By Ben Gelblum
Mr. C has had a lot to celebrate this year.
In addition to releasing his dynamite, acid-house album, Incidents, the London-bred/L.A.-based DJ/producer is marking a pair of career milestones. Superfreq, his superlative clubbing brand/music label, has reached its 15th year, but 2017 also marks 30 years of professional DJing for the former frontman for the hitmaking U.K. group The Shamen.
Through it all, Mr. C (aka Richard West, 51) remains one of our great beacons of DJ and clubbing culture, one who steadfastly maintains its original acid-house ethic. So as Superfreq released “Ripple Effect,” Mr. C’s hypnotic second single from Incidents, featuring sturdy remixes from Marc Houle, Chloé and Noël Jackson, we caught up with the always affable Richard West.
DJ Times: This year marks your 30th year as a DJ. Will you be celebrating this notable anniversary?
West: Yes, indeed. I gave up my day job as a milkman in the autumn of 1987 and I will be celebrating my 30th DJ anniversary with events in London and L.A. towards the end of this year.
DJ Times: What led to making Incidents, your third album as Mr. C?
West: I just thought it was about time, as my Smell the Coffee album was four years ago now. I really wanted to dig deep into my musical psyche and express myself using the music from my youth that shaped my career and that acted as a real influence in making this album…. yet, I wanted to make an album that is contemporary.
DJ Times: The early-2017 single, “Stand Up,” features you rapping a protest over acid riffs. What’s the story there?
West: When I originally wrote “Stand Up,” it didn’t have the two vocal verses, but did have the chorus vocals. This song is heavily inspired by ska music and I wanted it to be a calling for everyone to stand up against the bullshit that we have to live with today. However, when Fabric nightclub in London was closed by the authorities, I wrote the two verses directly about the situation Fabric was going through and the plight the club world faces with clubs being closed down due to greedy property development and gentrification. This has been happening to clubs for years now…
DJ Times: But Fabric’s story had a happier ending.
West: Our dance-music community is huge, global and full of very smart and creative people. Together, we are strong enough to stand up for ourselves… as proven when Fabric got its license back.
DJ Times: Incidents has proper acid sounds running throughout, and is part of a resurgence of quality acid music at the moment.
West: I’m so happy there’s a resurgence of acid sounds in dance music – as I, for one, have never let it go. I’ve always been a huge fan of acid house and trippy dance music. These things come and go in cycles anyway, but I do think that producers are starting to get way more creative again. Also, DJs seem to be getting a little tougher and more creative, too, with their sets and not a moment too soon.
DJ Times: Any reason for this?
West: I put this change down to DJs and producers getting bored with the more generic house, tech-house and techno sounds that we’ve had to suffer for the last few years. I hope it’s the start of a new musical revolution that inspires new artists to be original and stop copying their heroes, as it’s this that’s caused all this boring, generic nonsense to become so popular.
DJ Times: You recorded this album in Noël Jackson’s studio when he lived in L.A. What sort of gear did you use in the studio to achieve that compelling acid sound?
West: I’ve relied heavily on Roland gear to get the acid sound on my album. The 303, Jupiter 6, JX-03 and the Cyclone 303 clone [BassBot TT-303] have all played a part in that. Also, lots of the effects and processing used make the album very trippy, especially Soundtoys.
DJ Times: You still DJ all over the world, often playing special Superfreq-branded events. What’s your DJ-booth set-up?
West: Very simple… three Pioneer CDJ2000NXS CD players linked, with either an Allen & Heath XONE:92 or a Pioneer DJM900NXS mixer.
DJ Times: Does vinyl ever come into it?
West: I love playing with vinyl, but don’t do so very often these days since I had a serious back injury four years ago. So I’m happy spinning with CDJs, WAV and AIFF files only, as I hate MP3s. But I have been thinking about mixing that up with vinyl again, especially as Superfreq is going back to releasing vinyl. I’ve always avoided DJ-mixing software like Traktor and Serato, as I’ve never really liked the sound of them. There always seems to be some kind of compression on the sound cards that I don’t like.
DJ Times: After 30 years as a DJ/producer, any tips for longevity?
West: You need to always keep reinventing yourself of you’ll get stuck in a time warp. This means, keep making cutting-edge music that doesn’t sound like what you’ve already made or what you’re hearing from others, and also keep moving forward with what you spin in clubs. Keep it fresh and with integrity, and there you will find longevity.