Englisch Durch Technik
With heritage acts in particular, the UK has particular curse… the casual concert goer! Time and time again, THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s gigs are often populated by inebriated office Christmas parties waiting impatiently to singalong to ‘Don’t You Want Me?’, but showing little interest in anything else.
Meanwhile, some of OMD’s recent concerts have been marred by drunken louts who shoved their way back-and-forth from the bar rather than watching the actual concert but then, with spilled pints now delivered to their pals, would talk as loudly as possible during the songs! Frankly, this is rather akin to anti-social behaviour… surely there are things called pubs that people can go to for this!?
Meanwhile, down at the front, a bunch of bored housewives were throwing underwear at McCluskey and co. Now, this would be quite funny and novel at a single concert, but when the same fans do it for the umpteenth time at exactly the same point in the show, it just becomes boring-Boring-BORING! This is OMD, not 1D and seriously detracts from the music.
Luckily, there was none of this kind of nonsense at Cologne E-Werk where an enthusiastic and informed crowd acknowledged a superb performance by OMD with a series of roaring ovations and a terrace chant to tune of WHITE STRIPES ‘Seven Nation Army’! And it was all thoroughly deserved. The vibrant but relaxed quartet of Andy McCluskey, Paul Humphreys, Malcolm Holmes and Martin Cooper delivered a fine selection of hit singles but took a few risks too.
The rather pedestrian ‘So In Love’ and the now oddly dated ‘Walking On The Milky Way’ were finally dropped while the band proved they were as vital as ever with magnificent renditions of new songs such as the blistering ‘Dresden’, the magnificent ‘Our System’ and the wonderful ‘Kissing The Machine’.
The latter is a song with a direct KRAFTWERK heritage through being co-authored by Karl Bartos and by coincidence, his one-time Kling Klang colleague Wolfgang Flür was in attendance this evening alongside PROPAGANDA’s Ralf Dörper. Confirming OMD’s Germanic musical roots, this link is often not understood by some fans who have been a bit confused as to why the band have recorded an electronic album influenced by KRAFTWERK! ‘English Electric’ takes OMD on a romantic journey back to ‘Electricity’ and with Synthanorma inspired ditties such as ‘Metroland’, it is easily their best album for 30 years!
Of the other highlights, McCluskey’s frenzied windmills during the militaristic climax of Germany’s biggest selling single of 1982 ‘Maid Of Orleans’ inevitably drew approval, while the extended drum machine fade of ‘Enola Gay’ was bolstered by the crowd’s Teutonic shout of “ZU-GA-BE! ZU-GA-BE!” in time to the precise motorik rhythms…
This managed to be both frightening and enthralling in equal measures!
But it was Humphreys’ vocal performances on ‘Souvenir’ and ‘(Forever) Live & Die’ that led to much of the cheering, so much so that for the encore, McCluskey deferred to his smiling band mate and ‘Secret’ was swiftly chosen to close what was possibly the best OMD show for five or six years!
I don’t know. The well is empty at the moment and the last 9 months have been terribly time consuming and selfish in terms of the band consuming all of our time. So I think we realise there is a balance to be had in life which we have not been striking for the last 9 months; we are too old to jeopardise the relationships with the people that we love.
That has to be borne in mind – there’s still some creative sparks flying around; we have to light it anyway so yeah the short answer is we don’t know.
Do you think the band may have taken a different direction had they have stayed with Factory Records?
Probably, it’s hard to know! I think that we probably in hindsight wish that in the mid to late 80s, we’d had somebody who was a little bit more creative helping us to steer our course rather than allowing us to just chase the chart success of trying to break America which I think became an all consuming Holy Grail that really didn’t end up doing us any favours.
It’s giving yourself time, you cannot write an album in two months which is what we tried to do. Particularly with ‘The Pacific Age’, we just didn’t have the time to deliver an even amount of quality across the album… when the first nine things you write end up on the album, that’s not to be trusted!
When you play live, you seem to play ‘Souvenir’, ‘Joan of Arc’, ‘Maid of Orleans’ in that order. Apart from the tracks complimenting each other extremely well, is there any reason for this?
No, they just fell together, we never used to play them like that. It’s just when we reformed and we did the ‘Architecture & Morality’ tour that we did them in a row and… it just stuck that way. We like it.
I guess I’m intrigued and fascinated by historical characters that are hard to pin down, I mean ‘Helen Of Troy’ is not really about Helen of Troy, I’m just using her as much more of a metaphor rather than my fascination with Louise Brookes or Joan Of Arc for example.
I’m a historian so that’s really where the interest comes from.
VILE ELECTRODES have supported you on this tour, do they remind you of yourselves and how you used to be?
Yes and no… I mean obviously they are still having to do things the hard way because they don’t have the money, I remember that – although having said that, we don’t have the money to do much more than we are doing. I would love us to be doing an arena tour and having more days off with bigger lighting production and all that. But you know you have to cut your cloth accordingly. Obviously, they are a lot more analogue than we are these days – that would be the only connection to our early days and for the most part they are very much their own band. Neither Paul or I look as good in latex as Anais Neon does – even when we were younger, we wouldn’t have looked that good!
It would not be right for me to give them advice, having spent 35 years in the music industry in my own world.
I am not sure what I can give to somebody else who is coming at it from a different place and a different time. It’s a very different business to the one I started out it.
I mean we are very fortunate in so much that we established ourselves a long time ago… we have a bank of hit singles that pulls people towards us, we have album sales that have reinforced us, we have sufficient funds to self generate new albums go out and get contracts, we have enough fans to come and see us play live, all of which VILE ELECTRODES don’t yet have.
I hope that they will be successful when the album ‘The Future Through A Lens’ comes out and sells enough to fund themselves and keep going forward… it’s very, very difficult! I mean we saw a few years ago with MIRRORS that you know they were essentially funding themselves, they didn’t sell enough records and eventually they had problems with their record company and then they had problems internally and this is you know… money is a huge problem.
I’ve talked to Martin and Anais, they are certainly not doing it for the money – they would have jacked it in and got real jobs a long time ago. All they can do is just be passionate and do what they do. I just wish them all the best because they are nice people and it’s great music.
OMD’s ‘English Electric’ tour continues:
Lausitzer Seenland Festival (6 July), Toronto Danforth Music Hall (11 July), Philadelphia Union Transfer (12 July), Washington 9.30 Club (13 July), Boston Paradise Rock Club (15 July), New York Terminal 5 (17 July), Toronto Danforth Music Hall (19 July), Detroit Saint Andrew’s Hall (20 July), Minneapolis Varsity Theatre (22 July), Chicago Metro (23 July), Rewind Festival Scotland (28 July)
Please visit the official OMD website www.omd.uk.com for further details on all shows
For information on Karen A Buxton Boudoir Photography, please visit: www.facebook.com/KarenABuxtonBoudoirPhotography
Live review by Chi Ming Lai
Interview and Photos by Karen Buxton
22nd June 2013