Tag: Frankie Goes To Hollywood (Page 2 of 3)

Missing In Action: WHITE DOOR

Hailing from Stoke-on-Trent, WHITE DOOR formed from the ashes of prog rock combo GRACE.

Led by the sensitive vocal presence of Mac Austin, he was ably backed by the Davies brothers Harry and John on synths.

Coinciding with the sinewave of Synth Britannia, the trio began to gain artistic momentum and signed to Clay Records, the independent that had put out GRACE’s swansong live album.

WHITE DOOR released one critically acclaimed album ‘Windows’ in 1983, produced by Andy Richards who was later to find fame and fortune working with the likes of FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD, GEORGE MICHAEL, PROPAGANDA, GRACE JONES and OMD.

Despite press support and national radio airplay, being signed to an indie label with limited financial resources meant that any initial promotional momentum was unable to be sustained.

The record also proved to be difficult to find in the shops. In a competitive market, WHITE DOOR thus suffered the same fate as other new acts of the period such as THE MOOD, FIAT LUX, B-MOVIE and FATAL CHARM, reaching only a limited audience despite the quality of their music.

Although sounding of its time, with songs such as ‘Love Breakdown’, ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘School Days’, ‘Windows’ still stands up as a long player, so much so that in 2015, Swedish synthesist Johan Baeckström covered the latter two tracks as B-sides to his solo single releases.

Baeckström went one step further when he and DAILY PLANET bandmate Jarmo Olilia invited Mac Austin to provide lead vocals on ‘Heaven Opened’, a tune from their new album ‘Play Rewind Repeat’.

With renewed interest in WHITE DOOR, Mac Austin kindly chatted to The Electricity Club about the band’s brief flirtation with the pop charts and more.

GRACE were a prog rock band before things mutated into WHITE DOOR becoming a synth based ‘New Romantic’ act? What led to you heading in this direction?

Myself and Harry studied Graphics at Art College together where we formed a band called JIM CROW and spent most of our time learning to play our instruments and how to write songs until we finally finished college and all went our own ways.

We then went on to form a second band called GRACE with some of our musical friends. GRACE was a massive leap up from our first band and was after a few years of playing the circuits signed by MCA Records and released a debut album ‘Grace’. The band was put in the prog rock or folk rock categories, I think because our songs were long and like GENESIS while like JETHRO TULL we had a flute player.

GRACE played live constantly, did some TV with TOYAH and released a live album which was very well received but the band was caught in the massive punk movement which was sweeping the country at the time. The record companies signed bands with little ability but loads of attitude and ditched the old school bands like GRACE etc who were out of fashion and a lot more expensive to produce and record.

We were all frustrated with the lack of support and PR from MCA and they said only punk was selling now so GRACE folded.

We had been listening to some of the new electronic bands which were coming through from the introduction of new synths and drum machines been invented by Roland etc. John, Harry’s brother had a synth and so we got together and started to write songs with this new sound.

Were there any acts that were specifically influencing WHITE DOOR?

I particularly liked OMD, TALK TALK, JAPAN, TEARS FOR FEARS, PROPAGANDA, JOHN FOXX and CHINA CRISIS. These were the influences on WHITE DOOR plus we still loved the big melodic sounds coming from GENESIS, YES, ELP, JETHRO TULL etc.

I have always loved the songs and melodies of 10CC, THE MOODY BLUES and THE BEATLES. Like
these bands, I feel WHITE DOOR produced songs with good melodies which could be reproduced on an acoustic guitar and still be a good song.

Of course, when you listen to say OMD, JAPAN, ULTRAVOX, THOMAS DOLBY or TEARS FOR FEARS, there is a link to prog aesthetics don’t you think?

Absolutely, there is the dressing up, dramatic chorus, keyboard heavy sound and showmanship that was a big part of prog. It was a progression from prog rock and glam rock. Holly Johnson from FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD said the best live concert he ever saw was GENESIS’ ‘The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway’, I think there was a big influence on the New Romantics from the progressive bands, though some may say there wasn’t.

Bands from the New Romantic movement became closely associated with the use of synthesizers to create rock and pop music. This synthpop was prefigured in the 1960s and 1970s by the use of synthesizers in progressive rock, electronic art rock, Roxy, Bowie etc.

Did of you ever get into Ian Anderson of JETHRO TULL’s synth heavy ‘Walk Into Light’ album?

JETHRO TULL was a massive influence on us all from the GRACE days, we all saw the live ‘Aqualung’ tour and were amazed. Harry was a particular fan with playing the flute so his writing, playing etc always leaned to a ‘Tull‘ feel.

‘Walk Into Light’ was as you say a very heavy synth sounding album and strong instrumentally, though I don’t think it was his best lyrically, I think he had been influenced by the new synth bands around at the time. Still a very album good though.

You had the benefit of Andy Richards producing and Julian Mendelsohn engineering ‘Windows’ which does explain the high quality of the production. How did this come about because both became quite ubiquitous not long after they worked with WHITE DOOR?

Memories differ on how Andy became to be involved in the project. He was a friend of the band having been playing in bands at the same venues as GRACE and living close to us in Stoke.

He had played in SAD CAFÉ, a fairly successful Manchester band and THE STRAWBS taking the keyboards where earlier Rick Wakeman and Blue Weaver had sat, quite a responsibility.

We would turn up at Andy’s house with very basic demos and spend long days with him on his mini grand piano working out the arrangements and programming. Once the melodies were in place, Andy would add his magic to it. We also did the same with the ‘Flame in Your Heart’ single which was recorded twelve months after the album.

‘Windows’ the album was recorded in Manchester, then Andy insisted we use Sarm studios for mixing and post-production where Julian Mendelsohn, an Australian record producer, audio engineer and mixer who worked with Elton John, Jimmy Page, Bob Marley, INXS, LEVEL 42, Nik Kershaw and Paul McCartney took the album to another level. A good decision for WHITE DOOR and Andy, who after impressing everyone at Sarm with his skills became a regular there, assisting them on FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD and many more great artists.

Andy, I believe, has been involved with film scores of the last 10 years including a few Tim Burton ones. Julian was the house producer at the great Sarm West so for the next few years after they produced music for big artists from different styles, never really having a genre of their own.

The pace that technology was moving at during this time was staggering, so what sort of synths and instruments were WHITE DOOR using?

The synth on the WHITE DOOR album was the Jupiter 8… the drum machine was an Oberheim DMX. I don’t know the sequencer, I just know it was analogue.

I recall a Fender Rhodes piano on one track. There was Simmons drums and various bits of acoustic percussion like tablas and shakers. Fretless bass of course, alto and tenor sax… flute. I don’t know if there was anything else used at Sarm, but I am sure stuff was added there which I have forgotten. It was state of the art technology then, so we thought it was amazing, but it’s a lot better now I think.

The ‘Windows’ single got BBC Radio1 airplay but wasn’t a Top40 hit. How do you look back on how that all played out?

All the singles got some BBC airplay, but ‘Windows’ the single was picked as the Simon Bates show’s ‘Record Of The Week. It was the top BBC Radio 1 show, so it got played every morning at 10am, getting it to 60-something in the UK charts. It was amazing exposure from which we got interviews, magazine write-ups, and fan mail and with a couple more weeks of plugging would we believe have easily made the Top 40.

Unfortunately Clay Records had run out of money so could not carry on plugging the single so the airplays stopped. We were told we needed a major label and a couple were very interested and we were about to sign to one major label when it was revealed that Clay had signed us to an American label, Passport Records, for a couple of years, so the deal was off because major labels always want worldwide rights.

The beautiful synthpop of ‘Jerusalem’ is almost choir boy like, what inspired that?

‘Jerusalem’ was written after I saw a small film of young Jewish children praying for the return of their sister who was being held in Palestine.

Is the subject matter of ‘School Days’ veiled in metaphor?

‘School Days’ was inspired by a classic British book ‘ Goodbye Mr Chips’ by James Hilton, the story of a tutor in private boys school during the years of the First World War. Boys in their black gowns and ties seeing their older friends leaving to go to war and most never returning was a very emotional but true story.

‘Where Do We Go (From Here)’ was quite a frantic and inventive take on synthpop, might that have made a good single?

Yes Chi, I agree ‘Where Do We Go’ is a very catchy instant tune and it would have made a good single. I think it would have been the next single after ‘Windows’ if we had carried on.

‘Windows’ only had eight tracks on it, but WHITE DOOR recorded a host of non-album singles and B-sides that seem to explore a variety of styles. ‘New Jealousies’ sounds like SPARKS and ‘Kings Of The Orient’ recalls a more synthy ROXY MUSIC. Did it take a while to settle on a sound or was it your intention to be as diverse as possible?

I don’t think it was our intention to be that diverse, it was a bit of finding our sound from all the influences that we were listening too.

You did one more single ‘Flame Of My Heart’ with Andy Richards which sounded like BLANCMANGE running into FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD. It’s quite mighty but just as WHITE DOOR were finding their stride, you disbanded. Do you have any regrets?

Yes, a few regrets but Clay Records closed and we were without a record company with no-one wanting to sign a band who were tied to a contract in America, so could not offer world rights. We thought let’s start again and GRACE was reformed, producing 4 albums in the ‘90s.

How do you look back on WHITE DOOR now? Is there anything you would have done differently in hindsight?

Our one regret is if we had received better advice before we signed that American contract, that major deal would have been signed and who knows?…

‘Windows’ has attained cult status over the years and got a CD reissue on Cherry Red in 2009. But when did you first get the impression that the album might have reached a bigger audience than you first thought?

The feedback on the album was mostly very, very good so we knew it was a good product, we lacked the investment to promote it the way it needed so we hoped that word of mouth and reviews would get it out there. Maybe if we could have toured the album, it may have gone more mainstream, but unfortunately we did not have the backing for that.

I remember being told by some record producer that Andy Warhol’s famous New York club Studio 54 were heavily playing ‘Love Breakdown’ which gave me hope that it may become a cult album and grow to a bigger audience. In the last 10 years, we have had more feedback on the album and WHITE DOOR than ever, obviously the Cherry Red release helped.

So what did you think when this Swedish guy Johan Baeckström starting covering your songs?

We’ve had quite a few people doing remixes and alternate versions of the songs but when Johan messaged me about covering our song and played the track, it was “wow this is more like White Door than White Door”. Johan had got this off so well, it brought tears to my eyes… then when I heard Johan and Jarmo’s own material as DAILY PLANET, I realised these guys were real talented people and into the kind of melodies and music we were into with WHITE DOOR. I was so pleased, it re ignited the flame (in my heart).

You sang ‘Heaven Opened’ on the new DAILY PLANET album ‘Play Rewind Repeat’, how was it to work with Johan and Jarmo?

It was a real honour to be part of this album with these lovely guys and ‘Heaven Opened’ is such a great song, I can’t thank them enough. This is such a great album and everyone I play it to loves it, I have a couple of WHITE DOOR fans who swore it was WHITE DOOR.

Has there been any renewed interest in WHITE DOOR since ‘Heaven Opened’ appeared on the DAILY PLANET album? Would you ever consider doing anything under that name again?

There are people now asking about WHITE DOOR reforming, we are working on new material and with the help of Johan and Jarmo, there will be a White Door product next year.

What else have you been up to musically?

We are still playing occasional gigs with GRACE, who still have a good following, while also I am also doing some semi-acoustic sessions with Harry, John and Dave Edge (GRACE guitarist) which we really enjoy.

The new WHITE DOOR material is sounding great so hopefully that will open up some live shows next year.

I’m looking forward to going over to see Johan and Jarmo when we finally finish this project.

And what sort of music are you into now?

I’m into all music really but I do love melody and good lyrics, from folk to heavy rock… if it has a good tune and lyric, I will listen to it. Peter Gabriel, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, David Bowie, OMD, Paul Simon… these are some of the people that inspired me to be in music.


The Electricity gives its grateful thanks to Mac Austin

Special thanks also to Johan Baeckström

‘Windows’ is still available as a CD from Cherry Red Records at https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/windows/

https://www.facebook.com/whitedoorband/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
5th July 2017

IS THAT THE 12” REMIX?

An Interview with ROB GRILLO

First published in 2011, ‘Is That The 12” Mix?’ was author and music aficionado ROB GRILLO’s personal but well-informed history of the 12” single.

IS THAT THE 12 INCH REMIX book coverIn keeping with its story tracing the emergence of the extended remix as an artform in its own right, Grillo has now remade and remodelled his book in a new 2016 version.

Retitled ‘Is That The 12″ Remix?’, the new edition features contributions from the likes of Neil Tennant and Rusty Egan as well as more photos and an extra 20,000 words.

Among those words, The Electricity Club are interviewed in a chapter entitled ‘Providing a Service – The Fan(atic)s part one’ which discusses the rise of the independent music blog. Meanwhile, TEC’s 25 Favourite Classic 12 inch Versions listing also makes an appearance in the ‘Chartfile’ appendix.

ROB GRILLO chatted to The Electricity Club about why more can mean more…

What was the motivation behind a second edition of ‘Is That The 12” Mix?’?

Since the first edition came out, I’ve build up many more contacts and relationships in the music industry, so I was able to use some of them, and additional information to build a new edition. Plus there were one or two bits that needed updating or correcting.

I’d just helped Demon Music with a few Hi-NRG related album reissues, one of those being from MIQUEL BROWN. It bugged me that I hadn’t used an image of her in the first edition, so it inspired me to get some more permissions and start that new edition. I always felt that the first edition could have been promoted a little better, part of that being my own fault. It seemed right to change the title of the book from ‘12” MIX’ to ’12’’ REMIX’, reflecting the whole concept of what the book is about.

So the original book has enabled you to get involved in the ‘Disco Discharge’ reissues?

Miquel Brown 'Manpower-Close To Perfection'Yes. Sort of. When I discovered that the team were planning to put out Ian Levine related issues on the ‘Disco Recharge’ side project, my suggestions were probably taken more seriously because I’d done the book and written about Levine himself.

Then I got involved in sourcing of and identification of certain mixes, not easy when the US mix has tiny differences from the UK mix and that very few people have actually realised. It did help that I have an almost complete set of Record Shack 12” vinyl, that’s the label with which Levine enjoyed his 80s resurgence before starting his own labels.

Any good remix has edits and sections left out. Have you done anything to the book on that front?

Yes, every chapter has had a remix, so to speak. Many have been expanded, although I felt that odd bits needed shortening or leaving out entirely. Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards reworked their own production of SISTER SLEDGE ‘Lost in Music’ to great effect in 1984, it’s been a bit like that with the book, remixing and reworking it myself rather than calling up Ben Liebrand or Shep Pettibone to do the honours 🙂

What did you specifically want to include now, that you couldn’t do back in 2009?

Updated and corrected information in particular, and, as mentioned above a few more rights to use images – particularly from Ian Levine. Luckily Simon White, who I helped out with the ‘Disco Recharge’ releases was able to assist in that matter.

I wanted to do on a feature on The Electricity Club in particular as your site started just as the first edition came out, and one of the other featured sites changed its name completely, so that needed updating too.

12inch_bookSince the first edition was published, there’s been a resurgence in vinyl. Is it something you’re still into today?

Yes, absolutely. There’s not much I regret in life, but one thing I really can’t get my head around is why I got rid of loads of vinyl about 20 years ago. I’ll never fathom out why I did that.

A couple of months ago, I had a rummage around an absolutely cracking second hand vinyl record shop in nearby Huddersfield and arrived back home with no less than 23 12” inch singles from the 1980s.

I went back last month and bought 29 more. I had no idea the shop existed this time last year.

There’s still a load of old vinyl I need for my collection, much of which I prefer to stumble across in stores or car boots rather than hunt down more easily online on sites such as Discogs. I haven’t bought much new vinyl, although I should do really.

What you do feel about the phenomenon of youngsters buying vinyl, but not actually playing it and listening to the download instead?

I guess it’s a bit of a novelty among the younger generation. It’s nice that they have the physical product, because you tend to cherish it a bit more compared with a download that you can’t see, or hold, or smell, and can delete when you’ve got bored of it. It’s all about immediate gratification these days, so when you’re bored of a download you just delete. They won’t throw away their records the same way.

Hopefully they will appreciate the artwork and the physical product the way our own generation does, but I don’t really think we’re going to see another generation of ‘record collectors’.

RobGrillo3An interesting paradox of the popularity of the multiple twelve inch remix phenomenon pioneered by labels like ZTT, is that deluxe CD reissues are now often packed to the brim…

Is that a paradox? It’s great that lots of mixes that have been hard to find have been put together to complement a remastered album or compilation.

It’s a bugger when the labels don’t get it right though as there are so many instances of wrong mixes and poor remastering on many CD reissues. Take ALTERED IMAGES ‘Don’t Talk To Me About Love’ – the 12” mix has never appeared on CD, only some slightly butchered version that was used on an ALTERED IMAGES compilation several years ago. Every subsequent compilation using that song has used the same, incorrect master. That’s just lazy.

I liked the SWING OUT SISTER ‘It’s Better To Travel’ deluxe set because the band listened to the fans and changed the tracklisting, and the mixes they used, when it was pointed out that the set could be improved.

What was your favourite chapter to write and why?

I don’t really have a favourite chapter. Some are about the music scene in the 1980s, while others are about my own childhood – the long gone Greenhead Youth Club (Keighley’s very own Blitz club) for instance, so each chapter was something I enjoyed putting together (and in this case, remixing).

FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD Two Tribes - Annihilation Mix 12Your top 10 five favourite 12” remixes and why?

‘Two Tribes (annihilation)’ by FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD, which is among most people’s favourite mixes.

‘It’s My Life (Steve Thompson’s US remix)’ by TALK TALK… how to remix a song properly; Thompson had a knack of making a great song sound even better in remixed form.

I adore his mix of A-HA’s ‘The Sun Always Shines on TV’ too, although I notice you prefer the original 12” to his mix.

NEW ORDER’s ‘The Perfect Kiss’ is pretty perfect, although that’s really a full-length mix rather than an extended version.

‘Indestructible (Phil Harding & Ian Curnow mix)’ by THE FOUR TOPS, one of the best mixes to come out of the PWL studios. Not everyone’s cup of tea I know. The rest you’ll read about in the book 🙂

FICTION FACTORY Feels Like Heaven remix 12And the remix that on paper should have been brilliant, but turned out to be rubbish?

FICTION FACTORY ‘Feels Like Heaven’.

A straight extended version would have been great, but in the pre-digital age, new mixes were often created instead.

It worked for DURAN DURAN, but the 12” mix that the label commissioned for ‘Feels Like Heaven’ seemed to lack all the vibrancy of the original 7” mix.

Also, have you heard the alternative 12” remix of ‘Indestructible’ that Arista put out in the UK, the ‘Infinity dance mix’? It’s the worst remix ever in the history of the world. Even worse than any of those awful 90s techno remixes that sounded nothing like the original mixes. Someone should have been shot for approving it for release.

Like writing and photography, has the easy accessibility of technology made the remix less of an artform these days, with a lower quality acceptability threshold than in the past?

NEW ORDER Complete MusicYes. It was always nice to have an extended version, and often an extended remix.

ZTT did the multiple remix thing really well in the 80s, but I haven’t time for the multiple remixes that you might get on PET SHOP BOYS or NEW ORDER CD singles these days. They are iconic bands, with iconic 12” mixes, but their new output, as good as it is, is just remixed to death.

Saying that, the latter’s ‘Complete Music’ set does contain some great straight extended versions of the tracks from ‘Music Complete’.

What style of remix do you enjoy these days?

As I’ve alluded to earlier, a straight extended version, or remix that keeps most of the original.

With regards electronic music, there seems to be a lot of books on the dance scene but few on say, synthpop. Does synthpop still have a general credibility issue in your view?

Synthpop seems to have more credibility now than it did in the 1980s. Today’s acts are not afraid to talk about their 80s influences. Credibility seems to have been more forthcoming since LA ROUX’s brief surge to the top of the tree a few years back…

How do you see music blogging these days? What is the difference between a site that gets it right, and a site that gets it wrong?

Let’s just say that sites that get it wrong don’t tend to last very long or attract many readers.

What new acts do you rate today as being as good as those heritage acts we loved back in the day?

I don’t pay enough attention to today’s bands. MARSHEAUX are still making great music, although I still prefer to buy new music from old bands… ABC, DURAN DURAN, OMD, NEW ORDER… their output is every bit as good as much of their output back in the day. Saying that, I daren’t tell you which acts I’ve seen live recently. I would lose all credibility….

What’s next for you?

Good question… well the novel ‘Picture This’ has had some amazing reviews, although we could do with a lot more sales if there’s going to be a sequel to that. I get a lot of requests and offers from book companies to do sports books, which is where I started out, but I have no interest in pursuing that any more. Let’s just see how well the new edition of ‘Is That The 12” (Re)Mix’ does.

I have a great idea for some 12” CD compilations (of which there are very many these days) that offers something a bit different… and there is a possible new music book in the pipeline, but that depends on a lot of complicated copyright issues….watch this space on that one…


The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to ROB GRILLO

‘Is That The 12″ Remix?’ is available from Amazon UK, priced at £9.99

Extracts from the original book can be read at http://www.electricityclub.co.uk/is-that-the-12-mix/

http://www.robgrillo.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/Is-That-the-12-Remix-601399720039018/

https://twitter.com/robgrillo


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
10th September 2016

Fly – Songs Inspired By The Film Eddie The Eagle

FLY-eddie-the-eagle‘Eddie The Eagle’ is a biopic by ‘X-Men: First Class’ director Matthew Vaughn about Eddie Edwards, who represented Team GB in ski-jumping at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.

It was the same Olympics which inspired the Disney film ‘Cool Runnings’ about Jamaica’s first bobsleigh team entry!

Based on true events, the film stars Taron Egerton as Eddie Edwards and Hugh Jackman as Edwards’ fictional trainer.

Whereas ‘Cool Runnings’ had artists performing cover versions for the soundtrack, ‘Fly – Songs Inspired by the film Eddie The Eagle’ differs in having a collection of original songs curated by Gary Barlow, each recorded by British artists who are now usually seen frequenting retrospective events such as Rewind, Here & Now and Let’s Rock.

So, a concept album based around the legend of a bespectacled plasterer, featuring contributions from members of FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD, SOFT CELL, SPANDAU BALLET, ULTRAVOX, ERASURE and OMD, in collaboration with a member of TAKE THAT? On paper, this is a terrible idea!

eddie-the-eagle_2016But Gary Barlow has long been an admirer of ULTRAVOX in particular; his 2010 interpolation of ‘Vienna’ for the track ‘Eight Letters’ on TAKE THAT’s Stuart Price produced album ‘Progress’ resulted in the rather unusual writing credit of Barlow / Donald / Orange / Owen / Williams / Ure / Cross / Cann / Currie. The TAKE THAT track ‘Love Love’ for the film ‘X-Men: First Class’ also indicated Barlow’s interest in electro forms.

The era in which ‘Eddie The Eagle’ reigned has been symbolised by both aspiration and fighting against the odds, and that comes across in the song titles. As a side note, it is interesting how with the political climate that existed during this time, this project has gathered musicians whose politics cover the whole colour spectrum, from the Jeremy Corbyn supporting Martyn Ware to the self-confessed Tory boy Tony Hadley. While some say politics should be kept separate from music, many would argue music is an artistic reflection of the incumbent environment. So what of the music?

Holly Johnson’s ‘Ascension’ is typically epic, recalling a steadily building uptempo reboot of ‘The Power Of Love’, while ‘Out Of The Sky’ sees Marc Almond tackling his most overtly electro number for many years. Having previously shared a stage with Gary Barlow and earned some extra royalties too, Midge Ure’s ‘Touching Hearts & Skies’ stands quite ably within the concept as a tune reminiscent of ULTRAVOX’s classic synth rock.

Having found success outside of OMD with the first incarnation of ATOMIC KITTEN including a No1 in ‘Whole Again’, Andy McCluskey has a proven pedigree in mainstream pop spheres. He does a good job in co-writing with Barlow on ‘Thrill Me’, which is sung by the film’s two stars.

Taron Egerton won ‘The Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year’ while at RADA and Hugh Jackman of course appeared in the musical epic ‘Les Misérables’; so their combined capabilities in the vocal department stop the song from becoming an ironic novelty. According to McCluskey, Egerton and Jackman’s vocals were recorded without his knowledge! Unsurprisingly ‘Thrill Me’ does sound like ‘Sugar Tax’ era OMD, crossed with imperial ‘Everything Changes’ phase TAKE THAT. Who’d have thunk it eh?

Nik Kershaw is another with a songwriting career outside of his own, penning ‘The One & Only’ for Chesney Hawkes back in 1991; ‘The Sky’s The Limit’ is an archetypical MTV friendly ballad that could have been made back then, with hints of A-HA and SAVAGE GARDEN.

One of the songs not part of the original ‘Fly’ concept is HEAVEN 17’s ‘Pray’; previously released by Messrs Ware and Gregory in 2014, it’s a terrific hybrid of the early avant phase of THE HUMAN LEAGUE and ‘Young Americans’ era Bowie. This slice of prime electronic soul is a stand-out on the collection and proof that the Sheffield masters still have it.

But members of the HEAVEN 17 crew do contribute to the energetically synthy engine room of Kim Wilde’s ‘Without Your Love’. It’s an enjoyable homage to her earlier sound, co-written by Glenn Gregory and live H17 keyboardist Berenice Scott in collaboration with Barlow.

Tony Hadley does his overblown Foghorn party piece on ‘Moment’ and Spandau fans will be more than happy with the end result, others perhaps not so.

The often under rated Howard Jones delivers the enjoyable modern schaffel stomp of ‘Eagle Will Fly Again’, while the blue-eyed soul offerings from ABC and GO WEST will satisfy their existing fans. However, Paul Young appears to have lost his voice on the vintage widescreen AOR of ‘People Like You’. Meanwhile on the autotuned ‘Fly’, Andy Bell actually starts to sound more like Tony Hadley than Alison Moyet!

Like with the music from back in the day, some of it is brilliant, some of it is likeable and some of it you’d rather not hear again.

But that in an essence, is why music derived from this period still resonates today… it was about songs and melodies, not tuneless dance excursions or ultra-fast talking supposedly passing for vocals. ‘Fly – Songs Inspired By The Film Eddie The Eagle’ is an interesting curio as a “Where Are They Now?” snapshot. Whatever your tastes, there is a good reason why all of the artists featured on this album still have a career performing.


‘Fly – Songs Inspired by the film Eddie The Eagle’ is released as a CD and download by Universal Music Enterprises

http://www.foxmovies.com/movies/eddie-the-eagle

https://www.facebook.com/EddieTheEagleMovie/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
18th March 2016

A Beginner’s Guide To TREVOR HORN

TREVOR HORNTrevor Horn is a producer who can be said to have shaped modern pop music.

He began his professional music career as a session bassist, most notably for UK disco starlet TINA CHARLES and her producer Biddu.

Another member of her backing band was keyboard player Geoff Downes; together they would go on to form BUGGLES and score a No1 in 1979 with ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’.

But Horn’s pop stardom was to be short-lived. Despite their musical virtuosity, BUGGLES were an unusual looking pair; so with his best interests at heart, his wife and business partner Jill Sinclair advised that while he wasn’t going to be the greatest frontman in the world, there was a chance he could make it as a top record producer.

In 1981, Horn started a run of producing and co-writing four singles for pop duo DOLLAR; this attracted the attention of NME journalist Paul Morley and they would later establish the ZTT label through Island Records.

Also listening were Sheffield band ABC who asked him to produce their debut album ‘The Lexicon Of Love’. It was during these 1982 sessions that Horn brought together his classic studio team of arranger Anne Dudley, engineer Gary Langan and Fairlight specialist JJ Jeczalik for the first time; the three would later become THE ART OF NOISE.

During this early phase of his production career, Horn favoured the Fairlight CMI as his tool of choice; it had been demonstrated to him electronic music pioneer and Simmons SDS-V co-designer Richard James Burgess, who had worked with him on the first BUGGLES album ‘The Age Of Plastic’.

The Fairlight also allowed for many arrangement possibilities and not just one, but two, three or four different remixes of a single track, a promotional tactic that was employed heavily at ZTT with FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD, THE ART OF NOISE, PROPAGANDA and ACT.

Horn had first become interested in more mechanised musical templates after hearing ‘Warm Leatherette’ by THE NORMAL in 1978. So when the Linn Drum Computer came along, it was like manna from heaven for the forward thinking Horn. He told The Guardian in 2004: “You could tell the Linn what to do, which was unbelievable because before then you had to tell the drummer what to do and he was generally a pain in the a*se”. However, Horn did use accomplished session musicians when needed to compliment his carefully controlled direction.

produced by Trevor HornHorn would go on to win BRIT Awards for ‘Best British Producer’ in 1983, 1985 and 1992. In 2010, he received an Ivor Novello Award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to British Music’.

His production portfolio is vast, taking in PAUL McCARTNEY, TOM JONES, CHER, ROD STEWART, MALCOLM McLAREN, ROBBIE WILLIAMS, GENESIS, LEANN RIMES, LISA STANSFIELD and CHARLOTTE CHURCH among many, plus lesser known acts such as PHILIP JAP, INTERPLAY and THE MINT JULEPS.

Not necessarily collecting his best known or mainstream work, but certainly listing some of his more interesting adventures in modern recording, The Electricity Club chooses eighteen works from Trevor Horn that fit closest to its ethos, presented in chronological order…


ABC Poison Arrow (1982)

ABC Poison ArrowABC’s first single ‘Tears Are Not Enough’ produced by Steve Brown was loose, scratchy funk that fitted in with the times, but the Sheffield combo wanted to be a far more polished and approached Horn to hone their sound. The first fruit of labours was ‘Poison Arrow’ was held together with a drum machine backbone and augmented by some dramatic piano passages from Anne Dudley in her first session with Horn. The chemistry of all involved led to a musical masterpiece of the era, ‘The Lexicon Of Love’.

Available on the ABC album ‘The Lexicon Of Love’ via Mercury Records

http://www.abcmartinfry.com/


SPANDAU BALLET Instinction (1982)

SPANDAU BALLET InstinctionHorn reworked Richard James Burgess’ production of ‘Instinction’ and threw in reworked synths from Anne Dudley and extra bombastic percussion; it saved SPANDAU BALLET’s career. However, further sessions were abandoned when, according to songwriter Gary Kemp in his autobiography ‘I Know This Much: From Soho to Spandau’, Horn wanted drummer John Keeble replaced with a drum machine. Kemp stuck by his bandmate and went with IMAGINATION producers Swain and Jolley for the ‘True’ album.

Available on the SPANDAU BALLET album ‘Gold : The Best Of’ via EMI Records

http://thestory.spandauballet.com/


YES Owner Of A Lonely Heart (1983)

Yes-OwnerOfALonelyHeartIn 1981, Horn had partly abandoned work on the second BUGGLES album to join Geoff Downes in YES; the press dubbed the new line-up YUGGLES! But Horn amicably left a few months later to finish what became ‘Adventures In Modern Recording’ and kickstart his production career. With Gary Langan and JJ Jeczalik on board, ‘Owner Of A Lonely Heart’, could be considered as the birth of THE ART OF NOISE; the stabbing samples of a jazz orchestra and tight programmed drums provided a distinctive counterpoint.

Available on the YES album ‘90125’ via Atlantic Records

http://www.jonanderson.com/


THE ART OF NOISE Moments In Love (1983)

ArtOfNoise-MomentsInLoveTHE ART OF NOISE “happened because of a happy accident” said Gary Langan. But Trevor Horn was not their producer – “Well, he wasn’t the producer!!”  Langan clarified,“we were the producers! If I’m being really honest, we were a little naive. Anne, JJ and myself really had no intention of forming a band… so when we signed to ZTT, we needed somebody to do all the artwork and how it was going to portrayed which was really down to Paul and Trevor”. It was an indicator of how powerful Horn’s name had become.

Available on THE ART OF NOISE album ‘Who’s Afraid Of…?’ via Union Square / Salvo

http://www.theartofnoiseonline.com/


PROPAGANDA Dr Mabuse (1984)

PROPAGANDA Dr MabuseDüsseldorf’s PROPAGANDA were the proto-LADYTRON or ABBA in Hell, depending on your point of view! They boasted within their ranks Ralf Dörper and Michael Mertens, plus two mini-Marlenes in Claudia Brücken and Susanne Freytag. The magnificent Fritz Lang film noir of ‘Dr Mabuse’ was their opening salvo. Produced by Horn, the success of FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD however meant the producer’s helm was handed over to his engineer Stephen J Lipson, although Horn was later involved in the final mix.

Available on the PROPAGANDA album ‘A Secret Wish’ via Union Square / Salvo

http://www.propagandamachine.info/


FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD The Power Of Love (1984)

FGTH-Power_of_love_single7A key signing to ZTT, regardless of who was actually playing and what the band would have achieved without Trevor Horn, in their short life FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD were a thrilling adventure that wouldn’t have worked without the songs, which were largely written by Holly Johnson, Peter Gill and Mark O’Toole. ‘Relax’ and ‘Two Tribes’ got the ball rolling, but the classical grandeur of ‘The Power Of Love’ was an outstanding piece of work in anyone’s book.

Available on the album ‘Bang!: The Greatest Hits’ via Warner Music

http://www.frankiesay.com/


GODLEY & CREME Cry (1985)

GODLEY CREME CryAfter they left 10CC, Kevin Godley and Lol Creme’s appetite for experimentation with tracks like ‘Babies’ led them to be called “the older generation’s Depeche Mode” by Smash Hits. They also branched out into directing promo videos for VISAGE and DURAN DURAN. It was while doing videos for FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD that they ended up working with Trevor Horn. Almost sparse by Horn’s standards with a metronomic tension alongside minimal guitar, ‘Cry’ was a terrific pop statement.

Available on the album ‘Cry: The Very Best Of’ via Polydor / Universal Music

http://www.trevorhorn.com/


GRACE JONES Slave To The Rhythm (1985)

GRACE JONES Slave To The RhythmTrevor Horn took his multiple remix approach to its zenith with GRACE JONES’s seventh album; rather than actually do a collection of songs, why not do an album that was effectively multiple remixes and interpretations of one song? While the familiar single version of ‘Slave To The Rhythm’ was wonderful, sun-kissed funky pop, the album’s fifth track take was far more aggressive, with a punchy synth brass riff taking centre stage to make the most out of Miss Jones’ enigmatically frightening demeanour.

Available on the album ‘Slave To The Rhythm’ via Culture Factory

https://www.facebook.com/GraceJonesOfficial/


ACT Chance (1988)

ACT ChanceFollowing her departure from PROPAGANDA, Claudia Brücken teamed up with early electro trailblazer Thomas Leer in ACT. The Trevor Horn produced ‘Chance’ was released as their third single, but withdrawn due to the 12″ mix containing an unauthorised varispeeded sample of ABBA’s ‘Take A Chance On Me’. Far more theatrical and spielerisch than PROPAGANDA, ACT were however, less well received with the eventual Stephen J Lipson produced ‘Laughter, Tears & Rage’ not making quite the impact that was hoped for.

Available on the album ‘Love & Hate’ via Union Square / Salvo

http://www.ztt.com/artists/act/


PET SHOP BOYS Left To My Own Devices (1988)

pet shop boys introspective“Che Guevara and Debussy to a disco beat” was a concept coined by Horn while he was working in the studio with Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe. Taking in the then ubiquitous form of acid house, ‘Left To My Own Devices’ incorporated  a dramatic string arrangement by Richard Niles and the opera stylings of soprano Sally Bradshaw. One of PET SHOP BOYS’ most striking recordings  it had been intended to programme the synthesizers and record the orchestra in one day… six months later, the song was finished.

Available on the album ‘Introspective’ via EMI Records

http://www.petshopboys.co.uk/


SIMPLE MINDS Wall Of Love (1989)

The bombastic tendencies of the now stadium friendly SIMPLE MINDS were well-suited to the Trevor Horn treatment, although paradoxically by the time they got into the studio together in 1988, the Glaswegians were favouring a more restrained follow-up to the rock monster that was ‘Once Upon A Time’. Time has not been kind to ‘Street Fighting Years’ album, which now comes across as self-indulgent and over-politicised. But one track with a vibrant energy despite the soapbox was the more classic sounding ‘Wall Of Love’.

Available on the boxed set ‘Street Fighting Years’ via Virgin Records

http://www.simpleminds.com/


SEAL Crazy (1990)

SEAL CrazySEAL found fame as the voice of ADAMSKI’s ‘Killer’ which reached No1 in 1990. Possessing a soulful voice that suited both dance and rock, Horn couldn’t believe his luck when he discovered hel was a free agent. A deal with ZTT was sealed and their first single together was the mighty techno rock of ‘Crazy’. It was the perfect platform for SEAL’s crossover potential and the Paddington-born singer found fame in America with ‘Kiss From A Rose’, which was also produced by Horn and netted a 1995 Grammy Award.

Available on the album ‘Seal’ via ZTT Records

http://seal.com/


MARC ALMOND Jacky (1991)

MARC ALMOND JackyIf it wasn’t for SOFT CELL, then the path for FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD and PET SHOP BOYS might not have been so smooth. Signing with Warners, this cover of Jacques Brel’s ‘Les Chanson De Jacky’, made famous in an English version by Scott Walker, was a compromise reached by Almond to regain both his pop and artistic high ground. While basically a technologically enhanced remake of Walker’s cover, Horn’s production was mighty and cute, in a stupid arse way 😉

Available on the album ‘Tenement Symphony’ via Warner Music

http://www.marcalmond.co.uk/


MIKE OLDFIELD Sentinel (1992)

MIKE OLDFIELD SentinelVirgin Records had always been pushing MIKE OLDFIELD for a ‘Tubular Bells II’ since the original in 1973. But ironically, when Oldfield departed the label for Warners, he did just that. Horn was a natural choice as producer for this long awaited follow-up. The first ‘Tubular Bells’ featured no synthesizers at all; with the titled inspired by an Arthur C. Clarke short story, not only did ‘Sentinel’ exploit the use of modern studio technology, but beautiful female vocals were also part of this more obviously melodic reprise.

Available on the album ‘Tubular Bells II’ via Warner Music

http://mikeoldfieldofficial.com/


TINA TURNER Whatever You Want (1996)

TINA TURNER Whatever You Want CDSWritten by Arthur Baker, Taylor Dayne and Fred Zarr, ‘Whatever You Want’ for TINA TURNER was an archetypical production from Horn. Using the most up-to-date technology yet retaining a vital musicality, there was always space for the lead vocalist to perform to their maximum. However, it always was a time consuming process. Legend has it that when ROBBIE WILLIAMS handed over his demos for the 2009 album ‘Reality Killed The Video Star’, he apparently said to Horn “I’ll see you in six months!”

Available on the album ‘Wildest Dreams’ via EMI Music

http://www.tinaturnerofficial.com/


TATU Not Gonna Get Us (2002)

TATU Not Gonna Get UsFaux lesbian duo Julia Volkova and Lena Katina caused a stir with the Horn produced No1 single ‘All The Things She Said’ and its accompanying video that broke many broadcast taboos. Much more interesting musically though was another Horn produced track ‘Not Gonna Get Us’. Sounding like THE PRODIGY fronted by fleas on helium, ‘Нас Не Догонят’ (as it was originally titled in Russian) was heavier than usual Europop, with a rebellious teenage angst message.

Available on the album ‘200 km/h In The Wrong Lane’ via Interscope Records

http://www.tatu.ru/


DELAYS Valentine (2006)

DELAYS ValentineIn 2003, Horn worked with Glaswegians BELLE & SEBASTIAN for the first time. And after the hangover of Britpop, indie bands were starting to embrace synths again. Southampton band DELAYS almost went the full hog with the brilliant ‘Valentine’, a Horn-assisted disco number. The pulsing sequences and syncopated rhythm section were pure DURAN DURAN, although Greg Gilbert’s raspy falsetto in the soaring chorus and some choppy guitar ensured the band weren’t totally detached from their roots.

Available on the album ‘You See Colours’ via Rough Trade

https://www.facebook.com/thedelays


PET SHOP BOYS I’m With Stupid (2006)

PET SHOP BOYS I’m With StupidPET SHOP BOYS reunited with Trevor Horn, ‘I’m With Stupid’ was a perfect politically charged jape at the special relationship between George W Bush and Tony Blair. The satirical lyrical content was enhanced further with an amusing promo video featuring ‘Little Britain’ stars Matt Lucas and David Walliams. However, other than the brilliantly hypnotic opener ‘Psychological’, the remainder of the ‘Fundamental’ album was lacklustre, with the dreary Diane Warren penned ballad ‘Numb’ being a low point.

Available on the album ‘Fundamental’ via EMI Music

https://www.facebook.com/petshopboys/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
13th February 2016

STEPHEN J LIPSON Interview

SJLipson B&WcropStephen J Lipson, both individually and in collaboration with Trevor Horn, has been responsible for some of the most iconic sounding electronic-based musical productions over the last 30 years.

Alongside Trevor Horn, he was an integral part of the ZTT Records sound which was the Ying to the pop Yang of Stock, Aitken and Waterman – producing a stellar run of songs that were musical, very often cerebral and in many cases, massive chart hits.

Whereas some band producers of the era were happy just to record the artists and suggest a few overdubs, Lipson and Horn saw the potential in often scrappy sounding demos and had the vision to use the latest available technology, combined with their own musicianship, to totally transform and take them to another place altogether.

The two acts that remain most musically indebted to the ZTT stable were Liverpool’s FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD and Germany’s PROPAGANDA. As well as producing tracks which arguably sounded better than most of the competition, the label’s arch strategist Paul Morley perpetuated a tradition started by Factory Records in aligning the music of their artists with a design aesthetic that although could be seen as being ultra-pretentious, helped give the bands a unique identity.

Stephen J Lipson has also produced for PET SHOP BOYS, SIMPLE MINDS, ANNIE LENNOX, SOPHIE B HAWKINS, PHARRELL WILLIAMS and ULTRAVOX amongst others. He kindly spoke to The Electricity Club about elements of his glittering career and also his move into the world of film music production and mixing.

Your early days in the industry seemed to involve a lot of “learning on the job”

I was self-taught and I built my first studio in the mid 70’s with no knowledge or help. Then I started engineering, making it up as I went along – my only previous experience was operating a Revox tape machine in my bedroom. After the studio had been going for a few months, Dave Robinson (Stiff Records) wanted to record an album there and suggested that he got an engineer in for the first day. That was Phil Brown who, in the space of 12 hours, got the project under way and taught me some invaluable lessons.

The art of band album production is often seen as a bit of a “black art”, what is your take on being successful at it?

You need to have personal taste, be able to get on with people and have good teamwork. Not taking up too much space in the room too by doing what has to be done – tea, driving, jokes, playing, writing, emailing, etc etc. Also giving encouragement to all involved and understanding that it’s not too important, at the end of the day it’s just music!

You’re well known for playing on some of the works you produce, are many producers frustrated artists?

I don’t know many producers and the ones I do know seem to be happy without the need for adulation.

Things really clicked into place when you started working with Trevor Horn and the whole ZTT experience, what are you main memories from that period?

My main memory is WORK! We worked so hard that when FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD’s ‘Relax’ went to number one we didn’t celebrate, we just kept at it – it was enjoyable work in a great team though. My other memory is exposure to loads of equipment and having the time to use it.

‘Relax’ took a lot of attempts to perfect, how did the process go from the original (very rough) demo to final product? 

Trevor had done a version with The Blockheads before I started working with him. We then spent ages on a “smart” version which took ages. Then he came in one day and said he wanted to scrap it and start again. That was when the single happened, very quickly, Trevor, JJ Jeczalik, Andy Richards and myself all playing live.

With the exception of Holly Johnson and Paul Rutherford, the rest of FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD didn’t actually play on the final released version of ‘Relax’, how did the public react to that?

As far as I know I don’t think anyone knew at the time!

PROPAGANDA’s ‘A Secret Wish’ is still a stunning sounding piece of work, were the demos you received for the album pretty fully formed?

For the most part the demos weren’t finished at all. They were skeletons, which is one of the reasons the album took so long. Michael Mertens, the musician in the band, lived in Düsseldorf. Trevor was working on other projects, so we were very much left to our own devices. Paul Morley was the main person who helped steer the project. My main memory of the album is of working in a black room for months with Andy Richards and loads of gear.

relax12Apparently there were 14 versions of ‘Relax’ and 10 of ‘Dr.Mabuse’ – why go the extra mile and create so many alternative versions?

No-one knew what they were doing at the time and Paul Morley probably kept asking for more and we just kept going!

Do you feel you and Trevor Horn deserve more recognition for pioneering the art of remixing and the alternative version?

No… people who do what we do are, by definition, backroom people. That is a choice and those who want to know can find out…

I believe you were one of the first producers to work using digital recording, how was that experience?

It was a massive relief. There was no hiss, the difference in sound to our ears was wonderful and less EQ was needed. The Sony machines were also really reliable, we tried a Mitsubishi 32 track first but it didn’t work.

Are you a “snob” when it comes to music/studio equipment?

Absolutely not. Just about every piece of equipment is good nowadays, plus you can’t blame the gear any more. Instruments are different of course…

Do you often wish that vocalist-enhancing tools such as Autotune and Melodyne were available back in the day?

Not really. The limitations were good and I miss that, but we can’t turn the clock back, so onwards…

Do you have a favourite post-ZTT artist that you’ve worked with?

It’s hard to say, I enjoy the process of recording so if I were to pick an artist I would base it on personality which isn’t really relevant.

Ultravox brilliant artworkYou produced the ULTRAVOX comeback album ‘Brilliant’, were you a fan of the band before joining the project?

Yes! Also I thought that any band that could write and make the records that they had over the years would be great to work with.

How was the process of working with the band on the album, was it a challenging experience?

Sort of, but it was very fulfilling. They’re lovely guys, but I was amazed that the album didn’t do all that well, I thought it was very good.

Do you have any ideas as to why the album wasn’t more successful?

Not a clue. Maybe it was a lack of money to promote it? Maybe a lack of interest in the band? It’s hard to say.

Today it is far easier for artists to self-produce and record, do you still think the big studio has a place in the current market?

Yes and no. In order to collaborate it’s ideal to be in the same space and this requires more than a home studio. I miss the collaborative aspect of record making but pragmatism must prevail, plus there are rarely any big budgets for projects now.

Does having the internet mean that there is a less of a necessity to travel for certain projects now?

To a certain extent, but a common space is better. It’s an interesting way of working though. I did an album with MIKE OLDFIELD recently, where I was in LA and London and he was in the Bahamas where he lives. For the most part it worked but we did have some strange moments!

Much of your work now involves mixing/producing film scores including with HANS ZIMMER on ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and ‘Rush’, how does that compare with making band albums?

It was a massive learning experience moving into the film world, but it happened for me at an ideal point. I was getting bored with the predictable song structure and instrumentation of pop music. And I was starting to feel out of touch with the charts. There isn’t much comparison apart from music being the common denominator. Everything in film world is larger – budgets, quantity of music, sounds, personalities, sophistication. But being able to go between the two is amazing as after a while I miss all the things I found boring in pop.

Hans Zimmer StudioIs HANS ZIMMER’s studio as stunning as it looks in photographs?

More so! The pictures don’t show the technical side which is beyond one’s wildest thoughts.

What projects are you currently working on and are they still biased towards the film world?

The film work is definitely biased towards the film world!

Currently I’m working with RONAN KEATING. The 5th album of his I’ve worked on. Also an amazing Japanese artist called HOTEI. In a couple of weeks I’m off to New York to do another movie with Hans.

If you could pick a ‘Desert Island Disc’ track that you are most proud of working on, what would it be?

I have no idea. I’m not truly happy with anything so would probably take something else entirely!


The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Stephen J Lipson

http://www.stevelipson.com/Steve_Lipson/Home.html

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/steve-lipson-mn0000040392


Text and interview by Paul Boddy
21st October 2015

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