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Michael Jahnz – Richrath Project 3:13

Michael Jahnz – Richrath Project 3:13

Through our journeys in life, we all meet wonderful people who inspire and enlighten us. Singer/Songwriter Michael Jahnz had such an experience working and befriending one of the rock music industry’s most amazing guitarists/songwriters Gary Richrath of REO Speedwagon. Jahnz fronted the Richrath band and after Richrath passed away, he formed Richrath Project 3:13. Now, Jahnz is releasing his latest album L.A. Is Mine with his band Guitarist Dennis Pockets, Keyboardist Scott Weber, Bassist Doug Janssen, and Drummer Andy Crownover and they are taking their exceptional live show on tour.

Catching up with these extraordinarily talented musicians, Jahnz and Pockets revealed some details of the new album, some past experiences with Gary Richrath and what their fans can look forward to.

SFL Music: Let’s talk about the album (L.A. Is Mine). What inspired it? Was there a theme? How did it come about?
Michael Jahnz: Well, basically it started with Gary Richrath. I played with Gary for a little over ten years in the ‘90’s and we released Only The Strong Survive on (GNP) Crescendo Records. We did extensive touring and after that time period, we decided that we’re going to work on a new album, so we started doing some demos. So, we did demos at my house and demos at his house and we took ‘em into the studios. We had a bunch of demos for new songs and then just through the process of elimination, things happened and we decided to do different things. I did a solo album. He was doing some other things and unfortunately, eventually he passed away in 2015, so the record company that did the original Only The Strong Survive approached me about doing a new Richrath album with some of the songs that we recorded. So, we tried to you know, brush off some of the dust on the old demos we did, and here we have it now. We found some really good songs, and I got together a group of guys that you know, were big REO Speedwagon, especially Dennis, a Gary Richrath fan, and we just did it. So, all new songs with the old ones attached.

SFL Music: Yes, I was listening to it. It’s an awesome album! How do you coordinate the writing? Like the song “Heard It on the Radio”. The two of you wrote that. How did that come about?
Jahnz: That’s was a cool tune. That’s like one of our favorites right now, especially fan favorites because even if people haven’t heard that song, the hook in that chorus line just grabs everybody. They start singing it right along with the band, cause we’re just introducing it now. Dennis was doing some riffs one night down in the rehearsal studio, and we were getting ready to go back on the road and he came up with some really cool riffs and I said, hey I got some ideas with that one. I took it from an old song that I worked on many, many, many years ago and we put it together and it became like, it’s a super song, I think. Dennis sparked me again to bring that one back. Kind of like the same thing that’s going on with the old Gary stuff. These guys all sparked me to do some of these new songs that are just, well they’re not new, they’re old, but we put our touch to them.

SFL Music: I like how you did “Ridin’ the Storm Out” and “Son of a Poor Man”.
Jahnz: Right.

SFL Music: How did “Let Me Love Again” or “Never Give Up” come about? What inspired those?
Jahnz: Well, “Let Me Love Again” is more of like a love ballad and I enjoy those kind of vocal things and you know, I think that’s kind of like when I met Gary. That was kind of the thing he wanted to go more to be a rocker and he didn’t really want to do the ballads as much, but he also had that in him how to do it. So, he taught me so much. So, through the years I just kept on putting out some ballads and you know, they didn’t really do much, but we again with Dennis’s guitar. We worked in the studio on that song and he’s got some guitar riffs that go around my vocals and that’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling” kind of thing. If you remember “Can’t Fight This Feeling”. Obviously, Gary’s guitar is what kind of like goes around Kevin’s voice, and that’s what I learned from Gary. So, I try to implement that with Dennis and it really worked. That’s a song that we have the beginning piano parts and then, it’s a rocker, but yet it’s a ballad. That’s how it worked. Then there’s some other ones. “Never Give Up” well, that was just a song originally about the music business and then we got hit with COVID. COVID put us off a good year and a half with this album because we were out in L.A. recording this album, and then this whole thing went kaput, so we decided to come up with something that implemented this COVID thing which is “Never Give Up” from all the people that are sick and passing away. You hear the vocals in there, some of the talking in there. It’s all about the COVID virus.

SFL Music: Oh, that’s very cool. That’s inspirational.
Jahnz: Yeah.

SFL Music: Gary Richrath must have been amazing to work with. What would you say about how he inspired you? Was he like a mentor? What would you say about working with him?
Jahnz: Well first of all, he was just one of the nicest guys ever. I mean, besides the fact that he was a guitar God that he never got the respect or justice he should’ve got for his guitar playing, but he was just a really nice man. He kind of took me under his wing when he was having issues you know, through all those years and that’s how “Help Me Save Myself” I think was actually portrayed to me when he first started working on that with me, and the demos. I didn’t really think too much about it at the time, but then after he passed away, I’m like, that’s a song about Gary. Thank goodness that you know, we had Dennis and the guys help me redo that ‘cause like, we pulled off Gary’s guitars directly off the demos. My engineer did, and he brought ‘em all out and then this new band played right with it. Like he was right in the studio with us. And like I said, just to have that opportunity. You know I mean? There’s thousands of stories. I mean, it would take forever, but just all the little things that he’s done for me. Like I can remember the first time I walked in his house and all I saw where gold and platinum records and I’m like, am I kidding myself? This is real here. And he asked me to do demos with him, and I’m like, this is too cool! Had to pinch myself. You know, none of that stuff he cared about as much as he cared about just being a rocker. He was the guy. In many cases you know, people really still think he was the sound of REO Speedwagon. We all believe that in this band.

SFL Music: Which songs were Gary? “L.A. Is Mine”?
Jahnz: Well, “L.A. Is Mine” was a Gary. That’s all him playing on it. He actually played twelve string and at the end, he just did his Les Paul you know, solo section all the way out and just rocked that one. “These Nights” is another one that has Gary’s guitar on it. Gary’s guitar and his vocals are on “These Nights”. They’re background vocals, but they’re there. And then “Help Me Save Me from Myself” is the single that we’re using as our first single, and we just did a video with that. That’s kind of like you know, the dark side of bad things that happen to people and then all of the sudden it all becomes positive at the end with family and caring and love and all the good stuff.

SFL Music: How did you end up working with Gary?
Jahnz: Well, I started working with Gary the end of ‘88. ’89. I met him in Thousand Oaks, California. I had a band out in California that I was playing with. We played on the Strip. We played all the Hollywood clubs and stuff. Trying to get a record deal, and he just popped in our lives and he said, “can I jam with you guys?” and I said, yeah! So, of course we did “Ridin’ the Storm Out” first because everybody knows that song, and then he started asking me to do work with him. It was a process, and I think Dennis here. Dennis just grew up listening to Gary for many, many, many years ‘cause I mean, he emulates him to a tee, and then Dennis has got his own sound that really, really adds to this new band. I mean, the stuff that we’re doing on the album is, it’s a Gary sound, but it’s gonna lead us into the new sound.

SFL Music: I can hear that. What prompted you both to become musicians? Was REO Speedwagon an influence?
Jahnz: This is Dennis.
Dennis Pockets: Yeah, this is me. Hi Lori.

SFL Music: Hi Dennis.
Pockets: For me. My father took me to the 1969 State Fair and I was only like ten years old, and when I seen Johnny Cash, he was headlining. That prompted me to pick up a guitar and I wanted to be like him, but that’s what really got me going was Johnny Cash.
Jahnz: That’s cool!

SFL Music: Would you say having listened to Gary Richrath all those years influenced your sound? Everybody has their own sound. I can hear it, but how would you say he may have influenced you at all?
Pockets: Oh, you know, my first albums that I bought was like Cream with Eric Clapton, and I really liked the way he played, and then I just started going in to the REO Speedwagon stuff. Watching REO live. I just loved the way Gary played and I would actually try to get in the front row to see Gary, and I would actually like, what is he doing there? So, he was like giving me a lesson, but he didn’t even know it.

SFL Music: That’s very cool (we all laughed). Were you able to work with him as well?
Pockets: No. I really wish I could’ve, but no, I never met him. I went to all of his concerts and watched him play, so I’ve seen him. Then I met Michael and when he told me that he was the lead singer for Gary Richrath, I was going like, wow! That’s my favorite guitarist. So, it worked out pretty good.
Jahnz: Yeah, definitely!

SFL Music: What inspires you guys when you write your music?
Jahnz: Well, you know, I think talking for me, I get inspired from everyday life, and that was one of the things that Gary always taught me. I try to write what I feel at the time or if I get inspired by something like I did with “Never Give Up”, or if you have a love song you want to write or whatever it may be. Like I said, and then Dennis is picking up. He’s doing a lot of writing now for the next album. More so I think getting him the experience and kind of having that you know, when you get into a groove. That’s mainly what it is, and now we have a lot of time to work on new stuff, and last year we had the whole year. We’ll be working on a new one soon.

SFL Music: L.A. is Mine is just coming out, so that’s awesome. You guys are creative. Are there going to be any new videos coming out for fans to look forward to?
Jahnz: Yeah, we just shot a video for “Heard It on the Radio” up in Minneapolis last week and that will be coming out probably, I’m hoping at the end of September. Maybe the middle of September, but that’s gonna be the second release. I mean, that whole albums going to be released on August 6th. There’s a box set you can pick up from some of the older things that I’ve done, but the new album is on there. You know, t-shirts and all kinds of stuff. The record company is pushing it like crazy. You can download it. Its streaming. Dark Star Records and is doing wonderful for us, so it’s a real new experience for me.

SFL Music: There was an article I read where Gary was speaking very highly of you. What can fans look forward to with the show?
Jahnz: Well, I think we do a lot of what Gary was all about. We’re a live show. We don’t use any tracks. We don’t use any you know, auto tune. We’re real. We’re a real rock band you know, just kind of like Johnny Cash (he laughed). Well, no, we’re a real rock band. We don’t do any of that stuff and that’s what Gary always was. He didn’t want to do any of that stuff. We gonna do some of the old stuff. We’re gonna start out doing a couple of the hits that REO does and they still do. I love to do all the stuff. I’m a fan of Kevin’s too. I think he’s a great songwriter and I love to sing the stuff he does. They’re fan favorites, so I mean, if they’re going to come see Gary, they’re going to see some of Kevin’s stuff too, but then they’re gonna hear the new album. So, I mean, we got cuts off of that too. We do a combination, and we might throw in another old song from somebody else at the end. So, you never know.

SFL Music: That’s something for people to look for.
Jahnz: Oh yeah!

SFL Music: When you said the old stuff, do you mean stuff like off of the 3:13 CD?
Jahnz: We do a couple songs off of the 3:13 CDs, but some of those songs were actually originally on Only The Strong Survive. We do “Only The Strong Survive” the song that was actually originally on Nine Lives if people didn’t know that. Then we’re going to be entering into the Sturgis thing with some of the biker rally’s, so we’re gonna put in Outlaws in there. When I mean old stuff, I’m talking about You Get What You Play For you know, the REO Speedwagon stuff. We do a lot of the Gary stuff like “Like You Do” and “Son of a Poor Man”. We do “Golden Country”. I mean we rock it on “Golden Country”. Dennis is phenomenal on “Golden Country” and we get the fans going crazy over that stuff.

SFL Music: It was very cool to read that Gary spoke highly of you. What would you two recommend for an up-and-coming musician?
Jahnz: Well, you know, it’s so difficult. You just got to hang in there and like I said, like the songs says, you never give up. You just got to keep on plugging away ‘cause adversities that are in this business I think are more so now than ever. Especially with COVID and everything else. You just got to set your sights and do what you got to do and just keep playing as much as possible. And you get better.

SFL Music: Was there anything else you wanted to add for people to look forward to?
Jahnz: Please everybody, take a listen to L.A. is Mine. It’s a new release for Richrath Project 3:13, and you can check us out on Richrathrocks.com and we’ll rock ya!

SFL Music: You can hear the tribute to Gary Richrath and to REO Speedwagon, but with your style.
Jahnz: Yeah. Thank you for putting it that way. That’s the perfect way to put it. I mean, we’re not really trying to be, we’re definitely not a tribute band, but we try to do some of the stuff that Gary personally taught us, you know, taught me and I kind of gave it to these guys. Again, that guy, he was a genius! That’s all I can say. He had a lot of things, producing wise were amazing too.

SFL Music: In what sense would you say?
Jahnz: Well, I didn’t realize you know, like one of my favorite records was You Get What You Play For, but I had no idea about the band at the time because I was a kid, and everybody was buying that album in school. Everybody wanted that album and I’d be like yeah, I bought it and I listened to it and it was oh, this is a great album! Then to find out years later that he like actually co-produced that album. That was one of the albums that he actually put a lot of time and effort in. After I met him, I realized one of the reasons why I did like it so much is because of the things that he did, and I don’t think he really got a lot of credit for that either, but it’s in the vinyl and the vinyl speaks for itself. The recordings do too. I think it’s awesome!

SFL Music: Are there any funny Gary stories that you want to share?
Jahnz: Oh my, I could write a book on, well I might be writing a book sometime. No, there’s a lot of funny Gary stories, yes. I’d have to think about it for a minute and I don’t know if we have the time. I’m not sure I really want to have ‘em recorded (he laughed). No, he was one of the funnest guys to hang with. I mean, he was the epitome of a rock and roll star. He definitely lived the lifestyle. When you’re twenty-six years old and you get the opportunity to play with a legend like that, I was walking the clouds. I was having so much fun.

SFL Music: Was there anything else you wanted to add?
Jahnz: Just get out there, listen to the album. We’re also on Facebook. We’re all over the media. Give us a review. Have people check it out and tell us what you think.

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