Cover photo courtesy of Sonic Perspectives
Concertgoers go to live shows to see their favorite bands, and little else. Meaning, they often miss or ignore the warmup act. And that can be a huge mistake.
December 1, 2019 was cold, windy, and snowy as I made my way through the doors of The Bottom Lounge in Chicago. I was there to see The Pineapple Thief and, as usual, I was there early. Admittedly, it wasn’t about the opening act so much as it was about finding a good place to stand in a venue I’d never visited.
Like more than a few others I’m sure, I had no idea who Randy McStine was. The house lights went down promptly at 8 p.m., and out strode one guy with a guitar. Not exactly unusual, but not enough to get me all that excited, either.
All that changed when Randy started to play. Yeah, he was onstage by himself, but he had all the musicians he needed once he started using his looping pedals. It wasn’t a stunt — this guy had chops. And he made the loops work for him in the most tasteful ways. He also had a great singing voice. I could see why The Pineapple Thief had brought him along!
After making my way back to the hotel, I immediately headed to Bandcamp and the Randy McStine catalog. He really put the hook in me! Several weeks later, I learned of a duet featuring Randy and prog drumming machine Marco Minnemann (who plays several other instruments, as well). Checking out that album was, as they say, a no-brainer. It was brilliant, and far from a one-off. The duo continues to make dynamic music together. I knew then I needed to interview McStine, but music life took me in a different direction.
When Steven Wilson decided to bring Porcupine Tree out of hibernation, many fans were surprised to learn that Wilson was keeping the band’s studio release Closure/Continuation to a trio of himself, Richard Barbieri (keyboards), and Gavin Harrison (drums). Fans were really surprised to learn Porcupine Tree was taking the album on the road without previous bassist Colin Edward and guitarist John Wesley. Replacing them would be bassist Nate Navarro and guitarist … Randy McStine.
Naturally, there was grumbling within the fandom. That grumbling didn’t last long once Porcupine Tree took the stage. Navarro and McStine had done their homework and their efforts were greeted with thunderous applause. Okay seriously, I thought, I have GOT to interview Randy McStine. It took a bit longer to get to it, but here we are.
Randy is warm and genuine person, with a great sense of humor and the willingness to put his cards on the table. It would be easy for him to crow after spending time with arguably the biggest band in modern progressive rock. But Randy is the polar opposite, making him what we like to call “instantly likable.”
I’d like to thank Randy McStine for taking a little time out of his day to participate in this highly enjoyable CirdecSongs interview.
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Congrats on the interview. Not only does Randy McStine look very talented, but he also seems to be a very pleasant guy – certainly not a given in the world of music where egos can be very big!
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