The magic of the music created and performed over the years by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers still lives within the vibrant vision of Rich Kubicz’s band, Damn the Torpedoes. In a two-hour conversation with Rick, a native of Union, New Jersey, the musician explained how and why Damn the Torpedoes have become an important live statement on the artistry and music Tom Petty created.
“We give the audience the essence of his [Tom Petty’s] music. We have mastered the songs and bring out the special nuisances in their recordings but in a live sound!” stated Rich. So how did Rich, a fifty-something musician who wrote, semi-produced and sang on his own solo CD, Echo Lake, transform into the leader of Damn the Torpedoes?
Rich recalled at age 7, his mom Elizabeth Kubicz, a prolific music reading piano player, began force feeding him piano lessons. At the time he didn’t realize she was introducing him to the language of music. At age 10 he requested and was gifted an Aspen Acoustic guitar and by age 10, seeing his promise, his father went out and bought him a Gibson Sonex electric guitar. In junior high at the age of 15, it seemed a yearbook photo of Rich resembled Tom Petty. It was at that time the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers album, Damn the Torpedoes, climbed the music charts led by the song, Refugee. However, at the time Rich was focused on writing and playing his own music. He did state that the album News of the World by Queen was perhaps most influential on him personally.
Rich also was involved with the infancy of the internet and had his own local music reviewing website letsrockamerica.com. It was while covering a Fleetwood Mac tribute band back around 2007 for his website with his wife of now 23 years, Adrienne, that the idea of Damn the Torpedoes, the band, germinated. Rich recalls, “Adrienne looked at me, pointed at the band and said that should be you up there.”
It was then that using his music networking skills Rich was able to recruit the talented musicians who make up, Damn the Torpedoes. The band consist of Ross Kantor (Drums, Vox), Gary Castelluccio (Keys, Harmonica, Vox), Rich Kubicz (Rhythm Guitars, Lead Vox), Jimi Alan (Lead Guitars), and Jon Provan (Bass Guitar, Piano, Harmony Vox).
So, I had to ask Rich what was one of the most unusual gigs Damn the Torpedoes has performed at and he said, “Maybe the coolest was the old railroad museum where they had us up on an old antique flatbed railroad car in the museum.” As for their largest gig? Rich didn’t have to think too long laughing saying they played, “In Bethlehem, Pennsylvania at the steel stacks that once was a steel mill, there were 8,000 people there.”
Although Rich’s dad did take him striped bass fishing off a charter in Montauk as a boy, the Saturday, February 23 performance will be his first time in both the Bay Street Theater and Sag Harbor. Still living in not but a mile from the home he grew up in there is a wonderful small-town friendliness to Rich Kubicz. I know he looks forward to sharing his talents with the audience and I personally look forward to hearing him sing, American Girl, along with Don’t Come Around Here No More, and of course an audience participating Free Falling. I asked what unexpected song of Tom Petty might he sing> His reply, “There is a song on the album, Damn the Torpedoes, called You Tell Me, it’s not one of his hits but I love the way we do it.”
Rich closed our conversation by professing his love for his wife of 23 years and mother of there twenty-something son. “She is the reason,” he said proudly and he also again admitted mom was right to introduce him to the world of music back when he was 7!
The Tom Petty Tribute with Damn the Torpedoes will begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35 when purchased in advance and $45 when purchased the day of the event.
Bay Street Theater is located at 1 Bay Street in Sag Harbor. For more information, call 631-725-9500 or visit www.baystreet.org.