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Ian Ritchie.


Ian Ritchie was born in Glasgow in 1954. After a number of uneventful years at Elgin Street Primary and Clydebank High School he took up clarinet, aged 15. His teacher, Derek Hawkins, who had played with the big bands of Geraldo and Ted Heath also played sax and it wasn't long before Ian switched to tenor saxophone. Clydebank wasn't exactly a hotbed of jazz in the 1960's so Ian was quite unusual in his listening habits, which ranged from Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Deep Purple, Cream and the Rolling Stones to John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderley, Archie Shepp, Ornette Coleman and Thelonius Monk. It wasn't until going to University in Liverpool in 1971 to study chemistry that he found like-minded musicians, interested in playing the sort of music he was inspired by. His first band Dragon played repertoire taken from Miles' 'Bitches Brew' period, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report and Cannonball's band with Joe Zawinul as well as original tunes. Dragon gigged in bars, student parties and clubs in Liverpool and Manchester, culminating in a farewell concert at London's 100 club supporting the great Dudu Pukwana.. 

In his final year at Uni Ian met a group of whacky art students (including Clive Langer, later producer of Madness and Dexy's Midnight Runners) who persuaded him to join their band Deaf School. This changed the course of Ian's life, which had been shaping up as a career working in chemistry laboratories and playing music as a hobby. On securing his degree, Ian stayed with the band who, after winning the Melody Maker rock competition, was signed to Warner Brothers records by the legendary Derek Taylor. (Publicist to the Beatles, Apple, The Beach Boys and the Byrds and then M.D. of Warners). Three albums and tours of the UK, Europe and the USA ensued. After some initial promise and a great reputation for entertaining live shows, Punk Rock finally killed off the rather theatrical Deaf School who gave up the ghost in 1978. At this juncture there was no question that Ian was going to continue his career in music. He moved to London and joined the unsigned Fame who lasted about a year gigging at the Marquee, The Hope and Anchor and numerous other London pubs before breaking up.

At this stage, living in London with rent to pay Ian took on any work that made a buck. This included busking at South Kensington tube station, playing to the American tourists visiting the V & A and the Natural History museum. Also, in West London there were many wine bars and restaurants that employed singer/guitarists. Ian sat in with as many of these as possible and landed a few duo gigs as a result. This state of affairs lasted for a year or so until Ian got a call from producer, Liam Sternberg who was looking for a sax player to tour with one of his acts, Jane Aire and the Belvederes. The Belvederes were in fact a great band called The Edge featuring Lu Edmonds (The Damned) on guitar and Jon Moss (Culture Club) on kit. The tour in question was the last of the Stiff Records tours that included Lena Lovich and Wreckless Eric.  

Touring with Jane Aire inspired Ian to start writing songs with his then girlfriend Berenice Nally. This resulted in the formation of The Swim, a power pop combo that gigged extensively in London at the likes of The Kensington, the Moonlight Rooms and the Windsor Castle. In parallel with this Ian joined any band that needed a sax player (and even some that didn’t!). This included Invisible Sex (funk), Bog Ugly and the Woofers (punk), Haze (heavy rock), The Shunters (highlife)… Rehearsing with these bands allowed him to hone his arranging skills in preparation for his later foray into record production. In addition, demoing the bands songs let him make connections with engineers and producers. This turned into offers of recording sessions and free studio time. Ian used the studio time to produce demos for The Swim that he then took round the many record and publishing companies that were thriving at the time in London.

After about a year of this it became clear that The Swim were getting nowhere.
Ian bought a Korg MS-10 and The Swim became Miro Miroe. Their music changed from power pop to electro in the style of the then current Human League, Depeche Mode, Soft Cell and Eurythmics. At this time, Ian met three people that would help him take things forward. The first was keyboardist Ian Curnow, a young music graduate who possessed a Roland Jupiter 4 and really knew how to use it. The second was Peter Coombes, manager of Haze. The third was Terry Coleman, a hairdresser at Toni and Guy’s. Peter took the same demos that Ian had unsuccessfully played to every A & R man in town, plus some photos of Ian and Bee with outrageous hairstyles courtesy of Terry, and netted a publishing deal with April Music. April Music in turn promised to get the band signed with a record label. After some initial overtures from Mark Dean at Polydor the band ended up being signed by Dave Novik at CBS.

Miro Miroe released “Nights Of Arabia” produced by Colin Thurston in 1982. The song was very well received by radio and charted in a good position much to the surprise of CBS who had not sent out enough copies to cover demand. As a result, the potential hit fell out of the charts the following week and was never seen again. The follow up singles “Islands” and “Ready, Steady” failed to make much impact and so Miro Miroe faded to grey, to quote a then contemporary hit by Visage..

Miro producers Colin Thurston, Steve Levine and Zeus B. Held were impressed by Ian’s programming abilities on the Roland MC-4 microcomposer, Roland TR 808, Sequential Circuits Pro-One, Roland Jupiter 8 and Linn Drum so offered him studio sessions arranging and programming on their own projects. As a result Ian came to the attention of Tiny Evans, MD of Octave hire who encouraged Ian to branch out and learn to operate the Fairlight CMI, Oberheim sequencer/synth/drum machine system, Emu Emulator and anything else that came through the door at Octave. As a result Ian became a sought after programmer/arranger and worked on recordings produced by Thurston, Held and Levine as well as Tim Palmer, Steve Hillage, Alex Sadkin, Phil Harding, Steve Nye, Phil Thornalley, Godley and Crème. Notable releases include David Grant’s “Watching You, Watching Me”, The Beach Boys’ “The Beach Boys” and Steel Pulse’s “Babylon The Bandit”. He also managed to fit in some sax sessions playing on Dee C. Lee’s “See The Day”, Wham’s “Club Tropicana”, Robbie Nevil’s “C’est La Vie” and David Sylvian’s “Brilliant Trees”.

Another side project during this period resulted from Ian’s interest in early computers such as the Sinclair ZX81 and the BBC Microcomputer, combined with his journalistic abilities. He had been writing articles on music technology for various magazines of the time and was approached by Pan to author a book on using the BBC Micro for music purposes. The result was the long deleted “BBC Microcomputer – A Music Masterclass” (which I always thought was a snappy title! Lol). The book did not exactly set the publishing world aflame, so can be considered a small footnote in an otherwise illustrious career.

Appearing in recording studios on a daily basis brought Ian to the attention of Sandy Roberton at World’s End Management. Sandy and his partner Paul Brown managed record producers and thought Ian an ideal candidate for this role. His first production was the G. I. Orange Christmas album. This was only ever released in Japan, where it sold well enough to beat Madonna to number one in the charts in 1984. Other productions followed and Ian’s tight, punchy arranging style combined with the use of state of the art sampling and sequencing technology became a popular choice for artists and record companies alike.

Between 1984 and 1992 Ian produced a range of recordings for a diverse bunch of artists including “Radio Kaos” by Roger Waters, “Swimmer” by The Big Dish, “Wolf” by Hugh Cornwell, “Sinful” by Pete Wylie, “Strange Angels” by Laurie Anderson, “Noise” by Soho, “Vermillion” by Three O’ Clock, “She’s Having A Baby” by Dave Wakeling and various singles, remixes and a few unreleased titles.  “Sinful”, the first single from Pet Wylie’s eponymous album reached the top ten of the British charts. “Radio Waves”, the first single from “Radio Kaos” reached 12 in the US charts with the album making top 25 in the UK and top 50 in the US. Most of the productions were recorded at Red Bus studios and often mixed there also on their SSL console. Other studios that Ian favoured at the time included Air (Oxford Street), Mayfair, Odyssey, The Strongroom and Eden. Although most of the productions were made in London Ian made the trip to the USA for Laurie Anderson’s recording in New York (mainly Laurie’s studio in her Tribeca loft) and Three O’ Clock’s in Los Angeles (American in Woodland Hills).

The record business is a fickle employer and by 1992 Ian’s 80’s style of production was no longer the height of fashion it had been a few years earlier. Offers started to become thin on the ground. He was signed as a writer by MCA Publishing and co-wrote songs with a number of singer lyricists to good creative effect, but little commercial return. He appeared as an arranger on a number of David Kershenbaum productions including albums by The Williams Brothers, Sara Hickman and Sonny Southen. For a while Ian diverted himself by learning to program his Atari 1040 using various computer languages including ‘C’ and ’Modula 2’ while moonlighting as a recording engineer at 12 Step recorders in Studio City, L.A. He produced, programmed and engineered an album for Holly Penfield entitled “Parts Of My Privacy” at 12 Step before giving up on L.A. and returning to Britain.

The musical climate in the UK had changed radically since Ian had been away. Brit Pop had arrived, full of jangling guitars. No synths or drum machines to be heard. The Rave Scene was still underground and in it’s infancy. Ian struggled to get gainful employment. He called Charlie Spencer at Candle Music who just happened to be in need of a composer/producer. The company produced jingles for adverts on TV and radio. At the time they were spending much of their budget on expensive studio time in West End facilities better suited to recording albums. Ian installed an Atari computer and an Akai S1000 sampler with Yamaha NS10 monitoring in their back room and Candle Studios was born. Since adverts are generally short pieces of music of about 20 or 40 seconds, it was possible to use the sampler as a hard disc recording system. Digital recording technology is now commonplace and available to anyone with a laptop. In 1992 it was unheard of and Ian and Charlie had to come up with a range of creative ways to get round some severe technical limitations. It did however give a viable alternative to the West End studio and so trimmed budgets in what was becoming a more and more competitive business.

Around this time Ian got a call from Mark Dean, an ace A&R man, who had become fascinated by the growing Techno scene in New York. He invited Ian over to his loft studio in the Bowery, where Ian spent a month absorbing the new music. He would record in the daytime and go to clubs at night. Mark introduced him to DJ’s and other Techno and House producers. He was able to press white labels of the music he had just recorded and hear it that night blasting through the systems at the Limelight or the Palladium. It was an ideal introduction to the new dance culture and a wake up call to a musician steeped in 80’s sounds. On his return to the UK Ian continued experimenting with Techno and the results can be heard on the 12” vinyl releases “We Shall Rave” and “Technology Records Sampler”. At this time Ian met John Lambert, owner of Joe’s Garage recording studio and joined his experimental live techno group Shen.

Shen played regular live shows at the Black Lion music venue in Kilburn during 1993. These shows stood them in good stead for their later, more high profile outings at Bagley’s Warehouse and The Big Chill. Ian also struck up a close musical relationship with one of the other Candle Music composers, John Ashton Thomas. Ian and John found that they could spontaneously improvise music together without the need for prearranged harmonic or rhythmic structures. Usually when performers play what could be described as ‘free improv’ or ’free jazz’ the result is cacophonous and difficult to listen to. The unusual aspect of the duo that became known as The Chance Element, was that this was not the case. John was able to harmonize on a variety of keyboards with Ian’s melodic excursions on sax, flute or whistle and produce beautiful and accessible music that was equally at home at the Black Lion, The Big Chill, restaurants, bars and later the Glastonbury festival.

It was at a gig at the Black Lion with The Chance Element supporting Holly Penfield that the next twist in his career happened. Music coordinator Neville Farmer approached Holly to ask if she would like to submit some music for a new TV series that he was involved with. Holly declined, but said he should talk to Ian. Neville wanted music in the ambient style of the then popular Deep Forest, William Orbit and Enigma. Ian said he had some tracks and they arranged a meeting at the Pilot Productions offices in 2 days. In fact Ian had barely heard of the above artists and certainly had no material of that type recorded. He went to Candle studios the following day armed with Deep Forest and William Orbit CD’s and proceeded to write and record 2 tracks, one of which would become “The Lonely Planet Theme” and the other “Songbird” which was used extensively as incidental music in the series. This was the start of a long association Ian had with Pilot productions who produced the “Lonely Planet” series which then metamorphosed into “Globetrekker” still using Ian’s theme music and featuring his works as incidental music in many of the programs.

The Black Lion proved to be the venue for another change in Ian’s life. Gilad Atzmon, the great Israeli saxophonist, philosopher and writer had just relocated to London to finish his Masters degree in philosophy. He needed some help with his written English in his papers, which Ian supplied in return for some guidance in jazz saxophone. These lessons changed Ian’s approach to playing and practicing. Previously Ian’s practicing had been unfocussed, ineffective and therefore not enjoyable. Gilad clearly enjoyed practicing and his method was clearly effective. Ian started a regime of daily practice which still continues to this day. This musical shift towards jazz coincided with Holly Penfield also returning to her musical roots and starting to perform standards in addition to her own material. The Holly Penfield band featuring Ian on sax performed at the Black Lion, The Two Brewers, Mezzo, and numerous Pizza Express venues. A highlight of this period was a 4-day trip to Giza for an Indian wedding where the band entertained in the evening and joined the guests for various sightseeing activities during the day.

Ian continued writing producing ads and TV music at Candle during the day and playing with Holly’s band and doing casual gigs and going to jams in the evening. This still left plenty of time to practice at a local rehearsal room (difficult neighbors). The Millennium came and went. Some of Ian’s music from the Lonely Planet series was released on CD. He played the horn parts with Pete Thoms on trombone on Aswad’s “Cool Summer Reggae”, but all in all, things were quiet on the professional front.

In 2003 Ian thought it about time that he recorded a jazz CD. Over a couple of weeks he wrote 20 or so tunes and got together a great band that included Vladimiro Carboni on drums, Alex Hutton on piano and Tom Fry on bass. After a few warm up gigs and some trial recordings at Candle studios, they went into Eastcote Studios and Philip Bagenal recorded the music for “Ian Ritchie’s SOHO Project”. The album was launched at the Pizza Express jazz club in Dean Street and later gigs included The Malta Jazz festival. Ian would have had more time to promote the SOHO Project had another opportunity not arisen.

Ian was playing sax at a party thrown by Charlie Spencer. During one of the breaks, Ian was approached by Andrew Zweck who asked if he knew of someone that could play tin whistle. Ian confirmed that he could and a few days later he was sent a recording of the Roger Waters band performing “Flickering Flame” at Glastonbury. Roger had a gig coming up where he would perform this song and didn’t want to bring Norbert Stachel all the way from L.A. for a 30 second tin whistle solo. A couple of weeks later Ian turned up at the Albert Hall, tin whistle in hand to perform with the band and the London Philharmonic orchestra. The gig went well and Ian was reacquainted with Roger and his son Harry.

About a year later Ian ran into Harry in a computer shop in Ladbroke Grove. Harry was studying jazz at Goldsmiths College and was also having regular jams at his flat, which Ian soon joined. When Roger decided to tour with a complete performance of ”The Dark Side Of The Moon”, he asked both Harry and Andrew, who he should get on sax. They both replied Ian Ritchie and so after a late night phone call from Roger asking “Can you play the solos from Dark Side and Wish You Were Here ?”, to which Ian obviously said “yes”, Ian was in the band. Three years of touring followed which included performances in Hong Kong, Sydney, Aukland, Red Square Moscow, St. Petersburg, River Plate stadium Buenos Aires, Rio De Janeiro and Rock In Rio in Lisbon.

On return from the World tour Ian resumed occasional jingle work at Candle, moved house and got back to a regular practice schedule. Since professional offers were not thick on the ground Ian employed a tactic that had served him well in the past. He joined any band in need of a saxophonist, regardless of style, competence or monetary reward. These bands included a Friday night rehearsal big band, a Latin band with a Spanish singer trying to promote a new CD, URUBU an Ecstatic Dance band. Contacts met in these groups then called Ian for gigs with Tina T’s Soul Revue, Duncan Fraser’s Big Band and some studio sessions. In addition to this Deaf School had reformed and the group played some outstanding shows at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool and Tokyo, Japan and recorded a new EP entitled “Enrico and Bette” .In 2010 he played saxes and flute for the Australian Prog Rock band Unitopia during their European tour and is featured on the tour DVD “One Night In Europe”.

Currently, Ian performs regularly with URUBU at their Ecstatic Dance events, Tina T playing Soul, R&B and House, The Crown Moran Allstars playing jazz, occasional Deaf School shows and the odd Holly Penfield jazz cabaret. He is also a member of the Harry Waters Band and is featured on Harry’s debut CD and will be playing some festivals in Europe during 2012.