward and it’s totally different; it’s pretty crazy.
On a sillier note, a friend of mine interviewed someone in BtBaM a while back and said there was an issue with Tommy farting on stage…
It’s always going to be one guy for at least one show. Usually it’s Paul. It’s the vegans dude; those vegan farts are brutal. It’s usually Tommy or Paul, sometimes Dusty will get kind of wild. The other day it was me, I had some Thai food that jacked me up.
What are the odds of it happening?
100% chance that someone will at some point. The real question is whether it will be continual or not. Tommy will get off stage and be like “Damn Paul, you’re just ripping them!”
Have they not been able to pull you over to veganism?
Not full on veganism, but they know the best vegan spot to eat and a lot of times I will tag along and join in. Some of my favorite food that we’ve had on tour has been in vegan spots. But then like if I’m in Texas I will get barbecue.
What do you love so much about music?
I like that it’s an artistic outlet for a lot of people and it’s a great method of expression in which that a lot of people can appreciate, both on an emotional level and an artistic one, and I think that’s cool. I think it’s interesting when I meet people who don’t listen to music. That doesn’t happen often but I can’t wrap my mind around that concept. I can’t imagine someone not listening to something musical and enjoying it. I’ve met a few people like that but I think that’s a bizarre concept. I don’t know what my life would be like without music. It’s like considering life before man, or the earth, you can’t really think about it; it’s just there. It’s this weird thing that you can’t wrap your mind around.
Any final words of wisdom for me?
If you’re trying not to fart on stage don’t do falafel within thirty minutes of playing.