Richard - The Third Eye
Daydream Believer MAD RICHARD out of VERVE believes his cosmic stepfather can get them a gig at
Madison Square Garden with the power of thought. He believes in the great rock gesture, the
liberating effect of great music, the peak experience of agreat show, the need for mind-expanding
moment. he also believes Verve have made a great first album, and so does STEVE SUTHERLAND. Mad
whirled: KEVIN CUMMINS
Richard's talking about his father's death. He's saying that wondering how and why it happened and
where his father's gone has made him unafraid to face the future, whatever it may bring. he's
saying he's listened to all the fearful, questioning voices in his head and he's learned to love
He's saying that he intends to live every day has left to the full, that's he's determined to
experience all he can, to face it all head-on, to enjoy the dark and light with equal relish. And
he's talking about his stepfather. Richard is saying that his stepfather is seriously into
meditation and weird things are always happening around him.
Things like, his stepfather reckons by bending light rays around them, you can make people
disappear. Things like, over Christmas, Richard stood in his front room and heard people whistling
20 miles away. Things like he's been in a room banal where his stepfather has raised the
temperature simply by thinking about it.
Things like the time his stepfather had a business go bust and, just by visualising them, he
started checking cheques from strangers to bail him out.
Richard says he's sure his stepfather will elevate and that pretty soon he'll be maqifesting
matter, making things appear just by the power of thought. It's just a more concentrated form of
daydreaming, he explains, and daydreaming is something Richard reckons is sadly ignored.
"Like, what if Verve wanted to play Madison Square Garden? I'd meditate, I'd see fans. I'd smell
the hot-dog stands. I'd hear the music. I'd do that for two weeks and then I'd leave it. And one
day, it'll happen. That's what he taught me and I firmly believe it. That stuff excites me."
Richard starts laughing. It's exactly this kind of talk that got him called Mad. Mad Richard out
"Yeah I know. I said I was gonna be able to fly. Well why not? I actually believe that i could fly
if i put my mind to it but everyone's embarrassed to hear me say it. Why? Because everyone's
embarrassed to think big. Everyone's scared of the unknown. Everyone's frightened when for even a
spit second, they think about who the fuckin' hell they are and where they're going and what
happened before they existed.
"But those moments are so important:. They really invigorate me. I think about it a hell of a lot
of the time, that kind of lost-in-it-all feeling is so liberating. Y'know, I don't know what's
gonna happen next week and I don't know what's gonna happen in ten years' time, but I'm not scared
of it. I'm searching. I'm looking for things. I'm waiting for new experiences and I'll be doing it
until the day I die.
The last void of uncertainty is what's behind this band. And when I said I was expecting to fly, I
was just trying to explain what we do as a band, to explain that we can do anything and we're
gonna go as far as possible.
"I mean, if I'm called Mad Richard just because I get involved in a gig, because I lose myself,
how banal and boring, does that make everything else. What's thew crime? Surely music was invented
so we could experience something and something strange, something that takes us out of our
"So call me Mad Richard if you like. In these times I consider it a compliment..."
BEING DISMISSED as a band with a loony singer isn't the only thing snagging Verve's ascent
thought. It's just a more concentrated form of to the rock immortals. For a week or two last
daydreaming, he explains, and daydreaming is yea'r, it was just Verve and Suede, a twin-pronged
attack on mediocrity. Richard and Brett said the same things about the need to resurrect stardom
and they shared a desire to embrace the extraordinary.
But where as Suede set themselves sure targets and met them with exhilarating accuracy, Verve
followed their debut single, 'All in The Mind', with the rambling, unforced 'Superstar'/'Feel' - a
gloriously atmospheric epic that even close to the band considered a wanton at act of commercial
"We know we could have recorded a Top 40 single," says Richard, "but that wasn't how we felt at
the time" grandiose and. We work on instinct and what comes out comes out. It has to be like that
- it's the only honest way."
The third single, the mighty, mantric 'Gravity Grave,' confirms the band were orbiting out there
on their own and there was a suspicion that Verve weren't so much making records as responding to
their chemical intake and failing to reproduce in the studio the swooning peaks and troughs of
their Increasingly erratic live performances.
It was only towards the end of last year that Verve rediscovered their sense of direction. Touring
as support to The Black Crowes, taking on audiences who'd never heard of them, and working to
astonish the unconverted suddenly returned Verve to their original purpose.
"So many bands make the mistake of being satisfied playing to people who are already turned on.
But there's nothing like the elation of seeing someone stood static at the beginning, icy cold, a
complete virgin to your music, and then to see them being completely overpowered and engrossed by
it. That transition is what it's all about."
The confident, dramatic, theatrical Verve that finished the Crowes tour was a far cry from the
stoned and tentative lot that started out. By the time they teamed up with seasoned producer John
Leckie to record their debut album at the turn of the year, they'd put behind them the fear that
the recording process was anathema to the Verve organic ethos of letting a song liye and grow and
peak, then fade and die.
From fearing that to record a song was to effectively nail it down and kill it In the listener's
imagination, Verve discovered that, with the right guidance and emphasis, the organic can become
the orgasmic. The results of this rebirth are to be found in all their shimmering glory on the
forthcoming 'A Storm In Heaven', from which 'Blue', Verve's sharpest single yet, has just been
Richard always claimed that tile band's debut album would be a classic. It's one of the things
that put people's backs up about him.
"Our ambitions have always been really grandiose and ridiculous but that's the way I like it. My
ambition is to make some classic records and do some incredible tours and I wanna be someone. I
don't just wanna be Mad Richard in the funny column. I wanna rise above that.
I can understand people being cynical - after all, they've been ripped off for the last ten years
by fakes. The problem is that a lot of people read the Stones stories, they read the classic rock
biographies and think, 'Shit, this sounds seriously exciting, let's get it on board'. But, y'know,
you can't plan your stage entrance, what you're gonna wear, how your hair's gonna be and what
moves you're gonna make before you pick up your instrument. There's too much pre-planning going
"People have abused that situation for the last ten years. They think they can come out with any
old shit and they're gonna get a certain amount of success through the indie charts, then they'll
fade away. And they're satisfied with that! Christ, let's start creating things that people will
remember for a long time."
Verve set out to offer a very special alternative to, on the one hand, the computerised factory
bliss of techno - "A music that's a slave to a drug" - and, on the other, ordinaries like The
Wedding Present, who were happy to release 12 crap singles in a year, watch them all chart and
then disappear the next week. What a horrible, safe, cynical way to fashion success out of
Verve want to know where's the achievement in that?
"You get people on Roy Castle's Record Breakers show who can keep the ball up for like 30 hours or
something but they don't play for anyone. They're not stars," sneers Richard. "They're just people
who know how to do things. They've learned their capabilities and they know how far they can
stretch. But it's just as much what you don't know that counts. That feeling of 'Woah! It could
break up at any moment' is equally as elevating as a moment of genius. Something collapsing,
something being destroyed is sometimes as beautiful as something being created.
"I don't think we're ever gonna achieve what we wanna achieve. It would be impossible, but that's
the point. To aim further. But I think, for our age and experience, we've made a fucking great
first album and established a great place to start."
WHAT WE lack these days are the great rock gestures - those symbolic somethings that say to the
audience, 'OK, here's where the everyday ends and the ceremony begins'. Things like when Neil
Young last played solo in Hammersmith. We heard him long before we saw him, strumming from the
wings. He entered stage left, already deep in a song, did his thing and then, an hour or so later,
quit stage right. One presumes he was still playing as he slumped into the limo.
This was a small but startling piece of theatre. Neil was saying... what? That the road goes on
forever? That this may have been a good night out for us but it was his whole fucking life? It was
like "'that bit in Barton Fink where, in the hellish, burning hotel, the psychopathic Charlie
Mundt informs the petrified Barton; "You're just a tourist with a typewriter, Bartpn. I live here.
Don't you understand that?" Spooky stuff.
Richard has his own variation on the great rock gesture. He always saunters onstage with his coat
on, takes it off to perform. and then puts it on again before he leaves. It's an instipctive act
that designates show-time; an act so effective that Bernard Butler, the clever little devil,
nicked the whole routine when Suede - big Verve fans played the Brits.
"I don't like to think too much about it," says Richard, "otherwise it wduld all become too
self-conscious. But I guess it's like a shedding of the skin. y'know? You take off your skin,
abandon yourself, enjoy it, share this experience, and then you put the skin back on again and
"Music elevates me. It stretches reality into an unbelievable experience, it stretches each day
into a completely different world. I don't think many bands realise that people are there to
experience something different, something not run-of-the mill. And I think you owe it to the
people who are spending their pocket money or dole or wages on your records and live gigs to go as
far as possible, because they're putting their trust in you and that's what I expect of bands that
I go and see. It's a shared thing. And when a gig's at its pinnacle and you meet someone's eyes in
the front and the strobe's flashingand.you've made a connection, you think, 'Christ. this is it!'
It's a peak.
"And. y'know, I'm fucked up on the music, the atmosphere, the reaction with people... I'm out of
my mind. I'm nqt in that hall. I'm not on this earth. I'm... just... not... there! That's what
music can do for you. There are odd frames, odd moments from over the last year that will be
imprinted on my brain for the rest of my life. Playing on the back of a truck in New York. I mean,
I'd never seen Times Square and suddenly we pulled round the corner and there it was. I was out of
my mind on the back of the truck, doing some insane jam, and thousands of people were just hanging
around, getting into it. I've got George Bush's head I OOx I 00 foot over my head on a telly
screen and guys dancing on the corner, going for it... I would probably never have had experiences
like that if it wasn't for this band."
WE'RE SEARCHING to explain how important Verve are to 1993 without Richard seeming Mad. He accepts
that Verve could be described as psychedelic in the original sense of the word - ie,
mind-expanding - but he's understandably suspicious of all the dippy baggage that comes along with
it. Verve, he says, stand and fall alone but, just to put them into some relief, how's this? Blur
release an album called 'Modern Life Is Rubbish' and Verve release an album called 'A Storm In
Heaven'. It's a matter of scale. A matter of dimension. A matter of ambition. A matter of
embracing the anti-matter if you like.
We're talking about all this when, honest to God, Blur walk into the pub. I mean, of all the pubs
in all the world, how come they walk into this one?
Richard's grinning. Maybe there's something to this cosmic stepfather business after all.
The interview's over. We spend the next half-hour visualising a cool million each.
Originally Appeared in NME, 15 May 1992
Copyright © NME.