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Richie Parsons last punk recording
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Richie Parson Interview

On the occasion of his "last punk recording"

May 2023

Parsons recording
In the studio with Parsons, Frank Dehler and Doug Harper

The Last Punk recording date...

We met up with Richie at his “last punk” recording date at Ed Reimer's recording studio. It’s in a nice residential neighborhood in Canton, in the garage. It was a very comfortable place. There is a big downstairs recording room and an upstairs room with the control board.

In the studio
Malcolm Travis with Richie
Richie was on guitar and he had Frank Dehler on bass, Doug Harper on guitar and Malcolm Travis on drums. They spent time getting levels on the instruments.

The songs were new, the band had never played them together. As they played live in the studio the first take was shaky. They talked up where they were unsure of the changes. They tried second and third takes and sounded more formed now but without the vocals you wouldn't identify as a strong song.

The fourth take finally hits! Now you can hear a song! It has ups and downs and the rhythm makes your head bop in sync.

Frank’s bass reminds you of the Axe all on its own. The drums are kicking in the changes and you look forward to them. Doug is placing in some nice licks.

The fifth take has fire and all the elements are working. Now you know this is a song that will really work with the vocal going on. What a feeling, to hear something get its form and energy over the course of twenty minutes or so. So this is how it's done!

Guitar original
The guitar used in the original Unnatural Axe sessions
Next they’ll do the vocals. We leave but the recording goes on till 6 pm, they get three songs done. The next day they finish up and do another song.

Joe Queer was going to be there as a producer but was stuck in Atlanta but he did do some producing by phone.

We've heard some rough mixes and it is indeed some Axe-like punk!!

Their will be five songs on this EP. "Go Shit In Your Hat" - which was a favorite expression of Richie’s aunt, "Shit Show" - a funny and recognizable tale of a messed up couple, #1 Punk, You're the #1 Punk" - how Richie feels about being maybe too old to be punk, "Uncle Bill" - a story of one of Richie's relatives (there's a book there!) and "Outside View" - a cover of one of the youngest Englsih punk groups ever, Eater.

Will this really be the last of punk for Richie???


The Interview:

BGN - Since you announced it on Facebook, obviously the # 1 question is- why have you decided that this recording with be your last Punk recording?

Richie - In 2006 I went to Rome with Unnatural Axe and in 2007 with Just Head (Boston Rock cover band). I made friends there that changed my life and my outlook on music. From that experience came an Unnatural Axe / Nasties split 7” and my first Solo LP Honey and Tears. That experience with Ken Stringfellow producing, spawned another Solo LP, Black Throated Blue.

Richie Parsons
All the while Unnatural Axe continued to play a few times a year. We never anticipated writing “new” Axe songs because we wrote a few good ones 40-ish years prior and we still had fun playing them. In addition to my solo power pop stuff I wrote a few “Punk” tunes and hung on to them. Unnatural Axe played a Throw Down when the Real Kids canceled. I gave Joe Queer a couple of tunes to listen to and that was that. Seven years later I wrote a new tune “Go Shit In Ya Hat’ (something my Nanna said) and it is an Axe tune. I thought about our original EP “Hitler’s Brain” and thought that I had another “Punk” EP in me, so I revisited the tunes I gave Joe and figured I’d add a cover tune and write one more (Uncle Bill) and I got a Punk EP!!! I guess it is my “last” because I do not want to push the “Hey I’m a 63-year-old punk” thing because I am not. I am still immature, funny and have bad skin but hey wait …is it my last?

BGN- Well, let’s dissect that answer, there is a lot there! You say the friends you made in Rome changed your life. Musically as well as personally? And how so?? -

Richie - I started to write and record with some of my new Italian friends and have hosted 5 or 6 bands from Italy in our home since then. Father Murphy, Nasties, Vermilion Sands, Guida, Miss Chain and The Broken Heels, Elli De Mon, Silva Cantle. Also my friend Suz from Rome introduced me to Ken Stringfellow who has since produced my 2 solo LPs

BGN- The Nasties are pop/punk which is basically what UA are. So how did recording with them affect you and/or change you musically?

Malcolm Travis
Malcolm Travis
Richie - They did the Axe cover of Creeper and we covered one of their songs “Back to LA” - we did not record together I just had then split 45 Idea.

BGN- Whoa it’s been nine years since Honey and Tears. When did you start thinking about writing more melodic power pop instead of punk?

Richie - I started recording the Chord Rockers EP that I wrote and recorded with Astrid and Alex. The basic tracks for that were done here with Frank Dehler and Jack Clark as rhythm section.

BGN- Can you explain and give examples of how Ken Stringfellow affected your writing/playing and thoughts on your music?

Richie - I admired the Posies and when I met Ken in Rome he was playing with his band Chariot with Javier Escovedo and Pat Fear. They were great. We connected again when he came to stay with me when he was touring with The Disciplines from Norway and another time when he was doing a solo tour. I asked him in my kitchen if I could send him some demos if he would let me know what he thought of the tunes. Honey and Tears was recorded mostly at Ed’s barn with a ton of different people playing on it and some was recorded in Paris at Ken’s studio. Tracks were added from California - Rob Johnson and Jonathan Paley, Italy - Astrid , Elli De Mon. Ken added his own vocals and some instrumentation. It was such a thrill to sing harmonies with him.

BGN- Aging is so bizarre, especially, it seems, for us punks. I might be in my 60’s but I still have the same mindset in a lot of ways that I had when we were hanging out at the Rat but …you know I’m in my 60’s and people see that as old…certainly not punk!! It’s very weird!! Are you feeling OK with being 63?

Richie -Mostly Ok. I’m less tolerant of some people and political crap, and more accepting of people that are just trying to survive. Health is a concern - but my mind is still very much 17 year old funny sophomoric goofball.

Ed Reimer
Richie, Frank and Ed Reimer
BGN- Do you feel ridiculous when you smash a beer can on your head on stage but your 63 instead of 23?

Richie -I haven’t done a lot of that lately. But I will offer a tip, the 16oz cans are more forgiving !!

BGN- You say: “I do not want to push the “Hey I’m a 63-year-old punk” thing because I am not.” So you don’t “see” yourself as punk anymore?? Can you explain that? For me it’s always going to be in my bones even if I make it to 80!

Richie - Wellllll….I guess I am still a “punk” but at the same time I have more layers of understanding and interests. If someone called up and said hey all the Punks are gonna smash disco records wanna come? I’d probably be running away with some sweet disco records intact.

BGN- also Punk isn't just about music. There are other facets and ways of thinking and rebelling. There are definitely parts of that that you are holding on to. What are those things? What have you gotten rid of …?

Richie - I guess the comic and goofy side is still with me. Punk Magazine, Ramones, Dictators etc. I’m fairly left wing so the reality of Hippy/Punk is frightening but kinda true.

Richie, Frank and Doug Harper
BGN- You were in The Future Dads and you became a Dad. So you did have to kind of ‘grow up’ huh? How did that change you?

Richie -I became a “Present Dad” in 1990 - I think I was in my short stint with Condo Pigmyies? Maybe origins of Tomato Monkey too. I kinda stopped playing music at home but being a dad did not stifle any creativity.

BGN- What older punks do you think are making good music now?

Richie - I have only purchased a handful of records in the past few years. None of the artists were punks best I know. Any Boston Punk I know that is still is playing are all playing good music.

BGN- What about going back to your original inspiration to play punk when you were a kid. Can you give us some of the elements that instigated that back then?

Frank Dehler
Frank Dehler
Richie -Discovering the Dictators, Ramones, and Sex Pistols and... Tommy White, Frank Dehler, Denise Donahue, Filene’s Basement, Cantone’s, Loretta and Carmen, La Peste, Thrills, Neighborhoods, The Count, WTBS - Oedi on the DemiMonde …Dorchester

BGN- What would you say has changed about punk since you began doing it?

Richie -It is a generational thing. Green Day were a Punk Revival band and kids that did not know 1977 Punk called them Punk. There are plenty of good bands these days that are playing punk style music that does not sound like a revival band - Cosmic Psychos and The Queers come to mind as they are both early 80’s bands that came in on the tail end of punk but are still kicking ass.

BGN- Looking back, is there anything you would have done different in your punk career?

Richie - Nah. I’m still in awe of the fact that a C is only half a step up from a B when FGA and B are all 2 away from each other. I’m still learning how to write a song and it’s fun as hell.


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