Ric Hordinski of Monk, Over the Rhine
Interviewed October 12, 1996
The Garden Coffeehouse
On December 3rd, 1996, Over the Rhine announced that after seven years as a Midwest club band, guitarist Ric ("Rich") Hordinski and drummer Brian Kelley were leaving to pursue other interests. Two months before the announced break-up, Linda interviewed Ric at a performance of his side-band, a three-piece jazzy number called Monk. The set-up highlighted Ric's virtuosity on guitar with Brian Kelley and Brahm Oshray on drums and bass.
Ric gave no indication in the interview of his dissatisfaction with Over the Rhine, but in a follow-up call on December 16, Ric explained that he had felt "very submerged" in the band, especially in the last year. It wasn't worth the sacrifice band membership requires. It was his opinion that the interactive magic of its members which produced something much greater than the sum of its parts had degenerated into a roving T-shirt sale.
Ric is now developing plans for Monk, which include recording in late winter for a summer release and touring the U.S. until they head to Europe next September. Ric believes that Monk is "approaching critical mass." He describes the sound as "more open-groove oriented, more visceral, more pelvis, less head and heart"--communicating on a sub-conscious, feeling level.
Linda - Let's start with Monk. Tell me about your band.
Ric - Three pieces live, I'm in there playing guitar, singing.
Linda - Electric?
Ric -It's really about songs, and we'll do some instrumentals to stretch things out. It's really about writing these little pop songs that hopefully have something to say. But I always try to build in a little space where the songs can grow live so that if something's happening, we can just run with it. So it's real open. We try to be real open. Sometimes we just do the song and that's it. Sometimes, the song completely breaks down and something magical happens. Sometimes we fall flat on our faces, so you never know. That's OK, you've got to take that chance.
Linda - Not afraid to improvise?
Ric - Oh, no. We'll take a few chances. Depends on the audience, too. If the audience is open and we're feeling a lot of good energy from the audience, then we'll go for it.
Linda - How long have you guys been together?
Ric - Well, the ensemble sort of changes. I've had Brian Kelley, the drummer, as sort of a constant. I've had a different bass player play on some gigs, and sometimes I'll have another guitar player, so the form is sort of liquid. It's been the three of us mostly this last year (Brahm Sheray on bass). It's kind of cool because we're real small and mobile. We can just hop in the van and go, it's relatively cheap, and it's cool. I like the fact that it's the three of us, and there's a lot of space that's left open. I like it musically. There's a lot of room to work. Sometimes the pressure's too much for me.
Linda - Pressure?
Ric - Well, just if you've got to play guitar and sing and I'm having a bad night, then it can really drag everything down.
Linda - What about future plans for Monk and Ric?
Ric - We're negotiating record deals with a couple people, negotiating seriously with one person right now, and there's a couple others floating around. So we're hoping to have something out in the spring, but that's still very tenuous at this point. Hopefully it'll come to pass.
Linda - And you're going to record this in your studio?
Ric - I think so. I've been doing a lot of records there. Most of the last Over The Rhine record was mixed there. And some of the Over The Rhine Christmas record will be done there. But for variety, I'll probably do some things at other studios.
Linda - And you're doing other commercial things in there as well?
Ric - I don't really do commercial things. If there's something I'm interested in, I'll work on it. My partner is more open to taking someone he's not familiar with; I'm more uptight about who I'm working with. I want it to be something I can really believe in. Or at least really feel like their music is speaking to me, and that I have something to contribute to it. Sometimes I'll do someone who is really great, but I don't feel like there's any room or that they don't need me to do it, and I'll send them somewhere else. There've been a couple of bands where I thought, wow, they really have something going on, and I feel like they need a couple things I can offer. I just did a record for a band called Plow On Boy from Cincinnati, and they are great. They made a great record. So I'm really hopeful for them that something good will happen.
Linda - What do you hope your audiences will take away from seeing you?
Ric - I hope there are little scraps and little pieces of little facets of little things I've found along the road of my life that I can share those with people, just in the same way other people have shared those things with me. Not that I have all the answers. But I may be a little older, may be a little further down the road, maybe there's something I know that someone hasn't heard. And if not, I think music has a definite power to speak to people regardless of what's being said or sung, so hopefully we're up there and we can sort of let our guard down and communicate with the audience.
Linda - Tell me about your background.
Ric - I grew up in northeastern Ohio. I went to a little college in Canton, Ohio. It was a private college. Luckily there was an amazing guitar professor there. I didn't know it at the time, but he was a real serious jazz guy, so I was able to get some pretty good instruction from him growing up. I studied music there; I eventually left just a few hours before getting my degree to go on the road, where I've been ever since, more or less.
Linda - How long has that been?
Ric - Since about 1988. I am a veteran, I must confess.
Linda - Have you spent all that time with Over The Rhine?
Ric - No, I've worked for maybe a dozen people. I've done stuff with Over The Rhine, played guitar for David Wilcox, played guitar for Phil Keaggy, and lots and lots of people.
Linda - Bob Dylan?
Ric - Yeah, I was on tour with those guys, but I didn't play guitar for them specifically.
Linda - Bruce Cockburn, Adrian Belew, and the Rembrandts?
Ric - Rembrandts? Yep, did some shows with those guys. So yeah, with Over the Rhine, and with other things I've come in contact with a lot of people over the years.
Linda - Who have been your influences?
Ric - Uhm, song writing-wise, guys like Bruce Cockburn. Obviously The Beatles have been a big influence. I'm really a sucker for post-Beatles bands like Crowded House. Touring with Squeeze was really fun; I really enjoyed listening to those guys every night. Their songwriting craft is really together. In terms of songwriting, I like really big melodies. Guitar playing-wise, gosh. I listen to so many guitar players and horn players and all that kind of stuff that I hope that it all just sort of gets mixed up and comes out being original.
Linda - Let's talk about Christianity. We're meeting in a church, the coffeehouse you are playing for is sponsored by a church. Where are you spiritually? Does Christianity influence you in anyway?
Ric - Let me say first of all that I think asking someone what they believe about something is such a personal thing. I know that there's a whole school of thought that says it's not a personal thing--that you should be plastering it on your bumpers, making banners, and whatever. But I can only answer for myself, and for me it's a personal thing.
Christianity definitely influences me in lots of ways. In terms of the music, I think I was raised with various traditional influences, and because of that, I think that I am a little bit immune to some of those images. I actually get a lot of inspiration from a lot of Buddhist literature and writings, and some Japanese, especially Japanese influenced Buddhism--just because the images are fresh to me, and I don't associate them with a place or a time. They're completely fresh. I think if someone from outside this culture were to come in and read some Christian literature, they might have that same feeling. But because I was raised with it, I don't.
Linda - So you've always been a Christian?
Ric - When you say the word "Christian" and I say the word "Christian," we have no idea if we are talking about the same thing, you know?
Linda - Well, we could define terms.
Ric - Well, see. Then you're into a whole nebulous area there. I mean, what your definition would be might not be the same as my definition.
Linda - Of what a Christian is?
Ric - Yeah, and it's all hinging on the way that you interpret this particular set of writings. When you read it, you come out with a feeling that that defines Christianity, whereas when I read, I might not come out with that feeling. If the question was, do I, do I try to live my life by the teachings of Jesus? I would have to say yes. If the question was do I succeed? I would probably have to say no most of the time.
I'm thirty-two now, and those are all issues that are not closed with me. I think the more I learn about what it means to be a spiritual person, to be concerned with spiritual things, I just realize how much less I know about it. At this point in my life, I'm just trying to look at things and decide what I really think is true. It's really difficult, I think, if you're raised a certain way to try to look at things objectively.
Obviously, you think it's true or you wouldn't believe in it. And I'm not trying to say that in any way it wouldn't be true, but you have to realize that it's a belief system and that you're believing something that's true, but everybody else believes something else is true. So if we had facts, it wouldn't be faith, you know?
|Rosemarie Oehler is the founder of Arts for Relief and Missions (ARM), a charitable organization in Illinois. She has documented everyday life in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union through a hundred-plus series of oil paintings that she has used to raise humanitarian aid. The picture behind Monk at the Garden Coffeehouse is an earlier work, entitled "After the Fall."|
The Garden Coffeehouse is the nomadic outreach ministry of the Evanston Vineyard Christian Fellowship. It generally takes place in the parish hall of a hundred-year-old, red sandstone United Methodist church. Promoter Chris Langill transforms a two-story parish hall into an intimate club for the occasion by hauling in backdrops, a stage, stage lighting, a sound system, card tables, and chairs. He offers good coffee, natural juices, and home-baked goodies, along with top-notch artists.