What was the anniversary you were celebrating over the weekend?
It was our meeting anniversary. Me and my wife have been together for 20 years.
That’s a good effort.
Yeah, definitely. We’ve only been married like two and a half years. We actually met on Valentine’s Day.
I was gonna ask how relationships had been affected over the years of you touring, playing lots of clubs filled with possible temptations. But if you’ve been together 20 years, I guess your wife has been with you the whole journey.
Yeah, I mean, I wasn’t even a DJ when we met. I’ve always been a musician, I was playing keys and was a drummer, but I always kind of wanted to DJ, going back to like age 15 or 16. I used to collect hardcore records but could never afford decks. I listened to the pirate stations, everyone was a DJ and, as much as I loved drumming, I always wanted to try DJing, more as another instrument. It was never really about the fame. I just collected all the records I heard out.
Then, aged 16, we had a house party, it got crashed, and someone nicked all my records. After that I was just thinking ahead. I was gonna study music in Manchester – popular music – so it was about the drumming and that side of things – drumming, composing, studio work – so DJing went off the wayside. Then I went off to Manchester and studied drums for a couple of years and then studio work and more drum performance kind of stuff.
What is it that made you take the house and techno path rather than the path of a more traditional musician, given the skills you had?
I think it’s just where experience and luck took me. I still play drums, but we never got a signature label to sign us. So I started to DJ again, make music and came back to London. I heard more stuff then, not just jungle, but progressive and electro house, so I got the decks again, but it still wasn’t about playing out.
I guess a different thing with me was that I was always into computers. So even though I was drumming at school and playing my brass instrument and all that stuff I was also borrowing Atari STs at half term, in the studio at the music school up in Essex. And, you know, I was always trying to make music with computers. I knew my way around the technology of it like using early sequences like Notator and Pro 24 and stuff. This is back in like the late 80’s, ‘89 probably, so I didn’t even have it about me to copy the popular styles of the day. It was the production more than the DJing that interested me first, before the clubbing experiences changed that focus a bit.
What did you do for work at that time?
I still do it now – databases. I’ve always been doing that in the background. Again, it’s just a part of my individual story. After coming out of college, I needed to work. Everyone’s got stuff to pay for. It was an interesting thing to me and it’s always been possible to kind of enjoy doing both kinds of things. I’ve got flexibility now. Ever since properly releasing music full time.
Do you have a strict work ethic? And do you party when on tour?
I like to enjoy it when I’ve got the most time, you know, like a late flight so you can really let your hair down, like at ADE or something with loads of friends around.
Going back to the coding thing, do you ever use it when making music? There’s this big coding and dance music scene now, ‘algorave.’
I’m not really up on it. I’m not really going down that route to be honest. I prefer to touch the keyboards and just experiment with arrangements, the effects and the simple stuff, that’s how I like to do it. I know there’s quite a lot of hybrid stuff out there that is bringing in a lot of more coding and using iPads and stuff, some of the kind of more alternate interfaces. I know some producers make their own instruments for Max for Live. But I still seem to have enough options and possibilities going on. There’s so many ways to do stuff these days it almost blows your mind sometimes.
I think Andrew Weatherall called it ‘the tyranny of choice’.
Yes. I mean, I like to work with MIDI stuff. Sometimes I think I have to narrow my choices down, so I don’t get lost in it. I mean, don’t get me wrong, as you create it’s good to just experiment, you need to experiment in music.
You told me you were coding for the NHS. Tell me about that, and whether you think it’s important for musicians to have something else break away from music on or fall back on.
So you get a brief to deliver a solution to record data. It’s nice to have it in my mind – like two different sides, on one side fulfilling that brief, on the other making music. Neither half is going to overly take up your focus and concentration and your energy, so you still have a creative side free to focus on music.
How do you and the rest of the FUSE gang feel about the inevitable compartmentalisation and backlash that comes with having such a tight crew and well known sound?
We’ve definitely already been through a few cycles of it. Things change, but we like to keep it fresh with the venue, the look, and musically as well. I guess more than anything it’s your desire to do the events that is actually what carries it through, your energy and your love and your passion for music, which I know and has been in high quantities with FUSE. We love what we do, and that translates into how people see the events. And we continue to strive to make them better and better and give people more interesting music because you definitely can’t do something for 12 years and just stay where you were. That’s not gonna work.
When the changes come, do you sit down and go, right, we feel like we’re getting a bit stale, or we’ve done this too much, what shall we do?
Luckily, everyone’s quite level headed. At the time, the organic decisions are the right decisions. People are sensible, and the more time goes on, the more you have to commit and think seriously about how you’re going to grow because, growth is an exponential thing meaning in the early days of growth, you can achieve quite a lot, quickly, but when you’re trying to strive for them last few percent, the curve is so high already it’s super hard. And the drop off can be sharp. But I don’t know if we’ve ever been the hot thing, it’s not what we were ever trying to do.
All the different FUSE guys have their own things going on. Do you discuss those decisions?
Your management guides you but the way we see it is that everyone can be part of a collective, but still go away to do your own thing, then we all come back and make the original crew stronger, hopefully.
Dance music has got politically and socially aware more so in the last 12 months than any time I can remember, especially the BLM movement. In terms of dance music, was it all performative or have things changed to you think?
Move of an education needs to happen in a way. Everybody needs to just be able to step back and acknowledge, acknowledge the history, what’s happened and why things are the way they are, the history of black music. I guess the difficulty is that it is harder to educate adults than children.
Do you think dance music and dance floors can be a good medium for that?
Well, it’s two different things, isn’t it? You know, you have the industry which can influence young people coming up wanting to be involved in the scene, then have the dance floor, this utopian place where all people come together.
For me, the movement was important because, as a son of a Trinidadian dad who came to work in the UK in the 60s, and living in a very multicultural place in East London, I kind of grew up almost taking it for granted that, you know, people are mixed. So in the same way, you can grow up in an area that’s not diverse so can be in a bubble that’s filled with similar people to you. You have to realise not everywhere is like that. And maybe that’s one of the lessons that you always have to be reminded of is that things in your bubble aren’t representative of the wider world.
Do you feel like the dance floors that you play to are as diverse as the dance floors that you were on when you’re 16?
I guess you do see different mixes, you know, different places that you go. I’m glad to say a lot of the places that I do play are very mixed. And I love that. But at the same time, I know that that’s not the same everywhere.
It seems like more and more artists come out and claim that they tell their agents they’re not going to play on line ups that are not split between genders more equally. Is that something you do?
Yeah, I mean, I think the more influence you have, the more influence you can use. It’s definitely important to promote causes other than yourself. And I don’t necessarily feel that I personally have enough influence to be able to, you know, make those kinds of calls. It’s something that I would do, but I’m probably not in the right sphere of gigs to have the influence yet, but it’s definitely something I’ll agree with.
You mentioned that you’ve just set up a clothing line with your missus.
She is from a background of making clothes. And it’s something that we’ve always liked – the link between clothes and rave culture. So yeah, it was a natural step to set up something around the album which although it came on my label is still a FUSE related project. So we wanted to set something up, to express ourselves, our culture, our love of fun and bright colours. The past year or so since we had the idea I’ve been wearing stuff she’s made, most of the time.
It’s all unique, one offs, hand sewn by her. Rather than sourcing 100s of items, we work on a micro-scale to keep it unique so we just try to get what you can to make it work on a very small scale. We want to keep it that way too, keep it boutique.
What’s the best decision you’ve ever made?
Definitely going part time with the coding work.
When did that happen? And why?
November about four or five years ago now, I think. I never released music until after our boy was born in 2011. It was not until I was at home more that the production thing really started to fire on all cylinders because i had time and space. So, after four or five years of that I was just like, I’m going to give it a go.
Did the mindset change with the added pressure of needing to make money from music?
No, not really, in a mathematical sense I’m aware of what I needed to make but it didn’t change anything.
And the worst decision?
Going back to the clothes, I once sold my favourite pair of jeans in Notting Hill Exchange. I once had a friend who was a clothes expert who picked them up for me. Super rare collectors item type stuff. I was skint, but always wished I had found another way.
Do you think when we do get back to the dance floor anything will be different?
Interesting question. Hopefully it won’t all be about the safety of it all testing, and with touring around quarantine and stuff.
People have theorised that there might be more of a local scene and that it might be UK DJs playing in the UK.
That will probably be part of the roadmap, yeah. But long term that’s not very healthy. That’s almost like the Brexit ideal, isn’t it? A closed-off scene.
You’ve said that being formally trained is not essential to making electronic music. Why do you think so many people like to point out that they are formally trained?
The way I work, I might turn around and play the keyboard, but I’m more than likely just to get a mouse and just draw some notes, then mess around with the sound for two hours. So technically, musical skill doesn’t influence that. I guess experience is important. But you can get experience just from listening to music. Often, authenticity is linked to formal playing skills but it shouldn’t be.
What do you think it is linked to, then?
Does it sound original? Is there something of you in here? I mean, I think if you can make stuff that makes you happy, stuff that you really like, no matter what it is, you’re authentic. Channelling something of you into the music, rather than wanting to copy the next big thing.
Would you not put something out if you thought it didn’t fit your personal brand, as it were?
I just want to put something out that I think people haven’t heard before. I’ve got no problem putting stuff out. Something with hooks, something with vocals. If I’ve got I’ve got it in my locker to make something really different, I will, because, you know, you can always make a house remix!
Rich NXT ‘Other Side Remixed’
Rich NXT ‘Know The Score’ LP (FUSE)
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