Despite their success, NEW ORDER still got their hands dirty in helping to produce a number of acts for Factory Records and other associated labels such as Factory Benelux, Les Disques Du Crépuscule and Rob’s Records.
Be Music was the moniker of NEW ORDER’s publishing and eventually used to cover studio production work by all four members of the band. ‘NEW ORDER Presents Be Music’ gathers a selection of these varied recordings which involved either Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris, Gillian Gilbert or combinations thereof.
It includes electro club tracks released between 1982 and 1985, as well as more recent remixes and productions. This is a lavishly boxed 36 track 3CD affair that documents variations on the NEW ORDER theme before solo projects like ELECTRONIC, REVENGE, THE OTHER TWO and MONACO took over. There’s even the inclusion of the JOY DIVISION era ‘Knew Noise’ by SECTION 25, produced by Ian Curtis and Rob Gretton in 1979 which explores the doomy sub-PiL post-punk style of the period.
Beginning the package on Disc 1, QUANDO QUANGO’s percussive ‘Love Tempo’ sets the scene. Bernard Sumner said: “Producing was a really important sideline, it’s OK doing it because although all the groups are skint, you learn a lot and you’re helping somebody”. Mike Pickering’s pre-M PEOPLE electro-funk outfit certainly groove under Sumner’s guidance and the Anglo-Dutch interpretation of the form sounds accessible but unusual even today. The less immediate ‘Tingle’ is also included on the collection.
Another one of Bernard Sumner’s productions with A CERTAIN RATIO’s Donald Johnson featured the late MARCEL KING, a member of SWEET SENSATION who won ‘New Faces’ and had a No1 in 1974 with ‘Sad Sweet Dreamer’; ‘Reach For Love’ couldn’t have been more different. Layered with synths and bassline programming with an infectious machine rhythm, Shaun Ryder remarked that if the song had been released on a label other than Factory, it would have been a hit!
It’s B-side ‘Keep On Dancin’ is also present and comes over as a cooler electrified take on SHALAMAR, while the beefier New York remix of ‘Reach For Love’ by Mark Kamins and Michael H. Brauer is a nice bonus.
While 52ND STREET’s trailblazing ‘Cool As Ice’ was solely produced by Donald Johnson, Sumner contributed the synth basslines programmed using a Moog Source; it was a trademark feature on many of the NEW ORDER frontman’s productions. The hybrid of authentic Manchester soul and New York electro-influences was not surprisingly a cult success across the Atlantic. Indeed, also in the collection is the electro-funk workout of ‘Can’t Afford’, a Stephen Morris production that’s even more New York than Manchester.
Much starker, ‘Looking From A Hilltop’ from Blackpool’s very own post-punk doom merchants SECTION 25 was prompted by founder member Larry Cassidy’s assertion that “you can’t be a punk all your life”. In a move not dissimilar to Gillian Gilbert joining NEW ORDER, Cassidy recruited his wife Jenny and sister Angela to join his brother Vin in the band to realise this game changing manifesto. Produced by Sumner with remix input from Johnson, the collage of clattering drum machine accompanied by ominous synth lines and hypnotic sequenced modulations still sounds magnificent.
Meanwhile, ‘Reflection’ from the parent ‘From The Hip’ long player is a surprise but welcome inclusion to the set.
Almost chirpy when judged against SECTION 25’s earlier output, the tighter sequencing and drum machine programming from Sumner totally transformed the band.
Following along almost similar lines, ‘Fate/Hate’ by Hull combo NYAM NYAM was one of Peter Hook’s Be Music productions and its mighty Moroder-esque template proved that the bass Viking knew his way around the dancefloor despite his more rock inclined sympathies. ‘Fate/Hate’ certainly deserves to be as lauded as ‘Looking From A Hilltop’.
The inclusion of the now rare Bernard Sumner remix of THE BEAT CLUB’s ‘Security’ makes the purchase price alone of ‘NEW ORDER Presents Be Music’ worthwhile. This was the first ever release on Rob’s Records, the imprint of the late Rob Gretton, famed manager of NEW ORDER. Sumner’s additional remix and production saw an overhaul of the original version, with the addition of his own crucial vocal contribution giving it an unsurprisingly NEW ORDER-like feel along the lines of a more fully realised ‘State Of The Nation’.
More widely available, the full length version of ‘The Only Truth’ by PAUL HAIG is possibly the best NEW ORDER song that NEW ORDER never recorded. Although Haig demoed the song to an almost complete standard, there is no doubt that the extra bass, percussion and programming laid down by Johnson and Sumner are the necktie to go with Haig’s shirt and suit. The result is a brilliant cross between ‘Blue Monday’ and ‘Temptation’, and almost as long!
The Be Music journey moves to Berlin where renowned remixer Mark Reeder made his home in 1978, having become fascinated by the artistic diversity of the city.
Reeder often sent records to Bernard Sumner from the emerging electronic club scenes and this influenced his whole outlook on music. So a studio union between the pair was inevitable.
This came with Reeder’s band SHARK VEGAS and their 1986 Factory Records release ‘You Hurt Me’. Produced by Sumner and characterised by the type of disco sequence programming that made NEW ORDER famous, in a bizarre way it sounded like a relative of ‘Reach For Love’, the infectious groove offset by Alistair Gray’s dispassionate vocals.
Italian band SURPRIZE’s ‘Over Italia’ was originally part of the ‘In Movimento’ EP issued on Factory Benelux in 1984. Another Dojo / Be Music co-production, the Bologna combo’s ska and dub influences make this track an interesting curio, although there is no real hook within the repetition.
While Disc 1 has more of a bias on Bernard Sumner, Disc 2 on focusses on Stephen Morris. It has to be said, this second instalment of classic and new recordings is more mixed. THICK PIGEON (led by singer Stanton Miranda) and their ‘Babcock + Wilcox’ is a 1984 production by Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert that sort of passes by. However, ‘Bootsy (Swingfire Mix)’ with a remix from THE OTHER TWO is one of A CERTAIN RATIO’s better tracks.
But FACTORY FLOOR’s ‘(Real Love)’ produced by Morris is undoubtedly polarising. Some say it is genius, others a load of repetitive bleeping to an incessant four-to-the-floor beat! ‘Another Hilltop’ though is fabulous, a squiggly reworking by Morris with Bethany Cassidy taking her mother’s role in this update of the SECTION 25 classic; and it wins hands down over FACTORY FLOOR by virtue of being a song.
As the playlist progresses, there’s the treat of a frantic 2011 instrumental from THE OTHER TWO entitled ‘Inside’ which features the KRAFTWERK ‘Uranium’ sample used on ‘Blue Monday’, while ‘The Hunter’ by MARNIE is given a deep metronomic dance reinterpretation.
On FUJIYA & MIYAGI’s ‘Daggers’, as can be expected from the man who wanted to be a drum machine, Stephen Morris’ remix is rhythmically strong while THE OTHER TWO remix of ‘Oh Men’ by TIM BURGESS offers a Germanic flavour and some lovely cascading synth tones. There’s another 9 minutes of FACTORY FLOOR in ‘A Wooden Box’ before the second CD concludes with two takes on LIFE’s ‘Tell Me’, a female vocalled alternative pop number released as FAC106 in 1984.
Disc 3 collects together some assorted band contributions and a number of Peter Hook productions.
Previously known as just ‘Theme’, ‘Lavolta Lakota Theme’ was composed as gig intro music for LAVOLTA LAKOTA and comes over as a menacing drum machine driven cousin of ‘Murder’, layered with timpani samples to aid the apocalyptic drama.
Of STOCKHOLM MONSTERS, the brassy new wave of ‘All At Once’ produced by Hooky is enjoyable but very much of its time.
Led by a vocoder, ROYAL FAMILY & THE POOR’s ‘Motherland’ is pure art angst, while completing a quartet of Hooky helmed studio creations on Disc 3 is AD INFINITUM’s cover of ‘Telstar’. Not exactly the greatest reinterpretation in the world, FAC93 was originally rumoured to be NEW ORDER in disguise and while this curio certainly had a number of distinct elements like Hooky’s bass and an Oberheim DMX, the exercise was actually a project fronted by Lindsay Reade, the former Mrs Tony Wilson. But her intended new original lyrics for ‘Telstar’ were vetoed by The Joe Meek Estate, so a version with more abstract vocals was released instead.
Not a NEW ORDER production but featuring percussive assistance from Stephen Morris, ‘Theoretical China’ by TUXEDOMOON’s Winston Tong had an all-star cast including ex-PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED bassist Jah Wobble and MAGAZINE’s Dave Formula who also co-produced with ASSOCIATES’ Alan Rankine. Tong later recorded some more fully realised material for his excellent ‘Theoretically Chinese’ album, but this neo-title song is a good introduction to his electropop phase.
One nice surprise is RED TURNS TO ‘Deep Sleep’; produced by Stephen Morris, the song originally released as FAC 116 still sounds fresh and has dated better than a number of the offerings at the beginning of Disc 3.
With sequence programming by Sumner, ‘Sakura’ documents SECTION 25 entering the electronic world in 1982. Around this time, NEW ORDER went the full sequencer route having previously triggered synthetic pulses on ‘Everything’s Gone Green’ and ‘Temptation’.
The end result was the 20 minute ‘Video 5-8-6’, constructed using a home built a Powertran 1024 Sequencer to control a Powertran Transcendent 2000 synth while clocked off a Clef Master Rhythm.
An ominous sign of the future, it was the first NEW ORDER recording not to feature Peter Hook but ultimately lay the blueprint for ‘Blue Monday’ and more…
Whether you are a fan of NEW ORDER and the legend of Factory Records or would like to discover some lesser known but brilliant electronic pop jewels, this terrific collection is a must.
Accompanied by comprehensive, well-researched liner notes from the ever reliable James Nice that include a quote from The Electricity Club’s 2011 interview with Stephen Morris, there really is something for everyone in this vast set documenting an adventurous period in music.
James Nice is a music publisher and writer whose acclaimed 2010 book ‘Shadowplayers: The Rise and Fall of Factory Records’ provided a detailed and objective account of the legendary label. He also worked for the prestigious Belgian label Les Disques du Crépuscule in Brussels between 1987-91.
More recently, James has resurrected Les Disques du Crépuscule along with its sister Factory Benelux offshoot as platforms to reissue a vast catalogue of experimental and artistically driven music, in addition to releasing newer material from acts such as MARSHEAUX, MARNIE and DEUX FILLES. Back in the day, Les Disques du Crépuscule and Factory Benelux operated as separate entities, although the two labels shared the same premises and staff.
Among Crépuscule’s roster were Blaine L Reininger and Winston Tong from TUXEDOMOON, ASSOCIATES instrumentalist Alan Rankine and former JOSEF K leader Paul Haig. The first music release on Crépuscule came in 1980; ‘From Brussels With Love’ was a carefully curated cassette compilation which included music from John Foxx, Bill Nelson, Harold Budd and Thomas Dolby as well as spoken recordings by Brian Eno and Richard Jobson.
Meanwhile Factory Benelux notably released the 12 inch extended remix of NEW ORDER’s ‘Everything’s Gone Green’ in 1981 and spare recordings from Factory affiliated artists such as A CERTAIN RATIO, SECTION 25, THE WAKE and THE DURUTTI COLUMN.
The latter’s beautiful instrumental ‘For Belgian Friends’ was written in honour of the two labels’ founders Michel Duval and the late Annik Honoré. James Nice kindly chatted to The Electricity Club about his various endeavours, past and present.
You wrote the book ‘Shadowplayers’ on the history of Factory Records. There have been several books about the label, what do you think your account gave that hadn’t been provided before?
Well, reliable facts properly researched! I did ‘Shadowplayers’ as a DVD first, in 2006, but I didn’t do the book until after Tony Wilson passed away the following year.
One of the books which influenced the approach I took was an excellent Creation Records history by Dave Cavanagh, which Alan McGee slated as the accountant’s version of Creation when it first appeared (though he changed his mind later).
I feared Tony might say the same thing about a Factory history written by me. He was more into myths and legends than truth.
I also wanted to include all the bands and artists, not just JOY DIVISION, NEW ORDER, HAPPY MONDAYS and The Hacienda; THE STOCKHOM MONSTERS have a tale to tell too. The French edition won a prize, actually. They sent me a leather jacket – which was a bit too small.
How do you see the public’s continued fascination with Factory Records?
I just glance at it in passing these days, because ‘Shadowplayers’ came out in 2010 and I’ve long since moved on. The entire story of Factory was hugely dramatic, genuine tragic in places, and populated by larger than life characters. You can’t really say the same of, for example, 4AD or Domino. I’m not sure you’ll see it repeated either, because music no longer produces the kind of revenue stream that would allow radical mavericks like Tony Wilson and Rob Gretton to build another Hacienda, and Peter Saville is a complete one-off.
Factory was a classic example of do the right thing, and the money will follow. Unfortunately, they then blew all the money on big recording projects and ill-judged property investments. Let’s leave it at that.
Factory Benelux and Les Disques du Crépuscule have common roots, but were quite different entities in their original ethos?
Both labels started in 1980. Factory Benelux was intended as an outlet for spare Factory recordings, hence a lot of the early releases like ‘Shack Up’ by ACR, ‘The Plateau Phase’ by CRISPY AMBULANCE and ‘Key of Dreams’ by SECTION 25 were exclusive to FBN. As time went on it became more like a normal licensee.
Crépuscule was something else entirely – a cosmopolitan boutique label, with an international roster and aspirations to kick start some kind of art movement in Brussels. In truth Factory were a little suspicious of Crepuscule early on, although later some Crépuscule albums appeared on Factory in the UK eg Anna Domino and Wim Mertens.
You worked for Les Disques du Crépuscule back in the day and lived in Brussels for five years. What are your particular memories of that time?
Way too many to mention. A couple of days after I quit Crépuscule (an argument about a 23 SKIDOO contract, not that anyone will be interested), I took a train to Amsterdam to meet William S. Burroughs.
He was holding court in a hotel with his manager, James Grauerholz. I took along some books to sign, as well as the Burroughs album I’d released on LTM, ‘The Doctor Is On the Market’. I don’t think WSB had even seen a copy before, but he scribbled “Good Work” on it. There was another guy there who was a Lufthansa pilot by day and wrote experimental cut-up novels in his spare time. I remember thinking at the time, I’d like to be that guy.
What are the aims of Factory Benelux and Les Disques du Crépuscule under your direction now?
Heritage curation, and new recordings where appropriate. Michel Duval is quite interested again, and we collaborated on the ‘Ni D’Eve, Ni D’Adam’ compilation at the end of 2015.
I really enjoyed that process, as a matter of fact. The new tracks and artists he brought to the project really added to it, and the artwork by Clou was great too.
I do a lot of boring back office stuff as well as making records, chiefly rights administration. You have to have all your ducks in a row when, for instance, Kanye West decides to sample a SECTION 25 track from 1981.
As well as reissues, Factory Benelux and Les Disques du Crépuscule have released new albums by SECTION 25, MARNIE, DEUX FILLES and others. What attracted you to back these recordings?
In the case of new albums by heritage groups like SECTION 25, THE NAMES and CRISPY AMBULANCE, as long as fresh studio projects are financially viable, and the music is good, then of course we want to be involved. Any label can simply recycle back catalogue, but I like to think we’re a little more committed.
The MARNIE album came to Crépuscule because I’m a LADYTRON fan and it was a perfect fit for the label. It worked for her too as she’d successfully funded ‘Crystal World’ via Pledge Music, but was less sure about how to actually deliver the CD version.
It’s important to back new music, and I’m delighted to be releasing ‘Cold Science’ by LES PANTIES later in 2016. They’re a young band from Brussels – terrible name, but great music!
Les Disques du Crépuscule also released ‘Odyssey’ in 2014, a career spanning compilation of MARSHEAUX. What do you find appealing about their music and which are your favourite songs?
I liked MARSHEAUX anyway, even before we began Crépuscule again back in 2013. Like MARNIE, they seemed like a good fit with the label’s heritage, much of which was modern electronic pop music. The focus was on original songs though rather than covers.
The title is a riff on Homer’s ‘Odyssey’, and the idea of a chronological story, and of course the old ARP Odyssey analogue synth. I’m quite good at coming up with album titles, if I say so myself. ‘Retrofit’ by SECTION 25 is probably the best – it popped into my head while I was watching a documentary about the making of ‘Blade Runner’. Perfect for a remix / reboot album.
Yes, very clever of you. But what’s your favourite MARSHEAUX song?
Well, the ‘Ghost/Hammer’ mash-up is the one we keep putting on LDDC compilations.
You maintain a close relationship with Paul Haig. Is he one of the unsung heroes of post-punk in your opinion?
I wouldn’t say unsung because Paul’s always attracted a lot of press and remains well liked by music writers, but I suppose he’s ‘unsung’ in the sense that he never had a proper chart hit. Ironically, his most popular album – on reissue anyway – is ‘Rhythm of Life’, which was considered far too mainstream at the time.
Paul just did things his way and wasn’t prepared to jump through all the hoops required of a mainstream pop star. For a start he was – and remains – far too shy.
Since you mention post-punk in the question, I’ll take this opportunity to plug a forthcoming Paul project for later in 2016, which is a 1982-based double archive CD including his early pop material (‘Justice’, ‘Running Away’), the Sinatra-styled ‘Swing In 82’ EP, the experimental electronica cassette ‘Drama’, and loads of odd singles and sessions.
He’d just left JOSEF K but had not yet signed to Island, and I’m not sure anyone else was quite that diverse and experimental at the time. It’ll be called ‘Metamorphosis’ – another Kafka reference. Told you I was clever with titles. Paul’s quite nervous about it, I have to say!
You’ve also worked closely with Alan Rankine in his post-ASSOCIATES career?
Well, not so much me personally. Back in the 1980s, Alan was married to Belinda Pearse, who was a Crépuscule director at the time, and so for a while he pretty much became the in-house producer at the label, working with Paul Haig, Anna Domino, Winston Tong, Ludus and his own solo material.
My time at LDDC in Brussels did overlap with his, but I didn’t work on any of those projects. He did three solo albums under the auspices of Crépuscule, and some of the music is the equal of anything he did with Billy Mackenzie. Unfortunately Alan isn’t quite as good a singer, though he is a brilliant writer, arranger, producer, guitarist and keys player. The instrumentals he did for Crépuscule work best, I think. We’ve spoken a couple of times this year. Once was to return some master tapes to him, and I also suggested him as a producer / collaborator for MARNIE.
Another unsung hero of the era is Mark Reeder and the release of his remix collection ‘Collaborator’ on Factory Benelux was a fitting acknowledgement of that. What was the process like to select the tracklisting?
Hmm. We tried to avoid replicating too many tracks that were on the earlier ‘Five Point One’ collection, and having Bernard Sumner singing on quite a few of the tracks should have made it seem more like an artist album than just a compilation.
Not sure the concept really gelled though. Mark isn’t easy to label – a lot of people think he’s a DJ, which is the one thing he isn’t (but probably should be). ‘Collaborator’ is a great album and should have sold a lot more than it did. In fact Mark regularly reminds me of that!
As a label manager, how do you decide on the formats that releases will be issued in? When do you know one format will be more viable than another, eg some are CD only, others are vinyl only?
Vinyl tends to be reserved for prestige items, and / or where you can fashion an art object from it, like THE DURUTTI COLUMN album with the die-cut glasspaper sleeve, which I’ll talk about later.
The recent JOSEF K singles collection ‘It’s Kinda Funny’ was vinyl only because there have been several JOSEF K CD compilations already, and because a 12” matt board sleeve was a great way of exhibiting the original artwork by Jean-François Octave.
I still prefer CDs because the sound is better, you can fit more material on them, plus they are easier to keep in print over a long period of time. In an era of declining physical sales, the increasing fragmentation of formats isn’t too helpful, at least as far as labels are concerned.
Vinyl retains cultural clout though. Releasing albums used to be like publishing books, whereas once the market became saturated with releases, it’s kind of become degraded and often feels as if you’re just publishing magazine articles. But a vinyl album still has the heft of a book.
Factory Benelux and Les Disques du Crépuscule were both known for tasteful artwork and you have maintained this aesthetic. The vinyl reissue of ‘The Return Of The Durutti Column’ had an interesting genesis?
With the Benelux reissue in 2013, the original intention was to replicate Fact 14 from 1980, with coarse sandpaper front and back and a flexi-disc.
Back then Tony Wilson was able to source 12-inch square sheets from a local company called Naylors Abrasives in Bredbury, near Stockport. They still exist, but they don’t manufacture sandpaper any more, and when I got in touch in 2012 to explain the project, they clearly thought I was a lunatic.
I’m not sure that glasspaper is even manufactured anywhere in Western Europe now. In the end we had to go to a company in China, whose minimum order was 10,000 sheets. What was a cheap and (relatively) easy package for Factory in 1980 turned out to be pretty much impossible to copy three decades later. It’s probably easier to source glasspaper in lurid colours rather than plain old beige, and the biggest rolls were only 11 inches wide. You can still source flexi-discs from one plant in the States, but they end up costing more per unit than a 12-inch vinyl album. Fortunately, however, not being able to do a straight copy served to liberate the project somewhat, so that we began to think in terms of a new edition which referenced the original, but offered something different.
The flexi became a hard vinyl 7”, which sounds far better, and we were now able to add an inner sleeve with period images and explanatory text. The 11-inch glasspaper squares took about eight months to arrive from China, and while we were twiddling our thumbs the designer, Carl Glover, came up with the idea of seating the glasspaper sheet on the front in a recessed deboss. A bit like a frame, thereby underlining the ‘art’ credentials.
Somewhat to my surprise the pressing plant in Germany agreed to assemble the finished package from start to finish, which was fortunate since I couldn’t imagine NEW ORDER agreeing to help out. I didn’t much fancy the idea of doing it myself. Like the building trade people we had to go through en route to China, the pressing plant just couldn’t understand why we’d want to release a record in a glasspaper sleeve. Someone suggested a photo of some sandpaper might be better…
Then, when the sheets finally arrived, some of the cutting was pretty rough, and the pressing plant insisted on a 3mm tolerance between each side of the sheet and the deboss. That would just look as though we’d fluffed the measurements, besides which even with a deboss, the glasspaper sheets simply stuck on the cover just didn’t have that ‘wow’ factor.
I spent a few days arguing with the plant about tolerances, and agonising generally, then decided that a die-cut would be just as impressive, with the glasspaper underneath, as if you were seeking it through a window. This scheme also overcame the issues about imperfect size and cutting of the glasspaper.
The only obvious, practical shape for the die-cut was Peter Saville’s original ‘bar chart’ logo, which appeared on the labels of most Factory releases between 1979 and 1980, Fact 14 included. It just looks right, and is also suggestive of a graphic equalizer, which I suppose is a bit Hannett. The pressing plant had already printed 2000 copies of the original inner bag though, so we had to throw those away. All the problems and changes also mean that the release date was late. Very Factory, I suppose.
The finished package looked even better than anyone dared to imagine, and housed in the polythene bag it has a fantastic 3D quality, plus the glasspaper catches the light beautifully. I was particularly delighted that Vini Reilly liked it. All the various headaches and reverses improved the design no end, and the addition of the die-cut means that you now have this unique Reid/Saville hybrid. Truly a happy accident.
Your CD reissues on Factory Benelux and Les Disques du Crépuscule are known for their comprehensive sleeve notes which are written by you. What is your philosophy and style regarding this?
I tend to focus on facts, and direct quotation from the people involved.
Creative writing I leave to experts like Paul Morley, Simon Reynolds and Kevin Pierce. My notes tend to be honest rather than gushing or pseudo-academic, and that’s probably why I rarely get commissioned to write liner notes for other releases! I think the last time was an ELECTRONIC retrospective. Johnny Marr just wanted a hagiography in which everything and everyone was, like, amazing and brilliant, all the time. Buyers aren’t stupid and don’t really want that. Then again, I probably have been a bit too glass half empty at times.
What are your thoughts on modern music, particularly the synthpop and electronic variety, having worked with a number of the original pioneers?
I really like EDM, it’s probably my favourite genre for blasting out loud in the car, annoying my daughter etc; RIHANNA, MISS KITTIN, TODD TERJE, electroclash, Xenomania productions.
A lot of what Crépuscule released during the golden years – the 80s, basically – was either very poppy (Paul Haig, Anna Domino, Isabelle Antena, Kid Montana), or pretty abstract (Wim Mertens, Glenn Branca, Gavin Bryars). That’s probably why my taste in music remains similarly schizophrenic.
If you’re asking who my current / recent favourites are then its TEGAN & SARA, ROBYN, M83, some NINE INCH NAILS, and the last NEW ORDER album. That was a spectacular return to form. Hats off to them, and to Mute.
Which have been your favourite reissues or products on Les Disques du Crépuscule and Factory Benelux over the years?
I can answer that in a heartbeat. My all-time favourite LDDC album is ‘Night Air’ by Blaine L Reininger, which came out in 1984 and was his first proper solo album during the time he was absent from TUXEDOMOON.
It’s a magical album about exile in Brussels and was a key influence on my relocating to the city a couple of years later. Expertly recorded and engineered by Gareth Jones, I might add. I’d love him to tour the whole album – maybe there will be an opportunity after TUXEDOMOON are done touring ‘Half Mute’ during 2016.
My favourite FBN reissues would be the glasspaper Durutti, or the pochette 2xCD edition of ‘Always Now’ by SECTION 25. Both presented considerable challenges, and both came off.
Are there any upcoming releases on Factory Benelux or Les Disques du Crépuscule you can tell us about?
I’ve been talking to a group from Brussels called LES PANTIES for a couple of years. I love their music – poised, sophisticated cold wave, with a hint of shoegaze – they have a great aesthetic sense, and Sophie Frison is an excellent singer. We just couldn’t agree about the name though. It might work in a French speaking country, but elsewhere it sounds like a novelty band. Eventually I just gave in and collected all their singles on an album, ‘Cold Science’, which is coming out on Crépuscule in September. It’s a bit of a passion project for me, I suppose. But it’s also one in the eye for people who carp we do nothing but reissues.
The Electricity Club gives its grateful thanks to James Nice
Founded by the Cassidy brothers Larry and Vin, SECTION 25 became best known for their seminal electro classic ‘Looking From A Hilltop’ in 1984.
The track was notable for featuring Larry’s wife Jenny on lead vocals and came from the album ‘From the Hip’ co-produced by Bernard Sumner. Its Peter Saville designed artwork continued the colour coded alphabet theme that began on NEW ORDER’s ‘Power, Corruption & Lies
However, the Blackpool combo opened their long player account with the Martin Hannett produced ‘Always Now’, which was released on Factory Records in 1981. The album recently had a boost in profile when rapper Kanye West sampled the song ‘Hit’ from it for his track ‘FML’.
Sadly Larry and Jenny passed away in 2010 and 2004 respectively. But in a fitting gesture, Vin Cassidy recruited his niece Beth, daughter of the departed SECTION 25 couple to join the band full-time as lead singer alongside regular guitarist and programmer Steve Stringer. She had already featured on several SECTION 25 recordings previously.
The new phase of SECTION 25 era was launched in 2011 with the release of the ‘Invicta’ EP. With the addition of Beth’s cousin Jo on backing vocals and keyboards, SECTION 25 steadily transformed themselves into glossy electronic pop act with the album ‘Dark Light’ released on Factory Benelux being the end result.
Retaining its core DNA, the spirit of SECTION 25 lives on and the band remain a cult favourite on the live circuit. Beth Cassidy kindly took time out to chat to The Electricity Club about her personal and musical journey…
How did you end up in “The best old / new band in Britain”, as The Guardian put it?
Yes, best review ever, haha!
I first worked with SECTION 25 in the recording studio back in 2008; they wanted to introduce female vocals for the ‘Nature + Degree’ album, so as my lovely mum had passed away in 2004, I suppose they thought it was fitting for me to contribute… in hindsight, I think it was also an experiment to see if there was a natural place for me in the band. Over time I started playing live… it was quite a gradual process.
What’s it like to be heading the family business now?
I’ve never really seen myself as heading the band, as everything we do together is wholly collaborative.
Writing, recording, decision making, live work, promoting, money, we all do it together, historically that’s the way SECTION 25 has always run as a project. But I feel proud to be able to keep the family legacy alive.
How does being in a family band differ from being in other bands in your experience?
I’ve never been in any other band so I can only assume: There are no inflated egos, because there’s no-one to show off to, we’ve all grown up and older together, so there is no desire to prove anything. We have a lot of shared experiences from the past, and for me, I get to live through very similar experiences that my parents went through, it’s a strange parallel, but it keeps me close to them, which is very cool.
‘Colour, Movement, Sex & Violence’ in 2011 was a good start for the rebooted SECTION 25 and captured that classic Manchester indie dance club vibe…
Yeah, it’s a bright and catchy pop record that was a good entrance the next phase of SXXV… Christ knows what phase we’re up to… No 8 maybe?
The subsequent album ‘Dark Light’ was released on Factory Benelux in late 2012, which from a brand point of view, could be seen as continuing the tradition? The title reflects the contents…
Yes, I suppose if you had to put SECTION 25 in a box, it would either be a dark box with air holes in the lid, or a light box room with some darker dingy corners. It depends which way round you look at it. A lot of sh*t has happened, but I try to view things with a hopeful optimism, and that was my way of thinking whilst writing ‘Dark Light’. Lows and then highs.
‘My Outrage’ has a good blend of electronics and guitars, was that a conscious template to go for with the ‘Dark Light’ album?
It wasn’t a theme as such, but we wanted quite a big sound overall, and the combination of the two worked. It’s got to have a sense of balance though, so it had to feel like SECTION 25 in 2012, but with elements inspired by the past. For me, ‘Love Cuts’, achieves this the most.
What was the inspiration behind ‘My Outrage’?
‘My Outrage’ is about the small pleasures of the everyday and the effects of when they run parallel to / mirror the purely outrageous. Outrage is the Yin to Sunday morning’s Yang. It’s also a reference to my unbalanced, slightly manic personality…
‘Early Exit’ is quite poignant but also, a stompingly optimistic number?
It’s like when you cry with a smile on your face, it’s a powerful thing! I like to try and reach different levels of emotion when I’m writing, and with ‘Early Exit’, I think the words came first and then we built the track around them?
Being a multi-generational combo, there must be some amusing musical reference discussions in rehearsals. Are there any examples you can recall?
Not as much discussions, more like random, disjointed jamming episodes, where Vin will start to play the drums from a WIRE song, Steve will come in with some DAVID BOWIE Thin White Duke guitar chords, Jo will play a classic house synth sound melody and I’ll do some James Murphy style rhythmic talking, hahaha! It’s all good fun.
What are your own musical tastes and how do they fit into SECTION 25?
My true love is electronica, techno, minimal, bassy, dirty sounds. I moved to Berlin after I finished my degree partly because of the techno and club scene, I wanted to be totally enveloped in it! It was the best music I’ve ever heard…
I also love a lot of music from the 80s and early 90s, Kate Bush, INXS, COCTEAU TWINS, YELLO, TALKING HEADS, then all the Madchester music scene, classic house records from the 90s, SHADES OF RHYTHM, ALISON LIMERICK, ASHA, etc etc.
When I started my degree, all my housemates were listening to ANDY C and SQUAREPUSHER, and I was blasting out ‘Cream Classics’. I do love finding new music too though, GHOST POET, STEVE MASON, PIXX. I think I’m drawn to interesting electronic sounds, and I instantly want to work out how they’ve made the sound, and I also search for really thoughtful lyrics, and interesting lyrical arrangements.
In 2013, you collaborated with FOTONOVELA on the track ‘Clean Slate’, how was that?
I really enjoyed collaborating, it was a bit of a challenge to see if / how I faired going solo without the comfort of the band, and I loved it.
It sounds daft, but I proved to myself that I am a proper musician! I used to have a niggling doubt that I was just winging it, because I totally just fell into the band… but the collaboration got rid of the doubt.
Are you planning any further collaborations with anyone else, or have any ambitions as to who you would like collaborate with?
No plans yet, but open to offers!
What was it like to hear that Kanye West had sampled SECTION 25?
Surreal, hilarious, ace. We rehearsed earlier today for a festival in Norwich that we’re playing at in a couple of weeks, and we tried ‘Hit’. It sounds good, it sounds current! I’m really excited to play it.
The new live album ‘Alfresco’ is a timely release that nicely documents this phase of the band…
We’re in a really nice place with everything at the moment, and ‘Alfresco’ summarises the bands continual progression. Andrew Weatherall was in the audience at that gig, right at the front, nodding his head. He’s a bit of a hero of mine, so it was a monumental live session for me, and now we’ve eternalised it.
What is it like to perform a cult classic like ‘Looking From A Hilltop’ with all its history?
Very very good. It’s pretty transcendental to be honest, I definitely go to another place when we play it live. It’s so loaded with meaning, it makes me feel stronger. Now it does, anyway.
I used to get tears in my eyes and have to turn my back on the audience.
Which other songs do you particularly enjoy playing live? ‘Desert’ in my opinion is a real highlight…
Yeah that’s a dreamy one to play live. I also love to play ‘Dirty Disco’ as it’s got the groove, and lots of spirit. There’s a lot of connective energy between Jo and I when we play songs like ‘Memento’ and ‘Pitch Black Box’, so that’s fun. And ‘Wretch’… I reach inside and pull out my inner ‘Larry’…!
What’s next for SECTION 25? Any new material on the horizon?
Yes! We’re in the jamming stages of writing a new album, so we’ve got about 4 and a half skeletons of songs, and we’re planning to continue pick the writing back up in autumn… Watch this space.
The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Beth Cassidy
Additional thanks to James Nice at Factory Benelux
SECTION 25 play the ‘Down By The River’ Indie All Dayer at The Waterfront in Norwich on Sunday 29th May 2016
SECTION 25 first came to wider attention with the Martin Hannett produced album ‘Always Now’ on Factory Records in 1981. That album recently ‘Hit’ the news when rapper Kanye West sampled that very song for his track ‘FML’.
It was belated but welcome recognition for the combo that originated from Blackpool. Founded by the Cassidy brothers Larry and Vin, SECTION 25 later became best known for the cult electro favourite ‘Looking from a Hilltop’ in 1984. Co-produced by NEW ORDER’s Bernard Sumner, it featured Larry’s wife Jenny on lead vocals.
Sadly Jenny passed away in 2004 and Larry in 2010. In an appropriate and respectful move, Vin recruited his niece Beth, daughter of the departed SECTION 25 couple to front the band. She had already featured on several SECTION 25 tracks previously and possessed a vocal style that was eerily reminiscent of her mother.
At the time of Larry Cassidy’s passing, work was almost finished on ‘Retrofit’, a collection of classic SECTION 25 tracks reconfigured for the 21st Century with father and daughter sharing leading vocals. Its eventual release was a fitting tribute. The band continued touring and recording, with their most recent album ‘Dark Light’ released on Factory Benelux in 2013.
Now featuring guitarist Steve Stringer and Beth’s cousin Jo Cassidy on keyboards, percussion and backing vocals, The Islington was the venue for the London leg of SECTION 25’s short series of dates to promote their new live album ‘Alfresco’. Dubbed “The best old / new band in Britain” by The Guardian in 2013, it was an evening of songs from all periods of SECTION 25’s history.
Opening number ‘Beating Heart’ was one of the first songs back in the day to herald SECTION 25’s then new electronic direction, but unfortunately this aspect got lost in the live mix with the synthesized bottom end unable to be heard. Undeterred, the quartet soldiered on into the second song ‘Colour Movement Sex & Violence’, the danceable synth led ditty that was the first to emerge from the Beth fronted SECTION 25 in 2011. But again, the programmed elements were barely audible and on its conclusion, Beth politely asked the soundman for “some more backing track”.
Less reliant on sequencers, things improved with the serene atmospheres of ‘The Process’ and the more conventionally driven ‘Memento’. Meanwhile, the beautiful ’Desert’, originally part of 1984’s ‘From The Hip’ album but tonight played in its electronically driven ‘Retrofit’ guise, was the evening’s first stand-out. The sun-kissed ambience provided some relief for the end of a viciously cold April, while Beth provided an angelic vocal performance to suit.
Crossing supreme pop with a post-punk sensibility, ‘My Outrage’ was the possibly the highlight of ‘Dark Light’ but tonight, Beth introduced a slower, stripped down rendition.
It was a shame that the brilliant synth laden album version wasn’t aired, but it worked, thanks to the experience of the senior Cassidy and Stringer, while the down-to-earth charm and enthusiasm of the two Cassidy girls was a joy to witness.
Their fun-filled presence made itself even more apparent on the euphoric samba party of ‘Garageland’ and a feisty take on ‘Wretch’ where Jo particularly came into her element. With the sound fully fixed, the show was now truly gaining momentum.
And when the magnificent pulsing sonics of ‘Looking From A Hilltop’ emerged, spiced with frenetic guitar lines and syncopated percussion, it all fell into place. Beth’s embracement of her mother’s signature song was pure exuberance, aided by her spirited gyrations and a suitably wispy vocal. There was much dad dancing amongst the crowd and it brought smiles of approval from the Cassidy girls. Quite why this song still isn’t more widely known is one of life’s great mysteries. But perhaps that will now change?
To finish, there was the ‘Always Now’ favourite ‘Dirty Disco’, a vintage 1981 composition updated with a delicious machine groove.
Now, while SECTION 25 are obviously a different entity to the one that first made its name on Factory Records, its line of succession provides an authenticity that other rebooted acts, who feature only one original member, can’t claim.
Utilising live and computerised instrumentation coupled to a vibrant freshness from new blood, the spirit of SECTION 25 has evolved while literally retaining its core DNA. It has transformed itself into something almost as glossy and accessible as sister acts MARNIE and MARSHEAUX. Their defiant sense of optimism in the face of loss and sadness is an example to all.
Mark Reeder has carved out an impressive reputation for his catalogue of fine remixes.
When Mark Reeder spoke to The Electricity Club in 2011 about his remixing style, he said: “I’m old school. I like to still be able to hear the song, but give it my own signature and atmosphere, while at the same time use as many of the original elements as possible”.
He had moved to West-Berlin from Manchester in 1978, having become fascinated by the artistic diversity of the city and was Factory Records representative in Germany between 1978 to 1982. He is credited with introducing Bernard Sumner to the world of electronically propelled dance music, thus being instrumental in the development of NEW ORDER’s influential hybrid sound.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Reeder had great success with his electronic dance music record label Masterminded For Success (MFS). For the last few years, Reeder has been heavily involved in a documentary film about his adopted home city:
“’B-Movie (Lust & Sound in West-Berlin)’ is about the forgotten city of West-Berlin during the 80s. When the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, not only did communist East Germany cease to exist, but the walled-in island of West-Berlin did too. Most people have forgotten, or have no idea how the city was back then. In ‘B-Movie’, I guide the viewer through this decade, but as the film is also about my life in this city too, I show you some of the things I saw and experienced during the 1980s, while participating in what has now become, the legendary subkultur of West Berlin.”
In a break from his hectic worldwide schedule promoting ‘B-Movie (Lust & Sound in West-Berlin)’, Mark Reeder kindly gave The Electricity Club an insightful commentary into the tracks that shaped his own musical career.
DIE UNBEKANNTEN Radio War (1981)
Reeder formed DIE UNBEKANNTEN with Alistair Gray when he settled in West-Berlin.
We were actually given the name DIE UNBEKANNTEN by a journalist, who saw our feeble first gig at the SO36. That gig was supposed to have been just a one-off, but he was surprisingly impressed and thought we were very avant-garde and apparently enjoyed our miserable performance.
In his magazine review of the event, he just called us two unknown Englishmen and from then on, people just called us DIE UNBEKANNTEN (“The Unknown”). A few weeks later, we played at the Genial Dilletanten Festival and were inadvertently presented as ‘Necropolis’, which was actually the title of our intro track. A while later, after Elisabeth Recker of Monogam Records witnessed what was probably our most chaotic performance – we were on acid – she believed we would fit perfectly with the abstract style of the rest of the artists on her record label.
Our Swiss friend Thomas Wydler became our drummer and we recorded a three track EP featuring ‘Radio War’, ‘Poseidon’ and ‘Casualties’.
The record not only sounded nothing like any of Monogam’s previous releases, but it also caused a lot of controversy because of my design for its front cover image (a photo depicting three East German border guards) and the striking Germanic style of type face which I had chosen.
Our second, and final DIE UNBEKANNTEN record, was much more electronic. By this time, Thomas had left us and joined DIE HAUT and we had gone back to using a drum machine and had also acquired some more electronic instruments. Our friend, Adrian Wright from THE HUMAN LEAGUE gave us a brand new drum computer to test for him.
He had actually been asked to try out a very early prototype Roland TR606, but couldn’t be bothered and so he gave it to us to trial for him, so along with the Transcendent 2000 (the very same one which Bernard Sumner had played in JOY DIVISION with) and a Moog that Klaus Schulze had also given us, we immediately went into the studio and recorded ‘Don’t Tell Me Stories’ for our ‘Dangerous Moonlight’ EP. This became the first record to feature a Roland TR606.
One of the bands who grabbed Reeder’s attention in West-Berlin were the uncompromising all-female combo MALARIA!
I already knew Bettina Koester and Gudrun Gut from their first band MANIA-D. Musically, their approach was so different from anything I had ever heard before, as the conventional rules of male dominated rock and roll didn’t apply to the way these girls made music at all and that was what made them so exciting.
They were no virtuosos, but that didn’t matter one bit, because it was exactly that ingredient which made their music so interesting. After Beate Bartel left MANIA-D to form LIAISONS DANGEREUSES, Gudrun and Bettina formed MALARIA! a five piece all-girl band and quite an international one too, being a mixture of German, American and Dutch.
Their striking, on-stage image, all dressed in black with bright red lips, is considered a Goth image nowadays; but back in the 80s, MALARIA! did it first, and after their debut appearance in London with THE BIRTHDAY PARTY, this image was obviously hi-jacked from them for the Robert Palmer video ‘Addicted To Love’, even to the point of making the emphasis that the girls in his video also couldn’t play their instruments.
At some point very early on, I became their manager. At that time, I was the only man allowed into their sphere, and because I knew what the band wanted to sound like live, I also became their sound engineer too and naturally, as I also had my own band, DIE UNBEKANNTEN, we became their support band.
The girls trusted me, they knew I understood their ideology and I liked their music and most importantly, I didn’t interfere.
Reeder’s own musical journey has to an extent, mirrored that of Bernard Sumner’s. DIE UNBEKANNTEN morphed into SHARK VEGAS to become a more electronic and disco friendly proposition.
After performing for nearly four years as DIE UNBEKANNTEN, we were asked by NEW ORDER if we would like to accompany them on their European tour after the success of ‘Blue Monday’.
We decided this would be a good moment to change our name and musical style, especially after adding two new members to our band. Besides, after our first disastrous London performance in the Barracuda Club, I thought DIE UNBEKANNTEN was much too difficult to pronounce outside of Germany, as people thought we were called DIE UNBEKANNTEN as in “Death Unbekannten” and so we urgently needed a new name and image.
Me and my partner-in-crime, Alistair Gray just threw a few ideas together one night and SHARK VEGAS became our name. I wanted something obscure sounding that didn’t actually mean anything apart from it being our band name.
Al and I were huge fans of pulsating electronic dance music – most probably since ‘I Feel Love’ – and the small Berlin underground gay-disco scene, which ran parallel to the abstract avant-garde scene, was the place to go and always a great way to spend a late Friday and Saturday night, before finally crashing and burning in the Risiko club.
Besides, musically, DIE UNBEKANNTEN had already been moving away from being depressive and miserable and had become much more electronic high energy disco too, so this tour proposal presented itself as a welcome opportunity to literally, regroup.
During a short break in the NEW ORDER tour, we went into Conny Plank’s studio with Bernard Sumner and recorded our first single ‘You Hurt Me’, but the session was a bit of a disaster, as the studio engineer had a slipped disc and was in terrible pain. He had to lie on a camp bed in front of the mixing desk and shout instructions up to us, while Conny Plank spent all his time playing table tennis in the yard outside. That single became FAC111.
‘Love Habit’ was one of the tracks we initially recorded during the session for the FacUS ‘Young, Popular & Sexy’ compilation. We were asked to perform ‘Love Habit’ for a video, for a special Berlin edition of ‘Music Box’, Britain’s first cable TV music show and using my US Army AFN contacts, I managed to get permission to make our video on the divided Glienickebrücke (the so-called ‘Bridge of Spies’). In the video, we appear as beaten up and tortured spies in raincoats, as if we had just been let out of an East German prison.
Unfortunately, the US army forgot to inform the Soviet Army that we were making a video on the bridge and so, on the East side there was a right flap on. They sent out East German patrol boats to find out what we were doing on the bridge. I guess they thought we were trying to provoke World War III. ‘Love Habit’ was intended to be an album track, but it became one of the last songs we recorded as SHARK VEGAS and it was never released, at least not until we included it on the recent ‘B-Movie’ soundtrack.
Released on East German state label AMIGA, DIE VISION’s ‘Torture’ was the last album to be recorded in communist East Berlin in 1989 and featured Reeder as producer.
I was invited by the band to be the producer for their debut album. At first it seemed incredible that they had actually managed to get the AMIGA to agree, as no-one from the West had ever been allowed in their state-run recording studio, let alone produce an album there.
It transpired that because the band were allowed officially to sing in English(ese), they agreed to let them have an English-speaking producer too. In reality, I later discovered, the STASI wanted to know what kind of subversive activity I was involved in, especially after helping to arrange two illegal and meanwhile legendary secret gigs with West German punk band DIE TOTEN HOSEN in East Berlin. So I guess this was their brilliant plan to keep a close watch on me.
DIE VISION’s singer Uwe, was studying English at the Humbolt University – to be able to do that, you had to speak fluent Russian too – and he was so very insistent that I come over and produce their album. So I did. What an opportunity. Now, forming a band in communist East Germany was very, very difficult. It was nothing like forming a band in the West.
You couldn’t just go into a shop and buy a guitar, bass and drums and bash away. Everything was controlled by the Communist state, especially music. Before you could play to the public, your ability was first considered, then your song lyrics scrutinised to see if there were any subversive hidden anti-state messages and even getting electric instruments was difficult, you needed permits to first buy and then one to play, an electric guitar in public.
Then as a band, you performed before a group of people, who would assess your proficiency. This determined if, when, or where you might be able to play, eg youth clubs and how much you would get paid. DIE VISION had quite a sudden rise in popularity in the East and rather than ban them, the Authorities decided to sign them, that way everything would be under control. That is, until I came along…
As we were making this album, the GDR was literally falling apart. It was very difficult making this album with a feeling of imminent doom hanging over the studio and with constant power fluctuations, people fleeing to the West and general grumbling unrest. I called the album ‘Torture’ because it was exactly that to make!
Available on the DIE VISION album ‘Torture’ via AMIGA / Zong & Vulture Records
PAUL VAN DYK Words – Original Version radio edit by Paul van Dyk, Wolfgang Ragwitz + Mark Reeder (1996)
In 1990, Reeder established MFS and discovered Trance DJ PAUL VAN DYK…
One of my first artists on MFS, COSMIC BABY made some great records, but DJs kept complaining that they couldn’t play them because he always had DJ-unfriendly intros. I suggested he find a DJ who could help him to construct DJ friendly intros to his tracks.
One night, Cosmic was performing live in the Turbine club. One of the warm up DJs was a young lad called PAUL VAN DYK. The two hit it off almost immediately and I suggested that Paul come to the office the following Monday to discuss working with Cosmic. Paul told me he was from Hamburg, but it later turned out he was originally from Eisenhuettenstadt in deepest East Germany, but had moved to East Berlin before applying to leave East Germany for Hamburg shortly before the wall came down.
I was actually very happy to hear he was from East Germany, because that was my initial intention with MFS to create a platform for young Eastie kids; he was my first. One night, he came to me while I was working in my bar and begged me to help him to become a professional DJ.
He was working as an apprentice carpenter at that time and absolutely hated it. I told him, if he would promise me that he would work hard to be the best DJ in the world, then I would help him to achieve his goal. I told him there were no prizes for second best.
I put him in the studio with Cosmic and they recorded two amazing singles together as THE VISIONS OF SHIVA. Then I let him remix HUMATES’s track ‘Love Stimulation’ and that remix attracted a lot of attention. I knew from the start that he could do it simply because he was ambitious enough. He didn’t know it at that time of course, because his talent had to be coaxed out of him. By giving him a platform and motivation and the help of Johnny Klimek’s studio, he was able to discover his own music making talent.
Of course, I believed absolutely in Paul and invested everything, love, creativity, all my time and effort and all I had in propelling him onto an international stage. I guided and advised him, compiled and mastered his records, designed his covers and basically created the legend of PAUL VAN DYK. I used my contacts and credibility to get him high profile remixes, such as ‘Spooky’ by NEW ORDER and even answered his interviews, anything which would enhance his credibility, profile and status.
Sadly, once he had reached the brink of DJ superstardom, he decided he no longer needed me and ditched me without a word of thanks.
SAM TAYLOR-WOOD & PET SHOP BOYS I’m In Love With A German Filmstar – Stuck In The 80s remix (2008)
The ‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’ film director recorded a number of covers with her favourite pop duo like ‘J T’aime… Moi Non Plus’, ‘Love To Love You Baby’ and this new wave classic…
Neil and Chris asked me to do this remix after hearing the mix I had made of ‘Miracle Cure’ featuring Bernard Sumner for BLANK & JONES. It was quite thrilling being asked to do this song, as I’ve always loved the original.
The PET SHOP BOYS / SAM TAYLOR-WOOD version was more minimalistic and techno sounding though, so I thought I would make mine more retro-modern-disco sounding.
I thought, as its going to be released on Kompakt, they are probably going to have banging techno remixes done anyway. I know they were completely surprized at the label to hear it, because they really expected me to make some sort of cheesy trance mix. It is such an iconic and mystical song though, and I was worried I would be able to do it justice as a dance track. I made three different versions, a long mix and two shorter mixes and all in 5.1 surround sound, which I put on ‘Five Point One’.
I was very pleased when Sam said she thought it was “wicked” and totally relieved that the Boys also liked it too. But when THE PASSIONS contacted me themselves, to tell me that they really loved it, well, that was like a stone being lifted from my heart.
BLANK & JONES, MARK REEDER Manifesto – Save Yourself Mix (2009)
Reeder collaborated with popular German dance duo BLANK & JONES on a restyling project entitled ‘ReOrdered’ which featured Bernard Sumner, Robert Smith and Claudia Brücken. But one of the album’s highlights was ‘Manifesto’ featuring Vanessa Daou.
‘Manifesto’ was actually the third track of Vanessa’s that I reworked for ‘ReOrdered’. The first was ‘Consequences’.
I really liked her voice and her lyrics though and I asked BLANK & JONES if I could rework another track, that was ‘Heart Of Wax’. After that, the idea for ‘ReOrdered’ was born and I would go on to rework all BLANK & JONES’ vocal-dance tracks into songs, it was a bit like back engineering a remix. The first two tracks were quite soft, so I wanted ‘Manifesto’ to be a little tougher and sound more like a nu-beat track with trippy elements.
Available on the BLANK & JONES, MARK REEDER album ‘ReOrdered’ via Soundcolours
BAD LIEUTENANT Sink Or Swim – Rettungstring Radio remix (2010)
Prior to the recent return of NEW ORDER sans Hooky, Bernard Sumner had an interim, guitar led project BAD LIEUTENANT. However, many followers of NEW ORDER missed the sound Sumner had become synonymous for.
After Hooky decided to leave NEW ORDER, I think Bernard needed some distance and formed BAD LIEUTENANT, together with Jake Evans and the remaining members of NEW ORDER.
Jake is such a talented person and a brilliant guitarist – he’s definitely one to watch in the future. I really liked the parent album ‘Never Cry Another Tear’, it’s a wonderful summer album and I think it is very underrated.
I was given the opportunity to do some remixes for them and decided to rework their guitar tracks into electronic dance versions. ‘Sink Or Swim’ was the first and I think I made about six different versions of this track, Bernard took the piss out of me for the amount of mixes we made. The song had been performed live and so the tempo varied within the song from the start to finish, which made it a bloody nightmare to mix into a 4/4 dance track.
To make it sound organic, we had to take all the instruments and slice them up and then carefully put them back together again by hand. It was a mammoth task and at the time, I thought “I never want to have to do that again”.
After ‘Sink Or Swim’, we mixed ‘Twist Of Fate’, which I also made about four or so mixes. The same time consuming slice and move ritual applied as with ‘Sink Or Swim’. As the remixes were only released digitally, I decided to include some of them on my ‘Five Point One’ album, and later, ‘Collaborator’.
Available on the MARK REEDER remix album ‘Collaborator’ via Factory Benelux
JOHN FOXX Underpass – Sinister Subway remix (2010)
Reeder’s reworking of JOHN FOXX’s calling card was mighty and he relished the challenge.
JOHN FOXX was putting together the ‘Metatronic’ compilation album and I was in contact with his manager about something different entirely. During our conversation, he told me about the compilation and I said jokingly that I could do a remix perhaps, as a bonus track.
Well, after they had listened to a few of my remixes, he called and asked me if I would like to remix ‘Underpass’. My studio partner Micha Adam and I couldn’t believe it. It was a dream come true. No-one had ever been allowed to remix this legendary song before and so it was such an honour. Then the reality set in. If I balls this up, the fans will lynch me.
Being a huge fan of the song myself, I decided I could only do it as I would want it to sound myself. Yet I didn’t want to drive too far away from the original though either and wanted to keep as many elements in there as possible.
I was sent the parts, eight tracks in all… but that iconic massive synth riff was missing. All I had been given was the riff, played by a small tinny sounding synth. Well, that was it. I realised, the huge reverb sound was added live, during the mix-down and so we had to reconstruct it.
I recalled what kind of instrumentation and effects they might have used back then and dug out my old Space Echo. Once we had reconstructed the original version, we made a 5.1 mix of it (it is a hidden Easter Egg on ‘Five Point One’). Then, I remixed it. I made three versions, a short radio mix in stereo and 5.1 plus a longer Sinister Subway mix for the ‘Metatronic’ compilation album.
Available on the JOHN FOXX album ‘Metatronic’ via Metamatic Records
Cult goth icon ANNE CLARK is an English poet, who sets her poems to music and is probably more well-known outside of the UK.
Anne is truly a great artist. I first met her when she played in Berlin after recording ‘Sleeper In Metropolis’ with David Harrow, who lived in Berlin at that time. This timeless track is one of my all-time favourite 80s songs and it became almost like an anthem to the divided city, especially so to the kids in the East.
She was (and still is) absolutely adored in the East, mainly because her dark and descriptive poetry set to music, clearly struck a chord with them and it was something they all could identify with. Side two of her first album was recorded with Vini Reilly of THE DURUTTI COLUMN.She kept with the electronic side and made her second album with JOHN FOXX. Over the years, she has cultivated her poetry with a wide variety of musical sounds from Synthetic to Rock to Classical.
After a chance meeting a few years ago, when she performed in the Russian embassy in Berlin, I reworked the track ‘The Hardest Heart’ she had made for BLANK & JONES for our ‘ReOrdered’ album and then I remixed two of her tracks ‘Full Moon’ and ‘If’ in 5.1 surround sound for my ‘Five Point One’ album,
DEPECHE MODE Sweetest Perfection – Sweetest Conception remix (2011)
Reeder was given the opportunity to rework a track from the iconic ‘Violator’ album by Daniel Miller.
Like ‘Underpass’, this was almost reverential territory. Depeche were putting together the ‘Remixes 2 81-11’ compilation and Daniel asked me if I would like to do a remix for it. By the time I had received the list of possible tracks to remix, all the most popular songs had been taken and so I was left with songs no-one dared to touch.
‘Sweetest Perfection’ was always one of my favourite tracks though and I thought it would be a real challenge to remix. Not only in terms of actually attempting to remix it, but with the thought that as a fan, how would I want it to sound and if I f*cked up, I would probably have to leave the planet.
We already had a really short deadline to finish the remix on and only three days into the mix, I got a call from my mother telling me that my dad had been rushed to hospital with a broken hip after being pushed over. The situation looked very serious, he was a very old man and the doctors didn’t give him much chance of survival. I had to down tools and fly over and consequently, I missed the deadline for submitting my remix for the DM album.
Fortunately, I was in the process of putting ‘Five Point One’ together and decided to finish the remix anyway and asked Daniel if I could license it for my album. He spoke with the band and they said I could (I was told it was the first time a previously unreleased DM song had ever appeared on another album) and as we were looking for images to accompany the 5.1 mixes, Anton Corbijn kindly gave me one of his old, unseen photos of the band for me to use.
I wanted my remix to retain as many of the original elements as possible, but I added extra strings, more swirling synths and a real bass guitar, as well as my own little riff with a broken piano which I hoped would make it sound a bit more Eastern European.
Reeder took a liking to stop / start Midlands duo ELECTROBELLE and delivered an edgier reimagining of ‘Falling’ before they belatedly got round to releasing it themselves officially in 2012!
I heard ‘Mirrorball’ by ELECTROBELLE on the 2009 ‘Electronically Yours’ compilation released by Undo Records. I really liked Charlotte’s vocal style and so I asked them if they would like to contribute a track to my ‘Five Point One’ album.
They sent me the parts of a demo track they had made and this became ‘Falling’. The idea for the ‘Five Point One’ album was to include remixes I had made for famous artists, coupled with lesser known ones and mix them all in 5.1 Dolby surround sound.
While busy remixing legends in synthesized pop, Reeder also kept an eye on newer acts that were emerging from Europe…
I had been a fan of Undo records, FOTONOVELA and MARSHEAUX for a while and after The Electricity Club posted a link to one of their tracks, I asked Chi if he could hook us up, as I thought that ‘So Close’ would fit in well on my ‘Five Point One’ album and asked them if I could remix it.
‘So Close’ had a melancholic element, but I wanted to give the song a more filmic feeling and make it even more melancholic, with sweeping strings and added bass guitar. Filmmaker Paul Morgens heard the track and immediately loved it. He made a great video for it made up of old footage he had found in his aunties archive.
Available on the MARSHEAUX deluxe album ‘Inhale’ via Undo Records
Düsseldorf punk veterans DIE TOTEN HOSEN have maintained a long standing kinship with Mark Reeder.
I have a long, close connection with Die Hosen. I first met Campino in Bochum. MALARIA! were playing a gig there and he was allocated as my driver. He told me about his new band DIE TOTEN HOSEN and about their hideous, but hilarious high-waisted flared trousers, which they bought by the kilo.
A couple of months later, I became their live sound engineer, and together with my rebelliously minded Eastie friends, I managed to help organise a very secret gig with them in an East-Berlin Church. It was disguised as a religious church service, a so-called Blues Mass. Although heavily monitored, the East German clergy was seen as a passive resistance movement against the communist government and although not officially acknowledged, they were tolerated and thus had a certain amount of flexibility within the system. That way we could arrange our secret gig there using this loophole.
DIE UNBEKANNTEN went on tour with DIE TOTEN HOSEN and one of the highlights was performing in the Kogasz club, in the Karl-Marx-University in Budapest. It was supposed to have been a top secret gig in the Young Artists club to a few music lovers, organised by photographer Janos Veto, but so many people eventually wanted to see the gig, that it was moved to the University.
During this tour we had many problems with our car. DIE TOTEN HOSEN were so sceptical our car would even survive the trip, they bet us a crate of beer, that we wouldn’t make it to Budapest.
We did, but had such a horror trip trying to get there, as our car kept breaking down. Upon our arrival in the University, Janos told us we couldn’t play!
The authorities had decided the gig was illegal and it had officially been pulled, but we thought we have come all this way so f*ck them and we did the gig anyway. After we had performed, someone stole our drum computer. We were paid in beer vouchers (Hungarian Forints) and had so much of it, we invited everyone in the YAC for drinks, as we couldn’t take the cash out of the country… I don’t remember much about that night after that.
‘Disco’ was a track off the DIE TOTEN HOSEN album ‘In Alle Stille’ and I thought it would be fun to make an Italo disco sounding mix of this track. The original is a fast paced, rock song and when we received the parts, we discovered there were about 40 guitar tracks. We had to apply the same procedure as with BAD LIEUTENANT in slicing and moving all the elements so that they would fit into the new tempo and yet still sound organic.
KOISHII & HUSH featuring JOHN TAYLOR C’est Tout Est Noir – Black Night Remix (2013)
‘C’est Tout Est Noir’ was the DURAN DURAN bassist’s best lead vocal since his solo single ‘I Do What I Do’ in 1986.
KOISHII & HUSH had made a remix for BAD LIEUTENANT’s ‘Twist of Fate’ and after telling me how much they liked my version, they asked me if I would like to remix their track ‘C’est Tout Est Noir’ which they had made together with DURAN DURAN bassist John Taylor.
At first, I thought he would be playing bass guitar on the track, but then to my surprise he was the vocalist. He has a great voice and I really liked the track. The original is quite trancey, so I wanted to make it more cinematic and add some guitar and extra bass. John loved it and immediately used my rough demo as his soundtrack to a vlog he’d made flying from Austria to LA.
Available on the MARK REEDER remix album ‘Collaborator’ via Factory Benelux
A stomping electro disco number produced by Reeder, Elizabeth Morphew’s cooing Bush-like howls and breathy euphoria were a total delight to the ears while the mighty cavernous sound provided the heat!
I saw a piece posted on The Electricity Club about QUEEN OF HEARTS and I was curious. I really liked Elizabeth’s voice from the moment I heard the first couple of tracks.
Chi thought we might make a nice collaboration and so I got in touch with her to compliment her and she asked me to remix ‘Neon’ which eventually ended up on ‘Collaborator’. We then made a cover version together of Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’. I then wrote two songs ‘Suicide’ and ‘United’ for her debut album ‘Cocoon’.
Available on the QUEEN OF HEARTS deluxe album ‘Cocoon’ via Night Moves
WESTBAM featuring BERNARD SUMNER She Wants – Old School remix (2013)
Techno legend WESTBAM made his return with the impressive ‘Götterstrasse’ which featured Iggy Pop, Hugh Cornwell, Brian Molko and Lil Wayne. Naturally, Reeder reworked an excellent track featuring the vocals of Bernard Sumner.
My relationship with WESTBAM goes back to the early days when he was trying to establish himself as a DJ in Berlin. He played in the Metropol disco and towards the end of the 80s in the UFO club.
His involvement in the evolution of the Berlin Techno scene is reluctantly accepted, but arguably without his engagement, many things probably wouldn’t have happened. He was a vital participant in parties and events and was the first Berlin DJ to play in the Soviet Union.
While we were putting ideas for songs for ‘B-Movie’ together, he gave us a demo of ‘You Need The Drugs’ featuring Richard Butler of THE PSYCHEDLIC FURS. It was a great track and we all immediately loved it. He said he was making a songs album and would love to make a track with Bernard Sumner on vocals. He sent Bernard the demo and he really liked the track and agreed to do it. As thanks, I was given the opportunity to remix it which was perfect timing, as I was in the process of putting together my ‘Collaborator’ compilation for Factory Benelux and we could therefore give it a physical release on CD.
Available on the MARK REEDER remix album ‘Collaborator’ via Factory Benelux
MODERN FAMILY UNIT Mmh Mmh Aahh – Eyy & Aarrgghh remix (2015)
Reeder went back to Manchester to rework the local electro wave duo MFU and added some Berlin Burlesque groove.
Dave Haslam told me about MFU and that they would like a remix. They sent me ‘Mmh Mmh Aahh’ and I loved it. I don’t know why, but it reminded me somehow of early ROXY MUSIC. I wanted to make it a bit dancier, but retain its overall atmosphere and add a little bit of Berlin mystique with the zither.
Available on the single ‘Mmh Mmh Aahh’ via GaS Records
From the soundtrack to Reeder’s film ‘B-Movie’, it enabled him to soundtrack his memories of the divided city with a 21st century outlook. Modern technology helped the process…
During the ‘B-Movie’ editing process, we wanted to use the DAF track ‘Kebab Träume’ for the burning of the Berlin Wall birthday sequence, but after long and rather unproductive negotiations, they wouldn’t let us have it.
So I decided I would write a track myself, using only a couple of analogue sequencers and synths to accompany this great piece of footage by the incredible Knut Hoffmeister.
When NEW ORDER made their recorded return with ‘Music Complete’, Reeder was given the opportunity to rework some tracks and indirectly became part of their new live show.
I was asked if I would like to remix a track from the latest NEW ORDER album so I chose one of my favourite songs ‘Academic’, as it seemed like it was up for the challenge, being mainly a traditional style guitar track.
But while I was in Bucharest with ‘B-Movie’ and hanging out with CROWD CONTROL, I got an urgent call asking if I would be able to make a quick remix of ‘Singularity’. I raced back home and immediately started work on it.
It’s a great track and I really enjoyed remixing it. Which is fitting, Bernard was also so impressed with my ‘B-Movie’, that he asked me if NEW ORDER could use some footage for their backdrop video in their live shows.
This was so well received, that it then became the promo video clip for the ‘Singularity’ single. The even faster-cut images and theme of the song work really well together with the music.
When NEW ORDER performed recently in Berlin, I was very pleased to have the honour of introducing the band.