10Qs with Galen Richmond of Computer at Sea

Galen Richmond is the man behind the one-person, circuit-bending, and synth outfit known as Computer at Sea.  He, along with fellow synthesizer enthusiasts Mr. NEET and Rotundo Sealeg, play Mayo Street Arts this Friday, May 31.

In June, Richmond will participate in a restaurant band competition, Food Fight.  The band, tentatively known as Legimate Tigers, will also feature Zak Taillon from superorder and Leon Samson from Dirty White Hats.



Where were you born?
I was born in Strong, Maine. There used to be a birthing house in town where hippies would have their kids.

Why did you stay in Portland?
I came to Portland sort of accidentally in the summer of 1998 and hadn’t meant to stay for a decade and a half, but there it is. Everybody says this all the time, but there’s such an amazing crop of artists, musicians, and other involved passionate people here. Just the bands alone is reason to get excited. Every three years there’s a completely new batch of fantastic bands making surprising music.

Do you have a day job, and if so, what is it?
Right now I’m tending bar at Boda, which has turned out to be a lovely situation. During the school year I study electrical engineering.

What was your most memorable gig?
The show that I think back most fondly on was the first time I played the Bent Festival in New York, which is a now defunct electronics festival focusing on circuit bent instruments and hacked technology. Ian Paige played with me on that one, because I was nervous about producing a live sound comparable to the demo that I submitted. It was a heavy scene; three or four of the guys who are absolute titans in the field were standing, arms folded scrutinizing my table and the instruments I built. The set went absolutely great, and it turned out those guys were actually really nice.

What was your worst gig?
Hands down the worst show I ever played was two winters ago at Geno’s, through no fault of the venue. I had accidentally got rather loaded before the show (Bookers- you know about this whiskey? horrifying) and nothing on my table was working. Some stuff legitimately broke, and there was a crucial power supply that I had left at my studio. If I were a bit more on the straight and narrow I probably could have powered through, but things being as they were, I had to pull the plug after maybe ten minutes. The next day I brought the worst hangover of my life to my grandmother’s funeral. Horrible.

What album or artist has most influenced you as a musician?
It’s hard to pin down one artist that’s been the most influential. Depending on the day, I’d say either Brian Eno or Eric Bachman from Archers of Loaf. As it’s rainy today, I’d say Brian Eno. “Another Green World” is just a perplexing and wonderful piece of music. I envy how still he can be.

What’s the one piece of musical equipment you can’t live without?
The only piece of equipment that I really couldn’t replace is my modified Casio Sk-1. It’s the first really big circuit bending project I completed and I use it for everything. Since I built it early on, the layout is really idiosyncratic but I’ve spent so much time with it that it feels natural to me. Computer at Sea would close up shop immediately if I lost that thing.

Any advice for a musician starting out? 
For folks just starting out, I think it’s important to not sweat it about getting your stuff out to a huge market. Make something you want to hear and have fun doing it.

What’s the origin behind your name/band name?
The name Computer At Sea was actually pulled of an old stereo. I’ve never seen this setting since, but the particular stereo had a button next to the EQ settings that said computer at sea. I was initially saving the name for an album title for this band, The Enchantments, that I was playing with at the time but we sort of quietly dissolved, as bands will do.

What’s your musical guilty pleasure?
Number one guilty pleasure: Jesus Christ Superstar. For what ever reason, I know every word to every song.

Stephen Quirk
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