Richard Searle is the 1960’s-influenced bass guitarist, who was a member of Dr and the Medics who reached number one in the pop charts. He went on to join Boys Wonder and later on formed Corduroy. He is currently relaunching Well Suspect records along with enjoying his other passion competitive skateboarding. I caught up with Richard at Acid Jazz Records to discuss what’s in store for the label and to talk about his latest compilation “Generation Mod” which compiles new and recent mod-inspired bands. Which include Acid Jazz artists Andy Lewis and Men of North Country, a Jam cover by Private Jones as well as The Moons, and a preview track from a forthcoming Men Of North Country album.
You’ve been in quite a few bands Dr and The Medics, Boys Wonder and Corduroy. Is it safe to say you are inspired by 1960’s music?
Well, the first band I ever liked was the ‘Who’, this was pre-punk. A friend of mine had a record player, and he had two records. He had ‘The Story of the Who’ and the ‘Monty Python’ album. So our summer holidays were spent listening to ‘The Story of the Who’ and ‘Monty Python’ album and that kind of influenced everything. I think I heard The Beatles, other than the Top of the Pops I didn’t really know much music and then punk hit and I got a guitar so I started becoming a musician, inspired by 60’s stuff. At the tail end of mod there was a psychedelic scene and I got into that big time and I still really like that kind of 60’s, psych-thing. The first band I was ever in from school was Dr and the Medics so that took me through ups and downs, I had a book about that, the Memoirs of Damage and Vom. I saw writing as a creative release, as around that time I stopped wanting to make music and I tried doing art. That wasn’t really doing it for me, I skateboard, I get my adrenaline from that as I race. I’ve got a skateboard company which I’m making in china, that’s Searle’s Skateboards. Anyway, so I thought I’d enjoy writing, I think if you are a creative type, you can pretty much do anything that’s creative so I thought I’d try writing, so I got a couple of books out. One is a memoir and I wrote that because people kept asking me about the Medics so I thought I’d just write a book, say everything, it’s in the book. I got better reviews from that book than from any music I’ve ever put out, ever. 9/10 in Classic Rock Ha. Yeah, so anyway, Boy’s Wonder were local to me in Black Heath, but I lived in Elton at the time, that’s were Dr’s Medics came from. My patrol leader was the wacky doctor in the scouts so we used to go to a pub in Greenwich, that was our local place, we used to call it ‘The Rose and Pose’ and there was this other band, punkie band, called Drigen Didge and they became Knives, they became Boy’s Wonder. They had various members, including Grant Jones who stuck with it for quite a while. I used to fill in now and again when they needed a bass player. So I did a couple of marquee gigs, and one at a town and country supporting Hooded Gurus. That was it for a couple of years, I went back to the Medics and then, a guy called Tony Barber who went on to be in The Buzzcocks, he left so they got me in full time so I stuck with it from then on out. But they got dropped, when they asked me to join the band full time, they had just got dropped from Sire, which is not a good time to join a band just when they’ve been dropped. That was it really, because they used to be my favourite band, I didn’t mind joining them but that morphed into Corduroy. We did five albums.
Corduroy were very popular in Japan, did you tour a lot over there?
Seven times! Japan’s great. We once got paid to go to Japan without having to play a note, we got asked to make a TV advert for the record company, and we had a helicopter, and such things. It was fantastic, I loved Japan, it’s the only thing I really miss. It’s like a big shopping centre, selling clothes, which looked like they came out of Sesame street in 1969. And this is when you would salvage Levi’s, you couldn’t get them anywhere else rather than Tokyo. So that was really it, we just used to come back with shopping bags full of clothes.
You formed Wetdog in 2005, is that right?
Yes, so Wet Dog, now there was an East London all-girl band called Wet Dog, which we didn’t know at the time. Wet Dog’s drummer was the drummer of the Dr and the Medics, he was in a big band in Germany and they are like a stadium rock band called Die Toten Hosen. They are not really known here because they only sing in German. So I met Von, and he invited me to his place in Düsseldorf a couple of weeks later, which I went to and he has his own bar in his house and his lodger at the time, a girl called Anna, was in the bar, and now when I say ‘his own bar’, Von was getting free beer deliveries of beer to his bar and every night was a party in his bar which is called the Drumming Monkey. Now he is allergic to beer. So that night, the first time I went down there, he just ordered a small drum kit for his son who was at that time seven. So he’s got this microscopic, tiny little, perfectly operational, primary drum kit. We decided to mic it up and record a track on Cubase, the next morning, which we did as hungover as anything and that became a track called ‘Devil in Me’ which I put out on Acid Jazz. It’s sounds hungover, it’s sounds manic and it was but I hadn’t seen him in ages, I’d go out there once a month and we would record another track so over the course of a year, track a month, we did 12 tracks, that’s the album Perfect Crime. Now it’s low-fi because it is recorded pretty much in his storage cupboard and it was recorded on Cubase, a mix of my Cubase set up at the time, which was like Windows 98, very low-fi. One of the tracks, I made a little video for called Polish Girls, the singer, Anna, she was polish and that went viral and got taken down from YouTube for having obscene content!
Can you tell me a bit about Bohemian Underground Movement?
That name came about, when I was staying at a friend’s place, a bunch of us down in Cornwall in a cottage, we kind of climbed on some cliffs on this private beach with its perfect sand and we just ran down the cliff and wrote BUM on the sand to annoy the local, private people and I took a photo and on the way back, there was (as there are everywhere in Cornwall) a place selling Cornish pastries. And one of my friend’s kids was scared of the man in the pastry shop so I got everyone who was with us to phone up my answer phone at home and leave a message singing the line ‘I’m afraid of the man in the pastry shop’. I said this will be by the band BUM. So I chopped it all up, all those answer phone messages, turned it into a song called it ‘I’m afraid of the man in the pastry shop’ by a band called core members of the Bohemian Underground Movement which is what I decided that BUM stood for and that’s on a compilation called the New Testament of Fog. So BUM is one of these, because I didn’t have a band, I started up a fictional organisation, so everything I ever did, other than Wetdog, would have a different name. Just so no one knew it was me, until I declared ‘Oh yeah, I’m the Bohemian Underground Movement’. Now no one at Acid Jazz knew I was doing this until some statements come in, which were the mechanical copyright and it shows who the writers are and they digged through this list and Richard Searle, Richard Searle, Richard Searle, so that’s what they sussed I was doing it. I mean I must have had about 15 tracks out by this point. So anything that came out after that, anything that was a bit avant-garde, they just assumed it was me, because I was trying to see what I could get away with. There was one track under the name of nut, lower case n, u, t and the song is called ‘The Beetle makes noise on wet grass’, which is translated from polish. A polish friend spoke into a microphone and I just put that over the maddest music I could make. Stuck them on a comp. For Well Suspect back to the psych thing. This local kind of Hackney thing, the last two bands I’ve seen, were Backward Telegram, which were fantastic, they got a sound I follow, which is great and an all-girls psych band, male drummer notwithstanding, whose keyboard player is the sister of one of the Hovers I think. They are blinding, they’ve got a song called ‘Land Gone’. There’s a psych club in Hackney, I won’t mention the name of it because I don’t want anyone else to nick my idea, but they all circle around this place, they don’t realise they are on the psych scene. So I’m hoping I can get the people who run that club to comply me a psych album, with all these bands they don’t know they are psych. But that’s really where my heart is. Any psych bands who are young, there is a difference between a middle-aged mod-bands and the young ones. The young ones don’t’ realise they are psych. It was my generation, remember the psych revival, I got all this influence to draw upon and you can usually tell just by listening to the music. Where’s the young bands, are just doing something that sounds fresh to me.
What bands stand out for you now?
Well, my bible used to be ‘Nuggets’, everything on that first ‘Nuggets’ to me was genius and some of the bands at the moment are still following that formula. That formula was American bands, playing in their garage trying to mimic the sound of the Rolling Stones playing ‘Get Off my Cloud’ and any band doing that, to me sounds genius. And there’s, I mean, there’s the whole pebble series, the whole Nuggets series of everyone trying to do that. Just trying to be as good as the Rolling Stones in Get Off My Cloud. Then that continued on to the 80’s with bands like The Fuzztones who are still going. I live in South London and one of my favourite psych bands down there, they don’t even know they are psych, are called ‘Dave’s Doors of Perception’. And I’ve seen a few, there is a Hackney, Shoreditch scene and they are all playing that garage, psych-thing. They don’t call themselves psych-bands but that’s what they are into. Dave’s Door of Perception don’t look as glam because they are not Shoreditch hipstery, but their songs are just genius. They are just really solid, strong, authentic, trying-to-copy-the-Stones-doing-it at Get Off my Cloud. So I’m putting one of their tracks out on a compilation called ‘Generation Mod’ and I intend to put out on every compilation I do, one of their tracks, to try and build up their status a little bit.
Do you want to tell me a bit more about that, about ‘Generation Mod’?
I worked at Acid Jazz for 12 years. Acid jazz is separating into a different world now and I’m not going with it. Ed Piller suggested that I spark-up one of his old pre-Acid Jazz labels, he had a couple and I picked ‘Well Suspect’ because I think the name is better than ‘Re-elect the President’, which was the other one. So I’m doing that. On the Acid Jazz label, I had a compilation, a generic-mod album, called ‘Generation Mod’, with everything on Acid Jazz that was moddy.So I thought we’d start with that, so I sacked a lot of the Acid Jazz stuff, put out a Tweet on my brand-new, Well Suspect Twitter account, looking for tracks, anything vaguely 60’s, or punky, or psych or garage whatever and I got inundated, it took down my tiny, little Well Suspect.com server, within the space of two days. I’m still shifting through it, but I managed to fill up the ‘Generation Mod’ compilation within the space of a week, with what I thought was really exciting stuff. Samuel S Parkes, Dave’s Doors of Perception, a few other bands which had been on the scene which I’ve known about but I haven’t had the chance to put out, all that i like, French Boutik. There is a local band to me called The Get-Go, a bit harder edge rock. So that’s going to be the first physical release and I’ve got a single coming out off of that with one of the acts on it for record store day and that’s a cover version of a Jam track. Now the track is called ‘Private Jones’, he was the producer of a band called ‘Lord Large’, I did a song with the Parish called ‘Left, Right or Centre’ and it’s a Jam song from the first album ‘In the City’. So ‘In the City’, is the ‘Punk Album’, quote-on-quote, but I actually wrote a soul tune without realising it, ‘I got by in time’ so Private Jones have re-think it as a straight, soul tune and it’s proven to be really popular.
When is the release day for that?
Well, record-store day is the 16th of April, the compilation ‘Generation Mod’ comes out a week later. Then, there’s part of the old ‘Well Suspect’ catalogue, I did a compilation, why it’s called this, I have no idea, we call it the ‘Beat Generation and the Angry Young Men’. So the Beat Generation and the Angry Young Men was a book, a book of beat essays. They literally ripped off the book cover for this record cover and it was like a little mod-revival band record. Mod Vinyl bands weren’t really angry, they were young, but they certainly weren’t beat. It’s been put out by a few people since, but I kind of revisited that. I found a band in Italy from around the same period who kind of went under the radar, they are called The Mads and they came out with a lot of, still from that same Twitter Tweet looking for stuff. That and a lot, whole albums worth of really good, solid, of what we’d now call Mod-revival but it’s just R’n’B I guess. So I morphed that into the original Well Suspect Comp and I’m calling it ‘The Beat Generation and the Angry Young Men Deluxe Edition’. So that’s my next one after Generations Mod. And then the one I’m really looking forward to it’s called Dirty Mod which, because I want to go harder edge, I want to follow the psych thing. So this is in-between what you probably understand as the ‘Mod Scene’ at the moment, bit more soul-y, Indy and then there’s the garage-psych thing. Somewhere in between, there is this really hard-edge garage rock bands, I’m really into that. So I’m doing an album of that as well and that’s almost finished and I’m looking forward to that, big time, I’ve got a single coming off it this year.
Do you think you can make a living out of been a musician these days?
It depends what you are doing it for, I guess. I know a lot of people getting into music now having done a degree in Media Studies and I don’t think they will become particularly happy musicians. You gotta really want to do it and do nothing else. All the money I made, I was in a band that got to number one in many countries, I’ve got a silver disk for 350’000 records on Vinyl for a single on my wall, now we make 500 Vinyl. That’s how it shrank. I got no money, anything I made was taken by the name revenue. So when you are 16, 17 and you don’t want to do anything else, nothing else, that’ the best time to do it. The older you get, the more uncomfortable it gets siting in the back of a transit.
Richard Searle to Rachel Brown at Acid Jazz Records