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The Duke

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with The Duke (Rich Ward) from 2005
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 4 at

Listening to your new disc, the music seems to be incredibly diverse. You must be someone with influences from all over the musical scope. First, how would you describe the music, and secondly, who would you see as important influences to the sound?
I like to think of it as good old fashioned rock music in the spirit of Queen, Bad Company, Genesis, Journey, Pink Floyd and other late 70's hard rock. No bulls**t rock music played by real players.....What a concept!
MSJ: Many of the lyrics seem to have a deeply personal leaning to them. Are there any real life stories connected to any of the songs that you'd like to share?
I wrote this record during a time when my first marriage was dissolving, my main band Stuck Mojo fell apart and one of my musical side projects Sick Speed split up. Through all of this chaos, I decided to take the hint and make huge changes in not only the way I lived my life, but on how I chose to continue on as a musician. This record chronicles all of these changes and reads somewhat like a diary at times. Therefore, all of the songs are equally personal and their meaning are transparent when read with this in mind.
MSJ: I love the title, My Kung Fu is Good. Other than the obvious humorous reference to bad martial arts movies, is there a meaning to it?
I thought the title would be a good defense mechanism against people who might think that I'm taking myself too seriously, by doing a solo record and calling myself The Duke. The record's content is serious, but I wanted to be careful not to call the record something like "Reborn", "Changes", "The Evolution". I could just see the eyes rolling when people who know my work saw me releasing one of those "self important-changing the world one chord at a time" solo efforts. You can't take yourself too serious in this business.
MSJ: The new disc is essentially a solo project. What would you see as the differences and similarities between this project and working in a band? Are there aspects of each that you prefer?
Ironically, there was more a working chemistry between myself and my band mates during the recording of this album, than on most of my previous releases. In Mojo and Fozzy, I'm super comfortable and confident. I know metal and without bragging too much, I'm good at it. When it comes to Metal, my confidence can manifest itself as stubbornness and I tend to not be as
open to outside input when I write and record those heavier records. By the time we hit the studio, I've already refined the songs to death and I've visualized every detail. With the Duke record, I wasn't in my usual comfort zone. I was writing and recording music that was new and fresh to me, so I found myself much more open to creative input from the band. The band's input (Eric Frampton, Mike Martin, Sean Delson and Bud Fontsere) made a really good record great. I like being able to trust the guys I play with to help me make great records.
MSJ: If you hadn't become a musician, what do you think you'd be doing?
I can't even remember a time when I didn't know that I was going to be a musician. I really don't even have any hobbies, so I don't know what I would do. Maybe I'd run for public office and then you'd all be in trouble!
MSJ: An ancestor of yours was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. That would seem to give you a little leeway in discussing the United States - at least a level of authority. What do you think of the current state of the Union?
More and more, I find it disturbing when Joe Dumbass from "you pick the band", talk out of their *ss about politics. Every three chord genius that rented a Michael Moore movie thinks that they're an expert on US foreign policy. In the past, I've been guilty of throwing around my thoughts on the world and how I'd like to see the US governed, but now I keep reminding myself that I am only a guitarist and that I don't know sh*t. I am however passionate about politics and I keep up with and support issues that are most important to me; the abolishment of the IRS and the creation of a national sales tax, protecting the US borders and the protection of property rights.
MSJ: Are there any musicians out there with whom you would like to work?
Steve Perry, Sammy Hagar, David Gilmour, Elton John, Peter Gabriel, Paul
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
Dream Theater's Octavarium, John Oliva's Pain, Bruce Dickenson's Tyranny of Souls, Iced Earth's Gettysburg, Doobie Brother's Greatest Hits
MSJ: What was the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
Michael McDonald and Hall and Oates. Either that or last year's Ozz-Fest, I can't remember.
MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
Jumping off the drum-riser to start a show and my guitar strap broke.
MSJ: Is there anything else you'd like to say to our readers?
Buy my record, listening to it will make you better looking and will make you more popular with the "in" crowd. This I guarantee.
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