After taking a look at this week's cover story, you've probably surmised that New Times has happily retired to the lounge for a mid-summer reprieve. And while Dik Shuttle is our own fabulous local raconteur, a Dick by another name -- that being Cheese -- has gained notoriety on an international scale. Yes, Richard Cheese and his crack jazz trio Lounge Against the Machine have "swankified" pop tunes over several cult-fave albums, including I'd Like A Virgin, To The 5 Casinos, and Tuxicity. Cheese belts tomorrow's standards today -- Sir Mixalot's "Baby Got Back," the Killers' "Somebody Told Me," and the timeless "Welcome to the Jungle" by GnR -- with a brassy voice and "Stardust"-quality arrangements. When Beatcomber learned that Cheese, the self-described "most successful unsuccessful lounge act," was possibly hanging up his tiger-striped tux for good, he put a call in to the singer's Vegas suite.
Beatcomber: Your website (www.iloverichardcheese.com) gives props to a slew of lounge-pop influences and contemporaries, but I don't see Dik Shuttle on there.
Richard Cheese: You know, I'd never heard of Dik Shuttle until right now. I've heard of the Space Shuttle, but I don't think the Space Shuttle does too many lounge covers. I'll add Dik now that I know. What we do is not by any means unique, but I think we do it the loudest. I would say our band gets closer to the audience than any other band. Physically, distance wise, I sometimes get within five to six inches of the audience, and that's not just a record but a way of life.
Excellent. So tell me about your beef with Paul Anka.
You've heard that Paul Anka put out a CD called Rock Swings? The original title of the CD was I Am Going to Rip Off Richard Cheese. Paul Anka has made zillions of dollars -- he wrote the Tonight Show theme, and he wrote "My Way," and he wrote that douche jingle. I don't know if you've heard that. The last thing he needs is money, and the last thing I need is Paul Anka to start cutting into the lounge-singer act.
Has he acknowledged you at all?
Actually he has. A few months ago, he was on a radio interview and someone called in and said, "Hey, this sounds like Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine." [Anka] said our band was quote "machine driven" and there were no natural players. Which is of course not true -- we have a full jazz trio, and the next show we're doing in L.A. on August 25 has a full horn section. We're a live band, we play all over the United States, we've played Portugal, London, and Hawaii. I think he's just nervous because he knows I can get an erection without Viagra and that intimidates him. Lounge music and lounge albums -- this is gang warfare, this is the crips and the bloods is what this is.
What do you look for in the songs you cover?
We're looking for that song that has that special... something. We look at the charts and the radio rotations, and we say, "Which song is gonna be around five, 10, 20 years from now? Which song is the five-year-old kid today gonna have playing at her wedding in 2020?" That's the thing: You look at a song like "Me So Horny" -- what a love song that is! It's a beautiful lyric and it's written from the heart. Luke Skyywalker is from Florida, is that correct? I remember when he was just One Live Crew. It was great that they went ahead and paid the extra money and became Two Live Crew, and that's a great song.
We also did "People Equals Shit" by Slipknot. You have to dig deep through a Slipknot song to find the melody, but when you do that's like finding a diamond in the rough. These songs are on our newest CD, Aperitif for Destruction. "You Oughta Know" by Alanis Morrisette is a really swinging number. So many of these songs you walk into a lounge and you hear it and say, "Oh that's the song." You know? We've always wanted to do "Add It Up" by the Violent Femmes. It's a beautiful, boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl song.
It just has to do with the lyrics and how drunk we are. We've never found a song we couldn't swankify. That's just a testament to what a wonderful golden age of songwriting we're living in now. We have the Foo Fighters writing great lyrics, we have Blink 182, those guys write some great songs. And we're very fortunate to be living in this age. It's like Cole Porter and Rogers and Hammerstein all over again.
Do you play any instruments?
The only instrument I play is the microphone. I'm good at it, I'm proud of the work I've done to be able to sing into any microphone. I've mastered all the different types. I've been singing for many, many years. We just started putting out CDs in 2000. Before that we put out albums on what was called 7-track, a precursor to 8-track that didn't really catch on. In retrospect I think that was a bad technology.
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So retirement is just around the corner?
We're not doing any more live shows because I'd like to spend more time in the studio, and I'd like to spend more time in bed, quite frankly. We're gonna finish up the Let It Brie tour and then hopefully we're gonna get Don and Glen and Timothy to join the band again and do a reunion.
The three guys from the Eagles. And we're gonna try and redo the Hell Freezes Over tour, where we can reunite the band, because you make your money on the reunion tour. We're probably gonna do that sometime next year -- the Dick Freezes Over tour in 2006.