5 Questions: Richard James of Pink Talking Fish

by Chris Snyder
You are currently the “chairman of the boards” for Pink Talking Fish. Are there any songs that you enjoy playing in a live setting?

To name one song from each band, I would say “Dogs” by Pink Floyd, “Squirming Coil” by Phish, and “Nothing But Flowers” by Talking Heads. The reason why I love performing “Dogs” is because of all the dark, yet beautiful pad and organ layering. Since we only have one guitarist, I also get to play some nice synth leads that interpret 2nd Guitar parts (and now that I think about it, it’s definitely time for a Keytar)!

I love playing Squirming Coil because it was the “gateway song” that began my obsession with the band Phish. I used to crank that song up to 10 in my garage with my friend Rich Lafranchi on Guitar and we would play the version from “A Live One” over and over again until it was perfected, closing our eyes and pretending we were right there on stage playing in the band. That may sound odd to some, but I think it’s those moments in particular that landed me in this group. Now I have the opportunity to achieve those same unadulterated childhood feelings over and over again and spread the joy that is “Phish”.

I really like playing the song “Nothing But Flowers” solely because Zack takes a drum solo in the middle of it… and Zack HATES drum solo’s. Hehehe…

Were there any professors at Berklee that really pushed you to follow your dreams as a musician?

There were professors that inspired me in incredible ways, such as my private instructor Matt Jenson. Matt pushed me to join his Bob Marley ensemble on B3 organ, which is where I learned a lot of great rhythm techniques mimicking the “bubble” stylings of the late great Earl Wire Lindo. Matt is an incredible player and I looked up to him BIG time. Pianist Ray Santisi was a phenomenal player to hang around. He played as featured soloist with Charlie Parker, Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon, Natalie Cole and so many more. Watching that guy voice lead chords was like watching Freddy Couples swing a golf club. It was so effortless and there was so much color when I listened to him play. It was wild to watch, I couldn’t stop thinking to myself, “this guy right here can do anything on this instrument”, and just seeing that going down in the flesh (pun intended) has always driven me to continue studying the instrument.

How does the band decide on which tunes to play every night? Do you look at past setlists?

Absolutely. Every show is unique, and we are always aware of what we played prior to returning to a venue. Eric designs the Setlist each night, and then we usually play around with the structure as a group.

Did you have any other career endeavors before you decided to become a musician?

I wanted to play professional golf, but I was never able to get to that next level. Before I landed at Berklee, I played division 2 golf and took the sport very seriously. While I had my original band I got my real estate license and rented properties. I enjoyed it, but luckily I had a boss who was a mega ass and made me hate coming in to work every day, so I decided to take the plunge and go music full time. I’ve also been teaching music privately for the last 12 Years and  I take great pride in helping kids have fun learning the instrument.

What is the best advice you can give to up and coming artists?

If you’re just getting going, you’ve got your band together, you have some songs and you want to begin playing out, make sure you’re smart and patient about introducing yourself to the world. Don’t just put out new music (live or recorded) that you’re not 100% proud with. Rehearse the ever living crap out of your tunes and have fun playing those songs on stage with your band mates. Energy between fans and the band is an incredibly powerful tool, and the more you use that to your advantage, the further you’ll go in this industry. Relationships are everything, and whether it’s with your fans, or with talent buyers, promoters, managers, agents, or any and all industry folks alike, keep them on your good side and always treat everyone with the highest level of respect. Stick with it, through all the ups and downs, if YOU believe in what you’re doing, that’s all you need to succeed. Grab a few people who share a common goal and interest in performing and go give em hell!

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