The Breakdown: Richard Fearless shows us around his “Metal Box”, a studio inside a shipping container


Richard Fearless has been releasing electronic music since the mid-90s, but for most of that time he is best known for his collaboration and genre project, Death In Vegas.

After a first round of white labels, he released his first album under the name Richard Fearless in 2019. Definitely more machine-oriented, this album – Deep Rave Memory – saw the producer bring his sound back to its rawest elements, combining ambient analog synth washes with swirling delay lines, acid-techno bass riffs and cavernous drums.

Last month Richard Fearless returned with a companion album, Rave memory of the future. Produced once again in his Metal Box studio on the Thames and created with the same range of analog material, this latest LP sees Fearless remove the “club” elements of its predecessor and focus on the ambient elements of its sound.

The result is a haunting instrumental album that draws moving inspiration from the last year of the pandemic and the death of close friend Andrew Weatherall. For the second edition of our new video series The Breakdown, we caught up with Richard in London to learn more, explore his studio, and better understand how he makes music.

How do you see what you do as Richard Fearless different from Death In Vegas?

“It’s an interesting question. I’m the same person and have used pretty much the same gear over the past 25 years – other than a little outboard gear – but definitely with Death in Vegas I’m trying to rock a bit in my head.

“With Richard Fearless, it was originally just something I put on white labels. What I wanted was to go into the studio and get everything ready, all my drum machines and synths, and do it all in one take. That was the rough idea with Richard Fearless – to be much more instinctive and visceral. Don’t overthink it. Follow the initial instinct and make jams.

It took me 30 years to get there. Honestly, I only really liked the last few records I made

“This way of working became so appealing to me that I decided that was how I wanted to work all the time. The only thing I did differently was add a live console, which added even more of the performance element when laying down the mixes.

“It took me 30 years to get there. Honestly, I only really liked the last few records I made. It took me that long to hone my skills and gain confidence in my job. I think that not being an outright musician puts the brakes on action. “

So are you more of a ‘sequencer’ type producer?

“Sure, because I can kind of take my time with this.” Most things start with a sequencer. Like I said, I have this equipment since Contino sessions but it’s only since I’ve been here at Metal Box that I’ve done everything live.

And you have deliberately configured it so that you have access to everything?

“I spent some time thinking about how I was going to do it. I ended up going this route using the ACME-4. It’s the sync box for everything. At first it was difficult to lock things down, but ACME really helped.

I was lucky to be able to channel everything with this record. It’s become this cathartic thing, my own way of dealing with what I’m feeling now

“It is made by SND who also made my SAM-16 sequencer. They are both created by the same guy, Sebastian. I think Florian Schneider was also involved in this business. He built a lot of things for Kraftwerk.

“I can get a sequence for any synth – for example, the Juno is currently linked to the SAM-16 – change the timing of it, put an individual swing on everything. It’s a really organic way of working and it’s a really good system.

Tell us about your last two albums – Deep Rave Memory and Rave memory of the future. What is the relationship between these two?

“After years of Death in Vegas, with such a history and so many collaborations, I felt it was important to do something that reflects me more as a DJ and artist. But while I was doing it, I would put on ambient mixes and I would end up thinking “man this is working really good”, I could carry that over to other sounds and say to myself “OK, there is another record in here”.

“Then with the shit we’ve all been through, I couldn’t go to the studio so much because I was needed at home. It was actually quite nice to come less. I enjoyed it more. It has become a sort of place of healing. I was lucky to be able to channel everything with this record. It has become this cathartic thing, my own way of dealing with what I’m feeling right now.

Tell us about your two recent albums – Deep Rave Memory and Future Rave Memory. What is the relationship between these two?

“After years of Death in Vegas, with such a history and so many collaborations, I felt it was important to do something that reflects me more as a DJ and artist. But while I was doing it, I would put on ambient mixes and I would end up thinking “man this is working really good”, I could carry that over to other sounds and say to myself “OK, there is another record in here”.

“Then with the shit we’ve all been through, I couldn’t go to the studio so much because I was needed at home. It was actually quite nice to come less. I enjoyed it more. It has become a sort of place of healing. I was lucky to be able to channel everything with this record. It has become this cathartic thing, my own way of dealing with what I’m feeling right now.

What part of the album existed before the lockdown?

“Some songs are reworking of songs on Deep Rave Memory. I wanted to be another version of it – a Future Rave Memory of Deep Rave Memory. I didn’t want to do this just by taking out the drums. I wanted to keep pushing the songs until I was in a happy place with them.

There’s a lot of ambient music and artist dialogue where people say it’s super easy to do. On some level it certainly is, but what’s not easy to do is hold someone’s attention for 15 minutes.

“The last track of this album Our Acid House was written the day I learned Andrew Weatherall had passed away. Dan [Daniel Avery – who works in the next door studio] and I was both working that day and Dan did a track without my knowledge. We both had studios around Andrew and we were close to him. It overwhelmed us.

Do you find it more difficult to work on ambient and rhythmless songs?

“There’s a lot of dialogue about ambient music and artists where people say it’s super easy to do. On some level it certainly is, but what’s not easy to do is hold someone’s attention for 15 minutes. This, to me, means that there has to be a narration in the song; every part of the sound and effect has to work around what has already been written.

“This level of depth is not easy to do. My biggest fear is that people say ‘it’s good but fuck me, it’s going on for a bit’. There has to be a journey in every song, and certainly throughout the album.

How Richard Fearless Created Our Acid House Feedback Loops

Our Acid House is the last touching track from the album, inspired by the death of Andrew Weatherall. Richard also wanted to create an end of transition. “I knew I was going to directly record a Death In Vegas album after that, so I wanted something that felt like passing the baton from project to project. He achieved this by creating an epic compilation of heavily edited commentary.

Richard Intrepid

(Image credit: Avenir)

It starts with a Roland Juno pad-like sound. “The real sound started out as a synth line. I reamped it through my [Vox] AC30. I used two Neumanns for the stereo mic for the amplifier, ”explains Richard. “I think I used a Hiwatt Fuzz pedal and the Sansamp. The great thing about these pedals is that you can have a bit more control over the distortion.

Richard Intrepid

(Image credit: Avenir)

Richard then superimposes the distorted feedback with a second modulated version. “I have a tremolo version in addition to the feedback. This tremolo was made in the box. He then goes to the Effectron and the Lexicon.

Richard Intrepid

(Image credit: Avenir)

Richard then deals with it even further. “You can hear the Marshall Time Modulator, bringing that metallic element to the sound. By adding several layers and reprocessing, Richard builds a wall of noise similar to My Bloody Valentine. “It’s just a case of reprocessing over and over and building and strengthening.”

Richard Fearless’s new album, Future Rave Memory, is now available on Drone.


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