INTERVIEW: rickoLus on Being a Dad, The ’90s & His New Album, Coconut

Photo by Chris Hill of Digital Cypher Photography.

Photo by Chris Hill of Digital Cypher Photography.

“He married young, fathered a child and taught her to draw before he taught her to talk. He stashed over 1,000 illustrated conversations into a military foot locker, mostly about guinea pigs and doodles to pass the ketchup. His wife was a dark haired beauty, not unlike his mother. They met at a juice bar. They flirted in a King’s courtyard. Fell in love in a hurricane. She sang quietly in traffic, danced with a broom. She argued over bottles of whiskey and made sure the coffee was brewed before the first knotty head fell off the pillow in the morning. She drew the families fortunes in charcoal flip books, painted portraits from photographs.

Rickolus had a guitar at age 7, learned every song in the Ritchie Valens catalog by age 8. He taught himself the piano, Bach and “Chopsticks” in D minor. He recorded an album a day for 13 years in a green shed, 4,748 albums. Most albums will never be heard.

He started a one man band, played run down bars with low ceilings. Played outdoor concerts. Went on tour and cleared the Bone Zone. He played empty fields, full cemeteries, and bleating petting zoos. He wrote songs on the spot, he dismantled guitars and deconstructed drum kits. He wrote “Youngster”, an album from an old man about the youth he spent and wasted away on cigarettes and long drives.”Coyote and Mule” was a return to the green shed’s four track recording.”

-Excerpt from the artist’s official biography

rickoLus is not your usual singer/songwriter. His music comes from a place that is deep, thoughtful and honest. The only annoyance with his live performance is how easily he pulls it all off, without a worry in the world. Bleubird called me up a week ago and asked if I’d be interested in writing something up on rickoLus. I was honest and told him that I had never heard his music and my schedule was tight that day because of the radio show that I do for Jolt Radio. I ended up at Laser Wolf to catch the show running on 3 hours of sleep and looking like amateur hour, with a dying cellphone and a camera whose battery life was on 15%. It was reminiscent of my early days doing a zine in the mid ’90s, sans the cellphone. Bleubird introduced me to Rick(olus) and we hit it off. A few beers and hours later, rickoLus picked up his guitar and harmonica and blew me away within seconds.

TuffGnarl.com: Rickolus what have you been up to?
rickoLus: Just finishing a new record called Coconut. I’m doing an Indiegogo to press it on vinyl because I’ve never had my own vinyl. I’ve made a split 7″ and a split 12″, but I’ve never had one of my records completely on vinyl.

Side A and B.
Right.

You’re from Jacksonville, Florida. How is the scene there for musicians?
I’ve been in Jacksonville Beach my entire life. You know, there’s actually a lot of creative types, so it’s great. I’ve never surfed though. (Laughs.) I really do like the concept of surfers, though–the idea of a human being at the mercy of the ocean.

You’re a father. I’ve always been interested in artists that have children and the effect that a kid brings to the creative output. How has fatherhood changed your music?
Yes, she’s 12. There are not many things that will completely change your life. Do you have a kid?

Yes, a boy.
How old is your kid?

He’s a year and three months.
Oh, so you’re just getting into it. It’s just one of those things that you can’t understand until you’ve done it. Having a kid is easy. Especially for the guy, because it’s really a matter of minutes or seconds, depending. But being a parent is a completely different battle and if you decide to do that, then you’re in for this ride that’s all over the place. Artistically, I just recently realized how she’s affected how I was looking at the world based on how old she was. So I think when she was a baby my feeling about my music was the beauty of this overwhelming change and things like that. As she got older, it became this responsibility thing. You know the saying that you live by your kids vicariously? It’s not really that. It’s funny, because now that she’s becoming a teenager and she’s going to the same middle school that I went to, discovering bands like the Pixies and Nirvana and learning about music and wanting to play music. For me, it’s like, “Oh you’re doing that now.” It’s making me feel that all over again. All this angst and fuck-the-world attitude.

I never thought about how weird it’d get as they get older.
Oh yeah, it’s bizarre to be 34 and having more angst than when you were like 13.

Has she helped your music?
Yeah, for sure. It’s totally changed how I look at the world and how I approach music. It keeps challenging me with new experiences. I didn’t walk away from parenting and that’s definitely influenced how I write.

You’ve been actively playing for some time now. Do you feel it’s harder for artists to put out their music and succeed today compared to, say, 15 years ago?
No. If anything, it’s become easier. The lake became an ocean because of the internet. A rock falls into a lake and the ripples are felt by the edge. An ocean is so fucking huge that if something falls into it no one feels that shit. On the other hand, it’s easier than ever to do what you want to do. Playing and recording music… you can do it all yourself now. This is something that’s different than it has ever been in the history of music.

There’s so much music out there. Some of it is good but a lot of it is just horribly bad. Doesn’t that make it harder for musicians to get heard?
Right, but that’s what happens in an ocean. There’s still tons of space to cover and there’s amazing shit happening everywhere. The internet has localized everything. In the ‘90s, everything in that lake was palpable. Today, the impact of a band like Nirvana wouldn’t ever happen.

rickoLus Coconut campaign on IndieGoGo

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Chuck Livid

Chuck Livid hails from Miami, Florida. He did a zine in the '90s called Muddy Chaos and is best known for his work with independent music label Livid Records. Chuck lives in Boca Raton, Fl with his wife illustrator Helena Garcia and their son Nico. He founded TuffGnarl.com and hosts TuffGnarl.com's official music podcast - Another Music Podcast which is available on iTunes & Google Play

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