Richard Barbieri: Understated Keyboard Whiz and Sound Designer Paints a Sonic Tapestry for Porcupine Tree

Richard Barbieri first came to prominence in the music scene back in the mid ‘70s as a founding member of the British new wave band, Japan. After five successful albums with the band, Richard had developed a reputation for being both a master synthesist and sound designer.

Over the years, Richard has written columns for popular electronic musician magazines as well as a designed/programming sounds for various synthesizer manufacturers.

It wasn’t until joining the progressive rock band Porcupine Tree in 1993, however, that Richard Barbieri really became a household name. OK, perhaps we’re overstating the impact that progressive rock has had on the general population, but whether you’re a keyboard player or just a fan of this incredible band, you should be quite familiar with the lush soundscapes that Richard paints with his synthesizers.

Unlike some of the more technically dexterous prog keyboard players (like Jordan Rudess or Derek Sherinian), part of what makes Barbieri’s sound so special is that he comes from the Brian Eno school of playing more than the other guys in his genre. He’s like an impressionist painter collaborating on a graphic novel with illustrators who draw with finely pointed pencils, a juxtaposition that helps to give his band a distinctive and unique sound.

We caught up with Richard in New York City during 2009’s The Incident world tour. As with many great musicians we talk to, Richard is extremely humble. In fact, he tends to think less of his talent for playing than any of us could possibly imagine. To Richard we say, don’t forget: just because Monet didn’t paint with the precision of da Vinci didn’t make him any less of an outstanding artist.

I’m always searching for space and the right sound at the right time.

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