Richard Sen – THE RANSOM NOTE MIX
London graffiti artist Richard Sen began Djing in 1989 with a residency at the legendary Crazy Club at The Astoria. Ecstacy, Acid House and frequent trips to New York, visiting his heroes at Nu Groove and Strictly Rhythm and searching for Chicago obscurities gave Richard the house music bug.
As well as solo projects, Richard now records with partner Neil Beatnik under the name Padded Cell who released their debut album 'Night Must Fall' on the legendary cult label DC Recordings. Sen's remix and production work alongside Padded Cell and Bronx Dogs have included respected artists and labels such as: Bryan Ferry, LCD Soundsystem, Saint Etienne, Sugarhill Gang, Black Devil Disco Club and countless seminal labels. Padded Cell's 'Signal Failure' single was also chosen by Francois Kevorkian to be used in the biggest selling video game of all time. Grand Theft Auto 4.
He's also delivered a cracker of Ransom Note mix this week in the form of Chicago, Detroit, London from the years of 86-88.
Let's get that on then have a chat with Rich…
To those living under a rock, who are you and what do you do?
I'm surrounded and immersed in music: I play music (been DJing for a long time), make music (under my own name, Padded Cell and formerly Bronx Dogs) and buy and sell music (I'm a buyer at Music and Video Exchange). I've recently released a couple of singles on Emotional Especial and have also released a compilation of early UK house on Strut.
Recently, we’ve seen or should we say heard you back producing under your own moniker again. What’s the reason for this?
No particular reason other than I have more time to do stuff on my own these days. I've learned how to get production to a reasonable standard and I'm able to do it at home too. Previously, I was always working with a partner or engineer.
You’ve also been producing with Scott Fraser too. Tell us about your relationship with Scott and the Scrutton St massive.
I've known Scott since the nineties when he was producing as Bios for Sabres + Emissions. A few years ago I moved further East and by chance Scott was living round the corner. We're neighbours now and the relationship just blossomed from there! We're both into the same kind of music so play each other records etc.
Talk us through the mix you’ve done for us. Obviously you put together This Ain’t Chicago compilation a few years back but why are the years of 86-88 so important for electronic music in your eyes ears.
I did this mix years ago but it still sounds great now because it's quite rough and raw. I think these were the lesser known Chicago, Detroit and the odd UK house and techno tracks – B sides, obscurities with a few well known ones thrown in. I guess 86-88 were the formative years for house music and bring back memories. The lack of production and naivety in some of the music is part of its charm too.
Did graffiti form part of these formative years for you? How did house music and graffiti collide for you.
Yes, I hated the whole house thing when it first arrived. I was into Hip Hop and Breaks (mainly Zulu Nation tapes of Bam + Jazzy Jay cutting up everything from funk and disco to newave and rock) when I was doing graff. We'd go out to the home counties to nick paint and come across record shops where you could nick records as well. I started getting the big house tracks of the time and gradually started liking house music. We graffiti writers used to go to warehouse parties at the time where they'd play a mixture of Rare Groove, Hip Hop and House. In 1988 my mate went to Clink St RIP and then came back and converted me properly on acid and I gave up graff.
How would you best describe the differences between the two art forms of music and graffiti?
Well… you don't risk your life and freedom doing music! Graffiti (illegal train writing) is a very pure form of art. There aren't many art forms where you risk death by electrocution or being arrested and imprisoned for absolutely no financial gain. I try to carry a bit of that attitude with me with my music, although not as extreme any more! Music allows autonomy and a way to live outside the system in a similar way to graffiti.
You’re releasing on Stuart Leath’s excellent Emotional Especial. How did you two meet and tell us about your relationship with the label.
I can't remember how we met but he asked me to release something on his label and we're coming up to my third release now. They do vinyl with artwork and it seems to get noticed in all the main shops etc.
You were resident at Mr Weatherall's Haywire Sessions way back when. How has your sound evolved in those years, do you find yourself digging out these records at any stage these days?
I don't think I was resident but I was on the Haywire roster and played at the Sessions a few times. Back then I was playing techno, electro, tech house and deep house. Some of the things like Anthony Rother or Underground Resistance still sound great now and I'd still play them. I have mellowed slightly though and my sets are probably slower in bpms and feature more disco influenced music as well as deep house and more melodic techno.
With the advent of the internet, is there any true underground subculture left?
I have no idea, you need to ask some 18 year old, I'm too old! I'd like to think so. I think the rave thing (meaning going out raving to warehouse parties on drugs) is still an underground subculture, even though it has been well documented. The UK has a strong history of getting caned and going raving (my grandmother used to pop pills and go to dances). As mainstream society has become more materialistic, more conservative and more individualistic, there is a greater need for some kind of psychedelic gathering of like minded souls. I might be wrong but it seems like the whole warehouse party scene is big again with a new generation, in London anyway.
Is working in a record shop still a discovery and do you spend more money in physical record shops than you do on Discogs?
There are still weird and obscure records coming into the shops if you look hard enough. I tend to spend more money on new releases and then the odd killer on Discogs every now and then.
Is Discogs killing the record shop?
Yes, for dance music for sure. There are far fewer people bringing in good collections to the shop any more because they can get a lot more selling on Discogs. We have a whole generation who are buying records which aren't very rare, just because they are expensive on Discogs. It's created this stocks and shares mentality of buying and selling according to what is flavour of the month. Something may be £50 on Discogs one week and £10 a few months later. However, we now have to check everything on Discogs in order not to price it too cheaply, when before we had to use our knowledge! The famous Oscar Wilde quote springs to mind: "nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing".
How did Padded Cell find their way onto Grand Theft Auto 4?
I'm not sure but I think that Francois Kervorkian chose the music for the Electro radio station in the game and chose Signal Failure for it. I've still never played GTA.
Do you still produce with Neil as Padded Cell?
Yes, it just takes a long time to finish anything. We used to have a studio which we don't have any longer and we're both busy doing other things so it's taking a while to get together and finish a project.
How are the productions with Cazbee coming on. Are you still making records together?
Cazbee and I have just done re-edits so far. We've got an endless supply of music that needs chopping up. Hopefully we should have a new Mixed Blood Cuts release out soon and maybe even some original music.
Whatever happened to our beloved DC Recordings?
DC Recordings was one of the greatest UK labels of the 90s + 2000s. They had a strong style and identity and a high level of quality control. It was a real shame that it stopped. I think James who ran it wanted to move on to other things, he had been running it for a long time and I'm not sure if they could find anyone to replace him. There are rumours that Jonathan (Depth Charge) may be starting it again but who knows…
What do you consider to be your finest musical achievement?
I don't think I've done enough yet and still trying… My remix for Bryan Ferry makes me proud and it's something for my Mum to tell everybody. All of our Padded Cell stuff was unique and I think will stand the test of time. Tribute To Jazzy Jay was also very special as it was the first record I ever made (with Paul as Bronx Dogs).
Where was the mix recorded?
Just at home with 2 x Technics 1210 turntables.
What would be the ideal setting to listen to the mix?
A night drive through an industrial city and wasteland. Failing that, at home with a good sound-system and good drugs. Definitely not on computer speakers!
What were the first and last records you bought?
The first records I think were two seven inches from Boots (yeah, you could buy records in Boots back then!). They were Father Abraham + The Smurfs and also Jilted John (Gordon Is A Moron), what a bizarre combination! The last record I bought was the Maurice Fulton remix of DJ Nori on Running Back.
One record from the whole history of time you wished you’d made.
This question is too hard to answer!
What’s your favourite recorded mix of all time?
The Ron Hardy sets recorded live at the Muzic Box. Also, the Zulu Nation tapes – recordings of live jams from the Bronx from the late 70s/early 80s with Bambaataa, Jazzy Jay, Theodore, Cold Crush etc. They both capture a piece of history – the birth of house and the birth of hip-hop.
You've had a pretty illustrious career, of all the people you've shared the stage with who has impressed you the most?
90% of DJs aren't very impressive! The three who inspired and influenced me were Andrew Weatherall, 'Evil' Eddie Richards and DJ Harvey. They were at the top of their game in the late 80s and still are. My friend Cazbee is also my favourite DJ, he surprises me with the music he's found. I'd rather go round to his yard and listen to him play for 12 hours than go to any club. They all still constantly impress me and remain cutting edge with a certain rebellious attitude.
Anything else you’d like to discuss but we haven’t covered above?
Some shameless self promotion – I have a new single, Songs Of Pressure available on white label in a few weeks (full release in September). It features a remix by The Asphodells which has been described as Throbbing Gristle meets African Head Charge, which is a perfect description. Also my remixes of Salvatore Stallone (one of Italy's greatest DJs), and Jeffrey Brodski will be out soon.
Joining The Circus
What to do for British politics?
Solidarity with Ukraine
URL vs. IRL
Do DJs Today Need Social Media to Be Heard?
I Hear (Borusiade Remix)
Mother of MarsShop Now
Hologram TeenShop Now