Marking his new album Cycling Music, Richard really will be cycling as he travels from gig to gig, taking in hometown Shoreham for a date at the Ropetackle on Thursday, May 1 at 7.30pm (tickets 01273 4644400 or www.ropetacklecentre.co.uk).
“The main piece is called Cycling Music which is 29 minutes long, and I am playing that live at all the gigs,” Richard said. “It’s live guitar and sequences and bike percussion. The frame, spokes, bell, all on playback, with me playing live.”
A love of cycling is at the heart of it all: “It takes me out of my comfort zone. I will go about 20 miles for a ride, not very far. I haven’t got a mountain bike. I have to stay on the roads and the tracks and the hills around Shoreham.”
But it’s great training. As he says, he’s over 50 now and was waking up to aches and pains. Take up cycling, and the aches and pains disappear.
Now he’s taking it up a few levels. His Cycling Music UK tour will see Richard clock up 1,000 miles, he reckons, as goes from venue to venue, with his entire stage show, guitar and lights packed into panniers and a bike trailer. The show equipment is high tech, lightweight and low energy, he says.
“The projection stand is going to be my guitar case.”
Behind it all is a fairly serious message – and a bid to reduce his carbon footprint.
In his professional career, Richards estimates he travels in excess of 35,000 miles a year with UK tours, forays into Europe and an annual visit to South America.
“Touring musicians tend to leave a fairly-massive carbon footprint, so for me this is payback time.
“Having been a regular cyclist for years I wanted to see where a tour by bike would take me, both geographically and musically.”
As he took to his bike, so bike and music merged. Cycling Music is the result.
“Riding a bike is totally inspirational, and my cycle training has been key to these new compositions.”
The album is an atmospheric blend of acoustic and minimalist music. The percussion section built from bicycle parts blends with Richard’s guitar. He jokingly describes the album as ‘Steve Reich meets Bradley Wiggins’.
“The physical aspects of the tour are very high tech, so I wanted to match this with my compositional processes.
“I write the music in my head on the bike each day then type the notes into Sibelius when I get home. I then import the notes into Logic where the sounds are realised, then I add the guitars and bicycle sounds and finish the arrangement on ProTools. It is a fascinating process that has produced music that seems to travel along, cycling as it goes.”
For the tour, Richard required specialised bike kit.
Luckily he has become good friends with Rod and Maria Lambert, husband and wife, who run cycle stores in Sussex.
While Richard was concentrating on training and laying down tracks for his album, the Lamberts have come up with a combination of bike, panniers and trailer that will allow a comfortable ride, safely carry Richard’s kit and leave him fit enough to play each evening.
Richard begins his Cycling Music Tour on May 1 with a concert at The Ropetackle Arts Centre in Shoreham and travels through Sussex (including Monday, May 5, Church of The Holy Sepulchre, Warminghurst, 01903 891312) with a brief stop on Isle of Wight as he works his way up to Yorkshire where he links in the with Le Tour preparation.