Johnny Richter, formerly of the Kottonmouth Kings, doesn't slow down for anyone. He also doesn't take shit from anyone. After unexpectedly leaving KMK in mid-October, Richter hit the ground running with a rejuvenated solo career and a new EP, FreeKING Out, set for release December 17.
The short and sweet five-track EP delivers the vintage Richter sound that carried the Kottonmouth Kings to fame, but there is something different about this collection of songs. A new bull-dozing spark in Richter's lyrics courses through every verse and brings the EP to life, showing that he is for real about his own career.
"I just want to get back to making music," says Richter, "touring, playing shows, and having fun with it, and not [have] all the other drama and bullshit that goes with it."
That's not to say there hasn't been plenty of backlash and fallout from a sudden separation with the band he helped form in the mid-nineties. KMK fans seem to be divided, forced into picking a side through the forums that have lit up since Richter's departure. Most notably, however, have been the accusations by Richter's former band members themselves.
The full story behind the scenes of KMK may never be known. However, Up on the Sun took advantage of the opportunity to speak with Richter prior to his solo performance at Red Owl in Tempe on December 15, and asked him about his future, his EP, and to shed some light on KMK.
There's a lot going on in your world, and you're a few shows into your own solo FreeKING Out tour now. I heard you got pulled over by the cops on your first night out? Yeah, it was pretty gnarly. I got woken up at 10:30 in the morning by two CSP's. They took everybody off the RV one by one, and I was the last person because I was asleep. They searched the RV, and found like an ounce-and-a-half and some pipes and shit. None of the guys wanted to do anything as far as the cops, so they just let us go. No tickets, no anything, and all of our pipes intact.
Besides that run-in, how has the audience reaction been to your show? The reaction has been good. We've been hit with some crazy weather, though! It's been good, we're just having fun with it. Everybody that comes is having a blast, and has been really receptive to everything.
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What can we expect with your solo performance? Just some real hip-hop. We're just up there killing it for an hour-plus of straight hip-hop. There's no karaoke or anything, just what we're rapping is what we're doing. We're trying to keep it positive and keep smiles on all of the people's faces. It's an energetic show.
Do you play any Kottonmouth Kings songs live? Well, anybody can play whatever they want; think about cover bands and all of that. I do all publishing on my songs, and at the end of the day it's my songs that I wrote. I have as much right as anybody in my heart, and I can play whatever I want. I only play one verse off a Kottonmouth song, though, and it's an old song that we never play live.
I'm getting a lot of flak, but that's coming from their camp. I'm not saying, "hey, all the songs that I wrote--you guys can't play them." I'm not saying that, but they're trying to say I can't play any Kottonmouth Kings songs and to sign a piece of paper that I can never say or mention I was a part of Kottonmouth Kings. That's what they want me to do, but I'm not trying to take that level with that.
Tell me your thoughts on the FreeKING Out EP? With everything happening, I didn't really pre-think or plan that EP. The night of October 14th or whatever it was, which was the first show I didn't show up to, I put a Twitter response out saying where I'm at and why I'm not there. I was getting some negative shit said about me by my band.
They were making accusations about me [like] addict, junkie, thief, and liar. I just try to keep it positive, and they went straight for the jugular with blatant lies. It definitely sparked that EP. It made me feel better about what I was doing, and solidified my reasoning. I'm just done with all that bullshit. I'm just getting back to music, and what it's supposed to be all about. I'm not trying to get in an internet battle war with somebody. I did see some of that going on online. I saw the Kings put something up the other day saying that they'll let the music talk. [Laughs] Whatever, yeah whatever. They should "let the music talk," that'd be great. That just drew my point even more. I'm just kind of sick of dealing with it. It is what it is, and everybody wants to know, but the fact of the matter is now, I'm not signed to Disney. It's not the Mickey Mouse Club, and I don't shoot for Sesame Street.
The band was the Kottonmouth Kings, and we made our name on being a rowdy party band. [We were a] do what we want, don't give a fuck and all that shit [band]. I'm no angel; don't get me wrong, I don't want to paint that picture. I definitely have tried and used my fair share of things here and there, but as far as when you're getting called names like junkie and addict--that's just ridiculous. It's just stupid. I'm not sitting at home with my blinds drawn--that's the furthest thing from the truth.
I try not to respond to it, because it makes you upset. I'm moving on and doing what I need to do, and keeping positive about everything. [I'm] not focusing on what people are saying about me, because they're speaking on what they've been told, but nobody is speaking on experience. People love to talk, they love drama, and they love to get involved and voice their opinions on other people without having the full story. I see it so much on Facebook and Twitter, where kids love to get up there and internet bang, they aren't going to come to your face and start shit. No one ever does.
Did you have any of the songs on FreeKING Out already written? I didn't. I have a whole other EP already written, actually. What I have right now, I think there are some great songs on there. You're not going to put it in and be like, "wow, this guy has a chip on his shoulder." It's a different sound and feel than what KMK does.
Were there any major roadblocks in putting that together? Did it take you long to bounce back? No, there were none, not at all actually. I had the beats and I went in the studio and recorded them. [I] came back to do some mixes back and forth, and it was ready to go out. I try not to let anything stand in my way. Nobody can tell me that I can or can't record music.
So, if everything goes well on this tour, what do you have planned next? I want to put another EP out in like February, and then I'm in talks right now of going out with a few other people at the end of March for a three or four week tour. Hopefully, a summer tour also. I just want to get back to making music, touring, playing shows, and having fun with it, and not [have] all the other drama and bullshit that goes with it. I think people put too much thought into such an easy thing. Grab the mic, play the beat, and spit, dude.
When I put a record out, I want to tour for it. Half of the fun is making the record, and the other half is playing it for people. Hearing stories from people about what your songs mean to them is an incredible part of making music. For the first year or two, I used to wear sunglasses on stage, because I couldn't look people in the eyes when rapping. Now, I'm at home on stage. I can get on stage with any artist, it doesn't matter how small or how big the stage is.
What is your ultimate goal with your solo career? I would just like it to support my life. I want to be able to pay my bills by making and playing music. Really, that's the ultimate goal; and to make good music as well. I want to make songs that I like and that I'm proud of. And I want to make songs that help people out as much as other music has helped me through times in my life.
I really enjoy making music, and I want to get out there and touch on all bases and rip. I want to take it as far as I can. I want to do acoustic songs, and all different genres, and make music with other artists. I want to take my music to the masses, and be a positive influence for people.
Have you had any contact with anybody from the Kottonmouth Kings in the last couple months? No, not really--just a couple of bullshit text messages on their part, [that were] sent to me. I don't have time to deal with these guys individually about shit like that. I don't have time to get in little arguments or fights over other people's opinions on shit. If they want to get legal, I guess we'll get legal on it, but I really don't think I have done anything wrong, and I'm not going to back down on anything that I'm doing.
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At the same time, I've said nothing except that I do wish them the best, and I hope they do well. They have families and lives that are depending on it as well. I hope they do figure it out, and I hope they do well. It just wasn't for me, and I want to move on and do what I want to do and what fulfills me. That wasn't doing it, and I wasn't making the best music that I could. I wasn't getting close to tapping the well of talent that I have. I just hope everybody is rich, and happy with healthy families. I don't try to put out negative energy in this world; there's too much of that already. I'm trying to fight against that.