He's known for his sumptuous, slinky house grooves - but you're just as likely to find Richard Earnshaw grooving to Leftfield, Herbie Hancock or The Shamen
He might not be a household name, exactly, but for househeads whose tastes veer towards the soulful end of the spectrum, Richard Earnshaw needs little introduction, having been quietly and reliably coming up with goods for the best part of two decades now. First emerging as part of the duo Spiritchaser (alongside Mark Bamford) in the late 90s, he's gone on to carve out a production career that's seen his work - whether under his own name, as Spiritchaser, with Daniel Jones as One51, or with Mark Horwood and Sir Piers as Fusion Groove Orchestra - appear on such respected labels as Soulfuric, Curious and Guess Records, as well as his own Duffnote Recordings (est 2003 and still going strong).
But he's perhaps best known as a remixer rather than as a producer: over the years, he's been summoned from his studio lair in the unlikely dance music metropolis of Chichester to sprinkle his magic disco dust over tracks by the likes of Dave Lee, Miguel Migs, Rasmus Faber, Martin Solveig and many more besides. Basically, if you've got a soulful/funky house cut on your hands and want to make sure it'll ring through on the dancefloor, Earnshaw's your man! The reputation he's built in that department no doubt also partly explains why, when he finally released his debut solo artist album In Time in 2010, he was able to attract a truly stellar array of collaborators. Try Roy Ayers, Jocelyn Brown, Evelyn 'Champagne' King, Ursula Rucker and Carleen Anderson on for size...
His latest remix, of MKM ft Liz Jai's This Is Love, is out today on Duffnote. So what better time to take a sneaky riffle through his record collection?
SIX EARLY INFLUENCES
The Shamen - Move Any Mountain (One Little Indian, 1991)
"As a kid indulging in all things tech and electronic, learning about MIDI, synthesis and spending a lot of time listening to Jarre, Vangelis and Kraftwerk, it was hearing this record that got me thinking about making dance music and not just instrumental stuff… laying down songs/vocals over the top. I have a whole bag full of old 90-minute cassette tapes stuffed full of ideas (which I should probably save/archive properly) very much inspired by/mimicking The Shamen with some very ropey Earnshaw vocals! I actually took them to Virgin in 1992 and was politely told my production was really good but I should give the microphone a rest. It was duly noted..."
Sunscreem - Perfect Motion [Boys Own Remix] (Sony, 1992)
"A track I discovered listening to the revered Sasha & Digweed Renaissance: The Mix Collection compilation. Sounds as fresh today as it did a quarter of a century ago... we did a little Spiritchaser re-edit on it and to this day I play it in every set! For me, it encapsulates an memorable period in dance music culture and my introduction to it."
George Benson - Song For My Brother [KenLou 12” Mix] (Giant Step, 1997)
"It was 1997 when I left London and began my journey into music as a career, and this was one of those moments when it all made sense to me. I never get tired of listening to this. I wish I could play the guitar like this... but I can scat mimic every note he plays/scats, pretty much. That’ll have to do for now!"
Earth, Wind & Fire - Let Your Feelings Show (Columbia, 1979)
"Just wow on every level. Stunning musicianship, songwriting, production… too many potential tracks to mention, but this is a massive favourite."
Depeche Mode - Enjoy The Silence (Mute, 1990)
"The whole Violator album is awesome - one of my all-time favourites. I was initially drawn to it from a production perspective when I was beginning to get into synthesis and programming at school. It was tricky to pick one song but World In My Eyes stood out, probably because I liked the sentiment... I was growing up, carving out my own direction and seeing the world in my own eyes."
Cleptomaniacs - Numero Uno (Soulfuric Trax, 1999)
"You know that ‘walking-into-dancing’ manoeuvre we make when we hear something we properly like and head for the dancefloor? That. And my earliest notable introduction to the Soulfuric labels."
SIX PERSONAL PRODUCTIONS
Fusion Groove Orchestra - The Dream (Curious Records, 1999)
"Having dabbled in a couple of previous projects, this was the first serious collaboration I was involved in. The first FGO release was a cover of Sydney Youngblood's If Only I Could, which recently received a fresh nudge under the watchful eye of Defected. The Dream was the first original record we worked on and the first of many with Simon Green and Angie Brown."
Lynden David Hall - Forgive Me [FGO Rollin’ Dub] (Cooltempo, 2000)
"This particular remix hold very special memories for me, not least because of the artist himself but also because we recorded the legendary jazz saxophonist Bobby Wellins. It was an absolute masterclass of musicianship and storytelling, and a spellbinding recording session."
Richard Earnshaw - People Are People (Soulfuric, 2002)
"This was my very first ‘solo’ outing and the beginning of a cherished relationship with Soulfuric and everyone there. It started out as two completely separate records, one with some vocals and the other with the guitar. After much splicing and shifting about I got the two to work, threw down some chords and hey presto..."
Louis Vega & Jay ‘Sinister’ Sealée - Diamond Life [Richard Earnshaw Remix] (Yoshitoshi Recordings, 2004)
"I was pretty new to the whole house music scene and WMC was something i’d not heard of until the early 2000s. I couldn’t afford to go in 2003 so I figured the next best thing was to send myself over there in musical form. I lifted the acapella off the vinyl (on Distance) and did my own remix of it, but I never expected it gain the response it did. It got picked up and has since been released on Yoshitoshi and Defected, and is now featured on the new Bargrooves Deluxe Edition 2018 compilation."
Spiritchaser - These Tears (Guess Records, 2010)
"Much to the surprise of most, we began our Spiritchaser journey in 1999. I met Mark Bamford in a pub and we shared an equal enthusiasm for deep/progessive house (as it was known back then). A couple or seven beers later we decided to work on music and eventually in 2010 we pieced our first album 1440 together. We felt, as a predominantly instrumental album, we needed a song in there to round things off. That song was These Tears and together with the Est8 (Dan Jones) version it went on to dominate the South African charts for a very long time. It’s still being played regularly on mainstream radio over there and has now acquired cult/classic status. All very humbling and surreal for a project that was born 11 years earlier in a pub!"
Richard Earnshaw ft Natasha Watts - Won’t Let Go (Duffnote, 2012)
"I first met Natasha at ADE in 2000-something and she was an absolute whirlwind of energy! We always spoke of working together and eventually we hit the studio and co-wrote this record. It all just ‘worked’ and aside from the numerous times I’ve played it in clubs and radio I’ve seen Natasha perform it with a band, acapella, acoustically... it’s one of those songs that just clicks with the audience however it's performed. But the best bit is becoming lifelong friends and musical mischief-makers. The industry is a better place for people like Natasha."
SIX NON-DANCE RECORDS
George Duke - Sugar Loaf Mountain (Epic, 1980)
"What’s not to like about this record? Taken from the Brazilian Love Affair LP, this particular track does it for me every time. Incredible energy and THOSE HORNS! Tight as a gnat's chuff. Serious musicianship."
Bernard Wright - Spinnin’ (Arista, 1981)
"I came across this record probably the same way as many others - searching for the origin of the sample in Skee Lo's I Wish, which led me to the Nard and Funky Beat albums. Much the same way as I discovered Steely Dan through De La Soul's 3 Feet High And Rising.”
Don Blackman - Heart’s Desire (GRP, 1982)
"I first came across Don Blackman when I heard his track Holding You, Loving You on MiniDisc while travelling through France on a surfing trip to Biarritz in 2001. So when I returned some weeks later I sought out the album and Heart’s Desire stood out as the track with ‘those chords’. Pure vibes!"
Massive Attack - Teardrop (Virgin, 1998)
"I can remember the first time I heard this on the radio: I was driving through Chichester in 1998. I know this because I left London in 1997 and after settling in and recovering from a year-long hangover, 1998 was the year I realised what an incredibly exciting adventure I had in front of me. The beginning of my musical journey. Just a wonderful song/record. The Newton Faulkner cover is also superb!"
Moonchild - The Truth (Tru Thoughts, 2014)
"I wish I could tell you about a poignant moment when I first heard this record, but I can’t - thanks to the wonders of the new musical landscape, I actually came across this band via SG Lewis’s Spotify playlist. I love the song and the production. See, steaming isn’t all bad, is it?"
Tower Of Power - Ebony Jam (Warner Bros, 1975)
"Made up of musicians who must be from another planet, the skill levels in this band are ridiculous. The groove and vibe just need to be absorbed and appreciated!"
SIX TUNES THAT NEVER LEAVE YOUR BOX
Stevie Wonder - Do I Do [Rasmus Faber Edit] (Unreleased)
"Pure party vibes - I’ve never played this and not had a crazy response! It’s got appeal with every generation of clubber and music lover. An inspired mix/edit from Rasmus!"
MAW - Backfired [Joey Negro Club Mix] (MAW, 2002)
"If at any point you feel the crowd's hands aren’t high enough, this pretty much always gets them up! I don’t know anyone who doesn’t either know the song or at least try to sing along."
Kings Of Tomorrow - Finally (Defected, 2001)
"Why would anyone not have this in their record box? A truly iconic song/production. I may be playing with fire here but I have my own ‘private’ remix which I’m just about to finish, ready for the start of crazy DJ summer times."
Urban Blues Project ft Jay Williams - Testify [Sunday Vocal Mix] (Soulfuric, 1997)
"When I first connected with Soulfuric, of all the superb releases across their various imprints it was this one that really stood out for me. The energy is unstoppable. Infectious."
Nuyorican Soul - It’s Alright, I Feel It! (Talkin’ Loud, 1997)
"The whole Nu Yorican Soul album is a wonderful thing, a proper benchmark which has yet to be equalled in my humble opinion. I could have chosen any of the tracks on it but with a push and shove I’d have this one as my top pick. Brilliant. And to top it off, Jocelyn is a truly wonderful lady and singer and a joy to work with - I was very lucky to collaborate with her on Worthy, the lead single from my In Time album back in 2010."
John Julius Knight - Find A Friend (Soulfuric Trax, 2002)
"I remember when People Are People came out, hearing this drop at around the same time. A fresh-faced Earnshaw embarking on pastures new after Fusion Groove Orchestra. I was so excited about the release of my track on this iconic label, but even more excited to be associated with a serious bunch of talented people who all these years later I can now call my friends. I did genuinely find some friends that year. It was a special year."
SIX AFTERHOURS RECORDS
Herbie Hancock - Butterfly (Colombia, 1974)
"I have fond memories of listening through the Thrust album when I first moved to Chichester. Random house parties with random people, and somehow they all seemed to have that record, with Butterfly being my absolute favourite."
SG Lewis - Shivers feat JP Cooper (PMR, 2015)
"I’m a big fan of SG Lewis, and it all started with this record, on first listen. The song, everything about this record is spot on! 'When music was a life-giver, make a bad man change his ways…'."
The Orb - Blue Room (Big Life Records, 1992)
"It’s a lesser-known fact that as a young aspiring musician/producer I would indulge in electronic albums from people like Vangelis, Jean Michel Jarre, Future Sound Of London, Leftfield and The Orb. Blue Room is one of those 'settle down for a while and lose yourself' records."
Leftfield - Song Of Life (Hard Hands, 1992)
"Another one I first heard on Sasha and Digweed's Renaissance: The Mix Collection - which, incidentally, is still in my humble opinion the best compilation ever, and likely to remain so! By association this track connects me to this album... fresh-faced at Goldsmiths College (University Of London), studying music but not really studying much... wonderful times!"
Kenny Burrell - Midnight Blue (Blue Note, 1963)
"My Dad was a gifted musician, and guitar was his thing. He was a sound engineer for the BBC and didn’t actively play much, but a friend of mine came round once with his guitar and I caught my Dad playing it. This record reminds me of that moment."
LTJ Bukem - Inner Guidance (Good Looking, 2000)
"I'm quite partial to drum & bass and Bukem is definitely one of my favourite artists. His album Journey Inwards took things further and showed him to be way more than just a D&B producer. There are a few tracks that are worthy of inclusion in this category but Inner Guidance has that 'something' that edges it onto the list."
SIX BBQ RECORDS
MAW - A Tribute To Fela [MAW Expensive Mix] (MAW, 1999)
"Danny Rampling was the first DJ I heard play this in a club. He played the whole thing, and I remember looking around at people on the dancefloor: its hypnotic Hammond, percussion and rolling bassline took literally no time at all to engage! I was properly hooked. I then discovered it was called the MAW Expensive Mix... I bet it bloody was!"
Jamiroquai - Blow Your Mind (Sony, 1993)
"Emergency On Planet Earth came out just as I was off to university, and was pretty much the soundtrack to my three years at Goldsmiths. Blow Your Mind was always a firm favourite in my first year in halls of residence. Reminds me of endless summers out in Greenwich Park... such good times. A BBQ regular!"
Steely Dan - Peg (ABC Recs, 1977)
"Much like my discovery of Bernard Wright, I wasn’t that familiar with Steely Dan. But I was familiar with De La Soul's 3 Feet High And Rising and when I heard Peg on a surf trip to the south of France, I remember thinking, 'Hang on, I know that sax lick!'. We did have one or two BBQ efforts at the campsite, in-between surfs, so it’s earned its place in the BBQ playlist!"
Jason Rebello - Summertime (RCA, 1994)
"The title says it all! I’ve always loved this version - that swing! I’ve worked out how to play it on the piano myself... I'm just waiting for the opportune moment to perform it."
The Sunburst Band - The Secret Life Of Us [The Reflex Version] (Z Records, 2012)
"I’m a massive fan of the Sunburst Band - right up my alley! This particular mix is one of those 'here we go' moments. It has great appeal, the production is super-tight and the vocal performance from the late Diane Charlemagne is just faultless."
Blue Six - Music and Wine [Th’Attaboy Vocal] (Naked Music, 1999)
"The smooth sounds of Naked Music should be on everyone’s BBQ playlist! This one is a standout release/mix for me, *and it has ‘music’ and ‘wine’ in the title. What’s not to like?"
Words: Russell Deeks
MKM ft Liz Jai's This Is Love (Duffnote) is out today via Traxsource promo, with a full release to follow on 23 April
Tags: Richard Earnshaw, Spiritchaser, One51, Duffnote, Fusion Groove Orchestra, The Shamen, Sunscreem, George Benson, Earth Wind & Fire, Depeche Mode, Cleptomaniacs, Lynden David Hall, Louie Vega, George Duke, Don Blackman, Bernard Wright, Massive Attack, Moonchild, Tower Of Power, Stevie Wonder, Masters At Work, Jamiroquai, Kings Of Tomorrow, Urban Blues Project, Nu Yorican Soul, Soulfuric, Herbie Hancock, SG Lewis, Leftfield, The Orb, Kenny Burrell, LTJ Bukem, Steely Dan, Jason Rebello, Blue Six, Sunburst Band