An Evening at Epic Studios with WOLFGANG FLÜR + ANALOG ANGEL
It was once the venue for “the quiz of week”, but since ending its tenure as the base for ‘Sale Of The Century’ presented by Nicholas Parsons and Anglia Television, the now privately owned Epic Studios in Norwich has emerged as a key live music venue in the area.
With gigs from the likes of MIDGE URE, HOWARD JONES, TOYAH and PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING in the last few years, Epic Studios secured its biggest coup yet with an appearance from former KRAFTWERK percussionist WOLFGANG FLÜR. Working in association with Stephen Roper, author of the GARY NUMAN book ‘Back Stage’, one of the motivations for this event was that Roper had been unable to attend Herr Flür’s recent ‘Musik Soldat’ show in London. So rather than wait for the Schlagzeug legend to return to the UK, he approached Epic Studios and the event was born.
With Flür secured as the headliner, several acts were considered for the prestigious support slot. So with an eye on the crème of the UK’s independent electronic music talent, the opportunity was accorded to Glasgow’s ANALOG ANGEL, a band very much on the upward trajectory following their tour supporting COVENANT.
One thing that stands out about Epic Studios is its vast resources and how organised it is. Helpful signage is prominent while all the staff are extremely polite and hospitable. This is perhaps largely down to Epic’s policy of promoting staff from within. Giving something back to the local community, it runs an apprenticeship scheme in which places are highly sought after.
And it’s not about just giving a chance to anyone, candidates are rigidly assessed on their potential and attitude; those who are successful get continually monitored to test their commitment and ability. This is none more apparent when ANALOG ANGEL arrive for their set-up and soundcheck.
Welcomed on arrival by staff at Epic, the band are directed to the staging area and shown the facilities while the evening’s key personnel such as the lighting man and sound guy introduce themselves. The latter is a young lad named Ben, one of Epic’s sound engineering apprentices. His enthusiasm is a lesson to those wanting to sustain a career in the music industry.
While obviously having plenty to offer, he is also willing to listen and learn. Although primarily an indie rock fan, Ben is relishing the challenge of working with electronic acts. Indeed, he later enthuses about having seen EAST INDIA YOUTH the other week… this is how the synth music baton gets passed.
Downstairs, WOLFGANG FLÜR arrives early at the venue, but it turns out it’s to ink a brand new deal with Cherry Red Records. His first album since 1997’s ‘Time Pie’ as YAMO, it will be an eight track affair entitled ‘Eloquence’ and issued under his own name. When he arrives for soundcheck, he is impressed. After a short run through, he shouts out “the sound is good”!
As ANALOG ANGEL chill in the dressing room, talk turns to their photo session with up-and-coming photographer Simon Watson and what they should wear. The quartet have an interesting set of contrasts in their dynamic. John Brown is moody and intense like many lead singers, but at the opposite end, there’s the wisecracking party monster Derek McDonald, or Derek Van Door as he is now known for an incident involving his fingers being trapped while entering the AA tour van!
Then there’s the forthright, prog rock loving Ian Ferguson and the flirty, friendly Tracy J Cox who joined the band after contributing backing vocals to their acclaimed third long player ‘Trinity’. It would be fair to say that the band have not always paid much attention to their visual image. In fact, it has been rare for ANALOG ANGEL to have been photographed professionally together, other than on stage.
But as their fellow weegie Jim Kerr from SIMPLE MINDS recognised back in 1982, there is a need for colour photo sessions for media outlets to use. Watson’s request to snap the band on the roof of Epic Studios is politely declined for obvious safety reasons, but the use of the venue’s loading bay, and a nearby car park proves to be visually very effective.
It is almost show time and a significant number of people have already arrived; ANALOG ANGEL take to the stage for the most important gig of their career so far. Selected to appeal to a more synthpop inclined listenership, the setlist works a treat. ‘Drive’ goes down well, but it’s the more expansive soundscapes of ‘We Won’t Walk Away’ and ‘The Last Time’ that draw the audience into the joys of ANALOG ANGEL.
The performance has obviously impressed as the merchandise stand is met with numerous visits and requests to purchase CDs. Unfortunately, in their busy preparations for this gig, this has been overlooked. This may be the digital download age but at a gig, interested parties can buy and try instantly via the CD medium, sampling the band on the drive home. It’s not something that can be done with a download and chances are that any interested members of the audience may have already forgotten the band’s name by the time they wake up the next morning.
As with many prestigious gigs, it is a joy to witness the presence of luminaries from the Synth Britannia era mingling with the crowd. Andy McCluskey reveals to those around him listening that OMD are to play a special concert in 2016 featuring the ‘Dazzle Ships’ and ‘Architecture & Morality’ albums in full.
Meanwhile, Stephen Mallinder, formally of CABARET VOLTAIRE and now of WRANGLER, is happily joking away with people, quite the antithesis of the dark music forms he has been associated with. From the German side, former DIE KRUPPS bassist Rudi Esch is also present, network and promoting his ‘Electri_City’ music conference in Dusseldorf where KRAFTWERK and many other great acts like DAF and NEU! also emerged.
WOLFGANG FLÜR takes his place on the stage slightly later than planned, but he is welcomed as a hero when he heads straight into KRAFTWERK’s ‘Home Computer’. His performance is storying telling to music and visuals, with dad dancing to boot.
The excellent slice of synthpop that is ‘Cover Girl’, a track from his upcoming album also figures, while there is also the welcome addition of ‘Pocket Calculator’ into the set. Ending with his ironic militaristic marching while donning his Pickelhaube, the performance is a triumph at the close to capacity venue. Like with his previous shows, the amiable Herr Flür meets and greets his loyal followers afterwards, happily posing for photographs and signing autographs.
Such is his iconic role in changing the landscape of popular music, those who come to say hello span several generations and range from sixteen to sixty. Always the most sociable member of KRAFTWERK, the ever charming Musik Soldat still has an eye for the ladies, even with his wife filming every moment for prosperity.
The evening winds down and Stephen Roper is smiling, happy that his idea has been a success. A photo of himself with his wife and the man who was once a robot is his perfect souvenir of the evening. As the crowd disperses, Ian Ferguson appears to have become Andy McCluskey’s new BFF, the pair exchanging stories about Glasgow; the OMD front man’s father was from the city and in the ensuing conversation, Ferguson remarks to McCluskey “your Glaswegian accent is better than my Scouse!”
With the time to leave the venue, the Epic Studios staff kindly escort ANALOG ANGEL out to prevent any kind of ‘Spinal Tap’ incidents trying to find the exit. Ben receives a big cheer from everyone for his outstanding contribution to proceedings as the fully loaded AA ‘Turdbus’ leaves the building… only it doesn’t! After a few amusing stop / starts with Tracy J Cox at the wheel, the concert party gets safely back to the hotel. It turns out Mrs Cox hasn’t driven with a manual gearbox for over ten years!
And if that wasn’t already amusing enough, when the entourage retires to a well-known fast food outlet nearby to beat the munchies, two of the party are served their menu choices with the bottom burger buns missing!
It was just one of those great nights, filled with fun, laughter and good music. Like Cold War Night Life proved with their event ‘A Secret Wish’, the best electronic music events are those curated by electronic music enthusiasts.
This evening at Epic Studios was another one of those…
The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Stephen Roper and all the staff at Epic Studios
Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Simon Watson, Will Wilson and Chi Ming Lai
27th June 2015