Instrumental Melodic Technical Death Metal
Electronic Digital Computing Device
Rick Richards, professionally known as Progtronic, is an American composer and producer of instrumental, progressive, electronic, rock and metal music.
Growing up in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area, Rick Richards began his career in the mid-1980’s as a solo artist composing, recording and releasing a variety of styles of electronic music under different project names.
Primarily a keyboardist and sound designer, but generally favoring heavier styles of rock music, Richards gravitated toward complicated, hard rock styles. As an early pioneer in the design and simulation of distorted electric guitars, he programmed custom synth and sampler patches, that were then routed through various distortion effects, pedals and devices.
In 1989 he released his first progressive rock CD (Subliminal Self) through Inertia Records / Mistimarr Music – BMI (a family-owned indie label and publishing company), under the project name Sim Itar. The album earned a favorable review from Keyboard Magazine, who noted the use of simulated sequenced “guitar” throughout the album. A few of the tracks were some of the first compressed music files ever to be offered digitally online, through IUMA (Internet Underground Music Archive), back in the early 1990’s.
In 1992 Rick won Keyboard Magazine’s Reader Soundpage contest with a Satriani-esque styled track called Aliens Among Us. The judges were impressed, not only with the composition, but also with the convincing simulation of the electric guitar.
Many projects followed and were eventually compiled, released and distributed between 1998 and 2000 through digital streaming, and on D.A.M. (digital automatic music) CD’s from MP3.com. Very early tracks and “work” tracks were also compiled and released under his real name (Rick Richards) around this time as well.
Projects featured various styles, grouped under different band names, including: Sim Itar (progressive rock), Amaranth (smooth electronic jazz), No Dogs Cry (progressive industrial rock), SPAMCANNON (progressive metal) and Plasmaboy (experimental rock).
During the mid to late 90’s, Richards experimented with moving from a hardware based midi-studio, to a fully “in the box” computer based production environment.
Rick’s emphasis on more complicated composition, and the addition of even more elaborate electronic elements and themes during this time, spawned his ‘Progtronic’ project. The name, representing the combination of his unique fusion of progressive and electronic styles.
Richards began producing songs by splicing together rendered digital audio loops and clips from Propellerhead Software’s ReBirth RB-338 (Roland TB-303, TR-808 and TR-909 simulator), into an early (4-track) version of Pro Tools. Songs were distributed synonymously over the web, under the name pr0g7r0n1c, to test listener reaction to the new material. Initial reaction was positive, and he then felt comfortable proceeding to the next step.
DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) software was still maturing, and Rick eventually set his sights on Propellerheads Reason software in 2001. He could now, fully realize a totally computerized project. The Reason software, resembling the hardware midi-rack set-up he was distancing himself from, made the transition more easy.
In 2002, Richards released the first Progtronic album, In the Beginning, on CD, through Artist Launch. This new online music distributor offered burned, one-off CD’s, downloads and streaming, similar to what MP3.com had done in previous years.
Rick’s Progtronic project had now become the main identifier of all of his past projects and genres, under one (named) umbrella. The debut Progtronic album itself ranged in styles from electronic, to adult contemporary, rock, EDM, and fusion. Future Progtronic albums would focus more on a single genre per release. A variety of different, genre themed Progtronic ‘band’ logo’s, were designed and used on each cover, to help represent the main style of music you might find on any given album.
In 2007, the second Progtronic album, Evolve, was released. Presented in a 2-disc (CD/DVD-ROM) set, this electronic progressive rock album featured the main album on CD, and an additional DVD-ROM, containing Rick’s entire, remastered, back catalog of music. The DVD re-masters were encoded into a variety of high quality, compressed AAC files. This album quickly became one of CD Baby’s top sellers, and helped broaden Rick’s fan base. Richards main intention of the DVD-ROM was to illustrate his artistic, musical progression over the years, up to the present.
Evolve also marked an important transition in Rick’s overall style from the previous album. Earlier, milder electronic pieces, now gave way to heavier rock and metal themes. Richards full, extreme metal evolution, was later realized on his Mortis Metallum album in 2013.
Extreme metal is a genre that Rick has had an interest in for many years, but was never able to fully realize in his own music, until recently. Technology finally caught up with the kind of detailed, virtual, acoustic and electric guitars, electric basses, drums and percussion instruments, he felt he needed, to be able to produce a convincing metal album, through pure electronics.