Tag: Chris Payne (Page 2 of 8)

The Electricity Club’s 30 SONGS OF THE DECADE 2010-2019

To narrow down ten years of electronic pop to 30 songs was always going to be a challenging task, but The Electricity Club has given it a go to offer its own subjective twist.

As the decade started, female artists like LITTLE BOOTS, LA ROUX and LADYHAWKE had appeared to have been making in-roads into the mainstream as new flag bearers for the synthesizer.

But it proved to be something of a false dawn and while those artists continue today, the music that has made the most lasting impact between 2010-2019 has been made by evergreens from Synth Britannia whose talent has not subsided or independently minded musicians who focussed on art over commerce but didn’t forget to throw in a tune along the way.

As per usual, The Electricity Club’s lists are all about rules. So this one has not only been restricted to one song per artist moniker but also to one vocalist. Hence SIN COS TAN just get the nod over VILLA NAH, while MIRRORS take preference over James New’s guest slot for FOTONOVELA on ‘Our Sorrow’ and the Midge Ure vocalled ‘Glorious’ has been chosen instead ULTRAVOX’s ‘Live’.

Presented in alphabetical order, here are The Electricity Club’s 30 SONGS OF THE DECADE 2010-2019…


AESTHETIC PERFECTION featuring NYXX Rhythm + Control – Electro Mix (2017)

With alternative songstress NYXX on additional vocals, ‘Rhythm + Control’ saw Daniel Graves take his industrial pop to the next level. The magnificent Electro Mix successfully realised an oddball blend of Darren Hayes, Britney Spears and Marilyn Manson. With a mightily elastic bassline, when asked whether The Electricity Club had gone crazy coming up with the comparison, Daniel Graves replied “God no. Spot on, guys!” adding “The goal was to cram as many features into one song and have fun with it as possible.”

Available as a download single via https://aestheticperfection.bandcamp.com/album/rhythm-control-out-of-control-mixes

http://aesthetic-perfection.net/


JOHAN BAECKSTROM Synth Is Not Dead (2015)

‘Synth Is Not Dead’ is a song close to the heart of The Electricity Club with its solidarity to the synth. A touching tribute to Messrs Clarke, Gore, Hütter and Schneider, Johan Baeckstrom said: “I guess I just wanted to reflect on the fact that there still IS a synthpop scene with some really great bands, both old and new. In another way, the song is sort of my ‘thank you’ to some of the artists that inspired me for several decades – some of them are mentioned in the lyrics, but far from all of course”.

Available on the EP ‘Come With Me’ via Progress Productions

https://www.facebook.com/bstrommusic/


KARL BARTOS Without A Trace Of Emotion (2013)

‘Without A Trace Of Emotion’ saw Karl Bartos conversing with his showroom dummy Herr Karl and confronting his demons as an ex-member of the world’s most iconic electronic group. But whereas his former colleague Wolfgang Flür vented his spleen in book form with ‘I Was A Robot’, Bartos took a more ironic musical approach with the line “I wish I could remix my life to another beat” summing up a wry reference to ‘The Mix’ project which drove him out of Kling Klang!

Available on the album ‘Off The Record’ via Bureau B

http://www.karlbartos.com/


BEYOND THE WIZARD’S SLEEVE featuring HANNAH PEEL Diagram Girl (2016)

BEYOND THE WIZARDS SLEEVE’s ‘Diagram Girl’ was the work of Erol Alkan and Richard Norris of THE GRID. Featuring the unisex vocals of Hannah Peel, a deeper pitch shift provided a psychedelic out-of-this-world feel which bizarrely fitted in alongside the songstress’ dreamily breathy tones.  “They wanted me to sound like a man!” she remembered. Meanwhile the pulsing electronic soundtrack had surreal echoes of OMD, in particular their lesser known minor hit ‘Secret’.

Available on the single ‘Diagram Girl’ via Phantasy Sound

https://www.facebook.com/beyondthewizardssleeve/


CHROMATICS Shadow (2015)

Muscian, producer and Italians Do It Better head honcho Johnny Jewel, has lways been into all things Lynchian. So when CHROMATICS released the dreamy Badalamenti-inspired ‘Shadow’, it instantly recalled The Black Lodge’s red curtains in that sleepy Washington town. With Ruth Radelet’s wispy vocal and an eerie string machine for the main melodic theme, the ghostly wistful tune later came to further prominence thanks to its inclusion in ‘Twin Peaks: The Return’ in 2017.

Available on the album ‘Twin Peaks (Music from the Limited Event Series)’ (V/A) via Rhino Records

https://www.facebook.com/CHROMATICSBAND/


CHVRCHES Clearest Blue (2015)

CHVRCHES stuck to the synthpop template of their 2013 debut and as a result, delivered what LITTLE BOOTS, LA ROUX, and LADYHAWKE and HURTS all failed to do… a decent second album! The propulsive four-to-the-floor action of ‘Clearest Blue’ was wonderfully held in a state of tension before WHACK, there was a dynamic surprise in the final third that recalled the classic overtures of Vince Clarke. The song was electronic pop magnificence embroiled.

Available on the album ‘Every Open Eye’ via Virgin Records

http://chvrch.es/


RODNEY CROMWELL Black Dog (2015)

RODNEY CROMWELL is the alter-ego of Adam Cresswell, formally of ARTHUR & MARTHA. ‘Black Dog’ recalled the pulsing post-punk miserablism of SECTION 25 and was embellished by some Hooky styled bass. As with NEW ORDER’s ‘Temptation’, despite the inherent melancholy, there was an optimistic light at the end of the tunnel that made ‘Black Dog’ a most joyous listening experience despite its very personal themes of love, loss, depression and redemption.

Available on the album ‘Age Of Anxiety’ via https://www.happyrobots.co.uk/botshop

http://www.happyrobots.co.uk/


DURAN DURAN Being Followed (2011)

The ‘All You Need Is Now’ album saw DURAN DURAN cyclically return to the funk-led syncopated pop of their first two classic albums. A superb sequencer assisted disco number with a tingling metallic edge, ‘Being Followed’ hinted at THE CURE’s ‘A Forest’ while Nick Rhodes’ vintage string machine captured the tension of post 9/11 paranoia. Simon Le Bon gave his wayward all and while he has technically never had a great voice, what he delivered was unique AND untouchable…

Available on the album ‘All You Need Is Now’ via Tape Modern

http://www.duranduran.com/


EAST INDIA YOUTH Carousel (2015)

Despite EAST INDIA YOUTH being no more as a project, the debut long player ‘Total Strife’ pointed towards William Doyle’s potential to pen sublime pop, and with the follow-up ‘Culture Of Volume’, the album’s centrepiece was ‘Carousel’. It imagined OMD’s ‘Stanlow’ reworked during Brian Eno’s sessions for ‘Apollo: Soundtracks & Atmospheres’. With no percussive elements and over six minutes in length, Doyle gave a dramatic vocal performance resonating in beautifully crystalline melancholy.

Available on the album ‘Culture of Volume’ via XL Recordings

http://eastindiayouth.co.uk/


RUSTY EGAN featuring MIDGE URE Glorious (2016)

‘Glorious’ not only reunited Midge Ure with Rusty Egan but also Chris Payne who co-wrote ‘Fade To Grey’; Ure told The Electricity Club: “I liked the music, but I didn’t think the song / melody / lyrics were strong enough, so I rewrote all of that in my studio. I stripped the demo down to the basic track, edited it down into a more ‘song like’ format and started working on a glorious melody. I added the main melodic synth line and layered guitars over it, ending with the ‘hopefully’ uplifting solo over the outro”.

Available on the RUSTY EGAN album ‘Welcome To The Dance Floor’ via Black Mosaic

http://rustyegan.net/

http://www.midgeure.co.uk/


EMIKA Promises (2018)

With ‘Falling In Love With Sadness’, EMIKA produced one of the best electronic albums of 2018. The record was a concept album of sorts, a musical reflection on generations of sadness within the Anglo-Czech musician’s family. The pacey ‘Promises’ made the most of her lower and higher vocal registers, providing an eerie cascading harmonic with some rumbling dubby tension and booming stabs driving Eastwards with solemn spine tingling qualities.

Available on the album ‘Falling In Love With Sadness’ via Emika Records

http://emikarecords.com


JOHN FOXX & JORI HULKKONEN Evangeline (2013)

John Foxx and Jori Hulkkonen had worked together previously on singular songs like ‘Dislocated’ and ‘Never Been Here Before’, but never before on a body of work with a conceptual theme. ‘European Splendour’ took on a grainier downtempo template and the lead track ‘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.

Available on the EP ‘European Splendour’ via Sugarcane Records

http://www.metamatic.com/

http://www.jorihulkkonen.com


FIAT LUX It’s You (2018)

Releasing their first new material in over three decades, FIAT LUX returned with the most splendid ‘It’s You’. As well as the bassline and harmony from David P Crickmore, the sax style was a fitting tribute to the sadly departed Ian Nelson. Singer Steve Wright said: “Lyrically, I hope, it expresses feelings that possibly everyone can relate to…” in this gloriously optimistic tune about finding love again in midlife. Their long awaited debut album ‘Saved Symmetry’ finally came out in 2019.

Available on the album ‘Saved Symmetry’ via Splid Records

http://www.fiat-lux.co.uk


GOLDFRAPP Dreaming (2010)

As the title suggested, the gorgeous and sophisticated ‘Dreaming’ adopted a distinctly European flavour compared with the mid-Atlantic AOR focus of songs like ‘Rocket’, ‘Alive’ and ‘Believer’ on the ‘Head First’ album. Alison Goldfrapp’s voice resonated angelically with beautiful high-register chorus alongside the with pulsing sequences and string machine washes of Will Gregory’s primarily electronic arrangement complimented by Davide Rossi’s cinematic orchestrations.

Available on the album ‘Head First’ via Mute Records

https://www.goldfrapp.com/


IAMX Ghosts Of Utopia (2011)

The Berlin period of IAMX has maintained a special quality in that Chris Corner captured an electro Gothic aesthetic that combined the theatrics of Weimar Cabaret with themes of sex, alienation and dependency. Despite the lyrical content, Corner’s songs were always strongly melodic with an accessible grandeur. ‘Ghosts Of Utopia’ had instant appeal for a dance in the dark with exhilarating mechanical drive. His scream of ”this is psychosis” was wholly believable!

Available on the album ‘Volatile Times’ via Orphic

http://iamxmusic.com/


IAMAMIWHOAMI Hunting For Pearls (2014)

As IAMAMIWHOAMI, Jonna Lee and Claes Björklund offered icy musical art. ‘Hunting For Pearls’ featured wonderfully pulsing sequences and trancey atmospheres, coupled with beautifully rich vocals. With a mysterious falsetto reach, the air might have been cold outside but inside, things were warm if delightfully odd. If Kate Bush made a modern electronic dance record at ABBA’s Polar Studios, it would probably have sounded like this. Jonna Lee continues the artistic adventure now as IONNALEE.

Available on the album ‘Blue’ via towhomitmayconcern

http://www.towhomitmayconcern.cc/


KITE Up For Life (2015)

Sweden’s KITE are probably the best synth act in Europe right now. Nicklas Stenemo and Christian Berg’s wonderfully exuberant array of sounds and rugged majestic vocals certainly deserve a much larger audience. Issuing only EPs and never albums, the magnificent progressive electronic epic ‘Up For Life’ was a two-part nine minute masterpiece, the passionate and sublime first half mutated into a beautifully surreal journey of VANGELIS-like proportions for its second.

Available on the EP ‘VI’ via Progress Productions

https://www.facebook.com/KiteHQ


KATJA VON KASSEL Someday (2018)

Asking if “it is foolish to dream”, ‘Someday’ saw Katja von Kassel questioning a moment of passionate haste. “The phrase ‘Someday’ just opened it all up and everything else just fell into place.” the chanteuse said. Capturing the beautiful melancholy of Billy Mackenzie, the doomed romantic tragedy of the sadly departed Scot was echoed by the chanteuse’s deep forlorn delivery, accompanied by Chris Payne’s hypnotic bassline and haunting vox humana treatment over a simple rhythmic loop.

Available on the EP ‘Walking In West Berlin’ via https://katjavonkassel.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/KatjavKassel/


LADYTRON Ambulances (2011)

The beautiful ‘Ambulances’ was totally different to anything LADYTRON had done before, almost in te vein of SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES. Moving at a much slower pace, Helen Marnie’s voice adopted an unexpected angelic falsetto over the lush spacious mix featuring dramatic strings, synthetic timpani and an almost random hi-hat pattern. Daniel Hunt said he “wanted it to sound ethereal and otherworldly” and with a glorious crescendo, ‘Ambulances’ was certainly something to be to be savoured.

Available on the album ‘Gravity The Seducer’  via Nettwerk Productions,

http://www.ladytron.com/


MARSHEAUX Monument (2015)

A worthy of re-assessment of DEPECHE MODE ‘A Broken Frame’ was long overdue and MARSHEAUX have certainly gave a number of its songs some interesting arrangements. Their version of ‘Monument’ borrowed its bassline from latter day DM B-side ‘Painkiller’. Combined with the wispily resigned vocals of Marianthi Melitsi and Sophie Sarigiannidou, it provided a tense soundtrack. It’s not often that cover versions are better than the originals, but this was one of them.

Available on the album ‘A Broken Frame’ via Undo Records

https://www.facebook.com/marsheaux


MIRRORS Ways To An End (2010)

With their smart suits, MIRRORS presented an intense and artful approach to electronic pop that recalled Dindisc era OMD. With a dense synthetic chill and pulsing effects dominating this brilliantly uptempo electro number, ‘Ways To An End’ came over like TALKING HEADS ‘Crossed Eyed & Painless’ given a claustrophobic post-punk makeover. Sadly, MIRRORS were to only make the one album ‘Lights & Offerings’ which although under-appreciated on release, is now acknowledged as a classic of the decade.

Available on the album ‘Lights & Offerings’ via Skint Entertainment

https://www.facebook.com/theworldofmirrors/


ALISON MOYET Alive (2017)

Having worked successfully in 2013 with Guy Sigsworth on ‘the minutes’, which saw Alison Moyet return to the synthesized music forms to compliment her powerful and self-assured voice, the follow-up ‘Other’ was a natural progression. The startling orchestrated electro-dub drama of ‘Alive’ gave Moyet’s two former classmates in DEPECHE MODE a stark lesson in how to actually fully realise electronic blues. Indeed, it was ‘In Chains’, the lame opener from ‘Sounds Of The Universe’ gone right…

Available on the album ‘Other’ via Cooking Vinyl

http://alisonmoyet.com/


NEW ORDER Plastic (2015)

After the guitar dominated proceedings of the last few NEW ORDER albums, Bernard Sumner promised a return to electronic music for the Mancunians’ first album of new material without estranged founder member and bassist Peter Hook. That was certainly delivered on with ‘Plastic’, a full-on throbbing seven minute electro number mixed by Richard X with blippy echoes of ‘Mr Disco’. Dealing with the issue of superficiality, it declared “this love is poison, but it’s like gold”… beware of anything plastic and artificial!

Available on the album ‘Music Complete’ via Mute Artists

http://www.neworder.com/


GARY NUMAN And It All Began With You (2017)

With a lot less goth metal guitar and much more prominent use of synths, the ‘Savage’ album successfully outstripped ‘Splinter’. And it was the haunting ‘And It All Began With You’ that stopped all in its tracks, with an exposed and soulful vocal. Borrowing Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’ for its chorus, the subtle orchestrations and a gentle shuffling beat coupled to a steadily discordant electric piano riff to close, it beautifully brought out the best in classic Gary Numan while maintaining forward momentum.

Available on the album ‘Savage (Songs From A Broken World)’ via BMG

http://www.garynuman.co.uk/


OMD Don’t Go (2019)

OMD began their recorded career with a KRAFTWERK homage in ‘Electricity’ and four decades on, they came full circle. A great grandchild of Klingklang and cousin of ‘Metroland’ from ‘English Electric’, ‘Don’t Go’ captured the essence of OMD’s enduring electronic appeal. With crystalline synths and a spirited vocal delivery attached to a hypnotic Synthanorma backdrop, OMD continue to produce quality avant pop tunes, using beautiful melodies to tell terrible things…

Available on the album ‘Souvenir: The Singles Collection 1979 – 2019’ via Universal Music

http://www.omd.uk.com/


SIN COS TAN Trust (2012)

SIN COS TAN was the new mathematically charged project of producer Jori Hulkkonen and VILLA NAH vocalist Juho Paalosmaa. “A synthesized duo of great promise, broken dreams, and long nights”, they have certainly delivered with ‘Trust’, all draped in melancholy with emotive vocals haunted by the ghost of Billy Mackenzie. With driving hypnotic, layered strings, sampled cimbalom and Cold War dramatics, this was as Jori Hulkkonen put it: “Disco You Can Cry To”…

Available on the album ‘Sin Cos Tan’ via Solina Records

http://www.facebook.com/homeofsincostan


STOLEN Turn Black (2018)

Chinese six-piece STOLEN are reckoned by Berlin-based producer Mark Reeder to be the most exciting band since NEW ORDER and they closed the decade opening for them on tour in Europe. Certainly their debut album ‘Fragment’ was impressive with ‘Turn Black’ being one of its standout tracks. “I like the idea of mixing of rock with techno…” said growly lead vocalist Liang Yi, “we are very proud that we don’t sound like any of the other Chinese bands.”

Available on the album ‘Fragment’ via https://mfsberlin.com/

https://www.facebook.com/strangeoldentertainment/


SUSANNE SUNDFØR Fade Away (2014)

The Nordic vocalist of the decade has to be Susanne Sundfør who worked with M83, KLEERUP and RÖYKSOPP as she built her international profile as a solo artist. Propelled by a pulsing electronic backbone, ‘Fade Away’ from Sundfør’s breakthrough album ‘Ten Love Songs’ caught her in rousing form with a tune that came over like Scandinavian gospel. Meanwhile, a fabulous polyphonic synth solo inspired by QUEEN’s ‘I Want To Break Free’ added another dimension.

Available on the album ‘Ten Love Songs’ via Sonnet Sound / Kobalt

http://susannesundfor.com/


VILE ELECTRODES Deep Red (2013)

First appearing online as a video exclusive in 2010, ‘Deep Red’ was inspired by Dario Argento’s ‘Profondo Rosso’. A gorgeous seven and a half minute funeral ballad that came over like CLIENT fronting classic OMD, this was tremendously dramatic stuff from Anais Neon and Martin Swan. It caught the ear of a certain Andy McCluskey who was perusing The Electricity Club and later invited VILE ELECTRODES to open for OMD in Germany during their 2013 ‘English Electric’ tour.

Available on the album ‘The future through a lens’ via https://vileelectrodes.bandcamp.com/

http://www.vileelectrodes.com/


WESTBAM feat RICHARD BUTLER You Need The Drugs

Techno DJ WESTBAM celebrated 30 years in music with an intriguing mature collection of songs under the title of ‘Götterstrasse’. While the theme of the album centred on the joy and euphoria of underground nightlife, he said ‘You Need The Drugs’ was “the first explicit electronic appeal AGAINST the use of drugs with a clear message: drugs are a bore!”. Voiced brilliantly by Richard Butler of THE PSYCHEDLIC FURS’, it featured prominently in Mark Reeder’s film ‘B Movie: Lust & Sound in West-Berlin 1979–1989’.

Available on the album ‘Götterstrasse’ via Warner Music

http://www.westbam.de/dt/en/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
28th December 2019

TEC’s 2019 End Of Year Review

2019 was a year of 40th Anniversaries, celebrating the synth becoming the sound of pop when ‘Are Friends Electric?’ reached No1 in the UK chart in 1979.

While GARY NUMAN opted for ‘(R)evolution’ and two of his former sidemen RRussell Bell and Chris Payne ventured solo for the first time, OMD offered a 7 disc ‘Souvenir’ featuring a whole album of quality unreleased material to accompany a concert tour to celebrate four decades in the business.

That was contrary to DEPECHE MODE who merely plonked 14 albums into a boxed set in a move where the ‘Everything Counts’ lyric “the grabbing hands grab all they can” became more and more ironic…

MIDGE URE partied like it was 1980 with the music of VISAGE and ULTRAVOX, while SIMPLE MINDS announced an arena tour for 2020 so that their audience could show Jim Kerr their hands again. HEAVEN 17 announced some special showcases of the early material of THE HUMAN LEAGUE and got a particularly warm reception opening on tour for SQUEEZE as a trailer ahead of their own ‘Greatest Hits’ jaunt next year.

Celebrating 20 years in music, there was the welcome return of LADYTRON with a self-titled comeback album, while Swedish evergreens LUSTANS LAKEJER performed the ‘Åkersberga’ album for its 20th Anniversary and similarly GOLDFRAPP announced a series of shows in honour of their magnificent cinematic debut ‘Felt Mountain’.

Cult favourites FIAT LUX made their intimate live comeback in a church in Bradford and released their debut album ‘Saved Symmetry’ 37 years after their first single ‘Feels Like Winter Again’.

As a result, their fans were also treated to ‘Ark Of Embers’, the long player that Polydor Records shelved in 1985 when the band were on the cusp of a breakthrough but ended with a commercial breakdown.

Modern prog exponents Tim Bowness and Steven Wilson got back together as NO-MAN for their dual suite electronic concept record ‘Love You To Bits’, but an even more ambitious undertaking came from UNDERWORLD with their boxed set ‘Drift Series 1’.

Also making live returns were one-time PET SHOP BOYS protégé CICERO with a charity gig in his hometown of Livingston, WHITE DOOR with JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM at Synth Wave Live 3, ARTHUR & MARTHA at TEC005 and Mute Records veterans KOMPUTER at TEC006.

After a short hiatus, the mighty KITE sold-out three gigs at Stockholm Slaktkyrkan and ended the year performing at an opera house, while GIORGIO MORODER embarked on his first ever concert tour where his songs were the stars.

Although their long-awaited-as-yet-untitled third album was still to materialise, VILE ELECTRODES went back on the road in Europe with APOPTYGMA BERZERK and THE INVINCIBLE SPIRIT. Meanwhile, Chinese techno-rock sextet STOLEN opened for NEW ORDER on their Autumn European tour and EMIKA performed in a series of Planetariums.

Despite the fall of The Berlin Wall 30 years ago, there were more evident swipes to the right than there had been for a long time, with the concept of Brexit Electro becoming a rather unpleasant reality. So in these more sinister times, the need for classic uplifting electronic pop was higher than ever.

To that end, three superb debut albums fitted the bill. While KNIGHT$ offered quality Britalo on ‘Dollars & Cents’, the suave presence of OLLIE WRIDE took a more MTV friendly direction with ‘Thanks In Advance’.

But for those wanting something more home produced, the eccentric Northern electronic pop of the brilliantly named INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP continued the artistic lineage of THE HUMAN LEAGUE.

QUIETER THAN SPIDERS finally released their wonderful debut album ‘Signs Of Life’ which was naturally more understated and Denmark had some worthy synthpop representation with SOFTWAVE producing an enjoyably catchy debut long player in ‘Game On’.

On the shadier side of electronic pop, BOY HARSHER achieved a wider breakthrough with their impressive ‘Careful’ long player but as a result, the duo acquired a contemporary hipster element to their fanbase who seemed to lack manners and self-awareness as they romped around gigs without a care for anyone around them. But with tongues-in-cheeks, SPRAY continued to amuse with their witty prankelectro on ‘Failure Is Inevitable’.

Photo by Johnny Jewel

Italians Do It Better kept things in house as CHROMATICS unexpectedly unleashed their first album for six years in ‘Closer To Grey’ and embarked on a world tour.

Main support was DESIRE and accompanied on keyboards by HEAVEN singer Aja, the pair took things literally during their cover version of ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ with a girl-on-girl kiss in front of head honcho Johnny Jewel.

Other ITIB acts on the tour dependent on territory included DOUBLE MIXTE, IN MIRRORS and KRAKÓW LOVES ADANA. But the best work to appear from the stable came from JORJA CHALMERS who became ‘Human Again’.

There were a variety of inventive eclectic works from FAKE TEAK, MAPS, FINLAY SHAKESPEARE, ULTRAMARINE, TYCHO, THE GOLDEN FILTER, FRAGRANCE. and FADER. Meanwhile VON KONOW, SOMEONE WHO ISN’T ME and JAKUZI all explored themes of equality while BOYTRONIC preferred ‘The Robot Treatment’.

But expressing themselves on the smoother side of proceedings were CULT WITH NO NAME and notably SHOOK who looked east towards the legend of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA.

Dark minimalism reigned in the work of FRAGILE SELF and WE ARE REPLICA while no less dark but not so aggressive, WITCH OF THE VALE cemented their position with a well-received opening slot at Infest.

Touring in Europe with OMD and MIDGE URE, TINY MAGNETIC PETS unleashed two EPs ‘The Politburo Disko’ and ‘Girl In A White Dress’ as fellow Dubliner CIRCUIT3 got political and discussed ‘The Price Of Nothing & The Value Of Everything’.

2019 was a year of electronic instrumental offerings galore from NEULAND, RICARDO AUTOBAHN, EKKOES, M83, RELIEF, FEMMEPOP and OBLONG, although ERIC RANDOM’s dystopian offering ‘Wire Me Up’ added vocoder while BRIAN ENO celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing ‘For All Mankind’.

The King of Glum Rock LLOYD COLE surprised all with an electronic pop album called ‘Guesswork’ just as PET SHOP BOYS set an ‘Agenda’. HOWARD JONES released his most synthy work for years in ‘Transform’ and while CHINA CRISIS acted as his well-received support on the UK leg of his 35th Anniversary tour, their front man GARY DALY ventured solo with ‘Gone From Here’.

Among the year’s best new talents were IMI, KARIN MYGRETAGEISTE and ALICE HUBBLE with their beautifully crafted avant pop.

And with the media traction of artists such as GEORGIA, REIN, JENNIFER TOUCH, SUI ZHEN, THE HEARING, IONNALEE, PLASMIC, ZAMILSKA, IOANNA GIKA, SPELLLING, KANGA, FIFI RONG and I AM SNOW ANGEL, the profile of women in electronic music was stronger than ever in 2019.

Sweden continued to produce quality electronic pop with enjoyable releases from the likes of MACHINISTA, PAGE, COVENANT, OBSESSION OF TIME and LIZETTE LIZETTE. One of the most interesting acts to emerge from the region was US featuring the now Stockholm-domiciled Andrew Montgomery from GENEVA and Leo Josefsson of LOWE, with the catalyst of this unlikely union coming from a shared love of the late country legend Glen Campbell. Meanwhile, veteran trio DAYBEHAVIOR made the best album of their career ‘Based On A True Story’.

However, Canada again gave the Swedes a good run for their money as ELECTRIC YOUTH and FM ATTACK released new material while with more of a post-punk slant, ACTORS impressed audiences who preferred a post-post-punk edge alongside their synths. DANA JEAN PHOENIX though showed herself to be one of the best solo synth performers on the live circuit, but artistically the best of the lot was MECHA MAIKO who had two major releases ‘Okiya’ and ‘Let’s!’.

Despite making some good music in 2019 with their ‘Destroyer’ two-parter, the “too cool for school” demeanour of TR/ST might have impressed hipsters, but left a lot to be desired. A diva-ish attitude of entitlement was also noticed by The Electricity Club to be disappointingly prevalent in several fledgling acts.

Synthwave increased its profile further with the film ‘The Rise Of The Synths’ narrated by none other than John Carpenter. MICHAEL OAKLEY released his debut album ‘Introspect’, BETAMAXX was ‘Lost In A Dreamworld’, COM TRUISE came up with a ‘Persuasion System’ and NEW ARCADES were ‘Returning Home’.

Scene veteran FUTURECOP! collaborated with PARALLELS, COMPUTER MAGIC and NINA prior to a hiatus for the foreseeable future, while there were promising new talents emerging in the shape of POLYCHROME, PRIZM, BUNNY X and RIDER.

However, several of the sub-genre’s artists needed to rethink their live presentations which notably underwhelmed with their static motions and lack of engagement.

While promoters such as Outland developed on their solid foundations, others attempted to get too big too soon like the musical equivalent of a penis extension, leaving fans disappointed and artists unpaid. Attempting to turnover more than 10 acts during in a day with a quarter of an hour changeover has always been an odious task at best, but to try 15?!? One hopes the headliners were well paid despite having to go on at midnight when most of their supporters went home so as not to miss the last train…

Now at times, it was as if a major collective midlife crisis had hit independent electronic music in the UK during 2019.

It was not unlike how “born again bikers” have become a major road safety risk, thanks to 40somethings who only managed Cycling Proficiency in Junior School suddenly jumping onto 500cc Honda CMX500 Rebel motorcycles, thinking they were Valentino Rossi.

Something similar was occurring in music as a variety of posturing delusional synth owners indulged in a remix frenzy and visions of grandeur like it was normal behaviour, forgetting that ability and talent were paramount.

This attitude led to a number of poorly attended events where attendees were able to be counted on one hand, thanks to clueless fans of said combos unwisely panning their video footage around the venue.

Playing at 3:15pm in an empty venue is NOT performing at a ‘major’ electronic festival… “I’ll be more selective with the gigs I agree to in the UK” one of these acts haplessly bemoaned, “I’ve played to too many empty rooms!” – well, could that have been because they are not very good?

Bands who had blown their chance by not showing willingness to open for name acts during holiday periods, while making unwise comments on their national TV debut about their lack of interest in registering for PRS, said they were going to split a year in advance, but not before releasing an EP and playing a farewell show in an attempt to finally get validation for their art. Was this a shining example of Schrodinger’s Band?

Of course, the worst culprits were those who had an internet radio show or put on gigs themselves so that they could actually perform, because otherwise external promotors were only interested in them opening at 6.15pm after a ticket deal buy on for a five band bill. Humility wouldn’t have gone amiss in all these cases.

It’s a funny old world, but as The Electricity Club comes up to concluding its tenth year as an influential platform that has written extensively about not one or two or three or four BUT five acts prior to them being selected to open on tour for OMD, luckily the gulf between good and bad music is more distinct than ever.

Artwork by Heloisa Flores

The Electricity Club had a compilation released by Amour Records gathering some of the best music from the last 10 years and reached No2 in the German POPoNAUT charts.

It will be interesting to see if the high standard of electronic pop will be maintained or whether the influx of deluded poor quality artists will contaminate the bloodline.

So The Electricity Club ends the decade with a complimentary comment by a punter after TEC006 who had also been to TEC004: “You don’t put on sh*t do you…”

May the supreme talent rise and shine… you know who you are 😉


THE ELECTRICITY CLUB Contributor Listings of 2019

PAUL BODDY

Best Album: UNDERWORLD Drift Series 1
Best Song: MOLINA Venus
Best Gig: RAMMSTEIN at Milton Keynes MK Bowl
Best Video: SCALPING Chamber
Most Promising New Act: SCALPING


IAN FERGUSON

Best Album: NO-MAN Love You To Bits
Best Song: NO-MAN Love You To Shreds
Best Gig: RAMMSTEIN at Stadion Slaski Chorzow
Best Video: RAMMSTEIN Deutschland
Most Promising New Act: IMI


SIMON HELM

Best Album: PAGE Fakta För Alla
Best Song: PAGE Fakta För Alla
Best Gig: LAU NAU at London Cafe OTO
Best Video: LAU NAU Amphipoda on Buchla 200 at EMS Stockholm
Most Promising New Act: THE HIDDEN MAN


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: KNIGHT$ Dollar & Cents
Best Song: OMD Don’t Go
Best Gig: KITE at Stockholm Slaktkyrkan
Best Video: NIGHT CLUB Your Addiction
Most Promising New Act: IMI


RICHARD PRICE

Best Album: KNIGHT$ Dollar & Cents
Best Song: OMD Don’t Go
Best Gig: MIDGE URE + RUSTY EGAN at The London Palladium
Best Video: IMI Margins
Most Promising New Act: PLASMIC


MONIKA IZABELA TRIGWELL

Best Album: MECHA MAIKO Let’s
Best Song: KANGA Burn
Best Gig: DANA JEAN PHOENIX, KALAX + LEBROCK at London Zigfrid von Underbelly
Best Video: IONNALEE Open Sea
Most Promising New Act: PRIZM


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Ian Ferguson
16th December 2019

TINY MAGNETIC PETS Interview

Proving the luck of the Irish, TINY MAGNETIC PETS continue their upward momentum with imminent European tours opening for MIDGE URE and OMD.

And if that wasn’t enough to keep them busy, there will be a new EP released on Happy Robots Records entitled ‘Girl In A White Dress’ to coincide. Meanwhile, the long-awaited third album ‘The Point Of Collapse’ is set for 2020 with all-new material.

The delightful Dublin trio of Paula Gilmer, Sean Quinn and Eugene Somers kindly took some time out from rehearsals to speak to The Electricity Club about all the latest goings on within the TINY MAGNETIC PETS camp.

Since opening for OMD in 2017, TINY MAGNETIC PETS have been able to undertake a number of headline dates, how have those been for you? Any particular favourite cities or gigs from those jaunts?

Seán: We are so privileged that we are now able to do our own headline shows and it was really great that people came out to see us. It was such a buzz. Synth Wave Live 2 at Electrowerkz in London was really good as we got to play with Chris Payne.

Paula: The Islington was an absolute pleasure to play. It was packed to the brim, hot, loud and sweaty! Loved every minute of it.

Eugene: There have been so many memorable moments on TMP’s journey so far but definite highlights for me it was the hot and sweaty gig in The Islington in London on our second outing on our own mini-tour 2019.

How do you look back now on your 2017 album ‘Deluxe/Debris’?

Paula: ‘D/D’ holds plenty of fond memories for me. It was a great album to write and it came together surprisingly easy. ‘Semaphore’ has become a permanent fixture on our live set and it’s a personal favourite of mine!

Seán: I love ‘D/D’ and I’m still listening to it at home. I remember the thrill of working with Wolfgang Flür! We recorded some of it in Westland Studios here in Dublin and just being in the same place where KATE BUSH, THE CURE and HORSLIPS had recorded was a real vibe. I also love that the actual song ‘Deluxe/Debris’ is not on it!

Eugene: I love our sonic progression from ‘Return Of…’ to now. I feel we have grown together as writers and performers and ‘D/D’ is a highlight in those areas for me. I loved the studio time writing and recording it and now I love playing those songs live in our set. A highlight for me in the set is and I’m sure will always be ‘Semaphore’.

What direction are you heading in for the new album ‘The Point Of Collapse’, same but different or radical? How’s it coming along?

Seán: It’s finished apart from the final sequencing which we’ll probably do over Christmas. We tend to spend a while getting the tracks in the best order. As far as direction goes, ‘same but different’ would fit, yeah but it’s a step on from ‘Deluxe…’ in that it’s a bigger album – it’s even got an orchestra on it! As the title would suggest, it’s lyrically a lot darker than its predecessors – Dystopia beckons and as much as we want to retreat into the music and blot it all out, we can’t.

Also, for the first time we got someone else to mix: Charles ‘Chicky’ Reeves who we met on the OMD tour. As well as doing OMD’s sound and ours, he recorded our live album ‘Pink/White’ without us knowing and we liked it so much we asked him to mix the new album. A couple of people asked how we could just hand our work over to someone else to mix but we’d spent a month on the road with him and we trusted him and he did an amazing job. We’re all really proud of it – it’s our best album yet.

Paula: I am proud of this album. We pushed ourselves maybe a little out of our comfort zone by getting Chicky to mix it, but it was without a shadow of doubt the right decision. ‘The Point Of Collapse’ has, as Seán says above a definite bigger sound and from a vocal point of view, well I’m very happy with how it sounds and can’t wait to get it out there!

Word has it that Seán has dug his guitar out and is singing lead vocals on a track?

Paula: Don’t believe everything you hear!

Seán: I’ve had a few comments about the guitar, but this is the only TMP album where I don’t play any. All the guitars you do hear are played by Seamus Quinn and it’s not your typical guitar playing either. It’s also him singing the lead vocal with Paula on ‘French Cinéma’, not me.

I do it live, though. We only use guitars if we have something to say with them. There are way too many people playing guitars without an idea – just whack a bit of distortion on a few barre chords and it’s ROCK! – It absolutely isn’t! It’s one of the main reasons that rock isn’t what it was – and I love rock music.

One of the tracks already premiered live from ‘Point Of Collapse’ is ‘Falling Apart In Slow Motion’, how did that come together?

Paula: Oh I do love singing this live. It’s quite an emotional song. I guess it happened when Seán came up with an initial sketch and developed from there.

Seán: I had written a sketch on guitar with a different chorus, then switched to synths with a Bhangra beat for the demo and found the chorus didn’t work, so we ditched the chorus, Eugene ditched the Bhangra, Paula did the vocal and Seamus added guitars and backing vocals. It’s about a relationship that’s ending, but they’re both trying to save it and the mixed feelings that ensue. Whether the breakup is amicable or not is not specified but despite their best efforts, it’s over. Its working title was ‘Roxy Thang’…

‘Cексичок’ takes on an unexpected rhythmic stomp, it’s almost 60s like?

Seán: It does have an odd arrangement doesn’t it? The 60s was coolest decade and I think there are quite a lot of 60s references on the new album. ‘Not My Day’ has a very BEATLES feel to it without actually sounding like them, the organ breakdown in the middle of ‘Sitting Target’ reminds me of THE SMALL FACES and take the Simmons drums out of ‘European Grey’ and it could be a 60s TV theme.

We’re huge BEATLES fans and to this day, they remain one of the oddest bands for instrumentation, production and arrangement quirks. We’re still trying to decode their messages from the 60s…

Eugene: When I presented the drums for ‘Cексичок’ Seán said and I quote: “You’re taking it down Rio way…”, so I took that as a compliment 😉 and continued down Rio way. All joking aside; I’m a big fan of 60s grooves and one groover in particular – the one and only Ringo! He is a musical drummer and I from time to time, take a leaf from his book.
Seán: Wolfgang Flür loves Ringo!

Having had Wolfgang Flür appear on two tracks for ‘Deluxe/Debris’, are you able to reveal any of the guests that you have gathered for ‘The Point Of Collapse’?

Eugene: It’s an absolute honour to have the very talented and true gent that is Chris Payne on two tracks and another hugely talented man is Erik Stein of CULT WITH NO NAME on our closing track.

Paula: Erik Stein and I do a duet on a song called ‘Cosmonaut’s Lullaby’.

After three EPs ‘Stalingrad’, ‘The NATO Alphabet’ and ‘The Politburo Disko’ over the last five years, there’s a new EP on the way via Happy Robots Records, what can you say about it and does it also have a Cold War theme?

Seán: The 21st century Cold War is boring – sitting at home hacking an election is not as cool as a stand-off with huge nukes in space and it’s down to you to save the planet… so no Cold War theme this time.

We re-recorded ‘Girl In A White Dress’ as we felt it never had a fair shake in the first place. This EP has more vintage instruments: Mellotron, Stylophone and of course the ubiquitous TR77 – sorry Paula! It’s covered in Mellotron, actually. It also has the usual false ending on one track.

A lyrical first for us is the inclusion of a song about an actual event: ‘Kicked Off In Ikea’ which is about an incident in London in 2013 where a Black Friday sale turned nasty. It’s written from the perspective of a person scoffing at the crassness of it all but the curiosity gets the better of them and they turn up to see what it’s all about. It’s a sad indictment of modern consumerism and society that people will resort to violence just to get some cheap furniture. It’s a very ‘Happy Robots’ record!

TINY MAGNETIC PETS offer good value for money by not duplicating tracks from albums on EPs and vice versa, but what has been the process in deciding what tracks go on the album and which up end on the EPs?

Seán: Given that everyone writes, we always have plenty of material to work with and as albums take shape, it’s obvious which of the recorded tracks will make the cut. Our motto is: “You know it when you hear it”. We try not to force anything, it all has to flow naturally so the opening and closing tracks usually make themselves known early on.

Once we’ve established this, then it’s a question of what’s the best track to follow the opener, what follows that and so on until we meet the closing track. We only finish the ideas we really love so there are usually five or six tracks that, for one reason or another didn’t find a place on whichever album. These usually get issued as EPs, which we view as stand-alone works so we don’t include them on albums – ‘Girl In A White Dress’ is a one-off.

Are there any particular favourite tracks from either of the two upcoming new releases?

Paula: ‘Above & Overture’ (EP) and currently ‘Echoes’ or ‘French Ciméma’ from the album. Ooooh, there’s also ‘No Time Today’ and…

Eugene: ‘Above & Overture’ is my favourite from the EP and currently ‘Dreamless’ and ‘Cosmonaut’s Lullaby’ from ‘The Point Of Collapse’ are both my favourites at the moment, but it changes week by week. Why? Because they are so beautiful TBH 🙂

Seán: It keeps changing but at the moment: ‘All The Mad Things’ on the EP, ‘Not My Day’ and the ten minute ‘At The Point Of Collapse’ (almost a title-track) on the album.

TINY MAGNETIC PETS played the W-Festival in Belgium alongside a host of big names, what’s it like as an occasion? Are you able to be choosier about what types of festivals you will play now?

Seán: We had a great time at W-Fest. It was just a nice vibe and nice to be at a festival where it didn’t rain! We hung around backstage, I did a painting and we watched the bands until it was our turn. We missed KILLING JOKE because we had to leave early as our hotel was actually in France! As regards what types of festivals – I don’t think we’re at the choosy stage just yet.

Two years on from supporting one set of Synth Britannia heroes in OMD, you’re opening for MIDGE URE on selected dates of his ‘1980’ Tour…

Seán: Hard to believe isn’t it? And we’re doing it again with OMD! We are so honoured that it’s the ‘Vienna’ / ’Visage’ tour and OMD’s 40th. Andy McCluskey once said that KRAFTWERK was in OMD’s DNA, well OMD and ULTRAVOX are in ours. Sorry we won’t be around for any of the shows with Rusty Egan

Eugene: What dreams are made of; I still have to pinch myself sometimes.

Do you have any favourite Ure-related ULTRAVOX and VISAGE tracks that you’re looking forward to hearing live?

Eugene: ‘Astradyne’ for sure, most definitely ‘Vienna’ and another of my favourite ULTRAVOX songs is ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’.

Seán: ‘Astradyne’ and ’New Europeans’ for me, and of course we all want to hear ‘Fade To Grey’.

Paula: ‘All Stood Still’, ‘Vienna’ and ‘Fade To Grey’.

So with all this activity, is the new album ‘The Point Of Collapse’ more likely to have a 2020 release now?

Seán: It is going to be 2020.

Paula: Yup 2020 it is!

TINY MAGNETIC PETS have shown how a band at this independent level of modern synthpop can gain traction and make in-roads within the music industry today, so are there any words of wisdom you could offer to fellow acts who have been observing your progress and have similar aspirations?

Eugene: Keep doing what you love and what drives you!

Paula: As long as music makes you happy, just do what you love and keep going for it. Don’t hold back! It’s definitely a roller coaster of emotions, but the highs absolutely outweigh the lows!

Seán: The only advice I could possibly offer is stick to your guns when everybody is ignoring you and get out on stages and social media, make connections and LET EVERYONE KNOW YOU’RE HERE – oh! And send your music to Rusty Egan!


The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to TINY MAGNETIC PETS

The forthcoming ‘Girl In A White Dress’ EP will be released by Happy Robots Records on 15th November 2019 in white vinyl, pre-order from https://www.happyrobots.co.uk/product-page/tiny-magnetic-pets-girl-in-a-white-dress-ep-new-pre-order

‘Deluxe/Debris’ is still available as a CD from https://www.happyrobots.co.uk/product-page/tiny-magnetic-pets-deluxe-debris-cd

The ‘Stalingrad’, ‘The NATO Alphabet’ + ‘The Politburo Disco’ EPs are available from https://tinymagneticpets.bandcamp.com/

TINY MAGNETIC PETS 2019 live dates opening for MIDGE URE include:

Manchester Albert Hall (25th October), Liverpool Philharmonic Hall (26th October), Belfast Ulster Hall (26th October), Dublin (29th October), Bochum Ruhr Congress (6th December), Osnabrück Rosenhof (7th December), Berlin Columbia Theater (8th December), Hamburg Gruenspan (9th December), Ravensburg Konzerthaus (11th December), Munich Teknikum (12th December), Kassel Congress Palais Stadthalle (13th December), Düsseldorf Stahlwerk (14th December), Aarhus Train (17th December), Copenhagen Amager Bio (18th December), The Hague Paard Van Troje (19th December)

TINY MAGNETIC PETS 2019 live dates opening for OMD include:

Belfast Ulster Hall (23rd October), Dublin Olympia (24th October), Rostock Stadthalle (25th November), Dresden Kulturpalast (26th November), Leipzig Haus Auensee (28th November), Berlin Tempodrom (29th November), Hamburg Grosse Freiheit 36 (30th November), Berlin Tempodrom (2nd December), Stuttgart Leiderhalle (3rd December), Düsseldorf Mitsubishi Electric-Halle (5th December)

https://www.tinymagneticpets.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Tiny-Magnetic-Pets-69597715797/

https://twitter.com/TinyMagneticPet

https://www.instagram.com/tinymagneticpets/

https://www.happyrobots.co.uk/tiny-magnetic-pets

https://open.spotify.com/artist/3t3ITkzKzWOludV0CeUqYk


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
23rd October 2019

CHRIS PAYNE Interview

Chris Payne is perhaps best known as a sideman to Gary Numan and co-writing ‘Fade To Grey’ with Billy Currie and Midge Ure for VISAGE.

But more recently, Payne released his second solo work ‘The Falling Tower’, an ambitious concept album with neo-classical stylings about “a social and political armageddon”, an all too possible prospect in the current work climate, with the twist of being sung in Latin, Esperanto AND English!

The Rouen-based Cornishman took time out to chat to The Electricity Club about ‘The Falling Tower’ and the various projects he is currently involved in…

‘The Falling Tower’ is your second solo album, but a significant part of it formed an ELECTRONIC CIRCUS album with the same title which came out in 2018?

Yes it is a rather unique situation whereby I released the album under the ELECTRONIC CIRCUS banner when it was clearly not ready. It was a bit of a disparate mix of songs as I was trying to fit the quirky synthpop songs such as ‘Roundabout’ and ‘Space Invaders’ with the more serious compositions like ‘In Red Fields Of Flanders’ and ‘Nocturne for Piano & Synths’. I decided to take a bit of an unprecedented step of redoing the album and dropping the synth pop stuff.

Do you still believe in the album as a concept and artform in this age of streaming and skipping?

Fundamentally yes. It’s true that with digital downloads and streaming etc, you don’t get the benefit of the classic album cover which is not only something that adds artistic merit to the music but also allows the listener to get information about who played on it, the lyrics etc. Of course you can put all of that information and more on your website or social media page but it isn’t quite the same as having it directly associated with the disc, be it CD or vinyl.

Certainly ‘The Falling Tower’ has a strong message of “Look after the planet or nothing else matters”. In other words as a species that is part of this planet it’s about time to stop ego and thinking xenophobically about nations and politics and redress the damage we are doing. I know it’s a theme that is preached to us all the time, and believe you me I’m the last person to want to be preached to, but if we don’t take a different course soon the risks are colossal for the planets existence.

Whilst ‘Space Invaders’ didn’t fit in at all, ‘Direct Lines’ with its nuclear catastrophe storyline and ‘Roundabout’ with its midlife crisis metaphors weren’t that far off the “political collapse of the world” narrative you were aiming at with ‘The Falling Tower’?

I see your point, but they were still very upbeat. As I’ve mentioned before if you’re going to make an album about the collapse of the political and social global civilisation as we know it, you don’t want an album of “jigs and reels”

On ‘The Great Gates’, you perform your first lead vocal since ‘Turn’ with DRAMATIS on ‘For Future Reference’, what brought that on? How different were the two recording sessions which were 37 years apart! 😉

Well I was never a singer and it’s still something that bothers me to be honest. I’ve been told on numerous occasions by my wife Dominique that singing isn’t all about technique, it’s about emotion and although it took me a long time to appreciate this, she was right.

I have never felt comfortable about my own voice. It was always put down whilst I was at music college and as a result I really didn’t care that much. The DRAMATIS song ‘Turn’ was composed by me and I only recorded my own voice for either Denis Haines or RRussell Bell who were the principle vocalists on the album. But after I recorded it, everyone thought it fitted the track so we kept it.

For the recording of ‘The Great Gates’, Dominique had always told me that my voice had a more unique quality about it in a lower register, and I had had a couple of voice training sessions with a vocal trainer called Cecile Helene who used very imaginative vocal techniques to bring out the best in her pupils. She believes we all have the natural ability to sing, but the way we are structured as kids and taught in schools often condemns us to insecurity and a sense of non self-belief which inevitably blocks progression.

So this gave a certain confidence to sing the song which coincidentally happened to fall in a very nice key for my voice. The thing is, I’m not that interested in the continuing development of my singing career! So it’ll probably be a one off but it’s nice to get the feeling back of not being a vocal moron.

Speaking of DRAMATIS, what happened to the mooted reissue of ‘For Future Reference’ with those later non-album singles like ‘Face On The Wall’ and ‘The Shame’ as extras, which was trailed by the free download of a remastered ‘Ex Luna Scientia’?

Do you know what, I honestly don’t know. RRussell tracked down the owner of ‘For Future Reference’ which had been sold on so many times from our initial management team, who were a bunch of music business conmen! But RRussell bought the copyrights to the album back. As for the titles you mentioned, I’ve no idea if they were included or not. I’ll have to ask RRussell about that! Maybe they’re all for sale on eBay!!

‘Ex Luna Scientia’ was partly sung in Latin, as is ‘The Trapeze’ from The Falling Tower’ while the title track is in Esperanto, what inspired you to do that with those two tracks?

Well I know it sounds a bit musical elitist and trust me, I have no time for that nonsense! But Latin is a great language to sing in and I’m used to using it on my big orchestral choral works I’ve done in London and Prague over the years. It worked very well on ‘The Trapeze’ but when it came to ‘The Falling Tower’, I thought of Esperanto as it was created as a universal language to benefit mankind.

Now interestingly it didn’t work as a created language back in the 19th century and I’m sure that’s because a language isn’t a formal constructed thing from the outset, but a living growing and evolving form of communication that just happens on a gradual basis between us humans. Having said all of that, my wife and I looked at the language, realised it had similarities to Latin and went from there. We discovered that it’s a beautiful language to sing in and I’ve used it on the TULM project I’m working on with my daughter Marikay.

Will you do a song in Cornish next? Didn’t you work with Gwenno once upon a time on ‘Ysolt Y’nn Gweinten’, a version of which ended up on your ‘Between Betjeman, Bach & Numan’ solo debut ?

Well that’s another interesting thing about language. Take Cornish for example. It has been what I call a sleeping language for the last couple of hundred years and has recently, I guess post war, become a spoken and scholarly language once more with a lot of revivalist interest. It worked beautifully on the CELTIC LEGEND ‘Tristan & Isolde’ project.

Through a chance connection to Tim Saunders (Gwenno’s father and Cornish language expert), I got to work with Gwen. I remember her coming to Nigel Bates’ studio in Sussex and when she sang the instrumental I’d written with Tim’s lyrics and I thought “Wow! what an amazing sound!”, so emotive and full of expression.

Of course I had no idea what was being said, but Tim had given me a translation of it so I could follow the idea. Gwenno is also fluent in Welsh and I remember hearing her on the phone to her mother in Welsh and followed by a conversation with her father in Cornish.

Both languages are from the Brythonic Celtic branch, but to me have a difference in sonority. I really find this incredible and it values a language no matter how few people speak it. It would be a tragedy to lose the likes of Cornish, Welsh, Irish, Scottish, Breton and any so called minority languages as they have so much to offer in music and literature.

I’ve lost touch with Gwenno over the last five years or so, but I know she is a huge exponent of the Cornish language and is incorporating it into her own music, which in my opinion is both brave and brilliant.

‘Nocturne for Piano & Synths’ and ‘Electro Vivaldio’ have given you the opportunity to realise some of your classical synth fusion ideas?

Yes the ‘Nocturne…’ was an experiment whereby I tried to get the same emotion of a string orchestral arrangement to back the piano with synths. At first I tried to emulate the strings with a far too complex arrangement and so stripped it down to a simple very analogue sound using the classic Elka strings. I also added some synth voices and there you go, it worked. I’m very happy with it as it’s a piece very much inspired by a great pianist Ludovico Einaudi, although the difference is he uses the real strings on his recordings plus he’s a bit good and puts me in my place.

The ‘Vivaldi’ was a way for me to express an idea which is simply this. Would the likes of Mozart, Bach, Beethoven etc have empathised with the synth and possibly changed their way of composing had it been around. I personally think yes. The ‘Vivaldi’ was just a sort of compositional metaphor to emphasise this idea.

This version of ‘The Falling Tower’ appears to be getting traction, do you think that’s because you’re actually using your own name and the exposure from The Skaparis Orchestral tour with Gary Numan?

I definitely think it helps. Having done the tour at the end of last year, it exposed me to a number of Gary’s fans again who probably thought I had retired or died! And just using my name rather than going under the ELECTRONIC CIRCUS banner probably helped as well as few would have connected EC to me.

How was that Numan tour incidentally for you?

Well you can imagine that it was totally amazing. Great venues including the Royal Albert Hall, being back on tour again and having my wife with me to share the experience.

Travelling on the tour bus with Gary and his band (plus crew of course) who incidentally are a brilliant bunch, and as I’ve said before outstanding musicians all of them.

Also the massive buzz of performing my own songs and instrumentals and Gemma (Gary’s wife) who is so kind and welcoming and unbelievably funny and straight away making us feel part of the family. My only regret was it lasted for ten days. I could have done a hundred!

You are writing an autobiography on your Numan days, how is that coming along?

I have been sketching it out and Erik Stein, singer from CULT WITH NO NAME, is helping to guide me through the process. It is quite daunting as I want to make it a historic book about my observations and perspective on events, but at the same time entertaining.

What has caught the imagination is my close involvement with Gary and the band members during this period from 1979 until 1990 (when I officially left) and it’s interesting writing it now from a very retrospective angle. If I had written this at the time, I don’t think it would be good. It would probably have been a bit like a diary and that’s the last thing I want it to be.

What’s perhaps not widely known is that on ‘The Pleasure Principle’, you and Gary shared the keyboard parts because from ‘Telekon’ onwards, he tended to handle the majority himself?

The difference between the two recordings was immense. ‘The Pleasure Principle’ was all of us playing together and to lay down the basis of the track and then doing overdubs.

‘Telekon’ was much more fragmented with us coming and going and sometimes hanging around all day and doing no recording at all.

I played some keyboards on it and viola, but Denis Haines had joined the band and added keyboard parts. Gary did a lot of overdubs himself on various synths and then you had RRussell adding guitar, Paul on bass and Cedric on drums. But my memory of it was that it was put together in a rather random way compared to ‘The Pleasure Principle’. It was still a brilliant album mind you and I’m well proud to have been involved.

Everyone naturally talks about tracks like ‘Complex’ when referencing your contribution, but I’d like to mention ‘M.E.’ and ‘Tracks’, what can you remember about doing those?

‘Tracks’ sadly I have no memory at all. Did I play on it? But on ‘M.E.’, I was given full license to come up with the parts under Gary’s guidance. I’d play them and he’d make the decision as to if he liked what I had done or not. This is a pattern that followed through into future recordings with Gary.

You’ve been working with German songstress Katja von Kassel and you did a new version of ‘Fade To Grey’ with her for ELECTRONIC CIRCUS. Now that version of the album has been taken out of circulation, will it reappear on say your next EP with her?

No I doubt it. I think Katja’s better off with releasing original material to establish her own identity rather than relying on covers.

‘Fade To Grey’ is something of an evergreen, there was people like Kelly Osbourne and Kylie Minogue with their respective songs like ‘One Word’ and ‘Like A Drug’ significantly borrowing from it, are you getting any royalties from those? 😉

We all got royalties from the Kelly Osbourne record. Linda Perry the producer and writer, you know the one from 4 NON BLONDES fame, producer of Pink, Christina Aguilera etc etc realised her error and relinquished her entire rights to the song. I still have her lovely letter written to me apologising for her mistake. To be honest it could happen to anyone and for her to have been so honest and forthcoming with a solution was admirable. I think she’s a really decent person and she has my total admiration.

Minogue on the other hand is a different story. She would have known full well it was a rip off, but the massive weight of her management and herself didn’t act as decently as Linda Perry as they employed the UK’s ‘top musicologist’ so they got away with it and we ended up with nothing. But hey that’s the music business! Nobody said it was fair!

While we’re on the subject of VISAGE, you contributed five songs to Rusty Egan’s ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’ album which were sung by Midge Ure and Tony Hadley among others, anymore stuff on the way from you with that project? 

Oh definitely. He’s a fascinating character who is passionate, driven, committed 100% to the electronic music cause.

He’s extremely loud (you can hear him over an AC/DC concert!) and as I describe him affectionately to others due to his direct no nonsense approach, ‘a social grenade’ but he’s a forceful character and he gets things done. During the album ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’, he managed to get so many good people on board.

How do you look back on it?

It took a long time and in fact five years from inauguration to finish and I was there from the start to the finish, in fact I was the only one. Many had dropped off not believing it would happen but there’s something about him that I share, and that is a driven passion to get the job done and get your music out there.

I contributed five songs to his album and the most interesting one was ‘Glorious’ with Midge Ure. I had written the basic track and had this idea about the chorus relating to the national anthem but as a love song, a sort of “You make me Glorious sometimes victorious” type of thing. Well, Rusty loved the initial idea and worked on it but it didn’t have that big anthem sound I had imagined.

It rested there for a year or so and then suddenly out of the blue Midge had got hold of it and although he kept the chord structure I had written, had revised it from verse to chorus and turned it into the song I always imagined it to be. I was stunned when I first heard it and all credit to Mr Ure, he had turned around a good song into an amazing song.

TULM is a new project with your daughter Marikay which has an eerie Medieval folk feel about it?

The TULM concept is a new project that I’m creating with my daughter Marikay. She has a passion for auditioning huge amounts of music from all over the world on the internet and has a unique ear and is also passionate about creating a project that involves not just the process of music but film, still photography, clothes design, jewellery etc. She has already connected a lot of artists in the Rouen region on this and they all are very committed to the project.

As for my role? Well that’s also different and interesting for me. I will listen to her basic story ideas which are normally based on dark fairy tales and create the music as we are going. In some cases such as the song ‘Flower Crown’, there is no standard structure. We are just going through a story told in music and lyrics and that’s it. It feels a bit like composing film music but without the film!

One thing that does show a certain generation gap is when I’m writing using a simple bed of strings and thinking to myself “Wow that sounds good”, she’ll me bring down to earth with a comment like. “Dad, that’s so 80s! No one uses that old fashioned sound now”. So I change it to something different and that’s how it works. The complete antithesis to how I normally work but an interesting learning curve. Plus as you said there are elements of folk. It’s actually a hard project to define to anyone.

You’ve been working with TINY MAGNETIC PETS on their new album ‘The Point Of Collapse’?

Yes, I was asked to contribute some piano and violin on a couple of their songs. I didn’t hesitate as they’re such an amazing band and more importantly such lovely people. It’s always a pleasure to meet up with them and I really hope they get to achieve the success they deserve with this album.

Have you had a chance to reflect on your career and how your synthy past has become a part of your creative life again in the last decade?

Well as you know I left synths when I left Gary back in 1990 as I went back to classical and folk instruments. I worked on a lot of orchestral projects for production film and media music, plus the use of the folk instruments in CELTIC LEGEND. But having said that , I was still using synths but as a background atmospheric thing rather than full on upfront.

Actually by 2010, I had got into a bit of a rut with music and this changed when Rusty contacted me and I had to get back into synths again. My entire way of looking at them has changed since then. They are an integral part of music creation and what I’ve always admired about the synth is the accessibility of the instrument to all. Think of it as a tool able to be used by non-musicians to create music.

For most instruments, it takes years to get proficient enough to be able to write with them, but the synth opens up this new world of creativity to non-musicians almost immediately which I’m convinced is a great thing. I have certainly reconnected with them and use them all the time. My poor old crumhorns, ocarinas, bamboo flutes, Bombards etc are just lying around in the corner of my studio. But I’ll find a project soon to incorporate them back into my musical life I’m sure.

What’s next for you, under whatever guise?

Simply to carry on writing in whatever form and creating music; I have an interesting project with an old music college friend called Michael Stewart who was mentored by Sir John Tavener, and this involves setting up our own neo-classical label. I would really like this to work but it’s going to take time and a lot of commitment.

We have a project in mind to start off, with an amazing pianist from Japan called Ahuri playing one of the rare Tavener piano compositions called ‘Palintropos’. And of course I have to finish the long awaited book ‘My Numan Days’, check out my Facebook page and www.chrispaynemusic.com for updates.


The Electricity Club gives its sincerest thanks to Chris Payne

‘The Falling Tower’ is released by Gaia International Music, available as a digital album via the usual platforms

http://chrispaynemusic.com/

https://www.facebook.com/chrispaynecomposer/

https://twitter.com/clanvis

https://www.instagram.com/chris.payne.music/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
6th March 2019

CHRIS PAYNE The Falling Tower

If ‘The Falling Tower’, the second solo album by Chris Payne has a familiar ring to it, then you are not mistaken.

“Last year I rushed out an ELECTRONIC CIRCUS album of the same name and I wasn’t happy with it.” said the one-time Numan sideman who returned as his boss’ opening act for last year’s shows with The Skaparis Orchestra, “Electronic Circus was a hurriedly reformed outfit with myself, my wife Dominique and two founder members Tim Vince and Michael Stewart; and the aim was to be able to have enough material for a live show. My problem was that as the album was rushed, it had some wrong elements about it that didn’t fit in with the idea of a social and political armageddon.”

While the ELECTRONIC CIRCUS version of ‘The Falling Tower’ was enjoyable and included the wonderfully quirky ‘Roundabout’ and ‘Space Invaders’, potential audiences were confused about how these synthpop tunes fitted in with the very serious concept highlighting the eventual implosion of the world’s political system. As Payne put it: “If you’re writing an album about the collapse of modern civilisation, it’s not going to be all about ‘Jigs and Reels’.”

The end result has Chris Payne reworking the album in an Industrial Classical Electronic style which he has called ‘ICE’, with seven new tracks and five retained but remixed from the ELECTRONIC CIRCUS original. In a confident mood, Payne even starts the album with his first lead vocal since ‘Turn’ in 1981 when he was a member of DRAMATIS. Sounding not unlike CRASH TEST DUMMIES collaborating with NITZER EBB, the thundering percussive backdrop of ‘The Great Gates’ sets the tone loud and clear as a simple metaphor for a society that are falling apart.

Continuing at a Goth disco friendly tempo, ‘The Science of Gaia’ will be loved by anyone who enjoys Polymoog Vox Humana sounds of the sort Numan and Payne exploited together on ‘The Pleasure Principle’ plus with Payne’s classical credentials, there’s that element of his ‘Fade To Gey’ co-writer Billy Currie from ULTRAVOX too.

With ‘The Trapeze’, the wondrous tone of humanistic unity on the main act flows over a brilliant neo-instrumental with a symphonic theme that gallops like classic ULTRAVOX. But despite the pomp, there is a dominant melancholy throughout much of this record.

Within this background, ‘The Falling Tower’ title song acts as an acute warning to the looming collapse of western civilisation.

To add further poignancy to the message, it is entirely sung in Esperanto by Dominique Hemard-Payne; the language was created by LL Zamenhof in the late 19th Century and its intention was to foster harmony between people from different countries.

“The idea was to use it as a kind of metaphor for global unification” explains Payne, “Something I personally believe we should have concentrated on a long time ago. Basically the theme is simple: ‘If we don’t look after the planet, nothing else matters’”. Ni amos! Pacon! But with Esperanto being Latin based, for aural aesthetics alone, the Cornishman confirms that “The song wouldn’t have worked half as well if it had been in English irrespective of the fact that most people won’t understand it”.

As can be expected from a violin player who studied Medieval Music, ‘The Falling Tower’ sees classical and traditional music forms figuring strongly. This comes to the fore on ‘Electro Vivaldio’; “I’ve been intrigued about this notion of how classical composers would have dealt with today’s modern music” says Payne, “Of course, we will never know but I think they would have embraced it. That’s the Vivaldi track theme”. With its frantic chopping violin, it recalls the B-side ‘Pomp & Stompandstamp’ by DRAMATIS.

The electro classical template continues on the appropriately titled and beautiful ‘Nocturne For Piano & Synths’, which Payne describes as “My way of expressing a classical piano piece using synths not orchestra”, adding “Did you know that towards the end of his life the Russian composer Dmitri Shostokovich was said to have listened to CREAM for inspiration?”.

The piano piece ‘Isolation’ and the sombre overtures of ‘Desolation’ add to the solemn air of Armageddon which is also reflected during ‘In Red Fields Of Flanders’ sung by Marikay Payne. Her father doesn’t hide his anger when he considers how despite the lessons of previous conflicts, his family could have no future: “’In Red Fields Of Flanders’’ is a poignant song honouring all war dead from all sides of the conflict in World War I. It’s about the suffering caused by the usual bunch of political f*cking idiots dragging us into conflict that could of been avoided, and how ordinary people are used to further their ends. Plus it’s been 100 years since the end of the conflict”.

Appropriately solemn, ‘A Saviour Comes’ delivers a metaphor for the religious concept of mankind being saved with a forceful tribal optimism.

But as Payne points out “It doesn’t matter that in reality a handful of survivors would rebuild society or we might just disappear from the earth entirely. Hence the poignant ‘Evensong’ that reflects either view and finishes the album.”

And with that final plaintive lament, everything ends… “It’s all a bit doom and gloom” mourns Payne “but tragically this is where I’m seeing mankind heading unless we have a new Geo political system in place….Very soon!”

A worthy follow-up to Payne’s debut long player ‘Between Betjeman, Bach & Numan’, ‘The Falling Tower’ may appear to be a bit heavy and cerebral, but its ambitious neo-classical stylings provide an intelligent and thoughtful listen, while also satisfying cravings for strong melodies and timeless musicality.

After all, when was the last time you heard a record that was sung in Latin, Esperanto AND English?


‘The Falling Tower’ is released by Gaia International Music available as a digital album via the usual platforms

http://chrispaynemusic.com/

https://www.facebook.com/chrispaynecomposer/

https://twitter.com/clanvis

https://www.instagram.com/chris.payne.music/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
22nd February 2019

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