Tag: Exit North

TEC’s 2018 End Of Year Review

2018 saw JEAN-MICHEL JARRE celebrate 50 years in the business and whether the world really needed another of his compilations, ‘Planet Jarre’ was probably one of the better collected representations of his work for casual admirers.

But not standing still and releasing his fourth new album in three years, ‘Equinoxe Infinity’ continued the story as the French Maestro tuned 70.

SOFT CELL made a totally unexpected return for a huge one-off farewell gig at London’s O2 Arena; and with it came a boxed set, the ‘Northern Lights’ single and other new recordings which have raised hopes for a new album.

From the same era, FIAT LUX announced plans for their debut album ‘Save Symmetry’ with an excellent lead track ‘It’s You’, while B-MOVIE came up with their most synth-propelled single yet in ‘Stalingrad’.

But one act who actually did comeback with a brand new album in 2018 were DUBSTAR; now a duo of Sarah Blackwood and Chris Wilkie, as ‘One’ they reminded audiences as to why they were the acceptable face of Britpop with their bridge to Synth Britannia.

IONNALEE finally released her debut opus ‘Everyone Afraid To Be Forgotten’ and her tour which included choice cuts from IAMAMIWHOAMI, proved to be one of the best value-for-money live experiences in 2018, one that was even endorsed by Welsh songstress Charlotte Church.

CHVRCHES offered up their third album ‘Love Is Dead’ and continued their role as international flagwavers for quality synthpop, while EMIKA presented her best album yet in ‘Falling In Love With Sadness’, an exquisite electronic record with a Bohemian aura.

JOHN GRANT was on an artistic roll both solo and in partnership with WRANGLER as CREEP SHOW with two new albums. However, he was beaten by Neil Arthur who managed three albums over a 12 month period as NEAR FUTURE and BLANCMANGE including ‘Wanderlust’, possibly the latter’s best body of work in its 21st Century incarnation.

It was a busy year for STEVE JANSEN with a new solo ambient work ‘Corridor’, the well-received vinyl reissue of JAPAN’s two Virgin-era studio albums and his epic, more organically flavoured band project EXIT NORTH with their debut long player ‘Book Of Romance & Dust’.

SARAH NIXEY went on some ‘Night Walks’ for her best solo album yet, a wonderful collection of everything she had ever been musically all wonderfully rolled into one.

Meanwhile TRACEY THORN went back to the ‘Dancefloor’ with her ‘Record’ which content wise was right up there with some of ALISON MOYET’s electronica output from the last five years.

Those who liked their electronic music darker were well served with NINE INCH NAILS, IAMX, KIRLIAN CAMERA and HELIX, but after experimenting with the single only format for a few years, Daniel Graves announced he was taking the plunge again with a new AESTHETIC PERFECTION album.

The Sacred Bones stable provided some quality releases from THE SOFT MOON, HILARY WOODS, ZOLA JESUS and JOHN CARPENTER. Meanwhile, providing some fierce socio-political commentary on the state of the UK was GAZELLE TWIN.

Hungary’s BLACK NAIL CABARET offered some noirish ‘Pseudopop’ and promising Norwich youngsters LET’S EAT GRANDMA got more deeply into electronica without losing any of their angsty teenage exuberance on their second album ‘I’m All Ears’.

Less intense and more dreamy were GLASSHOUSE, the new duo fronted by former TECHNIQUE singer Xan Tyler.

Aussies CONFIDENCE MAN provided some wacky dancey glitz to the pop world and after nearly four decades in the business, Canadian trailblazers RATIONAL YOUTH finally played their first ever concert in London at ‘Non Stop Electronic Cabaret’ alongside dark wave compatriots PSYCHE and Numan-influenced Swedish poptronica exponents PAGE.

Sweden was again highly productive with KARIN PARK, JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM, TRAIN TO SPAIN and VAL SOLO while Norway took their own approach with FARAOSOFT AS SNOW and ELECTRO SPECTRE setting their standard. Veteran Deutschlanders THE TWINS and PETER HEPPNER returned with new albums after notable recorded absences while next door in Belgium, METROLAND presented themselves as ‘Men In A Frame’.

While the new HEAVEN 17 album ‘Not For Public Broadcast’ is still to be finished, Glenn Gregory teamed by with live keyboardist Berenice Scott as AFTERHERE. Their long-time friend Claudia Brücken performed as xPROPAGANDA with Susanne Freytag and partnered up with one-time TANGERINE DREAM member Jerome Froese, releasing the ‘Beginn’ album in the process.

It was a year of interesting collaborations all-round with UNDERWORLD working with Iggy Pop, U96 linking up with Wolfgang Flür for an excellent single called ‘Zukunftsmusik’ and German techno pioneer CHRIS LIEBING recruiting POLLY SCATTERGOOD and GARY NUMAN for his Mute released album ‘Burn Slow’.

Based in Berlin, THE KVB offered up some brooding gothic moods with ‘Only Now Forever’ while Valerie Renay of NOBLESSE OBLIGE released her first solo album ‘Your Own Shadow’.

Highly appealing were a number of quirky Japanese influenced female artists from around the globe including COMPUTER MAGIC, MECHA MAIKO and PLASMIC. But there were also a number of acts with Far Eastern heritage like STOLEN, FIFI RONG, DISQO VOLANTE and SHOOK who continued to make a worthy impression with their recorded output in 2018.

Heavy synth rock duo NIGHT CLUB presented their ‘Scary World’ on the back of tours opening for COMBICHRIST and A PERFECT CIRCLE while also from across the pond, NYXX and SINOSA both showcased their alluring potential.

At the poppier end of the spectrum, Holger Wobker used Pledge Music to relaunch BOYTRONIC with their most recent vocal incumbent James Knights in an unexpected twist to once again prove the old adage to “never say never” as far as the music industry is concerned.

Meanwhile, Chris Payne co-wrote and co-produced the excellent ‘Walking In West Berlin’ EP with KATJA VON KASSEL while also revealing plans for an autobiography and opening for his old boss…

The surprise album of the year was CHRIS CARTER with his ‘Chemistry Lessons Volume One’ while using a not dissimilar concept with their second album ‘Hello Science’, REED & CAROLINE took their folk laden synthpop out on a US tour opening for ERASURE.

IMMERSION provided a new collection of their modern Motorik as SHRIEKBACK, FISCHERSPOONER, THE PRESETS, HEARTBREAK and QUEEN OF HEARTS all made comebacks of varying degrees with audiences still eager for their work.

STEVEN JONES & LOGAN SKY harked back to the days when GARY NUMAN and OMD would release two albums in one year by offering ‘Hans Und Lieselotte’ and ‘The Electric Eye’ in 2016. Those veteran acts themselves celebrated their 40th anniversaries by going orchestral, something which SIMPLE MINDS also did when they opted to re-record ‘Alive & Kicking’ for the ’80s Symphonic’ collection although Jim Kerr forgot how a third of the song went!

With SIMPLE MINDS also performing a horrible and barely recognisable ‘Promised You A Miracle’ during BBC’s ‘The Biggest Weekend’, making up for the live joke that his former band have become was one-time bassist Derek Forbes with the album ‘Broken Hearted City’ as ZANTi with Anni Hogan of MARC & THE MAMBAS fame. Other former members of high-profile bands were busy too with Ian Burden, formally of THE HUMAN LEAGUE returning with the Floydian ‘Hey Hey Ho Hum’ while A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS reformed briefly for an orchestral re-run of their catalogue.

With the release of their second album ‘Kinetik’, EKKOES handed over THE HUMAN LEAGUE support baton to SHELTER who came up with their best body of work yet in the more introspective shades of ‘Soar’

That darker approach manifested itself on singer Mark Bebb’s side project FORM with Keith Trigwell of SPEAK & SPELL whose debut long player ‘defiance + entropy’ also came out in 2018.

Having been championed by RÖYSKSOPP, Wales’ MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY returned with ‘Infinity Mirror’ while riding on the well-deserved momentum from opening for OMD, Ireland’s TINY MAGNETIC PETS embarked on their first headlining tour. Representing North of the border were RYAN VAIL and HANNAH PEEL, but hailing from Scotland were WITCH OF THE VALE who proved to be one of the most interesting new acts of 2018 having supported ASSEMBLAGE 23 on their most recent UK visit.

There was a good showing from UK acts in 2018 with RODNEY CROMWELL, ANI GLASS, THE FRIXION, NEW ARCADES, OLLIE WRIDE and FAKE TEAK all issuing some excellent synth tinged songs for public consumption. However, the side was let down by the conveyor belt of lame profanity laden offerings from a number of British acts afflicted with deluded normality.

NINA’s long awaited debut album ‘Sleepwalking’ was a fine hybrid of synthpop and the currently fashionable Synthwave aesthetic; her live double billing with Canadian synthpopsters PARALLELS was one of the hottest tickets of the year. The sub-genre was indeed making waves and there were some very enjoyable artists coming out of it like GUNSHIP, DANA JEAN PHOENIX and MICHAEL OAKLEY.

However, the endless AOR excesses, moonlight sax breaks and highly unimaginative band monikers using numbers between 80 to 89 affixed to an archaic technology reference, illustrated by yet another neon sunset, VCR grid and Lamborghini, were becoming tiresome.

As Synthwave cynics, The Electricity Club’s touch paper was being lit big time! The whole point of the synthesizer’s role during the Second British Invasion of the US was to fight against the insipid overtures of AOR like TOTO, CHICAGO and JOURNEY, NOT to make music coated with its horrid stench as THE MIDNIGHT did in 2018 with their long player ‘Kids’.

But there was naivety within some quarters too; electronic music did not begin in 2011 with ‘Drive’, an above average film with a good if slightly over rated soundtrack. However, its cultural influence has led to a plethora of meandering tracks made by gamer boys which sounded like someone had forgotten to sing on them; perhaps they should have gone back to 1978 and listened to GIORGIO MORODER’s ‘Midnight Express Theme’ to find out how this type of instrumental music should be done?

Many of the newer artists influenced by Synth Britannia that The Electricity Club has featured have sometimes been accused of being stuck in the past, but a fair number of Synthwave acts were really taking the soggy biscuit with their retro-obsession.

Rock band MUSE’s use of glowing artwork by Kyle Lambert of ‘Stranger Things’ fame on their eighth album ‘Simulation Theory’ sent sections of the Synthwave community into meltdown. There were cries that they had “stolen the aesthetics and concept” and how “it’s not relevant to their sound”! But WHAM! had Peter Saville designed sleeves and never sounded like NEW ORDER or OMD, while electropop diva LA ROUX used a visual stylisation for ‘In For The Kill’ that has since been claimed by Synthwavers as their own, despite it being from 2009 when Ryan Gosling was peddling graveyard indie rock in DEAD MAN’S BONES 😉

This was one of the bigger ironies of 2018, especially as MUSE have always used synths! One of Matt Bellamy and co’s biggest musical inspirations is ULTRAVOX, indicating the trio probably have a better understanding of the fusion between the synthesizer, rock and classical music, as proven by the ‘Simulation Theory’ bookends ‘Algorithm’ and ‘The Void’, than any static laptop exponent with a Jan Hammer fixation.

It is interesting to note today how electronic music has split into so many factions, but there’s still the assumed generalisation that it is all one thing and that synthpop fans must also like Synthwave, Deep House, EDM, Industrial and those tedious beach chill-out remixes.

Back in the day and even now, some fans of THE HUMAN LEAGUE didn’t like OMD, DEPECHE MODE fans only liked DEPECHE MODE and rock fans had a token favourite electronic band. Out of all the synth based pop acts of the Synth Britannia era, The Electricity Club had very little time for THOMPSON TWINS despite their huge international success, but their leader Tom Bailey’s 2018 solo recorded return ‘Science Fiction’ was warmly received by many.

Just as COLDPLAY and SNOW PATROL fans don’t all embrace ELBOW, it is ok to have preferences and to say so. Not liking the music of an artist does not make you a bad person, but liking everything does not make you a better person either… in fact, it shows you probably have no discerning taste! In 2002, SOFT CELL warned of a ‘Monoculture’, and if there is no taste differentiation in art and music, it will spell the end of cultural enhancement.

Taste is always the key, but then not everyone who loves chocolate likes Hersheys… and with that analogy, The Electricity Club bids farewell to 2018 and looks forward to a 2019 that includes the return of TEARS FOR FEARS and the first full live shows from GIORGIO MORODER, plus new releases by VILE ELECTRODESKITE, VILLA NAH, I AM SNOW ANGEL and LADYTRON.


THE ELECTRICITY CLUB Contributor Listings of 2018

PAUL BODDY

Best Album: MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY Infinity Mirror
Best Song: MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY Lafayette
Best Gig: TANGERINE DREAM at London Union Chapel
Best Video: THE SOFT MOON Give Something
Most Promising New Act: VOX LOW


IAN FERGUSON

Best Album: BLANCMANGE Wanderlust
Best Song: ELECTRO SPECTRE The Way You Love
Best Gig: OMD at Glasgow Kelvingrove Park
Best Video: NYXX Voodoo
Most Promising New Act: WITCH OF THE VALE


SIMON HELM

Best Album: DUBSTAR One
Best Song: PAGE Start (Poptronica Version)
Best Gig: DIE KRUPPS + FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY at O2 Academy Islington
Best Video: FIFI RONG Horizon
Most Promising New Act: ZANTi


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: EMIKA Falling In Love With Sadness
Best Song: FIAT LUX It’s You
Best Gig: SOFT CELL at London O2 Arena
Best Video: FAKE TEAK Bears Always Party The Exact Right Amount
Most Promising New Act: WITCH OF THE VALE


MONIKA IZABELA TRIGWELL

Best Album: GUNSHIP Dark All Day
Best Song: SHELTER Karma
Best Gig: IAMX at London Electric Ballroom
Best Video: JUNO REACTOR Let’s Turn On
Most Promising New Act: MECHA MAIKO


Text by Chi Ming Lai
8th December 2018

EXIT NORTH Interview

EXIT NORTH are the brooding quartet who comprise of Thomas Feiner, Steve Jansen, Ulf Jansson and Charles Storm.

Lead vocalist Feiner first worked with Jansen on his solo albums ‘Slope’ in 2007 and ‘Tender Extinction’ in 2016, but EXIT NORTH began in 2014 when the pair enlisted the talents of Ulf Jansson and Charles Storm.

The combo are about to release their magnificent debut album ‘Book Of Romance and Dust’, a captivating collection of nine songs seeded in Gothenburg and swathed in a variety of wintery instrumental colours including piano, synthesizer, trumpet, harmonium and a string section conducted by Mikael Backegård.

‘Book of Romance and Dust’ is a quality recording that also sees Steve Jansen, who first found fame as a member of JAPAN, returning to drums and percussion following the more ambient nature of his last two releases ‘The Extinct Suite’ and ‘Corridor’. He kindly chatted to The Electricity Club about the genesis and realisation of EXIT NORTH.

How did EXIT NORTH come together as a project?

In 2014 I asked Thomas how he felt about working on a more long term collaborative project with the hope of putting out an album together. His response was positive and since he’d begun writing with Ulf on piano, it seemed like a good idea to pull resources and make it a ‘band’ project.

Later Thomas had the idea to ask Charles to join us. Charles, a popular producer in Sweden, had already worked with Ulf for various sessions and he and Thomas had known one another since their first meeting at a show I performed in Sweden many years earlier.

‘Book Of Romance and Dust’ has had a long gestation period…

Yes, although if you condense the amount of time we actually spent on the making of the record, it would probably be around 3 months work. We each had other commitments and it wasn’t easy to move things forward at a regular pace. But the periods of stagnation were ultimately productive since we were able to re-evaluate more and take one another’s ideas onboard. It sounds the way it does because it took 4 years to complete and I wouldn’t want to change that.

In terms of the compositional dynamic, how often were you able to work together in the same room and what elements could you leave to more remote processes?

I made numerous trips to Gothenburg so that we could record together but after the piano parts were recorded, much of the initial arrangements were dealt with remotely. It’s pretty common these days to exchange audio stems and work on overdubs in the comfort (and affordability) of your own workspace. But we wanted to include a lot of real instruments and performances and because Charles has his own studio in Gothenburg which is fully equipped for live recording, we were able to make the best of both worlds.

Despite being a band project, ‘Book Of Romance and Dust’ does have this amazing forlorn quality about it…

I think it’s simply a matter of each of us being on the same wavelength musically. As is often the case with makers of ‘serious’ music, we’re not forlorn characters by any stretch of the imagination but we are sensitive to, and appreciative of, those more weighty emotions we all carry within us and if we can represent some of that stuff in music without boring everyone to tears then it’s a worthwhile exercise. I don’t think it’s something you can achieve very well when you’re still in your youth, so it makes sense to play to your strengths the older you get.

Much of the music is very cinematic, was there any particular approaches or influences that pointed it in this direction?

Much of the material derived from Ulf’s piano parts and as you can hear he is always introducing melody lines with the chords, and Thomas’ vocals follow different melodies, so as a listener you’re registering more than just the one melody line. There has to be ample space in the music to allow for this and so we managed to strip away anything superfluous and allow the music to breathe. The use of strings help to embellish these melodies and I think perhaps this combination might suggest a cinematic quality.

Thomas Feiner’s vocals have that distinct aged resonance which suits this type of material?

I think Thomas’ voice has a tremendous amount of gravitas and resonance and his delivery is better than most native English singers. I feel very fortunate to be working with someone this good.

What was it like for you to be back involved in songs and playing percussion after your more recent ambient releases?

Great. I’ve missed the experience of being in a group and sharing responsibilities whereby each member focuses on those elements that best serve the recording. There’s a tremendous level of diplomacy in the group and we all played a variety of instruments, some of which we’ve not bothered to credit as it would just look daft. And writing lyrics for songs with beautiful melodies provides a wonderful sense of job satisfaction.

Opening song ‘Bested Bones’ is quite a haunting number with some lovely strings and mysterious tones of brass?

This particular song was one that Thomas and Ulf worked on prior to the four of us teaming up. I think it demonstrates well how the two of them dance around one another melodically. All the strings on the album were added towards the end of the recording sessions and were very much the icing on the cake.

The acoustic elements on the album have a wonderfully airy touch about them, how did you set about achieving this during recording?

The sound of the record is down to Charles and his skill at recording and mixing. He worked tirelessly at making the very best of each and every process of the recording, since this project was so important to him.

‘Passenger’s Wake’ has some unexpected dynamic bursts?

Yes, it’s the most dynamic track on the album. After adding some brass type bursts to the chorus, it set the path to becoming much more aggressive and bombastic. It’s one of those tracks that found its place without any of us seeing it coming.

‘Lessons In Doubt’ has a rich timeless European feel… it would seem that this album has no real influence from across the Atlantic, had that been a conscious decision?

‘Lessons In Doubt’ had a working title of ‘The Russian’ because of the piano melodies. We all like this flavour. For such a simple sounding track it took a lot of work, but the string arrangement and percussive detail really added to that Bolshevik twist. I think it’s fair to say this isn’t an American sounding record which wasn’t a conscious decision, but to be honest I can’t recall ever making an American influenced album.

To The Electricity Club’s ears, ‘Spider’ appears to combine Scott Walker with latter day TALK TALK and THE BLUE NILE?

That didn’t occur to me but it’s a fair enough observation and now that you mention it, I can see what you mean.

The emotive and shimmering two parter ‘Losing’ with Anna Bylund’s angelic soprano counterpoint from   to Thomas’ hum conveys exactly what the title suggests?

The lyrics refer to looking after that which is fragile. I wouldn’t want to describe specially where the inspiration comes from but if that image is relayed then I’m pleased about it.

Who do you hope EXIT NORTH will appeal to?

Ideally anyone who can draw deeper emotions from music but I know that not everyone needs that. I certainly don’t but that’s because I spend too much of my time working on it.


The Electricity Club gives its grateful thanks to Steve Jansen

‘Book Of Romance and Dust’ is released via Bandcamp as a CD and download on 1st October 2018, pre-order from https://exitnorth.bandcamp.com/releases

https://www.exitnorthmusic.com/

https://www.facebook.com/EXITNORTHMUSIC/

http://www.stevejansen.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Steve-Jansen-Official-803014983085400/

https://twitter.com/istevejansen


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Thron Ullberg
12th September 2018, updated 14th May 2019

A Short Conversation with STEVE JANSEN

Photo by Thron Ullberg

Steve Jansen has been very busy of late over the last 12 months with projects involving both music and photography.

In 2015, the one-time drummer of JAPAN published ‘Through A Quiet Window’, a book of his photos taken between 1978-1991 documenting his time with the band and touring with fellow sticksman Yukihiro Takahashi of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA. Featuring band mates David Sylvian, Mick Karn, Richard Barbieri and Rob Dean, ‘Through A Quiet Window’ is must for JAPAN fans, capturing the band at work in the studio and relaxing in a variety of situations.

Interest in the book has led to exhibitions of Jansen’s photos in Kyoto and Sydney, Nova Scotia with an ambient soundtrack recently prepared to accompany the installation at the latter location. That music will be released as a brand new album ‘Corridor’ with the floating 48 minute title composition appended by ‘Recovery Room’, an 8 minute instrumental fusing percussive electronica with classical elements.

Steve Jansen kindly chatted to The Electricity Club about the genesis of ‘Corridor’ and ‘Through A Quiet Window’ while also shedding light on the perception of JAPAN as a band at the height of their artistic success.

Your new album ’Corridor’ is aesthetically paired with your previous release ‘The Extinct Suite’, but is maybe more minimal, especially the start?

Visually the artwork is aesthetically paired with ‘The Extinct Suite’ and sonically there are similarities but not so many.

The music of ‘Corridor’ is less structured since many of the tracks on ‘The Extinct Suite’ were instrumental versions of songs from ‘Tender Extinction’ and therefore have more form. ‘Corridor’ leans more towards ambient / minimalist music overall.

Like ‘The Extinct Suite’, ’Corridor’ has been derived from some of your previous work, in this case ‘STER_01’ & ‘STER_02’ and connected with new music?

That’s correct. STER (‘Sounds That Emit Randomly’) was a project folder title of mine containing various sound files that I ended up compiling into two pieces (01 & 02). Some sounds originated from my own piano playing at my home and others were more randomly sourced. It was my intention to create a series of tracks along these lines, however with the photo exhibition project materialising, I thought these pieces might work with new material as an installation piece.

There’s a variety of ethnic acoustic textures that dominate the second third of the piece, how were those achieved?

These were recorded in Sweden on an instrument known as an Akkordzither that Charlie Storm had in his studio in Gothenburg. I played various takes and treated them in different ways to create the ethnic acoustic textures that you hear.

’Corridor’ was specifically constructed for your ‘Through A Quiet Window’ exhibition at The Cape Breton University Art Gallery in Nova Scotia. Like Brian Eno’s ‘Discreet Music’, it is designed for low volumes so recording wise, are you able to explain how is this different from music intended to be played loud in terms of production?

Due to most galleries being acoustically live environments with little or no sound insulation, there needs to be some consideration for the way in which bass frequencies will spin out of control and overly complex music will not perform well. These concerns need to be considered during the compositional stage as well as the mixing stage.

Also due to the live acoustics of the room, the music would not be good at high volume as the audio will bounce around the walls creating unwanted echo that will end up as a wash of sound with no distinct content or detail. It’s therefore best set at low level volume where the visitor might then experience subtle audio changes that enhance the experience of the room. Of course, it can still be listened to at any personally preferred volume.

The late Mick Karn makes a brief appearance about 30 minutes into ‘Corridor’?

Yes, it was a sample I had of Mick testing his bass sound during an improvised recording. The album consists of simple bass elements such as occasional rumbles and sustained drones and this relates to your previous question.

The ‘Through A Quiet Window’ photo book is a fabulous visual document of your time in JAPAN, and highlights your kinship with Mick in particular?

During that period Mick and I would often go on local excursions to take photographs for some purpose or other. It wasn’t unusual for us to stay up all night as work often went through the night, so it became a way of life even when not in the studio.

The photograph of Mick with the Sleeping Buddha for example was taken along Kensington High Street at dawn when very few people were about, apart from the occasional jogger heading into Holland Park. David and I would also take time out to go do some photographs together, sometimes at the request of Japanese magazines such as Rock Show, otherwise simply to have some new images on file.

More candid shots were taken during work and travel times and these are generally my favourite images.

The photos were mostly naturally lit, but also captured how photogenic the members of JAPAN were, even in more candid situations?

Being young does have its advantages and whoever said “the camera never lies” was lying. I think capturing natural light is the most important element in photography because it recalls the mood and ambience in the room and can actually enhance it somewhat too simply by the way that analog film reacts to light differently to our eye.

There’s a great one of Mick and David having corn flakes and burnt toast in Stanhope Gardens; what type of memories and feelings were there when you were sorting through your photos from this period?

The memories are generally happy ones.

The 70s was a peculiar decade with a lot of societal changes occurring and by the early 80s, we were in a more comfortable place where opportunities were opening up and by some change of fortune, we’d become seen as being somewhat at the forefront of whatever youth movement our band was associated with.

We pre-empted the ‘New Romantic’ scene which was a nightclub / fashion scene that emerged later, however the press were keen to throw JAPAN in that mix which we found irritating as ‘New Romantic’ sounded so lame. We were not culturally connecting with it at all, not musically nor aesthetically.

Ironically, our first hit ‘Quiet Life’ came at a time when we were in the process of finishing our final album ‘Tin Drum’, two albums after ‘Quiet Life’, so we were fairly out of sync with the music scene of the time, and this had always been the case since we first emerged around the time of punk, playing music that was anything but punk. So when I see images of the band, I can’t help but think we were an anomaly but that this actually suited who we were and went on to define who we were to become artistically.

The photos of Yukihiro Takahashi are much more relaxed and are mostly in colour?

I have both, I think in the book there are also both. When we had the chance, Yukihiro and I would spend time together socially, going fishing (he loves fishing, I was there more for the experience) staying in the countryside, visiting Onsen (hot springs), finding nice places to eat etc so I have quite a few relaxed images of him.

How did you go about selecting the final photos for the book and subsequently the exhibition?

Selecting images for the book was a process of elimination.

I knew which images I wanted to include and then I had to reduce it down to the amount that would comfortably fit within the confines of the book format.

When it came to the exhibition in Kyoto, because it was located on the men’s floor of the ISETAN store, I generally chose images that displayed how the band members styled themselves during those years, interspersed with various others to offer some variety. The images for the exhibitions in Canada were mostly selected by the curator for both galleries, Greg Davies.

You mentioned on your Sleepyard blog that Universal Music had acquired the catalogue of NINE HORSES, the trio comprising of yourself, David Sylvian and Burnt Friedman. What’s possibly happening in terms of reissues, is there any released material still in the can?

There isn’t any unreleased NINE HORSES material and to be honest, I’m not too sure what plans Universal have for it.

NINE HORSES was very much a band project, how did the working methods differ for you personally compared with for example, JAPAN and RAIN TREE CROW?

David and I worked as co-composers along with Burnt which meant that various tracks originated from different members, or from myself and David together.

This was never the case with the previous incarnations you’ve mentioned in your question.

On ‘Wonderful World’, you got to work with Swedish artist Stina Nordenstam?

Yes, Stina was an artist David really wanted to work with so he made the connection. The two of us flew from the US to Stockholm to record with her over two days and things went really well. After this visit, she and I made a connection that spanned over a few years, during which time she never failed to be an engaging and intense personality, both strong and opinionated yet vulnerable and fragile.

‘Serotonin’ is one of The Electricity Club’s favourites from ‘Snow Borne Sorrow’, how did that one come together in the studio?

‘Serotonin’ was Burnt’s music upon which we built. During all of the NINE HORSES recording Burnt was never present with David and I, his parts were done by exchanging files virtually.

Photo by Ulf Jansson

EXIT NORTH is an ongoing project of yours, how are things progressing there?

The EXIT NORTH album is complete except for one track which is proving somewhat troublesome. As soon as that’s done, we will send the mixes off for mastering. I very much enjoy working with Thomas, Charlie and Ulf. I totally respect them and what they’ve created with this work and I hope the feeling’s mutual.

We realise it’s been a long time in the making but we hope that this music, by way of its disassociation with contemporary genres, will stand the test of time as a collection of songs, therefore it’s important to us that we get it right. And because this is a self-funded project and we are four persons each with our own lives and projects to support, this one is subsequently taking a little longer than it would otherwise.


The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Steve Jansen

‘Corridor’ is available asa CD or download from https://stevejansen.bandcamp.com/album/corridor

The double vinyl LP edition twinned with ‘The Extinct Suite’ is released on 11th May 2020, pre-order direct from https://stevejansen.bandcamp.com/album/the-extinct-suite-corridor-lp-edition

The photo book ‘Through A Quiet Window’ is available from https://www.thefloodgallery.com/collections/steve-jansen

http://www.stevejansen.com/

https://sleepyard.wordpress.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Steve-Jansen-Official-803014983085400/

https://twitter.com/istevejansen


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Steve Jansen except where credited
23rd May 2018, updated 28th March 2020