Richard X Discusses Annie’s ‘A&R EP’, Working With MKS, Rachel Stevens & More: Idolator Interview

John Hamilton | July 30, 2013 6:18 am

Rachel Stevens’ “Some Girls” was one of your biggest hits in the UK. What do you remember about recording this track, and is it true that you used the synthesizer once owned by the Thompson Twins? Ha! Yes, there was the Thompson Twins’ Fairlight IIx sampler, the big old white ’80s machine with the computer monitor on top. It had apparently been on stage at Live Aid in the USA. I remember scaring Rachel slightly, as I’d come up with a supposedly great idea for the b-side, which was an extended version, but with new spoken word sections. As it was a glam-influenced track, I prepared some questions about 1970s Britain and took Rachel into a small room and began interviewing her for some soundbites. “Rachel, do you remember anything of the three-day working week? Or the 1978 winter of discontent?”  I wasn’t trying to be a smart-arse, I just thought we’d get some interesting words out of the exercise. Her reaction was somewhere between bemusement and terror. A year or so later, I worked with a pre-Saturdays Frankie, who, during our session, expressed relief that I was reasonably normal — she had been worried, as her management had told her of the Rachel interview, and that I “was a bit of a weirdo.”

Rachel Stevens — “Some Girls”

Pet Shop Boys are performing their 2006 collaboration with you, “Fugitive,” on their current tour. Were there ever plans to work on more music with them? I had to dig out the missing mutli-tracks for that track this year. They’d disappeared, so I got to go along and see them and have a quick catchup. Neil rewrote the chorus lyric as we were finishing the record, and I remember there was a lot of showbiz gossip being freely shared. It’s great that it fits in with the current LP, sound-wise, and it’s always good to see and hear the reaction from the fans. The door is always open with people like that, but I think they’ve found their ideal collaborator in Stuart Price.

Pet Shop Boys — “Fugitive”

What’s on your production slate at the moment? Are you working with any new acts? Not sure when things are coming out, but I’ve done some writing with Say Lou Lou. I did a track with MKS and had A*M*E down to the studio recently. Most of these have been with Hannah Robinson again. I’ve also been working on some new music with Kim Ann Foxman, which is more dance-y.

“Chewing Gum” is one of the classic pop moments of the past decade. What are your thoughts about that song as you look back on it, almost a decade later? And how is working with Annie now different than it was in those early days? This decade thing is a bit scary, as a lot of this stuff only seems like yesterday. Spoken like a true old duffer. I think “Chewing Gum” was, in my mind, an extension of Annie’s “Greatest Hit” idea: left field pop that fitted into the early naughties feel of mashing stuff up —oh god! — but was still outside the mainstream. When I listen back, it still sounds pretty good, and I think when you make records that don’t chase a hit sound as mentioned before, they stand up a lot better over time. It was the first time I met Annie, as we’d done the X-Factor LP track [“Just Friends”] remotely. When I was listening to [Annie’s first album] Anniemal recently, I remembered recording the intro and just being unable to breathe with laughter as we all tried to outdo each other with the stupidest animal sounds. So things are pretty much the same there.

Annie’s The A&R EP is available now. Let us know your thoughts on it below!

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