Tag: Alphaville (Page 1 of 2)

The Electricity Club’s 25 CLASSIC SYNTH B-SIDES

It really is the other side of love. B-sides have been a wondrous platform of adventure for the music fan, a hidden treasure trove of experimentation that was often a secret society that positioned the listener into being part of a mysterious taste elite.

So here are The Electricity Club’s favourite 25 Classic Synth B-sides… but how was this list defined?

These artefacts are flipsides of vinyl or bonus tracks on CD singles; basically songs that were not featured on the original issue of a full length album, or subsequently included on a new one. However, bonus tracks on later reissues are permitted. With TEC’s 25 Synth Instrumentals Of The Classic Era being covered in a separate listing, wordless wonders are also omitted. The listing runs up until the start of the 21st Century.

However, there is a limitation of one song per artist moniker in this chronological retrospective, so rare indulgers of the B-side such as HEAVEN 17, JAPAN and SIMPLE MINDS get equal billing with prolific exponents like PET SHOP BOYS, DEPECHE MODE, OMD and ULTRAVOX. That may seem unfair but then life can be unfair…


THE NORMAL TVOD (1978)

the_normal_-_warm_leatherette_-_front_smWas ‘TVOD’ actually the A-side of this seminal and only release by THE NORMAL which launched Mute Records? But as ‘Warm Leatherette’ is listed at the top of the back sleeve and has moved into legend having been covered by GRACE JONES, LAIBACH and CHICKS ON SPEED, ‘TVOD’ qualifies for this list. With its hypnotic bassline and warbling synth hook, JG Ballard makes his influence heard as Daniel Miller monotones about a dystopian future where television is the new narcotic…

Available on the single ‘Warm Leatherette’ via Mute Records

www.mute.co.uk


TUBEWAY ARMY We Are So Fragile (1979)

are friends electricIn the days when the B-side mattered as much as the A-side, more intuitive purchasers found another gem on the flip of ‘Are Friends Electric?’ with this pounding system of romance. Being the antithesis of the discordant diabolis in musica of the main act, ‘We Are So Fragile’ fused Minimoogs with guitars and a four-to-the-floor beat as the vulnerability of Gary Numan connected with the Cold War dystopia of the times in a musical winter of discontent.

Originally the B-side of ‘Are Friends Electric?’; now available on the album ‘Replicas’ via Beggars Banquet Records

www.numan.co.uk


JOHN FOXX 20th Century (1980)

foxxCommissioned as the theme to Janet Street-Porter’s early youth vehicle ‘20th Century Box’ which gave platforms to two then unknown bands SPANDAU BALLET and DEPECHE MODE, the combination of Foxx’s starkly dominant Compurhythm and ARP Odyssey dystopia were harsh but strangely danceable. However, ’20th Century’ signalled the wind down of the mechanical phase of John Foxx before thawing out and turning more conventional to less distinctive effect on ‘The Garden’.

Originally the B-side of ‘Burning Car’; now available on the deluxe album ‘Metamatic’ via Esdel Records

www.metamatic.com/


SIMPLE MINDS New Warm Skin (1980)

Like a number of bands of the period, SIMPLE MINDS went off doing B-sides as they progressed, often lazily filling the flips with live tracks or instrumental versions of existing tracks. ‘New Warm Skin’ was the original B-side of ‘I Travel’ and saw the Glaswegians ape SPARKS for this claptrap filled electronic cacophony of sound. Not claustrophobic enough for ‘Empires & Dance’, this is a delightfully creepy synth laden rarity in the SIMPLE MIDS back catalogue.

Originally the B-side of ‘I Travel’; now available as a bonus track on the boxed set ‘X5’ via Virgin Records

www.simpleminds.com


DEPECHE MODE Ice Machine (1981)

dreamingofme1With so many great B-sides in the long career of DEPECHE MODE, it might seem strange that their best B-side was actually their first. ‘Ice Machine’ is possibly Vince Clarke’s darkest five minutes, but it has also proved to be highly influential. ROYKSOPP and S.P.O.C.K have covered it while the song’s core arpeggio has been borrowed by LADYTRON and FEATHERS. It is not only one of DM’s best B-sides, it is among one of the best songs of the Synth Britannia era.

Available on the DEPECHE MODE boxed set ‘DMBX1’ via Mute Records

www.depechemode.com


HEAVEN 17 Are Everything (1981)

heaven-17-im-your-money-virginHEAVEN 17 were an act who rarely did B-sides and even this cover of a lesser known BUZZCOCKS single started life as a track for the BEF ‘Music Of Quality & Distinct Volume 1’ opus but was quickly shelved. Unusual in many respects as ‘Are Everything’ features the early HUMAN LEAGUE synth sound emblazoned with acoustic guitar from Dave Lockwood, Glenn Gregory snarls in post-punk fashion away from the new funk hybrid which was later appear on ‘Penthouse & Pavement’.

Originally the B-side of ‘I’m Your Money’; 12 inch version now available on the HEAVEN 17 album ‘Penthouse & Pavement’ via Virgin Records

www.heaven17.com


JAPAN European Son (1981)

life in tokyoOriginally recorded as a demo for the 1979 Giorgio Moroder sessions that produced ‘Life In Tokyo’, this sequencer heavy number was rejected by the Italian disco maestro. Left dormant in the vaults of Ariola Hansa, after JAPAN left the label, ‘European Son’ was subsequently finished off by John Punter and tagged onto a 1981 reissue of ‘Life In Tokyo’. Retrospectively, it shows David Sylvian’s vocals in transition from the catty aggression of earlier albums. In 1982, it became an A-side remixed by Steve Nye.

Originally the B-side of 1981 reissue of ‘Life In Tokyo’; now available on the JAPAN album ‘The Very Best Of’ via Virgin Records

www.nightporter.co.uk/


ULTRAVOX Paths & Angles (1981)

Ultravox-the voiceA unique curio in the classic ULTRAVOX cannon as it does not feature Midge Ure. Chris Cross handled guitar duties and backing vocals while Warren Cann took the spoken lead. The powerful Linn driven track was provided the punch with the Minimoog bass while Billy Currie tastefully layered with his piano and violin interplay. ‘Paths & Angles’ was undoubtedly strong enough to have been an album track, but highly unlikely to have remained in this form if Ure had been involved.

Originally the B-side of ‘The Voice’; now available on the ULTRAVOX album ‘Rage In Eden’ via EMI Records

www.ultravox.org.uk


BLANCMANGE Running Thin (1982)

blancmange-living-on-the-ceiling-1982Originally recorded for a John Peel session but rescued for the B-side of ‘Living On The Ceiling’, ‘Running Thin’ featured a much starker, claustrophobic template than the subsequent ‘Happy Families’ album. Driven by a Roland drum machine, haunting blips and “elastic stretched too far” guitar, Neil Arthur’s resigned baritone matched the music backdrop. The track has since been revisited by BLANCMANGE for the upcoming 2CD ‘Happy Families Too’ 2CD set.

Originally the B-side of ‘Living On The Ceiling’; now available on the BLANCMANGE album ‘The Very Best Of’ via Music Club

www.blancmange.co.uk


THOMAS DOLBY One Of Our Submarines (1982)

She_Blinded_Me_with_ScienceBorrowing the main melody of ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’ theme and coupled with a sharp Tim Friese-Greene production, ‘One Of Our Submarines’ was actually based on the poignant story of TMDR’s uncle Stephen. He served in a submarine during World War Two but died while on manoeuvres as opposed to battle. His death became Dolby’s metaphor for the fall of the British Empire and his rebellion against the post-war Boys Own adventure illusion that his generation grew up in.

Originally the B-side of ‘She Blinded Me with Science’; now available on the THOMAS DOLBY album ‘The Golden Age Of Wireless’ via EMI Records

www.thomasdolby.com


THE HUMAN LEAGUE You Remind Me Of Gold (1982)

the-human-league-mirror-man-virginOutstripping the electro Tamla of the A-side, ‘You Remind Me Of Gold’ had the balance of weirdness, accessibility and the spectre of Jo Callis’ guitar synthesizer. Coupled with the precise but edgy production of Martin Rushent, this gave high hopes that the follow-up to the million selling ‘Dare’ would be a goody. Unfortunately, the band fell out with Rushent and the lukewarm ‘Hysteria’ was the result and it would take years for THE HUMAN LEAGUE to recover.

Originally the B-side of ‘Mirror Man’; now available on the HUMAN LEAGUE deluxe album ‘Dare / Fascination!’ via Virgin Records

www.thehumanleague.co.uk/


OMD Navigation (1982)

OMDmaidOMD often were at their best when indulging in their vertical take-off experiments. Covered in hiss and layered with a shrilling, almost out-of-tune Mellotron, ‘Navigation’ was an abstract collage with the punching snare drum crescendo leading to a weird droning beacon of strange noises taken from their pre-OMD tapes that conjured the image of foggy uncharted oceans. It is without doubt, one of Paul Humphreys and Andy McCluskey’s stand-out recordings.

Originally the B-side of ‘Maid Of Orleans’; now available on the OMD album ‘Navigation’ via Virgin Records

www.omd.uk.com


SOFT CELL It’s A Mug’s Game (1982)

Where the Heart IsBoy George once described SOFT CELL as music for teenagers who hate their parents. With ‘It’s A Mugs Game’, that ethos came to its head with this comical tirade of angry, adolescent angst! Marc Almond goes from crisis to crisis as he tries to annoy his dad by playing loud, all the records “he especially hates… ’Deep Purple In Rock, ‘Led Zeppelin II’”. But as Almond retorts: “even you hate those”! The closing rant of “I can’t wait until I’m twenty one and I can tell them all to sod off!” is classic!

Originally the B-side of ‘Where The Heart Is’; now available on the SOFT CELL album ‘The Very Best Of’ via Phonogram Records

https://www.softcell.co.uk/


TALK TALK ? (1982)

Perhaps unsurprisingly with Colin Thurston at the production helm, the cryptically titled ‘?’ did sound like a DURAN DURAN flipside with thundering Simmons drums, disco bass and a fabulous synth solo from original keyboardist Simon Brenner. Utilising a weird chorus effect which sounded like the song was recorded on using dirty tape heads, while not a particularly prolific B-side band, TALK TALK certainly delivered more extras than perhaps JAPAN ever did.

Originally the B-side of ‘Talk Talk’. Available on the TALK TALK album ‘Asides Besides’ via EMI Music

https://spiritoftalktalk.com/


VISAGE I’m Still Searching (1982)

night trainOne of the few vocal tracks to be a VISAGE B-side, ‘I’m Still Searching’ in hindsight sounds ahead of its time with its proto-PET SHOP BOYS vibe. Featuring just Steve Strange and Rusty Egan as the ULTRAVOX and MAGAZINE boys were all back in their day jobs, it hinted at a New York electronic disco direction which was expanded on with ‘Pleasure Boys’. But by the time of the third VISAGE album ‘Beat Boy’, rock was the name of the game with Strange’s voice left exposed and totally unsuited to its histrionics.

Originally the B-side of ‘Night Train’; now available on the VISAGE album ‘The Anvil’ via Rubellan Remasters

www.visage.cc/


YAZOO Situation (1982)

only youA B-side that was later issued as an A-side in various markets, ‘Situation’ was one of only three writing collaborations between Alison Moyet and Vince Clarke. At barely 2 minutes in its original form, it made its point with its rousing blues based sequenced dance pop; it became a US club favourite remixed by Francois Kevorkian who was later to work with KRAFTWERK and DEPECHE MODE. Another version mixed by ERASURE producer Mark Saunders took the song into the UK Top20 in 1990.

Originally the B-side of ‘Only You’; now available on the album ‘The Collection’ via Music Club

www.yazooinfo.com/


CARE Sad Day For England (1983)

careWhen Liverpool band THE WILD SWANS split, two thirds formed the basis of THE LOTUS EATERS while their singer Paul Simpson teamed up with ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN producer Kingbird aka Ian Broudie. Combining acoustic guitars and stark drum machine with strong synthesizer melodies and melancholic vocals, ‘Sad Day for England’ was a mournful recollection of young manhood. The duo split before their debut album was completed. Broudie eventually formed THE LIGHTNING SEEDS.

Originally the 12 inch B-side of ‘My Boyish Days’; now available on the CARE album ‘Diamonds & Emeralds’ via Camden Records/BMG Records

http://music-isms.blogspot.com/2007/12/care-singles-1983-1984.html


DURAN DURAN Secret Oktober (1983)

union_of_the_snakeThis atmospheric ballad from the ‘Seven & The Ragged Tiger’ sessions turned out to be one of the the most synth led recordings under the DURAN DURAN name. Featuring just Nick Rhodes and Simon Le Bon, it showcased the more esoteric influences of JAPAN who the pair were particularly fond of. A precursor to their painfully pretentious ARCADIA project, none of those songs ever reached the heights of ‘Secret Oktober’. It was dusted off for the 1998 Greatest Hits tour.

Originally the B-side of ‘Union Of the Snake’; now available on the DURAN DURAN boxed set ‘The Singles 81-85’ via EMI Records

www.duranduran.com


HOWARD JONES It Just Doesn’t Matter (1983)

B-sides are for quirky experimentation and Howard Jones certainly veered from the norm with this oddball slice of electro-ska. With the declaration that “If I haven’t got any friends, it just doesn’t matter” and “If I’ve been misunderstood, it just doesn’t matter”, the song was possibly written as a positive motivator to face the music whatever following the success of his debut single ‘New Song’. The critics may not have loved him but his fans did, with the ‘Human’s Lib’ album entering the UK chats at No1.

Originally the B-side of ‘What is Love?’; now available on the HOWARD JONES album ‘The Very Best Of’ via WEA

http://www.howardjones.com/


ALPHAVILLE The Nelson Highrise (1984)

Subtitled ‘Sector One: The Elevator’, ‘The Nelson Highrise’ was the B-side to ‘Sounds Like A Melody’ which wasn’t released as a single in the UK. After a dynamic instrumental build of over a minute and a half, the opening line “Time is fleeting, you can’t stop time” was deeply ominous while the backing was almost industrial with very sharp edges. The dystopian air might have been a surprise to some, but then ‘Big In Japan’ was inspired by the plight of heroin addicts in Berlin…

Originally the B-side of ‘Sounds Like A Melody’; now available on the ALPHAVILLE deluxe album ‘Forever Young’ via Warner Music

https://www.alphaville.info/


CHINA CRISIS It’s Never Too Late (1985)

CC-black man rayRecorded during the ‘Working With Fire & Steel’ sessions produced by Mike Howlett, ‘It’s Never Too Late’ was a lost gem probably droppedby CHINA CRISIS from the album on account of it sounding like a more steadfast ‘Wishful Thinking’, featuring its familiar Emulator strings sound in the melody. Unreleased until 1985, even then it was tucked away on the limited edition 12 inch of ‘Black Man Ray’, making it one of the rarest of high quality B-sides from the era.

Originally the 12 inch limited edition B-side of ‘Black Man Ray’; now available on the CHINA CRISIS deluxe album ‘Flaunt The Imperfection’ via Caroline International

www.facebook.com/pages/China-Crisis/295592467251068


PET SHOP BOYS That’s My Impression (1986)

love comes quicklyPossibly the song which indicated that PET SHOP BOYS were going to be around for a while and not just a flash in the pan, ‘That’s My Impression’ was menacing as opposed to melancholic, combining SOFT CELL with DIVINE. Neil Tennant’s final angry refrain of “I went looking for someone I couldn’t find – staring at faces by the Serpentine…” is pure Marc Almond, tense and embittered in a manner that turned out to be quite rare in PET SHOP BOYS later work.

Originally the B-side of ‘Love Comes Quickly’; now available on the PET SHOP BOYS album ‘Alternative’ via EMI Records

www.petshopboys.co.uk


NEW ORDER 1963 (1987)

true faithIs this song about JFK? Is it a homo-erotic love story that ends in murder? Who knows? But ‘1963’ was an outstanding result of the sessions NEW ORDER had with PET SHOP BOYS producer Stephen Hague that also spawned ‘True Faith’. However, much to Hooky’s annoyance, his contributions on ‘1963’ were virtually written out. Bloody mindedness ensured ‘1963’ was tucked away as a B-side for 8 years before it was released as an A-side in a more Hooky audible rework by Arthur Baker.

Originally the B-side of ‘True Faith’; now availableon the NEW ORDER album ‘Substance’ via Warner Music

http://www.neworder.com/


CAMOUFLAGE Kling Klang (1989)

Bietigheim-Bissingen’s CAMOUFLAGE took over the mantle of delivering the heavier synthpop blueprint which DEPECHE MODE started during ‘Construction Time Again’ and ‘Some Great Reward’, but left behind with ‘Black Celebration’. ‘Kling Klang’ actually was a B-side to their single ‘One Fine Day’. This was not only a tribute to KRAFTWERK but in a rarity for the trio, it was also sung in German. But it was so rigidly authentic that at times, it inadvertently sounded like a Bill Bailey musical comedy skit.

Originally the B-side of ‘One Fine Day’, now available on the CAMOUFLAGE deluxe album ‘Methods Of Silence’ via Bureau B

http://www.camouflage-music.com/en/News


ERASURE Over The Rainbow (1991)

erasure-chorus(2)This bouncy tune with its lyrical celebration by Andy Bell of ABBA borrowed heavily from OMD. Vince Clarke went on record to say the record that influenced him most to start working with synthesizers was ‘Electricity’. So on ‘Over The Rainbow’, he borrowed its lead melody wholesale and added a few of the speaking clock samples that had adorned OMD’s ‘Dazzle Ships’. Listen carefully and listeners will also notice ULTRAVOX are affectionately pillaged too!

Originally the B-side of ‘Chorus’; now available in the boxed set ‘EBX4’ via Mute Records

www.erasureinfo.com


‘TEC Has Everything B-Sides’, a playlist comprising of a number of flips from several eras can be listened to at https://open.spotify.com/playlist/44O9vvXs2sAJv24kdPQ9tC


Text by Chi Ming Lai
11th June 2020

WHITE DOOR The Great Awakening

If there is one person who has probably sparked the realisation of a long-awaited second WHITE DOOR album, then it has to be the synth Superswede Johan Baeckström.

A solo artist in his own right but also a member of synth duo DAILY PLANET, the young Johan Baeckström was a fan of the first WHITE DOOR album ’Windows’ released in 1983.

When he needed B-sides for the singles from his own 2015 solo debut ’Like Before, he covered ’Jerusalem’ and ’School Days’.

Although Baeckström has been unashamedly candid about the influence of Vince Clarke on his music, his musicality was also been shaped by the small catalogue of songs by Mac Austin, Harry Davies and John Davies.

While Mac Austin and Harry Davies have continued to perform in their prog combo GRACE over the years, Baeckström sowed the seeds of a WHITE DOOR reunion when he and DAILY PLANET bandmate Jarmo Olilia invited Austin to provide lead vocals on ‘Heaven Opened’ on their 2017 album ‘Play Rewind Repeat’.

That sparked a WHITE DOOR reunion and as a newly confugured quartet, Mac Austin, John Davies, Harry Davies and Johan Baeckström now present ’The Great Awakening’. Baeckström gives the pulsing Vince Clarke-isms a breather and swaps it for the more polyphonically formed keyboard interventions of his other heroes like Howard Jones.

A joyous tune that sets the scene, the exotic sophistication of ’Among The Mountains’ possesses the soaring windscreen poise of A-HA with a flawless vocal from Mac Austin while the soundscape is sweetened by flute, providing an interesting timbral contrast.

Acknowledging the theme of ’Get Carter’ but with a more brassy flair, ’Resurrection’ surprises with a bouncy Giorgio Moroder inspired stomp and the lift of a rousing chorus. Meanwhile Mac Austin manages to sound like a cross between Morten Harket and Chris De Burgh over some beautifully symphonic synth and subtle slapped bass in a guest appearance from Baeckström’s son Simon.

’Soundtrack Of Our Lives’ captures the joys of spring, with the English folk austere that was very much part of WHITE DOOR’s make-up playing a key role with the harmonious vocal arrangement.

A sparkling production with space for all the elements to shine, there’s even a few classic Linn Drum sounds thrown in too. Yes, they are more recollections of A-HA although of course, the ’Windows’ album came out a year before ’Hunting High & Low’.

Holding down the steadier mood with a synth arpeggio, the richly layered ’Lullaby’ makes what appears to be a simple arrangement sound grand and complex in a cleverly configured traditional tune that steadily builds and surprises with a burst of saxophone in the final third which also glistens ivory-wise in the manner of Howard Jones.

Beginning with a slightly stuttering rhythm, ’Angel Of Tomorrow’ bursts into life with a spacey buoyant pomp that captures an air of Vangelis.

An elated majestic tone ensues as staring mortality in the face, ’The Great Awakening’ celebrates an embracment of life and second chances with a range of complex synth motifs. All wondefully complimenting one another, it is akin to a casade of church bells ringing on a Sunday morning.

The spritely ’Simply Magnificent’ does as the title suggests and is pure sequenced synthpop in the vein of early ALPHAVILLE, the distant transistor radio ending acting a nice tribute to bygone listening experiences.

Ending the album, ’Beautiful Girl’ is classic WHITE DOOR and a song which Harry Davies describes as ”a wonderful song for making babies to”. Vocally like a modern hymn with patterns of hooky chimes, there’s even a surprising lilt of sax that suits the electronic backdrop, with a gorgeous sweeping polysynth conclusion that CHINA CRISIS would be proud of, recalling the feel of their appropriately titled tune ‘The Soul Awakening’.

Hopeful, mature and joyous, ’The Great Awakening’ grandly blows away the attempted sensitive synth overtures of the young pretenders almost half their age. It is twilight magic provided by the sorcerers and their apprenctice. Nearly four decades on, WHITE DOOR have again passed the test with commendation.

Of his role in ’The Great Awakening’, Johan Baeckström said to The Electricity Club: ”I really wanted to do my best to maintain the WHITE DOOR sound and spirit in the production on this album”.

Mission accomplished 😀

’The Great Awakening’ uses the follwoing synthesizers: Roland Jupiter 6, Roland Juno 106, Akai AX73, Minimoog, Korg Mono/Poly and ARP Odyssey


’The Great Awakening’ is released by Progress Productions on 17th April 2020, pre-order download from https://whitedoor.bandcamp.com/album/the-great-awakening

Pre-order CD or white vinyl LP from Progress Productions at https://mailchi.mp/9e7025e1bf26/whitedoor

https://www.facebook.com/whitedoorband/

https://twitter.com/Bstrommusic

https://open.spotify.com/album/3bU49HHzLHxEDQAeVpEROJ?si=ZwnqbshNQ-CB6C2P85HH9Q


Text by Chi Ming Lai
15th April 2020, updated 17th April 2020

KID MOXIE: The Unpleasant Interview

Photo by Sofia Gaafar

While KID MOXIE might be best known for her exquisite breathy synthpop like ‘Lacuna’ and ‘Dirty Air’, her latest musical venture takes her into previously unknown territory.

The vehicle of Greek-born singer / songwriter / musician / actress Elena Charbila, KID MOXIE has composed the soundtrack to a new film ‘Not To Be Unpleasant, But We Need To Have A Serious Talk’ directed by Giorgos Georgopoulos.

The plot centres around a womanizer who finds out he is a carrier of a sexually transmitted virus, lethal only to women. But he is also the only hope for a curing vaccine if he can find which one of his ex-girlfriends had the first viral strain!

Released on Lakeshore Records whose digital catalogue includes the prestigious soundtracks for ‘Stranger Things’, ‘The Rise Of The Synths’ and ‘Drive’, while there are numerous ambient and instrumental pieces, ‘Unpleasant’ also includes two notable cover versions.

One of them is ‘Big In Japan’ which was originally recorded by ALPHAVILLE; the new KID MOXIE arrangement sees ‘Stranger Things’ meet ‘The Ipcress File’ within its icy aural aesthetic. Meanwhile, there is also a moody reworking of ‘The Night’, a 1983 Stephen J Lipson produced US hit for THE ANIMALS.

Elena Charbila chatted to The Electricity Club from Los Angeles to talk about her ‘Unpleasant’ experience…

Is ‘Unpleasant’ your first soundtrack venture?

This is the first time a full soundtrack I’ve composed has been released, as opposed to giving tracks to certain shows, films or commercials which I’ve done in the past.

How did it come about?

I was approached by the director who I met in LA and who is also Greek, he had known my stuff and has the same synth sensibilities as me, we gelled on the kind of sonic landscape that we both liked. When he was ready to shoot the film, he asked me to compose the soundtrack and I also acted in the film as well. It’s a small part but it was a pretty fun thing.

What’s the character that you play and what’s the premise of ‘Not To Be Unpleasant, But We Need To Have A Serious Talk’?

The basic story is that we’re in Greece in the future, it’s a Sci-Fi / dark comedy / drama where there’s a disease which is sexually transmitted that kills women but men carry it! The lead character has to go back into his past to figure out who gave it to him so that he can tell them all that they’re dying… it’s pretty grim but there is definitely some humour injected into it, done in a tasteful way I think. Spoiler alert! I’m the first girl who is going to die in the story.

What was the big difference for you working on ‘Unpleasant’ compared with doing pop songs?

The magical thing that happens with not doing actual songs was the freedom that is offered by non-verbal compositions. It was very liberating not to write lyrics because I didn’t have to write about me and my experiences, but it became about creating a world that these other characters could live in. This meant I wasn’t going to “talk” basically, so it was liberating not to be confined to the structure of a pop song, verse/chorus, having to say something and then match it or rhyme it. It was very rewarding in a different way.

So were you doing what Vangelis does, composing to moving pictures, or writing to a brief?

I’ve done some more soundtrack work since and every film is different. But for this particular one, the director wanted a lot of stuff in advance, even before they shot because he wanted to rehearse with the actors using that music. So the actors and all the elements grew together, so during rehearsals, there was stuff to listen to and play on set. A lot of stuff was also made after the cut, so I was very much involved in the whole process.

‘Bonsai’ perhaps doesn’t stray too much away from the music people know you for as it has your vocal on and your airy sound?

Yes, that’s safe to say but it was such a freeform process. ‘Bonsai’ was the last track I wrote for the whole soundtrack after I had seen the rough cut of the film, there’s a Japanese character, there’s a lot of Japanese dialogue.

And there’s this bonsai that keeps growing throughout the film, it’s almost like a character in itself. So that was based on the energy which that bonsai was emanating to me.

But the solemn filmic ambience of ‘The Distance Grows Again’ and ‘Interlude’ will surprise?

Yes, those tracks are definitely a departure, if the people listened to these next to my pop songs, they will not believe it’s the same person. I wanted to be something totally different because this project felt totally different. The images and the feelings I was drawing from were different from other stuff that I free-willingly started writing from scratch. This time, I had a “guide” who was somebody else, a film saying “come to us, come this way” and I followed it.

What equipment set-up this you find was the best way of working for you?

I would say half of it is hardware, but I do use a lot of software, I travel a lot so I complete a lot of things that way. It’s like a 50/50 process between hardware and software. I ended up using quite a bit of Arturia Oberheim Sem V, Moog Grandmother, the Moog Minitaur and Moog Mother.

There are some live guitars here and there like on ‘Bonsai’, I wrote the parts but had a friend play it cause I am sh*t at the guitar! I play bass which feels good for me because it’s not so intricate, I’ve always had a little fear of the guitar and that’s not because I’m a synth person, there was never a calling for me to explore it. Whereas the bass felt much more right, it’s like the spine of a song, it holds the beat and the melody together, and that felt very intriguing.

But there’s no bass on your ‘Unpleasant’ soundtrack?

It was natural not to involve anything rhythmic elements in the soundtrack (apart from on ‘Closer Than Ever’) other than the two cover versions. I feel there has to be a good reason to include a rhythmic element, there has to be a really good reason to include drums or bass in movies.

‘Closer Than Ever’ captures an underlying tension, had any particular composers influenced you?

I was channelling more of the dark wave elements on this one, newer bands like SHE PAST AWAY from Turkey who I like, a little bit of JOY DIVISION and SISTERS OF MERCY, that mix of synths and guitars.

Overall, Vangelis is an influence over anything that I do, John Carpenter too and Clint Mansell who happens to also be a good friend. There’s also the German composer Nils Frahm and Cliff Martinez, all of these people, I’m recycling things from all of them.

Was the release of the ‘Unpleasant’ soundtrack on Lakeshore Records always a given?

No, it wasn’t… it was finished when they heard it through Clint Mansell who loved it. He made the connection, Lakeshore loved it and they said “bring it on”.

There are two takes on ‘Love Poem’, one variation being mostly based around solo piano…

At some point I wondered what it would sound like if I replaced the piano sound with a synth. In my head, it made it have a nostalgic, romantic quality that suited a scene in the film that was very melancholy.

The soundtrack is notable for having two songs on it, one being a cover of ALPHAVILLE’s ‘Big In Japan’, so what was your approach?

The director loved ‘Big In Japan’ so it went into the end credits. Because there was a strong Japanese element in the film, it made sense to use that. It didn’t feel right to necessarily use drums because I did want to take a departure from the ALPHAVILLE original. There was already a strong rhythm element with the synth bass and it takes it to a different place by having a woman sing it.

‘Big In Japan’ comes with a very striking video, what was the narrative behind that?

There’s no full story but I don’t think everything needs a full story, it just needs a feeling and an atmosphere to be enveloped in.

I guess the video is a bit of a commentary on children being forced to grow up too fast, especially in Hollywood. I’ve always perceived the song as being about fame (although I am aware that it’s not what the original was about).

The other song is also a cover of ‘The Night’ by THE ANIMALS which you perform with Phil Diamond?

It plays during the movie and was one of the director’s requests to cover this particular track. I thought it would be nice to have it as a duet so I asked a friend of mine to sing it with me. It really departs from the original which was much more of an early 80s pop rock hit, so I made it much more ethereal to match the tone of the film.

‘Slow Escape’ is a glorious mix of piano and synth pulses…

I was listening to a lot modern classical music so just blending the synthetic arpeggio sounds with natural sounds like the piano creates a very multi-layered experience in my mind. By definition, a synth can be a cold sound which is not human, but then there’s piano which is more warm and human, so by blending them, you get an interesting “sonic sandwich”!

Photo by Ghost Of Oz

How have you found working on ‘Unpleasant’ as an experience and for your musical development?

Contrary to its title, it’s been a very pleasant experience for me because it’s opened up a whole new chapter in my music career! I wasn’t sure I had it or could do it, I wasn’t sure I could take on a whole soundtrack by myself. Now I want more. So I’m working on more soundtracks and I hope to keep doing it.

What’s next for you, will you go back to songs?

I have an EP out in Spring 2020 and I’ve also been working on music for a video game amongst other things.


The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to KID MOXIE

‘Big In Japan’ is released by Lakeshore Records as a digital single, available now via the usual platforms

The ‘Not To Be Unpleasant, But We Need To Have A Serious Talk’ digital soundtrack album is released on 24th January 2020 and can be pre-ordered now direct from https://kidmoxiesoundtrack.bandcamp.com/album/not-to-be-unpleasant-but-we-need-to-have-a-serious-talk-original-motion-picture-soundtrack

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https://www.instagram.com/kid.moxie/

http://www.lakeshorerecords.com/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
18th January 2020

MACHINISTA Anthropocene

Like a cross between THE CURE and ALPHAVILLE, Swedish duo MACHINISTA are back with their third full-length album ‘Anthropocene’.

Vocalist John Lindqwister and instrumentalist Richard Flow have taken their time with this record and it’s all the better with a refinement of their anthemic signature sound plus the addition of some conventionally flavoured twists. In the album’s opening statement, ‘Seconds Minutes Hours’ offers a Eurodance triplet beefed up with guitars by BRD for more of that synthpop with a rock n roll edge which MACHINISTA have always prided themselves in.

Featuring a guest vocal appearance from PROJECT PITCHFORK’s Scheuber, ‘Let Darkness In’ is brilliant, taking its leaf from the dark electronic pop of Norway’s APOPTYGMA BERZERK; their main man Stephan Groth happily remixed 2015’s ‘Dark Heart Of Me’ and the APOP force looms even stronger on the album’s glorious ‘Anthropocene’ title song which owes more than a debt to the haunting riff of ‘Burning Heretic’ in the ultimate sorcerer’s apprentice spell.

‘Angel’ takes things down to scarf waving pace and adds piano to the counter melodies but it suddenly speeds up, aesthetic reinforced by percussive six string for some chantalong gothic disco. ‘Black Tide’ continues the mood but with a solemn disposition as per the title with Lindqwister giving his all with the Robert Smith stakes.

Singing of “darkness, despairs” and a “child of the golden age”, the chilling orchestrated cinematics of ‘Astrid’ are authentically supported by Karin My on cello while on ‘Universe Is Here’, the aesthetics can’t but help recall ‘The Policy Of Truth’ from the days when DEPECHE MODE combined their darkness with tuneful instrumental elements.

A stark observation on the human condition, ‘Pain Of Every Day’ with its poignant lyrics like “dying is certain… we die the same death” is probably one of the most poetically unsettling if danceable tracks of recent years, a sentiment also expressed in ‘The Scare’.

Back in 2013, MACHINISTA opened their account with a rousing cover of Bowie’s “Heroes”; and it is back to the Thin White Duke with a cover of THE BEATLES ‘Across The Universe’ which was covered on the ‘Young Americans’ album for the closer; it does sound exactly how you might imagine, like ALPHAVILLE doing John Lennon.

On ‘Anthropocene’, MACHINISTA have successfully integrated more traditional elements like guitar, piano and cello without throwing away their gloomy but club-friendly template.

Their past EPs and albums have always had terrific highlights, but ‘Anthropocene’ is their most consistent body of work to date.

Reflecting darker times, listeners will however need to choose which songs to hear carefully dependent on their moods as much of the personal expression on this album is very heavy if realistic.


‘Anthropocene’ is released by Infacted Recordings on 7th June 2019, pre-order CD from Poponaut at
http://www.poponaut.de/machinista-anthropocene-p-18504.html or download from Bandcamp at https://infactedrecordings.bandcamp.com/album/anthropocene

MACHINISTA open for HOCICO at London Electrowerkz on Saturday 3rd August 2019

http://www.machinistamusic.com/

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Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Jorg Seiche
1st June 2019

ZEUS B HELD Interview

ZEUS B HELD is the veteran German producer and remixer who has been a key presence in the development of electronic pop music.

Making his name as a keyboard player in the progressive rock band BIRTH CONTROL, he later progressed as a session musician, solo artist and producer. His vocoder layered cover of THE BEATLES’ ‘Fool On The Hill’ became a favourite of Belgian sibling duo SOULWAX.

His production breakthrough came from working with GINA X PERFORMANCE in 1979 when the single ‘No GDM’ became an underground club favourite.

As a result, he worked with the likes of FASHION, JOHN FOXX, DEAD OR ALIVE and DIE KRUPPS while also remixing ALPHAVILLE, SIMPLE MINDS and GARY NUMAN. Other acts who benefited from his musicality and sound design were MEN WITHOUT HATS, SPEAR OF DESTINY, TRANSVISION VAMP and NINA HAGEN.

Later, Held moved into more jazzy grooves and while resident in Australia, he led a World Music collective featuring Aboriginal musicians and released an album called ‘Digital Dreaming’. He returned to electronic music in 2015 with the release of ‘Logic of Coincidence’ via Les Disques du Crépuscule, a largely ambient imaginary film soundtrack.

Almost simultaneously, he teamed up with former TANGERINE DREAM member Steve Schroyder to form the appropriately named DREAM CONTROL. The pair are releasing their first album ‘Zeitgeber’, a largely uptempo electronic record that could potentially satisfy the headspaces of proggers and the feet of clubbers.

While in the UK on a short promotional trip for ‘Zeitgeber’, ZEUS B HELD kindly stopped for coffee to chat to The Electricity Club about DREAM CONTROL and his vast production portfolio.

You took a break into jazz and world music, what has brought you back into working in electronic pop again?

After I left England in 2003, I did a few different things like working around the ZKM Karlsruhe on more theoretical aspects of music and teaching.

Call this lecturing “transfer of knowledge” which is ok and I still do it, but I am more interested in making music.

In 2013, I had four weeks in Japan where I locked myself away with a couple of synthesizers; I really enjoyed that and rediscovered that it was the core of what I do best and what I want to do. This is what became ‘Logic Of Coincidence’.

Did the improvements in digital technology make your return much easier?

Not really, because the actual physical hands-on experience when you work with sequencers, moving sliders and twiddling knobs is a much more sensual action than if you programme it or do it with a mouse. I think there’s a big difference, like between virtual and real action-response.

I started the album with lots of virtual instruments, a master keyboard and a Moog Source. Then I replaced them slowly and as I was doing this, it confirmed my thoughts about the differences between the virtual and real thing.

I remember a time when I was a bit tired of those sounds, not realising that these sounds were the signature of what I’ve been doing! And it took a few years for me to realise those are my tools! And that’s what happened in the solitude of my Japanese hut…

What synths do you have?

I still have a Minimoog, Moog Source, Prophet VS, Oberheim 4 Voice, PPG wave, Korg Prophecy and through Steve, I got access to the Memory Moog which is an amazing machine.

I also have a collection of rack mounted synths including a Nordlead and an Oberheim DBX1.

But there are some instruments which I sold – that I shouldn’t have, but there you go…

Which ones do you regret selling then?

Oh, the Polymoog and the ARP 2600 which I am looking to getting back, or something similar. I went to this year’s Superbooth in Berlin and I could see there is a new wave of old style analogue synths coming up from all over the world; it’s been a really good experience to meet so many other synthesizer freaks.

What is the direction you are taking in DREAM CONTROL, how different is it from ‘Logic Of Coincidence’?

It was amazing that Steve’s and my life were running parallel without us ever meeting each other and incredibly, he also lives in Freiburg, streets away where I am now. So it happened to be another ‘Logic Of Coincidence’ *laughs*

On our first studio session, we played around with some chords and rhythms – I played various synths and piano, added some sequences and experimented with vocoder lines. It all fitted and we both really enjoyed this new form of jamming and improvising on the spot, sometimes being amazed how our individual music and sound became one… you listen, you play and you answer, you throw a ball in, it’s just playing and responding. And that is something me and Steve can do on all kind of electronic instruments. When you create music, it should be playful.

How would you describe the sound of ‘Zeitgeber’, given Steve’s history with TANGERINE DREAM and your own background?

This album has a lot of energy in it, definitely not just a dreamy ambient album. Steve introduced me to the natural law of the “Cosmic Octave”, which is a different approach to frequency and rhythm definition.

After I experienced the difference to the standard concert pitch, I was happy to do the entire ‘Zeitgeber’ album with this method. And yes, you can hear the difference. Overall it is an instrumental album with a good deal of vocoder. There is also assorted overtone singing and some other vocal elements by two female singers.

Because of our name and history, we decided to rework one TANGERINE DREAM song and one BIRTH CONTROL song ‘Gamma Ray’, although later we dropped the TD track from this album.

Is ‘Kant Can Dance’ representative of the album?

I would say yes and no! It is the existing link to my ‘Logic of Coincidence’ album, but it’s in the spirit of us both. ‘Gamma Ray’ and ‘Kant Can Dance’ are the more accessible tracks of the album. The other tracks, like for example ‘Tomaga’ are deeper journeys into sound and unknown spaces.

Although you served your apprenticeship with BIRTH CONTROL, you went solo…

BIRTH CONTROL was a progressive rock band, doing lots of gigs all over Europe, but mainly in Germany. I was always doing my 15 to 20 minute keyboard solo which actually became my first solo album! *laughs*

Slowly I was moving more into electronics, away from the EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER and DEEP PURPLE thing. By pure coincidence, I became neighbours with Conny Plank’s studio and I realised that you can do different sound work in the studio and that’s how I did my solo stuff; I discovered the vocoder which made me develop my own singing approach – and guess, I was glad not to have to deal with a singer’s ego! *laughs*

With electronic pop producers of the era like yourself, Mike Howlett, Trevor Horn, Stephen J Lipson and Steve Hillage, there appears to be this connection with progressive rock?

I am sure there is a theoretical connection, the spirit of the time. But for me, it was my own development from thinking in chords, melodies and the traditional compositional building blocks to learn how to work with sequencers, machines and multi-tracks; I remember very well when I did this 2 minute track ‘M.P.C.’ on BIRTH CONTROL’s ‘Rebirth’ album, by discovering the Mellotron. I spontaneously put strings, flute sounds and choir together and played an impressionistic piano on top, all in an hour, while the other guys were having lunch. I got so inspired by sounds and multi-tracking, I learned to understand the studio as an instrument.

You became more widely known in the UK for producing GINA X PERFORMANCE and ‘No GDM’, what was the creative dynamic between you and her?

I wanted to make an album with vocoder, drums and only synthesizers and I wanted to make it really cold, no bluesy chords or melodies, no guitar and nothing rocky. I had in mind science fiction inspired tracks, also possible songs for the ROCKETS next album. Gina was an art student and was really into cutting edge art and music.

We became a creative unit and I invited her into the studio, maybe to put some spoken words on the recordings – she developed from this, her own way of singing.

With ‘No GDM’, she wrote the lyrics in the café upstairs of the Cologne Studio Am Dom after she saw the ‘Naked Civil Servant’ film; so when she stepped in front of the microphone she transformed herself as well as the track. She put that particular life into my music, effortless and free of clichés. It was an amazing experience for both of us, but at first, nobody was interested because this was a non pigeon hole-able unheard music.

I’ll never forget when this studio mastering engineer in Cologne put the ‘Nice Mover’ album on the spectrum analyser and said “Look here at the frequencies, this can’t work! Nobody wants to listen to that!” *laughs*

But we found a little label and suddenly people started to like it. It came from three places where we had the best feedback; there was Rusty Egan and The Blitz Club, Austrian main radio where it entered the charts and Canada… this all took about a year to happen.

So this led to you coming to the UK and working with Birmingham band FASHION?

What also led me to FASHION was my vocoder production for a French / Italian band called ROCKETS. I went to the Midem, the annual music event in Cannes, to sell my first solo album and I passed this stand where I saw a video with five silver painted guys playing a slightly futuristic rock song ‘Future Woman’ using a voice box.

I thought “this would be so much better with a vocoder” and I asked to speak to their manager – after he heard my stuff, I was in. A week later, I was in Paris recording a cover of CANNED HEAT’s ‘On The Road Again’ and it became the ROCKETS’ big European hit.

FASHION heard this and also liked GINA X PERFORMANCE – so eventually a guy from Arista Records asked me to listen to their demos and I liked it.

I particularly liked it because Dee Harris, the main songwriter and front man, also played a wicked Roland guitar synth in a slightly jazz-funky way; in those days the only other guitar synth player I knew was Pat Metheny on his group’s ‘Offramp’ album.

The ‘Fabrique’ album was recorded in Cologne, Paris and London, it was nicely developed over six months.

You also worked on the next FASHION album ‘Twilight Of Idols’ which closed with the brilliant instrumental title track…

Well… ‘Twilight Of Idols’ was FASHION Mark 2, it’s OK, but for me it was a compromise. The second version of FASHION with Alan Darby on guitar and vocals and songs like ‘Hurricane’, for me, it was stylistically too close to the overcrowded field of mainstream rock.

FASHION’s first album with Dee Harris was his subtle funk and jazzy chord structures, influenced by American songwriting and this particular mixture of electronics from me applying my Germanic sequencers. Lately, 35 years after its making, I have been asked to overhaul ‘Fabrique’ with Dee Harris, so I can assure that we’ll eventually be working on that.

At one point, FASHION were rated higher than DURAN DURAN on the Birmingham scene but of course, it was DURAN DURAN who broke big, what’s your take on it?

In Birmingham, FASHION and DURAN DURAN were rehearsing in the same building when I got involved. DURAN DURAN were already ahead in the game, having a few singles out with EMI while FASHION were just entering the major pop arena. As much as I like Mr Simon Le Bon, I think Dee Harris was a different calibre as a vocalist – but there you go, the DURAN DURAN guys just went a fair bit faster, were better managed and they administered one hit after another!

Unfortunately after ‘Fabrique’ was finished, some chemical reaction in certain brains caused the ‘Fabrique’ line-up to collapse and the album had to be buried by Arista. Their German and American labels hugely believed in the group and things could have been different, but FASHION didn’t really enter the league they should have been in.

How did working with JOHN FOXX on ‘The Golden Section’ come about?

I was a big fan of John’s ‘Metamatic’ album. He had the same publisher as GINA X who also was his manager. John had been working with Mike Howlett, but it wasn’t working out for various reasons… and he had discovered THE BEATLES! *laughs*

I told John that it should be more about sound and noisy abstract tunes but he wanted melodies with second and third harmonies; we were working in his studio The Garden in Shoreditch and it was his solo album, so I was there to make his vision happen.

I guess our collaboration was not a very successful one as he pulled too far away from his roots, something that he later realised “ooops”! I helped him but I was torn, I had to make the best out of it. I wanted to bin songs and put more sequencers on others as it would have been more suitable and appreciated by his existing fan base, but he galloped into ‘The Golden Section’.

John is a multi-talented, very intelligent artist and we met at an interesting moment in our lives, but we didn’t make the kind of mutual masterpiece which we could have done.

You then went on to producing DEAD OR ALIVE, your work with them had an amazing rhythmic element to it, how did you achieve that?

They loved Patrick Cowley and Sylvester, that uptempo HI-NRG gay disco. I often went to the Heaven club during those days and listened to that music, I really liked this irresistible drive and energy.

They brought many of those elements to the table themselves. We started to work on ‘Sophisticated Boom Boom’ with Wayne Hussey on guitar, thus getting a slightly gothic element which I quite liked.

But Wayne and his guitar were sacked relatively early during the production, you can hear his guitar best on the first single ‘Misty Circles’.

For me, producing DEAD OR ALIVE was a mixture of sound-styling as well as making sure Pete Burns’ mighty vocal performance had the right backing. We got on fine, but there were moments when we argued about what’s best for the arrangement and dynamics. Sometimes I offered ten ideas and they’d take one and a half… I guess that’s part of the producing process…

So in DEAD OR ALVE, had the sequence programming been done by Tim Lever and you were sweetening it for the final recording, or were you redoing it?

It was a bit of both, some tracks came with some basic sequences to start with, others we started from scratch. I brought along my Moog and ARP 2600 to fill up the space.

For drums we used mainly the Oberheim DMX, a Linn Drum and sounds from the Akai S1000. We also had a Korg drum machine but they didn’t like the TR808; it’s funny, when I worked with KILLING JOKE, they hated the 808 as well.

After all these British artists, what was it like to work with a German act like DIE KRUPPS in 1985?

With JOHN FOXX and DEAD OR ALIVE, we had more open ended concepts. DIE KRUPPS were more German, much more “korrekt” and “…it’s all been worked out!” *laughs*

They pretty much had worked out how their tracks should be structured but by playing around with the Fairlight, we found space for new ideas and sounds. In the end, a lot of the ‘Entering The Arena’ album was Fairlight based.

Listening back to it now, I feel we were close to a real classic. And somehow we wanted to hold our own against PROPAGANDA, but this was tricky because PROPAGANDA’s production budget was in a different range

We had a limited budget and the LP was released by the Virgin sub-label Statik, whose claim to fame was MEN WITHOUT HATS who I later worked with.

How did you find the move into the world of the Fairlight and digital in general?

I wanted to master the Fairlight and luckily enough, Octave Hire, a London rental company based in the Docklands, left one with me at my basement flat in Earls Court when it wasn’t being used. I spent days and nights on end to dive into this new world of sampling and sequencing.

I’ll never forget how I once got stuck and someone suggested to phone this guy Hans Zimmer who was also working with one and had a studio in Fulham called The Snake Ranch. He came to my house and showed me a few tricks. When he spoke in his Bavarian accent, I realised there was another “Deutsch Musik Mann” in my London hood! *laughs*

I used the Fairlight on the last GINA X album ‘Yinglish’ and it was here when I met JJ Jeczalik, a real expert on the CMI. We made a deal: I’ll get him a few studio gigs, teach some musical basics and give him sounds and samples which went into his library – some of them ended up on the first record by THE ART OF NOISE.

But at one point, Pete Burns walked into Olympia Studios and shouted “ZEUS! YOU BASTARD, I HEARD MY VOICE ON THE ART OF NOISE, I KNOW IT’S ME!”… I replied “it’s impossible”, but thought to myself “oh sh*t, it could well be!”

You had a bit of a remix period, one was ‘Big In Japan’ by ALPHAVILLE…

ALPHAVILLE used an edit of my 12 inch remix for the normal 7 inch… I mixed it at a studio in Queensway with the engineer Femi Jiya, who later worked with PRINCE. This music wasn’t exactly funky and so we worked with repeat echoes and dropped in a fretless bass sound from a Roland D50. Next door was ASWAD, the reggae band – you could smell it… so I asked them to come in and played the mix to them, they gave it the thumbs down! *laughs*

On your remix of ‘Ghostdancing’ for SIMPLE MINDS, you gave space to the rhythm section…

SIMPLE MINDS then had a drummer I did some studio work with before, Mel Gaynor… he also played on an unreleased track I produced with Ian Burden from THE HUMAN LEAGUE, called ‘She’s Always On The Dancefloor’. I studied the parts and played around with the drums because I really enjoyed what Mel Gaynor did. He was a timing and groove master who beat every drum machine.

How did you feel when you were asked to do the ‘E Reg remix’ of GARY NUMAN’s ‘Cars’ in 1987?

I was a big GARY NUMAN fan, I saw him in 1980 in Düsseldorf at the Philipshalle… guess who was the support act? SIMPLE MINDS and they played on about four square feet of stage because GARY NUMAN had such a huge stage set up!

Beggars Banquet asked me to remix ‘Cars’ and I was already booked and had to squeeze it in. So I worked 20 hours non-stop on it. This was when the Roland D50 came out and if you listen to my remix, it’s full of those sounds! I enjoyed doing it because it’s a great song, I love his voice, the dynamics of the sounds work brilliantly with Gary’s melodies. I saw my job to get more excitement and shape into the track as well as doing an extended version. ARMAND VAN HELDEN actually sampled parts of my remix for ‘Koochy’!

Four weeks later it was out, doing really well and I was invited to a GARY NUMAN concert, I sat next to his dad… I looked on stage and there were five D50s! *laughs*

Your work with TRANSVISION VAMP was fascinating in that you used technology to make an album sound punk

I worked closely with their label and they wanted a record, like you could have a cup of tea to… well, they didn’t actually say that but it was how I translated it, “pop punk”.

The first album ‘Pop Art’ took nearly two years and the band grew during its making; they had started to work on demos with Duncan Bridgeman who also did most of the pre-production; after a few tracks into the actual recording sessions, I was asked to revisit the production and arrangements.

I got a chance to enrich the sounds and take care of the mixing. A few tracks I did from scratch and started with an electronic song frame. Especially ‘Tell That Girl To Shut Up’, I’ll never forget when I was doing the arrangement, Wendy James walked in and screamed at me “THAT SOUNDS LIKE F*CKING HOWARD JONES, I HATE IT!” and she stormed out of the studio. I yelled “wait, we’re going to stick the guitars on and it will work!” which is exactly what happened. So yes, in the end most of the album sounded a good mixture between electronic versus rough and punk.

Of course, this was in the days before Melodyne and Autotune… when Wendy sang the soul out of her guts and it wasn’t quite right, we would have to record up to thirty tracks of vocals and do compilations of the takes – and in the end it sounded like one convincingly performed take, which would have to grab the listener. She sold that band!

Before that, there was the aborted CLARE GROGAN album that you did, what happened there?

With Clare, we were forced for too much in a little amount of time. I couldn’t really open her up musically, it was like being whacked in with the record company watching… before I could sit back and analyse, it was all finished. It was done in a rush, that was a pity. With her voice, we should have done something a bit more whacky, something more off the wall.

I had the same experience when I was paired with Annabella Lwin from BOW WOW WOW. It could have been brilliant but it was squeezed into three weeks trying to record ok songs. I couldn’t find her best musical language, you need time when you develop something new. With TRANSVISION VAMP, we had eighteen months and it grew. It all started when Nick met Wendy and said “do you want to be a rock star?”, she said “yes” and they worked on it.

This record company pressure would drive any normal person crazy?

Yes, there’s a danger, you’d better have strong nerves and a good sense of humour… and you have to avoid ending up doing paid crap!

Is that why there has been such a big gap in your production work after NINA HAGEN in 1991 ?

It coincided with a breakdown of my private life. Whether it was too much time spent in the studio or a typical mid-life crisis, whatever! It happened!

So I had a desire to be free, travel the world – I ended up in Australia, doing music there with Aborigines and playing concerts in the middle of nature. That’s when I recorded my “audio postcard of down under” called ‘Digital Dreaming’.

All in all I took ten years off and then I didn’t come back easily. I did film and ad music and that didn’t really satisfy me. So I had a rethink, did workshops and coaching, gave lectures – call it “knowledge transfer” – but again, this was not what I wanted to do.

I realised I feel most comfortable doing music in the studio or on stage. And by now, as much as I’m an optimist, I have given up on the idea of immortality *laughs*

I would love to do more DREAM CONTROL concerts, events and festivals. I still want to play and entertain people – their ears, their eyes and their imagination. In the studio I would like to do more songwriting and remixes; in an ideal world I’d always work with new inspiring equipment and learn how to master it.

I always enjoy listening to music but I am a difficult consumer. For pleasure I’m often listening to more jazz based music, but occasionally, a mega exciting track by the likes of JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE or JUSTIN BIEBER will knock me out and I applaud. Apart from a song’s composition, I always want to know how it is done the way it sounds – from the musical & frequency arrangement to the immaculate mastering.

Music doesn’t stop… music keeps me alive


The Electricity Club give its grateful thanks to ZEUS B HELD

DREAM CONTROL ‘Zeitgeber’ is released by Planetware Records on 8th August 2017 in CD and digital formats, available from http://www.planetware-records.de/en/music/3013_zeitgeber.html

Abridged vinyl LP of ‘Zeitgeber’ on sale soon via Medical Records at https://medicalrecords.bandcamp.com/

http://dream-control.com/

https://www.facebook.com/dreamcontrolmusic/

http://zeusbheld.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Zeus-B-Held-162448230492382/

A selection of ZEUS B HELD, GINA X and BIRTH CONTROL CDs can be purchased from http://www.ltmrecordings.com/zeus_b_held.html


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
7th August 2017

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