Upon entering the residence in which Richard Torry resides (situated on fashionable Old Compton Street ) the first thing that strikes me is the smallness of it. A cup half full of a honey and lemon concoction sits steaming by the kettle in a room that doubles as both kitchen and bedroom and the man him self sits moving various sized coloured rectangles around a computer screen.
After Richard makes me a Honey and Lemon drink and saves his current Logic project we begin the interview.
Q: When, where and to whom were you born?
A: I was born in 1960 in Redhill Surrey. My dad was an airline pilot.
Q: Your Mother?
A: My Mother was an airline hostess. That's how they met.
Q: Any brothers or sisters?
A: Yes, one of each. Alan and Belinda. I am the oldest.
Q: Did yr Fathers job take you to any exotic places?
A: Well we spent a few years growing up on Antigua in the Caribbean , but we mostly grew up in the more mundane environments of Bromham, Bedfordshire & St Neots in Cambridgeshire.
Q: Any memories of Antigua ?
A: Coral reefs & scuba diving.
Q: And you like to Scuba dive yourself now don't you?
A: Yes I do.
Q:You are well known for two things: Music & Fashion. Can you first tell me how you came to be interested by music?
A:Well in 1975 I went to the Reading festival. That was fun but some guys told me about another wilder festival called the Watchfield Festival that was rumoured to last for about two weeks. Intrigued I hitched a ride to this place.
Q:And you were fithteen at the time?
Q:That's quite brave.
(Richard smiles amiably.)
Q:And how was the Watchfield Festival?
A:It was marvellous. I ate some food spiked with strong acid and tripped out to the sounds of Hawkwind and Gong. I had sex for the first time with some guys under a blanket. During the day naked hippies ran wild under the blazing sun.
Q: You did though eventually make it home?
Q:So how did this experience filter through into yr every day existence?
A:Well I began to carry an old steam iron round with me wherever I went.
A:A self-deprecating reference to my fledgling sexuality.
Q:Did you ‘come out' to yr parents?
A:Yes, to my Mother, but much later.
A:Well the whole experience was mortifying. I spent a day working myself up to do it and when I did she was doing the washing up. She just asked me to put some cutlery away I think and it was never mentioned again.
Q:Okay. What about music?
A:I formed an experimental music band with my art teacher at school Mike Francis and a friend John Stell.
A:Lots of fun but little success.
Q:So now it must be about 1976 the birth of English punk?
Q:What were you doing? Apart from the music?
A:I began knitting; making myself prepunk roxy music style art college clothes. I also started making regular trips to London to see the bands. Now this is around '77 and I always took my knitting and would knit at the gigs engrossed in it. I often slept in telephone boxes waiting for the first trains back home.
Q:How do you now view this period?
A:It was great. Everyone was motivated, in a band, making fanzines or adopting unique and challenging social stances and attitudes. In 1978 I moved to London and took a place studying Fashion at Middlesex polytechnic.
A: Well I was making my own clothes & it helped in getting to meet all the interesting people.
Q:How were things in London ?
A:Exciting. I was spotted by Malcolm Mclaren while walking down Regent Street in my own brand punk gear and he asked me to audition for Bow wow wow. I didn't get in though I did meet Vivienne Westwood & went to work for her. Later I met Derek Jarman in the nightclub Bang and we started hanging out. I actually have two tapes of myself interviewing him. I come across terribly gauche.
But he was a great individual very positive . In fact he was wearing the famous T Shirt Vivienne made slagging him off when I first went to his flat.
Also at this time I took my first trip to New York . My Dad was the pilot of a Freddie Laker Skytrain and I travelled up in the cockpit with him.
Q:How was it working for Westwood?
A:Nervewracking and funny. It was around the Pirates to Buffalo Gals period and Malcolm was always popping round trying to get glimpses of the collection and she was adamant that he would see no such thing, if it was to be used for BowWowWow. He was forever falling asleep on the sofa in the studio in the middle of the afternoon. When I began working on my first collection she said I could work in the studio. I was very surprised and took her up on the offer but as I thought it did not last and she asked me to move out which I did.
Q:Your first collection?
A:Was around 1980,81. It was shown at Olympia and the models included John Maybury,Cerith Wynn Evans and Princess Julia This show led to freelance work in Italy & San Francisco designing knitwear and bags. By the way Vivienne Westwood was in the audience heckling and shouting.
Q:Ironic as in a recent book it is suggested that she was more than a little bit influenced by your work.
(Richard smiles amiably.)
A:Anyway, Derek Jarman found me a business partner Dominic Prince and in 82 I began selling my Richard Torry label at Browns in London and in the USA. I really wouldn't have got anywhere though without my agent Suzanne Bartsch who sold me to Macys, Bloomingdales, Neiman Marcus, Barneys, Charavari etc.
Q:Did you have famous clients?
A:My knitwear was collected by Boy George and my clothes bought and worn by such luminaries as Errol Brown (Hot Chocolate), David Bowie, Heaven 17, Muriel Gray, Baby Ford, Larry Mullen (The drummer from U2), and the dancer from Frankie Goes To Hollywood and also for the television programme Dynasty.
After showing in Tokyo I got backing from the ‘Hanae Mori' company & worked in Japan for the next five years. In London I got my life centred round ‘The House of Beauty and Culture' with John Moore, Judy Blame & Christopher Nameth. Judy Blame actually still owes me two hundred quid after I booked him a ticket to go on a holiday with me and then he didn't come but gave me no warning so I couldn't even give the ticket away. It was completely wasted. We are still friends but I've never mentioned this.
Q:How was the holiday?
A: It was great although I was on my own. I learnt to windsurf and became quite good at it. I enjoyed the sun. I've always been a sun worshipper. I'm forever skiving off work on sunny days to sit in the park or go out for a day trip.
Q:Isn't this frustrating for those you work with?
A:I suppose so but we get so few sunny days in England that I feel one must take advantage of them.
Q:How and why did you move into music?
A:To cut a long story short I went bankrupt. I could have continued if I'd moved to Italy but I found the culture to mumsy and I was bored of the fashion world.
Q:A funny memory of fashion?
A:It's funny and sad really. It's the sight of all the little old ladies knitting away. I miss that.
Q:So to music.
A:In 1991 I started a band with Louise Prey called ‘Un Homme Et Une Femme'. We were signed to Rhythm King/Emi but got caught up in record company politics when our A&R guy was sacked and we were kept on the shelf & not released. Louise has gone on to form the Ping Pong Bitches and appears on the current (at time of writing) Prodigy album.
Q:In 1984 I believe you formed a band with John Richmond and Judy Blame.
A:We did form a band but we didn't get beyond writing a couple of songs.
Q:But now you turned to another fashion designer.
A:Yes. I'd seen Leigh around the clubs and was a Taboo regular (when not in Japan ) and I always went to see his performance art shows, so when I was looking for a new person to work with I thought of Leigh.
A:Yes. We also took along my manager from ‘UHEUF' days Paul Hitchman who had a new record company called Candy so we figured we would at least get some records out. We decided to call the band Minty and spent a year writing songs on my new Atari computer.
Q:Who came up with the name Minty?
A:Leigh found it. An old theatrical term meaning to be slightly off.
Q:And since you used it it has been added to the Oxford English Dictionary as a word in it's own right.
Q:Do you think this has anything to do with you?
Q:Okay, what happened next?
A:Well in 1993 Mathew Glamorre joined and expanded Minty into a live band. We played his club Smashing which was THE club of the Britpop era. We had some amazing performances, particularly ‘Fete Worse than Death' in Hoxton and Amsterdam 's Love Ball.
Q:Tragically though Leigh died?
A:Yes, but we continued and Minty expanded into the Offset a performance art happening type of thing. It launched the career of Add n to x.and began my friendship and collaborations with Andrew Aveling (then of Add n to x now of The White Sport who had a club hit with ‘She is Groovy' in the ‘electro clash' period and are currently touring with Babyshambles<At time of writing>).
Minty itself released 5 singles and an album.toured independently and as support to Pulp.
Q:But the Offset imploded?
A:Well it transformed into the Sound Storm really. In the meantime I began to put my record collection to good use Djing at clubs such as Pique, Harder Faster Louder, Naïve and Torture Garden and continued to make my own music under the name of Menthol.
Q:Where did the name ‘Menthol' come from?
A:From an N.M.E. live review of Minty. I also started mixing and making music for fashion shows by amongst others Robert Cary Williams, Deisel, Fabio Paras.
Q:Back to the Sound Storm what happened to that?
A:Well it launched Patrick Wolfs career. Then it mutated into a production company and is currently the power behind clubs such as ‘The Siren Suite' & ‘Kashpoint' both of which I DJ at.
Q:You are in fact the musical hub of both clubs are you not?
A:I wouldn't know about that. I reckon Bishi (Bhattacharya) is pretty central musically to both clubs as well.
Q:Okay. Well. Tell me about the Siren Suite?
A:The Siren Suite is Mathew Glammorre, Bishi B and myself mixing classical music with live synths, samples, filters and performance art and guests including Pulp and the London Sinfoneitta. We've supported Cornelius at the Royal Festival Hall, Goldfrapp at Sheppherds Bush Empire.
A: The irony of Glamorre's business confusions, against a backdrop of glossy magazine coverage.
Q:Any other things you are working on right now?
A:I collaborate with L.R. on a puppet/cartoon/musical project called ‘The Paper People.'
Q:Thank you for talking to me it has been a most instructive and enjoyable conversation. I expect your future will be just as enjoyable as your past.
I drain the last of my Honey and Lemon and bid my farewell. As I walk out into the early evening Ibiza like atmosphere of Old Compton Street . I pause, for thought. No thought comes. I walk home. Motivated.