Audeze catches up with Reformed Rocker Richard Gibbs

July 09, 2024

Richard Gibbs is a recently elected Governor of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (Oscars), reformed rocker (Oingo Boingo), session and occasional touring keyboardist with credits ranging from Tom Waits, Chaka Khan, Robert Palmer to War and beyond. Film and TV composer - Dr. Dolittle, Battlestar Galactica, the Simpsons, Say Anything - and music director for Tracey Ullman and the Muppets. These days Richard spends much of his time at his studio, Woodshed Recording in Malibu CA.

Richard Gibbs wearing Audeze LCD-X Headphones playing guitar
"Audeze are the only headphones I have ever worn that make me forget that I am wearing headphones." - Richard Gibbs
Here's our chat with Richard:
Can you pick out any highlights from your work that you're particularly proud of?

A little known dramatic film I scored called The Book of Stars. As a lifelong surfer I was thrilled to compose the score for the great surf doc Step Into Liquid. The remake of Woke Up Laughing that I played on for Robert Palmer. Also all of his album called Heavy Nova - I’m all over it. May he rest in peace. Grey Matter, from the album Nothing to Fear, recorded during my tenure as the keyboardist in Oingo Boingo. The score and the soundtrack albums for the movie Queen of the Damned, co-composed and co-produced with Jonathan Davis (Korn). I loved creating my studio, Woodshed Recording. Scoring Dr. Dolittle was a blast. And I am proud of one of my earliest projects, scoring Say Anything for Cameron Crowe. Looooved serving as musical director and theme composer for Muppets Tonight! Check out this bizarre gem: Nine Inch Snails

How would you define your main role on most of the projects you work on these days?

Right now my primary focus is rebuilding our house that was destroyed in the Woolsey Fire. It is being re-envisioned as the ultimate residential resort recording retreat. I am also concentrating on launching my 501c3 Armory of Harmony and its fundraising corollary project Instruments of Note in a major way. Stay tuned.

How did you get started in music?

Encouraged (forced?) to take piano lessons at age 5. Saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, insisted that Santa buy me a guitar.

What kind of music did you listen to while growing up and how has that progressed?

Chronological order of discovery - Burt Bacharach/Dionne Warwick, Beatles, Beach Boys, Dave Clark Five, The Allman Brothers, Yes, Igor Stravinsky, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Miles Davis, Weather Report… I think the progression is apparent:)

Can you name any factors that influenced the course of your musical life? Heroes, role models, moments, interactions, etc?

As a keyboardist, Gregg Allman, Brian Auger, Jan Hammer, Keith Jarrett and Joe Zawinul were my idols. As a composer and arranger, Joe Zawinul (again) and my mentor at Berklee College of Music, the great Michael Gibbs (no relation, sadly). I studied privately with Mike whilst also taking his classes there.

Can you briefly describe a moment of frustration from your past work, and what you may have done to overcome the obstacles? Would you approach it differently now?

I have always tended to ignore obstacles. Worked so far!

Is there any gear you find yourself turning to most when working on a project?

Every new score or production that I take on requires me to stretch creatively. Meaning that I like to acquire a new instrument for each project. A celeste, a Marxophone, a gamelan set, you name it. I just purchased a wild new/old instrument called a Panoptigon. Now I have to start a new project!

What are some of your favorite tools/instruments recently?

Last year I purchased a 1915 Mason & Hamlin BB grand piano that had been totally restored - the best piano I have ever played. Totally inspiring.

Do you have any words of wisdom for people who might aspire toward a similar path for their own careers?

Yup. Never be home. That is also the title of one of my podcast episodes here - Invisible Arts with Richard Gibbs - check it out for a ton of stories from me. I promise they are fun.

How long have you been working with headphones, and how do you typically use them in your workflow?

My first headphone were David Clark pilot headphones that my mom bought me at a garage sale so she could sleep while I listened to music way too loud. Since then have owned more headphones than I can count. Bose, Sony, AKG, Audio Technica (the ATH-M50 cans are our headphones of choice for people in the Woodshed as monitors whilst singing etc.). A few years back I was looking for an awesome gift for one of my longtime Woodshed engineers. I knew he was fond of Sennheisers so I called Vintage King. Jeff Ehrenberg recommended I try the Audeze line. I bought a pair of LCD-X cans for him but kept borrowing them whenever they were around. Astonishing.

How have your Audeze headphones affected your work?

Audeze are the only headphones I have ever worn that make me forget that I am wearing headphones. They simply surround my ears with full and somehow airy sound, as if I am hearing the players in the room with me.