Interview with Paul Richards from California Guitar Trio

california guitar trio
California Guitar Trio

Interview by Scott Preston

With a whirlwind of instrumental styles fusing classical, rock, blues, jazz, world music, progressive, as well as the quintessential California musical genre surf music, the California Guitar Trio’s stunning virtuosity and sly sense of humor have earned them an enthusiastic following and wide notoriety, with significant crossover in the progressive, acoustic and classical music scenes.

Notably, CGT music was featured on the television coverage of the 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2004 Olympics, and also on CBS, NBC, CNN, and ESPN TV programs. The CGT performed on the 2003 Grammy Awards nominated track Apollo on Tony Levin’s CD Pieces of the Sun; and CGT music was sent into outer space as wake up music for the crew aboard NASA’s Space Shuttle Endeavor. (from

California Guitar Trio will be performing at the Seton Performance Hall here in Cincinnati, OH on March 8, 2008. Supporting the California Guitar Trio will be Fareed Haque (from Garaj Mahal) and April Aloisio. Paul Richards was kind enough to take some time to speak with me:

Cincy Groove: How did the 3 of you meet? The 3 of you seem to have very different backgrounds.

Paul Richards: All three of us met while we were studying with Robert Fripp. Robert Fripp started these guitar classes and workshops that were originally these one week courses that were held near Washington D.C. called Guitar Craft. As they began to develop , in the late 1980’s he purchased a home in the English countryside where he invited a bunch of the students to come for extended periods of time. I was there for 2 years. It was during this time I met the two other guys in the California Guitar Trio. So we played together a lot during that time. We were studying music together and playing with Robert. Robert had this group he formed with the students called The League of Crafty Guitarists. It was around this time me and the other two guys in the Trio started to realize we had some things in common and started playing together as a trio. It wasn’t until 1991 when Bert Lams, one of the other guys in the trio, he had moved to Los Angeles and he had invited myself and Hideyo Moriya to move to L.A. and form the California Guitar Trio.

Cincy Groove: The band name California Guitar Trio is pretty straight forward, how did you guys come up with it?

Paul Richards: I remember back then I was a big fan of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet who are really world class guitar players. So I remember thinking it would be great if our name could set a standard as high as something as those guys. Being in California at that time really had an impact on what we were doing at that time both musically and the formation of the group. It seemed like a natural thing for us to name the group after where we started playing together.

Cincy Groove: I noticed that the three of you live in very different places when your not on the road. How do you guys write new material?

Paul Richards: Well when we first formed the Trio we were based in Los Angeles for about 4 or 5 years. During that time we were rehearsing and playing guitar constantly. That sort of set the foundation for us that has helped keep us going. So now we have a pretty good idea how we can work together. Bert recently just moved to Pennsylvania, Hideyo is back in Japan where he is originally from. He commutes for every tour which is an amazing feat in itself. We just completed a tour on the west coast and we have a few weeks break until this next tour. So in the meantime each of us will spend some time working on ideas or arrangements. Right now we are currently working on new music for a new original music cd. At the beginning of each of the tours we will get together usually in our hotel rooms and rehearse for a few days before we start the tour. We also do a lot via the internet. We can send scores to each other or mp3s that we have recorded on our laptops.

Cincy Groove: Do you prefer to record a studio cd or a live cd?

Paul Richards: There two completely different things really. This last one we just recorded we really took our time with it. We emailed tracks to some of our friends to add their own parts to the songs. So we have a few guest players on there. Its interesting to look at the liner notes on it because we have the violinist who recorded his part in England. There is a theremin player who recorded in Vienna, Austria and some of our friends here in the states who recorded there parts in Texas and New York.

We travel with a cd recorder and cd duplication tower and we sell cds of the concert right after the show. This has kind of taken over us releasing live cds. People love being able to buy something they just heard. Within 10 minutes after the show we are printing cds on the cd duplicator. We travel with our own sound man who has to create a mix that sounds good on the recording separate from whats happening in the room. So while he is mixing us he has a set of head phones he will occasionally put on during the show to make sure whats going on to the cd recorder sounds good.

Cincy Groove: Who has California Guitar Trio collaborated with recently?

Paul Richards: We have been doing some collaboration with the vocalist from YES John Anderson. He has some music he has invited us to work on and thats kind of another project that I hope with come to light at some point. Its a bit tricky with his schedule and our schedule. I just spoke to him a few days ago and he invited us to his house in southern California to work in the studio he has at his home.

One of our friends who we have been collaborating the most with the most lately is Tony Levin, the bass player for Peter Gabriel and King Crimson. We have an ongoing working relationship with him.

Cincy Groove: What do you like to do between gigs when your not on the road?

Paul Richards: Just this past week after I got home from this last out our soundman and I went up to Brighton Ski Resort and went snowboarding. Growing up in Utah I liked to do a lot of skiing and snow boarding.

One of the things people don’t realize is all the work that goes into getting a tour going. We spend a lot of time on the business side of things, so when I’m at home I put in 8 – 10 hour days dealing with our agency, record label and all those things that go unseen. I think when people have this idea of becoming a touring musician that forget about all the things that go along with it. I like being able to have a lot of the management things under our own control because we know whats going on with our money but at the same time its a huge amount of work.

Cincy Groove: I notice you are playing a lot of different types of venues.

Paul Richards: This past year we have been playing a lot at his performing arts centers and its actually widen our audience in a way. Because when we first started out we were playing music clubs and smaller venues. Something I have noticed is that the age range of the audience is very wide since we started playing these performing arts centers. We have these elementary school kids coming to the show with their parents and then we will have older folks as well. The music we play is so varied different parts of the audience will light up depending what song we are playing.


California Guitar Trio are:
Paul Richards of Salt Lake City, Utah
Bert Lams of Brussels, Belgium
Hideyo Moriya of Tokyo, Japan

Upcoming California Guitar Trio shows:
for complete show details visit California Guitar Trio’s website:
02/29/2008 Crosstown Station Kansas City, MO
03/01/2008 White Concert Hall at Washburn University Topeka, KS
03/02/2008 Stiefel Theatre for the Performing Arts Salina, KS
03/03/2008 Parsons Municipal Auditorium Parsons, KS
03/06/2008 Music Mill Indianapolis, IN
03/07/2008 Midland Theatre Newark, OH
03/08/2008 Seton Performance hall Cincinnati, OH

03/10/2008 Pike Auditorium Bolivar, MO
03/11/2008 21C Museum Louisville, KY
03/13/2008 The Cultural Center Capitol Theatre Charleston, WV
03/14/2008 Sunoco Performance Theater Harrisburg, PA
03/15/2008 Sellersville Theater Sellersville, PA
04/05/2008 PAC Forest Grove, OR
04/06/2008 Wow Hall Eugene, OR
04/11/2008 Holladay United Church of Christ Holladay, UT
04/12/2008 Grind Coffee House Cedar City, UT
04/14/2008 Future Studios Sedona, AZ
04/15/2008 Rhythm Room Phoenix, AZ
04/16/2008 Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts Cerritos, CA
04/17/2008 Don Quixote’s International Music Hall Felton, CA
04/18/2008 Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse Berkeley, CA
04/19/2008 Sutter Creek Theater Sutter Creek, CA
05/14/2008 the New Morning PARIS, France With Tony Levin
05/15/2008 Sound and Vision Festival MILAN, ITALY With Tony Levin
05/16/2008 Stazione Birra Morena, ROMA, ITALY With Tony Levin
07/15/2008 Redlands Bowl Summer Music Festival Redlands, CA 07/22/2008 San Juan Community Theater Friday Harbor, WA
10/24/2008 The Stone Church Newmarket, NH
10/25/2008 Center for the Arts Natick, MA
for complete show details visit California Guitar Trio’s website: