Terepai Richmond

14 Nov 2011 0 Share

Interview by Andrew Crockett courtesy of switch-foot.com

Terepai Richmond is one of the busiest percussionists in the business. Between recording and performing with his band, Directions in Groove, he’s also a sought-after session drummer for high-calibre acts like The Whitlams, Missy Higgins, Delta Goodrem, PNAU, Natalie Imbruglia and James Blundell, and spends much of his time on the road touring these days. Offstage, he’s also reknown as one of the hardest-charging crew in Cronulla and when he’s not on the road, is a regular out at Shark Island and other heavy reefbreaks around his south Sydney home.

Andrew Crockett tracked him down at home nursing a broken rib to talk about the current direction of his surfing and music, and what fans can expect from the new DIG album…

While music fans around the world may recognize you from behind the kit, South Sydney surfers probably know you better as the guy taking on heaving Shark Island on some seemingly undersized boards. What’s going on there, and whose shapes are you riding?

I haven’t really owned a normal shape for many years but then again what is normal these days? A good friend of mine from Cronulla, Dean Fraser, has been making my boards out of ‘Force 9’ for a number of years but he recently cut back his shaping to pursue a design career so I’m currently just riding the boards I have into the ground until I’m inspired enough to go hunting for new sleds elsewhere.

When the waves start creeping over the four-five foot mark I’ve mostly been riding these little stubby 5'10 thrusters or quads. They are pretty thick, short and flat, kind of like an old 80’s stumpy Occy board. They seem to work really well for paddling into super sucky heavy waves. They have a bit more weight to paddle in easier yet they are short enough to manage the curve of a steep wave face and thick enough not to break every time you wipe out. If the waves are sucky that’s pretty much what I will ride up to 15 foot.

When the waves are small I have a bunch of fishy things and a few old boards, which are super fun to ride.

As someone with a reputation for surfing heavy reefs, have you been tempted to head to Tahiti and take on Teahupoo?

I would love to surf the place but I think I would no doubt drown if I surfed it in the condition I’m in. I’ve had too many rock ‘n’ roll tours all lining up one after the other and all I seem to do is get on and off planes, hire cars, stages and hotels. Lifting bottles of beer and sipping soy lattes isn’t exactly the best way to stay fit.

I also broke a rib last week surfing my local break, Voodoo. After not surfing for three months, I finally got home for a couple days and the place was ON… Thirty minutes later I was hanging onto the side of my board trying to get in without sticking the sharp end of a rib into my lung. Out for another couple months. At least I get to spend more time with my boys.

Anyways, Chopes: yes...but maybe a couple of warm up sessions first.

You are one of the most in demands drummers in Australia. How have you managed to fit time in the water around your touring schedule?

This year has been a pretty hectic year. At the start I thought the diary was looking a little bare and I was going to try slot in a bunch of surfing trips - Indo with Banksy, Transparentsea 2 with Rasta and then the Hawaii surfing circus.

Unfortunately I haven’t managed to do any of them.

So much for a few days off here and there. National and International tours with Pete Murray, Guy Sebastian, Delta Goodrem, Jeff Martin (the Tea Party). And not all at once. Somehow I found myself going from tour to tour with the most stylistically and artistically mis-matched people you could imagine. I think that’s what keeps it interesting for me.

Actually I did have a few days off in Brazil with Pete Murray earlier in the year. We played at a couple of festival shows put on by the Brazilian surf mag ‘Alma surf.’ We got well looked after.

Donovan was there along with Matt McHugh from The Beautiful Girls so I managed to squeeze a bit of time in the ocean there.

I’ve also managed to slot a bunch of recording into the mix as well.

A couple of studio things for Guy Sebastian, Darren Hayes, Lanni Lane, Tim Freedman and a neat ol’ folk band called the Falls. I also did some recording for a close friend Danny Widdicombe who was pretty much on his death bed with Leukemia whilst I was recording the rhythm tracks. I think his album is out now and his health has slightly improved so all the best DW!

Most of my studio time this year has been with my old band DIG Directions In Groove. We have finally finished an album after starting it about three years ago. Pretty slow going as I was just slotting in days wherever I could to get it done. It is finally out and were doing a little run of shows to support the release this November and December.

I’ve also got plans for much more recording in the coming year with Jeff Martin, some of my own music and possibly some stuff with Pete Murray and my new neighbor...fellow cronulla resident Matt McHugh.

What is the biggest audience you have played to?

I have played to some pretty big audiences...Live Earth with Missy Higgins may classify as the biggest ‘cause it went live around the globe. I think 120,000 real people is probably the biggest but to be honest I prefer to get a bit more personal when performing and I really love playing the small shows. Anything from 100 people to 1000 is my favorite...that’s when you get to see faces and feel the excitement in the crowd. It’s a really important factor when trying to give a good performance. Kind of like feeding off the vibe of the crowd.

DIG are famous for their jazz-fusion and funk; as a musician it must be nice to be playing music like that as a change from the pop you are usually hired to do?

I guess for me it’s more challenging mentally and musically. I seem to create these almost impossible-to-play drum grooves which makes me think, ‘what on earth did I do that for? Now I’ve gotta try play it live!’

It’s been about 12 years since our last album but we always play the hits off the old records. The only thing is we never play anything the same way twice. There’s always some new twist in the mix.

I think regardless of the style of music I was playing I would probably feel unchallenged without the variety that I get to play. For example, five weeks on the road with Pete Murray then two days off, a folk/rock show with M Jack Bee one night, then a full on funk extravaganza with Professor Groove and the Booty Affair then straight back out on the road with DIG and a couple of dates in Singapore with Guy Sebastian and a Christmas party with Delta Goodrem all with no days off.

It can be a challenge remembering what happens after I count to four some times. Oh yeah...just hit stuff.... hopefully in time.

What are happening with Tim freedman and the Whitlams? Have you got Tim surfing ok yet?

Tim has spent all of this year writing and recording for his solo project, ‘Australian Idle.’ We have done a few Whitlams shows in 2011 but not much. He bought a place up near Byron Bay so he at least lives near the beach but he keeps complaining about his bad knees and shoulder injuries. I think that’s from too much red wine and red heads. He has a bunch of different players in his solo project otherwise it would just be the Whitlam’s again.

As someone who’s toured with many of the world’s top musicians, who would be in your ultimate touring band?

So many great musicians out there and such little time! One of my all-time favorite people and musicians on the planet would be Sam Dixon. He was one of the many DIG bass players but was the one who made the greatest impact on me. He now lives in London and writes, records and tours the world with the likes of SIA, Christina Aguilera, Adelle and many more greats. I would like to do something with me old mate again some day.

There’s also a collective of creative lads known as the Low Pressure Sound System who are great friends with Rasta and do a lot of stuff with him. They often invite me on these super cool journeys that they embark on but I can hardly ever make it. They are all amazing musicians, surfers and most of all they’re amazing people. Very inspiring, productive and they have beautiful energy to be around.

I would like to be able to do more stuff with that crew. I would also like to put some more time into recording my own music next year.

What can punters expect at the upcoming DIG shows?

As with all DIG gigs I think punters can expect the unexpected. As I mentioned before we don’t ever play the same song the same way twice. That breathes new life in it for us and makes it exciting for the crowd.

We have a special guest collaborator/singer on the new record, Laura Stitt. She is amazing; she has written some super cool stuff for the new record and has also given the old vocal tracks a new lease.

Scott Saunders of course never disappoints with his own brand of old skool beat poetry/hip hop style rhymes.

My partner in crime on bass is Alex Hewetson. I think he was number three of about seven different bass players we've had on the DIG bus since the beginning and he's back with his little funky fingers helping me destroy as many grooves as possible.


For news and tour dates, hit the Directions in Groove website, or preview their new albumn here.

For more stories and images of surfing's characters, check out Andrew's 'switch-foot' books, available at switch-foot.com

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