Ali Friend talks us through the making of Red Snapper’s 1995 jazz hop classic, ‘Hot Flush’
“Red Snapper had been together a year or so by the time we came to record ‘Hot Flush’. The line-up was me, David Ayers, Alan Riding, and Rich Thair. Alan was a record dealer, who Rich had met at the Talkin’ Loud sessions run by Gilles Peterson and Patrick Forge at Dingwalls in Camden. Rich had first met David back in the 1980s, when he lived below Sigue Sigue Sputnik in Chalk Farm, and Rich and David used to busk together at Embankment Station.
“Rich and I met through mutual friends, who were working at the National Gallery, and I started doing small jazz gigs with David around London. Gary Burns, of The Aloof and Sabres Of Paradise, played with us on the Jazz Stage at our first Glastonbury gig, and Ricky Barrow of The Aloof sang with us at an early show at an Athletico night in Birmingham. Anna Haigh, of Bocca Juniors, was also on the point of being officially involved.
“But the band was basically the four of us, though. We had an impulsive and spontaneous way of creating and writing. The tunes on the ‘Hot Flush’ EP started life in dirty rehearsal rooms in Holloway and a community hall in Hammersmith. We began with a melody, a bassline and a drum vibe. A lot of it would come out when we actually got in the studio.
“I remember the excitement of the beginnings – of ‘Hot Flush’ in particular. That bassline and beat shouldn’t have worked together, but they thrived on a dark tension. While we were making it, we were thinking of Sandy Nelson, Dick Dale – instrumental surf music – with a dose of Beastie Boys and Eric B thrown in.
“We were recording at Orinoco Studios. Rich and Dean Thatcher had started working with Tim Holmes at Orinoco to mix dance stuff for their Flaw Recordings label. Sabres Of Paradise had recommended Orinoco to us and they were in there at the time, too. It made total sense to work with Tim on the Snapper material. He was a good mate and he loved the originality and the freedom of the sound we were pursuing. He was intrinsic to the first tunes we put out. We’d start out on our own on a Fostex four-track, and then we’d take these ideas straight to Tim at Orinoco. He really helped shape both the sound and the process.
“Orinoco was hidden away on a Bermondsey back street and it was used by all sorts. Enya made ‘Orinoco Flow’ there and it was where Oasis and The Chemical Brothers would mix their albums. We would also use Terminal Studios, just up the road. It was where we all rehearsed – Snapper, Motorhead, Massive Attack, Stereo MC’s.
“Each of the three Red Snapper EPs were recorded in a weekend. Flaw Recordings paid for them in coppers. We worked long hours to a tight timetable. Everyone at Orinoco was making music for independent labels and were often paying for the studio time themselves, especially early on. We were doing 12 to 14-hour days with an hour-long break for a curry and a couple of pints. We didn’t get to socialise a great deal, maybe sometimes in the pub, but they were good, inspiring people to be around. They were big Snapper enthusiasts, very supportive, and the situation generated a fair bit of musical interaction.
“‘Hot Flush’ was all about a grungy, live compressed sound, so at Orinoco we always used whatever live space was free – the garage, the hall, the toilet… then we’d all cram into this small programming studio called The Toyshop for a few days to mix it. The Toyshop was intimate but it was very creative, and we’d use whatever post-production gear was available. We worked in bigger rooms at Orinoco over the years, but sometimes limitations breed the best outcome. I still like to tell the story about when Joe Strummer popped in to check out what we were doing, and had a go on my ukulele. A massive moment!
“Beth Orton was also recording there once. We knew her through the Sandals. Rich had done some percussion for them and we both liked her voice, hence her collaboration on ‘In Deep’. I went on to write and perform with Beth on her own music for years. We were mates with Richard Fearless, of Death In Vegas, and got to know Tom and Ed Chemical through clubbing. They were all using the upstairs studio at Orinoco. Rich played on David Holmes’ ‘This Film’s Crap Let’s Slash The Seats’, which was recorded at Orinoco. He also played live percussion at Sugar Sweet, David’s club in Belfast.
“Rich occasionally played drums for the Sabres, including when they were the support on Primal Scream dates. He was in The Aloof as well, and we all worked in their studio in Hounslow at various times, including around the recording of the ‘Haunted Dancehall’ LP. So the Sabres were mates, and asking them to do a remix of ‘Hot Flush’ was an obvious thing to do. There was no directive from us. I mean, you wouldn’t give Weatherall instructions, he’d just laugh at you. How could you steer that outcome anyway? We didn’t even sit in on the sessions, it would have been considered very rude.”
‘Binary’, by Number, Ali Friend and Rich Thair’s new band, is out on Sunday Best