1987 - PRESENT
International dj, innovative producer, founder of plink plonk , Shamen frontman and co- owner of the end, Mr C emerged as a pioneering force in the house music scene in 1987 and has continued to be instrumental in the proliferation of dance music on a global scale.
His commitment to experimentation and credibility in setting the standards for sophistication in all sub-genres of dance music has earned him world-wide prestige as he endeavours to take the sounds of the underground to new and more accessible heights.
At 16, Richard, a keen Chelsea fan and aspiring rapper decided to ditch his CB radio moniker Chelsea Boy. "C goes with everything. It's easy to rhyme," he says. With his mate, he formed a rap duo: Mr C and Double B. Richard gave up a job as a roofer at 21 and famously became a milkman - the perfect job for someone who had fallen head-first into London's vibrant acid house club scene because he could stay up all night, then go straight into work. Right at the beginning of British dance music, Mr C was a rapper for DJs like Kid Bachelor, 'Evil' Eddie Richards and Colin Faver. He made his first record in 1987 with Eddie Richards. Called 'Page 67', it came out under the name Myster-E. He became a DJ. "The mixing was spot on - straight away," he says. "Before you know it, I was one of the biggest names in London." He played at Enter The Dragon at The Park, TransAtlantic at the Wag, and at the famous RIP parties in a recording studio at Clink St near London Bridge. The Clink St parties played a key part in the genesis of acid house and are detailed in Matthew Collin's book Altered State: The Story Of Ecstasy Culture And Acid House. They were a grungier alternative to Danny Rampling's more famous Shoom - but it was here, at parties throughout 1988, that streetwise London clubbers who'd grown up on reggae, hip hop and warehouse parties raved next to loved-up football hooligans, gangsters, fashion victims and city boys.
THE Shamen started life in the mid-80s as a Scottish psychedelic act, founded by former psychiatric nurse Colin Angus and inspired by groups like Pink Floyd. After releasing their debut album 'The Drop' in 1986, the band were joined by Will Sinnott, who bought an interest in sampling and hip hop rhythms. In 1988, The Shamen, slimmed down to a duo of Colin Angus and Will Sin, moved to London and became regulars at Clink St. Inspired by acid house, their second album, 'In Gorbachev We Trust', amalgamated guitars, samples and programmed beats. "The influence for them was me, Eddie Richards and Colin Faver," says Mr C.
When the Shamen wanted a rapper to appear on their track 'Move Any Mountain', Paul Oakenfold recommended Mr C. It was one of those combinations of disparate characters that acid house threw up. "The Shamen were grungey rock turned into an acid house outfit. My friends were all casual boys into reggae and soul," says Mr C. "But everything was totally in line with my Buddhist / experimental beliefs." Their third album 'Entact' featured the single 'Pro>Gen', a dynamic techno-house number which starred Mr C rapping. It became a club anthem. In 1989, The Shamen turned the worlds of clubbing and live rock music upside down with a rolling tour called Synergy which fused live shows from themselves, Orbital and Pentatonik with DJs like Paul Oakenfold and Mixmaster Morris and rap from Mr C. Between 1989-90 Mr C also found time to play as resident DJ at The Barn in Braintree, Essex. A young Liam Howlett and his pal Keith Flint used to hang out. "I remember Liam Howlett handed me a mix tape. It was early rave stuff. I said to him, lose the breaks, lose the cheese, and you'll go a long way," says Mr C. Howlett went on to form The Prodigy. "Thankfully," laughs Mr C now, "they totally ignored my advice."
The Shamen recruited Mr C as a full member and the band re-recorded 'Pro>Gen' with his rapping, and one eye on the pop charts. But while shooting a video for the song in Tenerife, Will Sin tragically died in a drowning accident. Inspired by fans who wrote and told them not to split and Will Sin's family, The Shamen decided to carry on. 'Move Any Mountain - Progen 91' was released in July 1991 and became a Top Five hit. In 1992 they released the 'Boss Drum' album, starring Mr C and new vocalist Jhelisa Anderson. It featured the cult author and psychedelic thinker Terence McKenna on the trancey 'Re-Evolution', but it also featured a song that combined pop gimmickry, techno and a Dickensian pastiche of the rave scene called 'Ebeneezer Goode'.
C0LIN Angus got the idea at a Synergy show, where a charged-up raver insisted to him that "the E's are good". He told Mr C they should create a character called 'Ebeneezer'. As the record shot to Number One and stayed there for the month of September 1992, there was a national outcry about its subject matter. It turned The Shamen into heroes for some, villains for others.
But the while the press focused on the chorus - which celebrated 'Ebeneezer' "the main geezer" - they failed to spot that it was the verses that talked about the drug. You just had to drop the 'H' from 'he'. "No one ever got it," Mr C declares. 'Boss Drum' sold 750,000 copies in the UK and the singles 'Love, Sex, Intelligence' and 'Phorever People' became anthems. To put that into perspective, Leftfield's 'Leftism' and Chemical Brothers 'Surrender' - both regarded as classics - did significantly less: 500,000 each. Now celebrated as great pop pranksters, The Shamen were the first group to release a remix album and created the kind of stadium techno shows that made groups like the Chemical Brothers and Underworld possible. "We opened the doors for many, many people," says Mr C. "If we'd have carried on in the same vein as the 'Boss Drum' album, we probably would have been the biggest electronic band in the world now." In 1992, they even won the Ivor Novello Songwriters Of The Year Award.
But after 'Boss Drum', future albums like 'Axis Mutatis', 'Hempton Manor' and 'UV' moved in progressively less populist directions. Colin Angus stopped doing personal performances and interviews, communicating with the press only via e-mail. The Shamen finally disbanded in 1998. THROUGHOUT Mr C continued his life as an underground activator. In 1992, he formed the Plink Plonk label. "I was trying to break good, experimental, electronic dance music into the clubs," says Mr C. No artists were even allowed to use their own names, and the label pioneered producers, like Derrick Carter, who have become international names today. Plink Plonk came to an end in 1996, after 40 releases and made a welcome return in '99. In 1993, while still an international popstar, Mr C also ran a series of illegal, all-night parties in Farringdon called The Drop. These were cool parties that in attitude predated his club The End: cool music in a stylish venue. Mr C was often to be found on the dancefloor. On one occasion, he brazenly fronted off a nosy posse of policemen by telling them he was rich enough to throw this bash for free. So when Mr C's friend Layo came to him and said his dad, the architect Douglas Paskin, had a space in central London to convert into a nightclub or restaurant, Mr C didn't hesitate. He could see the potential for a well-designed West End nightclub that played the kind of underground music he loved - not the populist 'handbag' styles that DJs played at the time. The End opened in 1996.
"We wanted to do a club that represented our beliefs in music and electronica," says Mr C. In 2002, clubs like Fabric and 333 Old St thrive on a menu of underground music, but The End was first to make a formula of underground techno, house and drum n' bass into a success. For the first year the club struggled financially. "In the 90s, people got used to dirty, nasty warehouses, and getting that underground crowd into a nice venue in the West End was very difficult," says Mr C. But now The End represents an international standard for high-quality electronic dance music: the original, and still the best. It was the first British club to give out free drinking water. The first to do a live ISDN link up - between Detroit legends Claude Young and Derrick May. And The End has programmed the best marquees for techno and drum n' bass at dance festivals around the world. Three years ago, they opened the bar/restaurant AKA next door. "The End has been a direct influence on the whole of club and bar-restaurant culture in London," concludes Mr C. The End launched its own record label two days after the club opened, End Recordings (the first release being the Killer Loop black label from Layo and Mr C). The End label has now released over 40 records of high-quality house and techno and featured artists as diverse as DJ Sneak, Robert Owens, plus Mr C himself. The End even launched its own genre: tech house. The phrase - which can mean anything from house and techno, to breaks and tribal - signifies more of a mindset that a type of music. "It's an attitude. Like acid house was an attitude." Tech house has come to represent the style played by End DJs like Layo and Matthew Bushwacka! But it was Mr C who was the catalyst. "I phoned round the main movers and groovers in the tech-house scene and said, 'Look, if we all start using this word to create a genre for ourselves, the press can jump on it. All of a sudden we're going to be seen as the leaders of this music.' And it worked." It's a story that's typical of someone who's always been a scene leader, who's spent most of his career being ahead of his time. "I've got a very low boredom threshold," he grins. Finally, it seems the rest of us are catching up.
Off Corso, Rotterdam
The Bowl, Hampshire
Winkel van Sinkel, Utrecht
Café D'Anvers, Antwerpen
UDC Dome, Amsterdam
Club Las Palmas, Rotterdam
Concertgebouw De Vereeniging, Nijmegen
Festivalpark Lommel, Lommel
Winkel van Sinkel, Utrecht