Tag: DAF (Page 1 of 4)

The Electronic Legacy of VARIOUS ARTISTS

So come on, whose first album was a various artists compilation?

They were the biggest sellers for a decade and had dominated the UK album charts so much so that they were given their own!

In 1966, the Canadian budget household gadget firm K-Tel diversified into the territory of compilation albums with ‘25 Country Hits’; it was a surprise success and this comparatively new idea of collecting a number of artists onto an album based around a single theme was expanded further.

K-Tel negotiated directly with artists and labels for the rights to reproduce the original recordings, but where this was not possible, the company would contract “one or more of the original artists” to make a new recording for the compilation, under the premise that the general public generally could not tell the difference between a re-recording and the original.

However, UK budget label Pickwick Records via their Hallmark imprint went one step further in 1968 by producing compilations of the latest hits but as rush-recorded soundalike cover versions under the title ‘Top Of The Pops’ which had nothing to do whatsoever with the BBC TV show; it was all perfectly legal thanks to an oversight by the corporation on trademark.

Purchasers unknowingly got treated to unique interpretations of ‘Autobahn’ and ‘The Model’ by anonymous session musicians who quite obviously had only learnt the song ten minutes before entering the studio. Although demand for such records had dimmed by 1981, acts such as SOFT CELL were still unable to escape with ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’ hilariously reduced to geezer pub rock! The singer was revealed to be one Martin Jay who a few years earlier had treated the world to his cloak and dagger take on ‘Are Friends Electric?’.

The albums from K-Tel attempted to cram as many songs as possible onto the 12 inch vinyl format. In order to accommodate this philosophy within its physical limitations, many of the tracks were usually faded out early or came in unusual and often clumsy edits, but even these versions were sought after by loyal fans, thus making the records they came from valued collector’s items.

The various artists compilation album changed forever in 1983 when Virgin and EMI joined forces to produce the ‘Now That’s What I Call Music’ series which at the last count had reached ‘Now 106’ and spawned numerous spin-offs and even cable TV channels. In 1984, Sony BMG and Warner Music joined in the action with the ‘Hits’ series, but such was the domination in the UK of these types of albums that in 1989, they were given their own chart and excluded from the main one!

For electronic pop, ‘Machines’ released by Virgin Records in 1980 was one of the first attempts to gather music using synthesizers into one place, but the entry point for many new fans was 1981’s ‘Modern Dance’ on K-Tel. This well-thought out collection saw youngsters saving up their pocket money for their first record purchase or asking Santa to put it into their Christmas stocking, thanks to Radio1 DJ Peter Powell declaring that ‘Modern Dance’ was “The best of total danceability, the sounds of modern dance, on one LP!”.

As with greatest hits albums, what makes a great various artists compilation is a seamless listening experience where possible, or at least more killer than filler. However the continuous DJ mix was a particular irritant running through compilations for a period and rarely worked with classic material or recordings not specifically aimed at the clubland.

However, staying within theme on a compilation is VERY important and straying just slightly can spoil a whole concept, especially if it has been outlined in the title. Soul Jazz Records’ lushly packaged ‘Deutsche Elektronische Musik’ sets over two volumes contained a wide range of freeform experimental works from Germany, but occasionally forgot about the Trade Descriptions Act implications of its title. Meanwhile, ‘Reward’ by post-punk trip-poppers THE TEARDROP EXPLODES had a regular place on collections such as ‘Club For Heroes’, ‘New Romantic Classics’, ‘It’s Electric’ and ‘Our Friends Electric’ despite being brass dominated.

But the nadir came with ‘Synth Pop’, a 3CD collection by Sony Music in 2015 which totally missed the point by featuring AZTEC CAMERA and HAIRCUT 100!??! Now while the inclusion of IMAGINATION’s ‘Body Talk’ with its iconic Moog bassline could be justified, the set highlighted just how much the modern day definition of “synth pop” had become particularly blurred…

Now while some listeners just want endless hits on various artists compilations, others want to be informed and introduced to some lesser-known or rare songs. However, this latter approach can meet with mixed results.

For example, Cherry Red’s ‘Close To The Noise Floor’ and the Trevor Jackson’s ‘Metal Dance’ series were historically fascinating, but not always easy collections to listen to in one sitting. With some of the music close to being unlistenable, it could be akin to studying a hefty text book… highly educational but not always entirely fun!

So The Electricity Club takes a personal look at the electronic legacy of various artists via twenty notable compilation albums, each with valid reasons for their inclusion, presented in yearly and then alphabetical order within.

Yes, several songs reoccur over a number of these releases, but perhaps that is more an indication of their timeless nature. These were tunes that were dismissed by the press and wider public back in the day, but are now considered classic and part of the cultural heritage.


MACHINES (1980)

Having seen the future and signed THE HUMAN LEAGUE as well as OMD through their Dindisc subsidiary, Virgin Records had the foresight to issue a long playing showcase of acts that used synthesizers as their primary instrumentation. As well as their two great hopes, among the outsiders on board were TUBEWAY ARMY, FAD GADGET, SILICON TEENS and DALEK I LOVE YOU. While XTC’s B-side ‘The Somnambulist’ appeared to be incongruous, this was from the band’s synth experimentation period before going more acoustic on 1982’s ‘English Settlement’.

‘Machines’ was released by Virgin Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Machines/master/59149


METHODS OF DANCE (1981)

This compilation had actually been the idea of David Sylvian, hence why it was named after the JAPAN song although their contribution would be ‘The Art Of Parties’. Virgin presented their embarrassment of riches including BEF, DEVO, DAF, SIMPLE MINDS and MAGAZINE while the primary selling point was a new special dub edit of THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Do Or Die’ acting as a trailer to ‘Love & Dancing’. The cassette featured more tracks including John Foxx and the actual undanceable ‘Methods Of Dance’ song in place of ‘The Art Of Parties’!

‘Methods Of Dance’ was released by Virgin Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Methods-Of-Dance/master/43926


MODERN DANCE (1981)

1981 was when the sound of electronic pop was virtually everywhere, so the release of ‘Modern Dance’ was perfect synthchronicity. Featuring superb singles from the stellar cast of OMD, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, HEAVEN 17, JAPAN, DEPECHE MODE, SIMPLE MINDS, VISAGE, LANDSCAPE, FASHION and THE CURE as well as synth trailblazers John Foxx and Gary Numan, an indicator of how supreme this compilation was came with the fact that its most obscure track ‘A World Without Love’ by little known combo THE NEWS was rather good!

‘Modern Dance’ was released by K-Tel Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Modern-Dance/release/504872


SOME BIZZARE ALBUM (1981)

Stevo Pearce’s compendium of new Futurist acts has gone into folklore, having launched the careers of DEPECHE MODE, SOFT CELL, BLANCMANGE, THE THE and B-MOVIE. Several of acts who didn’t make it were also superb. THE FAST SET’s cover of Marc Bolan’s ‘King Of The Rumbling Spires’ was enjoyable electro-macabre while ‘Tidal Flow’ by ILLUSTRATION is one of the great lost songs of the era, the band themselves disappearing despite securing the services of Martin Hannett to produce their debut single ‘Danceable’, but it was never finished…

‘Some Bizzare Album’ was released by Some Bizzare

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Some-Bizzare-Album/master/2754


CLUB FOR HEROES (1992)

It took a few years for people to realise just how good the music from the New Romantic era was, so how better than to celebrate it than a compilation named after one of Steve Strange and Rusty Egan’s club nights. Featuring the all-star cast of DURAN DURAN, SPANDAU BALLET, ULTRAVOX, VISAGE, SOFT CELL and JAPAN, other acts who also got entry into the party were YAZOO, ABC, TALK TALK and CLASSIX NOUVEAUX while most welcome were ICEHOUSE with their eponymous single.

‘Club For Heroes’ was released by Telstar Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Club-For-Heroes/master/120444


IT’S ELECTRIC (1994)

Gathering nineteen “Classic Hits From An Electric Era” including the full length ‘Blue Monday’ from NEW ORDER, ‘It’s Electric’ was largely, a more purist synth collection than ‘Club For Heroes’. Alongside the usual suspects were A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS, TEARS FOR FEARS, BRONSKI BEAT, KRAFTWERK, EURYTHMICS, BRONSKI BEAT and ERASURE. However, this collection featured the album version of ‘Tainted Love’ instead of the single, a mistake that would be repeated again and again even on SOFT CELL’s own compilations.

‘It’s Electric’ was released by Dino Entertainment

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Its-Electric-Classic-Hits-From-An-Electric-Era/master/37974


DAWN OF ELECTRONICA (2000)

A tie-in with Uncut magazine celebrating “a music synonymous with futurism”, ‘Dawn Of Electronica’ included the album version of ‘From Here To Eternity by Giorgio Moroder and for the first time on CD, the Some Bizzare version of ‘Remembrance Day’ by B-MOVIE. With the likes of DAF, SUICIDE, ASSOCIATES, CABARET VOLTAIRE, PROPAGANDA, THE ART OF NOISE and YELLO alongside TUBEWAY ARMY, ULTRAVOX, JAPAN and SOFT CELL, this compilation was something a bit different compared to the ones that had come before.

‘Dawn Of Electronica’ was released by Demon Music Group

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Dawn-Of-Electronica-Uncut/release/577680


ELECTRIC DREAMS (2002)

Like ‘Teenage Kicks’ for punk and new wave, there are far too many compilations named ‘Electric Dreams’. This 2CD affair from Virgin Records comprised of thirty-eight “synth pop classics”. For once, this was a compilation documenting the different electronic pop phases including trailblazing analogue electro and the advent of digital sampling that actually worked. From ‘The Model’ and ‘Electricity’ to ‘Relax’ and ‘19’, with ‘We Are Glass’, ‘Yellow Pearl, ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’ and ‘Absolute’ in between, this was one of the best releases of its type.

‘Electric Dreams’ was released by Virgin Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Electric-Dreams/release/322736


THIS IS NOT THE 80s (2002)

Subtitled “A Nu-Wave Electro Compilation”, this modern collection brought out the electro in Electroclash with gloriously klanky drum machines in abundance. The undoubted star was Miss Kittin with four tracks including the mighty scene anthem ‘You & Us’ with Michael Amato aka THE HACKER; meanwhile the man himself and Anthony Rother each had three contributions in various guises. FPU, DOPPLEREFFEKT and ADULT. were among those helping to bring the sound of vintage electronic pop into the 21st Century for the club crowd.

‘This Is Not The 80s’ was released by Incredible / Sony Music

https://www.discogs.com/Various-This-Is-Not-The-80s-A-Nu-Wave-Electro-Compilation/master/375573


THIS IS TECH-POP (2002)

Compiled by Ministry Of Sound, ‘This Is Tech-Pop’ was a representative snapshot of electronic music at the start of the 21st Century. However the “Tech-Pop or Electroclash or Synth-Core or Neu-Electro” legend in the booklet highlighted the dance music’s daft obsession with categorisation. But the music from the likes of FISCHERSPOONER, TIGA & ZYNTHERIUS, FC KAHUNA, WALDORF, ZOOT WOMAN, LADYTRON, SOVIET, FELIX DA HOUSECAT, CIRC and GREEN VELVET was mostly excellent, although DJ mixing the tracks together clouded the listening experience.

‘This Is Tech-Pop’ was released by Ministry Of Sound

https://www.discogs.com/Various-This-Is-Tech-Pop/release/50649


ELECTRICITY 2 An Electronic Pop Sampler (2003)

‘Electricity 2’ came at a time when the only platform for UK and Irish synth acts seemed to be Ninthwave Records in the USA. It featured HEAVEN 17’s first new song for six years in the ‘Music Sounds Better With You’ influenced ‘Hands Up To Heaven’ as well as material by WHITE TOWN, SPRAY and EMPIRE STATE HUMAN. Among the highlights were ‘The Machines’ by MASQ which sounded like a bizarre Gaelic synthpop take on Gary Numan and the comical ‘Alan Cumming’ by TURD FERGUSON which satirically sent up ‘Frank Sinatra’ by MISS KITTIN & THE HACKER.

‘Electricity 2’ was released by Ninthwave Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Electricity-2-An-Electronic-Pop-Sampler/release/730718


ROBOPOP Volume 1 (2003)

Compiled by Wayne Clements of Essex duo MACONDO for his own Lucky Pierre imprint, ‘Robopop’ was possibly the closest thing to the ‘Some Bizzare’ album in the 21st Century. Heading the line-up were the-then newly configured CLIENT and MY ROBOT FRIEND while Mute stalwarts KOMPUTER contributed the previously unreleased ‘My Private Train’. The stand-outs though were machine funksters ALPINE STARS, irreverent retro-poppers BAXENDALE and VIC TWENTY featuring Piney Gir with a delicious synth cover of Lynsey de Paul’s ‘Sugar Me’.

‘Robopop Volume 1’ was released by Lucky Pierre Recordings

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Robopop-Volume-I/release/296881


RETRO:ACTIVE 5 (2006)

Compiled by Alex Hush, now of U2 and ERASURE remixers DAYBREAKERS, ‘Retro:Active 5’ pulled off the feat of gathering twelve classic 12 inch extended versions into a listenable programme. Longer takes of ‘I’ve Been Losing You’ by A-HA and ‘Pretty In Pink’ by THE PSYCHEDLIC FURS led the way with BLANCMANGE and DEAD OR ALIVE in support. But the biggest selling points were the ultra-rare ‘Love Cascade’ from LEISURE PROCESS and ‘More To Lose’ by SEONA DANCING, the synthpop duo fronted by Ricky Gervais.

‘Retro:Active 5’ was released by Hi-Bias Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-RetroActive5-Rare-Remixed/release/719639


ROBOPOP The Return (2006)

For ‘Robopop The Return’, Wayne Clements was joined by production duo MANHATTAN CLIQUE who co-released the compilation via their own Planet Clique label. Described as “Essential Electro Pop”, it was a much higher profile release than its predecessor with GOLDFRAPP, THE KNIFE, TIGA and DRAGONETTE all on board. Also present were THE MODERN relaunching themselves as MATINEE CLUB while HUSKI, FORMATIC, LORRAINE and SOHO DOLLS were among the worthy lesser-known inclusions. A bonus DJ mix by MANHATTAN CLIQUE also featured.

‘Robopop – The Return’ was released by Planet Clique / Lucky Pierre

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Manhattan-Clique-Robopop-The-Return/release/1410368


CHILLTRONICA A Definition No1 (2008)

Electronic music of a more downtempo disposition compiled by BLANK & JONES, perhaps unsurprisingly, the most exquisite tracks featured female vocalists with Sarah Nixey just pipping the highlight honours on her cover of JAPAN’s ‘Ghosts’ with INFANTJOY over Claudia Brücken guesting on the hosting trance DJ duo’s ‘Don’t Stop’. ‘Ghost Trains’, a solo tune by KINGS OF CONVENIENCE and RÖYKSOPP vocalist Erlend Øye was a livelier number that actually worked alongside chilled out tracks by THE GRID, BLISS, SPOOKY, MARCONI UNION and DEPECHE MODE.

‘Chilltronica – A Definition No1’ was released by Soundcolours

https://www.discogs.com/Blank-Jones-Chilltronica-A-Definition-No1/release/1714901


ELECTRI_CITY 1_2 Elektronische Musik Aus Düsseldorf (2016)

Tying in with Rudi Esch’s book about the German city of Düsseldorf’s music heritage, ‘ELECTRI_CITY 1_2’ gathered the more accessible elements of Deutsche Elektronische Musik, Kosmische and Neue Deutsche Welle. Featuring RIECHMANN, DAF, DER PLAN, DIE KRUPPS, LIAISONS DANGEREUSES, RHEINGOLD, HARMONIA, LA DÜSSELDORF, NEU! and pre-PROPAGANDA girl group TOPLINOS featuring a very young Claudia Brücken and Susanne Freytag, this two volume collection was like a journey of discovery with the benefit of a local tour guide.

‘ELECTRI_CITY 1_2 – Elektronische Musik Aus Düsseldorf’ was released by Grönland Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-ELECTRI_CITY-1_2/release/8919263


NEW ORDER Presents Be Music (2017)

Be Music was the moniker of NEW ORDER used to cover studio production work by all four members of the band. This boxed set gathered these varied recordings which involved either Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris, Gillian Gilbert and combinations thereof, with notable solo tracks from Marcel King, Paul Haig and Winston Tong alongside those of 52ND STREET, SECTION 25, THE BEAT CLUB, SHARK VEGAS and AD INFINITUM’s cover of ‘Telstar’ which many believed was NEW ORDER in disguise but actually only featured Hooky.

‘NEW ORDER Presents Be Music’ was released by Factory Benelux

https://www.factorybenelux.com/new_order_presents_be_music_fbn60.html


ELECTRICAL LANGUAGE Independent British Synth Pop 78-84 (2019)

From the team that put together the ‘Close To The Noise Floor’ series, the 4CD ‘Electrical Language – Independent British Synth Pop 78-84’ did as it said on the tin and with a far more accessible template, was all the better for it. With THE HUMAN LEAGUE, OMD, THE NORMAL and FAD GADGET included to draw in the more cautious consumer, purchasers were treated to a plethora of wonderful lesser known acts like FIAT LUX, BOX OF TOYS, LORI & THE CHAMELEONS, PASSION POLKA, TESTCARD F, EDDIE & SUNSHINE and JUPITER RED. Meanwhile, the best novelty item was a Schaffel driven cover of Alvin Stardust’s ‘My Coo Ca Choo’ by BEASTS IN CAGES; half of the band went on to form HARD CORPS!

‘Electrical Language – Independent British Synth Pop 78-84’ was released by Cherry Red Records

https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/electrical-language-independent-british-synth-pop-78-84-various-artists-4cd-48pp-bookpack/


THE ELECTRICITY CLUB (2019)

Comprising of thirty-four tracks from 2009 to 2015, ‘The Electricity Club’ compilation has stood the test of time, scrutiny and repeated plays. With ERASURE heading the line-up alongside a MARSHEAUX remix of Katy Perry and acts such as MIRRORS, SIN COS TAN, VILE ELECTRODES, NIGHT CLUB, ARTHUR & MARTHA, KID MOXIE, MESH and ELECTRONIC CIRCUS. In hindsight, the weakest link comes surprisingly from one of the star attractions, coming as a result of the licencing compromises that often have to be made when the first and second choices get declined 😉

‘The Electricity Club’ was released by Amour Records / Minos EMI / Universal Music in collaboration with Undo Records

http://www.electricityclub.co.uk/the-electricity-club-2cd-compilation/


THE TEARS OF TECHNOLOGY (2020)

Compiled by Pete Wiggs and Bob Stanley of SAINT ETIENNE, what ‘The Tears Of Technology’ had was a heartfelt suite of music which captured the essence of its title. At its centre was OMD’s sub-eight minute adventure ‘Sealand’ alongside synthy diversions by THE TEARDROP EXPLODES and THE PALE FOUNTAINS, with the Merseyside connection extended to CARE and CHINA CRISIS. Scotland got also got a look in courtesy of Paul Haig and Thomas Leer. The rare ‘Direct Lines’ by Chris Payne’s ELECTRONIC CIRCUS found itself a place too.

‘The Tears Of Technology’ was released by Ace Records

https://acerecords.co.uk/bob-stanley-pete-wiggs-present-the-tears-of-technology-1


Text by Chi Ming Lai
2nd August 2020

MUSIK, MUSIC, MUSIQUE 1980: The Dawn Of Synth Pop

1977 is often seen as Year Zero for synthpop, thanks to hit singles by DONNA SUMMER, SPACE and JEAN-MICHEL JARRE.

But it was not until 1979 with TUBEWAY ARMY reaching No1 with ‘Are Friends Electric?’ that the sound of synth truly hit the mainstream.  Although ‘No1 Song In Heaven’ by SPARKS had actually been a hit a few months earlier, ‘Are Friends Electric?’ was the beginning of the synth being accepted as a worthy mode of expression, rather than as a novelty. But as synths became more affordable, they became the perfect tool of youthful expression.

From Cherry Red, makers of the excellent ’Electrical Language: Independent British Synth Pop 78-84’ 4CD boxed set, comes ‘Musik Music Musique’; subtitled ‘1980: The Dawn Of Synth Pop’, this 3CD 58 track collection explores the arrival of synth pop and the dawn of a new musical era. This was the year before the synth became the rule rather than the exception with the success of SOFT CELL and DEPECHE MODE.

The set starts appropriately with OMD and ‘Messages’, one of the first tunes showcasing the warmer side of electronics following the colder wave led by Messrs Numan and Foxx. But as if to counter this next generation of youngsters, ‘Messages’ is immediately followed by the collection’s vocoder laden title song ‘Musik Music Musique’ from Zeus B Held and the superb proto-industrial ode to loveless sex ‘Coitus Interruptus’ by the much missed FAD GADGET.

Zeus B Held was later to make his impression on popular culture remixing ALPHAVILLE and SIMPLE MINDS as well producing the likes of FASHION, DEAD OR ALIVE, SPEAR OF DESTINY and TRANSVISION VAMP, but his wider breakthrough came as part of GINA X PERFORMANCE in 1979 with The Blitz Club favourite ‘No GDM’; on this compendium, the lesser-known but just as worthy ‘Vendor’s Box’ from their second album ‘X-Traordinaire’ is deservedly provided a platform.

The best producers often earn their spurs as artists and realising their limitations, use their accumulated studio nous to subvert the mainstream via pop. ‘Astroboy’ by BUGGLES sees Trevor Horn develop his sonic architecture to prove that he had another song that wasn’t ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’. Meanwhile the welcome inclusion of NEW MUSIK’s other hit ‘This World Of Water’ allows Tony Mansfield to showcase the crafted sparkle that would later go on to adorn records by CAPTAIN SENSIBLE, VICIOUS PINK, A-HA and NAKED EYES.

It may seem strange to see SPANDAU BALLET as part of this package but when they first appeared, they were considered a synthesizer band; ‘Glow’ was a UK double A side single with ‘Musclebound’ in 1981 and while it was the last synth-led track they did, their funk soul aspirations were there for all to hear. In fact, songwriter Gary Kemp had conceived ‘Glow’ with a brass section in mind, so it is now something of a curio that could be seen as a precursor to ‘Chant No1’.

SPANDAU BALLET were produced by Richard James Burgess who co-designed the Simmons SDSV; his electro-jazz combo LANDSCAPE figure with the Colin Thurston helmed ‘European Man’ which was actually designated “electronic dance music” on its single artwork some three decades before it was appropriated and abbreviated to become EDM…

Many of the usual suspects from the period like VISAGE, JAPAN, JOHN FOXX, THE HUMAN LEAGUE and OUR DAUGHTER’S WEDDING are all present and correct with familiar recordings, but interestingly (although not for the better), it’s the original version of PHIL LYNOTT’s ‘Yellow Pearl’ without the Rusty Egan drums or the Midge Ure remix that gets the nod!

One of the main beauties of these thoughtfully curated collections is to be able sway away from the obvious and feature a known-name with a lesser-known work; in the case of ULTRAVOX, it’s the occasionally Eno-inspired and Conny Plank produced ‘Waiting’ which was the B-side to their first Midge Ure fronted single ‘Sleepwalk’. Meanwhile, SUICIDE are represented by the excellent Ric Ocasek produced ‘Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne’ and YELLO with ‘Bimbo’, the oddball opener of the Swiss trailblazers’ debut long player ‘Solid Pleasure’.

SILICON TEENS get to feature with something other than ‘Memphis Tennessee’ and it’s the Daniel Miller‘s self-penned instrumental ‘Chip N Roll’ that has the honour, while the Mute Records founder gets another track in with ‘Brushing Your Hair’, a gloriously vibrant instrumental production and co-write for Alex Fergusson of ALTERNATIVE TV.

There’s additionally tracks by lesser known international acts or those bands that faded from view after effectively being one hit wonders. The entire career of M may have been overshadowed by the ubiquitous ‘Pop Muzik’ but Robin Scott did go on to release three albums and work with Ryuichi Sakamoto; the sombre ‘Official Secrets’ may not really have much of a hook but it contains some percolating bleepy sections that pre-date KRAFTWERK’s ‘Home Computer’ by one year.

‘A Circuit Like Me’ from Australian combo, THE METRONOMES actually sounds very 21st century with its detached female vocal and charming monosynths, while the gallop of ‘Drawn & Quartered’ by THE KORGIS is a worthy find. Now while ROCKETS found fame with a catchy robotic flavoured cover of ‘On The Road Again’ with the help of Zeus B Held, the silver faced Italians found that the vocoder suited their performance art poise and reapplied it for the self-penned space rocker ‘Galactica’.

Also possessing a bit of a gallop is LORI & THE CHAMELEONS’ wispy Morricone-influenced single ‘The Lonely Spy’ although with its acoustic strum, it is quite different from the understated electronic disco of their best known track ‘Touch’. Cut from a similar melodic post-punk cloth, the Martin Hannett produced ‘Sympathy’ from PAULINE MURRAY & THE INVISIBLE GIRLS is a reminder of how women were coming to the fore after punk in synth-assisted new wave, a fact borne out on ‘Musik Music Musique’ by the inclusion of more obscure works from TOYAH, KIM WILDE and HAZEL O’CONNOR.

‘Musik Music Musique’ is also an opportunity to become reacquainted with lost tunes of yore and ‘The Eyes Have It’ by KAREL FIALKA will be remembered by those who owned the 1980 Virgin Records compilation ‘Machines’, as will the octave driven ‘Destiny’ by DALEK I LOVE YOU. Some enjoyably avant pop adventures come courtesy of XYNN’s ‘Computed Man’ and SCIENCE’s ‘Tokyo’, while one of the more bizarre but successful experiments included is ‘I’m A Computer’ by THE GOO-Q.

One of the lesser known acts featuring with the eccentric ‘Money’ is MOEBIUS, not the member of German duo CLUSTER but an American art rock band with a penchant for DEVO. ‘Doctor …?’ by BLOOD DONOR is another wonderful discovery while of the more experimental art pieces included, NINI RAVIOLETTE’s ‘Suis-Je Normale’ delightfully comes over like a collaboration between Jane Birkin and Laurie Anderson.

Düsseldorf is often seen as the spiritual home of electronic music and there is worthy representation from DER PLAN and ‘Da Vorne Steht Ne Ampel’ illustrating how there were other dimensions to German electronic music other than that engineered by KRAFTWERK. But closing the set is the band named after the Electri_City itself, LA DÜSSELDORF with the light-hearted ‘Dampfriemen’; a quirky slice of synth “Oompah” with comedic chants and a kazoo section, it sums up the manic oddball nature of the former NEU! drummer Klaus Dinger.

There are many other tracks that have merit, but textures which reoccur on ‘Musik Music Musique’ to date stamp the period are the icy chill of the affordable ARP Quartet string machine and squawky sax, although not in an overblown jazz funk way.

Despite ‘Musik Music Musique’ comprising of a carefully researched tracklisting, a few errors do slip through; as well as the SPANDAU BALLET track being released in 1981 as already mentioned (although it was available on a very scarce Japanese-only promo sampler in late 1980), the version of ‘Kebabträume’ by DAF is the 1982 Conny Plank version from the Virgin album ‘Für Immer’ and not the Bob Giddens produced Mute Records five piece band recording which actually came out in 1980.

Then in the booklet, the Foxx fronted 1977 line-up of ULTRAVOX! gets illustrated as opposed to the New Romantic suited Midge Ure one, while LA DÜSSELDORF’s Hans Lampe is referred to as a “Keyboard Whizz” when he is actually a drummer and now performs with Michael Rother who was Klaus Dinger’s partner in NEU!; in fact Dinger handled keyboards himself under the pseudonym of Nikolaus Van Rhein.

Those are minor quibbles though, because this set is very good value and acts as a great music history lesson as well as offering the chance to hear some new vintage synth. While many may have heard of BERLIN BLONDES, THE PASSAGE, THE FALLOUT CLUB and EYELESS IN GAZA, only a few will have heard their music.

‘Musik Music Musique’ offers something of a low risk opportunity to make some new friends while becoming reacquainted with a few old and lost ones. Here’s to the 1981 follow-up set…


‘Musik Music Musique – 1980: The Dawn Of Synth Pop’  is released on 31st July 2020 as a 3CD boxed set by Cherry Red Records

https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/musik-music-musique-1980-the-dawn-of-synth-pop-various-artists-3cd/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
13th July 2020

GABI DELGADO 1958 – 2020

Gabi Delgado, lead singer with DEUTSCH AMERIKANISCHE FREUNDSCHAFT, has sadly passed away at the age of 61; the news was announced by his band mate Robert Görl on social media.

Born in Andalusia in Spain, Delgado’s family moved to West Germany to escape the Fascist regime under General Franco. Delgado and Görl met in 1978 as regulars of the punk club Ratinger Hof in Düsseldorf; there they formed DAF with their basic ideas shaped by Delgado doing vocals accompanied by a Stylophone and the classically trained Görl playing drums.

DAF were a reaction to the success of KRAFTWERK; in Rudi Esch’s book ‘ELECTRI_CITY – The Düsseldorf School of Electronic Music’, Delgado said “To me, KRAFTWERK were sounding too boring, too beautiful, too sedate and too sterile” adding “Sequencers and Moroder. That was more important for electronic music than the entire legacy of KRAFTWERK, NEU! and LA DÜSSELDORF”.

Delgado temporarily left DAF so was absent on what became the 1979 instrumental debut album ‘Produkt Der Deutsch-Amerikanischen Freundschaft’ which was recorded as a four piece also featuring Kurt Dahlke, Michael Kemner and Wolfgang Spelman. Delgado returned and DAF moved to London, signing to Mute Records.

They had attracted the attention of Daniel Miller because “they weren’t relying on past rock”. Produced by the legendary Conny Plank, ‘Die Kleinen Und Die Bosen’ became the first full length album to be released by the iconic label in 1980. Allocated the catalogue number STUMM 1 at the suggestion of DAF as “stumm” was the German word for “mute”, it was a mixed studio and live affair with Delgado demonstrating his aggressive vocal ability with grief stricken screams on raucous punky pieces that barely clocked in at two minutes!

But DAF had impressed and were signed by Virgin Records to record an acclaimed trilogy of albums, all produced by Conny Plank. Now down to just a duo of Delgado and Görl, the pair developed a pioneering sound that was later to become known as Electronic Body Music (or EBM) and Industrial.

Robert Görl had become fascinated by the minimalistic possibilities of using a 16 step Korg SQ-10 analogue sequencer to drive a Korg MS20 and ARP Odyssey to provide body power, while Delgado adopted a Teutonic character to his vocal style that was close to shouting with an inflammatory intensity. That Delgado would not vocalise in English only added to DAF’s mystery and appeal.

On stage, Delgado possessed an almost demonic physical presence, while Görl was often stoic and motionless. Using backing tapes, the live focus was almost totally centred on the front man with his ferocious dancing that made Andy McCluskey from OMD look like a member of KRAFTWERK. Delgado’s sweaty physicality had a homoerotic allure that added a sexual tension to DAF’s chanty electronic punk.

The first Virgin album ‘Alles Ist Gut’ in 1981 featured their fierce breakthrough track ‘Der Mussolini’ which flirted with right wing imagery in its sardonic reflections on ideology. However, combined with DAF’s preference for a militaristic aesthetic, it caused controversy and confused observers, attracting a following which Delgado hated; after all, his parents had escaped from the Franco regime in Spain. But DAF liked to shock and Delgado was always unapologetic about the provocation within his lyrics.

‘Alles Ist Gut’ sold well in Germany, effectively turning Delgado and Görl into popstars! The next two albums ‘Gold Und Liebe’ and ‘Für Immer’ maintained the industrial standard with the latter’s highlight being a re-recording of a 1980 Mute ‘Kebab Träume’. Transformed into something much heavier, the memorable if controversial line “Deutschland, Deutschland, alles ist vorbei!” threw more wood onto the provocation bonfire. But despite the fame, all was not well within DAF and the pair fell out under a haze of sex, drugs and sequencer…

Solo albums were recorded with Delgado releasing ‘Mistress’ on Virgin while Görl issued ‘Night Full Of Tension’ on Mute. But the pair had that certain chemistry and reformed in 1985 to produce their only album in English entitled ‘1st Step to Heaven’. Not only was their language approach different but they softened their sound and look, coming over like a Euroboy band on the ‘Lady Marmalade’ referencing pop tune ‘Voulez Vous Coucher Avec Moi’ while embracing funky New York disco on the cult favourite ‘Brothers’.

However, ‘1st Step To Heaven’ was considered a failure and DAF split again. Delgado found solace and joy in the house and techno scene, organising parties with Westbam, as well as establishing the dance labels Delkom Club Control, BMWW and Sunday Morning Berlin. As 2 GERMAN LATINOS in 1992, he recorded the hypnotic ‘Viva La Droga Electronica’ with Saba Kamossa for Mark Reeder’s MFS label.

While Delgado recorded two albums as DAF/DOS with Wotan Wilke, he inevitably reunited with Görl again in 2003 for the album ‘Fünfzehn Neue DAF Lieder’ which saw a more techno influence entering the template.

The pair continued to reunite for DAF shows, but their legacy which had influenced bands such as DEPECHE MODE, LAIBACH, THE INVINCIBLE SPIRIT, NITZER EBB, FRONT 242, NINE INCH NAILS, APOPTYGMA BERZERK, BOYS NOIZE and RAMMSTEIN was celebrated in 2017 with a book and a boxed set, both called ‘Das Ist DAF’.

Released on Grönland Records, the lavish boxed set included ‘Die Kleinen Und Die Bösen’ and the Virgin trilogy, along with remixes by Giorgio Moroder and Westbam among others. But the icing on the cake was what many fans had been waiting for, a brand new DAF single ‘Die Sprache Der Liebe’.

DAF last played London in Autumn 2018 at the Black Celebration event alongside MESH and SUICIDE COMMANDO, while they continued performing throughout Europe in 2019.

Despite most artists mellowing in old age, Gabi Delgado never showed any signs of taming his punky attitude. During a Techno panel as part of the ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE in 2015 at the CCD Conference Centre where a smoking ban was in force, Delgado caused some amusement when he casually lit up a cigarette in the middle of the discussion, reinforcing the rebellious and confrontational aura of DAF.

Stephan Groth of APOPTYGMA BERZERK said “DAF was one of the HUGE inspirations in the early APOP days, and we’ve had nothing but respect and admiration for their output through the years… Gabi, you will stay in our memory ‘Für Immer’. RIP”

Mark Reeder added “So very sad and stunned to hear about Gabi Delgado’s passing. Thank you for the wonderful music and the contribution you made at the start of MFS.”

A fitting tribute came from ‘Das Ist DAF’ biographer Miriam Spies who simply said “Rest in peace amigo. And may there always be enough cigarettes, music and cats where you are now. And orange trees, of course.”


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Simon Helm
24th March 2020

THE INVINCIBLE SPIRIT Interview

The musical vehicle of Thomas Lüdke, German EBM veterans THE INVINCIBLE SPIRIT first gained wider recognition in Europe with ‘Push! in 1986.

THE INVINCIBLE SPIRIT’s debut album ‘Current News’ featuring songs like ‘Make A Device’ became a cult favourite, inspiring Norwegian electro rockers APOPTYGMA BERZERK along the way.

Meanwhile, Thomas Lüdke’s towering stage presence and dark alternative club sound made THE INVINCIBLE SPIRIT an appealing concert proposition.

Beginning life as THE INVINCIBLE LIMIT, Thomas Lüdke has also been involved in side projects such as GOD IS LSD, SOMA and THE MAO TSE TUNG EXPERIENCE. Although currently very active on the live circuit with a notable opening slot with APOPTYGMA BERZERK on their recent Summer tour, THE INVINCIBLE SPIRIT’s last album ‘Anyway’ came out in 2015.

A single entitled ‘Nein!’ was issued in 2017, but with the release of possibly his most accessible song yet in ‘Coming Home’, Thomas Lüdke has promised a new album very soon. In a break from recording, Thomas Lüdke spoke to The Electricity Club about the past, present and future of THE INVINCIBLE SPIRIT.

How did THE INVINCIBLE SPIRIT come to its tense Teutonic electronic sound?

I never had the impression of sounding particularly Teutonic. But the harder electronic bass sounds, I liked very much when I started to make music. Maybe it’s the influence of the dark basement where I started. 🙂

Many people also claimed the early TIS sound was very grim. I, on the other hand, always had a positive attitude. Probably you cannot just deny its origin. 🙂

Was it always your intention to work solo in THE INVINCIBLE SPIRIT?

No, in the beginning I always wanted a band. And I formed this band for my first project. But since there were different opinions in the approach, I decided to start a second project with THE INVINCIBLE SPIRIT. There I composed the music alone and had only guest musicians for live performances.

Had DAF and DIE KRUPPS been much of an influence on you?

DIE KRUPPS rather less, but mostly it was FAD GADGET, KRAFTWERK, DAF and JEAN MICHEL JARRE (in that order). In addition, during my childhood I was influenced by Rock ‘n’ Roll (Beatles, Buddy Holly) and Country (Johnny Cash). My dad liked to hear this music and he also played me DAF for the first time. 🙂

How did you decide that you would express yourself in English rather than German?

I think English words sound better with my music. Maybe I’m also negatively influenced by Deutsche Schlager music, I do not really like this kind of music. 🙂

Your breakthrough was with ‘Push!’, can your remember what happened from recording the song to it getting heard?

When the song was finished in one night, I went to my favourite nightclub the next day and the DJ played the song. The response was immediately very good. Many people came to the DJ and wanted to know if this is already available. Also my record label Last Chance Records was immediately enthusiastic and released the record in a short time. It was almost an instant success.

How do you look back on the ‘Current News’ album released by ZYX Records?

I did ‘Current News’ under a certain pressure of time. After the success of ‘Push’, the label wanted to quickly release a long-playing record. I was very dissatisfied with some songs and especially the studio sound. This could have been better. Nevertheless, it seems to have been received well by many people.

What synthesizers and machines were you using then? Did you have a favourite?

I have worked a lot with Kawai SX-210, Casio CZ-5000, Yamaha TX-802, Yamaha TG-77 and Yamaha RX-5. I first used the built-in sequencer of the CASIO CZ-5000 for ‘Push!’ and ‘Make A Device’. Later I used the Atari ST with the Notator / Creator software. The TX-802 is still one of my favourites. Except for the RX-5 drum machine, I still have all the devices.

Was ‘Make A Device’ a reflection of the Cold War tensions of the period?

Of course, like many people back then, I was also worried that somebody would “push the button”. But otherwise I was and am rather an apolitical person. But ‘Make A Device’ is more about not falling into lethargy and getting your life under control. But of course, it cannot be ruled out that the “Basic Sadness” was created by the signs of the times. 🙂

You recorded two more albums ‘The Rollercoaster Revolution’ and ‘Can Sex Be Sin’, but then things went comparatively quiet for THE INVINCIBLE SPIRIT until the ‘Faster Life’ EP, what happened?

There was a burden of ‘Push!’. My music for some time was always reduced to this song. Also the record label and the management wanted me to do something like ‘Push!’ again. Also in this business, you often meet people who just want to take advantage of you. When I realised this, I needed a break and distance from these people. I still played live and composed new songs. But I just did not publish these songs anymore.

What made you decide on a ‘comeback’?

As I said, I did live performances all the time. The spark was only in the year 2012, it flared up again at a performance at the WGT in Leipzig. The audience’s resonance was so overwhelming that I decided to get really active again, but this time with the plan to take everything completely in my own hands, without a record label or management. So in 2015, I founded my own record label.

The 2015 album ‘Anyway’ had a lot of songs, it was like you had a lot of feelings bottled up to channel into music again?

On ‘Anyway’, there are many songs that have emerged over the years, but these usually were only in a demo song character. For ‘Anyway’, I picked it up again and composed it to the end. As a result, the album became very varied. I’ve never followed just one musical genre anyway. I like being diverse.

Was the mighty ‘Hate You’ based on personal experience? Had making the song been cathartic?

‘Hate You’ is more to be seen with a smile. I did not really felt hate for anyone or anything when I wrote the song. But of course, it’s fun to let out the feelings during live performances. In addition, ‘Hate You’ for me is the official successor to ‘Push!’. So for live performances, I mix the songs a bit together. 🙂

Do you feel that the modern environment of social media, downloading and streaming makes things easier or more difficult for an artist like yourself?

Well, on the one hand, it makes me a bit more independent of the music industry. On the other hand, the ways a song distributes itself on the internet are hard to control for a small label.

YouTube and Facebook etc are difficult to contact. When I uploaded ‘Push!’ to my YouTube channel for the first time in 2015, the channel was closed for a few weeks and I was accused of copyright infringement. I then clicked through YouTube for a long time and also clicked the hook for a legal dispute. Then it was quiet again and they finally understood. 🙂

What is ‘Irregular Times’ which was recorded as THE MAO TSE TUNG EXPERIENCE about?

It is about a teacher who despairs of the increasing lack of interest in his students. And he holds that out to them, in an ironic way. The original singer of the song Wilfried Peffgen was a teacher. Unfortunately, he died a few years ago, at the age of 70.

The new single ‘Coming Home’ has already been performed live and is maybe lighter than some of your other material, what was it inspired by and how did it develop as a song?

Actually, I had been working on a different song when I had the idea to the main melody of ‘Coming Home’. I stayed with it and finished the song in one day. The text basically treats the feeling of coming home from a few concert days and looking forward to seeing the familiar faces again.

You recently remixed ‘Backdraft’ for APOPTYGMA BERZERK and toured with them, how did this kinship begin and continue?

It was Per Aksel Lundgreen, who wrote me a few months ago on Facebook and made me the offer for the remix. Back then, he told me the story of how Stephan Groth of APOPTYGMA BERZERK became inspired to make music himself after hearing the ‘Current News’ album. Stephan liked my remix and he offered me, to support APOP on the German tour.

What do you think has been your proudest moment as THE INVISIBLE SPIRIT, either with an occasion, or a song or an acknowledgement?

This was the moment at the E-Tropolis in Oberhausen, when Stephan from APOP first told the story that he became a musician himself through my music.

I have already been told this by some bands, but no-one has publicly stated so far. That made me very proud. 🙂

What’s next for THE INVINCIBLE SPIRIT?

Work on a new album is in full swing. Unfortunately, everyday life occasionally throws you back a little. Otherwise, it would already be finished. But I’m still in a good mood 🙂


The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Thomas Lüdke

‘Coming Home’ is released as a digital single via the usual platforms, while the album ‘Anyway’ is also still available

THE INVINCIBLE SPIRIT play 6 Jahre KatzenCLUB-FESTIVAL in Munich with DIVE + TYING TIFFANY on Saturday 2nd November 2019

https://www.the-invincible-spirit.de/

https://www.facebook.com/InvincibleSpiritOriginal/

https://twitter.com/invinciblesp

https://www.instagram.com/the.invincible.spirit/

https://open.spotify.com/artist/5leTuVWMEcXFeyMuFeCv5J


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
14th October 2019

FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY Interview

Photo by Bobby Talamine

Bill Leeb is unimpressed with the Super Bowl half-time show. The best the NFL could muster for the break in the biggest game in the American sports season was MAROON 5, who showed twice as many nipples as Janet Jackson and a tenth of the melody of Taylor Swift.

We’re speaking the day after the event, but not about Tom Brady’s passing game. Leeb’s main band, FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY, has a new album to share.

‘Wake Up The Coma’, the latest from Canada’s electro-industrial pioneers, is loaded with energy and makes a number of surprising plays. We start by asking why FLA weren’t asked to do the half-time show.

Leeb: Because I don’t have enough tattoos. I gotta say, if I put a tattoo across my chest, stating Vancouver, that would be kind of a big statement.

On stage, Leeb is an imposing figure, even without his hometown etched into his skin. The former SKINNY PUPPY keyboardist prowls the boards with a shock of blond hair rising above him. When he points at the audience, you half expect lightning to take out the front row. He’s always drawn attention for his looks. When he moved to Canada as a teenager, the Austrian stood out.

Photo by Bobby Talamine

Leeb: The craziest thing is my first girlfriend in Vancouver, Debbie Jones, who is no longer with us, approached me at a nightclub because these guys were harassing her table. She asked if she could sit with me.  I used to get this question all the time, because of my hair: “Hey, are you in a band?” I think I’ve been asked that more than anything my entire life.

The meeting with Jones led to another important connection.

Leeb: We started chit-chatting, and the next thing you know she knew cEvin [Key] from SKINNY PUPPY. They met because Debbie and her cousin Donna were driving through a park, and cEvin pulled up in a black Monte Carlo with swivel seats. He rolled down the window and said, “Hey, do you guys want to smoke a joint?” Debbie said, “OK, yeah, sure.” There was also Gary [Smith] from Images in Vogue. So it all started with that group of people. When I think back now, it’s a bit like a movie how we all met up together.

With cEvin Key, Leeb struck up both a friendship and a friendly rivalry to find the latest obscure sounds from around the world. Their bible was the Contact List of Electronic Music (CLEM), an annotated directory of record stores and labels involved in the DIY tape and record scenes.

Leeb: One of the first things that got me going was a magazine called CLEM. That was one of our key influences. In there was all the PORTION CONTROL, ATTRITION and LUSTMORD. They had all the contacts, and you could write to all these people, and I think that was the big key for us. Me and cEvin being competitive, of course, we started writing to all these artists.

Back then, you could send an IRC [International Reply Coupon], which was a coupon you could buy at the post office that could be exchanged overseas for stamps. 

We started collecting cassettes from all these artists, and I still have lots of them. Me and cEvin would meet up, and it would be, “I’ve got a cassette from Edward Ka-Spel or In Phaze Records or PORTION CONTROL.” So, we started a bit of a collection war, and that’s how we got onto a lot of those artists.

Crate digging was the other way that the two friends found the sounds that connected them to the industrial and electronic scenes on the other side of the world.

 Leeb: Odyssey Imports and Quintessence Records were the two main stores in Vancouver which continuously, every week, brought in 12” vinyls from the UK and Germany. The UK pressings were better than those from anywhere else, so every Monday we would go down and wait to see what was going on. I remember cEvin turned me on to FAD GADGET. One day, he was standing beside me in the record store and he pulled out that album, Fireside Favourites, and said, “Have you heard this?” I go, “No.” And he says, “Great album – check it out!” And, of course, I became a huge FAD GADGET fan.

Still, Leeb gives a lot of credit to CLEM and its publisher, Alex Douglas.

Leeb: He was way ahead of the curve, as far all those bands. We got half of our contacts and info from that guy. That magazine was invaluable.

It was through CLEM and the underground cassette scene that Leeb became aware of Third Mind, a British label, and its guiding force, Gary Levermore. Third Mind would go on to release Front Line Assembly in the UK and organise shows for the innovative band.

Leeb: The thing that got me on to Gary was when he released Rising from the Red Sand. That was in CLEM magazine, and it had PORTION CONTROL, ATTRITION, BUSHIDO, LUSTMORD – it just went on and on. That was probably the best of the cassette compilations – song for song, that was probably the best one. 

Another great thing that me and cEvin used to do was stay up all night with our group of people, getting wasted and high, and we would find phone numbers for these artists. Come Sunday morning, we would call them. One time, we called PORTION CONTROL at three in the morning here – because the UK is eight hours ahead. Some guy would answer the phone, like Ian [Sharp of PORTION CONTROL], and be, “Hello?” 

We’d be, “Hey, this is cEvin and Bill. We really love your music.” I think they were taken aback that we would call them. It was a different time. You can’t do shit like that now. You’d probably send an email or something. 

It was a much bigger deal back then to get something like that – to get a cassette. I guess these guys over there, if you needed a cassette, they would just run one off.

One of Vancouver’s natural advantages is its permanent place on the North American tour map for interesting artists. Pity music fans from Winnipeg, who were in overflight territory for bands like SIMPLE MINDS and DEPECHE MODE.

Leeb: The crazy thing about DEPECHE MODE is I saw them the very first time they came to Canada, because Images in Vogue – cEvin’s band – opened for them at the Commodore. You know, cEvin and Gary and Joe had the latest and greatest stuff. They had all of that onstage and played. Then DEPECHE MODE, the original line-up, came onstage, and all they had was one keyboard – a small one – and they had an 8-track on the chair behind them. No visuals – that was it. When I think that I saw them last year at the Rogers Arena in front of 80,000 people…

At the first show, there were maybe only 400 people there, and they were up there with only one keyboard. We laughed then, because Images had all the gear and those guys didn’t, but who knew that they were going to be as massive as they were? Who puts a tape player on a chair behind them? But people were different back then.

That isn’t to say that everyone was open to the harder, darker electronics that Leeb and his friends were getting into.

Leeb: I was with cEvin the night he went to Images in Vogue’s manager and said, “I’m leaving the band and starting a new band called SKINNY PUPPY.” Kim Clarke Champniss was the manager of Images, and he was basically telling cEvin, “You’re crazy! Images is on a major; they’ve opened for Roxy and Duran – and you’re going to start a band called SKINNY PUPPY?! Are you crazy?” I was there just for support. And I think SKINNY PUPPY turned out to be ok, right?

The first support for their new approach came from the country that was producing many of the artists Leeb and Key had been discovering – England.

Leeb: For the very first review we got with SKINNY PUPPY – for Remission – me and cEvin went down to Odyssey Imports. There was a guy in Sounds [one of the weekly music tabloids from the UK] called Dave Henderson who ran a weekly thing called Wild Planet – he was another forerunner, encouraging those bands. He wrote a review, and we were walking down the street with it. It said, ”From the land of Anne Murray and Gordon Lightfoot, there is a new electronic band by the name of SKINNY PUPPY. Who do these guys think they are?”

 cEvin was so excited about this guy acknowledging us and saying he liked the album Remission. We’re reading this as we’re storming down the street, and he’s like, ”Bill, look – someone in the UK knows who SKINNY PUPPY is!” Henderson called us all the Wild Planet bands. It was another key factor in this movement, way in the very early days.

Once he was touring with FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY, Leeb got to know some of those bands better.

Leeb: We toured with PORTION CONTROL and did remixes with them. We became friends with Edward Ka-Spel and he and cEvin did THE TEAR GARDEN. Debbie Jones actually went out with Edward for a while – the girl who had brought us all together. Me and Gary Levermore have been really good friends. All those early tours we did through his label in Europe – we became a huge family. It was quite a movement for quite a while – thirty years.

The influence of those cassette-trading pioneers is still being felt.

Leeb: It spawned the things like, in Europe, the M’era Luna festival and Wave-Gotik-Treffen festival –  Amphi. Every band there – whether AND ONE or COVENANT, any of these bands – got their cue from that movement. Not just us, but the whole movement.

Half the bands that are industrial still sound like SKINNY PUPPY or were motivated by that sound. We were motivated by PORTION CONTROL with that distorted, angry vocal – I’d never heard anyone do that before! People were so brainwashed with rock and roll back then. If you think about the whole Gothic world, our world had a lot to do with bringing that forward.

Of course, you had your German bands like DAF – another groundbreaker. FRONT 242 were there, too. They came along during the early SKINNY PUPPY days. That all created a healthy, thriving world in itself. It maybe wasn’t as big as hip hop, but still… NINE INCH NAILS opened for SKINNY PUPPY when it was just Trent for a while and he’s kind of done ok, right? The whole Marilyn Manson thing. It’s spawned a couple of decades of music and it’s still going strong in its own way. It’s still an alternative to all that other stuff, like MAROON 5. It’s so narcissistic, all that world of new popstars now: half the day at the gym; half the day at the tattoo parlour. It’s a whole different mindset.

‘Wake Up The Coma’ features several collaborations. A notable one ‘Eye On You’ with Robert Görl of DAF, opens the album.

Leeb: We met at M’era Luna and another festival. We all hung out backstage, and I kind of hunted him down. One time, they played right after us and we were hanging out backstage, waiting to change, and I just started talking to him. I was such a huge fan, and the first couple of DAF albums were groundbreaking – kind of like the whole Mute and DEPECHE MODE world. We just started chatting in German, and he’s a super nice guy, and next thing you know we were doing the track.

We were going to get him to sing on the song, but he had some things he had to deal with at the time and we couldn’t get it all together – but that was a good start. 

If I think back to twenty five years ago, that I would actually get to do a track with someone like him – I would have thought was far-fetched. That was kind of cool for me. A final thing, as we fade into the future mist.

”David Bowie” even makes a surprise appearance on the last track ‘Structures’.

Leeb: I asked Chris [Connelly], because he does that SONS OF THE SILENT AGE. It’s very popular. They do a couple of Bowie albums every year. I asked him to use that approach to a song. When we did that tour with REVOLTING COCKS in America, it was such a success. Every show sold out. We became really good friends with Richard 23 and Chris and Paul Barker. It was a very fun tour, and everyone was very professional and friendly, so I took the liberty to ask Chris when we became friends and he agreed [snaps fingers] just like that.

The song that will make or break the album might actually be a cover. FLA’s version of Falco’s ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ will surprise a lot of fans with its audacity. It’s not an obvious choice; but, infused with intensity by Rhys Fulber’s programming, and shorn of the wigs and powder of the original, it could be a cross-over hit. They have had those before in their DELERIUM guise.

Leeb: I thought that, having been born and raised in Austria, and being Austrian, there was enough of a connection to do that song. I felt like something foreign and I like classical music, so I hope that the Mayor of Vienna gives me the key to the city and that song gets on Viva rotation. I’m curious to see how much hate and love we get over it. Rhys is loving it. He’s like, “Everyone is going to hate it!” Well, ok, that’s cool. When you hear the original and ours, they are quite different. Jimmy [Urine] is the king of irony. The way he does the song has a hint of humour in it. In the studio, he had it in two or three takes – in German!

Even with covers and collaborations, ‘Wake Up The Coma’ hangs together incredibly well. It’s a mature, sophisticated FLA release. The unifying theme, if there is one, is contact.

Leeb: Jeremy [Inkel] sent me some demos, and the day after he passed away we were supposed to speak. After ‘Echogenetic’, Rhys was back in the picture. It was so crazy, and we put this record together with bits and pieces of these guys. I made new friends with Robert and Chris. Three of the songs came from Ian Pickering. ‘Wake Up The Coma’ was from one of his songs. He was the guy who wrote a bunch of lyrics for SNEAKER PIMPS. We became friends with him through somebody else.

‘Wake Up The Coma’ is with the guy from PARADISE LOST [Nick Holmes]; he does the vocals. Rhys produced a couple of PARADISE LOST albums and they became good friends. It was a weird, big, crazy thing. Rhys summed it up, with all the craziness and Jeremy’s passing: “I guess we’re a real band now.”


The Electricity Club gives its grateful thanks to Bill Leeb

Special thanks to Gary Levermore at Red Sand PR

‘Wake Up The Coma’ is released by Metropolis Records, in double vinyl LP, CD and digital formats, available from https://frontlineassembly.bandcamp.com/

http://www.mindphaser.com/

https://www.facebook.com/frontlineassembly/

https://twitter.com/f7a

https://www.instagram.com/front.line.assembly.official/

https://www.metropolis-records.com/artist/front-line-assembly


Text and Interview by Simon Helm
Photos by Simon Helm except where credited
16th February 2019

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