Chris Richards, a GW alumnus and stalwart on the D.C. music scene, has done a lot. He has worked for The Washington Post. He has taken on the burly task of finding a voice when reviewing hygiene products. He was formerly a member of the post-hardcore band Q And Not U. But recently, Richards is leaving the description of self-help products to take the helm of the New York music magazine “Fader.”
Richards offered some advice to students, newsies and young sophisticates. Well, sort of.
Writing critically knows no bounds.
“I’ve spent my fair share of mornings pretending to be Usher,” reads a past Washington Post “Test Drive” review, in which Richards assessed the artist’s self-branded “He Clean” body wash – a lathered-up disappointment Richards went on to dub as “underwhelming.”
“I didn’t really set out to have a career in journalism,” said Richards, who graduated from GW in December of 2000 – landing a job as a copy aide at The Post shortly after. The Post gig was flexible enough to allow him to tour with Q and Not U (with whom he played over a thousand shows, some in Europe, Japan and South Africa) pursue painting and still hold a steady job.
“I always jumped on every opportunity to write everything,” he said, this point realized in a slew of “Test Drive” product reviews bearing his byline and later in his own column.
At The Post, Richards’ also wrote for “The Singles File” – his wicked way-fresh-brain-baby – which outlined playlists of MP3s for “the listener with the one-track mind.” The aim: exploit the Internet as a tool for finding quality jams and expose this music to readers.
Originally from Annapolis, Md., Richards grew up on D.C. punk and hardcore. And naturally, he is a little put off by the frequently posed notion that D.C. lacks a pronounced local music scene. His advice to those disgruntled with the District’s local flavor? Look a little further than the Black Cat.
“Get out of the blogosphere and start walking around,” Richards said, emphasizing that D.C. has a vibrant go-go and hip hop scene, not to mention the U Street area that boasts, among other things, fresh Ethiopian jams. He also suggested checking out music from some of the embassies.
Richards is a critical reviewer, but not at the expense “People (tend to be) a little too focused on engaging the reader,” he said. In other words, ruthless body gel reviews are fun, but worth nothing without, you know, the actual review.
Richards says while at GW he wrote four music reviews for The Hatchet – one of which highlighted Conor Oberst (the Bright Eyes dude) he heard playing at the former Metro Café.
While remembering his days as a Colonial, Richards remembers playing with Q And Not U at Mitchell Hall’s theater. Consider that for some music-making historical food for thought to go with your Big Gulp from 7-11, kiddo.
“I found that life is not as linear as college made it out for me,” Richards said. “I learned a lot of things at GW, but I’m not a painter.” Musically, Richards is currently doing solo work, which he classifies as the “chronic folk album.” While at Fader, Richards aims to keep the publication doing “what it does best” – breaking new artists. That is, successfully.