It's music that
started in London clubs and now Euro-dance music is hot
even off the dance floor. Republica is one band that's
crossed boundaries with their song "Ready To
Go." Karen Douglas talked to them for this FC Groove
"We're not part of
the scene," says Republica's lead singer, Saffron.
"You know, we're not grunge or Britpop or dance act;
we're not purists."
Republica doesn't fit in
with one music scene, so they came up with their own
label. Saffron describes it as techno pop punk rock.
"That was just something I said that followed me
around the whole of America," she explains.
"It's just elements of things that you find in our
Basically they write dance
music with melodies -- a combination that breaks with
"We sit in there and
try and write dance songs," says Saffron. "And
we wanted to put choruses...in there which you couldn't
do in the music, so we changed it."
Their primary influences
are '80s New Wave, but judging from Saffron's current
collection, nothing is off limits. At the moment, she's
listening to Hole and Old Dirty Bastard.
Their own music is also
tough to categorize, and they think this is very
Saffron thinks British
bands experiment more with their music than American
bands do, "In Britain it all starts in bedrooms and
this sort of thing, so it's a bit more
Tim Dorney, the band's
main songwriter, agrees. "The thing is in Britain
things seem to work a hell of a lot faster than it does
over here. It's like in Britain you have two weeks to
break a record."
"There's only one
radio station in England that really matters, and it's
called Radio One," adds Saffron. "It's
essential for new bands to get played on there or you
really don't have a chance. We've actually been quite
lucky that they've played quite a lot of our
They're on their second
U.S. tour in three months and they're still mastering the
basics -- like what to bring on a trip.
"I try to bring
enough for a whole month without washing, but that's not
possible," says Saffron.
"I've been nicknamed
the Imelda Marcos of techno, so I've got lots of shoes
with me," she cracks.
So what's the worst part
of life on the road?
backstage toilets is probably the worst," offers
Denny's...is another one," adds Tim.
If their next single drops
like "Ready To Go," it looks like Republica
should be able to upgrade from Denny's to at least
|Republica's Official Website Interviewed by Bernard
MacMahon (17th July 96)
Have you been surprised by the
initial reaction in America which seems to be really
positive to the stuff you have recorded?
SAFFRON Of course we were very surprised, but we
were very very pleased about it. To be told that we were
the number one group to be most added to modem rock radio
play lists is great. We have only performed one gig in
America and we just can't wait to get out there again. We
were told that we were going to Texas, Las Vegas and
places that we had only dreamed about.
How do you think the people in Texas and other
Southern states will take to the music?
TIM They love it. They used to have quite a big
punk scene out there. Groups like the Butthole Surfers
are from Texas!
SAFFRON I think Texas is quite open minded about
music. There's actually a big techno scene and they are
interested in English hard underground music.
How did you rind it playing live at Laguna Beach, BMG
Worldwide Managing Director's Conference?
TODDY It was great! I feel they just like the
band, irrelevant of whether it sounds British or
American. They just like to see a real live band, doing
The new album has a lot more rock feel than your
original material. How did you develop this new sound?
TIM like guitars. We did start off as a dance
band, but were always interested in the sound involving
into a more rock thing. And think now we've got a great
blend between dance and rock, guitars are an important
part of our live act.
You have played in a wide combination of venues for a
band who are just on their first album. You have played
from stadiums in France to seedy little clubs in Soho.
TIM It is a case of we started big and we got
smaller. We performed in the Royal Albert Hall and ended
up playing in Madame Jojo's (A small strip joint, in Soho
How does it differ for you playing in stadiums in
France and the Albert Hall to playing in seedy clubs?
TIM We work better on a larger stage. In our act
we 'jump about a lot and we need a lot of space.
How did you feel when you looked out at the huge
crowds, when you played in the stadium in France?
TIM It is terrifying! You feel brilliant and you
want to show off
SAFFRON Yes, It does give you an opportunity to
show off I actually felt quite nauseous before the show,
because of our hectic traveling. We had lost almost a day
traveling, as we'd just played Laguna Beach, flown for
twenty-four hours arrived at the Stadium and had to do
the gig. Having arrived at the stadium, we were greeted
with twenty thousand people screaming and dancing in an
atmosphere filled with fireworks. The whole idea made me
feel sick. But it was great fun.
Would you say that Toddy and Saffron are the more
outgoing, confident characters on the stage, who enjoy
SAFFRON I think we are.
TIM I feel the French show was a bit weird, as
everything we saw on the monitors had been of boy bands
in chiffon shirts with their dancers around them. We had
turned up in Paris with clothes that we had been wearing
for a week, it felt quite awkward.
You have had a couple of 12 inches out and played live
before you put this album together. When you got the
master finished, did you realize that you had something
special that people would be excited about? Or do you
find it difficult to stand back and judge your work?
TIM It is still difficult to stand back and assess
it as we are still in the process of mastering it.
TODDY It has all happened so quickly. After
collecting the songs, you don't know how it is going to
turn out. When you actually reach the point where you
combine the tracks that you have worked on for a year and
it is all complete, you realize how strong it is. It has
identity, it has got a sound, it has got a vision and it
does make sense.
Were there problems in the studio and were you having
to constantly consider how you were going to convert your
material on the live stage?
SAFFRON The thought was always in the back of our
minds. We started out in the front of a living room in
Catford in South London. Todd and Tim had a couple of
keyboards and that is how we basically formed. Although
we started from a small set up, we always wanted to be a
TIM We knew technically how to do it. It was a
matter of theory being put into practice. It was a bit
daunting to start off with.
SAFFRON I feel no one had done what we wanted to
do before, which was a good thing. We knew it would be
quite a challenge for us. I think that is why it has
taken so long for us to become as good a live band as we
wanted to be.
You have said that you started in Catford in South
London which is a small area. And now you've got this
large studio in North London.
SAFFRON Yeah, we started out in a gritty old front
room in Catford, which is best known for its dog racing,
gun running and drugs basically. It was quite an evil
TIM It is much nicer here and it is also a lot
What bands are you into at the moment? What kind of
things have you been listening to recently that you like?
TIM The Beck album, Underworld, Garbage and The
SAFFRON Hole, The Prodigy and The Screaming Trees.
I think that we have a wide base of musical interests. We
love techno music and we are also into guitar bands as
well as a mixture of other things.
How did you come up with the name Republica? How did
that come about?
TIM After two months of trying to figure out a
name, Dave, one of our managers locked us in the front
room. We had to choose a name for the band as we had a
deal but couldn't get it legally done until we had a
name. Initially we tried picking names out of a hat, but
one idea led to another.
So there was not a particular train of thought?
SAFFRON After using the hat method, which was not
very successful we finally picked the name Republica. We
all liked it. We just sat there and said 'yes'. It was a
joint decision. We have been asked if the name is in any
way political , but it is not.
When seeing the band's name and some of the imagery on
the album, some people will think that you are a
fearsomely political act. Particularly when you use the
Internationale as an intro to your live set. Would you
say Republica are a political band?
TIM No. I don't know what the particular
individual politics are within the band. But we are not
the Redskins or anything.
SAFFRON We liked the symbolism element, it was
quite important. We are all into pop culture and found
symbolism an important part of it.
TIM It is subversive.
TODDY It is all about strong names. It is like
saying Oasis - do they particularly sing about
What is the method usually used to put your songs
together? Is there a set way?
TIM Up until now, Toddy and me usually run
something up on the computer and then take everything
from there in sections. The tracks get cast around
between all of the band, until the track is ready for the
adding of the lyrics.
Does that usually start with a rhythms track?
TIM It varies. Sometimes we begin with the chord
sequences and sometimes it starts from a bass section. It
is not particularly fixed in that way.
TODDY There is never one set method. Some of the
tracks on the album started with a melody that had been
run up for a month, then came the middle section and
Do these songs tend to take quite a long time until
they are completed? Or does it vary from track to track?
SAFFRON It depends. We had a few tracks in the
back catalogue, but around Christmas time we had to
produce the rest of our material quite quickly.
If you had to explain to somebody who hadn't heard
anything that you have ever done, what would they expect
to hear on the album? How would you describe how the
SAFFRON It is a live guitar band with punk strong
guitars and dance beats. It is a mixture of things. Half
of the album is techno/pop, and half rock/beat.
TIM We work out best as pop/rock.
SAFFRON A guitar band, with a bit of a pop
attitude and dance beats. Burnt glamour pop!!!
The band has been going on for a while now. You have
an album later to come out and you have also had a lot of
live dates. What are the best things about being in the
band? And what are the worst things about recording in a
TIM We all like different things. Toddy dislikes
the arrangements for performing live and prefers to work
in the studio.
TODDY It is not part of my department. It takes a
lot of organizing and rehearsing. The band is more than
the essence of the group of people. Arranging everything
is pretty boring but the highlight is when you actually
get to play and it is a brilliant gig, you play well and
then it is over in half an hour.
Do you get a buzz when you hear your tracks on the
SAFFRON Oh yes, it is always brilliant.
TODDY I play the keyboards, together with Tim.
Jonny Male plays the guitar, he also helps with some of
the writing. Dave Barbarossa is on drums, he used to play
with Bow Wow Wow and Adam Ant before working with us.
Finally Saffron's on vocals.
did you originally get together?
SAFFRON A girl called Jan Delahinty - a mutual
friend introduced us.
Did you decide very quickly that you were going to
form a band?
TIM Me and Toddy got together a little before
SAFFRON Toddy and Tim were writing together as a
partnership. I told my friend that I wanted to start a
band and asked her if she knew anyone. They had a track
that they had been working on and they were looking for
singers and it all worked out well.
do you play the Internationale at the beginning of your
SAFFRON Our soundman, Jono, had this record he'd
got from Moscow from a long time ago. He said that this
track was a real Republica record, it had a big red gold
star in the middle and Russian writing on it. We decided
to put it on for a bit of a joke really. But the idea was
if you started with the Russian national anthem and
dropped into the Republica sound, a lot of people would
think 'What is it all about?'
have left this song out off the album. Is this for
TIM No. We had it dropping into a heavy techno
beat but it wasn't really suitable for the rest of the
album. It would have stood out on its own. So we'll
probably use it live.
TODDY Yeah, it didn't go with the rest of the
you have recorded some tracks recently with the Prodigy.
How is it different to working in a studio with them to
Republica? How were they different?
SAFFRON I have known the Prodigy for a few years
now. So it didn't feel like any other session, there was
a good vibe, no pressure!! I got to sing with Keith in
the vocal piece which was brilliant.
Is it less stressful doing vocals for someone else's
album than your own?
SAFFRON Definitely. It's less stressful but I
would have thought each of us would have said that. It
was great to be asked to do this.
Republica, to what you were doing with Flowered up?
TIM I don't think so actually. I would say it is
the same. I have not changed my style in writing or
anything like that. I think it is still, to a certain
extent it's a logical progression. I was listening to the
album recently, after not hearing it for eighteen months,
and listening to it the melodic element is still there,
which is one of the basics of what Republica is doing
now. However I'd agree that Republica is not as hard
edged as Flowered up.
Toddy you have worked on other remixes for a lot of
acts. Do you find it easier when you are working on other
peoples tracks. Is it easier to stand back than when you
are working on Republica's music?
TODDY It is easier working on other people's
tracks, because you tend to work by yourself it is
quicker. When I am working with Republica, there are
three of us working on it and so it is a little bit
tougher. You are working as a team. It is a lot more
challenging because we have to put all of our influences
What are your hopes for the future? What kind of
things would you like to see happening in the next couple
TODDY Holidays, money, awards, lots of success and
I would like to see the world.
SAFFRON Obviously I would like to sell shit loads
of records, if I didn't I'd be lying or a fool. But more
to the point, when I grew up I went to see live bands and
I did actually want to be Debbie Harry and Lousie Banshee
and I think if you want something badly enough and
willing to work hard enough you'll get there in the end.
I think we are really lucky to be in this position,
although for a long time it seemed that it was such an
uphill struggle. It's great to have an opportunity to
think that people might actually want to buy our records
and like our music - it's just very exciting. Also
touring in the States is something that I have always
wanted to do, and hopefully that'll be happening later in
the year. We also want to be on Top Of The Pops.
star sign are you?
years after acts such as The Beloved and The Shamen
pioneered the indie-dance hybrid, London-based trio
Republica demonstrate there are still fresh ways to merge
guitars and beats with their forthcoming single Ready To
Go. The song combines house rhythms with punky chords, an
infectious chorus and spiky vocals in what the band
describe as "techno pop punk rock". The
combination is enough to persuade the band's label
Deconstruction that the band has enormous sales
"A lot of our
stuff comes straight out of the clubs but Republica offer
a big potential for crossover, whether it be dance,
indie, alternative or whatever," says marketing
director Del O'Brien.
Built around a songwriting
nucleus of Tim Dorney and erstwhile Flowered Up
keyboardist and engineer Andy Todd, the band
formed in 1993. Dorney and Todd met originally during
recording sessions for Soul Family Sensation and
found the opportunity to pair up when Camden's baggy
"It all fell to
pieces," says Dorney, recalling the drug-fuelled
chaos of the times. "We struggled to get people
together and we ran out of money. One day the singer,
Liam, just walked out and that was it. I haven't spoken
to any of them since."
Dorney and Todd reconvened
with the aim of doing "something underground and
dancey". The result was Out Of This World,
an instrumental friends suggested would benefit from a
vocal. Enter Saffron, former singer with N-Joi,
who topped it off perfectly and completed the
That one track persuaded Pete
Hadfield, joint managing director of Deconstruction,
Saffron's former label, to offer them a deal. The
songs they brought back convinced the label to make them
a priority act this summer. "We feel the material
they've delivered to us is so outstanding that we have to
go for it," explains O'Brien. "We've had
a fantastic reaction internationally to it as well - in
particular RCA in the States who, it should be
remembered, passed on M People and Take That."
Part of the band's appeal
lies in the ability to weld hooklines to sharp lyrics.
Their debut single Bloke, released last March, was
a swipe at wide boys driving flash motors - underlining
the band's desire to steer clear of hands-in-the-air
dancefloor vacuousness. "Our intention from the
start was to avoid that 'I'll take you higher' bollocks
that persists in dance music," agrees Dorney. "We
decided if we were going to have lyrics they might as
well say something."
In Republica's case
it's not just what they say, but the way they say it - in
particular Saffron, with her bobbed hair and
oriental looks. M People's Mike Pickering
has described her as "Siouxsie meets techno"
and her strident delivery and bouncy attitude make it
easy to see what he means.
The band have toured
extensively, supporting The Grid, The Shamen
and M People and building a significant grassroots
fanbase - not least in Scotland, with appearances at T
In The Park and Coatbridge's club Universe. "The
last time we went up there, we had fans turning up in
homemade T-shirts with pictures of the band and the name
stencilled on them," says Dorney.
Now augmented to a
six-piece live outfit, including ex-Bow Wow Wow
sticksman Dave Barbarossa on live drums, the band
embark on a month-long Wednesday residency at London
tranny club Madame JoJo's, starting on March 27.
They head out to America in the summer to play several
gigs, before appearing in June at the BMG
worldwide MDs conference in LA. To give an idea of the
faith placed in them, the other artist selected by the
company to appear is ex-Take That mainman Gary
Barlow, making his solo debut.
album is scheduled for release in May/June. Recorded and
self-produced in the band's Hoxton home studio, it lacks
only one thing - a title. "We're terrible at
coming up with names," confesses Dorney. "It
took us months to come up with the name Republica, so
long in fact that it held up the contract signing."
Suggestions so far include Top Banana, a title
suggested for that abortive second Flowered Up
album. "Well it's only a suggestion,"
adds Dorney hastily.
by Mike Pattenden
The following interview was
conducted with Tim Dorney, synthesist with in-yer-face
techno punk outfit Republica, on Wednesday 5th March,
1997. Many thanks to him and the band for the time spent
in answering our questions.
you get together as a band?
I met Toddy working in France on Jonny's
"Sensation" album while I was still in Flowered
Up, when that had split me and Toddy started working
together getting some tunes going. We decided it would be
good to try a singer and through a friend we were
introduced to Saffron who came down, did the singing and
decided to join us. Jonny joined us later when Toddy was
ill and we needed a stand in for a gig, he never left
after that. Dave joined us a year ago through word of
does it feel (currently!) to be bigger in America than in
your home country?
We're much happier to have done TOTP (Top Of The Pops)
than Conan O'Brien; the whole American thing seems very
remote, like a weird dream, when you're not out there.
We're really pleased with the way UK & Germany are
going for us at the moment so we're not thinking about
the USA for a while.
you ever have "my old band's better than your old
No, we know they were all crap. Actually we're all quite
big fans of each other's back catalogues (except maybe
Jonny's early demos). We do like to see a good photo of
Dave when he was in Bow Wow Wow, naked & quiffed
bands have been the biggest influence on Republica?
That's a hard one really, we don't all have the same
tastes really. The common ones are Beck and New Order but
outside that the list runs into thousands.
in Flowered Up looked like a lot of fun. Was that the
case, and was baggy a good scene to be a part of?
It had its ups and downs but the tours were completely
demented, we used to lose it on a nightly basis. I
suppose really it was fun but I didn't miss it when it
had gone, the last few months were hell. The sad thing
about the whole baggy scene is that short of Shaun Ryder
and maybe The Charlatans it never really produced an act
that had any sort of longevity, they'd all imploded
within a year or two.
is a dynamic front-woman to say the least. What do you
think she'd be doing if she wasn't in a band?
Management I should think! No I don't really know on that
one, she's always wanted to be a star.
you think Republica run the risk of falling foul of the
female-fronted band syndrome - i.e. the rest of the band
getting little or no attention, like the blokes in
Why do people think that we want to get any attention,
we're happy if we get a name check and moan when we have
to do photos! We don't mind it at all as we don't have to
deal with the recognition and the stalkers. There is the
danger of getting labelled along with other bands that
you sound nothing like purely because your singer is
female but that's really just lazy journalism.
was appearing on TOTP like? Is it a big party, or more of
a conveyor belt experience?
A bit of both really, the Beeb carries on around you and
you have to be certain places at certain times but we
tend to socialise anyway. We've known Gavin the drummer
from Bush for years and had played with them in LA so we
chewed the cud with them for a while, we met the Spice
Girls (I wish I had the camera on me when Mel B was
kissing the top of Toddy's bald head!) and the Artist. In
between we did what we do best and hit the subsidised
bar. It was also Ric Blaxhill's last TOTP so there was a
booze up afterwards. We decided it was a great day in pop
for us lot.
what are Republica's plans for 97?
A month in Europe with the Fun Lovin Criminals starting
in Amsterdam on Saturday. Back into the UK with FLC again
and then we haven't really decided, we're booked to do
quite a few festivals in the summer and maybe Japan will
kick off. I need a holiday soon to recharge my pop
batteries as well. All that and an album to write. There
is no peace for the wicked.
We've also just put the finishing touches to a version of
"Are Friends Electric"? with The Numan hisself.
It came out so well we're thinking of putting it out as a
single, now if that doesn't start a backlash I don't know
end of the world or dawn of a new age?
We're not too sure yet, I think either could happen,
without a major revolution I can't see the new age
coming, if Nostradamus was right we'll all be fighting
the yellow army, take your pick.
What song will you be listening to on December 31st,
One of ours hopefully, if not "1999" by The
Artist will do if I have to be topical.
And (assuming we're all still here) on January 1st,
"Nostradamus was wrong" by Republica
would Republica change the world for the better?
Now that's a tall order, we could list the old standards,
world peace, nuclear disarmament, no pollution etc. but
we're of the opinion that its arrogant to think that pop
music can change the world in the slightest of ways, if
they ever existed those days are gone. We'd just like to
think that we pushed the envelope a little further.
do you think the next big musical movement will be, and
what will it be called?
Novelty Rock (Thanks
to Denim for that one), all those horrible Lieutenant
Pidgeon & "Birdy Song" records will be
covered by currently major artists.
one of you became the sixth Spice Girl, what would your
the aliens already here?
Yes, we've got one
playing keyboards! I've got a feeling one of our roadies
doesn't come from this planet either.
they Republica fans?
Fans, they're in the
sodding band! Of course they are, we don't claim to be
Bill & Ted but there's something in there for
are Republica fans?
Melissa Hart (Sabrina
the teenage witch!), and believe it or not the Spice
Girls who have just asked for our autographs (we're
sitting around waiting for Top of the Pops to start
filming and they've just asked us!) After that we really
do have quite a cross section, I get emails from 8 year
olds who like "Ready To Go" to 45 year old
parents whose kids have blasted them with the album when
they've been on their way to school. And Iggy Pop.
you for your time and effort in completing this
questionnaire. Finally, if you had to sum up Republica in
3 words, what would they be?
In the words of one Karl Underworld : LAGER, LAGER, LAGER
|I can't remember where this one comes
Tim Dorney can't believe it. There it is,
the cover of Republica's debut album basking in the
floodlights outside the Virgin Megastore in New York's
All the keyboardist and
his band mates, lead singer Saffron and keyboardist Andy
Todd, can do is stare.
"I never, ever in my
wildest dreams believed I would be standing in the middle
of Times Square and there's the cover of our album up in
lights," Dorney said recently from RCA Records'
Broadway office. "It's incredible. The first time we
saw it, we were in just absolute fits of laughter. We
couldn't believe we have come this far."
Reality has sunk in now
that the British alternative-dance quintet's first
single, the hook-savvy "Ready to Go," is at No.
68 and climbing on Billboard's Hot 100 chart. Dorney has
come a long way from his stint in Flowered Up, a U.K.
"flavor of the month" in the early '90s. He is
taking nothing for granted with Republica.
"Flowered Up fell to
pieces, basically," he said. "We ran out of
money and things, and things just got harder and harder
to work. A few lineup changes lost the edge of what the
band was about.
In the end, the singer
quit. He was having a lot of personal problems himself,
and he couldn't take the pressure."
Poor management didn't
help matters either.
"What we went
through, I learned a lot of lessons that would help put
another band together," Dorney said. "I wasn't
nervous about (starting Republica) at all. I had already
seen the pitfalls of what a band could go through. I
wasn't about to let that happen again."
Dorney teamed with Todd,
who had produced tracks for acts ranging from Bjork to
Barbra Streisand, to form an upbeat, techno-oriented
dance group. They wanted to add some vocals, and after a
few auditions, they picked Saffron, whose resume included
backup work for The Shamen, N-Joi and Jah Wobble.
"She's a fiery
animal," Dorney said. "We wanted somebody with
a bit of a personality, rather than just a dance diva.
And she already had a track record as well. She's a
consummate performer. She amazes me every
They added guitarist
Johnny Male and former Bow Wow Wow/Adam Ant drummer Dave
Barborossa to solidify its live sound.
After finishing their
first song, "Out of This World," they already
had a label itching to sign them. For the U.K. indie
Deconstruction, there was only one problem: The band
needed a name. "They had this deal on the table,
ready to pay us loads of money," Dorney said,
"and they said, 'Look, this is a legal document.
You've got to have a name on it.' We tried for ages to
try to think of a name, but eventually our managers just
locked us in a room and said, 'You are not coming out
until you come up with a name for this band.'
"About three and a
half hours later, after some complete soul searching and
some completely ridiculous ideas, we eventually came up
with Republica. It's been great ever since."
Hotstar Of The Week, September 2, 1996
The founding members of
Republica formed the group three years agowith ambitious
plans in mind.The British bandmates had grown tired of
the mainstream music coming out of London's clubs and
wanted to do something about it. They made it a point to
attack the stagnating scene with a fresh sound in hopes
of reigniting the kind of excitement that hit with '80s
new wave music. What they came up with is an industrial,
hard hitting, in your face dance style that's been termed
techno-pop punk rock.
And don't dare to call it Britpop.
Republica frontwoman Saffron said she and her bandmates
had fond memories of London's club scene in the '80s with
bands like The Jam and Blondie. "Those are our icons
really", Saffron told Pollstar, "but a lot of
the music [recently] had become very mainstream and had
become, we felt, made without a lot of thought into it.
And especially the lyrical side was very bland and very
sort of, always talk about 'high' and 'take me higher'
and ecstacy and all that shit", she said.
The band members thought there were other issues pop
music could address. "You've still got problems on
Sunday morning, you know", Saffron said. The cynism
and wry sense of humor that comes across on Republica's
self-titled debut on DeConstruction/RCA has been well
received in England and is now making quite an impression
in the U.S. with the catchy single "Ready To
"Ready To Go" was the most added track at
alternative radio for its first two weeks at the format.
Though the band members aren't quite tuned in to the
importance of radio play in America, they know in their
country, it's essential. "We've only got one radio
station here", Saffron said, "we've got lots o
flittle ones in different regionsbut Radio 1 is basically
the one. And if you don't get played on there, then you
really haven't got a lot of chance." She said
it's very hard for new bands to break in England.
"You get one week to get in the chart and if you
don't get in there in one week, than that's it. It's very
cutthroat." she said. "So, obviously, it's very
important for us to get on the radio becausethat's the
only way we 're gonna get anywhere." At the same
time, Saffron said Republica is not a Britpop band and
would never modify its music to fit the mainstream.
"We don't really fit into the current sound but
we're not gonna change our sound just because it gets us
in the papers and stuff."
As for American radio, Saffron said, "We just got
the list of [stations] that are playing our record and
we're just like 'Great!'... You can't believe that
someone on the other side of the world is playing your
record. It's great, really. We've just been told that
KROQ (in L.A.) has added our record and we've been told
that that's a very good station", she said.
Though the mebers of Republica are somewhat new to the
concert business in America, they've played the music
game for a while in their country. The three founding
members, Saffron and keyboardists Tim Dorney and Andy
Todd, have all previously worked with other bands.
Saffron sang with the bands N-Joi and The Shamen before
joining Dorney and Todd in their songwriting partnership.
Dorney had achieved some success as the primary
songwriter with British media darlings Flowered Up. And
Todd's credits include producing songs from Björk to
The trio hooked up three years ago and immediately got a
record company deal with DeConstruction based on the
first track they recorded. Saffron had previously worked
with DeConstruction when she sang with N-Joi and said the
alternative/dance indie was Republica's first choice of
labels. "I'd always held them in high regard",
Saffron said. "They seemed to be in it for the right
reasons and they were very much behind us from the
beginning." She said the band had its own plans of
eventually expands with a couple of new members to better
bring the music to a live audience. "It's difficult
with our setup because there's a lot of electronica that
we deal with. Developing and using the guitars and the
live drums took quite a while for us to do." But she
said DeConstruction was willing to let the band develop
in its own time. "I don't think many record
companies would have let us do that."
Today, the trio has developed into a dynamic quintet with
lead guitaris Johnny Male joining the mix along with
former Bow Wow Wow and Adam Ant drummer Dave Barborossa.
Theirs is a sound that "jumps right out and grabs
you by the throat", according to one critic.
Republica's live performance has been reviewed with the
same kind of enthusiasm.
Up until now, the band has been playing mostly club dates
to audiences of 500 to 1000 people. But one highlight
came last year when Republica played England's "T In
The Park" festival on front of 80'000 music fans. We
were very down on the bill", Saffron said
laughing. "It was a great atmosphere there and I
think sometimes at those things, if you play in the
afternoon, you get the best crowds. The crowds are more
open because otherwise, they've been standing there all
As to whether the band prefers large or small venues,
Saffron said it doesn't matter. "We're just very
lucky to get on the bill anywhere... I think it's just as
important that people get to know you whether you're
playing to three people or 3000", she said. "We
have playd to about three people", Saffron quipped.
Then she admitted to exaggerating: "Maybe [it was]
Republica has played only one gig in the U.S. thus far
and for the members who hadn't been to America before
that, they can't wait to come back. "It's such a big
country", Saffron said. "We're just excited to
tour all the way around and get to go and see Memphis and
Nashville. We hope to get to Graceland and to get to go
places like that and play. It's very
Republica will kick off its U.S. tour with a free Z100
concert in New York September 6th and then go on to
support Gravity Kills.
Marty Diamond at Little Big Man is handling U.S. bookings
while Davis Jaymes and Diane Wagg of Rise Management
handle U.K. dates and management duties.
|19MAGAZINE / REDALERT
With her scarlet hair and rock-chick
attitude, Republica's Saffron is the queen of power-pop.
But under that hard exterior is a girl who just wants to
In the strange world of
celeb-dom, the fact that Saffron bumped into Courtney
Love backstage at a Versace fashion show is part of the
"She came in screaming like a crazy woman. She's
totally overpowering, but I love that," laughs
Saffron. "She gave me some matriarchal rock-chick
advice and told me where I was going wrong, but she meant
it in a good way. She looks fab and although she's now
this big Hollywood star she's still into her music. I
thought she was brilliant."
Saffron laid-back response to encountering Courtney just
about sums up the character of this petite pop
phenomenom. Although she looks like a scary cross between
punk icon Siouxsie Sioux (her idol) and Morticia from The
Addams Family she's actually a softly spoken home girl,
who likes to have a laugh with her mates - and write
great pop songs.
Not only that, this role model to a new generation of
girrrrls with attitude is on a big love vibe. After a
number of disastrous love affairs, Saffron's bagged a
goodie. She's been seeing Fast, bass-player with the Fun
Lovin' Criminals, since January, and it's all hunky dory,
she says, grinning like a Cheshire cat.
"It's a really weird story. I met him when we were
touring America last summer. He remembered me from a gig
I'd done in New York in 1991 and said he'd got all my
records. I thought he was spinning me a line, but he
actually has! He bought them all on import."
When they met, Saffron was in a "terrible
relationship". "I know that this sounds crap,
but I consider Fast to be my first real boyfiend. I've
had a catalogue of disasters, one of them culminating in
Drop Dead Gorgeous, so at least I've learned from my
mistakes," she says. "But I feel very lucky
that I've found a good man."
The couple started off as friends. "I didn't realise
I was in such a bad relationship until I met someone
nice," Saffron says. "I'd sit there thinking 'I
wish I could meet someone like Fast', and then it all
So what does she look for in a man? "My boyfriend is
so honest and well-mannered, and that's really
important," she says. "I don't think girls
should stand for less. Women put up with too much crap
from men, when they shouldn't have to."
Now that's girl power for you. But then Saffron has
always gone after what she wants. She was born in
Nigeria. Her mum is from Hong Kong and her dad is
English. She lived in Brighton, studying ballet, until
her late teens, when she moved to London to pursue her
music career. In the early Nineties she tasted chart
success with a dance act called N-Joi, but struck out on
her own in 1993.
"I went to DeConstruction, the record company, ant
told them to give me a deal. They said 'Get a band
together and we'll see', so I did."
Republica are songwriter Tim Dorney, who founded Flowered
Up; keyboard player Andy Todd, who's worked with Björk;
guitarist Johnny Male and drummer Dave Barborossa, who
was with Adam And The Ants back in the Eighties.
Saffron explains, "They were looking for a singer
when I met them. But I didn't want us to be like all the
girly dance band rubbish. They agreed and that's how we
Since then, Republica have broken America big time, and
have make their mark over here with Ready To Go and Drop
Dead Gorgeous, which was used on the soundtrack of Wes
Craven's film Scream.
"Making it in the US was great, but what's important
for us is to be in the British charts," Saffron
says, "We all live here and have grown up here. It's
all very well doing big things in America - but we wanted
to be on Top Of The Pops!"
That doesn't mean to say that Republica aren't getting
used for the fame game. Earlier this year they playedat
at one of Donatella Versace's fashion shows, after the
designer spotted them on TV.
"She liked us, so she asked us to play a gig at a
show and there we were on the catwalk with Naomi and all
the other supermodels," laughs Saffron. "I
looked at the front row and there was Leonardo DiCaprio,
Courtney Love, Prince and The Fugees. I just thought
But it's not just the rich and famous who are taking
notice, thanks to Saffron's distinctive hair. "In
America, MTV unifies the whole country, so we'd be in
truck stops in Kansas City and people eating their
burgers would come over and go, 'You're awesome, your
music rules!' They've seen us on MTV and recognised my
Saffron loves the attention. And she's especially proud
of the way that their music seems to lift people's
"Our music is so up and energetic that we get a
great reaction. In America, the audiencs go crazy. We had
all these mad girls following us around. They'd get on
stage, dance around, then jump into the crowd and crowd
surf," she says. "I haven't done it myself,
although a couple of the guys have. When you see people
having such a great time, it gives you a feeling of
power, knowing that you can have such an effect on
There's no danger of that power going to Saffron's head,
though. Her sarf London mates are more than happy to put
her back in her place if she becomes too big for her
"I'm very happy to have a group of very close
girlfriends. I hang out with them when I can and they
come to the gigs and tell me what they think. They
definitely keep my feet on the ground," she
And she's excited about showing her mates a good time at
the festivals Republica are playing at this summer.
"It's going to be a great laugh; all our friends are
coming in the van," she grins. "We've
always loved going to festivals, and this year it's even
better because we are performing at them."
But there will be one thing missing - and that's Fast.
The couple have just spend a week together in Florida,
but their schedules mean that they've got to spend a lot
of time apart this summer.
"We have massive transatlantic phone bills,"
she sighs. "But we've been very lucky considering
we're so far apart. We've seen each other every three or
four weeks - I don't think I could manage for any
But then Saffron's not the kind of girl who'll put up
whith something she's not happy with, especially as her
life is going so well these days.
"I'm having such a great time at the moment, and
although we're working really hard, I'm not
complaining," she says firmly. "It could all
end tomorrow, but you live for today. And even if it does
end tomorrow, we'll still carry on doing it because it's
what we want to do. Even if no one wants to listen!"
Issue 41 ©1996 By Tamara
IS ALTERNATIVE ROCK
DEAD? It has reached its pinnacle, an unprecedented
heyday, and become the common language of the mainstream.
It is perhaps a beautiful thing that White Zombie is
practically a household name, and Punk a la Sex Pistols
has been fully revived, but there isn't much a group of
guys with guitars (except Marilyn Manson) can do that
hasn't already hit the charts, conquered MTV, been used
on a movie soundtrack, or somehow infiltrated national
television (the Goo Goo Dolls did play "Take Me Out
to the Ball Game" during the World Series).
So, if Alternative
Rock has become the broken record of the mainstream, what
has the underground been listening to? Electronica.
Techno. House. Rave Music. The camps are divided - Rock
on one side, Electronica on the other. Technoheads don't
mosh. Rock-heads don't rave. Well, maybe that's about to
Back in the Eighties
there was this thing called New Wave - Rock plus
Electronic Music spurned Depeche Mode, The Eurythmics,
Human League, and later, Nine Inch Nails. Dance Culture
and Rock found a meeting ground. Now, a decade later, the
average Alternative crowd, having seen the revolutionary
bands hit the mainstream, is looking for something new.
In the CD collection of a fringe Hardcore connoisseur you
might find a Meat Beat Manifesto or Chemical Brothers CDs
neatly placed in-between Government Issue and Jane's
Addiction - a meeting of extreme Electronica and extreme
Rock. But there is a newer wave that crosses over smack
in the middle of Pop Alternative. It comes straight out
of the UK and it's called REPUBLICA and SAFFRON, the lead
singer, is ready to take on the world.
Born in Nigeria,
Saffron has a very exotic ancestry. Her mother is a Hong
Kong native of Portuguese descent, and her father is
English-born. Saffron lived in West Africa, where her
father worked for the British American Tobacco Co. until
the Biafran War broke out, and the family moved Brighton,
England. Her early music roots are firmly planted in New
Wave, Goth, and Punk a la New Order, Siouxsie & The
Banshees, and The Clash. While living in Brighton ,
Saffron took every opportunity to check out the steady
influx of New Wave bands like The Jam and Human League
that passed through.
She then spent her
early twenties as part of the London Rave Scene. She
eventually got tired of the stagnating Club Culture that
just played pure Techno, and found some solace at a club
called the Heavenly Social where DJs like the Chemical
Brothers and Monkey Mafia mixed Electro with Rock and Hip
While she was
working with N-Joi and The Shamen, a mutual friend
introduced her to the writing/engineering duo of Tim
Dorney (formerly with the British group Flowered Up) and
Andy Todd. Saffron was looking to create something new
musically and they were looking for a singer. The roots
of Republica were established. Guitarist Jonny Male soon
joined, and with the addition of Punk veteran Dave
Barborossa (formerly with Bow Wow Wow and Adam Ant) on
drums (who can play in the time at 130 beats per minute),
Republica was complete. They structured themselves as a
band with a vocalist and songs - a fusion of Punk with an
Electronica backbone, a crossover.
Which label is going
to take a chance on a band like that? None other than one
of the hottest UK Indie Alternative/Dance labels,
Deconstruction. With only one track complete, "Out
of This World" (reworked on their self-titled debut
album as "Out of The Darkness"), they were
signed. Deconstruction's artists top the UK Dance charts
practically every week. The label has been a consistent
supporter of pure Electronica artists like Dave Clarke,
Fabio, M People, and Roger Sanchez, and has put out
various UK Club compilations featuring the Chemical
Brothers, Paul Oakenfold, Nick Warren, James Lavelle, and
Monkey Mafia. Even though label had worked with Saffron
before when she sang with N-Joi, Republica is a risk for
Deconstruction because the sound does not fit into the
label's roster. As opposed to being Techno (which is all
sound fusion and beat devoid of vocals) or Dances based,
Republica as Saffron describes it, is a Techno-Pop Punk
Rock band. She intends on pushing the crossover between
Rock and Dance one step further than other UK bands like
The Prodigy and Underworld, and deconstruction is giving
her the chance.
Is the US ready for
Republica? Dance Culture is certainly more ingrained in
the UK psyche than in that of the US. The division
between Rock and Dance has always been very defined in
the US- separate camps that scoff at each other. The
Eighties New Wave explosion did originate in the UK- and
now Republica is brining a new wave to American
Will Rock-heads rave and
Techno-heads mosh? You bet. During the East Coast leg of
their U.S. tour opening for Gravity Kills, Saffron
brought the house down at New York's Irving Plaza. Sexy,
wild, energized, playful, and cocky, Saffron seduce the
audience and flippantly asked the crowd, "Well,
aren't you going to mosh?" The dazed crowd happily
indulged Saffron. When the band played their hit,
"Ready to Go," the pit was as lively as at any
Saffron is part of a
new generation of female singers. She has thrown away the
waif Folk persona or the sloppy Grunge look, and has
embraced a sexy neo-Punk attitude. She will- all at the
same time. What does Saffron want? She has a Rock &
Roll/Techno dream, and she is going to shout it out until
does the name Republica come from? It brings up images of
Communism and Fascism .....
It's got absolutely nothing to do with that,
believe it or not. I can tell you, it's the hardest thing
ever to think of but we couldn't think of a word to go
before or after it. Our manager locked us in a room and
said, "You've got to think of a name or I'll think
of one for you."
did you like about "Republica"?
I don't know ... there's a New Order album called
Republic. We just liked the name. The "a" was
female thing. We had so many other names that were really
I can't remember now. Oh, they were dreadful! Stupid
about the imagery?
We liked the Russian Constructivist artwork in a Pop
Culture sense. We use big banners with lots of flags for
our live show. We just like the art rather than the
politics. I was wearing a big Russian hat with a little
red star. It's a Pop Culture thing.
that New Wave came from a mix of Punk and Electronic, do
you see Republica as part of a New Wave movement of the
A journalist said we were " New Wave Rave,"
which we thought was quite funny. In England, people get
pigeonholed into these things- it'd probably be better if
we made up our own pigeonhole. We prefer to be in a new
genre than lumped in with Brit Pop - we're obviously not
do the Punk and Techno elements meet in Republica?
When we started our three years ago, all of us had come
out of the London club scene. There were these seminal
clubs called Spectrum and Future, very small places where
they played a New Order song back-to-back with a Detroit
Techno song next to a Blondie song. It was very mixed. It
was a mixture and a melding of ideas, different people
from different backgrounds getting together and having a
party. We've stayed with that aesthetic and we hope
people are open to new sounds and new ideas. I sang in a
band called N-Joi, and there was The Prodigy and all
those bands that came out of the big Rave scene. They're
a huge band, really massive. I know Prodigy when I was in
N-Joi and a few months ago they asked me to sing backing
vocals on a track. It was a real honor that they asked me
after all that time. It was fun and exciting but when
anything underground goes mainstream it feels like you've
been betrayed - "This isn't what we wanted."
People make music just to get in the charts. As far as
Republica goes, we wanted to be a band. We grew up with
all the Eighties bands- The Clash, The Jam, Siouxsie And
The Banshees - but we also loved Electronic Music. We
felt it was quite challenging to write songs. The Punk
thing comes in because we wanted to do the opposite of
what we heard at the time, which was happy. That's find,
but on Monday you've still got problems. We were a bit
down on our luck and didn't have much money. The songs
came out of that. "Picture Me" is about
telephone boxes in London. You know how you get flyers at
Raves? Well, these telephone boxes advertising
prostitutes, They're all brightly colored, saying,
"Call me. I'll bring you happiness." I thought,
"If one of those cards came to life, what would they
really be saying?" The girl behind that card is
your album you have "Picture Me" and then
"Drop Dead Gorgeous," where your objectifying
the man .....
You say to your friends, "He's really pisses me off
but he's so gorgeous." I'm sure everyone's got one.
The song's about an ex-boyfriend of mine.
goes on at Spectrum and Future?
Spectrum was on a Monday night at a club called Heaven in
London. Future was on a Thursday night - we have a club
for every night - and I've still got the membership card
with "Dance You Fuckers" written on it. Shoom
was on Saturday. Danny Rampling and his wife used to run
it. It was very underground but the most
"party" of all of them. People would walk out
of there at six a.m. and there'd be a mist surrounding
them. All sorts of mad things used to go on on in there
and people would go dressed as flowers. Those are the
times I'd like to remember. In a few years, it got out of
hand and the big partied got money-oriented and
criminality set in, which spoiled it. Light attracts
dark, doesn't it?
did you feel when that happened?
That's when we started the band. We felt jaded and that's
why the lyrics have so much attitude as opposed to
talking about love and happiness. Something that people
can relate to in there real lives, rather than it just
being some hedonistic dream which doesn't come true.
People died and went to jail - it's not the happy dream
you thought it was going to turn out to be. The same
thing with Punk or any of those things. It promises a lot
and a few years later...
is making both Electronic Music and Pop Music, and
attracting both audiences-
The purist people don't like what we're doing, but maybe
if they saw the band live it would be a different thing.
We understand the purist aesthetic and we love that type
of music and we're not trying to bastardize it. We love
Techno -that's where we're from - but we just decided we
wanted to be a band. We'd like to hope we're not jaded in
any way, because we love music. It doesn't matter whether
Techno or Punk or whatever - just listen. That's what I
thought the whole Rave scene was based on - open
mindedness and lots of different cultures going on. That
was what got me interested in it in the first
are all the logistics of a live Republica
It's all running off a live sequencer. There's no tapes
or anything like that. We spent nine months trying to do
it - that's probably why people haven't done it before.
The challenge is taking what you hear on the record and
taking what you hear on the stage and melding it with a
live guitar and drummer. Now, we think studio and that' s
what we wanted it to be. Dave works with a click track in
his monitor because it's so fast. When we first started,
we didn't have any money to get the right computer
you see Republica as a band taking a risk?
It was a big challenge. We knew that people may not have
liked what we were doing. It wasn't our intention to
bastardize Dance Music - our main concern was to be a
band. It just so happened that we love Dance Music and
wrote electronics. Our main concern was to write good
songs. Maybe we did take a few risk, and in England, it
has taken a while for people to know us. We haven't
changed, we just carry on. We will stay very Electronic.
That's what people find different here in the States.
People like it because it's a new sound . They might have
never heard a Techno record before but they like the vibe
was the Dance scene changed since you were in
I think it's grown up in a way. It was a revolution in
England because it changed the laws. The Government
actually passed laws to stop these Raves. There were
Raves upwards of twenty, twenty-five thousand people, all
private, and I don't think the Government liked it . It
was a threat, really. What happened is they changed the
licensing laws in Britain and now it's gone back to clubs
and become more localized, where before they'd travel to
the big one. To us, "raving" is part of the
language. The music's become quite fractured, which I
think is good, but now you either go listen to Techno or
you go listen to House. The club I go to is called the
Heavenly Social, which is the place The Chemical Brothers
DJ. They mix Hip Hop with Electro, Techno, Rock. It's
changed a lot but it really is integrated into the
culture now. Kids go Raving every Friday and
the role of Drug culture in the Rave scene?
People have said that
"Republica's the vomit of the E generation."
That time was amazing for us. You'd go off and try new
things - it was the right time for stuff like that.
Anybody should be free to try whatever they like if it
makes them happy. When we started the band, I had two
friends die, and things had started to go downhill and
people were looking highs that weren't there anymore.
Certain drugs were cut with shit and rat poison and I had
to draw the line and say , "It's not worth
swallowing that poison, is it?"
you think when you started the band that you were
shifting gear and making something positive. If you want
to experience highs in life, then you've got to
experience the lows too. If you go out every night and
have a great time, you're going to have to come down.
Then it's not so happy anymore. The whole idea is to
enjoy it but don't overkill-
see Republica as bringing the happiness back?
In the live music
arena, what we enjoyed when we were younger was going to
see bands like The Clash, Siouxsie And The Banshees, and
Human League. We loved Pop Music and going to see a group
give something to people that have paid for a ticket.
With Raves, the tickets prices were getting so high and I
felt, "where's the band?" You want some
entertainment thrown in, not just the DJs , you know what
Jam has been fighting high ticket prices in the States-
It makes it something
elite, which it isn't supposed to be, you know?
do you think opened the doors for Electronica?
I have to say
Kraftwerk, obviously, and people like New Order, Human
League, Gary Numan, Depeche Mode, Yazoo - people melding
Electronic with Pop-
Nine Inch Nails,
certainly. Of course, the people who came out of Detroit
like Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, Juan Atkins, and Carl
Cox, Paul Oakenfold, Darren Emerson - people who started
from the beginning playing this new sound. That was quite
courageous to play this weird music in London clubs.
Those people have gone on and made great records and
formed new bands .....
Deconstruction just a label or is it also a scene?
at the same time as everything else and it's run by Pete
Hadfield and Keith Blackhurst, who have always supported
me over the years, even when I was a wild thing. They
were two guys from up North who starting putting out
classic one-off Electronic records. They started the
company by themselves and now it's a huge thing, They've
helped a lot of new artists and they've taken a chance
with us. We're a bit of a wild card. They're used to
getting House tracks into the charts every time. They've
got M People, who have done extremely well. Even though
we have a Dance element, we're not what the label
normally has on their roster. They had belief - a lot of
record companies would have dropped us a long time ago.
Putting out one track a month is fine but we're looking
for something more than that - the Rock & Roll/Techno
dream we want to believe can happen for us.
happening musically in England?
The reason the music
is so cutting-edge is because it's hard to get on.
There's so many bands, it's quite cut-throat and quite
fashion-oriented. If you're not part of a scene, you
don't get written about. It's almost good because it
makes it a quest for perfection. You have to be great and
maybe that's why there's so many factions of experimental
music coming out.
there, Dance Music is ingrained in the cultural psyche
That's another thing.
England is more bi-cultural. Here, I find it a little bit
... not segregated, but I haven't seen a gang of Black
kids with a gang of White kids. If you came to meet me
with my friends, there'd be Black kids. That's how we
I like about Dance Music is that it comes from Disco -
I'm a huge Earth, Wind
& Fire fan. Chic is one of my favorite bands of all
time. We have a mix ready to go that's pure Georgio
Moroder and we really like that.
about your work with Jah Wobble?
David is one of
Wobble's best friends and meeting him was a turning point
in me getting confidence. After meeting Jah Wobble, for
months afterward I was like, "I can do it."
N-Joi had been someone else's thing and I felt like a
hired hand, do you know what I mean? I thought, "I
can do this myself." I knew I did need some help and
Wobble phoned up and said, "I've written a song for
you." He's my hero. He really is a genius, because
when you first meet him, you think, "He's going to
be psycho" - and he is! But he's genius psycho and
he's so funny and totally spiritual and totally calm now.
He was mad before, you know. He's such a nice person to
work with .....
how do you rebel against - or buy into - the House Diva
stereotype? How do you see your persona?
When I was growing up,
the pictures on my wall were Debbie Harry, Siouxsie And
The Banshees, Annie Lennox - really strong characters. I
went to all their concerts and I wanted to be them.
That's why I'm here. I'm not Mariah Carey, I can't sing
House Diva music. My icons were more the Poly Styrenes
and Siouxsies - do you know what I mean?
said you can't sing like Mariah Carey, who is different
from a Debbie Harry or Siouxsie or you. Your stage
persona is very sexy and powerful. How do you see
yourself fitting into the spectrum of female
I'd much rather be in the Siouxsie camp than any other
camp. Mariah Carey's got fantastic singing qualities but
it's so far removed from my life. Siouxsie or Courtney
Love - that primal screech is what I want to hear. That's
what I got excited about when I got excited about when I
went to first see shows with glamorous women with a
strong persona. That is what I love about those
things in your life in sculptured your persona?
As any girl would
know, if they try very hard ... what are those things in
the Olympics? Hurdles. You jump over every hurdle you
meet. You say, "Fuck it. I'm going for this no
matter what the consequence." I think any girl finds
it an uphill struggle but you keep on jumping those
hurdles. It's hard to do it with your soul intact. I
heard something when I used to train as a ballet dancer:
"Be nice to everyone on the way up because you're
going to meet them on the way down." I've always
been around boys, as well. If you're in a band, people
ask, "How'd you do it with those smelly boys?"
Well, they're my boys.
are some instances in your life when you had to climb
over these hurdles?
I came from another
country and when I first started school, I had a bit of
hard time because I was a new girl. I was born in Africa
and went to one school and then I moved to another
school. Trying to integrate yourself when you're a
newcomer can be quite hard. You have to have a certain
amount of courage to fit in eight people because kids at
school be very nasty if you look different, which I did.
I was bit darker than most kids at school, because my
your mom in England right now?
My mom's actually in
Hong Kong. She's gone there for a reunion with all her
friends after twenty years.
Kong's right about to change over...
People have come back
there from all around the world because it may be the
last time to see it. My mom feels it will change from
inside out. You won't see the changes but you'll feel it.
It's such a fantastic place that it's in the Chinese's
interest to keep it that way. There's a small island
called Macao, which is forty miles off Hong Kong, and
it's a Portuguese colony where my mom's ancestors are
from - she's actually Portuguese but with Chinese way,
way back. Vasco De Gama or one of these travelers dropped
off loads of Portuguese there. Now, it's a famous
gambling island. It's a real East-meets-West type place.
Rickshaws and stretch limos. It's like a James Bond
love the way you dress. How do you choose your clothes?
I choose my clothes
based on what I can afford, unfortunately. It's funny, we
did the MTV fashion thing and I said, "I'm sorry,
but I don't know anything about these designers. I just
buy what I can afford." It has to be something I can
jump about in and get sweaty. I like to wear short
t-shirts, little boyish things, with a hint of
femininity. I think a girl should wear what they feel
good in. Personally, I like trousers. If I wear shorter
skirts, I'll wear a Punk kilt with boots, so it doesn't
look too girly.
you find yourself drawn to thrift stores?
I do. I grew up with
jumble sales every Saturday and you can find some amazing
things. Mixing old and new I quite like. I found some
amazing boys' suits actually. Jackets and trousers with
pinstripes, what you'd buy for a boy for his first
Issue 54 March 1997 Story: Matt
They're a band from
over here who have done rather well over there. With
synthesizers. And guitars. Matt Overton asks, "So
what exactly is 'techno-pop-punk-rock'?"
Every so often a
band gets signed to a record company on the strength of a
dodgy demo. Like Republica, "deconstruction signed
us with three vocals samples and , 'Um-da-da, um-da-da,
um-da-da, um-da-da', says Tim Dorney, keyboard player and
programmer, miming the piano break of what sounds like a
house track played on a home keyboard. "It was
really basic and the recording wasn't
Well, I console
myself, the law of averages means it must happen to
someone, somewhere, occasionally. "But I'm used to
that", he continues. "In Flowered Up, the same
thing happened; we'd had three covers - Sound, NME and
Melody Maker - before we'd put our first single
It's a cold Monday
morning January, somewhere in a trendy part of London N1.
And Republica has just come back from 63 dates in the
USA. 1996 was a great year for them stateside: a support
slot with industrial merchants Gravity Kills led to them
headlining their own tour; Drop Dead Gorgeous was made
the theme song of the new Wes Craven blockbuster
"Scream;" and their debut single "Ready To
Go" even out-sold Oasis' "Don't Look Back In
Anger". But in 1997 they're heading for Europe and
formed in 1994 around the vocals of Saffron and the
keyboards of Tim and Todd. Saffron had acted on stage and
TV, and sung with N-Joi and Jah Wobble. Tim played
keyboards in Flowered Up, as well as being the main
songwriter (You might recall the epic 12 inch Weekender
which was one of the tracks of the burgeoning dance music
scene). Toddy - Andrew Todd to his mum - was an
experienced engineer, producer, remixer and "filter
expert", as Tim describes him, who'd worked with
artists as diverse as Björk and Barbra Streisand.
To this nucleus has
been added Jonny Male, one-time guitarist with Soul
Family Sensation and hit writer, and Dave Barbarossa,
formerly drummer with Bow Wow Wow. A traditional band,
you might think? Not according to Tim:
"No, 'cos we'd
never have a bass player. We used to have one, but we
didn't like it and went back to machines again-we
preferred them. We've only got a drummer who can play in
time with it all. We're stuck with machines-it makes us
sound a lot more powerful live."
So what's a band with
origins in dance music (their 'demo' "Out Of This
World" was remixed by The Chems while
"Bloke" has been remixed by Way Out West) doing
using guitars? It's like you've been infected by touring
the USA. Are you turning into a guitar band?
"We'd been that
before we'd gone there, actually: the last eight gigs we
did in this country. Jonny had been in it for a while
anyway on the live side, but Dave joined us over a year
ago. We did Hotel Babylon [the late night TV show with
Dani Behr] with him, the Madame JoJo's gigs, the Splash
Club before we went to the States."
Their current single
"Ready To Go" was first released last year, but
reached only No. 41 in the Charts. So Republica took
their already-recorded album and toured it around the
USA, quickly notching up a hit and a name for
But Tim isn't
worried about being afflicted with the curse of Bush:
"It's just one of those things. You can't predict
what's going to happen in the UK. You can either go over
there and come back, and people will go, 'Oh, they're
massive in the States', but they don't like you
particularly for that reason. Then you could go over
there and come back here, and it does very well. It's
completely hit and miss. But I think we're in with a
chance and I prefer this version of Ready To Go to the
one we put out originally. I think it worked better for
what the band is now, because we've moved more in that
He's referring to the fact that "Ready To Go"
had been remixed by Ben Grosse of America industrialists
Filter (along with three other tracks on their debut
album) to give a more guitar-driven sound. Tim thinks the
band's dance roots make it easier to accept being
remixed- it's standard practice. But what about the UK
audience? While their blend of 'techno-pop-punk-rock'
(that's Saffron's description) has been successful on the
other side of the Atlantic, there's a risk people this
side won't embrace dance music with guitars. Ask the The
Shamen or Sunscreem.
mainstream dance, we're not drum'n'bass, we're not
fucking Britpop, we're not indie-pop, we just sit
slapbang in the middle of everything," admits Tim.
"But in the States, that's one of our strengths,
from talking to people after gigs and stuff, what people
like is the technological dance element of what we're
doing; the guitars dress it up and make it more
acceptable to them. They're not blown away by any of the
guitar playing or anything like that, it's what's going
First and foremost,
Republica are a technology band. Despite the early dearth
of equipment, they've accumulated a lot of gear, as a
quick scan of their kit list shows. This is partly due to
the demands of touring and the necessity of back-ups. But
it's also the result of never selling or trading
"We've always kept
virtually everything we've ever bought - that's why we
still have an S1000 kicking about, that's why I've still
got my [Kawai] K1, my [Yamaha] DX7, that sort of thing.
They still come in handy somewhere along the line. I'd
rather have the keyboard there than a dodgy sample of it
which can't manipulate to fit quite what you want. All of
it has a use."
The other method is
buying with an eye for a bargain or before something
analogue becomes popular and starts to rocket in price.
Like their Yamaha CS-5, which they bought cheaply after
touring with the Grid... "We'd never seen one before
so we thought it must be fairly rare. The Grid swore by
it and it's got a great selection of filters."
Though it's not
technology for technology's sake, there's plenty of
low-tech stuff here. The complete contents of the effects
and outboard rack, for instance, could be picked in FM's
Marketplace. The Novation BassStations have just been
joined by a Roland MC-303 Groovebox which has provoked
much debate in FM's Howl round. And Tim's as happy
programming a K1 as a new wondersynth. Ask him which
pieces of equipment he considers essential and you get a
revealing answer: for filtering and shaping through its
external input, it's the Yamaha CS-5 and, for effects,
it's the Melos delay: two analogue bits of kit. But for
generating sound, as opposed to modifying it, it's 100%
digital: the Kurzweil K2000.
Tim needs no prompting to explain why it's better that
everything else ("it just is, its interface,
sampling, everything"), pointing out its battle
scars ("see that key? It's raised a bit raised 'cos
that's where I nutted it. I got a little over-exuberant
playing live. So it need a bit of service now") and
defending its honour ("I nearly had to jump into the
audience in the States - this bloke kept chucking water
over me"). But, surprisingly, the K2500 doesn't
interest him: "I'm not trained or anything so
weighted keys would be a bit of a waste."
Despite the CS-5,
Tim doesn't rate Yamaha synths in general. "I never
got into the SY-series. I used to own a DX9 and it did my
head in." What about the CS1x, and FM fave?
"That blue one? I've not had a go." So what
about the new synths? "I'm not bothered by them.
We've got pretty much all that we need at the moment
sound-wise." I brought him up to speed on last
month's cover exclusive, the Roland JP-800. "OK, it
had faders, but it still wasn't that easy to change
things in real time."
Samplers are important for
taking some of the sounds out live so they don't have to
rely on 'old technology'. But they're also used in the
song writing process to record guitars, rather than
slaving up the Tascam reel-to-reel.
historical, says Tim: "It depends when the songs
were done in Catford, where we didn't have any recording
facilities. A lot of them were done here even before we
had the Tascam. It's still an easier way for us to work
sometimes: Jonny can sit there and we can sample him
that's heresy to purists. You'll be saying samples are
better than real guitars next. "The sampler sound is
better than some of the guitar sounds we've got. Once we
got it, we didn't have to fiddle around with it and do it
again. But we have tried to take longer loops. A lot of
it comes from the demo stage; we start producing when we
start writing. We like it flexible enough to be able to
move everything around without committing ourselves to
So what role does
the Akai MPC3000 play? "It's just for live work. All
rhythm programming is done in Cubase. We used it on the
album for drums, before we had a drummer. We found that
if we recorded everything into it and lock it up with
Cubase, it runs so much tighter than just triggering it
or running S1000 stuff."
No plans to get Dave
to hit pads to trigger samples then, capturing the feel
not the sounds? But Tim's adamant: "No, we have a
real drummer - we can get him to do it. We've got a good
drummer with a good drum kit. Percussion-wise we still
use loops and he plays along with it. But the dynamics of
a real drummer: you can't replace it with programming, no
mater how many thousands of samples you layer up to heft
your dynamics. It's fucking brilliant to get someone like
Dave on a kit so that you can pick up timing differences,
the way he hits it each time - I much prefer
characteristic of the Republica sound: live rhythms
meshing with loops. There's a drum'n'bass feel to
"Get Off." They've got the drummer. What about
BassStation; I've got three only 'cos they keep breaking.
We used the [Waldorf] Pulse for an advert we did a while
ago. It's the only time I've really got round to using it
'cos it causes me all sorts of hassle. When you edit it,
if you go and change a page, the knobs will suddenly jump
position while you're editing. You don't know which one's
jumped. Before you know where you are, you're up your own
arse with it. It's down to the operating system and can
be cured with a new chip. But I love the sound of it, I
adore it, it's fucking excellent."
What about the
MC-303? "We had this really clichéd idea of taking
my new notebook PC, the MC-303 and some small powered
speakers on the road so we could demo tracks. Be we never
wrote anything. Our roadie ended up playing with it all
the time. One morning, the bloke he was sharing with woke
up to find him in the next bed slumped over it, asleep -
he'd been up all night playing with it!"
So there's no chance
of you spending £1000 on a TB-303? "No, there's
little things I like, but I've enough to be going on
with. I haven't got time to get to grips with half the
stuff, anyway. We've got stuff, anyway. We've got enough
stuff now that I like. I can do pretty much everything I
know I want to do with it. And we've got fantastic
facilities. We didn't want somewhere that was small, that
was just a control room, where you're restricted, where
you could just do demo vocals, nothing more than
The Atari 1040STE has handled all MIDI duties until now.
But Tim's planning its retirement reluctantly:
"No-one's supporting it, basically. Cubase v3 works
fine, but it's so slow; you can be waiting a minute for
it to redraw the screen. And Steinburg doesn't do
ReCycle! for the Atari. When we set up the studio we
didn't have the money to a buy a Mac. But I really want
to buy ProTools so we can shift guitars
But a complete,
top-notch hard-disk recording system doesn't appeal, Even
the newly acquired Alesis ADAT XT was bought for touring,
not recording: "I still like tape. I like to be able
to turn it over and do something stupid. And editing it
as well. After we've mixed we normally hire a rack of
ADATs and run all the tracks straight down to tape so
they're there if someone needs to remix it."
Republica are the epitome
of a modern band: they've sunk their advance into their
own studio (which they hire out when they're touring),
they're self produced, and they have the obligatory
website (http://republica.com/). But what sets them apart
from other bands is an ability to mix styles with genres,
vocals with dance music, live drums with samples and
guitars with technology.
have a vocal melody. Or we might work something up from
the drums and the bass, and we'll put something on top of
that. Or a chord pattern. But never guitars - at the end
of the day, it's always machines."
Never a truer word
|VOXMAGAZINE / FLOORREAL!
Down with the
old school dance monarchy - there's a new republi
on the way. They may have taken the beats, but that's
where Republica's take on punk-flavoured dance floor
chaos parts company with the rest of the
heads-in-the-clouds Hi-NRG crowd.
Not for them the 'take me higher' vibe - think The Jam's
city cynism and you get some idea of the likes of 'Ready
To Go', the anthemic single that has stamped its marks on
the States and looks set to do the same in the UK this
"We were just sick of all the stuff that was
happening in the clubs a few yearys ago," says
Republica's singer Saffron, ex of N-Joi and The Shamen.
"We wanted to do something that was lyrically a bit
Though demure in person, there's little in the way
mousiness when it comes to Saffron's Republican stance -
"I'm gonny take you on," she yells on 'Bloke',
and a million Loaded readers immediately spill
their collective pint.
Republica formed three years ago in a desire to kick a
little realism into the E-dazed London dance scene.
DeConstruction snapped them up after realising that
Saffron's steely-tongued stage persona and lad-baiting
lyrics made her a serious contender for Shirley Manson's
crown of thorns, and a year on the road in America has
seen them become US indie radio faves, much to their
"We're totally amazed at how well we're doing in the
States," says keyboard player Tim Dorney amid the
Jack Daniels and Rizla-coated coffee table. "We've
just been doing our own headline gigs out there to 1000
people a night. It just keeps getting bigger and
And that's only the beginning. As well as launching a
full-scale assault on the UK charts, Saffron has just
finished recording with the Prodigy on their new track,
'Fuel My Fire'. Move over Garbage, because Republica are
ready to go. (SD)
by Scot Lang
From their humble
beginnings in small room in Catford where you were
as likely to get shot as get a record deal, Tim,
Toddy and Saffron composed hit and miss tracks with a
sampler and a couple of synthesizers, playing small gigs
when their transit van wasn't breaking down en route. One
such in Scotland found them broken down and stranded for
hours. Taking relief in a service station restroom some
time later, Saffron recalls having almost gotten
into a rather messy fight with an impatient lady
just outside her door. "I'd been cooped up in
this van for four hours, and this bitch is pounding
on the restroom door telling me to hurry up." It's
episodes like these that explain songs like 'Bitch' and
'Wrapp'. She can
be pleasant but don't piss her off. That means, among
other things, don't get in her face and DON'T DRIVE SO
SLOW! Finally, they hit upon one track that would define
their sound and capture their attitude, and that was
'Ready To Go'. All of their diversity and appreciation
for so many different styles of music ultimately
came together combining techno/industrial rythms with
heavier rock guitars and vocals.
It's turned out to be the winning combination, and after
getting a record deal with DeConstruction on the strength
of this one song, the last thing they felt obliged to do
was pay a studio £700 a day to sit with some guy they
had never met who would tell them how they should sound.
So they built a small studio of their own, and several
months later, they had an album. Thinking back, Saffron
was surprised by how quickly DeConstruction took to
Republica. "We went in there with one song and they
went o.k., now write more. So we just went to it. We
wrote all the songs together. I mean, the lads wrote most
of the music, but lyrically we all had a go, and so the
songs are relevant to all of us. It feels really good
performing it as well. We're all looking forward to
coming out in September and playing some dates. We'll be
playing on the East and West Coasts, I'm not sure which
will be first though." Either way, you'll hear them
coming, so get ready.
By Lisa Fairbanks
Republica ready and rarin'
to goShe's bubbly and bright and a joy to talk to. She's
also a member of one of the hottest groups to hit
American shores from England. She's Saffron, lead singer
of Republica, wide-eyed and poised to see her group's new
single "Ready To Go" shoot straight to the top
of the American charts.
Saffron's motor is clearly
racing on this afternoon, a few scant hours before
Republica hits the stage for its first United States gig.
The singer refuses to classify the apparent tension as
nervousness, rather restlessness to get out and play
music. "It's more like nervous energy," she
confides. "We've been here three days and we haven't
done anything yet."
What Republica has done is
caused a buzz in the industry with its single,
"Ready To Go". The "Daily Record"
hailed "Ready To Go" as having "more guts
than the rest of the charts put together." Industry
print-heavies such as "Billboard",
"Cashbox", "Pollstar" and
"Hits" have all christened this UK-based
quintet as the current surprise hit on the music scene.
The surprise is based on Republica's dance / techno /
rock / punk flavoring in an industry putting much of its
energies into the alternative/rock listener.
Radio has also received
"Ready To Go" well in the States, which
impresses band members' cohorts across the pond.
"When we're back in England, people go, 'Oh, Z100
and W-this and 99-that.' But you don't realize until you
get here actually what it means because there are so many
different radio stations. Back in England there's only
Republica rose out of the ruins of the 1980s dance and
punk scenes. Saffron and fellow band members grew
frustrated with the mainstream direction music makers had
taken in recent years and longed for the days of bands
like The Clash. "It had fragmented into the opposite
of everything it was meant to stand for. I grew up in a
village near Brighton, which is on the south coast of
England. The first band I saw when I was thirteen was The
Jam and I loved them. There was a lot of gigs happening
in the 80s so I used to go down every weekend and see the
Human League or Siouxsie and the Banshees or Blondie. It
was a great time."
Saffron originally hooked
up with keyboardists Tim Dorney and Andy Todd
(affectionately referred to as "Toddy" by the
28-year old singer) through an acquaintance of both
parties. "A friend of mine knew I wanted to form a
band," explains Saffron, "and she knew Tim and
Toddy were getting together and they needed a singer so
she introduced us. We got along straight-away. That's how
it started and we've been together three years now."
Republica is rounded out by guitarist Johnny Male and
ex-Bow Wow Wow drummer Dave Barborossa.
"When we got together
we were so pissed off at the music we were listening to
at the moment that we said, "Right, we're never
going to write a love song," she says, laughing.
"But that sort of whittles it down a little bit. I
think we've touched on it a couple of times but we didn't
want to write anything soppy or too sentimental. We
wanted to write about real-life issues and things that
mean things to people, that they can relate to in an
everyday life sense rather than in a fantastical
The band name, like many
aspects of Republica's history, came by chance. "We
all liked the name Republic but we didn't want to call
ourselves the Non-Republic. We couldn't think of anything
to go before or after it. We were in a situation where
we've got a record deal and we haven't got a name for the
band. Our manager said, "Right, if you haven't got a
name in the next half hour, I'm going to pick a name out
of the hat!" That was more frightening than us
thinking of a name. We had the name Republic and Toddy
just put an A on the end of it and it was like, 'Yeah,
that's it! Republica'.
Republica's album was
initially released on the English label Deconstruction,
an dance/alternative label affiliated with BMG/RCA.
"I think someone in RCA America heard our tape and
they asked us to come over here. We had a talk with them
and they decided to release our album (in the States).
They put out the single ("Ready To Go") and
that's why we've come back because it's been received
quite well. So we're here for the next two months, on
tour with Gravity Kills."
Each member of Republica
has a hand at writing the material. Saffron admits that
the "lads write most of the music but we all have a
go. Republica ruling is that everything along the line
can be vetoed so that everyone is happy with it so there
are no fights later on. You'll find that, say, "Drop
Dead Gorgeous" is more my song whereas
"Bitch", Toddy wrote most of that and
"Ready To Go", we all wrote that. It depends on
what song it is but we all have a say in it. I wouldn't
like to say," her voice drops to a whisper,
"Oh, I do it all."
Saffron says she is
proudest of the album's cut "Drop Dead
Gorgeous", particularly because she had a major hand
in writing the tune. "I felt that ("Drop Dead
Gorgeous") was challenging and that I've achieved
something with that. I quite like the sentiment of
"Don't You Ever" and also "Pitch Me"
because it's so different than any of the others. All of
us would probably say that "Ready To Go" is our
best song and the one we've most proud of."
Johnny Male is credited by
Saffron as the catalyst for "Ready To Go". The
guitarist came to the studio one day singing the line and
when matched up with a rhythm track that had been lying
around for a few months, a hit song was born. The tune,
she says, boasts an uplifting, positive message.
"It's basically about forgiving someone and saying,
"Hey, let's give it go again."
When asked about the cut
"Get Off", Saffron breaks into laughter.
"Funny enough, when we got over (to the United
States), it means a different thing, doesn't it? When we
were told what it means we said, "Whooooo!"
(Laughs). Over there, it's definitely quite innocent.
Getting off with someone means having a little Schnapps
with them behind the bike shed, your first kiss... that's
really what it's about."
Although Republica's sound
is techno-based, the group uses a minimal number of
sequencers to drive its live show. "Obviously our
sound is a mixture of electronic beats with live guitars
and drums but all that you hear is live. We've spent the
last nine months getting it as close as humanly possible
with our technology. There are sequences going and there
are second techno sounds that Toddy will trigger off but
most of what you'll hear is maybe 99.9% live."
So as Saffron and company
wait for their tour to kick off, she admits she's had
time to think about the future. The feeling of success
and freedom that a hit record can afford her group is
wisely tempered with the acknowledgement that she is here
to do a job. "I think I'm probably old enough and
ugly enough to know that it might all go tomorrow,"
she says with a laugh. "I think it's more about how
we're going to sustain it. That word's come up quite a
few times in my head recently. Now we're here, feet on
the ground, let's just sustain what we have. This is our
dream and what we've wanted to do all our lives. Now
we've got it and we want to hold it and keep it if we can
so it all doesn't become a flash in the pan. So, yes, I'm
very excited about the opportunities it could give us in
the future but I think I'd rather keep focused on what
from the Band:
Saffron: "I'm really into boy's
suits. I've found some really great pinstriped suits in
juniors. I sometimes think I look like Pee Wee Herman in
these little suits."
Saffron: (On dying her hair) "I carry
around bits of foil and pots of colour [stargazer rouge]
and make horrible messes out of hotel rooms."
Andy Todd, Keyboards: "I let my best
friends and girlfriends shop for meI'm too busy making my
"My Girlfriend dyes my hair with peroxide. When the
black comes through and it looks too horrible, she does
"Saffron is a real perfessional. She practices all
the time and never takes her talent for
"I try to keep things co-ordinated. But it's not
easy when you've been on the road for ten weeks and
you've got a bag full of clothes that aren't
"'Always a chore, never a pleasure' is a favorite
expression of ours. If you meet someone at a party, they
don't get it until they walk away."
Tim Dorney, Keyboards:"I don't really go
shopping in England. There's this one skatebording shop
in Philidalphia where I spend 500 dollars in ten