Tag: Blaine L Reininger (Page 2 of 2)


CultWthNoName3 photographed by Chris DorneyCULT WITH NO NAME are a London based duo comprising of Erik Stein and Jon Boux.

Referring to themselves as “post-punk electronic balladeers”, they released their debut album ‘Paper Wraps Rock’ in 2007.

The expanded palette of 2010’s ‘Adrenalin’ and 2012’s ‘Above As Below’ gained them further plaudits, while ‘Another Landing’ released in 2014 featured noted guests such as Blaine L Reininger, Bruce Geduldig and Luc van Lieshout from cult American band TUXEDOMOON, former SNEAKER PIMPS singer Kelli Ali and Japanese electronica artist COPPÉ.

As well as recording song based material, they produced an original contemporary score for the German expressionist silent film ‘The Cabinet of Dr Caligari‘. Continuing along this theme, their most recent project has been in collaboration with TUXEDOMOON and JOHN FOXX for the soundtrack of ‘Blue Velvet Revisited’, a documentary based around previously unseen footage filmed on the set of the David Lynch’s film ‘Blue Velvet’.

CULT WITH NO NAME’s vocalist Erik Stein kindly chatted to The Electricity Club about the duo’s career to date and his interest in the subgenre of synthpunk.

CultWthNoName-Erik-5Why did you choose CULT WITH NO NAME as the moniker for your music? Many know it as one of the names for the New Romantics that didn’t stick, but your music does not appear to reflect a connection with that?

There were a number of factors. Firstly, I’d heard GARY NUMAN repeatedly say that one of the reasons he chose TUBEWAY ARMY as a name was because every single punk band was called ‘The’ something. That always stuck, and around the time we formed there was such a glut of ‘The’ bands it was unbelievable… THE STROKES, THE HIVES, THE VINES, THE WHITE STRIPES, THE ZUTONS, THE DELAYS etc. Secondly, I was reading a book called ‘Join Me’ by Danny Wallace, who had created his own cult with no name by placing ads in newspapers that just said “join me”. I liked that too.

As a phrase it had a nice ring to it. Having a band with two people in it calling itself a cult is faintly ridiculous. I always knew of the New Romantic connections of course, so it was also a tongue in cheek reference to that. We may not sound like SPAUNDAU BALLET, but we really do love an awful lot of music from 1981. I’ve since worked with inimitable Rusty Egan a fair bit, founder of The Blitz Club, and he’s championed us. It’s funny how these things come full circle.

CULT WITH NO NAME’s music is hard to categorise. How would you describe it and are there any musical references you could highlight for those who are curious?

CultWthNoName4 photographed by MetsoI’m very flattered that you think it’s hard to categorise, thank you, particularly as we basically write songs rather than create anything deliberately obtuse. My primary influences are post-punk electronic bands, from the better known to the really obscure. My two favourite bands growing up were actually THE STRANGLERS and THE RESIDENTS, both of whom have a bigger place in the evolution of electronic music than I think is acknowledged.

Jon loves a lot of 20th century classical music, the likes of Arvo Part, which is definitely key to our sound. A big shared electronic influence we have is OMD, and I think you can hear the early OMD influence in at least some of what we do. Another really important musical reference point for the two of us, and anyone that’s curious, is a Dutch band called THE NITS, who are criminally unknown in the UK.

Despite the terrible name, THE NITS have released over 20 albums of incredibly inventive music. Much of it is also electronic, or at least very keyboard based. I encourage anyone to check out their 1990 album ‘Giant Normal Dwarf’. It’s just vocals, keyboards and drums, but I guarantee it doesn’t sound like any other electronic album you’ve heard and is deceptively dark. They are key influence on our music.

Your best known song is possibly ‘Breathing’ from 2010’s ‘Adrenalin’? Can you describe the process of its composition as an example of how you work with your musical partner Jon Boux?

‘Breathing’ was written in the same way as 90% of our songs, so it is a good example. Basically, I write them on guitar, and Jon transposes them on to piano and strings with me there chipping in. I would actually like to use guitars more, but I’m not a very good guitarist and I’m never happy with the guitar sound I get. It’s probably a very good thing, as Jon produces something far more interesting than I ever could. The backing tracks are mainly programmed by me, with Jon adding spurious noises and extra parts.

Our instrumental tracks develop differently, with Jon pretty much doing them from scratch and me just producing and mixing them. The writing process seems to work well and is pretty much unchanged from the day we started.

CultWthNoName-Above as BelowYou’ve released a fair number of albums since your inception in 2004, which ones are you most proud of?

My personal favourite CWNN album is probably ‘Above As Below’ from 2012. I think it’s our most well-rounded album, whatever that means.

We don’t really record songs with albums in mind to be honest. We simply put out an album when we feel we have enough good ones to unleash. Somehow though, ‘Above as Below’ feels a bit more cohesive.

It’s also the first time we used a lot of guest contributors, and they all added so very much. Jonathan Barnbrook, who designed DAVID BOWIE’s last four albums (and does most of JOHN FOXX’s), did a breathtaking cover for it too, using a letterpress.

Of course more recently, ‘Blue Velvet Revisited’ was released, and we’re immensely proud of that album. The label it is released on, the amazing Crammed Discs, is my very favourite record label. When I was much younger I remember buying records on Crammed and seeing that they had an office in Wardour Street, London, which is now no longer there. I always dreamt to myself, “one day, I will work for that label”. Never in a million years did I think I would actually release an album on it, and it still makes me smile.

blue-velvet-revisited-785x803Your most recent project has been the ‘Blue Velvet Revisited’ soundtrack with TUXEDOMOON and JOHN FOXX. How did you all conceive and realise it?

A friend of mine is Peter Braatz, founder of the German punk / post-punk band S.Y.P.H. whom I adore. Getting to know Peter I found out that as a filmmaker (his primary occupation these days), he worked with David Lynch on ‘Blue Velvet’, documenting the making of it in 1985. Listening to ‘As Below’ from our ‘Above as Below’ album he conceived the idea of editing a feature length ‘Blue Velvet Revisited’ film set to CWNN music.

He got the funding and then commissioned us. I then invited TUXEDOMOON and JOHN FOXX to take part, basically because I thought that would make a seriously cool album. I hope I was right.

Was there much collaboration between the different parties, what was the creative dynamic like?

The JOHN FOXX track was conceived totally separately, although I had to edit it down as the original track was much longer. Luckily, he was very happy with my edit and I think the piece is a perfect fit. The CWNN / TUXEDOMOON tracks are all collaborations. Half of them are tracks that we generated for TUXEDOMOON members to play on and half of them are tracks that they generated for us to edit, add to and produce. As all the collaborations were done virtually via the web, a lot of trust was involved. We’d worked with a number of TUXEDOMOON members before and knew them, so that wasn’t so much of an issue.

They gave us an awful lot of freedom, a surprising amount actually, so the creative dynamic was great. I totally deconstructed some of the pieces they gave us, but they were really delighted with the results. I hope the opportunity arises to work more with them. A little bit of music is left over and certainly the reviews have all been fantastic, and better than we could have ever imagined.

You’ve collaborated a number of times with former SNEAKER PIMPS singer Kelli Ali; how did you find working with her?

Kelli is an absolute delight to work with and has become a very good friend. We met via my friend Tim Riley, once of the 90s goth trailblazers SERAPHIN TWIN, who got to know her through an interview he conducted. Our 2008 album ‘Careful What You Wish For’ is one of her very favourite albums, which is of course very flattering for us.

When I tentatively first suggested she sings some backing vocals on one of our albums she was delighted. I gave her the tracks and thought she might sing on one or two, but she came back with vocals on 8 tracks for ‘Above as Below’! Same goes for the follow up album, ‘Another Landing’.

She has a unique voice, something which I feel is all too lacking in music these days, particularly in electronic music. For all our collective noodling to find the juiciest analogue synth sound around, it’s worth remembering that the human voice is the only instrument in the world with over 8 billion patches. It’s worth taking the time to find the right one and Kelli is a great fit for CWNN. To be honest, I’d love to do an album one day without me singing on it at all, and have various guest singers.

CultWthNoName1 photographed by MetsoCULT WITH NO NAME have a foot within the UK electronic scene without actually being fully immersed in it. Is there any reason for that and how to you think electronic music in general has developed in the last 10 years?

Every band loves to think of themselves as misfits, don’t they? We’re no exception, and are as boringly self-conscious as they come, but I really do think we can be considered true misfits.

When we started, we split our time between playing acoustic, singer-songwriter venues and electro nights at the likes of Madame JoJos. We’d try anywhere. At the acoustic nights, people would sneer at the fact that we had a synthesizer on stage. (Stage? Who am I kidding, there was never a stage.) Meanwhile, at the electro nights the audience were like “what, some of their songs are just voice and piano, no drums?!” (Audience? Who am I kidding, there was never an audience.) Once, within the same year, we had one review that compared us to RANDY NEWMAN and another to GARY NUMAN… that about sums it up, really.

Another way I feel we don’t fit in is the subtle use of humour and irony. Subtle humour is a great and more insidious way of making a serious point and was more prevalent than people think in the 80s with the likes of BLANCMANGE, YELLO, THE ART OF NOISE and MOMUS. Parts of the music scene of the past 10 years (not just electronic) do seem to be lacking that sense of irony in the music and certainly the lyrics. If I had it my way, every home would own at least one SPARKS album.

Also, referencing your earlier question about being hard to categorise, that bothers gig promoters greatly, which is understandable as they’re effectively in the marketing business. So, that makes it hard for us to have a foot in any kind of camp without soon needing to buy new shoes.

What’s next for CULT WITH NO NAME?

We’re about 75% through a new album. Just to stick to the band stereotype I can confidently say that it’s our best one yet. No, it really is! We’re not sure if that will come out this year or early next, yet. Meanwhile, we have a track on a forthcoming S’EXPRESS covers album. People might think that’s a strange connection, but remember that acid house was the electronic alternative scene when I was growing up. I was unfortunately just too young to rave, but loved the squelchy bass lines.

Crammed Discs are releasing a covers album of the TUXEDOMOON classic ‘Half Mute’ album this year, a different band tackling a different track, and we’re on that too. Finally, we’re also supporting TUXEDOMOON in Cologne in June. I’m sure there will be more.

CultWthNoName-Erik-hardYou’re an avid enthusiast of synthpunk and have even been featured in Record Collector talking about it. To the uninitiated, what is it and why do you think it is worth investigating?

Good question. Not very well defined is what it is. Synthpunk, for me, focuses on a few key scenes in the late 70s, most notably in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Melbourne and Sydney.

What binds it together is that it’s largely non-European. It lacks the gloominess of European post-punk electronic music (replacing it with aggression at times) and also in some ways the strong KRAFTWERK lineage and Teutonic undertones. SUICIDE are a great example, but also an anomaly as New York had No Wave.

To say that it’s punk music using synths and electronics is a big oversimplification, though some of it is, particularly THE SCREAMERS. Most of it, however, is highly creative and using electronics and electronic instruments without ever surrendering to them. In terms of bands to check out, try THE UNITS, WHIRLYWIRLD, THE SCREAMERS, PRIMITIVE CALCULATORS, EQUAL LOCAL, TINY DESK UNIT, THE CARDBOARDS, DOW JONES & THE INDUSTRIALS, TONE SET and NERVOUS GENDER to name but a few.

The Electricity Club gives it warmest thanks to Erik Stein

TUXEDOMOON & CULT WITH NO NAME ‘Blue Velvet Revisited’ is released by Crammed Discs in CD, vinyl LP and digital formats



Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
5th April 2016

An Interview with TUXEDOMOON’s Blaine L Reininger

Blaine L Reininger’s roguish moustache and dinner jacket were a familiar sight in post-punk Brussels.

Blaine L. Reininger thenThe American singer and multi-instrumentalist had crossed the Atlantic with TUXEDOMOON, the band he founded with Steven Brown in 1977, and become an exile of circumstance. Unable to afford the return fare to San Francisco, Reininger became an accidental European, falling in with the Crépuscule and Crammed Discs sets and recording iconic albums of genre-crossing material, both as a solo artist and, despite a period of estrangement, with TUXEDOMOON.

We find Reininger based in Athens, shorn of his moustache and recently married to his long-time partner, Maria Panourgia. Green tea and cycling have replaced the fuels from his time in the Low Countries, and he’s been working on the stage and in film, but making and performing the music of TUXEDOMOON is his ever-fixed mark. Their latest release is the soundtrack for Peter Braatz’s documentary film, ‘Blue Velvet Revisited’, made as a collaboration with CULT WITH NO NAME.

Put together for the thirtieth anniversary of David Lynch’s ‘Blue Velvet’, the film features previously unseen footage taken on set by Braatz. The album, issued by Crammed as Vol. 42 of its respected Made to Measure series, also includes a contribution by John Foxx. We asked Reininger how the project came about.

TUXEDOMOON+CULTWITHNONAMEThe story of this project is down to Erik Stein [of CULT WITH NO NAME] and his connections and his doings.

His group will often go and do artists’ support. They’ve done our support twice in Berlin. So, that’s what was happening.

They were doing our support in Berlin. They introduced us to this film-maker guy who outlined the project. The motive force behind that was Erik. It was his connection. They outlined the project, and we settled on trying to do what we could when we could.

It’s always difficult for TUXEDOMOON to get further work, because we’re spread out all over the map, really. Steven Brown is in Mexico. You’ve got me here in Athens; Peter Principle on the East Coast, between Virginia and New York; Bruce Geduldig in California; Luc van Lieshout in Belgium – he’s the only one left in Brussels, even though Brussels is like our rolling headquarters. In order to work on the project, we had to steal the time from our tour itinerary.

So, for instance, we were playing here in Athens, so I found a guy that had a rehearsal studio who is a TUXEDOMOON fan. We set up here in Athens and started to work in our usual fashion – we jam. We’re a jam band. We’ve been doing it for so long, it’s almost instinctive. We can do a lot in a short period of time.

TUXEDOMOON 2014-01We only actually played together for a couple of days. We had a couple of sessions – five or six hour sessions.

We were working with tracks that Erik had already sent us, and we were just busting our faces off for two days.

We took some of those recordings and sent them over to Erik. They had to exercise some editorial control, and they decided what they liked.

The next time we were able to do that was in Brussels, which was also on days off during the tour. It’s usually the only time we are able to all get together. Somebody has to pay for us to be together. We have to get rehearsal studios. If it takes any more, it’s us – we pay. It’s touring that funds the whole deal. So that’s what we did – we further refined our contributions to the project in Brussels.

The inclusion of a John Foxx track might be presumed to come from another of Erik Stein’s connections, but the links between Foxx and TUXEDOMOON go back a long way.

In the 80s – 80, 81 – both ULTRAVOX! and TUXEDOMOON were more in the media eye. We contacted each other by reading interviews with one another. We saw an interview with John Foxx in – I don’t know what – the NME, what have you, and they said, “What American bands do you find interesting?” He said, “This TUXEDOMOON I find very interesting.”

Photo by Gilles Martin

Photo by Gilles Martin

We said similar things. We liked what he was doing. We liked ULTRAVOX! I did, anyway. I was always a massive fan, when he was in the band, and I liked what he did after he left the band, as well.

There is a certain amount of influence – there are certain commonalities between, say, ‘Metal Beat’ and ‘Desire’. We were using the same gear, for that matter – the CR-78 village, in particular, causing a lot of these sounds.

So, when we started working with an English record company, Charisma, we wanted to contact John Foxx, and that’s what happened. As it turned out, he was not able to participate in the recording of ‘Desire’, except to put us together with Gareth Jones, of course, which was a big plus. Gareth was brilliant, fabulous. Of course, he went on to do a lot of work with DEPECHE MODE. He kind of defined their sound. Working with him was really marvellous. He was able to teach us; kind of organise us.

Of course, we always knew a lot about recording from the early outset – TUXEDOMOON was a studio group at the beginning. Stephen and I were both working in his rudimentary TEAC four track studio at school, and we continued to do that with his four track tape recorder. From the outset, TUXEDOMOON was a studio band, really. So, we already knew quite a bit about multitrack recordings. Desire was our first 24 track experience. That was mainly aided by Gareth’s input.

Recorded in a studio installed in a Surrey farmhouse, ‘Desire’ was TUXEDOMOON’s second album. Tracks like ‘Incubus (Blue Suit)’ capably channelled the coldness of Foxx’s ‘Metamatic’, while ‘Holiday for Plywood’ took Dave Rose’s ‘Holiday for Strings’ deep into quirk-funk terrain. ‘Desire’ demonstrated that the psychedelic world of TUXEDOMOON was capable of absorbing and processing incidental music and futuristic pop without being precious about the boundaries between them. Jones’ contributions led to further involvement in Reininger’s solo work.

Of course, we became friends. TUXEDOMOON would often become friendly with the people we work with; so, when I was doing my second solo record outside of TUXEDOMOON, I had to write to Gareth to come along. I asked him if he would do it, and that’s what happened. He came over to Brussels and we recorded ‘Night Air’ together, which was a marvellous experience.

Gareth had really excellent production ideas that I had never thought of. He would take an electronic rhythm machine out – by that time, I was using the TR-808 – he would take that, run it through a guitar amplifier in the studio and mic the bass kick through a bass amp. He would get a little bit of that overdrive in the package. He did things like wobble up the piano with this modulated echo sound – and that kind of stuff was all kind of new to me. We had a really good time making that record.

Night Air‘Night Air’ came out in 1984. It spawned the single, ‘Mystery & Confusion’, which was a nod to Ennio Morricone’s Spaghetti Western soundtracks but also steeped in synthesized sounds. How did Reininger, the classically-trained violinist, come to electronic music?

I have always been enamoured of electronics, and over the years with TUXEDOMOON, really. I started on a level with electronics very early on. I was – I don’t know, 12 – and my music teacher at school used to take the advanced students and he would have these morning sessions at the school.

He would play records for us and talk to us. Among the things he played was Varèse. You know, he would play that guy Varèse, and I thought, “Wow!” ‘Déserts’ by Edgard Varèse – I thought this was fabulous.

Not long after that, Wendy Carlos’ version of the ‘Clockwork Orange’ soundtrack came out. Just hearing those sounds on the radio, hearing this Moog or maybe Keith Emerson’s solo on ‘Lucky Man’ – the sound of the Moog just blew my little mind, and I resolved that I wanted it – a piece of that. As soon as I was able, as soon as I could get together the resources, I wanted to play that thing. I went to the various colleges. I haunted the electronic music labs. This guy let me play on a Moog Sonic Six at one point, at one of my schools. It was a precursor to the Minimoog. It was the first suitcase synth.

Of course, another big influence on me was when Paul McCartney came out with his first solo record, where he played everything, and I had never considered that as a possibility. But the possibility that I wouldn’t have to work with all these morons that I had been working with – that I could just do it all myself – dispense with them – this was going to be my life’s work.

And it became my life’s work – as this poly-instrumentalist solo guy. The greater part of all my solo work is just me, really, and now it is entirely me. I rarely have the means or the desire to hire people in. I will play all the guitars and I will play the bass. I will play a bunch of violins and all the synths. That’s heaven to me. I love to sit here, at this very computer, amassing the sounds. It is in the process, more than the results, where I get lost.

Unlike with other kind of work – where I’m working for somebody else, I get tired and want to go home – when I’m doing this, I’ll work twelve hours non-stop. I’ll forget to pee and everything – I’ll just get lost in the synthesis. I love the pieces.

With ‘Mystery & Confusion’ in particular, it was a great delight and a great challenge to make those sounds, but the gear that I had!

I had this Roland SH-101 synth, and I was so proud of myself that I was able to get this French horn sound out of an SH-101. I used it for all of the bass sounds.

I was an early disciple of this Roland sync – a pre-MIDI Roland sync. So, I had the TB-303, the SH-101 and the TR-808 all running in sync with one-another. I took the Controlled Voltage out from the TB-303 and made my own cable – I also made my own Roland sync cable, which was a pre-MIDI 3-pin DIN – and I ran all that stuff. I slaved the SH-101 to the TB-303, and I used the layered sound of those two devices to get my bass sounds. So, on that record – also on ‘Mystery & Confusion’, of course – I had some good musicians with me. I had Michael Belfer, who worked with TUXEDOMOON, and I had Alain Goutier, who is a really fine bass player – he was playing fretless bass. I had Alain Lefebvre, who was playing an actual drum kit. Alain Lefebvre has his own label, called Off, in Belgium.

The 101/303/808 combination is a classic set-up for dance music. On reflection, Reininger may be the first person to put them together for a purpose other than creating acid house singles.

That’s what I could afford. Some of the other guys around had these Oberheim rigs and stuff, but I couldn’t afford that. When I was able to finagle a publishing advance from a guy who’s now the head of SABAM Belgium – he was my publisher – I got enough money from him, and Alain Goutier worked at a music store in Belgium, so I was able to get this Roland gear at a discount. It fit my budget.

The good thing about it was that it all worked together. You could sync several devices together before MIDI. It was also superior, because the DX7 came in later and emasculated everything: it whitewashed the whole deal, and everything started to sound like the soundtrack to ‘The Breakfast Club’. I am sure there are people who are nostalgic for that 80s DX7 heavy sound, but I am not one of them. It became less interesting.

Photo by Vic Vinson

Photo by Vic Vinson

Reininger was away from the United States from 1982 to 1999. We asked: How did it feel going back? Was it like going to a different place?

Absolutely. When I went in 1999, I had been away for the better part of 17 years.

I had missed the 80s in America entirely, so many things were new to me. I didn’t know what people made of me.

I assumed they thought I’d been in jail, because it isn’t often that you see an old dude with grey hair who doesn’t know how to operate the microwave in the 7-11. Things like that. Some of the things that we take for granted: “What the hell is this thing?!” It was like this serious Rip Van Winkle effect. I figured they must assume I have been in the joint, which is why I don’t know anything. Then I saw the money: “Whoah! It’s all the same size and the same colour – how do they tell it apart?”

It’s a strange way to be. It’s a strange situation. It gives me this life that is in a constant state of ambivalence – of two hearts, as Goethe said. Two hearts beat in my breast. There is great longing to go home. Some of my solo work has this almost pathological nostalgia, this homesickness. I felt imprisoned. I was not able to find the means to leave Europe and go home. It was not necessarily a choice. It was that great longing to be there, and also this shock and kind of horror, and – I don’t know what – disgust – at things in America: what they did, how things had decayed under the conservatives and continue to do so.

Blaine L. Reininger nowReininger’s presence in Athens has led to invitations to perform on stage. He has also appeared in a number of films by Nicholas Triandafyllidis. We wondered whether the roles called for performance in Greek.

Sometimes. It’s not all that easy. I did a big part in the National Theatre. I played a transvestite. That was all Greek – I did the whole thing in Greek. It was difficult – I don’t speak the language that well. A lot of times, I will do this musical actor thing – I’ll be performing and I will be doing the music as well.

I’ll be on stage, incorporated into the action, but I will also be the music director or I’ll be performing the music live. A lot of times, I end up playing a foreigner. I did two movies last summer and I pretty much played a foreigner. In one of those movies, I played a banker who came to buy the prime minister. In another movie, I played a tourist. In a third movie, I played a member of the troika. So, I play these kinds of things, and I do that in English.

Should we expect to see the theatre competing for Reininger’s attention?

To be honest, not really. I enjoy doing theatre work. It is something I can do competently – I am a theatrical kind of guy – but I don’t prefer it to music, by any means. What I rarely get to do is compose a big piece of music for theatre, give it to them, collect the money and that’s the end: that’s that; I don’t have to go to rehearsal; and I don’t have to go to any performances. That doesn’t happen all that often. Most of the time, they want me to perform – my physical presence. What I enjoy most is to sit here and fool with my computer. When it becomes necessary to get up and play my violin, I will, and I enjoy it because I can.

blue-velvet-revisited-785x803The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Blaine L Reininger

Special thanks to Erik Stein

TUXEDOMOON & CULT WITH NO NAME ‘Blue Velvet Revisited’ is released by Crammed Discs in CD, vinyl LP and digital formats on 16th October 2015





Text and Interview by Simon Helm
24th September 2015

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