Mr. C spoke to Mark Dale about his clubbing experiences at The End, his move to LA and how those 'Ebeneezer Goode' lyrics really came about.
Last updated: 16th Aug 2017. Originally published: 22nd Mar 2016
Mr. C aka Richard West is a Londoner and Chelsea FC fan who started MCing in nightclubs when he was still a teenager. Among his earliest notable associations were his work with DJs Colin Faver and 'Evil' Eddie Richards and his appearances in the late eighties at the Clink Street Rip parties, one of London's first acid house clubs.
It was through the latter venue that he met visiting Scottish musicians Colin Angus and Will Sinnott who were in a psychedelic band called The Shamen. Soon relocated to London and inspired by acid house The Shamen changed musical direction, took on a couple of new members including Mr. C and became one of the UK's first longstanding bands of the rave era.
In 1990 the band released breakthrough singles 'Move Any Mountain', 'Hyperreal' and 'Make It Mine', becoming a focal point and a spiritual voice for the dance music inspired social revolution taking the UK by storm, but in May 1991, just after completing a video for 'Move Any Mountain' in Tenerife, band member Will Sinnott sadly drowned.
The Shamen however continued and had their most commercially successful year in 1992 with the release of the Boss Drum album, which spawned the singles 'LSI (Love Sex Intelligence)', 'Boss Drum', 'Phorever People', 'Re:Evolution' and 'Ebeneezer Goode', the latter a thinly veiled advocation of the use of ecstasy which reached number one in the UK charts.
Following their huge success The Shamen seemed to shy away from the limelight and their music became more experimental. They released their final album in 1998, but by that time Mr. C's energies were already elsewhere.
He had founded the techno and house label Plink Plonk with Paul Rip (of the Clink Street parties) which went on to release music by the likes of Mr. C, Matthew Bushwacka B, Derrick Carter, Luke Solomon and Stacey Pullen, with each artist appearing on the label under a pseudonym.
In 1995 Mr. C and DJ Layo opened The End nightclub in the west end of London which remained one of the capital's best loved dance music venues until its closure in 2009. During its life it held residencies by DJs such as Fatboy Slim, Roni Size, Mr. C, Layo and Bushwacka and club nights like DTPM, Subterrain, Twice As Nice and Trash and founded its own label End Recordings.
Beginning in 2002 Mr. C's residency at The End was the Superfreq night and this too became a record label, co-run with David Scuba. Although The End has closed Mr. C still runs Superfreq parties internationally and the reactivated label issues new music that both inspires and is inspired by the parties.
Now a resident of Los Angeles, we caught up with Mr. C for a chat about his career to date and some more contemporary thoughts.
Superfreq has just celebrated its 14th anniversary. How was that and how was the Steelyard venue for you?
The Steelyard venue is amazing and so was the event. I first used the Steelyard venue in December 2015 when we celebrated The End's 20th anniversary. We had Richie Hawtin, Layo & Bushwacka and myself.
With the Superfreq 14th anniversary, we hadn't done many Superfreq parties in London in the past year, just one, so people had been asking all year when we were going to do another one. They came out in force.
We had Bushwacka again, Philipp from MANDY, myself, Confute from Japanese Popstars, my Superfreq partner David Scuba in the main room and Superfreq artists Lo, Dutchie, Broken Neon, Shane Watcha from Zombies soundsystem and Voigtmann from Toy Toy, so it was a close knit family unit, everyone knew each other.
The venue's amazing. It reminds me a bit of The End. The main room's like a big tunnel with a bar in it and a mezzanine and the side room is like a long shotgun type room. Really great space, great soundsystem, the management are great and the staff are all great. They were all dancing behind the bar and stuff. In that way it really reminds me of The End.
Do you miss The End?
No, I'm not really one for nostalgia. I look back on The End with the fondest of memories. The best clubbing experiences of my life I had there, especially the closing party which was hands down the best clubbing experience I've had in all my days. But, no, I don't miss it.
I was happy to close it when we did. It was just when we went into the credit crunch, the property market crash and everything so things did become a bit of a struggle for everyone. For us, because we had five months of closing parties, all the individual nights had their own closing parties, so we had an amazing four or five months, but it was the right time to close.
For me, I wanted a change in lifestyle. I moved over to LA ten months after we'd closed so it was pretty perfect.
There's no real clubs to speak of left in the West End now.
So I'm told. I'm not surprised. So many people wanting to move in there. You get the same thing a lot round London, where people open new apartment buildings then you get complaints about the noise.
Then it's down to the venues to spend hundreds of thousands on soundproofing. I think it's well out of order that businesses that have been established for many years should be forced to closed because of one or two moaning new residents. Awful.
Aside from the closing parties what are your favourite memories from The End?
The bittersweet one is the opening party. We had 1,000 people, industry only invite party, amazing line up and we gave away £30,000 worth of booze that night. It was incredible. But when the lights went on my brand new wooden, sprung dancefloor looked like a swimming pool of beer. I was like 'Arrrrgh!' It cleaned up well thankfully, but it was a bit scary at first. That was an amazing one.
All of the anniversaries were really, really special. One event that sticks in my heart was when we did a benefit night for Armando, the Chicago acid house legend, who sadly passed away from leukaemia. We did a benefit for his family and we had lots of DJs playing back to back sets.
There's been so many amazing parties down there though. DTPM was amazing, Subterrain parties were amazing, I could go on all day. It was the kind of venue where you could walk in any night of the week and you're guaranteed to be met with friendly staff, friendly security, a great crowd of Londoners who were up for it. It was just a special venue overall really.
Tell me about Noel Jackson, what he does for you and what else he does when he's not working with you.
Noel's a prodigy, a genius. He knows sound design inside out, back to front. He's my studio engineer, so I make music with him. He makes sure all the mixdowns sound pretty spot on.
His skills with sound design are quite unreal. With previous engineers it would take seven or eight hours to write and arrange a track, another five or six hours mixing it down, getting the sound right. With Noel, we can have a track finished completely in six or seven hours. It's unreal. He's a genius.
He's one of the three partners in the Superfreq label, along with myself and David Scuba. We record together as East LA Tech, that's when we write together. When I'm Mr. C he just engineers.
He has an amazing studio. He's actually just an amazing engineer when it comes to anything using a computer. Up until pretty recently he was also doing web design, building e-commerce sites. When he was a little kid he was one of those who took everything apart. So was I, but when I took everything apart I would never know how to put it back together again! Whereas he was.
He learns everything inside out. He's a genius. I reckon he's the next Richie Hawtin. His music writing skills are sick, he's got his own sound, his own groove and he's a great DJ. He's a mischievous, cheeky young man, he's got it all. He's a future, monster star.
You're known for playing and producing contemporary music, but you don't seem to mind being associated with retro dance music themes, such as the compilation you did for Fantazia in 1995 and now this Dance 88/89 event you're doing in Manchester. Do you think there has been a golden era for dance music and if so when was it?
Well I think the golden era is now. That's always the case. That's why I'm a new music DJ and always will be a contemporary music DJ. For me it's all about moving forward, the future, it's about cutting edge.
Other than what's going on now and tomorrow, I think the golden era was 1987, 1988, 1989 for the music. It was when rave culture was born, a very special time. The energy levels, the rebellious nature of it, the punk ethos of it shone through. I don't think there's been an era to top that apart from now.
What's it like reading the word legendary before your name?
It makes me laugh. More of a leg end than a legend. I don't take anything seriously. Especially myself. I like to have a laugh at stuff. People do sometimes get a bit sycophantic, but I try and be pleasant and nice about it.
Sometimes, when people come up to me in clubs and say, "You're a legend! If it weren't for you, blah, blah, blah", I'm like, "Knock it on the head, will ya?" It gets a bit much. I'm not a shy person, as you know, but I feel a bit embarrassed. I've done a lot of work on my ego, even though it is still a rampant monster, through meditation, over many, many years.
So, I don't take compliments that great. Even when I know I've played a great set and people come up and say, "That's the best I've ever heard" then I feel a bit uncomfortable. I don't take all that seriously at all. All that's important is happiness and enjoying yourself.
Superfreq as a label had seven years off between 2006 and 2013. Why did that happen, what were you doing in that time and why resurrect it?
Well, we launched the parties, then the label. We had nine releases and an album. It was a vinyl only label at that time. I had a distributor that messed up one thing after another. Things were always late, it was just a pain and I couldn't be arsed.
It got to a point where I thought, I'm a busy man, I love what I do, I work hard, but I don't have time for this. So I just concentrated on events, put the label on the shelf with the idea that I'd come back to it, which is what I did.
Why resurrect Superfreq and not Plink Plonk?
That's a good question. Superfreq is what my events brand is and I thought it was more important to resurrect Superfreq to show what the events are. The music we make is very much what the events are about, forward-thinking acid house. Plink Plonk was also kinda about that, but we weren't doing events.
I'm still very close with my former partner at Plink Plonk, Paul Rip. He now does the Specimen label, which I've just done a remix for. One of my artist names on Plink Plonk was Somnambulist, which was me and Paul together, and we're gonna resurrect that. The remix I did for Specimen I did as Mantrac, which was my own personal name that I used on Plink Plonk. All of the artists on Plink Plonk weren't allowed to use their real names.
So there is still a link there with Plink Plonk. Also, on Halloween, Paul and I did a Rip party together, which was the seminal Clink Street 1988 parties that were responsible for the acid house scene happening in London. It was the opposite to what Shoom was.
We were the real deal, hardcore acid house and Detroit techno club whereas Shoom was a very cool Balearic kind of thing. We're going to be doing another one of them in May and one in the late summer as well. So, we still do have that connection and, who knows, we might do Plink Plonk again one day.
Where did you first meet Colin Angus and Will Sinnott (The Shamen)?
That was at Clink Street, at a Rip party, back in 1988. I met the manager Charles Cosh first. He moved down to London in 1988 to get The Shamen a record deal and a publishing deal and stumbled across these lunatics doing this dark acid house thing, which was us lot.
So he became a regular. He came every week. He got onto the boys in Scotland and said, "Look, you guys are a psychedelic band, there's this new thing going on in London called acid house, it's not like anything you've heard before, it's the future, you need to come and check it out."
So Colin and Will came to London, came to Clink Street, fell in love, got involved and never went back. They squatted down here and that was that. They changed the blueprint of the band from psychedelic rock to acid house.
What was the Synergy tour in 1989 like? The Shamen, Orbital and Paul Oakenfold, that's quite a line up.
Yeah, it was amazing. I DJ'd at a few of them as well as being a guest MC, because I was a guest vocalist in The Shamen by then. In 1989 we recorded the original 'Move Any Mountain' as Progen. I loved it.
It was very different to what I was used to DJing at in Clink Street. I was playing more or less just acid house parties then whereas the Synergy parties were just that, a synergy between underground psychedelic rock, an alternative industrial sound and acid house.
It created something different. The crowd wasn't just an acid house crowd. It was live bands and DJs working together. We'd have Irresistable Force (Mixmaster Morris) playing sets and Orbital and The Shamen, plus DJing myself, Eddie Richards, Paul Oakenfold, DJ Sticker, who was The Shamen's resident DJ at the time. Brilliant parties, high energy, very different.
Not that much later The Shamen were the first to take the new rave sound to Russia. How was that experience?
I was only a guest of the band at the time and I sadly didn't go to Russia, so I can't really say. But from what Colin and Will said it was amazing, going behind the iron curtain, the way that people had absolutely nothing, they were piss poor, there was no technology. People were using reel to reel tape in order to be able to DJ, they had nothing. But they said it was an amazing response.
You were in the middle of a really crazy schedule, with the band really taking off, when Will sadly died. As far as the public could see the band continued seamlessly on this trajectory, but what was happening behind the scenes? How had the dynamic changed?
Of course it changed the dynamic. It was absolutely awful. The Shamen was Will Sinnott and Colin Angus. Before that dreadful incident in May 1991, Colin and Will wanted to consolidate the band. They asked me to join as a full member and they also asked Plavka to join and she was up for it, but then when we lost Will the band was going to stop.
Everyone was devastated. It was a mountainous loss. But we had thousands and thousands of letters from fans sending condolences, but also saying, "Please keep the Shamen going, this is such an important band." It was fan power that actually made Colin Angus keep it going. He's the governor. He's always been the boss.
When Will was there it was a partnership, but once Will had gone it was all down to Colin and what he wanted to do. So, because of fan power, Colin decided to keep it going, he asked me if I wanted to stay without Will and I said yes. Plavka decided no, it wasn't for her and respect to her for making that decision. Colin and I then went about getting another female vocalist and started writing Boss Drum.
I have to ask you about 'Ebeneezer Goode' because it was the band's biggest selling single.
It was the band's second biggest selling single actually. The biggest was 'Phorever People', it got to number five Christmas week in 1992. 'Ebeneezer Goode' probably would have been the biggest selling single had we not been the first band in the history of British pop music to delete a single while it was at number one.
It went straight from number one to seventeen then out, because it was deleted. If we hadn't done that I think it would have stayed around for months. But it was ruining our release schedule and we decided to get rid of it. 'Phorever People' got to number five in a week that Take That, Madonna, all had singles out, so to have a number five single Christmas week was pretty special.
That's a pretty insane thing to do, to delete a single that's at number one.
Yeah, but it was the right thing to do. We were getting a bit bored of it. Bored of the attention from the mainstream media, with us portrayed as the evil acid house band corrupting the nation's youth. It was all getting a bit tiresome, explaining the same story over and over again, lying that it had nothing to do with ecstasy. It was wearing us down, so we decided to delete it and move on with the release schedule.
The 'Boss Drum' single came after that and did very well, it got to number four and then 'Phorever People'. In January we released the 'Re:Evolution' track with Terence McKenna talking for seven minutes about DMT and psychedelic culture that we got into the top 20 and it had to be played in the chart run down. Happy days!
Going back to 'Ebeneezer Goode', how do those quite obvious drug references sound to you in 2016?
I think the words that were written are absolutely genius. Even if I do say so myself! [laughs] We were at Synergy Vs Decadance at the Town & Country, after a Shamen concert in Kentish Town and after the gig we always used to put on our baseball caps and our jeans and get on the dancefloor.
This time, this guy came up to Colin, absolutely out of his mind, he was rushing his tits off and put his arms around him and said, "Es are good, es are good." Colin, being the songwriting genius that he is, something went off in his head and he kept it.
We based the song around eight people we knew, DJs and lighting engineers, a couple of friends, a drug dealer. The character was based on those eight and we made this composite. I had to write words that would be ambiguous in every line and we dropped the 'h' from the start of each line, like Londoners do. I think we nailed it.
Nobody really got it apart from the chorus and that was easy to explain off because we said in the first verse his friends call him Eezer. They tried to ban it, failed miserably, because they didn't question the verses, they just went after it for the chorus, but that had been justified.
Would any of those eight characters be known to me?
I don't know. They all got a silver disc for sales. Probably. Eddie Richards was one, Colin Faver was another, may he rest in peace. Richard, another DJ, Nick Sequency, who's a psy trance DJ, a lighting engineer, Craig, another mate, Paul Unique.
How did it come to pass that Jerry Sadowitz was invited to be in the video?
Because we thought he was a horrible misogynistic bastard and as such the perfect Ebeneezeer character, a complete bellend. He had the look, he had the character. Again it was Colin's idea. Colin's such a genius.
Do you keep in touch with Colin?
Very minimal, but yeah. We keep threatening to get together for dinner but never do. I haven't seen him for, must be three years now. But we are in touch via e-mail. We often have to approve things things like license requests, things for commercials, compilations.
Plavka now also lives in LA like you. Have you ever bumped into her?
Yeah, I know that. We are Facebook friends. We have threatened to get together. I think she's married with a kid now. Sadly I've not bumped into her yet.
What prompted your move to LA?
Lots of things really. About 13/14 years ago, when I was 36, I started thinking a bit more about what I would be doing when I retire from DJing, which I guess is a bit funny because I'm 50 now and I still haven't, I'm still full on. But I started thinking that I couldn't really be an aging DJ, it's not a great look, even though some are way older than I am.
I thought it would be easy to still run events, a club, a label, DJ management, a production company, but that would have meant me just sitting in an office and not being a performer, an entertainer anymore, which I am. Very much so. So I thought maybe it's time for me to start thinking more seriously about acting. I'd been told since I was a kid, "You should be an actor." I thought maybe one day.
Anyway, I did an interview with one of the bigger dance music magazines and they asked what would I be doing ten years from now. I said I was going to be an actor, the natural replacement for Anthony Hopkins. It was all very tongue-in-cheek.
But there was this guy who was an acting teacher, John Osborne Hughes, who read the article. He wrote a film script called Beyond Ecstasy. It was a very successful theatre production, it got rave reviews and he put it into a screenplay for a film. He thought that I would be great as one of the three main characters in the movie, so he contacted me and asked if I was serious about being an actor.
He offered to teach me method acting for free if I would be in his movie, so I said, "Ok, let's do it." So we trained together for two and a half years. Then, sadly, I lost my mother to cancer and I stopped for a year, but I went back and did another two and a half years, every week, until I got to the point where we thought I was done.
After that, I thought it would be really easy, as a minor celebrity, to get a part on Eastenders or some British TV, but I decided to take the hard route, move to Los Angeles where I'm totally unknown and do it properly.
So, how's it going? There's a lot of people in LA looking for acting work.
I've done my first short which came out not so long ago. It's called Desire and has Sophie Kennedy and Johnny Knoxville in it. It was only 15 minutes long and I had a couple of small roles in that. One was as a drunk, which was easy for me, one as a movie director's assistant. It certainly gave me a taste for it.
This is a big year for Superfreq, we've just changed distributor and I'm making a new album, but next year I do want to push the acting a bit more. Finding something I love doing as much as Djing I never thought would happen. It's just like being a big kid, pretending to be someone else.
So, they have an election coming up in America. Looks like it's going to be Trump Vs Clinton....
I have to disagree. I don't think it's going to be Trump Vs Clinton. I think Bernie Sanders is making some amazing waves right now...
He's amazing, but there's no way Hilary's not going to get that nomination.
I disagree. He's started winning seats he should not be winning. I think it's going to go to the wire. And being a leftie I want Bernie to win. Clinton would just be another corporate puppet. I think it's started to gain momentum for Bernie now and I think you might be surprised.
Well I'll have a $10 bet on it with you and I'll come and collect it next time I see you.
I'll stick a tenner on that.
Well, we're obviously both lefties, but thinking about the other side. Donald Trump? That's a bit scary, no?
Yeah. What a cock-wobbling thunderc*nt that arsehole is. Fucking hell. Another reason I hope it will be Bernie is that it will be such a fucking show. Can you imagine? Far-right, fascist, cock-wobbling thunderc*nt extraordinaire versus complete left-wing nutcase. That would be like the boxing match of the century.
So, I'm hoping just for entertainment's sake it will be that. But trump, yeah, what an idiot. On every level. He contradicts himself sometimes within the same sentence. He's got the IQ of a loaf of bread. Bear in mind it's just some of the Republicans that support him. I read somewhere that some Republicans are saying that if Trump gets the nomination that they will vote for the Democrats. That's huge.
Everything about Trump is an absolute joke. Some people are going for it because some people here are so gullible. Some Americans do believe what they see on TV and they can be very gullible. They actually believe that this guy can make America great again. They believe he's going to make them safe from terrorism. They think he's going to magic jobs. The guy is a moron of the highest level.
Last weekend they had to cancel his rally in Chicago for fear of violence, yet he's the one that's stirring things up. I saw a video of the difference between someone heckling at a Trump rally and someone heckling Obama and Trump has them removed, has them beaten up, he's encouraging violence, he's inciting racism. Whereas Obama would allow people to speak, treat them with respect. The difference is night and day.
Do you think Guus Hiddink (Chelsea's interim manager) should stay in the job?
No I don't. Asking me if he should or if I would like him to are two different questions. Would I like him to? I would like him to do another year because he's really steadied the ship after the Mourinho debacle and he's done a great job of getting the players playing again.
We haven't lost a game since he came back. He's a lovely guy. I love watching his interviews, he's so smart. He's really calm, takes everything on the chin, he really knows what he's doing. But he's 70 years old and he doesn't want the job. So, because he doesn't want it I don't think he should continue. If he wanted it I'd say give him a three year contract right now.
I'm excited by the prospect of a new, younger manager coming. I'd love to see Guus stay on in another capacity, maybe to replace our technical director Emenalo, who I hold in the same light as I hold Donald Trump. All the talk is that Conte, the Italy national manager is going to come after the 2016 Euros. I'm hoping that's true because he's hardcore. He's a very good tactician. What he did for Juventus was quite amazing.
I also like the look of Allegri, although he's ruled out leaving Juventus. I also like Simeone, although he says he doesn't want to leave Athletico. Whatever, it'll be another interesting chapter in the Chelsea managerial saga.
Where do you think Jose is going to go?
I have no idea. There is a big possibility that he will go to the rags, Man United. Maybe. I don't think it would suit Man United's fans or their style of football. I really don't know. I think Man United need a more attacking minded manager.
If he did go there I don't think he'd last long, probably just a couple of years like he does everywhere else. It would be very entertaining for the Premier League if he did go there, but I kinda see Ryan Giggs being the future manager of Man United. Maybe he'll go to Bayern Munich?
Pep Guardiola's going to Man City, which is going to be interesting, he's an amazing manager. The rest of us are all shitting our pants right now because of that. It could be that Jose goes to Bayern, they haven't announced a replacement yet.
Who's responsible for that debacle with Chelsea at the start of this season?
I lay the blame firmly on the board and on Emenalo in particular. The board made the wrong decisions and not at the beginning of this season, but at the end of last season, when they decided that Chelsea should go on this stupid post season tour of Thailand and Australia.
They'd battled their legs off for a whole season, they were all worn out and tired, won the league and then they were made to go on this stupid tour and not on holiday. So, after the tour they got to go on holiday, but that meant that our pre season was an absolute laughing stock. It was a joke. Three games does not make a pre season. You need six, seven, eight games to get the team up to speed and ready.
When we played Arsenal in the Community Shield they pissed all over us for the first time in ten years. They slaughtered us, made us look like a bunch of fat, pie eating hasbeens and I think that really affected the team. They weren't ready for the first six or seven games. By that time we'd had four games where we'd gone down to 10 men, the confidence was shattered. I blame the board.
If they hadn't of been on that stupid tour, if we'd had a proper pre season, we would've hit the ground running, we would've spanked the Gooners again. It wouldn't have been 2-2 at home to Swansea, we would've won 3-0, the whole thing with Eva wouldn't have happened. We never would have had so many players sent off for late challenges because they would've been fit, they wouldn't have been late.
The whole thing would've been completely different and we still would've had Jose Mourinho, the special one, with us right now. So, the board's where I firmly lay the blame.