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Wednesday, October 14,2009

TURN IT DOWN: A survey of Lansing's musical landscape

Q&A: Stargrazer

by Rich Tupica
The unorthodox approach of Lansing musician Peter Richards (AKA Stargrazer) will soon be documented on his debut album, “My Dreams are Running Late,” set for release next spring on Lansing’s GTG Records.

Aside from playing shows, Richards was also director of East Lansing’s Scene Metrospace from August 2006 to August 2008, and his art has appeared on countless flyers and posters.


Richards recently talked with Turn It Down about his music.


Describe your music. Is it comparable to anything else?


It's generally folk, in that it's based around acoustic instruments and songwriting. That's about where the resemblance ends, though. I kind of recoil at the ‘indie-folk’ tag, but I suppose that's the genre you'd find me in at a record store. Generally my songs have more bile than the majority of indie-folk, and probably more words, too.


How do your recordings differ from your live show?


I play electric and acoustic bass guitar, keyboards and do all the programming of loops, effects and samples on the recorded tracks. Live, it's just me and my acoustic bass. No frills, no net.


What first got you playing and writing music?


My mom is multi-instrumental and had a lot of classical and jazz vinyl. Her mother was a jazz singer. I grew up playing piano, then French horn, then harmonica and finally electric bass in about 1997. Learning a stringed instrument was a serious uphill challenge for me, since I was mostly a wind player, but I just imagined the strings as layers of piano keyboards.


What inspires your music?


A lot of non-musical things, really. I like rocks. Every time I go somewhere I come back with pockets full of rocks. [And] other things, like decaying architecture, confusing dreams, the deep ocean. Musically, I really appreciate drone and bands that incorporate it. I love where Sonic Youth and Polvo take ideas of melody and dissonance by incorporating drone.


Who is a big influence on your songwriting?


Mike Watt is a huge influence, packing concise politics and simple-yet-funky basslines into songs without extra choruses or solos. It opened my ears to a lot of stuff. I had been going down that Robert Johnson and classic rock path. I'd probably already own a Hawaiian shirt and be playing “Mustang Sally” somewhere if Mike Watt hadn't turned me on to all kinds of avant garde stuff happening under the punk umbrella.


For more on Stargrazer, visit www.myspace.com/stargrazerllc

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