Jefferson Starship – A Very Good Trip (Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow)
by HorizonVU Music
Jefferson Starship with Paul Kantner, Cathy Richardson and David Freiberg, The Bataclan, Paris
Jefferson Starship rocked The Bataclan in Paris last night! Lead by Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee and Jefferson Airplane founder Paul Kantner and David Freiberg, a former Jefferson Airplane member and co-founder of the legendary Quicksilver Messenger Service , Jefferson Starship lives on – for all ages. Starship lead singer Cathy Richardson’s driving vocals work perfectly standalone and with the three part harmonies so characteristic of the Airplane and Starship
(see our interview with Cathy http://blog.horizonvumusic.com/?p=7244). Jude Gold (The Macrodots) plays one mean lead guitar. Chris Smith (The Supremes) on keyboard and drummer Richard Newman let us know beyond a doubt that while they might be behind the front line, they’re not to be put back-of-mind by unleasing late-in-the-show solos.
The Starship blasted off with “Sunrise” followed by “Somebody To Love” and “Fresh Air” (Quicksilver Messenger Service). The show built momentum (crowd slow to start – reminiscent of the 60’s only in that we concert goers were often “docile”… for extended periods), but last night’s crowd did come alive as Starship moved on through “Cowboy on the Run” (Quicksilver Messenger Service), “Get Together” (Youngbloods), “Miracles” and “Wooden Ships” .
It seems only right that there was an interlude of sorts as Cathy and Jude Gold gave us a taste (and a good one) of The Macrodots and their new
Cathy Richardson and HorizonVU Music's Phil Cartwright
The adrenaline flowed with “The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil” and the fireworks were exploding with Cathy Richardson leading the way with “White Rabbit”…”Volunteers” and to use Kantner’s intro line a “kick ass” finale of “The Other Side Of This Life” (Fred Neil). Talking to David Freiberg after the show, I couldn’t help but deeply admire his energy and spirit. A young fan standing next to me wished she “could have been there”. I don’t have an urge to re-run the 60’s and 70’s (unless it’s limited to the confines of my memory bank), but Jefferson Starship is still a trip!
Describing Cathy Richardson’s work is reason for some dictionarial angst. We thought long and hard about the right adjectives and superlatives – distinctive, seductive, amazing, explosive, radical? Cathy’s maximum strength, character, and daring puts serious punching power into modern rock’n'roll. We actually have the privilege and pleasure to be joined by GRAMMY Nominee and four-time DIY Music Award-winning singer, songwriter, musician, producer, actress and designer Cathy Richardson. Cathy Richardson hails from the Chicago area and is Chicago-based today. After years of persistence in the Chicago market, Cathy is in the International spotlight, smack in the middle of the rock n’ roll history that inspired her to rock.
She performed in the original Off Broadway cast of the show Love, Janis where she channeled the late music legend to rave reviews in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Arizona. In 2007, she toured the US with Janis’ original band members Big Brother and the Holding Co. on the Summer of Love 40th Anniversary Tour. Headlining that tour was the legendary classic rock band Jefferson Starship, led by founding member and Rock Hall Inductee Paul Kantner, who took note of Richardson’s show stealing performances with Big Brother and, consequently, asked her to join them the following year. Cathy has been recognized by Billboard Magazine, Playgirl, the Album Network, The Chicago Sun-Times and many more premier publications. Today, Cathy is focused on The Macrodots, an amped up, hard-rocking collaboration with San Francisco guitarist/songwriter/producer Zack Smith.
Hi Cathy. Thanks for joining us. Your, story is pretty unusual. You’re on the music scene for a fair amount of time enjoying local area success and then you transition to do theatre in the role of Janis Joplin, you join up with Big Brother and the Holding Company, Paul Kantner takes note and away you go with Jefferson Starship, and on top of that, you’re collaborative leader of The Macrodots.
Now, we know it’s not so straight forward, but amazing never-the-less. We’ll get to your work with Love, Janis and Jefferson Starship, but tell us, first, where did your love for music – rock in particular – begin?
CR: My mom was a singer and always encouraging me to sing. Apparently, I had a real aptitude for music, especially singing, at an early age. Later in life, when I was about 10 or 11, I was teaching myself how to play guitar and my next door neighbor told me I should listen to Heart. My sister had one of their records so I went home and listened to it and I was like, “Oh yeah. I wanna be THEM.”
Looking at your discography, you have seven solo albums, and in addition, work done in conjunction with other projects. If we mark your recording career beginning with “All Excess Live @ Park West” followed by “Moon, Not Banana” in 1993, and moving through to the Grammy nominated “The Road to Bliss” are there any works that strike you as being (to-date) crowning achievements for one reason or another – artistic and/or technical?
CR: Actually moon, not banana was first, the live record didn’t come out until 2006 after fools on a tandem. I think my crowning achievement would have to be Delusions of Grandeur. I put it out with no ideas of commercial success, I just wanted to express myself artistically and I think it’s my best writing and production. I pre-produced everything in my home studio and so when I went in the studio for real, the parts were all there and a lot of what I recorded at home actually ended up on the record. Also coming off the GRAMMY nomination for Road to Bliss, Bill and I really wanted to top the artwork. We gave it a stage theme and I wrote little “scenes” or stories for all the songs to tie them together. The stories were put in a booklet made to look like an old theatre program along with the lyrics and credits. The package got a bit fucked up in production and ended up being cut and folded differently than we intended but by the time we realized it, it had already been printed and it was too late to change it. We are working on a hard cover book for a re-release that will have even more of Bill’s paintings to go with the stories.
Bit curious about “Road to Bliss” which you did in collaboration with Chicago artists Bill Dolan. As I you’re your bio, you recreate the feel and experience of “album art” that they experienced growing up with vinyl LPs. I’d like to know what motivated that effort, and if you can verbalize that “feel and experience”. By the way… I still have vinyls of Surrealistic Pillow and Big Brother and The Holding Company (both 1967).
CR: The inspiration was Joni Mitchell’s CD jacket for Turbulent Indigo. She is a brilliant visual artist as well as songwriter and musician. She is a big influence on me, in general, but Turbulent Indigo was the first CD I encountered that reminded me of a vinyl album when I opened it up. I was really drawn in by it. She ended up winning her first GRAMMY ever for Best Recording Package. I didn’t know such an award existed until then and I was very inspired to start creating really cool CD art from that point forward. When I was a kid and would buy a vinyl album, the artwork was part of the experience. It gave you a tangible, visceral thing to hold in your hands that complimented the music. I would pour over them, reading every credit and liner note, studying the pictures as I listened intently to the music. It was very exciting to save up my money, walk to the record store and come home with an album. I felt invested in the artist. I still treasure all of my vinyl from when I was a kid.
Let’s look and listen to Cathy and the Cathy Richardson Band performing “Picture This” from “Road To Bliss”.
You’ve taken on psychedelic rock in a big way, and it’s really interesting that you are working with music that is associated with two vocal-social-psychological-sexual powerhouses of the 60’s, Janis Joplin and Grace Slick – how does that work for Cathy as Cathy?
CR: Grace and Janis are both part of me, if not for either of them paving the way I couldn’t do what I do. Still, I am very much my own artist, I pay homage to them both and I honor them but I do my own thing like nobody else.
In light of your upcoming Jefferson Starship tour and visit to Europe, is there a song that really stands apart from the others – for you?
We are going to be reviving one of Paul’s epic songs called Connection from Nuclear Furniture. That was a big record for me as a kid so I am very excited to play it, although we haven’t performed it yet. We play so many shows, and they are all different so my favourites kind of shift around. Of course it’s fun to play the hits because they get a big crowd reaction but more obscure Grace songs like Eskimo Blue Day, Hyperdrive and Greasy Heart are also so very fun to perform.
“Eskimo Blue Day” is one of my all time favorites…for our readers the song was recorded on Jefferson Airplane’s “Volunteers”. One of the all time great crowd pleasers has to be “White Rabbit”. Let’s check out this next vid, “White Rabbit” from the 2012 PBS Special, My Music: 60s Pop, Rock and Soul, Jefferson Starship with Cathy Richardson on lead vocals, Paul Kantner, David Freiberg, Donny Baldwin, Slick Aguilar, Chris Smith, Marty Balin.
You’ve managed to stay centered on the psychedelic/classic rock sound with Macrodots. What’s going on with the band? Projects?
CR: All this year I’ve been playing mostly Cathy Richardson Band and solo shows as my original outlet. We play a lot of Macrodots tunes live but CRB actually allows me more latitude in terms of genre hopping and jamming. The Macrodots, while the sound is very psychedelic and hard rock, is very pop structured in the songwriting and we have a very specific idea of the direction we are going. Some of my older stuff doesn’t work in the context of that band whereas, CRB can sort of get away with anything. That said, Zack and I are writing more for another Macrodots record which we hope to put out next year. I love the Other Side, I think it’s a really strong record and I hope it reaches a lot more brains and earholes.
Do have any particular causes or charities that you support and want to suggest to our readers?
CR: I focus most of my charitable contributions to world hunger, especially in Africa where they are so decimated by drought and war. It’s amazing how little of our money it takes to feed several families for a month. When it’s so easy to donate online, and when so many can be helped with so little, there is no excuse, for me not to give. I like Global Giving because you can choose a specific project and they send updates on where your contributions are going, pictures from the places and the people they are helping so you can see the results of your donations. http://www.globalgiving.org
Finally, my favorite question? Do you have any special superheros of your own? Why?
CR: My daughter Sri Rose is my current superhero. She turns one on August 26. Her special power is bringing joy to the world with her mere existence. She is really so cute and friendly, everywhere we go I see people light up at her smile. And her dance moves. She has melted my outer shell and my heart and changed me for the better more than anything else.
Cathy, thanks so very much for taking time out to speak with us. We wish you all the very best and hope you’ll stay in touch. We look forward to seeing Jefferson Starship on 22 October at the Bataclan, Paris, and we hope our readers in Europe will get out and see the show. For a full tour schedule including U.S. dates visit http://www.jeffersonstarshipsf.com/
You can (and should) visit Cathy Richardson and the Cathy Richardson Band at http://www.crband.com/ . Be sure to check out the merchandise – great music, tie-dyed tees – lots of cool stuff!