With the sad news of Richenel`s passing, I’m reposting this interview to the top of the blog. Richenel RIP.
Over the last couple of years, Music From Memory have released two E.P.s from the archives of Amsterdam-based artist, Richenel. Signed to CBS / Epic in the mid-80s, Richenel found himself groomed for mainstream success. Performing on the TV and pushed towards the Pop charts. MFM however focussed on Richenel`s earlier material. Born out of the city`s underground, squat culture, and performance art. Musically stripped back, sexually forward, Funk. Unapologetic Raw Soul hewn from bass, guitar and machines. Lewd Electro that draws comparisons to Prince, Laidback`s White Horse, and Klein & MBO. The House of Jamie Principle. Bad Boy horny exclamations, countered by Gospel wails. Seedy, and narcotic. Summoning a world of super freaks, safe words, opiates, and Acid. Post-Punk with b-lines for spines. Raps that comment on a world where televised war looks like a video game, juxtaposed with brain-washing advertising for a white-picket fence consumerism. A million miles from the gear CBS had him doing. His La Differencia sounds like the Purple one sharing sweets with Los Niños Del Parque. The modern electronic body music of Cómeme. Sexual encounters recounted in operatic outbursts. Sung in a language, that for me at least, is impossible to pin down, I thought I heard him mention Ibiza. Figured it`d be rude not to ask.
Are you originally from Amsterdam? Are you still based there?
Yes, I was born in Amsterdam, and I’ve always kept Amsterdam as a homebase. However I’ve lived all over the E.U.
When did you start making music? What inspired you to do so?
I began singing during the late 70’s with a Funk / Rock band called LUXOR, in 1978. There were no plans, or inspiration, at first to become a singer, but a friend, who was the drummer of LUXOR, asked me to stand in for their female singer – who’d left the band suddenly. That’s when I came in and that’s how my career in music took off.
The La Diferencia and Perfect Stranger reissues on Music From Memory are from 1981 / 2. Were these your first recordings?
The Music From Memory records are re-releases of my very first album, La Differencia, which was released on cassette by the FETISJ label. They were the very first recordings I made.
What equipment were you using?
The equipment for as far as I can remember were those first drum-machines TR-808? 909? and Cubase, a TEAC 6-track recorder and some other stuff which I can’t remember?
I can hear elements of Electro, Prince, Rick James, mixed up with Post-Punk things like 23 Skidoo, Maximum Joy. Which artists would have actually influenced these recordings?
The artists that influenced me were Colourbox, Grace Jones, Heaven 17, Fad Gadget, all the music that was around then, Talking Heads, Simple Minds, Eurythmics, etc. Plus a lot of old Soul records, and artists.
Did you play live?
We played live a couple of times, including a broadcast on Dutch national radio. We also opened for KC & Sunshine Band, MAZE & Frankie Beverly, and the Ingram Brothers.
What was the music scene like in Amsterdam at that time? Were there a lot of bands? Were there Bars, clubs, records shops that provided focal points?
The music scene was buzzing then, and yeah there were bars and clubs like “De Koer” – a New Wave club where I DJed, Cafe’ Weltschmerz, and Café Het Bruine Paard.
Who was your Gentle Friend? What are the lyrics of that song about?
My Gentle friend is about my dick, and about doing nasty things!
How about La Diferencia? What the story behind this song? Are you singing in Spanish, or is it Italian? Sorry I`m pretty poor at languages.
La Diferencia is about picking up guys in the disco, taking them home and asking them what they like to do…(Laughs). It’s sung in Spanish, English French and Italian.
You had some interaction with 4AD in the mid-80s – you provided vocals for This Mortal Coil`s Filigree & Shadow LP – how did this collaboration come about?
My collaboration with 4AD began after Ivo Watts Russell had heard my single L’Esclave Endormi – which he decided to remix and release. After that he asked me to participate on the This Mortal Coil sessions.
You seemed to quite quickly achieve mainstream success, singing to majors like Epic and CBS. How did these major deals come about? Did working with the majors and the trappings of fame change the music you were making?
After the release of my debut single things went quite fast. I was discovered, so to speak, by two mainstream producers and the rest is history. They made the hits, and Epic/CBS signed me up. Before I knew what the real consequences would be, it was too late. I had to be commercial and sing hits, all things I detested. I hated all that hit stuff, and middle of the road crap, but I’d signed and there wasn’t anything I could do about it.
I thought I heard you mention Ibiza in the song La Diferencia, and then, when I first contacted you, you were actually on The White Isle. When was the first time you visited Ibiza and what took you there?
The first time I went to Ibiza was 1977, and I loved it immediately. So in 1979, when the KU club opened I was one of their PR drag queens for the VIP terrace. It was my lust for freedom, and for Spain, that brought me there. I stayed in Santa Eularia at first, but later on I went to live in Ibiza town.
Which clubs and bars were you going to? Did you witness the explosion of the Balearic Beat at Amnesia?
The clubs and bars I worked at were Angelo’s, Lola’s, Amfora Gay Disco. I was never such a fan of Amnesia, except, after finishing at KU, I sometimes ended up there. That whole Balearic Beat thing started after I left the island. To be honest, it was part of the reason why I left, in 1985, for ten years. The island became too commercial to my taste, and I never liked Balearic Beats. Those were introduced by the Brits, and they had a different way of enjoying themselves…mainly getting out of their heads drunk.
Who would have been amongst the friends / circle that you socialized with on the island? Were you hanging out with celebrities? The jetset?
I didn’t mingle that much. I had a few close friends, and did hang with the jetset. Without specifying too much – the sons of ambassadors, famous movie directors, heirs of big car companies, big industrialists, royalty, etc.
All this real class was later replaced by the wanna be’s and have nots, to become the Ibiza of the Nouveau Rich – the soccer players, and that kind of entourage – tacky tacky tacky. Money can’t buy you class or dignity believe me!
Did you perform on the island?
Yes of course I performed many times on Ibiza (laughs).
Do you have a piece, or pieces, of music that hold specific memories of Ibiza?
Specific musical memories? Yes, so many and I can’t think right now – hahaha – but La Diferencia is one of them.
When would have been a high point for the Island, for you from a personal perspective, your favourite years, and why?
The highpoint of the island for me was between 1977 and 1985. All that came after was mass consumption! Except for the years 1997 to 1999 when the best House music was being played there.
Do you have a favourite place on the island?
My fave spot on the island is still Las Salinas, which is a nature reserve and can’t be changed, no building, etc. The rest has become globalized and almost the same as everywhere else – highways, too much stinking traffic jams, etc.
How often do you visit the island now?
Ibiza still is my hangout for a couple of weeks each year. It’s where I’ve always been happy.
You can purchase Richenel`s La Differencia and Perfect Stranger E.P.s directly from Music From Memory.
A big Thank You! to Richenel, Phil Mison, and Music From Memory.