Having released music on labels such as V, Innerground, Good Looking, Fokuz, Bassbin and his own Flight Pattern label, it’s fair to say Random Movement has been around the block a bit. The American has stood at the summit of soulful, sun-kissed drum and bass for the best part of fifteen years and as such, we thought it would only be right to arrange a chat with the man otherwise known as Mike Richards. Read on for his take on influences, alligators, DJ booth hygiene and so much more.
First off Mike, you started Flight Pattern in 2016 and I was wondering how that came about. It seems to be something you’re passionate about.
Sure, Flight Pattern is a lot of fun. Everyone always used to ask me to start a label but I was thinking it was so over my head, and it seemed like a lot of work I didn’t know how to do – I didn’t know the first thing about distribution either. This went on for well over ten years until after a while my friend Marco, who is one of the guys who runs Triple Vision Distribution, said that if ever I wanted to start a label, he’d have my back. So from that point, starting a label seemed like the next step. I’d got to a point where I wanted to do things differently – every artist wants complete control of their art. That was one of the biggest reasons why I started the label. The business side and other learning processes have fallen into place and nowadays, I see things from the label’s side, which is interesting to say the least.
Now that the label is established, you’ve had a few outstanding releases recently. NEO-GEO’s New Ground EP is really funky – the keys in Moment of Clarity remind me of that UK garage vibe.
His stuff is great, man. It’s great because you can take those tunes and throw them out there at any point, and they don’t seem to age much. I had those tracks for eight months but decided to wait for more space in our release schedule. We also had the Alternate Routes Volume 1 various artists compilation where Makoto and I did a remix of Flaco-You Should Be There. Makoto is the shit, man. I also had Akuratyde do a remix of Ben Soundscape-Look Inside ft. Collette Warren. In fact, Akuratyde does all the artwork for Flight Pattern, too. He’s badass, he has that artistic direction so hopefully more people will hear of him soon.
Flight Pattern was also home to your second LP, Lost on Purpose, which dropped in October 2019. Was it strange to self-release an LP for the first time? A lot of producers dislike critiquing their own work.
That actually fell nicely into place. I had control of everything and recorded a lot more live instruments – bass, guitar, elements of the drums, a little piano… I have a five-piece drum set in our house which sounds great because of the elevated ceilings. All the songs on Lost on Purpose were written for somebody or for some kind of concept I had in my head. So from that standpoint, it felt like a real concept album to me, more than the first one.
That’s interesting because your first album Lucky Guess – released on Marky’s Innerground label in 2010 – seemed to be a real springboard for you. Marky really championed your music back then.
Yeah, Marky’s a lovely dude who has done so much for my music, but Lucky Guess was a labour of love. It felt like a case of throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what stuck. That said, Marky felt it flowed well as a collective piece of work. I totally respect what he said. Innerground is a great label, so I’m happy that I got to showcase a lot of my earlier releases with Marky.
Marky seems like a great guy, perhaps the happiest guy in the room at all times?
Oh yeah, every time I talk to him I walk away like this (grins). I walk away like: “Yeah, I can do things with my life! I can be somebody!” He definitely is infectious. But I’ve pissed him off in the past. You definitely don’t want to piss off a happy person (laughs).
Wow, this sounds like a story which needs to be told. Care to tell us why he was pissed off at you?
Well, I fucked up, my dude. I fucked up big time! I was supposed to play Marky and Friends in Sao Paulo in 2008, but I’d waited so long to get the correct VISA to travel to Brazil. In the end, I sent my passport off to the Brazilian embassy way too late. Then, two days before the gig, the Brazilian embassy calls me back and says I haven’t signed my passport, so they can’t grant me the VISA. I had to call Marky to say I couldn’t play, and he was so fucking pissed off at me!
He made me feel this small! I felt so bad… Eventually they replaced me with Taxman, who is a very different style to me. Taxman told me it was the most insane few days of his life – he played Japan the night before, then flew to Sao Paulo for Marky and Friends, then flew straight to London to play Fabric! He didn’t sleep for three days.
Man, that sounds hectic– the lengths we’ll go to for the love of drum and bass, eh? Are you still as enthusiastic about drum and bass as when you first started out?
I’m gonna be real blunt and honest here, but I don’t like a lot of the stuff I hear anymore. I’m criticising myself here as well, because the scene is becoming more and more formulaic – the music doesn’t excite me and it seems to be all the same piano riffs, the same think breaks and the same four chord melodies. It feels fucking heartbreaking to say this, because I never thought I’d feel this way about drum and bass. I feel like a lot of the newer drum and bass coming out is very deflated – I never thought I’d say this out loud and it’s probably the first time I’ve been honest about this. I want things to be different; I want something that excites me.
You’re still releasing your monthly podcast mix series though.
I still enjoy doing the podcast but I think I’m getting more and more picky with what I play. For my Bassdrive radio show, I create a folder of promos which I need to try out. So Bassdrive is basically two hours of me going blind and if something sounds bad, I mix out of it real fucking quick (laughs). Sometimes on the show I’ll bring up that it’s basically just two hours of me practicing. Then, once I’ve found music I like from my Bassdrive show, I’ll use that for the podcast. There are still forward-thinking artists out there who I like to release on my label, so I’m trying to focus on the newer artists who have found their way through my filter.
That seems fair enough. Switching back to your own music now, what’s it like to collaborate with your wife, vocalist Adrienne Richards?
Oh, it’s lovely, especially now we’ve managed to get the damn vocal situation sorted out. Usually I was shoving her in a closer with a microphone but in Florida we think that’s quite a mean thing to do to your wife. She used to get so hot in there so we’ve moved everything to one of the bedrooms. Our big thing when recording is that there was to be whiskey in the studio – whiskey is essential. I’m so lucky to be married to such a musically driven woman but three months into our relationship, I went to England for twelve weeks for a tour. That was the big test but we came through.
You also work a lot with the New York rapper, T.R.A.C.
Man, Terrence is my favourite MC on earth. When I sent him Living In A Dream, the lyrics he wrote for that gave me chills, man, and nothing gives me chills anymore. What’s cool about him is that he strives for perfection. He’s always like: “Mike, I know you’ve got more!” Usually when someone says that I get fucking pissed, like: “What do you mean I’ve got more? I gave it my all!” If it’s Terrence like five minutes later I’ll be like: “Yeah, you’re right, you’re always right, you bastard!” (laughs). We’ve had a lot of deep conversations about the little time we have on this planet and he’s right in my wheelhouse when it comes to interpreting my music into verse.
Your tracks always have such an upbeat mood too. Where does this come from?
That’s a good question. Well, I’ll tell you what, man, I can’t write music when I’m sad. I only really write music when I’m happy about stuff. A lot of people say music is life but I wanna fucking shake them and say: “No, it’s not!” There’s so much more out there to experience, and music can be a reflection of that, so you should pick up as many experiences as you can away from just music. You need be influenced by everything that happens in your existence.
Agreed, drum and bass should be a mirror for culture and everything that happens on this planet. On that note, it’s been great to see the drum and bass community’s support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Absolutely. We live in strange times, man, and it makes me so sad because when I was growing up in America, you sort of realised that people just accepted things the way they are. What happens when a generation accepts fucked-up shit like that? It becomes the norm for the next generation.
Therein lies the problem.
Yeah, police respond to claims about police brutality with more brutality. Now that everyone has a camera in their phone, they need to start using them. That’s the only way anything will get done. It’s just so frustrating to me. Kasper lives in the fourth precinct of Minneapolis where George Floyd was killed and soon after he joined the protests, there was a moment where a police officer throws a smoke grenade, it crashes into the ground and bounces into Kasper’s head. Some of my friends on Facebook have been to the protests and posted videos of police officers beating the shit out of people. We must speak up, look at how we can change things and make sure these assholes get brought to justice.
Well said, Mike. Was black music an influence for your work?
Of course, where do I start with this? All through my younger days I’d be hearing so much old soul music from my parents, who are from just outside of Philadelphia. A buddy of mine who used to come record hunting with me had a rule where if you found a record which looked like it was from the seventies, had black people on the cover and you hadn’t heard it yet, you bought it, because nine times out of ten it’s gonna be really good. You stop and think how difficult it was for black musicians to get any sort of press at all back in the day compared to white people. It all falls into place. You had to be really fucking good to get any kind of record deal.
Indeed. Aside from soul, what other genres shaped your sound and tastes?
My old music partner Jack Sheets – Mister Shifter is his DJ name – got me into dub which I soaked up big time. There’s a lot of that which I’ve reinterpreted my music. A lot of my writing comes from studying jazz theory too, and I still play upright bass as well. Some of the old funk bassists like George Porter Jr from The Meters still play in New Orleans, so we go and see him all the time – a lot of guys from that era still play all over the States.
Noting the Stateside vibe, tell me about your hometown, Winter Haven, Florida.
Honestly, it’s like a poor man’s paradise, my favourite place on earth. I genuinely would never want to live anywhere else. I don’t expect people to understand that, but over here I have friends in their 80s and friends who are 18. I’ve learned so many things from so many people. Plus there’s a great music community. There’s a big market for local music in Florida. Everyone’s retiring so they want to go to a bar, listen to music and have a couple of beers. Winter Haven is also in the chain of lakes region, so there’s like about 180 lakes that are interconnected – we can go out and stroll between them. People also talk a lot about the alligators here but no, they don’t want to eat you.
Do you see alligators over there, then?
Yeah, we see them a lot. I saw one last night at a gig I played, in a really tiny pond – I imagine everyone in that pond was lunch! The thing is, if you get bitten by an alligator, you’re a dumbass – they’re more scared of you than you are of them. You hear a lot of stories like: “Golfer gets bitten by an alligator while trying to retrieve a golf ball in the middle of a lake, like an idiot.” We’ve had experiences where they’ve been under our kayaks too, but they’re not really interested in you.
I think you sound braver than me! Now for some light-hearted questions to end on. Who is the funniest person you know in drum and bass?
Dave Owen is funny because of the trouble he gets into, for sure. I’m gonna rat him out right now. Me, Jaybee, Dave and Dave’s then-girlfriend and now-wife were all staying with friends at an undisclosed location at an undisclosed gig. The four of us went out for a burger, and by the time we got back, Dave really needed to go to the toilet. However, the house was locked up and there was no sign of our friends who were putting us up. In the end, Dave manages to get into the back garden and takes a dump behind the shed. Once the houseowners returned, they let their dog outside and the dog runs back in a few minutes later, having merrily rolled in Dave’s shit. The houseowner took one look at the dog and said: “Oh my God, he must have rolled in a dead bird!” We just looked at each other in awkward silence!
Whoa, I can’t imagine how you all kept your cool!
Yeah, Dave won’t be happy with me for telling this story, but that’s OK.
Do you have any pet peeves?
Here’s one – how many times have you watched the DJ before you cough or sneeze into the hands and then continue working the controls? That’s a big one for me. Literally every time this happens, I get sick. The thing is, man, bring some hand sanitizer – you’ve got to do that now.
Best beard in drum and bass? And no, you can’t say you.
Why can’t I say me? (laughs and considers deliberately). Well, I see Lenzman’s got an awfully nice trim going on. I don’t know if he’s been watching some YouTube videos on grooming, but he’s definitely got a few good tools there.
It’s been a blast chatting, Mike. So finally, are you a vinyl or digital man?
You too, thanks for the interview. I’m actually a Serato guy. I have turntables linked to Serato and although I love vinyl, I don’t play it a lot. One of the reasons I don’t do too much vinyl for the label is because it’s so expensive. I only broke even on the first Flight Pattern vinyl release three months ago, so it’s a very tough market.