After Into Another split up some years ago, singer
and songwriter Richie Birkenhead disappeared somehow from the international
music scene. 2004 marks the year of his return: The Formula, Birkenhead's
solo project, will release a full album entitled "Lonely Splendor"
this spring on Redemption Records. Reason enough to talk to one of the
most inspiring musicians ever.
So Richie, what have you been doing all these years since Into Another
Well, in a nutshell… I spent the last few years living in Los
Angeles. I got married and then divorced. I’ve been writing songs
and recording them in my home, doing graphics work, spending quality
time with my dog, Oliver…
Why did Into Another split up? I heard there were several problems
with the record label?
Yes, the label was a nightmare. I can’t solely blame
them for breaking up the band; but they were a major factor in breaking
down band morale.
There's this unreleased Into Another album "Soul Control",
why wasn't it released? There were stories that the record label (Hollywood
Records) was quite shocked because it was so much different than the
Those stories are false. The label never expressed shock or
disappointment over our sonic evolution on “Soul Control”.
The record wasn’t released (or even finished) because our battles
with Hollywood Records had already gotten bad before mixing was completed
(which is why it never was). Our fights with Hollywood had to do with
terrible distribution and promotion of “Seemless”.
Is there any chance to see an official release of "Soul
Control" some day?
Yes. That would be nice. I know that some people have sold
copies of this unfinished album and, while I am happy that these songs
were finally heard, I am very unhappy and quite angry that others profited
from our hard work, while we received nothing.
How would you describe the evolution of Into Another from "Seemless"
to "Soul Control" as "Soul Control" has less guitars
and more electronic sounds, beat driven electronica, drum'n bass influences
Well, it seems that you’ve just described it... But my interpretation
would differ somewhat. All of the drums on “Soul Control”
are real (played, as usual, by Drew). I don’t think of electronica
as music with real drums. There are electronic music influences, I suppose.
But, unlike a lot of that music, we were able to sit in a room and play
all of those songs live, without any pre-recorded or sampled sounds.
Since you were part of Into Another for seven years, do you
feel attached to it more than to your first band Underdog, which you
left quite early or is it hard to say?
Well, I was with Underdog for quite a long time (the band was
first called Numskuls, and then True Blue), so I feel a great affinity
toward that band and have many, many fond memories. Into Another was,
however, much more of a vehicle of personal expression and introspection
for me. With Into Another, I never felt bound to a genre or a movement.
I felt completely free artistically and it brought out a great deal
of honesty in my writing.
Tony Bono, Into Another's former bass player died in May 2002
at the young age of 38, which is really sad.
How did you learn about his death, and how did it affect you? Were you
still in contact after Into Another's split anyway?
I was driving across the country, from L.A. to New York. My
manager, Rose, called me while I was at a rest stop in Nebraska and
told me that Tony had died. It was like someone drained all of the blood
from my body. It still breaks my heart to think that he is gone. We
were only occasionally e-mailing each other. We were not in frequent
contact. I regret that. Tony was a brilliant artist. But, more importantly,
he was a very kind and very good human being.
Are you still talking to Peter Moses and Drew Thomas?
Drew and I are still very close (as we were long before Into Another
existed). I very seldom hear from Peter.
Let's talk about your new project The Formula. I read on the
internet you signed with Redemption Records, an independent label and
that your first album "Lonely Splendor" will be released this
spring. What is your story with Redemption Records? How did you get
to sign with that label?
Ryan Kuper, the head and founder of Redemption, and I are old
friends. One day we were having a conversation about what I was doing
musically and one thing led to another. Redemption is a very cool label
and Ryan is a great guy… very honest, no bullshit.
Also, how long did you work on "Lonely Splendor", and what
is the sound like? Could you describe it in a few words?
On-and-off, here-and-there… for a couple of years actually (although
I re-recorded each song two or three times). The album ended up with
a very minimalist sound. The songs are, for the most part, somewhat
slow, melodic and dark. Lots of acoustic guitar.
Would you consider The Formula an actual band or more a solo
project? Who participated in the recordings?
Well, honestly, much more of a solo project. Frankie Inglese,
one of my oldest friends, played some guitar and did some co-production
stuff early on. Drew played some drums. I did everything else (including
Are there any live shows planned? I know many people over here
would like to know if you will play any shows in Europe again?
Yes, of course. I can’t wait to play live again.
Will there be a European release of "Lonely Splendor"?
Good question. I don’t know : )
I hope so!
What are you doing (for work) besides making music? I know you worked
for Revelation Records as a graphic designer for some time...
I do all sorts of graphics stuff… web site design, Flash
movies, layout and design for print, photo re-touching old Beatles photos
for a legendary photojournalist named Harry Benson...
You were a guest singer on Deadsy's "Brand New Love", a band
led by Cher's son Elijah Blue Allman. How did that happen? Also, do
you have any plans regarding future collaborations with Deadsy?
That happened because Elijah and his manager, Josh Richman are dear
friends of mine. Nothing is planned, but I would love to work with Deadsy
again. They are one of the very few bands who take artistic chances
and are creating something truly original and important.
Do you have a favorite restaurant in New York and/or Los Angeles?
I have a lot of them... In L.A. one of my faves is Real Food
Daily. In New York, I would say Gobo is my latest fave.
Alright, thanks a lot for your time. I truly appreciate it, my last
question: what makes you happy, Richie?
Hmmm… Among many other things…
Love, peace, Oliver (my dog), the ocean, old movies, the Mets, Jets
Interview conducted by Katharina and Magnus Jaschke in January 2004.