The fabric resident drops three hours of heat.
To fully gauge the effect Craig Richards has had on UK club music, it's worth winding the clock back to the turn of the century. Parties pushing deep, underground house and techno are an ingrained part of the UK's clubbing makeup these days, but when fabric, the venue where Richards has been a resident for the past 17 years, opened in 1999, things were very different. "Everything was super, super, super, super: super club, superstar DJs, super-sized everything," Judy Griffith, fabric's promotions manager and talent booker, told us last month. "Musically, [fabric] was just such a breath of fresh air." With Richards at the helm as both a resident DJ and a musical director, the club's Saturday nights became a bastion of subtle and refined sounds. fabric introduced UK audiences to a string of talented underground names from around the globe (most famously Ricardo Villalobos, who since making his debut there in 2002, has been a mainstay of the club's Room One). Others were doing what Richards and fabric were, but on nowhere near the same scale and with such incredible consistency.
This is, of course, a hugely significant moment in fabric's history. This past weekend, the club opened for the first time since August, following a lengthy and highly-publicised battle to regain its licence. As Joe Muggs noted in our recent In Residence feature, fabric's staff handled the situation with sensitivity and professionalism, but throughout they've been focussed on getting back to what they do best: running a nightclub to the highest possible standard. Richards himself is an embodiment of this low-key, steadfast ethos. He plays all over the world, runs a respected record label (The Nothing Special) and occasionally makes music, but his efforts are mostly channelled into making each Saturday night at fabric truly memorable.
We've wanted to host a mix from Richards since the RA podcast began back in 2006, but we can say with certainty that it's been worth the wait. Like pretty much all of his DJ sets since fabric opened, RA.554 epitomises the philosophy that you don't need pyrotechnics to make your mark. This is three hours of deep, groovy and nuanced dance music from a master of the form.
What have you been up to recently?
Travelling more than usual given the situation, which thankfully has now ended. Talking to journalists about fabric, the Calibre album I just released, the festival I'm cobbling together (curating), painting in my spare time, and whatever time is left after that I use to daydream.
How and where was the mix recorded?
The mix was recorded at home using headphones, Technics record players, one CDJ player and a very old Bozak mixer.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
I never really plan anything. It came directly from my record bag. I made a conscious effort not to look on my record shelves. So the mix emanates from the last few months. My residency was gone and I had a greater point to prove. As always, there is a combination of old and new records, some are old and crackly, some are new and scratched.
Did you have any key takeaways from the struggles of the last months, positive or negative?
There has never been a moment when I didn't appreciate my situation at fabric. It has always challenged and excited me. These last months have been tough. The longest period of absence [before the closure] was only two weeks, in 17 years. Missing it really helped define how much I have seen and heard in there. I learnt so much about music. How to listen to it and how to present it. My excitement about playing my records on that soundsystem again is impossible for me to quantify.
However, I would be lying if I didn't acknowledge my anger and anxiety over what happened and how it happened. The positives are that an army formed - THE PEOPLE SAID NO - and this was incredible to be a part of. The worldwide support for fabric as an institution was overwhelming. I hope that this victory means that laws and indeed attitudes are changed, but most importantly that we as a music community are fully recognised in business, music and art.
What are you up to next?
The next thing of importance I do will be to play at fabric. I cannot wait, like a boxer dying to get in the ring. I'm also incredibly excited about Houghton. It's been a dream to marry my interests in art and music for most of my adult life. This is a long-term commitment that aims to provide a festival with a difference. Apart from that I remain the same, steady and unstable in equal measure. Humble in appreciation, excited in discovery and happy to still be dancing.