Tag: Gareth Jones (Page 1 of 2)

A Beginner’s Guide To DANIEL MILLER

This history of Mute Records and its esteemed founder Daniel Miller is more than well documented.

The lavish book ‘Mute: A Visual Document From 1978 – Tomorrow’ published in 2017 captured the iconic label’s visual aesthetic. Already a fan of German kosmische scene, Daniel Miller began taking an interest in synthesizers for making pop music after hearing KRAFTWERK’s ‘Autobahn’.

The advent of affordable synthesizers from Japan manufactured by the likes of Korg and Roland made it possible for him to adopt punk’s DIY ethic by buying a Korg 700s for the price of a guitar. That enabled him to make music using just one finger, instead of having to learn three chords.

Conceiving a punk single with electronics, he wrote and recorded ‘Warm Leatherette’ b/w ‘TVOD’ for a one-off independent single release in 1978. Miller’s sense of experimentation within a structured albeit avant pop context led to kindred spirits sending him tapes, thanks to him including his mother’s address “16 Decoy Avenue London NW 11 England” on the back of the MUTE 001 sleeve.

Mute Records’ first signing was a former art student Frank Tovey who released the macabre ‘Back To Nature’ as FAD GADGET in 1979 as MUTE 002 with Miller co-producing. It began establishing a good reputation for experimental electronic pop music. As well as running the label and working in the studio with his own roster of acts, Miller also produced and remixed other artists, although this became less frequent as Mute Records achieved more and more success.

If Daniel Miller had a characteristic sound during the pioneering years of Synth Britannia, then it was his use of the ARP 2600 driven by an ARP 1601 analogue sequencer, particularly for unique rhythmic templates obtained from the percussive capabilities of this versatile American synth. Always keen to keep up-to-date with the latest technology, Miller’s later acquisitions included a Synclavier, PPG Wave 2, Emulator, Roland System 100M and Roland MC4 Micro-Composer. Many years later, Miller even bought the customised vocoder used on ‘Autobahn’ from the late Florian Schneider even though it was not in fully working order.

While Miller’s production work with DEPECHE MODE over five albums naturally led American new wave acts like BOOK OF LOVE to seek his knowhow, indie band THE HOUSE OF LOVE were surprisingly curious enough to secure his services on their track ‘Safe’. Meanwhile, post-punk art rock combo WIRE saw him as a kindred spirit keen to explore new interesting ways of recording and worked with Miller in various guises.

Although Mute Records was bought by EMI in 2002, Miller reached an agreement in 2010 to establish a second independently run record label under the name Mute Artists while the Mute Records name and rights to the label’s archive recordings remained under the control of EMI’s present owners Universal.

More recently, Daniel Miller has been happily DJ-ing around the world playing largely techno sets for Berghain in Berlin, Sónar in Barcelona and IMS in Ibiza among others.

Meanwhile he has also occasionally given talks at events such as MoogFest. Red Bull Music Academy, LEAF and the Electri_City_Conference.

With a vast and varied portfolio to investigate, The Electricity Club looks back at the creative career of Daniel Miller in music via eighteen of his productions and remixes, with a restriction of one track per artist moniker, presented in yearly, then alphabetical order.


THE NORMAL Warm Leatherette (1978)

Daniel Miller’s sense of experimentation and vision of the synth being the ultimate punk instrument requiring the use of just one finger led to him making his first record. Lyrically inspired by JG Ballard’s ‘Crash’ with its story around car collision symphorophilia, the dystopian ‘Warm Leatherette’ was based around two noisy notes and a twitchy rhythmic backbone that was menacing yet enthralling at the same time. It turned out to be something of a game changer.

Available on THE NORMAL single ‘ Warm Leatherette’ / ‘TVOD’ via Mute Records

http://mute.com/category/the-normal


FAD GADGET Coitus Interruptus (1980)

Following the success of singles ‘Back To Nature’ and ‘Ricky’s Hand’, a FAD GADGET album was eagerly anticipated and it came with ‘Fireside Favourites’ which brought in a Korg Rhythm 55 drum machine, conventional instruments and various found objects alongside the synths. A four way production effort between Frank Tovey, Daniel Miller, Eric Radcliffe and John Fryer, the superb ‘Coitus Interruptus’ was a deeply cynical commentary on casual relationships.

Available on the album ‘Fireside Favourites’ via Mute Records

https://fadgadget.co.uk/


ALEX FERGUSSON Stay With Me Tonight (1980)

Larry Least was a production pseudonym inspired by the producer, Rak Records mogul and ‘New Faces’ judge Mickey Most. This infectious solo single by Alex Fergusson featured Daniel Miller’s distinctive electronic footprint and his involvement helped the ALTERNATIVE TV guitarist transform from post-punk to more synthesized song experiments. With Fergusson forming PSYCHIC TV with Genesis P-Orridge, it wasn’t until 1992 that a white label only self-titled solo album was released.

Available on the boxed set ‘Electrical Language: Independent British Synth Pop 78-84’ (V/A) via Cherry Red Records

https://www.scaruffi.com/vol4/atv.html


SILICON TEENS Memphis Tennessee (1980)

Following THE NORMAL, Daniel Miller decided to undertake a new project where rock ’n’ roll standards like ‘Just Like Eddie’ and ‘Memphis Tennessee’ were reinterpreted in a synthpop style, using a fictitious group called SILICON TEENS as a front. While Miller sang like he had a clothes peg attached to his nose and produced the recordings as Larry Least, several actors hired to appear in videos and do press interviews, although lead vocalist ‘Darryl’ was played by Frank Tovey.

Available on the SILICON TEENS album ‘Music For Parties’ via Mute Records

http://mute.com/release/music-for-parties


ALAN BURNHAM Science Fiction (1981)

For a one-off single on Cherry Red Records, the dystopian minimal synth of ‘Music To Save The World By’ from the little known and somewaht reclusive Alan Burnham was produced by Daniel Miller at Blackwing Studios. He also worked on its B-side ‘Science Fiction’ which was just as haunting as the main act. Perhaps more organic thanks to the use of live drums by Cam Findlay, it took a leaf out of the quirky cult Wirral duo DALEK I LOVE YOU and their song ‘The World’ in particular.

Available on the boxed set ‘Electrical Language: Independent British Synth Pop 78-84’ (V/A) via Cherry Red Records

http://mute.com/mute/daniel-miller


SOFT CELL Metro MRX (1981)

The original ‘Metro MRX’ came from the SOFT CELL debut EP ‘Mutant Moments’ released in October 1980, but the sub-two minute Daniel Miller take of ‘Metro MRX’ for ‘Flexipop’ magazine borrowed the same synthetic rhythm track as DEPECHE MODE’s ‘New Life’ to accompany Almond’s snarls of “he’s a mutant!”. Miller also produced ‘A Man Can Get Lost’, ‘Persuasion’ and perhaps most significantly, the proto-house of ‘Memorabilia’ at those same Stage One recording sessions.

Available on the SOFT CELL boxed set ‘Keychains & Snowstorms’ via Universal Music

https://www.softcell.co.uk/


DEPECHE MODE Nothing To Fear (1982)

While Eric Radcliffe was holed up working with Vince Clarke and Alison Moyet on the first YAZOO album at Blackwing Studios on the night shift, during the day Daniel Miller was working with DEPECHE MODE on their second. With punchy Simmons Drum modules and a catchy melodic theme, ‘Nothing To Fear’ was a glorious instrumental statement from an important long player that made the most of Miller’s programming expertise to ensure an optimistic future for Messrs Gahan, Gore and Fletcher.

Available on the DEPECHE MODE album ‘A Broken Frame’ via Mute Records

http://www.depechemode.com/


THOMAS DOLBY Radio Silence (1982)

When recording ‘Radio Silence’ for singular consumption, Thomas Morgan Dolby Robertson sought the assistance of Daniel Miller thanks to his track record with DEPECHE MODE. Bringing in his PPG Wave 2 and helping with the final mix, it was released as a single in early 1982 with an alternative rockier guitar driven version on the B-side which was favoured in the US. Both takes also featured the voice of Akiko Yano, who was married to Ryuichi Sakamoto at the time.

Available on the THOMAS DOLBY album ‘The Golden Age Of Wireless’ via EMI Records

https://www.thomasdolby.com/


DUET EMMO Or So It Seems (1982)

WIRE refugees, Bruce Gilbert and Graham Lewis had been working under the name DOME, so when a collaborative adventure with Miller was suggested, an anagram of that moniker and Mute resulted in DUET EMMO. Recorded at Blackwing Studios, ‘Or So It Seems’ was their debut offering, a slice of experimental pop shaped with grumbling synthesized bass, captivating electronics and textural harmonic guitar while Lewis’ haunting vocals provided the emotional centre, spooked by sombre bursts of brass.

Available on the DUET EMMO album ‘Or So It Seems’ via Mute Records

https://mutesong.com/writers/duet-emmo/


YAZOO Situation (1982)

Originally the B-side to ‘Only You’, ‘Situation’ was one of only three writing collaborations between Alison Moyet and Vince Clarke, as well as only being one of five YAZOO tracks that Daniel Miller co-produced with Eric Radcliffe. Clocking in at barely two minutes in its original form, it made its impact with some rousing blues based sequenced dance pop; it became a US club favourite when it was remixed by Francois Kevorkian who later worked with KRAFTWERK and DEPECHE MODE.

Available on the YAZOO boxed set ‘The Collection’ via Mute Records

https://twitter.com/yazooinfo


ROBERT GÖRL Mit Dir (1983)

Following DAF’s Virgin album trilogy produced by Conny Plank, the duo borke up in a haze of sex, drugs and sequencer. Drummer and synthesist Robert Görl signed to Mute as a solo artist and began his account with the standalone single ‘Mit Dir’. Dark, brooding and magnificent, the song was co-produced by Daniel Miller and went on to become a favourite among the cognoscenti, reinterpreted for Prada commercials and covered by DJ HELL with STEREO MCs.

Available on the ROBERT GÖRL album ‘Night Full Of Tension’ via Mute Records

http://www.robert-goerl.de/


HARD CORPS To Breathe (1985)

Polydor A&R man Malcolm Dunbar managed to gain Daniel Miller’s interest to help out on a HARD CORPS track that Martin Rushent had started. “It was an offer we could not refuse and ‘Respirer’ duly ended up being completed with Daniel producing” said the band’s Clive Pierce, “So now we had two of the best ‘electronic’ music producers in the UK both helping on our track”. Exquisitely Gallic, Polydor however released ‘Respirer’ in English as ‘To Breathe’ but it was not the hit that they were seeking.

Available as ‘Respirer’ on the HARD CORPS album ‘Metal & Flesh’ via Sub Culture Records

http://www.hardcorps.co.uk/


NITZER EBB Join In The Chant – Gold! (1987)

Chelmsford’s NITZER EBB were founded by school friends Douglas McCarthy, Bon Harris and Bon Harris. Originally produced by Pete Waterman associate Phil Harding, the ambiguous chants of “muscle and late, lies, lies, gold, gold” in ‘Join In The Chant’ encouraged exactly as the title suggested in the manner of a DAF body sculpture. Daniel Miller and Flood’s Gold! restructure took out the Balearic beats and pushed forward a more Teutonic industrial thrust complete with metallic tools to boot.

Available on the NITZER EBB album ‘Body Of Work’ via Mute Records

http://www.nitzer-ebb.com/


ERASURE Supernature – Daniel Miller & Phil Legg Remix (1990)

ERASURE were not shy about doing cover versions with ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!’ and ‘River Deep Mountain High’ having already been reinterpreted by this point. Andy Bell and Vince Clarke’s take on Marc Cerrone’s electronic disco landmark saw Daniel Miller and Phil Legg present this tight electro-dance remix extended to over seven minutes. Miller and Legg got together again for DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Enjoy The Silence’ and it was their mix that became the ‘Violator’ album version and single release.

Available on the ERASURE deluxe album ‘Wild!’ via Mute Records

https://www.erasureinfo.com/


CHRIS & COSEY Synaesthesia – Daniel Miller Mix (1991)

After leaving industrial pioneers THROBBING GRISTLE, Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti became a popular cult duo with their experimental pop utilising electronics, sampling, rhythms and even cornet alongside Cosey’s distinctive nonchalant vocals. Superbly sinister but beautiful metallic synthpop, ‘Synaesthesia’ exuded hints of PET SHOP BOYS ‘Euroboy’ but a good year before it. Meanwhile Daniel Miller’s brilliant rework took on a different groove to the harder bleepy house laden original.

Available on the CHRIS & COSEY single ‘Synaesthesia’ via Conspiracy International

http://www.chrisandcosey.com/


SUNROOF! Hero (1998)

SUNROOF! was Daniel Miller’s occasional project with Gareth Jones who he first worked with on DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Construction Time Again’ album. Exploring their love of Kosmische, it was perhaps no surprise that they covered the symbolic NEU! track ‘Hero’. Given more of a pulsing electronic treatment, the alluringly detached vocals came from Alison Conway who has part of the Mute family having been part of AC MARIAS, a project which also featured Bruce Gilbert of WIRE and Barry Adamson of MAGAZINE.

Available on the album ‘A Homage to NEU!’ (V/A) via Cleopatra

http://www.garethjones.com/


POPPY & THE JEZEBELS Sign In, Dream On, Drop Out! – Richard X Meets Larry Least Mix (2012)

POPPY & THE JEZEBELS were a school band based in Birmingham signed to Mute Song. ‘Sign In, Dream On, Drop Out!’ was superbly playful girly synthpop with the ‘Isolation’ bassline borrowed from JOY DIVISION bouncing around in electronic form while sinister Maggie Thatcher voice samples echoed. Originally produced by Richard X, Larry Least came out of retirement when the girls persuaded Miller to remix the track using his trusty Korg 700s synth.

Available on the POPPY & THE JEZEBELS single ‘Sign In, Dream On, Drop Out!’ via Gunball Machine

https://mutesong.com/writers/poppy-and-the-jezebels/


WRANGLER Theme From Wrangler – Daniel Miller rework (2016)

The brief from WRANGLER to remixers of tracks from their album ‘LA Spark’ was simple: “We provide some basic stems from a track selected by you from our debut album ‘LA Spark’ and you add whatever sounds you like – the only rule being that you use just one analogue modular synthesiser system of your choice.” Sweetened by flanged string machine, Daniel Miller provided a gliding rumbling bassline over a metronomic kick on his rework of ‘Theme from Wrangler’.

Available on the WRANGLER album ‘Sparked: Modular Remix Project’ via MemeTune Records

https://www.facebook.com/mallinderbengewinter/


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Simon Helm and Volker Maass
Photos by Simon Helm
4th June 2020

JOHN FOXX: The Metamatic Interview

May 2018 sees a new edition release of JOHN FOXX’s seminal 1980 album ‘Metamatic’.

Although arguably there can be very few electronic music fans who don’t possess a copy, this new version includes a third disc of unreleased instrumentals and prototype demo versions that will appeal to completists and fans alike.

The 3CD package also includes some previously unseen photos and drawings by John with 49 tracks in total. The Electricity Club were fortunate to get an advanced preview of the new additions and there are some real gems in there.

From the alternative mix of the TANGERINE DREAM-like ‘Glimmer’ through to the appearance of a prominent acoustic piano in ‘Fragmentary City’, also worthy of a mention is the droning ‘Critical Mass’ which feels like it would make a superb instrumental prelude to ‘Underpass’.

Also present are early demos of some of the best known tracks on ‘Metamatic’ including ‘Touch & Go’ and two versions of ‘No One’s Driving’; one sequencer driven, the other more piano chord-oriented.

Other pieces including unreleased track ‘Miss Machinery’ which has such a beautifully honed mix suggesting that it must have been in strong consideration to be included on the final album.

JOHN FOXX kindly spoke to The Electricity Club about the gestation of the album and the transition from ULTRAVOX Mk1 to solo artist.

What impact did the studio location and surroundings at Pathway in London have on the sound and content of ‘Metamatic’?

Great location for me – a cycle ride away, so I could wobble home at night. I was living in Finsbury Park at the time. It was all very urban North London and I liked that too.

How important was the influence of JG Ballard on your work at this point?

Well, he was the first writer who seemed to be addressing what I’d come to call ‘the unrecognised present’. It takes us all a little time to realise exactly how we’re living, since circumstances are changing so quickly and in that gap, some it gets out of hand. For instance, I felt cars were out of hand at that (and this!) point.

Without noticing, we found we were all living on diminishing islands, surrounded by an ocean of cars, dominating the environment completely, enabling new crimes and new situations, forcing new ways of living and changing everything – even architecture and the shape of cities, as harried city councils threw up welcoming worlds of concrete to accommodate them.

We had to try to live with all that. Ballard had understood and mapped this process and how it can all come tumbling down. He could see how fragile things really are, I guess from his childhood, when his world was torn apart by the Japanese invasion. He wasn’t the only one though, there were others, some writers such as Burroughs and Philip K Dick and several film makers – Tarkovsky, that ‘Chien Andalou’ film by Dali and Bunuel, Alain Resnais’ ‘Last Year in Marienbad’- and so on.

Songs such as ‘He’s A Liquid’ and ‘Touch & Go’ had debuted live as ULTRAVOX! numbers… how did the shift towards you playing synthesizers and programming drum machines yourself evolve?

I wrote those at home using a drum machine, then we developed them with the band, but I didn’t really feel they’d reached their potential until they were synth and drum machine only. I had a certain sound in my head that I wanted to get to – that more minimal electronic / primitive / dub sound. It simply needed tape, synth, drum machine, voice – and nothing else.

So basically, it was an ARP Odyssey, Elka String Machine, a Compurhythm and go!?

Exactly. Everything fell into place then.

There are some fantastic recordings that have surfaced from ULTRAVOX’s 1979 US tour where you debuted ‘Touch & Go’ and ‘He’s A Liquid’ with the band. What are your feelings or emotions when you listen back to these prototype versions now?

Oh, I like them – and I also really enjoyed working with the band, but that naked electronic thing was feeling urgent – I just had to get that working.

Speaking of prototypes – I think the band was responsible for a couple of generations worth of prototypes – there were really so many basic seeds sewn by us by that point.

I remember being really torn in ‘77-‘78, because there were two great directions we’d evolved- first the modern rock thing which is a line that extends from ‘Systems Of Romance’ and is still running – it goes on through SIMPLE MINDS / JOY DIVISION / U2 / BLUR / ELASTICA / FRANZ FERDINAND / RADIOHEAD / HORRORS and so on. Inventive Britrock. We defined that very early on, and we were the first to do it, with songs like ‘Slow Motion’ and ‘I Can’t Stay Long’ etc, we’d mapped it some years before – even that branch of OASIS and STONE ROSES, with our nod to THE BEATLES Psychedelic thing on ‘When You Walk Through Me’ from ‘Systems’ in 1978.

Then there was the minimal studio electronic thing that was really just beginning – but we’d done that a good two years before with ‘My Sex’, then ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ and Dislocation’ and ‘Just For A Moment’ etc. We’d recorded ‘My Sex’ in summer 1976. I really felt things branched dramatically at the point of ‘Systems’, not just for us, but for the entire future of Brit music, and I think we’d mapped both directions as inevitables, some years before.

How did you feel when the main riff for ‘Touch & Go’ ended up on ULTRAVOX’s ‘Mr. X’? Was there any kind of legal challenge with this?

Oh, impossible to untangle who did what after you’ve been in the studio together. Everyone has their own perspective and they’re all different. Bit of a road accident really. It would’ve been declared a mistrial. All witnesses concussed.

‘A New Kind of Man’ was originally slated to be the first single off of the album? What inspired the song?

It was a continuation of the ‘Quiet Man’ theme – I’d begun to write the stories, and in one he steps out of and into a film screen. That image also provided the ‘Metamatic’ cover image.

What was the background to deciding to issue ‘My Face’ as a yellow flexi-disc with ‘Smash Hits’; it’s quite a strange combination looking back in hindsight, but perhaps indicates how open the interpretation of pop music could be in 1980?

They asked if I had a track they could use and I’d just recorded it. Having a track on that magazine was a good thing and I could choose whatever I liked.

You’re right – it was an example of how things had opened up after Punk and just at GARY NUMAN’s jump into the charts. He was the point the floodgates opened for the entire Brit electronic movement. Everyone has a lot to thank him for.

Is it true that you were influenced by dub reggae on the album?

Absolutely, it all goes back a very long way…

As with most good things, it all began in Chorley. There was a great West Indian couple I’d known since I was about eight years old – Mr Huey and his wife May. They’d come over from Jamaica in the late 1950s and been lodgers with a Polish friend of mine, Richard Woczeck.

Huey and May then got a terraced house at the top of Corporation Street, were my Gran and uncles lived, so I saw them often. They’d occasionally invite me and my mate Arthur Sweeney to a Blues party in their yard – we’d be around mid-teens at that point and young mods, so right into all that – Curried Goat, beer and PRINCE BUSTER. Great!

After that, I listened to things developing in Manchester, when I was an art student there, at the Ponda Rosa, a three storey Café – food on the ground floor, then some secret gambling and shenanigans upstairs. They had a home-built sound system, one of the first I’d seen. Great bass and the music was changing, too.

Then, when I came to London and formed the band, I found Chris Cross was from Tottenham, not far from Broadwater Farm, and he was a decent dub bass player too. At the other end of town, the Ladbroke Grove scene was also in full swing – big custom sound systems on the street. Island Records was West Indies central, so Billy Currie and I used to go into Island studios Basing Street to listen to LEE PERRY and BOB MARLEY sessions. Well foggy in there!

Then, when I started work at Pathway studios in 1979, a tiny eight-track place in North London, Gareth Jones and I heard lots of dub sessions. A crew of guys would book two hours studio time and bang out half a dozen dub tracks for 12’ singles, which were a new thing then. I was fascinated by that mixing technique of stripping everything right back to give one sound all the power.

So when we mixed ‘Metamatic’, we did a lot of that. In fact I chose the studio partly because it had a home-built desk that was especially good for punching sounds in and out and throwing effects on the sound live in the mix. That technique became part of our repertoire. The drums and synth on ‘Underpass’ are done like that, for instance, and the bass is consciously Dub-style. It’s a Dub rhythm track with Euro electro toplines and voice.

Although ‘Metamatic’ is an electronic album, there’s quite a bit of bass guitar by Jake Durant. Was it quite tricky get the synth bass to work the way you wanted with the ARP Odyssey back then?

Well, it wasn’t always easy to get the right depth of bass from the Odyssey. It’s a demon for unusual and complex noises – the best there is at tearing down walls and taking the skin off your back.

A Minimoog was best for bass. Richer. I used that too, on ’He’s a Liquid’, for instance, but I preferred the precision and vitality of the ARP. Much quicker, more vicious and more intuitive for me.

Do you subscribe to the Philip Oakey viewpoint that synthesizers are more ‘punk’ than guitars?

Bang on Phil – you only need the one finger! No chords. As soon as synths became affordable, I knew there’d be a permanent revolution. Inevitable.

Listening back to the album now, what strikes most is how stark and minimalist it sounds, what kind of reception did you get from Virgin when you submitted it?

Oh, I think they simply stepped back and put the record out. It was certainly weird, minimal, cold, harsh and surreal for that period – all that BROTHERHOOD OF MAN stuff in the charts. At that time though, everyone at Virgin was in close cahoots and out for a bit of fun.

It was a great time. Simon Draper, the real power and judgement there, was totally supportive. A marvellous visionary character. He created Virgin really.

The extra songs which feature as part of this package and the ‘Metamatic Plus’ edition (including ‘Cinemascope’ and ‘My Face’) all seem strong enough to have made it onto the original album, was it a difficult process deciding which tracks would make the final cut first time around?

There was no shortage of material. I was just listening to the demos and ideas from cassettes recently. Tons of stuff. Lots of unfinished song starts. It drives me nuts. I’m going to destroy it all, just for peace of mind.

The ‘Metamatic’ follow-up ‘The Garden’ saw quite a significant change in sound for you, especially with the re-integration of more live instrumentation, why did you move away from the colder electronic aesthetic with that release?

I remember wanting to reclaim some of the territory I’d defined with ‘Systems’ – the other side of things, as I mentioned earlier, also I loved working with Robin Simon’s great guitar playing. Power and ideas. He’s the most inventive guitarist – or musician – I’ve ever worked with. Doesn’t do cliches. Forget everyone else, no other player comes close to him, in my opinion.

With ‘My Face’, ‘Burning Car’, ‘20th Century’, ‘Cinemascope’, ‘Young Love’, ‘To Be With You’ and the amount of unreleased material in this new boxed set indicates that a follow-up in the style of ‘Metamatic’ was on the cards; how do you think you might have evolved this sound if you hadn’t had thawed out on ‘The Garden’?

I remember not wanting to repeat myself . In retrospect, though, maybe I should have carried on with the CR78 and ARP and made another record, it would have been interesting – but I was impatient as always and had another set of songs and lots of ideas left over from ‘Systems’.

However, there was the immediate influential aftermath of ‘Metamatic’; it is said Daniel Miller hired Gareth Jones to engineer DEPECHE MODE as a result of his work with you, while TUXEDOMOON were also fans and worked with him too…

Oh yes, Dan came to the studio with Depeche and I eventually managed to persuade Gareth to work with them. At first he thought Depeche were a bit light, but we’d both really liked ‘Warm Leatherette’, so he trusted Daniel and I think that’s what swung it. They all had a great instant rapport when they finally worked together. Still do.

Tuxedo were a fierce, inventive band we both liked, so Gareth was straight in there, no problem. I liked them all and their work. They were an interesting lot. I remember encountering a certain member wandering about on Shoreditch High Street in the rain in winter, no shoes on, totally oblivious, clearly hallucinating. I especially liked Blaine L Reininger’s playing – he’s a truly exceptional instinctual musician. It was good to hear him again on that ‘Blue Velvet Revisited’ album we all did recently with CULT WITH NO NAME.

Remixes of classic synth tracks rarely turn out well, an exception is Mark Reeder’s ‘Sinister Subway’ mix of ‘Underpass’, what are your feelings on this interpretation?

I think it’s superb! A big surprise, how well it turned out. He translated it for today.

I like Mark Reeder a lot. He’s one of those people you instantly feel you might have known all your life – you know, like someone you might have been at school with. His instincts and tastes are perfectly in line. He’s Mr German Electronic – Manc Branch. And his Berlin movie is brilliant….

There have already been several reissues of ‘Metamatic’, what’s the most special aspect for you about this new package for you?

The notebooks and synth patches etc, and all the experimental sounds from the master eight-track tapes. They do show another aspect of the work Gareth and I were doing then. I also liked the way Steve D’Agostino picked up on all that, some years ago, with that soundtrack for Alex Proyas’ short film.

You’ve stepped out of the live arena for a few years, are there any plans to do live dates to support this release?

No plans at the moment, but things are always brewing, so we’ll see!


The Electricity Club gives its grateful thanks to JOHN FOXX

With thanks to Steve Malins at Random PR

‘Metamatic’ is released as 3CD boxed set by Metamatic Records

http://www.metamatic.com

https://www.facebook.com/johnfoxxmetamatic

https://twitter.com/foxxmetamedia


Text and Interview by Paul Boddy
Additional Questions by Chi Ming Lai
2nd May 2018

Involved: The MESH Retrospective Interview

Often described in the electronica circles as “Bristol’s Finest”, MESH have been creating their very own kind of synthpop since 1991.

With the strong core of passionate lyricist Mark Hockings on vocals and Richard Silverthorn in charge of programming, keyboards and guitar, the duo have gone from strength to strength, to achieve cult status in Germany.

Despite being a comparative secret in the UK, Robbie Williams is a noted fan while MESH continue to gain new followers with every release, charting high in mainland Europe thanks to their gripping sound and Hockings’ vocal wizardry.

Having been producing their magnificent material for over 25 years, the twosome who can “mend hearts” embark on a journey down memory lane in 2018, with MESH’s second album ‘The Point At Which It Falls Apart’ being re-released on Dependent Records, as well as a string of live performances.

‘Involved – The MESH Retrospective Tour’, named after the opening track of their first album ‘In This Place Forever’, will take place in chosen venues in Germany and promises “singles, B-sides, rarities and more”.

The Electricity Club caught up with one of ‘The Purest People’, talking about the past, present and future of MESH with Richard Silverthorn.

1991… a long time ago… although your early fans had to wait till 1996 for the first long player, the five years in between were spent on making sweet creations, which were later released under the name ‘Original 91-93’. Why such a set up? Maybe you just didn’t think there was “time enough to”? 🙂

When we first started, we were just trying to find our way. Just writing songs and doing our best to establish some kind of sound for ourselves. In those very early days, we wrote lots of demos and ideas which probably never ended up as full songs or productions. When we eventually decided to make our first CD and release it ourselves, we started by writing new material. The ‘Original 91-93’ is pretty much a collection of all those lost recordings and demos.

Around that time, you produced ‘My Perfection’…

Yes, there are a few little gems on there 🙂

To be fair some of the songs were ok, but maybe our production skills were still in their infancy.

Did you have high expectations for ‘In This Place Forever’?

I think with every release, the expectations are high. It was our first full album on a record label, Momento Materia from Sweden – I think that album got us quite a lot of press coverage at the time and made a few ripples in the scene. Tracks like Confined’ are still huge favourites with fans across the world so from that point of view, it done its job.

‘The Point At Which It Falls Apart’ brought a plethora of magnificent tracks with even more electronics. Clearly nothing “fell apart” at that point?

For me personally, I think this is the album that had some kind of sound uniformity. We started to sound like us. We knew at this point how we wanted to sound (although limited by technology) and started to understand our audiences. We had already started touring Europe and had an idea of what was going on outside the mainstream UK charts, which was all we knew at the time.

How did you decide which direction to take with your musical creations after the success of the first album?

I’m not sure we ever really had a plan. It was just 3 guys with synthesizers and different musical backgrounds and tastes trying to write songs. Our only middle ground was the fact we like electronic music. Neil was very much into THE KLF and dance music, Mark and I was listening to similar music like YAZOO, OMD, DEPECHE MODE and the less mainstream stuff like DAF and FRONT 242 etc. It was pretty much a combination of influences with Mark reluctantly taking on the role as lead singer.

How did the collaboration with MARK ‘OH come about? A handful of Brits know the man and his notable successes in German dance charts, whether on his own or in tandems with the likes of John Davies?

‘Scares Me’ was picked up by a dance producer Christian Cambas and he done a club / dance track with a huge sample taken from that track. I think MARK ‘OH had heard of us and had heard that track. He somehow talked his record company into tracking us down and asked if Mark would like to provide vocals on one of his projects. When we were asked, we had no idea who he was or his popularity in Germany at the time.

Who chose BLANCMANGE’s ‘Waves’ as the song to cover?

It was a track that MARK ‘OH wanted to do and had recorded a version of it with The London Session Orchestra. He was looking for the right person to provide the vocals. Mark was asked and it went from there.

And it came with a video too…

Yes! Haha… We were flown out to Fuerteventura where the locals had made us this makeshift raft. We were towed out to sea and filmed by a speed boat circling us. It was one of the funniest and bizarre experiences ever. I had a broken arm at the time and had the cast removed for the video. Neil couldn’t actually swim so the look of terror in his eyes is real. At one point the boat broke down and we were left drifting out to sea. I’m surprised we survived 🙂

Then came ‘Who Watches Over Me’ with the massive ‘Friends Like These’, which is still a firm live favourite…

Yes, this felt like a huge turning point for us. We had just signed a major record deal with Sony Music and gave up our day jobs to embark on a full-time music career. We found ourselves in Home Studios Hamburg (formally Chateau De Pape where DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Songs Of Faith & Devotion’ was mixed and produced) with Peter Schmidt, a former Hansa Studio engineer.

It all of a sudden felt very real and expensive. We spent 3 weeks mixing at £1500 per day. It was a very expensive album with big budgets. ‘Friends Like These’ and ‘Leave You Nothing’ came from that album and became very well played tracks across Germany. ‘Leave You Nothing’ ended up on many radio stations and was even played regularly on a Germany soap opera.

‘We Collide’ brought more crowd pleasers such as ‘Open Up The Ground’. It’s as if you write songs that you know will be huge live?

Who knows…? We just write at the best of our ability at the time and hope for the best.

On ‘We Collide’ you went the whole hog, inviting Gareth Jones, known for having worked such legends as ERASURE, DEPECHE MODE, NICK CAVE and JOHN FOXX to name a few. And it was big…

Yes, that was a strange experience. Our record company really pushed for Gareth to be involved in the production, but us as a band were a little hesitant and reluctant because of the whole DEPECHE MODE thing.

We had spent years trying to shrug off the DM comparisons, so the last thing we wanted was the guy who shaped their sound working with us. As it happened, he was a really nice guy.

He actually rocked up at our studio in Bristol armed with a MacBook and a few other outboard boxes and we spent about 10 days locked in eating Chinese food, laughing and mixing ‘We Collide’. He was a very focussed engineer and brought out a lot of what we thought were quite incidental bits of music to the foreground and made them the hooks. We learnt quite a lot.

Any favourites from that opus?

‘Petrified’, ‘What Are You Scared Of?’ and ‘This Is What You Wanted’ all left their mark I think. It was quite a dark album from its lyrical content, but maybe doesn’t come across like that on first listen.

Around that point Neil Taylor decided to part ways with MESH. Were you very impacted by his departure?

Yes definitely. Mark and I thought it was the end. I think we both thought “where do we go from here?” We had had the major record deal and done all the big studios etc, what was left? We found ourselves with no deal at the time and a band member missing. It took a few weeks of pondering before we both realised that we just enjoy writing and producing music at any level. So we dusted ourselves down and started writing again.

Olaf Wollschläger took the production reigns on ‘A Perfect Solution’ and the perfect working relationship was established…

I knew of Olaf from other bands and his work with them. Our new label Dependent suggested him, so we thought “yeah why not?”

We hit it off straight away. I think Olaf was really in tune with what we were trying to achieve with each album. His mixing and production skills are second to none.

How did it feel to be placed around other “legends of synthpop” for a string of US gigs, accompanying DE/VISION and IRIS?

Oh I cringe at that title… legends? It was a great experience. We travelled right across America doing a show every night. It was like starting again for us. No real roadies or tech crew, just 3 bands, a few crew members and a cowboy driving the bus. We played some really big shows and some downright awful small shows, but the whole thing was so good. It really does take experiences like that to establish you as a band. We came back with a new lease of life and a whole lot of respect of what we actually had in Europe.

‘Automation Baby’ came out with a bang and to many, it’s the most definitive MESH album to date… ‘Looking Skyward’ raced up the German charts, reaching No 12 which is your highest to date. That must have felt good?

Yes indeed. We are both very proud of what we achieved with these albums. We never in our wildest dreams expected things to take off like they did with both of these albums.

To enter into the mainstream album charts was quite an experience. To see yourselves up there in the charts with people like Adele or whoever was completely mad.

In the meantime, you enjoyed playing with a full orchestra for ‘Goth Meets Klassik’…

It was an evening of a lifetime. To hear a full orchestra play something you had written was breathtaking. I remember Mark and I looking at each other in disbelief. It was a very emotional night and one I will never forget. 2000 people giving you a standing ovation was something very special.

Currently you are preparing to embark onto a retrospective tour, and some B-sides and rarities are promised. Does it mean that ‘My Perfection’ could find its way to the set?

Who knows… watch this space 😉

Yes, the plan is to play a load of songs that we don’t usually play or something that hasn’t even been played before live. In the beginning, we were a little reluctant to do a tour like this when it was first suggested. We didn’t want to dwell on the past but always saw ourselves as a band that keeps pushing forward. After a bit of time to contemplate this, we thought “hey this could be ok”

We are doing new versions of the old material. Trying our best to keep the original feeling but bringing it up to date. It’s a lot of work and I’m sure there will be a lot of thought going into the visuals too, so it should be fun. I know that tickets sales are going exceptionally well so…

Do you set out to perform the crowd pleasers while preparing set lists, and who makes the final decision?

Yes, it’s a balancing act really. You have to throw in all the old favourites but you have to make it interesting too. There was a Facebook poll on our page recently which was surprising. Songs that we had kind of forgot about were mentioned and voted for, so we will have to see what we can do.

You also have to pace the setlist so you get a balance of different styles and tempos finishing in a big track.

Will UK dates for ‘Involved- The MESH Retrospective Tour’ be added at some point?

We are still at the negotiating stages with some venues here in the UK, but I’m sure there will be something announced soon. We are headlining the Infest Festival in Bradford on 25th August and playing The Watchet Festival in Somerset the day after. There is also talk of an interesting London show / festival soon, so we will see.

When can we expect to hear brand new MESH material?

We will start writing again very soon. Things are a little busy here with the tour prep, but as soon as that settles down we will be back in the studio.


The Electricity Club gives its sincerest thanks to Richard Silverthorn

The remastered edition of ‘The Point At Which It Falls Apart’ with extras tracks will be released by Dependent Records, selected items from the MESH back catalogue are available from http://en.dependent.de/artists/mesh/

‘Involved – The MESH Retrospective Tour’ 2018 live dates include:

Bradford Infest Festival (25th August), Watchet Music Festival (26th August), Hamburg Mojo Club (14th September), Oberhausen Kulttempel (15th September, Erfurt HSD Gewerkschaftshaus (21st September), Berlin Columbia Theater 22nd September), Munich Backstage (25th September), Frankfurt Das Bett (27th September), Braunschweig Lokpark (28th September), Dresden Reithalle Strasse E (29th September)

MESH also perform at ‘Black Celebration’ as very special guests of DAF at The Forum in London on Sunday 28th October 2018, tickets available from https://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/Black-Celebration-tickets/artist/1994037

http://www.mesh.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/meshtheband/

https://twitter.com/meshwecollide

https://www.instagram.com/meshwecollide/


Text and Interview by Monika Izabela Trigwell
27th February 2018, updated 9th August 2018

BOYTRONIC interview

Since 1983, the Hamburg based BOYTRONIC have dazzled with non-quintessential electronica, not quite fitting into any box.

Throughout the last two decades of the 20th century, the band have paved the way for the synth bands of all sorts, being one of the most important electronic acts of their time. Many line-up changes ensured freshness but guaranteed durability.

After ten years since their previous opus ‘Dependence’, they’re back with a dazzling ‘Jewel’. It marks the 2017 reincarnation of the trio with Ingo Hauss, Hayo Lewerentz and James Knights.

The Electricity Club has a pleasure of chatting to Hayo Lewerentz of BOYTRONIC just in time for their eleventh studio release.

1983… a long long time ago…

Yes, very long… it feels like a lifetime 😉

The line-up changes over the years can be a tad confusing…

True, but BOYTRONIC was always more of a project than a band. There was a time in the beginning with Holger Wobker singing two albums. Then he left and we put an ad in Melody Maker searching for a new singer and found Mark Wade from London for another two albums.

After that time, we established a new project called U96 which was more ‘techno’ and it became a huge success with Number 1 chart positions and millions of records sales, so BOYTRONIC was put on ice for some time.

But in 2003 I met Holger again and we recorded a new album together called ‘Autotunes’ which was in parts produced by English producer legend Gareth Jones. This was the first time we actually did some live shows with BOYTRONIC.

At the same time, I established my label Major Records where I released bands like IAMX, LADYTRON, MESH or NITZER EBB, so we didn`t have much time anymore for BOYTRONIC and Holger recorded a new album on his own entitled ‘Dependence’ which wasn`t matching our expectations at all. This was the point where everyone lost interest in BOYTRONIC…

Then in 2016, we recorded some demos with James Knights for another project that we planned and realized, that it sounded very BOYTRONIC-ish. This was the moment where we decided to relaunch the project again but Holger had lost interest in the meantime…

…Holger was good, but…

…he was never very keen on playing live although I think that you need to play live to keep things running. Our fans are very happy as they say to see us perform now on a regular base. We love it also and can`t wait to play more shows – maybe also in the UK soon we hope.

James Knights seems a perfect successor though?

Yes, he is the perfect successor as it seems. His voice is in a similar range and also the old classics sound very “BOYTRONIC” with him. Many fans told us that they love his presence and voice and that it matches to the older songs very well.

The BOYTRONIC sound has always been one of the kind?

Well, it changed with the times but it still is BOYTRONIC and always will be.

What makes Germany a true leader in the electronic genre?

I don`t know… nowadays there are also many artists from other parts of the world who make great electronic stuff like THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS, UNDERWORLD, LADYTRON, IAMX etc. But I guess KRAFTWERK left a big footprint out there and also some of the other electronic pioneers such as NEU! or “Die kosmischen Kuriere”. We grew up listening only to electronic music in our teenage years but we also loved DAVID BOWIE, ROXY MUSIC or IGGY POP to name a few.

Do you continue with other projects such as U96 or similar?

Yes. We have just finished a new U96 album which we really are proud of. We are planning releases of tracks first until we will release the entire album though. We will also take U96 on tour next year. One of the tracks on that album is a collaboration with former KRAFTWERK member Wolfgang Flür by the way and we will release that track as a single in November.

Was the plan for ‘Jewel’ to bring back the original sounds of BOYTRONIC or introduce newer textures into your creations?

Both really. Of course we are influenced by new music as we listen to a lot of new stuff; but with James, we have a singer that matches the true BOYTRONIC sound, so I guess it is a good mixture.

What’s the primary inspiration behind BOYTRONIC in terms of influences?

Well… the inspiration was many songs we wrote that came to life with James finally 😉

In the early years it was listening to everything 80s, New Wave and electronic artists. We were all die-hard Bowie fans in our teenage times.

You describe yourselves as never having been “pure DEPECHE MODE devotees”. Would you expand on that?

We love DEPECHE MODE, don`t get me wrong. It is just that we do not want to be one of these bands that try to sound like them. There are many of those bands here in Germany. We think there are so many great other artists too and we are very open minded musically.

James’ voice is reminiscent of that of the younger Marc Almond. Was that intentional?

No…how can this be intentional? Marc Almond is obviously a great singer and was very influential on other artists too, but James voice is James voice – he was born that way 😉

What’s the story behind your U2 cover on ‘Jewel’?

We had some chords, a little layout for a new song and when James heard it, he sang a part of ‘New Years Day’ to it. As we realized that the chords were close to the U2 song, we decided to record the song as a cover instead. To have similar chords to an existing song happens sometimes unintentionally, but we don`t wanna be Copycats 😉

Will ‘Jewel’ be taken out on tour?

Yes, definitely. We have already played 7 shows this year and we will go on tour with the new album in early 2018. We will also play a lot of festivals like the WGT in Leipzig and more to come.

What does the future hold for BOYTRONIC?

We hope a lot. With James as the new singer, we are very inspired to write and record more material. Also we have a release with ‘Jewel’ in the US for the first time and we hope to play some concerts there too.


The Electricity Club gives its grateful thanks to BOYTRONIC

Special thanks to Jessica Schellberg at Result Promotion

‘Jewel’ is released by SPV Records in Europe and Metropolis Records in North America on 3rd November 2017

https://www.facebook.com/boytronicmusic

https://twitter.com/BoytronicOffice


Text and Interview by Monika Izabela Trigwell
12th October 2017

A Beginner’s Guide To JOHN FOXX

The recent release of the ULTRAVOX! 4 CD box set ‘The Island Years’ was a timely reminder that their one-time leader JOHN FOXX has had a music career that has spanned over four decades.

Born Dennis Leigh, his first recorded work was a ROXY MUSIC styled cover of ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’ for an arthouse adult film of the same name, as a member of TIGER LILY. The quintet comprising of Foxx, Warren Cann, Chris Cross, Billy Currie and Stevie Shears renamed themselves ULTRAVOX! and signed a deal with Island Records.

Reinforcing their art rock aspirations seeded by THE VELVET UNDERGROUND and DAVID BOWIE, ULTRAVOX! secured the production input of synth pioneer and label mate BRIAN ENO for their self-titled debut in 1977. Two albums later, they began to make headway with a template inspired by the emergent electronic bands from Germany such as KRAFTWERK, CLUSTER and NEU!

However, Foxx became disillusioned with the restrictions of a band format and departed ULTRAVOX! in 1979 for a solo career; the end result was the ‘Metamatic’ album, released in 1980 on Virgin Records. Recorded at Pathway, an eight-track studio in Islington using an ARP Odyssey, Elka Rhapsody 610 and Roland CR78 Compurhythm, the seminal long player yielded two unexpected hit singles in ‘Underpass’ and ‘No-One Driving’.

Foxx said of that period: “You felt like some Film Noir scientist inventing a new life-form in the basement. I also think it was the beginning of Electro-Art-Punk or something like that. A strange wee animal. Seems to have bred copiously with everything available and still survived – right to this day.”

In the years since, JOHN FOXX has continued to innovate within electronic, experimental and ambient spheres. Despite this, he is still very much under rated, especially compared with artists who benefited from his influence.

Ultravox1978GARY NUMAN has always acknowledged his debt to the synth rock overtures of ULTRAVOX! while DEPECHE MODE’s admiration of ‘Metamatic’ led to its incumbent engineer Gareth Jones working with the band on their own Berlin Trilogy of ‘Construction Time Again’, ‘Some Great Reward’ and ‘Black Celebration’.

So with a vast repertoire to his name, what tracks in his various guises would act as a Beginner’s Guide to the man referred to affectionately as Lord Foxx Of Chorley?

This is not intended to be a best of chronology, more a reflection of highly divergent career. With a restriction of one recording per album project, The Electricity Club lists its #Foxx20.


ULTRAVOX! My Sex (1977)

Ultravox_ultravoxUsing Brian Eno’s Minimoog with a knob marked with a sheep sticker to indicate that it made woolly sounds, Billy Currie’s classical sensibilities combined with Foxx’s detached dissatisfaction for the wonderful ‘My Sex’. Of Eno, Foxx said, “It was good to hear his stories and enact his strategies. He wasn’t greatly experienced in studio craft but he was a good co-conspirator, someone with a useful overview, who understood where we wanted to go. He was just what we wanted, really. A sort of art approach to recording”

Available on the ULTRAVOX! album ‘Ultravox!’ via Island Records


ULTRAVOX! Hiroshima Mon Amour (1977)

ULTRAVOX-ha-ha-haUtilising Warren Cann’s modified Roland TR77 rhythm machine, this was Foxx moving into the moody ambience pioneered by CLUSTER, away from the art rock of the first album and the aggressive attack of interim 45 ‘Young Savage’. ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ had been premiered as a spikier uptempo number for the B-side of ‘ROckWrok’. The ‘CC’ credited on saxophone is not Chris Cross, but a member of GLORIA MUNDI, a collective fronted by EDDIE & SUNSHINE who later appeared with Foxx on ‘Top Of The Pops’.

Available on the ULTRAVOX! album ‘Ha! Ha! Ha!’ via Island Records


ULTRAVOX! Quiet Men – 12 inch version (1978)

ULTRAVOXquietmen12inchRelocating to Cologne to work with the legendary Conny Plank for their third album ‘Systems Of Romance’, ULTRAVOX! became more texturally powerful thanks to Billy Currie’s ARP Odyssey, the EMS Synthi AKS of Chris Cross and the recruitment of guitarist in Robin Simon. ‘Quiet Men’ was a perfect integration of all those elements attached to a rhythm machine backbone. Of the even punchier 12 inch rework, Foxx told Record Collector in 2003: “We remixed it so that Warren’s metal beats would shred speakers”

Available on the ULTRAVOX! box set ‘The Island Years’ via Caroline International


JOHN FOXX He’s A Liquid (1980)

john_foxx-metamatic“I want to be a machine” sang Foxx on the ‘Ultravox!’ debut and he virtually went the full hog with the JG Ballard inspired ‘Metamatic’. His mission was to “Make a language for the synth and the drum machine”. The deviant ‘He’s A Liquid’ was pure unadulterated Sci-Fi: “I think it was a bit of punk electronica at the right time – just before everyone else raided the shed. Historically, perhaps it defines an impulse – something that wasn’t possible before – one man and some cheap machines making music independently”.

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ‘Metamatic’ via Edsel Records


JOHN FOXX Europe After The Rain (1981)

JOHN FOXX The GardenFoxx admitted he had been “reading too much JG Ballard” and had thawed considerably following ‘Metamatic’. Now exploring beautiful Italian gardens and taking on a more foppish appearance, his new mood was reflected in his music. Moving to a disused factory site in Shoreditch, Foxx set up ‘The Garden’ recording complex and the first song to emerge was the Linn Drum driven ‘Europe After The Rain’. Featuring acoustic guitar and piano, Foxx had now achieved his system of romance.

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ‘The Garden’ via Edsel Records


ANTENA The Boy From Ipanema (1982)

ANTENA The Boy From IpanemaBefore NOUVELLE VAGUE, French-Belgian combo ANTENA hit upon the idea of merging electronic forms with a samba cocktail style. Released on the prestigious Belgian label Les Disques Du Crépuscule who Foxx contributed ’A Jingle’ for the compilation ‘From Brussels With Love’, he produced their cover of ‘The Boy From Ipanema’, adding robotic textures via The Human Host. Much lighter that any of his own work, it was also quite sinister, making this a unqiue curio in the JOHN FOXX portfolio.

Available on the ANTENA album ‘Camino Del Sol’ via Les Disques du Crépuscule


JOHN FOXX Ghosts On Water (1983)

JOHN FOXX The Golden SectionFoxx had envisioned ‘The Golden Section’ as “a roots check: Beatles, Church music, Psychedelia, The Shadows, The Floyd, The Velvets, Roy Orbison, Kraftwerk, and cheap pre-electro Europop”. Working with Zeus B Held, the album had a psychedelic electronic rock flavour, liberally seasoned with vocoder effects and samplers. With folk laden overtones and some frantic percussion work from HAIRCUT 100’s Blair Cunningham, ‘Ghosts On Water’ was one of the album’s highlights.

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ‘The Golden Section’ via Edsel Records


JOHN FOXX Shine On (1985)

JOHN FOXX In Mysterious WaysBy 1985, Foxx had lost his way and got embroiled in attempting a more conventional pop sound. With its sax sample lead line, ‘Shine On’ showed Foxx could deliver a fine pop tune but he wasn’t happy: “I simply didn’t like the mid to late eighties scene – all perfect pop and white soul. I suddenly felt isolated. I remember one day finding myself half-heartedly toying with some sort of sh*tty pop music while longing to be out of the studio and working on something visual. So I thought right that’s it – time for a change”.

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ‘In Mysterious Ways’ via Edsel Records


NATION 12 Remember (1990)

NATION 12 RememberFoxx made an unexpected return to music with an acid house inspired number produced by Tim Simenon of BOMB THE BASS fame: “It was a great experience – a new underground evolving from post-industrial Detroit, using analogue instruments rescued from skips and pawn shops… Tim Simenon turned up wanting me to do some music… so Foxx was out the freezer and into the microwave…” – the other material that was recorded didn’t see the light of day until 2005.

Available on the NATION 12 album ‘Electrofear’ via Tape Modern


JOHN FOXX Sunset Rising (1995)

JOHN FOXX Cathedral Oceans‘Cathedral Oceans’ saw Foxx developing his interest in ambient forms fused with Gregorian chants, as exemplified by ‘Sunset Rising’. But the project had an extremely long genesis with the first recordings made in 1983. Inspired by his brief period as a choir boy, when asked what this material gave him that songs couldn’t, he answered: “Well, they cover a different emotional and sonic spectrum – more concerned with tranquility and contemplation. Music with beats can’t address this at all”. The third volume was released in 2005.

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ‘The Complete Cathedral Oceans’ via Demon Records


JOHN FOXX & LOUIS GORDON Dust & Light (1999)

john foxx louis gordon crash&burnWeaned on ‘Metamatic’, LOUIS GORDON was a natural collaborator for Foxx’s song based comeback. Their partnership over four albums, confirmed that Foxx still had that inventive spark within electronic music. Noisy and percussive, ‘Dust & Light’ recalled the unsettling Dystopian standpoint with which Foxx had made his pioneering impact. Tracks like ‘Drive’ and ‘Automobile’ continued the theme, although Foxx sustained his interest in more psychedelic forms via songs like ‘An Ocean We Can Breathe’.

Available on the JOHN FOXX & LOUIS GORDON album ‘Crash & Burn’ via Metamatic Records


HAROLD BUDD & JOHN FOXX Subtext (2003)

foxx budd Translucence + Drift MusicWith beautiful piano and processed electronics, the sparse ‘Subtext’ was very reminiscent of HAROLD BUDD’s 1984 Eno collaboration ‘The Pearl’. From the ‘Translucence’ album which was twinned with the more discreet, sleepier textures of ‘Drift Music’, it was smothered in echoes and reverberations galore as slow atmospherics and glistening melodies esoterically blended into the ether. A further collaboration ‘Nighthawks’, with the additional input of Ruben Garcia, was issued in 2011.

Available on the HAROLD BUDD & JOHN FOXX album ‘Translucence + Drift Music’ via Metamatic Records


JOHN FOXX & ROBIN GUTHRIE My Life As An Echo (2009)

guthrie foxx mirrorballIf nothing, JOHN FOXX had diverse artistic interests. The ‘Mirrorball’ album with COCTEAU TWINS’ Robin Guthrie took textural guitars and echoing piano into a dreamworld that he could now enter. ‘My Life As An Echo’ was a beautiful instrumental which stopped short of being fully ambient thanks to its live drum loop. Other tracks such as ‘Estrellita’ and ‘The Perfect Line’ saw Foxx adding Glossolalia to the soundscape, recalling not only ‘Cathedral Oceans’ but Guthrie’s work with former partner Elizabeth Fraser.

Available on the JOHN FOXX & ROBIN GUTHRIE album ‘Mirrorball’ via Metamatic Records


JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS featuring MIRA AROYO Watching A Building On Fire (2011)

john foxx maths_interplayJoining forces with synth collector extraordinaire Benge, Foxx found the perfect foil for his earlier analogue ambitions, only this time combined with a warmth that had not been apparent on ‘Metamatic’, or his work with LOUIS GORDON. The best track on their debut album ‘Interplay’ was a co-written duet with Mira Aroyo of LADYTRON entitled ‘Watching A Building On Fire’. With its chattering drum machine and accessible Trans-European melodies, it was an obvious spiritual successor to ‘Burning Car’.

Available on the JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS album ‘Interplay’ via Metamatic Records


GAZELLE TWIN Changelings – JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS remix (2012)

JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS became extremely prolific and a number of remixes appeared, the best of which was for GAZELLE TWIN aka Elizabeth Bernholz. She said: “John and Benge’s remix of ‘Changelings’ was really delicate and elegant. It’s one of my favourites of all the remixes because it doesn’t alter the song much at all. I love the addition of John’s vocal in there too. It was perfectly suited. I am so flattered that they chose to put (it) on the new ‘Evidence’ album. It’s really special for me”.

Available on the JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS album ‘Evidence’ via Metamatic Records


JOHN FOXX & JORI HULKKONEN Evangeline (2013)

John_Foxx_Jori_Hulkkonen_-_European_Splendour_CDFoxx and JORI HULKKONEN had worked together previously on the songs ‘Dislocated’ and ‘Never Been Here Before’ for the Finnish producer’s solo albums ‘Dualizm’ and ‘Errare Machinale Est’ respectively, but never before on a body of work with a conceptual theme. Their eventual ‘European Splendour’ EP took on a grainier downtempo template and the lead track ‘Evangeline’ possessed a glorious pastoral elegance coupled with an otherworldly anthemic chorus.

Available on the JOHN FOXX & JORI HULKKONEN EP ‘European Splendour’ via Sugarcane Records


JOHN FOXX & STEVE D’AGOSTINO The Forbidden Experiment (2014)

John Foxx & Steve D'Agostino Evidence Of Time TravelWith a Dystopian backdrop, Foxx returned to the more mechanical approach in collaboration with STEVE D’AGOSTINO for the soundtrack of Karborn’s experimental short film. Described as “a unique investigation of the terrors and pleasures of temporal displacement”, it was “a sinister sonic architecture of drum-machine-music and analogue synthesizers”. The rumbling rush of ‘The Forbidden Experiment’ became a favourite of those Foxx enthusiasts who preferred his instrumental work to have more rhythmic tension.

Available on the JOHN FOXX & STEVE D’AGOSTINO album ‘Evidence Of Time Travel’ via Metamatic Records


GHOST HARMONIC Codex (2015)

Ghost_Harmonic_CodexGHOST HARMONIC was a project comprising of Foxx and Benge alongside Japanese violinist Diana Yukawa. Foxx said: “the underlying intention was we all wanted to see what might happen when a classically trained musician engaged with some of the possibilities a modern recording studio can offer…” – the result was a startling dynamic between Yukawa’s heavily treated violin and the looming electronics. The closing album title track was a string and synth opus of soothing bliss.

Available on the GHOST HARMONIC ‘Codex’ via Metamatic Records


JOHN FOXX The Beautiful Ghost (2015)

JOHN FOXX-LondonOvergrown-artwork‘London Overgrown’ was Foxx’s first wholly solo ambient release since the ‘Cathedral Oceans’ trilogy. With the visual narrative of a derelict London where vines and shrubbery are allowed to grow unhindered throughout the city, ‘The Beautiful Ghost’ was like Beethoven reimagined for the 23rd Century with beautiful string synths placed in a cavernous reverb. Recalling WILLIAM ORBIT’s ‘Pieces In A Modern Style’, ‘London Overgrown’ was an accessible chill-out record that encompassed emotion and subtle melody.

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ‘London Overgrown’ via Metamatic Records


JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS A Man & A Woman (2016)

JOHN FOXX 21st CenturyA previously unreleased song, ‘A Man & A Woman’ was a surprise in that it was less rigid than previous JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS recordings. Featuring the enchanting voice of Hannah Peel, it was a departure that even featured some acoustic guitar flourishes. Despite this, vintage synths were still a key element to his mathematical theories: “Analogue is a bit more complex – still mysterious and rebellious. Digital is more controllable. Use where necessary. Avoid anything with a multi-function menu!”

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ’21st Century: A Man, A Woman And A City’ via Metamatic Records


A selection of the JOHN FOXX back catalogue is available from http://johnfoxx.tmstor.es/

http://www.metamatic.com/

https://www.facebook.com/johnfoxxmetamatic/

https://twitter.com/foxxmetamedia


Text by Chi Ming Lai
27th June 2016, updated 25th February 2018

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