Tag: Front Line Assembly

TEC’s 25 TRACKS FROM THE CIRCUIT BOARDS OF CANADA

Like Sweden, as a country with a relatively small population in relation to land mass, Canada punches above its weight when it comes to its contribution to popular music.

Canada’s internationally famous artists may be Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Céline Dion, Bryan Adams and Alanis Morisette, but there have been so many more that have been far more interesting.

Canada has been a significant presence in synth from the post-punk pioneers such as NASH THE SLASH and CERAMIC HELLO, to international MTV-era hits from the likes of MEN WITHOUT HATS, TRANS-X and KON KAN, up to the present day via the mainstream profile of GRIMES, PURITY RING and CRYSTAL CASTLES. Meanwhile, it also has developed into a hub for the burgeoning sub-genre of Synthwave thanks to FM ATTACK and DANA JEAN PHOENIX.

Like in the UK with the availability of affordability of technology from Japan in particular, Canadian youngsters were taking up synthesizers. And while several were to attain cult status like RATIONAL YOUTH and PYSCHE, some such as the Winnipeg trio EUROPA were destined just to have their moment on domestic television without an official release to their name.

Today, the tradition continues with artists such as DEADMAU5, TIGA, KOISHII & HUSH, LOLA DUTRONIC and TECHNIQUES BERLIN covering a wide spectrum of electronic pop and dance music.

So here is The Electricity Club’s list of 25 tracks from the circuit boards of Canada, subject to a limit of one per artist moniker, presented in yearly and then alphabetical order. But notice a void in between 1990 to 2000 when it could be said that the likes of Dion, Adams and Morisette dominated the airwaves of the globe.

However, the number of electronic acts who have appeared in the 21st Century have more than made up for things.


CERAMIC HELLO Climatic Nouveaux (1980)

CERAMIC HELLO were a duo who hailed from Burlington in Ontario, formed by Brett Wickens in 1980 after leaving post-punk band SPOONS. He teamed up with Roger Humphreys who added a more classical bent to their minimal synth in the vein of JOHN FOXX and FAD GADGET. Their first release was the detached cold wave paranoia of ‘Climatic Nouveaux’. Wickens later moved to England to join Peter Saville Associates, making a major contribution to the artwork for OMD’s ‘Architecture & Morality’.

Available on the album ‘The Absence Of A Canary’ via Suction Records

https://www.studiobrettwickens.com/


NASH THE SLASH Swing Shift – Flexi Version (1981)

NASH THE SLASH opened for GARY NUMAN and was signed to Dindisc Records. It was during this period that he had his highest mainstream media profile with features in ‘Smash Hits’; it was with the pop mag that his best known recording in the UK came via a blue flexi-disc with an early self-produced stripped down version of ‘Swing-Shift’ sitting next to his label mates OMD’s live rendition of ‘Pretending To See The Future’. He sadly passed away in 2014.

Available as a bonus track on the album ‘Children Of The Night’ via Artoffact Records ‎

http://nashtheslash.com/


MEN WITHOUT HATS The Safety Dance (1982)

Hailing from Montreal, ‘The Safety Dance’ was written by MEN WITHOUT HATS lead singer Ivan Doroschuk after he had been kicked out of a club for pogoing, thus it was effectively a protest song against conformity, a call for freedom of expression. it had been misinterpreted as a being about safe sex and as an anti-nuclear protest song. The bouncy almost medieval feel combined with Doroschuk’s vocals like a less doomy Andrew Eldritch to produce a huge international hit.

Available on the album ‘Rhythm Of Youth’ via Bulldog Brothers ‎

http://safetydance.com/


SPOONS Arias & Symphonies (1982)

Hailing from Toronto and lead by Gordon Deppe, after the acclaim for the 1981 debut album ‘Stick Figure Neighbourhood’, the songs on the second ‘Arias & Symphonies’ were more European influenced. With JAPAN producer John Punter behind the desk, the title song was an perfect amalgam of prog theatrics, new wave gallop and synth pomp. SPOONS were soon to be opening for bands such as SIMPLE MINDS and THE POLICE. Today, Deppe is also the guitarist for A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS.

Available on the album ‘Arias & Symphonies’ via Ready Records

https://www.spoonsmusic.com/


STRANGE ADVANCE Love Games (1982)

STRANGE ADVANCE were a Canadian new wave band formed in Vancouver, made up of Drew Arnott (keyboards, percussion, vocals), Darryl Kromm (lead vocals, guitars), and Paul Iverson (bass). Utilising synthesizers and advances in programming technology, their music was a fusion of progressive rock and MTV friendly pop that struck a chord, with the lyrical couplet “The time is right / We’ll love tonight” of ‘Love Games’ capturing the mood of times.

Available on the album ‘Worlds Away’ via VR

https://www.strangeadvance.com/


MARTHA Light Years From Love (1983)

The stunning Martha Ladly was more than just a pretty face; she was a musician, vocalist, artist and designer. Following her stints with MARTHA & THE MUFFINS, ASSOCIATES and doing paintings for Peter Saville’s NEW ORDER sleeve artwork, she teamed up with Brett Wickens from CERAMIC HELLO on this charming pop tune which echoed THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Open Your Heart’. Peter Hook provided his distinctive melodic six-string bass while the dynamic production came from Steve Nye.

Originally released as a single by Island Records, currently unavailable

http://samemistakesmusic.blogspot.com/2009/01/charmed-life-of-martha-ladly_22.html


RATIONAL YOUTH Holiday In Bangkok (1983)

The classic RATIONAL YOUTH line-up of Tracy Howe, Bill Vorn and Kevin Komoda gained acclaim for their 1982 debut album ‘Cold War Night Life’, which became one of the biggest-selling Canadian independent albums at the time and secured a deal with Capitol Records. However, Vorn left to continue his university studies, but contributed synth programming to ‘Holiday In Bangkok’, a sinister overwrought warning about the dangers of becoming international drug mule.

Available on the album ‘Heredity’ via Capitol Records

https://rational-youth.com/


TRANS-X Living On Video (1983)

French-born Canadian Pascal Languirand was the man behind TRANS-X, and had previously been known for his spacey progressive rock solo albums like ‘Minos’ and ‘De Harmonia Universalia’. Originally issued in French as ‘Vivre Sur Video’, this cosmic octave-shifting electronic dance tune, with additional vocals by Laurie Ann Gill, became a massive hit worldwide after being re-released in 1985 and went onto to influence Electroclash artists such as FISCHERSPOONER and MISS KITTIN.

Available on the album ‘Living On Video’ via Unidisc

http://transx-music.com/


PSYCHE The Saint Became A Lush (1986)

PSYCHE are the acclaimed dark synthpop duo from Edmonton, founded by the Huss brothers Darrin and Stephen. Of the foreboding overtones of ‘The Saint Became A Lush’, “Many think the main sequence sounds like ‘Tubular Bells’ and there may be some element of that as it was used in ‘The Exorcist’ movie which my brother loved” Darrin said, “It’s also inspired by JOY DIVISION, as I was really going for the sound of a world weary preacher and channelling the voice of Ian Curtis for that.”

Available on the album ‘Unveiling The Secret’ via Artoffact Records

http://www.psyche-hq.de/


SKINNY PUPPY Dig It (1986)

“Love cannot attach itself to binding ugliness” goes the theatrical horror of ‘Dig It’; formed in Vancouver by cEvin Key of IMAGES IN VOGUE and vocalist Nivek Ogre, SKINNY PUPPY are widely considered as the pioneers of industrial. ‘Dig It’ was a big favourite of NINE INCH NAILS mainman Trent Reznor and heavily influenced his own track ‘Down In It’ which appeared on ‘Pretty Hate Machine’, so much so that he later confessed he had actually sampled it!

Available on the album ‘Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse’ via Nettwerk America

http://skinnypuppy.com/


MITSOU Les Chinois (1988)

Mitsou Annie Marie Gélinas achieved the comparatively unusual feat of having a francophone pop hit across Canada with ‘Bye Bye Mon Cowboy’. But her best tune was the saucy Fairlighted ‘Les Chinois’ from the multicultural-themed album ‘El Mundo’. Written and produced by Jean Pierre Isaac who later worked with Céline Dion, she exclaimed “Non non non c’est pas comme ça, qu’on fait l’amour, regarde les Chinois”… was she trying to make babies?

Available on the album ‘El Mundo’ via Unidisc

http://mitsoumagazine.com/en/


KON KAN I Beg Your Pardon (1989)

The project of Barry Harris, the KON KAN name was a play on the policy of “Canadian Content” which enforced Canadian radio station to air at least 30% domestic music. Voiced by Kevin Wynne, ‘I Beg Your Pardon’ was not just content with borrowing off NEW ORDER but inspired by ‘Pump Up The Volume’, used samples of other songs like ‘Rose Garden’, ‘Disco Nights (Rock-Freak)’ and ‘Get Up & Boogie’, as well as National Lampoon’s ‘Disco Hotline’. This mash-up became a huge international one hit wonder.

Available on the album ‘Move To Move’ via A&M Records

https://www.facebook.com/konkanofficial


SOLVENT Wish (2005)

Toronto-based Jason Amm is all about “synthesizers, drum machines, fx, knobs, buttons, wires, wave, electro, acid”. But while he is now best known for his documentary film ‘I Dream Of Wires’, he has a vast catalogue of music released under the SOLVENT moniker. With gentle vocoder treatments and glorious whirring synths, ‘Wish’ set a pattern for acts like FOTONOVELA and QUIETER THAN SPIDERS to follow in the understated melodic machine pop stakes.

Available on the album ‘Demonstration Tape (1997-2007)’ via Ghostly International

http://www.solventcity.com/


DRAGONETTE I Get Around (2007)

Toronto’s DRAGONETTE comprised of singer Martina Sorbara, producer Dan Kurtz and drummer Joel Stouffer. The acclaim for their self-released self-titled EP led to a deal with Mercury Records and a relocation to the UK. Opening shows for BASEMENT JAXX and SUGABABES, the highlight of their debut album ‘Galore’ was ‘I Get Around’ which was previewed on Planet Clique and Lucky Pierre’s ‘Robopop – The Return’ compilation. It also was used in ‘The Vampire Diaries’.

Available on the album ‘Galore’ via Mercury Records

http://www.dragonetteonline.com/


FM ATTACK Sleepless Nights (2009)

With ‘Drive’ star Ryan Gosling being a notable FM ATTACK admirer, Shawn Ward has concocted a unique hybrid electronic sound combining Gino Soccio and Giorgio Moroder with Italo disco, French house, new wave and post-punk, all with a fine-honed musicality. From 2009’s ‘Dreamatic’ album which opened up the gates and led the way for what was to become Synthwave, ‘Sleepless Nights’ crossed arpeggios with octave lilts for an enjoyable vocoder-laced romp.

Available on the album ‘Dreamatic’ via Starfield Music

https://www.facebook.com/fmattackmusic/


CRYSTAL CASTLES Suffocation (2010)

Named after a line in ‘She-Ra: Princess of Power’ and capturing a gritty lo-fi electronic sound, Toronto’s CRYSTAL CASTLES were a world apart from other modern duos with chaotic live shows that had an almost demonic energy. With Ethan Kath’s deliberately distorted synthetic goth-punk and Alice Glass’ afflicted vocal presence, ‘Suffocation’ was haunted, yet captured an understated beauty. But in October 2014, Glass announced that she was leaving to pursue a solo career amid acrimony.

Available on the album ‘(II)’ via Fiction Records

https://www.crystalcastles.com/


AUSTRA Spellwork (2011)

Named after the goddess of light in Latvian mythology, Toronto’s  AUSTRA deliver a stark, baroque form of arty electronica fuelled by the sexual tension. Like a gothic opera which successfully blended light and darkness with fragility and power, Katie Stelmanis and friends borrowed from classic DEPECHE MODE and crossed it with THE KNIFE for ‘Spellwork’, their most accessibly brilliant synthpop offering from their debut album ‘Feel It Break’.

Available on the album ‘Feel It Break’ via Domino / Paper Bag Records

http://austra.fyi/


GRIMES Oblivion (2012)

While Claire Boucher might be now more widely known for being the girlfriend of Elon Musk, she began as the kooky Montreal sensation GRIMES, sounding like LYKKE LI fronting KRAFTWERK. Presented in a fun leftfield lady meets pop princess fusion, ‘Oblivion’ was a sumptuously infectious tune that despite the almost unintelligible vocals and weird noises, was probably the most immediate track on her ‘Visions’ album which also featured less immediate but equally enjoyable ‘Genesis’.

Available on the album ‘Visions’ via 4AD Records

https://grimesmusic.com/


PARALLELS Moonlight Desires (2012)

Behind PARALLELS is Holly Dodson and on their second long player was a lovely synthpop version of GOWAN’s 1987 rock tune ‘Moonlight Desires’. She said of her love for the song: “We hear the original version it all the time in Canada. It’s always fulfilled all the necessary criteria – incredible hooks, the moon, magic melodies, nostalgia. I just recently learned that GOWAN’s actually heard the cover… and approves!! Which is SUCH a relief haha…”

Available on the album ‘XII’ via Marigold Productions

http://www.iloveparallels.com/


TR/ST Gloryhole (2012)

TR/ST began as the project of Robert Alfons and AUSTRA’s Maya Postepski. Although Postepski left to return to AUSTRA, the debut ‘TRST’ made a slow burning impact as Alfons toured his “Eeyore gone goth” electro template around the world. From it, the filthy ‘Gloryhole’ was a wondrous combination of sinister portamento and hypnotic dance beats. Postepski returned to the fold for the recent double album opus ‘The Destroyer’, but Alfons still remains something of an awkward character.

Available on the album ‘TRST’ via Arts & Crafts

https://tr-st.xyz/


FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY Killing Grounds (2013)

Bill Leeb formed FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY in 1986 after his short stint with SKINNY PUPPY under the name Wilhelm Schroeder. With Rhys Fulber as the other long standing member, they were influenced by acts such as CABARET VOLTAIRE, PORTION CONTROL, DAF, TEST DEPT and SPK. Having integrated guitars, FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY returned to making exclusively electronic music on their fifteenth album ‘Echogenetic’, the highlight of which was ‘Killing Grounds’.

Available on the album ‘Echogenetic’ via Dependent Records

http://www.mindphaser.com/


ELECTRIC YOUTH Without You (2014)

Hailing from Toronto, ELECTRIC YOUTH‘s collaboration with COLLEGE entitled ‘A Real Hero’ was included on the ‘Drive’ soundtrack’ in 2011. Their debut album ‘Innerworld’ finally came out in Autumn 2014 and one of its highlights was another collaboration, this time with ROOM8 called ‘Without You’. Echoing Aussie combo ICEHOUSE  and ‘Great Southern Land’ in particular, its bridge and chorus were particularly tremendous with a nostalgic Brat Pack movie presence.

Available on the album ‘Innerworld’ via Last Gang Entertainment / Secretly Canadian

https://electricyouthmusic.com/


PURITY RING Begin Again (2015)

With CHVRCHES having had success borrowing PURITY RING’s electro template, the Edmonton duo’s sophomore album ‘Another Eternity’ was more focussed than its predecessor ‘Shrines’. Still utilising glitch techniques, booming bass drops and Corin Roddick’s rattling drum machine programming, ‘Begin Again’ made the most of Megan James’ sweet and dreamy voice. The pair off a major surprise by working with Katy Perry on three songs for her 2017 album ‘Witness’.

Available on the album ‘Another Eternity’ via 4AD Records

https://purityringthing.com/


DANA JEAN PHOENIX Only For One Night (2018)

Self-described as a “Retro Synthwave Singer”, Toronto’s DANA JEAN PHOENIX isn’t a stranger to synthylicious ditties. Having moved away slightly from pure Synthwave styles, as one of the best live solo synth performers currently, she enjoys rocking out onstage with her keytar Jareth. The sparkling template of one of her most rousing numbers ‘Only One For One Night’ brought along a youthful escapism that reminisced about first loves and first disappointments.

Available on the album ‘PixelDust’ via New EmPire Entertainment

https://www.danajphoenix.com/


MECHA MAIKO Apathy (2019)

Behind the quirky avant pop of MECHA MAIKO‬ is the talented Torontonian, Hayley Stewart. The delightfully odd ‘Apathy’ from her second album ‘Let’s!’ was an inventive oddball fusion of jazz swing Charleston, frantic techno dance beats and vibrant synthpop hooks. It showed she was not afraid to blend seemingly incongruous influences to get an end result and with a slight sprinkling of Japanese instrumentation to close, the eclectic creative cycle was complete!‬‬‬‬‬

Available on the album ‘Let’s!’ via ORO Records

https://www.mechamaiko.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Simon Helm
17th February 2020

FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY Interview

Photo by Bobby Talamine

Bill Leeb is unimpressed with the Super Bowl half-time show. The best the NFL could muster for the break in the biggest game in the American sports season was MAROON 5, who showed twice as many nipples as Janet Jackson and a tenth of the melody of Taylor Swift.

We’re speaking the day after the event, but not about Tom Brady’s passing game. Leeb’s main band, FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY, has a new album to share.

‘Wake Up The Coma’, the latest from Canada’s electro-industrial pioneers, is loaded with energy and makes a number of surprising plays. We start by asking why FLA weren’t asked to do the half-time show.

Leeb: Because I don’t have enough tattoos. I gotta say, if I put a tattoo across my chest, stating Vancouver, that would be kind of a big statement.

On stage, Leeb is an imposing figure, even without his hometown etched into his skin. The former SKINNY PUPPY keyboardist prowls the boards with a shock of blond hair rising above him. When he points at the audience, you half expect lightning to take out the front row. He’s always drawn attention for his looks. When he moved to Canada as a teenager, the Austrian stood out.

Photo by Bobby Talamine

Leeb: The craziest thing is my first girlfriend in Vancouver, Debbie Jones, who is no longer with us, approached me at a nightclub because these guys were harassing her table. She asked if she could sit with me.  I used to get this question all the time, because of my hair: “Hey, are you in a band?” I think I’ve been asked that more than anything my entire life.

The meeting with Jones led to another important connection.

Leeb: We started chit-chatting, and the next thing you know she knew cEvin [Key] from SKINNY PUPPY. They met because Debbie and her cousin Donna were driving through a park, and cEvin pulled up in a black Monte Carlo with swivel seats. He rolled down the window and said, “Hey, do you guys want to smoke a joint?” Debbie said, “OK, yeah, sure.” There was also Gary [Smith] from Images in Vogue. So it all started with that group of people. When I think back now, it’s a bit like a movie how we all met up together.

With cEvin Key, Leeb struck up both a friendship and a friendly rivalry to find the latest obscure sounds from around the world. Their bible was the Contact List of Electronic Music (CLEM), an annotated directory of record stores and labels involved in the DIY tape and record scenes.

Leeb: One of the first things that got me going was a magazine called CLEM. That was one of our key influences. In there was all the PORTION CONTROL, ATTRITION and LUSTMORD. They had all the contacts, and you could write to all these people, and I think that was the big key for us. Me and cEvin being competitive, of course, we started writing to all these artists.

Back then, you could send an IRC [International Reply Coupon], which was a coupon you could buy at the post office that could be exchanged overseas for stamps. 

We started collecting cassettes from all these artists, and I still have lots of them. Me and cEvin would meet up, and it would be, “I’ve got a cassette from Edward Ka-Spel or In Phaze Records or PORTION CONTROL.” So, we started a bit of a collection war, and that’s how we got onto a lot of those artists.

Crate digging was the other way that the two friends found the sounds that connected them to the industrial and electronic scenes on the other side of the world.

 Leeb: Odyssey Imports and Quintessence Records were the two main stores in Vancouver which continuously, every week, brought in 12” vinyls from the UK and Germany. The UK pressings were better than those from anywhere else, so every Monday we would go down and wait to see what was going on. I remember cEvin turned me on to FAD GADGET. One day, he was standing beside me in the record store and he pulled out that album, Fireside Favourites, and said, “Have you heard this?” I go, “No.” And he says, “Great album – check it out!” And, of course, I became a huge FAD GADGET fan.

Still, Leeb gives a lot of credit to CLEM and its publisher, Alex Douglas.

Leeb: He was way ahead of the curve, as far all those bands. We got half of our contacts and info from that guy. That magazine was invaluable.

It was through CLEM and the underground cassette scene that Leeb became aware of Third Mind, a British label, and its guiding force, Gary Levermore. Third Mind would go on to release Front Line Assembly in the UK and organise shows for the innovative band.

Leeb: The thing that got me on to Gary was when he released Rising from the Red Sand. That was in CLEM magazine, and it had PORTION CONTROL, ATTRITION, BUSHIDO, LUSTMORD – it just went on and on. That was probably the best of the cassette compilations – song for song, that was probably the best one. 

Another great thing that me and cEvin used to do was stay up all night with our group of people, getting wasted and high, and we would find phone numbers for these artists. Come Sunday morning, we would call them. One time, we called PORTION CONTROL at three in the morning here – because the UK is eight hours ahead. Some guy would answer the phone, like Ian [Sharp of PORTION CONTROL], and be, “Hello?” 

We’d be, “Hey, this is cEvin and Bill. We really love your music.” I think they were taken aback that we would call them. It was a different time. You can’t do shit like that now. You’d probably send an email or something. 

It was a much bigger deal back then to get something like that – to get a cassette. I guess these guys over there, if you needed a cassette, they would just run one off.

One of Vancouver’s natural advantages is its permanent place on the North American tour map for interesting artists. Pity music fans from Winnipeg, who were in overflight territory for bands like SIMPLE MINDS and DEPECHE MODE.

Leeb: The crazy thing about DEPECHE MODE is I saw them the very first time they came to Canada, because Images in Vogue – cEvin’s band – opened for them at the Commodore. You know, cEvin and Gary and Joe had the latest and greatest stuff. They had all of that onstage and played. Then DEPECHE MODE, the original line-up, came onstage, and all they had was one keyboard – a small one – and they had an 8-track on the chair behind them. No visuals – that was it. When I think that I saw them last year at the Rogers Arena in front of 80,000 people…

At the first show, there were maybe only 400 people there, and they were up there with only one keyboard. We laughed then, because Images had all the gear and those guys didn’t, but who knew that they were going to be as massive as they were? Who puts a tape player on a chair behind them? But people were different back then.

That isn’t to say that everyone was open to the harder, darker electronics that Leeb and his friends were getting into.

Leeb: I was with cEvin the night he went to Images in Vogue’s manager and said, “I’m leaving the band and starting a new band called SKINNY PUPPY.” Kim Clarke Champniss was the manager of Images, and he was basically telling cEvin, “You’re crazy! Images is on a major; they’ve opened for Roxy and Duran – and you’re going to start a band called SKINNY PUPPY?! Are you crazy?” I was there just for support. And I think SKINNY PUPPY turned out to be ok, right?

The first support for their new approach came from the country that was producing many of the artists Leeb and Key had been discovering – England.

Leeb: For the very first review we got with SKINNY PUPPY – for Remission – me and cEvin went down to Odyssey Imports. There was a guy in Sounds [one of the weekly music tabloids from the UK] called Dave Henderson who ran a weekly thing called Wild Planet – he was another forerunner, encouraging those bands. He wrote a review, and we were walking down the street with it. It said, ”From the land of Anne Murray and Gordon Lightfoot, there is a new electronic band by the name of SKINNY PUPPY. Who do these guys think they are?”

 cEvin was so excited about this guy acknowledging us and saying he liked the album Remission. We’re reading this as we’re storming down the street, and he’s like, ”Bill, look – someone in the UK knows who SKINNY PUPPY is!” Henderson called us all the Wild Planet bands. It was another key factor in this movement, way in the very early days.

Once he was touring with FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY, Leeb got to know some of those bands better.

Leeb: We toured with PORTION CONTROL and did remixes with them. We became friends with Edward Ka-Spel and he and cEvin did THE TEAR GARDEN. Debbie Jones actually went out with Edward for a while – the girl who had brought us all together. Me and Gary Levermore have been really good friends. All those early tours we did through his label in Europe – we became a huge family. It was quite a movement for quite a while – thirty years.

The influence of those cassette-trading pioneers is still being felt.

Leeb: It spawned the things like, in Europe, the M’era Luna festival and Wave-Gotik-Treffen festival –  Amphi. Every band there – whether AND ONE or COVENANT, any of these bands – got their cue from that movement. Not just us, but the whole movement.

Half the bands that are industrial still sound like SKINNY PUPPY or were motivated by that sound. We were motivated by PORTION CONTROL with that distorted, angry vocal – I’d never heard anyone do that before! People were so brainwashed with rock and roll back then. If you think about the whole Gothic world, our world had a lot to do with bringing that forward.

Of course, you had your German bands like DAF – another groundbreaker. FRONT 242 were there, too. They came along during the early SKINNY PUPPY days. That all created a healthy, thriving world in itself. It maybe wasn’t as big as hip hop, but still… NINE INCH NAILS opened for SKINNY PUPPY when it was just Trent for a while and he’s kind of done ok, right? The whole Marilyn Manson thing. It’s spawned a couple of decades of music and it’s still going strong in its own way. It’s still an alternative to all that other stuff, like MAROON 5. It’s so narcissistic, all that world of new popstars now: half the day at the gym; half the day at the tattoo parlour. It’s a whole different mindset.

‘Wake Up The Coma’ features several collaborations. A notable one ‘Eye On You’ with Robert Görl of DAF, opens the album.

Leeb: We met at M’era Luna and another festival. We all hung out backstage, and I kind of hunted him down. One time, they played right after us and we were hanging out backstage, waiting to change, and I just started talking to him. I was such a huge fan, and the first couple of DAF albums were groundbreaking – kind of like the whole Mute and DEPECHE MODE world. We just started chatting in German, and he’s a super nice guy, and next thing you know we were doing the track.

We were going to get him to sing on the song, but he had some things he had to deal with at the time and we couldn’t get it all together – but that was a good start. 

If I think back to twenty five years ago, that I would actually get to do a track with someone like him – I would have thought was far-fetched. That was kind of cool for me. A final thing, as we fade into the future mist.

”David Bowie” even makes a surprise appearance on the last track ‘Structures’.

Leeb: I asked Chris [Connelly], because he does that SONS OF THE SILENT AGE. It’s very popular. They do a couple of Bowie albums every year. I asked him to use that approach to a song. When we did that tour with REVOLTING COCKS in America, it was such a success. Every show sold out. We became really good friends with Richard 23 and Chris and Paul Barker. It was a very fun tour, and everyone was very professional and friendly, so I took the liberty to ask Chris when we became friends and he agreed [snaps fingers] just like that.

The song that will make or break the album might actually be a cover. FLA’s version of Falco’s ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ will surprise a lot of fans with its audacity. It’s not an obvious choice; but, infused with intensity by Rhys Fulber’s programming, and shorn of the wigs and powder of the original, it could be a cross-over hit. They have had those before in their DELERIUM guise.

Leeb: I thought that, having been born and raised in Austria, and being Austrian, there was enough of a connection to do that song. I felt like something foreign and I like classical music, so I hope that the Mayor of Vienna gives me the key to the city and that song gets on Viva rotation. I’m curious to see how much hate and love we get over it. Rhys is loving it. He’s like, “Everyone is going to hate it!” Well, ok, that’s cool. When you hear the original and ours, they are quite different. Jimmy [Urine] is the king of irony. The way he does the song has a hint of humour in it. In the studio, he had it in two or three takes – in German!

Even with covers and collaborations, ‘Wake Up The Coma’ hangs together incredibly well. It’s a mature, sophisticated FLA release. The unifying theme, if there is one, is contact.

Leeb: Jeremy [Inkel] sent me some demos, and the day after he passed away we were supposed to speak. After ‘Echogenetic’, Rhys was back in the picture. It was so crazy, and we put this record together with bits and pieces of these guys. I made new friends with Robert and Chris. Three of the songs came from Ian Pickering. ‘Wake Up The Coma’ was from one of his songs. He was the guy who wrote a bunch of lyrics for SNEAKER PIMPS. We became friends with him through somebody else.

‘Wake Up The Coma’ is with the guy from PARADISE LOST [Nick Holmes]; he does the vocals. Rhys produced a couple of PARADISE LOST albums and they became good friends. It was a weird, big, crazy thing. Rhys summed it up, with all the craziness and Jeremy’s passing: “I guess we’re a real band now.”


The Electricity Club gives its grateful thanks to Bill Leeb

Special thanks to Gary Levermore at Red Sand PR

‘Wake Up The Coma’ is released by Metropolis Records, in double vinyl LP, CD and digital formats, available from https://frontlineassembly.bandcamp.com/

http://www.mindphaser.com/

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

https://twitter.com/f7a

https://www.instagram.com/front.line.assembly.official/

https://www.metropolis-records.com/artist/front-line-assembly


Text and Interview by Simon Helm
Photos by Simon Helm except where credited
16th February 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


With special thanks to Ralf Dörper

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

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

http://www.diekrupps.de/

https://www.facebook.com/diekruppsofficial

http://www.mindphaser.com/

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


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

FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY Live in London

When Bill Leeb left SKINNY PUPPY to form FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY, back in 1986, it seemed that he was jumping the ship everyone wanted to be on.

The Vancouver-based band were rising with a post-punk tide that combined synthesizers, hard rhythms and splatter movie images as a counterpoint to the commercial sounds that filled the airwaves of the period.

Their popularity had helped Nettwerk Records get a distribution deal with a major label in the US, while the band were signed to a powerful independent in Europe. It wasn’t enough for Leeb. He wanted to sing. He wanted to shape songs that were powerful electro-industrial statements, but he also wanted the freedom to create ambient trance.

Starting with a cassette recorder in his bedroom, Leeb created FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY to do the former. He also found success with the latter as DELIRIUM. In between, he’s launched or taken part in dozens of projects. Most recently, he collaborated with John Fryer’s BLACK NEEDLE NOISE project.

Promiscuous as he is, artistically, FLA remains Leeb’s musical spine. He formed the band under the spell of early PORTION CONTROL, SPK and LIAISONS DANGEREUSES, and their industrial influences continue to resonate. Locked in a hall in London, with long-time collaborator Rhys Fulber on keyboards, the FLA atmosphere comes less from the drifting clouds of stage smoke than the rhythms of the city outside.

The blips of computers and the pumping of valves are core elements of the FLA sound. The flow of data and people needs machines, and the pace of machines causes anxiety. Heavy beats are a sonic tonic for this state, and FLA are an efficient delivery mechanism.

Leeb strides the stage with a shock of blond hair rising from his head that seems to be made of high tensile wire. The opening songs, ‘The Chair’ and ‘Resist’, first appeared on FLA’s 1990 album, ‘Caustic Grip’, and the intervening three decades have done nothing to soften their impact. “Resist the command!” instructs Leeb, and a heaving crowd submits to the rhythm without irony.

‘Killing Ground’ follows, taken from 2013’s critically acclaimed album, ‘Echogenetic’. Fulber didn’t appear on that album, but he did remix the track, and he seems at home with the material. From behind his bank of keyboards, he fixes a serious face for the set, but keeping the needle in the groove at this pace is no smiling matter.

The set includes more songs from ‘Echogenetic’, including ‘Exhale’ and ‘Deadened’, but the balance is weighted towards FLA’s 1990s output. It is an electronic bookend to FLA’s catalogue, leaving out the guitars of their millennial recordings.

Live drumming intensifies the rhythms, rather than presenting Eigner-like intrusions, and the endorphin levels match the sound man’s VU meter.

The show nearly ends with an excellent encore of ‘Mindphaser’, but FLA won’t be released by the audience. The show can’t finish until the blond giant and his bearded keyboardist have returned to ‘Caustic Grip’ for a blistering turn of ‘Iceolate’, as fierce and innovative as it sounded on its initial release.


Special thanks to Gary Levermore at Red Sand PR and Marija Buljeta at Altvenger Magazine

2017 North American Tour includes:

Los Angeles The Regent (10th November), Seattle El Corazon (11th November), San Francisco Mezzanine (12th November), Dallas Gas Monkey (14th November), Austin Elysium (15th November), Denver Summit Music Hall (16th November), Chicago Metro (17th November), New York Gramercy Theatre (18th November), Toronto Danforth Music Hall (19th November)

http://www.mindphaser.com/

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

https://twitter.com/f7a

https://www.metropolis-records.com/artist/front-line-assembly

http://www.coldwarnightlife.com/


Text and Photos by Simon Helm
28th August 2017

DELERIUM Mythologie

delerium-mythologie-a_w-medresDELERIUM originated in Canada as a side enterprise of FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY, with Bill Leeb as the only constant member.

Leeb and Michael Balch started off as darker ambient sound enthusiasts, but the evolution of line-up changes gradually migrated DELERIUM’s sound onto electronic dance.

Since, the venture has had an established career spanning over twenty nine years.

The strategic idea to use various vocalists on their projects, such as Jacqui Hunt of SINGLE GUN THEORY, Niels van Gogh, Sarah McLachlan, Kirsty Thirsk, Lisa Gerrard, Emily Haines of METRIC, Matthew Sweet or MEDIÆVAL BÆBES, has proven financially beneficial to the outings by DELERIUM. In fact, surpassing even FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY, who have always been known for having a cult following.

‘Mythologie’ is the fifteenth studio album by the Leeb-Fulber collaboration, with a helping hand from Jared Singerland and Craig Johnsen. It’s also DELERIUM’s first album released under the umbrella of Metropolis Records.

delerium-1-cr-eric-rodent-chesiakMimi Page guests on the opening ‘Blue Fires’; Page is an established LA based composer, vocalist and songwriter, mostly celebrated by her ethereal, cinematic vocal techniques and celestial soprano voice.

‘Blue Fires’ is very much a Page track; with atmospheric philosophy and dreamy sequences, it is a perfect opening to the opus.

‘Angels’ is the second out of four songs with Mimi Page in charge. Another JULEE CRUISE styled vocal, hauntingly beautiful, hovering over the extravaganza of synth, guitar and piano. ‘Made To Move’ and ‘Dark Visions’; the latter closing the production, continue with the LA songstress’ signature soprano, painting the sublime soundscapes characterised by layered synths and grandiose textures.

Phidel takes the reins on the second track, ‘Zero’. The Londoner, whose background was musicless, having grown up in a house where music was strictly forbidden, had to fight for her passion, which resulted in the production of some fabulous pieces, which have been extensively used in television ads and various campaigns.

‘Zero’ resembles a FIFI RONG creation, with aptly programmed synths and generous amount of emancipated vocals. Phidel also features on ‘Rhitual’; an ambient piece with exquisite elements sounding like a renaissance of GOLDFRAPP’s ‘Voicething’.

‘Keep On Dreaming’ sees the acclaimed Swiss band LUNIK’s songstress Jaël, whose spellbindingly clear vocals adorned productions by SCHILLER, MICH GERBER and DELERIUM once before. The Svensen and Gieler remix of ‘After All’ went to number one in the UK dance charts in 2003.

delerium-8-col-2-cr-eric-rodent-chesiakThe New York born and LA based JES, co-wrote and lends her vocals to two pieces on ‘Mythologie’; ‘Stay’ and ‘Once In A Lifetime’. A well-known and celebrated producer and singer, a Grammy nominee and a host of her own radio show, the artist gracefully lifts the mood of ‘Stay’, which musically bears elements of Madonna’s ‘Frozen’. ‘Once In A Lifetime’ showcases the vocal abilities of JES over a perfect synth pop track.

‘Seven Gates Of Thebes’ is an instrumental gem, introducing ‘Ghost Requiem’ with Geri Soriano-Lightwood. The singer and songwriter of trip hop Supreme Beings Of Leisure characterises herself with the sultry vocal and seductive lyrics. The old record feel of this track resembles the productions by John Fryer on SILVER GHOST SHIMMER.

The last LA artist to collaborate on ‘ Mythologie ‘ is a vocalist and bass player Leah Randi. Randi is best known for playing bass in PINK’s band but she has previously collaborated with Leeb on FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY’s album ‘Civilisation’.

The two year period of completion for ‘Mythology’ pays off now. The album is wholesome, gratifying and wonderfully ethereal. Leeb’s use of various artists from three different countries, each with their own vision and incomparable vocal techniques, makes this collaboration a notable success. It truly is a production for the lovers of atmospheric, ambient and celestial music. And a very different style from FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY.


‘Mythologie’ is released by Metropolis Records, available as a download from https://metropolisrecords.bandcamp.com/album/mythologie

https://www.facebook.com/Delerium/

https://twitter.com/Delerium


Text by Monika Izabela Trigwell
Photos by Eric ‘Rodent’ Chesiak
24th September 2016