Let's jump right into this then. First off, do you consider yourself a comedian who happens to have terrific musicality, or a particularly funny musician?
Good evening! I have no idea… I don't know if I'm a very good singer or a very good comedian. So that's probably why I try and mix them up, and then I kind of take a little from both. But I do have a lot of fun at the shows. A lot of the times the audience is laughing with me, and a lot of the time they're laughing at me and also my band; and the musicians often laugh at me. So, everyone has an opinion.
Has any act or artist objected to the Richard Cheese treatment? Has anyone issued a cease and desist, for example, or conversely has anyone said, "This is the most amazing thing we've ever heard?"
Well, no one has ever in my life ever said, "This is the most amazing thing I've ever heard." That's never happened to me once, not even in my personal sex life; nothing, nothing close to that.
But sometimes we have heard very good feedback from some of the artists; and sometimes they have never heard of us, and then when they hear us they're really excited. For example, the band Muse, they're a big rock band, and they love us for some reason; so, they actually found us first. They called me and they said, "Will you come play at our party?" We played at some party for them; and then we recorded one of their songs, and they loved it so much that they invited us to play another party. And so that's been really nice. But no one has ever told us don't do a song and no one has ever sued us (but it's probably because they know that I'm not making any money, from any of this).
That whole money-from-a-stone thing?
Exactly: We're not very successful, and I make no money.
Which covers did you think, "This is never going to work," and then you were pleasantly surprised?
Well, I always think they're going to work, because I have some fantastic musicians; and the arranger, my piano player, and I get together, and we try and make these things happen. Also, most “good” songs will work, no matter who is playing them, and that's really the secret – why songs are popular and why songs are hip – because if they can be made into a rock song, or a rap song, that hits the charts, they can most certainly be made into a lounge-y, Sinatra-style swing version. So it’s really just a testament to having material to work with. For example, you look at Rihanna and a song like "Work, Work, Work" – what a beautiful melody! Do you know what I'm saying? And Beyoncé, if you look at something like "Surfboard," it's a wonderful lyric. So, it’s pretty tough for us to screw-up stuff like that.
What is the ideal listening situation for swinging out with Richard Cheese & Lounge Against The Machine?
Oh, well, I would say Vegas. I mean, the best place to enjoy what we do, is in Vegas, in a showroom, on a weekend. And I'm not just trying to sell tickets to my show; this is the truth – because the reason why what we do works, is because most people who come see us are really drunk. That's why we seem so good, is because the audience is intoxicated, and don’t know if we're any good at all: They just believe that we are! So, that's why Las Vegas the perfect place to see us.
And also the good thing about Vegas is that everybody who's anybody plays there. There are probably 150 acts playing on a stage in Las Vegas, at any given minute, 24 hours a day. So it's the best place to perform because it's the most professional experienced teams and staff and stage. I mean it's the best place for a band. So we are very lucky.
Red Rock Casino has this fantastic lounge called Rocks Lounge, which was actually formed by a volcano (I think it was 400 million years ago); which means the venue is perfectly acoustically designed by nature. So, it's a wonderful place to hear our sound, and to see the show.
Vegas is the place for lounge music.
You mentioned arrangements and Frank Sinatra. And while that's many people's go-to for your music, to my ear, the arrangements sound far more akin to those of Steve & Eydie, for instance, than they do to Sinatra’s. Were there any other Rat Pack-era acts that influenced you?
Oh, yeah! Absolutely. And you're right: There's a big Steve & Eydie influence. There's also a lot of Tony Bennett, a lot of Dean Martin, and all of the other fabulous recording artists from the ‘50s and ‘60s, who I love. To me, Sammy Davis Jr. was the best entertainer of the 20th Century; and we really try and pick-up some of the style and arranging tricks used by that school of entertainer. Of course, I also like a lot of pretty obscure lounge acts.
Like Yma Sumac, or The Mike Flowers Pops?
Oh, yeah. I love Yma Sumac! And this one guy (hang on one second. I've got to remember his name), Frank D'Rone! This guy put out one record I want to say in '62 and I hear it all the time. I love it. And there are just a lot of great recording artists. Look at how many singers are out today: There are 10,000 people releasing tracks. In the 50s and 60s it was the same: Everyone was putting out records. You might've only heard the Sinatra and Dean Martin songs; but there are so many other low-end recording record companies, that maybe put out one song in 15 years. But there's so much dynamite music, and we mine it all.
Awesome. Were any songs recorded just really for your own amusement?
I think that everything is for our amusement: And then we just hope our fans like it. The good thing is that our fans have the same taste as we do; which is why everything seems to be accepted. But we're mostly doing these things, because we think that fans will like them. And I think the fans like what we're doing, because we are trying to please them. So, it's a, I think it's-- what is that? A vicious cycle? No. It's a feedback loop.
It's one or the other (and maybe both)...
It's a vicious feedback cycle loop!
Continued in Part 2...
Richard Cheese & Lounge Against The Machine
Rocks Lounge | Red Rock Casino Resort & Spa
Friday, September 06
Click HERE for info
Get into it!