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Interview With Sir Richard Bishop
Sir Richard Bishop, a member of avant-folk pioneers and pranksters the Sun City Girls, will be playing at Tokyo Garden with local upstarts Magic Whores and Cars Flowers on Friday, July 21st. Sir Richard Bishop plays improvised acoustic guitar pieces built upon his travel-stoked love of music from all over the world, especially India.
I asked him a few questions about music, chess, and food because those are my favorite things.
Your live show involves a lot of improvisation. Is that ever
Back in the late 1980s I would do a rare solo show in Phoenix every now
and then and I remember it being a little nerve-racking the first
couple of times but those days are long gone. Now, It can still be a little
challenging on occasion, depending on the audience, but its never
frightening. In fact, I really enjoy it.
Are your live performances strictly guitar or do you use any
Usually it's just me with an acoustic guitar with no backup. I often
have a loop effect box on stage with me as well but I hardly ever use
it. This tour I will probably be using a lap steel guitar for one or
two pieces but the majority will still be acoustic guitar.
Both Sun City Girls and your solo work are chock full of influences
from all over the world, and you are said to have traveled the world
several times over. What are some of your favorite listening
It's hard to really get specific on this one. There have been numerous
occasions (in Calcutta, Cairo, Jakarta, Fez, etc) where I was walking
down a path, trail or street, and I would hear music playing somewhere
in the distance. I would then do my best to track it down, trying to
continuously distinguish it from all the other sounds present, weaving
through narrow alleys, dodging camels, beggars, pickpockets, lepers,
rickshaws, you name it, always watching where I step of course. If the
music gets quieter, you know you're going the wrong way, if it gets
louder, you're getting close. Usually upon arrival I found it was worth
making the effort. And half the fun was just getting there. It's all
about the journey, man!
Are you the member who is very interested in Indonesia or is that a
All three of us have been to Indonesia and we all enjoy being there
when we can. My brother Alan has been there more often, however, and is
familiar with many more Indonesian musical traditions than I am. I'm
more interested in India.
I've seen photos of the Sun City Girls posing in awesome masks.
Where did you get them?
We've picked up masks from all over the world, including right here at
home. We've also made several masks ourselves over the years.
You've said you find it fun to try winning over different audiences,
finding what it takes to keep their attention. If you made a movie
about your life as a performer, what would be the ultimate
nightmare/fantasy audience you'd have to face and conquer in the
Oh I don't know, maybe a huge congregation of right-wing Christian
Zionists, you know, followers of Pat Robertson or something similar to
that. I'm sure I could 'wow' them with some fine Arabic fingerings or
perhaps provide them with an extremely loud psychedelic noise freak-out
in order to help prepare them for the rapture....you know, help get
them on their way, Godspeed! Yeah, that sounds about right.
Your surname is Bishop. Do you play chess? If so, what is your
favorite defense against 1. e4?
I enjoy playing Chess. I've always wanted to challenge Henry Kissinger
to a match, so Hank, if you're reading this, and I know you are, give
me a call; you got my cell number, right? If not, just check with the NSA,
I'm on file over there.
But seriously, against that opening, I'd usually go pawn d7 to d5, try
to expose the other's King and work from there. Sometimes, however, I
like to get on my horsie and go jumping.
Fresno is in the San Joaquin Valley, which is one of the most
agricultural areas in the world. Do you have a good recipe in which we
can use our produce?
I'm not much of a cook but I can boil water with the best of 'em!
Actually, I could probably dig up my old brownie recipe, however, I
would need the agricultural products first.
A long time ago someone told me that one of the Sun City Girls is the one and only Neil Hamburger. Is this true!?
No, not true at all. But, if Neil Hamburger ever needed a back up band,
we'd jump at the opportunity.
I think Mr. Hamburger has always preferred to keep his true identity a
secret but so many people now know who he is that I should just tell
you, but you can find out for yourself on Wikipedia (of all places). [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neil_Hamburger]
Sir Richard Bishop will be playing Friday June 21st at Tokyo Garden with Magic Whores and Cars Flowers. Tokyo Garden is located at 1711 Fulton St. in Downtown Fresno.