In the early 1990s, something unusual happened and something that has not happened since; two small independent British record labels were formed that defined the entire decade musically. On one side driving the Britpop era was Alan McGee’s Creation Records and on the other, Eddie Piller’s Acid Jazz which flew the flag for eclectic soul and funk. Part of that Acid Jazz roster was a band which may have had modest chart success, but retained a loyal fan base and critical acclaim for every album and single they released. NUTs caught up with frontman Richard Searle to talk about Corduroy and their forthcoming headline appearance at Le Beat Bespoke 12.
01. When did you get Corduroy back together and why?
We reformed in 2013 to promote a Corduroy CD box-set released by Cherry Red Records, featuring 3 of our 5 studio albums plus a Japanese live album; plus a previously unreleased live album via Acid Jazz Records.
02. When did you first become interested in music?
We didn’t have a record player when I was a primary school kid. I grew up during Glam, (Slade, Sweet, T-Rex); but my oldest friend, who lived down my street (Elibank Rd), had a record player and his brother had two Who albums; so The Who were formative, and are still my favourite band.
03. Do you regard yourself as a mod? How did you get into it?
I bought punk records from 77 onwards, The Stranglers, The Damned, Generation X, Devo, Pistols etc, but I used to follow The Jam, they were ‘my life’. I saw them for the first time in 78 (supported by Generation X and Slade). My first parka cost £14 from Paraphernalia in Lewisham). My first bespoke suit, when I was 15, was from a tailor in Lewisham called James Joyce – the jacket still fits. When the ‘mod revival’ happened, I’d already started listening to psych stuff (the first Nuggets album, Velvet Underground, Shadows Of The Night, Electric Prunes, Love), so when the ‘New Psychedelic’ scene reared its head, I was already wearing more ‘swinging sixties’ gear, my hair was a ridiculous back-combed bouffant. I didn’t fit with the British ‘mod’ look, I was never into Two-Tone. When people ask, I say that I was a ‘psychedelic mod’.
04. How did the whole Doctor and the Medics thing come about?
The ‘psych scene’ was based around a couple of clothes shops, The Regal and Sweet Charity and a Soho club called The Clinic (in Gossips – Soho); the resident DJ called himself The Doctor he was my patrol leader in the scouts. The Doctor (Clive) was given the opportunity to record a single on Whaam Records, so he put a band together. It was only supposed to be for the one single, and a couple of gigs, but we had fun and carried on. I left after 8 years.
05. Which clubs did you visit during the late 80s and early 90s?
In the 80s it was mostly psych clubs, The Clinic, The Taste Experience, The Pigeon-Toed Orange Peel, and the Alice In Wonderland (a club which took over from The Clinic, in which The Doctor was resident DJ and The Medics played regularly). I went to The Bat Cave once – once was enough. In the 90’s I was going through a beatnik phase – Smashing, Frat Shack, Tongue Kung Fu. DJs like Martin Green and The Karminski’s were where it was at.
06. How did you join up with Boy’s Wonder?
Boys Wonder were friends, they were truly great. They sacked the bassist Chris Tate and I filled in for a hand-full of gigs (a couple of head-lines at the Marquee and supporting The Hoodoo Gurus at the Town & Country, now The Forum).Tony Barber then joined.
Despite being ‘in vogue’ they were dropped by their record label, Sire, and then sacked Tony Barber. The Medics had stopped being fun by this point, so when they asked me to join permanently, I did so. The band then started a long downhill spiral of musical styles, band wagon jumping and failed attempts to get re-signed. By the time Boys Wonder finished, we were truly shit.
07. How did you meet Eddie Piller?
Acid Jazz was one of three record labels that the newly formed Corduroy went to see. Ed Piller booked us into his studio two days later.
His first words to me were… ‘Are you a mod?’
08. What is your assessment of the influence of mod on Acid Jazz and vice versa?
Acid Jazz became a refuge for displaced survivors of the mod revival, mainly because it was owned by one, (Ed Piller), but musically it was all over the place. The Sandals came from the ‘beat scene’, Emperor’s New Clothes were proper jazzers, and Mother Earth just wanted to be Traffic. Some bands initially did appeal to mods (JTQ and then Corduroy) but I think musical tastes changed with the labels’ output, which became quite ‘fusion’ orientated. Fifteen-minute hip hop, jazz funk, jam sessions by stone-heads with pubic beards wearing socks on their heads – just isn’t very mod.
09. What was the inspiration for the Corduroy sound?
We each had very different musical tastes, but we all shared a love of film music; this was the main inspiration for the Corduroy sound at its best (the first two albums). By the third album, that uniting force had vanished (lost through ego and endless Steely Dan records). I will always regret not actually leaving Corduroy after the second album.
10. What are you most proud of from your Corduroy years?
Record-wise, I guess the second album – High Havoc. Supporting Blur at Alexandra Palace, (with Pulp and Supergrass), was cool. Seeing the world, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia as well as traveling all over Europe. But my fondest memory is of pulling a girl’s knickers off with my teeth, during an excellent round of strip-dice (a game that I invented).
11. What was it like being signed to Acid Jazz and part of a vibrant scene in music?
The Acid Jazz ‘scene’ meant that people would listen to you, who normally wouldn’t, simply because they were into ‘the scene’. At its best, this meant that there was a family type atmosphere between the bands, and a sense of belonging, plus lots of work. At its worst, by the time Acid Jazz stopped being known as the record label and became regarded as a music genre, the bands couldn’t develop. When Brit-pop then over shadowing things, it became more fashionable than, the Acid Jazz scene, bands identified with ‘the genre’ were ultimately finished. The ‘scene’ itself moved back into the clubs – eventually with Acid Jazz Records buying The Blue-Note.
12. Which clubs did you visit during the 90s? Was Blow Up one of them?
I went to Blow-Up at The Laurel Tree a couple of times, more so when it moved to The Wag… Corduroy played a gig there. I had my own bar tab at The Blue Note.
13. Which bands, music, clubs or scenes have impressed you during the last decade?
Bands: Super Furry Animals, Spiritualised, Verve, Manson, The Dandy Warhols, Kula Shaker, The Prodigy, Earl Brutus,
Clubs: Smashing, was for a year or so, the best.
14. What has been the response to Corduroy coming back?
Very positive; getting lots of international invitations for shows as well as UK interest. We are currently writing new material with every intention of recording a new album.
15. What can we expect from Corduroy at Le Beat Bespoké this year?
Groovy, spy themed, organ-fueled, raw garage, punk-jazz, dirty mod, fun!
16. Are you looking forward to it?
Yes, very much!
We are too Richard. Thanks for taking the time to talk to NUTsMag
Check the bands facebook page here: facebook.com/CorduroyBand/
This interview was originally the one I did with Richard Searle for the updated Influential Factor.
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