Tag: David Bowie (Page 1 of 6)

TEC’s 25 SONGS OF THE BLITZ CLUB

The soundtrack of The Blitz Club was provided by its resident DJ Rusty Egan and its story is more than well documented.

This vibrant post-punk scene, whose flamboyant clientele were dubbed ‘Blitz Kids’ and ‘New Romantics’, became the catalyst for several bands including VISAGE, SPANDAU BALLET and CULTURE CLUB, as well as assorted fashion designers, visual artists and writers.

Rusty Egan told The Electricity Club: “I just played as much as I could fit in, it was not all disco. It was a bar and opened after work. I’d arrive 8.30–9.00pm and played all my faves till it was packed, then I got them dancing and at the end, I slowed down”.

The dancing style at The Blitz Club often involved the swaying of arms at a distance from the face like slow motion maraca shaking so as not to spoil any carefully hairsprayed styles. Meanwhile, feet movements were often impossible as the small dancefloor was often overcrowded!

With Steve Strange as doorman and fashion gatekeeper, the concept for what was initially a “Bowie Night” came together at Billy’s nightclub in Soho in Autumn 1978 in an effort to find something new and colourful to escape the oncoming drabness in the Winter Of Discontent. After a disagreement with the owners of Billy’s, the pair moved their venture to The Blitz Club.

Although Rusty Egan had been a soul boy and an active participant in punk through a stint rehearsing with THE CLASH and then as a member of THE RICH KIDS with Midge Ure, the two friends became fascinated with electronic dance music though the Giorgio Moroder produced ‘I Feel Love’ by Donna Summer and KRAFTWERK’s ‘Trans Europe Express’ album which had been a surprise favourite in New York discos and whose title track referenced David Bowie.

“There was a couple of years of punk which Midge Ure and myself weren’t too impressed with in terms of the clubs and the environment in Thatcherite Britain, it was horrible in Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool!” recalled Egan, “So we were just trying basically to grasp the good in life, trying to be positive in a very negative time.”

Although Egan curated an eclectic playlist of available synth works supplemented with soundtracks and relatable art rock tunes, tracks were comparatively scarce in this new innovative electronic form.

So with studio time available following the split of THE RICH KIDS, Ure and Egan hit upon the idea of making their own electronic dance music for The Blitz Club, fronted by Steve Strange.

Ure came up with the name VISAGE for the project and presented the demo to his then employers at EMI Records, but it was rejected! Undeterred, the pair recruited Billy Currie from a then-in hiatus ULTRAVOX plus MAGAZINE’s Dave Formula, John McGeoch and Barry Adamson to record the first VISAGE album at the-then newly constructed Genetic Studios of Martin Rushent.

When Billy Currie toured with Gary Numan in 1979, he and fellow keyboardist Chris Payne composed what was to become ‘Fade To Grey’; it was included on the eventual ‘Visage’ album released by Polydor Records in 1980 and the rest is history, reaching No1 in West Germany!

VISAGE was the beauty of the synthesizer played with symphonic classical overtones fused to the electronic dance beat of Neu Europa and visually styled like a cross between the Edwardian dandies and Weimar Cabaret. Midge Ure remembered “it was a major part of my life and Steve was a major part of that period”.

The meeting of Ure and Currie in VISAGE led to the diminutive Glaswegian joining a relaunched ULTRAVOX who released the iconic ‘Vienna’ album in 1980. Co-produced by Conny Plank, the German always thought in terms of sound and on the title song, he imagined an old man at a piano in a desolate theatre who had been playing the same tune for forty years.

And when Billy Currie came to record his ivory parts, that was exactly the feel which Plank had engineered. It was to become a ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ for the New Romantic movement when it was released as a single, stalling at No2 despite being one of the best selling singles of 1981, gracing the UK charts at the same time as ‘Fade To Grey’.

Having started as a “Bowie Night”, the man himself became fascinated by this emergent cult with no name that he had inspired. In 1980, Jacqueline Bucknell, an assistant from his label RCA who was also a Blitz Kid, had taken Bowie down to The Blitz Club to cast extras to appear in a video for his new single ‘Ashes To Ashes’; among the chosen ones was Steve Strange.

Utilising Roland guitar synths and an ARP string machine with a final burst of ARP Odyssey, David Bowie saw ‘Ashes To Ashes’ as an epitaph for his artistic past as he lyrically revisited the Major Tom character from ‘Space Oddity’ over a decade on.

With this, The Blitz Club had now become a mainstream phenomenon as the BBC’s Nationwide programme sent an investigative team in, signalling a changing of the guard in popular culture with parallel scenes going on at The Rum Runner in Birmingham, The Warehouse in Leeds and Crocs in Rayleigh from which DURAN DURAN, SOFT CELL and DEPECHE MODE were to respectively gain their fledgling followings.

The perceived elitist exclusivity of The Blitz Club had partly become legend as a result of Steve Strange refusing entry to Mick Jagger for his sporting of blue jeans. Playing on this and adopting its electronic aesthetic to attract attention, five lads from Islington formed SPANDAU BALLET and initially only performed at special events which were by invitation only. Essentially becoming The Blitz Club’s house band, the quintet later scored worldwide success with a less radical sanitised pop soul sound.

Singer Tony Hadley said to The Electricity Club: “Our first album The ‘Journeys To Glory’ will always be one of my favourite Spandau albums, we were just young excited lads trying to make our mark on the world. There’s a rawness and energy on that album that is impossible to recreate. I love synthpop and still one of my favourite songs is SPANDAU BALLET’s first release ‘ To Cut A Long Story Short’.”

Not all enjoyed their visits to The Blitz Club; Billy MacKenzie notably highlighted the vapid nature of the scene in ASSOCIATES’ second hit single ‘Club Country’. But buoyed by its success, Steve Strange and Rusty Egan eventually vacated The Blitz Club and took over The Music Machine in 1982 and relaunched it as The Camden Palace, making it one of the UK’s first modern superclubs.

But the spirit of The Blitz Club still lives on and recently, there came the surprise announcement that Zaine Griff was to join Rusty Egan and ‘Fade To Grey’ co-writer Chris Payne to perform the songs of VISAGE in an audio-visual presentation at a number of events across Europe including W-Festival in Belgium.

Using Dave Rimmer’s 2003 book ‘New Romantics: The Look’ as an initial reference point and calling on the memories of Rusty Egan himself to verify whether he had actually played these songs in his DJ sets, here are The Electricity Club’s 25 Songs Of The Blitz Club to celebrate the flamboyant legacy of that Blitz Spirit.


ROXY MUSIC Both Ends Burning (1975)

Following-up the hit single ‘Love In The Drug’, ‘Both Ends Burning’ was ROXY MUSIC’s second ‘Siren’ call. With Bryan Ferry’s stylised but anguished vocals, it was a track which laid down the sophisticated art pop trail that JAPAN and DURAN DURAN would later be pursuing. Featuring a prominent coating of ARP Solina string machine sweetened by hypnotic bass and squawky sax, ‘Both Ends Burning’ is probably the most under rated single in the Roxy canon.

Available on the ROXY MUSIC album ‘The Best Of’ via Virgin Records

https://www.roxymusic.co.uk/


BRIAN ENO Kings Lead Hat (1977)

With a title that was an anagram of TALKING HEADS, the New York art school combo were the inspiration for the frantic metallic romp of ‘Kings Lead Hat’ which became a favourite at The Blitz Club. Brian Eno aped David Byrne in his vocal delivery, while he was later to produce three of the band’s albums as he moved further away from art rock as a solo artist. The song was later covered by ULTRAVOX in their live sets during the early phase their Midge Ure-fronted incarnation.

Available on the BRIAN ENO album ‘Before & After Science’ via Virgin Records

https://brian-eno.net/


KRAFTWERK Showroom Dummies (1977)

KRAFTWERK reacted as they generally did to negative criticism by writing a song. A response to a review that said their motionless persona at live performances was like ‘Showroom Dummies’, the sparse eerie atmosphere was punctuated by a tight and rigid electronic drum sound that was completely new and alien, something Rusty Egan was looking to emulate. Incidentally, the count-in of “eins zwei drei vier” was a deadpan Germanic parody of THE RAMONES!

Available on the KRAFTWERK album ‘Trans Europe Express’ via EMI Music

http://www.kraftwerk.com/


IGGY POP Nightclubbing (1977)

An Iggy Pop collaboration with David Bowie, the Vampiric glam of ‘Nightclubbing’ was the former James Osterberg’s commentary on what it was like hanging out with him every night. Utilising a simple piano melody and a cold Schaffel rhythm via the mechanical precision of a Roland drum machine, legend has it that Iggy insisted on keeping it, saying “it kicks ass, it’s better than a drummer”. Alongside ‘Lust For Life’, ‘Nightclubbing’ also featured in the soundtrack of ‘Trainspotting’.

Available on the IGGY POP album ‘The Idiot’ via Virgin Records

https://iggypop.com/


ULTRAVOX! Hiroshima Mon Amour (1977)

Utilising Warren Cann’s modified Roland TR77 rhythm machine, this was John Foxx moving ULTRAVOX! into the moody ambience pioneered by CLUSTER, away from the art rock of the self-titled first album and the punky interim single ‘Young Savage’. ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ had initially been premiered as a far spikier uptempo number for the B-side of ‘ROckWrok’. Incidentally, the ‘CC’ credited on saxophone is not Chris Cross, but a member of the art collective GLORIA MUNDI.

Available on the ULTRAVOX! album ‘Ha! Ha! Ha!’ via Island Records

http://www.metamatic.com/


LA DÜSSELDORF Viva (1978)

LA DÜSSELDORF’s second long player ‘Viva’ was their most successful album and the title track was a regular staple at The Blitz Club. An oddball slice of cosmic space rock sung in French and German by Klaus Dinger, proceedings were aided by the dual motorik thud of Hans Lampe and Thomas Dinger. Performed with the same group of musicians, ‘E-Musik’ by Dinger’s previous band NEU! had also been a favourite at The Blitz Club, influencing the intro of the ULTRAVOX B-side ‘Face To Face’.

Available on the LA DÜSSELDORF boxed set ‘Triple Album Collection’ via WEA Records

https://www.dingerland.de/


GIORGIO MORODER Chase (1978)

Commissioned by Alan Parker for the graphic prison drama ‘Midnight Express’, the noted director wanted some electronic accompaniment to the crucial chase scene of the film in the style of ‘I Feel Love’. The bassline from Giorgio Moroder’s own 1976 cover of ‘Knights In White Satin’ was reappropriated. The fruit of their labours was this Oscar winning Hi-NRG romp bursting with VANGELIS-like keyboard melodies, driven by an intense slamming and syncopated by popping pulses.

Available on the GIORGIO MORODER album ‘Midnight Express’ via Casablanca Records

https://www.giorgiomoroder.com/


THE NORMAL Warm Leatherette (1978)

Already a fan of German music and ‘Autobahn’ by KRAFTWERK in particular, Daniel Miller’s sense of experimentation and an adoption of punk’s DIY ethic led him to buying a Korg 700s synthesizer. Wanting to make a punk single with electronics, he wrote and recorded the stark JG Ballard influenced ‘Warm Leatherette’ as an independent single release on his own Mute Records. Meanwhile, The Blitz Kids came up with their own bizarre twisting and turning dance entering a human arch to accompany it…

Available on THE NORMAL single ‘Warm Leatherette’ via Mute Records

http://mute.com/category/the-normal


RIECHMANN Wunderbar (1978)

The late Wolfgang Riechmann is the forgotten man in the Düsseldorf axis having been in SPIRITS OF SOUND with Michael Rother and Wolfgang Flür; had his life not been tragically cut short, he certainly had the potential to become a revered and respected cult musical figure. The opening title track of his only album chimed like a Cold War spy drama before the beautifully almost oriental melodic piece imagined PINK FLOYD meeting CLUSTER over a delicate Schaffel beat.

Available on RIECHMANN album ‘Wunderbar’ via Bureau B

http://www.bureau-b.com/infotexte/Riechmann.Wunderbar.Bio.engl.pdf


VISAGE In The Year 2525 (1978 – released 1983)

ZAGER & EVANS’ pessimistic ditty was perfect fodder for the first VISAGE demo. Steered by Midge Ure using his freshly acquired Yamaha synths and punctuated by Rusty Egan’s incessant Roland drum machine and synthetic percussion, ‘In The Year 2525’ was perfectly resigned aural dystopia from its vocodered intro onwards. Steve Strange’s deadpan fronted the sombre tone perfectly but Ure’s vocal backing and counterpoints added that extra slice of musicality.

Available on the VISAGE album ‘The Face’ via Universal Records

http://www.visage.cc/


YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA Firecracker (1978)

One of first Japanese bands to have a Top 20 hit single in the UK was YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA in 1980. ‘Firecracker’ was a cover of a 1959 composition by Martin Denny but actually released as ‘Computer Game (Theme From The Invader)’. Recorded in 1978, the parent self-titled album was noted for its use of the then brand new Roland MC8 Micro-Composer to control the synthesizers. The result was a clean, exotic pop sound that was unusual, even in the synthpop heartland of Europe.

Available on the YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA album ‘Yellow Magic Orchestra’ via Sony Music

http://www.ymo.org/


GINA X PERFORMANCE No GDM (1979)

Produced by Zeus B Held, ‘No GDM’ was written by androgynous art history student Gina Kikoine in honour of the “great dark man” Quentin Crisp and featured an array of ARP and Moog synths to signal the birth of a new European Underground. Unsurprisingly, the song gained heavy rotation at The Blitz Club. The nonchalant, detached vocal influence of GINA X PERFORMANCE went on to be heard in the music of LADYTRON, CLIENT and MISS KITTIN.

Available on the album ‘Nice Mover’ via LTM Recordings

http://www.ltmrecordings.com/gina_x.html


JAPAN Life In Tokyo (1979)

Working with Giorgio Moroder, David Sylvian submitted ‘European Son’ for the session in Los Angeles but it was rejected by the producer. Instead, the Italian offered several of his demos, of which, Sylvian picked the one he considered to be the worst so that he could stamp more of his own vision for the developing synthesized sound of JAPAN. Considered to be too avant-garde at its inception but ahead of its time, unbeknown to Moroder and Sylvian, they had just conceived DURAN DURAN!

Available on the JAPAN album ‘Assemblage’ via Sony BMG Records

http://www.nightporter.co.uk/


THOMAS LEER & ROBERT RENTAL Day Breaks Night Heals (1979)

Originally released on THROBBING GRISTLE’s Industrial Records, ‘The Bridge’ album saw Scottish duo Thomas Leer and Robert Rental trading vocal and instrumental duties. With an air of FAD GADGET, ‘Day Breaks Night Heals’ showcased some of Leer’s pop sensibility that was later apparent in his Arista solo period and in ACT with Claudia Brücken, while Rental maintained a dark experimental presence in this slice of artful electronic blues. Robert Rental sadly passed away in 2000.

Available on the album ‘The Bridge’ via The Grey Area

http://mute.com/category/thomas-leer-and-robert-rental


SIMPLE MINDS Changeling (1979)

Manipulating their influences like SPARKS and MAGAZINE with a very European austere, Glasgow’s SIMPLE MINDS were “underground, pulsating through” thanks to the rhythmic interplay of Derek Forbes’ bass with Mick McNeil’s synths. Charlie Burchill was now thinking beyond the sound of a conventional electric guitar while the precision of under rated drummer Brian McGee locked the glue. That just left Jim Kerr to throw his bizarre shapes and pontificate over this dark avant disco.

Available on the SIMPLE MINDS album ‘Reel To Real Cacophony’ via Virgin Records

http://www.simpleminds.org.uk/


SPARKS Beat The Clock (1979)

Having graced the UK Top 20 again with the tremendous ‘No1 Song In Heaven’, SPARKS continued their Giorgio Moroder produced rejuvenation and had an even bigger hit with ‘Beat The Clock’. Percussively augmented by Keith Forsey who was later to produce Billy Idol, Russell Mael’s flamboyant falsetto more than suited the electronic disco sound while the programmed backing meant that Ron Mael could stoically maintain his image of doing nothing.

Available on the SPARKS album ‘No1 In Heaven’ via Lil Beethoven Records

https://allsparks.com/


TELEX Moscow Diskow (1979)

Belgian trio TELEX comprised of Marc Moulin, Dan Lacksman and Michel Moers, with the intention of “making something really European, different from rock, without guitar”. Opening their debut album ‘Looking for Saint Tropez’ which also contained their funeral robotic cover of ‘Rock Around The Clock’, ‘Moscow Diskow’ took the Trans-Siberian Express to Moscow, adding a funkier groove compared with KRAFTWERK’s ‘Trans Europe Express’ excursion for what was to become a cult international club favourite.

Available on the TELEX album ‘‘Looking For San-Tropez’ via EMI Music

https://www.facebook.com/TELEX-312492439327342/


THROBBING GRISTLE Hot On The Heels Of Love (1979)

From their third album ’20 Jazz Funk Greats’, the uncompromising THROBBING GRISTLE led by the late Genesis P-Orridge were neither jazzy or funky! Gloriously sequenced by Chris Carter via a Roland System-100M modular, ‘Hot On The Heels Of Love’ was mutant dystopian disco lento with a hypnotic rhythm punctuated by a synthetic whip-crack for that S&M twist as Cosey Fanni Tutti’s whispered vocals competed with pentatonic melodies and electronic drill noises!

Available on the THROBBING GRISTLE album ’20 Jazz Funk Greats’ via Industrial / Mute Records

https://twitter.com/ThrobbingGrstle


ZAINE GRIFF Ashes & Diamonds (1980)

Zaine Griff had a Bowie-esque poise was tailor made for The Blitz Club and Tony Visconti saw enough in him to produce his debut solo album ‘Ashes & Diamonds’. Featuring Hans Zimmer on synths, the title song was sitting just outside the Top 40 and earned a performance on Top Of The Pops but the episode was pulled thanks to a Musicians Union strike. Demonstrating the song’s longevity despite it not being a major hit, it was recently covered live by American alternative rockers MGMT.

Available on the ZAINE GRIFF album ‘Ashes & Diamonds / Figvres’ via MIG Music

https://www.zainegriff.com/


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Being Boiled (1980)

‘Being Boiled’ was the first song Philip Oakey wrote with Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh for THE HUMAN LEAGUE, his bizarre lyrics being the result of a confusion between Buddhism and Hinduism while highlighting the plight of silk worms. Intended to reimagine FUNKADELIC’s funky overtones as synthetic horns, this brassier re-recorded version with fatter electronic beats was included on the ‘Holiday 80’ EP and the ‘Travelogue’ album, becoming a dance staple of The Blitz Club.

Available as a bonus track on THE HUMAN LEAGUE album ‘Travelogue’ via Virgin Records

http://www.thehumanleague.co.uk/


SPACE Tender Force (1980)

Didier Marouani wrote the worldwide hit ‘Magic Fly’ but having left the band, Roland Romanelli and Jannick Top continued as SPACE. The rousing thrust of ‘Tender Force’ was, like ‘Magic Fly’, produced by Jean-Philippe Iliesco who later invited Rusty Egan to contribute a timbale heavy remix of this synth disco tune ; he was later to begin an ill-fated business relationship with Iliesco who was named by Midge Ure in his ‘If I Was’ autobiography as responsible for putting a wedge between him and Egan in VISAGE…

Available on the SPACE album ‘The Best Of’ via Nang Records

http://www.space.tm.fr


YELLO Bostich (1980)

Although now known as a duo, eccentric Swiss pioneers YELLO actually began as a trio of Dieter Meier, Boris Blank and Carlos Peron. Later remixed and extended, the military drum tattoo at the start of ‘Bostich’ was deceiving as an electronic throb quickly set in. This was perfect avant garde disco for The Blitz Club with a quirky range of vocal pitches from Meier while the track also included a style of speedy European rap later that was repeated on their only major UK hit ‘The Race’ in 1988.

Available on the YELLO album ‘Essential’ via Mercury Records

https://www.yello.com/


LANDSCAPE Einstein A Go-Go (1981)

Electronic pop music was often seen as pretentious, LANDSCAPE had their tongues firmly in their cheeks as evidenced by ‘Einstein A Go-Go’. “The song is a cautionary tale about the apocalyptic possibilities of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of theocratic dictators and religious extremists.” said the band’s Richard Burgess, “We talked about the track conceptually before we wrote it and our objective was to make a very simple, cartoon-like track with a strong hook that would belie the meaning of the lyrics!”

Available on LANDSCAPE album ‘From The Tea-Rooms Of Mars…’ via Sony Music

https://twitter.com/Landscape_band


SHOCK R.E.R.B. (1981)

Written as a B-side instrumental for The Blitz Club’s resident dance troupe SHOCK to work a routine to, ‘R.E.R.B.’ was constructed by Rusty Egan and Richard Burgess, hence the title. Burgess had been doing the linking interludes with a Fairlight on the first VISAGE album and brought in Roland System 700 modular driven by the Micro-composer while Egan triggered the brain of the synthesized drum system that Burgess had been working on with Dave Simmons for its punchy drum fills.

Available on the SHOCK single ‘R.E.R.B.’ via Blitz Club Records

https://twitter.com/DJRustyEgan


SOFT CELL Memorabilia (1981)

Produced by Daniel Miller, one of the first SOFT CELL recordings on signing to Phonogram was the seminal ‘Memorabilia’. While not a hit, it was critically acclaimed and become a favourite at The Blitz Club. Dave Ball’s deep Roland Synthe-Bass and klanky Korg Rhythm KR55 provided a distinctive danceable backbone to accompany Marc Almond’s souvenir collecting metaphors about sexual promiscuity. After this, SOFT CELL were signed by Rusty Egan to Metropolis Music for publishing.

Available on SOFT CELL album ‘Keychains & Snowstorms: The Singles’ via Universal Music

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


Approved by Rusty Egan, The Electricity Club presents the ‘Blitz Spirit’ playlist capturing the era plus a few tracks from just after at: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0y4GXXotg4BFPZ6qMklwdx


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Rusty Egan
13th April 2020

Ten Years Of TEC: 30 TRACKS THAT SHAPED THE ELECTRICITY CLUB

So how did The Electricity Club arrive at its discerning musical ethos?

It probably all began with a very liberal and Bohemian junior school teacher named Miss Nielsen who played KRAFTWERK’s ‘Autobahn’, PINK FLOYD’s ‘Echoes’ and the soundtrack of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ to the class, with the unusual sound of all three providing an otherworldly, yet captivating listen.

Later on, various parts of the 22 minute ‘Autobahn’ track appeared on the end credits of BBC children’s drama ‘Out Of Bounds’ and opened ‘Newsround Extra’, but 1977 was to become the true Year Zero in electronic pop. With ‘Oxygène’, ‘Sound & Vision’, ‘Magic Fly’ and ‘I Feel Love’ all hitting the UK Top 3 within months of each other, this was effectively the beginning of synths designing the future.

To celebrate the 10th birthday of the site, here is a very personal list of 30 tracks that shaped The Electricity Club. These are primarily songs that solidified and expanded the interest in synth or later provided hope in the face of real music snobbery and the return of the guitar in the wake of Britpop.

There will be grumbles that the likes of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA, HEAVEN 17, YAZOO, DURAN DURAN, TALK TALK, PROPAGANDA, CLIENT, RÖYKSOPP and others are not featured, and certainly if this list was a 40, they would all be included. But this list is an impulsive snapshot of The Electricity Club’s own journey in music, as opposed to being a history of electronic pop or a best of.

What? No industrial, acid house, techno or dubstep you ask? Well, that’s because The Electricity Club disliked the majority of it. While this is not always the case, the site has generally about synthpop ie pop music using synthesizers, as can be seen from this rather esteemed electronic roll of honour 😉

This is the history that the too cool for school media, who think everything jumped from KRAFTWERK to Detroit Techno in one fell swoop, don’t like to mention…

With a restriction of one track per artist moniker and presented in yearly and then alphabetical order featuring music from before the site came into being, here is why The Electricity Club is how it is…


JEAN-MICHEL JARRE Oxygène (1976)

For many including Jean-Michel Jarre, ‘Popcorn’ for their first experience of a synthpop hit and he released his own version under the moniker of THE POPCORN ORCHESTRA in 1972. But while working on his first proper full length electronic album in 1976, Jarre adapted a melodic phrase from the late Gershon Kingsley’s composition as the main theme of what was to become the project’s lead single. That composition was ‘Oxygène IV’ and the rest is history.

Available on the album ‘Oxygène’ via Sony Music

https://jeanmicheljarre.com/


DAVID BOWIE Sound & Vision (1977)

Exploring a “whole new school of pretension” with his new creative muse Brian Eno, ‘Sound & Vision’ saw David Bowie capture a tense European aesthetic. Utilising an uplifting rhythm guitar hook and an ARP Solina string machine, the most distinctive feature was the pitch shifted percussion, produced by Tony Visconti feeding the snare drum though an Eventide H910 Harmonizer. The half instrumental track was a taster of the approach that was to come with the half instrumental parent album ‘Low’.

Available on the album ‘Low’ via EMI Music

https://www.davidbowie.com/


SPACE Magic Fly (1977)

SPACE was the brainchild of Didier Marouani who went under the pseudonym of Ecama and formed the collective in 1977 with Roland Romanelli and Jannick Top. Together with compatriot Jean-Michel Jarre and a certain Giorgio Moroder also in the charts, the space disco of the iconic ‘Magic Fly’ heralded the start of a new European electronic sound within the mainstream. With its catchy melody and lush accessible futurism, ‘Magic Fly’ sold millions all over the world.

Available on the album ‘Magic Fly’ via Virgin France

https://marouani.space/


DONNA SUMMER I Feel Love (1977)

Working with Donna Summer on an album called ‘I Remember Yesterday’, producer Giorgio Moroder wanted to feature a track that represented “the sound of the future”. Employing the Moog Modular system with an 8-step analogue sequencer plus a triplet delay to create the pulsing synthesizer lines and metronomic beat, ‘I Feel Love’ changed the course of music. Summer’s hypnotic Middle Eastern falsetto was an accident, coming as a result of the track being laid down outside of her usual vocal range.

Available on the album ‘I Feel Love: The Collection’ via Spectrum

http://donnasummer.com/


KRAFTWERK The Model (1978)

Using a Micromoog for its iconic hook, ‘The Model’ was inspired by KRAFTWERK’s visits to night clubs in the more vibrant city of Cologne 30km down the road from Düsseldorf where their iconic Kling Klang studio was based. There, they would observe beautiful models drinking champagne and seek their company. It was quite the antithesis of the robot image that the quartet were portraying. Sonically ahead of its time, it became a UK No1 four years after its initial release in 1982.

Available on the album ‘The Man Machine’ via EMI Music

http://www.kraftwerk.com/


SPARKS No1 Song In Heaven (1979)

In a creative rut following their massive UK success in the glam-era, the Mael Brothers had found ‘I Feel Love’ awe inspiring. A journalist friend put SPARKS into contact with Giorgio Moroder who had aspirations to work with a band and set to work with them immediately. The first result was the tremendous ‘No1 Song In Heaven’ where Russell Mael’s flamboyant falsetto fitted well with the electro-disco sound, while the programmed backing meant Ron Mael could maintain his image of doing nothing.

Available on the SPARKS album ‘No1 In Heaven’ via Repertoire Records

http://allsparks.com/


TUBEWAY ARMY Are Friends Electric? (1979)

Still using the group name of TUBEWAY ARMY at the behest of Beggars Banquet, the astoundingly long ‘Are Friends Electric?’ with its diabolus in musica structure became the entry point for many into electronic music. It was Synth Britannia’s ‘Starman’ moment when it was featured on ‘Top Of The Pops’ and Old Grey Whistle Test’ during the same week. When it reached No1 in the UK, life was never the same for Gary Numan, the pale-faced front man of what turned out to be a phantom band.

Available on the album ‘Replicas’ via Beggars Banquet

http://garynuman.com/


JOHN FOXX Underpass (1980)

Departing ULTRAVOX after the ‘Systems Of Romance’ album and now making music along with an ARP Odyssey, Elka Rhapsody and a Roland CR78 Compurhythm, John Foxx realised his own starker vision of electronic music. Engineered by Gareth Jones who was to later notably work with DEPECHE MODE, ‘Underpass’ channelled the dystopian writings of JG Ballard in his lyrical imagery, with Foxx added that the English novelist was “addressing what I’d come to call ‘the unrecognised present’.”

Available on the album ‘Metamatic’ via Metamatic Records

http://metamatic.com/


THE HUMAN LEAGUE The Black Hit Of Space (1980)

A track that “weighed more than Saturn”, ‘The Black Hit Of Space’ sounded extraordinary when it opened the second album by THE HUMAN LEAGUE. The Sci-Fi lyrics about an infinite pop hit were strangely out there while harsh screeching frequencies from overdriving the mixing desk; “We were also experimenting with guitar pedals” Martyn Ware told The Electricity Club, “All that was a reaction to the cleanness of the previous album so we overcompensated.”

Available on the album ‘Travelogue’ via Virgin Records

http://www.thehumanleague.co.uk/


JAPAN Quiet Life (1980)

The resonant heart of ‘Quiet Life’ was a Roland System 700 driven by Richard Barbieri’s snappy eight step Oberheim Mini-sequencer. Complimented by Mick Karn’s distinctively fluid fretless bass, Rob Dean’s clean guitar lines and David Sylvian’s lyrical conclusion that the band were outsiders in the environment they were born into, it was a sure-fire hit… but not yet as Ariola Hansa release it as a single in the UK until 1981. But meanwhile, JAPAN had invented DURAN DURAN!

Available on the album ‘Quiet Life’ via Sony Music

http://www.nightporter.co.uk/


OMD Messages (1980)

Within the environment of colder electronic pioneers such as Gary Numan and John Foxx, OMD were perhaps the first of the warmer synthesizer bands. ‘Messages’ utilised a pulsing ‘Repeat’ function on a Korg Micro-Preset shaped by hand twisting the octave knob. Re-recorded from the original album version under the helm of producer Mike Howlett, he harnessed a template of basic primary chord structures and one fingered melodies, netting a No13 UK chart hit.

Available on the album ‘Souvenir: The Singles Collection 1979 – 2019’ via Virgin Records

http://www.omd.uk.com


ULTRAVOX Astradyne (1980)

Of ‘Astradyne’, Billy Currie told The Electricity Club: “Midge started with that strong melody, Chris’ bass was also a very strong feature. I played a piano counter melody behind. The track was so strong that we felt at ease to lengthen it with a long textural piano bit that is sort of bell-like with the metronomic bass drum beats and the violin tremolo solo… Midge came up with that final section lift taking it out of the long ARP solo. I double it! It is very celebratory at the end…”

Available on the album ‘Vienna’ via Chrysalis/EMI Records

http://www.ultravox.org.uk/


VISAGE Fade To Grey (1980)

Conceived during soundchecks under the working title of ‘Toot City’ while they were playing on Gary Numan’s first concert tour, Chris Payne, Billy Currie and Ced Sharpley had recorded the track at Genetic Studios as a souvenir keepsake. Midge Ure later came up lyrics and a melody when the track was added to the debut VISAGE album and the rest was history. Capturing the cinematic pomp of the New Romantic movement in all its glory, ‘Fade To Grey’ became a No1 hit in West Germany.

Available on the album ‘Visage’ via Polydor Records

http://www.therealvisage.com/


DEPECHE MODE New Life (1981)

Written by Vince Clarke and produced by Daniel Miller, DEPECHE MODE fulfilled the Mute label founder’s vision of a teenage pop group with synthesizers that he had imagined and conceived for SILICON TEENS. Despite its danceable bubblegum appeal and catchy synthesizer hooks, ‘New Life’ also featured some intricate folk vocal harmonies which made it quite distinct from the chanty nature of THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘The Sound Of The Crowd’ which was also out at the same time.

Available on the album ‘Speak & Spell’ via Mute Records

http://www.depechemode.com/


SIMPLE MINDS Theme For Great Cities (1981)

The expansive instrumental ‘Theme for Great Cities’ was initially been given away as a freebie having initially been part of ‘Sister Feelings Call’, a seven track EP given gratis to early purchasers of SIMPLE MINDS’ breakthrough fourth album ‘Sons & Fascination’. Starting with some haunting vox humana before a combination of CAN and TANGERINE DREAM takes hold, the rhythm section covered in dub echo drove what is possibly one of the greatest synth signatures ever!

Available on the album ‘Sons & Fascination / Sister Feelings Call’ via Virgin/EMI Records

http://www.simpleminds.com


SOFT CELL Tainted Love (1981)

SOFT CELL’s cover of ‘Tainted Love’ became ubiquitous as Synth Britannia’s first true crossover record, reaching No1 in UK, Germany, Australia and Canada while also breaking the US Top 10 a year later. Written by Ed Cobb, ‘Tainted Love’ was recorded by Gloria Jones and became a Wigan Casino favourite on the Northern Soul scene. As a fan of that scene, David Ball knew the song and took it into haunting electronic torch territory, while Marc Almond added an honestly spirited vocal.

Available on the album ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ via Mercury Records

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


ASSOCIATES Party Fears Two (1982)

With its iconic honky tonk piano line and sophisticated arrangement, ‘Party Fears Two’ was a magnificent song about dealing with the perils of schizophrenia, made all the more resonant by Billy Mackenzie’s operatic prowess. It also kick started a brief period when ASSOCIATES subverted the UK charts with an avant pop approach that fitted in with the Synth Britannia template of the times. A Top10 hit and emotive to the nth degree, the original single version is still the best and total perfection.

Available on the album ‘The Very Best Of’ via Union Square

https://www.facebook.com/theassociatesofficial/


BLANCMANGE I’ve Seen The Word (1982)

Harrow College of Art students Neil Arthur and Stephen Luscombe were unlikely pop stars, but an appearance on the ‘Some Bizzare Album’ led to a deal with London Records as well as support slots with DEPECHE MODE and JAPAN. Using a Korg MS20 synched to a Linn Drum Computer as its rhythmic backbone, the haunting melancholy of ‘I’ve Seen The Word’ fused the sombre lyricism of JOY DIVISION with the melodies and textures of OMD via a Roland Jupiter 8.

Available on the album ‘Happy Families’ via Edsel Records

http://www.blancmange.co.uk/


CHINA CRISIS Christian (1982)

Merseyside duo CHINA CRISIS are probably the most under rated band of their generation. The haunting ‘Christian’ was a song about the fate of soldiers in the trenches during World War One. Slow and melancholic, ‘Christian’ was as unlikely a hit single as ‘Ghosts’ by JAPAN was, but in a far more open-minded and diverse period in pop music than today, acts with a less obvious rock ‘n’ roll outlook were generally in with a chance; it reached No12 in the UK singles charts.

Available on the album ‘Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms, Some People Think It’s Fun To Entertain’ via Caroline International

https://www.facebook.com/chinacrisisofficial/


NEW ORDER Temptation (1982)

‘Temptation’ was NEW ORDER’s self-produced electronic breakthrough away from the haunting legacy of JOY DIVISION. The recording itself was marvellously flawed, with Stephen Morris’ overdriven Simmons snare panned too far to the right while band members could also be heard calling instructions and tutting. The pulsing hypnotism of the triggered ARP Quadra and the iconic “oooh-oo-ooh” vocal refrain made ‘Temptation’ rather joyous and magical.

Available on the album ‘Singles’ via WEA Records

http://www.neworder.com/


BRONSKI BEAT Smalltown Boy (1984)

When Jimmy Somerville, Steve Bronski and the late Larry Steinbachek made their first ever TV appearance performing on BBC2’s ‘ORS’, BRONSKI BEAT were nothing short of startling, thanks to their look, their minimal synth sound and Somerville’s lonely earth shattering falsetto. The trio had sought to be more outspoken and political in their position as openly gay performers and the tale of ‘Smalltown Boy’ about a gay teenager leaving his family and fleeing his hometown made an important statement.

Available on the album ‘The Age Of Consent’ via London Records

http://www.bronskibeat.co.uk/


PET SHOP BOYS West End Girls (1985)

It was with the re-recorded Stephen Hague version of ‘West End Girls’ that PET SHOP BOYS hit No1 in both the UK and US in 1986. Interestingly, the character of its distinctive bass synth was achieved by Hague coercing a reluctant Chris Lowe into hand playing the riff. Meanwhile, the track fulfilled Neil Tennant’s concept of the duo sounding “like an English rap group” with a dour demeanour that was the antithesis of WHAM! It started an imperial phase for PET SHOP BOYS which included three more No1s.

Available on the album ‘PopArt’ via EMI Music

https://www.petshopboys.co.uk/


CAMOUFLAGE The Great Commandment (1988)

In today’s world, DEPECHE MODE influenced acts are common place but in 1988, this was highly unusual. Taking ‘Some Great Reward’ as their template, CAMOUFLAGE developed on the industrial flavoured synthpop of ‘Master & Servant’ and ‘People Are People’ which the Basildon boys had all but abandoned from ‘Black Celebration’ onwards. Probably the best single DM never recorded. while ‘The Great Commandment’ was a hit in Europe and the US, it made no impression in Britain.

Available on the CAMOUFLAGE album ‘The Singles’ via Polydor Records / Universal Music

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


ERASURE A Little Respect (1988)

Produced by Stephen Hague, ‘A Little Respect’ was perfection from the off with its lively combination of Vince Clarke’s pulsing programming and strummed acoustic guitar. As the busy rhythmical engine kicked in, Andy Bell went from a tenor to a piercing falsetto to provide the dynamic highs and lows that are always omnipresent in all the great pop songs like ‘Dancing Queen’ and ‘Careless Whisper’. Something of a crossover record for ERASURE, ‘A Little Respect’ was covered by WHEATUS in 2000.

Available on the album ‘Total Pop! – The First 40 Hits’ via Mute Records

http://www.erasureinfo.com/


DUBSTAR Not So Manic Now (1995)

DUBSTAR straddled Britpop with a twist of Synth Britannia. ‘Not So Manic Now’ was a song by Wakefield indie band BRICK SUPPLY, but the trio made it their own with the Northern lass earthiness of Sarah Blackwood providing the chilling commentary of an attack on a helpless pensioner. Stephen Hague’s wonderful production fused programmed electronics with guitars and cello in fine fashion, while the incessant programmed rhythms drove the song along without being obtrusive to the horrifying story.

Available on the album ‘Disgraceful’ via Food Records

http://dubstarofficial.co/


GOLDFRAPP Lovely Head (2000)

It is interesting to think that GOLDFRAPP were initially labelled as a trip-hop act. Their superb stratospheric debut ‘Felt Mountain’ had Ennio Morricone’s widescreen inflections but to accompany an ascent to the Matterhorn rather than a trek through a Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western. The opening song ‘Lovely Head’ was laced with deviant sexual tension. Will Gregory’s mad Korg MS20 treatments on Alison Goldfrapp’s operatic screaming produced some thrilling musical moments.

Available on the album ‘Felt Mountain’ via Mute Records

https://www.goldfrapp.com/


MISS KITTIN & THE HACKER You & Us (2001)

Describing the relationship between artist and fan, this was another throbbing Moroder-inspired cacophony of electronic dance from Michel Amato with a dirty clanking Korg KR55 Rhythm used to great effect. Deliciously hypnotic, the swimmy ARP synths drowned any sorrows as the pulsing euphoria took a hold. Miss Kittin didn’t sing as much as deadpan her thoughts, but her sexy Grenoble charm carried off what was a rather superb Electroclash anthem.

Available on the album ‘The First Album’ via Nobodys Bizzness

http://www.misskittin.com/


LADYTRON Seventeen (2002)

LADYTRON became one of the first bands for many years to primarily use synthesizers as their tools of expression and attain critical acclaim. Their debut ‘604’showed electro potential in their initial quest to find ‘yesterday’s tomorrow’. With octave shifts galore to satirical lyrics about the X-Factor/Next Year’s Top Model generation, ‘Seventeen’ demonstrated the tactile nature of analogue synthesis that was key to a revival in fortunes for electronic pop in the 21st Century.

Available on the album ‘Light & Magic’ via Nettwerk

http://www.ladytron.com/


THE KNIFE Silent Shout (2006)

Probably the most influential electronic act to come out of Sweden are THE KNIFE. Those long winter nights certainly had their effect on siblings Karin and Olof Dreijer. ‘Silent Shout’ was hypnotic understated rave with the a quota of creepy Nordic eccentricity. The sharp appregiator and ambient percussion melted with Karin Dreijer’s heavily pitch-shifted low register vocals providing a menacing counterpoint to her younger brother’s vibrant electronic lattice.

Available on the album ‘Silent Shout’ via Brille Records

https://theknife.net/


MARSHEAUX Dream Of A Disco (2007)

Is a cover or is it Memorex? This interpolation of ‘Space Age Love Song’ by A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS provided MARSHEAUX with their most immediate number yet. Borrowing the uniformed look of CLIENT but applying a pure synthpop template, Marianthi Melitsi and Sophie Sarigiannidou became notable for their marketing masterstrokes. The parent ‘Peek-A-Boo’ CD included a paper bag ghost mask. Fans wore it, took pictures and sent them to the duo… around 3,500 pictures were gathered!

Available on the album ‘Peek-A-Boo’ via Undo Records

https://www.marsheaux.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
13th March 2020

CHINA CRISIS Interview

While CHINA CRISIS scored four Top 20 hits during their Virgin Records imperial phase, the instrumentally strong Kirkby duo possessed a subtle atmospheric side.

On their B-sides, and usually the ones from singles that weren’t hits, there were some exquisite instrumentals like ‘Dockland’, ‘Watching Over Burning Fields’, ’96.8’ and ‘Little Italy’ that demonstrated Gary Daly and Eddie Lundon’s love of Brian Eno in particular, both solo and in collaboration with David Bowie.

Meanwhile the more guitar-based ‘Performing Seals’ and ‘Forever I & I’ pointed towards Vini Reilly, best known as the man behind Factory Records act THE DURUTTI COLUMN.

But as CHINA CRISIS developed and adopted more conventional colours, expanding to include Kevin Wilkinson (drums), Gazza Johnson (bass) and Brian McNeil (keyboards) in the line-up from ‘Flaunt The Imperfection’ onwards, their artier approach with regards instrumentals took a back seat.

The 2017 reissues of their first two albums ‘Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms, Some People Think It’s Fun To Entertain’ and ‘Working With Fire & Steel Steel – Possible Pop Songs Volume 2’ included previously unreleased instrumentals material like ‘Lowlands’, ‘Paula & Patricia’ and the self-explanatory ‘Jon & Van’, indicating that there was possibly even more stashed away in the vaults.

Most of these notable instrumentals were the work of Gary Daly, the CHINA CRISIS synth man and lead vocalist.

And now, he has released a solo collection of 23 such tracks entitled ‘Luna Landings’ in a nod to Eno’s own ‘Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks’. Comprising of archive recordings made between 1981 to 1987, it is a beautiful work that is a worthy addition to the tradition.

These tracks had all been composed with CHINA CRISIS in mind, so are very much part of the band’s history, albeit only revealed decades later.

So in a new interview with Gary Daly, it made sense for The Electricity Club to discuss the creative dynamic within CHINA CRISIS, as well as their earlier synthfluences like JAPAN, YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA, OMD and THE HUMAN LEAGUE…

You started off as being more of a bass player in CHINA CRISIS, so how did the drift into keyboards begin?

Believe it or not, Eddie’s mum, Katie, had a catalogue at the time circa 1980 / 81 which could be found in most working class homes. So basically you could order and pay on a weekly basis, all manner of goods, everything from clothing to children’s toys, gardening to electrical goods and wow! There it was… a Yamaha CS 10 monophonic keyboard and Katie very kindly ordered it for us.

So yeah, Eddie and myself would have delighted soooo much in being able to experiment with a synth… it did help that the CS 10 was monophonic, one key / note at a time… hahaaa! We had been listening to so much Eno / Bowie / early HUMAN LEAGUE that we knew and understood you could actually make and play bass notes / sounds on a synth. So it was never a matter of “being a bass player” and drifting into keys, Eddie and myself would have been fearless in exploring any and all instruments / machines. We’d read enough Eno song credits to realise experimentation was “the key”.

Can you remember the first synth / electronic instrumental track you liked or that made an impression?

TANGERINE DREAM and their 1975 album ‘Rubycon’, it was ‘Rubycon Part One’. A friend had this album back in the day, 1975 / 76.

Everybody would loan each other’s albums, I very clearly remember Eddie lending me his copy of Bowie’s ‘Low’ album… nobody owned more than a few albums, never more then 15 / 20. So sharing each other’s records was essential really.

None of us had headphones and would improvise… most record players were sporting separate speakers so it was easy to set up a stereo headspace, on the floor, a speaker either side of your noggin. And boom! The stereo picture was complete!

Was there a particular moment when got you into more “ambient musics”?

Yes, that would be side two of Bowie’s ‘Low’ album, the mostly Instrumental side. That in turn led to me buying Eno’s ‘Before & After Science’ album, which led to me hearing Eno’s ‘Discreet Music’ album and that was a complete and utter revelation! I never knew music could be so “slow moving” and yet so completely engaging… the fact it had a diagram of how to set up a “tape loop” recording session was brilliant, it was exactly the kind of recording info I was wanting to see, read and learn from…

When you and Eddie decided to start making music together, did you start by creating instrumentals or were you songwriting from the off?

Always instrumentals, we only began writing words and singing over these little tunes because nobody else was going to do it for us… like we didn’t have a singer and we certainly didn’t consider ourselves as “singers”, but as much as we loved all our instrumental endeavours, it did feel the most natural thing in the world to start singing along… and when you are in your late teens, getting creative , there’s soooo much to sing about!

On ‘Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms’, you got quite into bass synth sequencing like on ‘Some People I Know To Lead Fantastic Lives’, what were you using to achieve this effect?

We mostly triggered from the Roland TR808 drum machine. We didn’t actually have a Sequencer, so we would trigger the arpeggiator on the Korg Poly 6. For bass synth sounds on ‘Difficult Shapes…’, we mostly used the Roland SH09 or the Yamaha CS10.

In hindsight, the first two singles ‘African & White’ and ‘Scream Down At Me’ are not really indicative of what CHINA CRISIS were to end up sounding like. Can you remember what your mindset may have been at the time as both tracks are very rhythmic?

TALKING HEADS… Eno’s work on their ‘Fear Of Music’ and then ‘Remain In Light’. Also people like A CERTAIN RATIO with their single ‘Shack Up’, ABC with ‘Tears Are Not Enough’ and JAPAN with ‘Quiet Life’, especially JAPAN’s ‘Quiet Life’… hearing the two songs now, ‘Scream Down At Me’ and ‘Quiet Life’, you could easily make a great “Mash Up” with those two…

While you were getting into producing possible pop songs, these gentle instrumentals like ‘Jean Walks In Fresh Fields’ and ‘Watching Over Burning Fields’ started appearing, what had been the thinking behind these?

I had always been a fan of instrumental music, everyone from Mike Oldfield to ELP. Once I’d heard Bowie’s ‘Low’ and then Eno’s albums ‘Before & After Science’, ‘Another Green World’ and then his ‘Music For Films’.

That was it! I just fell in love with making “soundscapes”, I think it helped shape and define our sound, our musical horizons became a whole lot broader and we could apply atmosphere and effects to all our musical endeavours…

Your first hit ‘Christian’ is effectively a type of ambient pop and combined your two interests, what was the song inspired by?

Eddie has reminded me, ‘Christian’ was originally called ‘WW1’; I’d seen images from the First World War, the devastation of trench warfare. I would have written some words relating to what I’d seen and once we had the music written and recorded, I would have spent some time listening repeatedly, over and over and sung along any and all of the words I’d been busy writing…

The actual ‘Christian’ of the title was the name of a little boy, who was friends with a nephew of mine… I’d never heard of anyone having that name. And when recording the track in Strawberry South, Dorking with Pete Walsh producing, we had nothing happening in the middle eight. Pete asked if we had any ideas and I would have just sang “Christian” at the point where the music changes and it worked beautifully.

Was it the Korg Poly6 that gave you the keys to exploring ambient textures more effectively?

I completely love the Korg Poly 6 and in fact , got to work with one again on my ‘Gone From Here’ album.

It’s such a lovely , warm , easy to use keyboard… ADSR… ATTACK, DECAY, SUSTAIN, RELEASE … cut off frequency, portamento. It’s everything you could want for making great synth sounds and always with an echo / effects unit… always!

Was there ever an example of one of these ambient experiments morphing into a CHINA CRISIS song?

All the time, Eddie and myself worked separately and together. This always led to us being impressed and inspired by what the other was doing. If Eddie was busy playing guitar, then that meant I could get involved with his sound, messing with our effect units, especially our Roland Chorus Echo unit and sorting the actual recording, using the TEAC 144 and later the TASCAM 244.

Eddie would do likewise when I was busy on the synths, this helped with our recording experiences once in the studio. It was like we was in training for when there would be a lot of people involved in our records being made, like we was learning to “produce”.

‘Dockland’ is one of the tracks that many fans cite as being one of the best CHINA CRISIS instrumentals, it has this fabulous widescreen feel…

It’s completely Eno, deffo his ‘Music For Films’… it’s almost like you could include it on that album and I doubt very much anyone would bat an eye lid! *laughs*

Even when CHINA CRISIS had changed direction into a more band oriented sound on ‘Flaunt The Imperfection’, there were still tracks like ’96.8’ being released as B-sides, but around the time of ‘What Price Paradise?’, you’d stopped playing keyboards in the studio to concentrate on singing and the instrumentals appeared to take a back seat?

Yeah, I am deeply sad about my absence on the keys. I was still very much writing on the keyboards and would have added my parts. But the band had been evolving, as all artists do if they are lucky enough to be given the time to. CHINA CRISIS had changed, Eddie and myself involving Brian, Gaz and Kevin in the writing which was, in it’s own way, a great thing. But it did mean I suddenly got more involved in melodies and lyrics for song ideas that were no longer just Gary and Eddie musical ideas. Some great songs, absolutely, but the “instrumentals” took a back seat, unfortunately.

So what was the spark that had you going back to this archive of instrumental work for ‘Luna Landings’?

Oh, it was always my intention to compile and release these tracks, ever since way back in the day. I would have always thought they would make a great record… maybe not for everyone, but yeah, I love these tracks as much as anything I’ve done and I would have made them thinking people would get to hear them.

There are two pieces named after your trusty Jupiter 8, could these have turned into songs?

Yes, that’s deffo how it worked, some ideas developed into songs and some didn’t, some I would show and finish with Eddie and others I didn’t. I learnt very early on to do multiple versions of the same idea, this again was Eno inspired. His ‘Music For Films’ featured a track called ‘Sparrowfall 1 / 2 / 3’ which was three mixes of the same track, this I felt was a great way of developing a musical idea… keep changing… finding new approaches. It worked great and is still something I do to this day…

Are ‘Evángelos’ and ‘Yellow Magic’ tributes respectively to VANGELIS and YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA?

Yes they are… YMO, when we first heard and saw these guys, they was off-the-scale cool and VANGELIS, his work on the ‘Blade Runner’ soundtrack is just so utterly beautiful, especially the version with some of the original dialogue… immense!

Was the ‘Luna Landings’ track ‘80’s Electro 2’ indicative of CHINA CRISIS’ uncertainty about whether to join in the Virgin finishing school of synth that was very much doing the business at the time with THE HUMAN LEAGUE, JAPAN, OMD and SMPLE MINDS?

Hahaaa oh, I don’t believe Eddie and myself ever thought we belonged to any “school” of music. We obviously were very very inspired by everyone’s work, especially early HUMAN LEAGUE / OMD… but always, we was very very singular minded and not really part of any “scene”, we just didn’t have the time or inclination… or dare I say it , the “right” look! *laughs*

There’s one called ‘Pipes Of Man Ray Times’, had this been originally part of a song suite like OMD had with ‘Joan Of Arc’?

This track was written and recorded the same week I did the ‘Black Man Ray’ demo, hence the title. This is a good example of ideas I would and wouldn’t have played to Eddie, ‘Black Man Ray’ / yes… ‘Pipes of the Man Ray Times ‘ / no… and for no other reason than I would have thought ‘Black Man Ray’, I was more pleased with the recording and could envision it becoming a CHINA CRISIS “song” which it wouldn’t have been at the time of recording the demo; ‘Black Man Ray’ would have been just another instrumental track…

CHINA CRISIS could come up with some witty if long titles like ‘King In A Catholic Style’ or ‘A Golden Handshake For Every Daughter’, did these often come after a track was composed or were they actually the inspiration?

Never the “inspiration”, the music and lyrics always came separately. All our early China songs came from little instrumentals, over which we would then sing lyric ideas, words we had collected, written in a pad, anything and everything…

There are some guitar based instrumentals which sound like cousins of ‘Forever I & I’ and recall THE DURUTTI COLUMN, how would you judge your own six string prowess?

Mostly awful… hahaaa! It’s a bit better now… but yeah, recording Eddie’s guitars gave me a bit of insight into how Vinnie Reilly was getting his sound.

So when I had the chance to play and record some of my own guitar ideas, I was deffo inspired by Eddie’s guitar playing and Vinnie’s, especially his album ‘The Return of The Durutti Column’ which I played non-stop and still do.

‘Magnifique Lune’ does sound like it could have come off Brian Eno’s ‘Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks’?

It’s very much another Eno inspired track… a simple refrain, repeated, added to and then returning to the original refrain. I think this was something I would have first noticed on Eno’s ‘Discreet Music’ album, a simple pattern on repeat and the challenge is to add something without taking away from the simplicity. It was all done on the wonderful Roland Jupiter 8 synth…

‘Shopping For Excuses’ appears to be the beginning of a more Trans-Atlantic approach that is more indicative of where you headed on ‘Flaunt The Imperfection’, had this development evolved naturally?

The funny thing is, I was deffo in a ‘Betty Blue’ soundtrack frame of mind, when writing and recording this, I can’t listen to it without thinking of that film’s soundtrack which I actually loved and played so much, I thought I must have written it… hahaaa! It most certainly has a different feel about it, which I think mainly comes from the fact it’s one of the later recorded tracks, circa ’87.

You pay tribute to the late CHINA CRISIS drummer Kevin Wilkinson on ‘Swimming With Kevin’, what was he like to work with and have as a friend?

Well, he certainly was a great friend and anyone who found themselves lucky enough to be in his company , working or otherwise, I’m sure would say the same… I always found Kevin to be so easy to work with, I never once thought I couldn’t show him any of my ideas.

I always felt he was so much more than a drummer and this is not something I’ve overthought, it’s just something you feel… I suppose “chemistry” is the word and that’s the magical part. I always knew he could only improve whatever it was I was trying to do with a track.

The title comes from a day off we had on the CHINA CRISIS ‘Tragedy & Mystery’ tour in 1983; we had a hotel with a pool and decided to go swimming. I would have written and recorded this as part of the China’s ‘Fire and Steel’ sessions, around about the time of writing and recording ‘The Gates Of Door To Door’…

The fact that this material is recorded on Portastudios gives ‘Luna Landings’ a really earthy airy quality don’t you think, despite the vintage of the recordings?

The quality of the recordings is testament to the people what made those little tape recorders and the people behind “chrome cassettes”… I did make it my business to always record to the very highest standards.

I did it all the best I could. It was completely thrilling, mostly all of the time I spent recording ideas. It was a really amazing time, learning and discovering and having fun…

There are a lot of tracks on ‘Luna Landings’, but do you have a favourite?

I do absolutely love some of them… ‘Luna Bop’ is so happy sounding and delightfully light and positive while ’80’s Electro 2’ never fails to make me smile.

‘Dummkopf’ is me thinking I’m Mick McNeill from SIMPLE MINDS circa ‘New Gold Dream’. The China’s supported SIMPLE MINDS on their ‘New Gold Dream’ tour and I was blown away by the band and the sound they made which I thought came a lot from Mick’s keys. The fact he was using the JP8 just inspired me loads, I would have come home off the tour and started to record and try and find out how Mick was creating such “atmospheric” sounds. I think anyone seeing them around this time and then hearing my ‘Dummkopf’ will know exactly what I was trying to do…

Do you think you will do another ambient instrumental album in the future?

Yes, but I’m very much of a mind to do a “piano pieces” album, I mostly compose on the piano now and have been for quite a number of years. Two of my fave ambient albums are Eno’s ‘Music for Airports’ and his collaboration with Harold Budd on the album ‘The Plateaux Of Mirror’


The Electricity Club gives its grateful thanks to Gary Daly

His solo instrumental album ‘Luna Landings’ is released as a CD, available now from https://www.musicglue.com/gary-daly/products/luna-landings-cd

CHINA CRISIS 2020 UK + Ireland live dates include:

Leeds Brudenell Social Club (6th March)*, Dublin Opium (12th March), Listowel Mike the Pies (13th March), Castlebar Royal Theatre (14th March), Worthing The Factory Live (20th March), Isle of Man Gaiety Theatre (19th April), Winchester Railway Inn (25th April), Cheltenham Jonny Rocks Stadium – Discover the 80s (23rd May), Newark Festival (29th August)

*special guests FIAT LUX

https://www.facebook.com/chinacrisisofficial/

https://www.facebook.com/gary.daly.5

https://www.instagram.com/garydalymusic/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
22nd February 2020

ZAINE GRIFF Interview

Born in Auckland to Danish parents, Zaine Griff possesses a musical CV that is impressive, reading like a Who’s Who of popular music.

First a bassist and vocalist with Kiwi rock band THE HUMAN INSTINCT, he left in 1975 and moved to London where he had stints in BABY FACE and SCREEMER before going on to study mime under Lindsay Kemp alongside Kate Bush. As a result, he joined Kemp’s production of a play written by Jean Genet called ‘Flowers’.

In 1979, Zaine Griff launched his solo career with future film music composer Hans Zimmer and ULTRAVOX drummer Warren Cann among the members of his backing band for an appearance at the Reading Festival.

With his Aladdin Sane-inspired persona, he was soon signed by Automatic Records, a subsidiary of Warner Bros who brought in Tony Visconti to produce his debut solo album ‘Ashes & Diamonds’. It spawned the 1980 single ‘Tonight’ but it peaked at No54 in the UK Singles Chart, partly due to an already recorded appearance on ‘Top Of The Pops’ not being shown due to a Musicians Union strike.

It was during these recording sessions for ‘Ashes & Diamonds’ that David Bowie walked in to visit Visconti and was slightly taken aback by the resemblance between himself and Griff. Despite this, Bowie invited Griff be part of the band to record three new versions of his songs for an upcoming appearance on the 1979 Kenny Everett New Year Show.

One of them was ‘Space Oddity’ which later surfaced as the flipside to ‘Alabama Song’ while another was ‘Panic In Detroit’ that later appeared as a bonus track on the Ryko CD reissue of the ’Scary Monsters’ album; the re-recording of ‘Rebel Rebel’ has yet to see the light of day.

The second Zaine Griff album ‘Figvres’ was released in 1982 and saw Hans Zimmer stepping up to the producer role.

It ultimately laid the groundwork for the German musician’s eventual career in Hollywood. Also featuring on the album were Kate Bush and Yukihiro Takahashi from YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA.

Around this time, Griff held an art exhibition of his drawings in London’s Ebury Galley, to which his friend and contemporary artist Mark Wardel also contributed.

Meanwhile in 1983, Griff collaborated on six songs for Hans Zimmer and Warren Cann’s ambitious HELDEN album ‘Spies’ which despite the independently released duet with Linda Allan titled ‘Holding On’ being issued as a single in advance, remains officially unreleased. After recording with Midge Ure and Gary Numan, Griff returned to New Zealand in 1984.

In 2011, Zaine Griff made a comeback with his third album ‘Child Who Wants The Moon’ and returned to the live stage. While he has continued releasing albums and touring regularly, his music was being discovered by a cool young audience, thanks to American rockers MGMT covering ‘Ashes & Diamonds’ during their concerts in 2018.

Then recently, there came the surprise announcement that Zaine Griff was to join Rusty Egan and ‘Fade To Grey’ co-writer Chris Payne to perform the songs of VISAGE in an audio-visual presentation at W-Festival in Belgium and the Human Traffic Live & The Pioneers of Electronica showcase in London this Summer.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of VISAGE, founder members Midge Ure and Rusty Egan had deliberated for months as to who could take on guitar and lead vocals in a four man line-up with a nod to their original inspiration KRAFTWERK, eschewing the format of a lead singer fronting a band. With Ure committed to his own ‘1980’ tour performing VISAGE and ULTRAVOX songs, the role was offered to Zaine Griff.

While Steve Strange was undoubtedly the flamboyant face of VISAGE and played a vital role in the collective’s international visual profile, the many layers of backing vocals on the recordings were by Midge Ure and Rusty Egan, providing a crucial musicality to support Strange’s more monotone lead voice.

Meanwhile, a fair number of tracks like ‘The Dancer’, ‘Moon Over Moscow’, ‘Whispers’ and the dance mix of ‘Frequency 7’ were instrumentals.

So as an associate of the New Romantic movement with connections to many key figures of the period, Zaine Griff is just the man for the job. He kindly spoke to The Electricity Club from his home in New Zealand to talk about his music career and the upcoming VISAGE 1980 x 2020 shows.

Your debut solo album ‘Ashes & Diamonds’ was produced by Tony Visconti, how did that come about?

Tony Visconti was brought in to produce my debut album ‘Ashes and Diamonds’ by my record company MD Nick Mobbs at Automatic Records which was part of Warner Bros. When Tony heard my demos, he wanted to work with me.

It was during the recording of the ‘Ashes & Diamonds’ album that you were introduced to David Bowie and he had a proposal?

I was introduced to David Bowie by Tony at Good Earth studios. David had just returned from recording the Berlin trilogy and was wanting Tony to produce some tracks for a TV show. He had heard what I was doing and asked me if we could back him.

How did you run into Hans Zimmer and his batcave of synths?

Colin Thurston introduced me to Hans Zimmer when Colin brought Hans into Utopia studios to play keyboards on some demos I was recording there. Everything from that session onwards, Hans played on. As Hans said to me only last year: “I was your keyboard player”.

In fact, he was much more than that. All the live work, studio work, Hans was with me, as I was with him during his HELDEN project.

You were frequenting The Blitz Club, what appealed to you about its atmosphere and how did you find the characters you met there?

I met Steve Strange at Legends night club. My manager Campbell Palmer owned Legends. I met so many amazing artists at Legends, we would dance and hangout till day break, often we would go to The Blitz Club or The Embassy. Everyone seemed to know each other and were supportive of each other. This is how I met Rusty Egan and Midge Ure, Boy George, Marilyn and so on.

Did it take much to persuade Rusty Egan to appear in your ‘Ashes & Diamonds’ video for the single?

I wanted at the time for Rusty to drum for me and Gary Tibbs to play bass. Well, they performed in the video of ‘Ashes & Diamonds’ and then they both were doing other projects. I tried!!

How do you feel about the American indie rock band MGMT covering ‘Ashes & Diamonds’ on their 2018 live tour?

Fantastic! I would love to meet them one day. It’s so cool when a younger generation plays your music in respect of the song and the composition. I was thrilled to say the least, I have followed them ever since.

Hans Zimmer had moved up to the producer role on ‘Figvres’ and it was to prove inspiring for his later soundtrack career?

I had to convince Nick Mobbs of Automatic Records to allow Hans Zimmer to produce my second album ‘Figvres’. So much so that Nick allowed Hans to co-produce and Nick would allow us to complete the album based on the first two weeks of recording. He loved what he heard and gave us his blessing to finish.

Up until then, Hans had only produced a single for THE DAMNED. ‘Figvres’ was his first album production. And indeed he is entitled to a full production credit for everything he put into ‘Figvres’ and of course Steve Rance, Hans’ engineer… what a team!

You had a good friendship with Warren Cann from ULTRAVOX who played drums on the ‘Figvres’ album too?

I heard ULTRAVOX on the John Peel show. I went out and brought ‘Systems Of Romance’ only because of the drummer. I had to meet this guy and work with him.

I wanted Warren so much, I called Island Records, got his number, went to his flat and convinced him to play at the Reading Festival with me, and that’s how Hans and Warren met in rehearsal for Reading Festival.

The song ‘Flowers’ was dedicated to the late Lindsay Kemp and had Kate Bush singing backing vocals, what was it like working with her?

Working with Kate Bush was beautiful. She and I had studied under Lindsay Kemp, so it was easy for her to understand the ‘Flowers’ song and the emotion of the composition.

‘Flowers’ the show was a massive inspiration. Nothing comes near ‘Flowers’. So powerful, so dramatic and a huge inspiration to us both.

Hans Zimmer and Warren Cann formed HELDEN and you sang on the single ‘Holding On’, but the album on which you sang another five songs has never had an official release, do you consider it to be a lost classic?

I spent a whole year, most days and nights with Hans and Warren on the HELDEN project mainly at Snake Ranch Studios. I did a radio promotional tour with Hans. By then he was swept off his feet by film directors. Alas Hollywood.

What was the idea behind you recording a cover of ULTRAVOX’s ‘Passionate Reply’ with Midge Ure?

Chris O’Donnell suggested I do some recording with Midge. He played me ‘Passionate Reply’ on an acoustic, I had not heard it before and I just loved it. We recorded in his Chiswick studio. We recorded enough material for an album and the masters were stored at Rock City Studios with Gary Numan’s mum.

I loved working with Midge. I had known Midge from when he was in SLIK. The band I was playing with at the time were the support to SLIK. I knew then just how good he was. Looking back, we were so naive to it all. ULTRAVOX was managed by Chris O’Donnell and Chris Morrison, they were my production management company and production company to VISAGE. See how close knit we all were? And of course they managed THIN LIZZY.

There was that TV appearance performing ‘Passionate Reply’ on ‘The Freddie Starr Show’? What can you remember about that?

I was told I was to go to Manchester and do this show. All I wanted to do was not do it. Hated the whole tacky production. Still I stood up there alone and did it.

You recorded ‘This Strange Obsession’ with Yukihiro Takahashi and Ronny, that’s quite an international combination?

I had worked with Ronny on one of my songs ‘It’s A Sin’ with Hans producing her and Yukihiro approached me to write for him. I asked Ronny to join us. That was amazing working with Yukihiro. The translation barrier was understood with music.

Although you never recorded together, there’s a photo of you with Steve Strange and Mick Karn, what was the occasion?

That photo of Mick, Steve and I was at my art exhibition at the Ebury Gallery Victoria.

Gary Numan invited you to duet with him on ‘The Secret’ from ‘Berserker’, it has a good chemistry, how did you find working in the studio with him?

Gary Numan called me asked me to work on ‘Berserker’ just out of the blue. He was great to work with, I remember him doing takes faster than what I was used to; if he liked that take, that was it. Midge was like that as well. They knew what they wanted.

You returned with your third album ‘Child Who Wants The Moon’ in 2011, what was behind what appeared to be a lengthy hiatus?

It was a lengthy hiatus because I was burnt out, exhausted, not well, I had to go. I was not in a great space. I decided to try and get well again and stop wanting the moon… you know wanting the impossible.

You’ve released the albums ‘The Visitor’ and ‘Mood Swings’ since then and have returned to performing live again. Was that aspect something you’d missed over the years?

My problem is I cannot stop composing. I recorded ‘The Visitor’ and ‘Mood Swings’ purely for composition fulfilment. In the liner notes of ‘Mood Swings’, you can see the album is dedicated to Steve Strange.

How did the upcoming VISAGE 1980 x 2020 gigs with Rusty Egan and Chris Payne come about?

I had a call from Rusty late last year. He had spoken to Midge and Chris Payne, and asked if I would be interested in the VISAGE 1980 x 2020 shows. I find this an honour and a privilege. This project is about the music of VISAGE, not the front man or side man, it is about the music VISAGE produced and created.

These VISAGE shows from my perspective are a celebration of 40 years since the VISAGE debut was released. For me, it will also be a 40 years celebration of my debut album ‘Ashes & Diamonds’. It is also a celebration to Steve’s life, Rusty, Midge, Chris and everyone involved in the making of VISAGE and all their incredible fans and followers.

Which are your own favourite VISAGE songs?

Songs like ‘The Damned Don’t Cry’ are classic compositions of that time. Again, I love the energy they put in the studio, I don’t believe they ever performed live. I have spoken to Chris but I haven’t seen him since I sang on Gary Numan’s ‘Berserker’ album… I can’t wait to work with Chris and Rusty again.

What are your plans after these VISAGE 1980 x 2020 dates?

I will be doing some live shows later this year in London.


The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Zaine Griff

Special thanks to Rusty Egan

‘Ashes & Diamonds’ and ‘Figvres’ are still available via Mig Music on the usual digital platforms

Zaine Griff, Rusty Egan and Chris Payne perform the music of VISAGE 1980 x 2020 at W-Festival in Belgium on Friday 22nd May 2020 – tickets are available from https://w-festival.com/en/

There will also be a performance as part of Human Traffic Live & The Pioneers of Electronica on Thursday 4th June 2020 at London Printworks which will also feature DJ sets from William Orbit and Wolfgang Flür – tickets are available from https://www.alostweekend.com/event/04-06-20

https://www.zainegriff.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Zainegriff.officialnews/

https://twitter.com/ZaineGriffOffic

https://www.instagram.com/zainegriff/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
13th February 2020

MACHINISTA Anthropocene

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

http://www.machinistamusic.com/

https://www.facebook.com/machinistamusic

https://twitter.com/machinistamusic

https://www.instagram.com/machinistamusic/


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

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