Author: electricityclub (Page 2 of 337)

The Electricity Club aims to feature the best in new and classic electronic pop music. It doesn't promote bands or support scenes, it just writes about the music it likes, and occasionally some music it doesn't like...

With informed opinion and trivia, it embraces synthpop, ie pop music that uses synthesizers, while aiming to avoid lazy terms such as analogue, 80s and contemporary. It's like acid house never happened... AND WE'RE PROUD OF IT!

THE ELECTRONIC LEGACY OF 1981

Was 1981 the most important year in synth as far becoming ubiquitous in the mainstream and hitting the top of the charts internationally?

Yes, ‘Autobahn’ and ‘Oxygène’ came before, while the Giorgio Moroder produced ‘I Feel Love’ by Donna Summer is acknowledged as being the track that changed pop music forever and still sounds like the future even in the 21st Century. French electronic disco like ‘Magic Fly’ and ‘Supernature’ also made its impact.

Meanwhile closer to home, a post-punk revolution was already permeating in the UK with the advent of affordable synthesizers from Japan being adopted by the likes of THE NORMAL, THROBBING GRISTLE, CABARET VOLTAIRE and THE HUMAN LEAGUE. But it was Gary Numan who took the sound of British synth to No1 with ‘Are Friends Electric?’ and ‘Cars’ in 1979. It signalled a change in the musical landscape as the synth was considered a worthy mode of youthful expression rather than as a novelty, using one finger instead of three chords.

Despite first albums from John Foxx and OMD, 1980 was a transitional time when the synth was still the exception rather than the rule. But things were changing and there had also been the release of the first Midge Ure-fronted ULTRAVOX album ‘Vienna’ and the eponymous debut long player by VISAGE just as The Blitz Club and the New Romantic movement were making headlines. With the acclaim for the ‘Some Bizarre Album’ in early 1981 which launched the careers of DEPECHE MODE, SOFT CELL, BLANCMANGE, THE THE and B-MOVIE, a wider electronic breakthrough was now almost inevitable.

VISAGE’s ‘Fade To Grey’ went on to be a West German No1 in Spring 1981 and this exciting period culminated in THE HUMAN LEAGUE taking ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ to the top spot in the US six months year after becoming the 1981 UK Christmas No1. It would be fair to say that after this, the purer sound of synth was never quite the same again.

For many listeners, 1981 was a formative year and had so many significant new releases that it was difficult to stretch the limited pocket money to fund album purchases. The Electricity Club even took to selling bootleg C90 cassettes on the school playground, promising a value-for-money “two albums for one” deal to support this disgusting habit!

Looking back to four decades ago when there were also albums from DEVO, EURYTHMICS, FAD GADGET, LOGIC SYSTEM, SPANDAU BALLET, SPARKS and TANGERINE DREAM, here are twenty albums which The Electricity Club sees as contributing to the electronic legacy of 1981. Listed in alphabetical order with the restriction of one album per artist moniker, this is the way it was in the past, a long long time ago…


DAF Alles Ist Gut

Under a haze of “sex, drugs and sequencer”, the late Gabi Delgado and Robert Görl released an acclaimed album trilogy produced by Conny Plank. The first ‘Alles Ist Gut’ featured their fierce breakthrough track ‘Der Mussolini’ which flirted with right wing imagery in its sardonic reflections on ideology. Causing controversy and confusing observers, DAF attracted a following which Delgado hated. Despite his parents escaping from the Franco regime in Spain, he was always unapologetic about the provocation within his lyrics.

‘Alles Ist Gut’ is still available via Grönland Records

http://www.robert-goerl.de/


DEPECHE MODE Speak & Spell

Having conceived the idea of a teenage synthpop group called SILICON TEENS, this dream of Daniel Miller became flesh and blood when he came across a young quartet from Basildon called DEPECHE MODE. Signing on a handshake 50/50 deal to his Mute Records, the group became a chart success. Despite other great songs like ‘Puppets’ and ‘Tora! Tora! Tora!’, the group fragmented on the release of their 1981 debut album ‘Speak & Spell’. The remaining trio of Andy Fletcher, Dave Gahan and Martin Gore recruited Alan Wilder, while Vince Clarke formed YAZOO with Alison Moyet.

‘Speak & Spell’ is still available via Mute Records

http://www.depechemode.com/


DRAMATIS For Future Reference

Following the ‘retirement’ of Gary Numan with his spectacular farewell shows at Wembley Arena in April 1981, four of his erstwhile backing band became DRAMATIS. RRussell Bell, Denis Haines, Chris Payne and Ced Sharpley had been instrumental in the success of Numan’s powerful live presentation and their only album showcased the band’s virtuoso abilities. While the use of four different lead vocalists (including Numan himself on the superb ‘Love Needs No Disguise’) confused the continuity of the album, instrumentally, there was much to enjoy.

Originally released by Rocket Records, currently unavailable

http://www.numanme.co.uk/numanme/Dramatis.htm


DURAN DURAN Duran Duran

It would be fair to say that the classic line-up of Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Roger Taylor and Andy Taylor took the arty poise of JAPAN and toned down their androgynous outré to make it more accessible But the enduring appeal of DURAN DURAN is great timeless pop songs and that was apparent on the self-titled debut album which at times sounded like an electronic band with a heavy metal guitarist bolted on, especially on ‘Careless Memories’ and ‘Friends Of Mine’. But most will just remember the two hits ‘Planet Earth’ and ‘Girls on Film’.

‘Duran Duran’ is still available via EMI Records

http://www.duranduran.com/


JOHN FOXX The Garden

Thawing considerably following the release of the acclaimed ‘Metamatic’, John Foxx admitted he had been “reading too much JG Ballard”. Exploring beautiful Italian gardens and taking on a more foppish appearance, his new mood was reflected in his music. ‘The Garden’ album featured acoustic guitar and piano as showcased in the Linn Drum driven single ‘Europe After The Rain’. With choral experiments like ‘Pater Noster’, a return to art rock on ‘Walk Away’ and the more pastoral climes of the lengthy title track, Foxx had now achieved his system of romance.

‘The Garden’ is still available via Edsel Records

http://www.metamatic.com/


HEAVEN 17 Penthouse & Pavement

Fronted by the cool persona of vocalist Glenn Gregory, HEAVEN 17’s debut ‘Penthouse & Pavement’ was a landmark achievement, combining electronics with pop hooks and disco sounds while adding witty social and political commentary, taking in yuppie aspiration and mutually assured destruction. The first ‘Pavement’ side was a showcase of hybrid funk driven embellished by the guitar and bass of John Wilson. The second ‘Penthouse’ side was like an extension of THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Travelogue’, Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh’s swansong with the band.

‘Penthouse & Pavement’ is still available via Virgin Records

http://www.heaven17.com/


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Dare

After Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh left to form HEAVEN 17, vocalist Philip Oakey and Adrian Wright recruited Susanne Sulley, Joanne Catherall, Jo Callis and Ian Burden to record ‘Dare’ under the production helm of Martin Rushent. Like KRAFTWERK meeting ABBA, the dreamboat collection of worldwide hits like ‘Love Action’ and ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ had a marvellous supporting cast in ‘The Things That Dreams Are Made Of’, ‘I Am The Law’, ‘Seconds’ and ‘Darkness’. Only the Linn Drum rework of ‘The Sound Of The Crowd’ blotted the album’s near perfection.

‘Dare’ is still available via Virgin Records

http://www.thehumanleague.co.uk/


JAPAN Tin Drum

JAPAN took the influences of the Far East even further with the Chinese flavoured ‘Tin Drum’. A much more minimal album than its predecessor ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’, there was hardly any guitar while the synths used were restricted to an Oberheim OBX, Prophet 5 and occasionally the Roland System 700. David Sylvian’s lyrical themes of ‘Tin Drum’ flirted with Chinese Communism as Brian Eno had done on ‘Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), a point highlighted by the pentatonic polyrhythmic single ‘Visions Of China’ and its less frantic sister song ‘Cantonese Boy’.

‘Tin Drum’ is still available via Virgin Records

http://www.nightporter.co.uk/


JEAN-MICHEL JARRE Magnetic Fields

With his synthesized symphonies, Jean-Michel Jarre helped popularise the sound of electronic music. ‘Magnetic Fields’ was his first long player to utilise the Fairlight CMI which allowed him to absorb some musique concrete ideas such as water splashing and hydraulic train doors into his compositions. Featuring the klanky Korg Rhythm KR55, it was a much more percussive album than ‘Oxygène’ and ‘Equinoxe’ had been, complementing the metallic textures that featured. However, ‘The Last Rumba’ confused some who considered the home organ closer incongruous.

‘Magnetic Fields’ is still available via Sony Music

http://jeanmicheljarre.com/


JON & VANGELIS The Friends Of Mr Cairo

Having scored an unexpected UK hit with the sonic beauty of ‘I Hear You Now’, Jon Anderson and Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou presented a second album in ‘The Friends Of Mr Cairo’. Featuring ‘State Of Independence’ which was to become a hit for Donna Summer, the album was laced with spiritual overtones over symphonic synths, cinematic piano and dialogue samples from films. However, the album is now best known for the single ‘I’ll Find My Way Home’ which had not been included on the original tracklisting.

‘The Friends Of Mr Cairo’ is still available via Polydor Records

https://www.jonanderson.com/

https://www.facebook.com/VangelisOfficial/


KRAFTWERK Computer World

‘Computer World’ could be considered one of the most prophetic albums of its time. KRAFTWERK forsaw the cultural impact of internet dating on ‘Computer Love’, but the title track highlighted the more sinister implications of surveillance by “Interpol and Deutsche Bank, FBI and Scotland Yard” with the consequences of its prophecy still very relevant discussion points today. But the dynamic rhythmic template of ‘Numbers’ was to have a major impact on Urban America as it was mutated into hip-hop, rap and techno.

‘Computer World’ is still available via EMI Records

http://www.kraftwerk.com/


LANDSCAPE From The Tea Rooms Of Mars To The Hell-holes Of Uranus

Jazz fusion combo LANDSCAPE were led by producer Richard James Burgess who co-designed the Simmons SDSV with Dave Simmons as the first standalone electronic drum kit, with circuitry based on the ARP 2600. Using a Lyricon, the first wind-controlled synth played by John Waters as its lead hook, ‘Einstein A-Go-Go’ was a fabulously cartoon-like tune about nuclear weapons falling into the hands of theocratic dictators and religious extremists! Meanwhile, ‘European Man’ predated EDM by having the phrase “electronic dance music” emblazoned on its single sleeve.

‘From The Tea Rooms Of Mars To The Hell-holes Of Uranus’ is still available via Cherry Red Records

https://twitter.com/Landscape_band


NEW ORDER Movement

Rising from the ashes of JOY DIVISION and reconvening in late 1980, Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris chose the name NEW ORDER as a symbol of their fresh start and after deciding against recruiting a new vocalist, Morris’ girlfriend and later wife, Gillian Gilbert was recruited. Despite Martin Hannett still producing, recording sessions were fraught although synths were taking greater prominence while Morris used a Doctor Rhythm DR55 drum machine on ‘Truth’ and ‘Doubts Even Here’. ‘Movement’ may not have been a great debut album, but it was an important one.

‘Movement’ is still available via Rhino

http://www.neworder.com/


GARY NUMAN Dance

Following his much-publicised retirement from live performance, the last thing Numanoids expected from their hero was an understated Brian Eno homage. At nearly an hour’s playing time, ‘Dance’ outstayed its welcome and despite the title, these were mostly downtempo pieces with ‘Slowcar To China’ and ‘Cry The Clock Said’ stretching to 10 minutes. Much was made of JAPAN’s Mick Karn playing fretless bass although he was only on five of the eleven tracks. It was the wrong album at the wrong time but in ‘A Subway Called You’ and ‘Crash’, there were some great moments.

‘Dance’ is still available via Beggars Banquet Records

https://garynuman.com/


OMD Architecture & Morality

”I think ‘Architecture & Morality’ was a complete album, it was just so whole” said Paul Humphreys to The Electricity Club in 2010. The big booming ambience of the album next to big blocks of Mellotron choir gave OMD their masterpiece, tinged more with the spectre of LA DÜSSELDORF rather than KRAFTWERK. Featuring two spirited songs about ‘Joan Of Arc’, these were to become another pair of UK Top 5 hits with the ‘Maid of Orleans’ variant also becoming 1982’s biggest selling single in West Germany.

‘Architecture & Morality’ is still available via Virgin Records

http://www.omd.uk.com/


SIMPLE MINDS Sons & Fascination / Sister Feelings Call

A generally overlooked ‘double’ opus, ‘Sons & Fascination / Sister Feelings Call’ exploited the KRAFTWERK, NEU! and LA DÜSSELDORF influences of SIMPLE MINDS to the full, under the production auspices of Steve Hillage. From the singles ‘The American’ and ‘Love Song’ to the mighty instrumental ‘Theme For Great Cities’ and the unsettling dentist drill menace of ‘70 Cities As Love Brings The Fall’, with basslines articulating alongside synths and guitars layered in effects that when harmonised together were almost as one, this was SIMPLE MINDS at close to their very best.

‘Sons & Fascination / Sister Feelings Call’ is still available via Virgin Records

https://www.simpleminds.com/


SOFT CELL Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret

In their cover of Northern Soul favourite ‘Tainted Love’, SOFT CELL provided the first true Synth Britannia crossover record. Possibly one of the best albums of 1981, ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ captured the edginess of minimal synth arrangements while married to an actual tune. At the time, art school boys Marc Almond and Dave Ball were rated higher than DEPECHE MODE. But with the  follow-up success of the Top5 singles ‘Bedsitter’ and ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’, the pair became reluctant popstars, chased around by both teenagers and paparazzi.

‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ is still available via Mercury Records

https://www.softcell.co.uk/


TELEX ‎ Sex

‘Sex’ was Belgian trio TELEX’s third album and a collaboration with SPARKS that saw the Mael bothers contribute lyrics to all nine tracks. Experiments in swing on ‘Sigmund Freud’s Party’ displayed a sophisticated vintage musicality and ‘Haven’t We Met Somewhere Before?’ was the hit single that never was. Meanwhile, like KRAFTWERK meeting YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA, ‘Brainwash’ was quite obviously the blueprint for LCD SOUNDSYSTEM’s ‘Get Innocuous!’. However, the tracklisting was considerably revamped for the UK release in 1982 as ‘Birds & Bees’.

‘Sex’ was released by Ariola, currently unavailable

https://www.facebook.com/TELEX-312492439327342


ULTRAVOX Rage In Eden

‘Rage in Eden’ began with the optimistic spark of ‘The Voice’ but it was something of a paranoia ridden affair having been created from the bottom up at Conny Plank’s remote countryside studio near Cologne. There was synthetic bass power on tracks like ‘The Thin Wall’, ‘We Stand Alone’ and ‘I Remember (Death In The Afternoon)’, but there was also the tape experimentation of the title track which used the chorus of ‘I Remember’ played backwards to give an eerie Arabic toned “noonretfa eht ni htaed… rebmemer i ho” vocal effect.

‘Rage In Eden’ is still available via EMI Records

http://www.ultravox.org.uk/


YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA BGM

‘BGM’, the third full length album from YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA was the first recording to feature the now iconic Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer and was also made using a digital 3M 32-track machine. Following the technopop of the self-titled debut and ‘Solid State Survivor’ albums, ‘BGM’ included reworked pieces such as ‘Loom’ and ‘1000 Knives’. The best song ‘Camouflage’ was a curious beat laden blend of Eastern pentatonics and Western metallics from which the German synth band CAMOUFLAGE took their name.

‘BGM’ is still available via Sony Music

http://www.ymo.org/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
9th January 2021

PAGE Aska EP

A new companion release to ‘Under Mitt Skinn’ which came out in Summer 2020, PAGE issue their third EP in six months entitled ‘Aska’.

The trailblazing Swedish duo of Eddie Bengtsson and Marina Schiptjenko have been fairly prolific of late and partying like it’s 1979. In acknowledgement of Synth Britannia, TUBEWAY ARMY and early ULTRAVOX have been very much the key influence in the recent work of PAGE, most notably with the ‘Start’ EP and the long player ‘Fakta För Alla’.

In defence of his nostalgic but affectionate ethos, Bengtsson said to Zero Magazine: “Since neither Numan nor Foxx engage in that type of electronic pop anymore, PAGE is allowed to do it instead!”

Mixed by Richard Flow of MACHINISTA who ably assists PAGE into realising themselves as a retro-futuristic post-punk electronic band, Bengtsson added “All the music is made on synths, but I try to emulate different instruments and create the illusion that ‘here is a bassist, here is a drummer and here is a keyboardist’”.

A second cousin to ‘Saint Anastase’ from the ‘Under Mitt Skinn’ EP, ’Stefansplatz’ is an enjoyably progressive instrumental opening in the vein of THE HUMAN LEAGUE when Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh were at the synthesizer helm. But tackling the sensitive subject of burn out, the ‘Aska’ title song sees service resumed in the Vox ‘N’ Foxx department.

The delightful ‘En Kamera Ser’ though is quirky elektronisk pop bursting with synth hooks, echoing a more Motorik ‘Ett SOS’ and the nostalgic technological observations of KRAFTWERK where cameras were once tactile entities of their own, not a side function in a phone alongside bank accounts.

‘Hög Som Jag’ celebrates the joy of music that is classic PAGE, while ‘Bara Tryck På Play’ pays homage to TUBEWAY ARMY’s ‘Bombers’ or THE STRANGLERS’ ‘(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)’ where listeners are free to choose, depending on their thinking.

To close the main act, PAGE take out full Numanoid membership on ‘Jag Var Så Nära’ as the dark but melodic adventure mines the glory that is ‘I Die: You Die’.

Using tracks originally featuring on its predecessors, ‘Aska’ is supplemented by a poppier remix of ‘Ta det som en man’ by SOCIAL AMBITIONS and a punk cover of ‘Under Mitt Skinn’ from ATTENTAT, but the best bonus comes from DATAPOP who adopt a minimal machine approach to ‘Panik’ that turns it into ‘Home Computer’.

Twinned with ‘Under Mitt Skinn’, ‘Aska’ forms a combination album that becomes reality via a limited vinyl edition that presents these sessions as a body of work with a clear vision. “Good music should be given all the time, attention and concentration it deserves!” says Bengtsson as he remains creatively in the Moog. After all, it is all just a matter of pleasure and principle.


‘Aska’ is released by Energy Rekords as a CD EP, available direct from https://hotstuff.se/en/cd-page-aska-ep-foldout-digipack-cd-limited-edition-500-copies-ercd176/79017

The ‘Aska Under Mitt Skinn’ combination vinyl LP is available direct from https://hotstuff.se/en/lp-page-aska-under-mitt-skinn-limited-edition-300-copies-vinyl-only-erlp177/79018

https://www.facebook.com/PageElektroniskPop

https://www.instagram.com/page_svensk_pop/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photo by Simon Helm
7th January 2021

WE ARE REPLICA Cleared Vision

It was something of a sign for 2020 when WE ARE REPLICA’s first attempt at a full length album was lost when a feral cat got into their studio over the New Year holidays and urinated all over their computer!

But the London-based Franco German dark synth duo of Nadège Préaudat and Martin Kinz soldiered on and now have ‘Cleared Vision’.

“We always liked heavy music as much as electronic music and therefore often use synths like electric guitars” Kinz told The Electricity Club while Préaudat affirmed “That helps to capture emotions in its rawest state”.

So it is something of a pleasant surprise amongst all the intensity from life in isolation during a difficult 2020, WE ARE REPLICA have introduced an enchanting avant pop element to their sound. With a muted down aggression towards the mindset that the album’s title suggests, is this possibly some optimism finding its way in through the back door?

‘Only The Best’ brings in some piercing noise but there is a refinement to provide some accessible punky synth. ‘Miami’ though unexpectedly offers a comparatively sunny disposition with Kinz almost perky like a German Eno, although Préaudat offsets all that but even she sounds less intense compared to WE ARE REPLICA’s previous work.

‘Sanitize Me’ is kind of business as usual though and will connect with anyone affected by the lockdown. It may be a bit too close to home, but it is an honest statement and Préaudat is still strangely sexy despite the doom and gloom. Some relief comes from a delightful closing section of cascading keys.

Previous singles ‘Parallele Universen’ and ‘Angel’ feature lyrics in German and French respectively as a homage to Neue Deutsche Welle and French New Wave. But the language is no barrier, acting more like additional instrumental elements.

‘Parallele Universen’ nods towards Robert Görl and sees Kinz in previously unheard territory actually singing. Meanwhile despite the sinister discomfort of ‘Angel’, Préaudat is wonderfully alluring with her deep Gallic tongue. Like Siamese Twins thanks to their common concept, they are separated by the brooding ‘Opus 5’ which is more abstract like a schizophrenic gothic art piece.

Kinz and Préaudat have a deadpan exchange on the creepy and monotone ‘For Whom The Dove Cried’ for the most foreboding and experimental track on ‘Cleared Vision’, before the mantric drone-laden ‘Isolated Star’ screeches with sharp synth lines and a steadfast rhythmic lattice over a concluding eight minutes.

Heavy music for heavy times, ‘Cleared Vision’ is like life, up and down and up before descending into a mental breakdown after a pop focussed start.

This album won’t be for everyone but in its enigmatic expression and artful sound sculpture, it reflects our strange dark times. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but whether that light is an escape the other side or a truck heading towards you is another story!


‘Cleared Vision’ is available as a download album direct from https://wearereplica.bandcamp.com/album/cleared-vision

https://wearereplica.blogspot.com/

https://www.facebook.com/wearereplica/

https://www.instagram.com/we_are_replica/

https://soundcloud.com/wearereplica/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Pauline Mongarny
4rd January 2021

A Short Conversation with DANA JEAN PHOENIX

Photo by Hayley Stewart

It has been a tough 2020 for everyone, but one of the shining escapist highpoints has been ‘Megawave’, the most recent album from Toronto synthwave siren Dana Jean Phoenix.

Recorded in partnership with Viennese electro-rockers POWERNERD, ‘Megawave’ expands on their previous collaborations over a full-length DJPNRD work, lending a thematic consistency that has perhaps not been captured on her previous releases.

Futuristic, danceable and fun, ‘Megawave’ has been just the intergalactic tonic that this planet has needed. Dana Jean Phoenix kindly took time out to talk to The Electricity Club about the making of the album and the new ‘Cobra Kai’ inspired promo video for the slinky title song.

How did you first come together with POWERNERD?

Powernerd Paddy initially reached out to me to collaborate on the song ‘Flame’ from POWERNERD’s album ‘Testosterossa’. We played live together in Vienna, and continued collaborating on tracks for my album ‘PixelDust’ and their album ‘Far From Human’. It’s always such a wicked time whenever we collab and play live together.

In terms of creative dynamic and chemistry, what was the process with regards writing and recording?

We initially talked about what vibe we wanted for the album. Paddy would send me tracks and I’d get to work on the vocals. I felt I could lose my inhibitions more at the microphone because Paddy was so game to try anything. Then, we’d touch base about each track to see what tweaks or additions were needed. It was a very fun, exciting, and reciprocal exchange back and forth.

You’ve played live across the world over the past few years, had that been a factor in the eventual sound of the ‘Megawave’ album? It’s a quite joyous record!

Thanks, and absolutely! For me, capturing the energy of live synthwave shows I’ve played was important in creating these songs. I’ve been fortunate enough to tour Europe, Canada, and the US a few times, and it’s afforded me the opportunity to see which songs really resonate with an audience in real time.

It’s also allowed me to discover things about myself as a performer and what kind of music feels most exciting and joyful to play and share with others.

How did it feel to be making a cohesive album artistically as a body of work as it would be fair to say that in the past because you’ve worked with lots of different producers, your previous albums have been more collections of songs?

I really enjoyed this approach. I often like the different moods and perspectives that emerge from working with various producers and their unique styles. With Paddy, he’s quite prolific and versatile and there’s always an edge and playfulness to his ideas. It always felt fresh and it kept me inspired to try new things, all while keeping cohesiveness and a good flow throughout.

Photo by Hayley Stewart

Although you concentrated on lyrics and vocals on this album, you got your keytar out a couple of tracks on the album?

Performing with my keytar, Jareth, is the best. When I play the keytar, it feels like I’m donning a superhero cape – some other side of me emerges, particularly during a solo moment. I’m sure guitar players can relate. So, it was fun to jam on solos for ‘Figure Me Out’ and for ‘Fight These Robots’. Jan-Friedrich Conrad played some absolutely killer key solos on ‘Sunrise Stance’ and ‘Living Rent Free’ and Paddy’s guitar solo on ‘Figure Me Out’ is pure fire.

So what is ‘Figure Me Out’ about, or is the answer in the question? That choosing a different cassette intro is also a nice variation on what has maybe now become an overused idea 😉

I was really into solving Rubik’s cubes at the time, and the song for me is about likening the complexities of a relationship to the world’s most famous 3D puzzle. The process of finding solutions (or learning algorithms) can be extremely frustrating and requires patience, consistency, and understanding. Sometimes it can feel like you’re taking several steps backward in gaining clarity, but perseverance, belief in yourself, and allowing yourself to see from a different perspective can carry you through.

I love the cassette intro – a sort of subtle way to set the listener up for a nice easy-going synthwave album, and then bam, the opening beat of ‘Figure Me Out’ is like a sucker punch. It lets the listener know they’re in for a fun and funky ride.

The ‘Figure Me Out’ lyric video with you doing the Rubicks Cube was such a great concept, a lesson to many as to what can be done with presenting a visual aspect to music, how did you put it together?

The director of the video, PHATT al, suggested I solve a Rubik’s cube as the lyrics of the song floated across the screen. I loved that idea and thought it would be so cool to have Powernerd Paddy and I interact too, (despite me being in Toronto, and him in Vienna). The most fun was sending Paddy a matching cube to make it look like we were sharing the same one 😉 It’s a really well directed video and a fun way to introduce the first single of the album.

What was going through your head when you wrote ‘Fight These Robots’, was this harking back to your childhood and watching ‘Transformers’ cartoons?

To me, ‘Fight These Robots’ is a metaphor for resisting complacency and questioning the status quo. It’s arguing that societal change happens when people join forces and fight for the greater good collectively – a plea for togetherness, not divisiveness.

The ‘Transformers’ cartoons are definitely cool and all – but I gotta say, that ‘Metalhead’ episode of ‘Black Mirror’ definitely shook me. I was envisioning those shoulda-been-cute, but terrifying robot dogs while I was singing “dee da deee da doo dee doo”.

Was ‘Megawave’ both you and POWERNERD channelling some of those classic Jam & Lewis productions?

Personally, Jam & Lewis are always a part of the vibe I’m channelling. My obsession with them started when I saw them in Janet Jackson’s ‘Control’ music video and realized they were the producers for so many of her best songs. Then when I discovered THE TIME and realized they were in that band too – it cemented in my mind that they were the coolest dudes ever. Their music always makes me smile, and they have such an unapologetically signature sound.

How did the video concept come together? Are you a fan of ‘The Karate Kid’ and ‘Cobra Kai’?

Filip Vukcevic, the director, approached me with the idea of paying homage to ‘The Karate Kid’ and ‘Cobra Kai’, which was perfect, as I had just finished ‘Cobra Kai’ season 2 and totally loved it. It’s such a funny and well-executed spin-off of the movies. Filip is an amazing director who I also worked with on my ’Only For One Night’ video.

He has a real passion for storytelling, for going all out, and thinking outside the box. We had a great time planning, casting, and shooting.

I’m proud of how our nod to the ‘The Karate Kid’ turned out and it’s always an added bonus when a music video gives a song new context. I feel ‘Megawave’ video captures the young-love message of the song, but also makes it about finding strength in oneself.

‘Living Rent Free’ plays with some soft midnight funk?

If you’re talking sexy funk, then yes, that was mission number one with the album. ‘Living Rent Free’ was the first track Paddy and I created for the album. When he sent the instrumental, I was in the midst of rehearsals for a theatre production. On my lunch break, I remember waiting in line at a local coffee shop and listening to the instrumental for the first time on my headphones. I was very excited and couldn’t help but dance in line, as it was exactly the sound I had in mind for the album. We had talked for a few weeks about the vibe, and direction, and then Paddy delivered 1000% from the first track.

There’s a delicious dancey groove to ‘Sunrise Stance’ and some great synth solos, had it been a conscious decision to keep the ‘Megawave’ album quite lively and uptempo?

Oh yeah. Performing the songs live is always a consideration when creating an album, and it’s so fun to perform lively, up-tempo songs. Jan-Friedrich Conrad’s synth solo added such magic and captured the intensity and playfulness of the lyrics.

Saying that, ‘New Technology’ takes things down a bit and is more soulful, have you any particular influences in this area and what is the song itself about?

I was definitely feeling a Sylvia Striplin ‘You Can’t Turn Me Away’ energy, but in a falling in love with a cyborg kind of way. I was also listening to a ton of Jamiroquai’s album ‘The Return Of The Space Cowboy’ at the time, so that was definitely an influence.

It’s about that buzz and excitement you feel when you interact with someone on a similar frequency, and how technology allows us to connect with people we never had the opportunity to do so with before. The synthwave scene in general is a great example of likeminded people coming together because of technology.

You chose to bolster the album with remixes of ‘Figure Me Out’ and ‘Fight These Robots’? Was there any particular thinking behind this?

It’s always awesome to include more talented friends on the album. STRAPLOCKED and I collab’ed on the songs ‘All Day Heat’ and ‘Iron Fist’ and performed together at NEON Retrofest in Rhode Island. I love NEW ARCADES’ music and it was so great to hang out with them in London when we played an Outland show together in 2018, and again when I played an Outland show in London in 2019. Both artists did amazing remixes.

‘Moves Moves Moves’ is back on the dancefloor and closes ‘Megawave with more electro-funk vibes, how do you look back on the making of this album?

The making of this album occurred during a time of significant personal transition for me. In hindsight, I was on the precipice of having to make some really tough but necessary decisions in my life. Songs that make me want to dance really hit me, as they can offer pure joy and a way to celebrate good times, and also offer catharsis and a way to cope through trying times.

For me, the album is about self-discovery, empowerment, and remembering to spread joy and positivity, even in times of uncertainty. It’s also a love letter to collaboration, nostalgia, and good times.

I wouldn’t be here without the help and guidance of so many key people I’ve worked with, which includes Stu and Brett of Outland Recordings. I’m quite chuffed (see what I did there?) to have the album on their label.

You recently did a song called ‘Freedom Pass’ for the ‘Vehlinggo Presents: 5 Years’ compilation with DIAMOND FIELD, is he someone you would like to do more work with?

Of course! Working with DIAMOND FIELD on ‘Freedom Pass’ allowed me to explore a different sound in the retro scene. I really dig the pure beachy / summery feel but with a more pop / rock edge in that song. It was fun to sing about being independent while also embracing my super girly side. DIAMOND FIELD is a really great guy to work with, and so super talented.

Have you been back to the studio yet? Is there anything on the horizon?

There’s been so much to digest and unpack this year – some pretty heavy questions about what the future holds, and how we can best move forward with more kindness, understanding, and more time for reflection. I’ve been writing and journaling quite a lot lately and jamming on some ideas for new material. I’m really excited to hunker down in the New Year to take those ideas off the page – and hopefully, when safe to do, onto the stage.

With everything going on, what are your own hopes and fears for the future?

My hope is that we all get to experience and share music together under one roof again someday soon.

My fear is that it may take a little longer than we initially anticipated. I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of a scene that fans continue to engage and support with so much enthusiasm online.

This past year has shown me that despite difficult times, the human spirit is incredibly resilient. With that knowledge, now more than ever, I feel optimistic about the future and the day we can all come together again.


The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Dana Jean Phoenix

Additional thanks to Stuart McLaren at Outland

‘Megawave’ is released by Outland Recordings, available as a violet coloured vinyl LP, CD, cassette or download from https://danajeanphoenix.bandcamp.com/album/megawave

Dana Jean Phoenix plays Retrowave D’Luxe at The Dome in London Tufnell Park on Saturday 24th July 2021 – tickets available in advance direct from https://www.wegottickets.com/event/504216

https://danajphoenix.com/

http://www.facebook.com/danajeanphoenix

http://twitter.com/danajeanphoenix

http://instagram.com/danajeanphoenix


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
2nd January 2021

Introducing IŻOL

Poland is not normally on par with the European electronica, however acts like ZAMILSKA managed to break the cycle and establish themselves outside the heart shaped Central European nation.

That said, the country has always been massively into synth music, with enormous fan bases for DEPECHE MODE, ERASURE and CAMOUFLAGE, amongst many other acts of the golden electronic era.

IŻOL is Robert Jeżewski, an accomplished songwriter and producer, having founded a popular Polish DM tribute band ICE MACHINE, which evolved into an original band with four albums under their belt.

Having gone solo, Jeżewski continued the electro trend, releasing two albums ‘The Vagabond’s Wish’ (2017) and ‘Control’ (2019). Based in gloomy Silesia, a place which RATIONAL YOUTH once wrote a synthpop cult classic about, IŻOL is no stranger to melancholic soundscapes, often being based on the provisions from his idols, presented in a fresh and progressive manner.

‘A Lonely House’ is a belter, merging the artist’s love of DEPECHE MODE, with a pinch of CAMOUFLAGE and sounding very similar to Germany’s MINERVE. Preserving the tradition of ultra-melodic ditties, wrapped in a thin veil of nostalgia, with expertly written lyrics and more than decent vocal, the Pole gives many of his contemporaries a run for their money, including those in the UK.

Add a clever video, and you get yourself a powerful addition to your synth favourites. And if you’re stuck for live music during lockdowns, IŻOL performed an online gig this year too. TERAZ POLSKA!


‘A Lonely House’ is from the various artists compilation ‘Neonautics v.03’ released by skyQode, available direct from https://skyqode.bandcamp.com/track/a-lonely-house

Other IŻOL releases can be purchased from https://icemachineshop.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/izol.official/

https://www.instagram.com/jezewski.robert/

https://open.spotify.com/artist/3r3URmy6Ysa1jSwZNfPmrE


Text by Monika Izabela Trigwell
31st December 2020

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