Category: Interviews (Page 2 of 82)

Lost Albums: THE MODERN Life In A Modern World

The Electricity Club first saw THE MODERN opening for HEAVEN 17 at The Scala in December 2005.

With a colourful stage presence and an immediately catchy sound, they were the one of the new modern synthpop hopes with their debut single ‘Jane Falls Down’ making a good first impression.

Comprising of front woman Emma Cooke, with Nathan Cooper and Chi Tudor-Hart on vocals and synths plus Robert Sanderson on guitar and Bob Malkowski on drums, THE MODERN were signed by Mercury Records, home of TEARS FOR FEARS and DEF LEPPARD.

The band began recording an album under the working title ‘Life In A Modern World’ with producer Stephen Hague, best known for his work with OMD, PET SHOP BOYS, THE COMMUNARDS, ERASURE, NEW ORDER and DUBSTAR. However, after their single ‘Industry’ was disqualified from the UK singles charts in early 2006, THE MODERN were dropped by their label and found themselves out on a limb.

Changing their name to MATINEE CLUB, the album finally saw the light of day in late 2007, now retitled ‘Modern Industry’ and issued as a download only by Planet Clique. It also saw a CD release with a revised tracklisting as ‘The Modern LP’ through Ninth Wave Records in the US, while a 2CD special edition by EQ Music Singapore for the South East Asian market in 2009 saw another tracklisting with B-sides and bonus songs added.

Around this time, the founding trio Emma Cooke, Nathan Cooper and Chi Tudor-Hart returned to being called THE MODERN. But in 2010, Cooper bid adieu and became KID KASIO while Cooke and Tudor-Hart continued as THE MODERN, releasing a brand new album ‘Revenge’ in 2018.

In 2013, ‘Modern Industry’ was reissued under the title ‘Life In A Modern World’ as an album by THE MODERN in an expanded tracklisting which largely resembled the South East Asian 2CD edition.

In whatever variant, the debut album by THE MODERN often provokes many “what if” debates among electronic pop enthusiasts.

The Electricity Club was extremely pleased to be able to chat to Emma Cooke, Nathan Cooper and Chi Tudor-Hart about the joys and the setbacks that came with its making and marketing.

When THE MODERN signed to Mercury, did you more or less get despatched to record an album first, or was it very much in steps?

Nathan: We’d never thought of ourselves as an album band. The whole concept was quite alien to us. Every time we wrote a song it was with the intention of it being a single, so when the label started talking to us in terms of an album we just always saw it as a collection of singles with no fillers or anything.

Emma: First thing the label wanted was to find a producer. We were happy with Nick Zart but the label wanted someone known. This took longer than we thought as we were also touring.

How did Stephen Hague become involved in producing THE MODERN?

Nathan: Mercury had sent us round the houses with various different producers. We tried a different track with each producer that we had shortlisted with the label.

Chi: Remember Jeremy Wheatley? We tried recording ‘Discotheque Français’ with him. He was a total knob. He got really upset because Bob ate some of his Jelly Babies that were next to the mixing desk that turned out to be his. He didn’t get us at all and he sulked for the rest of the day over his sweets!

Nathan: We’d been dispatched to Sweden to work with Tore Johansen whose work with Franz Ferdinand was getting massive airplay at that time. I remember him picking us up from the airport in a battered old Volvo and explaining to us the importance of efficiency, which sounded to me like he just wanted to get us in and out as quickly as he could!

The label was obsessing about adding this “indie edge” to the sound, hence FRANZ FERDINAND’s producer, but I was much more interested in chatting to him about his work with ROXETTE which sadly for me he had no interest in discussing! The label had this idea that they wanted us to sound like BLONDIE who of course we all loved, but it became clear quite quickly the live drum sound just wasn’t working for us.

Emma: The sound just didn’t sound big enough for us. Mind you, I quite like listening to his version of ‘Jane Falls Down’ and the vocals on his version were amazing. We then met Stephen Hague and worked with him at Peter Gabriel’s Real World studio. Beautiful place, the studio overlooked a lake with swans swimming around. The start of the session was a disaster as we couldn’t get the drums sounding right. But by the end of the weekend Stephen had ‘Closing Door’ sounding awesome. That nailed it for us to get him to produce the whole album.

Nathan: Rather than record the whole album in Wiltshire, Stephen booked The Strong Rooms in Shoreditch for us to record the album.

Chi: Nick Zart’s production on our demos was so good we got Nick to work on the whole album with us, so really being our 6th member of the band.

Nathan: Stephen was an obvious choice for us. It had dawned on us and the label by this time we were a full on synth pop band and he was the king of that genre, he had worked with all our favourites PET SHOP BOYS, ERASURE, OMD, NEW ORDER.

Stephen Hague worked on ‘Industry’, ‘Jane Falls Down’, ‘Closing Door’, ‘Questions’ and ‘Sometimes’, rather than the whole album, was this down to budget? So how did you go about shortlisting the songs that he would work on?

Chi: No, Stephen produced the whole album. The only track he didn’t do was ‘Suburban Culture’. Matt Jagger, head of Mercury and our champion, hated that track! We loved it so stuck Nick Zart’s version of it on the album anyway.

Emma: Yeah ‘Suburban Culture’ had to be on the album as before we were signed that track was the first song that got radio play on XFM and was always a favourite to play live as it always set the tone.

What was Stephen Hague like to work with, he’s known to be very meticulous with a big focus on vocals?

Nathan: I think our days mixing the album with him in The Strong Rooms in East London were some of my favourites in the band’s history. It really felt like we had taken control and were working with someone who finally understood what we were trying to do.

I have only happy memories of those sessions. I do remember being a bit put out when trying to extract some exciting tit bits of information about his early work with OMD, only for him to confess he didn’t really like synth pop and he had fallen into the genre completely inadvertently, and he actually preferred rock!! He actually said that!

Emma: I agree, I loved recording at The Strong Rooms and really felt Stephen Hague understood us, and as a band and really captured our group dynamic in the recordings

Nathan: I do remember the vocals being particularly difficult for me. Emma sailed through hers but I remember having to do the chorus of ‘Jane Falls Down’ about 100 times. It didn’t fill me with confidence either when after take 82, he said over the talkback that my voice reminded him of a foghorn!

Did you know ‘Smash Hits’ nickname for Tony Hadley was “Foghorn”? 😆

Nathan: Ok I don’t feel so awful now!

‘Sometimes’ sounded like it could have been one of Stephen Hague’s productions for ERASURE’s album ‘The Innocents’, while ‘Questions’ has this frantic energy, where did this stem from?

Nathan: The majority of the album was songs that had begun life as demos myself, Chi and Emma had written over the previous four years with Nick Zart producing. I think there were four songs on the album which had come about in a totally different way, these were ‘Questions’, ‘Jane Falls Down’, ‘Closing Door’ and ‘Sometimes’.

These came from instrumentals that Robert Sanderson our guitarist had made. Myself, Chi and Emma would go to his tiny bedroom studio and just take turns trying out different vocal top lines and ideas over these backings. Loads of really good stuff came out of those sessions, it was competitive but in a friendly super productive kind of way.

We’d be there sitting on Robert’s bed in this little room and he’d blast the verse out of the speakers and you’d have about 10 minutes to sit there and work out something in your head!! You’d be right in the middle of writing down a killer lyric or humming a melody in your head when someone would obliterate your concentration with a cry of “I’ve got something” and run up to the microphone to record it! It was a really strange way to do things but it really worked!!

I think that’s where the frantic energy on ‘Questions’ comes from. It’s sitting in that room desperately trying to get your idea crystallized onto a piece of paper before someone shouts “I’ve got it!”; the song has two choruses crammed into one song vying for attention!

‘Jane Falls Down’ was mighty, were hopes running on this being THE MODERN’s breakthrough?

Nathan: We all hoped as the first single that it would do well. I remember sitting listening to the chart rundown on Radio1 on a Sunday evening and hearing it was at number 32. None of us in the band had been that happy with the way the video turned out and I think the fact it had charted at all with so little airplay was testament to the song and the people who’d bought the single off the back of the live shows.

‘Industry’ was reminiscent of A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS, did Mike Score’s lawyers come knocking on the door?

Nathan: We knew nothing about this until half way through promotion for the single. We’d just finished a sound check somewhere and had been ushered into a local radio station to do a promotional interview for the single. We were sat there in the radio studio with headphones on and the presenter plays both songs back to back, and then goes live to air and asks us if we copied them on purpose!!! I just remember being completely dumbfounded.

Truth is that this one must be my fault because very early versions of the song had come from a demo I’d recorded. The song had been through loads of transitions since then but the vocal melody in the verse had remained the same. I’d always been a big fan of A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS and had a VHS with ‘The More You Live, The More You Love’ on it. I think these things happen subconsciously sometimes. We thought about dropping it from the set when we supported A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS a few years later, but we went and had a chat with Mike Score and he was completely lovely about it.

What was the story behind ‘Closing Door’? It seemed to become oddly prophetic when it ended up as the B-side of ‘Industry’?

Nathan: This was another one that started as one of Robert’s instrumental demos; I think it was touted as a single for a short while. I think the lyrics might have been vaguely about some decisions we had had to make as a band regarding management etc. I actually think it’s one of the most positive songs on the album. It always went down well live that one.

The events that led to THE MODERN being dropped by Mercury in 2006 and the band morphing into MATINEE CLUB are well documented, but how complete was the album at this point?

Chi: The album was completely done and dusted. Mercury got a new head of label, Jason Iley, and he did not like us. This guy was all that is wrong with the industry. When asked what bands he liked, he answered with a straight face, “Bands that sell”… total tw*t! His efforts went into promoting his new signing Matt Willis.

Matt Jagger, who signed us, was ousted, so we no longer had our champion. The chart fiasco happened and the label ghosted us!

How did Planet Clique become interested in releasing what was now the MATINEE CLUB album?

Emma: So when Matt Jagger left Mercury he started a new label under Universal, Europa. He signed us and paid for us to shoot a video for ‘Discotheque Français’. The idea Matt had with Planet Clique was for them to promote us on the underground dance scene.

Europa’s other band was INFERNAL and just had a big hit with From Paris to Berlin so I think they liked the idea of ‘Discotheque’ coming out of the clubs like INFERNAL ’s track.

Chi: Yeah, then true to our luck Europa went under and Planet Clique then offered to release the album on their label, download only, just to get it out there.

Were there many challenges in acquiring the masters for the album now titled ‘Modern Industry’ for release by Planet Clique?

Chi: Lucian Grange, head of Universal, was very nice about giving over all our masters. He always liked THE MODERN.

‘Discotheque Français’ was solely produced by Nick Zart and was released as the lead single for the album, what was the song inspired by?

Nathan: The original song was written in 2001 under the band name DIRTY BLONDE. We had a studio in Hackney at the time and there was a whole collective of producers and remixers living in this massive old factory called The Sweatshop. A friend in the studio next door to us heard us recording it and asked if they could do a remix.

Once a month there would be these massive parties at The Sweatshop and the remix of the song got played there. Somehow from there Eddie Temple Morris got hold of it and played it on his show on XFM. We released it as a white label, which I had a listen to the other day. It sounds like BUGGLES meets THE TOURISTS!

I think the lyric idea in the chorus had stemmed from the summers me and Chi used to spend at my mum’s place in southern France. The highlight of the holidays would be going to these tiny discos in these French villages and dancing to Eurodance music. The house was in the middle of nowhere in rural south west France and there was one radio station we could pick up called radio NRJ.

I used to religiously sit by the ghettoblaster all day long recording these fantastic Eurodance tracks onto cassette, so I’d have them long before they’d be released in the UK. I remember hearing ‘Rhythm Of The Night’ by CORONA about 6 months before it was released over here.

Emma: Actually Eddie Temple Morris got a hold of Ed Solo’s remix of ‘Suburban Culture’. It’s on the 2015 album release, Arts and Craft mix; The Sweatshop lot remixed ‘Suburban’ after the success of ‘Discotheque’.

Stephen did a version of ‘Discotheque ‘but it never came together. He admitted never feeling it.

The cover of David Bowie’s ‘Modern Love’ can be considered either very brave or very foolish, what led you to record it? What do you think about it in retrospect? 😆

Chi: God, I foolishly love our cover!

Nathan: There were a couple of covers we’d sometimes do in the live set that always used to go down well. My favourite was ‘Strange Little Girl’ by THE STRANGLERS. We did a really interesting take on that. We also covered ‘Over You’ by ROXY MUSIC and got the chance to record our version with Phil Manzanera playing guitar! Although I’m pretty sure that never saw the light of day.

Another one was ‘Under My Skin’ by Cole Porter, we did this great minimalistic icy electronic version of that. ‘Modern Love’ came about entirely because of the association with the band’s name and a club night we were doing at the time at Filthy McNasty’s in Islington called Modern Love. I’m pretty sure it was Nick Zart’s idea. In hindsight it might have been foolish, I certainly wouldn’t dare take on such a classic now, let alone a Bowie classic but I thought we brought something to it.

Emma: Filthy McNasty’s! Yes, great club night. We did it every fortnight and THE LIBERTINES did the other weeks.

How do you think ‘Modern Industry’ was received when it finally came out in 2007? There was a loss of momentum but how did it affect the band?

Nathan: I think if we’d brought out the album in 2005 it would’ve looked very different. Maybe it would have had ten tracks on it and been a bit more cohesive, but because there was this massive gap by the time it was released, it almost became a kind of retrospective of everything we’d done over the past seven years. It ended a kind of being a “Best Of” in a way.

It was a strange period for physical formats so were you disappointed the album came out as a download only?

Nathan: That was just the way things were going. No-one in their right mind would’ve released a vinyl album in 2007. It was a time of real change and people were still adjusting to it and trying to work it all out. No ‘Smash Hits’, no ‘Top Of The Pops’, we were in a right muddle!

In 2008, you returned to being called THE MODERN again, what were your reasons?

Emma: We changed the name to MATINEE CLUB as Europa were keen to relaunch us, phoenix from the ashes, but we always felt THE MODERN suited us so we just went back to that.

THE MODERN soldiered on for a few years but then the line-up fragmented in 2010?

Chi: Nathan had much more he wanted to do musically and Emma was doing a lot of acting work so KID KASIO was born. Emma and I have carried on and Rees Bridges, our original drummer came back to us after touring with DIRTY VEGAS. We released ‘Revenge’ in 2018, many of the tracks co-written with Nathan.

‘Modern Industry’ was given an expanded reissue as a release by THE MODERN under the new title of ‘Life In A Modern World’ in 2013, what was the thinking behind this?

Chi: Pure laziness. It just took us this long to get the album in its entirety out there.

Looking back, how do you think the album as a whole stands up? Which are your own favourite tracks?

Nathan: I think all of it still stands up well. My favourites on there are ‘Seven Oceans’ and ‘Sometimes’ and I really like ‘Travelogue’ (which is just on the 2013 re-release). It’s a great set of songs and an album that I’m really proud to have been part of.

Emma: I love ‘Sometimes’. The whole album still sounds fresh to me.

Chi: ‘Questions’ and ‘Nothing Special’. I’m so proud of the whole album.

If you had your time in THE MODERN again, how differently would you have done things?

Emma: We should have released singles and album much faster as back then there was a real coming back of synth bands like THE BRAVERY, FISCHERSPOONER and GOLDFRAPP but by the time we released it, THE ARCTIC MONKEYS got out there and it all went the way of indie guitar.

Chi: Nothing I’d change. I loved it.

Nathan: Yeah same, I wouldn’t have changed anything. The touring got stressful sometimes but on the whole when I look back, I just think of the fun we had and the great songs that came out of it.


The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Emma Cooke, Nathan Cooper and Chi Tudor-Hart

‘Life In A Modern World’ is available now via Pie & Mash Recordings from the usual digital outlets

https://www.themodernband.com/

https://www.instagram.com/themodernofficial/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
6th August 2020

Lost Albums: CHINA CRISIS Warped By Success

1994’s ‘Warped By Success’ was the sixth album by CHINA CRISIS and came some five years after ‘Diary Of A Hollow Horse’ which was mostly produced by Walter Becker of STEELY DAN and their last record for Virgin Records.

Despite their first three albums charting in the Top25 in the UK having yielded a hit single each in ‘Christian’, ‘Wishful Thinking’ and ‘Black Man Ray’, sales for the next two albums were disappointing, thus precipitating the end of their seven year relationship with Virgin Records. It also saw Gazza Johnson, Kevin Wilkinson and Brian McNeil leaving the CHINA CRISIS family, having been all together as a unit since 1985.

But given the opportunity to make another album again a few years later by West Coast Productions, a mysterious company that specialised in budget compilations and bizarre rock collections, Gary Daly and Eddie Lundon regrouped to make what was to be a very personal record. One of the team assisting CHINA CRISIS to realise the sound of ‘Warped By Success’ was the future Grammy Award winning engineer Mark Phythian, with a creative relationship that continues to this day.

Developing on the mature laid back feel of ‘Diary Of A Hollow Horse’, there were jazzier overtones on the opener ‘Hand On The Wheel’ while glorious blue-eyed soul could be found on ‘Wishing Time’. The cautious optimism of ‘Everyday The Same’ recalled CHINA CRISIS’ later Virgin-era singles and heralded a new dawn for the duo, although ‘Real Tears’ touchingly captured the sadness of bereavement and ‘Hard To Be Around’ reflected on a relationship coming to the end of its natural course.

Something of a follow-up to ‘Stranger By Nature’ on ‘Diary Of A Hollow Horse’, ‘Without The Love’ celebrated the joy of parenthood while the solemn orchestrated ballad ‘The Way We Are Made’ was dedicated to Derek Jarman.

Despite being a fine collection of well-written songs, ‘Warped By Success’ is very much the forgotten album in the CHINA CRISIS portfolio. But as The Electricity Club was to find out, the aftermath of its initial genesis was less than happy, perhaps indicating why it would not be until 2015 that CHINA CRISIS would release another long player in ‘Autumn In The Neighbourhood’; and while that album is being re-issued in a vinyl edition, ‘Warped By Success’ remains unavailable.

Gary Daly kindly gave a candid recollection to The Electricity Club of the background behind ‘Warped By Success’ and why for him at least, it is not among his favourites and how CHINA CRISIS eventually got back their creative mojo for ‘Autumn In The Neighbourhood’.

‘Warped By Success’ was at the time in 1994 seen as a comeback for CHINA CRISIS which seems funny now considering it had only been five years since ‘Diary Of A Hollow Horse’, compared with the timespan that occurred before ‘Autumn In The Neighbourhood’ in 2015?

I can’t imagine at the time Eddie and myself thought it was anything other than a very very different experience from being with a major label… we would have thought maybe we had come full circle, from starting out on Inevitable Records then Virgin then back to a small independent label / Stardumb. And after being responsible for soooo many people’s livelihoods, jobs etc etc, it was really quite a nice experience to be back to just Ed and myself…

How had things changed within the CHINA CRISIS camp by the time ‘Warped By Success’, both personally and creatively?

Gosh, lots… just about everything that could change, did. Our band, which had been together about 8 years, was suddenly no more. It was a mutually agreed parting of the waves, as they say but basically we had no wages for anyone and people had to make a living…

Kev got busy doing sessions and touring with bands, everyone from FISH, SQUEEZE to THE PROCLAIMERS … Gaz took over his family business and continued to play live and do sessions… Brian opened and ran his own studios up in Glasgow, Scotland.

Personally, lots of the stuff of life was happening in our lives, births deaths and marriages. And this all fed into the songwriting… Eddie singing about losing his dad on the songs ‘Thank You’ and ‘Hands On The Wheel’ and myself singing about Eddie losing his dad on ‘Real Tears’.

You were recording at Hatch Farm Studios in Surrey which was as different as you can get from Maui and Los Angeles where parts of ‘Diary Of A Hollow Horse’ had been done? Any thoughts?

Yeah, awful place, awful people! It really was a massive mistake of Eddie’s and mine to get involved with the place and the people.

But it was a chance to make a record and that’s all we ever wanted to do really… it’s a definite “If I could turn back time…” moment. We have a version of the album we made with Mark Phythian, it’s a beautiful thing and we hope to release one day… I hope so.

You and Eddie were back working as a duo again. Had this been out of necessity after the full band years or had technology advanced that music could be made electronically while exuding the live performance qualities you desired?

It was basically how we found ourselves after leaving Virgin records and the band moving on, it did feel completely natural. We rented a room from Peter Coyle of THE LOTUS EATERS on Hope Street in Liverpool. Eddie and myself would make our way there each day and write and record our little instrumental demos, just like when we started out. So you can imagine after almost 10 years touring, to be back just the 2 of us demoing, it was quite lovely really.

The technology hadn’t moved on that much in the early 90s… Eddie and me would have set the room up old school, synths , drum machines, effects, portastudio, mixing desk…

Were the sessions more relaxed than before without the pressure of being on a major label? It seems to come across like that on the record…

We was enjoying ourselves lots, it was soooooo great making a record with no real producer involved, it meant Eddie and myself could properly get fully involved with guiding the tracks.

I think on reflection though, you can hear there was no-one at the helm, steering the ship, so to speak. I think there’s a lack of standout moments… most of the songs are decent, but there’s not many great performances.

I think with us making some hugely standout albums with the “band” giving the songs depth with their performances, on reflection, that’s what the songs lack… no Kev, no Brian, no Gaz, no Walter… awwwww…

‘Warped By Success’ is a great title, had that been an ironic comment on your Virgin years?

Absolutely, you have no idea what you are signing up for and then BOOM! You’ve been on the telly and suddenly you are different… not really, but you are… some more than others…

Now more than ever I think you could apply that title, just think of all the many many reality TV shows / talent shows / etc etc! Success like that really can warp your life and your mind! Success I think is something best “worked” for, but then again I’m an old Grandad now so I would say that… ahaaa!

‘Hands On The Wheel’ and ‘Every Day The Same’ appeared to reflect on the topics of the first two albums, or has The Electricity Club read that wrong?

Eddie would have to vouch for ‘Hands On The Wheel’… ‘Everyday The Same’ is basically myself singing about our new found freedom and how best to engage with that, and get positive again…

There was an element of being dropped from Virgin Records which wasn’t great, everyone losing their jobs was tough. So this album being our first post Virgin Records album… there was deffo an element of us being “Indie” again which felt right…

‘Without The Love’ and ‘Real Tears’ were classic emotive CHINA CRISIS pop tunes, you certainly hadn’t lost it?

Yeah, they are both proper lovely songs. ‘Without The Love’, that’s me being a young dad and absolutely loving being home with my girls and not away all the time touring. ‘Real Tears’, well that’s just myself being Eddie’s old school buddy and watching him go through it a bit with his dad being poorly at the time. It would be great to see the Chinas perform these songs one day, I hope so .

There were more Eddie lead vocals on ‘Warped By Success’ than on other CHINA CRISIS albums, had this partly been as a result of you both writing separately during the hiatus?

Not really, because we was actually working more together after leaving Virgin than we had previously when we was still with the label and band. I think Eddie sang / wrote more then, mainly because he had more going on in his personal life…

‘Hard To Be Around’ was very honest and emotive…

It’s a funny one ‘Hard To Be Around’, at the time I dedicated it to Kevin mainly because in lots of ways, Kevin kept the Chinas going. He just made us all feel a lot better about ourselves and whatever situation we found ourselves in. But I think I’d really felt it when I could see Kevin was sort of throwing in the towel with us, not for any other reason than it was time to “move on”… but yeah, it was a hard pill to swallow .

Was ‘Good Again’ about anything specific?

Err yeah, everything that was happening round about then felt like renewal. Relationships / making a new album, it was a very exciting time. We’d gotten over no longer being with a major label and it was time to make it “Good Again”.

‘Wishing Time’ seems to have captured CHINA CRISIS at their most soulful, those vocal harmonies, woodwinds, brass and drum machine work beautifully together…

Ah yeah, that was Eddie having his SOUL II SOUL moment, I think the drum loop is possibly from ‘Back To Life’ or similar. Bowie’s ‘Young Americans’ album was a massive influence on Eddie and myself, so if you ever hear us sounding a bit “soulful”, that’s what it is…

Oh and Eddie would have got properly involved with arranging the brass which is something he loves to do… me myself, I’m more of a woodwinds kinda guy… ahaaaa

‘One Wish Too Many’ and ‘The Way We Are Made’ appear to be musically connected, how had they emerged?

‘The Way We Are Made’… having just listened to it now, crikey ! The recordings not great at all! Hearing it now, it’s deffo a rites of passage song… again, becoming a young dad, I would have been very much of a mind… the road is indeed, just as Paul McCartney and THE BEATLES had pointed out… L O N G!

You set up your own Stardumb Records imprint to release the album, how was it for you to venture into this part of the operation?

By name only… there was no Stardumb label. The company we was working with had lots and lots of differing musical projects on the go, with our album being just one of many.

We needed something / anything to separate us from the companies other super naff projects and so we came up with the name… as I said before, it was an awful, awful situation we found ourselves in.

When ‘Warped By Success’ came out, how did you find the press and audience reaction to it?

The expression “piss poor” springs to mind… awww I do hope you can print that, because it’s true! We were, as a musical force, absolutely spent! Imagine at the time, it was OASIS , BLUR, THE STONE ROSES and… ’Warped By Success’… no, not a great time… ahaaa but thems is the breaks which you have to weather… and weather them we did… and continue to do…

How do you look back on the album now, what are your own favourite tracks?

I don’t look back at that album at all. Eddie will remind me now and then just how great some of the songs are and recently we had ‘Hands On The Wheel’ in the live show and we almost had ‘Good Again’ in there.

But as memories go, I don’t “go” there… too sad and upsetting for me. They are not any of my fave CC songs but I wouldn’t want to put anyone off having a listen. Lots and lots of China fans love this album, I’m just not one of them…

Out of all the CHINA CRISIS albums, ‘Warped By Success’ is the most difficult to one to obtain, is there any chance it ever will be back in the public domain again?

Our version, certainly… but the actual album, n , there’s too much legal stuff around it. And the future is a Big Bright and Beautiful Wonderful New World .

One thing that ‘Warped By Success’ did do was reboot CHINA CRISIS as a live entity because that is one area where there has been a demand for you…

Maybes, eventually it did…we did slowly, but surely, begin to play live again.

I would say it took us a good couple of decades to get back to “Hey ! How good are CHINA CRISIS, must go and see ‘em live…”

Honestly , when we’d left Virgin in 1990, we had no live fans really, having only ventured out live when promoting each new record. And there’s a big big difference between having a live following and having hit records. So yeah , we properly got on with it and I’m glad to say, I can’t imagine we was ever better live than we are now… prettier, yeah, absolutely… but actually a better live act, I doubt it… ahaaa 😀

The ‘Warped’ experience put you off releasing new music for a long time, but you finally did again with ‘Autumn In The Neighbourhood’ in 2015? What was the spark to get you motivated into writing new songs again?

The ‘Warped’ experience wasn’t great… it didn’t so much put us off recording as make us realise times had changed. We was properly back to being just the two of us… we did tour the album and even recorded a new live album ‘Acoustically Yours’ for Paul Humphreys of OMD’s Telegraph label which was a super lovely evening at the Neptune Theatre in Liverpool that reunited the Classic 80s China’s line up plus guest appearances from Peter Coyle and Jennifer John.

So basically the China’s got busy playing live which we felt at the time we was sort of starting from scratch, not really having a “live” reputation. I think it was all the performing live that got us writing and recording again, with us being asked at almost every show “when are yous gonna record a new record????”

What made ‘Autumn In The Neighbourhood’ a much happier and more satisfying experience?

The fact the recording had purpose, it was properly funded and the fans what made it happen got properly involved. . .every step of the way… which at times was challenging with not everybody being on the same page at the same time… ahaaa, but it did work brilliantly. All the studio sessions had a great up against the legacy… Walter Becker, Mike Howlett, Langer and Winstanley, Phil Brown, Pete Walsh… all these amazing artists we’d worked with and had such success, that was the challenge. Back in the day , our recording budgets were huge, 80s style huge and although ‘Autumn’ was properly funded, it was nowhere near what it was back in the day!

Was it about being able to have more control of the creative process from start to finish, thanks to the crowdfunding process?

Yes, it absolutely was… it felt like we was back to being “indie” which is exactly how we started, ‘African & White’ on Inevitable Records, distributed by Rough Trade.

You were back working with Mark Phythian and had Carl Brown in to produce while at various points, the old band of Gazza and Brian reappear while Kevin was also there in spirit, was making the album more like a family get-together in atmosphere?

Yes, Mark and Carl and Brian all gave so much to the project… their expertise was invaluable.

Mark’s ears are “GOLD” and it would be him that was responsible for the stereo loveliness coming out the speakers.

Carl and Brian were very much hands on performing and recording, both being musicians / producers with years and years of experience. They would very much want to capture all the performances and again, would be very much of a mind that “this is a bit special”, we’ve all grown up together.

Which songs ‘Autumn In The Neighbourhood’ were highlights for you?

‘Because My Heart’ is sublime , Gazza and Kevin are completely responsible for the feel of that song; I originally wrote the song on piano and when we first played it, the feel was very much ‘How Long’ by the band ACE. It was Gaz who went home and played it on guitar and then Kevin and Gaz came back into the studio and completely changed the feel to what it is on the record, which is what I like to call “line dancing fantastic”… ahaaa

I think Eddie’s song ‘Fool’ worked out amazing; I’d heard it just as a song Eddie sang with his guitar. He then came into the studio and sang and played it to a click… and boom! Months and months and months later… wow! What an arrangement… Eddie worked with a pal of ours, Paul Mitchell Davis on the brass / wind arrangement. I could imagine Walter Becker would be very very impressed… incredible!

You’ve released two solo records since ‘Autumn In The Neighbourhood’, so will there be any more new CHINA CRISIS music?

YES! We are currently working on a “Classic Crisis” album / tour for 2021… we’ll be reworking some of our classic Crisis songs, ‘Black Man Ray’, ‘Wishful Thinking’ etc etc alongside new material. So we’ll add as many new songs as we can and all in a classical setting, strings, wind and brass, top hat, black tie and tails kinda scene… ahaaaa


The Electricity Club gives its sincerest thanks to Gary Daly

‘Warped By Success’ was released by Stardumb Records and is occasionally available via private sellers on eBay and Amazon Marketplace

CHINA CRISIS’ 2015 album ‘Autumn In The Neighbourhood’ is reissued as a signed vinyl LP, available direct from https://www.musicglue.com/chinacrisis/products/autumn-in-the-neighbourhood-lp

A selection of Gary Daly solo releases are available from https://www.musicglue.com/gary-daly/

https://www.facebook.com/chinacrisisofficial/

https://twitter.com/ChinaCrisisUK

https://www.instagram.com/chinacrisismusic/

https://www.instagram.com/garydalymusic/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
4th August 2020

WE ARE REPLICA Interview

A pair of unforgiving electronic post punk twins, London-based Franco German dark synth duo WE ARE REPLICA are resilient and determined if nothing else.

Comprising of Nadège Préaudat and Martin Kinz, after mixing their debut long player, a feral cat got into their studio over the New Year holidays and urinated all over their computer.

Luckily, they had not lost any of their recorded material and after the replacement of the motherboard and sorting some software compatability issues, they were able to get back on track and mix their album again.

With a captivating live presentation that can come over like one heavy aural barrage, WE ARE REPLICA will not be an immediate proposition to some, but others will find their experimental Pan-European approach and sado-masochistic presence strangely appealing. The unbelievably photogenic Préaudat acts as the alluring bohemian seductress with the deep Gallic utterances in contrast to Kinz’s more mysterious but powerful supernatural persona.

Having released three singles ‘Africa’, ‘Angel’ and ‘Parallele Universen’ in almost as many weeks, WE ARE REPLICA kindly spoke to The Electricity Club about their own artistic brand of erotic deviance…

There is an intensity to WE ARE REPLICA, where does this come from?

Nadège: We are translating the intensity of the world into music and we like the energy of punk and that helps to capture emotions in its rawest state.

Martin: We always liked heavy music as much as electronic music and therefore often use synths like electric guitars.

Nadège: We really like using layers of sound effects in our music…

Martin: …and that makes it a very dense sound.

How did WE ARE REPLICA come into being as a distinct artistic entity?

Martin: We met outside of my studio in Cable Street which was then a vibrant place at night. There was a gathering with drinks and we were introduced. After hanging out for a while, we decided to start a band, so we checked out each other’s art and music the same night.

Do you have any common musical interests with bands you like?

Nadège: Yes sure, we like the same kind of sound but we like to be surprised how different influences come together in one. I personally never had the intention to sound like someone I heard. I am also not into covers for example. I am more instinctive about what I create.

Martin: On the contrary, I take more direct inspiration from what I heard in the past. That ranges from PINK FLOYD via ULTRAVOX to NINE INCH NAILS but that’s just three names among many.

But then how do you use your differences in the creative process?

Nadège: We fight!

Martin: Yes. The arena is open and we are the gladiators! Haha… to be honest, our ways are not so different and it all just comes together in the process.

So what would be your creative dynamic?

Nadège: We both agree on a beat and then take turns adding the other instruments which is in agreement with the other one normally.

Martin: That’s why we never have one writer for a song. Whoever comes up with the first chords doesn’t matter as the sound really is the main thing and shapes the composition.

How do your other artistic interests influence WE ARE REPLICA?

Nadège: What I like in art and music is the atmosphere and feeling. Therefore I always try to replicate that in my life using music, art as well as fashion to express myself.

Martin: I think what Nadège says about art, fashion and music is true because they’re all part of the same sub culture. I generally find bands with a strong image more interesting than those that don’t care about that. And in our case there is a lot more to come in that respect. No boundaries!

Your stage set-up facing each other while sideways on to the audience is interesting, how did this emerge?

Martin: Our studio is very long and narrow and we had some friends over for our first test gig.

Nadège: … and the only way that they could see both of us was us facing each other. But it also has the same impact as being in a circle which is good for creativity, communication and connection.

Martin: That’s right, but we also like to dress up on stage and hiding two thirds of us behind synthesizers doesn’t help that purpose. But then, even the synths are much better to see for the audience which would definitely matter to me if I was in the crowd.

What synths and keyboards are you each using and what do you like about their functionality?

Martin: For our live rig, we use a Korg Micro-Preset which is our main bass. Then there’s a Korg Monologue and a Korg Volca FM (which is like a DX7) for the leads and a Casiotone MT-100 that we use as an organ. Now we’ve added three Volcas to be sequenced via MIDI, the models are Kick, Sample and Bass at the moment.

Nadège: So we added a laptop to control all of that. This new set-up gives us the possibility to even loop certain sections and extend songs, change the filters and have a chance to improvise and be more in tune with the night’s vibe. Electro avant garde will be a strong new direction for us. Now our set up will give us the opportunity to alternate between our songs and jams.

We can even play little sequences from the Volcas between songs while we change settings on the rest. We now have very little backing tracks left, so in general this set up helps us to play most of it live and not use many backing tracks, even less than before. We are now working on a smaller set-up for gigs abroad so we only need to add MIDI keyboards locally.

Martin: Yes, travel light! In the studio we also use a Yamaha SK10 string synth, a Yamaha DX21, a broken Roland D-10 for very disturbing textures, an old Lowrey organ and a Korg DW but we clearly can’t put all of that on stage.

Nadège: … but maybe one day!

But how much of the recording actually ends up being “in the box” for practical reasons?

Nadège: In the studio it’s mostly drums, like 808 and 909 plug-ins. And we record our own samples by hitting objects to use as drums, noises etc and sample them.

Martin: We also sampled analogue drum sounds from the Casiotone and the Lowrey organ and edit them “in the box”. But 99% of our synths used in recordings are hardware.

From the ‘Emergency EP, ‘1. 2. Free’ plays with the repeat function and the steeped octave dial on the Korg Micro-Preset, was that in blippy homage to OMD’s ‘Messages’ and OUR DAUGHTER’S WEDDING’s ‘Lawnchairs’?

Nadège: By chance, we recorded one night on psychedelics and it just happened. It’s a really good technique.

Martin: I was aware of OMD doing that and I even told Nadège that night but how it came about I can’t remember. Funny enough, we even played this together.

WE ARE REPLICA abbreviated is WAR, do you feel you are fighting sometimes?

Nadège: Yes and we are in a war like time. It’s good to not forget that.

As Europeans living in London, how do you feel about how the city has changed while you have been here, for better or for worse?

Nadège: I feel thankful for where I am. The only thing I can change though is my direct environment. We couldn’t vote in the referendum or in general elections. But… changes are everywhere in the world and there’s more to come.

Martin: London’s changed a bit. But not as badly as the rest of England. We feel welcome here to be honest. Of course rents go up, people get poorer etc. but there’s a stronger sense of community than in many other cities.

On the new singles ‘Angel’ and ‘Parallele Universen’, they respectively feature lyrics in French and German, what inspired you to use your voices in your native tongues?

Martin: They represent where we come from and are a homage to French New Wave and Neue Deutsche Welle. Also we want to introduce more of that in our music in the future. But it’s nothing new as also ‘Non’ on our first EP is in French.

Nadège: I always found that voice is just another instrument. Listen to a song in a different language you don’t understand. It becomes an instrument. I would like to share this experience in my UK project.

Martin: British people are not that used to this. Growing up in Germany, I listened to English, French, Italian and Spanish songs that were in the charts, and I couldn’t understand most of it.

The previous single ‘Africa’ was interesting as it is has emerged as possibly one of your most accessible songs yet?

Martin: It actually sounded like two different songs at the start, I even sung the verses on the demos but Nadège’s vocals and the production magically glued it all together.

‘Create’ was a stand-out song from your earlier live set, how did this track come together?

Nadège: It’s about freedom of expression.

Martin: Nadège’s chorus adds this freedom to my personal journey in the verses. A great tune! Fun to play live.

You chose the song ‘B Baby’ from their your second EP ‘Emergency’ to make a video for, why did you decide on that one?

Martin: We asked Lefteris and Martine who filmed it which one they wanted and they chose that.

The video featured an interesting desolate backdrop, how was the filming and production?

Nadège: Thanks to a friend of ours, we could use an old factory before it was converted. We had a very short time slot to do it, before the builders came.

Martin: And the shots on Thames beach were on the hottest day of the year. I was melting in vinyl trousers!

Are there any more videos or visual presentations planned for the new material?

Nadège: Yes. We’ve got three film makers interested in doing them.

Martin: We need to get stuff sorted with them first and get it going. Finding the right time is always a bit hard. We’re planning videos for all three new singles.

Nadège, during the lockdown, you actually did a remote modelling session, how was that?

Nadège: I had to move the computer around a lot so the photographer on the other end could get different angles and lighting. It’s Pauline by the way, the same person that took the pictures for our current artworks.

Both of you have solo projects in parallel to WE ARE REPLICA, how are these developing?

Martin: MAHADURGA ENSEMBLE was my lockdown project that I posted as a work-in-progress on Soundcloud. I still have to properly release it. It gave me chance to try new things I never did before, sounds, playing techniques, new ways of sequencing etc… I will do more solo work in the future but the next one will again be completely different.

Nadège: My solo projects are using different platforms. Music is part of it as much as still and moving images. I always make sure I keep that going.

So what’s next for WE ARE REPLICA?

Martin: The three singles are part of an album that we’re due to release, along with remixes and the videos we mentioned.

Nadège: Even if it’s a bad time for that, we are looking forward to playing more gigs.

Martin: … especially abroad.

Nadège: We would also like to do more collaborations with artists and musicians as intended on our immersive e-Dada event which we cancelled just before lockdown.

Martin: Indeed. We try not to get sucked into album / tour routines too much but take things project by project.


The Electricity Club gives its sincerest thanks to WE ARE REPLICA

The extended remix bundle ‘Parallel Angels’ is available as a download direct from https://wearereplica.bandcamp.com/album/parallel-angels

https://wearereplica.blogspot.com/

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

https://soundcloud.com/wearereplica/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Lefteris Parasyris and Pauline Mongarny
31st July 2020

ALANAS CHOSNAU & MARK REEDER Interview

‘Children of Nature’ is the excellent first album by Mark Reeder and Alanas Chosnau that reflects their personal experiences and hopes for the future.

Alanas Chosnau is one of the biggest singing stars in Lithuania, while Mark Reeder is the Manchester-born producer and remixer who founded the trailblazing techno label MFS and introduced NEW ORDER to electronic dance music along the way.

While ‘Children of Nature’ has something of a melancholic air, it is also optimistic and hopeful. Combining East and West European approaches thanks to Chosnau and Reeder’s respective locations in Vilnius and Berlin, the album does not mask its multi-generational influences and uses them to present good songs with superlative vocals and sympathetic instrumentation.

As two people who personally experienced the divisive spectre of the Cold War head on while living on opposite sides of The Iron Curtain, ‘Children of Nature’ symbolically captures that emotion of desiring love and intimacy in isolation, something that is very relevant in these strange times.

DRAMATIS’ Chris Payne who also co-wrote and played on the VISAGE hit ‘Fade To Grey’ said: “Mark Reeder and singer Alanas Chosnau have recorded a stunning new album called ‘Children of Nature’, a range of well-crafted songs and beautifully produced, with excellent vocals. If you’re a fan of electronic music this is definitely an album to add to your collection.”

With ‘Children of Nature’ attracting many positive plaudits worldwide, Alanas Chosnau and Mark Reeder kindly spoke to The Electricity Club about the genesis of their creative union and a lot more.

Had the two of you been aware of each other before actually meeting in person at the Lithuanian International Film Festival in 2015?

Alanas: Unfortunately, not. Life is full of surprises. I believe that our meeting was meant to be. Since the first talk at the festival, I immediately felt a creative connection and discovered we shared a love of similar music.

Mark is an outstanding personality with so much experience and knowledge in music. I am privileged to work with him and also learn from him.

Mark: Yes, I first met Alanas at the Lithuanian International film festival in Vilnius, where I was presenting the documentary film, ‘B-Movie (Lust & Sound in West-Berlin 1979-89)’.

It was a very glamourous event, presented by the President of Lithuania, and the audience were all dressed in formal evening wear, surrounded by glittering camera lights and TV crews. Upon arrival, I was asked if I could also perform a short DJ set during the actual opening ceremony, but due to time restrictions, that ended up being one song – and not really a DJ set. They set up a mixing desk and two CDJ turntables for me, which was dwarfed by the expansive stage and I was thinking, what’s the point of two decks? I can’t really mix anything, as I’m only going to play one song…

After a lengthy presentation of Lithuania’s singer-songwriters, acrobats, magicians and choirs, it was finally my turn to go on stage. The compare introduced me in obviously glowing Lithuanian and I just stood there like a showroom dummy grimacing with fear at my inescapable plight. Then, with a huge smile, he turned and asked me with great expectation, “so Mark, what are you going to do for us tonight?” – I simply raised my forefinger and cheekily said “I’m going to just press, PLAY”.

As the first strains of the song opened, I could see the look upon the fascinated faces of Lithuanian high society. I felt they were all smiling at me more in sympathy than enjoyment. It was very unnerving. As the song progressed, I could see their faces turning from bemusement to shock and horror. They literally all stared at me, open mouthed.

Their uncomfortable expressions were eroding at my confidence as I nervously twiddled with the knobs, and I was thinking, should I really be doing this? Strangely enough, once the song had finished, they applauded furiously, but I wasn’t sure if they were just thankful that my dreadfully pathetic performance was finally over.

Almost as soon as I got off stage, I was introduced to Alanas and he revealed that behind me, a huge projection screen was showing excerpts from ‘B-Movie’. Something I was completely unaware of. Then I realised, that’s why they were all so shocked.

So how did a conversation with some common ground about the Cold War lead to one about actually making music together?

Alanas: I guess we have managed to blend Cold War with Cold Wave philosophy and here it is – ‘Children of Nature’. True, our common political experiences and human understanding of those times has helped us find common solutions much easier.

Despite different cultural backgrounds, where we have both matured, living the experience of a time before “the fall of The Berlin Wall” and the fall of Communism is something that bonds us together somehow.

Mark: I met up with Alanas to talk music, and he explained to me a little about his background, that he was originally a Kurd from Iraq, and he came to Vilnius during the Soviet era while he was still a young child. His parents had wisely decided it would be better to send him to Lithuania to keep him safe from Saddam’s possible purges, and eventually his gas bombs.

It was also interesting to hear how he had secretly listened to Western music as a child growing up in the Soviet Union. It seemed apparent that Lithuanians had always had this rebellious streak against their masters in Moscow and listening clandestinely to decadent Western Music was a kind of subversive, secret protest. Yet as he got older, he felt he wanted to make a different kind of music, something that was closer to his own heart.

We discovered our musical tastes overlapped and then the idea just emerged that we should maybe try and do something together. Alanas expressed his desire to finally make an album in English, but explained he’d never done it before, because finding the right kind of person, not only someone who understood the style of music he wanted to make, but also someone who would be able to guide him with his English, had so far proven to be elusive.

But after hearing my NEW ORDER reworking of ‘The Game’, he was convinced I might be the one. He asked me if I thought his English was good enough. I realised that as a kid growing up in the Soviet Union, they didn’t learn English at school. With the fall of communism in the early 90s, people were finally able to listen to all kinds of previously forbidden music from the West, but the lyrics were always a sticking point. That’s why techno became so internationally successful, because it was mainly instrumental.

Although I wasn’t initially aware of what he had achieved musically, I liked Alanas. Besides, he wasn’t asking me to work with him because I was some super famous pop star producer, but because he actually liked the sound of my music (especially my DEPECHE MODE remix). His own Lithuanian music sounded very contemporary and so I wanted to push his boundaries a bit. Give him something he wouldn’t normally do himself. My music is reminiscent. It doesn’t really have a date stamp on it, as it already sounds like it could be from a past era.

Eventually, we made ‘Losing My Mind’, which was then chosen to be the love song in the contemporary Cold War thriller ‘Le Chant Du Loup’ (The Wolf’s Call) and after that, we decided to make an album together.

Was the musical direction of the album something that was conscious and discussed?

Alanas: I would say that our album was consciously as well as intuitively directed. Mark was leading the process. We have exchanged much of our musical experiences, naturally discussed the lyrics and melodies of each track. We wanted our songs to reflect current people’s behaviour, feelings and needs. The message of our music is actual nowadays and I hope listeners hears it.

Mark: To a degree yes. Alanas liked the kind of sound I make and was open minded enough not to interfere. He also enjoyed the surprises and understood my idea was to make music in the present that reflected on our past, but is in fact timeless.

Alanas would send me his basic vocal melody idea and I would take it and turn it into something else. Most songs had no real lyrics at first, so as the music developed, I would make subject suggestions, and write the lyrics accordingly, later as Alanas became more confident with his English, he would suggest themes too and write his own lyric ideas.

Obviously, once our album started to take shape, we could see there was a pattern in the themes emerging. It wasn’t just all about love and loneliness, but also has contemporary political influences too.

Were there set roles within the writing and production or did you find that all interchangeable?

Alanas: We were so much into writing and producing new tracks. All our album was written interchangeably, while sharing music and lyric drafts, discussing, selecting and adjusting them. All the music production work was done by Mark and Micha Adam at their studio in Berlin.

Mark: Our roles were set before we started. Micha and I are already an experienced production team, and we each know where our strengths lie. Alanas is an established singer and songwriter. Yet for this project, he wanted a different sound to the contemporary one he usually pursues in Lithuania. I think he wanted to surprise his fans a bit there too. Mostly, we would create a template for Alanas to sing his idea to, then we would craft the song around it and write the lyrics, then we would fine tune it.

Did you put together the bones of the songs together while in the same room or was there quite a bit of remote working due to your geographical locations?

Alanas: The whole album work was basically done remotely, with me being in Vilnius and Mark in Berlin. We did have regular meetings in Berlin of course, but the most part of the studio work was remote.

Mark: No, we worked from separate cities. Quite an interesting process in itself and very modern thanks to the internet, such a process would have been impossible in the past. I had fortunately had enough experience working in this way before with other artists too, so it wasn’t so difficult for us. The only difference being in recording the vocals, when it comes to singing the lyrics and getting the intonation and pacing right, which is especially difficult for someone who is not a native English speaker, when they are next to you it is easy to say sing it like this or like that, but when they are in another city it’s not so easy.

Why the title ‘Children of Nature’? How did the song itself come together?

Alanas: The song ‘Children of Nature’ was one of the first tracks created for this album. At the beginning of our work, I sent the music draft to Mark with sketched lyrics including ‘Children of Nature’ and he liked the initial idea. Surely enough, Mark and Micha transformed it to perfection. When album was nearly finished, we realised that ‘Children of Nature’ is exactly the statement that represents our message to the people – we are responsible for the future of ours and future generations, thus must be warriors of our souls to protect it.

Mark: We felt that we wanted to make a statement to the generations of the future, show them what we thought about and that we cared. As a species, we have to a greater extent ruined much of our planet in a very short time. Nature has vented its anger upon us. Yet, in just a few weeks of lockdown, we saw all kinds of environmental miracles occur.

The planet doesn’t need us. It can wipe us out in an instant if it so desires. However, it proved, we could do a lot to help its recovery, if we really wanted to. It was a glimpse into an alternative future if we want it. Just imagine if we invested our technology and creative energy into helping our planet to recover, rather than build more weapons of mass destruction. In reality, we are all children of nature, but in little over a few hundred years we seem to have forgotten that, and as the world is governed by greed and selfishness, the egotistical desire for power and territory, puts us all in danger.

When The Berlin Wall fell, I had hoped that we were above all that in the coming 21st century. Sadly after 30 years, it seems not. We are back to where we were, at the start of the previous century. The cover design depicts a blurred image of post-nuclear children looking accusingly at the viewer. It’s a kind of forewarning. Do we want the future generations to grow up in that kind of post-nuclear world?

The cinematic ‘Losing My Mind’ was the first song released from the sessions and appropriately was in the French Cold War movie ‘Le Chant Du Loup’? Are you fans of spy dramas?

Alanas: Of course, since being a teenager I loved war and spy movies, because their characters take risks and go the end until they reach their goal, or die for it. These characters are mysterious and entertaining, capable to transcend me to new realities.

Mark: I grew up on James Bond and Harry Palmer. John Barry was a constant companion from being child. When Antonine Baudry approached me with a request to write a song for a love scene in his film, we had just started work on ‘Losing My Mind’. I decided as it was a contemporary Cold War thriller, I would pay homage to the music of Cold War thrillers of the past. Antonine heard the first draft and loved it immediately. That’s the version that appears on the soundtrack album.

If the British had James Bond and Harry Palmer, was there an Eastern Bloc equivalent?

Alanas: I guess that the best-known Soviet and even post-Soviet James Bond equivalent is a spy Stierlitz from the famous television series ‘The Seventeen Moments of Spring’ filmed in 1973. This movie has made the greatest impression on me while being a young kid.

One of the album’s highlights is the magnificent ‘Heavy Rainfall’, is that about the environment or something else?

Alanas: Funny enough, this track has nothing much in common with climate, environment or any form of natural weather conditions. Actually, ‘Heavy Rainfall’ transmits the message of the unfortunate rise of totalitarian regimes and strengthened social and even digital control over people.

Mark: ‘Heavy Rainfall’ is a song about how our thoughts are manipulated, about how our attention is diverted by trivia. it’s a warning, to be aware, but also the message is positive, that no matter how much heavy rainfall we get, we just have to wait and ride out the storm.

‘A Loving Touch’ appears to reference ‘Give Me Tonight’, was that intentional?

Alanas: Hmm, I am not sure I know that song ‘Give Me Tonight’. So most probably that means it was not intentional.

Mark: You are the only person who has made that comparison. Well, no it certainly wasn’t intentional. We are all subconsciously influenced by music we have heard though, sometimes you write something and think “have I heard that before?”

Thanks to SHAZAM, you can immediately see if it references anything. It might have partially a similar structure perhaps, which may give that impression, but we never thought of that. I just wanted to make a positive sounding song for the closing part of our album, something which captured a feeling for the roaring 2020s.

Strange thing is, now that we have all been through lengthy stretches of social distancing, where we were not allowed to kiss or hug our friends and loved ones, the message in this song takes on an entirely different meaning.

A track from the SHARK VEGAS archives ‘I Can’t Share This Feeling’ has been dusted off, what was the thinking behind this?

Alanas: To be honest, once Mark shared this track with me, I did not know at all that it is an old track from the SHARK VEGAS shelf. After we had recorded the vocals and the track was fully produced, Mark introduced me to the legend of SHARK VEGAS. We had a great conversation then, I remember. Mark really knows how to pleasantly surprise people.

Mark: I was going through some old SHARK VEGAS demo cassette tapes and I came across a song that I had recorded one night with Alistair Gray in our practice room in Tempelhof airport in the 80s. It never got beyond the rough demo tape stage and I was thinking maybe Alanas might be able to sing this.

So, I reworked it and sent him the backing track and vocal guide. I didn’t tell Alanas it was actually a song from the 80s, as I wanted to surprise him. And as it’s a mixed vocal of me and him, I decided it would only be fair to credit it to SHARK VEGAS.

‘All Alone’ is very on point with the current worldwide lockdown situation, but what had been its original sentiment?

Alanas: ‘All Alone’ is about loneliness, a lonely man in this World. The unexpected coronavirus lockdown has only strengthened this inner feeling of ours. Hasn’t it? When health crisis happened, we had no doubt of which vector of lonely humanity to choose – lockdown dictated it all and we dedicated this song to all the people isolated at home and in hospitals. It appears that we made quite a prophetic song and we indirectly could foresee the upcoming corona crisis.

Mark: Due to the lockdown, this song unintentionally became the first album outtake. We discussed the idea of making a video during lockdown but due to the restrictions it seemed almost impossible to venture outside without consequences, so Alanas made one at home. It’s structured like a 60s song, wrapped in a synthpop style with a contemporary theme.

Initially, I wanted it to be about the dilemma and frustration of loneliness. This is a subject that has actually been a reoccurring theme throughout my entire career, because no matter what, we are born alone and die alone and for the part in between we can sometimes find ourselves left alone, and we are all victims of that at some stage in our lives. It’s a solitary cry for solidarity.

‘Drowning in You’ has something of a ‘Heroes’ feel about it, had Berlin been a key symbolic influence on the album?

Alanas: Comparison to David Bowie is a great compliment. One of my very first childhood journeys was from Baghdad to West-Berlin in 1980 with my beloved mother. Since then, I carry those captured memories of Berlin’s streets, people and unique feeling in the air.

Each stay in Berlin inspires me a lot and now working with Mark and Micha at their Berlin studio kind of blends it all together. No doubt, Berlin has influenced our music and I guess Mark can say much more to that point. Berlin is a city like no other.

Mark: ‘Drowning in You’ is a song about love at the dawn of a totalitarian regime, as it creeps upon you without realising the danger. The future looks optimistic even, but then things start to change. Berlin has seen that happen, but it could happen anywhere, anytime. It’s a song of reflection, on a time gone by, when the World seemed a happier place. Everything seems normal at first, but then things slowly start to disintegrate until the day comes when you suddenly find yourself being hauled off to a labour camp…

‘Fade On’ reflects a love for DEPECHE MODE, another act with Berlin very much in their DNA, have you seen the ‘Spirits In The Forest’ film?

Alanas: I first heard DEPECHE MODE as a twelve-year-old when I was already living in Soviet Lithuania, where international music from the West was super hard to get. I found the cassette tape with a name “DEPECHE MODE” at my older cousin’s house and I played ‘People Are People’. That was it. I was totally blown away of how the music sounded. I really cannot deny that discovering DEPECHE MODE in those pale Soviet times strengthened my dream to become an artist, and create my own music and form a band. Yes, I did see the ‘Spirits In The Forest’, loved the cinematography and style of storytelling itself.

Which songs have been your own personal favourites from ‘Children of Nature’?

Alanas: The whole album is an emotional journey through the complex human nature. It speaks to the listener of love, joy, loneliness, happiness, fulfilment, fear, pain… it even predicts the future if you like. The album’s structure is very consistent thanks to Mark’s insights and rich musical experience.

I hope our listeners can feel it. One of my favourite songs is ‘How Do You feel’, because it’s very inspiring and motivating. Also ‘Drowning In You’, ‘Fade On’, ‘Love Of My Life’, ‘Children of Nature’, ‘Heavy Rainfall’, ‘It’s Who You Are’, ‘I Can’t Share This Feeling’…errr

Mark: I can’t really answer that question. I just made an album that I thought Alanas, Micha and I would like to buy. I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. I just wanted it to be a collection of familiar styles and sounds, that trigger a feeling of reminiscence, but then again, each song is different. It’s an electronic album, but sometimes it also has dance and rock elements to it, like a mixture of all the sounds that have influenced my own musical career.

Your partnership has been well received by music fans, is this a one-off or is working together again something you would like to do?

Alanas: We are very grateful to our fans who like our album and listen to it. I had long discussions with Mark before recording the first track. It took us a while to come up with this decision and I appreciate his trust and belief in me a lot.

Our partnership grew to a highly creative and mutually respectful relationship and I would definitely like to continue working together.

Mark: Micha and I have really enjoyed working with Alanas, we became a great team and we don’t see it ending with this album, on the contrary, we all hope our work will continue, and so it will. Not only have we managed how to make an album while being miles apart, but I think we have found the right song writing formula too in which we can work, which will hopefully make things easier for our next album.

What is next for each of you?

Alanas: Currently we are intensively promoting the digital album, producing new music videos and plan live shows once the corona crisis regulation allows it. Our record label MFS will soon release vinyl and CD formats of the album as it was already planned before the lockdown. As for the future, we do have creative brainstorms, but now all our efforts are focused on making ‘Children of Nature’ a success.

Mark: As always, my music life never stops evolving and apart from promoting ‘Children of Nature’, I have also been quite productive since I came out of lockdown.

First off, I made two remixes of the title track ‘Children of Nature’ for the ‘Natural Selection’ EP, which are much more clubbier in their approach. I also remixed ‘Light of the World’ by BIRMINGHAM ELECTRIC, a project based in Amsterdam. I also remixed ‘Dead Soul’s by a band from Mexico called DEER who currently live in Hong Kong and I have just finished a remix for the CEMETERY SEX FAIRIES.


The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Alanas Chosnau and Mark Reeder

The ‘Children of Nature’ album and the ‘Natural Selection’ EP are released by MFS via the usual digital platforms including https://markreeder.bandcamp.com/releases

https://alanaschosnau.com/

https://www.facebook.com/alanaschosnau/

https://www.instagram.com/alanaschosnau/

https://www.facebook.com/markreeder.mfs/

https://twitter.com/markreedermfs

https://www.instagram.com/markreeder.mfs/

https://mfsberlin.com/

https://open.spotify.com/album/6QinQBH8STYT86s59YRO8t


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Martyn Goodacre
11th July 2020

ALEX HUSH Interview

Alex Hush is the noted dance producer best known for his work in DAYBREAKERS with Ric Scott and before that, KOISHII & HUSH with Simon Langford.

Based in Toronto, undoubtedly now one of the liveliest and most creative hubs for modern electronic music, Alex Hush has an impressive portfolio that includes U2, MADONNA, ERASURE, PET SHOP BOYS, YAZOO, DURAN DURAN and INXS among others.

His latest work has been with DAYBREAKERS and an excellent remix of ERASURE’s new single ‘Hey Now (Think I Got A Feeling)’.

Alex Hush was also behind the famed seven volume ‘Retro:Active – Rare & Remixed’ CD compilation series on Hi-Bias Records in Canada which dug deep in the vaults for rare tracks by VITAMIN Z, LEISURE PROCESS and SEONA DANCING as well as featuring notable extended versions from the likes of A-HA, DEAD OR ALIVE, CAMOUFLAGE, OMD and THE CURE.

The Electricity Club spoke to him about his career to date DAYBREAKERS, KOISHII & HUSH and a whole lot more…

All the projects you have been involved with are largely associated with a dance friendly sound, what sort of clubs, DJs and environments influenced your approach to music?

Good question. I suppose I would say I was shaped by the music I grew up listening to in the 80s and to this day. In Toronto, there was a station called CFNY which played a ton of new wave and house tracks that were hugely influential. After that, people like Judge Jules, Pete Tong, Armin Van Buuren etc, all had a big influence with the tracks they played.

Who were the artists that you grew up loving?

ERASURE, NEW ORDER, DEPECHE MODE, PET SHOP BOYS, DEAD OR ALIVE, THE CULT, THE CURE, DURAN DURAN and many more. Even artists that only had one or two songs made an impact. I suppose for most people, if you liked one of the bands I mentioned, you more than likely listened to all of them.

So you love songs and you love remixes?

I do. I am no different than anyone when it comes to remixes. Sometimes a remix will turn a good track into a great track and other times I may not love the remix that was done. When it comes to remixes, fans can be very passionate and very opinionated and I am no different.

Who are your favourite remixers?

So many great ones but off the top of my head, the ones that I really like(d) are Shep Pettibone, Matt Darey, Tin Tin Out, Mark Saunders, Ferry Corsten. Any time their names appear you know you are getting something special.

Your first big name remix as DAYBREAKERS was ‘Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way’ for U2, there were a lot of remixes commissioned for that, what was your approach to make it distinct?

For that mix, we wanted to try something with a bit of a deeper vibe to it while using the vocals in a unique way. We did two mixes and Bono really liked the ‘main’ mix and had an idea for an extra vocal. So he recorded it and sent it over and we incorporated it into the final mix which we were really pleased about. Nice to have his input and something unique.

How did you feel when MADONNA came calling for ‘I Rise’? Did you get to find out what she thought of your mix?

Just to work on U2 and MADONNA tracks was a thrill. We got the MADONNA mix right after the U2 one and it was a lot of fun to work on also. Because of the style of song, we took that in a different direction and was glad she and her team were happy with it. No, we never got any direct feedback from her, but we were honoured that our mix was one of the ones chosen to be included on the RSD vinyl release.

DAYBREAKERS have produced a remix for ERASURE’s new single ‘Hey Now (I Think I Got A Feeling)’, do remixers get set a brief or is the point of being involved is that you are given artistic freedom?

I suppose that would depend on the project. We have never been given any sort of guidelines for a remix, but on occasion I have asked the label if they have any sort of direction for the mix. That can save a lot of time if you start out doing a mix in style a) and they really had style b) in mind. Other than that though, we have never had any sort of restrictions or template given to us.

The ERASURE mix was a lot of fun. We started out making a very progressive house sound and it was sounding good but neither Ric nor myself thought it was truly capturing the feel of the original. We completed that and set it aside, during which time Ric came up with a cool idea of a ‘pop’ mix, which ended up morphing into the final mix you hear now.

‘Marigold’ by the NEW ORDER offshoot SHADOWPARTY was another track remixed by DAYBREAKERS, would you like to be asked to work on an actual NEW ORDER song one day?

Yes! That is definitely on our bucket list! ‘Marigold’ was a great track to work on. Loved the original and having known Tom and Phil from NEW ORDER and BAD LIEUTENANT and getting to know Josh, doing a mix for them seemed like a no brainer. They are very passionate about what they do and great musicians.

Speaking of NEW ORDER, you worked with Gillian Gilbert on ‘Lifetime’ in KOISHII & HUSH, how did that come together?

I have been friends with NEW ORDER management for ages, and when we sat down to come up with our dream collaborators list, Gillian was on it.

Her vocals on THE OTHER TWO project are so good, we had to get her singing something for us, so we pitched the idea and luckily, she agreed! The entire NEW ORDER camp are great.

KOISHII & HUSH were known for using some unusual vocalists as in artists who were not known for singing. Had that been a conscious concept or did it evolve naturally?

Hmmmm. I don’t think we ever set out to make a ‘non singers’ list – it just kind of happened. We did have a running list of people we wanted to work with just because we thought the combinations would be unique and quite cool, but it was not really a concerted effort. I would say that of all the people we approached, we got about 90% of them on board. We still have many unreleased K&H tracks that will see the light of day at some point.

One example was DURAN DURAN’s John Taylor and ‘C’est Tout Est Noir’, what inspired the collaboration?

Well both Simon and I were fans of DURAN DURAN and I knew John had done stuff on his own and always liked his style. His track ‘I Do What I Do’ from the ‘9½ Weeks’ soundtrack really stood out in my mind and he considers ‘C’est Tout Est Noir’ a follow-up to that song, which is very cool.

‘C’est Tout Est Noir’ had a superb remix by Mark Reeder, when you write and produce a song, can you get “possessive” about things or does your experience allow you to remain objective?

Yes and no. Like I mentioned before, I can have the same reactions to remixes as anyone. What I do try and do though is remove myself from the equation and listen to it as someone not involved, which is not always easy to do. If you love a remix someone has done of your work, then great. If at first it is not really grabbing you, you need to think “ok, maybe this is not MY style but it might be for someone else”.

To be honest, I can only think of one occasion ages ago where a remix was submitted and we were not enamoured with it, but as it was not ‘our’ sound, who were we to judge? In Mark’s case, yes, it’s a great mix and we were thrilled to have him involved. I know John really liked his mix too and used it as the backing track on a vlog he made flying from London to LA.

The KOISHII & HUSH track ‘Rules & Lies’ was sung by Sarah Blackwood, what was she like to work with?

Total diva. LOL just kidding! She was great. Super sweet and did a great job on the writing and vocals. We met with Sarah at a coffee shop in London and hit it off right away. We were thrilled to have her involved because I had been such a huge fan of DUBSTAR. She is an underrated talent and would love to work with her again.

Is the album dying art? In the dance environment where there is less focus on the long player format?

It certainly seems that way, which I think is unfortunate. With so much of music being based on quick hits on social media, and with songs getting shorter to take advantage of streaming services, I think the whole experience that an album used to bring is gone. It obviously started with the ‘death’ of the CD and it has only gotten worse. Music seems to be the only instance where this seems to happen. You don’t watch bits of a movie or only read a few chapters of a book…

You’ve remixed DURAN DURAN, PET SHOP BOYS, YAZOO, INXS, WHEN IN ROME and B-MOVIE among others in your various guises, do you have any particular favourites from your career?

Oh sure. The remix of INXS’ ‘Need You Tonight’ was a big one and I think it still holds up to this day. ‘Storm In A Teacup’ for ERASURE and others, but it’s tough to pick out individual ones. They are all different and hopefully special to the listener in their own way.

Is there anyone else who you would really like to work with or remix?

I would really like to remix DEPECHE MODE or A-HA. I know we would love to work with a bunch of other people but I am not going to mention any names in case I jinx something 😊

What’s next for DAYBREAKERS or anything else you are working on?

We have our first single signed to a label and that will be coming out soon. We are really excited about this one. We think it sounds great and hopefully others think so too!


The Electricity Club gives its grateful thanks to Alex Hush

DAYBREAKERS’ remix of ERASURE’s ‘Hey Now (Think I Got A Feeling)’ is released by Mute Artists and available now via the usual digital outlets

https://www.facebook.com/We.Are.Daybreakers

https://twitter.com/Daybreakers__

https://www.instagram.com/we.are.daybreakers/

https://www.facebook.com/Koishii.and.Hush

https://twitter.com/koishiiandhush


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
6th July 2020

« Older posts Newer posts »