Rich Gilbert: Guitar Phenomenalist
Guitar, pedal steel guitar, keyboards
There is no Catholic nor ex-Catholic, Pixie nor ex-Pixie with a
resume so extensive as Rich Gilbert's. He is always working and
collaborating with many musicians, and while this makes him more a
freelance Catholic than a full-time member, it's great to have the
experience, talent, and wild live performances he brings to the band.
If you've had the pleasure of seeing Rich perform live, then you are
no stranger to him playing guitar with everything from his teeth to a
drumstick (see photo) to a fan's empty beer bottle. You've seen him
dance around the stage like his guitar's on fire, although it has not
yet combusted despite Rich's ultra-fast guitar work.
Lucky thing, too, because some of Rich's wardrobe is probably
extremely flammable. When seeing a Catholics show, it is said that
there are two factors you can never be sure of. The first is the
setlist, which Frank randomly generates on-the-fly. The second is what
Rich Gilbert will be wearing. From a tattered Pokemon t-shirt to an
all-country embroidered button-up to a red vinyl suit with lime green
shoes, anything goes.
You might think that so urbane a character would come from trendy
Los Angeles or New York, but Rich Gilbert is actually from the Boston,
Massachusets area. Rich has been playing in bands since the beginning
of the 70s, and received his first album credit later that decade with
Human Sexual Response. He is also credited as writer and
guitarist on the 1981 album Figure 14 (re-released with an
additional track as Figure 15 in 1992) and the 1982 album In
A Roman Mood.
The group didn't last long after their second album, which took the
band in a different direction, but Rich, Larry Bongor (vocals), and
Malcom Travis (drums) moved on to found the Zulus (after three
successive name changes - Wild Kingdom, Gospel Birds,
and finally the Zulus) soon after HSR was disbanded. The
Zulus released a self-titled EP on Greenwood Records (it has
Zulus spelled out with bones on the cover, and is VERY rare, so it
goes for quite a bit of money). They also had one LP, Down On The
Floor (produced by Bob Mould of Husker Du) in 1988.
Meanwhile, he was collaborating with Throwing Muses on their
first major release that same year, House Tornado. The
Zulus broke up four years later in 1992, but Rich's
side-project, Concussion Ensemble released its only album,
Stampede a year later. Their subsequent demise allowed Rich to
tour with Steve Wynn for nine months ("It was great" says Rich of the
experience) and play on Wynn's record Sweetness & Light.
On top of his band and side project, Rich was collaborating with
still others, so the breakup of the Zulus was not as bad as it
could've been. In 1990, he worked with the band Uncle Tupelo (a
rock-country group), as pedal steel and optigan player for No
Depression, and in 1991 for Still Feel Gone. He also worked
with the Titanics as producer of their 1991 self-titled album,
with cowboy-surf band Goober & The Peas on steel guitar/backing
vocals 1992, more pedal steel for Charlie Chesterman's From
The Book of Flames in 1994, The Lemonheads' Car Button
Cloth in 1996, Chris Cacavas' Anonymous in 1997, and
Gerald Collier's self-titled second album.
As well, Rich had started working with Tanya Donelly from
Throwing Muses on her solo project in 1996, and is
credited with mandolin and pedal steel on the 1996 Sliding and
Diving; guitar, keyboard, accordion, tiple, saw on the 1997
release Lovesongs for Underdogs; and electric guitar, organ,
keyboard, accordion, and pedal steel on her two 2002 releases
Beauty Sleep and Sleepwalk.
And, thankfully, there was still time for Rich to join Frank Black
starting on Pistolero in 1999, and then on Dog In The
Sand, Black Letter Days, and Show Me Your Tears.
Rich is almost always present on Frank Black & The Catholics
tours despite all this side work.
With the Pixies reunion, Rich predictably hasn't slowed down at
all. He's been working with Peter Weiss' Weisstronauts since
2001 on their two releases, and now has some time to devote to his
latest project, the Blackstone Valley
Sinners, which also released a critically well-received
It's A Sin in 2001 as well as The Cold Hard Truth About
Christmas in 2002. He's also helped engineer Brian Dewan's
2001 record The Operating Theatre and put together The
Coronet Premiers, recording a self-titled instrumental album in
2001. He toured with The Tarbox Ramblers, worked with Steve
Wynn and also the Blackstone Valley Sinners in late 2004,
and in 2005 he's been working with Thad Cockrell, Kenneth
Brian, Last Train Home, Joshua Black Wilkins.
Other more obscure side-projects include CLOWN, Condo Pygmies,
Country Bumpkins, Crown Electric Company, and The United
If that weren't enough, Rich is now offering guitar lessons to
Rhode Island students and has an upcoming learn-to-play-like-Rich DVD
coming who-knows-when. The world would be a better place if more
people just learned to play guitar with drum sticks!
- Dean Katsiris
Got something to add? Please send Dean a note and
let him know!