Richard Alan Krieger
by Harvey Kubernik
author, journalist and music historian (2006)
Writer/author/artist/instrumentalist/composer Richard Alan Krieger (aka “Crane”) was born in Washington D.C. in 1957 and as a youth lived in Virginia. His father worked for the Federal Aviation Administration in Washington D.C. which transferred him in 1963 to their Los Angeles office where he eventually became Chief of Flight Standards of the Western Region. Initially the family resided in Buena Park for a year before finding a place in Palos Verdes, CA.
Richard (“Crane” a nickname from his band days) is a composer/improvisational/musician who first learned to play music on the trumpet in 5th grade in his elementary school band. He also ended up being involved in musical theater playing 1st trumpet (‘Annie Get Your Gun’ and ‘Mame’) in various school productions, along with being in the high school marching band.
He studied with Maestro Joseph Valenti founding conductor of the Peninsula Symphony (Palos Verdes, CA) who was also a respected studio musician in L.A. in the 50’s and 60’s. Valenti’s teacher was the world renown classical trumpeter Rafael Mendez, who in his youth used to play regularly for Mexican Rebel General Pancho Villa.
Richard is a graduate of Rolling Hills High School (now Peninsula High) in Rolling Hills, CA and later attended Harbor College and California State College Dominguez Hills where he studied music and art.
Richard spoke of his early musical influences saying, “My mom and dad used to toss these wild 60’s hipster cocktail parties. A martini thing with people dancing to the twist with mixing jazz, lounge music and rock ‘n’ roll all together. They had many happening costume and theme parties too. That whole cool hipster jazz vibe influenced me big time, even before I got into the liking pop and rock music. That’s when my dad turned me on to jazz big bands. I saw Buddy Rich at Marineland where the dolphins were jumping out in front of the band and Stan Kenton at El Camino College with trumpeters in the audience blasting their horns out at different angles. I also saw Duke Ellington and Count Basie at Disneyland. My dad even took me to the Playboy Club in Century City to hear the World’s Greatest Jazz Band when I was when I was around 12. The bouncer let us in only if I stuck to drinking soda pop. Among others, I saw Lionel Hampton and Shelly Manne jam as well. At the same time, my mom was also a big classical music lover who sang in the church choir. So the innovative music of Chopin, Debussy, Ravel and Stravinsky also expanded my musical horizons in terms of appreciation. When this all was happening in the mid-60’s, my parents got this cool organ that I first started to improv and compose music on. I’d often wear headphones too so I could be as experimental as I wanted to be without bothering anyone.”
In his sophomore year in high school he started feeling an inner need to start creatively expressing himself in the original art of free form music. He did this when he taught himself to play bass by ear in the improvisational art rock band Wasted Space that was started in a friend’s garage.
Speaking of his love for improvisational music Richard commented, “When I started to jam on various instruments with others, in particular the electric bass, it shifted my whole idea of what music schooling was and drastically changed my life. I lost interest in the whole technical musical theory thing. In high school I saw this lineage of great trumpeters ahead of me who were going into a musical world that was mostly going to be very structured. So I made a conscious decision of not following that path for I wanted to be an original composer. The idea of improvisational music was so inspiring to me. It set my whole train of thought in another mindset, to do music and do it from my raw emotions as well as the feelings that came from my heart.”
Elaborating on the impact improv music had on him, Richard said, “It was such an amazing and magical time of my life when I first started to jam with Wasted Space. We used to jam almost everyday after high school for two years with these wild loud musical explorations. And it’s still amazing to me to this day that the neighbors never called the cops on us. That garage we jammed in truly was a haven for the study of experimental music.”
As the years passed, so did the jams as Wasted Space transformed itself into the group Tragicomedy who became apart of the “L.A. Rock Revival" scene in the early 80's. The group formed a close friendship and mutual musical admiration with the influential Minutemen with whom they did many gigs with, along with recording the album "Homage to Nada" under the Minutemen's label New Alliance Records (under SST Records). Richard at that time also began playing trumpet and singing background vocals with the Minutemen for their gigs and on some of their albums.
Other groups/artists with whom Richard also collaborated with were Another Umbrella (Richard Derrick), Invisible Chains (Joey 8 and Carla Bozulich), Cosmic Joke (D. Boon), Fo Fum (Mike Watt), Vida (George Hurley), Patrick Moraz (Yes/Moody Blues), SuperSession (Raymond Pettibon), and Dick Edgemont (aka Crane) among others.
Richard was greatly inspired by many of the early punk groups who played at the Starwood in Hollywood (X, The Germs, The Go-Gos, The Gears, etc.). He also listened to radio stations like KROQ-FM and KXLU-FM that were connected with the punk rock scene. Yet, the whole “Prog Rock” movement was also very much a big influence in his life. “I was also really into Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant and King Crimson too who my brother turned me on to. Along with that, I loved the intense beautiful vocal harmonic groups such as the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Bulgarian Women’s State Choir, etc.”
Richard knew and witnessed the Minutemen band members from a vantage point few people have ever experienced. “They were so different in their approach to music. The way they magically blended in an alchemy sort of way all those sounds and styles together was totally phenomenal and innovative in creating something totally new and original. That’s why there were always musicians who attended their shows, many whom were well known to study and be influenced by their cutting-edge creativeness. As they matured on stage, they did live improv jams too with various musicians in which I happily joined in on with my trumpet. Their music is timeless. And they were all about that too, “the music.” They didn’t care what your fashion trip was, what you did or where you lived. This was in total contrast to what was happening in Hollywood at that time. They embodied the true ‘American spirit of freedom of expression’ that was represented with the motto, ‘Don’t Trend On Me.’ Beyond all that, there was also something that made them so very unique and special. And that was the down home friendship that they created and brought together as a community in San Pedro at that time.”
Richard went on to explain the impact of being apart of the San Pedro (“Pedro”) music scene/community had on his life with him ending up moving there. “Part of that spirit of friendship and fun of playing music came together in the jam sessions I had with D. Boon and Richard Derrick at their pad. They’d call me up and invite me over to jam with them in their living room. It was very much a chamber music like setting too. We played guitar and bass through these tiny amps the size of one’s hand accompanied by a Casio keyboard that also had a drum machine. We’d be jamming while at the same time maybe watching T.V. or talking to various people who came by to hang out. It was as cool and casual as it gets for playing music for the pure fun of it. We’d often break out in laughter too at some of the wild and wacky stuff that musically happened. Those comical musical moments were often inspired by the arpeggio chord mode on the Casio keyboard. We also did a few local parties with large amps and drums under the name, ‘Cosmic Joke.’ On guitar was D., Richard on drums and I played bass. Those party jams were some of the coolest progressive jams I ever did.”
A tribute CD album to D. Boon (RIP) called “D. Boon & Friends” was recently released on Richard Derrick’s Box-O-Plenty Record label. Richard shared his insight on how the CD came about. “Yeah, Richard was really into recording everything and recorded all the jams we did together. So a few years ago he was going through his vast tape archive to sort out which ones needed to be transferred over to a digital format as to save them for posterity, and he found those tapes. He then reflected on what should be done with those tapes and decided it would be a cool idea to share this music with the world in loving memory of Dennes. So he called up the Boon family to ask their approval, and they too thought it was a good idea and gave their blessing. D. Boon was such a renaissance man. He was very conscientious of the challenges facing society. His political activism was very important to him and came through in his lyrics. He was also a great painter. A couple of those paintings were used as covers for the last two Minutemen albums. Anyone who ever came in personal contact with him would always be inspired by his total joy of living as well as his wisdom. The laughter and compassionate understanding that he shared with others brought much happiness. And his musical legacy has had, and will continue to have, a profound influence for the good of humanity.”
Reflecting on his career as a recording artist, Richard commented, “I really love the recording studio in any form or budget it may take. It’s such a special place as to creating one’s expression of music. Sure, doing live music in front of an audience is very special too without question. But after D. Boon sadly passed away, all my other friends who were musicians gradually all went their own separate ways. And since I was so used to jamming mostly with close friends where that vibe of friendship also came through the music, it was hard for me to just put an ad in the paper to find other musicians to jam with. So over time, I ended up as a solo recording artist focusing on producing music from my home studio. Then again, having a live drummer is so much more preferable than that of a drum machine any day. But when you don’t have access to one, you don’t let that get in the way of your creative process. I’ve worked with a variety of recording machines in my career, so one is going to noticeably hear that differentiation of sound quality with some of my recordings sounding better then others. Ultimately though, I feel that the groove and feeling of one’s song should be felt beyond whatever technical sound limitations there are. Give me a primitive recording of a good song verses a bad song with great production any day. In the same way that if a song can’t hold it’s own by being played on the most basic of instruments, it’s not much of a song to begin with. A lot of music today often sounds nice to the ear as “ear candy,” but lacks the qualification of being a good song. It all comes down to creating music that will inspire the artist deep within his or her soul. And sometimes that music will also be felt as inspirational in others as well. One of coolest things about the whole “home recording revolution” that came about, as well as the internet where you can post your songs now, is that it has leveled the playing field of the music world. So if you feel you have some talent you wish to share with others that you think might just rock their world, you now at least have an avenue and chance to do so now.”
With the year 2007 on the horizon, Richard has emerged with distinct collections of his pop, rock and instrumental music compositional skills. There is an overt bio-regional flavor in the music and sounds he creates, owing partially to the beach community and summer art festivals that happened where he grew up. “I’m very much into the creative fusion of sounds. A lot of it has to do with the influence of mother nature, for I grew up with the woods right behind me and the ocean being a half a mile away. This very much can be heard in particular in my sound healing works as well as in my ‘Awakening Sound’ project dedicated to awaken one peacefully from sleep with the gradual increase of volume to various beautiful sound combinations.”
Richard has very much a humanitarian approach to life as to seeing the big picture and everything having an ultimate meaning for happening. “One of the greatest influences in my life has been my loving parents who raised me with the morals to respect others. They inspired me to compose my collection of famous quotes, that I turned into my book called, ‘Civilization’s Quotations - Life’s Ideal.’ This book uses famous quotes in a unique ‘stream of consciousness’ order that I labeled ‘poetic quotation’ that creates the path of the ‘Ideal Life’ we all aspire to. I’ve study spirituality, metaphysics and politics extensively as to why the world is the way it is and why we still have these major problems that haven’t been solved. So my lyrics tend to weave through those themes as well.”
And yet, Richard has never totally left the structure of traditional pop and rock songs. His compositions, underscore the influences of his youth of hearing Bowie, Eno, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, the Cars, Steely Dan, the Talking Heads, etc. “Well, my love for rock and pop songs is undeniable as to being an influence in my songs because that’s the time period I grew up in. I was also greatly influenced by the music of the ‘peace and love movement’ of the 60’s, even through I was too young to fully experience it at the time. But when that happened, I sensed where we were supposed to be collectively going as a society. Then politics diverted the movement along with many hippies turning into yuppies. But I still have faith in the ‘peace & love movement” and see it coming back in another form. Hopefully this time it will be a movement with a healthy combination of ‘getting off the grid,’ and ‘you’ve got to get in to get out.’”
A few years ago Richard was part of a humanitarian group who traveled to the far east to help sponsor a progressive “east meets west” holistic health center. His experiences there included hearing sitar concerts, Sai Baba sing Bajans, and the Tibetan Monks doing sacred ceremonies in a monastery in Katmandu, Nepal in the foothills of the Himalayas where he stayed.
Earlier this decade Richard worked as a music director at Cal State Northridge University with a weekly based radio lounge jazz show called, “The Cocktail Hour” on KCSN-FM hosted by DJ Splat Winger, formerly of KXLU-FM fame for his live music show “Brain Cookies.” A show Richard played on many times with various groups like Another Umbrella. Winger was always drawn to Richard’s playing and his music vocabulary and asked him to program his shift. “Doing the show gave me an opportunity to go back in time to my childhood of jazz music. Every week I would do something different. After using the coolest music from my record collection, I ended up going on weekly journeys to thrift stores to find ‘new old’ material. The project rekindled my appreciation and love for jazz. A returning musical cycle that began with my early jazz with trumpet, went through the rock ‘n’ roll thing, and then the Minutemen who brought me back to playing the trumpet, completing the cycle with this program of the hip cool jazz grooves of the 60’s “West Coast Jazz” sound again.”
Richard in 2006 got re-involved in musical theater with his music being sung by chanteuse singer Veronique Chevalier with her lyrics as the opening and closing numbers in her ‘Veronique’s Red Velvet Variety Show,’ which is a modern twist on vaudeville at the Empire Amusement Hall in Hollywood. She currently is working on a new album in which she is collaborating with Richard on some material. Richard’s previous credits in musical theater (including children’s puppet theater) include his original productions of ‘The Wishing Tree,’ ‘A Cowboy's Christmas,’ ‘Halloween Follies,’ and ‘Love's Adventure.’
In conclusion, Richard spoke of what he’s currently doing musically as well as his future goals, “Well, I’m promoting my music in a bigger way now by networking with others. And since I consider myself more of a songwriter than a live performer these days, I’m looking to work with others in the entertainment industry who are interested in using my music for their projects. Lately as a songwriter, I’ve really gotten into creating futuristic sonic soundscapes that also have a rhythmic groove to them. It has some elements of rave music in it as well, but it’s totally different. I also look forward to collaborating more with other artists. Someday I also hope to establish a healing orchestra consisting of didgeridoos, crystal bowls and vibraphones along with many other traditional healing instruments, but to arrange it all in a very modern hip contemporary way in terms of creating a popular music based on those healing sounds.”
Richard is truly a renaissance man on the move, coming from his past accomplishments... to those yet to come...