Richard Haskins is Out of Jail and Ready to Perform Once Again

Categories: Previews

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Ed Steele

Handing out flyers for your band's show, that somewhat ineffective attempt to attract even a handful of people to attend, is one thing. Doing so under the nose of Denton County Jail officials is entirely another.

"I was afraid they weren't going to send them out. They read all of your fucking mail," Richard Haskins says, who was released from jail last Thursday.

The flyer for Haskins' show this Saturday with the Unmarked Graves, which he hand drew himself on the back of an inmate request form, safely reached the outside world under the guise of "legal mail" -- which in this case is considered a protected news source. Haskins will once again exhibit levels of high energy and multi-talented instrumentalists, a little more than a week after his release.

Haskins has not been a free man in 2014. In 2012, Haskins had turned himself in after an attempted bank robbery he initiated from the confines of his car in the drive-through lane of a local bank. In November he found himself being transferred between The North Texas State Mental Hospital and the horrors of a city jail "suicide watch" before finally winding up in Denton County jail in January.

"It's not bad," Haskins says. "I was looking at two to 20, so I'm glad to be getting probation."

Booking the show entirely from jail, Haskins and his talented ensemble of musicians, with a sound he describes as "Frank Black meets Black Flag," will play at Andy's Bar on Saturday, amid the Denton Arts and Jazz Festival celebration the same weekend. His anticipation of being able to once again experience one of his most treasured freedoms, live music, is high, to say the least.

"Honestly, playing this show is one of the things that got me through the day," Haskins admits. "It's not like jail is absolute hell; I mean, it can be, you know what I mean? It's not supposed to be fun."

Haskins possesses remarkably good spirits and a charming lightheartedness that can interpret any hardship in a sense of positivity that few in his situation would exhibit.

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Ed Steele
After four months in jail, Haskins has been working on improving his physical and mental fitness. Losing 40 pounds due to rigorous exercise, and continuing his song-writing despite a lack of instrument, Haskins, who had nothing but time, didn't succumb to jail-time idleness. He also wrote to his son daily, which proved to be a difficult task, as the jail provides inmates a mere three envelopes a week. Trading food trays for envelopes with fellow inmates, he managed to keep up his correspondence, which subsequently affected his weight loss, as his meals were cut down to nearly once a day.

Yet as a performer, Haskins is notorious for his raw energy, which goes back to his days with Denton punk band the Wee Beasties. He's developed such a reputation, in fact, that a few bars in Denton have banished him from performing. Or, occasionally, just an exile for the night. Andy's is one of the few where Richard can still exude his noted intensity.

The band have only performed a handful of shows prior to Haskins' incarceration. But they are a stunning roster of incredible talent, with varied backgrounds and areas of acclamation and expertise, as the Unmarked Graves. A few members hail from Brave Combo, such as percussionist Joe Cripps, whose list of accolades and studio work would impress the hell out of any knowledgeable and earnest music fan.

"This is like a wild animal coming out of a cage -- literally," says Cripps. "I never know what to expect except a good show. And I never know what to expect out of Richard. I've never been disappointed, I'll put it that way."

His energy may not have been subdued since the audience saw him last, but to some extent, Haskin's songwriting has morphed into a somewhat more restrained manner.

"It's a little bit more mature," Haskins says. "I don't wanna be like, 'Oh, I'm taking myself seriously now,' you know. I think a person should never really take themselves that seriously."

Haskins begins to reflect.

"It puts a lot of things into perspective," he begins. "You know, Ben Franklin said that one does not know the value of water until the well runs dry, and I think that's sorta how I feel about my freedom, and my life in general.

"It's the little things," Haskins adds. "Hopefully I stay out this time. Really I just can't fucking wait to get back to playing music."

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