One From the archives. Here’s Dominic Duchamp [Presenter of the∞weight sho] ‘interviewing’ Lo-Fi Hip Hop Grunge Disco Kingpin RITCHRD
2nd time I try to get in touch with this guy Chuck Cutlass a.k.a Ritchrd I am better prepared. Last December I spent 2 days outside his studio space in the Himitsu Bako Centre For Grimy Tape Excellence, where my efforts to cross his threshold were continually thwarted by a system of decoys, cryptograms and booby traps of fiendish complexity. I was pissed, but not as pissed as the time I flew to Paris to interview Will.I.Am and was told I could have one second of his time for every thimble of his semen I drank.
2nd time I try to meet this guy Chuck Cutlass I got me some cerebro type nu era helmet so I don’t even need to get in there to meet him. All I have to do is tap into the National Grid, make a pot of English Breakfast tea and dial him up with my grey matter wu-fi. OK yeah I used Skype.
What follows is a Chinese whisper of what to the best of my recollection happened during a very unordinary couple of hours of interaction. Behold the mighty spirit of Kanyegandhi aka Ritchrd.
It’s March and I’m due to be forming with Chuck for a collabo on a guest mix. My research on the web yields nothing but shadows. It’s Twitter or nothing if you want to find out anything about this young man from Cali. So when we start the mindbanter I’ve got pretty much nothing to go on.
I go tabloid straight off the bat and ask him about this one rumour I read about him on a Tumblr comment-reply-comment, that he is the offspring of a crepuscular tryst between Norma Jean Wright and Karl Heinz Stockhausen. Shockingly this is untrue:
“My parents are Bay area hippies”, he mouths to me across our neural divide. “Growing up was nothing but fun to begin with. I spent some pretty incredible years on our farm: harvesting kale with my mom, learning yoga and rabidly chasing ‘Keith Sweat’ the family donkey.“
I ask him about defining moments in his childhood. After a grave pause he continues to emanate from the black hole of conversational awkwardness.
“On my 5th birthday I’m sitting up excitedly in my bed waiting for
my parents to come up with what I imagine to be a tower of exceptional presents. Sure enough, up they come, all smiles, ‘happy birthday baby boy’, and yes, so many presents, huge ones. But when I start to tear off that wrapping paper and ribbons and shit, all I find are weapons: folded steel, gunmetal. I’m looking at my folks’ proud faces and turning over this buckhorn parrying stick in my little hands. There’s this 9th century scimitar on my pillow. And then … fuck… my father pulls a cowl over his afro and begins my ceremonial initiation. That was my first day as part of The Champions Unknown, I’d say that was fairly defining.”
I excuse myself for two minutes and go and scream into my toilet bowl before returning with a face the picture of Obamacomposure. Chuck has turned out the lights his end and looks around before continuing to describe a ceremony that sounds terrifying and tedious.
“I remember it like it was real. My mother wheels-in a stacked dinner-lady trolley and starts to pull off items. She glazes all this crazy stuff with elk’s mucus: a cubit of pure satire, 4 km’s of magnetic tape, a sippy-cup of liquid magma and this incredible portrait of Madlib painted by Paul Cezanne 67 years before Beat Konducta was even born! She squeezes it all in our toasted sandwich maker until it’s this gelatinous paste. Then she uses the paste to draw these incredible wildstyle pictograms across my hands: the gravestone of Big Pun, the blueprint of a Roland TR-808, Rakim’s dookie gold rope, Egon Schiele’s detumescent manhood, Albert Camus’ cancerpipe.”
He looks down at his hands but they are covered by fingerless leather driving gloves. Without even looking up he says to me:
“‘Don’t even think about asking me to take these off man. Anyway, as she inks, a great power builds inside me, when it’s over I feel as though I have been drinking cocaine and adrenalin straight from her breasts. I am one, I am C.U.”
Over the next half an hour and with some fairly epic cajoling, I piece together a dangerous amount about this elite team of musicrime fighters. Chuck’s family commune is home to a 50 strong cabal of psychedelic transcendentalists. For many, many generations they have formed the nucleus of an organisation dedicated to the brutal murder of ‘Anti-harmony and it’s purveyors’ (†) whose current project is to disperse every atom of Mariah Carey’s meat carcass across an unimaginably wide stretch of spacetime.
(† The Champions Uknown manifesto Page 2764)
During his teens he is very busy with the C.U.
“I didn’t go to school for 2 years! Mom told them I had this illness
of the fingertips caused by prodigious drum pad depression. If they had bothered to send out anyone to the farm, they would have seen that was bullshit. Not even my family knew where I was between 11 and 13. I don’t even really know. I know I was in a bloody rage, streaking across the US laying waste to whole record labels. I know I was responsible for one particular Disney-channel starlet bleeding out on the floor of her $80k a night hotel suite.”
This is a cue to start talking about anything else. We broach his sonic education. When Chuck was 14, the Legendary editor of Lo-Fi Apothecary magazine and C.U luminary – Jackson Soulcry helped him equip his bedroom with music making bits n bobs and to pick out his first musical moniker ‘siç˚retina.’ It was a matter of days later that he penned his first mini-symphony, the endlessly-34-second-long ‘Blunt Safari’ performed on harmonium, mouse skull and MPC 2000.
“That opened the floodgates man,” he says “I was never far from
my machines. In the farmyard I was a total legend. I used to dance naked with the nocturnal wildlife, I had this four-four dance-floor concertinaring track I made called ‘A Coin Lost In The River Is Found In The River’, the owls were mad for that. My confidence went through the barn rafters and I think it was more or less then, that I knew music, not disembowelment, was my true calling. I had this vision that I would mostly destroy the enemies of music with tunes. I pictured myself as an alchemist killa, who would mix all these insane sounds together to poison the ears of those people trying to commodify soul, hip hop, house or whatever.”
At the age of 16, and with his parents blessing, he leaves home to see what else is good. He rents his current studio with money he found being used as wallpaper during his last C.U mission to emasculate the so-called human being known as R.Kelly.
Significantly, there is a tremendous Disco/House Loft type club-night happening just around the corner from his studio. It’s hosted by a phenomenal 18 year-old DJ who has no idea disco even happened in the 70’s. It proves influential to his sound and also to the genesis of his music career when he meets a grl there with a hugely small part to play in his story.
“It was Peter Brown night. I met this girl. She was dressed as
Armand Van Helden. I don’t ever remember dancing so much. I did the Detoit Hustle. We fall out of the club at about 5PM holding hands. I remember our clothes were steaming like racehorses, we were rank, but the morning was insane, the sky was grey and amber and immense and it felt like a moment, you know? I’m staring at that sky and thinking what to say next, something Saul Williams, but when I turn around this girl has gone. Gone! Ninja. I start to walk home and I am so low but in a really powerful, exceptional way, where you are mortified but you want to remember the intensity of how you feel, because it is so special even though it is so terrible. And then as I’m putting my key in the lock of my front door, I see my reflection and I have a post-it note on my forehead that says ‘SORRY! Love you Ritchrd’. I wrote 81 songs in 2 hours that morning.”
This, it turns out, is how siç˚retina becomes Ritchrd. I know! Ritchrd is isn’t even a nickname or anything, would you credit it, these arty types and their over the top monikers!
He channels his faux devastation into his work and his new alias. His initial experiments with 801 layers of hi-hat prove unwieldy before, in a drunken stumble, he comes up with the instantly recognisable Ritchrd style of 16 layers of panned snares peppered with jags of field recorded bee-screams, a revolutionary sound that acts as the contrapetal force in his tremendous side-chain masturbation period.
Shortly after, he enters the orange pissing contest that is Soundcloud. I’ve been lucky enough since our meeting to hear some incredible early bumps that were posted and taken down because they didn’t get enough plays and favourites: the elemental ‘The cylinder, the sphere, the cone’, the Phillipe Zdaresque ‘hållelLULyah i†ß eddie snøw∂en’§ plane ticket2 Ru$$ia’, the stupendously short “.” & the ululating ‘m i s e r y j a w n.’
I ask him to tell me about the last few years and what’s next for Ritchrd.
“Last few years have been all about paring everything down until its not there any more. I’ve been programming silence into my drum pads and really seeing where that takes me. I fantasise about the day that I can make a track that lasts for 3 seconds but has the power to speak and to kill. I want my music to be like one of those astronaut’s meals-in-a pill that they have in sci-fi novels, you know? Just a tiny shiny plastic ovoid to look at, but when you pop it, it tastes like turkey and all the trimmings. You know what I mean.”
I nod, but obviously I have no idea what he is talking about. He is reticent to talk about his recent tracks, although he does pick up his laptop and take me over to a small cupboard where he is holding the Swiss prog-rock band Krokodil captive:
“This lot played the drums on my track ‘thousand’.”
And then an eardrum rapingly loud alarm goes off in Ritchrd’s studio. I see him drop to the floor in a Matrix style crouch and slide a bowie knife from his tube socks….
…Ok that didn’t happen. None of what I just wrote happened. It’s just, well, I was going on crumbs you know! and it’s really sunny outside and this girl just walked past my window who is so hot she make the sun’s corona look like Ice Station Hoth, and I’m pretty sure when Ritchrd said to me ‘There’s not much to say for my biog, you can write what you like’ that he didn’t mean this. So…err…listen to this I’m going for an ice cream.