Right Said Fred were the unexpected sort-of co-writers on Taylor Swift’s song ‘Look What You Made Me Do’, released this morning (August 25). NME gave the band’s Richard Fairbrass a call to discuss how it all came about…
How did Taylor get in touch?
“It was about three weeks ago – the start of August. My brother [Fred] signed me up. He lives in Barcelona and he just phoned me up and said we’ve had a phone call from LA, and Taylor Swift wants to use part of ‘I’m Too Sexy’.
“It was firmed up about a week or two ago, but we were told to be bloody quiet about it because they wanted to make sure there was no leakage in the meantime. She and all the people that work with her have been incredibly friendly. I’ve got a huge bunch of flowers here from them in the house. It’s been a rewarding experience, and very flattering. I don’t have a single bad thing to say.”
Did you have to sign anything?
“Normally speaking you’d have lawyers crawling all over it. They’ve given us a writing credit and it was all done over the phone, no contracts, pencils, bits of paper, nothing.”
When did you first hear the song?
“I heard it for the first time this morning.”
What? So you didn’t know how it was going to reference your song?
“No! They didn’t talk about it too much, because they don’t know us from Adam – we could be a right couple of idiots and talk to our neighbours and Twitter about it. They were understandably very cagey and we promised not to say a word, which we didn’t.
“I didn’t know how they were going to use it until this morning. I played it twice, I watched the lyric video, and I was impressed with the lyrics, nice and edgy, a little bit dark, and a bit angry. I thought it was really good.”
How similar is it to ‘I’m Too Sexy’?
“Well the weird thing is that her song is obviously got cynicism and a little bit of anger in there – she’s drawing a line under the person she feels she was. ‘…Sexy’, though we sold it as a bit of fluff, but ‘…Sexy’ was written as a serious song. My brother was dating an American model at the time who actually thought she was too sexy and we just thought the whole thing was so ridiculous, we wanted to try and take the mickey out of it. But songs have a way of being interpreted in the way people want to interpret them.
“‘…Sexy’ made us laugh but it had a serious undercurrent, we thought, but obviously nobody else did. We’re lucky to be making money out of this business 26 years later, I’m not going to complain in the least bit.”
Can you talk about how she used ‘I’m Too Sexy’ in ‘LWYMMD’?
“The title of ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ is based upon the verse of ‘…Sexy’. That’s basically it. What’s weird about ‘…Sexy’ is that when people sing it, they sing the verse, not the chorus – nobody sings that. Everybody sings: ‘I’m too sexy’ – it’s the verse that people have latched onto, not the chorus.
“In Taylor’s song they adapt that rhythm and attitude of the ‘…Sexy’ verse as a chorus – so they’ve just interpolated it differently, that’s all it is. I’d be an idiot to complain about it. We’ve been really lucky to have been picked by somebody like Taylor, who is obviously very cool and very successful and open minded and relaxed about it. She’s not like some people…”
Did Taylor or her team explain what the song was about before you agreed to be credited?
“No, they didn’t – they were understandably cagey about the nature of the song. Fred and I have a movie on the go and we’re very nervous about telling anybody any details about any of it because you just don’t know who you’re talking to. They don’t know what we’re like, so I don’t blame them. The only thing they weren’t cagey about was ‘can we work with your track’. We said: ‘Absolutely, do whatever you want.’”
How would you feel if you were the subject of ‘LWYMMD’?
“I don’t know what I’d feel. I think it would be a mixture of flattery that you’re mentioned, but anger that it’s in a negative way. My guess is I’d feel piqued but happy that I haven’t been forgotten!”
Are you getting royalties along with the writing credit?
“Theoretically we will. We sold our back catalogue many years ago, but this is now a new song. It’s not ‘I’m Too Sexy’: we’re credited as co-writers on a new song. So theoretically – I don’t understand the ramifications and the intricacies of the business itself – I imagine we would. We’re co-writers on a track on the album, whatever it is we’re in a better position than we were in yesterday. Whatever we get is a cherry on the cake. I’m not wildly exercised about this money or that money or whatever, but we’re in a better position for gigs and I’m pleased that Taylor who is much younger than us has picked up on a track that we did 26 years ago.
What are you up to next with Right Said Fred?
“We’ve got a band together, we’ve started doing festivals this year and we changed our agent so the plan is to go out with a live band next year. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the live band stuff, soundchecks and all that stuff that goes with it but I absolutely loved it – I really, really enjoyed it. And the band makes the kind of noise that I like. I don’t like stuff to be too tidy, I like it to be nice and raucous and lots of guitars and stuff.
“The plan is to do as many gigs as we can possibly get, not just in the UK and North and South America, we’re looking at China as well. I just want to keep doing it until I can’t stand up without assistance, and even then I might sit down and do it in a wheelchair. We’ll just keep going until it’s medically impossible for me to do it!”