Chris Richards and The Subtractions

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Chris Richards and The Subtractions
Chris Richards and the Subtractions.jpg
Background Information




Power Pop

Years Active

2004 - Present


Gangplank Records, Futureman Records


Chris Richards - Guitars and Vocals
Todd Holmes - Bass
Larry Grodsky - Drums



Chris Richards and the Subtractions is a power pop trio featuring lead singer/songwriter Chris Richards and the Subtractions feature bass player Todd Holmes and drummer Larry Grodsky.


Chris Richards

Chris Richards.jpg

Richards started playing rock 'n' roll when he was a Churchill High School student in Livonia, teaching himself to play bass and forming a band with some friends that they called the Noel Redding Experience. "I'm not sure I was a huge Jimi Hendrix fan, with the exception of maybe 'Crosstown Traffic,'" Richards recalls with a laugh. "But Noel had the coolest hair! We didn't have any real body to our hair, though, so we didn't come out with the Noel look or anything."

And although hair metal was the order of the day at Churchill in the mid-'80s, the Noel Redding Experience was covering tunes by the Hoodoo Gurus, the Violent Femmes and the Waterboys, as Richards began writing what he cheerfully describes as "moronic two- to three-chord songs."

"We were the only local band at that time playing original songs," Richards adds "And they were just God-awful! But I think everyone really respected the fact that we at least wrote our own songs."

By 1986, Richards had moved from bass to guitar and gotten a bit more serious about his music, forming Hippodrome with his brother Kyle Richards on bass, Doyle Dean on drums and Keith Klingensmith on guitar and vocals. The band released a cassette-only EP in 1987, Novelty, recorded by the then-fledgling Dave Feeny, who now runs Tempermill Studios. By the time Hippodrome recorded their first long-player, 1989's Dogbunny, Kyle was out of the band and Todd Holmes had stepped in as their new bassist. (Dogbunny was also one of Detroit's first locally released CDs, which Richards notes just as the format threatens to go the way of the cassette.)

Hippodrome called it quits in 1990, and after Richards and Klingensmith were invited to record some songs for a power-pop compilation, they put together a short-lived studio project, the Phenomenal Cats, who released a six-song EP. Eager to start playing live again, Richards formed the Pantookas with bassist Kenny Quick and drummer Larry Grodsky, boasting a tougher guitar sound and more aggressive approach than the cooler and more streamlined sounds of Hippodrome. The Pantookas cut an album in 1997, Salad, that earned positive press (including a rave in Option) but didn't break out locally. Two years later the band split up.

But if Richards wasn't making a major impact on the Detroit scene yet, someone was clearly listening — the international power pop community is a network that enthusiastically spreads the word about new artists around the globe; in 1994, Richards was included on Hit the Hay, Vol. 1, a compilation assembled by Swedish pop fanatic Jerker Emanuelson, who later released the Phenomenal Cats disc. Since then, Richards has contributed tunes to pop anthologies released in Japan, Spain, Australia and Canada, and he estimates that 70 percent of the physical sales on the Sad Sounds of the Summer CD has been overseas. (Richards is less certain about the breakdown of growing sales through digital retailers like iTunes, though, saying "You can't really see the digital stuff — you don't know who's buying it; you just get checks!")

Keeping track of his fan base outside of the country — and outside the English language — is a challenge for him. "The blogosphere seems to be the new thing, especially in Spain," Richards says. "I've been reading, or trying to read, these music blogs, and we'll try to translate them but obviously there's no translation tool that gets every single dialect. So you'll get the thing and it'll say, 'Songs spoken from the word of God!' I don't think they meant to say that! [Laughs] There's no way they said this, but there's no way it's negative, either!"

After years of playing with a handful of bands and releasing most of his material through his own Dogbunny label, Richards is teamed up with trusted friends he's known for years, Todd Holmes and Larry Grodsky and formed Chris Richards and The Subtractions.

"The Subtractions complement me better than any band I've ever had," Richards says. "And the reality is that Todd played bass with me in Hippodrome for about five or six years, maybe even longer. And then Larry played drums in the Pantookas, for five or six years. So in combination, I feel like I've played with those guys forever."



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External Links