December 2012

 

This months exclusive interview is with the multitalented Rich Mowatt who has several times delivered some truly stunning remixes of a Human League tune as he's been responsible for new versions of both Stay With Me Tonight in 1996  and Things That Dreams Are Made Of in 2007. So I got in contact with him to learn more about his work, which turns out to involve just about all aspects of the music industry.

Interview by Niels Kolling, images by Rich Mowatt

First a little background. How did you become involved in the music business to end up as a highly respected producer, DJ, remixer and artists?

 

In the early days I was in an Indie-Dance band called Emission, we were a bit like EMF or The Shamen with thrash guitars. Then I became a body-piercer, it was through some of my piercing clients that I started going to gay clubs where I discovered trance music, then I was hooked. The record labels and DJ-ing followed later.

 

I've been a pro-musician now for 16 years.
 


What was your prior knowledge of the bands history before remixing them? Would you label yourself a fan?

 

Of course, I grew up with the band, my sister had a copy of 'Dare', still a great album. One thing I liked about Martin Rushent's production was that it was so precise, not sloppy like many early electronic bands. They used drum machines rather than compromising with a 'real' drum kit to appeal to the rock scene which was a real bane on the electronic music scene in the 80's.

 

I loved the Pet Shop Boys too, Erasure, Depeche Mode, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and bands like that.

How did it come about that you were hired to remix 1996 single Stay With Me Tonight as part of Space Kitten with Sam Tierney and Andy Bury?

 

As 'Space Kittens' we formed a relationship with East West via Paul Oakenfold, we remixed Jimmy Sommerville 'By Your Side' previously - I think it was simply a case of them offering us the job.
 

Your vocal remix is such an epic affair. 8.35 minutes of pure electronic bliss as you've build it up so well you don't even notice the number of minutes. I especially love the way it breaks down halfway through and builds up again. So what were your ambitions with this mix?

 

That was a long time ago - I have no memories at all of working on the vocal mix, other than that we kept running out of polyphony on the sampler! There were 3 of us working in Sam's bedroom at his Dad's house, empty Budweiser bottles, Burger King wrappers & ripped Rizla packets all over the place - it was such a tip.

 

I do remember that it was summer and we were all roasting hot.
 

You also did a brilliant dub mix that is even longer as it clocks in at 9 minutes plus. It's more aggressive in sound than the vocal mix, so what was the idea behind that version?

 

That one came about when we time-stretched a section of the girl's backing vocals, and they sounded very spooky, it suggested a darker approach - I think we just did it for the pleasure, we weren't asked to do it. That 'Future Dub' is probably one of my favorite mixes from that period. It's very 'early Goa-trance' sounding actually. The bells are cool too.

Did you make any more remixes that didnít make it to the final release of the single?

 

No, just the two.
 

 

Listening to the mixes 16 years after it was released, anything you would have done differently?

 

Nope.... It is what it is, I never listen to old productions and want to change anything,

 

I'm usually 100% happy with tracks before they get signed off. Of course, production qualities have improved in leaps & bounds, but I think that although they sound very 'of the time', those old Human League remixes are still listenable. That's the thing with contemporary dance music - it ages very quickly.

 

In 2007 you did a fantastic remix of Things That Dreams Are Made Of for the Hooj Choons single release under the alias Richard Stone. How did that come about?

 

A peculiar one - I knew Hooj Choons had a release plan for it, I didn't think it could work as a Trance remix, but Jerry from the label asked me on a whim to try and do a big-room electro house remix.

 

I'd never ever done anything along those lines, but figured it might be fun, and I had a great time doing that one - the huge chorus and stabbing chords, the wobbly synth riff etc, it just sounds phat.
 

It was an awesome collection of remixes, but your version topped them all. Just love the way you've stayed loyal to the original version but added such a powerful production with the heavy beat, thumping bass and robotic voices. So how was your approach to remix this classic?

 

Cheers! Well, when I remix anything I always try to stay true to the Original version - retaining the integrity of the song structure etc, just giving the production a modern twist.
 

Sounds brilliant the way the female vocals have a more prominent position in the mix, but are they the manipulated voices of Joanne and Susan or a re-recording?

 

Yeah I did vocode them - I love the sound of Joanna & Susan - they had a sort of robotic heavily chorused sound to them on early League releases, I tried to recreate that and bring them to the front.

 

The girls have always got a lot of stick for having 'less than classically trained sounding' vocals (to put it mildly) - but that, to me, is the beauty of their backing vocal style. It works perfectly, and compliments Phil's lead incredibly well.
 

You also did a really cool dub mix, so what did you want to achieve with this version?

 

Well - Dub mixes exist purely for Djs who don't want to play vocal tracks, they are more of a groove, something for longer darker sets.
 

 

You delivered in total 3 remixes as there's also a great radio version, but did you make more than these 3 mixes?

 

No, just the 3 mixes that got released.
 

What kind of gear did you use for remixing back in 1996? And how is your set up these days? Is it all virtual synths for you or do you like to "fiddle with the knobs" from time to time?

 

It was all analogue gear of course, samplers, synths etc. We had our studio stolen many years ago and I never bothered to replace all that old gear. I still use a bit of outboard gear, but there's no need to any more, virtual instruments

are all you need really these days, apart from of course when I'm performing live.

If you could pick any Human league song, which one would you like the most to remix?
 

Hmm possibly (Keep Feeling) Fascination, the lead synth riff in that is just incredible, the way it goes out of tune is what I like the best! But I don't think I would do any more League remixes now.
 

First new album in 10 years Credo was released in March 2011 by Mark Jones Wall Of Sound label, have you had a chance to listen to it?

 

I havenít heard it...
 

 

You are both remixer and producer in your own right. Could you see yourself producing the next Human League album? And how would you want them to sound?

 

That would be interesting. I think I would do something simple, fusing interesting modern sounds & production techniques with lush string arrangements. It would be more about the songs really, developing them and making them as strong as possible.

 

It would not be about recapturing the past, that's for sure - more moving it forward. The songs come first, the production second. It wouldn't be Trance angled at all. Actually it would be interesting to bring it other producers too and get some different slants on things.

Out of the bands vast back catalogue, can you name your favourite Human League album, single and song?

 

Dare, (Keep Feeling)Fascination, Empire State Human.


The band has admitted not being great live in the 80s, but has evolved into an amazing live band through the last 10 years and put on a really good show. Have you experienced a Human League concert? And if you have, when was it and what was your impression?
 

No, I'm not a big live gig fan with electronic bands, I prefer the accuracy of the recordings. If I go to a live gig it tends to be more traditional or classical. I did see the Pet Shop Boys which was obviously brilliantly produced, but I never had an urge to see any other electronic bands live.
 

Philip Oakey is famed for collection old synths, do you have any favourite synth or other equipment yourself?

 

Not really, I see my instruments as tools rather than getting all soppy over them! I was very attached to my baby grand piano but it had to go when I moved into a smaller house. My guitars mean quite a lot especially my acoustic which was a gift from my Wife.

 

When all my gear was stolen many years ago I guess I put that behind me. Maybe one day I will get back into analogue synths, but I find the convenience and accuracy of digital instruments much more suitable to the way I work. I don't want to fuck about with CV Gates and crackling and popping and things going out of tune when they are hot - thank you very much.
 

The band has some very loyal and dedicated fans that try to get to as many shows as possible on a tour. Have you had the same passion for a particular band? You know, following them around the country, sleeping on train stations as you wait for the first train home?

 

God no. No way! I'm no fan-boy.
 

 

Space Kittens broke up in the late 90s and you've since worked under the name Solarstone, which seems to branch out into so many different projects like recording music, producing, DJ'ing, remixing, radioshows and as a label. So can you tell us a bit more about what it is you want to achieve under this moniker?

 

Solarstone is what I'm all about, it's my whole life really, the releases, DJ-ing, my radio show Solaris International, my labels Solaris, Molecule, Touchstone, Solarswarm etc. I'm a music lover, the only thing I really enjoy is creating or sharing music with people, be it by writing and producing or djing in clubs, or presenting the radio show.

 

I don't know if I actually want to 'achieve' anything - it's more a case of wanting to express myself in an artistic way. I get a huge buzz from making and sharing music with others. When you touch someone's life in a meaningful way with your music it's a very intense thing, it's very personal and rewarding.

 

As mentioned above you master so many parts of the music industry; DJíing, remixing, producing as well as being an artist. So which part is your favourite?

 

Music production is what I live for, whether alone or most recently in my new band Federation, creating something new and getting that 'buzz' in the studio is unbeatable.
 

As youíve been in the industry quite a few years now, how do you look at the changes the technological evolution has made in the music business since you started out?

 

It's much easier now to produce something average, hence why the scene is saturated with average-at-best dross.

 

It means that I have to keep raising the bar for myself in terms of what I release. There's nothing worse than an 'ok' record. I would rather get something that is complete rubbish than something which is average. It's easy to create something with immaculate production but no soul these days.

 

Back in the day it cost money to release a record, so labels would only invest in music that they figured had some sort of validity or quality to it - these days it costs little to write, produce and release music, so many labels will release any old shit - they throw it at the wall and hope that it sticks. My approach is the opposite of that. If I don't find it beautiful in some way, it gets binned.
 

You seem like a very busy man, so what are the future plans for Rich Mowatt?

My 'Pure Trance' concept is taking up all my time at the moment - we're doing a series of live events in 2013 around the world. Also there is Electronic Architecture 3 in the pipeline, plus a Federation album, and of course the next Solarstone album which I have just started writing. It's all good.

You can listen to the Space Kittens Future Dub of Stay With Me Tonight here and the Richard Stone Club Mix of Things That Dreams Are Made Of here.

 

To learn more about Richs career and future projects, please check out the below links;

 

http://www.solarstone.co.uk/

 

http://www.puretrance.com/news/

 

http://www.discogs.com/artist/Rich+Mowatt