Rifleman is the new solo project from Superheist songwriter founder and guitarist, Richie “dw” Norton. With almost 30 years of ripping up the Aussie heavy rock scene, this first solo effort is long overdue. Having released over half a dozen albums with his bands over his career and enjoying chart success with six top forty singles and three top twenty albums. A dual ARIA nominated producer and engineer dw has produced some of Australia’s best heavy and hardcore bands including Alchemist, Toe To Toe, Mindsnare, Superheist, Day Of Contempt and many more and shared the stage with some of the world’s biggest names in rock, including Eminem, Garbage, System Of A Down, Fear Factory, and Sepultura. Richie drops by Hi Fi Way: The Pop Chronicles for a quick Q&A.
What is the latest for Rifleman?
Getting ready to get out and play these songs for the first time, got some great shows lined up… our own album launches in Melbourne , Sydney and Adelaide (Sorry Brisbane… next time) and also some great main support slots with Fuel and Mammal!
Is it a feeling of relief now that Silver & Gold is done and out there?
Yes it is, three years of writing and recording. And also great to get my own songs out there after a lifetime of trying! Excited to get out and play live. My first time as a front man since I was the lead singer in a Faith No More cover band in 1991!
After being involved in other bands what pushed you to finally go solo?
It’s always been something on my list of things to do, everything else usually pushes it to the back of the end of the line but this time I was adamant I was getting it finished and out there! I saw a window of opportunity between Heist albums and bang! Here we are!
How would you describe Rifleman compared to Superheist sonically?
I would say… radically different! Firstly there’s no real aggression to the sound at all. There’s none of those bombastic larger than life, jump up and down riffs like in Superheist. It’s more chilled and dreamy. There’s a greater emphasis on delivering the mood and emotion of the song and layering guitars and keyboards to create a real soundscape. Lots of vocal harmonies in there too. There’s also a more personal side lyrically.
Have you had these ideas bubbling away for a while but didn’t know which band they were suited?
No these song were purpose built for this project. I write a lot of material. There’s some specifically for Rifleman, some are just random and I haven’t found place for them yet and then there’s the Heist stuff (of which I have enough for a double album already)… LOL… I could probably release 4 more albums next week with amount of songs on my hard drive! Anyone want a song out there? Hit me up!
Did the ideas come together quickly and easily?
Yeah a song will take me a couple hours to get down to about the 80% mark… That’s recorded to Pro Tools in that time too. Then I live with them and tweak them for a few weeks till I’m happy. There’s been occasions where I’ll totally re-write the vocals or change a chorus progression months after the song was written. But it’s usually a pretty quick and effortless process. I thrive on song writing and working my hook lines. It’s my favourite part of being a musician.
Is it hard swapping your producer hat to be on the creative side?
Nope. It’s second nature. I feel like I was born to make music. Producing or writing or playing or even talking about it like right now! There’s nothing I do better or enjoy more in life.
Was Keep The Story Alive the obvious choice for single?
No there was a few in the mix, that one was chosen because it’s one of the more upbeat songs. I didn’t want to kick off with something too melancholy or mellow. Plus I got to show off my 1985 Phil Collen Ibanez Destroyer II DT155 in the video! My most prized possession!
What inspired the story for that song?
The song is about those people that seem to float into everyone’s life at some point… who talk themselves up and tell you what a good person they are… you end up helping them with everything because they just seem to always need it. Eventually you realise they’re full of shit and before you know it they’ve taken advantage of your help and generosity and ultimately screwed you over. Seems to happen to me quite a bit.
Are you looking forward to the upcoming dates and what can punters expect at these shows?
Very much so… I feel like it’s my first ever tour! I’m never nervous in Superheist cos it’s just easy and I know what’s up. But this is a whole new ball game for me. Expect a solid rock show with big songs to sing along with… It will be much more up close and personal and less bells and whistles than a Heist gig. I can’t wait! I even have backing singers… just like John Farnham! Lol!
Is Superheist still simmering away in the background?
Yeah man! The new album is well in the works, Zeke is smashing out a few shows with Mammal at the moment so probably over Xmas we’ll get stuck into the vocals and pump out the new record. Zeke’s son Griffen and my son Caden are best mates so they get together whenever they can and the Dad’s get to write big dumb metal songs together. It’s a great vibe!
What’s next beyond these dates going in to 2018?
Rifleman will be releasing the second single from Silver & Gold in February which will be the INXS cover Don’t Change. We’ll do another tour to coincide with that and then see where things go from there! Album number two will happen later in 2018.
Interview by Rob Lyon