Interview with Friendly Rich, {An} EeL & David Sait

Written by Divine Magazine

Friendly Rich is a composer from Oakville, Canada. Mr. Rich composed background music for 3 seasons of MTV’s The Tom Green Show.

Since 1994, he has recorded exclusively for his own eclectic record label, The Pumpkin Pie Corporation. Friendly Rich and his modern music ensemble The Lollipop People have toured the world, sharing the stage alongside such artists as Of Montreal, The Tiger Lillies, and Amanda Palmer.

AN} EeL is an international experimental artist – With roots in Alaska, expanding to the midwestern USA, Seattle Washington & Austin Texas, which brings us to the current lair of Ontario, Canada. Developing much of the aesthetic during time spent in the Mail Art & Punk Rock scene ( Shout out to Lost Cross ) and the Dreamtime Village in Wis. In the last decade there’s been a particular focus on music / sound exploration. This collaboration reflects a long standing impulse to create with other individuals, with a particular enjoyment / emphasis on crossing barriers & creating new spaces to inhabit. And speaking of collaborations, {AN} EeL has been a member of many musical groups – The Good / The Bad / The Ugly / The other guy , Hippies with Guns, {RE}:Tkus, Pavlov’s Industrial Sarong & others. There have been collaborations with Jaap Blonk, KK Null, Sandy Ewen, Phil Minton, RIGID, Pilgrimess, Kazumoto Endo, The Mary Barnes Experience, Kayla Milmine, and many others. This release represents a continuation of this collaborative spirit

Toronto based musician David Sait has improvised and composed on the 21-string guzheng for almost two decades. His aim is to create melodic, haunting and ethereal world sounds inspired by the energy of the moment and the spirit of experimentation. David has recorded several solo albums, highlights include “Hail the Hunted” + “Good Luck Corporation” and has collaborated with several esteemed local and International musicians

Friendly Rich

How would you describe the music that you typically create?

Friendly Rich – Sometimes I call it Parma Pop when I’m dabbling in Italian pop music. Other times I’m making orchestral pop stuff.  This particular project with David and Neal, I’d describe as being pandemic pop!

David Sait – Tonal improvisation, experimental Classical/World.

{An} EeL – Improvised & Experimental.

What is your creative process like?

Friendly Rich – I love letting ideas take shape over time, collaborations happen naturally, but with deliberate vigor and focus.  With every project, I understand my role and voice a little more.  It’s a fascinating game to create something!

David Sait – Coming into a playing session with a calm, relaxed mindset really helps steer things in the right direction. I enjoy the process of warming up & tuning the guzheng (which has 21 strings). The vibe is really loose so new ideas flow out unfiltered normally and make it easy to grab a phrase or partial melody to expand on in a more focused way through extended improvisation.  If there is a moment in the improvising that stands out, I may circle back and make a rough audio recording on my phone for future reference. I also think having a few creative projects in various stages of development on the go helps keep the energy and enthusiasm higher.

{An} EeL – I place a premium on immediacy and spontaneity. If it’s something like a live show (remember those?), I’ll do a certain amount of pre-planning just to have a mental framework to operate in, but the main emphasis for me is the creation at the moment.

With the pandemic, how have you found a way to get your music and your message out there?

Friendly Rich – I am fascinated by this.  I’m podcasting like hell (check Industry Tactics), sending files to pals and starting new projects, like this one with David and Neal.  Also starting another project called The Bird Brains with Dave Clark, Michael Herring & Rebecca Hennessy.  The pandemic has changed the way we create and communicate, but we’re figuring it out.  Art and culture will move with it in real time.

David Sait – Bandcamp has really cultivated a broad spectrum of music from less likely sources. I appreciate what they’re doing as a listener and support as an artist. Getting the word out through social media (Instagram/Facebook) and sharing with friends is also part of the grassroots approach. Having a publicist or other support within the industry can make a difference depending on what you’re after.

{An} EeL — Very much enjoying participating, both as an artist and a fan, in virtual festivals / Programming. While there are certainly drawbacks, there are also some interesting advantages.

How do you feel the Internet has impacted the music business?

Friendly Rich – I don’t know, to me, it feels a little pointless to boycott Spotify or any of the other empires.  I feel like the subversion will happen regardless.  Good on you if that’s your form of protest.  Mine comes out differently but I don’t begrudge anybody for their stances on the matter.  The internet has saved our asses in so many ways, opened up new forms of communication, collaboration, and artistic expression.  Our collaboration would not have happened without it.  Is it also the cesspool of humanity?  Absolutely.  Pick a side or dance between them.

David Sait – The internet has certainly connected the global music community and given a voice to lesser-known artists. The all-access/all-the-time availability to this massive archive of music within a few clicks seems normal now, but probably a bit radical of a thought decades ago. The music business has had to reinvent itself many times over once the internet came into play. With all the hurdles it has created for the industry, it has also spawned so many new opportunities for bands/musicians to take matters into their own hands.

{An} EeL – Negatively. There’s the idea/expectation that things should be available for free online. Share that with frequent sharing without proper credit, and “Pay to Play” platforms and companies like Spotify. There are, however, bright spots too. Social media has really assisted me in gaining and sustaining creative partnerships, and platforms like Bandcamp, SoundCloud and others are fair in their models. There are also amazing sites like UbuWeb and which are wonderful resources.

{An} EeL

Has your musical journey had a deliberate direction, or did it simply gradually evolve in whatever direction it found?

Friendly Rich – I’ve been pretty staunch in my commitment over the last 20 years to keeping it weird and true to my own set of values.  That being said, my musical journey has taken me to incredible places and collaborations I simply could not have predicted.  In short, I’ve kept an open mind, and that’s allowed for so many exciting chapters!

David Sait –  My musical journey has naturally evolved in a steady, but gradual way. At times, when there is a strong influence or new concept in mind, there would be deliberate work put into developing those areas. Once I really committed to improvising, it opened my ears and mind to a whole new world of sounds and with the ability to just let go, it informed the music in an instinctual way.

{An} EeL – My focus has always been based on communication and community concepts. I’ve always wanted to be considered “a part” of whatever the scene I’m contributing to, rather than a spectator or consumer of. I feel like that’s much easier said than done. A lot of music communities are in real disarray, and of course, everything is on pause at the moment, but even in more “normal” times, there’s a lot of drama that gets into these small underground communities. But needless to say, that’s how these things work. Community is messy. Culture is a living thing. We have to risk failure if we’re really connecting with each other. I always want to be part of a scene that’s more alive than dead, regardless of what else is going on. My considerations have rarely concerned many other factors.

What do you enjoy most about being an artist?

Friendly Rich – The people it connects me to. For example, David Sait, {An} EeL and of course, you gentle reader!!

David Sait – I love being creative, having a project (or two or three in the works). The tone and feel of the guzheng have shaped me as an artist probably the most… and oh yes, collaborating.

{An} EeL — The power and respect that just saying “I AM AN ARTIST” imparts. The perks, the gift bags. Of course, the wine and cheeses.  The autonomy of knowing that you’ve created something that is a part of you that is now existing in and of itself, and while it might lose its association with you, it imparts something of your existence in the life of its own it takes on.

What does your music say about you?

Friendly Rich – uncomfortable in my own skin…

David Sait – Reserved but expressive. Dedication does make a difference.

{An} EeL – I’m not really that much of a gear head.

 If we were to look at the artists you are listening to, who would be on your playlist?

Friendly Rich – Villa-Lobos, Wendy Carlos, Lhasa de Sela, Portal.

David Sait – Andrés Segovia, Steve Reich, the Black Angels, Black Sabbath, Harry Partch, Glenn Gould, Junior Kimbrough, Mdou Moctar, El Grupo Jatari.

{An} EeL – Black Midi. Last Exit. Furchick. Caroliner. Feminazgul. Stock, Hausen & Walkman. Don Cherry. Toxic Chicken. How long have you got?

Are you creative in other disciplines?

Friendly Rich – it all links back to music for me.

David Sait – Occasionally dabble in drawing, screen-printing, mixed media visual art. I was creating a zine at one point. Also, some marketing and advertising creative endeavors.

{An} EeL – I just think of myself as an experimental artist, which applies to visual art, writing, poetry, dance – Whatever. I’m open to it all and regularly dabble in many varieties. It’s a great joy and hobby in my life, always has been, regardless of how focused I’ve been on creating specific things.

David Sait

How do you deal with writer’s block?

Friendly Rich – I make pasta, drink coffee, and the tank is always full!

David Sait – Switch gears, watch an interesting film, or listen to someone like Glenn Gould (or whoever inspires you) to open up doors. Re-approach the writing/creative process in a calm, relaxed way with a bit of time off. No pressure, nothing to force – just put in the time and trust that the possibilities are limitless.

{An} EeL – I don’t. If it’s not coming, I do something else until it does. I’ve never been forced by a project deadline to have to get past this, or at least haven’t since my schooling ended. This is fortunate but honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way

What kind of recording facilities do you have at home?

Friendly Rich – I’m back in my parent’s basement, making music naked all alone.  Just like when I started in my early years.  That’s a beautiful thing.  Then, to be able to share files with my mates David and Neal…phew, we’re in a beautiful place.

David Sait – There’s a dedicated room for my instruments and a nice zone to enter for working on ideas. Laptop, Cubase, a few sm 57’s & 58’s, contact mic, blend in a direct signal from the amp and the room.

{An} EeL – Minimal. Audacity and computer for recording/mixing.

If you were talking to a younger version of you, what advice would you give yourself?

Friendly Rich – Stockhausen was right when he wrote you that letter — transform Canada!

David Sait – Put in the work daily, the investment through good practice habits will make a big impact over time. Stay on the lookout for unlikely inspirations. Listen deeply and enjoy/support the music of others around you.

{An} EeL — Don’t worry so much about what others think of this. You know you enjoy it. You will look back and wish that you had possessed more of the “fuck it” attitude and confidence that you have, and wish that you had manifested it more then. Be bold and fearless. It’s also a really good idea to document these things a lot more than you are with photos and AUDIO RECORDINGS, m’kay?

If you could pass on a nugget of wisdom to the next musical generation, what would it be?

David –  “Solve the problem, not the blame.” Spend the time and effort into fixing rather than worrying about why it needs to be fixed or by whom. Create a unique voice for yourself and be an active member of your music community. Go see other people’s live shows regularly, curate a music series that others can be involved in, or volunteer in some capacity. Even just listening to a song online and offering encouragement would serve the community well.

Three Ontario artists collaborate in this exciting COVID isolation-time project of 12 attention-grabbing, twisted, out of this world contemporary tracks.

© 2021 – 2023, Divine Magazine. All rights reserved.

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