The big Cheese

After 11 years of non-stop performing, Richard Cheese is retiring.

Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine will headline the Varsity Theater tonight.

Photo courtesy Richard Cheese

Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine will headline the Varsity Theater tonight.

Raghav Mehta

Who: Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine

Where: Varsity Theater, 1308 Fourth St. SE

When: 8 p.m., Wednesday

Cost: $29âÄì$60

Conventional wisdom tells us rock âÄònâÄô roll stardom is no place for a cover band. More of a hobby than a profession, itâÄôs a genre typically dominated by starry-eyed teenagers and aged work-a-day dads looking to loosen up on the weekends. You donâÄôt make headlines for playing in a cover band. Hot girls arenâÄôt going to ambush you after shows. And you definitely wonâÄôt make much money off of it.

For more than ten years, Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine have defied that logic, rehashing contemporary pop hits with a lounge-jazz twist. And now, after seven albums, a stint on Last Callwith Carson Daly and a decadeâÄôs worth of Top-40 brouhaha, Cheese and his jazzed-up cohorts are ready to call it a night.

When the final âÄî and most beloved âÄî living Rat Pack icon Frank Sinatra checked out in 1998, Richard Cheese felt like the world wasnâÄôt just losing another celebrity. It was losing an art form âÄî one that he held dear.

âÄúDean died, and Sammy died and Frank died and I was like, âÄòOK thereâÄôs no one left, now I can go out there,âÄôâÄù Cheese said. âÄúIt seemed like a good time to pick up the torch.âÄù

Cheese was a natural fit for the role. From his cocktail-lounge baritone to his slick tiger-striped tuxedo, he had turned himself into a sort of musical anachronism. But he had never played with an actual band before. He wasnâÄôt even sure he liked popular music.

âÄúI was getting to the age where I was no longer connecting to âĦ the top singles,âÄù Cheese said. âÄúAll that stuff came out and I was like, âÄòIâÄôm getting too old for radio, IâÄôm getting too old too for what the kids are into.âÄôâÄù

But Cheese and his band found a way to bridge the cultural gap. It was just a matter of rearrangement.

From Limp BizkitâÄôs frat-boy rap-metal to grunge-era staples like NirvanaâÄôs âÄúRape MeâÄù and âÄúCreepâÄù by Radiohead, the group was able to take each song to another era, handily avoiding artistic disaster.

âÄúThatâÄôs what this is all about: Lounging up the songs of the day is what Sinatra used to do,âÄù Cheese said. âÄúThese songs had that thing âÄî that special thing. … Even if it was a rock song or a dance song or something with synthesizers, the songwriting, the melody and the music was good.âÄù

And fortunately, he had the necessary resources to stifle any potential anxiety.

âÄúI was drunk so I wasnâÄôt nervous at all.âÄù Cheese said.

While Cheese might not be touring or releasing any new albums in the near future, he hasnâÄôt given up performing entirely. He still plans on playing corporate events and singing. Just donâÄôt expect him to doing any Katy Perry or Ke$ha covers anytime soon.
âÄúI get nervous when IâÄôm not doing shows. I think being on stage is the only time IâÄôm not nervous,âÄù Cheese said.