Photos by Kate Babetski
Before It Burns
Interview by Jack Gold-Molina
Parker Griggs is a psychedelic rock guitarist and multi-instrumentalist who has that rare combination of soul, style, and fluidity. Originally from Story City, Iowa, and currently based in San Diego, Griggs formed Radio Moscow as a teenager, circa 2003. A band that tours relentlessly and stretches musically at any opportunity, their combination of brain melting electric blues and fiery rock and roll has taken them around the world and back repeatedly, performing at festivals, clubs and venues of varying size and character, and on television. This interview took place on October 1, 2015 at the Crocodile Cafe in Seattle prior to Radio Moscow's blazing performance there in support of their release Magical Dirt.
Perfect Sound Forever: How did you get get started playing, initially?
Parker Griggs: I was around 10, and I just really got into music. It was the grunge movement at the time, so Nirvana and all that stuff got me interested. I just picked up drums and guitar around the same time. I spent a lot of time trying to do that.
PSF: Yeah, I noticed that you are pretty much as adept a drummer as a guitar player.
PG: I like both. They are both fun.
PSF: Who were some of your early influences?
PG: Well, back then, I was probably about 10, Silverchair was the first album I ever bought. I was really into Nirvana and a lot of the grunge stuff coming up, then I got more into punk rock. I got tired of that and started digging back into psychedelic rock and blues rock.
PSF: That is quite a transition from grunge to blues and psychedelic music. How would you describe your approach to writing and playing music, back then?
PG: Back then, I played drums and I had a little grunge band. We were a two piece with guitar and drums, but I wrote all of the songs on guitar and drums too. It was pretty simple power chord Nirvana type stuff, but I just jumped in and did it. I don't know how I got into it, but I kind of went for it.
PSF: What were some of your early projects before Radio Moscow?
PG: That band was called Virtual Pet, that was the two-piece grunge thing. Then I had a punk rock band that I played drums in after that. We went on one American tour then broke up. I started doing garage rock stuff, and that is what got me into the music that I am into now. I got really into the Nuggets box sets and stuff like that. I started Moscow and at first it was pretty much like a garage punk sixties type of thing, and then I got tired of that style and moved on to what we are doing now.
PSF: How did Radio Moscow come together?
PG: I started it right after that punk band broke up. It was just a solo project. I couldn't find anybody who was into sixties bands, so I did it all myself. I recorded one album of that style, then changed and got into more of what we are doing now.
PSF: You are known for pretty extensive touring with Radio Moscow. If you follow the band on YouTube and watch the tours, you have done a lot of things like touring Europe. When you got this band together, did you guys start touring right away?
PG: No. I was a solo project for so long, and then I had an ex-girlfriend playing with me for a while. We didn't have a drummer, we just jammed along with pre-recorded four-track drums. We did that then moved to Colorado and tried to find people, and it didn't work out. We came back to Iowa and then we broke up, so I got a new bass player. Finally, when we got help from Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, that is what pushed it more to start touring and to find a drummer and people that wanted to play. So once we got the record deal, we started hitting the road.
PSF: How do you think your playing and your approach to writing have evolved over the years, given the kind of work you have done on the road and in the studio?
PG: It has gotten maybe a little more polished, and I have learned more throughout the years. I think that the more you play, the more you learn, so it has evolved like that. I have gotten into different styles, and have gotten into Turkish music and the Eastern sounds, so that has helped influence me to play a different way. I think it has gradually progressed, like most bands, you know, the more you practice. But it is still pretty much the same influences that I was influenced by for the first album, just more now.
PSF: So what inspires you to keep playing?
PG: It is pretty much all I know how to do. I wouldn't have much to do without music. It is the best feeling, when you are playing to a good crowd, it is the funnest time you could have. So if you can make a job out of it, then just keep it going. We are slowly growing, so I want to keep growing the band up bit by bit and keep working.
PSF: Do you have any outside musical projects that you are working on? I thought I saw a jam session on Facebook where you were playing guitar.
PG: A while ago I was jamming with these Spanish dudes, but that was just for fun because I lived in Spain for a bit. But right now, I just started a brand new project with Mario, the drummer of Earthless. It is just me and him so far, but we've got four new songs already. It is pretty fun. It is more of a throwback to raw, garage rock and roll.
PSF: If you were to recommend any stuff to listen to, what would you recommend?
PG: There is a whole bunch, that's hard. But, lately I have found a band called Maconda. They kind of do the Santana thing, but it is more heavy psych oriented. That is a cool style, doing that Latin thing but a more heavy psych version of it. I think the album is from '70. Last night, we were listening to Randy Holden, ex-Blue Cheer guitarist. That guy is awesome. His solo album is really cool. There is tons of underground sixties and seventies stuff. There is so much. Old Turkish stuff like 3 Hur-El. I guess it means “Three Brothers" in Turkish. They are all brothers. That is some cool Turkish psych, way different than American psych. It's cool, they play the sazes, the baglamas and stuff, the Eastern instruments.
PSF: What can you recommend for other artists and musicians who are performing and recording?
PG: If you are just starting, don't give up. It is pretty hard at first. Rock and roll is not as popular as it used to be. It is hard to make music for a living, but if you really want to do it, just don't give up and don't get discouraged. Practice, it always helps to practice. Jam with new people so you can learn new things from them and just learn how to play with other people. You have got to be dedicated.
Also see Radio Moscow website
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