Exclusive Interview with Eddie Richards

Phnom Penh Underground

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Exclusive Interview with Eddie Richards

 

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“Pioneer”, “Innovator”, “TrailBlazer” and “Originator” are just a few of the labels that have been applied to Eddie Richards. 

With a history in Dance Muisc culture that stretches back to (and even before) the days of Acid House, Eddie has achieved the rare trick of still remaining relevant, innovative and firmly at the forefront of today’s dance scene. As well as being the most booked DJ ever at London’s seminal Fabric club, Eddie relentlessly tours the world, spreading his love and knowledge of underground music to audiences world wide.

Ahead of his much anticipated set at Phnom Penh’s Pontoon Pulse this Friday,  ‘Britain’s Godfather of house and techno’ (Mixmag) kindly took the time to answer some questions for us…

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Welcome to Cambodia! I don’t know if you’ve played in SE Asia before and I’m sure Phnom Penh is a new destination for you. What do you know and what are you expecting from Phnom Penh?

I haven’t been to Cambodia before & I’m really looking forward to my first visit to Phnom Penh. I’m sure its going to be fun & I’m keen to meet the people & hopefully check out some of the city

For those who aren’t familiar with Eddie Richards, could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

That’s a long story right there.. but here goes…

The journey started off in my hometown in the early 80s where I was running a night in a bikers pub. People were bringing in some of their new goth & alternative records for me to play & suggested I should check out Heaven, a predominantly gay club but they were the places where one could hear the most upfront music at the time.

I met Colin Faver there who was DJ in the Sound Shaft & I invited him to come to my night in Milton Keynes. He must’ve liked our little party because he put my name forward for a new club opening in London called Camden Palace & based on the design of Studio 54 in New York.

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Eddie (middle) at the Camden Palace back in the early eighties

The building was an old theatre with about 2000 capacity & was hosted by Steve Strange & Rusty Egan from the band ‘Visage’ who had been running the famed Blitz club-night in Covent Garden, London in 1979-80, and are credited with launching the New Romantic movement. As resident DJ alongside Colin Faver we were playing a mix of New wave / Alternative, Electro, Disco, Hi NRG & new USA Club Imports. I played a few other events midweek too.. Pyramid at Heaven & Astral Flight at the Embassy & the Wag in London & Rum Runner in Birmingham for Duran Duran plus some others.

I was also promoting my own parties called The Joint & Outer Limits back in my hometown that I was really proud of & were seriously good, better than most of what was going on at the time but sadly they didn’t get recognition in the press because they were out of London.

House music was beginning to come through around 1986 & although we didn’t know it as house at the time, it was new & raw & different & we started to introduce it in our playlists. I liked the simplicity & the groove & I thought I could try to making a house track just for fun & Colin encouraged me by saying he would play it on his Kiss FM show, which was a pirate radio station at the time.

I had a 4 track reel to reel tape recorder, a Roland 303 bassline  & a Roland 909 Drum machine but not much else. I couldn’t figure out how to sync the machines together so I used the speed control like a turntable to keep the tempo matching until I heard it drift out. I had to stop & start the equipment & I had the idea to insert a sample in the gap when it goes out of sync. I called the track ‘Acid Man’ because the main sample I used was from a Cheech & Chong album track called ‘Trippin in court’.


The original “Acid Man” sample at 3min 47sec!

After Colin played the track on his show I got a phone call from Virgin 10 records wanting to release it on their label. I didn’t expect it to do as well as it did & I think it surprised everyone as it climbed the national charts overtaking all their established artists & eventually reaching just outside of the top 20. It may have gone higher but there was an Acid House backlash from the tabloids & the BBC removed it from their playlists because they thought the song was condoning drug use.

By chance I saw the video for Acid Man on TV & It shocked me to see that Virgin had, without telling me, used out-takes from Inner City “Big Fun” video, to make it. They didn’t think the song would be a hit & chose not to spend money on promotion.

It was 1988 & although the Palace had become world famous, attracting celebrities & pop stars I was getting bored with club nights so I left to play at warehouse parties that were happening in London & RiP (Revolution in Progress) was the start of it all.

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Flyers from the seminal RIP night – Eddie Richards billed as Evil Ed

It was one of the first proper Acid House parties & was held in a run down warehouse just on the south side of the Thames on the site of the original prison in Clink Street. Inside, it was an assault on the senses. The huge booming sound, thick smoke, strobes, whistles & cheers from the crowd, sweat dripping off of everything, it was pretty intense.

Acid house exploded after that in what was perhaps the most important youth movement of the last 50 years & by late 1988 the scene grew into huge events mainly fuelled by word of mouth, attracting 20,000 ravers & DJs became stars overnight.

I was riding the wave, working mainly for Tony Colston-Hayter the promoter of ‘Sunrise’, as well as their main DJ I designed most of their early flyers & had the job title of Music Co-ordinator, choosing the DJs to play at their parties.

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Other big events sprang up, Energy, Biology, Genesis, Raindance, Back to the Future & many more were going on around the M25 London orbital motorway (from which the band Orbital took their name) & I was getting asked to play them all, sometimes two or three a night. As the scene spread out of London & across the UK I got to play regularly at Hacienda in Manchester, the Orbit in Leeds, Sterns in Worthing The Warehouse in Doncaster, Sub Club in Glasgow, Lakota in Bristol…too many to mention.


Eddie Richards@Energy ‘Dance89’, Raydon Airfield, Suffolk, 23rd September 1989

My girlfriend at the time did silk screen printing & I had a friend who worked for Martin Audio so together we set up a production company designing flyers printing t-shirts & supplying equipment & sound systems. A couple of guys who’s family were travellers with a fairground wanted to put on a rave & pretty much gave us a free hand so we put together one of the first ever dance / house music festivals (as opposed to raves) in a field in Oxfordshire & I named it Helter Skelter (after a fairground amusement consisting of a tall spiral slide winding around a tower, but also meaning disorder & confusion).

eddie-richards-4 Early Sunrise flyers and membership cards

We had KLF play on top of the tower & they threw their entire £1000 fee in Scottish pound notes, each of which bore the message ‘Children we love you” We had to deal with a coachload of acts we flew in from USA to performing on stage in the rain… I’d booked Lollita Holloway (what an amazing singer) –  she was a large lady & was too scared to climb the rickety steps to the stage so we had to use a fork lift truck to get her on… The police showed up & tried to shut it down, luckily we had one of the best civil rights lawyers in the country on site & he managed to diffuse the situation & we carried on. That party was a massive undertaking & totally stressed me out & ended my time as a promoter.  

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It wasn’t long after that I could see it was the beginning of the end of the ‘Pay Parties’ & by the early 1990s, it became difficult for promoters to organize one-off events. New bylaws were passed in an attempt to discourage them from holding raves & the Conservative government concocted the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act that infamously legislated against “repetitive beats”.

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Word about the UK raves spread globally & soon I was travelling around the world. ‘The Gathering’, ‘Toontown’, ‘Wicked’, ‘Rave Called Sharon’ in San Francisco, Stereo in Montreal,  Industry & Guvernment in Toronto, Limelight Tunnel, Save the Robots, Club USA in New York,  Zouk – Singapore, Love Parade Tresor & E-Werk in Berlin, I played at Teknozid, one of the first parties in East Berlin just after the wall came down.

The UK in the 90s was more about the clubs again & my regular haunts were Pure – Edinburgh, Voodoo – Liverpool, DIY – Nottingham, Subterrain -The End, Gardening Club, Drum Club, Lost, Strutt,  The Cross, Turnmills & Bar Rhumba in London.

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The big party promoters had shut shop & those that remained were just commercial regulated festivals. It felt like it had happened so quickly – it had gone from really exciting to tabloids and sell-out in just a couple of years but it was amazing while it lasted

I started a booking agency called dy-na-mix in 1990 that ran for 10 years. It was probably the first ever specialist DJ agency in the world. I wanted to represent all the DJs & Producers that I liked & respected & I have to say we built one hell of a roster…

Running an agency wasn’t my thing really but it was needed at the time & no one I asked wanted to take on the idea so I did it myself. It got really successful & we had offices in Berlin, Prague, San Francisco & Toronto in a few years, I even wrote my own booking database running on mac so all the information was centralised. Actually I still use it.

What else? “Heavy duty breaks” -a record I made with Youth from Killing Joke in ’84 that is cited as one of the first UK DJ breaks albums and became very influential on emerging industrial, electronic genres and as I later found out, was a big anthem in Goa around 86, for serious crate diggers only.

The tech heads might want to know I had a very early computer sampling hardware called Greengate DS3 with only 8 bit 1.2 seconds sampling time which we used.

Then there’s Wiggle, one of the the longest running underground house parties in London. For over 22 years Terry Francis Nathan Coles & myself have been putting on events all over the capital.

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You’ve been an integral part of the Dance scene since the 80s – what’s your take on the state of the scene in 2016? Do you think “EDM” DJs like David Guetta etc add or detract from the scene?

The scene is healthy I think but I don’t take much notice to be honest. DJs like Guetta & EDM are a million miles away from what I’m doing so that doesn’t affect me or the (relatively) small groups of like minded individuals who are into my sound at all.

We have a problem getting young Cambodian kids interested in good Dance music – how would you suggest we get them interested?

Get a nice cosy venue that feels right, not a commercial club but a different kind of space & put in some nice projections…Hire a top of the range sound system, the best you can afford & get an imaginative & experienced DJ that you can trust to play consistently well… that should work. Give it time to develop!

With the fantastic news about the reopening of Fabric coming thru, can you tell us about Fabric’s importance for the London scene? 

Fabric is the best club in the world in my opinion…its run by people who care about the scene & the music & it’s a pleasure to play there.

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It has huge cultural significance for the dance scene in general. Having a club like Fabric is important to the profile & the credibility of London or any major city. It’s a platform for new talent  & helps to nurture underground electronic music. (Phnom Penh clubbers and promoters please take note – Editor)

What can we expect (musical styles) from your set at Pulse?

I play what I like at the time…Tech house I guess, which means a cross between Techno & House & not the bland loopy unimaginative genre you might find on some download sites.

If I can get away with it I like to play groovy & melodic but I enjoy a tougher sound too, it depends on how the crowd reacts.

 There’s a lot of discussion about what “underground” and “underground music” is in Phnom Penh (We even named our website Phnom Penh Underground…) What’s your take on the meaning of underground?

Not pop or commercial…?

What projects are you working on at the moment?

I’ve recently started to produce some original music again, I haven’t put much out in the since 2004 except for a few reissues & remixes of my older tracks on my label Storm UK’.

I’ve always wanted to be known & be booked for my DJ talent & not just because I have a new track out & I’ve managed to do that for over 12 years. I think the time is right now.

Your Top 3 current tunes?

Johnny D – Par – T And
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Dubtil – Indoiala
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Wantcha – Mr G 
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Which artists have you worked with?

I’ve remixed or produced for Orbital, Little Louie Vega, Psychic TV, The Shamen, Terry Francis, Gideon Jackson, Tigerskin, Jay Tripwire, Mr C, Pure Science, Gideon Jackson, Sasha Dive…

What do you feel are your biggest achievement(s)?

To be doing what I love for 30 years & getting paid for it… A lot of people cant say that!

 Finally, what projects have you got in the pipeline? 

I’d like to take my Othersound parties to different cities…We’ve been doing them in LA for a while now & built up a good following there. We’re trying the concept out in a few other places most recently in Skopje. Basically it’s just myself & invited friends doing our thing with an invited audience.

We’ve had Richie Hawtin, Appolonia, Heartthrob, Tigerskin, John Tejada, Eric Cloutier, Mark Henning, Lee Burridge, Doc Martin, Axel Boman, Jay Tripwire, Terry Francis, Mark Ambrose & others so far…Interested? (YES! – Editor)

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Eddie Richards plays at Pontoon Pulse on Friday 2nd December 2016 (https://www.facebook.com/events/1813999552150910/)

Thanks so much to Eddie Richards for taking the time to answer our questions – a really fascinating account of the early days of our scene – and he’s still going strong! Thanks also to Alan Ritchie @Pulse for arranging the interview.  Artist picture credits :  Peter Ashworth