I missed my calling.
As much as I enjoy interviewing musicians and writing about music for you all to read and especially songwriting (especially that), secretly, I’ve always just wanted to play bass in a band. Of course I don’t play bass or anything but whatevs, always wished for just that.
Even so, as much as I’ve secretly always wanted to play bass in a band, doing it for over 40 years sounds like a lot to me. Like, a lot… but not for John Rider of Max Creek.
Creek has been making records and touring for their loyal fan base for over four decades from Connecticut to Costa Rica and way beyond, and John Rider has been there on bass for all of it. He’s the last remaining founding member even though the core front line of guitarist Scott Murawski, keyboardist Mark Mercier and Rider on bass has remained intact since the mid-70s. Creek is rounded out by the percussion team of Bill Carbone and Jamemurrell Stanley, neither of whom were alive when the band was founded, myself either for that matter. (source:maxcreek.com)
Let’s be clear: Max Creek does not need to do interviews. But, to John’s credit, he likes what he’s seeing Infinity Hall do for music in Connecticut and he was kind enough to take the time to speak with me about it and about his band and we can’t thank him enough for it. Hope you enjoy!
Griff: Today I have the privilege of speaking with John Rider, he’s played bass in Max Creek for over four decades who, this Saturday 9/20, will be performing at Infinity Hall Norfolk. Of course we all visit maxcreek.com for show info and follow the band on Twitter @maxcreek but John, thanks for taking the time today, thank you for doing this.
John: Sure, happy to.
Griff: So last year marked the 30th Anniversary of Creek’s double LP ‘Drink the Stars’ which was recorded live over several shows in 1982 and released the following year, and the band celebrated by offering up the 30th Anniversary Edition digital release of ‘Drink the Stars’ available on itunes, Amazon, Spotify and other fine online outlets…
John: And actually we’re considering putting it out again, this time on vinyl because people have been asking for that. I had rediscovered some of the original masters and such so we’ll see what can happen with it all.
Griff: Wow, a little inside baseball there, nice. You heard it here first. (Laughs) So what stands out in your memory about those shows, where were they and what were they like, the nights you recorded ‘Drink the Stars’?
John: They were at Cell Block 11 which was down almost underneath (Interstate) 84 in Hartford on the West Hartford line. Cell Block 11 was (laughs) owned by a guy, the reason he called it Cell Block 11 was that he had been in prison in New Jersey and that was his cell block. He thought that was a great joke, but he was a big supporter of Max Creek. Mainly because we always brought capacity crowds to the place, about 8 or 9 hundred people, there might have been a thousand for those particular shows. But we brought in a sound company who had done all our recordings up to that point called The Nineteen, which was out of Glastonbury. They had a studio there but they loaded all their equipment into a truck and recorded it from the truck parked outside the place. So, have you actually seen the set?
Griff: Just on the wall at Telefunken, actually. I just have the digital copy myself.
John: See way back when, whenever you had classical recordings they were always, because they were so long, they always came in box sets of two or three discs and the box itself had the leather book-type binding with the gold leaf across the spine saying what it was…
Griff: Oh, sure. Sure.
John: Right, so we were of the feeling that this was classic Creek that we were recording so we put it in a classical-style box and so the whole idea was that it was like the classical record set kind of thing. It was a lot of fun making it, it was probably the best… the most enjoyable album that I’ve worked on because it was totally live, very little post production in the studio. It was a pleasure to work on that particular one.
Griff: Nice. It’s amazing to hear you tell it, to hear about another time in Connecticut music. Clubs under 84 in Hartford, The Nineteen in Glastonbury, it’s really a history lesson, that’s awesome. In general, what do feel the biggest difference is between touring then and now, what stands out to you as better or worse or easier or harder than it was in the late 70s/early 80s?
John: Well, you know it’s not too different at all, really, except at this point and time, we don’t put up with as much. It’s like, you know, there were lots of things in the 70s & 80s, sleeping on floors and couches for one, that we don’t do anymore. (Laughs) Fortunately you get to the point were you can require certain things, but as far as road wear and tear and everything else it’s very much the same. Any bands that are new, starting out, I’m sure have the same frustrations. You can talk to other bands like in an airport or something, a newer band or an established band and it’s like they’ve all got the same stories so…
Griff: Just fewer in your case. No, I get that. I find that some musicians, the longer I hang out with them, I notice they tell the same road story or band anecdote more than once, do you have a favorite yourself? Is there a go-to war story you like to tell?
John: You know, it’s like one of those things I would think that probably… Mark (Mercier) seems to come up with those stories more than I do, and of course some of those stories I wouldn’t care to see in print…
Griff: (laughs) Absolutely.
John: I got a lot of em, but none that I’m ready to specifically share in a public nature.
Griff: Thats even better, I love that answer. What are you listening to yourself these days?
John: Lately it’s been mostly Creek actually, the band is just starting to write again and so I’ve been listening to a lot of that and getting that together, but normally I just listen to a real eclectic mix of things. Everything from pop that my son puts on, my younger son. My older sons are into Phish and The Grateful Dead and Max Creek oddly enough, but ahh, I go back to my old Gordon Lightfoot roots, always loved that guy and that’s were it’s been the past couple weeks.
Griff: Nice yeah, Iron & Wine is a band I listen to all the time, guy named Sam Beam, and I don’t know this for a fact, but listening to his music, he also is a Gordon Lightfoot fan, so when you’ve got some time, brother.
Griff: John, again, I can’t thank you enough for taking the time today, anyone gigging for 40 years doesn’t need to grant interviews so it’s really very kind of you. I’m excited for the show Saturday in Norfolk and I know Infinity is very excited for some Creek as well…
John: Well, you know what, it’s partly because that when we started out in Hartford things were good. There was Mad Murphy’s on Union Place, and there was a couple of other places down there to play, and every year we’d play in Bushnell Park at night or sometimes they’d block off Union Place and have a giant block party and we’d play on the railroad station steps. That was in the 70s and it was a happening scene down there which has been lost. Largely because the whole live music scene in Hartford had sort of deteriorated so I’m very happy to see that the Infinity Music Hall has come in to Hartford and will hopefully revive that scene somewhat.
Griff: Me too. And thank you, I thoroughly enjoyed the little bit of history lesson on the Hartford music scene, sir, that was great, thanks. Just finally, what advice do you have for young folks starting out, what’s your secret to longevity? How do you play in a band for over forty years?
John: (laughs) It’s like when we got to ten years we had a big celebration at Trinity College and it was broadcast on the radio and we figured, ok well that’s probably it, another couple years and we’ll be done. Then 20 years came along and we said, ok better celebrate that. Then five years later we were still together, so ok so 25 years…
No, you know, I think we’ve all done the same thing you have to do in any marriage that lasts, you’ve all got to give and take, a lot of compromises and by doing that you end up staying together, whether it’s a marriage or a band. If you’re constantly just at each other, that’s not a band that’s going last very long. That’s a band that stays together long enough to make a big hit but they don’t even speak to each other off stage and that’s not going to last, there’s a lot of that that’s gone on. So I would say you’ve got to be willing to make compromises in order to last.
Griff: And you gotta love it, right?
John: Oh well, that’s the other thing, you’ve got to have the passion for it.
Griff: Well said. We will see you Saturday, John, thanks again.
Max Creek plays Infinity Hall Norfolk THIS SATURDAY 9/20 at 8pm! Can’t miss it! The band will also be performing at the legendary Nectar’s in Burlington, VT for their ‘Creekend at Nectar’s’ October 17 & 18, sounds pretty cool, just sayin… maxcreek.com for info and dates
Follow Max Creek @maxcreek
Follow Infinity Hall @InfinityHall
Follow me @AuthorGriffin
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