Richard Fearless

Death in Vegas honcho and electronic producer Richard Fearless lets us in on how he wires his dancefloor distortions…

Jim Ottewill
  • By Jim Ottewill
  • 7 Nov 2014
  • min read
DJ, producer, songwriter and tastemaker Richard Fearless is well known as an electronic aficionado.

He was the brains behind synth-loving rock and rollers Death in Vegas, a group which enjoyed huge success during the late nineties by blurring the lines between krautrock, dub and analogue techno.

Their second album, The Contino Sessions featured heavy hitting collaborators Bobby Gillespie, Jim Reid and Dot Allison and earned the group a nod from the Mercury Prize. Following a string of well received albums and some time out in the US, Richard is now throwing himself into Drone, a re-animated label dedicated to his love of all things Detroit/Chicago. Inspired by the work of Omar S and labels such as L.I.Es, he’s got a renewed thirst for the night, as heard in the heavy chug of recent single, Higher Electronic State. We quizzed Richard on the label, the creative process and what the future holds…

How did you first get into music?

I guess it was through my parents, growing up in Africa and their huge record collection. That was the start of it. They didn’t play instruments but they were really into their music. My dad was a jazz head and my mum was more open to all the music around her. She was an art teacher in Zambia. A lot of her colleagues opened her up to Congolese music. At that age I remember the power of selection and getting a nod from my mum or dad.

How did you start making your own music?

Through Djing. I’d been collecting records from an early age and working in record shops through my teens. I’d amassed a lot of records, as soon as I’d got a grant I bought turntables, as you did in those days when you got paid to study. I was putting on parties, started DJing and someone asked me if I fancied doing a remix. I’d never been in a studio before and gave it a shot. I did a track, and off the back of that I got a deal. Different days eh?

How do you approach making music?

I’m constantly trying to work in different ways to try and keep it fresh. I write a lot more stuff on the guitar nowadays. As far as the creative process, it does differ depending on what I’m working on. At the moment, I’m making new material which is really instinctual and starting more with a song’s rhythm. Gamma Ray was all about the drums and building them up. It’s a lot more visceral to come from that aspect.

What’s the thinking behind the new material?

I put Death in Vegas on hold and went to the US. When I returned, I decided to do another Death in Vegas record. I did that, toured it and at the end I didn’t know what was next. Drone was a label I’d been involved with to some extent. I’d put an album out on it but never really taken it on. I decided that was the time to give it total control from financing to artwork and mail outs. I’d had a break from DJing while in America, so when I came back I moved in next to Andrew Weatherall’s studio and started buying records again. I found the whole process of going in the studio, making a record, getting it cut and playing it out in a club – it just kind of simplified everything. I feel more inspired by this way of working than I have for a long, long time.

Which artists were you looking to for inspiration?

The likes of Omar S, D'Marc Cantu and FRAK. Labels like Borft Records, Code is Law, Dixon Avenue Basement Jams, L.I.E.s. I’m drawn to the Detroit end of the electronic spectrum. Someone like D’Marc, he’s someone whose work has really motivated me. A lot of techno producers like him are working in a very live way.

What’s the plan with Drone? Are you looking to release a full album?

Yes definitely. With the label the starting block is sorting out the distribution. I managed to go with Kompakt which is fantastic. So it’s bit more set up than before. There are a few more twelves before Christmas, then next year we’re planning two albums, one being a compilation of electronic, non-dance music. The other will be more tonal drones, I hate the word ambient but it will be more like that. I’ll also be working on my own Richard Fearless album.

Have you an overarching idea for your own record?

I’ve been sketching it out and the notes are all over the wall. Literally. It’s just a question of getting everything in place really and making a few changes to the studio before we start totally rolling. I’m currently rolling and working on music and hopefully my own material.

Do you feel any pressure with the new music?

With the first releases, I’ve just given myself a goal. So the first one was make a record I could end my sets with. The second was more about the middle of the set. It’s that simple really. It’s weird as a DJ, I’ve always been really removed from Death in Vegas. It’s almost like a completely different head I put on when I go into that mode. It’s a bit more of a nod to the music I grew up with as well as putting my own stamp on it as well. The whole record won’t be geared to the dancefloor but it will be heavily electronic.

Is dance music in a good state at the minute?

There’s a healthy amount of people pressing vinyl. With the explosion in the US I was watching some footage of a rave in stadium and I feel very far removed from that world. It’s kind of crazy that DJs are getting residencies in casinos and riding dingys over crowds or whatever. But I was looking at ‘colleagues’, people I’d associate myself with and they’re playing the big clubs in Ibiza and stuff. It does seem that the bookings over there are becoming more underground. It’s really healthy despite this big divide from EDM. It’s like talking about two different languages and trying to compare them.

Visit for more information on Richard's latest projects - check out the seriously trippy video to Higher Electronic State below...