Richrath Project 3:13 Interview,
Playing JD Legends
Gary Richrath, the long time guitarist for REO Speedwagon past away in 2015, but his legacy lives on with the Richrath Project 3:13. Singer/guitarist Michael Jahnz recently released an album of songs that feature Gary's playing and songwriting.
The Richrath Project 3:13 will be performing at JD Legends on August 27.
We had the opportunity to have to do an email interview with Jahnz to discuss the Richrath Project and their upcoming appearance at JD Legends.
Greg Drugan: Hey Michael, congratulations on your new album! Tell me how the Richrath Project 3:13 came about.
Michael Jahnz: Thanks so much! Well, after Gary’s passing in 2015, the record company that released the Richrath “Only The Strong Survive” CD approached me with the thought of doing a second Richrath album. Since I still had several songs that Gary and I had worked on back when we were recording the first album in my archives, I decided to seriously consider it. I started looking through Gary and my old demos and came up with several options that I thought fans would be interested in.
GD: So Gary is actually playing on some of the songs?
MJ: Yes. Like I said, Gary and I had worked on tons of songs together over the years and recorded a lot of demos together. With today's technology, my sound engineer was able to isolate and pull Gary’s actual guitar tracks of those old demos. My current band played along with those tracks of Garys, and I added all the harmonies with my many background vocals along with my lead vocals. The results are just amazing! It literally sounds like Gary is right there in the studio playing with us.
GD: How did you first meet up with Gary?
MJ: I had moved to California with my band from the midwest back in 1985. Around 1988, my drummer happened to be at a convenience store one day and who walked in, but Gary Richrath! Gary looked at my drummer and his long hair and asked if he happened to be in a band. Of course he said yes and Gary proceeded to tell him we should jam sometime. None of us ever thought in a million years that that would ever happen… but it did!
GD: Who else played on the album?
MJ: I have a great group of musicians in my band. My lead guitarist, Dennis Pockets does an amazing job emulating Gary, he’s always been a huge Gary Richrath fan and it shows. Scott Weber, my keyboard player, has been with me the longest. Doug Janssen on bass and Andy Crownover on drums are the newest members of the group and like I said, all very talented. It’s really a great combination and a great group of guys.
GD: So you are taking this out on the road. What is that experience going to be like?
MJ: We are all so excited to start playing our new music. We have always prided ourselves in honoring the legendary Gary Richrath by playing the songs he wrote for REO Speedwagon, as well as Richrath tunes. Now, not only can we give fans some Gary songs that no one has ever heard before, but we're really looking forward to showcasing our new originals to show everyone the direction the band is headed in next. So far, the response has been just great!
GD: Looking back on your career, when did you start singing and playing guitar?
MJ: I actually started off playing bass. I got my first bass when I was twelve years old. I played my eighth grade dance as my first “professional” gig. I sang then too, but it wasn’t until that chance meeting with Gary and him hearing my voice that I actually knew I really had a gift. He couldn’t believe how I could “pin the needles” as he said. That being said, it was his idea (well he actually insisted) I learn how to play guitar so I could be his frontman. He was the one who taught me to play.
GD: Who were some of your influences growing up?
MJ: I started off playing bass and liking more progressive rock bands like YES and RUSH, but the vocal harmonies of bands like Ambrosia, Little River Band and of course the Eagles really influenced my singing.
GD: Who was the first artist you saw in concert and how did that impact you?
MJ: YES with Chris Squire on bass and well, like I said, I became a bass player after that concert.
GD: Did you ever see REO Speedwagon with Gary?
MJ: Yes. I saw the Wheels Are Turning Tour. I have a funny story. I actually met Gary once before! I was at a hotel in downtown Milwaukee for my high school prom. REO happened to be playing in town. I was on the elevator heading up to my room when the doors opened and who was standing there, yep, Gary Richrath! Who would’ve ever guessed I’d be playing with him all those years later! Wild stuff.
GD: So you are going to be playing just outside of Dayton at the end of the month. What can fans expect from the show?
MJ: Of course fans can expect to hear several of our songs off the new album along with some Richrath tunes from “Only The Strong Survive”. We will also be doing some of the REO Speedwagon classics. We like to play the hits from the early REO days such as “Like You Do” and “Golden Country”. We re-recorded “Son of a Poor man” and “Ridin’ the Storm Out” on our new CD and the fans can expect to be rockin’ out to those awesome songs as well!
If you are in the Dayton area, make sure to check out the Richrath Project 3:13 at JD Legends on August 27. Tickets start at $10 and can be purchased by clicking here.