Tag: Gareth Jones (Page 2 of 2)

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

Twilight Time: An Interview with JAMES NICE

JamesNice-byPeter StaessensJames Nice is a music publisher and writer whose acclaimed 2010 book ‘Shadowplayers: The Rise and Fall of Factory Records’ provided a detailed and objective account of the legendary label. He also worked for the prestigious Belgian label Les Disques du Crépuscule in Brussels between 1987-91.

More recently, James has resurrected Les Disques du Crépuscule along with its sister Factory Benelux offshoot as platforms to reissue a vast catalogue of experimental and artistically driven music, in addition to releasing newer material from acts such as MARSHEAUX, MARNIE and DEUX FILLES. Back in the day, Les Disques du Crépuscule and Factory Benelux operated as separate entities, although the two labels shared the same premises and staff.

Among Crépuscule’s roster were Blaine L Reininger and Winston Tong from TUXEDOMOON, ASSOCIATES instrumentalist Alan Rankine and former JOSEF K leader Paul Haig. The first music release on Crépuscule came in 1980; ‘From Brussels With Love’ was a carefully curated cassette compilation which included music from John Foxx, Bill Nelson, Harold Budd and Thomas Dolby as well as spoken recordings by Brian Eno and Richard Jobson.

everything's gone green new order FBN12Meanwhile Factory Benelux notably released the 12 inch extended remix of NEW ORDER’s ‘Everything’s Gone Green’ in 1981 and spare recordings from Factory affiliated artists such as A CERTAIN RATIO, SECTION 25, THE WAKE and THE DURUTTI COLUMN.

The latter’s beautiful instrumental ‘For Belgian Friends’ was written in honour of the two labels’ founders Michel Duval and the late Annik Honoré. James Nice kindly chatted to The Electricity Club about his various endeavours, past and present.

You wrote the book ‘Shadowplayers’ on the history of Factory Records. There have been several books about the label, what do you think your account gave that hadn’t been provided before?

Well, reliable facts properly researched! I did ‘Shadowplayers’ as a DVD first, in 2006, but I didn’t do the book until after Tony Wilson passed away the following year.

shadowplayers_book_french_edition_450One of the books which influenced the approach I took was an excellent Creation Records history by Dave Cavanagh, which Alan McGee slated as the accountant’s version of Creation when it first appeared (though he changed his mind later).

I feared Tony might say the same thing about a Factory history written by me. He was more into myths and legends than truth.

I also wanted to include all the bands and artists, not just JOY DIVISION, NEW ORDER, HAPPY MONDAYS and The Hacienda; THE STOCKHOM MONSTERS have a tale to tell too. The French edition won a prize, actually. They sent me a leather jacket – which was a bit too small.

How do you see the public’s continued fascination with Factory Records?

I just glance at it in passing these days, because ‘Shadowplayers’ came out in 2010 and I’ve long since moved on. The entire story of Factory was hugely dramatic, genuine tragic in places, and populated by larger than life characters. You can’t really say the same of, for example, 4AD or Domino. I’m not sure you’ll see it repeated either, because music no longer produces the kind of revenue stream that would allow radical mavericks like Tony Wilson and Rob Gretton to build another Hacienda, and Peter Saville is a complete one-off.

Factory was a classic example of do the right thing, and the money will follow. Unfortunately, they then blew all the money on big recording projects and ill-judged property investments. Let’s leave it at that.

from brussels with loveFactory Benelux and Les Disques du Crépuscule have common roots, but were quite different entities in their original ethos?

Both labels started in 1980. Factory Benelux was intended as an outlet for spare Factory recordings, hence a lot of the early releases like ‘Shack Up’ by ACR, ‘The Plateau Phase’ by CRISPY AMBULANCE and ‘Key of Dreams’ by SECTION 25 were exclusive to FBN. As time went on it became more like a normal licensee.

Crépuscule was something else entirely – a cosmopolitan boutique label, with an international roster and aspirations to kick start some kind of art movement in Brussels. In truth Factory were a little suspicious of Crepuscule early on, although later some Crépuscule albums appeared on Factory in the UK eg Anna Domino and Wim Mertens.

You worked for Les Disques du Crépuscule back in the day and lived in Brussels for five years. What are your particular memories of that time?

Way too many to mention. A couple of days after I quit Crépuscule (an argument about a 23 SKIDOO contract, not that anyone will be interested), I took a train to Amsterdam to meet William S. Burroughs.

He was holding court in a hotel with his manager, James Grauerholz. I took along some books to sign, as well as the Burroughs album I’d released on LTM, ‘The Doctor Is On the Market’. I don’t think WSB had even seen a copy before, but he scribbled “Good Work” on it. There was another guy there who was a Lufthansa pilot by day and wrote experimental cut-up novels in his spare time. I remember thinking at the time, I’d like to be that guy.

What are the aims of Factory Benelux and Les Disques du Crépuscule under your direction now?

Heritage curation, and new recordings where appropriate. Michel Duval is quite interested again, and we collaborated on the ‘Ni D’Eve, Ni D’Adam’ compilation at the end of 2015.

I really enjoyed that process, as a matter of fact. The new tracks and artists he brought to the project really added to it, and the artwork by Clou was great too.

I do a lot of boring back office stuff as well as making records, chiefly rights administration. You have to have all your ducks in a row when, for instance, Kanye West decides to sample a SECTION 25 track from 1981.

As well as reissues, Factory Benelux and Les Disques du Crépuscule have released new albums by SECTION 25, MARNIE, DEUX FILLES and others. What attracted you to back these recordings?

In the case of new albums by heritage groups like SECTION 25, THE NAMES and CRISPY AMBULANCE, as long as fresh studio projects are financially viable, and the music is good, then of course we want to be involved. Any label can simply recycle back catalogue, but I like to think we’re a little more committed.

The MARNIE album came to Crépuscule because I’m a LADYTRON fan and it was a perfect fit for the label. It worked for her too as she’d successfully funded ‘Crystal World’ via Pledge Music, but was less sure about how to actually deliver the CD version.

It’s important to back new music, and I’m delighted to be releasing ‘Cold Science’ by LES PANTIES later in 2016. They’re a young band from Brussels – terrible name, but great music!

MARSHEAUX-twi1151cdLes Disques du Crépuscule also released ‘Odyssey’ in 2014, a career spanning compilation of MARSHEAUX. What do you find appealing about their music and which are your favourite songs?

I liked MARSHEAUX anyway, even before we began Crépuscule again back in 2013. Like MARNIE, they seemed like a good fit with the label’s heritage, much of which was modern electronic pop music. The focus was on original songs though rather than covers.

The title is a riff on Homer’s ‘Odyssey’, and the idea of a chronological story, and of course the old ARP Odyssey analogue synth. I’m quite good at coming up with album titles, if I say so myself. ‘Retrofit’ by SECTION 25 is probably the best – it popped into my head while I was watching a documentary about the making of ‘Blade Runner’. Perfect for a remix / reboot album.

Yes, very clever of you. But what’s your favourite MARSHEAUX song?

Well, the ‘Ghost/Hammer’ mash-up is the one we keep putting on LDDC compilations.

You maintain a close relationship with Paul Haig. Is he one of the unsung heroes of post-punk in your opinion?

I wouldn’t say unsung because Paul’s always attracted a lot of press and remains well liked by music writers, but I suppose he’s ‘unsung’ in the sense that he never had a proper chart hit. Ironically, his most popular album – on reissue anyway – is ‘Rhythm of Life’, which was considered far too mainstream at the time.

Paul Haig RoLPaul just did things his way and wasn’t prepared to jump through all the hoops required of a mainstream pop star. For a start he was – and remains – far too shy.

Since you mention post-punk in the question, I’ll take this opportunity to plug a forthcoming Paul project for later in 2016, which is a 1982-based double archive CD including his early pop material (‘Justice’, ‘Running Away’), the Sinatra-styled ‘Swing In 82’ EP, the experimental electronica cassette ‘Drama’, and loads of odd singles and sessions.

He’d just left JOSEF K but had not yet signed to Island, and I’m not sure anyone else was quite that diverse and experimental at the time. It’ll be called ‘Metamorphosis’ – another Kafka reference. Told you I was clever with titles. Paul’s quite nervous about it, I have to say!

You’ve also worked closely with Alan Rankine in his post-ASSOCIATES career?

Well, not so much me personally. Back in the 1980s, Alan was married to Belinda Pearse, who was a Crépuscule director at the time, and so for a while he pretty much became the in-house producer at the label, working with Paul Haig, Anna Domino, Winston Tong, Ludus and his own solo material.

My time at LDDC in Brussels did overlap with his, but I didn’t work on any of those projects. He did three solo albums under the auspices of Crépuscule, and some of the music is the equal of anything he did with Billy Mackenzie. Unfortunately Alan isn’t quite as good a singer, though he is a brilliant writer, arranger, producer, guitarist and keys player. The instrumentals he did for Crépuscule work best, I think. We’ve spoken a couple of times this year. Once was to return some master tapes to him, and I also suggested him as a producer / collaborator for MARNIE.

FBN112CD_12pp_bookletAnother unsung hero of the era is Mark Reeder and the release of his remix collection ‘Collaborator’ on Factory Benelux was a fitting acknowledgement of that. What was the process like to select the tracklisting?

Hmm. We tried to avoid replicating too many tracks that were on the earlier ‘Five Point One’ collection, and having Bernard Sumner singing on quite a few of the tracks should have made it seem more like an artist album than just a compilation.

Not sure the concept really gelled though. Mark isn’t easy to label – a lot of people think he’s a DJ, which is the one thing he isn’t (but probably should be). ‘Collaborator’ is a great album and should have sold a lot more than it did. In fact Mark regularly reminds me of that!

As a label manager, how do you decide on the formats that releases will be issued in? When do you know one format will be more viable than another, eg some are CD only, others are vinyl only?

Vinyl tends to be reserved for prestige items, and / or where you can fashion an art object from it, like THE DURUTTI COLUMN album with the die-cut glasspaper sleeve, which I’ll talk about later.

JOSEF K It's Kinda FunnyThe recent JOSEF K singles collection ‘It’s Kinda Funny’ was vinyl only because there have been several JOSEF K CD compilations already, and because a 12” matt board sleeve was a great way of exhibiting the original artwork by Jean-François Octave.

I still prefer CDs because the sound is better, you can fit more material on them, plus they are easier to keep in print over a long period of time. In an era of declining physical sales, the increasing fragmentation of formats isn’t too helpful, at least as far as labels are concerned.

Vinyl retains cultural clout though. Releasing albums used to be like publishing books, whereas once the market became saturated with releases, it’s kind of become degraded and often feels as if you’re just publishing magazine articles. But a vinyl album still has the heft of a book.

Factory Benelux and Les Disques du Crépuscule were both known for tasteful artwork and you have maintained this aesthetic. The vinyl reissue of ‘The Return Of The Durutti Column’ had an interesting genesis?

FACT14With the Benelux reissue in 2013, the original intention was to replicate Fact 14 from 1980, with coarse sandpaper front and back and a flexi-disc.

Back then Tony Wilson was able to source 12-inch square sheets from a local company called Naylors Abrasives in Bredbury, near Stockport. They still exist, but they don’t manufacture sandpaper any more, and when I got in touch in 2012 to explain the project, they clearly thought I was a lunatic.

I’m not sure that glasspaper is even manufactured anywhere in Western Europe now. In the end we had to go to a company in China, whose minimum order was 10,000 sheets. What was a cheap and (relatively) easy package for Factory in 1980 turned out to be pretty much impossible to copy three decades later. It’s probably easier to source glasspaper in lurid colours rather than plain old beige, and the biggest rolls were only 11 inches wide. You can still source flexi-discs from one plant in the States, but they end up costing more per unit than a 12-inch vinyl album. Fortunately, however, not being able to do a straight copy served to liberate the project somewhat, so that we began to think in terms of a new edition which referenced the original, but offered something different.

The flexi became a hard vinyl 7”, which sounds far better, and we were now able to add an inner sleeve with period images and explanatory text. The 11-inch glasspaper squares took about eight months to arrive from China, and while we were twiddling our thumbs the designer, Carl Glover, came up with the idea of seating the glasspaper sheet on the front in a recessed deboss. A bit like a frame, thereby underlining the ‘art’ credentials.

The Return Of The Durutti Column

Somewhat to my surprise the pressing plant in Germany agreed to assemble the finished package from start to finish, which was fortunate since I couldn’t imagine NEW ORDER agreeing to help out. I didn’t much fancy the idea of doing it myself. Like the building trade people we had to go through en route to China, the pressing plant just couldn’t understand why we’d want to release a record in a glasspaper sleeve. Someone suggested a photo of some sandpaper might be better…

Then, when the sheets finally arrived, some of the cutting was pretty rough, and the pressing plant insisted on a 3mm tolerance between each side of the sheet and the deboss. That would just look as though we’d fluffed the measurements, besides which even with a deboss, the glasspaper sheets simply stuck on the cover just didn’t have that ‘wow’ factor.

I spent a few days arguing with the plant about tolerances, and agonising generally, then decided that a die-cut would be just as impressive, with the glasspaper underneath, as if you were seeking it through a window. This scheme also overcame the issues about imperfect size and cutting of the glasspaper.

fbn114insituThe only obvious, practical shape for the die-cut was Peter Saville’s original ‘bar chart’ logo, which appeared on the labels of most Factory releases between 1979 and 1980, Fact 14 included. It just looks right, and is also suggestive of a graphic equalizer, which I suppose is a bit Hannett. The pressing plant had already printed 2000 copies of the original inner bag though, so we had to throw those away. All the problems and changes also mean that the release date was late. Very Factory, I suppose.

The finished package looked even better than anyone dared to imagine, and housed in the polythene bag it has a fantastic 3D quality, plus the glasspaper catches the light beautifully. I was particularly delighted that Vini Reilly liked it. All the various headaches and reverses improved the design no end, and the addition of the die-cut means that you now have this unique Reid/Saville hybrid. Truly a happy accident.

LesDisquesduCrepuscule+FactoryBenelux logosYour CD reissues on Factory Benelux and Les Disques du Crépuscule are known for their comprehensive sleeve notes which are written by you. What is your philosophy and style regarding this?

I tend to focus on facts, and direct quotation from the people involved.

Creative writing I leave to experts like Paul Morley, Simon Reynolds and Kevin Pierce. My notes tend to be honest rather than gushing or pseudo-academic, and that’s probably why I rarely get commissioned to write liner notes for other releases! I think the last time was an ELECTRONIC retrospective. Johnny Marr just wanted a hagiography in which everything and everyone was, like, amazing and brilliant, all the time. Buyers aren’t stupid and don’t really want that. Then again, I probably have been a bit too glass half empty at times.

What are your thoughts on modern music, particularly the synthpop and electronic variety, having worked with a number of the original pioneers?

I really like EDM, it’s probably my favourite genre for blasting out loud in the car, annoying my daughter etc; RIHANNA, MISS KITTIN, TODD TERJE, electroclash, Xenomania productions.

A lot of what Crépuscule released during the golden years – the 80s, basically – was either very poppy (Paul Haig, Anna Domino, Isabelle Antena, Kid Montana), or pretty abstract (Wim Mertens, Glenn Branca, Gavin Bryars). That’s probably why my taste in music remains similarly schizophrenic.

If you’re asking who my current / recent favourites are then its TEGAN & SARA, ROBYN, M83, some NINE INCH NAILS, and the last NEW ORDER album. That was a spectacular return to form. Hats off to them, and to Mute.

Which have been your favourite reissues or products on Les Disques du Crépuscule and Factory Benelux over the years?

I can answer that in a heartbeat. My all-time favourite LDDC album is ‘Night Air’ by Blaine L Reininger, which came out in 1984 and was his first proper solo album during the time he was absent from TUXEDOMOON.

Blaine L Reininger Night AirIt’s a magical album about exile in Brussels and was a key influence on my relocating to the city a couple of years later. Expertly recorded and engineered by Gareth Jones, I might add. I’d love him to tour the whole album – maybe there will be an opportunity after TUXEDOMOON are done touring ‘Half Mute’ during 2016.

My favourite FBN reissues would be the glasspaper Durutti, or the pochette 2xCD edition of ‘Always Now’ by SECTION 25. Both presented considerable challenges, and both came off.

Are there any upcoming releases on Factory Benelux or Les Disques du Crépuscule you can tell us about?

I’ve been talking to a group from Brussels called LES PANTIES for a couple of years. I love their music – poised, sophisticated cold wave, with a hint of shoegaze – they have a great aesthetic sense, and Sophie Frison is an excellent singer. We just couldn’t agree about the name though. It might work in a French speaking country, but elsewhere it sounds like a novelty band. Eventually I just gave in and collected all their singles on an album, ‘Cold Science’, which is coming out on Crépuscule in September. It’s a bit of a passion project for me, I suppose. But it’s also one in the eye for people who carp we do nothing but reissues.


The Electricity Club gives its grateful thanks to James Nice

http://lesdisquesducrepuscule.com/

http://factorybenelux.com/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Portrait photo by Peter Staessens
28th May 2016, updated 5th February 2017

An Interview with TUXEDOMOON’s Blaine L Reininger

Blaine L Reininger’s roguish moustache and dinner jacket were a familiar sight in post-punk Brussels.

Blaine L. Reininger thenThe American singer and multi-instrumentalist had crossed the Atlantic with TUXEDOMOON, the band he founded with Steven Brown in 1977, and become an exile of circumstance. Unable to afford the return fare to San Francisco, Reininger became an accidental European, falling in with the Crépuscule and Crammed Discs sets and recording iconic albums of genre-crossing material, both as a solo artist and, despite a period of estrangement, with TUXEDOMOON.

We find Reininger based in Athens, shorn of his moustache and recently married to his long-time partner, Maria Panourgia. Green tea and cycling have replaced the fuels from his time in the Low Countries, and he’s been working on the stage and in film, but making and performing the music of TUXEDOMOON is his ever-fixed mark. Their latest release is the soundtrack for Peter Braatz’s documentary film, ‘Blue Velvet Revisited’, made as a collaboration with CULT WITH NO NAME.

Put together for the thirtieth anniversary of David Lynch’s ‘Blue Velvet’, the film features previously unseen footage taken on set by Braatz. The album, issued by Crammed as Vol. 42 of its respected Made to Measure series, also includes a contribution by John Foxx. We asked Reininger how the project came about.

TUXEDOMOON+CULTWITHNONAMEThe story of this project is down to Erik Stein [of CULT WITH NO NAME] and his connections and his doings.

His group will often go and do artists’ support. They’ve done our support twice in Berlin. So, that’s what was happening.

They were doing our support in Berlin. They introduced us to this film-maker guy who outlined the project. The motive force behind that was Erik. It was his connection. They outlined the project, and we settled on trying to do what we could when we could.

It’s always difficult for TUXEDOMOON to get further work, because we’re spread out all over the map, really. Steven Brown is in Mexico. You’ve got me here in Athens; Peter Principle on the East Coast, between Virginia and New York; Bruce Geduldig in California; Luc van Lieshout in Belgium – he’s the only one left in Brussels, even though Brussels is like our rolling headquarters. In order to work on the project, we had to steal the time from our tour itinerary.

So, for instance, we were playing here in Athens, so I found a guy that had a rehearsal studio who is a TUXEDOMOON fan. We set up here in Athens and started to work in our usual fashion – we jam. We’re a jam band. We’ve been doing it for so long, it’s almost instinctive. We can do a lot in a short period of time.

TUXEDOMOON 2014-01We only actually played together for a couple of days. We had a couple of sessions – five or six hour sessions.

We were working with tracks that Erik had already sent us, and we were just busting our faces off for two days.

We took some of those recordings and sent them over to Erik. They had to exercise some editorial control, and they decided what they liked.

The next time we were able to do that was in Brussels, which was also on days off during the tour. It’s usually the only time we are able to all get together. Somebody has to pay for us to be together. We have to get rehearsal studios. If it takes any more, it’s us – we pay. It’s touring that funds the whole deal. So that’s what we did – we further refined our contributions to the project in Brussels.

The inclusion of a John Foxx track might be presumed to come from another of Erik Stein’s connections, but the links between Foxx and TUXEDOMOON go back a long way.

In the 80s – 80, 81 – both ULTRAVOX! and TUXEDOMOON were more in the media eye. We contacted each other by reading interviews with one another. We saw an interview with John Foxx in – I don’t know what – the NME, what have you, and they said, “What American bands do you find interesting?” He said, “This TUXEDOMOON I find very interesting.”

Photo by Gilles Martin

Photo by Gilles Martin

We said similar things. We liked what he was doing. We liked ULTRAVOX! I did, anyway. I was always a massive fan, when he was in the band, and I liked what he did after he left the band, as well.

There is a certain amount of influence – there are certain commonalities between, say, ‘Metal Beat’ and ‘Desire’. We were using the same gear, for that matter – the CR-78 village, in particular, causing a lot of these sounds.

So, when we started working with an English record company, Charisma, we wanted to contact John Foxx, and that’s what happened. As it turned out, he was not able to participate in the recording of ‘Desire’, except to put us together with Gareth Jones, of course, which was a big plus. Gareth was brilliant, fabulous. Of course, he went on to do a lot of work with DEPECHE MODE. He kind of defined their sound. Working with him was really marvellous. He was able to teach us; kind of organise us.

Of course, we always knew a lot about recording from the early outset – TUXEDOMOON was a studio group at the beginning. Stephen and I were both working in his rudimentary TEAC four track studio at school, and we continued to do that with his four track tape recorder. From the outset, TUXEDOMOON was a studio band, really. So, we already knew quite a bit about multitrack recordings. Desire was our first 24 track experience. That was mainly aided by Gareth’s input.

Recorded in a studio installed in a Surrey farmhouse, ‘Desire’ was TUXEDOMOON’s second album. Tracks like ‘Incubus (Blue Suit)’ capably channelled the coldness of Foxx’s ‘Metamatic’, while ‘Holiday for Plywood’ took Dave Rose’s ‘Holiday for Strings’ deep into quirk-funk terrain. ‘Desire’ demonstrated that the psychedelic world of TUXEDOMOON was capable of absorbing and processing incidental music and futuristic pop without being precious about the boundaries between them. Jones’ contributions led to further involvement in Reininger’s solo work.

Of course, we became friends. TUXEDOMOON would often become friendly with the people we work with; so, when I was doing my second solo record outside of TUXEDOMOON, I had to write to Gareth to come along. I asked him if he would do it, and that’s what happened. He came over to Brussels and we recorded ‘Night Air’ together, which was a marvellous experience.

Gareth had really excellent production ideas that I had never thought of. He would take an electronic rhythm machine out – by that time, I was using the TR-808 – he would take that, run it through a guitar amplifier in the studio and mic the bass kick through a bass amp. He would get a little bit of that overdrive in the package. He did things like wobble up the piano with this modulated echo sound – and that kind of stuff was all kind of new to me. We had a really good time making that record.

Night Air‘Night Air’ came out in 1984. It spawned the single, ‘Mystery & Confusion’, which was a nod to Ennio Morricone’s Spaghetti Western soundtracks but also steeped in synthesized sounds. How did Reininger, the classically-trained violinist, come to electronic music?

I have always been enamoured of electronics, and over the years with TUXEDOMOON, really. I started on a level with electronics very early on. I was – I don’t know, 12 – and my music teacher at school used to take the advanced students and he would have these morning sessions at the school.

He would play records for us and talk to us. Among the things he played was Varèse. You know, he would play that guy Varèse, and I thought, “Wow!” ‘Déserts’ by Edgard Varèse – I thought this was fabulous.

Not long after that, Wendy Carlos’ version of the ‘Clockwork Orange’ soundtrack came out. Just hearing those sounds on the radio, hearing this Moog or maybe Keith Emerson’s solo on ‘Lucky Man’ – the sound of the Moog just blew my little mind, and I resolved that I wanted it – a piece of that. As soon as I was able, as soon as I could get together the resources, I wanted to play that thing. I went to the various colleges. I haunted the electronic music labs. This guy let me play on a Moog Sonic Six at one point, at one of my schools. It was a precursor to the Minimoog. It was the first suitcase synth.

Of course, another big influence on me was when Paul McCartney came out with his first solo record, where he played everything, and I had never considered that as a possibility. But the possibility that I wouldn’t have to work with all these morons that I had been working with – that I could just do it all myself – dispense with them – this was going to be my life’s work.

And it became my life’s work – as this poly-instrumentalist solo guy. The greater part of all my solo work is just me, really, and now it is entirely me. I rarely have the means or the desire to hire people in. I will play all the guitars and I will play the bass. I will play a bunch of violins and all the synths. That’s heaven to me. I love to sit here, at this very computer, amassing the sounds. It is in the process, more than the results, where I get lost.

Unlike with other kind of work – where I’m working for somebody else, I get tired and want to go home – when I’m doing this, I’ll work twelve hours non-stop. I’ll forget to pee and everything – I’ll just get lost in the synthesis. I love the pieces.

With ‘Mystery & Confusion’ in particular, it was a great delight and a great challenge to make those sounds, but the gear that I had!

I had this Roland SH-101 synth, and I was so proud of myself that I was able to get this French horn sound out of an SH-101. I used it for all of the bass sounds.

I was an early disciple of this Roland sync – a pre-MIDI Roland sync. So, I had the TB-303, the SH-101 and the TR-808 all running in sync with one-another. I took the Controlled Voltage out from the TB-303 and made my own cable – I also made my own Roland sync cable, which was a pre-MIDI 3-pin DIN – and I ran all that stuff. I slaved the SH-101 to the TB-303, and I used the layered sound of those two devices to get my bass sounds. So, on that record – also on ‘Mystery & Confusion’, of course – I had some good musicians with me. I had Michael Belfer, who worked with TUXEDOMOON, and I had Alain Goutier, who is a really fine bass player – he was playing fretless bass. I had Alain Lefebvre, who was playing an actual drum kit. Alain Lefebvre has his own label, called Off, in Belgium.

The 101/303/808 combination is a classic set-up for dance music. On reflection, Reininger may be the first person to put them together for a purpose other than creating acid house singles.

That’s what I could afford. Some of the other guys around had these Oberheim rigs and stuff, but I couldn’t afford that. When I was able to finagle a publishing advance from a guy who’s now the head of SABAM Belgium – he was my publisher – I got enough money from him, and Alain Goutier worked at a music store in Belgium, so I was able to get this Roland gear at a discount. It fit my budget.

The good thing about it was that it all worked together. You could sync several devices together before MIDI. It was also superior, because the DX7 came in later and emasculated everything: it whitewashed the whole deal, and everything started to sound like the soundtrack to ‘The Breakfast Club’. I am sure there are people who are nostalgic for that 80s DX7 heavy sound, but I am not one of them. It became less interesting.

Photo by Vic Vinson

Photo by Vic Vinson

Reininger was away from the United States from 1982 to 1999. We asked: How did it feel going back? Was it like going to a different place?

Absolutely. When I went in 1999, I had been away for the better part of 17 years.

I had missed the 80s in America entirely, so many things were new to me. I didn’t know what people made of me.

I assumed they thought I’d been in jail, because it isn’t often that you see an old dude with grey hair who doesn’t know how to operate the microwave in the 7-11. Things like that. Some of the things that we take for granted: “What the hell is this thing?!” It was like this serious Rip Van Winkle effect. I figured they must assume I have been in the joint, which is why I don’t know anything. Then I saw the money: “Whoah! It’s all the same size and the same colour – how do they tell it apart?”

It’s a strange way to be. It’s a strange situation. It gives me this life that is in a constant state of ambivalence – of two hearts, as Goethe said. Two hearts beat in my breast. There is great longing to go home. Some of my solo work has this almost pathological nostalgia, this homesickness. I felt imprisoned. I was not able to find the means to leave Europe and go home. It was not necessarily a choice. It was that great longing to be there, and also this shock and kind of horror, and – I don’t know what – disgust – at things in America: what they did, how things had decayed under the conservatives and continue to do so.

Blaine L. Reininger nowReininger’s presence in Athens has led to invitations to perform on stage. He has also appeared in a number of films by Nicholas Triandafyllidis. We wondered whether the roles called for performance in Greek.

Sometimes. It’s not all that easy. I did a big part in the National Theatre. I played a transvestite. That was all Greek – I did the whole thing in Greek. It was difficult – I don’t speak the language that well. A lot of times, I will do this musical actor thing – I’ll be performing and I will be doing the music as well.

I’ll be on stage, incorporated into the action, but I will also be the music director or I’ll be performing the music live. A lot of times, I end up playing a foreigner. I did two movies last summer and I pretty much played a foreigner. In one of those movies, I played a banker who came to buy the prime minister. In another movie, I played a tourist. In a third movie, I played a member of the troika. So, I play these kinds of things, and I do that in English.

Should we expect to see the theatre competing for Reininger’s attention?

To be honest, not really. I enjoy doing theatre work. It is something I can do competently – I am a theatrical kind of guy – but I don’t prefer it to music, by any means. What I rarely get to do is compose a big piece of music for theatre, give it to them, collect the money and that’s the end: that’s that; I don’t have to go to rehearsal; and I don’t have to go to any performances. That doesn’t happen all that often. Most of the time, they want me to perform – my physical presence. What I enjoy most is to sit here and fool with my computer. When it becomes necessary to get up and play my violin, I will, and I enjoy it because I can.


blue-velvet-revisited-785x803The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Blaine L Reininger

Special thanks to Erik Stein

TUXEDOMOON & CULT WITH NO NAME ‘Blue Velvet Revisited’ is released by Crammed Discs in CD, vinyl LP and digital formats on 16th October 2015

http://www.tuxedomoon.co/

http://www.mundoblaineo.org/

http://www.lesdisquesducrepuscule.com/blaine_l_reininger.html

http://cultwithnoname.net/


Text and Interview by Simon Helm
24th September 2015

JOHN FOXX Interview

20th Century: The Noise

Usually the release of a comprehensive retrospective album signals the writing on the wall for an artist’s career.

John Foxx-modularThis is not the case with JOHN FOXX however, whose output over the last 5 years has been non-stop, both with THE MATHS and in various instrumental guises including with GHOST HARMONIC, HAROLD BUDD, STEVE D’AGOSTINO and ROBIN GUTHRIE.

Now well into a fifth decade as a recording artist, ‘20th Century: The Noise’ sees his solo career being reviewed and in places thrown into sharp relief.

As expected ‘Metamatic’ looms large over the collection, the album rightly taking centre stage in this release, which will be complimented by a corresponding 21st century album.

There are other moments however that show, from a musical perspective, how much of an all-round artist Foxx truly is. This is no singles and a few remixes offering, but an attempt to not only showcase the many facets of the man’s work, but also possibly encourage a more casual listener to explore more… yes children, ‘Underpass’ can be a Foxx gateway drug. The compilation’s rare treats include the ‘Cathedral Oceans’ era ‘Splendour’ and an unreleased instrumental track from the vaults entitled ‘Musique Electron’.

The Electricity Club spoke with JOHN FOXX about ‘20th Century: The Noise’ and his wider career.

With ‘20th Century: The Noise’, how did you go about selecting the tracks featured?

20th Century-The NoiseOh, I let other people do it – better perspective. I got to learn the art of delegation. Of course I have a final say, but other points of view are vital.

Is it similar to putting a live set together as there is an expectation an album of this type will have to feature certain songs?

I’m open to discussion about that too, because my perspective seems to be a bit different from everyone else. It’s interesting. I guess a writer’s view differs from a listener’s. Subjective versus objective and all that.

How does this compare and differ from other retrospective releases? And what can we expect from the 21st Century companion?

I guess it’s a sort of solo career overview – 1979 to now. ‘Metamatic’ was recorded in ‘79 and released January 1980.

There’s some recently uncovered stuff – that ‘Musique Electron’ track is really a whole direction never taken – or at least not consolidated and I’d still love to pursue it – All analogue Mysterious Tunes. Anyhow, it’s an indication of a possible future direction, which may still be undertaken at some point – for anyone who may be interested.

‘Splendour’ is a track I’d completely forgotten – released on a rare label in America and discovered by Rob Harris and Steve Malins on one of their foraging expeditions. It was actually a precursor to ‘Cathedral Oceans’.

I’ve got a few personal favourites in there as well – ‘Through My Sleeping’ and ‘The Noise’ with Louis Gordon – that was our Manchester Psychedelic era, great fun. ‘This Jungle’ too – done very quickly with Jo Dworniak on a great old TEAC eight-track machine. Everything turned up to eleven, tape compression to the max.

There are also some new transcriptions from decaying tapes – a box or two to go but we’re almost finished searching archives now. Except I’ve just found another lot of ‘Metamatic’ masters and some cassettes in a storage unit – they may be the last, if they’re still playable.

You were born into what seems a very traditional Northern working class family, how did this shape your early musical identity?

I was a Catholic until I became a teenager and converted to puberty. Earliest music memories are sung Latin mass and benediction in church, and hearing Elvis, Frank Sinatra and Frankie Lane on the radio and on my uncles’ records.

So I guess I was always immersed in very ancient and completely contemporary forms of music, without differentiating them.

A little later, the sixties beat boom hit and suddenly there were bands on every street. You’d wander over to listen to rehearsals, your mates would show you a few guitar chords and off you went. A nice, rough and ready musical education.

You attended the Royal College of Art at a time where there seemed to be an explosion of creativity across all the arts in the UK. What are your memories of this time?

Art school was really valuable – I went to The Harris College of Art in Preston, a marvelous old neo-classical temple looking down a Georgian avenue of trees at Avenham. Beautiful.

I was lucky enough to catch the last generation of traditional art education – drawing from life and classical casts four hours a day, and so on. Immensely valuable stuff, I now realize.

I remember it as meeting civilization for the first time. A vast change after growing up in Chorley, which was all terraced houses and factories then. I still have a real affection for that town, but wasn’t able to pursue what I needed to do there. I had a truly great Art teacher, Mrs Ashworth, who sorted out the interview and encouraged me to go. She really changed my life through all that. Wonderful woman.

Foxx-smash-hits1980Art School then was an existence separate from the rest of society and from there you could begin to assess things – figure out how to negotiate the world, intervene a bit and also engage everyone in the fun of the process – and so on. You could be bold and experimental or retreat from everything by turns. You could try things out. Of course, you also had to learn how to filter out the bogus and mistaken and there was always plenty of that.

No one really knew where they were going, but everyone seemed determined to be as inventive as possible, all along the way. So I met my generation and a wider world. I was able to measure myself against it all and have great fun at the same time.

At best, you got an education in strategy – how to deal with problems that will always occur when you set out to make your own universe and survive by it, long term.

You also picked up things by osmosis from everyone else – you learnt how to read the street – by which I mean you pick up a steady perspective that allows you to see and understand new things happening in a reasonably unprejudiced way. Lots of little lessons in style and behaviour and analysis that I still draw on today – and I guess I always will.

Was there a particular reason at this point why you gravitated towards music as a primary artistic outlet?

Yes – there was no call for the kind of art I was producing then. I was a figurative artist in a post-abstract pre-conceptual period. This was well before Brit Art and all that. Strangely enough there also wasn’t a really big or active art scene left in London at that time. Everything had shifted to New York. I was tempted to go there – and some, like Sue Coe who I was at The RCA with, made the trip and made a career there.

But I’d had a talk from Professor Richard Guyatt and this interesting phrase came up – ‘Design for the Real World’. The talk concerned the nature of design – how to design with the heart – make real and useful as well as imaginative and lasting things, and so on. It stuck with me. It seemed like a marvelous merging of art and everyday life…

I thought what do I really know about making? Well, not much in truth, but I’d been in a couple of rock bands up north and knew just a little about that. So later I mentioned to him that I’d like to design a band. He thought for a minute, then said: “Good idea, go ahead”.

It was meant to be an art project for a year or so – write songs, form band, play gigs, get record deal, make album. Then that would be it. Little did I know…

What was London like in those early TIGER LILY / ULTRAVOX! days for aspiring bands, as my impression is you didn’t appear to be in the pub rock mold of the likes of ACE or KILBURN & THE HIGH ROADS?

Exactly – London was a bit of a desert then –this was around 1973/74. Glam had lifted everything off the streets and out of the clubs and shifted it into some sort of unreachable universe. As you said, there was only pub rock left and I really disliked that. A bit too sticky and laddish. There was still a little life around the Marquee in Soho, but that was it.

In retrospect, a downturn is actually the best point to arrive, because you get a chance to remake everything the way you want, and a new generation will eventually recognize things that resonate accurately with their times.

I was really interested in THE VELVET UNDERGROUND, IGGY POP and NEW YORK DOLLS; I thought London needed something like that. A proper scene – arty but rougher and more street than Roxy or the glam scene, which was all so deliberately elitist and inaccessible at the time. I was designing what I really wanted to hear. No one was making it, so I thought I had to do it myself. This was around 1973/74. Just after that I discovered NEU! and all that German scene, which changed everything.

A little later, I encountered Mick Jones from THE CLASH and a few others who became seminal to the very beginning of punk. You’d see them at key gigs like the PATTI SMITH gig at the Roundhouse, and some of them came to see us play a couple of times. You’d begin to realize there was this floating sub-generation getting ready, and we were all part of it. Completely unexpected. You could feel the hand of destiny…

What do you recall about working with Brian Eno on those early recordings? I’ve read that you were, as a group, surprised by his naivety in the studio.

Oh, Brian Eno was great to work with. 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. You’d take what seemed useful and avoid what wasn’t – take chances, see what happens, assemble, salvage and discard until you got what you want. Great fun.

As technical backup we had Steve Lillywhite – a very young character still serving a proper apprenticeship as recording engineer and we’d already recorded a lot of key material with him. He was one of the gang in those days, so there was no conflict there.

It was an interesting chemistry we all instigated in that studio. Brian realised how well it worked so he and Lillywhite worked together on U2 and other projects afterwards. We also had Keith Richards stumbling gracefully in and out, but that’s another story.

How disappointing was the lack of commercial success for the band both at the time and in retrospect given we are now celebrating your solo career with this new release?

It was inevitable I guess – the Brit version of punk made a great start – all designed by the great Vivienne Westwood and strategised by McLaren- another couple of Art School refugees – but it rapidly became ossified into a set of daft conventions.

Meanwhile the press were scrambling to adjust to the Pistols and completely screwed by McLaren’s brilliant and effective blagging – simply unable to cope with anything else. Blinded by it. We were all working class kids who wanted to broaden our horizons, not narrow them down again, so we were simply not going to act out that fake yob stance. It was demeaning. Then some bright writer invented the term ‘New Wave’ – and there was suddenly a context. After that, it was fine.

In retrospect, we had just enough perspective to recognise when a timely revolution became unwittingly conservative. Now I simply see the whole thing as a damn good, practical lesson in escaping convention, the value of your own convictions and the limits of media perception.

I was talking to Vincent Gallo recently, about seeing us play in New York in 1977. He seemed surprised we didn’t stay there because we were a perfect fit and had lots of room to develop. It was the same in Berlin and even Paris, too – an international understanding of raw avant-rock. Meanwhile, England was all shouting and back to the pub again!

But there was a genuine and solid interest at home too, all completely under the press radar. By ‘77/78 our gigs were all sold out, right across the country. We still hold the all-time record for cramming people into the Marquee club – far more than anyone else ever had. Outside London, promoters were amazed that we had audiences several times bigger than chart bands. The tides were turning…

Around this time too, a few perceptive clubbers, such as Rusty Egan – who I always rate as the very first modern DJ – also began playing us and our kind of music, so there was a further gathering impetus from that too. It all came from the street up. A real groundswell, invisible to the press at the time. For quite a while, they still seemed tangled by punk and found it difficult to see through any other lens.

In retrospect, I think we were one of the first of a new line of British Rock – sort of artpunk electronica- and later, a long stream of that developed – JOY DIVISION to RADIOHEAD, and beyond to APHEX TWIN and BURIAL – imaginative music involving adventure and a rangy sort of confused romance. It’s a genre of a kind, and for me it’s by far the most interesting part of British music.

Having spent the best part of a decade in a collaborative musical environment, did you find striking out solo daunting?

Oh no – it was a liberation. In many ways, life became much easier. You didn’t have to consult and negotiate any more. You could also be more extreme. It was still collaborative to some extent – Gareth Jones was a great co-conspirator and through him I was able to draw on very bright guys like John Barker and Jake Durant.

The only thing I missed was that frisson you all get when a band suddenly reaches peak communication and understanding.

It can be quite magical and this was beginning to happen so well at the time of recording ‘Systems of Romance’. But the total electronic thing was calling urgently and had been for some time… so it just had to be done.

The most frustrating thing was I didn’t yet have a role for Robin Simon. He is so good. Much of the reason ‘Systems Of Romance’ sounds like it does was down to him. He truly set the mark, a great injection of energy and inventiveness, and the possibilities just opened up. A mighty and wildly imaginative artist who absolutely defined what guitar was all about for generations to come. You know, every modern guitarist owes him a debt – weather they know it or not. Guitar just didn’t operate like that before him.

John+FoxxWhat are your feelings looking back on ‘Metamatic’?

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. 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.

You have stated that the music from around this time was ‘True Electropunk’. How aware were you of the other acts making similar work in cities across the UK?

Electropunk – that’s the term. I was aware of ROBERT RENTAL and THOMAS LEER – I’d been to see Thomas after he released ‘Private Plane’ because it was a great record. I also liked THE NORMAL’s ‘Warm Leatherette’, CABARET VOLTAIRE’s music and aspects of what CHRIS & COSEY were up to. They were all in the same wave as far as I was concerned. It was a new movement, but kind of coincidental – loose and unconnected at first.

I also think all the anger of Punk became transmuted into a new kind of cool, right at that point. You can scream and jump about but you’ll quickly become exhausted and ineffective. A cool anger is much more useful. I guess we are social animals and have to contain anger, or become socially isolated. So we learn to sublimate – painful but productive.

Later, this can be widened to allow glimpses of romance and wonder, and these become even more poignant because of that detectably contained fury. It’s all tragic, urban and a bit bewildered. And that fuel makes it more universal and mobile because everyone recognizes the symptoms. Good art of any kind provides an analogue of all this. It’s all far more complex and interesting and long-lived than a simple release.

Numan Foxx 1979You could detect all these possibilities embedded in the music. It wasn’t going to be like KRAFTWERK – this wasn’t going to become confined by its own conventions like that, or like Punk. It was inclusive and could be enlarged and inhabited by many disparate species – from GIORGIO MORODER to RADIOHEAD, GARY NUMAN, DEPECHE MODE and THE HUMAN LEAGUE to PULP and BLUR, APHEX TWIN and BURIAL.

It could interbreed with rap, even give a spine to Britney and Gaga – without losing its volition. It’s still interbreeding in New York – XENO & OAKLANDER, THE SOFT MOON, MATTHEW DEAR… and here, with GAZELLE TWIN and LONELADY, HANNAH PEEL, BENGE and the others. It’s like some intelligent, abstract gene-force, seeking new forms all the time. A bit like ‘The Thing’ – capable of exponential infiltration and shape- shifting. Inevitable Music.

You went back to a more traditional band line-up on subsequent releases, did you miss working with others, or was it just for expediency in the recording process?

Both really. I always enjoyed the chemistry you get from a few well-chosen people involved in recording. It’s really a collaborative art and I’ve always enjoyed that. I like writing the songs and I like what other people can do with them.

How did you balance running what was a successful studio in The Garden with working as an artist in your own right?

Wasn’t easy – I often had to hire somewhere else because my own place was over-extended. I remember I couldn’t let the COCTEAU TWINS in because NICK CAVE was recording, followed by SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES, so I often had to hire the Barge studio from Virgin or Sarm East or Utopia in Camden. It was mayhem at times. That’s why I eventually sold it – couldn’t book my own studio.

Can you explain the frustrations you felt that lead to you retiring from music after ‘In Mysterious Ways’?

JOHN FOXX 1983I 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. Sold the studio and went back to graphic art, where I had a great time for about ten years and was lucky enough to establish myself without using JOHN FOXX at all. Simply left him in the fridge for a bit. Perhaps forever – or so I thought at the time.

You always seem to be ahead of the curve musically, what drew you to firstly the House scene and then, subsequently music for computer games?

Well, I went to James Pinker’s house in Vauxhall and heard Acid for the first time – around 1987/88. It was a great experience – a new underground evolving from post-industrial Detroit, using analogue instruments rescued from skips and pawn shops. “Bleep, Wirp, Boom” – I was right at home again. Went out to Brixton, saw Leigh Bowery in action, weird clubs opening momentarily, one-night warehouses, sound systems. A real new flourishing underground scene, kicking off everywhere. Great relief, nothing happens without that. Then Tim Simenon turned up wanting me to do some music, Warp wanted a video for LFO, so Foxx was out the freezer and into the microwave…

The computer games came from working with BOMB THE BASS. Tim’s label had hooked up with THE BITMAP BROTHERS. They’d liked ‘Metamatic’ and wanted some current electronica for their new games. I’m always interested in new electronic media, so I recorded a couple of ideas, went off to meet them and we all got on well. It was fun- and ‘Gods’ got to No1 in the games charts.

With computer games music, did you find your background in graphic design valuable?

Only in as much as it was a vaguely illustrative form – but that was the interesting bit – you had to make a sort of possible sonic world for a new visual form, initially using a very limited repro device. I also liked the people I was working with –The Bitmaps were part of another new generation – the first computer heads – and it was good to be in there and generating stuff for the future.

You returned to music just before the new millennium. In that intervening period, beyond the work mentioned above, were you writing or did you completely withdraw from musical activities?

Oh, I was writing and casting about a bit – finishing bits of the ‘Quiet Man’ book, making the images for ‘Cathedral Oceans’, beginning to make little Super Eight films and computer videos, continuing recording ‘Cathedral Oceans’ music and other experimental ideas- plus playing and recording piano music, lecturing at various art schools – and so on. There was plenty going on.

You have released a number of more ambient albums since your return, both solo and in collaboration with other notable artists like Diana Yukawa in GHOST HARMONIC. What artistically do you get from these you don’t get from the releases from say JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS?

GHOST HARMONIC2Well, they cover a different emotional and sonic spectrum – more concerned with tranquility and contemplation. Music with beats can’t address this at all.

Plus we’re all very intrigued by what can happen when a fine classical musician like Diana works with recording studio techniques in our non-conventional ways. There is great, unrealized composition potential there.

After doing this GHOST HARMONIC album, I think we all realized that we’re only at the very beginning.

And how do you react to fans feedback, clamoring for more traditional song based albums?

Oh, I feel the same, but I’ve only got one life. The songs will arrive soon. There’s plenty more to come. Lots of stuff still in pieces, waiting for final assembly. Plus some other brilliant people I really want to work with – GHOST BOX, LONELADY and JORI HULKKONEN again, Diana, Rob Simon and Clint Mansell. BENGE is always so good to work with too. It’s a nice, big, ever moving world.

The music industry has changed dramatically since you first stepped into a recording studio. What are your general feelings about the business today and have they changed since that decision to retire 30 some years ago?

The music is richer, more varied, more accessible, but the price paid is there’s far less money around. After the means of distribution became electronic, Apple made their land-grab for the universe and record companies and PRS proved so utterly ineffectual in the face of all that.

So perhaps we look at the past as a sort of golden age, like Hollywood, and music like this becomes a sort of folk art again – mainly concentrated into live performance – even perhaps a new sort of cabaret, since it’s really an urban form. Maybe that’s no bad thing. I’m looking toward the future with great interest. Just watch out for the drones.

You now have the ability to have a greater degree of control over your product with self-releasing etc. Is this, as an artist in the fullest sense of the word, something you welcome, or does it present its own issues?

No, it’s truly a great position to be in – the best you could wish for as an artist. Of course you need good collaborators, but independence means creativity – and vice versa.

There’s a lot of fetishism around the sort equipment you used on ‘Metamatic’ and still use on THE MATHS releases. What are your views on this and things like softsynths and Logic / Abelton?

Oh, I like ‘em all –where appropriate. No prejudice. Analogue is a bit more complex –still mysterious and rebellious.

Digital is more controllable. Use where necessary. Avoid anything with a multi-function menu!

Putting ‘20th Century: The Noise’ together, you’ll have had time to reflect on your career. What have been the highs and lows of the last 35 years?

Highs – Everything… quite honestly, it’s all been a lot of fun. A big adventure.

Lows – Shoreditch and Spitalfields going the same way as Carnaby Street and Portobello.

And is there anything you would have done differently?

Lots, but only in retrospect. At the time, of course, I always behaved immaculately.


The Electricity Club gives its sincerest thanks to JOHN FOXX

Special thanks to Steve Malins at Random PR

’20th Century: The Noise’ is released on CD by Metamatic Records

https://www.facebook.com/johnfoxxmetamatic

https://twitter.com/foxxmetamedia


Text and Interview by Ian Ferguson
25th June 2015

SHORT CIRCUIT PRESENTS MUTE at The Roundhouse

Documentary Evidence

Some of the most successful and influential underground acts of the last 30 years performed over the two day programme at Short Circuit Presents Mute.

The event was curated by the innovative independent record label started by Daniel Miller in 1978 to originally release his single ‘Warm Leatherette’ / ‘TVOD’ under the moniker of THE NORMAL.

But added to that was a unique and possibly equally exciting lecture series featuring production luminaries including Gareth Jones and Flood. The weekend drew fans literally world-wide to Camden, and the event became not only a rare opportunity to see the stars of the Mute stable past and present on stage – and the collaborative possibilities that presented – but also a meet up for social groups mainly cultivated on the internet, people recognising their tribal brothers and sisters by way of band-logo emblazoned T-shirts and tattoos.

Unsurprisingly, DEPECHE MODE fans seemed to win in the easiest to spot category, but also probably the most common. The presence of two current members and two ex-members of the synthpop overlords had led to barely measurable levels of anticipation of a possible mega-Mode reunion.

Arriving at the beginning of RECOIL’s performance at the early hour of 7.30pm Friday evening, the festival was already very healthily attended, and it would be fair to say that DEPECHE MODE fans made up at least two thirds of the audience in the main room. Cameras were held aloft constantly aimed not only at Alan Wilder and co. on stage but also at the VIP balcony, where Mode celebrity Martin Gore could be seen relaxing with friends.

RECOIL’s show was engaging and slick, surprisingly beefed up from the sound of his recent albums. His recent association with support act and sometime collaborator Daniel Myer (aka ARCHITECT, HAUJOBB and COVENANT drum programmer) seems to have steered Wilder back in a direction closer to his early work ‘Unsound Methods’ and even to shades of the ‘Songs of Faith and Devotion’ era Mode. As could be expected, the crowd ignited when RECOIL performed a DM mega-remix section, with elements of ‘Never Let Me Down Again’, ‘Behind The Wheel’ and ‘Walking In My Shoes’. At the end of the segment the crowd – who had dutifully engaged in the Cornfield Wave already – cheered rowdily, leading Alan to dryly observe “you like a bit of the Mode, don’t you?”

Shortly afterwards we were treated to our first but by no means last example of the Mute Family guest spots, with Wilder bringing out NITZER EBB’s frontman Douglas McCarthy for a spirited rendition of ‘Faith Healer’. But if that wasn’t enough to slake the greedy thirst of Mode fans, after an equinanimous rendering of NITZER EBB’s ‘Family Man’ – a track that Wilder had produced – they climaxed the entire affair with a teaser of what could possibly be in store for DM fans – Douglas McCarthy singing ‘Personal Jesus’. Even for non-DM fans, it was an extraordinary moment, reminding us all of the vast possibilities an event such as this one holds, and just how packed with talent Mute has consistently been.

Why this is so, and why this even is so exciting, subsequently, does come down in many ways to the foresight of just one man – Daniel Miller. And so much did and does Miller believe in his acts and associates that many call him their mentor and friend, influence and support. In return, Miller’s genuine passion for his acts is evident, as he could frequently be spotted in the crowd, nodding or dancing to the act on stage.

NITZEREBBMikeCooper (2)After RECOIL left the stage to loud adulating applause, the stage was set up for NITZER EBB. McCarthy may not have had far to stroll to get back on stage, but he was kind enough to perform a costume change between appearances, coming out in his trademark Terminator-esque shades and slick narrow cut suit, accompanied by Bon Harris in a designer version of a miner’s outfit (braces and flatcap) and current drummer Jason Payne also sharply besuited.

I challenge you, dear reader, to find any frontman more charismatic than Douglas McCarthy, and the NITZER EBB show was a dynamic and stylish yet powerful affair, taking their back catalogue bests for a prowl to a very enthusiastic crowd who lapped up McCarthy’s posing and pacing.

‘Hearts And Minds’, ‘Control I’m Here’, ‘Getting Closer’, ‘Let Your Body Learn’ and many more NE back catalogue highlights, entertained the familiar and the uninitiated alike, with much impressed clapping and shouting – not to mention gesticular dancing – peppering the whole set.

Having seen the crowd growing steadily, and particularly having spied bottlenecks to enter the Studio space where the night’s industrial luminaries were about to take over for a handful of hours, one had to accept that until cloning is viable we can’t be in two great rooms at once and leave before the Nitzer encore to ensure a place at the CHRIS & COSEY (from THROBBING GRISTLE) show.

Whilst TG’s output was always experimental and confronting, CHRIS & COSEY specialised in a more club-friendly sound, making strange dancefloor hypnotic anthems. With the Optimo label’s recent rerelease of early album The Space Between showing the groove that infuses much of CHRIS & COSEY’s more danceable work, it was no surprise to fans who packed themselves tighter than industrial sardines into the small Studio space that the Carter Tutti meets Nik Void (from FACTORY FLOOR) show was at its heart a techno influenced affair.

With a U-shaped stage absolutely covered in gear including effects pedals, synths and laptops, Chris Carter steered the groove with pulsing spacey beats, whilst Cosey Fanni Tutti added guitar, bass and reverb-soaked vocals, Nik Void punctuating the affair with guitar played with a violin bow. It was awesome, brilliant and a little strange. Just a good amount of strange, leaving many first-timers more converted than freaked out.

As to the issue of freaking out the crowd, that was the accepted raison d’etre of following act NON. After CHRIS & COSEY, those who wanted to see NON had the smarts to remain in place through the intermission, as lines streamed up the ramp outside.

Reports gave the average waiting time to get into the Studio from the beginning of the CHRIS & COSEY show until after NON at at least an hour, some seeing none of these acts at all, which understandably resulted in massive disappointment. These acts should have played a larger room, however the limitations of space in the Roundhouse gave no larger space to allocate.

NON’s show was brief and far less confronting than his reputation may suggest. Beginning with iconic track ‘Total War’, the first 20 minutes saw NON man Boyd Rice running through extended versions of a handful of NON pieces, accompanied by hypnotic visuals. His final piece was facilitated by an audience member just happening to have a drill key handy – what are the chances? After fixing his clearly ailing drill Rice treated the audience to a short burst of noise, as he used said drill to play his bass guitar. And then, suddenly and too soon, it was over.

Following this was a very different flavour of electronic sound, Mute producer and electronic artist POLE played an hour of excellent dub techno and house to an oddly mixed crowd, unsure whether to watch or dance. Eventually the dancing won out – as it should have, given the infectious nature of POLE’s grooves. Daniel Miller himself was spotted grooving in the corner, affably speaking with members of the crowd when they were brave enough to approach him.

At this point it seemed prudent to leave some energy for the extremely early showing required for Gareth Jones’ 11am lecture, and T RAUMSCHMIERE was abandoned as a good but unachievable luxury. Sadly, the best laid plans of mice and music-nerds were significantly scuppered by a swarm of takers for the Jones talk, again heavily skewed with DEPECHE MODE fans. After long sighs and cowed shoulders at the words “I’m sorry, this talk is now full”, it was time to wander inside and tinker with the open-to-public modular set up in the floyer.

A Tardis-like construction of modular modules, with several panels wired to speakers so one could share the variably wonderful and execrable bleeps and arpeggios of one’s construction with anyone in hearing vicinity. Nearby were enthusiasts armed with soldering irons, resistors and PCBs, building their own Mute Synths. Converging on the lecture space a couple of hours later to catch POLE – aka Stefan Betke, talking about mastering.

A talk for the more nerdy of the crowd, it did not suffer from the same crowding issues as the earlier Jones talk, and much of the information and question subjects were from and for musicians and home-producers. A criminally under-rated studio producer who has worked with a number of Mute artists in the past, Betke was charming and informative for those who chose to listen. In fact, listening was his best advice for home-production: “learn. how. to. listen”

FLOODMikeCooperA quick dash back to the bar gave 45 minutes to wait for what would reveal itself as arguably a weekend highlight, the talk given by Flood about his role in the development of what have become classic albums like NICK CAVE’s ‘Mercy Seat’ and DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Violator’. Flood proved to be an entertaining and cheeky speaker, taking affectionate digs at the whims of artists. His impersonation of Martin Gore’s first reaction to the disco-ed up studio version of ‘Enjoy The Silence’ with a slighty nerdy “…it ain’t my kind of disco” drew huge roars of laughter. There are plenty of YouTube clips of his talk, and you should indeed look them up.

Whether or not they are your favourites, great bands play daily in the UK. But hearing a producer and all-round nice guy like Flood give insights into the making of iconic albums we know and love – was quite an emotional experience and difficult indeed to top for best weekend experience. Not for the first or last time, listeners at this talk felt a sense of commonality – of mutually felt joy and not a little awe at what we all realised was almost a unique opportunity to see Flood in the flesh.

FLETCHMikeCooperHuman needs for sustenance and liquid fortitude took precedence, next, as we waited out the pre-ERASURE hours eating, drinking, bumping into a multitude of familiar faces and finding ourselves unable to manage more than five minutes of THE RESIDENTS.

Like many Mute acts, they were confrontingly strange, odd and unique – but not a cup of tea I found particularly drinkable. And I joined a massive crowd- easily the largest of the weekend – who had gathered to hear ERASURE, expecting and hoping to hear the unexpected.

Rumours had gathered pace as to what may happen on stage, especially when DEPECHE MODE’s Fletch got into the DJ booth beforehand. And whilst it may not have been exactly what was wished for, the ERASURE showcase certainly did not disappoint.

After the hysteria caused by ERASURE’s stage show, LAIBACH were always going to confuse and potentially scare the more commercially oriented part of the crowd. And – they did. Obviously the main influence for RAMMSTEIN, the LAIBACH approach is equal parts martial bombasticness and tongue-in-cheek pomp, best understood when listening to any of their impressively silly covers.

Tonight, after treating the crowd to chart-anthem ‘Live Is Life,’ they chose to cover QUEEN’s ‘One Vision’, repositioning it as a propagandist anthem. ERASURE fans leave in droves quickly, but whilst the audience may have thinned there were no shortage of LAIBACH devotees in the crowd, singing, shouting, air-punching and generally loving what was definitely an enjoyably visual and expansively imperial performance. Ending their set with a refreshing take on one of the most fitting – and most covered – electronic dance tracks from Mute’s back catalogue ‘Warm Leatherette’, LAIBACH put a tougher more menacing spin on the track, after RECOIL’s more groove oriented rendition the previous evening. Another weekend highlight, this was a worthy tribute to the amazing Mr Miller and his Mute legacy.

Closing the weekend’s proceedings was a late running DJ set by DEPECHE MODE’s Martin Gore. Many remained in The Roundhouse, hoping for a Mode tune or two but Gore stuck to his guns with a well thought out set of rugged techno for his kind of disco! Those who were lucky to get invitations to the aftershow party DJ-ed by REX THE DOG carried on partying while many others hung around the outskirts of The Roundhouse to chat.

The influence on popular culture of Daniel Miller’s vision and the Mute back catalogue cannot be under estimated. Its acts have helped shaped genres as diverse as RAMMSTEIN’s industrial metal, house music from the likes of DERRICK MAY and even all singing-all dancing girl pop such as THE SATURDAYS!

A fabulous weekend all round; if this review had a five word limit, I would choose the meeting of like minds to summarise the unique musical, social and creative experience that was the Mute Festival.


Text by Nix Lowrey
Live photos by Mike Cooper
5th June 2011

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