Rick Daugherty is known as the new man behind the keyboards with Flash, but he has a long and rich history as one of the hardest-working musicians in the U.S. Freelance writer Rick Moore, a contributor to American Songwriter magazine, the Nashville Music Guide and many other publications, has watched Daugherty’s musical growth for years, caught up with Rick and asked him a few questions.
RM: Rick, I know you started playing music in Germany, but it seems you’ve played just about everywhere. Where are you actually from originally, and where are some of the places you’ve worked over the years?
RD: Originally from Sacramento, California, I was two weeks short of being born in Italy. My mom was too pregnant to board the plane. So she had me in California, and when we both recovered enough, we flew overseas. As far as playing music, I've played around Europe, but mostly in Germany and France. I attended high school in Frankfurt, Germany (with Happy The Man's guitarist Stan Whitaker, and jazz pianist/HTM alumni David Bach) In the US, mainly based out of Denver, I've played in several traveling bands, doing the same circuit for a while as Randy Castillo (Ozzy/Lita Ford) and (Mega-producer) Beau Hill (Ratt/Poison, and countless others). A lot of people from those days, and that circuit, have gone on to do good things in the industry. It was a nice musical environment; great players with a lot of drive and enthusiasm to be good at what we did. You'd be on a 300 or 400 mile drive, and pull into a truck stop in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night, and strangely enough one of those guys would be pulling in, heading to the club you just left, or vice versa. Fun days. Then I ended up in Vegas and worked there and in LA (mainly sessions) for twenty years.
RM: So many guys, especially in rock ‘n’ roll, gravitate towards the guitar. What made you decide to play keys?
RD: I think that was just divine intervention, really. I started on guitar. But I often didn't have one available while growing up. But I always found a piano available at a church or chapel near my house or school. I loved sneaking in to those places and trying to figure the piano out. I don't think it was a coincidence that there was always a piano close by, during most of my life. Most of the time, you were not allowed to go in there and play the pianos or the organ, but I think the pastors always saw my persistence and desire, and not only would they eventually let me play, it usually got to to the point where they would just tell me to lock the door behind me when I left! Looking back at it now, I definitely feel it was Higher Powers at work. I wasn't even that keen on piano at the time, but I learned it, and now, with keyboards being able to do just about everything, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I like how it worked out!
RM: Speaking of keyboards, I know you’ve always favored Roland and Yamaha gear. What are you playing these days?
RD: My last purchase was the latest Kurzweil, the PC3, which has fabulous orchestral stuff on it. However, I'm not using it on the upcoming Flash dates, because the music
requires more organ and synth based stuff. I've been a bit disappointed with the organs on the PC3, which is ironic, because its supposed to shine in that area. I haven't time enough to work with it yet, so I'll reserve comments until I can develop that area of the keyboard a bit more. For the upcoming Flash 'live' shows, I'm using the Roland FX7, set up with many layers and splits, which are needed in music this complex. The FX7 will trigger my older and faithful S760 sampler (Roland). I'm only using the sampler in about 4-5 songs during a 2 hour set, but it's very important in those songs. I'm also using, oddly enough, an Alesis QS6 because Ray Bennett used one so much on the new album that it makes sense to have those sounds on stage for the new songs. And I still love some of my favorite patches on the older Yamaha S80, which gives me a great organ sound for the earlier Flash songs, as well as some nice solo sounds.
I'll be traveling with those 3 keyboards and the sampler. Ray and I are in the planning stages right now for a completely new traveling rig which we're excited about, and I hope to have that system up and running sooner than later. A good friend of mine, Larry Holloway, is also into keyboard sound designing, and hopefully we can get together at some point in time and assemble the 'new' touring rig. But for now, that's what I'm going with.
The music is quite demanding, not only from a technical aspect, but from the wide variety of sounds, and number of sounds, required during such a long set of complex material.
RM: What was your introduction into the world of progressive rock?
RD: Living in Germany during the time this movement was getting off the ground, (early 70's), I was surrounded by musicians who were all experimenting and listening to everything
available at the time, so the environment was perfect for me. It seemed like every week there was a new, unique and creative band emerging. I had the first Emerson Lake and Palmer album, and was highly impressed. But everything changed for me, drastically, when I was at (pianist) David Bach's house one day, and out of all the albums he could've given to me, he handed me 'The Yes Album' (Yes's third studio album, first with Steve Howe on it,
and with Tony Kaye on keyboards.) He said 'take this home, I think you'll like it!' That was the understatement of the year, ha ha. I was blown away. That's when the light went on for me. I'd never heard anything like that before. I was highly impressed. I'd never heard rock music developed to such a high level. Not since the Beatles was I bowled over like that.
And to this day, both those bands remain my top two favorites. So, I'm grateful for David handing me that album that day.
RM: Then, of course, Kaye leaves Yes and records the first Flash album!
RD: And that's what lead me to Flash, and buying their records as well. I remember listening to Small Beginnings and Children of the Universe, and Black and White, etc...when they were brand new. Tony's keyboard work on the early Flash music was perfect, as always, and Ray's bass playing was a powerhouse that impressed me, and Colin's voice was very unique, which was the case with most bands back then. I was always surprised that Flash didn't carry
on after Kaye with another keyboardist. Getting back to Colin--he sounded great back then, but I think he sounds even better today! You can't say that with too many singers. Of course, Peter Banks left Yes and was a Flash co-founder as well. Flash was a very good band.
RM: And out of all the people Ray could've started working with in Vegas, it was ironic that he found you--one of the few people there, I'm sure, who knew so much about Flash, and was that familiar with their music/history.
RD: No doubt about it. And when my relationship with Ray started to develop a bit more, and I actually got invited over to help was what supposed to be the Bennett/Carter band start rehearsing some club numbers, I showed up knowing all these old Flash songs, inside and out, and that impressed him, as well. I did my homework. I even worked out keyboard parts for songs recorded without Tony Kaye (Black and White/Manhattan Morning, etc). I'll put some of those clips on the website here, shortly.
RM: Originally, you were just going to help Ray do some sampling, right? How did that lead to more involvement?
RD: That's right. Ray and Colin were wanting to put Flash back together, but also wanting to do this non-Flash band called 'The Bennett-Carter Band', which they've done before, to help them play some gigs, get some rust off and such, and have some fun, make some money, etc. I don't think keyboards were 'for sure' in the blueprints for the new Flash line up. There were two camps, I believe on that subject. But then, Ray was writing all these keyboard parts for the new Flash album, and that was creating a dilemma--how to pull off doing that material live. Originally, some samples were going to be used for parts of the FX tracks used, and I was going to help him do those samples. At the time, Ray was still pondering potential keyboardists for Flash, and I was right there lobbying for Tony Kaye to do it.
RM: You even sent him emails saying Kaye would be the right guy!
RD: Absolutely. If they were eventually going to decide to have keyboards, I thought Tony should be the guy.
RM: That's when you showed up knowing all those early Flash songs?
RD: Well, I thought 'opportunity is knocking!' right? I knew I could handle the material, no question there. And my experience is in this field, this style. This type of music my first love. There's a lot of great keyboardists out there, no doubt about it. But I grew up with this stuff. It's in my musical dna. I've had 40 years of experience playing and listening to this type of music. It was a great match for me. Flash music, old and new, is right up my alley. I can and have done many types of gigs; from country music to jazz gigs, but this genre is
my area of expertise. I'm not as comfortable in those other areas, and vice versa. You have to know and understand the style. That's where I excel, in this case. It's my first love, and what I do best. Some great jazz players or classical musicians can't play without sheet music, or can't adlib and jam. It's just about where your experience is, where you fit in as a player, in the big scheme of things. We all have a style we are best at. This is mine.
RM: I know Ray (Bennett) has said some very flattering things about having you in Flash, but how did you eventually get the job, how did that finally come about?
RD: I'm not really sure at what point in time I was actually in the band (laughs!). I remember finally coming out and asking Ray one evening what my chances were, and he said "you're already in, I thought you knew that!" So he just assumed I knew, or had told me, and I just assumed I was still doing session work. It wasn't till then that I found out.
RM: But you still weren't 'sure' for a while, right?
RD: Right. I thought there were several hurdles I'd have to cross before I felt I was truly in. The first is getting past that initial meeting/exchanging of ideas and hearing each other play. Then there's the actual work on Flash songs, and how/if that gels. Then there's meeting Colin, and getting that approval, and then the first small band rehearsals, then the the first time you set up in a large room and actually start playing together, etc, as a band. So, there were still more hurdles to cross, in my mind, before I felt comfortable, long after that initial confirmation from Ray. I just kept working hard to make sure every hurdle could be crossed when the time came. And come to think of it, just like in life, really, the hurdles never stop coming. It's always 'what have you done for me lately?' etc. Every new song we learn is another hurdle, every new challenge presented has to be overcome.
RM: Can you give us an example of such a recent hurdle, or challenge?
RD: Sure. A good one was just recently addressed. I've had to do a lot of sampling for certain
sounds, a lot of keyboard programming. The band demands that the samples sound great, and have them trigger properly. For example, there are some sounds on a couple of keyboards that were used on the album, but those keyboards won't be traveling with us. So I meticulously sampled those important sounds, so we could have them on stage. Programming all the
splits and layers on the keyboards, and coming up with nice sounds was one of those later hurdles. Sure, you can play...but that's only part of the picture. As keyboardists, we also have the responsibility of delivering good sounds, and being able to make the music sound right live. It's not just a matter of playing the right notes. So sampling and programming is a current hurdle I'm addressing. But of course, it's only a hurdle in so much as another bridge to cross. I'm comfortably part of the band now. That's not an issue. This is a different type of hurdle. But trust me, if I was stinking the place up with bad sounds and bad samples, it would quickly become an issue! (laughs!)
RM: Give us a glimpse into the world of preparing a band like this for live dates.
RD: Well, let's put it like this: I moved into a new house about 2 months ago and to this day, I have yet to even plug the TV into the wall! It's been that time consuming! There's a lot of material to retain for a two hour set, a lot of intense arrangements. So much to remember. If you're not learning parts, you're writing parts,and then trying to remember parts, and then get comfortable with all the 'live' program changes/patch changes. It's a never ending process at first. Eventually, things settle down and become second nature, like in any job you do. It's no different with music. A lot of anxiety and pressure at first, and then it gets easier.
RM: You're headlining the 2010 Prog Festival in North Carolina this year. Great first gig!
RD: Yeah...we're flying out later this week and that will be my first gig with the band. I'm ready for it, so I'm just going to relax and enjoy and the weekend. Take in the experience.
RM: I know you write a lot. Any plans to start contributing to new Flash recordings?
RD: Absolutely. I helped create a couple of small bits on the upcoming Flash album, as well as a section or two in the latest song we're adding. But yeah...I certainly will try to focus on a couple of pieces for the follow up album. l understand, now, what direction the band is going, and the elements needed to make a song 'work' live. Album cuts are one thing, songs going over well live, sounding good live, is another ballgame.
RM: Any comments for musicians out there who are working on their careers, trying to get into bands on this level, or further their careers in general?
RM: My golden rule is just work hard, make sure you're doing what you truly want to do, getting into music for the right reasons, etc, respect the craft. You should know, inside, if music is your calling. If there are doubts, it probably isn't. I've always said that if you do your part, and it's God's will, nothing can stop you. And if those things are not aligned, nothing can make it happen. It has to be your passion. And even then, you have to fill a void. You have to have something to contribute to the industry, to the listeners. And you never know what will lead to what. You just have to work hard, and not cut corners, and stay focused. Have faith. You'll end up where you are supposed to end up, like with all things in life. Music is no different. You get back what you put in, and it will take you as far as you are meant to go. Not all dreams come true, but many do. And don't let circumstances hold you back. I saw a wonderful kitchen magnet in the Denver Botanic Gardens, and bought it. It says 'Bloom where you are planted." Take what you have, where you are, and go full speed ahead.
RM: Before we wrap it up, let’s do the 'favorites' thing. Who’s your favorite keyboard player?
RD: There are so many keyboard players I admire that would be on that list. At the top, I'd put Chopin, Liszt, Vladamir Horowitz and John Browning. From the rock world, I've always thought
Keith Emerson was the flagship guy, but I love Wakeman as well. Moraz is awesome. In more of a rock vein, I've always enjoyed Max Middleton's work as well as Nicky Hopkin's. But there's too many. And any accomplished classical or jazz guy gets my vote as well. And even from the guys who are lesser known, or local--I respect them all and can learn something from every one of them. But there are, literally, too many to mention. The world is full of fabulous keyboard players.
RM: Composer or songwriter?
RD: That's a bit easier for me (laughs!). Lennon and McCartney. And though John was my favorite Beatle, Paul has risen to the #1 spot in the composer category for me. It's McCartney, hands down. Nothing short of brilliant. From the progressive side of things, I'm a huge fan of Jon Anderson's writing, too.
RD: Even easier: The Beatles! I place them in a category all their own. And when it comes to the rest of the bands in the world, Yes, for me, is maybe the best rock band ever assembled. Not as popular as most, but certainly,every bit as talented and creative as any group ever assembled. I love Gentle Giant as well. After that, I have a lot more 'favorite albums' as opposed to favorite bands, per se.
RM: What are a few of your favorite all time albums,then?
RD: Outside of Beatles and Yes, of course, and in no particular order, I love Traffic's John Barleycorn Must Die; Cat Steven's Tea for the Tillerman, Stevie Wonders Inner Visions, Sting's Dream of The Blue Turtles; Kate Bush's The Whole Story, Dark Side of the Moon, Zeppelin's Fourth album, Bill Bruford's Gradually Going Tornado; Anderson's Olias Of Sunhillow; Wakeman's Six Wives of Henry The Eighth; Phil Kaeggy's Beyond Nature; And countless prog albums. I love Joan Armatrading, and Phoebe Snow. So much great music out there. We'd be here all day.
RM: Musician overall?
RD: Overall, probably (classical pianist) Vladamir Horowitz, and in rock music, Steve Howe (Yes guitarist).
RM: If you could step onstage tonight and play with any one person or act in history, who would it be? You only get to pick one--and it's your last day on earth!
RD: No question about it: Paul McCartney.
RM: Cool. Thanks for spending some time with me, Rick. And best of luck in the future and with Flash.
RD: Thanks, man. It was a pleasure.
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