I've always had a soft spot for Richard X. It matches my massive damp patch for arch 60's inspired pop purists/archivists Saint Etienne nicely, so when I heard that the two were working together then I decided that you needed to know the full skinny. So I decided to track down the elusive pop genius and get him to give us the full run down on his re-imagining of the nineties classic, 'Foxbase Alpha'.
Take it away Richard...
Hi Richard, how are you today? What have you been up to?
I'm good thank you. I've just been looking at a couple of the tracks I'm doing soon with a band called "The Hundred In The Hands" who've just signed to Warp.
You've remixed one of the classic albums of the 90s, Saint Etienne's 'Foxbase Alpha' - how did you first get in touch with the band?
They'd asked me to do something around the time of "Tales From Turnpike House" but I think it clashed with M.I.A's record or something. A few years later I was asked to remix "This Is Tomorrow" as a possible single
and from that we got talking.
When did you start thinking about remixing the album?
I think it was after I'd mixed "This Is Tomorrow" but before we'd recorded "Method Of Modern Love". It may have been at one of the summer festivals
last year that we were chatting about how Foxbase was the kind of album you could do something to remix wise and it'd still be in the spirit of the album and the era it came from. I think the idea of what the Mad Professor might do, like a dub version, but in a pop sense, was a parallel. It kind of turned into this idea of a "re-production" as much as a remix. We wanted to keep what was great about the original and spin new ideas out of what was there.
Were you a big Saint Etienne fan when you were younger?
Yes, Foxbase Alpha and So Tough sound tracked my move from the north down to London, so when i got down here it felt like I was nearer the world they had painted a picture off. They used to print their address on sleeves so i went and stood outside what i thought was Bob's house as a student. He didn't appear and I'm not sure what I was trying to achieve. I loved their Icerink label, the Golden and Oval records were my favourites. I am officially Oval's number one fan as I wrote a letter and I was the first of 65 letters to hit their doormat.
You've worked with a number of recording artists, the vast majority of them female - is there a particular reason for this? Is this reflected in
your record collection?
It probably is just my taste, I like female vocals and electronic music. It's kind of self perpetuating because when you've done a few records with female artists that's what you're known for and that's what comes your way. And boys smell, of course.
Who have been your favourite artists to work with, and why?
I have to say all of them of course. I'll mention Hannah Robinson who I write a lot with of course as we are on a similar wavelength. Maybe I
should do my Top 20 artists I have worked with weighing up factors like talent, soundness of musical vision, quality of humour etc and you could publish it and I'll never work again. My favourite type of artist to work with has a focus on what they want to do but isn't closed minded about how we achieve that, and who isn't too hung up with writing "The Hit Single" on the session although that's often what we're supposedly there to do.
What's it been like working with Steve Mason too? People have always held him up as an example of one of modern music's wayward geniuses...
Steve is a great talent so it's been good to work with him. I like the fact he's into records from any genre, obviously his past records have illustrated this. Originally he got in touch about working on a Black
Affair record, but that kind of changed when I heard some of the songs he'd demoed, so we started making a different kind of album. It probably doesn't sound much like anything I've worked on before and it should be out early next year.
Lily Allen has come in for a lot of flack over the past few weeks over her attack on file-sharing. What are your views on this? Do you think
filesharing hinders young artists, or does it provide another route outside of the traditional gigs/demo/management route to attracting attention?
Illegal filesharing disproportionately affects younger, less established groups and groups that appeal to younger fans, so that's not good, but at
the same time you can't really argue every illegal download is a lost sale. Whether filesharing is totally to blame for what's happening in the music industry, I'm not sure. There's less money being made which effects
the whole music eco-system, from the artists and writers and people who work on the records to the shops that sell it and the journalists that
review it. As a creative tool, and for the unsigned artist, well you've never had it so good. It's just for those that might go on to have careers in the industry or as an artist will find it even tougher than it has been.
What are your views on the singles chart? Do you think it is still a relevant way of measuring an artist's success?
Yes, and the dumbest thing of recent times was the removal of Top Of The Pops from our screens just as the single had a new lease of life as
downloads came in. Nostalgia for that program aside, there needs to be a focal point for the chart not just the rundown on the radio. It feels like it's become niche and irrelevant only because it's lost that focal point so it's self perpetuating that it feels on a downward spiral. It is the chart of the
most popular music in the UK at that point in time so surely it has social relevance whether you like what's in the chart or not.
Does all of this have a bearing on how your music will be produced and released in the future?
I'd like to do more things like the Anthonio by Annie release I did this year which was more like where i started from, doing it independently on a
wing and a prayer, it felt DIY but it was a good record and I think it stands up. As a producer I can imagine working more on records where the artist rather than the label is funding things and leading the way which
should be a good thing.
Do you have any plans to release another solo record? What's next?
In the short term I've got to finish Steve's record and the THITH tracks. I don't think I'd do another X-Factor vol 2 style album, I think that morphed into what I do to this day, making singles for artists I like and
trying to make things just a bit different. The plan at the time was for my second LP to be one group, I think Sweet-X was the appalling working act name! Maybe I'll revisit that idea. That might be spurred on by my greatest frustration at what I do which is just the ridiculous amount of time it takes for things I've worked on to come out. One recent release I've produced took over 5 years to come out, it had been in and out of fashion twice but luckily hit the upward curve of trendiness.
And finally, if you could rescue one old record and one new record from a skip, what would they be and why?
What a sad image, it reminds me of when Virgin dumped a load of my stock in a skip after we parted company, rain soaking through multiple unsold
copies of my precious album. Tears are welling up as i speak so for that reason I am unable to answer.
Foxbase Beta is available for pre-order now