Knocking a few jars back with one of the industry’s most affable figures.
There’s a buzz around Riff Raff at the moment. The Creative Circle named them Most Creative Production Company in May, right before they went on to win 13 British Arrows.
I decided to grab a drink with Partner and EP Barney Richard before he and fellow Partner Matthew Fone get swallowed by a summer of well-earned revelry. Barney chose to hit up The Social, renowned Fitzrovia bar and music venue, where we knocked back a steady stream of Camden Pale Ale and delved into his soul.
“…The Social is steeped in rich musical history. So many great bands and DJs have come through here. It was an important part of the big beat scene in the early 90s; there’s a certain psychedelia about it. I know the guys who run it, they play musical treats they care about - the cheese grills are pretty good too.”
“…I used to rave in Nazi bunkers. Hitler built all these monolithic concrete bunkers around the beautiful granite coastline of Jersey where I grew up – we threw up graffiti and played music where once there was darkness. There’s also the German Underground Hospital – this huge network of tunnels underneath the Island. Eastern European slaves built them and when they died of exhaustion they cemented their bodies into the walls. I remember smoking my first joint and freaking out down there. It’s palpable, the energy, you can feel the suffering – I had to walk out…with a snickers and a can of coke in my pocket from the tourist shop of course.”
“…As soon as I discovered dance music and the rave scene as a teenager, I was sold. It informed a lot of my personality. I used to listen to all kinds of other music too but the thing I loved about the rave scene was the openness, togetherness and sharing like-minded experiences with others. It changes you – when you’re 15 and finding yourself, it’s powerful.”
“...There’s a definite connection between your environment and spirituality. There are Ley Lines that flow through Jersey, in the same way they do Glastonbury. There is an energy about the place, it’s Pagan. My dad and I used to rock climb and explore all the Neanderthal burial sites on the Island as a kid and subsequently as an adult, I did the same with friends – we used to hunker down with our percussion paraphernalia and play all night…possibly under the influence of mushrooms.”
“…Travelling is the elixir of life. I travelled on and off for about six years before I started my career. Everyone has to travel to understand the connection to their inner self and the world around them. The way we consume travel has changed a lot since then. You can stay in a five-star hotel in a lot of places now but you couldn’t do that then. I feel that if you want learn and detach yourself from society and its pressures, you need to find those places and people that are very different from you and your normal environment.”
“…Cuzco (Peru) blew my head clean off. There was a waitress in a café who we became friends with, she invited us to this wedding at a temple at the top of the city in the mountains. There were roofs as far you could see, punctuated by mountain peaks. Living above the clouds is otherworldly. As I remember it, the culture there is so undiluted. It’s beautiful.”
“…Riff Raff feel like the pirates of the industry. Culture and personality are so important to our business. It’s so important to have that collective understanding. People need to fit in here and have good taste as well as good ideas. We’re all scruffy buggers who’ve ended up doing something that we care about deeply...by the way, where’s your eye patch…?”
“…It’s so difficult to grow young talent now, mostly because of the ad industry’s fearful mind-set of accountability. Everyone has a list of people they want to work with but let’s be realistic. Does your brief rely on an understanding of culture or even have a good idea? Do you want a director to dial it in because budgets are smaller and they have a shoot window? You can’t build a young director’s career on branded content because it’s mostly shit. Music videos and self-generated ideas are where it’s at.”
“…Music videos are an integral part of our business and we fucking love them. They’re the only way to build young directors’ careers because it’s the most creative environment you’ll ever work in. Music videos are as powerful now as they were ten years ago and they inform and are part of popular culture and sub-culture.”
“…We’re living in a time when great filmmaking is helping music. There’s a lot of shit music out there but you can proliferate an average track by virtue of an incredible music video, and that’s really interesting in terms of how people view what turns them on or off…and these days, it’s a very quick decision.”
“…Matthew and I have a yin-and-yang partnership. A producer’s job is to look at what’s in front of them and find a solution. A salesperson is miles ahead, lining up the next opportunity. Every good salesperson needs a good producer in this business.
I need a partnership to bounce ideas around in otherwise I’d burst.”
“…My life’s all about people. My parents brought me up to be sociable. Maybe being an only child I’ve got this incredible insecurity that I need to be loved or something! People are very precious to me and this need for attention has even ended up informing my career. I feel obligated to find common ground with others as a human being, it’s fascinating.”
“…I feel things deeply. It means I get hurt quite deeply if that’s what’s on the table. But when it’s a positive it’s an ecstatic positive, like nothing else. I’d rather have an insane up and down existence rather than flat line all the time. Every single interaction you have is informative and impulsive and of the moment, only you can decide how you wish to take it, it’s ultimately what you make of it.”
Barney Richard is Partner and Executive Producer at Riff Raff.