Tag: Die Krupps (Page 1 of 4)

A Beginner’s Guide To SARAH BLACKWOOD

Born in Halifax, Sarah Blackwood has been a most striking vocal and visual presence since 1995 when DUBSTAR hit the UK singles charts with ‘Not So Manic Now’, a cover of an obscure song by Wakefield band BRICK SUPPLY.

Sarah Blackwood studied Spatial Design at Newcastle University and it was while living in the city that she met Chris Wilkie and Steve Hillier, joining DUBSTAR as lead singer. Scoring hits under the auspices of OMD, PET SHOP BOYS, ERASURE and NEW ORDER producer Stephen Hague, kitchen sink dramas like ‘Stars’, ‘No More Talk’ and ‘I Will Be Your Girlfriend’ appealed to both electronic music and indie audiences.

DUBSTAR bridged the gap between Synth Britannia and Britpop, opening for ERASURE while also simultaneously being label mates with BLUR, JESUS JONES and SHAMPOO. But after three albums ‘Disgraceful’ ‘Goodbye’ and ‘Make It Better’ on Food Records, with worsening band relations, management tensions and waning audience interest, DUBSTAR disbanded.

In 2002, Blackwood joined multi-instrumentalist Kate Holmes in female synthpop duo TECHNIQUE after original singer Xan Tyler was unavailable for a European tour opening for DEPECHE MODE in Europe. The support slot was a success and led to the pair forming crucial friendships that would help their relaunch as a brand new project.

Morphing into CLIENT and releasing their self-titled debut album in 2003, they initially shunned using their real names, choosing to be mysteriously referred to as Client A and Client B in a ‘1984’ inspired Orwellian twist. Interest in their mysterious allure coincided with the emergence of acts like LADYTRON, MISS KITTIN, BLACK BOX RECORDER and GOLDFRAPP.

A favourite act of Karl Bartos who they opened for at his London ULU gig in 2003, CLIENT became a popular cult draw in Europe and released a further three albums ‘City’, ‘Heartland’ and ‘Command’ before Blackwood officially departed in late 2010, coinciding with a reunion of DUBSTAR.

But despite a well-received 2013 comeback concert at The Lexington in London, things went quiet until Summer 2018 when Blackwood and Wilkie announced they had recorded a new DUBSTAR album as a duo entitled ‘One’. Released in Autumn 2018, it was well-received and considered by some observers to be one of the best albums of the year.

Although best known as the front woman of DUBSTAR and CLIENT, Sarah Blackwood has always been open to collaboration and has lent her charming voice to a number of recordings helmed by artists from Germany, Greece and Canada as well as the UK. Also adept in the art of reinterpretation, among the artists she has covered are TUBEWAY ARMY, PET SHOP BOYS, ADAM & THE ANTS, VISAGE, NEW ORDER, DEPECHE MODE and THE SMITHS.

By way of a Beginner’s Guide to her work, here are eighteen recordings highlighting the varied musical portfolio of Sarah Blackwood, presented in chronological order with a restriction of one track per album project.


DUBSTAR The Day I See You Again (1995)

Possibly one of the standouts from DUBSTAR’s debut long player ‘Disgraceful’, ‘The Day I See You Again’ featured the immortal line “If the man you’ve grown to be is more Morrison than Morrissey”. Blackwood captured a deeply Northern English cynicism which actually transferred abroad, with the song’s American producer Stephen Hague dusting the tune off for the German songstress Claudia Brücken to cover on her reinterpretations album ‘The Lost Are Found’.

Available on the DUBSTAR album ‘Disgraceful’ via Food / EMI Records

http://dubstarofficial.co/


DUBSTAR La Bohème (1997)

One of the B-sides to ‘No More Talk’ and co-written by the late Charles Aznavour, ‘La Bohème’ became the Frenchman’s signature song and an acknowledged chanson classic, telling the tale of a painter recalling his younger years in the Parisian bohemian suburb of Montmartre, hungry yet happy. Applying a wonderful Anglo aesthetic to the translation, Blackwood gave a superb interpretation which more than suited its relocation to West Yorkshire over its icy electronic backdrop.

Available on the DUBSTAR CD single ‘No More Talk’ via Food / EMI Records

https://www.facebook.com/dubstaruk/


DUBSTAR featuring GARY NUMAN Redirected Mail (2000)

Having covered TUBEWAY ARMY’s ‘Everyday I Die’ for the ‘Random’ tribute album, it was now Blackwood’s turn to duet with Gary Numan himself, albeit remotely. “I was in Manchester when we recorded ‘Redirected Mail’” she said, “but Steve and Chris actually went down to Gary’s and sat and had ham and chips with him. They had a right laugh and had a really good time.” As a result of that visit south, Steve Hillier also bought a Roland CP70 electric piano from Numan.

Available on the DUBSTAR CD single ‘The Self Same Thing’ via Food / EMI Records

https://twitter.com/dubstarUK


CLIENT Client (2003)

Having secured a deal with Mute Records via Andy Fletcher’s Toast Hawaii imprint, CLIENT’s stark mission statement of “satisfaction guaranteed” also included a striking look which had a distinct element of Cold War chic. “It started because we didn’t know what to wear on tour with DEPECHE MODE” said Blackwood knowing they would be performing in front of some very partisan Devotees, “if they threw anything at us, we wanted it to be something that was sort of disposable so we thought of the uniforms!”

Available on the CLIENT album ‘Client’ via Toast Hawaii

https://www.facebook.com/ClientMusic/


CLIENT featuring MARTIN GORE Overdrive (2004)

For their second album ‘City’, CLIENT got more ambitious by featuring some guest vocalists which included THE LIBERTINES. But the most notable one was DEPECHE MODE’s Martin Gore in a collaboration that was instigated by Blackwood writing him a letter: “Martin had this newly set-up studio and recorded himself. The thing is, when we mixed the two vocals together, that was a moment! I didn’t know how it was going to work but when you heard it, it was like ‘woo!’…it was a bit spine tingling really!”

Available on the CLIENT album ‘City’ via Toast Hawaii

http://www.martingore.com/


DIE KRUPPS featuring CLIENT Der Amboss (2005)

Of DIE KRUPPS‘ mighty industrialised cover, Ralf Dörper said to The Electricity Club: “When I first heard ‘The Anvil’ (‘Der Amboss’) by VISAGE, I thought ‘what a perfect song for DIE KRUPPS’ – it just needed more sweat, more steel. And it was not before 2005 when DIE KRUPPS were asked to play a few 25-year anniversary shows that I remembered ‘Der Amboss’… and as I was a big CLIENT fan at that time, I thought it would be a good opportunity to ask Fräulein B for assistance in the vocal department”.

Available on the CLIENT EP ‘Untitled Remixes’ via Out Of Line Records

http://www.diekrupps.de/


CLIENT featuring ROBERT GÖRL Der Mussolini (2006)

To beef up their concert sound, CLIENT expanded to a trio to include bassist Emily Mann aka Client E and became a gritty live act which exuded an electronic body presence that powerfully complimented Blackwood’s stoic stage persona as Client B. Occasionally and fittingly, they would be joined on drums by Robert Görl from esteemed Industrial Godfathers DEUTSCH AMERIKANISCHE FREUNDSCHAFT and together they would end the set with their seminal EBM classic ‘Der Mussolini’.

Originally on the self-released CLIENT ‎album ‘Live In Porto’, currently unavilable

http://www.robert-goerl.de/


CLIENT It’s Not Over – Marsheaux remix (2007)

Of Athens-based female duo MARSHEAUX, Blackwood said: “They sort of copied us but it was the biggest form of flattery because they’re such lovely girls! It’s nice to think I’ve inspired something”. So when the two parties toured Germany together in 2008, it was a most appropriate pairing. On their remix of ‘It’s Not Over’, some Hellenic shine was added to the original’s more dystopian demeanour with additional Eurocentric riffage for a slice of electronic pop perfection.

Available on the compilation album ‘Electronically Yours’ (V/A) via Undo Records

https://www.facebook.com/marsheaux/


CLIENT B True Faith (2008)

Described as “one of my favourite Northern folk songs” and arranged by Chris Wilkie on acoustic guitar more or less as such, this live solo performance of this NEW ORDER evergreen formed part of a free download series which also included stripped down versions of CLIENT and DUBSTAR songs as well as THE SMITHS ‘Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before’. “I just think a good song will work if you can do it acoustically” Blackwood would later remark.

Originally on the CLIENT B EP ‘Acoustic At The Club Bar & Dining’, currently unavailable

https://twitter.com/sarahblackwood


CLIENT Make Me Believe In You (2009)

Having previously tackled new wave pop like ‘White Wedding’ and ‘Xerox’, CLIENT took a diversion and covered Curtis Mayfield’s soultastic and groove laden ‘Make Me Believe In You’. Co-produced by one-time KILLING JOKE bassist Martin Glover aka Youth who added a more rhythmic energy, things were danced up with an icy edge coming from his frenetic guitar work. This approach more than suited their fourth album’s “brazenly bossy” title of ‘Command’.

Available on the CLIENT album ‘Command’ via Out Of Line

https://www.discogs.com/artist/80278-Client


DUBSTAR I’m In Love With A German Film Star (2010)

Although at the time Blackwood was still in CLIENT, the newly reformed DUBSTAR were invited to submit a cover of their choice as part of a project for Amnesty International Catalunya. While songs by THE ROLLING STONES and the late Kirsty MacColl were considered, the trio settled on this 1981 cult classic made famous by THE PASSIONS. While there was to be an emotional reunion concert in Spring 2013, the DUBSTAR’s reformation as a trio was not to last…

Originally on the compilation album ‘Peace’ (V/A) via Amnesty International, currently unavailable

https://www.discogs.com/artist/72608-Dubstar-2


WILLIAM ORBIT featuring SARAH BLACKWOOD White Night (2010)

While things had become uncertain within the CLIENT camp, Blackwood took time out to work on a Rico Conning penned track for William Orbit’s album ‘My Oracle Lives Uptown’ which dated back to their TORCH SONG days. Although her version did not appear on the final tracklisting, her take was offered as a free download. More accessible than some of CLIENT’s offerings but more purely electronic than DUBSTAR, this was a priceless pop gem which lyrically expressed her pain during that period.

Originally available as a free download, currently unavailable

https://www.williamorbit.com/


SOMAN featuring SARAH BLACKWOOD Blue Monday (2010)

No stranger to cover versions, Blackwood was invited to add her suitably forlorn voice to German producer Kolja Trelle’s version of NEW ORDER’s signature tune. The esteemed musical ears of Stephen Hague always felt that Bernard Sumner and Sarah Blackwood would make a perfect duetting partnership but until that happens, covers are what the public has to make do with for now. Now imagine if she had had sung on ‘Tutti Frutti’ instead of Elly Jackson of LA ROUX?

Available on the SOMAN album ‘Noistyle’ via Trisol Music Group

https://www.facebook.com/SOMAN.Musik/


FOTONOVELA featuring SARAH BLACKWOOD Justice (2013)

The concept of FOTONOVELA’s sophomore offering ‘A Ton Of Love’ was to produce a supreme electronic record featuring vocalists from all stages of classic synthpop. Andy McCluskey was the first on board for the project but the resultant song ‘Helen Of Troy’ turned out so well, it ended up on OMD’s ‘English Electric’! Undeterred, the duo recruited Sarah Blackwood. Halifax’s own Queen of electro took FOTONOVELA onto a cloudier but enjoyable hitchhike through the North West of England with the very personal ‘Justice’.

Available on the FOTONOVELA album ‘A Ton Of Love’ via Undo Records

https://www.facebook.com/undofotonovela/


KOISHII & HUSH featuring SARAH BLACKWOOD Rules & Lies (2015)

Keeping herself busy, Blackwood collaborated with progressive house duo KOISHII & HUSH. “Sarah was one of the vocalists we had always wanted to work with. We managed to get in touch with her and decided to meet in London to discuss the idea.” said Alex Hush, “She was quite keen on the project and after that initial meeting, we sent Sarah a rough backing track which she wrote and recorded vocals for. We then did some tweaks and additional production on ‘Rules & Lies’ and are thrilled with the final version”.

Available on the KOSHII & HUSH single ‘Rules & Lies’ via Grammaton Recordings

http://www.koishiiandhush.com/


VILE ELECTRODES featuring SARAH BLACKWOOD Captivity In Symmetry (2016)

The Electricity Club initially described VILE ELECTRODES as “Client B born and raised in the Home Counties fronting Dindisc-era ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK”, so a duet with Anais Neon was perhaps inevitable. Blackwood added a nonchalant almost-spoken vocal to a variation of the gorgeous ‘Twin Peaks’ flavoured ‘Captive In Symmetry’ as part of a bonus CD ‘Not Everything Is As It Seems’ which came with the initial run of their second album ‘In The Shadows Of Monuments’.

Available on the VILE ELECTRODES special edition album ‘In The Shadows Of Monuments’ via https://vileelectrodes.bigcartel.com/product/in-the-shadows-of-monuments-special-edition-cd-package

http://www.vileelectrodes.com/


RADIO WOLF featuring SARAH BLACKWOOD Rock ‘n’ Roll Forever (2017)

RADIO WOLF is Canadian musician and producer Oliver Blair who remixed ‘It’s Now Over’ and ‘Can You Feel’ under his KINDLE moniker as well as playing guitar on ‘Command’. Now performing with PARALLELS as well as recording in his own right, his debut EP combining electronic music with rock ‘n’ roll featured a stellar cast of female vocalists including his bandmate Holly Dodson, Marika Gauci from his previous combo HOTEL MOTEL, Kelli Ali ex-SNEAKER PIMPS and on the title song, Sarah Blackwood.

Available on the RADIO WOLF EP ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Forever’ via Oliver Blair

https://www.radiowolfmusic.com/


DUBSTAR Locked Inside (2018)

Just when it looked like that was it over for DUBSTAR, Sarah Blackwood and Chris Wilkie snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with ‘One’. While Wilkie took on prime songwriting duties, the classic bittersweet aura remained, albeit within a more organic setting. Produced by Youth, the most electronic number on ‘One’ was the gorgeous ‘Locked Inside’ with elements of KRAFTWERK creeping in and even TEARS FOR FEARS while Blackwood poignantly reflected on how “my hands are tied”.

Available on the DUBSTAR album ‘One’ via Northern Writes

https://www.instagram.com/dubstaruk/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
30th December 2018

DIE KRUPPS + FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY The Machinists United Live in London

The O2 Academy in Islington saw the opening night of the highly anticipated co-headlining tour by industrial giants DIE KRUPPS and FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY.

After a very generic but entertaining DAF / NITZER EBB-aping set from Germany’s TENSION CONTROL, the London crowd started to fill out for the co-headliners.

According to DIE KRUPPS main synth man Ralf Dörper, the headliner position was decided on a coin toss, with FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY taking the main slot in London. Without wanting to resort to too many cliches, DIE KRUPPS are now a well-oiled maschine.

With new drummer Paul Keller on-board, the act are a fearsome live proposition. After a short intro, the band launched into ‘The Dawning of Doom’ from the 1992 album ‘I’ with frontman Jurgen Engler stalking the stage flanked by the twin guitar attack of Marcel Zurcher and Nils Finkeisen.

There was an early outing for the band’s excellent cover of VISAGE’s ‘Der Amboss’; the last time the band played the UK, they were joined by DUBSTAR’s Sarah Blackwood at The Garage in Highbury, but tonight the band carried the song without her. The song saw the first usage of Engler’s metal pipe bashing, which helped give the act an added layer of visual appeal to a band who are already transfixing live.

With a set spanning the band’s 28 year history, it was clear to see how incredibly influential DIE KRUPPS have been on acts such as RAMMSTEIN with their mixture of brutal guitars and hard sequenced electronics. The 2013 album ‘Machinists of Joy’ was well represented tonight with three tracks ‘Schmutzfabrik’, ‘Robo Sapien’ and ‘Machineries of Joy’ all getting an outing.

The biggest reception was reserved for 1993’s anthemic ‘To The Hilt’ and encore ‘Bloodsuckers’, both from ‘Die Krupps II – The Final Option’. As with fellow compatriots RAMMSTEIN, it would be lazy to overthink the band’s imagery and song content, so to reinforce this Engler made a point of announcing ‘Nazis Auf Speed’ as an “another anti-Fascist song”.

By the climax of the set, Engler had climbed on top of his metal percussion, was waving his microphone stand into the audience and had the Islington crowd eating out of his hand.

The stage was eventually cleared for Canadian headliners FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY, who in comparison to DIE KRUPPS were a very different proposition; more electronic in conception (after a period during the career of using guitars and guitar samples), they now function with a double synth station set-up covered in camouflage netting and a couple of tom drums set-up in front of the main drum kit.

After DIE KRUPPS’ blitzkrieg assault, FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY took a while to warm-up the crowd.

With frontman Bill Leeb seemingly a little aloof, the band still generated a hypnotic and danceable set with the sequenced electronics and vocal samples more to the forefront.

After opening their set with an untitled new track, the uptempo ‘Shifting Through The Lens’ with its vocodered vocals and tightly sequenced synths was a highlight along with the glitchy EDM-inflected ‘Killing Ground’.

The usage of additional live percussion by Leeb and Rhys Fulber helped with the act’s visual appeal, although it became apparent during their set that there were a few technical issues resulting in exchanged glances and conversations between the two musicians.

The overrun meant that FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY had to forego their encore and eventually ended their set with the eponymous title track from 1994’s ‘Millenium’.

On tonight’s showing, the price of admission would have been worth it just for the DIE KRUPPS stellar set, but to have both of these bands on the bill made it a really attractive live proposition for those that love their industrial music.

There really is no excuse to miss this superb double-header and a chance to catch not one but two legendary and influential acts from the EBM scene.


With special thanks to Ralf Dörper

‘The Machinists United’ Tour 2018 continues, dates include:

Gothenburg Truck Stop (24th August), Stockholm Klubben (25th August), Wroclaw Stary Klastor (29th August), Prag Lucerna Music Bar (30th August), Budapest A38 (31st August), Bratislava Majestic Music Club (1st September), Vienna Vipers Room (2nd September), Munich Backstage Halle (4th September), Frankfurt Batschkapp (5th September)

http://www.diekrupps.de/

https://www.facebook.com/diekruppsofficial

http://www.mindphaser.com/

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


Text by Paul Boddy
Photos by Simon Helm and Paul Boddy
23rd August 2018

TEC’s 25 21ST CENTURY SYNTH COVERS

“The medium of reinterpretation” as HEAVEN 17 and BEF’s Martyn Ware once put it, is still very much present in the 21st Century.

There have been albums of cover versions from the likes of SIMPLE MINDS, ERASURE, MIDGE URE and CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN celebrating their influences, as well as numerous various artists collections paying tribute to particular acts.

However, a newish phenomenon of covering an entire album has appeared in more recent years, something which MARSHEAUX, BECKY BECKY and CIRCUIT 3 have attempted on works by DEPECHE MODE, THE KNIFE and YAZOO respectively.

On the other side of the coin in recognition of the cultural impact of the classic synth era, the Anti-Christ Superstar MARILYN MANSON covered SOFT CELL’s cover of ‘Tainted Love’ but added more shouting, while DAVID GRAY took their own ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’ and turned it into a lengthy Dylan-esque ballad.

There has also been a trend for girl groups to cover songs from the period with GIRLS ALOUD, THE SATURDAYS and RED BLOODED WOMEN being among those introducing these numbers to a new younger audience.

So as a follow-up to TEC’s 25 Classic Synth Covers listing, here is a selection taken from reinterpretations recorded from 2000 to the present day, restricted to one song per artist moniker and presented in chronological order.


SCHNEIDER TM va KPTMICHIGAN The Light 3000 (2000)

Morrissey was once quoted as saying there was “nothing more repellent than the synthesizer”, but if THE SMITHS had gone electro, would they have sounded like this and Stephen Patrick thrown himself in front of that ten ton truck? Germany’s SCHNEIDER TM aka Dirk Dresselhaus reconstructed ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ to a series of minimal blips, blops and robotics to configure ‘The Light 3000’ with British producer KPTMICHIGAN.

Available on the album ‘Binokular’ via https://mirrorworldmusic.bandcamp.com/

http://www.cityslang.com/schneider-tm/biography


GOLDFRAPP Yes Sir (2003)

A breathy Euro disco classic made famous by sultry Spanish vocal duo BACCARA, Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory’s take on this cheesy but enjoyable disco standard came over like The Cheeky Girls at The Nuremburg rally! Now that’s a horrifying vision! All traces of ‘Yes Sir I Can Boogie’ apart from the original lyrics were rendered missing in action as the stern Ms Goldfrapp played the role of the thigh booted dominatrix on this highly original cover.

Available on the single ‘Twist’ via Mute Records

http://goldfrapp.com/


INFANTJOY featuring SARAH NIXEY Ghosts (2005)

When BLACK BOX RECORDER went on hiatus, Sarah Nixey recorded a beautifully spacey cover of JAPAN’s Ghosts with INFANTJOY whose James Banbury became her main collaborator on her 2007 debut solo album ‘Sing Memory’. Meanwhile the duo’s other member was none other than ZTT conceptualist Paul Morley.  A POPULUS remix appeared on the ‘With’ revisions album while MIDI-ed up and into the groove, Nixey later also recorded THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘The Black Hit Of Space’.

Available on the album ‘With’ via serviceAV

http://infantjoy.com


DIE KRUPPS featuring CLIENT Der Amboss (2005)

Of this mighty industrialised cover, Ralf Dörper said to The Electricity Club: “When I first heard ‘The Anvil’ (‘Der Amboss’) by VISAGE, I thought: “what a perfect song for DIE KRUPPS” – it just needed more sweat, more steel. And it was not before 2005 when DIE KRUPPS were asked to play a few 25-year anniversary shows that I remembered ‘Der Amboss’… and as I was a big CLIENT fan at that time, I thought it would be a good opportunity to ask Fräulein B for assistance in the vocal department”.

Available on a self-released CD single for the band’s 25th anniversary tour, currently unavailable

http://www.diekrupps.de/


FROST Messages (2007)

Comprising of Aggie Peterson and Per Martinsen, FROST have described their music as “upbeat space-pop”. Much of their own material like ‘Klong’, ‘Alphabet’ and ‘Sleepwalker’ exuded a perfect soundtrack for those long Nordic nights. Meanwhile their ultra-cool cover of OMD’s ‘Messages’ embraced that wintery atmosphere, while providing a pulsing backbone of icy synths to accompany Peterson’s alluringly nonchalant vocal.

Available on the album ‘Love! Revolution!’ via Frost World Recordings

https://www.facebook.com/frostnorway/


ONETWO Have A Cigar (2007)

Onetwo_InsteadIn this “Pink Floyd Goes To Hollywood” styled rework, Claudia Brücken revisited her ZTT roots with this powerful and danceable version of Roger Waters’ commentary on music business hypocrisy. ‘Have A Cigar’ showed a turn of feistiness and aggression not normally associated with the usually more serene timbres of Claudia Brücken and Paul Humphreys’ ONETWO project. But by welcoming pleasure into the dome, they did a fine cover version.

Available on the album ‘Instead’ via https://theremusic.bandcamp.com/album/instead

http://www.theremusic.com/onetwo/onetwo


BLACK NAIL CABARET Umbrella (2008)

Budapest’s BLACK NAIL CABARET began life as an all-female duo of Emese Illes-Arvai on vocals and Sophie Tarr on keyboards, with their first online offering being a darkwave cover of RIHANNA’s ‘Umbrella’. Already very synthy in the Barbadian starlet’s own version, it showcased their brooding form of electro which subsequently impressed enough to earn support slots with COVENANT, DE/VISION and CAMOUFLAGE while producing three albums of self-penned material so far.

Available on the album ‘The Covers’ via https://blacknailcabaret.bandcamp.com/album/the-covers

http://www.blacknailcabaret.com


CHINA CRISIS Starry Eyed (2008)

Liverpudlian easy listening crooner Michael Holliday was the second person to have a UK No1 written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, the first being Perry Como with ‘Magic Moments’. His second UK No1 penned by Earl Shuman and Mort Garson was a romantic guilty pleasure. CHINA CRISIS pledged their Scouse Honour with this jaunty synth / drum machine driven rendition of ‘Starry Eyed’ layered with reverbed synthbass warbles and harmonious vocals from Messrs Daly and Lundon.

Available on the album ‘Liverpool – The Number Ones Album’ (V/A) via EMI Records

www.facebook.com/pages/China-Crisis/295592467251068


LITTLE BOOTS Love Kills (2009)

LittleBootsEPLITTLE BOOTS gave a dynamically poptastic rendition of Giorgio Moroder and Freddie Mercury’s only collaboration from 1984, retaining its poignant melancholic quality while adding a vibrant and danceable electronic slant. The recreation of Richie Zito’s guitar solo on synths was wondrous as was the looser swirly groove. While Victoria Hesketh didn’t have the voice of Mercury, her wispy innocence added its own touching qualities to ‘Love Kills’.

Available on the EP ‘Illuminations’ via Elektra Records

www.littlebootsmusic.co.uk


PET SHOP BOYS Viva La Vida (2009)

Yuck, it’s Chris Martin and Co but didn’t Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe do well? Merging possibly COLDPLAY’s best song with the synth riff from their own Latino disco romp ‘Domino Dancing’, ‘Viva La Vida’ was turned into a stomping but still anthemic number which perhaps had more touches of affection than PET SHOP BOYS‘ marvellous but allegedly two fingers Hi-NRG rendition of U2’s ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’. So altogether now: “Woah-oh, ooh-ooah!”

Available on the album ‘Yes: Further Listening 2008-2010’ via EMI Records

http://petshopboys.co.uk


DURAN DURAN Boys Keep Swinging (2010)

WeWereSoTurnedOnNo strangers to raiding the Bowie songbook having previously tackled ‘Fame’ in 1981, DURAN DURAN however blotted their copy book with their 1995 covers LP ‘Thank You’. They refound their stride with the return-to-form album ‘All You Need Is Now’ but just before that, this superb reinterpretation of ‘Boys Keep Swinging’ reconnected them to their New Romantic roots with washes of Nick Rhodes’ swimmy Crumar string machine, held down by a danceable beatbox and John Taylor’s syncopated bass runs.

Available on the album ‘We Were So Turned On: A Tribute To David Bowie’ via Manimal Vinyl

http://www.duranduran.com


LADYTRON Little Black Angel (2010)

LADYTRONThis frantically paced cover of controversial neofolk band DEATH IN JUNE was recorded for the LADYTRON ‘Best Of 00-10’ collection and purposely uncredited. The antithesis of the midtempo atmospherics of ‘Gravity The Seducer’, this cutting four-to-the-floor romp was the last of the quartet’s in-yer-face tracks in a wind down of the harder ‘Velocifero’ era. With the multi-ethnic combo subverting the meaning of ‘Little Black Angel’, it deliberately bore no resemblance to the acoustic laden original.

Available on the album ‘Best of 00-10’ via Nettwerk Records

http://www.ladytron.com


GAZELLE TWIN The Eternal (2011)

‘The Eternal’ from ‘Closer’, the final album by JOY DIVISION, was one of the most fragile, funereal collages of beauty ever committed to vinyl. But in 2011, Brighton based songstress GAZELLE TWIN reworked this cult classic and made it even more haunting! Replacing the piano motif with eerily chilling synth and holding it together within an echoing sonic cathedral, she paid due respect to the song while adding her own understated operatic stylings.

Available on the EP ‘I Am Shell I Am Bone’ via Anti-Ghost Moon Ray Records

http://www.gazelletwin.com


MIRRORS Something On Your Mind (2011)

lightsOn their only album ‘Lights & Offerings’, MIRRORS revealed an interesting musical diversion with this haunting take of a rootsy country number originally recorded by Karen Dalton. Written by the late Dino Valenti of psychedelic rockers QUICKSILVER MESSENGER SERVICE, ‘Something On Your Mind’ was a touching ballad with its tortured yearning suiting the quartet’s pop noir aspirations. Ally Young told The Electricity Club: “It was very nice for us to be able to apply our aesthetic to someone else’s song.”

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

http://mirrorsofficial.bandcamp.com/


OMD VCR (2011)

OMD vcrIndie stoners THE XX had a minimalist approach to their sound which Andy McCluskey told TEC was “really quite impressive”. This bareness made their material quite well suited for reworking in the style of classic OMD. ‘VCR’ had Paul Humphreys taking charge of the synths while McCluskey dusted off his bass guitar and concentrated on vocals. McCluskey added: “People go ‘how did OMD influence THE XX?’… but have you listened to ‘4-Neu’? Have you listened to some of the really simple, stripped down B-sides?”

Available on the EP ‘History Of Modern (Part I)’ via Blue Noise

http://www.omd.uk.com


I SPEAK MACHINE My Sex (2013)

As I SPEAK MACHINE, Tara Busch has been known for her haunting and occasionally downright bizarre live covers of songs as diverse as ‘Cars’, ‘Our House’, ‘The Sound Of Silence’ and ‘Ticket To Ride’. For a JOHN FOXX tribute EP which also featured GAZELLE TWIN, she turned ‘My Sex’, the closing number from the debut ULTRAVOX! long player, into a cacophony of wailing soprano and dystopian synths that was more than suitable for a horror flick.

Available on the EP ‘Exponentialism’ (V/A) via Metamatic Records

http://www.ispeakmachine.com


NOBLESSE OBLIGE Hotel California (2013)

French theatrical performer Valerie Renay and German producer Sebastian Lee Philipp are NOBLESSE OBLIGE. Together, they specialise in a brand of abstract Weimer cabaret tinged with a dose of electro Chanson. Their lengthy funereal deadpan cover of THE EAGLES’ ‘Hotel California’ highlighted the chilling subtext of the lyrics to its macabre conclusion! The synthesizer substitution of the original’s iconic twin guitar solo could be seen as total genius or sacrilege!

Available on the album ‘Affair Of The Heart’ via Repo Records

http://www.noblesseoblige.co.uk/


I AM SNOW ANGEL I’m On Fire (2014)

I AM SNOW ANGEL is the project of Brooklyn based producer Julie Kathryn; her debut album ‘Crocodile’ was a lush sounding affair and could easily be mistaken as a product of Scandinavia were it not for her distinctly Trans-Atlantic drawl. Already full of surprises, to close the long player, out popped a countrified drum ‘n’ bass take of BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN’s ‘I’m On Fire’! Quite what The Boss would have made of it, no-one is sure but it was quietly subversive and it certainly delivered the unexpected.

Available on the album ‘Crocodile’ via I Am Snow Angel

http://iamsnowangel.com/


MACHINISTA Heroes (2014)

Reinterpreting any Bowie number is fraught with the possibility of negative feedback and MACHINISTA’s take on ‘Heroes’ set tongues wagging. Recorded as the duo’s calling card when experienced Swedish musicians John Lindqwister and Richard Flow first came together, electronic pulses combined with assorted synthetic textures which when amalgamated with Lindqwister’s spirited vocal, produced a respectful and yes, good version of an iconic song.

Available on the album ‘Xenoglossy’ via Analogue Trash

http://www.machinistamusic.com


NIGHT CLUB Need You Tonight (2014)

Comprising of frisky vocalist Emily Kavanaugh and moody producer Mark Brooks, NIGHT CLUB simply cut to the chase with their enjoyable electronic cover of INXS’ ‘Need You Tonight’. Here, the familiar guitar riff was amusingly transposed into a series of synth stabs before mutating into a mutant Morse code. It wasn’t rock ‘n’ roll but we liked it! Purists were horrified, but history has proved the best cover versions always do a spot of genre and instrumentation hopping.

Available on the EP ‘Black Leather Heart’ via http://nightclubband.com/album/black-leather-heart

http://www.nightclubband.com


MARSHEAUX Monument (2015)

The MARSHEAUX reworking of DEPECHE MODE’s second album ‘A Broken Frame’ shed new light on Martin Gore’s first long form adventure as songwriter and affirmed that numbers such as ‘My Secret Garden’ and ‘The Sun & The Rainfall’ were just great songs. But ‘Monument’ was an example of a cover outstripping the original and given additional political resonance with the economic situation close to home that the Greek synth maidens found themselves living in at the time of its recording.

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

http://www.marsheaux.com/


METROLAND Close To Me (2015)

Needing to be heard to be believed, this rather inventive and charming cover of THE CURE’s ‘Close To Me’ by Belgium’s favourite passengers METROLAND utilised a selection of male and female computer voice generators to provide the lead vocal, in a move likely to upset the majority of real music purists. Meanwhile, the hidden melodies shone much more brightly than in the goth-laden original, thanks to its wonderful and clever electronic arrangement.

Available on the album ‘A Strange Play – An Alfa Matrix Tribute To The Cure’ (V/A) via https://alfamatrix.bandcamp.com/album/a-strange-play-an-alfa-matrix-tribute-to-the-cure

http://www.metrolandmusic.com/


JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM Jerusalem (2016)

One of DAILY PLANET’s main inspirations was cult UK synth trio WHITE DOOR, who released just one album ‘Windows’ in 1983. So when their chief synthesist Johan Baeckström was needing tracks to include on his ‘Like Before’ EP, the almost choir boy overtures of ‘Jerusalem’ was a natural choice for a cover version. Of course, this was not the first time Baeckström had mined the WHITE DOOR back catalogue as the more halcyon ‘School Days’ adorned the flip of his debut solo single ‘Come With Me’.

Available on the EP ‘Like Before EP’ via Progress Productions

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


THE FRIXION Under A Cherry Moon (2017)

Forming in 2016, seasoned vocalist Gene Serene and producer Lloyd Price’s combined sound delightfully borrowed from both classic synthpop and Weimar Cabaret on THE FRIXION’s self-titled EP debut. From it, a tribute to The Purple One came with this touching take of his ‘Under The Cherry Moon’, highlighting PRINCE’s often hidden spiritual connection to European pop forms and recalling ‘The Rhythm Divine’, YELLO’s epic collaboration with Shirley Bassey.

Available on the EP ‘The Frixion’ via https://thefrixion.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/TheFrixion/


KALEIDA 99 Luftballons (2017)

Moody electronic duo KALEIDA first came to wider attention opening for RÓISÍN MURPHY in 2015. Covers have always been part of Christina Wood and Cicely Goulder’s repertoire with ‘A Forest’ and ‘Take Me To The River’ being among them. KALEIDA’s sparse rendition of NENA’s ‘99 Luftballons’ earned kudos for being very different and was included in the soundtrack of the Cold War spy drama ‘Atomic Blonde’, hauntingly highlighting the currently relevant nuclear apocalypse warning in the lyric.

Available on the album ‘Tear The Roots’ via https://kaleida.bandcamp.com

http://kaleidamusic.com


Text by Chi Ming Lai
1st January 2018, updated 3rd June 2019

ELECTRI_CITY – The Düsseldorf School of Electronic Music

OMD’s Andy McCluskey said: “Musically we are much more the sons of Düsseldorf than we are the sons of Liverpool. KRAFTWERK, NEU! and LA DÜSSELDORF were so much more influential on us than THE BEATLES”.

Meanwhile ULTRAVOX’s Chris Cross adds: “Personally I would have loved to have been in a band like LA DÜSSELDORF”

First published in German during the Spring of 2015, Rudi Esch’s ‘ELECTRI_CITY – Elektronische Musik Aus Düsseldorf’ gave a fascinating insider’s account of the Germany’s influential post-war music scene which was centred around the city of Düsseldorf.

The original book spawned an English language edition ‘ELECTRI_CITY – The Düsseldorf School of Electronic Music’, two compilation albums released on Grönland Records and an annual music conference, the third of which will take place on FRIDAY 27TH and SATURDAY 28TH OCTOBER 2017.

Among those performing live will be ANNE CLARK, ROBERT GÖRL, STRÖME, ARCTIC SUNRISEELECTRONIC CIRCUS and KATJA VON KASSEL, while JONATHAN BARNBROOK will be giving a talk entitled ‘Designing Bowie’. In addition, The Electricity Club will be chairing a panel discussion with Zeus B Held and Chris Payne.

Rudi Esch came to prominence as the bassist of industrial trailblazers DIE KRUPPS whom he joined in 1988, but prior to that, he was in DIE ENGEL DES HERRN with the mercurial Klaus Dinger of NEU! and LA DÜSSELDORF fame.

The book takes an unusual format in that it features a series of parabites, pieced together from over fifty exclusive interviews, to tell the story of The Düsseldorf School and its cultural significance.

This makes the text easily digestible and is certainly a preferred layout compared to the more tedious documents that have been published about musik von die Bundesrepublik over the last few years.

Interviewees include Michael Rother, Klaus Dinger, Wolfgang Flür, Daniel Miller, Paul Humphreys, Andy McCluskey, Martyn Ware, Glenn Gregory, Chris Cross, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Giorgio Moroder and Rusty Egan who gives one of the funniest quotes: “To me, the Germans made cars and rockets. Mercedes and Messerschmitt were the names I knew before KRAFTWERK”.

“Düsseldorf is the capital of electronic music” says Esch, as he gives an account of how the Düsseldorf electronic scene developed from 1970 to 1986 with acts like KRAFTWERK, LA DÜSSELDORF, DER PLAN, LIAISONS DANGEREUSES, RIECHMANN, RHEINGOLD, PROPAGANDA, DAF and NEU!

In those early days, the choice of instrumentation was dictated by money. Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider-Esleben both came from affluent millionaire families, with the latter’s father a prominent architect who oversaw the redesign of the Cologne-Bonn Airport.

As expensive as synthesizers were back then, the more avant-garde types tended to prefer EMS equipment as it did not come with a keyboard, while those who liked melody opted for the Minimoog.

KRAFTWERK of course bought both! But as former member Ebehard Kranemann remembers “KRAFTWERK was not about the money, it was about the music”.

And with his Farfisa organ and its preset rhythm accompaniment, Hütter became fascinated with mechanical percussive templates and goaded their then-drummer Klaus Dinger with his proclamation that it was “the fastest drummer in the world”.

Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother were working class boys, which influenced their pursuit of a more organic approach and ultimately led to them flying the KRAFTWERK nest to form NEU! While Rother had the talent and an easy going manner, Dinger had ambition and his forthright tendencies did not win him many friends. “With Klaus, you never knew if he would give you a headbutt or an invitation to dinner…” says Wolfgang Flür, “…all in all, I didn’t like him”.

Dinger was explosive, confrontational and unpredictable. In KRAFTWERK, while Hütter and Schneider had their neon lit signs with their first names in blue, he wanted one with ‘Klaus’ in red! When Colgate offered to pay a substantial amount of money to use LA DÜSSELDORF’s hit ‘Rheinita’ in a TV advert, he declined. There was also the incident of him breaking journalist Konrad Schalensick’s nose following a negative review of their second album ‘Viva’.

The signs were there from the start, with Dinger playing rhythmic guitar alongside Rother’s melodic interplay, not satisfied with just being the drummer. So without Conny Plank to act as buffer and referee, NEU! would never have lasted for three albums. The silent partner in NEU! who recognised talent and created an atmosphere for musicians to experiment, Plank was without doubt a factor in the second side of ‘Neu! 2’ being filled with speeded up and slowed down variations of a previously issued single.

The thorny issue of KRAFTWERK’s treatment of Conny Plank is discussed in the book; “I don’t know where KRAFTWERK would be today if it wasn’t for Conny” says Hans Lampe, assistant to Plank and later to become a member of LA DÜSSELDORF.

However, Plank did accept 5000 Deutschmarks (a lot of money in 1974!) which bought him out of the co-producer credit on ‘Autobahn’ after it was licensed and edited for release by Capitol Records in America.

Another discussion point is Karl Bartos‘ contribution to KRAFTWERK as he wrote many of the melodies as ‘the kraftsman’. According to Michael Mertens of PROPAGANDA who was a conservatoire classmate: “Karl understood that to make popular music, you had to retain some degree of naivety”.

Classical music education played an important role and it appeared in the most unlikely of places. DAF’s Robert Görl had much in common with Karl Bartos and Michael Mertens, although Görl says: “Wir wollten lieber mit Maschinen arbeiten. We always preferred working with machines”.

During the post-punk period, just as Liverpool had Eric’s, Manchester had The Factory and London had The Blitz, Düsseldorf had a creative centre emerge around Die Ratinger Hof.

Affordable synths from Japan such as the Korg MS20 were a game changer for younger bands like DAF and DIE KRUPPS as they found their sound. However, there was an important distinction between synths and keyboards as Kurt Dahlke of DER PLAN and PYROLATOR explains: “I insist that I am never credited as a keyboardist on records. A keyboard player is some kind of all-round entertainer, sat at his keyboard using various presets. I insist on synthesizer”.

While KRAFTWERK were a reaction to the Americanisation of popular culture in Germany, the next generation of more forthright and aggressive acts like DIE KRUPPS and DAF were a reaction to KRAFTWERK.

Jürgen Engler mentions “I hadn’t bought a single KRAFTWERK album” while Gabi Delgado comments that “To me, KRAFTWERK were sounding too boring, too beautiful, too sedate and too sterile” and even adds “Sequencers and Moroder. That was more important for electronic music than the entire legacy of KRAFTWERK, NEU! and LA DÜSSELDORF”.

DAF’s preference for a militaristic aesthetic caused controversy and confused observers, but from the off, they were out to shock. They attracted a following which Gabi Delgado hated; his parents had escaped from the Fascist Franco regime in Spain. However, their early sequencer guru Chrislo Haas was less bothered and flirted with the ideology as a fashion statement.

Their manager Bob Giddens reckons “DAF kind of overdid it later on with their hyper-Germaness” and as they hit the peak of their success, Ralf Dörper reckons they disappeared in a haze of “Sex, drugs and sequencer”. Haas eventually left DAF and went on to form alternative club favourites LIAISONS DANGEREUSES in a charged partnership with Beate Bartel of MANIA D.

Of course, all this is only a small part of the story. The visionaries, technicians and eccentrics who played their part like the late Gunter Körber (A&R for Metronome and Brain Records who later founded the Sky label that issued key albums by Michael Rother and Wolfgang Riechmann), inventor Werner Lambertz and Florian Schneider’s sister Claudia also give their takes on the scene.

The book appropriately ends its coverage in 1986, when KRAFTWERK’s ‘Electric Café’ disappointed many and led to the departure of Messrs Flür, Bartos and eventually Schneider.

But fast forward to 2017 and Düsseldorf has come to terms with one of its biggest cultural exports and is now happy to celebrate the city’s influence on musicians and artists all over the world.

However, the final word has to go to the departed Klaus Dinger: “A lot of people may have helped themselves to the stuff we developed, and then made big bucks abroad. But nevertheless I’d go as far as saying: this was only ever possible in D-U-S, my home town Düsseldorf”.


‘ELECTRI_CITY – The Düsseldorf School of Electronic Music’ is published by Omnibus Press, available via all good book and online retailers

https://www.facebook.com/Electri.city.Esch/

The ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE takes place in Düsseldorf on FRIDAY 27TH and SATURDAY 28TH OCTOBER 2017 featuring ANNE CLARK, ROBERT GÖRL, STRÖME, ARCTIC SUNRISE, ELECTRONIC CIRCUS and KATJA VON KASSEL – for further information, please visit http://www.electricity-conference.com/

Tickets available from https://www.eventbrite.de/e/electri-city-conference-2017-tickets-37245039917

https://www.facebook.com/ELECTRICITY.Conference/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
26th August 2017

ZEUS B HELD Interview

ZEUS B HELD is the veteran German producer and remixer who has been a key presence in the development of electronic pop music.

Making his name as a keyboard player in the progressive rock band BIRTH CONTROL, he later progressed as a session musician, solo artist and producer. His vocoder layered cover of THE BEATLES’ ‘Fool On The Hill’ became a favourite of Belgian sibling duo SOULWAX.

His production breakthrough came from working with GINA X PERFORMANCE in 1979 when the single ‘No GDM’ became an underground club favourite.

As a result, he worked with the likes of FASHION, JOHN FOXX, DEAD OR ALIVE and DIE KRUPPS while also remixing ALPHAVILLE, SIMPLE MINDS and GARY NUMAN. Other acts who benefited from his musicality and sound design were MEN WITHOUT HATS, SPEAR OF DESTINY, TRANSVISION VAMP and NINA HAGEN.

Later, Held moved into more jazzy grooves and while resident in Australia, he led a World Music collective featuring Aboriginal musicians and released an album called ‘Digital Dreaming’. He returned to electronic music in 2015 with the release of ‘Logic of Coincidence’ via Les Disques du Crépuscule, a largely ambient imaginary film soundtrack.

Almost simultaneously, he teamed up with former TANGERINE DREAM member Steve Schroyder to form the appropriately named DREAM CONTROL. The pair are releasing their first album ‘Zeitgeber’, a largely uptempo electronic record that could potentially satisfy the headspaces of proggers and the feet of clubbers.

While in the UK on a short promotional trip for ‘Zeitgeber’, ZEUS B HELD kindly stopped for coffee to chat to The Electricity Club about DREAM CONTROL and his vast production portfolio.

You took a break into jazz and world music, what has brought you back into working in electronic pop again?

After I left England in 2003, I did a few different things like working around the ZKM Karlsruhe on more theoretical aspects of music and teaching.

Call this lecturing “transfer of knowledge” which is ok and I still do it, but I am more interested in making music.

In 2013, I had four weeks in Japan where I locked myself away with a couple of synthesizers; I really enjoyed that and rediscovered that it was the core of what I do best and what I want to do. This is what became ‘Logic Of Coincidence’.

Did the improvements in digital technology make your return much easier?

Not really, because the actual physical hands-on experience when you work with sequencers, moving sliders and twiddling knobs is a much more sensual action than if you programme it or do it with a mouse. I think there’s a big difference, like between virtual and real action-response.

I started the album with lots of virtual instruments, a master keyboard and a Moog Source. Then I replaced them slowly and as I was doing this, it confirmed my thoughts about the differences between the virtual and real thing.

I remember a time when I was a bit tired of those sounds, not realising that these sounds were the signature of what I’ve been doing! And it took a few years for me to realise those are my tools! And that’s what happened in the solitude of my Japanese hut…

What synths do you have?

I still have a Minimoog, Moog Source, Prophet VS, Oberheim 4 Voice, PPG wave, Korg Prophecy and through Steve, I got access to the Memory Moog which is an amazing machine.

I also have a collection of rack mounted synths including a Nordlead and an Oberheim DBX1.

But there are some instruments which I sold – that I shouldn’t have, but there you go…

Which ones do you regret selling then?

Oh, the Polymoog and the ARP 2600 which I am looking to getting back, or something similar. I went to this year’s Superbooth in Berlin and I could see there is a new wave of old style analogue synths coming up from all over the world; it’s been a really good experience to meet so many other synthesizer freaks.

What is the direction you are taking in DREAM CONTROL, how different is it from ‘Logic Of Coincidence’?

It was amazing that Steve’s and my life were running parallel without us ever meeting each other and incredibly, he also lives in Freiburg, streets away where I am now. So it happened to be another ‘Logic Of Coincidence’ *laughs*

On our first studio session, we played around with some chords and rhythms – I played various synths and piano, added some sequences and experimented with vocoder lines. It all fitted and we both really enjoyed this new form of jamming and improvising on the spot, sometimes being amazed how our individual music and sound became one… you listen, you play and you answer, you throw a ball in, it’s just playing and responding. And that is something me and Steve can do on all kind of electronic instruments. When you create music, it should be playful.

How would you describe the sound of ‘Zeitgeber’, given Steve’s history with TANGERINE DREAM and your own background?

This album has a lot of energy in it, definitely not just a dreamy ambient album. Steve introduced me to the natural law of the “Cosmic Octave”, which is a different approach to frequency and rhythm definition.

After I experienced the difference to the standard concert pitch, I was happy to do the entire ‘Zeitgeber’ album with this method. And yes, you can hear the difference. Overall it is an instrumental album with a good deal of vocoder. There is also assorted overtone singing and some other vocal elements by two female singers.

Because of our name and history, we decided to rework one TANGERINE DREAM song and one BIRTH CONTROL song ‘Gamma Ray’, although later we dropped the TD track from this album.

Is ‘Kant Can Dance’ representative of the album?

I would say yes and no! It is the existing link to my ‘Logic of Coincidence’ album, but it’s in the spirit of us both. ‘Gamma Ray’ and ‘Kant Can Dance’ are the more accessible tracks of the album. The other tracks, like for example ‘Tomaga’ are deeper journeys into sound and unknown spaces.

Although you served your apprenticeship with BIRTH CONTROL, you went solo…

BIRTH CONTROL was a progressive rock band, doing lots of gigs all over Europe, but mainly in Germany. I was always doing my 15 to 20 minute keyboard solo which actually became my first solo album! *laughs*

Slowly I was moving more into electronics, away from the EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER and DEEP PURPLE thing. By pure coincidence, I became neighbours with Conny Plank’s studio and I realised that you can do different sound work in the studio and that’s how I did my solo stuff; I discovered the vocoder which made me develop my own singing approach – and guess, I was glad not to have to deal with a singer’s ego! *laughs*

With electronic pop producers of the era like yourself, Mike Howlett, Trevor Horn, Stephen J Lipson and Steve Hillage, there appears to be this connection with progressive rock?

I am sure there is a theoretical connection, the spirit of the time. But for me, it was my own development from thinking in chords, melodies and the traditional compositional building blocks to learn how to work with sequencers, machines and multi-tracks; I remember very well when I did this 2 minute track ‘M.P.C.’ on BIRTH CONTROL’s ‘Rebirth’ album, by discovering the Mellotron. I spontaneously put strings, flute sounds and choir together and played an impressionistic piano on top, all in an hour, while the other guys were having lunch. I got so inspired by sounds and multi-tracking, I learned to understand the studio as an instrument.

You became more widely known in the UK for producing GINA X PERFORMANCE and ‘No GDM’, what was the creative dynamic between you and her?

I wanted to make an album with vocoder, drums and only synthesizers and I wanted to make it really cold, no bluesy chords or melodies, no guitar and nothing rocky. I had in mind science fiction inspired tracks, also possible songs for the ROCKETS next album. Gina was an art student and was really into cutting edge art and music.

We became a creative unit and I invited her into the studio, maybe to put some spoken words on the recordings – she developed from this, her own way of singing.

With ‘No GDM’, she wrote the lyrics in the café upstairs of the Cologne Studio Am Dom after she saw the ‘Naked Civil Servant’ film; so when she stepped in front of the microphone she transformed herself as well as the track. She put that particular life into my music, effortless and free of clichés. It was an amazing experience for both of us, but at first, nobody was interested because this was a non pigeon hole-able unheard music.

I’ll never forget when this studio mastering engineer in Cologne put the ‘Nice Mover’ album on the spectrum analyser and said “Look here at the frequencies, this can’t work! Nobody wants to listen to that!” *laughs*

But we found a little label and suddenly people started to like it. It came from three places where we had the best feedback; there was Rusty Egan and The Blitz Club, Austrian main radio where it entered the charts and Canada… this all took about a year to happen.

So this led to you coming to the UK and working with Birmingham band FASHION?

What also led me to FASHION was my vocoder production for a French / Italian band called ROCKETS. I went to the Midem, the annual music event in Cannes, to sell my first solo album and I passed this stand where I saw a video with five silver painted guys playing a slightly futuristic rock song ‘Future Woman’ using a voice box.

I thought “this would be so much better with a vocoder” and I asked to speak to their manager – after he heard my stuff, I was in. A week later, I was in Paris recording a cover of CANNED HEAT’s ‘On The Road Again’ and it became the ROCKETS’ big European hit.

FASHION heard this and also liked GINA X PERFORMANCE – so eventually a guy from Arista Records asked me to listen to their demos and I liked it.

I particularly liked it because Dee Harris, the main songwriter and front man, also played a wicked Roland guitar synth in a slightly jazz-funky way; in those days the only other guitar synth player I knew was Pat Metheny on his group’s ‘Offramp’ album.

The ‘Fabrique’ album was recorded in Cologne, Paris and London, it was nicely developed over six months.

You also worked on the next FASHION album ‘Twilight Of Idols’ which closed with the brilliant instrumental title track…

Well… ‘Twilight Of Idols’ was FASHION Mark 2, it’s OK, but for me it was a compromise. The second version of FASHION with Alan Darby on guitar and vocals and songs like ‘Hurricane’, for me, it was stylistically too close to the overcrowded field of mainstream rock.

FASHION’s first album with Dee Harris was his subtle funk and jazzy chord structures, influenced by American songwriting and this particular mixture of electronics from me applying my Germanic sequencers. Lately, 35 years after its making, I have been asked to overhaul ‘Fabrique’ with Dee Harris, so I can assure that we’ll eventually be working on that.

At one point, FASHION were rated higher than DURAN DURAN on the Birmingham scene but of course, it was DURAN DURAN who broke big, what’s your take on it?

In Birmingham, FASHION and DURAN DURAN were rehearsing in the same building when I got involved. DURAN DURAN were already ahead in the game, having a few singles out with EMI while FASHION were just entering the major pop arena. As much as I like Mr Simon Le Bon, I think Dee Harris was a different calibre as a vocalist – but there you go, the DURAN DURAN guys just went a fair bit faster, were better managed and they administered one hit after another!

Unfortunately after ‘Fabrique’ was finished, some chemical reaction in certain brains caused the ‘Fabrique’ line-up to collapse and the album had to be buried by Arista. Their German and American labels hugely believed in the group and things could have been different, but FASHION didn’t really enter the league they should have been in.

How did working with JOHN FOXX on ‘The Golden Section’ come about?

I was a big fan of John’s ‘Metamatic’ album. He had the same publisher as GINA X who also was his manager. John had been working with Mike Howlett, but it wasn’t working out for various reasons… and he had discovered THE BEATLES! *laughs*

I told John that it should be more about sound and noisy abstract tunes but he wanted melodies with second and third harmonies; we were working in his studio The Garden in Shoreditch and it was his solo album, so I was there to make his vision happen.

I guess our collaboration was not a very successful one as he pulled too far away from his roots, something that he later realised “ooops”! I helped him but I was torn, I had to make the best out of it. I wanted to bin songs and put more sequencers on others as it would have been more suitable and appreciated by his existing fan base, but he galloped into ‘The Golden Section’.

John is a multi-talented, very intelligent artist and we met at an interesting moment in our lives, but we didn’t make the kind of mutual masterpiece which we could have done.

You then went on to producing DEAD OR ALIVE, your work with them had an amazing rhythmic element to it, how did you achieve that?

They loved Patrick Cowley and Sylvester, that uptempo HI-NRG gay disco. I often went to the Heaven club during those days and listened to that music, I really liked this irresistible drive and energy.

They brought many of those elements to the table themselves. We started to work on ‘Sophisticated Boom Boom’ with Wayne Hussey on guitar, thus getting a slightly gothic element which I quite liked.

But Wayne and his guitar were sacked relatively early during the production, you can hear his guitar best on the first single ‘Misty Circles’.

For me, producing DEAD OR ALIVE was a mixture of sound-styling as well as making sure Pete Burns’ mighty vocal performance had the right backing. We got on fine, but there were moments when we argued about what’s best for the arrangement and dynamics. Sometimes I offered ten ideas and they’d take one and a half… I guess that’s part of the producing process…

So in DEAD OR ALVE, had the sequence programming been done by Tim Lever and you were sweetening it for the final recording, or were you redoing it?

It was a bit of both, some tracks came with some basic sequences to start with, others we started from scratch. I brought along my Moog and ARP 2600 to fill up the space.

For drums we used mainly the Oberheim DMX, a Linn Drum and sounds from the Akai S1000. We also had a Korg drum machine but they didn’t like the TR808; it’s funny, when I worked with KILLING JOKE, they hated the 808 as well.

After all these British artists, what was it like to work with a German act like DIE KRUPPS in 1985?

With JOHN FOXX and DEAD OR ALIVE, we had more open ended concepts. DIE KRUPPS were more German, much more “korrekt” and “…it’s all been worked out!” *laughs*

They pretty much had worked out how their tracks should be structured but by playing around with the Fairlight, we found space for new ideas and sounds. In the end, a lot of the ‘Entering The Arena’ album was Fairlight based.

Listening back to it now, I feel we were close to a real classic. And somehow we wanted to hold our own against PROPAGANDA, but this was tricky because PROPAGANDA’s production budget was in a different range

We had a limited budget and the LP was released by the Virgin sub-label Statik, whose claim to fame was MEN WITHOUT HATS who I later worked with.

How did you find the move into the world of the Fairlight and digital in general?

I wanted to master the Fairlight and luckily enough, Octave Hire, a London rental company based in the Docklands, left one with me at my basement flat in Earls Court when it wasn’t being used. I spent days and nights on end to dive into this new world of sampling and sequencing.

I’ll never forget how I once got stuck and someone suggested to phone this guy Hans Zimmer who was also working with one and had a studio in Fulham called The Snake Ranch. He came to my house and showed me a few tricks. When he spoke in his Bavarian accent, I realised there was another “Deutsch Musik Mann” in my London hood! *laughs*

I used the Fairlight on the last GINA X album ‘Yinglish’ and it was here when I met JJ Jeczalik, a real expert on the CMI. We made a deal: I’ll get him a few studio gigs, teach some musical basics and give him sounds and samples which went into his library – some of them ended up on the first record by THE ART OF NOISE.

But at one point, Pete Burns walked into Olympia Studios and shouted “ZEUS! YOU BASTARD, I HEARD MY VOICE ON THE ART OF NOISE, I KNOW IT’S ME!”… I replied “it’s impossible”, but thought to myself “oh sh*t, it could well be!”

You had a bit of a remix period, one was ‘Big In Japan’ by ALPHAVILLE…

ALPHAVILLE used an edit of my 12 inch remix for the normal 7 inch… I mixed it at a studio in Queensway with the engineer Femi Jiya, who later worked with PRINCE. This music wasn’t exactly funky and so we worked with repeat echoes and dropped in a fretless bass sound from a Roland D50. Next door was ASWAD, the reggae band – you could smell it… so I asked them to come in and played the mix to them, they gave it the thumbs down! *laughs*

On your remix of ‘Ghostdancing’ for SIMPLE MINDS, you gave space to the rhythm section…

SIMPLE MINDS then had a drummer I did some studio work with before, Mel Gaynor… he also played on an unreleased track I produced with Ian Burden from THE HUMAN LEAGUE, called ‘She’s Always On The Dancefloor’. I studied the parts and played around with the drums because I really enjoyed what Mel Gaynor did. He was a timing and groove master who beat every drum machine.

How did you feel when you were asked to do the ‘E Reg remix’ of GARY NUMAN’s ‘Cars’ in 1987?

I was a big GARY NUMAN fan, I saw him in 1980 in Düsseldorf at the Philipshalle… guess who was the support act? SIMPLE MINDS and they played on about four square feet of stage because GARY NUMAN had such a huge stage set up!

Beggars Banquet asked me to remix ‘Cars’ and I was already booked and had to squeeze it in. So I worked 20 hours non-stop on it. This was when the Roland D50 came out and if you listen to my remix, it’s full of those sounds! I enjoyed doing it because it’s a great song, I love his voice, the dynamics of the sounds work brilliantly with Gary’s melodies. I saw my job to get more excitement and shape into the track as well as doing an extended version. ARMAND VAN HELDEN actually sampled parts of my remix for ‘Koochy’!

Four weeks later it was out, doing really well and I was invited to a GARY NUMAN concert, I sat next to his dad… I looked on stage and there were five D50s! *laughs*

Your work with TRANSVISION VAMP was fascinating in that you used technology to make an album sound punk

I worked closely with their label and they wanted a record, like you could have a cup of tea to… well, they didn’t actually say that but it was how I translated it, “pop punk”.

The first album ‘Pop Art’ took nearly two years and the band grew during its making; they had started to work on demos with Duncan Bridgeman who also did most of the pre-production; after a few tracks into the actual recording sessions, I was asked to revisit the production and arrangements.

I got a chance to enrich the sounds and take care of the mixing. A few tracks I did from scratch and started with an electronic song frame. Especially ‘Tell That Girl To Shut Up’, I’ll never forget when I was doing the arrangement, Wendy James walked in and screamed at me “THAT SOUNDS LIKE F*CKING HOWARD JONES, I HATE IT!” and she stormed out of the studio. I yelled “wait, we’re going to stick the guitars on and it will work!” which is exactly what happened. So yes, in the end most of the album sounded a good mixture between electronic versus rough and punk.

Of course, this was in the days before Melodyne and Autotune… when Wendy sang the soul out of her guts and it wasn’t quite right, we would have to record up to thirty tracks of vocals and do compilations of the takes – and in the end it sounded like one convincingly performed take, which would have to grab the listener. She sold that band!

Before that, there was the aborted CLARE GROGAN album that you did, what happened there?

With Clare, we were forced for too much in a little amount of time. I couldn’t really open her up musically, it was like being whacked in with the record company watching… before I could sit back and analyse, it was all finished. It was done in a rush, that was a pity. With her voice, we should have done something a bit more whacky, something more off the wall.

I had the same experience when I was paired with Annabella Lwin from BOW WOW WOW. It could have been brilliant but it was squeezed into three weeks trying to record ok songs. I couldn’t find her best musical language, you need time when you develop something new. With TRANSVISION VAMP, we had eighteen months and it grew. It all started when Nick met Wendy and said “do you want to be a rock star?”, she said “yes” and they worked on it.

This record company pressure would drive any normal person crazy?

Yes, there’s a danger, you’d better have strong nerves and a good sense of humour… and you have to avoid ending up doing paid crap!

Is that why there has been such a big gap in your production work after NINA HAGEN in 1991 ?

It coincided with a breakdown of my private life. Whether it was too much time spent in the studio or a typical mid-life crisis, whatever! It happened!

So I had a desire to be free, travel the world – I ended up in Australia, doing music there with Aborigines and playing concerts in the middle of nature. That’s when I recorded my “audio postcard of down under” called ‘Digital Dreaming’.

All in all I took ten years off and then I didn’t come back easily. I did film and ad music and that didn’t really satisfy me. So I had a rethink, did workshops and coaching, gave lectures – call it “knowledge transfer” – but again, this was not what I wanted to do.

I realised I feel most comfortable doing music in the studio or on stage. And by now, as much as I’m an optimist, I have given up on the idea of immortality *laughs*

I would love to do more DREAM CONTROL concerts, events and festivals. I still want to play and entertain people – their ears, their eyes and their imagination. In the studio I would like to do more songwriting and remixes; in an ideal world I’d always work with new inspiring equipment and learn how to master it.

I always enjoy listening to music but I am a difficult consumer. For pleasure I’m often listening to more jazz based music, but occasionally, a mega exciting track by the likes of JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE or JUSTIN BIEBER will knock me out and I applaud. Apart from a song’s composition, I always want to know how it is done the way it sounds – from the musical & frequency arrangement to the immaculate mastering.

Music doesn’t stop… music keeps me alive


The Electricity Club give its grateful thanks to ZEUS B HELD

DREAM CONTROL ‘Zeitgeber’ is released by Planetware Records on 8th August 2017 in CD and digital formats, available from http://www.planetware-records.de/en/music/3013_zeitgeber.html

Abridged vinyl LP of ‘Zeitgeber’ on sale soon via Medical Records at https://medicalrecords.bandcamp.com/

http://dream-control.com/

https://www.facebook.com/dreamcontrolmusic/

http://zeusbheld.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Zeus-B-Held-162448230492382/

A selection of ZEUS B HELD, GINA X and BIRTH CONTROL CDs can be purchased from http://www.ltmrecordings.com/zeus_b_held.html


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
7th August 2017

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