Richard Russell

Producer and XL Recordings big chief Richard Russell shares a few of the influences that have shaped his life

The Copper House

“My studio is a really unusual property. I originally built a space at XL’s offices in Ladbroke Grove, in what was basically the garage. It was good for everyone else, but it wasn’t good for me. I got too distracted by everything going on with the label. So then I had a home studio, which is where I did a lot of the work on the Gil Scott-Heron album [2010’s ‘I’m New Here’], although I recorded him in big studios in New York.

“I needed a place that had the intimacy of working at home, but wasn’t at home. The Copper House is a tiny property, quite hidden away, and the whole place is geared towards creativity. It’s got quite a sacred quality. It’s very relaxed and has a good energy about it. There’s even a sign on the wall that says ‘No Outside Realities’.”

Something Old, Something New

“When I was setting up The Copper House back in 2013, I went back and pieced together all the interesting equipment I’d used before. My laptop has a template in Logic with 150 channels of sound and a massive library of my samples on it. You can do an awful lot on that, but I’ve got an API desk from 1973 and loads of analogue gear as well – there’s a Korg MS-20 for bass and a Minimoog. 

“I’ve also got an 808 and a 909. Those sounds are part of the fabric of music now, but there’s nothing like having the actual machines for people to use when they come in. They’ve got such a strong character. I’m always ordering new tools though. I love reading about the latest gear in Electronic Sound,  but it can get quite expensive!”

İlhan Mimaroğlu’s Record Collection

“Downstairs from the studio there’s a living room, which is full of records  and books. I was starting to get a bit bored with my own record collection, so I bought the collection of İlhan Mimaroğlu, who was an amazing Turkish record producer who went to New York and worked with Atlantic Records.  I bought it wholesale from his widow. She was very pleased that it was going to someone who could use it, and appreciate it. It contains a lot of his own productions, but there are other interesting things like Stockhausen, and he kept it all in amazing condition. I feel like I’m getting to know the man through his record collection. 

“It’s really important to have a lot of records and books around for inspiration. I’ve always got a few books on the go at any given time, usually about music history or spirituality. At the moment, I’m reading one about the history of Cold Chillin’, an early hip hop label, and another called ‘GPO Versus GP-O’, which is about Genesis P-Orridge and his battles with the Post Office.”

The Northern Line

“I grew up about 10 minutes from Edgware tube station, the most northern stop on the Northern line, formerly known as the misery line. I don’t want to be rude about Edgware because my mum and dad still live there, but it was a bit boring. It’s just the suburbs. So the Northern line was this incredible portal for me. A few minutes and you could be in Camden Town and everything that was going on there. A few more minutes and you could be at Tottenham Court Road, and shopping in Groove Records – a tiny shop on a corner of Greek Street where all the DJs would go. There was no 24-hour tube then though,  if you went out it was often a case of having to get the night bus home!”

Record Shops

“When I was about 14 or 15, I got a part-time job in a record shop in Edgware. It was a normal, local record shop – there used to be one on every high street, may they rest in peace. I worked there with Trevor Jackson. We both petitioned the guy who ran it to stock imports, but he wouldn’t, so I had to go into town to get things like ‘3 Feet High And Rising’ by De La Soul or Public Enemy’s ‘Yo! Bum Rush The Show’. 

“In 1990, I worked in Vinylmania in the West Village in New York. The Paradise Garage was closed by then, but it was the shop where Larry Levan used to go, and a lot of the Paradise Garage people still went there. You could get all the independent label stuff there, like Strictly Rhythm and Nu Groove, and hip hop too. It was an amazing place.”

Friday Nights

“I grew up in an Orthodox Jewish household, so as well as Friday being the big night out, when people could blow off steam after a week at school or at work, it was a sacred night too. It felt slightly transgressive to find a way to get out of the house, and get to whatever was going on, but it was important to me. 

“There was something about the atmosphere of clubs at the time that meant people were particularly responsive to hearing new things. As time has gone on, I’ve realised that it was quite similar to a religious experience. 

“I based my new Everything Is Recorded album, ‘Friday Forever’, around the idea of following a Friday night right through to the morning after, when you’re in a fragile and vulnerable state. I thought it was something that the guests involved in the record would have some kind of connection to. I wondered if I was being a bit frivolous at first, but it was amazing what people came up with.”

Richard Russell’s memoir, ‘Liberation Through Hearing’,  is published by White Rabbit. Everything Is Recorded’s  ‘Friday Forever’ is out on XL Recordings

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