Tag: Alan Wilder (Page 2 of 4)

The Electronic Legacy of MUTE RECORDS

Without doubt, Mute Records is one of the most important record labels in the history of electronic music. 

While the early electronic legacy of Virgin Records helped the genre gain its first foothold in the mainstream, the discerning ethos of Mute has maintained its presence in both pop and more experimental fields.

Like many, Mute supremo Daniel Miller began taking an interest in synthesizers as tools for making pop music after hearing KRAFTWERK’s ‘Autobahn’. The son of Austrian Jewish refugees, he was DJing on the continent after completing his film studies course when he became enthralled by the Kling Klang sound.

He was inspired to make electronic music himself but at the time, the equipment was prohibitively expensive. That all changed with the advent of affordable synthesizers from Japan manufactured by the likes of Korg and Roland.

Daniel Miller 1978Already a fan of German kosmische scene, his sense of experimentation and an adoption of punk’s DIY ethic led him to buying a Korg 700s. Wanting to make a punk single with electronics, he wrote and recorded ‘Warm Leatherette’ b/w ‘TVOD’ for a one-off independent single release in 1978.

He needed a label name and chose ‘Mute’ after the button that came on the equipment that he had used as a film studies student.

Distributed by Rough Trade, MUTE 001 was a surprise success and thanks to him including his mother’s North London home address on the back of the striking monochromatic crash test dummy sleeve, Miller started receiving cassettes from kindred spirits who were keen to explore the brave new electronic world; he realised that a new scene was developing.

Through his connections at Rough Trade, he became aware of former art student Frank Tovey. As FAD GADGET, Tovey recorded ‘Back To Nature’ which was issued as MUTE 002 in October 1979. A seminal work that was also critically acclaimed, it helped establish Mute’s credentials as a champion of electronic music.

DAF STUMM1The first album released on Mute was ‘Die Kleinen Und Die Bösen’ (translated as ‘The Small and The Evil’) by German band DEUTSCH AMERIKANISCHE FREUNDSCHAFT (DAF) in March 1980.

Miller had signed them because “they weren’t relying on past rock”.

The majority of STUMM 1 was recorded with the legendary Conny Plank at the controls of the studio recordings, while the remainder came from tape of a live gig at London’s Electric Ballroom.

DAF set the ball rolling in furthering Mute’s aspirations, while the Germanic influence continued through into the label’s cataloguing system as the album prefix Stumm was the German word for Mute.

Meanwhile, Miller was fascinated about the idea of synthesizers as the future of popular music and conceived a teenage pop group who would use only synths; he called them SILICON TEENS although in reality, this was actually his solo electronic covers project. Something of a novelty, his cover of ‘Red River Rock’ ended up on the closing credits of the Steve Martin / John Candy comedy ‘Planes, Trains & Automobiles’ in 1987!

But Miller’s dream became flesh and blood when he came across a young quartet from Basildon called DEPECHE MODE. Signed on a handshake 50/50 deal, while the group was a chart success, they fragmented after their 1981 debut album ‘Speak & Spell’. However the remaining trio of Andy Fletcher, Dave Gahan and Martin Gore recruited Alan Wilder, soldiered on and the rest is history. Meanwhile, the departed Vince Clarke went on to further success with YAZOO, THE ASSEMBLY and ERASURE.

With the label’s commercial success, Mute were able to back more experimental releases from Germany including the quirky single ‘Fred Vom Jupiter’ by ANDREAS DORAU & DIE MARINAS, and ‘Los Ninos Del Parque’ by LIAISONS DANGEREUSES. Mute’s business ethos, where money made from record sales allowed acts to develop within a sympathetic creative environment free from interference, proved to be key to its artistic and financial prosperity.

As the label expanded over the years, further signings included EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN, NICK CAVE, LAIBACH, WIRE, BOMB THE BASS (through the Blast First subsidiary), INSPIRAL CARPETS, MOBY and GOLDFRAPP. Meanwhile Miller took the ultimate step in his love of German music, acquiring the rights to the music of CAN and becoming the winning bidder for the vocoder used on ‘Autobahn’ when it came up for auction!

In May 2002, Mute Records was bought by EMI for £23m, although Miller remained as a figurehead and in charge of the company’s global activities. The label became the brand for the multi-national’s electronic music activities and when KRAFTWERK’s back catalogue was finally remastered by EMI, it was released under the Mute banner.

Daniel_Miller_by_Joe_Dilworth_sonar2014_2However, with rapid changes occurring within the industry as a result of the new digital marketplace, EMI and Miller reached an agreement in September 2010 to establish a second independently run record label under the name Mute Artists for new acts, while the Mute Records name and rights to the label’s archive recordings remained under the control of EMI via its new owners Universal. As owners of their own catalogue, DEPECHE MODE formally ended their association with the label that launched them and signed a lucrative licencing agreement with Sony BMG.

But the Mute story continues with acts such as MAPS and POLLY SCATTERGOOD, while Miller’s latest addition to the roster has been NEW ORDER whose new album ‘Music Complete’ will be out on 28th September 2015.

So what twenty albums or EPs best represent Mute’s electronic legacy? With a restriction of one release per artist moniker, here are ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s choices…

FAD GADGET Fireside Favourites (1980)

FAD GADGET Fireside FavFollowing the success of singles ‘Back To Nature’ and ‘Ricky’s Hand’ with a small but loyal fanbase now established, a FAD GADGET album was eagerly anticipated. It came in September 1980 with ‘Fireside Favourites’ co-produced with Eric Radcliffe and John Fryer. it developed on the minimal industrialism of the singles. The superb ‘Coitus Interruptus’ was a cynical commentary on casual relationships while the Cold War tensions were documented on ‘Fireside Favourite’.

‘Fireside Favourites’ was released as STUMM 3


SILICON TEENS Music For Parties (1980)

SILICON TEENS Music for PartiesFollowing the acclaim that was accorded to THE NORMAL, Daniel Miller decided to undertake a new project where rock ’n’ roll standards such as ‘Memphis Tennessee’, ‘Just Like Eddie’ and ‘Let’s Dance’ were reinterpreted in a synthpop style, with Miller singing like he had a clothes peg attached to his nose. With his inherent shyness, the vehicle he used was SILICON TEENS, a fictitious synth group where several young actors were hired to appear in videos and do press interviews.

‘Music For Parties’ was released as STUMM 2


YAZOO Upstairs At Eric’s (1982)

Yazoo-Upstairs-At-EricsDisillusioned by the pop circus following the singles success of ‘New Life and ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’, Vince Clarke departed DEPECHE MODE in late 1981 and formed YAZOO with Alison Moyet. Although they only released two albums, YAZOO’s impact was long lasting. The debut ‘Upstairs at Eric’s’ was a perfect union of passionate bluesy vocals and pristinely programmed synthpop. Songs such as ‘Only You, ‘Don’t Go’, ‘Midnight’ and ‘Winter Kills’ set a high standard but Clarke and Moyet parted ways.

‘Upstairs at Eric’s’ was released as STUMM 7


ROBERT GÖRL Night Full Of Tension (1984)

Robert Gorl Night Full On TensionIn a departure from DAF’s pioneering electronic body music, drummer Robert Görl lightened up considerably with a solo synthpop record that even had him posing bare chested by a swimming pool on the cover. ‘Night Full Of Tension’ even featured vocal contributions from EURYTHMICS’ Annie Lennox on ‘Charlie Cat’ and ‘Darling Don’t Leave Me’. Although not featuring on the original LP, the brooding but accessible single ‘Mit Dir’ was an electronic cult classic and included on the CD reissue.

‘Night Full Of Tension’ was released as STUMM 16


ERASURE The Circus (1986)

ERASURE The CircusAlthough success for ERASURE was not instant with debut album ‘Wonderland’ and its lost single ‘Oh L’Amour’, the chemistry between Clarke and Bell possessed a special spark. ERASURE toured the college circuit and built up a loyal fanbase, eventually hitting chart paydirt with ‘Sometimes’. ERASURE added political commentary ‘It Doesn’t Have To Be’ and ‘The Circus’ title track, while songs such as ‘Spiralling’ and ‘Hideaway’ confirmed they were more than just a great singles act.

‘The Circus’ was released as STUMM 35


LAIBACH Opus Dei (1987)

Controversial Slovenians LAIBACH played with Teutonic rhythms and Third Reich imagery, while their unique covers of QUEEN’s ‘One Vision’ and OPUS’ ‘Life Is Life’ indicated they were either ironic art terrorists or possibly, preachers of a dangerous political message. There were accusations of Mute tolerating artists having far right sympathies but with Daniel Miller’s Jewish heritage, this was unlikely. Their industrial torture made an impact with ‘Opus Dei’ and laid the foundations for many including RAMMSTEIN.

‘Opus Dei’ was released as STUMM 44


MARTIN GORE Counterfeit (1989)

MARTIN GORE Counterfeit‘Counterfeit’ allowed Gore to indulge in a mini-album of six covers with varying origins. The emotive traditional standard ‘Motherless Child’ revealed his love of the Blues while a great version of SPARKS’ ‘Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth’ was a fitting look back at the eccentric pop that would have fed the young Mr Gore. Reinterpretations of cult artists such as TUXEDOMOON, THE DURUTTI COLUMN and THE COMSAT ANGELS revealed there was a lot more to Gore’s record collection.

‘Counterfeit’ released as STUMM 67


DEPECHE MODE Violator (1990)

depeche_mode__violatorWhy is ‘Violator’ so important and highly celebrated? It is still DEPECHE MODE’s most complete and accomplished body of work. It was the classic Fletcher/Gahan/Gore/Wilder line-up firing on all cylinders and at their most happiest as a unit. The end result was four hit singles but also songs such as ‘Halo’, ‘Waiting For The Night’ and ‘Clean’ which were easily their equal. And on ‘Blue Dress’, Gore’s lyrics possessed an honesty that while dark and deviant, still retained a naïve innocence that many could relate to.

‘Violator’ was released as STUMM 64


NITZER EBB As Is (1991)

NITZER EBB As Is EP‘As Is’ saw Essex industrialists NITZER EBB at the height of their imperial powers. Although produced by the band, each song was mixed by a different artist or producer. These included Jaz Coleman from KILLING JOKE, producer Flood and MAGAZINE’s Barry Adamson. But the best number was ‘Come Alive’ mixed by Alan Wilder which had the legacy of ‘Violator’ stamped all over it. Although the subsequent album ‘Ebbhead’ which was produced by Wilder and Flood, appeared sans ‘Come Alive’.

‘As Is’ was released as MUTE 122


RECOIL Bloodline (1992)

RECOIL BloodlineWhile there had been two EPs ‘1 + 2’ and ‘Hydrology’ by RECOIL, Alan Wilder’s solo sideline to DEPECHE MODE, it wasn’t until 1992 that there was a full length album. Entitled ‘Bloodline’, it featured vocals from NITZER EBB’s Douglas McCarthy, Toni Halliday of CURVE and MOBY. Wilder’s brooding electronic soundscapes and meticulous production made their presence felt and it was McCarthy’s contributions to a cover of THE ALEX HARVEY BAND’s ‘Faith Healer’ that stole the show.

‘Bloodline’ was released as STUMM 94


MOBY Everything Is Wrong (1995)

moby-everything-is-wrongWhen MOBY was signed by Daniel Miller, he was considered to be a one hit wonder with ‘Go’ in 1991. His first proper album ‘Everything Is Wrong’ arrived in 1995. The superb instrumental ‘First Cool Hive’, the happy hardcore of ‘Feeling So Real’, the gospel punk of ‘All That I Need Is To Be Loved’ and the neo-classical ‘Hymn’ showcased his eclectic tastes. Miller’s tremendous foresight turned out to be a wise decision when the unexpected success of ‘Play’ in 1999 provided a boost in income for Mute.

‘Everything Is Wrong’ was released as STUMM 130



KOMPUTER EP CDMute175London-based duo Simon Leonard and David Baker began in 1982 as I START COUNTING and then morphed into FORTRAN 5. But as KOMPUTER, they created some heavily KRAFTWERK influenced numbers to make up for the lack of new material from Kling Klang. From their 4 track ‘EP’, ‘We Are Komputer’ was their own ‘The Robots’, while there was also the marvellous tribute to the first female Cosmonaut ‘Valentina Tereshkova’ which mined ‘The Model’.

‘Komputer’ was released as MUTE 175


PEACH Audiopeach (1997)

peachThe concept of PEACH was ‘ABBA meets THE KLF’. Released in September 1997, ‘Audiopeach’ is one of those albums that has been lost in the midst of ‘Cool Britannia’. The album’s reputation was based on the participation of its two instrumentalists Pascal Gabriel and Paul Statham. Completing PEACH’s line-up was singer Lisa Lamb. The album’s launch single ‘On My Own’ was classic pop for the modern era with Lamb’s vocal delivery akin to Belinda Carlisle going electro.

‘Audiopeach’ was released as STUMM 153


ADD N TO (X) Add Insult To Injury (2000)

ADD N to (X)While LADYTRON were using their Korg MS20s making sinewaves in a more pop oriented setting, ADD N To (X) took their MS series synths into more obscure, experimental territory. ‘Add Insult To Injury’ had one half written / performed by Ann Shenton and Steve Claydon, while the other was written / performed by Barry 7. The wonderful robotic sexual tension of ‘Plug Me In’ was the highlight while the fun continued with the bouncy ‘Adding N To X’ and the creepy noise fest of ‘Hit For Cheese’.

‘Add Insult To Injury’ was released as STUMM 187


GOLDFRAPP Felt Mountain (2000)

GOLDFRAPP Felt MountainOne of Mute’s best ever albums, ‘Felt Mountain’ was a superb introduction to the then electro Weimar Cabaret cinematics of Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory. Beginning with the superb ‘Lovely Head’ with its spine tingling whistle and MS20 assisted banshee wails, the album thrilled with Morricone style widescreen inflections to accompany an ascent to the Matterhorn rather than a trek through a Spaghetti Western. ‘Felt Mountain’ was a slow burner that was deservedly nominated for the Mercury Music Prize.

‘Felt Mountain’ was released as STUMM 188


VINCENT CLARKE & MARTYN WARE Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle (2001)

spectrum-pursuit-vehicle‘Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle’ was composed in 2000 as part of an art installation where the colours referred to in the titles of the six lengthy pieces were ‘programmed to cross fade imperceptibly to create an infinite variation of hue’ in a white clothed room. Tracks like ‘White – You Are In Heaven’, ‘Yellow – You Are On A Beach’, ‘Blue – You Are Underwater’ and’ Green – You Are In A Forest’ were all utilised to full effect with a binaural 3D mixing technique that was best heard using headphones.

‘Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle’ was released as STUMM 194


CLIENT Client (2003)

CLIENT th003In 2002, DUBSTAR’s Sarah Blackwood was recruited to front female synthpop duo TECHNIQUE by Kate Holmes. Somewhere in Leipzig supporting DEPECHE MODE, they became CLIENT and were mysteriously referred to as Client A and Client B in a ‘1984’ inspired Orwellian twist. Signed to Mute via Andy Fletcher’s Toast Hawaii imprint, they announced “Client… satisfaction guaranteed… innovate never imitate… we aim to please… at your service” before a “F*** OFF! DON’T TOUCH ME THERE!”

‘Client’ was released as TH 003


DAVE GAHAN Hourglass (2007)

DAVE GAHAN HourglassHis solo debut ‘Paper Monsters’ was a disappointment, but Gahan was still finding his feet as a songwriter, becoming more realised on ‘Playing The Angel’. His second album ‘Hourglass’ was better and ‘Kingdom’ could have made a great DM recording. But in the same way that Mick Jagger’s 1984 Nile Rodgers produced solo debut LP having very few takers meant that the ROLLING STONES would continue ad infinitum, would DEPECHE MODE still be going if Mr Gahan’s solo career had actually taken off?

‘Hourglass’ was released as STUMM 288


MAPS Vicissitude (2013)

maps-vicissitudeWhile Mute continues to diversify and experiment, the more esoteric pop aspirations of Mute’s synthetic roster continues. MAPS is the vehicle of James Chapman and with a more expansive electronic template, his third album ‘Vicissitude’ was a selection of very personal songs with a strong melodic backbone. Unafraid to let the instrumental synthesizer elements take a prime role in the overall aesthetic, tracks like ‘AMA’ and ‘You Will Find a Way’ put MAPS into the same league as M83 and EAST INDIA YOUTH.

‘Vicissitude’ was released as STUMM 354



Polly-Scattergood-ArrowsPOLLY SCATTERGOOD signalled the more electronic journey of her second album ‘Arrows’ with the marvellous electro-COCTEAU TWINS twist of ‘Wanderlust’. While there were still signs of her folkier roots, synthetic textures and technological trickery were very much part of the action. The sad but driving pop of ‘Falling’ and ‘Subsequently Lost’ attracted empathy with Polly World, while the highly emotive ‘Miss You’ and the dreamy ‘Cocoon’ displayed her passion and vulnerability.

‘Arrows’ was released as STUMM 328


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Simon Helm at Cold War Night Life
23rd June 2015, edited 14th February 2018


TEC 5 yearsELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK celebrates its fifth anniversary and it has been a glorious journey.

The site came into being on 15th March 2010 after the founding team discussed having an online platform to feature the best in new and classic electronic pop music. After weeks of deliberation, the decision to finally launch the site came at the HEAVEN 17 aftershow party for their triumphant gig at The Magna Science Park on 6th March 2010. That evening, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK met and chatted with HEAVEN 17’s Glenn Gregory and Martyn Ware, OMD’s Paul Humphreys and Claudia Brücken, best known as the singer of PROPAGANDA… by the end of the year, all four had given insightful interviews to the site.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK received a major boost in profile in May 2010 when its interview with Paul Humphreys was quoted by The Guardian as part of a news item announcing the release of OMD’s comeback album ‘History Of Modern’.

Key interviews with DUBSTAR and CLIENT’s Sarah Blackwood, LANDSCAPE’s Richard James Burgess, THE ART OF NOISE’s Gary Langan and ULTRAVOX’s Warren Cann also followed. Later in the year, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK featured promising new act VILE ELECTRODES for the very first time; they were soon to become a stalwart of the UK independent electronic scene.

MIRRORS Cologne2011-ladiesBut the first act to formally be reviewed was MARINA & THE DIAMONDS, reflecting the kooky female fronted keyboard based pop like LA ROUX, LITTLE BOOTS, LADYHAWKE and LADY GAGA that was prevalent at the time.

However, there was a changing of the guard on the horizon as new astute male fronted electronic based acts such as HURTS, VILLA NAH and MIRRORS appeared which the site took a keen interest in.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK has always prided itself in asking the questions that have never usually been asked, but which fans want to know the answers to. And it was with this reputation for intelligent and well researched interviewing that the site was granted its biggest coup yet when it spoke to NEW ORDER’s Stephen Morris. In the ensuing chat, Morris cryptically hinted that Manchester’s finest would return… and that is exactly what happened in Autumn of that year when concerts in aid of the band’s late friend Michael Shamberg were announced.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK was on a roll in 2011 as OMD’s Andy McCluskey, RECOIL mainman Alan Wilder, BLANCMANGE’s Neil Arthur, Mira Aroyo of LADYTRON, HOWARD JONES, THOMAS DOLBY and DRAMATIS’ Chris Payne all gave interviews. And in rather bizarre throwback to 1981, DURAN DURAN, THE HUMAN LEAGUE and JOHN FOXX released new albums on the same day in March. Meanwhile, up-and-coming acts such as AUSTRA, SOFT METALS, ELEVEN: ELEVEN and QUEEN OF HEARTS made a good first impression.

Events like ‘Return To The Blitz Club’, ‘Short Circuit Presents Mute’, ‘Back To The Phuture – Tomorrow Is Today’, ‘The Electronic Phuture Revue’ and the BEF Weekender reinforced the new found profile for music seeded from the Synth Britannia era and kept the team busy. ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK even found time to curate its own live event featuring VILE ELECTRODES.

2012 paled in comparison after such a fruitful year and several acts who were featured probably would not have gained as much coverage in more competitive periods. But the year did unearth talents such as CHVRCHES, GAZELLE TWIN, GRIMES, KARIN PARK, TRUST, METROLAND and IAMAMIWHOAMI who were eventually make a lasting impact. During this time though, MIRRORS sadly lost momentum and appeared to wind down after the departure of founder member Ally Young while VILLA NAH mutated into SIN COS TAN.

Ahead of ULTRAVOX’s recorded return with ‘Brilliant’, Billy Currie spoke to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK and MARSHEAUX headlined a sold out second event with The Blitz Club’s legendary DJ Rusty Egan as its special guest. EDM was also becoming big news internationally. But ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK stood its ground and showed little interest in this largely repetitive sub-genre as parties within the industry desperately tried to centralise synthpop and dance music with misguided promotional campaigns such as ‘Electrospective’.

Karin + RustyIt was quite obvious the industry was struggling to come to terms with a changing marketplace, as well as failing to distinguish between dance music and electronic pop.

Contrary to general perception that music using synthesizers was 80s, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK maintained a stance that electronic pop music didn’t start in that decade and certainly didn’t end there either. In fact, there was even an editorial diktat that banned its writers from using that horrific and lazy term of reference.

80s is neither an instrumentation style or a genre of music… tellingly, several PR representatives told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK that one of the site’s main appeals was that it avoided the whole nostalgia bent as represented by events such as ‘Here & Now’ and other media, both virtual and physical.

What ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK did in 2013 would take up a whole article in itself… 2013 turned out to be one of the best years for electronic pop since 1981.  Interviews with ALISON MOYET, GARY NUMAN, KARL BARTOS, MARNIE, ADULT. and MISS KITTIN confirmed the site’s impact. There was even a radio show with Rusty Egan which ran for 25 programmes on dance station Mi-Soul.

Meanwhile new releases from OMD, NINE INCH NAILS, BEF, PET SHOP BOYS, GOLDFRAPP, MESH, MARSHEAUX, SIN COS TAN, POLLY SCATTERGOOD and VISAGE reflected the vibrancy of the modern electronic scene.

But the biggest recognition of how influential the site had become was when VILE ELECTRODES were chosen to support OMD after being spotted by Andy McCluskey while he was perusing the site’s webpages.

Over the years, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK has written about a number of talents whose promise was never fully realised despite producing great music… THE SOUND OF ARROWS, SUNDAY GIRL, KATJA VON KASSEL and THE VANITY CLAUSE all featured several times, but timing and in the cases of the first three, record company interference stifled potential. Whether signed or independent, nothing can be guaranteed in the today’s music world.

Although the year started tremendously with an invitation to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK to meet KARL BARTOS and WOLFGANG FLÜR in Cologne, 2014 suffered next to quality of 2013.

But  more key figures from the Synth Britannia era were  interviewed including MIDGE URE, ex-CABARET VOLTAIRE frontman Stephen Mallinder and the often forgotten man of the period JO CALLIS, who was a key member of THE HUMAN LEAGUE during their imperial phase.

For the 25th Anniversary of DEPECHE MODE’s ‘101’, Alan Wilder spoke exclusively to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about how that live document became a major game changer for the band. And at his autobiography launch in London, Bernard Sumner revealed that NEW ORDER’s next album would be more electronic than the band’s last couple of offerings. Meanwhile, SUSANNE SUNDFØR’s various collaborations with RÖYKSOPP and KLEERUP enhanced her profile in readiness for ‘Ten Love Songs’, her most accomplished work yet. Also riding high were Glasgow’s ANALOG ANGEL with their third album ‘Trinity’ and a support tour with Swedish veterans COVENANT in 2015 was their reward.

The live circuit was vibrant and there was a third event which had a DEPECHE MODE flavour thanks to tribute band SPEAK & SPELL playing ‘Speak & Spell’ and ‘101’ sets. There was also a DJ set by Sarah Blackwood plus a special memorabilia exhibition curated by Deb Danahay, co-founder of the first official DM Information Service. At the same event VILE ELECTRODES celebrated the first anniversary of their debut album ‘The future through a lens’ having snapped up two Schallwelle awards in Germany for ‘Best International Album’ and ‘Best International Artist’.

As 2015 settles in, highly regarded acts within the electronic community continue to engage with The Electricity Club. German trio CAMOUFLAGE used an edit of ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s career retrospective on the band as liner notes for their CD ‘The Singles’. Meanwhile studio legend John Fryer, who worked with FAD GADGET, DEPECHE MODE, COCTEAU TWINS and NINE INCH NAILS, also stopped by for a chat as did BLANCMANGE’s Neil Arthur, securing a site record with his fourth interview for the site.

Newer artists over the last few years as varied as FEATHERS, KID MOXIE, HANNAH PEEL, I AM SNOW ANGEL, TWINS NATALIA, NIGHT CLUB, PAWWS, MACHINISTA, QUIETER THAN SPIDERS, PRIEST and TRAIN TO SPAIN have proved that electronic music is still very much alive. ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK appears to have reflected the interests of people who love the Synth Britannia era and have a desire to hear new music rooted in that ilk. 🙂

Tapio Normall + Hannah Peel for TECWhile things cannot carry on for ever, there is a belief that there is much more excellent music still to be created and discovered.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to all who have contributed over the last five years, be they writers, musicians, commentators, photographers, artists or models And a big thank you to everyone who has taken the time read an article on the site

Text by Chi Ming Lai
14th March 2015

DEPECHE MODE 101 25 Years On: A Short Conversation with ALAN WILDER

Depeche-Mode-101-sleeveIt was the document that put DEPECHE MODE into the big league.

But while ‘101’ affirmed the Basildon boys’ status into Trans-Atlantic Stadium Monsters, it also symbolised the end of the synth wars… the battle of Synth Britannia had now been won but with no fight left, the journey had come to an end.

And at the post-Live Aid roundabout, DEPECHE MODE had to take a different course to survive and maintain their new found prosperity.

So they got rockier and bluesy to fatten the sound for those huge venues while Dave Gahan’s stage gestures got more provocative and more physical as he had the cover the width of the stage. Even Fletch’s arms aloft gestures became a key part of the bigger show. This ultimately culminated with the pseudo-rock explosion of ‘Songs Of Faith And Devotion’ and its corresponding self-destructive tour. But all that was to come later…

Released 25 years ago in the UK on 13th March 1989, the ‘101’ double album and accompanying film directed by acclaimed filmmaker D A Pennebaker was aimed squarely at telling onlookers-at-large that DEPECHE MODE were no longer those fey synthpoppers in need of a good tailor, but a band with the potential to do battle with U2, who coincidentally had their own film ‘Rattle and Hum’ out in the same year.

While a popular live draw stateside in 1988, DEPECHE MODE had only previously headlined arena sized venues on America’s two coasts.

The popularity of British post-punk acts among white American teenagers thanks to the Anglophile soundtracks of John Hughes films like ‘The Breakfast Club’, ‘Pretty In Pink’ and ‘Some Kind Of Wonderful’ was at an all time high.

SIMPLE MINDS had nailed a US No1 with ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’ from ‘The Breakfast Club’ while OMD had hit the Top5 with ‘If You Leave’ from ‘Pretty In Pink’.

Indeed, Depeche’s American label Sire had attempted to relaunch them in this Hollywood centred environment by having their B-side ‘But Not Tonight’ as the theme to a largely forgotten teen movie ‘Modern Girls’. The song flopped which proved to be a blessing, especially when looking at the later career trajectories of SIMPLE MINDS and OMD following their initial post-John Hughes flushes of success…

To capitalise on the momentum of increasing US album sales of the album ‘Music For The Masses’ and their most successful American tour yet, they elected to play a ‘Concert for The Masses’ at the 70,000 capacity Pasadena Rose Bowl on 18th June 1988. The 101st and final show of their ‘Music For The Masses’ tour, it was a risky strategy at the time as the band had achieved only one Top 40 single ‘People Are People’ in the US.

But the buzz around the band, especially from the listenership of the influential college friendly radio stations such as KROQ indicated that DM’s newly Devoted American fanbase would make the special trip to witness what was effectively their own musical Superbowl.

Recorded around backstage antics and a road trip following a group of fans on their way to the show inter-dispersed with concert footage from various shows, it was to  establish DEPECHE MODE as a credible worldwide force, particularly with dissenters in the UK press who had always been resistant and cynical to their success.

The result of the release of ‘101’ was that even neutrals in the UK, who had bought the odd album or single in the past, were astonished to find synthpop classics such as ‘Everything Counts’ were now being aired to the masses in all the world’s stadiums… at least that was the perception. Jim Kerr of SIMPLE MINDS was quite bemused at their newly acquired status, retrospectively commenting to Word Magazine in 2006: “Who would’ve thought Depeche Mode plink-plonking away would play in stadiums?”

As a profile building exercise for DEPECHE MODE, ‘101’ was a big success but its legacy also had an effect on Mode’s contemporaries. Rather than opening doors, ‘101’ inadvertently shut them to others. Having been Vince Clarke’s original inspiration to take up the synthesizer and eventually launch DEPECHE MODE, main support act OMD could only watch in awe as their apprentices wowed the massive crowds night after night.

It must have been demoralising to Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys despite their own, not unsubstantial success in Europe. But in the rush to break America, OMD may have had a Top 5 US single to their name, but they could not (and have never been able to) attract the Devoted loyalty which Messrs Gahan, Gore, Fletcher and Wilder had steadily built and enjoyed.

101-FletchThey could only go one way after this and looking back, their split in 1989 was predictable!

Supporting proceedings that night in Pasadena was THOMAS DOLBY who also had to rethink his own artistic aspirations. Despite a Top 5 US hit single to his name, he had his own struggles with pressure for more hits from his various record labels.

As a solo act, he could not split with himself but after his 1992 album ‘Astronauts and Heretics’, he effectively retired from the music industry.

Working in Silicon Valley on music integration software for the brave new world of the internet with great success and developing the polyphonic ringtone engine for Nokia along the way, he only returned to music in 2006 and supported DEPECHE MODE again at London’s Hyde Park that same year.

By the time of the more organic but still primarily electro album ‘Violator’, DEPECHE MODE had overtaken all their peers, and this symbolism was highlighted when they played at Dodgers Stadium in August 1990 to conclude the North American leg of the ‘World Violation’ tour. The support act were ELECTRONIC, a supergroup made up of refugees from NEW ORDER and THE SMITHS plus both PET SHOP BOYS thrown in for good measure! Messrs Gahan, Gore, Fletcher and Wilder had now become the UK independent scene’s biggest post-punk success story.

One of the protagonists at the Pasadena Rose Bowl on 18th June 1988 was of course, Alan Wilder. In an exclusive interview for its 25th Anniversary, he kindly answered some questions about ‘101’ and discussed its legacy…

101-AlanWilder2In hindsight, the ‘101’ film, while good for DEPECHE MODE’s profile at the time, appeared to focus on some of the wrong things ie there’s too much footage of the fans on the bus, not enough actual music?

Even though Don Pennebaker had previously made music concert films (David Bowie at Hammersmith Odeon for example), he is primarily a documentary filmmaker – which was appealing to us although it is debatable whether the pre-determined set-up of the group of bus people (collected and auditioned a la ‘Big Brother’) is not an inferior form, as opposed to entering an already existing situation and truly being a fly on the wall. After all, Reality television has little to do with reality.

Once commissioned and given a fairly free reign, Pennebaker looked at his options and decided to make a film about what he considered to be the most (perhaps the only) interesting factors of the DM phenomenon. The fact that Don had not really even heard of the group, let alone any of its music, gave him an outsider’s perspective and he soon realised that he wasn’t likely to glean any pearls of wisdom from the band members. As individuals, we were not deep-thinking angst-driven people with massive world insight. His decision to focus on the fans was probably the right one.

In its defence, it shouldn’t be forgotten that we’ve all been saturated with the kind of voyeurism that Reality TV has spewed forth into our consciousness for more than two decades, but in 1987 this was an unusual and precarious approach.

Nobody knew what would transpire or whether it would be of any interest at all. I’d go as far as to say the idea was somewhat groundbreaking as it clearly pre-dates all that MTV malarky which most people consider to be where the Reality craze got started.

Also, the naivety and carefree exuberance with which the bus protagonists go about their adventures has a charm which could probably not be repeated today, given the knowing self-promoting instincts from most who take part in these ventures now, along with the predictable audience consumption, moral judgements and salacious anticipation of all things about to fall apart.

This kind of format has not only become hugely popular but also the centre of heated discussions about tabloidisation, media ethics, privacy and the representation of the real.

At the time, I felt short-changed by ‘101’ as I wanted the band itself to be explored more profoundly, preferably by someone who had knowledgeable insight into the music, our working practices and what we (albeit sometimes clumsily and naively) were generally trying to do. Pennebaker didn’t pretend to understand the band at all – he made no bones about that fact – but, with hindsight, he did manage to make a piece which says something about the era and I think, allied to the fact that it holds no pretentions (unlike some rock docs of the period – err… hummm… ‘Rattle and Hum’), it stands the test of time. Having said that, I find the film at best curious rather than ‘deep’.

The fanbase connection with the band appeared to be what was trying to be highlighted on ‘101’. For example, the crowd has been mixed in very loudly on the live footage and audio whereas a good number of live albums of the time would neutralise the audience noise?

I feel to highlight the fanbase connection was fair enough.

After all, this is the real crux of the DM fascination – how “four Walters from Basildon” (to quote an early single review) could form the source of nothing short of a worldwide phenomenon, the nature of which is quite perplexing, way out of proportion for a pop band – a strange, bizarre and enduring religion which has been demonstrated again more recently in Jeremy Deller’s film ‘The Posters Came From The Walls’.

Is that right about the crowd levels? I haven’t listened for a long time to the album but the film soundtrack may be even more that way.

Again, I haven’t watched the film for many years and it’s possible that the Pennebaker crew had some extra control over that music-to-crowd balance. My memory though is that we controlled the music mixes and so the album balance would have been the decision of those of us who mixed the tracks.

‘101’ symbolises DEPECHE MODE’s entry to the wider international stage but perhaps also, the end of Synth Britannia as of those support acts who played that day in Pasadena, OMD split up soon after while THOMAS DOLBY retired from the music industry a few years later. It was as if DM had set a bar that their peers couldn’t hope to reach… any thoughts on that?

I’m not sure that DM’s ‘success’ would have had any negative bearing on other electronic artists. If anything, the expectation of positive reverberations and opening of doors would have been more likely.

A lot of it was luck for DM though, coupled with plenty of donkey work touring in the US leading up to the big (and unexpected to such a degree) explosion. It seems the timing was right for that kind of music where genres were being choked by mainstream rock radio as a huge cult level of other music listeners were being shafted.

We benefited from a kind of breaking of the dam which finally gave way, resulting in those stations almost being forced into recognising and playing the newer UK artists of the time – such as The Cure, The Smiths, New Order, DM and many other groups which had been, up until then, considered ‘alternative’ or ‘cult’ in the states. I can’t hazard a guess about the examples you cite or speculate as to why some acts may have failed to capitalise. I do know that there is never a correlation which one should assume between the quality of a band / artist compared to the amount of people who turn up to their concerts. It’s a funny old game…

dm101_3With that in mind and with DEPECHE MODE established publically with ‘101’ as a ‘stadium act’, had the development into a more organic, rock / bluesy sound to suit those types of venues been a conscious move in order for DM to maintain that position with ‘Violator’ and ‘Songs Of Faith And Devotion’?

Subconsciously there may be an element due to the nature of the venues and larger (more distant) crowds needing to be serviced. Dave, I’m sure, would have welcomed the more ’rocky’ approach to release and enhance his own stage performances.

But ‘Violator’ is still a very electronic album when you listen to it now, and its less electronic elements, rather than derived from stadium experiences, were mainly influenced by the wave of hip hop and rap music which permeated the scene at that time. The methods of those artists employing more left-field sampling techniques left a significant mark on both myself and Flood.

We were attracted to the inherent feel of played drum loops for example rather than precisely programmed rhythm from machines or individual drum samples. This ‘looping’ was taken much further with ‘SOFAD’ of course – an album style conceived mainly because we didn’t want to just repeat ‘Violator’ despite its success. That would have been seen as stagnation and some of us at least were very wary of that.

You did not appear in the interviews or commentary for the bonus features on the ‘101’ DVD reissue, why was that?

A surprising amount of pressure was put on me to take part in the ‘director’s commentary’ idea, mainly from Daniel Miller and Pennebaker himself, but I didn’t feel I had some exciting anecdotes or anything particularly insightful to add for the reissue.

I’ve never enjoyed the commentary concept – frequently empty and often unnecessarily demystifying (I like to retain something for the imagination). The ‘101’ film is not exactly complicated and doesn’t contain any technical issues which needed explaining either. It speaks for itself.

Even though, on paper, the idea of a group and director ‘talkover’ maybe could have worked – i.e. jogging each other’s memories etc – I just knew that putting four rock band members together in a room to randomly comment would result in silly giggling, talking over each other and the spouting of mainly nonsense. And that filled me with dread.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to ALAN WILDER

Special thanks to Michael Rose

The DEPECHE MODE ‘101’ film and uninterrupted Pasadena Rose Bowl concert highlights are available as a 2DVD package via Mute Records. The ‘101’ 2CD live album is still available

For information on Alan Wilder’s RECOIL and his other projects, please visit http://blog.recoil.co.uk/

DEPECHE MODE’s own recollections of that June day in Pasadena can be found on their official website at http://archives.depechemode.com/specials/june_18_1988.html

Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Anton Corbijn
13th March 2014

GARY NUMAN: The Splinter Interview

Photo by Keith Martin

Photo by Keith Martin

If there is one man who has put the synthesizer on the map within popular music, it is GARY NUMAN.

Under the moniker of TUBEWAY ARMY, his memorable appearance on ‘Top Of The Pops’ in May 1979 with ‘Are Friends Electric?’ became many a music fan’s entry point into electronic music. The huge international hit ‘Cars’ swiftly followed and with it, worldwide fame and fortune.

The outstanding legacy of those two songs has put Numan is an awkward position, particularly in the UK where mainstream media only want to feature and talk about those two songs.

But by the same token in the last 20 years or so, ‘Cars’ in particular has been particularly lucrative, having been used in commercials for Carling, American Express, Nissan and Churchill.

This has allowed Numan to pursue his own distinctive and heavier path with albums such as ‘Exile’ and the critically acclaimed ‘Pure’. In a career of over 35 years with well documented highs and lows, it is Numan’s highs that have established him as a highly influential music figure. Covers of his songs by heavyweights such as NINE INCH NAILS, FOO FIGHTERS and MARILYN MANSON have been indicators of the high regard by which the former Gary Webb is held.

But is it not just the murkier world of alternative rock that has acknowledged its debt to Numan. Even in the dance and pop world where tales of dystopia and icy alienation are not easily embraced, samples of ‘Are Friends Electric?’, ‘Cars’ and ‘M.E.’ have respectively formed the basis of massive hit singles by SUGABABES, ARMAND VAN HELDEN and BASEMENT JAXX.

NUMAN-COLTON-FENTONGARY NUMAN’s new album ‘Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind)’ is the follow-up to 2004’s ‘Jagged’. Although 2011 saw the release of the out takes collection ‘Dead Son Rising’, ‘Splinter’ is Numan’s first full length album project for seven years.

Produced by Ade Fenton and mastered by Matt Colton, the album features amongst its guest musicians guitarist Robin Finck, best known for his work with NINE INCH NAILS.

It sees a reinvigorated Numan in dynamic form, experimenting with classical orchestration on ‘The Calling’ and a more vulnerable but soulful vocal style on ‘Lost’ that will be a fresh surprise to anyone remotely interested in his work.

Dark dubdrops and spaces provide the much needed variation from previous works while sitting alongside are blistering anthemic synth assisted rockers like ‘Who Are You?’ and ‘Love Hurt Bleed’. With the opening gambit of ‘I Am Dust’ as a formidable statement of intent and the beautifully dramatic ‘My Last Day’ as its closer, ‘Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind)’ is possibly Numan’s most significant work since 2000’s ‘Pure’.

GARY NUMAN kindly took time out to chat to from his new home in LA where he was in good spirits despite his wife Gemma’s illness at the time…

LOW-RES Gary Numan - Splinter - album artwork FINAL (2)‘Splinter’ is finally upon us…it’s been a long journey?

It’s f***ing ridiculous isn’t it? *laughs*

It hasn’t taken 7 years to make; it’s just been 7 years since the last one! Half of it was written in the last 8 months since I moved to LA.

A bit was in the 6 months before the move but the bulk of it was written in the last year and a half plus there were some of it that came from various half hearted attempts at the start… I’d probably got about 30-35 songs in the course of that 7 years but never got stuck into it until the last year or so.

There are many reasons for that; shortly after ‘Jagged’ we had a baby which was really cool; but then we had another unexpectedly and then another shortly after! So our life went from being fairly free, easy and hedonistic to suddenly having a family where your life’s not your own anymore! I, in particular didn’t adapt to the family thing very well at all!

I really love the children but the life that came with them I did not love at all… I really missed my old life. I’d turned 50 and was having a mid-life crisis; I got really panicky about dying and getting illnesses, weird paranoia, crying in the streets when I saw old people… I properly weirded myself out! So I went on anti-depressants, Gemma had post-natal depression from the second baby right through to our third so she had a terrible time. We both struggled with the responsibility of parenting and its fears, so we were both at our worst when we needed to be strong for each other. We started to have problems and it was horrible!

Photo by Richard Price

The last thing I wanted to do was start another album. I do them quite challenging I have to say. I find each one more difficult than the one before… the emotional rollercoaster that you go on!

They’re massively important to your life and to your future so it’s very easy to become overly self-critical and to have confidence issues. If I have a bad day in the studio, it has a terrible effect on me and it’s hard to keep positive. And that has a knock-on effect on your family. So you grate on each other again.

Luckily, we worked all through that and we’ve come out of it stronger than ever. I‘ve adapted to family life and it’s brilliant, I love it… we are honestly stronger than ever. We loved each other and got through it. I started working on the album more seriously but by now I had the children and they were massively distracting. I didn’t want to miss anything and so I spent far too much time being a dad. So when I got used to be a dad, I spent far too much time doing that rather than being a songwriter!

But then, the album started to go really well and I found because of all the sh*t we’d gone through, I had a huge amount of things to write about. So songs like ‘Lost’ and ‘The Calling’, they’re not the happiest of tunes to be really honest, but it all came from a very difficult time! Food for creativity! *laughs*

=Numan-Dead-Son-RisingHow did the momentum for finishing ‘Splinter’ begin? 

I actually did get a lot of confidence from ‘Dead Son Rising’ because that had its own problems; Ade bullied me into finishing that! *laughs*

It’s entirely to Ade’s credit that album ever happened because he was trying to do that while this sh*t was going on. At one point I said “I don’t like it” and I turned my back on it for a year and a half! I only rediscovered it by accident when we were on holiday; Gemma was playing a track in another room and I didn’t recognise it… I thought it sounded great!

So I went running to her and said “What’s that? It’s brilliant! If I’d written that stuff, I’d be writing albums” and she went “…it is you, YOU F***ING IDIOT!” – she said it was the ‘Dead Son Rising’ stuff that I didn’t like! I didn’t even recognise it and I went “I was wrong then because that’s really good!” *laughs*

So I rang Ade up and apologised about being so stupid so that we could finish the album. I suddenly did a whole load of work and got it done. I ended up being really proud of it. It got great reviews and the fans liked it. But I still didn’t throw myself wholeheartedly into ‘Splinter’ as it still felt like a huge project but that was the turning point. And when I came to LA, I built a new home studio and my work ethic was like I was 21 again. I was in there every day churning stuff out. The children were forbidden from even knocking on the door… as soon as I turned a machine on, a red light went on outside so they knew! I hadn’t been that efficient before!

Had ‘The Fall’, which was on ‘Dead Son Rising’, originally been intended for ‘Splinter’?

No, that was a demo from ‘Jagged’ or ‘Pure’. ‘Dead Son Rising’ had started out as a collection of stuff I hadn’t released. It ended up being mainly new songs funnily enough but that was the way it worked out. Often you will write a song but decide not to put it on an album, not because it’s a bad song but it doesn’t quite suit that album. So you put it on a shelf and normally, you forget all about it. It was only a few years ago that I started keeping stuff I didn’t use, I used to erase everything!

Ade was round my house and asked whether I had any unreleased stuff. We went to the studio and found about 14-15 songs that we thought were good that were of a similar vein we could use. So when I got back from holiday, I wrote some new stuff so it ended up an album of more new songs but ‘The Fall’ and ‘When The Sky Bleeds He Will Come’ were definitely old ones.

On first listening, although it’s still heavy, ‘Splinter’ appears to be a lot more freer, looser than ‘Jagged’ with more variation?

I think that’s true.

It’s far more varied than ‘Jagged’ and ‘Pure’, more variation in tempo, it doesn’t hammer on about God the way the last few have done! I learnt a lot from ‘Dead Son Rising’ because my original idea was really bad.

I was just going to make 12 songs, everyone of them was going to be a huge anthemic singalong epic… aural assault, brain damage, all that kind of thing! Then when ‘Dead Son Rising’ came out, that was very varied and I thought that was actually much more interesting from a songwriting point of view. A lot of the fan and media reaction commented on the fact that it was varied compared to what I’d done before.

So when I started to work on ‘Splinter’ in earnest, that became a requirement that we wouldn’t do this one-dimensional idea I’d envisaged. We did the opposite and made it more varied. We were careful about what songs we chose to make sure that we had that. I honestly think it’s a much better album to the one before it, a much more interesting listening experience than if I’d have stuck with my original idea… which was a sh*t idea! *laughs*

‘I Am Dust’ is a terrific opener that is a lot more electronic than some were expecting? Some have reflected it’s thematically close to ‘We Are Glass’…

We definitely moved away from guitars but they’re still on it; Robin Finck’s on it for a start, he’s one of the best guitar players in the world. But it’s an emphasis thing. On the previous albums, it’s shifted very much towards guitars being very prominent but this one is very much on electronic music… some songs don’t have any guitars on at all! It’s still the same mixture of instrumentation as before but the emphasis is different.

I don’t think I play guitar on any songs at all on ‘Splinter’… I may have done on the demos but not on the finished versions. It was a conscious decision right from the outset to make a more electronic album. But we still wanted it to be heavy and that industrial rock vibe running through it.

Arabic overtones come into the atmospheres of your work quite a bit now like on the ‘Splinter’ title track?

I’ve actually wanted to make an Arabian kind of album, that sort of vibe, for a long time but never actually done it. What I have done with ‘Splinter’ is sprinkled it over top of some of the songs. I really love it, some of the instrumentation in particular, the structures and the melody flows are beautiful, very atmospheric and emotional. And I do think it translates quite well to the sort of thing I do, I think it works. I just haven’t had the courage yet to go into it wholeheartedly, I’m still cowardly tinkering round the edges of it. But on this album, it’s more than I’ve done before but it’s still very much just a flavour like a gentle herb drizzled across the top.

Photo by Keith Martin

That’s interesting that you mention beauty, because it’s not necessarily been a term used to describe your work…

…but there’s always been melody; if you strip out all of the heaviness, quite often what you’re left with is quite pretty melodies.

I really noticed that on the ‘Jagged’ album. During the sessions, we would strip the songs back down to piano and the melodies were quite pretty.

But it’s the way we produce them that makes them heavy. You could take them in a very different way and have a beautiful album. I think a lot of that is true on ‘Splinter’.

If you listen to the song ‘Lost’, we deliberately haven’t produced that… it’s stayed sparse and naked; essentially it’s just a piano and a vocal all the way through it. The quality of the melody on that really shows because it’s undisguised. I think it’s the thing I’m best at from the melody point of view… it’s my only string point! I’m not a particularly good musician truth be told and Ade is by far a better producer than I’ve ever been. But melody is probably the one thing that I can do.

The vocal on ‘Lost’ intrigued me because it’s kind of… soulful?

Me and Ade had so many arguments about this! *laughs*

Ade decided and I reluctantly agreed to put the vocal on with virtually no effects on it whatsoever. When I used to make albums up to ‘Jagged’, I put a lot of effect on my voice because I’ve never been confident about it. I didn’t think it was very good and I would put double tracking on it, delays, reverbs… I would just swamp the f***er!

Ade and Gemma had been saying for ages that I should let the voice come out on its own and louder in the mix. So we have done it and it’s very reduced effects, one or two delays and gentle reverb. There’s no ADT, no harmonising which was my in-the-pocket effect for whatever I did… that’s all gone! And so to my ears, it’s horribly naked and I’m really uncomfortable about it! *laughs*


Photo by Keith Trigwell

‘Love Hurt Bleed’ is a good hybrid of guitars and electronics, a real highlight… did you change the ‘Splinter’ songs much from having played them live?

Not a lot, they were pretty well worked out but they are different. ‘Love Hurt Bleed’ has been played live for a couple of years now, it’s almost like an old song. It is different on the record but in detail really rather than anything dramatic. The structure is as it was, although we’ve made it more powerful than what we were able to do live funnily enough.

We played ‘I Am Dust’ live and that might be a little bit different on the album with the main groove. I’ve been compiling all of the demos and I noticed some of them were quite different, others were just more polished. But as songs, they were very much the same.

The way I work is I write them here and I work them up to a reasonably finished level, but knowing Ade is going to change everything! I give him a quality direction as to what I’m aiming for. He then works on them, sends them back and we have an argument. We change things, we argue again and we end up with what we end up with.

You joked in the ‘Splinter’ trailer about having a song at 150BPM. Do you find you have a natural aversion to faster tempos now?

Yes, I do! I think it’s impossible to convey any kind of atmosphere at that sort of speed! It’s just going to be a mental dance track and that’s it! The thing on the trailer that I was joking about was my drummer has been having a go at me for ages that I couldn’t write a song at 150BPM. I said “I can, I just don’t want to”! So we had a £50 bet on it! So there is one that’s 150 but it’s actually at half tempo, it’s running at 75… you can write everything at double time and halve it when you record. So technically, he owes me £50! But he’s not having it because he goes “it’s not really is it? It says 150 on the machine but it isn’t!” *laughs*

Which one was that?

I can’t remember! It might be ‘Love Hurt Bleed’! *laughs*

‘Who Are You?’ will be popular with those who like your uptempo anthemic songs like ‘Listen To My Voice’, what’s that one about?

I wrote that for a film; when I moved to LA, I was asked by a company to write the end credit song. It came out really well and I thought it would be good to have it on the album because it would help their film and the album but I don’t think that will work now due to the scheduling. So lyrically, it’s to do with the subject matter of the film which about a musician who has a schizophrenic personality. He’s actually a murderer but is also very charming so it’s about that.

In a sense, it doesn’t sit quite as comfortably within ‘Splinter’ for that reason but it works well. It sounds like it belongs there and gave the album another big uptempo track which it needed. I think the balance of the album is right; without that song, there would have been too many slower, doom steady kind of things so it gave it the right balance.

Do you know the title of the film?

I don’t actually, it had a working title but they’re not calling it that and they haven’t told me what they’re releasing under yet but we might know soon.

Your friend JOHN FOXX still plays with vintage analogue kit while you’re happy with using the latest gear. What’s your favourite piece of equipment at the moment whether virtual or hardware, and where do you see music technology heading?

Photo by Gavin Watson

I’m very software based. There’s a company called Native Instruments who do some great stuff.

There’s another called Spectrasonics who make the backbone of what I do, they’ve got a bit of software called Omnisphere which is phenomenal but everyone’s got it unfortunately. So you have to be careful that you don’t use sounds everybody else has heard, you got to try and manipulate them into something new or else you will just become a preset jockey as so many people are!

It’s difficult to avoid it really because some of the sounds are just so amazing! Much as I understand other people wanting to go back to old equipment, I absolutely do not share it. I have no interest in it really… it might be because I’ve been around a long time, but I feel I got all the good sounds out of that equipment when I had it the first time.

And if I go back to it, it’s going to sound reminiscent… if I could come up with different sounds, they’re still coming from the same place, they going to have that buzzy analogue sound to them. And much as I love it, I feel like I’ve used it and for me, it will sound as if I’ve gone backwards… people will be going “ooooh great, that sounds like ‘The Pleasure Principle’”! I don’t want people to say that!

My interest in electronic music has always been to try and find sounds that I’ve not heard before. That’s always been the thing that’s most exciting and fun about it. So going back to old equipment will sound like variations of things I have done before, it doesn’t hold any real interest but each to their own. If other people find that inspiring and of interest, then that’s great.

I look forward to what Spectrasonics are going to do next. I get really deep into the technology for new sounds. When I was making this album, I was finding all kinds of software. I got loads of stuff from a company called, and it’s a terrible name, Best Service! What a sh*t name for a company but brilliant software! A lot of the Arabian stuff that you mentioned came from them. Mark Of The Unicorn did a fantastic bit of software with Arabian stuff too.

NUMAN-found-minimoogSo what did you do with the Minimoog you found in your garage?

That is still being rebuilt! I got an email a few months ago from the guy who’s repairing it with a photo and it looked perfect.

He said he was waiting for some more parts which are quite hard to find and… I’ve heard nothing from him since! *laughs*

I had another Minimoog before that which I had rebuilt but the one that I found in my garage when I was moving to emigrate to the US, that was in a terrible state! F***ing hell, I couldn’t believe it! You’re hacking away at a bush and there’s a synthesizer underneath it! *laughs*

Is that going to end up in a museum, or are you possibly going to use it?

I was going to sell it because I’ve got no love for them whatsoever. But I’m beginning to build some kind of affection for that little one because it’s had such a horrible life… it’s toured with me around the world and been on my albums, and then I’ve abandoned it in a loft and a bush grows on top of it. That’s harsh! And now it’s hopefully all lovely and working again… whether I ever use it again, I doubt very much but I think I will keep it. I might actually mount it on the wall and just have it there, I think it deserves to be kept. Or I might even donate it to the Hard Rock Café or someone like that who might want it for a display item. But I’ll probably sell the other one…

I was interested in asking why with the excellent ‘A Prayer For The Unborn’ remix Andy Gray did back in 2001, you hadn’t pursued that more blippy but dark electronic direction as it appeared to suit you?

Yeah, I do like it… and that’s the version we always do live. I’ve not played the original version of that since Andy did his version. He did an amazing version of ‘Dead Sun Rising’ as well. He’s just brilliant, he’s a f***ing genius. In the future, I would definitely want to make a full album with Andy Gray and it would be more that way. We’ve done a couple of songs together and I love them both.

Sometimes, it’s about your own ambitions and what you want to do. Me and Ade go in a certain direction which I love and that is what I want at the moment, I’ve been pretty clear about where I want to go. It could be that we will go in different directions, I don’t know. With Andy, I would go into it with a slightly more open mind and see where it takes us.


Photo by Keith Trigwell

Your US tour includes two dates opening for NINE INCH NAILS. Is the possibility of you and Trent Reznor writing and recording together getting closer to becoming a reality?

It’s something that we’ve mentioned in the past a few times. Before, being in England was always a bit of an issue because you can’t just drop in when you have a free hour.

Trent works constantly, I’ve never known anybody with a work ethic like it! It should be much easier now, I’m only 20 minutes away from him.

But now the whole NINE INCH NAILS thing is up and running again and he’s mega busy with that. I’ve seen two of the shows already and it’s amazing. He sent me the album a few weeks back and it’s really cool. He’s just really good at what he does isn’t he? It’s always going to be good.

So I hope to, that would be something I’d be really excited about doing at some point in the future, but somewhat intimidated… it’s the only outstanding one for me. We’re mates and we live near each other, so it would seem to be something that is likely to happen at some point in the future but we’ll see… it’s been 10 years since we first talked about it so it’s obviously not going to happen anytime soon! *laughs*

You were spotted at DEPECHE MODE’s first London date on the ‘Delta Machine’ tour. How does it feel to know you and DM have both made such a worldwide impact from your Synth Britannia beginnings?

Yeah… their career’s done rather well compared to mine I would say! They’re doing football stadiums in every country on the planet and I’m not! I’m not jealous! Not envious at all about what’s happened to them! *roars of laughter*

They’ve done amazing and go from phenomenon to phenomenon. Just unbelievable really how well they done.

Alan Wilder is a really good mate of mine, I regret that he’s not in the band anymore.

I love DEPECHE MODE but my favourite period is ‘Songs Of Faith & Devotion’ where they went darker, heavier and frightening almost!

I think Alan has to take the lion share of the credit for that because I know he shaped that whole sound on ‘Black Celebration’, ‘Violator’, ‘Songs Of Faith & Devotion’ etc. For me, it got more and more interesting, and was really inspiring.

‘Songs Of Faith & Devotion’ was a key album in my music becoming much heavier back in 1994 and having the long career that I have had. In the early 90s, my career was pretty much dead and buried. But then I made ‘Sacrifice’ which resurrected me and off I went again. ‘Songs Of Faith & Devotion’ has a real big hand to play in that album so I’ve got a huge gratitude to Alan Wilder. He probably more than anyone was instrumental in saving my career. I wrote the songs, but I don’t know I would have done if I hadn’t had heard ‘Songs Of Faith & Devotion’. It just made me think differently and it made me want to make a different kind of music. It was massively important and that’s just the truth of it.

Have you and Alan Wilder ever discussed working together?

We never have actually but that would be great! He’s another one who’s an absolute genius. I love all of his RECOIL stuff and moan at him a lot that he should work more and get a singer! *laughs*

The work that he does is fantastic and maybe that’s something I should pursue because I love him, we get on really well… yeah… you’ve got some good ideas!

The move to the States appears to have relaxed you, you’ve even been tweeting photos of your holiday and dog Wilbur…

It hasn’t changed my songwriting at all, I still write the same sort of things as I did before.

But in terms of life, it’s an amazing place to be. It’s difficult to praise up somewhere else without offending the British, because they get very easily offended of you don’t love Britain. *laughs*

I do love Britain, but moving here was very difficult decision to make. I have to say having done it, and there and many things I do miss like friends and family, it’s amazing here.

And 20 minutes drive away is the ocean, Malibu or Hollywood. I’ve had breakfast in Hollywood and you can park outside a restaurant… it’s not like England where there’s one parking space for every 2000 cars and if you do find one, you have to pay £10 a minute! Here, there’s valet parking for $2 for the day! Brilliant!

The weather is beautiful, you can live a very outdoor life because it doesn’t rain. It’s pretty here because they’re got irrigation and there’s greenery. There’s so much to do and so much entertainment here. It’s a culture unashamedly geared to having a good time. In England, you’re kind of made guilty for having a boat. It’s so different here and they seem to enjoy life and living in way I’ve not experienced anywhere else.

There is far less cynicism, less aggression. The British view of America is guns and violence, and although that is here, it’s very much located in certain areas. Where I live is peaceful and calm. I’ve not seen a fight since I’ve been here and I’ve been here 9-10 months now. I guarantee I could get off the plane in England and see that within an hour anywhere, any time of the day!

You gonna see a little drunk f***er or some thug in the street shouting or spitting! It’s kind of part of our culture and for all the talk of guns and violence in the US, it is not part of your day-to-day life. I’ve not been out for one single moment with the children where I tried to shoo them away or take them to one side or move on, not at all! Yet, it happened regularly in England, even in my little local village. So from that point of view, it really is better.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to GARY NUMAN

Special thanks to Duncan Clark at 9PR

‘Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind)’ is released on 14th October by Mortal Records / Cooking Vinyl as a CD, deluxe CD and double vinyl

GARY NUMAN’s ‘Splinter’ Tour includes:

Atlanta Masquerade (25th October), Asheville Mountain Oasis Festival (26th October), Washington Black Cat (27th October), Brooklyn Music Hall of Williamsburg (29th October), Sunrise BB&T Center (October 30 – with NINE INCH NAILS), Orlando Amway Center (31st October – with NINE INCH NAILS), Bristol 02 Academy (7th November), Dublin Button Factory (8th November), Sheffield 02 Academy (11th November), Newcastle 02 Academy (12th November), Glasgow 02 ABC (13th November), Manchester Academy (14th November) Oxford 02 Academy (15th November), London Roundhouse (16th November), Brighton The Dome (18th November), Wolverhampton Wulfrun Hall (19th November)




Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Album artwork photography by LaRoache Brothers at Woolhouse Studios
Other photos as credited or from Gary Numan’s Official Facebook page
17th October 2013


michal & martin1The release of DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Delta Machine’ this week has been welcomed by Devotees around the world. Cited by many as a return to form, Mode fans are in a happy place right now.

One fan who is especially happy is noted Slovakian harpist MICHAL MATEJCIK who was invited by none other than Martin Gore to play at the weekend’s album launch party in Vienna which DEPECHE MODE also attended and performed at.

He came to prominence within the DM Community following a solo European tour performing DEPECHE MODE songs such as ‘Pimpf‘, ‘Enjoy The Silence‘ and ‘A Question Of Time‘ rearranged for the harp. His performances drew acclaim and praise, culminating in a special broadcast of one show on Bratislava‘s Radio FM last December.

He once described playing harp as being like a union between music and painting for him. As well as playing in large orchestras and smaller ensembles, Michal also teaches piano and harp. Last year he toured with GEORGE MICHAEL and the multi-national popoperatic vocal quartet IL DIVO.

Michal kindly spoke to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about the motivations for his moving, classical reinterpretations of Basildon’s finest and opening for his favourite band…

BAS2013-michalHow did you first discover DEPECHE MODE?

It was sometime in the late 80s when I got hold of some tapes from a school mate of mine. I grew up in ex-Czechoslovakia in the times when the music from The West was under strict censorship. The sources for this music were only the smuggled tapes in very bad quality with not even whole songs and recordings from Western radio stations. After hearing those synth sounds, it was love at the first sight.

So were you at any time interested in taking up the synthesizer in your own musical career rather than the harp?

I have been playing piano since my childhood and as a child I wanted to have some synthesizers and make music like DM. Only when I was 18 did I start playing harp and at that time, DM were already using more guitars and drums than synthesizers. So I didn’t think about the change in the end.

How did you get inspired to arrange DM songs for the harp?

I arranged DM songs for the piano and guitar first so when I begun to play the harp I tried only ‘Enjoy The Silence‘ because it’s very melodic. I thought it was impossible to arrange other songs. A few years later , a very good friend of mine – Martin Vladar (who you might be familiar with from his collaboration on Alan Wilder’s ‘Collected‘ film) organised a DEPECHE MODE party and asked me if I could play some songs on harp at the party, because that would be something brand new, not what fans have seen and heard before. I thought it was a very good idea – bringing DM songs to fans but in a completely different way. So I started to arrange more tracks.

Of course in your day job, you have been integrating classical into pop music and recently toured with GEORGE MICHAEL. What was that experience like for you?

It was the best experience in my life. The touring is very exciting and playing in sold-out big arenas with a popstar like GEORGE MICHAEL was always my dream. This tour with GM was very important for me and it was nice to play song ‘I Remember You’ alone with him on stage, only the two of us. I was lucky to experience everything backstage and see all crew in action, see whole process of building the stage and meet interesting people like Kerry Hopwood who is also programmer on the DM tour.

Michal with Alan WilderAs a classically trained musician, you are in a better position than most to assess the music. So what is it about the quality of DM’s work that makes them so appealing in a theoretical sense?

In theory, musically speaking, it is combination of all the harmonies, sound colours, rhythm ideas, instrumental riffs, tones range, overall development and timing in the track, the minor/major key of the song and also Dave and Martin’s voices. All these factors make the songs interesting.

I think Alan used to mix them all very well with his meticulous sense for soundscapes and I guess something’s got lost from their songs after his departure. Anyway, this question would be very good topic for a dissertation at the Royal Academy Of Music. 🙂

‘It Doesn’t Matter Two’ is a case in point as that appears to have been influenced by modern composer Philip Glass?

Oh really? Thank you, my students like to play Glass, so for the next lesson, their homework will be ‘It Doesn’t Matter Two’ 🙂

Well, I don’t think I have the right to say it was influenced. If the influence for this song was by Philip Glass, I know that Alan at that time was listening to his music. We could as well say that ‘Speak & Spell’ was influenced by Mozart, because the album is very simple, easy, funny – just like Mozart’s music.

What is your favourite DM song to play live on the harp?

‘It Doesn’t Matter Two’ works well and I like to play ‘Clean‘ also. This last track from ‘Violator‘ is very emotional and atmospheric with a heavy melody and I am glad that I could arrange it for such an instrument like harp. Actually I have adapted the acoustic version DM played during PTA studio sessions.

Always when I come to play the DM covers on harp I ask this question: “Will the audience accept my arrangements?”. DM fans are not really that kind of people who visit classical music concerts and don’t have the experiences to listen to one classical instrument for one hour. So for some tracks, I use programmed drums or Dave’s vocals and try to make it more interesting for the audience.

Has there been a DM song you’ve wanted to do but that just doesn’t work on the harp?

Oh yeah, plenty of them of course. There are many reasons why DM songs wouldn’t work on harp. Firstly, there are emotional lyrics people relate to and when I arrange DM songs for harp in the instrumental form, the lyrics are lost and they just don’t work that well. I can work with melodies only and if there is a good strong one, then it’s good for harp. But the most problematic tracks to adapt for harp are ‘Songs Of Faith & Devotion‘ songs. Every song has a fantastic development, graduating layering of sounds with every verse and every chorus plus there are really big atmospheres in the songs. That’s why it’s difficult to play them only on one instrument.

How was it performing at the Vienna album launch party with DEPECHE MODE present?

It was really an honour to open for DEPECHE MODE as I am a big longtime fan. Everything came all of a sudden and clicked easily. I received an email with an offer to support DM in Vienna and then the things just happened. And I don’t remember in DM’s history that a support act would actually play their own songs!

The crowd’s reaction was fantastic and they enjoyed the harp covers because people were singing to what I was playing and even waved their hands in ‘Never Let Me Down Again‘. Martin and Peter Gordeno came to watch my performance from the backstage and they laughed when the fans were singing to harp. I am really glad I got such opportunity and my dream came true.

What are your own favourite DEPECHE MODE memories?

Many of my favourite life memories come with DM’s music really. There are many tracks that remind me particular event or era, or there’s a track that evokes some mood or emotional state I was in.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its grateful thanks to MICHAL MATEJCIK

Special thanks also to Deb Danahay

MICHAL MATEJCIK gives a performance in Bratislava on 6th April 2013 the Nu Spirit Club as part of an official release party for new DEPECHE MODE album

Also on 22th April 2013, he gives another performance in Slovakia for another release party for ‘Delta Machine‘ in the city of Banska Bystrica at Klub 77

And on 30th May 2013, there will be a performance at Babylon in Berlin as a part of a book presentation. This has been written by Dennis Burmeister and Sasha Scherbelberg who have one of the biggest DM collections in the world. This book, entitled ‘Monument’, details their collection




Text and Inteview by Chi Ming Lai
26th March 2013

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