Life with the Aphex Twin. Part 2.
It’s knocking noon when I head to the kitchen for breakfast, stepping over a sleeping stranger and a couple of overflowing bin bags on the landing.
The kitchen is a tiny grime museum at the back of the house used by the six of us and abused by a never ending stream of visitors.
Neale is already up, and pressing a clean shirt on the stained ironing board. In spite of circumstances; he has standards to keep. A handsome Liverpudlian ringer for Martin Fry, circa Look of Love, his wardrobe is almost all ancient and made of tweed.
Given a time machine, he'd be straight back to the 1920s. I’d gladly hitch a lift to the perma-press mid-60s, but we’re here on the techno front line, Friday, January the something, 1995.
It's been winter forever. It’s hard to keep track of time here, especially when dishwater skies dim to pitch black by 4pm. I glance out of the barred window. The mad old man next door is vacuuming his threadbare lawn, shouting one of his cracked catchphrases “Army mate!… Army done it! Army mate!!”
Neale, ironing done, pulls a roach end from an over-flowing saucer, and lights it off the cooker. There’s a knock on the front door, and our eyes widen in momentary paranoia.
“Got it!” shouts Richard thumping down the stairs.
It’s a courier, picking up a track for a Pirelli Advert.
The ad is the first fruit from a deal with a Hollywood agent on Rodeo Drive. Richard’s just trousered more loot than I’ll make off the remaining millennia.
Although signed as Aphex Twin to Sire records US, and Warp UK, Richard’s brokered incredible deals which allow him to release records under any alias he phancies, often on his own Rephlex label. It’s amazing for a 22 year old to have such vision and control.
The Pirelli gig uses a “Caustic Window” tracks named Garden of Linmiri; so says the internet. It also informs that caustic means “destruction by corrosion”, “incisive sarcasm” and the “refraction cast by light through curved glass”.
Stu’s up. Also a scouser, he’s the house Mayor, with a prime civic duty to motivate wayward behavior, or as he calls it: “jollies”. He can be super practical, kind and generous, but he’s mostly hilarious. He has the look of Brian from E17 (ask your gran, but don’t mention this to Stu). Like most of the folks around, he’s turned up to 11.
It’s time for “work”, so I commute back to my bedroom. Sleeping bag man has gone, probably not to work.
At 8pm, Neale’s shirt and the rest us are going out. We step out a lot, but rarely with Richard. He barely leaves the house unless obligated.
Turns out, sleeping bag man is one of Richard’s school mates from Cornwall who descend en masse periodically. They live in a squat in Brixton, Cornish Crusties. They have a tribal order, headed by a guy who is the dictionary definition of caustic, (not the glass one). They all pepper their talk with “lush”, ‘spicy”, “well spicy”,”mental”. The word “idge” is liberally added to the end of words- tune-idge, spliff-idge…
Half of us are suited, in full pomp, the rest, crusted in full crust awaiting the #73 bus in the freezing damp.
We are headed to Madame JoJo’s drag club in the heart of Soho; a red velvet womb with resident band The Mike Flowers Pops. They will have a huge hit with a cover of Wonderwall at Christmas, inconceivable at this moment. We’ve seen them a bunch and Stu’s persuaded Richard, the immovable force, to check them out. Stu has the power.
MFP are kitsch, but with an art school heart. During a Bowie medley, Mike informs, in pilot tones, “This ain't rock'n'roll, this is genocide ladies and gentleman”. All such nuance will be consumed in an easy listening theme party fad by next year.
Mike and his dozen or so band are busy weaving their magic. Chief Caustic Crusty has twigged Mr Flowers wears a costume wig, and is compelled to shout the obvious:
Richard joins in, “Wig-idge!”
then the rest of the pack follow, “WIG-IDGE!!”.
The game is unrelenting. Imagine being their teacher.
Richard must have enjoyed the heckling, for he agrees remix the band.
By 1995, he’s turning down such offers constantly, so it’s a scarce badge of approval.
The results are later released on the EP “Mike Flowers Pops meets the Aphex Twin Downtown”. And here we are.
Aphex Twin/ Mike Flowers
Time for last orders. Some suited wit suggests we hail a “cab-idge” home to extend the jollies.
Back at Clissold, Richard Dj's to the neighbourhood from his room at the top; Iron Maiden and Brian Wilson, are seamlessly mixed into a load of old acid house and new jungle. EVER SO LOUD.
It’s my turn to brew the bucket of tea
Over the sink is a recently minted dish washing rota, a vain attempt to keep the chaos at bay. Scrawled in Sharpie over today’s space is RICHARD DISH JAMES. It’s the first and last time it’ll appear. He’s even cleaned the ashtray/ saucer, I load it on to the tea tray and it’s onward to Saturday morning.
Update: A kindly Aphex fan sent this link to an interview with Richard from '97. He talks a bit about the house and neighbours.
© Michael Gillette 2021.