Sunday, May 17, 2009

RIGHT SAID FRED: The Exclusive Interview-Part One!

(but were too sexy to ask!)

An EXCLUSIVE interview with Richard and Fred FairbrassBy Stephen SPAZ Schnee

“I'm too sexy for my love, too sexy for my love, Love's going to leave me!”

Those words first came blasting out of radios and discos in 1991 and, nearly two decades later, they are still greeted with cheers when the song is played in clubs all over the world. Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy” has infiltrated the very fabric of pop culture and is known and loved by people everywhere. It doesn’t matter what age, sex, race, class or creed you are: chances are you know every lyric to that song, whether you like it or not!
If the only thing you’ve heard by Right Said Fred is “I’m Too Sexy”, then you have some serious catching up to do! Yes, they burst upon the international music scene in 1991 with one of the most successful singles of that decade, but the band has continued to create their own unique (and highly infectious) brand of Electro-Pop ever since.
While the band might currently be labeled as ‘one hit wonders’ in the U.S., they have a track record in Europe that has earned them both success and respect. Singles like “Deeply Dippy”, “You’re My Mate”, “Stand Up (For The Champions)” and “Don’t Talk Just Kiss” have ensured that RSF are more than one trick ponies.
Over a decade and a half since their debut album was released, the boys in RSF have just issued I’m A Celebrity (Promark Records), their seventh album overall, but only the second in the U.S.! Like the six albums that came before it, I’m A Celebrity is a smorgasbord of Pop music delicacies and Electro dancefloor classics in the making. From the title track (and first single) through to the album’s final notes, it is plainly obvious that RSF are still creating great music and having a fun time doing it. Their songs are a combination of hook-laden tunes influenced by classic ‘60s British Pop/Rock and electronic Disco symphonies ala Pet Shop Boys. There’s really no other band quite like Right Said Fred.
Band members Richard and Fred Fairbrass took time out of their busy schedules and graciously (and patiently) answered a series of career-encompassing questions from Stephen SPAZ Schnee that would have driven most musicians bonkers! From their first single to their latest, no stone is left unturned in this in-depth interview with one of Pop music’s finest (and most under-rated) outfits.

SPAZ: What types of music were you exposed to while growing up in the Fairbrass household?
RICHARD FAIRBRASS: Our record collection at home consisted of about 10 albums, most of which was easy listening stuff like Dean Martin, Sinatra and, bizarrely, Bob Newhart! I grew up with a love of crooning and swing jazz only getting into more contemporary music when I was into my early teens
FRED FAIRBRASS: Mum and dad loved Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Glen Miller, which we loved as kids and still do, but some friends of theirs went traveling and left their record collection which was a different bag of treats altogether. There was lots of Motown, Beatles, Stones, Sam and Dave, Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, 50's Rock ‘n’ Roll, The Surfers, all sorts of great stuff we wouldn't have heard otherwise. A little later on, I worked Saturdays in our local record shop which is where I got to hear Frank Zappa, Kraftwerk, Canned Heat, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Alex Harvey, MC5, The Ramones, Jethro Tull, Family, The Tubes, Talking Heads, New York Dolls, early pre-hyped punk, and lots of US disco imports.

SPAZ: Do you remember an exact moment or experience when you realized that you wanted to be a musician?
FRED: Yes I do, I saw a band at school called The Game playing Hendrix’s 'Hey Joe' in the main hall during lunch break and the audience was 99% girls so I thought: “Now there's a job for me, I’ll be my own boss and I won't have to get up early.” Then some bright spark invented 'Breakfast TV'....DOH..!
RICHARD: I think two occasions really made an impression on me. The first was hearing T Rex's “Ride a White Swan” and the second was watching the Beatles movie Let It Be. What a cool way to earn a living, I thought, sitting around in some studio with your mates making music and loads of money! Was I ever that young?????

SPAZ: Were you avid record collectors when you were younger? It seems that every single you have released contains either a non-album cut or versions of songs not available elsewhere (which shows that RSF are a band geared to collectors).
FRED: I worked Saturdays in Grays, our local record shop, so I got into limited editions and imports from about the age of 14-15. In those days, it was mostly vinyl so lots of different colored plastic and great sleeve designs. I've always enjoyed bands who do bonus tracks and different edits for different releases and territories.
RICHARD: To be honest collecting records never really struck me as something I should do! We did have an extensive collection of old Motown singles which I now realize were pretty cool! At the time, though, I had no idea how valuable they were and, because we were given many of them, I didn't appreciate how lucky we were!

SPAZ: Did you both initially decide to work together in creating music, or did things just happen to fall into place that way?
FRED: I started playing guitar first (I think I was about 13 years old). Then Rich picked up the bass and the writing just fell into place. I was doing most of the singing at the time which was our first mistake. Playing other people's songs never really appealed to us.
RICHARD: Fred got into the whole thing first! He started guitar lessons in his early teens and began writing songs on his own soon after that. Being very smart, I soon realized that he wasn't that bad so I cleverly decided to shove my oar in and tag along!

SPAZ: Where did the name Right Said Fred come from?
FRED: It's taken from a song of the same name recorded by an English actor called Bernard Cribbins in 1962.

SPAZ: How did you hook up with Rob Manzoli?
FRED: We met Rob through Simon Taylor at The Ritz Studios, which was our local rehearsal studio in Putney, South West London.

SPAZ: Do you remember the first song all three of you worked on when you realized that everything was coming together?
RICHARD: I think Fred and I differ in our recollection of this, I thought it was “I'm Too Sexy” but actually it was probably something long forgotten.
FRED: Initially, the three of us sat around in my flat drinking tea, dunking biscuits and hanging out. “I'm Too Sexy” was the first completely original new song that we wrote together. We had written other songs, but those had generally grown out of old ideas that one of us had had lying around.

SPAZ: How did you hook up with Gut Records in 1991?
FRED: Tamzin Aronowitz, a friend of Rob's who later became our manager, knew Guy Holmes who ran Gut Reaction, a radio and TV promotions company. He played it in his car; the passengers apparently loved the track so he felt confident enough to submit it to The Simon Bates morning Show on Radio 1. The audience response was amazing so Gut Records was then set up solely to service “I'm Too Sexy”.

SPAZ: Your first single was the worldwide smash hit “I’m Too Sexy”. Did the success of the song catch you by surprise?
RICHARD: To say the success of “I'm Too Sexy” caught me by surprise would be an understatement of enormous proportions! We were all absolutely dazzled! It sounds ridiculous, but until it happened, I’d never even figured on having a hit outside the UK! I remember flying to Belgium on promotion for the first time and thinking "Oh my God, this is amazing! You can have a hit abroad, too! Who'd have thunk it!"
FRED: The speed of the success was daunting, amazing, disturbing, euphoric and destructive all at once. No one, especially us, were prepared for it. The downside with a meteoric rise is that the people who gather around you are there because you're a cash cow and there's instant revenue, not because they believe in you or what you do.

SPAZ: Many people miss the humor in the song. Can you explain the song’s origins?
FRED: Richard had the initial idea of “I'm too sexy for my shirt”. It was a hot day in a basement studio in West London and the same track (I think it was called “Heaven”) had been running on a loop on the computer for what seemed like a decade. Then, out of nowhere, he started singing the lyric to the bass line melody. To be honest, at first I was a little skeptical but it didn't take long for me to 'get it'. We were laughing a lot and then spent the next few weeks writing the 'I'm a model, you know what I mean' section. It was just about the whole 'super model' culture that was huge at the time and how nobody can really be 'too sexy'. The premise of the idea is that trying to be ‘too sexy’ is impossible… there will always be someone who's bored sleeping with you.

SPAZ: “I’m Too Sexy” is quite unlike anything else you’ve recorded. Was it written and/or recorded differently than they way you usually work?
FRED: No, it was written and recorded in exactly the same way as most of our other tracks. I think sometimes artists capture a mood that is inexplicable and not repeatable. Richard's vocal on “I'm Too Sexy” is the original demo vocal. We tried re-recording it and it just didn't work as well as the demo. The original demo plus Tommy D's very cool programming and Phil Spalding's excellent live bass made up the final master.
RICHARD: The only thing I can say is that, from my point of view, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing! The song was unlike anything I’d heard before, I’d never sung that low before and wasn't at all sure that any of it made any sense, but then what do I know?

SPAZ: Your 1992 debut album, Up, featured more great singles including “Don’t Talk Just Kiss”, “Love For All Seasons” and the extraordinary “Deeply Dippy”. To your credit, not one of these songs sounded remotely like your debut single. Were you ever tempted to just go in and repeat the same musical formula and hope that lightning would strike twice?
RICHARD: I learned a lot about lightning at school and I knew for certain that it never strikes the same place twice so better not to even try! Also, it always smacks of defeat somehow to try to get into repeat or formula writing. It's also very boring!
FRED: “… Sexy" has a life of its own. I believe a lot of that is the lyric, Richard's vocal and the pitch of his voice. That backing track with another lyric and another vocal performance wouldn't be nearly as engaging or successful.

SPAZ: Any particular memories about recording Up?
FRED: Holy moly, it was very odd! “I'm Too Sexy” was already creating a lot of heat so recording our first Freds album was weird. We were fast becoming famous and successful during the making of our debut album, so it added a flavor to the sessions that most debut albums don't experience. It was very exciting recording Up. Everyone involved felt we were capable of delivering a big album. There was a confidence and a creativity that was infectious and really exciting.
RICHARD: Apart from all the related stress in making an album and being up to my nipples in promotion, the moment I remember the most clearly was hearing for the first time the brass section in “Deeply Dippy”! I was completely knocked out, I just knew that hit or no hit this was very very very fabulous!
(The interview continues after this video break!)
The Up Videos:

SPAZ: In 1993, you recorded the Comic Relief single, “Stick It Out”. How did this come about?
FRED: We were approached by the Comic Relief team to do a song. Personally, I didn't enjoy this at all; I think it took us away from focusing on writing and playing live. I would rather have just made a donation. Stupidly, we bowed to label pressure.

SPAZ: That same year, you released your sophomore album, Sex And Travel. Once again, there was no sign of a carbon copy of “… Sexy”. In fact, the album showed a maturity in songwriting and production, compared to your debut album. Were you frustrated or confused when that album didn’t get the push it deserved from Gut?
RICHARD: In many ways, I’m still very proud of that album. I still believe that Sex And Travel (or Fuck Off, as we came to know it) contains some really cool songs. "She's My Mrs." had some very neat lyrics with a great chorus and "I Ain't Stupid" had a wicked smooth play out! In retrospect, the wrong single was chosen to lead the album and we were pretty wiped after such a long period of promo for Up. We should've chilled out before we started and got our heads clear, but hey we were riding the wave, what could go wrong?
FRED: We broke rule #1: you never split up a winning team. We changed producers and studios and this was a mistake. RSF and Gut Records had fallen out with Tommy D who produced Up. We should have all been more humble and professional and settled our petty differences. The album took too long to record, the production was too elaborate and the cracks were already starting to show. There was little unity between Richard, myself and Rob, no unity between RSF and Gut and there was way too much money coming in AND going out... Gut Records gave it an initial push, but the minute it stalled, almost everyone around us ran for the hills. In fact, Gut Records moved offices, changed their numbers and didn't tell us… you couldn't make that shit up!

SPAZ: Any particular memories about recording Sex And Travel?
RICHARD: Some of it was great fun but, to some extent, a lot of our energy was sapped. The whole thing took too long, cost too much and stressed us out. We did meet Macca (Paul McCartney) and Linda, though, and that was great! He knew who we were! I was very big headed for a while after that!
FRED: I couldn't wait for it to end. All I could see was huge studio bills and lots of hangers on. Because “… Sexy” had broken so quickly and the debut went multi-platinum all around the world, there had been no time for trust and belief to grow between the band members or between RSF and Gut Records. It really was an accident waiting to happen.
As the artist, you have to take responsibility for your own decisions. Unfortunately, we'd chosen to work with some very incompetent, skanky people. We're not the first band to make this mistake and we won't be the last.

SPAZ: Was your label annoyed that you never bothered to rewrite “I’m Too Sexy”?
FRED: Gut Records were annoyed about a lot of things. We couldn't rewrite “… Sexy” even if we wanted to… nor should we.
RICHARD: It's in the nature of labels to follow rather than lead. It's the job of artists to lead whenever possible.

STAY TUNED for Part Two of our
Coming Wednesday, May 20th!

1 comment:

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