The highlight of German songstress KATJA VON KASSEL’s ‘Walking In West Berlin’ EP, the song ‘Someday’ was a timeless slice of sophisticated magnificence.
The song was the start of a new writing partnership with former Numan keyboardist Chris Payne. It captures Fraulein von Kassel sorrowfully pondering over the phone and questioning after her moment of haste if “it is foolish to dream”.
Capturing the beautiful melancholy of Billy Mackenzie, the doomed romantic tragedy of ‘Someday’ is echoed by the chanteuse’s deep forlorn delivery, accompanied by Payne’s hypnotic bassline and haunting vox humana treatment over a simple but hypnotic rhythmic loop.
Fresh from their successful and well-received performance at Electrowerkz in London, where they performed the ‘Walking In West Berlin’ EP and their joint cover of ‘Fade To Grey’, Katja and Chris chatted about the genesis of ‘Someday’.
How did ‘Someday’ come about?
Chris: This was one of the first songs I wrote for Katja, I became interested in working with her because of her voice. I get to hear some really good singers but there are very few that have got that extra something, that dynamic, that individuality, that emotion, whatever you want to call it.
When I listened to her earlier stuff, I realised the connection with that Dita von Teese / Marlene Dietrich / Liza Minnelli / Weimar Cabaret vibe but it was too obvious, so I wanted to take it into another dimension and create this atmosphere of Katja a dynamic declamatory singer on stage. When I sent her the backing track, she loved it and found the words straight away which led to us doing other pieces.
What was going on in your mind with the lyrics?
Katja: When Chris sent the backing track, straight away I had the melody which was just calling out for the lyrics. The music was so amazing that the melody felt like it already existed in my head.
‘Someday’ has a very timeless melody and recalls Billy Mackenzie in particular…
Chris: It wasn’t until you mentioned it that I remembered ASSOCIATES and I thought “Wow”!
It wasn’t a conscious direction, but maybe in my sub-conscious the song does have that atmospheric analogue sound of that period, mixed with some FM modular pads.
It does encapsulate something of a forlorn tragedy…
Katja: What’s strange is when you hear something as an artist when you hear the music, you just feel it and it comes out of you without any logic behind it, the phrase ‘Someday’ just opened it all up and everything else just fell into place. It feels like it HAS to be this way with the melody and lyrics…
Chris: What I didn’t realise when I sent you the backing track, was that it unlocked something, that’s amazing! That’s always a good sign! Another interesting thing about ‘Someday’ is after Katja had done her vocals, for a bit of fun I took all the percussive elements out and it created another track where the entire emotion had changed, I thought that was amazing so that’s why this Cinematic version is also on the EP.
Is there going to be more work from you two?
Chris: OH YEAH!
Chris: Obviously, we’re trying to get a whole album together which will take time…
Katja: So we need everyone who likes our music to let others know we are existing, because that’s the difficult thing as an artist these days.
The captivating German songstress KATJA VON KASSEL follows up her debut EP with a three song plus bonus variants compendium entitled ‘Walking In West Berlin’.
Having worked previously with LADYHAWKE collaborator Alex Gray, ‘Walking In West Berlin’ sees a change of direction in a new writing partnership with former Numan keyboardist Chris Payne, fresh from a rebooting of his ELECTRONIC CIRCUS side-project and his successful stint writing with Rusty Egan where his contributions were sung by luminaries such as Midge Ure and Tony Hadley.
“The tragedy of life is always a good inspiration to me” Katja once said and this is none more apparent on the airy magnificence of ‘Someday’. Capturing the beautiful melancholy of ASSOCIATES’ Billy Mackenzie, the doomed love affair is echoed by the chanteuse’s deep forlorn delivery, accompanied by Payne’s hypnotic synth bassline and haunting Numan-esque vox humana over a simple but hypnotic rhythmic loop.
And when some gentle piano cascades into the song’s second half, it generates an emotional lift which takes ‘Someday’ into a dreamy stratosphere; a sparse alternate Cinematic take of the song prolongs the song’s inherently introspective mood sans percussion.
Exuding purer electro Weimar cabaret with her Dietrich-like overtones, ‘Radio Symphony’ is more dramatic with a harder percussive edge, but still distinctly European and technolstagic in its Kraftwerkian fascination of the broadcast medium’s highly contrasting moods and motivations.
The ‘Walking In West Berlin’ title track is laced with Europäisch Neu Romantisch, to the point that it almost sounds as it is going to burst into ‘Fade To Grey’, the German No1 for VISAGE in 1981 which Chris Payne co-wrote with Billy Currie and Midge Ure; there are also hints of Scott Walker in his lonely Jean-Paul Satre phase too within the poetic grandeur of Katja’s delivery.
Bolstered by versions of all the tracks in Deutsch, this EP contains a thematically cohesive trio of songs that showcase the best in the musical sensibilities of both Fraulein von Kassel and Monsieur Payne.
If not a full-length album, then a follow-up EP is a must. It really would be a shame if the chemistry and compatibility of the von Kassel / Payne partnership was not artistically furthered.
What do DEPECHE MODE, SOFT CELL, BLANCMANGE and THE THE have in common?
They all appeared on the ‘Some Bizzare Album’ which acted as a springboard for their fame and fortune.
But the silent success story of the ‘Some Bizzare Album’ has to be Paul Statham; while his band B-MOVIE with Steve Hovington, Rick Holliday and Graham Boffey were unable to achieve a foothold in the mainstream like The Big Four, the guitarist later found considerable success as a songwriter and producer.
Working with personalities as varied as Peter Murphy, Jim Kerr, Billy Mackenzie, Dido, Dot Allison, Sarah Nixey, Kylie Minogue, Lisa Scott-Lee, Tina Arena and Rachel Stevens, Statham’s credits also include groups such as THE SATURDAYS and RIGHT SAID FRED.
Statham was also a member of cult electropop trio PEACH with Pascal Gabriel and Lisa Lamb, whose song ‘On My Own’ from their only album ‘Audiopeach’ featured during a key scene in the Gwyneth Paltrow movie ‘Sliding Doors’.
Although B-MOVIE reformed in 2004, Statham has continued his songwriting and production career in parallel.
More recently, there has also been his dark country project THE DARK FLOWERS, while he has also been releasing a series of ambient electronic albums, as well as establishing his own label Loki Records.
Paul Statham kindly took time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions about his career outside of B-MOVIE…
What has motivated you to start Loki Records in the current climate?
Well, exactly the words “current climate”! I did approach some leftfield labels, but the response time was tragic! Also as a long standing writer through Warner Chappell, there is always the thought that the song has to be commented on or is specifically ‘aimed’ at something , even going through an experimental label. So setting up my own label means I can go sit in the woods filming the moon all night, then decide that will be the video as it was for the track ‘Who Won’t Wait’! Of course who sees the video is then down to you endlessly trying to put links up!
After years of songwriting, how did this move towards more experimental music come about?
I have been involved in writing or creating pieces of instrumental music since 2002 through an art curator friend Victor De Circasia to run alongside writing more commercial music. My project THE DARK FLOWERS put a small element of experimental into traditional song using backdrops of wind or recorded atmosphere behind tracks, but my favourite album is Brian Eno’s ‘Another Green World’ and also I love reading about his compositional practice.
Your third ambient release is ‘Asylum’, how does this differ in concept from your first two releases of this type ‘Ephemeral’ and ‘Installation Music 1’ which were given away on Bandcamp?
I did plan to do it this way. The first two are unaltered pieces that were actually used in two installations, ‘Installation Music 1’ is very specific to a sculpture ‘Diving Woman’ by Sottish artist David Mach. ‘Asylum’ took some installation music from the Asylum Chapel in Peckham and simply used it as the starting point to create an album that was added to and experimented on over time.
What do you get out of this more experimental direction that you wouldn’t get from writing pop songs?
Total Freedom. A real journey from going out and exploring sounds in the outside world to developing artwork / films and setting out and letting the unfolding music direct where it heads to with no thought of who may like this. That’s why sometimes I’ll give them away for free!
Any thoughts about trying to compose hour long pieces like Brian Eno has done?
I already have a 28 minute piece that was used in an installation. It involved 28 pieces of thirty seconds long, starting with one then adding to it the next piece every 30 seconds to create a collage of found sound, then after 28 minutes it reverses. I will locate it and put it out for free on Bandcamp now you have reminded me! It was accompanied by painter Daisy Cook’s series of 28 small paintings of the Australian landscape but taken from the air. We made a film but I’ve since lost it!
The B-side to B-MOVIE’s ‘Marilyn Dreams’ was ‘Film Music Part 1’, what ever happened to Part 2 and is composing film music a direction you would like to head in?
That was written by Rick and I really like it! I think it was Rick, although Steve wrote most things back then! Film music is something I would love to do and would offer the music for free to any budding or low budget film in need!
After B-MOVIE first ended, you started to work with Peter Murphy in 1988 and continue to do so today, how would describe your creative dynamic?
Slow development! No, it’s completely different than my usual co-writing and has been long distance, with us rarely or actually ever sitting down in the same room and writing anything together. ‘Love Hysteria’ was me sitting in his attic with a four track and a few instruments, then leaving it with him. ‘Deep’ was similar but in a studio room, with Peter adding stuff once I’d put any sort of sketch down. After his move to Turkey, I would visit Ankara but again go into his studio room alone and sketch ideas, whilst he would then go in after me later at night and really shape them up. Since the internet, we simply share files. Some people find this dynamic difficult but after such a long time, I find it easy to send him anything I feel will intrigue.
Photo by Pete Walsh
In 1996, you formed PEACH who you described as “ABBA Meets THE KLF”? What inspired this?
Hahahaha! That was meeting Pascal Gabriel who produced the Murphy album ‘Cascade’. After the ‘Holy Smoke’ album, Peter dropped THE 100 MEN (band) and I went back to co-writing the whole album via sketches and lots of different styles, but with a more electronic feel. We all went to Spain to record, Peter, Pascal and myself and it was fairly high pressure.
On returning to London, I began to hang out with Pascal and he suggested that we form a very up dayglo electronic trio… very different to my Murphy work and at the time, it was something I definitely needed to do.
How did getting signed to Mute come about? It appeared to happen quite quickly…
We signed to Daniel Miller’s Mute label after playing him two demos in his office with no singer and Pascal sorting of humming vocal ideas. I really respect Daniel Miller and how he got what we were trying to do immediately and offered us a deal on the spot!
I will always be grateful to Pascal as he gave me studio keys and access to all these incredible synths and recording gear and simply let me learn my way around it, whilst we simply began recording with no agenda, other than kicking electropop tunes!
While your first single ‘On My Own’ wasn’t a UK Top 40 hit, it attracted positive responses?
It was a hit in the States and reached No 11 on the radio charts and also was a pop Top 40 hit. It was No 1 in Canada, Israel and bizarrely Singapore where Lisa Lamb and myself headed out to play the city’s 33rd birthday celebrations…v v odd!
Photo by Adrian Green
How did you feel when ‘On My Own’ featured in the film ‘Sliding Doors’?
I remember being very excited, especially meeting Gwyneth Paltrow at the aftershow of the London premiere. Also seeing your name come up at the end of the film credits was worth it!
‘From This Moment On’ is a timeless pop tune?
I wrote the majority of that alone, picturing a sort of ABBA / ACE OF BASS crossover with a different rhythmic feel than the rest of the more uptempo songs.
I started with the sequencer and then went back and wrote this long intro as I may have discovered a jazz chord or two from some book! Lyrically, I just liked the sound of the words / sentiment without it being particularly about anything! I don’t normally write lyrics, perhaps you can see why!
The eventual ‘Audiopeach’ album was one of the last recordings that the late Billy Mackenzie contributed to. His ad libs on ‘Deep Down Together’ are so unmistakable, how did you know him and what was he like to work with?
Billy Mackenzie was a friend of Pascal’s and I was a HUGE fan of ASSOCIATES. It was shortly before he committed suicide and he arrived very down to earth and humble with a few cans of beer. He simply opened his mouth and that voice exploded. I loved it so much, I owned a DAT tape of him simply singing his vocal line unaccompanied, it was so pure with such a range. He also sang on ’Give Me Tomorrow’, replacing the high sampled opera vocal. I have read ‘The Glamour Chase’ biography twice now and recently have started listening to him a lot.
Photo by Joe Dilworth
By the time ‘Audiopeach’ came out in 1998, the momentum appeared to have stalled, what happened?
Basically we didn’t all get on. Lisa proved difficult at the time, while Pascal and her were complete ‘Polar Opposites’ in just about everything. I think Lisa herself will admit she found it difficult and although we had success, our vision of what PEACH should sound like / appear like were pulling in two very different directions. I was sad as had left a long running collaboration with Murphy, found success with this pop / electronic vibe, signed to Mute and then walked away from it all.
PEACH supported ERASURE in London but did not play live much, could this have been a contributory factor?
I loved playing live, especially after some amazing live shows around the world with Peter Murphy, who was and is a great frontman and thrived on chaos. Pascal wasn’t so much a live musician and Lisa just got more outrageous, so it wasn’t really a live show at all, just playing a few chords over a backing track. We played three shows with ERASURE in London and before that, two in Hamburg. The German shows were a real success and very enjoyable, but somehow we’d lost enthusiasm by the time we played London!
PEACH appeared to help kickstart your next phase as a pop writer with artists like Kylie Minogue, Rachel Stevens and Lisa Scott-Lee?
Yes, that was only due to the fact I signed via PEACH to Warner Chappell and became great friends with my A&R man Mike Sault who began getting us co-writes with other artists and also, the great work that Sandy Dworniak at TMT Management did as Pascal’s and my manager.
Some might say your best known song is ‘Here With Me’ which you did with Dido, how do you look back on it?
It was so good as Dido had no expectations on her and I loved her voice; as a person and collaborator, she was great fun and wrote quickly and strongly in terms of her lyrics / melodies. We wrote quite a lot of songs and I remember vividly writing ‘I’m No Angel’ with her in about two hours!
So how would you approach a song for a singer, as opposed to artists like Dido, Sarah Nixey or Dot Allison who are more involved in the composition side? Is there a brief from the label?
Yep, sort of. It’s always strange as they give you a reference video by another artist, then the artist plays you something different and the management tell you they want something off the wall and different, so I just try and write the most interesting music I can and see where it goes. It’s so hard to get these things right and you end up with literally hundreds of very very good songs, but then so does everyone else who co-writes with them. It’s frustrating going back and seeing a huge iTunes library with lots of songs that you feel could be hits if the artist / A&R / manager had chosen to go with the song you co-wrote!!
You also worked with Jim Kerr on ‘Return Of the King’, a tribute to Billy Mackenzie for his LOST BOY solo project and subsequently, ‘Kill Or Cure’ for SIMPLE MINDS, what was that like?
Fantastic! I saw SIMPLE MINDS four times in one year when I was a teenager and was a HUGE fan of the first four albums. Not so much ‘New Gold Dream’ onwards, but ‘Reel To Real Cacophony’ and ‘Empires & Dance’.
So writing with Jim Kerr in my small bedroom sized home studio was one of those moments you think if I could have told my 18 year old self that, he wouldn’t have believed me! Also we share a lot of great music references in Bowie, Bolan, Roxy and certain literary styles / books. Jim is a very optimistic and supportive friend, he encouraged THE DARK FLOWERS and we have written a lot of material that may or may not see the light of day!
So what’s happening with THE DARK FLOWERS, which has featured Jim Kerr, Peter Murphy and Dot Allison amongst others?
I have all the music… it’s like herding cats trying to get a song or two from each person as they are all involved constantly in their own work. However I’m getting excited about the second album as its shaping up well… darker in tone than the first (deliberately) and featuring David J as well. Lloyd Cole was interested and started a track, but as of yet???!!!!
In all, are you quite happy with how you music career has turned out in its various guises?
I’m very happy… more so than ever. I re-signed to Warner Chappell in January and balance my week with running a course at BIMM in London once a week and heading up the songwriting workshops at Solent University (sixth year now) once a week too. This leaves me plenty of time to work on my own stuff and collaborate with long standing friends / artists
What’s next for you in whatever guise?
– THE DARK FLOWERS 2
– The continued release of experimental music via Loki Records
– AFTER THE RAIN (my new sample / DJ Shadow style project)
– New B-MOVIE album
– New Peter Murphy collaborations
– A new KRAFTWERK / vaporwave project with film composer Magnus Fiennes out in LA
– And continued co-writing via Warner Chappell’s, particularly with electro R‘n’B singer Billie Black.
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its grateful thanks to Paul Statham
Although he became a noted producer during the height of punk, it was with THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Dare’ that Martin Rushent’s reputation as an electronic music pioneer was forged.
Rushent had cut his teeth as an engineer for acts as varied as SHIRLEY BASSEY and T-REX, working under the wing of their respective producers Johnny Harris and Tony Visconti.
His first major production was for CURVED AIR on their ‘Air Cut’ album.
It featured Jim Russell on drums who became later became one of Rushent’s engineers and joined THE HUMAN LEAGUE for their ‘Crash’ tour.
He then secured a lucrative role working for United Artists, the company famously founded by Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks Junior, Mary Pickford and DW Griffith, as an in-house producer with A&R responsibilities.
It was in this position that he found major success working with THE STRANGLERS and BUZZCOCKS. Meanwhile his freelance clause allowed him to also produce bands like GENERATION X, 999 and THE REZILLOS whose guitarist Jo Callis was later to join THE HUMAN LEAGUE.
It was in 1978 at the height of his punk success that Radar Records, an offshoot of Warners who had Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe on their roster, offered Rushent an opportunity to start his own label and production company. Radar had been founded by the team that had hired Rushent for United Artists and the offer included funding to build what was to become his Genetic Sound Studios complex at his home in Reading.
With his new office based above The Blitz Club and a desire to move away from guitar bands, Rushent became fascinated by the New Romantic movement and its electronic soundtrack provided by their resident DJ Rusty Egan. Egan had started a project with Midge Ure named VISAGE fronted by the now sadly departed Steve Strange. Their demos had been offered to EMI but were turned down…
“Martin Rushent turned punk into pop with THE STRANGLERS and BUZZCOCKS and was the hottest punk producer in 1977-78”Rusty Egan told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK, “He had no idea about synths, he was a rock producer but knew ULTRAVOX, MAGAZINE and RICH KIDS were disbanded. But his musical hunch was ‘they must come up with something’”.
Sensing that something was in the air, Rushent invited VISAGE to use his studio to see what they came up with. These sessions, which also featured ULTRAVOX’s Billy Currie plus MAGAZINE’s Dave Formula, the late John McGeoch and Barry Adamson, intrigued Rushent.
“We came with our equipment and no drum kit” recalled Egan about that visit to Genetic Sound Studios which was still being built.
“I had the CR78 and the Simmons SDS3 prototype which Richard Burgess gave us; Midge had a Yamaha CS50, Billy had an RMI Electra Piano, Elka Rhapsody 610 and the ARP Odyssey while Dave brought his Yamaha CP30, ARP Odyssey and Yamaha string machine. We ran sequenced drums and layered, we had SMPTE timecode as MIDI did not come in for years, so we triggered and I hit drum pads and we created the sounds… Martin had never seen this type of recording”.
Despite the promising material coming from VISAGE, Warners pulled the plug on Radar and immediate plans for Genetic Records became stillborn. In hindsight, this move was extremely short sighted on Warners part as it was rumoured Rushent had been in discussions with JOY DIVISION, ULTRAVOX and SPANDAU BALLET.
Despite this set back, this experience helped Rushent realise that music production moving towards being more computer-driven, so he bought a Roland MC8 Micro-composer along with a Roland System 700 and Jupiter 4.
A strong advocate of clarity in instrument voicing and as a former drummer, how drum sounds were achieved, the availability of the Linn LM1 Drum Computer in 1981 was the final piece in the jigsaw and the set-up helped Rushent realise his vision. The rest as they say, is history and THE HUMAN LEAGUE scored a No1 with ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ on both sides of the Atlantic…
Rushent won the 1982 Brit Award for best producer and went on to produce THE GO-GO’S third album ‘Talk Show’ released in 1984. However, while recording the follow-up to ‘Dare’, a breakdown in his personal life, coupled to deteriorating relations with THE HUMAN LEAGUE led to Rushent leaving the sessions and walking out of his own studio!
Following his divorce, Rushent was forced to sell Genetic Sound Studios to avoid bankruptcy. Despite reducing his workload to more occasional studio recordings with ASSOCIATES, HARD CORPS, THEN JERICO and TWO PEOPLE, Rushent was suffering from depression; realising his heart was no longer in music, he effectively retired from the industry.
Taking time out to raise his family as a single parent, he eventually made a steady return to full album productions with HAZEL O’CONNOR in 2005 and THE PIPETTES in 2010. Buoyed by the huge developments in computer technology, he even presented his own DISCO UNLIMITED project with a track called ‘Itchy Hips’ inspired by his daughter Amy, as well as working with his son James’ band DOES IT OFFEND YOU, YEAH? But just as momentum was returning to his music career, Rushent sadly passed away in June 2011, aged 62.
Remembering working with Martin Rushent, Clive Pierce of HARD CORPS said: “Personally I felt overwhelmed when in the studio with him as it did feel at times that your precious baby was being bounced around in a manner you would never dream of doing yourself. His deft production work magnified what we were attempting to do ourselves and that’s exactly what great producers do”.
THE PIPETTES’ Ani Saunders who now makes music as ANI GLASS added: “One of the greatest lessons I learnt from Martin was to only spend your time working on music you believe in and not to be afraid to change / amend / cut parts or songs if they’re not good enough. Of course the production and engineering skills I gained working with him were invaluable but I also learnt about how to create the right atmosphere for and during recording, something which I think is often overlooked. When I’m writing pop songs I always ask myself ‘what would Martin do?’ – it helps to keep me in check”.
Focussing primarily on his work with synthesizers and technology, here is a look back at the post-punk career of Martin Rushent. With a limit of one track per album project and presented in chronological order, here is a Beginner’s Guide to the late, great man…
THE STRANGLERS Nice N Sleazy (1978)
Making his fortune producing the key tracks of THE STRANGLERS’ career such as ‘(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)’, ‘Peaches’ and ‘No More Heroes’, the mutant punk reggae of ‘Nice N Sleazy’ saw a diversion into synthesizers with Dave Greenfield’s spacey blast of swirling Minimoog during the instrumental break. At their Battersea Park in September 1978, the band typically courted controversy when they were accompanied by strippers for the song’s visual embellishment!
Recorded in March 1979, JOY DIVISION spent a day at Eden Studios in London with Martin Rushent, recording a 5 track demo with the view to signing to his Genetic Records label. But afterwards, the band headed to Strawberry Studios in Manchester to record their debut album ’Unknown Pleasures’ with Martin Hannett for Factory Records. However, Rushent always reckoned his version of ‘Ice Age’ was better than the speedier version which ended up on the posthumous ‘Still’ collection in 1981.
Available on the JOY DIVISION boxed set ‘Heart & Soul’ via Rhino Records
At Genetic Sound Studios, VISAGE started recording an album. Rusty Egan recalled: “we agreed to use the studio for a weekend with Martin engineering”; the first track from those sessions was ‘Tar’, a cautionary tale about the dangers of smoking. After numerous contractual issues, it was finally released as a single on Genetic Records but within days, Warners closed down his funding source at Radar Records. But encouraged by all the synthesizer technology being used in his studio, Rushent saw the future.
Available on VISAGE album ‘Visage’ via Polydor Records
Released on the relaunched Genetic Records via Island Records, ‘Homosapien’ came about after sessions were aborted for BUZZCOCKS fourth album. Rushent suggested to frontman Shelley that the two of them should work on new material using the Roland MC8 Micro-composer and System 700. Now seen as Shelley’s coming out song, a cacophony of synths and 12 string guitar combined for a wonderful futuristic snarl. However, the lyric “Homo Superior in my interior” got it a BBC Radio1 ban.
Available on the PETE SHELLEY album ‘Homosapien’ via Active Distribution Ltd
When presented with the demo of ‘The Sound Of The Crowd’, Rushent’s response was “Well, that’s going in the bin”. Phil Oakey objected but the producer snarled back: “You came to me, so I assume that’s because you want hits?”… triggering bursts of System 700 white noise from the Micro-composer for the rhythm track, the combination of obscure lyrics from Ian Burden like “Stroke a pocket with a print of a laughing sound” and a screaming chant gave THE HUMAN LEAGUE their breakthrough hit.
While Steve Severin from SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES produced the majority of the ‘Happy Birthday’, the job of turning the title track into the Glaswegian quintet’s breakthrough hit fell to Rushent. Tight ‘n’ bright thanks to his modern production techniques and Glare Grogan’s helium fuelled cutesy vocals and nursery rhyme lyrics, ALTERED IMAGES were denied the No1 spot for 3 weeks by Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin’s synth cover of ‘It’s My Party’ and then later, THE POLICE.
Combining the precision of the latest programmed technology with live instrumentation, ‘I Could Be Happy’ was close to perfection as one of Rushent’s best productions. Despite being shrouded in melancholy, it was catchy and danceable enough to be a UK Top 10 hit. Rushent produced the parent album ‘Pinky Blue’ but it was given a lukewarm reception by the music press, ultimately causing the original line-up of ALTERED IMAGES to implode.
Featuring Ross Middleton and Gary Barnacle with production by Rushent, ‘Love Cascade’ was the missing link between PETE SHELLEY and THE HUMAN LEAGUE. The vocals were virtually unintelligible as the clattering Linn Drum, pulsing synths, squawky guitar and sax merged together for a cool dancefloor friendly tune full of the decadent spirit of the times. Rushent produced the duo’s three other singles, while Barnacle went on to become one of the world’s most in-demand session saxophonists.
12 inch version available on the album ‘Retro: Active 5’ (V/A) via Hi-Bias Records Canada
“The most creative experience I’ve ever had in my life” was how Rushent described the making of ‘Love & Dancing’, an album of tracks from ‘Dare’ specially remixed and re-edited by the producer. Pre-sampling, the material was remixed from the mixing board using a multitude of effects with vocal stutters created by cutting up small portions of tape and splicing them together with the aid of his custom-made ruler. The percussive dub laden barrage of ‘Do Or Die’ was one of the highlights.
Available on THE LEAGUE UNLIMITED ORCHESTRA album ‘Love & Dancing’ via Virgin Records
Tensions were running high with creative differences during the recording sessions for THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s follow-up to ‘Dare’, with Rushent losing enthusiasm for the album project due to conflicts in the studio with Phil Oakey and in particular, Susanne Sulley. The weirdly catchy ‘Fascination’ was the last track to be recorded with Rushent, but he departed before it was mixed, despite Jo Callis’ attempts to mediate. The eventual ‘Hysteria’ album was lukewarm, audibly missing Rushent’s touch.
With Shelley and Rushent developing on ‘Homosapien’ with a more fierce sound, ‘Telephone Operator’ could be seen as an extension lyrically to the themes of its predecessor. The original parent album ‘XL-1’ had a novel bonus track in a computer program for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum which printed lyrics in time with the music and displayed graphics, there was a locking groove before the code so that its bleeps and squeaks could not be played accidentally.
Available on PETE SHELLEY album ‘XL-1’ by Active Distribution Ltd
When endorsing Korg’s PSS-50 Programmable Super Section for a magazine advert, Rushent was enthusing about a record which “apart from voice” was “all written and performed on one synth” – that album was HAZEL O’CONNOR’s ‘Smile’. From it, the moody single ‘Don’t Touch Me’ was very art school Weimar Cabaret with some very passionate vocals from O’Connor, constructed around a Synclavier with its distinct period bass and brass sounds.
Available on HAZEL O’CONNOR album ‘Smile’ via Cherry Red
Rushent worked with Billy Mackenzie on five tracks for ‘Perhaps’, the much anticipated recorded return of ASSOCIATES. ‘Waiting For The Love Boat’ was one of those songs, but the recording which stood out from the sessions was the epic string laden drama of ’Breakfast’. It is possibly Mackenzie’s greatest single moment, the melancholic piano motif setting the scene for an entire film noir in five minutes with its widescreen dramatics and mournful tension.
Clive Pierce told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK: “HARD CORPS, having traditionally self-produced tracks at our resident studio in Brixton relished the prospect of working with Martin on ‘Je Suis Passée’ having been admirers of his work on ‘Love & Dancing’. It was difficult but never the less a total education. That’s the trouble being so close to something it’s difficult to let go. In retrospect I now listen to ’Je Suis Passée’ in awe of what he achieved for the track. The baby was fine”.
Pop rockers THEN JERICO were fronted by the handsome if volatile Mark Shaw; their debut single ‘The Big Sweep’ was recorded with Rushent and some help from his new Synclavier. However, due to the track’s anti-tabloid lyrical subject matter, the band’s label London Records initially declined to release the track. So it was self-released as a 1000 limited edition, although the track eventually resurfaced in its club mix on the 12 inch of ‘Muscle Deep’ in 1987.
Available on the THEN JERICO album ‘The Best Of’ via London Records
Jo Callis told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK: “With ‘Heart Like A Wheel’, when The League came to thinking about the follow up to ‘Crash’ (which would become ‘Romantic?’), I thought there might be a good opportunity to try and get ‘the old team’ back together again, which I did manage to achieve for a couple of tunes at least”. With Rushent at the helm again, the result was a tune that recalled the classic pop era of THE HUMAN LEAGUE more than either of the two 1986 singles ‘Human’ or ‘I Need Your Loving’ had done.
GRAFTON PRIMARY Relativity – Martin Rushent remix (2008)
Australian electro-noir duo GRAFTON PRIMARY balanced in the divide between art and science on their debut single ‘Relativity’. Benjamin and Joshua Garden utilised sharp synthpop hooks and solid basslines in a classic Synth Britannia vein not dissimilar to THE HUMAN LEAGUE, which naturally made the Garden brothers perfect for a remix by Martin Rushent.
Available on GRAFTON PRIMARY single ‘Relativity’ via Resolution Music
THE PIPETTES Our Love Was Saved By Spacemen (2010)
From Rushent’s final album production, ‘Our Love Was Saved By Spacemen’ was a celestial Latin flavoured pop tune by the MkII variant of THE PIPETTES, fronted by sisters Gwenno and Ani Saunders. The partnership was to prove inspirational with Gwenno’s next solo long player ‘Y Dydd Olaf’ being one of the best albums of 2014, while Ani recently tweeted a photo of project notes from recording with Rushent as she prepared to record her first solo album.
JORI HULKKONEN is one of Europe’s most highly regarded electronic producers, yet remains something of a hidden secret.
While a fan of synthesized music such as PET SHOP BOYS, NEW ORDER and JOHN FOXX, Hulkkonen’s love of Detroit techno and house music has brought a rhythmical edge to his many productions and remixes.
Hulkkonen released his first album ‘Selkäsaari Tracks’ in 1996, but he first came to the world’s wider attention as ZYNTHERIUS with TIGA on their 2001 electro cover of ‘Sunglasses At Night’.
As well as solo long players such as 2010’s acclaimed ‘Man From Earth’ and collaborative projects like KEBACID, STOP MODERNISTS, PROCESSORY, SIN COS TAN and THE TANIA & JORI CONTINENTS, he has DJ-ed around the world, presented his own radio shows and remixed artists as diverse as ROBYN, KID CUDI and JOE JACKSON.
Based in Turku on the southwest coast of Finland, Hulkkonen recently downsized the amount of hardware in his AlppIVhouz Studios, although he still retains a Korg PS3100, Emulator II, Roland Jupiter 4, Roland SH101, Roland TR808, Roland TB303, Siel Orchestra and the ubiquitous Eurorack Modular system.
Always up for the odd spot of artistic mischief, he assembled THE ACID SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, an experimental avant-garde techno ensemble of nine fellow conspirators each controlling a Roland TB-303, conducted and mixed by Hulkkonen; the collective famously supported KRAFTWERK on their Helsinki date in 2009.
More recently, Hulkkonen has teamed up with fellow Finn Jimi Tenor for a touring presentation of their silent art movie ‘Nuntius’. Starring Mr Normall as its central alien character, it features a live improvised soundtrack ranging from blippy ambient to frantic motorik; none of the music is to be released. So with each performance being unique, ‘Nuntius’ provides a cerebral audio / visual experience for who are able to witness it.
With such a varied catalogue of work and projects, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK looks back at the career of JORI HULKKONEN in the shape of this eighteen track Beginner’s Guide, arranged in chronological order and with a restriction of one track per album / project…
TIGA & ZYNTHERIUS Sunglasses At Night (2001)
This cover of Corey Hart’s cult classic, adopted as a signature song by the Electroclash movement, came about when Hulkkonen was in Montreal promoting his ‘Helsinki Mix Sessions’ CD released on TIGA’s Turbo label. “The synthline just felt very cool to use with the 808 beat” he said, “I’m glad I used a pseudonym for that release as even though I loved a lot of the music that was around and connected with Electroclash, the whole scene felt a bit distant to me.”
Available on the TIGA & ZYNTHERIUS single ‘Sunglasses At Night’ via City Rockers / International Deejay Gigolo Records
JORI HULKKONEN featuring JOHN FOXX Dislocated (2005)
“’Metamatic’ is one of my all-time favourite albums” said Hulkkonen, “and for me it was a fantastic opportunity to get a chance to work with one of the people who had shaped my musical world. ‘Dislocated’ was written by me, with John and the sound of ‘Metamatic’ in mind”. The end result sounded like what the title suggested and the pair worked together again in more collaborative manner in 2008 on ‘Never Been Here Before’; it wouldn’t be for the final time either…
Available on the JORI HULKKONEN album ‘Dualizm’ via F Recordings
Work had actually begun on a TIGA & ZYNTHERIUS album, but the pair both felt that keeping the project as a one hit wonder was a much cooler alternative. However, several songs from those recording sessions ended up on their various solo albums, with ‘Dying In Beauty’ appearing on Hulkkonen’s ‘Dualizm’, while ‘High School’ with its hypnotic synth sequence and latent machine groove found a home on TIGA’s debut long player ‘Sexor’.
JORI HULKKONEN featuring JUSTINE ELECTRA Errare Machinale Est (2008)
2008 could be considered Hulkkonen’s Down Under phase and for the title track of his sixth solo record, he recruited Electra, a Melbourne-based singer / songwriter / musician / DJ to add her wispy nonchalant voice to this expansive mood piece with an extended ambient intro. The track utilised grainy Emulator II strings in an aesthetic that was to become one of his trademarks. The album also featured a tune fittingly titled ‘Forgive Me Father For I Have Synth’.
THE PRESETS This Boy’s In Love – Jori Hulkkonen Remix (2008)
Australian duo Julian Hamilton and Kim Moyes made their international breakthrough with ‘This Boy’s In Love’, an uptempo ASSOCIATES flavoured highlight from their second album ‘Apocalypso’. Hulkkonen stretched out the track out for almost ten minutes in a beat laden squelch fest and described it as: “a 10 out of 10 remix on my standards. It’s difficult to say why but somehow everything just clicked when I was making it and it still sounds fresh”.
Co-written with one-time KILLING JOKE bassist Martin Glover aka Youth, Hulkkonen’s remix adopted a deep framework and applied a pulsing club friendly vibe to the dark cool of Client A and Client B’s Cold War Chic, while “dancing on a ticking bomb”. Growing up in Finland during that era with The Bear next door looming would have had a profound effect on Hulkkonen in shaping his soundscapes.
Available on the CLIENT album ‘Command’ via Out Of Line
Like its predecessor, TIGA’s ‘Ciao’ was mostly co-produced by Belgian brothers SOULWAX, although James Murphy of LCD SOUNDSYSTEM gave a helping hand on another track originally intended for TIGA & ZYNTHERIUS. Hedonistic and sweaty like a clubby Marc Almond, TIGA however could never quite escape the DJ tag to establish himself a fully-fledged artist in his own right. Indeed, he once congratulated LADYTRON “for escaping Electroclash”.
JOHN FOXX & LOUIS GORDON Neuro Video – Jori Hulkkonen Remix (2010)
‘Neuro Video’ came out of Foxx and Gordon’s ‘From Trash’ recording sessions and reflected Foxx’s known love of old science-fiction B-Movies which had influenced much of earlier solo work. For his remix, Hulkkonen stripped the track down and made it less percussively frantic, procuring a spacious groove for the bubbling electronics to work within. This remix and another of ‘Impossible’ were originally made available as a free download via Foxx’s Metamatic web platform.
Available on the JOHN FOXX & LOUIS GORDON album ‘Sideways’ via Metamatic Records
Hailing from East Helsinki, Juho Paalosmaa and Tomi Hyyppä’s superb debut album ‘Origin’ was co-produced by Hulkkonen. He said at the time: “The guys had written a lot of songs in the previous couple of years, so someone outside their songwriting duo having a fresh pair of ears was crucial in picking a group of songs that would make a good album… They have a lot going on for them though; great songwriting, a very good debut album to build on and definitely not least, Juho’s magical voice”.
Available on the VILLA NAH album ‘Origin’ via Keys Of Life
“We were both going through on a very deep phase with THE SMITHS” said Hulkkonen of ‘Lo-Fiction’, his first collaboration with reclusive vocalist Jerry Valuri in 2005. With their ambitious joint project PROCESSORY, the aim was “to create its own little universe” with various space travel themed concepts. With a lo-fi anguished gothique, ‘Take Me To Your Leader’ concocted some very introspective moods at The Finland Station… however, nothing has been proved.
A cover of the lost NEW ORDER single from 1985, Hulkkonen remembered: “The idea was to take what me and STOP MODERNISTS partner Alex Nieminen felt was an underrated song, make a late 80s deep house interpretation and bring some extra twist with having Chris on the vocals. It’s very hard – impossible, actually – to explain how important this record is to me. PET SHOP BOYS have been the most important musical influence for me”.
Available on the STOP MODERNISTS single ‘Subculture’ via Keys Of Life
When VILLA NAH went on hiatus, Hulkkonen and Paalosmaa formed SIN COS TAN. Explaining the difference, Paalosmaa said: ”With VILLA NAH, I’ve been solely responsible for the songwriting, so I knew that would be different with SIN COS TAN. With Jori, we both bring our ideas to the table”. Very nocturnal in tone, ‘Trust’ was a superb 21st Century answer to ‘Enjoy The Silence’, described by Hulkkonen as “Disco You Can Cry To”. Indeed, like that iconic tune, ‘Trust’ had been written as a ballad.
Available on the SIN COS TAN album ‘Sin Cos Tan’ via Solina Records
BILLY MACKENZIE Boltimoore – Original JiiHoo Bootmix (2012)
The magnificent voice of Billy Mackenzie from his stark cover of Randy Newman’s ‘Baltimore’ was flown into a hypnotic tech house bootleg constructed by Hulkkonen. With deliberate incorrect spelling of our hero’s name to mask its illegal nature, it was a haunting ghostly return from the heavens to the dancefloor. Mackenzie would have loved it and had he been alive today, he would have almost certainly been working with Hulkkonen; what magic that would have been…
Available on the 12” vinyl release ‘Boltimoore’ via Kojak Giant Sounds
Despite their collaborative history, Foxx and Hulkkonen had never worked together on a body of work with a conceptual theme, but the opportunity came with the appropriately titled ‘European Splendour’ EP. It took on the grainier downtempo template of PROCESSORY and the lead song ‘Evangeline’ was all the more beautiful for it. Full of depth, coupled with an anthemic chorus and vibrant exchange of character throughout, this rousing yet soothingly futuristic number was quite otherworldly.
SIN COS TAN featuring CASEY SPOONER Avant Garde (2013)
Hulkkonen first found fame during the Electroclash era and a noted personality from that scene made an appearance on the second SIN COS TAN album ‘Afterlife’. ‘Avant Garde’ featured Casey Spooner who provided a suitably cynical snarl to contrast Paalosmaa’s lost boy cry on a track that sounded like THE CURE being produced by PET SHOP BOYS. Paalosmaa was particularly thrilled, saying “I’ve been a big FISCHERSPOONER fan since their debut in 2001, so it was a very cool honour”.
Available on the SIN COS TAN album ‘Afterlife’ via Solina Records
A brilliant slice of uptempo electronic pop with more than just a hint of GIORGIO MORODER and NEW ORDER, ‘Italian Love Affair’ was Italo Disco laced with a soaring vocal and a fabulous neon lit groove. Despite having shied away from singing throughout the majority of his career, Hulkkonen took on vocals himself on this highlight from his ninth solo album, with the end result sounding not unlike a cross between Jerry Valuri and Juho Paalosmaa.
Available on the JORI HULKKONEN album ‘Oh But I Am’ via My Favorite Robot Records
FEELS If You’d Meet Me Tonight – Jori Hulkkonen Remix (2016)
FEELS are a Helsinki based indietronica band comprising of Sofi Meronen, Mikael Myrskog and Jooel Jons; when Hulkkonen saw them band play live in Turku, he became a fan and asked if he could work on their material. Speeded up considerably and pracatically changing the entire character of the song, his remix of ‘If You’d Meet Me Tonight’ was highly danceable, but still retained the trio’s glorious Nordic melancholy for some more of that “Disco You Can Cry To”.
VILLA NAH unexpectedly returned after six years and Hulkkonen was there to assist again as co-producer. Of the magnificent track with which they returned, Paalosmaa said: “‘Stranger’ is a play on words; how somebody you’ve known can turn stranger over the span of time… and end up as a complete stranger in the process”. This was classic crystalline synthpop with a modern twist at its best, in a fine juxtaposition of swirling arpeggios and melodic tension.
Available on the VILLA NAH album ‘Ultima’ via Solina Records
Hulkkonen has released several EPs and singles over the last couple of years in the build-up to a new long player, while a new single ‘Don’t Believe In Happiness’ is set to be unleashed. A cinematic synth wave instrumental with a dripping percussive template, ‘Tintån Terdel’ signals a possible future in film work. It’s an avenue already being explored by himself and Jimi Tenor in a live context via the unique presentations of their silent Sci-Fi movie ‘Nuntius’.