A Chat With Bronx Dog, Padded Cell Producer, DJ And Graf Legend Richard Sen

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Photo by Alexis Maryon

Kid Batchelor (Bang The Party) said that Larry (Levan) used to play Bang Bang Your Mine at The Garage and people would have sex on the dancefloor.

I first became aware of Richard Sen in the late ‘90s through his project (with Paul Eve) Bronx Dogs. Bronx Dogs celebrated the B-boy Zulu nation vibe. Three Legged Funk was steeped in a break-heavy sample-based grit, it was hard like The Bomb Squad or EPMD hip-hop, but driven in an old school way to the dancefloor. The follow up Enviro brought some Balearic tones and a heavy London nocturne feel to the proceedings. Richards next project was Padded Cell—done in collaboration with Neil Beatnik, the duo crafted songs that had a dark almost gothic vibe and reflected the compression and torpor/anxiety of the inner city. A number of 12-inches culminated in the release of the LP Night Must Fall—“Far Beneath London” one of my fav jams!

graf

In addition to his original work Richard has done a number of remixes for a range of artists, among them; Bryan Ferry, LCD Soundsystem, The Glimmers, Hedford Vachal and um some guy named Kane...

Richard is also a stellar DJ, starting in the late ‘80s at the crazy club in Astoria and at present bringing it worldwide. I met Richard on New Years Eve 2006, he came to a party I was playing at Love in NYC, he subsequently joined me for a night at Apt that summer, and we have done a number of gigs together since then. Richard is the real deal and it is an honor to call him a friend.

Ed Note: On the occasion of the release party at Cielo for his amazing compilation on Strut Records, This Ain’t Chicago (The Underground Sound Of UK House And Acid), we thought a chat with Bronx Dog/Padded Cell producer/DJ /graf legend Richard Sen was in order. Who better to do it than his longtime pal (and DJ accomplice for the night) Magnetic hero Disques Sinthomme/Ghostown honcho Dennis “Citizen” Kane. The two got together for one of their frequent chats and turned on the recorder.

Dennis Kane: You fucking cunt are you there?

Richard Sen: (laughter) Yo yo!

As this is for the press we’ll keep it polite until the tape is off…

You are off to a good start!

What was the impetus for a UK acid house compilation?

Truthfully I had lived it here, and I knew that the US, Chicago, and Detroit stuff—a lot of which is incredible music—had sort of gotten it’s due, and I felt like a number of these UK tunes were underappreciated and deserved a bit of focus. Clearly the UK stuff was heavily influenced by what was happening in the States, but they were their own thing as well.

Was the UK acid house scene where you grew up musically? Sorry man I sound like some Rolling Stone interview, just horrible…. (laughter)

…what Larry (Heard) and Marshall Jefferson were doing was hugely influential, but you can also see how electro and break dancing and Ibiza and NY freestyle and a whole range of things were having impact.

Well I had come from being a Graff writer and I was listening to Zulu Nation breaks tapes, which was a very broad thing—in many ways Bambaataa was like Alfredo (Balearic God Alfredo Fiorito), he was playing what he wanted, what interested him. I was very much interested in what was going on in New York

I would travel over and go to Vinylmania, visit these different labels, Frankie Bones’ shop (The Connection) and as I was from the UK people were very hospitable—perhaps they thought I was a big time DJ! (laughter). So coming from that I was really primed for some difference, and then there were drugs! (laughter)

MdMa came out in full effect…

Yes and suddenly you find yourself in this warehouse and everyone is full of love and good vibes, and the music sounds soooo good….A lot of the music being played was from the states, but a local vibe was also starting. In East London it was more mixed, you would have rude boys and a lil reggae vibe, but the music and drugs were transformative. Hell even these football hooligans were hugging people.

So being in that scene it is exciting to see records come out of it…

Well if they were good ones, yeah it was exciting. Kid Batchelor (Bang The Party) said that Larry (Levan) used to play “Bang Bang Your Mine” at The Garage and people would have sex on the dancefloor.

That’s a visceral affirmation for sure…

For this comp I wanted to encompass that good vibe and also go for some of the more underground jams that perhaps haven’t gotten their just due.

That’s one of the great aspects of having someone with a clue do the comp, it doesn’t become “The greatest hits of the hacienda part five”, tracks like Us’ “Born in the north” and “Shaker Song” (Playtime Toons) as so unique—even for that time.

Yeah I mean what Larry (Heard) and Marshall Jefferson were doing was hugely influential, but you can also see how electro and break dancing and Ibiza and NY freestyle and a whole range of things were having impact.

It is a strength of the comp that you can sense that, plus for me it put me up on a number of tunes, that "Jail Break" track (Mentality) is crazy! It sounds like something that Jellybean would rock…

If I’m schooling you it’s all good. (laughter) That is the idea though get a fresh perspective on what went down, dig a bit deeper….

Not to editorialize, but the vibe as well, this collective good feeling, pharmaceutically induced or not, seems like something we are missing right now.

Yeah there is often innocence when you look back…

A room full of coked up fake sleazy nu disco wanna be’s doesn't quite...

Tell me how you really feel! (laughter) I mean it is what it is, the thing is to keep pushing in the right direction and be there when that new thing happens, be part of some difference.

Ed note: We are really gassed on this comp, the track selection is deep and varied and it really gives a great representation of the spectrum of sounds and influences involved. The liner notes by Dave Swindells really capture the excitement and paint a great portrait of the era. We say Yes to this one!