We talked with Richard Thair of Red Snapper about their forthcoming album inspired and for Senegalese cult film “Touki Bouki”. We caught them right in the studio, recording just a few days before their show in Athens on the 7th of December at KooKoo with En Route.
SYL : You have composed a new soundtrack for cult 70s Senegalese road movie “Touki Bouki”, directed by Djibril Diop Mambety and restored by Martin Scorsese in 2008. How was combining sound and picture?
Richard : it was a real challenge. Touki Bouki is a really inspiring film so we actually composed the music really quickly, in 3 days. The thing that takes the time is timing the music correctly to the edits in the film. Being sympathetic to the emotions in the film is really important. We also had to make sure our music didn’t disguise the dialogue.
It has been a real adventure and performing the music live to the film has really stretched us and inspired audiences (we hope). We always wanted to expose our audience to this gem of African Cinema and I think we have achieved that.
SYL : Will these tracks be on your next album? Tell us a few things about it!
Richard : The whole of the new album has been inspired by our soundtrack to Touki Bouki. As always there is a real variety of sounds, styles and textures but the overwhelming influence is African music, it is not always obvious, sometimes through the rhythms, other times through melodies, harmonies and soundscapes. Touki Bouki is a road movie and we wanted this album to feel like a psychedelic journey through Red Snapper’s musical heritage past and future.
There is more of a variety of instrumentation, Gato drum, congas, xylophone, a lot of vintage keyboards and synths and Ali is singing more.
Richard : Well, most of our albums seem to have ended up sounding like soundtracks although it was never intended! The new tracks have definitely been inspired by an outside force..an amazing experimental African film.
Most of the tracks in the film soundtrack were short so we have developed them. There are a few musical themes that recur throughout the album like all classic soundtracks.
These days we are past worrying about singles and the big radio stations liking our music. This is music that has been made out of pure creative love without being too self indulgent.
After thinking about this great question I would actually say…for Red Snapper…very little difference!
SYL : You have started your career with “Prince Blimey” which was released in 1996! You have been around for more than 15 years now! Tells about the progression of Red Snapper, is it still your “Aim to Satisfy”?
Richard : More and more we are motivated by how our music comes across in a live performance as opposed to having to play the whole PR game in the music industry. We know that we are really lucky to still have a fan base and our main focus is striving to play our music to as many people as possible around the world. In some ways we have reverted to how we were in the early years…before we signed to Warp Records…self funding, having to think fast and be creative on the spot…its exciting like this and less self indulgent.
We are all still really good friends and know each other so well, sometimes this is amazing, other times it feels as if everything is going to implode or explode between us…so we are still like every other band!
Musically we have stopped worrying about whether or not we are doing the right thing, now we just enjoy playing music together, expanding ideas and taking creative chances.
SYL : Does being on a band with such great career and wonderful releases give you more freedom in the process of making a new record or does it get frustrating when planning your next move?
Richard : Sorry…i partly answered that above.
Although we have had an amazing career..in that we are still amazed that anyone ever liked our music…we don’t feel part of any ‘scene’ or musical movement and we certainly don’t feel like we belong in ‘the music industry’…this allows us great freedom…it really is only about what the public think who come to our shows.
That said..if this album sells millions around the world I suspect that we will continue to do the complete opposite to what people expect us to do.
The music industry has created the shit that it is in now and to be honest the more we distance ourselves from that corporate side the better.
ok..just off the top of my head…
Back in the 90s…Public Enemy, Wu Tang, Led Zepplin, The Dirty Three, Sergio Leone, Jim Jarmusch, London, experimental electronic music, drugs, our friends
now…world cinema, the past decade of travel, family, financial struggles, having our studios at home, Lonnie Holley, Laurel Halo, Doom, Shackleton, Fela Kuti, Mogwai, Herbie Hancock, Manu Dibango
SYL : What should we expect from your show here in Greece?
Richard : The will be plenty of Red Snapper classics which keep evolving, some tracks from the last album ‘Key’ and some tracks from the new album/film soundtrack. As always it will be hot, sweaty, passionate and funky!
SYL : There seems to be a “magic” connection between Red Snapper and the Greek people. Which is, in your opinion, the key element to this? I would say that Sleepless is haunting us!
I have often wondered about this…also why the Russian people love us so much. I think The Greek people are very open and passionate and perhaps our music triggers an open emotion in people. Our music is an expression of a lot of anger and frustration as well as passion and love, it is very open and honest and think this is what creates a bond.
We know that The Greek people have been through a lot of hardship in the past few years, there is a lot of anger and frustration. We are really sympathetic to this. We are honoured to be invited to play shows when we know people will find it hard to find the money to pay for the show. We aim to make the audience lose themselves for a few hours, find something pure, honest and real and have a fantastic time.