Sometimes I despair that so many of the acts I know and love remain outsiders, ignored by the music scene. Mediocrity reigns supreme and is easily available at the click of a ‘like’ or ‘love’. I’ve tried to understand this constant movement to the centre ground, to obviousness, but I still don’t get it. I just try to change things in some small way.
I count Rickerly from Manchester as one of those acts that should receive much greater recognition. Original, musically enjoyable with a sense of humour, and a great act to watch, so I thought I’d have a chat with the man behind the masks, Rick Hartley.
Tell me a little bit about yourself Rick?
Rick: I’m a music and animal loving man pretty much spending most my time writing music or playing with cats. I’ve been writing music for quite a while now, I’ve always been fascinated by making sounds out of anything I can get my hands on.
So what music did you first start making?
Rick: I first started when my mum got a piano, I was about 9 years old. I can still remember the first piece I composed – it’s not very good but I can remember my Dad pretending to be impressed. Through high school and college I’ve been in various rock and indie bands playing guitar, drums, piano and sometimes singing. Currently I’m happily settled playing bass with the angry alt punk outfit Rocketship Forest and creating electronic music as Rickerly.
Me: It’s interesting that a fair few solo electronic musicians also play in bands. There’s quite a contrast really but maybe one feeds the other in terms, or its also good to have a bit of company. But let’s talk about Rickerly for now.
How long have you been playing as Rickerly?
Rick: Rickerly started at the beginning of 2016 as a personal challenge more than anything else. I’d played electronic music as (murmur) and also part of a duo called Bug & Leaf in the past, but a few years had passed without much output. However, I was still forever writing electronic music and had a lot of unfinished pieces. I decided to write and release an E.P. every month as a way to get all my ideas finished and into the public eye. It was incredible fun and though I didn’t quite manage one every month, it gave me a great platform to move forward. I’d recommend this kind of challenge for anyone who has a lot of creative ideas but struggles to complete them! For the last year or so I’ve taken Rickerly to the stage and focused on finding fun and interesting ways to perform my music live. I think the live performances have given the project a bit more of a specific focus on what or who Rickerly is. He / she feels more like an alter ego now.
So where did the idea for the stage persona come from?
Rick: I can’t remember having a fully formed idea for the outfit, I just knew I wanted to do something that looked interesting. I had a bjork fancy dress outfit so I repurposed that and added masks. Masks are interesting in the power they have over the wearer and the spectator. Having many masks to play with allows me to perform in different ways which in itself has given Rickerly a different angle and memorable image. I think live bands and artists should consider their visual appearance and performance more and remember that people are coming to watch as much as listen – so give them something to watch!
Me: I agree, more people should get dressed up to play.
What music has influenced your music making?
Rick: Bjork is a big influence on the music I write but also on my artistic style and the visual elements. Flying lotus was an early influence and definitely helped to develop the rhythmic and production style my music. Recently I’ve become quite obsessed with Oneohtrix Point Never who writes engrossing ambient / noise music.
What are your future plans for Rickerly?
Rick: I’ve just completed a commission for the cabaret collective First Draft which will be appearing online and played at Cheetham’s Library in Manchester on Saturday 3rd March. It’s a 6 minute piece based on the teenage diaries of Dora Turnor from the 1860s. It was quite a challenge and unlike anything I’ve written before. I am self releasing my debut album at the end of March which will be a mix of some songs from EPs re-produced and mastered along with new material. I will be playing a gig with Tilted Promotions on the 30th March at The Peer Hat to celebrate its release. I have also recently been collaborating with my brother David Hartley. We produce a mix called the Hillside Curation every couple of months or so showcasing a variety of music and spoken word. I’m looking to do more collaborations later in the year too. So plenty to keep me busy!
Me: There certainly is and I look forward to the March release.
Tell me a bit about the technology you use to make music Rick.
Rick: I have always primarily used Cubase to make music. I’m very comfortable with the software and could happily spend most of my life lost in the world of Cubase. I used a Roland SH-201 a lot once too, but this sadly no longer works. I also incorporate vocals and guitars in my live performances and I feed this through my trusty effects pedal – a Korg Toneworks AX1500G.
Me: Thanks Rick and very much look forward to seeing you play at The Peer Hat on 30th March courtesy of Tilted Promotions. But for now let’s finish with a picture of your cats!
All photographs (except for the cats) taken by Martin Christie