Tag: Dramatis (Page 1 of 2)

Ten Years Of TEC: BIRTHDAY GREETINGS FROM SOME PEOPLE WHO YOU MIGHT KNOW…

Over the last 10 years, The Electricity Club has been a voice for the discerning enthusiast of electronic pop.

With a balancing act of featuring the classic pioneers of the past alongside the emergent new talent for the future, The Electricity Club has become well known for its interviews and reviews, asking the questions people have always wanted to ask while celebrating the continuing development of the synthesizer in popular music. All this while holding to account those who deliver below expectations, assuring the listener that if they are perhaps not hearing the genius that some devoted fans are declaring, then The Electricity Club is there to assist in affirming or denying that assessment.

But when artists do deliver, they tend to build a strong relationship with The Electricity Club. So with the site celebrating its first 10 years, presented here are greetings and messages from some people who you might know…


Rusty Egan, VISAGE

TEC is 10 years old with the synth knowledge of a 50 year old. If I can’t remember something electronic I don’t Google, I TEC!


Glenn Gregory, HEAVEN 17

The Electricity Club and its wonderful leader Chi is like the League Of Super Heroes for Electronic Music. Our future is safe in his hands.

I have been involved in electronic music making for 40 years, yet one half hour conversation with Chi makes me realise how little I know. From then to now, he’s knows!


Neil Arthur, BLANCMANGE

Chi has been brilliantly supportive of BLANCMANGE, for which I am very grateful. We’ve always managed to have a good laugh during our interviews, as he would ask me about the darkness and gloom lying within a given BLANCMANGE song! I look forward to our next chat.

The Electricity Club has a very important place and a role to play, in spreading the news of electronic music, new and old, far and wide. Here’s to the next ten years. Well done and good luck.


Gary Daly, CHINA CRISIS

Thanks for all your wonderful support Chi, so glad someone has taken the time to ask some great questions…


Sarah Blackwood, DUBSTAR

I love The Electricity Club website. It’s a treasure trove of informative articles, both a very readable historical archive and a forward looking platform for encouraging new talent. In what can be traditionally and lazily categorised as a very male dominated scene, Chi encourages great music regardless of gender and I enjoy the updated Spotify playlist if I’m ever stuck for what to listen to whilst running.

As regards interviews, it’s always enjoyable – Chi is a bit too easy to talk to and his passion for music and synth geekery shines through – heaven forbid you try sneaking a (cleared) sample past him, he will spot it!

Is it 10 years already? Happy birthday TEC!


Chris Payne, DRAMATIS

With 18,000 likes and 12,000 Facebook followers; The Electricity Club under the guidance of its purveyor Chi Ming Lai, has become the leading place for the Electronic Music fan. Intelligent, well written and well researched journalism with a great team of writers presenting an array of brilliant fascinating new acts (and some older ones as well!), hopefully it will continue for at least another 10 years.


Tracy Howe, RATIONAL YOUTH

Congratulations to The Electricity Club on ten years of brilliant reporting of, and support to, the electronic pop scene. TEC is the authoritative publication “of record” for fans and makers of synthpop alike and is the international rallying point and HQ for our music. We look forward to many more years of in-depth interviews and probing articles, all in the beautifully written TEC style. Happy birthday TEC!


Mark White, ABC + VICE VERSA

Chi Ming Lai and Paul Boddy are two of the most learned, nay, erudite music journalists I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, a rare experience indeed to be quizzed by a pair who know their onions. And unusual integrity. Chi promised me if we asked, he would turn off the tape recorder and it would never appear in print. And has been true to his word. This has literally never happened in my career. Also these two chaps are bloody good fun. I laughed til I cried. Go see the movie!


Rob Dean, JAPAN

10 years of The Electricity Club? Only one for me (yes, I know…), but it’s heartening to know that Chi and the crew have created a site so cutting edge for us die-hard fans of electronica. Having read the highly entertaining VICE VERSA chaps interview, I was delighted to be asked to do my own, confident that the questions would be thoughtful and intelligent and yes, a little bit probing too. Here’s to the next 10 and thank you!


Richard Silverthorn, MESH

On several occasions I have done interviews for The Electricity Club. Every time I felt like they actually cared about the music and scene and put some educated thought into the questions. It’s good to feel that enthusiasm.


Tom Shear, ASSEMBLAGE 23

Congratulations on 10 years of covering and supporting the scene! Here’s to another 10 and beyond…


Sophie Sarigiannidou, MARSHEAUX

I first met Chi at Sparrowhawk Hotel, Burnley in November 2000 for an OMD convention. It took me 13 hours to reach by train to Burnley from London due to bad weather.

I saw him playing live (!!!!) with his covers band THE MESSERSCHMITT TWINS, they were having their time of their life, dancing and singing, so so happy! Us too of course!! From that moment on we became friends.

Then he supported our band MARSHEAUX from the very early beginning and I thank him a lot for that! It’s always great having Chi asking questions for interviews . We as a band had our best interviews with The Electricity Club! We spent a lot of hours talking about the history of electronic music and the future of synthpop. My favourite articles on TEC are the “A Beginners Guide To…” series, you have a lot to learn from these pages!!! Happy Anniversary Chi, we’ve indeed had 10 amazing years with TEC. I hope and wish the next 10 to be even better.


Erik Stein, CULT WITH NO NAME

The Electricity Club elected not to review earlier CWNN albums, so we just had to keep making better and better records until they would finally relent. They finally gave in from album number 7 onwards, and it was well worth the wait. The writing was spot on and not a single DEPECHE MODE reference in sight.


Mark Reeder, MFS BERLIN

Congratulations and a very Happy 10th Birthday TEC! Over the past 10 years, The Electricity Club website has developed into becoming the leading website for all kinds of electronic synthpop music. It has become a familiar friend, because it is something I can personally identify with, as it is maintained by fans, for fans.

However, it is not only commendable, but can also be quite critical too, and that is a rare balancing act in the contemporary media world. It has been a great source of regular electronic music information. I have discovered and re-discovered many wonderful electronic artists, and regularly devour the in-depth interviews and features.

Through TEC, I have been introduced to and worked with some of the wonderful artists presented on your pages, such as QUEEN OF HEARTS or MARSHEAUX and in return, it has supported my work, my label and my artists too, and I thank them for that! We can all celebrate ten years of TEC and together, look forward to the next 10 years of inspiring electronic music.


Per Aksel Lundgreen, SUB CULTURE RECORDS

The Electricity Club is a highly knowledgeable and very passionate site! They are digging out rarities from the past as well as exploring and discovering new acts, giving them attention and writing about them often before anybody else around have even heard of them.

This makes TEC a very interesting page to follow, as their in-depth stories about older bands “missing in action” as well as the latest stuff “in the scene” gets perfectly mixed together, giving you all you want basically in a one-stop-site for everything electronic. I also love the way they give attention to unsigned / self-released bands and small indie-labels, giving everybody a fair chance as long as the music is good enough. Congrats on the 10th Anniversary, well deserved!


Jane Caley aka Anais Neon, VILE ELECTRODES

When VILE ELECTRODES were just starting out, we heard through the Facebook grapevine about a new electronic music blog called The Electricity Club. We had a London gig coming up, and had recently made a promo video for our song ‘Deep Red’, so we dropped them an email about both, not expecting to hear back, since we were virtually unknown. However it transpired they really liked our sound, likening us to “Client B born and raised in the Home Counties fronting Dindisc-era ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK”.

The Electricity Club subsequently gave this very description to Andy McCluskey, which piqued his interest such that he checked out our music. We were invited to tour Germany with OMD as a direct result!


George Geranios, UNDO RECORDS

Chi is a really rare quality of a man. He is passionate about music which is so obvious of course while reading The Electricity Club. Through our mutual love for OMD, we discovered that we have the same musical taste. TEC helped us promote all of Undo Records projects and finally we ended collaborating and releasing this brilliant TEC double CD compilation! Chi, I wish you health and to continue writing the best music texts in the industry!!


Adam Cresswell, HAPPY ROBOTS RECORDS

Some people say The Electricity Club doesn’t support the scene but I’ve not found that to be the case; having been a part of two TEC gigs and the recent CD, I know how much blood, sweat and tears they put into what they do. TEC might get a few people’s back-up, but they know their stuff when it comes to synth-driven music and I’m massively grateful that they have supported so many Happy Robots artists since 2010.


Stuart McLaren, OUTLAND

It’s no secret that the burgeoning new synthwave genre shares a common history with the great synthesizer acts and pioneers of the 80s, like Dolby, Jones, Luscombe, Wilder, Daly et al who created new soundscapes with what we now define as vintage synths.

These sounds are brought back to life by pioneers in their own right like FM ATTACK, GUNSHIP, ESPEN KRAFT and BETAMAXX to name a few.

The Electricity Club and Chi Ming Lai have always been at the forefront of championing, interviewing and reviewing the luminaries of this great instrument past to present, and are likely to remain the de facto voice of the synth scene well into the future… we agree on one thing and that is FM-84’s singer Ollie Wride is deffo one to watch as a star for the future!


Paula Gilmer, TINY MAGNETIC PETS

Happy Birthday TEC. thank you for your support. You never fail to impress with your encyclopedic knowledge of synthpop. Here’s looking forward to 10 more!


Mr Normall, NUNTIUS

I’ve been following most of my favourite artists since they were brand new and often this means 30+ years, yet reading articles and interviews by The Electricity Club, I have learned every time something new about of my favourites.

Following The Electricity Club have made me paid attention to several new acts that I would likely know nothing about if they hadn’t appeared on the page.


Catrine Christensen, SOFTWAVE

An outstanding magazine supporting new and upcoming artists whom they choose carefully as they have great taste of music regarding to their huge knowledge within the synthpop genre, when it comes to their writing and promotion – there’s no one like them. Happy birthday 😘


Elena Charbila, KID MOXIE

Happy 10th birthday TEC! Your love and commitment to the synth community is unparalleled and your support has meant a lot to me on a professional but also on a personal level. Here’s to the next 10 years! 😘


Alexander Hofman aka Android, S.P.O.C.K

I’m a fan of The Electricity Club for several reasons. You showed up when I perceived the majority of the electronic scene had turned more and more harsh; as much as I can appreciate an occasional emotional outburst, I’m a happy guy and thus I’m into pop – TEC showed, and still shows me that there’s still electronic pop music being made. Good electronic pop! Which makes me glad, as I find the greater part of the generally popular darker scene to be of lower musical quality.

Moreover, TEC writes in an amazingly happy tone – remember, I’m a happy guy, so it’s right up my alley. Add the fact that TEC regularly publishes interesting articles, using intelligent and varied vocabulary, shows enormous knowledge and interest of the theme, the style, the scene – and I’m hooked. Thanks for being around – keep up the good work, it’s much needed! And congratulations – let’s grab a beer again! 🍻


Text compiled by Chi Ming Lai
15th March 2020

DRAMATIS Interview

DRAMATIS were a band of GARY NUMAN sidemen who toured the skies, but came into being as their own entity after their boss prematurely formalised his retirement from live performance at Wembley Arena in April 1981.

Their debut album ‘For Future Reference’ released later that year did not sell well despite the Numan voiced Top40 hit single ‘Love Needs No Disguise’, but it became something of a cult favourite.

After Denis Haines departed over disagreements about touring, the remaining trio of RRussell Bell, Chris Payne and Ced Sharpley played a series of live dates and issued a trio of singles ‘Face On The Wall’, ‘The Shame’ and ‘I Can See Her Now’ which were exhibiting a musical progression and a potential breakthrough.

However, a combination of frustrations with their label Rocket Records and their former boss’ desire to return to touring led to DRAMATIS being put in hiatus, as Bell, Payne and Sharpley returned to the Numan fold.

In 2012, there had been plans to DRAMATIS to reunite but the untimely passing of Sharpley led to a period of uncertainty as Bell and Payne grieved for their bandmate.

2019 saw RRussell Bell and Chris Payne make their belated solo debuts but for the start of the new decade, there was the unexpected announcement of a new DRAMATIS single entitled ‘A Torment of Angels’. Written by Bell and with a prog synth template likely to satisfy fans of ULTRAVOX, Payne said: “RRuss is a very clever composer. He has always managed to create incredible memorable tunes but not in a standard way. His construction of chords and melody are very ‘angular’ and never follow convention. This is what makes him so unique as a writer.”

With work now progressing on a second DRAMATIS album, RRussell Bell kindly chatted to The Electricity Club about why it has taken so long to follow-up ‘For Future Reference’ and the possibility of live dates…

After the various false starts, it was a pleasant surprise to hear there was a new DRAMATIS single to start the decade?

Yes, we finally got it together. To be honest, losing Ced was a massive blow that seriously knocked us back. Even now, whenever I program a drum track, I always try to imagine what Ced might have played and attempt that.

Also, with Chris living in France, it was difficult for us to get together regularly and our studio software isn’t entirely compatible so working purely online is difficult.

You recently released your debut solo EP ‘Like-A-Human’, so what inspired you to head down the DRAMATIS route?

I totally updated my studio a little while ago and that was the impetus to start recording a backlog of songs I’d written, as well as writing new stuff. I really enjoyed recording the ‘Like-A-Human’ EP and it was a big learning curve getting the whole thing ready for release, doing the artwork for the CD, organising worldwide distribution, filling in tax forms for the US and packing and posting merchandise from home.

We used to have record companies to do all that crap but it’s more than worth the effort to be independent. Getting the EP out gave me enough confidence to then look at finishing the second DRAMATIS album with Chris. We were both ready for it.

What were DRAMATIS’ original influences and what have you been listening to recently to help point out a direction?

Everyone seems to be obsessed with Influences and genres these days. My influences comprise the sum total of everything I’ve ever heard and learnt throughout my life but I don’t listen to music, not at home and not in the car because I really don’t want to be influenced by what other people are doing.

If you try to follow a trend you’re always going to be behind it. For me it’s important to write and record music that I like, regardless of whether other people like it. I think you have to be true to yourself and when you’re an independent artist you don’t have a record label saying, “Quick! Jump on this bandwagon” so you can follow your own path. That kind of freedom is wonderful.

Of course, it also gives you plenty of opportunities to fall flat on your face. I like that. However, going back to the original question, Gary has obviously been a big influence on me because he was a major part of my musical life for a decade, so I’ll happily and gratefully put my hands up to that one.

How would you describe the new DRAMATIS material?

Personally, I’m aiming for the musical equivalent of a barely controlled explosion, with epic synths, wailing guitars, orchestral strings and horns, multiple tribal drum tracks and soaring melodies. That’s what I’m aiming for. It’s not for me to decide if I’m anywhere near achieving that. It might sound like a wet fart to some people but you can’t please everyone.

How has writing and recording for this new music differed from when you last wrote as DRAMATIS?

I’m not aware of having changed the way I write songs. Recording is easier now in my own studio with modern equipment. In fact, recording is so easy now that anyone, even someone tone deaf with no sense of rhythm can put together something that sounds a bit like a proper song, because the software gives you the rhythm and tunes and all the bum note.

But that doesn’t mean anyone can write a good song! I constantly have to fight the urge to rely too heavily on software, it can sap your creativity and make you sound anodyne and derivative.

‘A Torment Of Angels’ and your solo track ‘Like A Human’ saw you changing your vocal style and singing in a much lower key?

Yes, the funny thing is, when we recorded the first DRAMATIS album, we recorded the backing tracks first, then I’d lock myself in a room and write the lyrics. Then we’d start putting the vocals down, that’s when I discovered that they were all in keys that were a bit high for my voice. Basically, I’m a baritone. The verses of ‘I only Find Rewind’ are at a comfortable level for me and that’s around the pitch I write songs at now.

There was a song called ‘Retro Alien Thing’ that previewed in 2014. What was that about and will it be part of the new album?

That was an early song that Chris came up with, I wrote a totally different set of lyrics with a different melody, so now we have two songs with the same backing track. One of them might be on the album. Basically, we’re going to record as many songs as possible and then pick the best ones for the album.

Is ‘Sand & Stone’ which was played live during your tour in 1982 going to part of this new album?

A properly recorded studio version of ‘Sand & Stone’ is a contender for the album. I’ll let you know if it makes the cut as soon as we’ve decided.

Lyrically many of DRAMATIS’ songs reflected the dystopia of the times, and that all seems to have come full circle?

Yeah, it’s basically the same old shit happening to different people, which pretty much sums up the history of the human race. We never seem to learn anything from history.

So we’re just doomed to make the same mistakes over and over again. At least it gives us songwriters something to whinge about.

Are there any songs from the DRAMATIS reboot that you can tell us apart and how they’re coming together?

Today I’m working on a track called ‘Time Flies’. It has a floaty ethereal chorus, a slightly edgy verse and a weird bit in the middle that might well get the boot and be replaced by something with less oddness.

You and Chris have been appearing with and as support for your former boss at various points over the last ten years, what has that been like?

Playing with Gary is always fun. He’s so easy to work with and also, I finally got to play at the Albert Hall, even if it was just one song. Brilliant.

There was talk of a remastered ‘For Future Reference’ with its associated Rocket-era tracks coming out, what’s the state of play there?

Yes, that’s part of the plan but we still need to track down the original tapes. We also need them to assemble some backing tracks for live gigs as there’s only two of us now, so we obviously can’t play everything live.

If we can’t find them, we’ll have to re-record them, which will be a major pain in the arse. If anyone knows where they are please get in touch with me via Chi, it would be massively appreciated.

What are your favourite DRAMATIS songs from that first phase? Are there any particular memories, either personal or during recording attached to them that you can recall?

I think my favourites from that era are ‘I Only Find Rewind’, ‘The Shame’ and ‘Love Needs No Disguise’. I also have a soft spot for ‘I Can See Her Now’.

You played a Chapman Stick on ‘For Future Reference’, did you ever get the hang of it because it looks a bugger to play?

Yes, it was good for bass parts because it went down to bottom C and the left hand fingering was pretty easy for a guitarist but the upper register tapping with the left hand was tricky and also sounded like a weedy clavinet. It needed quite a few effects to make it sound half decent. I wasn’t using it very much, so I chopped it in for a drum machine and a microphone.

Do you still have your Moog Liberation?

Yes, I still have the Moog Liberation. It’s in the attic in London. God, that was a heavy bit of kit to lug around the stage. I haven’t used it for years because I lost the 16 core lead that attaches it to the rack unit.

DRAMATIS playing live a possibility in the future?

Yes, DRAMATIS playing live is a very distinct possibility in the not too distant future.


The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to RRussell Bell

‘A Torment of Angels’ is available as a download single from https://dramatis.bandcamp.com/

https://twitter.com/RRussellBell


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
14th January 2020

RRUSSELL BELL Like-A-Human EP

It’s been a long time coming but one-time Numan guitarist and sideman Richard Russell Bell (hence the RRussell spelling!) releases his first EP ‘Like-A-Human’.

Russell Bell joined Chris Payne, Cedric Sharpley, Paul Gardiner and Billy Currie’ for Numan’s ‘The Touring Principle’ in 1979. This was during the electronic pioneer’s imperial phase, playing to sold-out crowds in the UK and then the world after Billy Currie left to rejoin ULTRAVOX, replaced Denis Haines.

But Bell wasn’t just required for duties on his chosen instrument as he told The Electricity Club in 2012: “I was the guitarist and I had five synths!! I had a Polymoog, two Minimoogs, Moog Taurus pedals, Synares and a Roland guitar synth!”

On ‘The Teletour’, he would be required to play violin while when he formed DRAMATIS with Payne, Sharpley and Haines, he would add saxophone, Chapman Stick and a Moog Liberation to his armoury.

DRAMATIS only released one album ‘For Future Reference’ in 1981. Haines left shortly after so the remaining trio of Bell, Payne and Sharpley soldiered on to issue a further three singles before disbanding and rejoining their former boss for the ‘Warriors’ tour.

Decades later, DRAMATIS announced they were reforming but sadly Cedric Sharpley passed away in 2012. A new track featuring Bell and Payne called ‘Retro Alien Thing’ had radio play in 2014 but since then, there has been something of an are they or are they not going saga with DRAMATIS. Chris Payne issued a solo album ‘The Falling Tower’ this year while the pair performed ‘Fade To Grey’ together at the Royal Albert Hall in 2018 opening for Numan on his string laden tour with The Skaparis Orchestra.

The title song could easily be retitled “Like-A-Numan”, with Bell adopting the verbal mannerisms of the former Gary John Webb in a touching homage that will be enjoyed by long-standing card carrying Numanoids. Meanwhile on guitar, Bell turns into Robert Fripp!

On ‘Haunted By You’, Bell springs a another vocal surprise in a duet with the fabulous feminine allure of Charlie Jones, while the man himself offers a deeper vocal resonance away from the strained larynx heard on the work of DRAMATIS. The straightforward rhythmic backbone is perfect for the song’s cinematic surroundings.

Cut from a similar cloth, ‘We Drown In Bars’ is exotically Eastern and airy, especially within its guitar motif with Bell offering another confident low register vocal with some Numanesque overtones. To end the EP, the gothic prog of ‘Cold Zero’ maintains the baritone while there is some fabulous frantic drum programming and a full-fat guitar solo emerging from the haunting choir filled soundtrack.

Russell Bell says there will be new DRAMATIS material and it appears that the ‘Like A Human’ EP is a welcome first step in sparking such a possibility.


‘Like A Human’ is released as a digital EP, available now from https://rrussellbellslike-a-human.bandcamp.com/

https://www.rrussellbell.com/

https://twitter.com/RRussellBell


Text by Chi Ming Lai
19th April 2019

CHRIS PAYNE Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How was that Numan tour incidentally for you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you look back on it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s next for you, under whatever guise?

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

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


The Electricity Club gives its sincerest thanks to Chris Payne

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

http://chrispaynemusic.com/

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

https://twitter.com/clanvis

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


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
6th March 2019

CHRIS PAYNE The Falling Tower

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

http://chrispaynemusic.com/

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

https://twitter.com/clanvis

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


Text by Chi Ming Lai
22nd February 2019

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