Tag Archives: pop

Richard X

Making mash ups in his bedroom, Sheffield based Richard X’s talent caught the ear of DJs and the press alike. In a sea of simple mash ups, Richard had a fresh sound that combined the complexity of the popular in an artistic manner, but with dancefloor, and more importantly, commercial viability. His first mash up, working under the name Girls On Top, was a limited seven-inch featuring, on side A the Whitney Houston-meets-Kraftwerk contemporary classic ‘I Wanna Dance With Numbers’. On the B-side, Richard placed his all-time favourite track, The Human League’sBeing Boiled’ beneath TLC’sNo Scrubs’, creating ‘Being Scrubbed’. These two fresh-sounding, icy electronic R&B anthems took London by storm, and were considered novel, not a novelty. His next single had on the A-side ‘We Don’t Give A Damn About Our Friends’, a version of which the Sugababes would later take to the top of the charts, and on the flipside ‘Warm Bitch’ married The Normal’sWarm Leatherette’ to Missy Elliott’sShe’s A Bitch’.

The name Richard X has nothing to do with fighting oppression ala Malcolm X, but rather happened as a bit of an accident. “It was quite a while a go when I was doing the Girls on Top bootleg,” says Richard. “Because I wrote a letter to someone and wrote ‘Richard’ and then put a kiss, which is the ‘X’, it became Rich X, then Richard X as it became. Richard Y was another popular name; it’s what my mum used to always say – ‘Richard, Why?’” he laughs.

“At the time it was more I was bored of electronic music, and still loved with music from my past, and I was also into the RnB stuff quite heavily, you know ‘the American Pop’, since 1997,” Richard relates of his first track. “At the time it was at odds with British electronic music – a lot of people couldn’t see the similarities (between pop and electronica) but I could. For me they were cut of the same cloth, they’re both minimal, both pop songs, and I saw it as a logical step to do it as a booty. I don’t think anyone had done a booty outside the world or house music, or the world of ‘art’. It was very fresh at the time.”

This gave rise to a whole host of bootlegs, sometimes called mash ups, or ploppers (plopping the vocals of one track over the instrumental of another with little production) or, my favourite term, Bastard Pop (the illegitimate child of two unlikely pop songs). Richard wishes to distance himself from this scene, although he states, “I’m not a person to say that it’s rubbish or it’s unfashionable. I always said it wasn’t just about making bootlegs, and that’s what I’ve tried to show with the album (Richard X Presents the X factor). I’ve been doing other stuff as well, I’ve been writing and producing for other people,” he adds.

“But I try to avoid playing at the nights, just making bootleg after bootleg, because it’s bit of a trap; a trap for artists just to do one thing, it always is. That’s the only downfall in that. I like some of the stuff, and I see the Get Your Booty On web board as something really healthy, and there’s some great talent out there. I’ve got nothing bad to say about it at all. I’m just more interested in the people who take it a bit further, into the realms of making ‘unofficial remixes’, adding more of their own sound, less about bootlegging and more about traditional production.”

Richard is philosophical about the future of pop music as a whole; the way it’s made, as well as distributed. “I think what will happen is filesharing will get regulated. It is inevitable; but the only thing is I don’t think you can blame piracy for the crash of the music industry business. I think there are other factors in that; most of it lies in the hands of the record companies themselves. Companies run by shareholders are never particularly stable, and when things take a downturn it’s ironic that bedroom musicians and the people who don’t have to spend thousands of pounds putting records out, they’re the people who benefit,” he says. “Independent music will probably get a big boost in the next few years because we have that mindset of doing things on the cheap, or not getting a lot of money for it. I say we,” he says as an aside, giggling. “I’m now on a major! But I think it’s a re-adjustment. If I was a young artist doing it all again, I wouldn’t be worried at all, I’d still get my music out in one way or another.”

Being signed to a major label that helped the much-undervalued Sugarbabes to chart success with the tune ‘Freak Like Me’, there’s a delicious sense of irony that’s not lost on Richard that his album has copyright protection. “The copy protection never works, people can easily get around it,” he says. “You used to get around it just by drawing with a black marker on the CD… but don’t quote me, I don’t want people wrecking their CDs!” he laughs. “It was more of the downloading thing, which is ironic because of where I’ve come from. Sure, back then I had most of the records, but there were a couple of things I got from Napster and Audio Galaxy. It was novel way of making music. It was almost at the point where you could physically manipulate anything in the world without having to buy it. It was exciting, I was on the ‘cutting edge’”, he says with a hint of sarcasm.

“But you can’t not have copy protection on records,” he continues “But rather than hide it away and pretend that I don’t have to conform on an EMI recording, I thought lets make it really huge… just have me standing in front of this big sign! Originally it was going to be carved on a gravestone, but they weren’t having that. But it’s a red hearing, its not a matter of selling out,” he states. “I think that’s what most people might want to criticise me being on a major for, but all the records I’ve ever made have been pop music, so it’s where I should be naturally,” he says, with just a little hint of egoism.

Moving on, Richard has done the latest Back To Mine CD, which is surprising in it’s lack of well-known pop tunes. “They’re just great little records that I really do play at home,” he says of the tunes. “I could do a 20 pop record tune mix easily, but I didn’t want to do that. Electronic music was more than just the pop, it was the weird TV theme tunes, like ‘Tomorrows World’ that you’d hear once a week and get really excited about, and that’s what I was trying to capture.” Also noticeably absent is his favourite band Human League. “Last year I talked about nothing else apart from Human League. I went on about it so much it’s slightly perverse not to have included one of their tracks. But I think everyone knows the Human League, with this I wanted to make it… not deliberately obscure, but full of things that are great that you may not have come across before. I went for an obscure Heaven 17 track to represent them. Because there were a few electro compilations out there last year, given that everybody suddenly liked electronic music again, their music did get aired again, I thought I’d look elsewhere. I wasn’t being snobbish and it certainly wasn’t a dis,” he chuckles.

Junior Senior

Not a lot of people are very aware of Denmark beyond a two hundred year old play written by some bald hack, popularised for the modern audience by an Australian actor. So it comes as some surprise that one of the biggest “new” things to captivate the American Music Press is a little group from Denmark called Junior Senior. “Nobody knows much about it… it’s very small. It’s very Danish,” says the Junior of the band, Jesper Mortensen, of his home country’s music scene. “There’s a few really big Danish bands that have never made it out of Denmark, because they were lagging behind, they weren’t really original enough, or didn’t have good song writing. And we’ve always been in the shadow of Sweden, especially in the indie scene.” He pauses slightly, then continues in his softly spoken English “It’s kind of weird for us to make it outside of Denmark, we’re the first to make it big outside, and it will be interesting to see how that impacts on the scene.”

Junior Senior developed the name for more than the obvious fact that one is older than the other. “I’m kind of petite compared to senior, he’s very tall, very big boned,” he laughs, talking about his partner in music, Jeppe Breum, “and in Denmark Jesper is a very common name, and in school there would be about 5 Jaspers, and I was always the smallest one.”

If you haven’t heard their infectious ‘Move Your Feet’, off their debut album D-D-Don’t Don’t Stop the Beat, it’s a poppy, up beat tune celebrating music and life in general, and has a happy little animated filmclip to accompany it. It’s been compared to everything from Echo and the Bunnymen to Wham! The rest of the album is just as infectious, and demonstrates a range of influences. “I wouldn’t be able to narrow it down to one influence, but black music from the 60’s – early Stevie Wonder, James Brownthe Rolling Stones, the Ramones, The Clash, Run DMC, the Beatles. I’m personally very into the old black music, and the good disco music, like Chic,” Mortensen says. “I tend to go for good song writing and original ideas, I always appreciate that in music no matter what the style, whether it’s Sly and the Family Stone, or if it’s Dolly Parton, or if it’s Graham Parsons – it can be anyone, as long as there’s something in there, good songs, nice singing, or clever arrangements, you know. But we never set out to be a retro band,” he remarks. “We always wanted to make it into a 2000 band… none of us really wants to live in the 60’s or 80’s or anything like that.”

This remarkable blend of influences has capture the American music press by storm, as well as American audiences, which is no surprise considering the substantial lack of originality in the US pop music scene at the moment. “I think it’s a combination of things why people like us, but I really hope that when push comes to shove its really the music,” Mortensen says. “Everything we do we try and do it slightly different, in our own way, and not be too stereotypical. I think some of our songs are good enough to come out of the indie scene, which goes beyond the selling 500 record thing.” He trails off slightly, as if thinking that was the correct way to get his point across. “We never thought we’d amount to anything”, he continues, laughing. “We’d never thought we’d get outside of Denmark. We always thought we had something, but we didn’t think anyone would actually care about us, so it’s been a pleasure.”

Another thing about the band that’s not stereotypical is the blend of gay and straight sensibilities. Their tune Chicks and Dicks clearly demonstrates the fact that Junior is straight and Senior is gay, and this has been lauded in the US press quite a bit as something rather unusual. “It doesn’t really annoy me,” Mortensen says of this undue focus. “I think to some people that it’s a bigger deal than it should be. We don’t really care about it that much, we didn’t feel like hiding it, because it’s such a big part of the chemistry between us and the music we make. We not really big about saying our political views and stuff, but when it comes down to it, I’m happy that it hopefully helps to broaden people’s horizons, and shows that gay and straight people get along well.”

Some of their unusual achievements to date include being played whenever the Mets hit a home run, and being included in the coming “Worms 3d” video game. “I don’t know very much about baseball, but it’s one of those weird things where you don’t get a feeling about it because you’ve never been to the stadium where they actually play,” Mortensen says of the baseball accolade. The Worms thing came about by the game developers approaching the band directly. “When you’re in a band and you get all these crazy offers all the time, and most of them you reject, because we don’t want our music in all these commercials. Although I lost interest in computer games when I was younger, Senior and some of the other guys who play with us are really big fans of The Worms games, and we chose to be in the game. Maybe get our music out to people who might not have heard it,” he adds.

It appears that the addition in the game won’t really be necessary to further their career, as they play 22 gigs across 8 weeks in America to packed out shows. Their energetic live performance, catchy radio-friendly tunes, and combination of uniqueness yet retro sounds in the Gay/Straight package is sure enough to get them more than enough attention. “All the people seem to like us,” Mortensen says about the current American tour. “A lot of people seem crazy about us, which is really nice,” he adds politely.