At an age when most musicians and recording artists are thinking about either jacking it in, heading on a reunion tour or retiring on their royalties, Mark Ratcliff is just getting warmed up. He’s north of the half century mark, but is just over a decade into a career of making music. The latest EP from Rude Audio is a loose collective centering on Ratcliff and pals Owain Lloyd and Dave Brennan - out now and gaining traction, things are looking up for the group.
“I’d never made music before, I was obsessed with it, and was putting on club nights now and then [throughout the 90s],” says the affable Ratcliff. “And then someone i was introduced to said we should make a record.”
Despite the old Boys Own page updating the old Sniffin Glue “here’s three chords, now form a band” clarion call, it still didn’t seem that easy. “I thought ‘how the hell do we do that?’,” he recalls. “I’d never considered making anything. But the technology was accessible. The whole thing opened up for me then.”
Recording from just over 10 years ago under the Unusual and Electric banner; after a slew of releases with that name, he then formed a loose collective, Rude Audio, with current collaborators Owain Lloyd and Dave Brennan. “I get the feeling that there are some people around, a bit older, a bit like me, driven by interesting new music. We went out clubbing in the 1990s. We’ve now got the money and wherewithal to make music.”
It’s been a slow process, the new five track EP is their fourth release in some seven years, with it also being a slow process of making the music. Ratcliff and one of his partners will spend time in the studio, working up ideas and partially finishing tracks and then, in the weeks and months afterwards, tweaking and honing them to perfection. Brennan and Lloyd look after the more technical aspects, having experience as engineers, Ratcliff’s craft is growing: “We’ll work with each other, with whatever people, going into the studio every 18 months,” he says. “We’ll have three days of turning out stuff. Then we’ll work on it. Someone like Owain will tidy everything up, make it sound posh...The core is me and Owain. We’ve done it enough now, you know when something works, when it sounds good. I get a little bit more involved at the start now. He’ll say you can’t do something, I’ll do it.” Now, however, Ratcliff and co are promising to speed things up a little. “We don’t want to leave it that long, it’s a bit piecemeal. We’re always working on something, got something bubbling along, on the go.”
The reaction to the new EP may change things somewhat – its dub-inflected electronic goodness is earning plaudits in all the right places. Chief among them being Andrew Weatherall, a figure who looms large in the Rude Audio world. “It’s gone down very well,” says Ratcliff. "The key one for me has been Weatherall, he played the last one as well. If he was the only person playing it, that'd be enough for me. He's a really influential tastemaker. Everything else is just gravy.”
Weatherall was a prime motivation for Rude Audio, after Ratcliff became a regular at the early A Love From Outer Space events. “I’ve always loved the slower, chunkier and dubbier thing,” he says, perfectly summing up the Rude Audio sound, which has much in common with the traditional A Love From Outer Space themes. “We were making slower stuff from the off. I didn’t realise Weatherall was doing that stuff at first, I went to Field Day where he was DJing and was listening to it with a mate. At first I thought ‘why’s he playing all these old records?’. And then it clicked. It was new stuff. I got really excited by it. I went to The Drop (the first ALFOS home) and it was a road to Damascus experience. I just thought it was incredible. I love this stuff, it doesn’t feel dated. I talked to Owain, said I want more of this, we should be making stuff like this. It galvanised us. It’s given us a kick up the backside.”
Now, they’re planning to up their game for the months ahead. “We’ve resisted playing live, but we might be going to Oslo to make our debut,” concludes Ratcliff. “We’re going to ratchet it up a bit. We’ll have something new out in the spring too. Were up for turning the ratchet up a little bit. There’s no masterplan or grand vision, but it’s a case of onwards and upwards. Each time we release something we’re reaching more people, each time we feel like we’ve moved up a level.”
Rude Audio’s new EP Rude Redux is out now via bandcamp HERE.