SUIT YOURSELF EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH RICHARD SEARLE FROM CORDUROY
When we had the chance to interview Richard Searle, bassist extraordinaire from Acid Jazz legends Corduroy we naturally jumped at the chance! Ahead of our gig in Brighton on 9th March, and an exclusive appearance on our own radio show on 1BTN FM Radio in a few weeks, Richard gives us an exclusive look behind the cool world of one of Acid Jazz legendary acts that still rock crowds today. Buckle yourselves up and jump into the power pop world of musical goodness that is Corduroy.....
Hi, Richard, Bassist from the fantastic Acid Jazz heroes that are Corduroy, can we start by talking about yourself as a young lad, where you were born, what it was like growing up there and your very early musical influences.
I was born in Woolwich, lived in Eltham as a kid, moved to Blackheath where I met the three other band members. Nothing much going on in Eltham other than skateboarding and pubs; I used to walk to see bands at the Woolwich Tramshed on school nights (Nine Below Zero were a favourite). I formed my first band with Eltham types, which didn’t last long, and was then asked to join Doctor And The Medics by my Scout patrol leader, Clive.
At what age did you realise that you yourself were musical? And was the bass guitar the first thing you picked up?
My Dad played anything with a keyboard in pubs around the Charlton area as a young man…so I guess I have music in the blood, despite the fact that I still I can’t play keyboards. I first got a bass because my mate had just got a guitar, so we could form a band. I was 15.
You have always shown a true connection with the Mod/Modernist scene, can you tell us about your love of it, how you became part of it and if there is a direct influence on how you play.
I always loved The Who, then embraced the punk scene in 77 - but identified mostly with The Jam who I saw 7 times (first time in 78). I got hold of a copy of the first Nuggets comp around 1980 so then dedicated my musical investigations into the psych scene, especially the San Francisco garage punk – beatnik look….I’m a psychedelic mod. If my bass playing style is sometimes compared to John Entwisted or Bruce Foxton then I guess there’s a reason for it.
Can you tell us how you got your first break and what it was like?
Doctor And The Medics were formed to record a single on Whaam Records at the tail end of the eighties psych-scene; we hadn’t intended to continue once the record was released…but we kept limping along. Then, largely due to Clive, The Doctor’s, involvement with a Soho nightclub at Gossips called Alice In Wonderland, we met The Damned. Our first break was being asked to support The Damned on a six-week tour. Then Spirit In The Sky happened and Top Of The Pops, which was great!
Corduroy’s big break was Ed Piller signing us to Acid Jazz just as the Acid Jazz scene became huge so we could ride the AJ wave. Also, Blur asked us to play on the bill of their Alexandra Palace Park Life, show with Supergrass and Pulp; but we never exploited that as much as we possibly could have - we didn’t really fit into the Brit Pop scene.; but that was very cool.
Can you tell us a bit about your early gigs, did you ever play to a Mod orientated audience?
Our first ever Corduroy gig was on new years eve in a karaoke club …very few mods. The early Corduroy gigs were mostly nightclubs so that we could get in on the guest list, Smashing being the most famous, from which many Brit Pop band emerged. We did play ‘Mod’ gigs if we were asked, but soon were touring on an Acid Jazz package with Mother Earth and The Sandals, so Beatnicks, Mods and students trying to grow goatee beards with socks on their heads.
Before Corduroy, in the group Doctor and the Medics you had a number one hit with Spirit in the sky, can you tell us a bit about this time, being a number one star, appearing on top of the pops, wearing wild clothing…..and that incredible wig!
Other than what is mentioned above, everything that I have to say about The Medics is contained in my paperback book, The Memoirs Of Damage And Vom. Google it. And it wasn’t a wig!
We know that Doctor and the Medics are still performing today, albeit as a revival of themselves and you left the band to join Boys Wonder, what made you move onto a new project (Believe me when I say we are very happy you did)
Yes, I left The Medics in 1990 to join Boys Wonder permanently (I had played a few gigs previously). I too am very happy that I left the Medics when I did; but thanks to Top Of The Pops Two, I can never forget that I was in them......
Boys Wonder had success in itself, appearing on TV and videos albeit for a short time in the late 80’s, can you tell us a little about it.....
Boys Wonder’s big break was being asked to perform live on Saturday Night Live (The Medics were initially asked but couldn’t do it; we shared the same management); I wasn’t in the band at that point. The band had a ‘moment’, darlings of the music press, some great singles, but they never charted and lost direction. Boys Wonder, with me on bass, once supported Doctor And The Medics, with me on bass, at The Forum…which was nice.
After Boys Wonder the massive Corduroy hit us all, can you tell us about its inception, how it all began and how you became signed to Eddie Pillars Acid Jazz label?
We recorded some 4-track demos and a series of rehearsal recordings that we took around a few labels, Acid Jazz was the third on our list of three as their office was on the route home. Ed Piller instantly loved it and put us in the studio the same week. Some of the demos and rehearsal recordings are being released in March 2019 on vinyl to coincide with our spring tour, entitled Rare Stock.
At this time the Acid jazz scene was exploding in the early 90’s with many Mods moving from the Mod scene into it because it was fresh and exciting, can you tell us what it was like in those early days and about some of the places you played and the crowds you played to.
We toured constantly around the UK and Europe; we visited Japan seven times, Australia twice, Singapore and Hong Kong. We met the cast of Neighbours, did a photo session with Barbara Windsor, met Kim Wilde and Betty Boo …and were chased through the streets of Tokyo by screaming fans. Let’s just say - it was good.
During the 90’s you had incredible success with albums Dad Man Cat, High Havoc, Out of Here, The New you and Clik and even recorded a live album in Japan – Quatro, Live in Japan, In your own words can you describe the Corduroy sound and what you encapsulate within it and what it was like to be one of the Biggest Acid Jazz bands on the planet for a decade!
We aspired to being the band in the party scene (there’s always one), of the perfect sixties feature film; a swinging soundscape for go-go girls, groovy hepcats, and sports cars speeding around a mountain pass. Our music is often cartoonish, filmic and fun, it has occasionally flirted with yacht-rock, rare groove and orchestral funk.
Sadly Corduroy came to an end after the band left Acid Jazz and joined Big Cat records in 1999 and you became a session player for Mother Earth, the Freestylers and others, and worked with the Northern soul legend Dean Parrish, you also, later on, found another creative outlet as a writer and skateboard designer, working on more solo projects must have given you more freedom to enjoy different artistic explorations. You did a lot of compositions on Acid Jazz under different Guises and went on to re-launch the Well Suspect record label with Mod compilations and the brilliant Fay Hallam on the label.
Yes to all of the above. I don’t really enjoy doing session work as I’m not a muso as such, I can’t read music, but there are exceptions. Acid Jazz released a retrospective of sixties group, Le Fleur De Lys; there were three different lineups of the band, the only constant being the drummer Kieth Guster, who played in each of the three line-ups at a one-off reunion show at the 100 Club. I played in the later line-up with Sharon Tandy. That was fun.
Ed Piller said that I could release my own tracks on Acid Jazz when he asked me to head his A&R department many years ago, so I did. There are about 30 or so tracks popping up on various AJ comps over the years, always credited to non-existent groups. Some of them are on-line under the one guise of Corduroy Boy.
I re-launched Well Suspect Records in March 2016, which has been a challenge; lots of good stuff including Fay Hallam, some Corduroy, the mighty Dave’s Doors Of Perception and Glen Tilbrook, from Squeeze’s offspring in a band called Millions… plus lots of Mod comps. Fay has a brilliant new album out in April called Propeller.
Bringing us up to date, Corduroy is back on tour and back in the studio. This is great news for lovers of the band and you have a UK tour about to kick off. What is it like to be back with the guys? Have you been working on new material? And what can we expect from the new shows?
Corduroy initially reformed to promote a CD box set on Cherry Red Records. Since then Dad Man Cat, High Havoc and Out Of Here have been reissued on Acid Jazz on coloured vinyl to follow the release of our sixth studio album, released last summer, Return Of The Fabric Four. We are setting out on a spring tour to promote it properly. We will be playing favourite tunes from the first three AJ albums with lots of new records, plus a smattering of the rarities LP, Rare Stock, out around the same time. I’m planning to release some of the 90s post Acid Jazz releases, that are currently on Well Suspect Records, later in the year on vinyl. And we are writing and recording a seventh studio album due for release in early 2020. We are having fun.
One of these fantastic events is with us in March in Brighton, we are very excited about this, as are the people that have bought tickets, being so influenced with the Mod scene and Brighton playing such a big part in Mod history can you tell us if you have played there before and what it was like and how you are feeling about playing there in March.
We haven’t played in Brighton since the nineties, so we are looking forward to the Patterns show in March. we've heard there are a few mods about...
What are the bands plans for the future?
I’ll be doing a radio show on a new digital radio station, Totally Wired Radio, called ‘Richard Searle’s Well Suspect Records’. Starts in March..looking forward to that and more of the above........
Where can our readers read more about Corduroy, buy tickets and info on future releases and events?