Taylor Swift’s first single from her long-awaited and highly anticipated 6th studio album Reputation has arrived. The multi-award winning Swift has given Right Said Fred a writing credit on the single ‘Look What You Made Me Do’, which features an interpolation of the band’s 1991 debut hit single ‘I’m Too Sexy’. Swift and her team reached out to brothers, Richard and Fred Fairbrass, to let them know about the interpolation not long before the single dropped but the sound of the track itself remained shrouded in mystery, and the pair first heard it on the morning of Friday 25th August 2017 along with the rest of the world.
In celebration of the track, the band have released the I’m Too Sexy EP on September 1st, 2017, which features three tracks, a re-recording of the original single along with an electro swing and deep house remix. Mark Millar recently caught up with Right Said Fred’s Richard Fairbrass to find out more.
XS: Hi Richard how are you?
Richard: I’m good actually it’s a beautiful day and we are in the studio on Sunday so I’m having a day off and ill go to the gym tomorrow. I’m contemplating having a glass of wine.
XS: It’s been quite a week for Right Said Fred since the release of Taylor Swift’s new song ‘Look What You Made Me Do’. When did you find out you would be getting a writing credit on the song?
Richard: They approached our publisher sometime before and played them a small snippet of the song. We didn’t hear the finished song until it was released when the fans heard it. Obviously, the way the internet is nowadays people are very concerned of music leaking and the premiere being ruined, so we didn’t hear it until the day of release. We are really happy because Taylor Swift and her whole team have been really polite, sweet and very courteous. They have picked up the phone straight away and answered emails. Nothing like some of the people we have met in the music business up to now, who have been universally rude, so Taylors people have been a pleasure to deal with. They sent us a huge bunch of flowers which was really nice.
XS: Do you like the track?
Richard: Yes, I do. Initially, I got into her earlier country and western stuff which is more my thing, and then when I heard this version I liked it because of its quite a dark, cynical angry song. She seems to be drawing a line under her previous life and who she feels she was and who she thinks she’s about to become and I like that so the fact that it wasn’t fluffy and more reflective and a little bit gothic appealed to me. Initially, I watched the lyric video with the words which to me were important.
XS: Right Said Fred recently released the ‘I’m Too Sexy’ EP featuring a re-recording and different mixes. Was it planned because of the Taylor Swift release or is it a coincidence?
Richard: We didn’t really want to, to be absolutely honest but we felt there was a demand for it and we felt a bit churlish by not doing it. We didn’t want to do a re-release of the original, so we re-recorded it and have included a couple of mixes. It’s more about making the stuff available to people who want it. I feel the song has done its work over the years and this is more a nod to people who might want the remixes. The acid jazz remix on the EP is really good, I love it its one of my favourites of all the ones I’ve heard.
XS: It’s been over 25 years since you released ‘I’m Too sexy’. Did you know it was a special song when you wrote it?
Richard: No, I think anyone who tells you they do is either stupid or a lier, it’s always a surprise. there was a song released many years ago called Johnny And Mary by Robert Palmer which should have been a huge hit and it wasn’t. If I had made that record I would have thought it would have been a hit. First of all, I thought no one would buy I’m Too Sexy. I only began to like it when our bass player Phil Spalding took the bassline down and that’s when it really began to thump. I knew then that I liked it but I still wasn’t convinced that anyone would buy it. Our position at that point was just to get it on the radio that’s all we wanted. We didn’t want a record deal we didn’t want money or anything we just wanted to hear it on the radio. I never in a million years thought it would last anything like as long as it has.
XS: Can you remember the process of writing the song and what inspired it?
Richard: The bassline, the bassline was originally for another song. We did it in a basement studio and had the bassline running around on a loop. It was a really hot day and I just started dancing around the studio with my shirt off and I could hear the bassline going round and round and I started singing “I’m too sexy for my shirt” and we all fell about laughing and thought it was very funny. At that point, we had only been working with guitarist Rob Manzoli for 6 months to a year. The three of us had made our minds up that we wouldn’t refer to any songs that we had written in the past either with the Right Said Fred or other bands we had been in. We were going to start from scratch. I’m Too Sexy was the song all three of us got behind.
XS: Do you ever get bored playing it?
Richard: No, never! I can honestly say on my mothers grave I have never stood up thinking “I don’t want to do this.” There are other songs that we have recorded that I am not as contented doing as I am with I’m Too Sexy. I always think I’m Too Sexy is funny. It always cheers me and the punters up. To see people enjoying themselves is a good thing, I like it and I’m not embarrassed by it. I was talking to a DJ earlier and he had a band on his show who had a major hit and they didn’t want to talk about it, they didn’t want to play it, acknowledge it or anything and I would be the opposite of that I could talk about I’m Too Sexy until the cows come home because it changed our lives and I’m still talking about it 26 years later.
XS: Right Said Fred achieved a lot of success with that song and the subsequent album ‘Up’. How do you feel about that time looking back now? Right Said Fred was everywhere at that time.
Richard: Looking back we were in the eye of the storm and I don’t think we really understood what was going on I know it sounds ridiculous having been in other bands but we weren’t ready or prepared for it when the song finally broke. I think some people are. I think Taylor Swift is aware of what being famous is and what it does and the compromises you have to make, we didn’t understand. We were very clueless. I remember being on Top Of The Pops when the album went to number one and our record company guy held up a billboard when I’m Too Sexy was number one in America and he said to me “it’ll never get any better than this.” And I remember thinking “it’s got to because I’m not having much fun.” I wasn’t really enjoying it because we were celebrities we weren’t musicians. I personally think the second album stiffing was the best thing that happened to us because it forced us to rethink what we were and who we were, what we wanted and how we wanted to live. if the second album had taken off id probably be dead by now from an overdose. I don’t think I could have handled it.
XS: What’s it like being in a band with your brother after all these years?
Richard: It’s fine we disagree about music occasionally. We are both into American music, Fred is more into dance music than me. We pretty much agree about songwriting all the time. Fred lives in Barcelona so we don’t live in each other pockets the whole time so he gets to go back and see his wife and stay in Barcelona for a week or two at a time and then he comes back to the UK for us to do have work and do interviews and recording and then he flies back to Barcelona. I think that break that we have from each other is a good thing it enables us to carry on being constructive with the work, if he lived here I think we would drive each other mad.
XS: Have you had any Gallagher-type fallouts?
Richard: No, we came to blows once years ago when we were both overtired but other than that we are both pretty cool together. it’s fine.
XS: Right Said Fred hasn’t stopped over the years. You have continued to be successful. You released the album ‘Exactly’ this year.
Richard: Our whole thing has always been “do your stuff”, some artists are happy to do The Rewind Festival and do the old stuff. We did The Rewind Festival once and they were lovely people, they ran a really good festival but playing old stuff just wasn’t our thing. We don’t mind doing old stuff providing its split evenly with new stuff. We have continued to write new stuff and continued to make albums. That’s what gives us the juice to keep going and also it keeps us in touch with I’m Too Sexy. I don’t want to get to the point where I’m Too Sexy is some kind of ghastly thing that we keep returning to because we absolutely have to. I don’t want to be in that position. Fred and I both really enjoy songwriting and I think the production on that album needed work because we didn’t have a producer on the album but I think the songwriting is really strong. For the next album, the plan is to carry on writing as we are but we absolutely must have a producer or a producer/collaborator on board.
XS: Do you have anyone in mind?
Gregg Alexander would be one of my first choices. I think he is a really good producer and songwriter, he makes pop that has a bit of an edge to it and he understands how to make pop records with guitars and that’s what I like about him. His song You Get What You Give is a song I play in the car all the time, I play it really loud. There’s a fantastic piece of bass playing right at the very end, and the rap that he does towards the end is fantastic. There is nothing about that track I don’t like, so working in the studio with him and getting his take on our stuff would be fantastic.
XS: You mentioned you will be going on tour next year. will it be a UK tour?
Richard: Everywhere! We did quite a few festivals this year with the band. I didn’t think I was going to enjoy it much but I really loved it, it was really enjoyable. I think we will be doing North America, Europe, and the UK, maybe China, the far east. all over the place basically. The great thing about playing live is there is nobody between you and the audience. there’s no A & R man there’s no record company executive, there’s no radio programmer, nobody standing between you and the audience, just you and the audience. It’s why I think artists stay on the road for so long because it brings the whole music business down to its simple elements – the song and the punters in front of you.
XS: What’s your opinion on the state of the current music industry?
Richard: In the UK its not professional enough. An American producer once said to a friend of ours – “in the UK you make great songwriters and musicians, in the US we know how to make great stars.” I think that is the difference, the US understands the business and takes it more seriously than we in the UK do. We have had no problem with Tree Paine who works closely with Taylor Swift she responds to our emails, phone calls, everything immediately. There is one musician who we work with who is nowhere near as busy as Tree Payne who doesn’t respond to emails. Go figure. I also think that downloading has given people the impression that music is somehow free, that it doesn’t cost anything to make or promote. Fred’s daughter went to a live festival in Spain and her friends were shocked to find they were expected to pay 20 euros to get into the festival because they had been downloading the artists for nothing.
XS: How do you listen to music nowadays- cd, vinyl or download?
Richard: I don’t download I listen to vinyl but in terms of relaxation, I listen to stand up comedy more than anything else. I love to stand up comedy because it’s not music, it gives me a break and makes me laugh. Funnily enough, stand-up is more generally speaking more political and angrier than a lot of pop music which is not the way it was 40 years ago. now pop music is all about lovey-dovey fluffy nonsense and that why I like the Taylor Swift song because I like the fact that it was dark and self-aware and slightly angry. I thought that was a good thing for a pop musician to be.
XS: Do you have a record that you always return to?
Richard: Not really no. I suppose it’s down to my mood really. There are bits of records that I can listen to forever like the guitar riff on Gimme All Your Lovin by ZZ Top is just fantastic. I listen to a lot of Dixie music because I love the clarinet and trombone and all that stuff so it depends on my mood but I don’t think there’s that one song that I would take with me to a desert island. I would take bits of lots of songs.
XS: I read you are writing your autobiography. When is it coming out?
Richard: We started off writing an autobiography and then we got sidetracked because we went to Cannes a couple of years ago. While we were there Fred and I had an idea for a movie which we happened to mention to a guy in Cannes who absolutely loved it who put us in touch with a scriptwriter, so we have been working on a movie for the last 18 months. The movie’s idea really got us going and I love the idea for the movie, it’s a black comedy. I would like to start pre-production early next year if possible. The biography will probably happen towards the end of next year or early 2019.
XS: What’s next for Right Said Fred?
Richard: We are releasing a mash-up of our track and Taylors track (Listen below) and we have some gigs to do before Christmas and then we are looking to take the band out on the road no later than early spring next year. I can’t wait to do it I am really looking forward to the live shows.
Check out more from Right Said Fred HERE