Tuesday, May 19, 2009

RIGHT SAID FRED: The Exclusive Interview-Part Two!

(but were too sexy to ask!)

An EXCLUSIVE interview with Richard and Fred Fairbrass
By Stephen SPAZ Schnee

In Part One of our three part interview, we discussed the band's early days, the sudden success of "I'm Too Sexy", the making of their first two albums (Up and Sex & Travel) and lots of other revealing tidbits! Now, in Part Two, Fred and Richard discuss the difficult third album (Smashing) and the following two albums that coincided with their rebirth as one of the most exciting Euro Electro-Pop duos of the millennium: Fredhead and Stand Up

SPAZ: In 1994, you recorded “Dance Dance Dance (Under The Moon)”, available on the Asterix In Amerika soundtrack. How did you get involved with that?
RICHARD: Oh my God! I was rather hoping we'd got away with that one! Actually, the process of making that record was fun but I’m pretty sure none of us liked the end result.
FRED: Harold Faltermeyer (the Munich Music Machine), who wrote the music for Beverly Hills Cop, invited us to co-write. It was fun working with him but “Dance, Dance, Dance” is not one of my favorite RSF tracks.

SPAZ: Though the next two years saw some great singles like “Wonderman” and “Living On A Dream”, what took so long to release your third album, Smashing, in 1996?
RICHARD: I think the failure of Sex And Travel left us numb… more than we realized at the time. Looking back, before even considering making that album we should've got out and done some shows. At that time, all three of were pretty ignorant of who exactly was buying our music: we really needed to see the whites of their eyes! I think we hid from the world during the making of that album, the world had become a bit of scary place for RSF. The studio was comforting and safe so we buried ourselves there!
FRED: We were drift wood for quite awhile. Although I think we nailed it with a few tracks like “Living on a Dream" and “Big Time”, our relationship with Rob was unraveling very fast and Gut had distanced themselves immediately after the second album. I like bits of Smashing, but the fun of being in RSF with the current line-up was fading.

SPAZ: Was recording Smashing a different experience than your first two albums?
RICHARD: Our label at that time refused to release any funds so we found ourselves in the position of paying for the whole thing, which inevitably added pressure and a strong sense of urgency to the process. In addition, working with Rob at that time was becoming increasingly problematic. I don't have many good memories of that period!
FRED: We recorded it with Gerald Elms from G-Club. Meeting and working with Gerald was a great experience, he's a fun and talented guy to spend time with. The writing and recording was much the same, probably more fragmented than before. Rich, Gerald and I did a lot of the recording by ourselves.

SPAZ: Any particular memories about recording Smashing?
RICHARD: None really, other than the fact that on some of the vocal tracks buses can be heard going passed the studio!
FRED: Unfortunately, we were squabbling with Gut Records and finally parted company while recording this album. We were also bouncing from one manager to another, which didn't help the cause at all. Looking back, we were free falling but didn't realize it and no one on the payroll wanted to say anything in case we actually woke up and smelt the coffee.

SPAZ: After this album, why did Rob leave RSF?
FRED: Rob had started to drift as early as 1993, so by the time we got to 1996-97 it was very fraught. Richard and I wanted to go on the road; Rob was more of a home-body.
Splitting with Rob was inevitable; fortunately, we managed to keep it friendly and civilized.

SPAZ: Fans had to wait another five years for the next RSF full length. What happened in the meantime? Had you considered laying RSF to rest and moving on?
FRED: We were disillusioned and had had the stuffing kicked out of us. We also had a few of our own personal problems that needed addressing: domestic unrest, drugs, alcohol, various affairs… You know, the usual weapons of choice. Luckily, we were financially secure so we thought “FUCK THIS.... lets chill for awhile”. We still did a couple of tours and stand alone shows… I have to admit, though, looking back, this period is still very very blurred. In the words of Ozzy Osborne: 'I might of had a car'. By 2000, we were swimming, not drowning, so I went to the Dance Music Fair in Amsterdam and met the BMG Berlin guys who showed a lot of interest in doing a new record with us. We had been writing a lot in the previous year and we were ready to do a new album.
RICHARD: Splitting with Rob was difficult. I think Fred and I both felt badly let down so it was inevitable that there would be a period of reflection and decision making. To be honest I think we did, from time to time, consider packing it in although not in any real way. We toyed with the idea, but in the end, songwriting and a deep seated refusal to allow other people to determine our future prevented us from making the necessary moves!

SPAZ: When Fredhead was released in 2001, not only was the songwriting more melodic than ever, you seemed to have embraced Electronic music more so than before. What influenced this direction?
FRED: We've always loved dance music and Electronica, being signed to BMG/Kingsize, who were based in Berlin, Germany, helped to pull all the Euro influences together. At this time, we also met fellow songwriter and musician Clyde Ward, who's had a lot of chart success in Europe, particularly Germany. At the time, Rich and I were happy to soak up all that is Euro. Also we were very lucky to have a label as focused as BMG/Kingsize were at that time.
RICHARD: We've always embraced a mix of electronic and acoustic music. Up saw "Deeply Dippy" and "… Sexy" on the same album, so, for us, it didn't seem too much of a stretch. There's no doubt in my mind, though, that we were more focused and passionate on that album. It was also great to have hooked up with Clyde, who has proved to be a great songwriting partner.

SPAZ: How did you come to meet Clyde?
FRED: We met Clyde in Hamburg during a recording session in 2001; Kingsize introduced us to him. He's a very talented writer and musician. We are able to talk very openly with Clyde about music and say what we like and don't like. When we're writing and recording no one has to walk on eggshells, which is very rare in this industry.

SPAZ: From this album onwards, RSF perfected the ultimate Dance/Pop formula: House dance beats, infectious melodies and, unlike most club music, plenty of acoustic guitars (often times, more felt than heard). Is this the way you had always envisioned RSF to sound?
RICHARD: Absolutely! Mixing up the acoustic and the electronic has always been something we enjoy. Having said that, anything is up for grabs. It's always been a mystery to me as to why bands are expected to stay in their groove. Having a "sound" shouldn't exclude the desire to mess with it from time to time! It's risky (see Tin Machine), but always worth a shot!
FRED: “I'm Too Sexy” originally had a lot more guitars in it, electric and acoustic. We love dance music but, apart from the Chic-era, guitars are often over-looked. I think an organic acoustic guitar against tough beats can sound really infectious. Even with Fredhead and Stand Up, we had to fight tooth and nail for the guitars to stay in.

SPAZ: Any particular memories about recording Fredhead?
FRED: Fredhead was a lot of fun and, in many ways, very similar to recording Up. Like “… Sexy”, “You're My Mate” was a big hit while we were recording the album: this gives you an enormous sense of 'we're on it' which I think you can hear in Up and Fredhead. Having had the experience of the previous albums, we were much more aware of enjoying the moment this time round.
RICHARD: It was summertime. We did a lot of the work down at Clyde's home studio! I remember that period with a lot of affection. I could tell at the time that we were pretty on it and, although it might sound an obvious thing to say, a motivated label helped give us a clear sense of purpose and direction.

SPAZ: The following year, Stand Up was another solid album, filled to the brim with great songs and topped Fredhead as your finest work to date. Had you envisioned the title track, “Stand Up (For The Champions)” as an inspirational sports anthem?
FRED: “Stand Up…” was written soon after 9/11 and the idea of the song was when things go really wrong and the shit hits the fan, what the world then needs are the real heroes: the firefighters, paramedics, police, nurses etc…
RICHARD: The champions on that day were all the emergency workers. I don't recall any celebs getting the call to come on down to shift rubble and dowse the fires!
FRED: I'm delighted it's been picked up as an inspirational anthem for sports and other team activities. We get a lot of very positive mail about “Stand Up…”

SPAZ: Any particular memories about recording Stand Up?
FRED: Recording Stand Up was also fun but we were aware of the pressure. Sex And Travel had failed Up as the follow-up album and we didn't want that happening again. Obviously, we were very happy that Stand Up was so successful.
RICHARD: You know, for some reason, I don't recall the making of Stand Up anywhere near as clearly as Fredhead. There were moments or real pride, however, concerning particular tracks. "Bombay Moon", I still love as much as the day we recorded it. "Night Night", too, has a sweetness that made performing at the end of live shows really enjoyable!

SPAZ: In 2003, you released the single “We Are The Freds” plus an alternate version with different lyrics, “We Are The Champs”. Which version was it originally intended to be?
FRED: We moved labels. Although we had been very successful with BMG/Kingsize, they failed to pick up the option for album three so we signed to Ministry of Sound who were also based in Berlin, Germany. “We Are The Freds” was the intended version, “We Are The Champs”, we did for a sports channel. Us and the public got very confused about the versions!

SPAZ: 2004 saw you release a cover of Madness’ “The Wizard”, a duet with Doris Dubinsky, from the soundtrack to a German film called Der Wixxer. Have you seen the film? The scenes from the RSF video look very intriguing?
RICHARD: We saw the film at the premier; couldn't understand a bloody word, of course, but enjoyed it nevertheless because it's a pretty slapstick visual movie.
FRED: The film was really good and it's a cool song.
RICHARD: Can't remember much about the video apart from Doris not turning up and then refusing to do promotion. Perhaps she was having a little trouble with the limelight!
FRED: People like that bore the crap out of me.

STAY TUNED for the final installment of our three part EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with RIGHT SAID FRED!
Coming Friday, May 22nd!

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