However much you try and probe Rico about his personal life it always comes back to the music. When we phone Rico at his home in Glasgow he's just woken after spending the night producing one of the local bands that are set to appear on his forthcoming compilation album. Immediately after we finish the interview he's back in the studio to produce another Glaswegian band. It seems strange to think that for a year after he left his former label EMI:Chrysalis he didn't even feel like making music again. Designer Magazine found out about how he overcame the fall out of the major label syndrome, recorded an album which includes collaborations with Tricky and Gary Numan and is set to return to music on his own terms.
Q: You're from Paisley, near Glasgow. The only band
I can think of from Paisley is one of Simon Cowell's acts called Mero.
A: You know who else is from Paisley? Strawberry Switchblade. That's about Paisley lot.
Q: We've been looking on your message board and there's
so many people that have heard your music, but don't know a damn thing
about you. Who is Rico? What have you been up to over the last few years?
A: I had an album out late 1999 on EMI Chrysalis. It was well received in the press, but it tended to end up more in the rock press which at the time wasn't particularly happening. There wasn't any airplay, Radio 1 wouldn't cover anything that was a little bit heavier. We did a lot of touring off the album and spent about 2 years actually just touring the UK and round Europe.
Then the usual major label story by where the personnel change at the label and then it just bit by bit starts falling apart. We kinda came to an agreement to walk because technically with the deal they had to do the second album with me, but we were just at the point where relations weren't very good and I didn't really want to force someone to be involved in a record that they didn't really want to be.
Of the back of that I set up my own studio in Glasgow
primarily to work on the album, but also work with quite a few local artists
and also a few production jobs for European stuff. And that kind of brings
us up to this album really - finally getting it together now and getting
it out. I suppose most of the works been done over the past couple of years.
It was a bit of bizarre time coming out of the deal and the way it kind
of leaves you feeling and i'd set this studio up to move on with the 2nd
album right away and you suddenly find that the rugs been pulled from under
you. It was a hard time for about a year or so just to get my head round
it. I just didn't feel like doing music any more.
Q: I guess doing it on your label you've got that freedom.
When I think of EMI:Chrysalis now it's Starsailor and Robbie Williams.
You can't see Rico in that set can you.
A: This is the thing. What happened was that it was Chrysalis I signed to and at the time they were trying to set Chrysalis up as an alternative label, but EMI decided to merge the two companies and as opposed to EMI taking over Chrysalis the people from Chrysalis took over EMI. Then the whole ethos changed because now it was like this now isn't about developing artists, it's about selling f**k loads of records. A lot of people left the company because they'd been working with artists like myself and half a dozen or so alternative acts and we were working in mind towards where the 2nd and 3rd album was going. When they ended up in the EMI scenario they ended up working Cliff Richard records. It was quite a bizarre thing, but it's not an uncommon story.
Q: So you got out of Paisley and set the studio up
in your garage in Glasgow
A: To be honest that was quite an upheaval as well. When I started out doing this, working out your garage. I did a bit of recording for other people, but you just doing away and you've got no responsibilities. And then you move into a whole new world where you have a record out and there's pressures that are put upon you in terms of you know there's a label watching all the sales all the time. It wasn't really what the first album was supposed to be about, but because the press was really good the labels expectations rose on what they wanted back out of the record. And then setting up a studio in Glasgow i've got responsibilities and bills to pay and it just gets a lot more difficult. What's been difficult is making yourself self sufficient so you don't have to rely on outside labels or outside finances.
Q: Just the real DIY ethic where as long as you have
enough money to get by and release records
A: Yeah, that's cool for me. Obviously i'd love for the album to sell shit loads of copies and make loads of money, but I can't sit down and try to create for that as a way forward. I do other things to subsidize it, like production work. But even the production work, the studio's not really open house. It's bands that i've seen and that I like and think I can do a job on.
Q: Have you always tried to mix up the electronica
with the rock elements? How does it work live now?
A: When I set up doing stuff on my own I was in and out of a lot of bands around Paisley and Glasgow. I grew out of it and stopped doing music for about 6 months. I basically got sick of too many people pulling at an idea and there wasn't really a driving force in it and the ideas become diluted. Everyone wants their own way and you end up with a nothing-y type thing out of it.
Live, the way it works is i've got a drummer called Rick
Chandler who's a bit of an Octopus really. I didn't want to run the technology
like a backing track because I feel that dictates how the band works -
the technology ends up in control. So we've set up this way of working
where that he's got 10 trigger pads built round his kit and we've got samples
on them that's he's triggering off live. We go out as bass, guitar, drums
and samples. The keyboard and bass player do some of the samples as well
and it allows us to keep it totally live. You hope that each show will
end up unique at the end of the day cos it's not just about replicating
Q: When I listen to the album i'm hearing touches of
Gary Numan and even the Digital Hardcore stuff coming through. Is that
a fair description?
A: My influences are very varied. I grew up on a stable diet of The Cure. Matt Johnson was a huge influence to me with a lot of the The The stuff. Public Enemy. At the moment i'm listening to the Four Tet album, i absolutely adore it. One of the problems is that people find my stuff difficult to market in one particular genre. But f**k it - it's about making what you make and enjoying it.
Q: A few people have said on your message board that
now you're around Gary Numan might as well give up?
A: I don't know about that. The thing is Gary Numan has one of the most loyal hardcore fanbase's of all time. The industry generally snub him yet he still goes out. He'll put on a gig on in Manchester for example, do absolutely no promotion for it, just put it up on his website and he'll sell 3500 tickets in a week. As much as it looks like the industry's snubbed him, I think he's just snubbed them. I think that's a fantastic position to be in. There's no one putting any form of pressure or control on him. He'll do a record when he wants to do a record and he'll gig when he wants to gig and it's very much in house. I think that's the way forward, i'd love to be in that position.
Q: On this record there's another collaboration with
Tricky on "Recommended Dose". You've done a lot of collaboration work with
him previously. I guess you guys go way back
A: I was totally sick of working with people from a bands point of view where you've got the drummer wanting the drum turned up and all that bullshit. But when it's people that you know and respect i'm well up for collaborations. Sometimes you can get a bit lost in it all yourself and it's nice to to have another view.
I've always loved Tricky and I actually think he's the best live artist in the country. I've seen him quite a few times and it's not about the replication of tracks. It's about the energy that comes off him. What happened was that he was playing up in Glasgow and I got talking to him. In fact his uncle, who is always with him, stopped and asked me for a light and I turned round and it was Tricky standing beside him. So I got talking to him, sent him demos down off the album he was like lets do something. That was at the time when I had absolutely nothing going on, no deal no backing, and I liked the fact that he couldn't give a shit about that.
That track has been quite altered, remixed and moved on
since I worked with him. We basically spent a weekend working on
the stuff and we did 3 Track EP in 2 days so it was a little rough around
the edges. One of the ex-guitarists from the band Therapy is a guitarist
and cello player and he came and did the strings on it. I think the version
that's on the record is actually the 3rd version of it or something.
Q: The Scottish scene at the moment is known for Franz
Ferdinand and Dogs Die In Hot Cars?
A: Glasgow's got a reputation and it goes back to stuff like Orange Juice and The Bluebells and it's a bit more jangly. I think its difficult. There are a lot of good alternative different sounding bands up here, but they just don't get the recognition for it. I also feel that they don't get the Scottish Industry backing of it from the Arts Council. Bands are getting grants up here, but a lot of time I just feel its going to all the wrong people. It's almost like they know what Teenage Fanclub and Astrid do works so they feel they should go that way, but it's like well know you're an Arts Council. They should be looking at what could be a new generation of different sounding stuff.
Q: Finally, you're planning to release a compilation
album of some of the bands you've been producing up in Glasgow. Tell us
about the label? Is it a similar ethos to Digital Hardcore where each band
has a similar sound or is it totally disparate?
A: I think there is a vibe. It's all people that know each other who have spent a good bit of time together in the pub and studios. Everyone has got a connection, but they don't sound like each other. One of the guys i'm working with sounds quite driving electronic, a bit Primal Scream like, and he rants this stuff over the top of it. I also have this other band, I hate comparing people but they have this Pixies versus the Eels vibe about them. It's just two guys who have been working a couple of days a week for the last year and some of the stuff they're starting to come out with now is brilliant.
I just think it would be nice that if that album starts moving that there's an audience there that would be interested in hearing this. It's a platform for these guys to move on. I'm not trying to do it as a label where we take these artists on and we own them. They come in and do the record and the only deal that is involved is that if they move on and do well from it, the next compilation we do they come back and do an exclusive track for it.
"Violent Silences" is out now
Rico plays In The City in Manchester on Sept 20th
For more info
Post your Rico reviews / comments on the Message Board