How you doing, Martin?
I’m very well thank you very much thanks for having me on
My Pleasure. Whereabouts in the world are you right now?
I’m based in Derby. I’m in my studio at the minute preparing some live streaming stuff, just having a bit of a wiring session in my studio before I get going properly
A wine session?
Hahah! A wiring session! I wish it was a wine session!
I was going to say, that sounds like a nice way to spend a Friday afternoon
Now you’ve planted the seed, God knows what will happen?
How you bearing up?
You know it’s not a great difference to me because I’m at home all the time anyway, because my studios is on my property so I just drift to the studio when I need to do work production and mastering, the rest of the time is spent in the house doing the record label. Otherwise, the kids are all right, we’ve got a 4-year-old and a 8 year old, they’re getting a little extra iPad time. Apart from that, there is not much difference, my partner Amanda has had to bring all of her stuff home so…It’s just the lock-in, isn’t it? It’s a bit strange when you didn’t you don’t see anybody anymore. How’s it been for you? Are you in Brighton?
I am in Brighton yeah. It’s beautiful down here, it’s been hard staying in with 20 degree heat mind.
So, you have a rather wonderful project you’ve been working on with Richard Hewson aka the RAH band and we’ll get to that in a little while but this project is amongst a lot of other things you’ve got going on at the moment?
Yeah there’s a lot of things this year, I’m still within the boundaries of the 10-year anniversary of the record label that comes to an end in July so I got lots of albums by myself, obviously we got the RAH band and producers choice album and lots of singles. We got an amazing album coming out the end of the year by singer called Sarai Jazz and it’s really lovely, and then some newcomers, we’ve got a new album out by Tomahawk Bang, he’s got some singles coming out this year; and, Peacey, another Derby guy, he’s based in Edinburgh he’s just finishing up his album as well so there’s a fair rack of stuff coming out this year.
That’s always been the case with you, you never sat still!
Not really no, I’ve got ants in my pants as they say!
So, tell me about the RAH band and how you were first introduced to Richard’s music?
I can remember exactly when it was because I think I might be his biggest super fan, I’m sure he gets weirded out by me saying that all the time but it is the truth. I was eleven at my local youth club and we had a TV room upstairs on the balcony and I remember that Top Of The Pops was on, I think it was back in 1985, and ‘Clouds Across the Moon’ comes on and I remember thinking “What is that sound?” literally. I was interested in videogames music at that time, I used to load my games on a commodore 64 and just listen to the music and then turn it off and turn it back on again and load the game and listen to the music. So, it was that kind of jazzy synthesizer sound that got me into what he was doing and I really liked that, I liked a couple more of the tunes and to be honest I forgot about it for quite some time. I mean, we’re talking twenty years later. I started to remember the Clouds Across the Moon track and thought to myself “What else has this guy done?” And that was it. I was totally immersed in what he’d been doing, his albums, his music, some of the remixes he’d been doing. I got addicted to ‘Messages from the Stars’ and yeah that’s kind of when it began and then that’s when I kind of, you know regrouped with his music
You worked with the RAH band previously, ten years or so ago, when you remixed some of his tracks?
Yeah, I actually contacted Richard when I used to have a record label called Mantis recordings back in the day and the kind of music we released was quite independent, house, dance and crossover stuff. So, I contacted Richard to possibly do some remixes of his work and then unfortunately I had to close Mantis because it was the beginning of the digital revolution and it relied on its physical sales to survive so I lost that contact with him initially, but then I set up AtJazz record company in 2009 and contacted Richard pretty much about 6 or 7 months into that to kind of relight that flame. Richard was just so down to work, lovely and interested on what was happening and what we wanted to do. He just came on board as part of the little team and that’s when I got the parts to Messages from the Stars. Everything’s on tape you know, so you have to put the original tapes in the oven for I don’t know how long, I think it’s four hours on 80° or something and it does something to the tape material to stop it from snapping. That did really well, it actually did really well in South Africa of all places but that was when the house music revolution in South Africa hit right at the right time. And then we went on to do ‘Perfume Garden’ as well and then it’s taken another few years to get to this point as we had had some chat in between these areas about other projects; like his orchestra project, which is another electronic Richard style release, which we might revisit. Then we got to this point and it has taken us about a year and a half to build the project.
Is this a collaborative working between you two, choosing what tracks to use?
Originally, yes. I’m always aware of my audience and what they are used to listening to, which is mainly deep house and which makes up the majority of the releases. I think that some of the poppier stuff that Richard had been releasing, although I think it’s very cool, would have been deemed maybe a bit cheesy for that kind of audience but then Richard just said, “I got an idea, how about we do an album called producer’s choice” the idea is that it’s essentially curated by him, he’s the one that pulled it together. They were all lifted from the original tapes, so these weren’t re-mastered from things that have been released before, these came straight from the tapes again and I mastered them from scratch here in the studio to get the most out of the music without it being interfered with. We wanted to give it as much body and originality as possible. The beauty about these masters is that they do carry a bit of grit, grime and warp because of the format they were recorded onto and I think that’s part of the charm to be honest.
There’s an unreleased remix on there of ‘Clouds Across the Moon’ was that yours or was it something Richard did himself?
That’s something that actually had had a light release in the past but the recording is way off to the right-hand side and it’s quite low volume, so what Richard sent me was a better take from the tape and I mastered it to the rest of the material. So, essentially that version, as it is, has never really been heard before it’s a version of ‘Clouds Across the Moon’ that’s not being properly celebrated that’s for sure.
Ok great. So, the new record is made up of the first four albums predominantly. Is there a reason why you didn’t include anything from the fifth album or was it just a different time and not really fitting for what you wanted on the comp?
I think the sound had moved on at that point and the charm of this first four albums, in the songs that were of that time and the equipment and method of writing music, using sequences off the back of analogue synths and things like that made Richard make his music in a specific way. Then once technology moved on and you’ve got hardware sequencers etc you lost that innocence behind his music because you could do more with it. I remember having a conversation with Richard asking how many tracks are on this song and he’d say maybe 16 tracks, but he only had two 8-track machines and another 2-track machines to record onto – essentially it was like DJing – he pressed play on two machines and kept them in time. When you think about how difficult the job was back then to put a song together, these days everyone’s got a laptop and that’s it. Everything back then was so different to what it is today. We are very proud with what we’ve accomplished on the comp anyway.
Amazing that innit. Let’s get into the content of the album then and run through the individual tracks and the reason behind why they were chosen?
Richard chose the line-up but I didn’t have any queries about why he chose the one’s he chose because they make total sense to me. I think all of it it’s cool. I just got to think about what people were going to listen to, so a collection of the RAH Band music that’s been mastered for today’s audience, so you know these fit in a world of like classic jazz funk disco with a hint of pop. I see Richard as an uncelebrated champion of British jazz-funk really and the guy has done work equal to the likes of Quincy Jones as far as I’m concerned. We also have to remember all the arrangements he did back for the bands in the 80s, but you know there’s songs like ‘Downside Up’ which is an amazing tune and has got such a great arrangement and then you’ve got this really cool melodies that just continue to come back in the song and keep you hooked. I think that’s why is music so attractive, there’s ‘Slide’ obviously and I think that ‘Riding On A Fantasy’ is amazing as well. Again, Riding On A Fantasy and songs like ‘Perfumed Garden’ they sit in a world of really dreaming quite feminine standing disco, they are very beautiful pieces of music, very reminiscent of the early 80s sounds as well with Paul Hardcastle and people like that.
Yeh, they are of that time for sure, it was 1983 when the self titled album came out and which both of those tracks, ‘Riding On A Fantasy’ and Perfumed Garden’ were released and both you mention there
Yeah exactly that’s the time and then you know you got songs like ‘Clouds Across the Moon’ You know, I’ve been hinting and nudging Richard to let me have the license for Clouds Across The Moon for years and that’s one that would go on the top 10, it’s one that you’d hold on to. That and ‘Messages From The Stars; which is beautifully put together to me, they bear a specific sound and as I understand it they were written really close together as well, in a similar time and in a similar setting of the studio. Tracks like ‘Float’ and ‘Shadow of Your Love’ also. Shadow of Your Love is an amazing tune, very high energy, very fast piece of work but it’s super cool and super groovy, and I think people will understand from this selection that these albums and the way they are put together stand up with producers like Herbie Hancock and the likes. Richard has done everything on his own and it sounds of that bit more pacey, very melodic light jazz-funk with power behind it at the same time.
So, regarding your favourite album what would you go without out of the five?
I think it’s got to be ‘Mystery’ just because of the timing it of it. It was a very cool album for an 11-12-year-old boy to listen to and understand that this isn’t people simply playing guitar and playing drums, this is other stuff too and that album kind of did it for me. Maybe it’s because it’s the one that turned me onto him if you know what I mean
Of course, it’s a strong choice and you’ve included four tracks off Mystery. There’s a track on Mystery that stood out to me but wasn’t included called ‘Night Wind’ a lovely alt-pop, disco track. It’s such a great record overall. This is a great introduction this comp that has been put together by you and Richard and I think it’s definitely worth people checking out all of the albums, as there’s some crackers on each and every one of them. I didn’t dig too deep into 12’s, B-sides and unreleased. Is there much of that floating about?
Not really as far as I know I mean I think we covered everything. I had a couple of versions of Messages from the Stars, I had one on blue vinyl and one on straight black vinyl, they were like long mixes and ‘Astro’ mixes and stuff like that, where he’d essentially done a studio dub. He would just have everything on and just played until he got something that sounds good and then echoed things off and he seemed to have included that in his other releases. So yeah, I’m not sure, I was quite surprised he found a version of Clouds Across The Moon that i never heard but it’s all on tapes and it takes time to get those tapes in the oven, doesn’t it?
Is he going to surprise you with anything else that’s not been released or you haven’t heard, or have you got the full picture from him?
Well I’m not sure, you just mentioned Night Wind there. You know, there are songs out there that I’ve not even thought about the possibly of licensing but also all of these songs are available on Richard’s label already. There needs to be a project behind what we do. I would be very interested in taking this album and getting it remixed. I already talked to John Morales about getting involved, I saw him in Ibiza a couple of years ago and we were talking about this comp and he said, “Oh yeh, the RAH band, we both worked together on the ‘Five Star’ album back in the 80’s! So, he showed some interest in maybe doing something and that’s John’s era as well so he’s got the right credentials to pull something like this through in a different way, respecting the sound and being nostalgic about it as well, so hopefully there will be newer versions of the RAH band music that’s for sure. Maybe next time I visit Richard I am going to meet him with a bottle of wine and sit in his studio listen to his tapes and see what’s at the end, cause that’s normally where the dubs are. That would be good, to find something that has never been released before.
You know he’s got some dubs hidden away, Martin!
You think so? I reckon he’s just being coy about it all! There was a lovely story he told me, which is not widely known. When he was at college furthering his guitar tuition stuff, his teacher was a session musician as well and would be asked to come and play sessions with artists and Herbie Hancock was recording the soundtrack to ‘Blow’ – I think it was in London – and Richard told me that his teacher said to him “I can’t do this, so go on Richard go and do it, it’s time for you to do a session” so he joined in the Herbie Hancock session. He ended up playing guitar on the song that Deee-Lite light sampled for ‘Groove Is In The Heart’ so that intro, that’s actually Richard Hewson. So, the guy has done so much stuff we don’t know about and he needs a super celebration. The world is very aware of Quincy Jones and Herbie Hancock and the likes and those are the people that were also arranging other people’s work as well as making their own music. Richard was in the same field as them and has done equal excellent work.
Well, it takes someone like AtJazz to bring it to a wider audience and here we are. So, we know that C19 has caused havoc across the board and unfortunately record store day has fallen prey to that as well, which was when this was due to released. So, what’s going on with the release of this now?
So, as far as we know the vinyl for record store day, which was announced in March, has been sat on shelves and we are waiting for them to let us know when it’s going to be safe to do record store day. They are saying middle of June but again as we all know that it might not happen, it might be brought forward it might be pushed backwards, we don’t know. The digital release date of the record is actually the 24thth of April and it will be available everywhere on all of the major platforms. Good headphone music with the new mastering on it as well. It has lovely base tones that were probably never heard before.
Great stuff! Let’s hope it won’t be too long before the wax drops. Go out and buy it folks and if it’s your first introduction to the RAH band, it’s a good one. Do explore further too because there is so much good quality on these albums, absolutely. Martin, as you mentioned, Richard is local to where we are at 1BTN, so when this is all over let’s see if we can get him in the studio
I promised Richard I am going to visit him again, so it would be great if we could combine the two and come and see you at the station.
Yes, indeed. Martin big thanks for your time and congratulations on a great release. Hope to see you soon
Thanks, Mickey. Bye mate.
The RAH Band ‘Producers Choice’ is out now digitally. The vinyl will be released on RSD 2020 (Sat 20th Jun over the counter & 28th Jun online. These dates are subject to change)