Category: Interviews (Page 2 of 83)


Dave Bessell is a musician who specialises in ambient electronica, but additionally wears several other hats; from doing session work for major bands, being part of NODE and also a solo recording act for Ian Boddy’s DiN label.

Bessell’s latest work is a collaboration with ISHQ and is unique in that it is the first full length ambient album to have a Virtual Reality component to it. Dave Bessell kindly spoke to The Electricity Club about his new album, previous musical projects and the importance of Bandcamp in what are extremely challenging times for those working in the arts / music industry.

What is your background in electronic music production?

Well I’m a guitarist with delusions of being a keyboard player! I started off with the guitar as a teenager but straight away, I began experimenting with getting more than the usual sounds from it. I would often try to imitate the sound of some of the electronic stuff that was beginning to emerge at the time from the Krautrock scene.

Over the years I found various outlets for that approach with different bands and some sessions for other people. I also studied orchestration at the Royal College of Music and that has a big influence on how I approach electronics too. Gradually I accumulated a variety of analogue hardware alongside the guitar and that is increasingly what I’m known for in more recent years.

Who were your most formative influences musically and why?

The first piece of ‘electronic’ music that I can recall really having an impact was ‘Telstar’ by THE TORNADOS. The opening few seconds of abstract electronic sound is genius and that really opened my ears. Even though I was just a child when I heard it, it opened a door in my imagination that I went through years later.

The next influence that really caught my attention was ‘The Rite of Spring’ by Stravinsky which a friend of my father’s played to me; heavy metal for orchestra! Apart from that my next door neighbour used to play me THE BEATLES when I was very young and I remember liking them although I only had a child’s understanding of what I was hearing. As time went on the influences began to pile up, too many to mention here. In a way I’m influenced by everything I hear and I listen widely across a lot of genres.

You have done session work with both SUEDE and KILLING JOKE, how is the experience of being brought in almost as a ‘temporary’ member of a band to add to an album?

I quite like working to a brief and it’s fun to help good artists achieve their vision. That’s partly why I do a lot of musical collaborations too. There is always something to be learned in those kind of situations. I think having your own solo projects where you can fully express your individual musical personality makes it much easier to relax in a session situation. It gives a clear divide between personal expression and helping someone else to shine.

When I did a bit of keyboard programming for KILLING JOKE, mainly on their ‘Pandemonium’ album, it was particularly fascinating as I was already a long standing fan. To sit in on their recording and songwriting sessions and observe their creative process at work was educational! Working with Jaz Coleman on the keyboard sounds taught me some interesting things about what to look for when designing a synth sound too.

In 2014 you contributed to ‘The Oxford Handbook Of Interactive Audio’ where you did a chapter called ‘Blurring Boundaries: Trends & Implications in Audio Production Software Developments’, have you noticed any specific improvements or trends in software / hardware-based electronic music production since then?

I have an alternative life as a music academic and that kind of writing comes from the academic world. The main noticeable development since that article was the resurgence of analogue hardware and the whole Eurorack scene. Not something I particularly expected but welcome nonetheless. I almost always prefer the sound of analogue hardware and back in 1995 when those tools were still deeply unfashionable, NODE were one of the few who were working in that way.

I guess if you are unfashionable for long enough and you stick to your guns, then eventually the world comes round to your point of view! Having said that, the sound of digital has improved a lot and now has a viable audio character of its own. I recently placed an order for the Osmose keyboard which is still in development. The combination of innovative expressive keyboard and high quality digital sound engine with physical modelling hits a sweet spot for me. As a guitarist I always wanted to do vibrato on the keys!

You are probably best known for your work with the electronic ‘supergroup’ NODE alongside Flood, Mel Wesson and Ed Buller. The Electricity Club was lucky to be present at your Royal College of Music show in 2015. How was the experience of performing this show?

The preparation for the show was a lot of work – moving all that vintage gear and then setting it up and getting it to work again was a major task!

However we had the time and space to do it properly and when it came to the actual performance, it was pure joy. I mean how could you not have fun with all those toys to play with! The PA from Flare audio was very nice too which really helps with that kind of textural music. A little bit strange being back in my old ‘school’ playing a gig.

Did any piece of vintage gear ‘misbehave’ itself on the night?

Ha ha yes of course! My favourite was when Flood’s Oberheim decided to die while he was playing it during the gig. It started sounding increasingly ill and then kind of croaked to a halt entirely. Of course Flood went with it and carried on playing until it croaked its last. We included it in the live album – if you have sharp ears, you may be able to pick out a warbly wavering reedy distorted kind of sound which becomes increasingly unstable then stutters to a halt entirely.

We had some issues with Ed’s Moog modular in the rehearsals for the gig. During the performance we had the backs off his cabinets with a technician poised with soldering iron just in case – fortunately the big Moog lived to fight another day.

The Electricity Club noticed a certain Nick Rhodes in the audience that night (he was also keen to scope out the gear you had on stage), were you aware he was a fan?

I think most keyboard or electronics people would have an interest in what we were trying to do that night. I wasn’t particularly aware of Nick being there but I know a few other high profile people take an interest in NODE. Hans Zimmer for example.

Are there any more plans to collaborate together?

NODE is a very occasional project because everyone involved has a lot of other commitments. So I won’t say it will never happen again but we have no plans right now.

The BluRay of the Royal College of Music performance has only just been released, why did this take so long to come to fruition?

As anyone who has followed NODE knows it operates to a different time scale than everything else! It took something like seventeen years between the first and second albums for example. So actually the BluRay was relatively quick for us. We never intend for everything to take so long but then someone goes out for a sandwich and comes back fifteen years later – so timescales get stretched!

Your new album with artist ISHQ has just been released and has been described as evoking “The sound of Aliens landing in an English meadow”. How close a description do you think that is?

Well that quote was a reaction from Neil Butler of SPATIALIZE when he first heard one of the tracks. It tickled my sense of humour but I also think it encapsulates in a few memorable words some of the spirit of the album. It has some pretty ‘alien’ sounds and yet it also refers to the Cornish landscape. The album was recorded in Cornwall. There is more to the music than just that but as a sound bite I think it points in the right direction.

How did you come to collaborate with ISHQ and what was the role split and working method on the album?

I discovered online that ISHQ lived not too far from me. We live in a rural area so when you find like-minded electronic musicians, you tend to meet up at least for a chat. The collaboration grew out of a chat in a cafe and just seemed to grow of its own accord.

We found ourselves musically on a similar wavelength and I had wanted to do something in a more ambient style for a while. We started with some jam sessions in my studio and then took them away to work them up with a bit more structure and some overdubs.

The original jams were all analogue hardware but ISHQ has a distinctive style which means he manipulated and added quite a few sounds later with his Roland V Synth. He tends to resample the material and bend it out of shape in interesting ways. There is also a light scattering of found sounds mostly recorded from my collection of broken and antique instruments. The only real rule I set myself for this one was no guitar – I didn’t want to bring in those stylistic associations for the mood we were trying to achieve.

Did either hardware or software synthesizers dominate on the new album and was there a piece of studio kit that specifically defined the sound of the work?

I don’t think any software plug-in synths were used on ‘Inbetween’, it was mainly analogue hardware with some contributions from digital hardware. Plus a few processed acoustic sounds. Probably two pieces of kit became important for the soundworld we created, ISHQ’s use of the V Synth is very creative and quite distinctive and I used the 4MS Spectral Multiband Resonator on several tracks as a starting point.

‘Inbetween’ is innovative in that it is the first full length ambient album to be released with a Virtual Reality (VR) format. What inspired you to incorporate this medium and what do you feel it adds to the experience of the album?

Well it was initially down to serendipity / synchronicity. The opportunity to do that came up in a conversation with one of my ex-students Ben Payne who is currently doing a PhD on VR. VR fits very well with the ideas ISHQ and myself had touched on – the idea of different worlds, inner and outer landscapes, that kind of thing. These are the moods and ideas we were playing with in the music and VR is obviously relevant when you are interested in exploring parallel realities and inner landscapes.

Were there any specific technological hurdles you encountered when adding the VR format?

We were doing OK until it came to trying to package it up for different platforms. Initially we had wanted to make it available for all operating systems and VR platforms, but it quickly became obvious we didn’t have the resources to achieve that and beta test it on all those formats. So we had to narrow it down to make the project deliverable.

Jean Michel-Jarre attempted a not entirely successful ‘live’ VR-style performance online earlier in the year. Can you see VR being adopted by other musicians and if so, what do you see the future possibilities for it?

I think VR has a lot of possibilities to explore certain ideas and styles of music. People are still working out what it’s good for at the moment, but I have discussed with ISHQ ideas for future VR projects and some of them may well expand the format in unusual ways. COVID-19 has focussed attention on and pushed the development of these kind of tools and online delivery options. One thing holding VR back still is that the technology is not widely adopted yet and is still in a state of flux and development from the technical standpoint. That is beginning to change though. Probably at some point it will achieve critical mass and then really take off.

I don’t like to criticise other musicians online but I hope Jean-Michel Jarre  will excuse me if I say that I don’t think he had something artistic he wanted to say which necessitated the use of VR. Probably it seemed like a good idea to have a virtual gig in these unusual times, but I think VR demands a bit more than replicating existing delivery forms. In a way, it’s like the birth of cinema we are still inventing the conventions and structures that suit VR and there will inevitably be some trial and error. I think Björk has a bit more of a handle on that aspect.

With ‘Inbetween’, we tried to achieve a different look than the usual game 3D rendered style, by creating a kind of altered reality aesthetic. We deliberately didn’t use all the bells and whistles of VR. To throw lots of whirling bright colours and impossible fractal perspectives at the listener wouldn’t have enhanced our musical intentions which we hope were a bit more subtle than that.

Purchasers of the album without a VR headset can still experience a virtual desktop Windows version. Was there a specific reason why an Apple format wasn’t made available for the album?

Only for the reasons I mentioned above – we just didn’t have the resources to develop and test all the possible permutations of operating systems, computer platforms, VR formats, different headsets etc etc. If anyone wants to try porting it to a Mac, you can find us on Facebook!

With its heartbeat pulse and TOMITA-style arpeggios, one of The Electricity Club’s favourite tracks on the album is ‘Atlas Obscura’, was there a particular inspiration for this piece?

We didn’t verbalise any intentions before we started playing, but we had a sort of musical conversation which we did analyse a bit after the event, that gave rise to some of the titles. So ‘Atlas Obscura’ is about mapping landscapes – the Cornish landscape with its standing stones and wild Atlantic seascapes and the internal psychological landscape which somehow seems tangled up in that real landscape in some indefinable way. I hope that makes sense to someone ha ha!

You sell and distribute your material via Bandcamp (which has really come into its own during the COVID-19 situation), how important do you feel this platform is for both you and other musicians?

I’m known online for championing Bandcamp. I think it is single handedly supporting a whole raft of creative niche music and is allowing new artists a vital space to develop. It also provides a viable model to allow musicians to progress to a point where they can actually finance their projects and make a living, which in these days of Spotify and other streaming services is a lifeline. In short, I think Bandcamp is essential and I take my hat off to them. I hardly ever buy music elsewhere these days. Support Bandcamp = support the artists.

How has the COVID-19 situation affected you personally in terms of your musical output or work ethic and how do you feel about the wider impact this has had on the arts / music industry?

I think the arguments and points of view around this are well rehearsed, so I don’t want to add too much to the mountain of comment. I will just say that personally I haven’t been as badly affected as those who rely heavily on income from live performance. The longer it goes on, the more damage will be done to the live music scene.

What’s next for you musically?

I always have projects on the go and I have just started a new collaboration. It’s at very early stages though so not the right moment to say anything more about that particular one. I also have another album waiting in the wings for DiN records. That will be my third collaboration with Bakis Sirros of PARALLEL WORLDS. That one is actually finished and just waiting for a release slot in the DiN schedule. Beyond that, there are a couple of ideas I’m exploring including possible further VR projects with ISHQ. Probably somewhere down the road is another solo album which will be the follow-up to ‘Reality Engine’.

DB & ISHQ ‘Inbetween’ is available from

Examples of the VR concepts from ‘Inbetween’ can be viewed at:

Text and Interview by Paul Boddy
18th October 2020


‘The Secret Lives’ is a kosmische and electronic amalgam resulting from a couple of septuagenarians jamming with a love of jazz acting as their common base.

It is the long awaited creative union of Mani Neumeier and Zeus B Held, two veterans of German music who over the decades have each established notable careers in their chosen fields.

Neumeier has been the drum captain of GURU GURU for 50 years now with over 30 albums to his name including side-projects with notable contemporaries such as Conny Plank and Dieter Moebius plus he was the fourth member of HARMONIA on their second album ‘Deluxe’.

Held first made his name as the keyboard player of BIRTH CONTROL and before becoming an electronic pop trailblazer as part of GINA X PERFORMANCE with ‘No GDM’; In recognition of this, he is to be jointly awarded the Holger Czukay Prize with Gina Kikoine by the city of Cologne for their work together. He went on to become a renowned producer and remixer on hit singles by artists as varied as DEAD OR ALIVE, ALPHAVILLE, SPEAR OF DESTINY and TRANSVISION VAMP.

Zeus B Held and Mani Neumeier took time out to speak to The Electricity Club from Stuttgart about the making of ‘The Secret Lives’.

You both first met in 1973 when GURU GURU and BIRTH CONTROL were performing at a festival in Frankfurt; what were your first impressions of each other?

Zeus: I thought, now there’s a drummer with a jazzy spirit and a very funky sense of humour.

Mani: I’d like to play with this guy one day!

Why did it take so long for you to come together as an artistic collaboration? Did you stay in contact and follow each other’s careers or was that more far too difficult in those pre-internet days of carrier pigeon messaging? 

Mani: I was totally involved with GURU GURU, so there was no time for other projects

Zeus: During my BIRTH CONTROL C times, I stayed a few times at the GURU GURU country quarters – but we’ve both been too busy to actually create something… and from 1981, I was out of the country. In summer 2018 when I visited Mani, Etsuko, his wife and took a photo of us in the garden. We both posted that on Facebook and it was our mutual friend Jürgen Engler from DIE KRUPPS who commented something along the lines “it’s about time you guys do an album”. In a way, we both thought, he’s right. So a year later we started at SynxxS Studio.

From your back catalogues, The Electricity Club loves ‘Speed Display’ from ‘Zero Set’ and ‘Misty Circles’ by DEAD OR ALIVE, what is your favourite work by the other?

Mani: I did enjoy listening to ‘Misty Circles’.

Zeus: Thanks for pointing out ‘Zero Set’, Chi, I just listened to ‘Speed Display’ for the first time and love it! I always enjoyed Mani doing ‘Der Elektrolurch’ with his various Guru incarnations. That song’s got a key element of the early 70s youth philosophy. And I really enjoy witnessing how Mani takes it further, showing that it sill fits into (t)his world.

The start of the process was quite technological at the SynxsS-Studio in Offenbach with its impressive collection of equipment. Please tell us about what is was like to use the Haken Continuum Fingerboard, various synthesizers and other equipment there to shape some of the tracks… which were the ones you enjoyed playing the most?

Zeus: I met Bernie aka Bernd-Michael Land when we played at the same concert bill at Bochum’s Planetarium when I was performing with DREAM CONTROL. We stayed in contact and I always wanted to check out his studio with the analogue gear. So to start the ball rolling on a creative exchange with Mani, I saw this constellation as a chance to do something new. Mani initially said to me ”it feels like ‘das Pferd von hinten aufzäumen’”, that’s to put the cart before the horse – and as it turned out, that this is exactly what made it a real inspired start. Especially Mani’s first time, meeting and playing with the Haken Continuum.

We did all the basic recordings in a couple of days. Obviously this meant that many things from a production, synchronisation and overdub point of view, were rough and ready. No major changes possible, no quantisation, no safety net. Just twisting and turning it like a loose imperfect recording of the underground 70s. I think this made the essence of the album and kept it fresh,


The album is an eclectic mix of live and sequenced elements, was that always the intention?

Zeus: I think the intention was, let’s have a mutual musical journey without too much rules and guidelines – and we knew from the beginning that we didn’t want to copy or repeat any former stuff of our work…

It is interesting that the acoustic drums were last to go on as overdubs, what were the challenges in capturing this process without being too dictated by the precision that may have already been laid down?

Mani: NO PROBLEM FOR ME! I already did this with Moebius and Conny Plank on ‘Zero Set’ in 1981. And many times after that!

Zeus: That’s the twist; some tracks became a handmade non-quantized sequenced basis that we had to put the additional overdubs to – and this imperfection gave way to a human charm – which one finds in many great recordings in Rock and Jazz from the 50s to the early 70s.

Opener ‘Fox Nr. 7’ features a poem about foxes…warum?

Zeus: Somehow the atmosphere of the track reminded us of a short film from Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Dreams’ called ‘The Wedding Of The Foxes’ – and once we took the picture into our heads, it felt like we were “automatic writers” of The Beat Generation…

Mani, did you ever want to be Jaki Liebezeit?

Mani: No, but we were good friends and respected each other. I rather would be Elvin Jones, haha 😆

And Zeus, to be Chick Corea?

Zeus: well, I actually saw ‘Return to Forever’ around 1979 in Cologne and met Chick shortly after, on a Midem party in Cannes where he was jamming with Flora Purim and Lionel Hampton – he’s a real virtuoso, right up there with Herbie Jarrett and Keith Emerson – those guys have taken off in a very unique way and of course it would be great to see how this feels like…

‘Volcano Dance’ sees you really get into your love of jazz, it just needs a Miles Davis trumpet?

Mani: Or a Coltrane saxophone.

Zeus: ‘In A Silent Way’ and ‘Bitches Brew’ were great signposts for the jazz rock fusion – and Miles put them there … – so a bit of Miles wouldn’t hurt…

There are some amazing electronic sounds and treatments on ‘Sex Mit Siri’, how did you achieve these?

Mani: I got these man and woman voices out of a Kaossilator!

Zeus: This is how we imagined Siri would be speaking or giving emotional motivated noises.

‘Back 2 Nature’ is a bit like CLUSTER, any thoughts?

Zeus: For us it was more like a very dreamy memory of those carefree and innocent days in the early 70s.

It seems like you had a lot of fun making this album, which are your own favourite tracks and why?

Zeus: I like all the tracks – and it really depends on my mood – at the moment I like the mysterious mood of ‘Threesome Railway’ best

Mani: I love the jazzy craziness of ‘Volcano Dance’!

Obviously the situation makes things difficult but would you like to take this album out to a live audience? Would you throw in some GURU GURU and BIRTH CONTROL material as a bonus?

Zeus: we are working on a live set – the audience, which shouldn’t necessarily consist of only GURU GURU or BIRTH CONTROL fans, should be prepared for some surprises!

The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Mani Neumeier and Zeus B Held

Additional thanks to Jochen Oberlack at Bellerophon Records

‘The Secret Lives’ is released by Bellerophon Records, available in vinyl LP and digital formats direct from

Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
14th October 2020

KALEIDA Interview

Having come to wider attention with their song ‘Think’ appearing on the soundtrack of the 2014 Keanu Reeves action thriller ‘John Wick’, moody electronic duo KALEIDA opened their account with a six track EP of the same name.

Opening for Róisín Murphy on selected tour dated in 2015, vocalist Christina Wood and keyboardist Cicely Goulder followed-up with another EP ‘Detune’ in 2016.

The thoughtful brooding music of KALEIDA finally debuted in a long playing format with the acclaimed ‘Tear The Roots’ in 2017. Dark and introspective, as well as including ‘Think’, the album featured a cover of ’99 Luftballons’ which appeared in the Charlize Theron Cold War era spy drama ‘Atomic Blonde’.

In 2020, the duo returned from hiatus with three singles ‘Other Side’, ‘Long Noon’ and ‘Feed Us Some’. With their second album ‘Odyssey’ having been released in the summer, KALEIDA very kindly took time out to speak to The Electricity Club about their career to date.

In many ways, KALEIDA are a perfect example of a modern electronic music act in that despite being continents apart, you are able to create and compose. How did you come together to make music?

A friend connected us over email, back when Christina was doing environmental work in Indonesia and looking for a music partner, and Cicely was studying film composition in London.

What were your common musical interests, but also where did you differ to help give KALEIDA such a haunting sound?

We both like choral music, and we’re both really into melody, which perhaps sets us apart from a lot of modern pop acts, which seem to be less into old-fashioned beautiful melodies and more into the talk-singing that is trendy right now. We both love electronic sounds too, the palette available – the harshness and darkness you can get from electronics. Cicely is really into rhythm generally, soul music, R&B and hip-hop, and I’m into folk. So it’s a strange combination!

How would you describe your creative dynamic on the ‘Odyssey’ album and how it has changed from when you released your first EP ‘Think’ in 2015?

We both felt sort of liberated to be less perfectionistic – because of the constraints of being together for short periods to record, having children and less time generally, and perhaps because we have reached a place of more confidence.

‘Think’ itself was chosen to be on the soundtrack of ‘John Wick’ which was an amazing break to get as a new act, when you produced it, was it obvious to you that it was something special?

To be honest, not really! It was one of the first tracks we did together. When Cicely had over the demo that she had finished producing, we were driving around in a taxi and listening on headphones, and it did occur to us that it had something special to it. But we had no idea that people would connect with it so much.

Did you have any reservations about how ‘Think’ was used in John Wick, because the movie and its sequels have a high body count? Did you ever find out if Keanu Reeves ever liked the song?

Yes, we’re really not into the violence and it’s definitely not our type of film, but we’re grateful for the exposure it has given us. We don’t know what Keanu thinks of the song but would love to, especially as he’s got his own band 🙂

You have become known for your unique covers and your stark reinterpretation of ‘99 Luftballons’ appeared in ‘Atomic Blonde’, another movie with a high body count, what inspired your arrangement as it is very different from Nena’s original?

The directors asked us to make an 80s cover for a film shot in Berlin around the fall of the wall and we thought of ‘99 Luftballons’ because it’s about the Cold War and in German. The lyrics are actually really beautiful and we wanted to bring out the sadness and truth in them, which you don’t get from the Nena version. We guess the way we covered it is also just typically KALEIDA!

Aliaa’ from the ‘Think’ EP appeared in the series ‘Wu Assassins’ on Netflix recently, it’s quite interesting that your music can be quite understated, minimalist and forlorn, yet is used in these action movies, what do you think is its appeal to film producers?

The contrast perhaps? The mysterious feminine quality to it?

Other songs you have covered include ‘A Forest’ and Take Me To The River’, what you do look for in a song when you decide to do a cover and are there any songs you would like try in the future?

‘A Forest’ was another one we got asked to do for a film, which didn’t end up being used, and we went rogue with it and did our own totally different version. ‘Take Me To The River’ we just loved and we ended up totally re-writing the chorus because we thought the original didn’t go anywhere musically.

In general, we try not to do too many covers as we want to focus on our original work, but there is a definitely a freedom in doing covers when you already have the framework of the song, which is fun to work with.

How do you look back on your first album ‘Tear The Roots’? The Electricity Club loved ‘All The Pretty Pieces’ which was eerily hypnotic.

We’re really proud of that album as it was a big achievement for us – we made it all ourselves and it was our first LP. It was definitely darker than ‘Odyssey’ and represents a different time in our lives.

Had you conceived ‘Odyssey’ to be more of a natural progression of ‘Tear The Roots’ rather than a radical departure?’

Yes, we were just making the music that felt right to us with ‘Odyssey’.

The first ‘Odyssey’ single ‘Other Side’ captured the tension and loneliness of lockdown, both musically and visually, but what had it been originally inspired by?

It was about yearning for the beyond, about spiritual hope.

The album’s closing song ‘No Computer’ is quite unusual in that it’s like a kind of foreboding folk techno, how did that one come about?

That one started with one line and a simple beat, and it developed over several years. Cicely turned it into a synth jungle!

‘Long Noon’ has a real cinematic drama about it, was it inspired by the Patricia Chown play?

Hmm, we have never heard of that play and will look it up now! It wasn’t inspired by anything specific – just emotional impatience which seems to be something we suffer from…

What are your own particular favourite moments from ‘Odyssey’?

The journey of the title track, the quiet moment of ‘The News’, the maze of ‘No Computer’…

With everything going on, are you missing live work at the moment? Is it your natural forte or are you now by necessity, more of a studio duo?

Yes, we’re missing it a lot. It’s the chance to connect and for the music to come alive. It will be really special to get out there and perform again. It’s pretty much our favourite thing to do on earth – there’s a transcendent quality to the ritual union of live music that gives us a lot of meaning, helps us make sense of everything.

So what’s next for KALEIDA?

We’ve got some acoustic versions of our tracks in store and are planning a series of shows for next Summer and Autumn. Moscow is def on the list X

The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to KALEIDA

‘Odyssey’ is released by Lex Records, available now as a CD, dove grey vinyl LP and download direct from

Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
12th October 2020

RENARD Interview

Every self-respecting lover of darker, moodier electronica will know of WOLFSHEIM.

The duo’s best known song is still their 1991 debut single ‘The Sparrows & The Nightingales’ while their fourth album ‘Spectators’ released in 1999 went straight to No2 in the German charts. They were massive in Germany back in the day, winning the ECHO Music Prize in 2004 for ‘Best German Alternative Band’, although they remain largely unknown in the UK.

But after five full length albums, the duo split up in a monumental row seeing Peter Heppner moving his second-to-none voice elsewhere, leaving Markus Reinhardt standing. While Heppner went on to create solo projects and work with various collaborators including CAMOUFLAGE, Reinhardt is only resurfacing with his post-WOLFSHEIM material now.

As RENARD, he really is ‘Waking Up In A Different World’, bringing this multi-faceted, emotion laden production into life in the current climate of uncertainty, fear and new reality. Guest vocalists include Pascal Finkenauer, Sarah Blackwood, Marietta Fafouti, Eliza Hiscox, Joseh and Marian Gold while one of the producers is Oliver Blair, last spotted as RADIO WOLF in collaboration with PARALLELS.

With the release of ‘Waking Up In A Different World’, The Electricity Club is chatting to the man himself about his past, present and future.

It’s been a while since you were musically active. Why now?

I was working on my album all these years. It was a process to find the best singers, producers and a record company. But you can’t force things to happen. They take patience to build. So the simple answer is, the album wasn’t ready before.

Are you worried about the fact that this record took years to get out while Heppner has been successfully releasing his material for years?

What should I be worried about? For me it’s not a fight of two big fish in a small pond.

You chose various artists for this project, what was the criteria?

I was looking for charismatic voices and the perfect match for each song. But it took time to find them. On the album you hear only the tip of the iceberg. I guess I contacted around 40 singers in total.

Some of the songs were written a good while ago…

Most of them where written a good while ago. I think it’s worthless to write a song you can’t publish a couple of years later just because a certain trend has passed.

During WOLFSHEIM, you were involved in side projects, what have you done in the in-between years?

Even when WOLFSHEIM was kind of successful I felt a void. First I was a bit angry with myself because I thought I wasn’t grateful enough. But I turned the end of WOLFSHEIM into an opportunity and I started to look for meaning in all this stuff.

Would you agree that Heppner’s single ‘Die Flut’ with Joachim Witt, boosted the band’s popularity and paved the way for ‘Spectators’?

Maybe, maybe not. What I know for sure though is that there would have been no ‘Die Flut’ without WOLFSHEIM at all.

On the side note, CARE COMPANY did incredibly well too…

I still love to listen to the album. But it wasn’t a commercial success though, if that’s what you meant.

However I’d love to hear Carsten Klatte (the CARE COMPANY singer) to sing on the next RENARD album.

Receiving the ECHO award was quite spectacular…

On one hand I enjoyed it because WOLFSHEIM got there with a small independent label, but on the other hand, I consider such events as the dark side of the music business.

And then WOLFSHEIM was no more… what happened?

A couple of days before Heppner was going to sign his major-label deal, he demanded an eighty / twenty split in his favor. Otherwise he wouldn’t go on with WOLFSHEIM. I found this a bit too much for someone who did barely twenty percent of the work. On top of that, he hired a so-called music expert who was supposed to confirm that my compositions for the next WOLFSHEIM album weren’t good enough for Heppner.

On a side note: one of the compositions turned out to be ‘Hotel’ [a song on the album featuring Marian Gold of ALPHAVILLE]. I still have this disconcerting ‘music-expert’ document at home, maybe I’m going to frame it.

You say with this project you are “more with yourself”, would you care to elaborate?

There are plenty of reasons, let me mention some of them: It was a production with no strings attached. No deadline I’d to take care of. I didn’t need the skills of a psychologist since I worked only with easy-going artists this time.

What decided on the choice for the first single?

For me, it seemed only logical to pick ‘Travel in Time’ since it was the first song I had with a new singer after the end of WOLFSHEIM.

‘Travel In Time’ with Pascal Finkenauer is a tad confusing, he sounds like Heppner!

Maybe you got a bit fooled here. It’s the song that sounds absolutely like WOLFSHEIM and therefore Pascal Finkenauer reminds someone of Heppner in this particular case.

Britain is represented by Sarah Blackwood… how did that union take place?

I met Sarah through a label guy. I knew her work and I was surprised that she knew mine as well. I’m thankful to her because she was the third to join RENARD, at a time not many people believed in the project.

But there is some Greece there too…

I live partly in Athens and my girlfriend heard Marietta on the radio. I liked the song and contacted Marietta.

Marian Gold of ALPHAVILLE is probably the best known voice on the album, what was he like to work with?

Marian is a great and humble guy. And he’s still enthusiastic about music. It was great working with him and I hope we’ll do it again.

What are your hopes and expectations with this record?

Basically all my expectations are already fulfilled. I had the pleasure to work with all these artists, the graphic and video artists included and the album will be published soon. I’ll see what happens next.

Are you going to promote it live, given the pandemic etc?

No live plans at the moment. I had some ideas that include AR and VR, not because of the pandemic though, but rather due to the big number of singers. But there’s nothing certain yet.

The Electricity Club gives its sincerest thanks to Markus Reinhardt

Special thanks to Gary Levermore at Red Sand PR

‘Waking Up In A Different World’ is released by Metropolis Records in CD, vinyl LP and digital formats on 9th October 2020, available from

Text and Interview by Monika Izabela Trigwell
8th October 2020

Lost Albums: PARALLELS Visionaries

While now established as a modern synthpop force in a similar vein to CHVRCHES, AVEC SANS and DANA JEAN PHOENIX, the story of PARALLELS actually began in 2008 while their debut album ‘Visionaries’ came out in 2010.

Fronted by Holly Dodson, PARALLELS at the time was a partnership with Cameron Findlay who had toured previously as the drummer for CRYSTAL CASTLES, while Joey Kehoe later joined as a live keyboardist. One of the Visionaries’ tracks ‘Dry Blood’ was used in the soundtrack for the 2012 film ‘Curfew directed by Shawn Christensen which won an Oscar for ‘Best Live Action Short Film’.

PARALLELS later achieved a wider worldwide breakthrough with their third album ‘Metropolis’ in 2016 with support from The Blitz Club legend Rusty Egan; a North American tour with NINA followed in 2018 after a successful premiere of the pairing at Zigfrid Von Underbelly in London.

Since then, there have been a number of notable collaborations, the most recent being on the soundtrack to the film ‘Proximity’ with RADIO WOLF aka PARALLELS live bandmate Oliver Blair whose previous credits have included CLIENT and KELLI ALI.

‘Visionaries’ has been reissued to celebrate its tenth anniversary in a double album edition featuring a remaster of the original and a bonus collection of special remixes from the likes of ANORAAK, MECHA MAIKO, GLITBITER, BETAMAXX, GHOSTHOUSE and many more from the synthwave community.

Despite being a decade old, ‘Visionaries’ has a lovely innocent charm about it, with Dodson finding her voice amongst a palette of catchy synth hooks, tight electronic sequences and live drums.

Deserving re-evaluation and discovery by those who may have missed it first time round, ‘Visionaries’ is a must for modern synthpop connoisseurs seeking a bridge to synthwave.

Holly Dodson kindly chatted to The Electricity Club from her home in Toronto about the start of her journey as PARALLELS and the making of the ‘Visionaries’ album.

Having grown up in a music family, was making an album always inevitable for you?

It was definitely encouraged! I was a really shy kid though, so it took me a while to build up the confidence to even say I wanted to learn how to record. Since the mid-70s, my parents were running an indie label and studio out of their basement so I was always in a studio environment growing up… so it would have been difficult to not get the music bug.

But before ‘Visionaries’, you released a solo album called ‘The Carousel’ in 2009; how do you look back on that and what made you opt for the more New Wave concept of PARALLELS for your next record?

When my Dad learned that I had been writing songs, he said the first thing I should do is learn how to build a production, learn how to program and arrange… basically learn my way around the studio so that I could be self-sufficient and record my ideas. He’s got a really DIY sensibility so he instilled that in me from early on. So making ‘The Carousel’ record was my first foray into producing my own records. At that time, I was hugely inspired by KATE BUSH, BAT FOR LASHES, DEPECHE MODE and JONI MITCHELL.

‘Visionaries’ was a collaboration between myself and drummer Cam Findlay and when we were writing that album, we were listening to a lot of NEW ORDER and JOY DIVISION… hugely inspired by New Wave so it inevitably spilled into our songwriting.

‘Visionaries’ had a distinct synthpop direction as heralded by the album opener ‘Find The Fire’, what interested you in synths? 

Yeah, my main instrument was piano so I knew how to navigate around a keyboard. There were a collection of vintage synths in my Dad’s studio – Roland D-50, D-70, Yamaha DX-7 so there were always synths to play with growing up.

I love how colourful synths sounds are and how you can really customize these crazy sound waves, turning electricity into a song.

Had there been any particular acts like liked who you referenced to formulate your sound?

PETER GABRIEL, KATE BUSH, DM, NEW ORDER… asking “what would Kate do?” often gets me out of a production rut haha.

PARALLELS is widely accepted as your musical vehicle today, but at the time of ‘Visionaries’, was there more of a democratic band dynamic in place?

Yeah, like I had mentioned previously, ’Visionaries’ was a collaboration so Cam would make up demos and then I’d write topline, and we’d complete them together at my Dad’s studio. We tracked drums there as well! That ‘Visionaries’ era was pretty crazy for us, we were learning the industry – managing ourselves – figuring out who we were as artists etc, and it took a toll on Cam and I’s relationship so we ended up parting ways. He started a solo project and I continued on with PARALLELS… obviously 😉

‘Dry Blood’ has a real chill about it with those great synth strings, haunting choir samples and prominent vocoders, what was on your mind when you made it?

Cam had come to me with that track and I immediately thought it was a cool entity. I think it was one of the first tracks he had written. He didn’t really have lyrics for it so for the ‘Visionaries’ album I wrote some vocals and we put live drums on it which gave a bit more depth to the track. I was super into gothic literature at that time so… to precede your next question, the Goth girl was emerging…

On ‘Nightmares’ you sang about “the taste of blood in my mouth”, has there always been a Goth girl waiting to escape from you?

Yes. There still is ha! I was always into the supernatural and witchy things so discovering the original goths of the Romantic era opened up that world to me… I was reading Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley, William & Coleridge – huge nerd over here, still am.

In terms of equipment, were you using hardware or software synths? Did you have any favourites?

We were working with a PolySix, Juno 60, Prophet, Waldorf Blofeld, Roland D-50, D-70 so ‘Visionaries’ features those.

‘Magnetics’ brought a pulsating NEW ORDER feel to proceedings? Have you always been a fan?

NEW ORDER was a huge inspiration throughout the whole album – I used to have jam sessions in my basement in high school, and some of my friends who would come to those jams (Cam included) turned me onto their stuff.

Meanwhile, ‘Counterparts’ explored the other side of NEW ORDER with a driving bass guitar?

Yeah, and very fast. We tend to play that one at the end of the set when the adrenaline is going haha. I think it was just bringing the whole scope of our inspirations in, and some songs call for different things so the chorus-y bass guitar adds a different colour to it. We were mixing a lot of electronic with live elements through the whole album.

The live drums took a breather and you got a drum machine out for ‘Vienna’, what was this song inspired by, as apart from ‘Dry Blood’, it’s probably the one that is the most different to the others on ‘Visionaries’?

This song was very escapist for me, dreaming of travelling to places I’d never been before and being in big open air, with open arms wandering fields like Julie Andrews haha. We were really into ‘Games Without Frontiers’ as well, so I think production-wise that played a part.

‘Midnight Voices’ has this fabulous futuristic disco vibe like Giorgio Moroder which still stands up?

Thank you! Huge fan of Giorgio Moroder – we were also super into Italo Disco as well so this song always reminds me of that influence.

‘Shadow Hearts’ is cut from not too dissimilar a cloth but one thing that is noticeable on that and ‘Ultralight’ is that the album manages to capture a lively percussive template in amongst all the synths and sequencers, not always an easy thing to do in a studio environment?

The live drums definitely add an edge to it, and a more human energy. Cam was a drummer so it was sort of a given. The demos were usually made with programmed drums and then we had recorded live drums for the final album versions. We kept certain elements of the programmed drums if it fit the song – like ‘Reservoir’ has a programmed kick and some hi-hat, and ‘Ultralight’ a bit of drum machine percussion. But yeah, ‘Visionaries’ doesn’t have a super polished sound which I prefer anyway – it was all about performing as tight as we could.

In what way do you think your voice has changed over the years in the way you use it?

I’ve definitely become more confident and found more fulfilment in singing; I was always insecure about my voice so I used to double track it. But I don’t really do that anymore – after years of soul searching and embracing what I have to offer… telling my inner-critic to go away ha. Singing started to become a sanctuary for me when I was recording the ‘Metropolis’ record.

How do you look back on ‘Visionaries’, what are your favourite songs and are there any you would do differently in hindsight?

It was such a formative time, and a whirlwind! It was the first time that people really listened to my music, so I’m so grateful for that. It’s hard to pick a favourite from the album but I think my favourites are ‘Counterparts’, ‘Reservoir’ and ‘City Of Stars’. And no I wouldn’t do anything differently, everything happened how it was supposed to 🙂

The new remixes you have commissioned to accompany this remaster appear to be from The Synthwave All-Stars, do you feel you have now found “your people” after ten years?

Agreed! I’m so grateful that they were a part of it – I envisioned it to be a compilation of artists who have somehow factored into this musical journey, both old and new friends… from the VALERIE COLLECTIVE to MORGAN WILLIS, who I just recently collaborated with. I finally connected with BETAMAXX in real life last year but it felt like we had known each other forever. And yeah I think it does take time to make friends in this music world because a lot of people come and go and everyone is doing their own thing. But it does feel like there’s a greater sense of community these days, it’s amazing how small the music world really is.

‘XII’ came after ‘Visionaries’, what were the most valuable experiences that came from recording your debut that you were able to put into the second PARALLELS album?

Giving yourself room to grow, inviting inspiration find you, staying curious and letting the magic happen. That’s ultimately why I felt called to evolve PARALLELS and keep it going.

I think a lot of artists get too precious about the first thing they create and in my opinion, the first record is the easiest in some ways.

It’s been nearly four years since the third PARALLELS album ‘Metropolis’ but you have been collaborating with FUTURECOP! and RADIO WOLF, so how have these experiences been for you in terms of your continued musical development?

It’s definitely helped me get some perspective and it feels like coming home now that I’m working on a new PARALLELS record. It felt like the right time to collaborate because I felt like I needed a break from ‘myself’ haha. Working with other artists helps bring inspiration out of you that you didn’t know you had. I also worked with MORGAN WILLIS, DIGITAL SHADES and CHRIS HUGGETT during that time.

Is there anyone you would love to collaborate with?

To be honest, I’ve done so much collaborating in the past while it feels right to just get in my little world again. But if Kate called…

What are your future plans, obviously depending on the world situation?

Oh right – the world situation! Haha…well we had tour plans for RADIO WOLF and I’s ‘Proximity’ soundtrack that have been put on the back burner, and another tour with MECHA MAIKO and BETAMAXX, some EU/UK dates… but alas. I’m cautiously hopeful we’ll be able to make up for it next year. So right now I’m back in my little world knee deep in writing a new record and building a Patreon community to share the progress with and stay connected.

Thanks so much for the chat – love to all in The Electricity Club!

The Electricity Club give its warmest thanks to The Electricity Club

‘Visionaries’ is reissued as a new remaster and remix album by NewRetroWave, the limited edition clear dark blue with white marble effect double vinyl LP will despatch around 20th December 2020 while the digital version is available now; both formats can be purchased direct from

Sign up to PARALLELS Patreon at

Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
4th October 2020

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