Rich Hopkins of The Sidewinders/Sand Rubies on the Difference Between Phoenix and Tucson

Categories: Q&A

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See also:100 Songs That Defined Arizona

By William Michael Smith (for Houston Press/Rocks Off Houston)

Living most of his adult and professional life in Tuscon, Arizona, former Sidewinders/Sand Rubies front man Rich Hopkins has recently relocated to Houston.

For those who don't remember, Hopkins and his mates in the Sidewinders hit the charts at the tail end of the '80s with "Witch Doctor" (1989) and immediately followed up with "We Don't Do That Anymore" (1990). They got lots of spins on VH1 and MTV.

But a legal dispute with a cover band called Sidewinder led to the band changing labels and names in 1991, and while they made fine records as the Sand Rubies, they never found the charts again although the band continued to tour for some years and has performed numerous reunion shows.

After an entire adult life spent in Tucson, 54-year-old Hopkins met and married Houston singer-songwriter Lisa Novak a few years ago and recently relocated to the Bayou City, where he continues to perform his brand of searing, psychedelic desert rock as Rich Hopkins and Los Luminarios.

A lot of people say that Tucson feels like Austin, whereas Phoenix has more of an L.A. feel. Tucson just had so much more diverse a scene than Phoenix. -- Rich Hopkins
Up on the Sun: What brought you to Houston after such a long career in Tucson, where you've always been one of the key music scene players?

Rich Hopkins: Lisa has her business here and family, so we had a long-distance relationship for a couple of years there. But my daughter is 19 and she's in college and doing well, so I finally decided I would try Houston.

How do you like it so far?

I think we all sort of dread change, so I wasn't sure, I just took a chance. Coming from a dry, hot climate, I'm actually surprised that I'm starting to like -- or appreciate -- the humidity and the moisture. Otherwise, it's such a big place, I'm just starting to know my around well. But I'm beginning to think I can make it here okay.

How would you compare the music scene in Houston versus Tucson?

I don't know Houston well enough yet, and I haven't really done much night life, much checking out of local clubs and bands yet. I need to, but it just seems like our priority is making our relationship work and making a workable life here.

Tuscon had a cool but small scene. A lot of people say that Tucson feels like Austin, whereas Phoenix has more of an L.A. feel. Tucson just had so much more diverse a scene than Phoenix. And of course we had Green On Red and Giant Sand, those were my musical heroes.

How was Tucson as a base for a band that toured nationally and internationally?

It was actually very cool. Being in Tucson, we were pretty much out of sight, out of mind with the labels we worked with. You hear lots of bands talking about labels getting involved with creative decisions, meddling in the recording process, but that never happened with us.

We were there in Tucson, rather isolated, and we just wrote our songs and recorded them and then went back on the road. I'd have to say it was very good for us, living in Tucson.

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