REAL GONE

Pro­ducer, solo artist, player with The Black Keys, The Shins and The Arcs, Richard Swift died on July 3.

Mojo (UK) - - Contents - Tom Doyle

Richard Swift, Vince Martin, Dean Webb and more… we sa­lute you.

DE­SPITE THE fact that he man­aged to build up a fine cat­a­logue of his own al­bums, Richard Swift al­ways seemed hap­pier to op­er­ate as a pro­ducer and side­man. He con­fessed as much on record, with his dec­la­ra­tion in The Songs Of Na­tional Free­dom on 2007’s Dressed Up For The Let­down: “I made my way into the spot­light/ Just to re­alise it’s not what I want.” It was a typ­i­cal ev­ery­thing-on-the-sur­face state­ment from this hugely tal­ented and self-dep­re­cat­ing fig­ure who in many ways seemed to be Harry Nils­son re­born in the in­die age; his deft ways with a melody of­ten re­call­ing Paul McCart­ney, his pointed and know­ing lyrics rem­i­nis­cent of Randy New­man. Born March 16, 1977, in Cal­i­for­nia into a Quaker fam­ily, Swift had an itin­er­ant child­hood mov­ing between Utah, Ore­gon and Min­nesota. Set­tling aged 24 in Hunt­ing­ton Beach, south­east of Los An­ge­les, he be­gan oper­at­ing out of Green Room Stu­dios, start­ing up a cot­tage in­dus­try of in­de­pen­dent re­leases that led to him being signed by Se­cretly Cana­dian. En­joy­ing the sup­port of Jeff Tweedy, Swift made 2009’s The At­lantic Ocean at Wilco’s The Loft Stu­dios in Chicago, co-pro­duc­ing with Mark Ron­son and bring­ing in pals Sean Lennon and Ryan Adams for cameo roles. While the al­bum didn’t hit the mark com­mer­cially, it show­cased the full range of Swift’s tal­ents, from the lop­ing pi­ano shapes of R.I.P. to the Sly Stone soul moves of Lady Luck. All the while, he pur­sued a par­al­lel ca­reer of more esoteric re­leases, in­clud­ing the garage rock­ing Richard Swift As Ona­sis in 2008 and the same year’ sKraut rock in­spired sonic voy­ag­ing of side project In­stru­ments Of Sci­ence & Tech­nol­ogy’s Mu­sic From The Films Of R/Swift. Lack of main­stream suc­cess forced Swift out onto the road as a side­man, as key­board­player for The Shins, bassist with The Black Keys and drum­mer with Dan Auer­bach’s The Arcs. But it was as house pro­ducer for Se­cretly Cana­dian that Swift re­ally shone – his stu­dio style a hy­brid of the best el­e­ments of the past along with pos­si­ble sonic fu­tures – helm­ing al­bums by Foxy­gen, Kevin Morby and par­tic­u­larly Damien Ju­rado’s psy­che­delic soul/ folk tril­ogy that be­gan with 2012’s Maraqopa. A long­time suf­ferer from anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion, Swift self-med­i­cated with al­co­hol, lead­ing to fail­ing health. In June this year, he was ad­mit­ted to hospi­tal in Ta­coma, Wash­ing­ton, with a then- undis­closed “life-threat­en­ing con­di­tion”. Six days af­ter his death on July 3, aged 41, his fam­ily re­leased a state­ment de­tail­ing that his demise had been due to “com­pli­ca­tions from hep­ati­tis, as well as liver and kid­ney dis­tress.” For­ever wry and self-aware, in Artist & Reper­toire from Dressed Up For The Let­down – a track imag­in­ing an A&R man pok­ing fun at the singer’s un­com­mer­cial songs and even his size – Swift man­aged to write his own epi­taph: “My name will go miss­ing/But the songs’ll be here.”

“He seemed to be Harry Nils­son re­born in the in­die age.”

“My name will go miss­ing, but the songs’ll be here”: Richard Swift, 1977-2018.

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