Sir Richard Bishop
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About Sir Richard Bishop
Sir Richard Bishop is one of the world's most adventurous guitarists, incorporating styles and techniques from across the globe into his ambitious, ever-evolving style. A founding member of avant-rock legends Sun City Girls, he has been an icon of experimental music since the '80s. With that group, he released dozens of recordings which unpredictably darted between genres and were often heavily improvisation-based. Bishop began releasing solo guitar material as early as 1998, when Salvador Kali appeared on John Fahey's Revenant label, but he would become much more prolific during the mid-2000s, particularly after Sun City Girls ended following the death of drummer Charles Gocher in 2007. He has released several acclaimed albums for labels like Drag City and Locust Music, including Polytheistic Fragments (2007) and Tangier Sessions (2015). Additionally, he has worked with drummer Chris Corsano and guitarist Ben Chasny as part of the improv power trio Rangda.
Richard Bishop was born in Saginaw, Michigan in 1960. He taught himself to play guitar as a youth. Along with his brother, Alan Bishop, Richard moved to Phoenix, Arizona in 1979, and the two formed Sun City Girls with percussionist Charles Gocher in 1981. For the next two-and-a-half decades, Sun City Girls restlessly recorded and performed, issuing countless cassettes, LPs, and singles. Their lyrics regularly revolved around occult themes, and their music incorporated everything from beatnik-inspired spoken word and psychedelic rock to musical traditions from the Middle East, India, Europe, and the Americas. While much of their work was issued as limited cassettes, they released several proper albums, the most acclaimed and well-known being 1990's Torch of the Mystics. Aside from Sun City Girls, Bishop participated in several short-lived side projects, including Paris 1942, an early-'80s group which included Velvet Underground drummer Moe Tucker.
Bishop made his solo debut with 1998's Salvador Kali (on which he was billed as Sir Richard Bishop, a name which stuck). With it, Bishop displayed his penchant for absorbing and incorporating stylistic approaches from all around the world into his music, which continued with more rawness on his next two releases, Improvika (2004) and Fingering the Devil (2006), due to each album being entirely improvised. Aside from several limited tour-only CD-R releases, Bishop also issued an experimental electronic album titled Elektronika Demonika.
While My Guitar Violently Bleeds and Polytheistic Fragments (Bishop's Drag City debut) both appeared in 2007, marking Bishop's shift back to more structured compositions. After the death of Gocher that year, Bishop's solo work became his primary focus. In 2008, he contributed the track "Corpuscle," a dark piece with traditional Spanish themes embedded, to Wooden Guitar, a various-artists album that also showcased the acoustic works of Jack Rose, Steffen Basho-Junghans, and Tetuzi Akiyama. God Damn Religion, a film assembled from occult imagery, was released as a DVD in 2008, packaged with a CD version of Elektronika Demonika. Bishop's 2009 solo album, The Freak of Araby, was recorded in tribute to the late Egyptian guitarist Omar Khorshid.
Rangda made their debut with 2010's Drag City-issued False Flag. Bishop's limited solo LP Graviton Polarity Generator appeared later in the year, and he played on his brother Alan's (Alvarius B.) Blood Operatives of the Barium Sunset in 2011. Intermezzo, originally a self-issued CD-R, was released on LP by Ideologic Organ in 2012. Also appearing that year were solo LP The Unrock Tapes and ritual ambient album Beyond All Defects (with composer and sound sculptor W. David Oliphant). Rangda's second album, Formerly Extinct, by the power trio Rangda (Bishop, guitarist Ben Chasny, and drummer Chris Corsano), was released by Drag City the same year; a split LP with the Dead C appeared on Ba Da Bing in 2013. In 2014, Bishop released split LPs with Bill Orcutt (Road Stories [Kali]) and Alvarius B. (If You Don't Like It, Don't!), as well as solo work VDSQ Solo Acoustic, Vol. 8.
Bishop's Tangier Sessions, a solo effort improvised on a mysterious travel guitar, was released on Drag City in February of 2015. Bishop's penchant for duet recordings was illustrated again on Ivory Tower, a collaborative effort with avant axe slinger Ava Mendoza. It was issued in early 2016 by Unrock. Rangda's third Drag City full-length, The Heretic's Bargain, also appeared that year. In 2017, Bishop shared a split EP with Alvarius B. titled Strange Fruit. He worked with Oliphant again on Carte Blanche, a split LP with Karkhana and Nadah El Shazly issued by Unrock in early 2019. ~ Gregory McIntosh & Thom Jurek, Rovi
- Saginaw, MI
- 19 Aug 1960
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