I wanted to ask Richard Searle a few questions, so I did. For those who don’t know, Richard was the bassist for the psych-punk band Dr and The Medics who topped the charts with their version of Spirit in the Sky in 1986. He’s a talented creative artist/ illustrator, vinyl collector writer and DJ. He’s played in various notable bands on bass, and personally I think his greatest achievement so far has been with his musical output for Acid Jazz hipsters Corduroy. He is CEO for the mod-influenced record label Well Suspect Records and presents a weekly radio show on Totally Wired Radio.
If you like reading about the excessive rock and roll lifestyle I would thoroughly advise you to get a copy of his book The Memoirs of Damage and Vom click HERE. So I’m very grateful to Richard for sparing his time for us.
Are you from a musical family and how did your passion for bass guitar develop?
My dad played piano for beer money when he was a young man, in pubs and pleasure boats up and down the Thames. The only tune I ever saw him play was ‘Spanish Eyes.’ I literally got a bass because a friend got an electric guitar and I didn’t want to get the same. I was listening to music with great bass parts, The Who, The Jam, Slade – so the bass was in the DNA
You must have had a few bass guitars and do you have a personal favourite and why?
I’ve had 4 Rickenbacker basses, my first was my favourite, which I played with the Medics and Corduroy; it’s on the cover of the Dad Man Cat album. It was stolen from the Acid Jazz studios in Denmark St; I’d love to get it back.
Dr and the Medics were a great band as I remember until they had a number one record with Spirit in The Sky. I know its all in the memoirs… but you must be proud of your time with the band?
I wrote the book, The Memoirs Of Damage And Vom, so that I wouldn’t have to talk about The Medics …but yes obviously, it was insane. Most people only know the band for Spirit in The Sky and Top Of The Pops but we were a successful, garage punk band for years before the pop stuff. Supporting The Damned, The Revillos, Hawkwind, Killing Joke, Souxsie and the Banshees etc. The Stoned Roses supported The Medics at The Croyden Underground – I blame their success on us.
Moving on… you’ve been in a few bands since you left in 1990. Corduroy are legends of the Acid Jazz scene/label and fortunately still recording and gigging live. Do you have any new plans for the band?
It’s the thirtieth anniversary of Corduroy’s debut album, Dad Man Cat, this October. Acid Jazz are releasing a new recordings to mark the event. I recently released the two post Acid Jazz albums on Well Suspect Records, with B-sides and rarities – Winky Wagon 1 & 2.
One of my favourite tracks by Corduroy is Motorhead, a great cover of the Motorhead classic. Am I right that you still clearly enjoy playing this live?
We like playing Motorhead live because it’s at the end of the set and we’re usually exhausted by that point.
Where did you meet Lemmy (Kilmister from Motorhead) and was he scary?
Lemmy used to hang out at Alice In Wonderland in Gossips, Soho, The ‘Medics club’, so we knew him from the London scene. Motorhead were recording in the same studio as The Medics once and he gave me a bass lesson – which consisted of him swearing at me that I played Silver Machine wrong and that I should turn everything on my amp up to 10 apart from the bass which should be at zero. He joined us on stage once, on my spare Rickenbacker; for a 20 minute, two bass version of Gloria. He could be scary if he wanted to be.
You are label boss for Well Suspect Records which is essentially a mod label formed back in the early 8Ts by Ed Piller I think? I’ve still got vinyl 45s from that time by the likes of Fast Eddie and Merton Parkas I think. How did you get involved in re-establishing the label in 2016?
I was given Well Suspect Records, by Eddie Piller, in 2016. He said I’d enjoy it – it’s turned my hair grey and caused me many sleepless nights but there’s some good records on the label, Fay Hallam, Corduroy obviously – but the best group is Dave’s Doors of Perception; they’ve a single out late Sept called ‘Shake It!’ It’s brilliant.
You clearly have a leaning towards the psych/mod sounds. Is that fair comment?
I say that the label is inspired by ‘Dirty Mod’ there’s actually a comp called that on the catalogue. But yes – I am a mod that likes psych so that’s a fair comment.
Who are your current favourite listening pleasures from that genre of mod music?
I got a copy of Nuggets in 1980, it was released in 78; it became my bible. I loved and still love everything on that comp. Current favourite garage bands .. Galileo Seven, The Woggles, The Fallen Leaves, Dave’s Doors Of Perception.
Saying that, as an avid listener of your weekly show The Well Suspect Radio Show on Totally Wired Records I know that you have quite eclectic musical tastes covering everything from 6Ts, soul, funk, jazz, Rock, northern soul etc. How much vinyl do you own?
I have LOADS of vinyl; I sold hundreds of records when I needed money and totally regretted it. I dJ mostly with seven inch singles, original vinyl wherever possible – I can only carry 150 singles in my record bag which I tweak according to where I’m djing.
Sticking with TWR, times are hard for independent radio stations. How optimistic are you for the future? Do you think new sponsorship will be the way forward for your shows plus all the other great shows on TWR?
Fees for Internet broadcasting licenses have just been increased by a huge amount – it’ll put many stations at risk including TWR. None of the dJs on TWR are paid – we just love doing it. I hope it continues for a while longer.
Aside from music you have a passion for skateboarding, whereas most mods I know prefer risking their lives on scooters? Please explain… Ha Ha. Yes I still skateboard – but I only do Slalom. I only attend English races; I used to travel around Europe competing as a ‘Master’ at slalom. Before that I used to attend lots of Euro- ‘freerides ‘ on longboards. It was great stress relief. I designed and manufactured a slalom deck called ‘The One’ in 2016, the same time as starting Well Suspect Records – I sold them all during the lockdowns , I only made 100 which are collectable now. I’m a founder member of a scooter club – The Blackheath Pandas, despite never having owned a scooter in my life. For my 16th birthday, if I passed my O-levels, my Dad said he’d buy me an electric guitar or a 50cc scooter. I got a bass.
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Back to music. Tell us about the new vinyl release 45 on Well Suspect Records. This is a very limited edition release and from what I’ve heard it sounds great. How did it come about?
Yes, Dave’s Doors Of Perception – Shake It! / Wasp Honey. Recorded by Liam Watson at Toe Rag
Studio, very limited edition, just 100 copies. It’s had radio play on BBC6 as well as TWR and a great review by Shindig. Only available from Well Suspect Records. The band have an album, Apophenia, on Well Suspect but only on CD – It’s a brilliant garage rock album but not dance-floor friendly. I saw them live recently and they played two new tunes not on the album. I told them that they’d written the perfect record and, partly because there are only 100 copies, it’s set to become a classic.
Can you reveal any future projects that you have on the go. I’ve mentioned your memoirs. You clearly have a passion for writing amongst your other exploits, so do you plan on any further forays into literature in the future?
I wrote a novel before the memoir, called The Absurdist, and a book of cartoons, Sketchistenialism ( I wanted to be a cartoonist when I was a kid…thanks to Mad Magazine) ; you can find both online. I did an Open Universal degree in Creative Writing a few years ago – I’d like to write more books.
Fortunately the live music scene is picking up a bit now. Where would you like to gig, either playing or DJing if you could choose anywhere?
I’ve played so many venues over the years (my first gig when I was 16) Wembley Arena, umpteen festivals (including Glastonbury, Reading and Stonehenge). I’ve appeared on Top Of The Pops, Cheggas Played Pops and in the party scene of a dodgy Hollywood move called Maid To Order, but my favourite venue to play is still The 100 Club. I’ll DJ anywhere for anyone that asks :
Thanks again Richard and good luck with the new release on Well Suspect Records
Amazon details etc…. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Memoirs-Damage-Misadventures-Doctor-Medics-ebook/dp/B08L1FF6BD,
Interview by Dr Paul Phillips