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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 May, 2005, 08:26 GMT 09:26 UK
The Hitmakers: Richard X
By Mark Savage
BBC News

Richard X
Richard X does not reveal his real name
In the run-up to the Ivor Novello awards, the BBC News website is profiling some major songwriters of recent years.

Richard X started his career in the underground music scene, then left it behind to write hits for the Sugababes and Rachel Stevens.

His synthesised, grungy pop music is inspired by the bands he listened to while growing up in the North of England, such as The Human League and Kraftwerk.

Richard X says he is on a crusade to reinvent pop music, and he is going to do it by making records that are "deliberately unplayable".

Listen to some of Richard X's biggest hits - and read what he has to say about them.

For example, he describes his biggest hit of last year, the Rachel Stevens single Some Girls, as "Rough as old boots."

"Not Rachel herself," he adds hastily, "just the track and the production".

Despite his best efforts, radio stations are not shying away from Richard X's music - he is the man behind hits for the Sugababes, Kelis and Liberty X, while bands like New Order have called on him for remixes.

Rachel Stevens
Rachel Stevens will work with Richard X again on her new album
Richard X's first releases were "bootlegs" - illegal, under the counter remixes which combined two existing records to make an entirely new song.

The idea, he explains, was "escaping from that world of formatting - which the DJ culture and club culture relies on so much.

"They were supposed to be the future of pop music."

Strangely enough, that is exactly what they became.

Freak Like Me

The Sugababes
The Sugababes recorded their hit single Freak Like Me in Richard X's London flat
Island Records, in particular, were looking for a song to drive the Sugababes out of a cul-de-sac of formulaic pop.

"The A&R people had heard one of my records [Freak Like Me] and for some reason they thought 'Wow, that could be great'.

"And I was very keen to do it as long as it remained what it was. It was raw, it was against the grain and it was still pop music."

As long as you had the Sugababes around at your house, you could recreate that record
Richard X
Richard X got his way, and recorded a number one single on the cheap in his flat in Tooting.

He says: "When we made the Sugababes thing there was a loop, some handclaps, the Sugababes and a semi-broken synthesiser."

"You could probably forget about the synth and as long as you had the Sugababes around at your house, you could recreate that record."

Making a splash

The single was a massive hit, launching both Richard X and the Sugababes into the mainstream.

Kelis performs live
Richard X calls R&B star Kelis a "kindred spirit"
His next project was an album, X Factor Volume One, which he describes as "modern, alternative, future-pop".

It is a stunning collection of songs, full of sugar-coated hooks and Richard's trademark smashed-up samples. In other words, it is his manifesto for the future of pop.

"I was trying to really hammer home the point, very unsubtly, on the album," he says.

It acted as a calling card, too. The great and the good all want some of the X-factor, from P Diddy to Girls Aloud.

Each track has to stand alone
Richard X
"I'm in a bit of a strange position," he reflects, "people send me so much different stuff, just because there's a few different angles, I suppose, to what I do."

How does he decide who to work with?

"It's very much who tickles my fancy," he says, although he's been lucky to meet a couple of "kindred spirits" - including Kelis and M.I.A.

Quality control

But no matter with whom he collaborates, however, Richard X has one guiding principle.

"Each track has to stand alone. The song, the production and everything together.

"My reference point is always imagining finding it on a seven-inch [single] in a second hand shop when you were younger."

New Order perform at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival
Bands like New Order have asked Richard X to remix their singles
Treating every song as a potential single is not common practice in the music industry.

Most professional songwriters try to build up a pool of work to be used as album tracks and B-sides.

"I can see how you can get into that world," Richard X says.

"[But] I don't have that. I just throw things away. Hence why I don't seem to be as productive as other people."

Such perfectionism places Richard X defiantly outside the mainstream, but that is where he is most comfortable.

He prefers to remain enigmatic - refusing to reveal his age or his real name.

"I don't think that's particularly important," he says, "unless they need to etch it into the statues at the Novellos".

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