Tag: Johan Baeckström (Page 1 of 5)

THE ELECTRICITY CLUB’S 25 Synth B-Sides Of The 21st Century

There is nothing like the other side of life. As a companion to its favourite 25 Classic Synth B-sides, The Electricity Club presents a listing looking at the 21st Century equivalent.

B-sides often take on a cult following, provoking discussions among fans about why they might have missed inclusion on the parent album.

On why artists occasionally overlook a track when it is clearly good enough, Richard Silverthorn of MESH said “Sometimes you can’t see the wood for the trees”.

Then there are the occasional abstract studio experiments which often fail but occasionally work and the occasional cover versions which don’t always find favour with some listeners but are infinitely more preferable over pointless remixes of the A-side!

But how is a modern B-side been defined? There is a wider definition now due to digital and streaming formats, so they can include flipsides of vinyl, bonus tracks on CD singles and non-album tracks released as part of a download single or EP bundle. Despite all this, the term “B-side”, like “album” and “video”, still remains.

So for the purposes of this listing as before with the 25 Classic Synth B-sides, B-sides featured on the original issue of a full length album, or subsequently included on a new one are NOT included. However, those added as bonus tracks on later reissues, deluxe editions or compilations are permitted. Rules are good, rules help control the fun! 😉

So with a restriction of one track per artist moniker, presented in date and then alphabetical order within, these are The Electricity Club’s 25 Synth B-Sides Of The 21st Century…


LADYTRON Oops Oh My (2003)

LADYTRON surprised their audiences during live shows in support of the ‘Light & Magic’ album by closing with a feisty synthpunk cover of TWEET’s ‘Oops Oh My’. Co-written by Missy Elliot, the Timbaland produced original with a DEVO sample had been a hip-hop favourite but the aggressive Riot Grrrl styled take on this risqué song about self-love with lyrics like “There goes my skirt, droppin at my feet” added a rockier edge to their sound.

Available on the LADYTRON single ‘Evil’ via Telstar Records

http://www.ladytron.com/


CLIENT Can’t See Me Now (2003)

“This was written in response to the Iraq War” said Sarah Blackwood aka Client B, “I remember endless discussions with Toast Hawaii boss Fletch about whether it was the right decision and with heavy hearts, watching endless shelling and firefighting, from the 24 hour news coverage on far flung European hotel TVs. It was the first time I had felt that disconnection and frustration with my home country, the ‘not in my name’ ringing loudly in my ears. Bit late to the party but that’s the story of my life.”

Available on the CLIENT single ‘Here & Now’ via Toast Hawaii / Mute Records

https://www.facebook.com/ClientMusic


GOLDFRAPP Gone To Earth (2004)

The eloquence and surreal atmospheres of the first GOLDFRAPP album ‘Felt Mountain’ may have taken a back seat on its follow-up ‘Black Cherry’ but the experimentation continued on the B-sides of the album’s singles. ‘White Soft Rope’ combined the unsettling imagery of bondage with a chorus sung a school choir, but ‘Gone To Earth’ was even more otherworldly. The reverberating bassline combined with swirling synths and dreamy glides while Alison’s alternate cosmic language startled with a spacey hypnotism.

Available on the GOLDFRAPP single ‘Black Cherry’ via Mute Records

http://goldfrapp.com/


THE MODERN Model #426 (2005)

Nathan Cooper who was in THE MODERN said: “The inspiration came from ROXY MUSIC’s ‘In Every Dream Home A Heartache’ which was about a blow up doll, we took that a step further and Model# 426 is about some kind of sex droid!! ‘Model #426’ was always the song that would get the audience talking because singer Emma would open a trunk on stage and lead a gimp out on a collar into the bemused looking audience!! I think it was actually that stunt that got us signed to Universal!”.

Originally on THE MODERN EP ‘Eastern Bloc’, now available on the album ‘Life In A Modern World’ via Pie & Mash Recordings Ltd

https://www.themodernband.com/


PET SHOP BOYS Party Song (2006)

Interpolating KC & THE SUNSHINE BAND’s ‘That’s The Way (I Like It), the self-produced ‘Party Song’ was naturally a throbbing disco driven affair outshone the horrendous Diane Warren penned ballad ‘Numb’ which comprised the main act. Lyrically inspired by the classic Joan Collins and Leonard Rossiter fronted Campari adverts that, it began life as a dance cover of NIRVANA’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ suggested by Elton John and intended as a single for a new PET SHOP BOYS ‘Greatest Hits’!!

Originally the B-side of ‘Numb’, now available on the PET SHOP BOYS album ‘Format’ via EMI Music

https://www.petshopboys.co.uk/


ARTHUR & MARTHA Japanese Kiss (2008)

‘Japanese Kiss’ was from the debut release on Happy Robots from Alice Hubley and Adam Cresswell. “This was the first track I wrote for ARTHUR & MARTHA” he recalled, “mostly recorded in the bedsit I’d moved into after splitting up with my girlfriend. I was absorbed in self-pity, comforting myself with Japanese-horror movies and the company of my ARP Quartet, Moog Rogue and the DR-55. Living my best life!”; 11 years later as Rodney Cromwell, Cresswell did a NEW ORDER inspired ‘KW1’ remix.

Available on the ARTHUR & MARTHA single ‘Autovia’ via Happy Robots

https://www.facebook.com/arthurandmarthaband


MARSHEAUX Bizarre Love Duo (2008)

Basing its title on the well-known NEW ORDER tune, as with a number of the B-sides listed here, ‘Bizarre Love Duo’ outshone the main act ‘Ghost’. It all began with a pitch shifted groan sample repeated with hypnotic effect over some squelchy backing. But during the second half, the track built itself to a fabulous but abstract electrodisco number with a marvellously catchy refrain. While not quite a song and not quite an experiment, ‘Bizarre Love Duo’ was enjoyable tune in the MARSHEAUX canon.

Originally the B-side of ‘Ghost’, now available on the MARSHEAUX album ‘E-Bay Queen Is Dead’ via Undo Records

https://www.facebook.com/marsheaux


ANTHONIO Angel Face (2009)

A cover of a cover, namely SHOCK’s take on THE GLITTER BAND’s 1974 Top5 hit; playing the role of the Latin lothario in response to the Annie song ‘Anthonio’, Sebastian Muravchik of HEARTBREAK and now SNS SENSATION remembered:Richard X produced this version of ‘Angel Face’ as a side B in his single ‘Annie’. I sang both sides, which kind of shows two sides of Anthonio’s personality in a way. It was a fantastic experience – Richard is a great guy and über pro, so really a win-win.”

Available on the ANTHONIO single ‘Annie’ via Pleasure Masters ‎

https://www.facebook.com/wearesns


LITTLE BOOTS Catch 22 (2009)

“Positive and negative can only attract” sang Victoria Hesketh on the bouncy ‘Catch 22’, a lesser known LITTLE BOOTS track which initially only appeared on the 7 inch single of ‘Earthquake’ in the UK. Gloriously synthpoppy, in hindsight along with other songs that did not make it onto the final tracklisting of her debut album ‘Hands’, it highlighted a possible direction that could have been taken, but which was ultimately watered down for wider acceptance after she was named BBC Sound Of 2009.

Originally the B-side of the single ‘Earthquake’, now available on the LITTLE BOOTS deluxe album ‘Hands’ via On Repeat Records

https://www.littlebootsmusic.co.uk/


VILLA NAH Benny’s Burning (2010)

Continuing a great tradition among the synthpop acts of the past, VILLA NAH had ‘Benny’s Burning’ and ‘Daylight’ as part of their B-side armoury as well as the brilliant debut album ‘Origin’. Highlighting the inherent talent of Juho Paolosmaa and Tomi Hyyppä, ‘Benny’s Burning’ was a smoother and more atmospheric side of VILLA NAH compared with the uptempo technopop impressions of its A-side ‘Rainmaker’. The Helsinki duo later opened for OMD during the UK leg of 2010’s ‘History Of Modern’ tour.

Available on the VILLA NAH single ‘Rainmaker’ via Keys Of Life

https://www.facebook.com/villanah


ERASURE Never Let You Down (2011)

Produced by Vince Clarke, ‘Never Let You Down’ was free of the many autotune treatments that Frankmusik had applied when helming the disappointing ‘Tomorrow’s World’ album in his attempts to make ERASURE sound more modern and contemporary. As a result, that heartfelt soul often associated with Andy Bell made its presence felt over a glorious galloping synthpop tune in the classic ERASURE vein, especially during the middle eight section in Spanish.

Available on the ERASURE single ‘Be With You’ via Mute Artists

http://www.erasureinfo.com/


MIRRORS Falls By Another Name (2011)

In their short career, MIRRORS left not only a great album in ‘Lights & Offerings’ but a body of wonderful B-sides too. Any number of them are worthy of mention but the nod goes to ‘Fall By Another Name’ as it was accessible enough to have been an A-side. Not as dense as MIRRORS’ usual pop noir hence its likely relegation to flipside, the bright pulsing melodies and James New’s Dave Gahan impression made this sound rather like a quality outtake from DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Speak & Spell’.

Available on the MIRRORS single ‘Into the Heart’ via Skint Records

https://www.facebook.com/theworldofmirrors


APOPTYGMA BERZERK Dead Air Einz (2013)

While the A-side was a faithful cover version of Peter Schilling’s anthemic ‘Major Tom’, ‘Dead Air Einz’ was a self-composed song by APOPTYGMA BERZERK mainman Stephan Groth that was eagerly welcomed at the time, thanks to it being his first original new track for four years. Utilising distorted radio broadcasts in its backdrop, it also featured some Korg MS20 from Jon Erik Martinsen and was something of a grower with its steadfast drum machine shuffle.

Available on the APOPTYGMA BERZERK single ‘Major Tom’ via Pitch Black Drive Productions

http://www.theapboffice.com/


CHVRCHES Now Is Not The Time (2013)

Making their initial impression with the mighty ‘Lies’ in 2012, Glasgow trio CHVRCHES actually became the mainstream saviours of synthpop that LITTLE BOOTS and LA ROUX had promised but ultimately failed to deliver on. ‘Now Is Not The Time’ was a fantastic midtempo tune with a great chorus that like ‘The Mother We Share’ sounded like Taylor Swift gone electro. However, it got relegated to B-side status despite being superior to several songs on their debut long player ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’.

Available on the CHVRCHES single ‘Recover’ via Virgin Records

https://chvrch.es/


DEPECHE MODE All That’s Mine (2013)

In a pattern similar to the ‘Sounds Of The Universe’ boxed set only track ‘Oh Well’, the best song from ‘Delta Machine’ sessions was left out of the main act. ‘All That’s Mine’ featured a tightly sequenced backbone, electronically derived rhythms and a gloomy Eurocentric austere, all the perfect ingredients for a classic DM tune! While it was no doubt rejected for not fitting into the faux blues aspirations of modern DEPECHE MODE, it made up for the dreary notions of the A-side ‘Heaven’ which were more like hell…

Originally the B-side of the single ‘Heaven’, now available on the DEPECHE MODE deluxe album ‘Delta Machine’ via Columbia Records

http://www.depechemode.com/


OMD Time Burns (2013)

OMD’s twelfth album ‘English Electric’ was notable for combining conceptual art pieces alongside supreme electronic pop in a manner reminiscent of their fourth long player ‘Dazzle Ships’ and KRAFTWERK’s ‘Radio-Activity’. Although four of these concepts made it onto the final running order of the album, one that didn’t was ‘Time Burns’, a intriguing sound collage comprising of clock movements, chimes and digital watch alarms over rumbles of sub-bass and profound computer generated speech.

Originally the B-side of the single ‘The Future Will Be Silent’, now available on the OMD EP ‘Night Café’ via BMG

http://www.omd.uk.com/


QUEEN OF HEARTS United (2013)

A stomping electro disco number produced by Mark Reeder and Micha Adam, Elizabeth Morphew’s cooing Bush-like howls and breathy euphoria are a total delight to the ears while the mighty cavernous sound provided the heat! However, ‘United’ has ended up as the B-side. Reeder said ”I saw a piece posted on The Electricity Club about QUEEN OF HEARTS and I was curious. I really liked Elizabeth’s voice from the moment I heard the first couple of tracks.”

Originally the B-side of ‘Secret’, now available on the QUEEN OF HEARTS deluxe album ‘Cocoon’ via Night Moves

http://iamqueenofhearts.com/


VILE ELECTRODES Little Death Capsule (2013)

With an alluringly haunting vocal from Anais Neon, the eerily stark ‘Little Death Capsule’ saw VILE ELECTRODES tell the story of early space travel when these primitive craft were sent out of the earth’s atmosphere effectively sitting on inter-continental ballistic missiles, with burning up also a possibility on return. With pulsing instrumentation from Martin Swan, it featured the sort of sterling analogue treatments that would make KRAFTWERK and YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA proud.

Available on the VILE ELECTRODES EP ‘The Last Time’ via Vile Electrodes

http://www.vileelectrodes.com/


JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM Synth Is Not Dead (2015)

A touching tribute to Messrs Clarke, Gore, Hütter and Schneider with hints of YAZOO’s ‘In My Room’, Johan Baeckström said of ‘Synth Is Not Dead’: “I guess I just wanted to reflect on the fact that there still IS a synthpop scene with some really great bands, both old and new. In another way, the song is sort of my ‘thank you’ to some of the artists that inspired me for several decades – some of them are mentioned in the lyrics, but far from all of course”.

Available on the JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM single ‘Come With Me via Progress Productions

https://www.facebook.com/bstrommusic/


METROLAND (We Need) Machines Without Romance (2015)

METROLAND’s second album ‘Triadic Ballet’ was a triumphant electronic celebration of the Bauhaus, art movement led by Walter Gropius. Gropius theorized about uniting art and technology and on the B-side of its launch single ‘Zeppelin’, METROLAND worked towards the 21st Century interpretation of that goal. Now imagine if Gary Numan had actually joined KRAFTWERK in 1979? Then the brilliantly uptempo ‘(We Need) Machines Without Romance’ would have surely been the result.

Originally the B-side of ‘Zeppelin’, now available on the METROLAND boxed set ’12×12′ via Alfa Matrix

http://www.metrolandmusic.com/


MESH Paper Thin (2016)

Of the superbly rousing ‘Paper Thin’, Richard Silverthorn of MESH recalled: “Mark Hockings presented me with a demo at the time we were writing material for ‘Looking Skyward’. On first listen, I wasn’t too sure about the track as I thought it didn’t really fit with the overall feeling of the album so it kind of got shelved. The record company asked ‘what about the B-side?’ so Mark suggested ‘Paper Thin’ again. The bassline, drums and many other lines were changed and the new version came to life.”

Available on the MESH single ‘Kill Your Darlings’ via Dependent Records

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


KNIGHT$ So Cold (2017)

After SCARLET SOHO, James Knights busied himself with a new Britalo inspired solo project. With hints of NEW ORDER’s ‘Subculture’ and found on KNIGHT$ debut EP ‘What’s Your Poison?’, he said “’So Cold’ is the second or third song I wrote as KNIGHT$. It’s a little darker than my other material, and the only song I’ve recorded using a marxophone (a fretless zither which I borrowed from my friend Alun Davies). It didn’t make it onto my debut album, but it’s still a song the audience enjoy, as do I.”

Available on the KNIGHT$ EP ‘What’s Your Poison?’ via Speccio Uomo ‎

https://knights101.com/


PSYCHE Truth or Consequence (2017)

PSYCHE co-founder Darrin Huss said of ‘Truth Or Consequence’: “It started out under the title ‘Life On Trial’ and was about the Bradley Manning (now Chelsea) situation. It’s about the NSA surveillance, whistleblowers, etc. It’s also about the confusion between what is Truth, and what are the consequences of telling it, living it? Do we have safety in numbers? etc. It’s all in the lyrics. It’s a very PSYCHE song with even a nod to ‘The Brain Collapses’ with our use of that song’s drum machine the Oberheim DMX.”

Available on the PSYCHE single ‘Youth Of Tomorrow’ via Artoffact Records

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


SOFT CELL Guilty (2018)

That Marc Almond and Dave Ball reunited for a farewell gig and new material was a pleasant surprise. The frustration and anger expressed in ‘Guilty (Cos I Say You Are)’ with the lines “I can denounce you just because I can, I didn’t have the life I wanted, I didn’t do the things I dreamed” saw SOFT CELL continue where they left of in 2003. With dark resonances like ‘The Omen’ gone disco, its eerie gothique countered the celebratory electro-soul of A-side ‘Northern Lights’

Originally the B-side of ‘Northern Lights’, now available on the SOFT CELL album ‘Keychains & Snowstorms – The Singles’ via Universal Records

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


INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP Another Brick In The Wall – Remoaner mix (2019)

Inheriting the mantle of THE HUMAN LEAGUE in the modern synthpop stakes, INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP impressed with their self-titled debut album. With the single release of ‘The Ballad Of Remedy Wilson’ was a timely Remoaner mix of PINK FLOYD’s ‘Another Brick In The Wall’ sung in German that made a bold musical and political statement. Headteacher Adrian Flanagan said: “I hope that statement is ‘I hate PINK FLOYD but love KRAFTWERK’ and / or – ‘I hate you but love the EU’”.

Available on the INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP single ‘The Ballad Of Remedy Nilsson’ via Desolate Spools

https://www.facebook.com/internationalteachersofpop


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to all the artists who contributed
19th July 2020

WHITE DOOR The Great Awakening

If there is one person who has probably sparked the realisation of a long-awaited second WHITE DOOR album, then it has to be the synth Superswede Johan Baeckström.

A solo artist in his own right but also a member of synth duo DAILY PLANET, the young Johan Baeckström was a fan of the first WHITE DOOR album ’Windows’ released in 1983.

When he needed B-sides for the singles from his own 2015 solo debut ’Like Before, he covered ’Jerusalem’ and ’School Days’.

Although Baeckström has been unashamedly candid about the influence of Vince Clarke on his music, his musicality was also been shaped by the small catalogue of songs by Mac Austin, Harry Davies and John Davies.

While Mac Austin and Harry Davies have continued to perform in their prog combo GRACE over the years, Baeckström sowed the seeds of a WHITE DOOR reunion when he and DAILY PLANET bandmate Jarmo Olilia invited Austin to provide lead vocals on ‘Heaven Opened’ on their 2017 album ‘Play Rewind Repeat’.

That sparked a WHITE DOOR reunion and as a newly confugured quartet, Mac Austin, John Davies, Harry Davies and Johan Baeckström now present ’The Great Awakening’. Baeckström gives the pulsing Vince Clarke-isms a breather and swaps it for the more polyphonically formed keyboard interventions of his other heroes like Howard Jones.

A joyous tune that sets the scene, the exotic sophistication of ’Among The Mountains’ possesses the soaring windscreen poise of A-HA with a flawless vocal from Mac Austin while the soundscape is sweetened by flute, providing an interesting timbral contrast.

Acknowledging the theme of ’Get Carter’ but with a more brassy flair, ’Resurrection’ surprises with a bouncy Giorgio Moroder inspired stomp and the lift of a rousing chorus. Meanwhile Mac Austin manages to sound like a cross between Morten Harket and Chris De Burgh over some beautifully symphonic synth and subtle slapped bass in a guest appearance from Baeckström’s son Simon.

’Soundtrack Of Our Lives’ captures the joys of spring, with the English folk austere that was very much part of WHITE DOOR’s make-up playing a key role with the harmonious vocal arrangement.

A sparkling production with space for all the elements to shine, there’s even a few classic Linn Drum sounds thrown in too. Yes, they are more recollections of A-HA although of course, the ’Windows’ album came out a year before ’Hunting High & Low’.

Holding down the steadier mood with a synth arpeggio, the richly layered ’Lullaby’ makes what appears to be a simple arrangement sound grand and complex in a cleverly configured traditional tune that steadily builds and surprises with a burst of saxophone in the final third which also glistens ivory-wise in the manner of Howard Jones.

Beginning with a slightly stuttering rhythm, ’Angel Of Tomorrow’ bursts into life with a spacey buoyant pomp that captures an air of Vangelis.

An elated majestic tone ensues as staring mortality in the face, ’The Great Awakening’ celebrates an embracment of life and second chances with a range of complex synth motifs. All wondefully complimenting one another, it is akin to a casade of church bells ringing on a Sunday morning.

The spritely ’Simply Magnificent’ does as the title suggests and is pure sequenced synthpop in the vein of early ALPHAVILLE, the distant transistor radio ending acting a nice tribute to bygone listening experiences.

Ending the album, ’Beautiful Girl’ is classic WHITE DOOR and a song which Harry Davies describes as ”a wonderful song for making babies to”. Vocally like a modern hymn with patterns of hooky chimes, there’s even a surprising lilt of sax that suits the electronic backdrop, with a gorgeous sweeping polysynth conclusion that CHINA CRISIS would be proud of, recalling the feel of their appropriately titled tune ‘The Soul Awakening’.

Hopeful, mature and joyous, ’The Great Awakening’ grandly blows away the attempted sensitive synth overtures of the young pretenders almost half their age. It is twilight magic provided by the sorcerers and their apprenctice. Nearly four decades on, WHITE DOOR have again passed the test with commendation.

Of his role in ’The Great Awakening’, Johan Baeckström said to The Electricity Club: ”I really wanted to do my best to maintain the WHITE DOOR sound and spirit in the production on this album”.

Mission accomplished 😀

’The Great Awakening’ uses the follwoing synthesizers: Roland Jupiter 6, Roland Juno 106, Akai AX73, Minimoog, Korg Mono/Poly and ARP Odyssey


’The Great Awakening’ is released by Progress Productions on 17th April 2020, pre-order download from https://whitedoor.bandcamp.com/album/the-great-awakening

Pre-order CD or white vinyl LP from Progress Productions at https://mailchi.mp/9e7025e1bf26/whitedoor

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

https://twitter.com/Bstrommusic

https://open.spotify.com/album/3bU49HHzLHxEDQAeVpEROJ?si=ZwnqbshNQ-CB6C2P85HH9Q


Text by Chi Ming Lai
15th April 2020, updated 17th April 2020

WHITE DOOR Interview

Melodic synth trio WHITE DOOR released their only album ‘Windows’ in 1983.

But despite the title song being a Record Of The Week on Simon Bates’ BBC Radio1 show, it was unable to gain wider traction.

WHITE DOOR were to gain cult status over the years and one young fan was Swedish synthesist Johan Baeckström who later covered ’Jerusalem’ and ’School Days’ from ’Windows’ in 2015.

Although Baeckström has been unashamedly candid about the influence of Vince Clarke on his music, his sound and that of his other project DAILY PLANET has also been shaped by the Andy Richards produced songs of Mac Austin, Harry Davies and John Davies.

While Mac Austin and Harry Davies have continued to perform in their prog rock combo GRACE over the years, Baeckström sowed the seeds of a WHITE DOOR reunion when he and DAILY PLANET bandmate Jarmo Olilia invited Austin to provide lead vocals on ‘Heaven Opened’, on their 2017 album ‘Play Rewind Repeat’.

Then, there was a live reunion in 2019 when Baeckström invited Austin and the Davies brothers to join him for renditions of ’Jerusalem’ and ’School Days’ at Synth Wave Live 3 in London.

So after 37 years, a long awaited second album from WHITE DOOR will emerge this April featuring eight new songs to follow-up ‘Windows’.

A four way collaboration between Mac Austin, John Davies, Harry Davies and Johan Baeckström, the newly confugured quartet present ‘The Great Awakening’. Three of the band kindly chatted to The Electricity Club about their recorded return…

At what point did a new WHITE DOOR album become a realistic proposition?

Harry: Johan and Mac are best to answer that. But for me it is when we heard a first draft by Johan of a song we recorded on a phone.

Mac: I think the relationship evolved over time, Johan got in touch about covering ’School Days’ I think it was, then a while later I was asked to do a vocal for the DAILY PLANET album which was a real honour. In the meantime we were messaging about the music we were both doing and eventually Johan asked if we had thought of doing a second WD album and that was that.

So the WHITE DOOR line-up has been expanded?

Harry: We feel that the producer is an integral part of any band and Johan is both a song writer and a perfect producer for WHITE DOOR.

Without Johan’s input, this album would not have happened. He is also more photogenic than the rest of us.

Mac: Yes mate we are now a four piece, well it worked for THE BEATLES. Couldn’t be happier. Johan has given us so much, the music is massively richer from Johan’s presence.

The new line-up made a two song live debut at Electrowerkz in London in June 2019, how was that for you?

Mac: It was a great experience, meeting yourself Chi and the moment we met Johan for the first time. I really enjoyed the gig though I did cock up ’Jerusalem’, it was a real great couple of days.

Harry: It was very surreal for me, although my input to the performance was minimal, I was still very nervous.

Is having Johan in the band almost like fulfilling the role Andy Richards played in ‘Windows’?

Harry: Yes, and more so, Johan instantly identified himself with that genre of music of the 80s.

Mac: It is in a way because of his great technical ability and beautiful playing. but with Johan we also have his amazing vocals and writing skills which takes us on to a different level creatively

Were there any particular musical reference points you discussed and had in common?

Mac: The main reference point was we all loved ’Windows’ and wanted to build on that album and hearing Johan’s albums, we seemed to be very close in our writing and sound.

Although until we started to get the first drafts back from Johan, I did not know just how good this combination could be.

With remote working happening between England and Sweden, how was the creative dynamic?

Johan: We´re fortunate to live in an age where technology has made the world a lot smaller and with great tools for communication and transfer of different data. A lot of the tracks started with the guys in the UK sending me rough demos from which I could start my programming and pre-production work. Vocals and woodwinds were recorded in a studio in the UK and then sent to my studio in Sweden where I would add my backing vocals and finalize the production and mixing.

What synth toys were being brought into the production?

Johan: Most of the synths in my studio was used for this album but compared to my solo work, I’ve leaned a lot more on poly synths for this project, so the Roland Jupiter 6, Roland Juno 106 and Akai AX73 was used quite extensively on all the tracks and even the good old Yamaha DX7 was called for on a couple of the tracks. The most used mono synths were probably the Minimoog, the Korg Mono/Poly and the ARP Odyssey.

How was it to wear the WHITE DOOR hat, did you find yourselves slipping into GRACE or DAILY PLANET modes? Or is that irrelevant, that the WHITE DOOR chemistry is because it’s the four of you?

Johan: Well, for me the WHITE DOOR music has been a part of me since I was a teenager, and the WD sound has always been an inspiration in my other projects.

Having the opportunity to actually be part of making a follow-up album with these wonderful guys, is a blessing and I really wanted to do my best to maintain the WHITE DOOR sound and spirit in the production on this album – familiar, but still fresh.

Mac: For me as a vocalist, it’s the instrumentation that makes the difference. Johan was influenced by the ’Windows album’ and had covered ’School Days’ and ’Jerusalem’, so the WHITE DOOR sound was easy for him to reproduce. Our demos were very loose, giving him the opportunity from these ideas to create great sound tracks for the vocals. The way we work for WHITE DOOR is completely different than GRACE where the guitar and keyboard sound is very up front, with real drums making a much harder sound. I find with WD, the vocal melodies are much more intricate and easier to develop.

‘The Great Awakening’ and ‘Among The Mountains’ are quite grand titles, what are they touching on lyrically?

Harry: The two songs are intrinsically linked lyrically. In 2015, I was diagnosed with a life changing condition that left me very fatigued and dependant on blood transfusions. I loved hill and long distance walking especially in Scotland, which I found impossible to pursue, sometimes I found it difficult to walk across the road.

‘Among the Mountains’ is about mourning that loss. As time went by my condition was deteriorating both physically and mentally. A search began for a stem cell donor. A possible donor was found and was given an appointment with a leading transplant specialist. You can imagine my elation and excitement to get my life back. That is where ’The Great Awakening’ came from. John was going through a very at a difficult time and that influenced him with the chord structure. In the end, the donor was not suitable but with an amazing support team I am off the transfusions and doing ok.

’Beautiful Girl’ has something of a classic WHITE DOOR feel, what was its genesis?

Johan: It´s funny that you say that – the seed to this song was actually a chord progression and melody that Jarmo and I was working on for DAILY PLANET, over 20 years ago. I remember that we talked about how this chorus almost felt like a mix between WHITE DOOR and A-HA.

I sent it over to Mac to see if he, Harry and John could do something with it. After a while, I got a demo back with the complete song structure that you hear on the album today, with an even stronger melody line in the chorus as well as brand new, killer verses.

Mac: When Johan sent over the music demo, John played the chords and I just started to sing along with lyrics from a song idea I had years ago that seemed to fit this music. We worked out the structure and I finished the lyric and sent our demo back to Johan for him see what or if he could do anything with it. The rest is history as they say.

What are your own favourite tracks from the album?

Harry: Of course ‘Mountains’ and ‘Awakening’ mean such a lot to me, but I love ‘Beautiful Girl’, it’s a wonderful song for making babies to and the lyrics take me back to the 70s and watching the girls dancing around their handbags. But if I’m doing the housework, ‘Simply Magnificent’ takes some beating.

Mac: For me it depends on the mood I’m in, they are all very strong and I think ’Beautiful Girl’ has a great hook; ’Among The Mountains’ and ’The Great Awakening’ mean a lot because of the incredible moving lyric by Harry which moves me every time I hear them. ’Lullaby’ was written years ago to help my two girls to feel safe in the beds. I’m not sure it worked but they both love it. ’Angel Of Tomorrow’ is a great song to sing I love it.

Johan: I can´t really say one song is more of a favourite than the other, but the first one I started working on was ’Lullaby’, which I got a demo of from Mac in a very early stage of the project and I fell in love with it right away. I could instantly hear in my head what it should sound like, production wise, and I must say I am very happy with how it turned out. That, track made me realise that ”I think we can actually do this – bring WHITE DOOR back to life again”, so this makes ’Lullaby’ a bit special to me, I guess.

Music is an ageless artform? Discuss! 😉

Harry: I would like someone else to start that.

Mac: For me, most music records moments in time, whether it be country, folk, punk, prog, blues, even classical, they capture those moments with lyrical poetry and music to not only relate the stories but lay an emotional thread with the style of music. I believe it will always be the case.

What next? Any thoughts about playing live together for a full WHITE DOOR set?

Harry: Love to, barring problems with corona virus and the ‘B’ word, we have started to discuss a set list. Be interesting to get feedback to help us decide on tracks maybe.

Mac: I would love that, I am so proud of this music it would really work in a live situation.

Johan: Yes, that is certainly in the scope when the world has come back to some sort of normal again. Watch the WHITE DOOR facebook page for info.


The Electricity Club gives its sincerest thanks to WHITE DOOR

‘The Great Awakening’ is released by Progress Productions on 17th April 2020, pre-order download from https://whitedoor.bandcamp.com/album/the-great-awakening

Pre-order CD or white vinyl LP from Progress Productions at https://mailchi.mp/9e7025e1bf26/whitedoor

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

https://twitter.com/Bstrommusic


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
2nd April  2020

The Electricity Club’s 30 SONGS OF THE DECADE 2010-2019

To narrow down ten years of electronic pop to 30 songs was always going to be a challenging task, but The Electricity Club has given it a go to offer its own subjective twist.

As the decade started, female artists like LITTLE BOOTS, LA ROUX and LADYHAWKE had appeared to have been making in-roads into the mainstream as new flag bearers for the synthesizer.

But it proved to be something of a false dawn and while those artists continue today, the music that has made the most lasting impact between 2010-2019 has been made by evergreens from Synth Britannia whose talent has not subsided or independently minded musicians who focussed on art over commerce but didn’t forget to throw in a tune along the way.

As per usual, The Electricity Club’s lists are all about rules. So this one has not only been restricted to one song per artist moniker but also to one vocalist. Hence SIN COS TAN just get the nod over VILLA NAH, while MIRRORS take preference over James New’s guest slot for FOTONOVELA on ‘Our Sorrow’ and the Midge Ure vocalled ‘Glorious’ has been chosen instead ULTRAVOX’s ‘Live’.

Presented in alphabetical order, here are The Electricity Club’s 30 SONGS OF THE DECADE 2010-2019…


AESTHETIC PERFECTION featuring NYXX Rhythm + Control – Electro Mix (2017)

With alternative songstress NYXX on additional vocals, ‘Rhythm + Control’ saw Daniel Graves take his industrial pop to the next level. The magnificent Electro Mix successfully realised an oddball blend of Darren Hayes, Britney Spears and Marilyn Manson. With a mightily elastic bassline, when asked whether The Electricity Club had gone crazy coming up with the comparison, Daniel Graves replied “God no. Spot on, guys!” adding “The goal was to cram as many features into one song and have fun with it as possible.”

Available as a download single via https://aestheticperfection.bandcamp.com/album/rhythm-control-out-of-control-mixes

http://aesthetic-perfection.net/


JOHAN BAECKSTROM Synth Is Not Dead (2015)

‘Synth Is Not Dead’ is a song close to the heart of The Electricity Club with its solidarity to the synth. A touching tribute to Messrs Clarke, Gore, Hütter and Schneider, Johan Baeckstrom said: “I guess I just wanted to reflect on the fact that there still IS a synthpop scene with some really great bands, both old and new. In another way, the song is sort of my ‘thank you’ to some of the artists that inspired me for several decades – some of them are mentioned in the lyrics, but far from all of course”.

Available on the EP ‘Come With Me’ via Progress Productions

https://www.facebook.com/bstrommusic/


KARL BARTOS Without A Trace Of Emotion (2013)

‘Without A Trace Of Emotion’ saw Karl Bartos conversing with his showroom dummy Herr Karl and confronting his demons as an ex-member of the world’s most iconic electronic group. But whereas his former colleague Wolfgang Flür vented his spleen in book form with ‘I Was A Robot’, Bartos took a more ironic musical approach with the line “I wish I could remix my life to another beat” summing up a wry reference to ‘The Mix’ project which drove him out of Kling Klang!

Available on the album ‘Off The Record’ via Bureau B

http://www.karlbartos.com/


BEYOND THE WIZARD’S SLEEVE featuring HANNAH PEEL Diagram Girl (2016)

BEYOND THE WIZARDS SLEEVE’s ‘Diagram Girl’ was the work of Erol Alkan and Richard Norris of THE GRID. Featuring the unisex vocals of Hannah Peel, a deeper pitch shift provided a psychedelic out-of-this-world feel which bizarrely fitted in alongside the songstress’ dreamily breathy tones.  “They wanted me to sound like a man!” she remembered. Meanwhile the pulsing electronic soundtrack had surreal echoes of OMD, in particular their lesser known minor hit ‘Secret’.

Available on the single ‘Diagram Girl’ via Phantasy Sound

https://www.facebook.com/beyondthewizardssleeve/


CHROMATICS Shadow (2015)

Muscian, producer and Italians Do It Better head honcho Johnny Jewel, has lways been into all things Lynchian. So when CHROMATICS released the dreamy Badalamenti-inspired ‘Shadow’, it instantly recalled The Black Lodge’s red curtains in that sleepy Washington town. With Ruth Radelet’s wispy vocal and an eerie string machine for the main melodic theme, the ghostly wistful tune later came to further prominence thanks to its inclusion in ‘Twin Peaks: The Return’ in 2017.

Available on the album ‘Twin Peaks (Music from the Limited Event Series)’ (V/A) via Rhino Records

https://www.facebook.com/CHROMATICSBAND/


CHVRCHES Clearest Blue (2015)

CHVRCHES stuck to the synthpop template of their 2013 debut and as a result, delivered what LITTLE BOOTS, LA ROUX, and LADYHAWKE and HURTS all failed to do… a decent second album! The propulsive four-to-the-floor action of ‘Clearest Blue’ was wonderfully held in a state of tension before WHACK, there was a dynamic surprise in the final third that recalled the classic overtures of Vince Clarke. The song was electronic pop magnificence embroiled.

Available on the album ‘Every Open Eye’ via Virgin Records

http://chvrch.es/


RODNEY CROMWELL Black Dog (2015)

RODNEY CROMWELL is the alter-ego of Adam Cresswell, formally of ARTHUR & MARTHA. ‘Black Dog’ recalled the pulsing post-punk miserablism of SECTION 25 and was embellished by some Hooky styled bass. As with NEW ORDER’s ‘Temptation’, despite the inherent melancholy, there was an optimistic light at the end of the tunnel that made ‘Black Dog’ a most joyous listening experience despite its very personal themes of love, loss, depression and redemption.

Available on the album ‘Age Of Anxiety’ via https://www.happyrobots.co.uk/botshop

http://www.happyrobots.co.uk/


DURAN DURAN Being Followed (2011)

The ‘All You Need Is Now’ album saw DURAN DURAN cyclically return to the funk-led syncopated pop of their first two classic albums. A superb sequencer assisted disco number with a tingling metallic edge, ‘Being Followed’ hinted at THE CURE’s ‘A Forest’ while Nick Rhodes’ vintage string machine captured the tension of post 9/11 paranoia. Simon Le Bon gave his wayward all and while he has technically never had a great voice, what he delivered was unique AND untouchable…

Available on the album ‘All You Need Is Now’ via Tape Modern

http://www.duranduran.com/


EAST INDIA YOUTH Carousel (2015)

Despite EAST INDIA YOUTH being no more as a project, the debut long player ‘Total Strife’ pointed towards William Doyle’s potential to pen sublime pop, and with the follow-up ‘Culture Of Volume’, the album’s centrepiece was ‘Carousel’. It imagined OMD’s ‘Stanlow’ reworked during Brian Eno’s sessions for ‘Apollo: Soundtracks & Atmospheres’. With no percussive elements and over six minutes in length, Doyle gave a dramatic vocal performance resonating in beautifully crystalline melancholy.

Available on the album ‘Culture of Volume’ via XL Recordings

http://eastindiayouth.co.uk/


RUSTY EGAN featuring MIDGE URE Glorious (2016)

‘Glorious’ not only reunited Midge Ure with Rusty Egan but also Chris Payne who co-wrote ‘Fade To Grey’; Ure told The Electricity Club: “I liked the music, but I didn’t think the song / melody / lyrics were strong enough, so I rewrote all of that in my studio. I stripped the demo down to the basic track, edited it down into a more ‘song like’ format and started working on a glorious melody. I added the main melodic synth line and layered guitars over it, ending with the ‘hopefully’ uplifting solo over the outro”.

Available on the RUSTY EGAN album ‘Welcome To The Dance Floor’ via Black Mosaic

http://rustyegan.net/

http://www.midgeure.co.uk/


EMIKA Promises (2018)

With ‘Falling In Love With Sadness’, EMIKA produced one of the best electronic albums of 2018. The record was a concept album of sorts, a musical reflection on generations of sadness within the Anglo-Czech musician’s family. The pacey ‘Promises’ made the most of her lower and higher vocal registers, providing an eerie cascading harmonic with some rumbling dubby tension and booming stabs driving Eastwards with solemn spine tingling qualities.

Available on the album ‘Falling In Love With Sadness’ via Emika Records

http://emikarecords.com


JOHN FOXX & JORI HULKKONEN Evangeline (2013)

John Foxx and Jori Hulkkonen had worked together previously on singular songs like ‘Dislocated’ and ‘Never Been Here Before’, but never before on a body of work with a conceptual theme. ‘European Splendour’ took on a grainier downtempo template and the lead track ‘Evangeline’ was all the more beautiful for it. Full of depth, coupled with an anthemic chorus and vibrant exchange of character throughout, this rousing yet soothingly futuristic number was quite otherworldly.

Available on the EP ‘European Splendour’ via Sugarcane Records

http://www.metamatic.com/

http://www.jorihulkkonen.com


FIAT LUX It’s You (2018)

Releasing their first new material in over three decades, FIAT LUX returned with the most splendid ‘It’s You’. As well as the bassline and harmony from David P Crickmore, the sax style was a fitting tribute to the sadly departed Ian Nelson. Singer Steve Wright said: “Lyrically, I hope, it expresses feelings that possibly everyone can relate to…” in this gloriously optimistic tune about finding love again in midlife. Their long awaited debut album ‘Saved Symmetry’ finally came out in 2019.

Available on the album ‘Saved Symmetry’ via Splid Records

http://www.fiat-lux.co.uk


GOLDFRAPP Dreaming (2010)

As the title suggested, the gorgeous and sophisticated ‘Dreaming’ adopted a distinctly European flavour compared with the mid-Atlantic AOR focus of songs like ‘Rocket’, ‘Alive’ and ‘Believer’ on the ‘Head First’ album. Alison Goldfrapp’s voice resonated angelically with beautiful high-register chorus alongside the with pulsing sequences and string machine washes of Will Gregory’s primarily electronic arrangement complimented by Davide Rossi’s cinematic orchestrations.

Available on the album ‘Head First’ via Mute Records

https://www.goldfrapp.com/


IAMX Ghosts Of Utopia (2011)

The Berlin period of IAMX has maintained a special quality in that Chris Corner captured an electro Gothic aesthetic that combined the theatrics of Weimar Cabaret with themes of sex, alienation and dependency. Despite the lyrical content, Corner’s songs were always strongly melodic with an accessible grandeur. ‘Ghosts Of Utopia’ had instant appeal for a dance in the dark with exhilarating mechanical drive. His scream of ”this is psychosis” was wholly believable!

Available on the album ‘Volatile Times’ via Orphic

http://iamxmusic.com/


IAMAMIWHOAMI Hunting For Pearls (2014)

As IAMAMIWHOAMI, Jonna Lee and Claes Björklund offered icy musical art. ‘Hunting For Pearls’ featured wonderfully pulsing sequences and trancey atmospheres, coupled with beautifully rich vocals. With a mysterious falsetto reach, the air might have been cold outside but inside, things were warm if delightfully odd. If Kate Bush made a modern electronic dance record at ABBA’s Polar Studios, it would probably have sounded like this. Jonna Lee continues the artistic adventure now as IONNALEE.

Available on the album ‘Blue’ via towhomitmayconcern

http://www.towhomitmayconcern.cc/


KITE Up For Life (2015)

Sweden’s KITE are probably the best synth act in Europe right now. Nicklas Stenemo and Christian Berg’s wonderfully exuberant array of sounds and rugged majestic vocals certainly deserve a much larger audience. Issuing only EPs and never albums, the magnificent progressive electronic epic ‘Up For Life’ was a two-part nine minute masterpiece, the passionate and sublime first half mutated into a beautifully surreal journey of VANGELIS-like proportions for its second.

Available on the EP ‘VI’ via Progress Productions

https://www.facebook.com/KiteHQ


KATJA VON KASSEL Someday (2018)

Asking if “it is foolish to dream”, ‘Someday’ saw Katja von Kassel questioning a moment of passionate haste. “The phrase ‘Someday’ just opened it all up and everything else just fell into place.” the chanteuse said. Capturing the beautiful melancholy of Billy Mackenzie, the doomed romantic tragedy of the sadly departed Scot was echoed by the chanteuse’s deep forlorn delivery, accompanied by Chris Payne’s hypnotic bassline and haunting vox humana treatment over a simple rhythmic loop.

Available on the EP ‘Walking In West Berlin’ via https://katjavonkassel.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/KatjavKassel/


LADYTRON Ambulances (2011)

The beautiful ‘Ambulances’ was totally different to anything LADYTRON had done before, almost in te vein of SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES. Moving at a much slower pace, Helen Marnie’s voice adopted an unexpected angelic falsetto over the lush spacious mix featuring dramatic strings, synthetic timpani and an almost random hi-hat pattern. Daniel Hunt said he “wanted it to sound ethereal and otherworldly” and with a glorious crescendo, ‘Ambulances’ was certainly something to be to be savoured.

Available on the album ‘Gravity The Seducer’  via Nettwerk Productions,

http://www.ladytron.com/


MARSHEAUX Monument (2015)

A worthy of re-assessment of DEPECHE MODE ‘A Broken Frame’ was long overdue and MARSHEAUX have certainly gave a number of its songs some interesting arrangements. Their version of ‘Monument’ borrowed its bassline from latter day DM B-side ‘Painkiller’. Combined with the wispily resigned vocals of Marianthi Melitsi and Sophie Sarigiannidou, it provided a tense soundtrack. It’s not often that cover versions are better than the originals, but this was one of them.

Available on the album ‘A Broken Frame’ via Undo Records

https://www.facebook.com/marsheaux


MIRRORS Ways To An End (2010)

With their smart suits, MIRRORS presented an intense and artful approach to electronic pop that recalled Dindisc era OMD. With a dense synthetic chill and pulsing effects dominating this brilliantly uptempo electro number, ‘Ways To An End’ came over like TALKING HEADS ‘Crossed Eyed & Painless’ given a claustrophobic post-punk makeover. Sadly, MIRRORS were to only make the one album ‘Lights & Offerings’ which although under-appreciated on release, is now acknowledged as a classic of the decade.

Available on the album ‘Lights & Offerings’ via Skint Entertainment

https://www.facebook.com/theworldofmirrors/


ALISON MOYET Alive (2017)

Having worked successfully in 2013 with Guy Sigsworth on ‘the minutes’, which saw Alison Moyet return to the synthesized music forms to compliment her powerful and self-assured voice, the follow-up ‘Other’ was a natural progression. The startling orchestrated electro-dub drama of ‘Alive’ gave Moyet’s two former classmates in DEPECHE MODE a stark lesson in how to actually fully realise electronic blues. Indeed, it was ‘In Chains’, the lame opener from ‘Sounds Of The Universe’ gone right…

Available on the album ‘Other’ via Cooking Vinyl

http://alisonmoyet.com/


NEW ORDER Plastic (2015)

After the guitar dominated proceedings of the last few NEW ORDER albums, Bernard Sumner promised a return to electronic music for the Mancunians’ first album of new material without estranged founder member and bassist Peter Hook. That was certainly delivered on with ‘Plastic’, a full-on throbbing seven minute electro number mixed by Richard X with blippy echoes of ‘Mr Disco’. Dealing with the issue of superficiality, it declared “this love is poison, but it’s like gold”… beware of anything plastic and artificial!

Available on the album ‘Music Complete’ via Mute Artists

http://www.neworder.com/


GARY NUMAN And It All Began With You (2017)

With a lot less goth metal guitar and much more prominent use of synths, the ‘Savage’ album successfully outstripped ‘Splinter’. And it was the haunting ‘And It All Began With You’ that stopped all in its tracks, with an exposed and soulful vocal. Borrowing Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’ for its chorus, the subtle orchestrations and a gentle shuffling beat coupled to a steadily discordant electric piano riff to close, it beautifully brought out the best in classic Gary Numan while maintaining forward momentum.

Available on the album ‘Savage (Songs From A Broken World)’ via BMG

http://www.garynuman.co.uk/


OMD Don’t Go (2019)

OMD began their recorded career with a KRAFTWERK homage in ‘Electricity’ and four decades on, they came full circle. A great grandchild of Klingklang and cousin of ‘Metroland’ from ‘English Electric’, ‘Don’t Go’ captured the essence of OMD’s enduring electronic appeal. With crystalline synths and a spirited vocal delivery attached to a hypnotic Synthanorma backdrop, OMD continue to produce quality avant pop tunes, using beautiful melodies to tell terrible things…

Available on the album ‘Souvenir: The Singles Collection 1979 – 2019’ via Universal Music

http://www.omd.uk.com/


SIN COS TAN Trust (2012)

SIN COS TAN was the new mathematically charged project of producer Jori Hulkkonen and VILLA NAH vocalist Juho Paalosmaa. “A synthesized duo of great promise, broken dreams, and long nights”, they have certainly delivered with ‘Trust’, all draped in melancholy with emotive vocals haunted by the ghost of Billy Mackenzie. With driving hypnotic, layered strings, sampled cimbalom and Cold War dramatics, this was as Jori Hulkkonen put it: “Disco You Can Cry To”…

Available on the album ‘Sin Cos Tan’ via Solina Records

http://www.facebook.com/homeofsincostan


STOLEN Turn Black (2018)

Chinese six-piece STOLEN are reckoned by Berlin-based producer Mark Reeder to be the most exciting band since NEW ORDER and they closed the decade opening for them on tour in Europe. Certainly their debut album ‘Fragment’ was impressive with ‘Turn Black’ being one of its standout tracks. “I like the idea of mixing of rock with techno…” said growly lead vocalist Liang Yi, “we are very proud that we don’t sound like any of the other Chinese bands.”

Available on the album ‘Fragment’ via https://mfsberlin.com/

https://www.facebook.com/strangeoldentertainment/


SUSANNE SUNDFØR Fade Away (2014)

The Nordic vocalist of the decade has to be Susanne Sundfør who worked with M83, KLEERUP and RÖYKSOPP as she built her international profile as a solo artist. Propelled by a pulsing electronic backbone, ‘Fade Away’ from Sundfør’s breakthrough album ‘Ten Love Songs’ caught her in rousing form with a tune that came over like Scandinavian gospel. Meanwhile, a fabulous polyphonic synth solo inspired by QUEEN’s ‘I Want To Break Free’ added another dimension.

Available on the album ‘Ten Love Songs’ via Sonnet Sound / Kobalt

http://susannesundfor.com/


VILE ELECTRODES Deep Red (2013)

First appearing online as a video exclusive in 2010, ‘Deep Red’ was inspired by Dario Argento’s ‘Profondo Rosso’. A gorgeous seven and a half minute funeral ballad that came over like CLIENT fronting classic OMD, this was tremendously dramatic stuff from Anais Neon and Martin Swan. It caught the ear of a certain Andy McCluskey who was perusing The Electricity Club and later invited VILE ELECTRODES to open for OMD in Germany during their 2013 ‘English Electric’ tour.

Available on the album ‘The future through a lens’ via https://vileelectrodes.bandcamp.com/

http://www.vileelectrodes.com/


WESTBAM feat RICHARD BUTLER You Need The Drugs

Techno DJ WESTBAM celebrated 30 years in music with an intriguing mature collection of songs under the title of ‘Götterstrasse’. While the theme of the album centred on the joy and euphoria of underground nightlife, he said ‘You Need The Drugs’ was “the first explicit electronic appeal AGAINST the use of drugs with a clear message: drugs are a bore!”. Voiced brilliantly by Richard Butler of THE PSYCHEDLIC FURS’, it featured prominently in Mark Reeder’s film ‘B Movie: Lust & Sound in West-Berlin 1979–1989’.

Available on the album ‘Götterstrasse’ via Warner Music

http://www.westbam.de/dt/en/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
28th December 2019

Vintage Synth Trumps with JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM

With a pair of excellent albums ‘Like Before’ and ‘Utopia’ now under his belt, Swedish synthesist JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM has more than established his solo credentials.

Best known as a member of DAILY PLANET, Baeckström had been making plans to return to music on his own prior to an unexpected reunion of the acclaimed duo in 2014 with the appropriately titled ‘Two’. Since then, Baeckström has maintained a solo career in parallel with DAILY PLANET.

DAILY PLANET’s most recent album ‘Play Rewind Repeat’ saw a guest vocal from Mac Austin of WHITE DOOR on the sublime tune ‘Heaven’.

Baeckström had already covered two WHITE DOOR songs ‘School Days’ and ‘Jerusalem’ for B-sides, so it was not entirely a surprise when it was announced that he would be joining WHITE DOOR for the recording of their long awaited follow-up to the 1983 long player ‘Windows’.

From his studio utopia via the wonders of online communication, Baeckström challenged The Electricity Club to a round of Vintage Synth Trumps and told a few interesting stories about his fabulous collection of electronic keyboards and much more.

The first card is the Roland Jupiter 8, so what have been your experiences with this?

I have almost none, I don’t think I’ve ever played one. I’ve seen them and it’s an important icon synth, that Howard Jones cover of ‘New Song’ with the Jupiter 8 made a huge impact and made me think synthesizers looked cool.

But I always thought the Jupiter 6 looked better, it had a nicer design with a better colour scheme, I have one of those and that’s one of my favourites. I know what a Jupiter 8 sounds like, I’ve heard a million demos and it’s on lots of records, it defined the early / mid 80s polysynth sound.

So how close can you get a Jupiter 6 to sound like a Jupiter 8 aesthetically?

I think they are quite different because the Jupiter 8 to me sounds a bit softer and lush. The Jupiter 6 can be lush as well but it’s got a sharper edge to it, which suits my music better as it’s quite percussive and detailed; it’s warm but not as warm as the Jupiter 8. The Jupiter 6 can do harsh, crispy sounds which you can´t really do on the Jupiter 8 because of the multiband filter on the 6, for example.

Which recordings of yours are quite dominated by the Jupiter 6?

When I bought it, the first thing I did to try it was a cover of WHITE DOOR ‘School Days’! It turned out quite nice and I released it as a B-side as you know. Everything on that is the Jupiter 6, also a DAILY PLANET song on the ‘Play Rewind Repeat’ album called ‘Drown’, everything is the Jupiter 6 except for the bass which is a Pro-One.

You mentioned about how you saw the cover for Howard Jones ‘New Song’ when you were younger, but at the time of DAILY PLANET’s first album, you had very long hair… often that’s not a fashion requisite associated with synths? *laughs*

I probably didn’t want to be like everyone else, I started to grow my hair long when I was 14 years old, at first I had “synthpop” hair with everything standing straight up! Then I grew the hair from the neck like Nik Kershaw and then I grew it all very long, I think it was down to my waist at its longest!

Were you a rocker?

I had a time in a rock band when I was 16-17, more a pop rock band like TOTO! I’m not ashamed of it! *laughs*

It was good music, I feel stronger about this now when I heard Daniel Miller in an interview and he admitted he was a big fan of TOTO! If he can admit it, I can!

Of course, Daniel Miller had quite long hair when he started making music with synths…

… it’s the interest on TOTO that does it! *laughs*

So saving money on hair conditioner has enabled you to buy more synths? *laughs*

That is true! *laughs*

Next card, it’s the ARP Odyssey…

I have the reissue from Korg and I use it quite extensively. It’s the same as with the Jupiter 6, it has a sharp edge to it and this Korg one has all three filter types that it was released with. The first is a two-pole filter which is very crispy and has a lot of higher frequencies coming through. It can do everything from bass to percussion.

So when you buy a synth, are you influenced by the bands they are associated with?

I’m sure I am… for example to me, the Jupiter 8 IS Howard Jones and the Pro-One IS Vince Clarke, he basically built an album around that synth.

The Odyssey I know Billy Currie of ULTRAVOX used it a lot but so did KRAFTWERK. So yes, to a certain extent.

Do you use the mini-keyboard on the Korg ARP Odyssey reissue or do you MIDI up another full-sized keyboard to it?

I have very few modules, most of my synthesizers have keyboards because when I create sounds and write music, I like to play the instrument I’m programming. So for that, mini-keys are fine but I would probably not bring it out to play live, I would miss a few notes here and there because it’s too small. I would have preferred a full sized keyboard but this was not an option on this reissue by Korg and I’m not prepared to cough up the money for an original one, or the FS version of the reissue.

Was the acquisition of so many synths what led to you building a new studio, or was it to allow for expansion possibilities in the future?

We actually bought a new house so we moved, and one of the rooms in the basement of this house was everything I needed to build a studio, it just needed a new floor, some paint and acoustic panels. The old one was getting a bit cramped so it’s nice to have a bigger studio and in this one, I can have a lounge with a sofa and table, so it’s a much nicer working environment.

The next card is the Korg 800DV…

It’s a good looking one with lots of wood on the sides, but I have no relation to it.

You said your B-side ‘Synth Is Not Dead’ was sort of tongue-in-cheek?

That’s true, I did it for fun which is why it wasn’t put on any album. On the other hand, I think it turned out quite nice so that’s why it came out as a B-side digitally. And thanks to you, some people seem to like it! *laughs*

Next card… oh, here’s an Octave Kitten!

I remember the Octave Cat was a competitor to the ARP Odyssey, I think John Davies from WHITE DOOR still has a Kitten, he used that on the demos for the ‘Windows’ album.

You mentioned the Octave Cat was a competitor to the ARP Odyssey, it had basically the same circuit design!

Yeah, it was a rip-off! That was the Behringer of its day! *laughs*

I think it’s quite interesting how there is so much litigation with song copyright now, but in the synthesizer world, copying is common, even back in the day. Like the circuitry for the Simmons SDS-V was based on the ARP 2600… any thoughts on this modern day cloning thing like with Behringer?

I’m having a hard time with this cloning of everything. If you take the Simmons example, if it’s a total rip-off, then that’s not a nice thing to do because there was probably some patent, but on the other hand, that was a drum module so it’s different from a synthesizer, so perhaps that doesn’t matter.

What Behringer is doing, I suppose it’s positive for people to buy synthesizers which are now largely unobtainable. I mean if you want to buy a vintage Minimoog, it costs a fortune, something like £4000 but a Behringer clone, which from what I heard sounds quite close, is what £250? *laughs*

On the other hand, it’s not their products, they “stole” it! But the patents are free, it’s nothing illegal, it just comes down to ethics and morals. Everyone has to make their own decision as to whether to support it or not, but I can see myself buying Behringer. I haven’t yet but if they do release an Oberheim OBX-a clone and it sounds as it should, I can’t see myself resisting! *laughs*

Talking of American synths, the next one is the Prophet 5…

That’s an icon, probably the one that has meant the most as far as how synthesizers look and behave today. The Minimoog was the first, but the Prophet 5 with its architecture, memories and five octave keyboard, the sound of it was amazing. Now you can get the new Prophets which sound pretty much the same and can do much more, so it’s still relevant after all these years.

I’ve never had one myself, I played it once or twice. I don’t think I would get one now as they are so expensive and I have the Prophet 08, and if I want to come even close to that sound, I can get the Prophet 6. It’s a beautiful instrument to look at as well, it’s a fantastic design in my eyes.

The next card is the Pro-One, tell us about your relationship with it…

I haven’t had my one for too long, I bought it in 2014 and I still can’t understand why I didn’t get one sooner, I should have had one in the 80s. It’s probably my favourite synth, at least my favourite monosynth. It sounds amazing and has superfast envelopes which make perfect bass and percussion sounds, sharp blips and blops, y’know *laughs*

It’s got a great modulation matrix, if you compare it with the Minimoog for example, you can do much more with a Pro-One. It’s always a reward to programme it because whatever you do, it sounds great. But the build quality is so-so, it’s quite plastic and the knobs are a bit flimsy, it’s not built like a tank, it’s more like a Trabant! *laughs*

It’s interesting that you mention the build quality of synths, a lot of these machines are quite fragile and not built to be taken on the road. But one vintage synth which is still around now that tends to end up on stage is the Roland Juno 60. Why do you think that one has been able to survive the years better than any others?

I think the reason the Juno 60 still gets used on stage is because it is quite stable as it uses DCOs. With a Jupiter 6 or Jupiter 8, temperatures can mess up the tuning. It was built very solidly, they seem to stand the test of time and it’s not like the Juno 106 which has these chips which go bad after 30 years. I’ve used my Juno106 live a few times, it’s no problem but you’re right, you see the Juno 60 more.

Another card, it’s a Korg Trident…

Oh! I had one! It’s quite a strange synth, because it’s three machines in one, a polysynth, a string machine and a brass machine, which you could combine. It had very fat sounds coming from it, it was huge and looked very powerful, I loved the way it looked. I got it very cheap after the first DAILY PLANET album ‘The Tide’, but I never used it on any records as it had no MIDI; as I sequence everything, MIDI is quite important for me.

Someone offered to trade it with me for a Roland D20!! It was not great but at least it had MIDI, so I traded it! I think you’d get £80 for a D20 today whereas a Trident gets £2500 so it wasn’t my best decision! I regret it still today, I wish I still had it and have been looking for one. Perhaps Behringer can clone one for me *laughs*

So synths that don’t get used much get traded in?

Not today, but back then I had no money. I could have installed a MIDI kit for the Trident but would have cost me £300 which I didn’t have because I was young and unemployed.

So the only thing that made sense was to trade it for something I could use. A few of my synthesizers are not used very much but I don’t trade.

Saying that I did trade a Micro-Korg which I had not used for three years, although it was on ‘Synth Is Not Dead’ for the vocoder, that was probably the only time I recorded with it. I posted up on a Swedish synth forum and got offered a Roland JV1080 and P330 piano module, now I haven’t used them for two years, it’s probably time to trade those as well!

The Electricity Club can’t imagine you using piano sounds much, but is that a possible direction for the future?

On the new WHITE DOOR album, there are a few piano sounds while on my latest album ‘Utopia’, they are on the cover song I did ‘Into The 80s’, there’s a CP70 type sound low in the background of the middle. But you won’t hear anything like CHICAGO piano! *laughs*

OK, the next card which will lead an interesting discussion, it’s the Moog Prodigy…

I’ve never had one but I’m told it’s great, it’s pretty much a slimmed down Minimoog with two oscillators instead of three, everything from Moog is great in different ways, because the newer ones are not the same as the older ones, but if I had to choose, the older Moogs are the ones that sound the best, Howard Jones, Vince Clarke and DEPECHE MODE use it…

Now this is where we’re going with the conversation. So the Moog Prodigy was the one that Fletch was “seen” with in early DEPECHE MODE videos and TV appearances, he later moved onto the Moog Source. So did you have any feelings or thoughts about Martin Gore getting the Moog Innovation Award?

I saw you had a rant about that! I best be quiet about it *laughs*

I actually don’t have an opinion. Exactly what that award is meant to represent, I’m not sure…

That’s The Electricity Club’s point, Martin Gore was never seen with Moogs, we could understand Gary Numan getting the award. We don’t question his ability as a songwriter during the imperial phase of DEPECHE MODE, but he was NEVER the synth innovator in the group, so we struggled with the title of that award; if it was a Moog Songwriter award, it would be different. The synth innovators in DEPECHE MODE were Vince Clarke first, and then Alan Wilder…

I agree, those Martin Gore song demos that leaked out, it’s not synthesizer virtuoso stuff so he is not the innovator, sound wise. He was a genius with his songwriting and one of the best there ever was, so what the hell? He can have an award just for the songs. But as an innovator, Alan Wilder would deserve it more, but more so Vince.

You recently covered DEPECHE MODE ‘It Doesn’t Matter Two’? Why that song and particularly a Martin Gore voiced one?

That is one of my all-time favourite songs and this will make me sound cocky, but the arrangement on the original is a shame, it’s such a great song but it’s got this silly “bop-boop-bop-boop” arrrangement. They could have done so much more with it. I guess I don’t like that kind of vocal sampling which they built it around. So my cover is what I wanted it to sound like, it’s an amazing song… that shows you how good it is if I can keep listening to it even though I didn’t like the original arrangement and production.

Did you do ‘It Doesn’t Matter Two’ because your voice is more Martin Gore’s key than Dave Gahan’s?

No, but you’re right, I’m more in his key than Dave’s, I just love the song and had this idea for a new arrangement, I think it turned out quite nice. I was asked to do a DM cover for a Swedish podcast called ‘Blå Måndag’, so I decided to do this one since it´s been one where, after a few beers, me and my friends use to singalong and do harmonies to by the piano!

And the next card is a Korg MS20…

Another classic! I have the reissue, it was one of the first I bought when I started rebuilding my collection back in 2013, I’d sold everything I had back in the 90s to go to software. After that, I got a Prophet 08 and a Moog Little Phatty. I still use it a lot but less with this recent album, probably because I had more synthesizers to choose from.

It’s good for noise effects, it’s got a great filter for bass and percussion sounds like on ‘Nobody’s Friend’ from the second DAILY PLANET album and ‘Talking In My Sleep’ on my first solo album. However, the envelopes are too slow for really good snappy bass and percussion. I think the Pro-One has a better low-end and has more powerful oscillators. With the MS20, I use the ring modulator a lot for metallic sounds, I used it for hi-hat type sounds.

How did you find your first ever UK gig at Synth Wave Live 3?

It was nice, the people who were there were very dedicated. I was very thankful for all who came to see the show.

It also saw you on stage with WHITE DOOR, you’ve joined the band now and there is a new album?

I hadn’t met the WHITE DOOR guys before, they’re really nice chaps and to have them do the show with me was a bit surreal as I was listening to them when I was a teenager. It was hard to imagine then I would be on stage with them! It was good but we hadn’t rehearsed so it probably could have been a more perfect performance, but I think people enjoyed it and we had a really fun time.

WHITE DOOR sprung from a prog rock band called GRACE who they still perform as, and a live video that came from a recent festival was fascinating, they were doing this track called ‘The Poet’ which started like WHITE DOOR, then mutated into GENESIS and before you knew it, it had turned into JETHRO TULL! *laughs*

Yes, there is the same “melody language” (as we say in Sweden) with WHITE DOOR and GRACE, although they are very different bands.

I would think that a lot of the way WHITE DOOR turned out is partly thanks to producer Andy Richards who later worked with FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD and OMD, he was the machine wizard. The demos for the ‘Windows’ album were electronic and John Davies had synthesizers but there was also guitars and real bass.

How is the WHITE DOOR album coming along?

It’s coming along nicely, it’s been a slow process but we almost have enough material for an album. I’ve played a few tracks to close friends who love WHITE DOOR and they say it sounds like WHITE DOOR. Now that’s important, when DAILY PLANET reunited in 2014, my plan was that we should not try something too modern, what people wanted was DAILY PLANET to sound like DAILY PLANET. The same approach is what I’m doing with WHITE DOOR although it will sound fresh and be better sounding because of the technology, but there will be a clear connection to the old stuff.

The final card is an ARP 2600…

I’ve never had one, my first connection with it was one of those early software emulations in the early noughties. It’s been used by a lot of artists that inspired me, Daniel Miller’s kick drum on the ‘Speak & Spell’ and ‘Upstairs At Eric’s’ is amazing, plus they also did the “voice” of R2-D2 with it!

But my friend Daniel Bergfalk who mixed my solo albums and joins me on stage sometimes, actually has two of TTSH clones and I’ve played a lot with that, it’s basically the same. It’s amazing and I will probably get one someday, but not an original and that would now cost the same as a car! Probably a TTSH although there are rumours that Behringer will be doing a clone!*laughs*

You’re performing at Pop+Synth Festival in Copenhagen this November with SOFTWAVE, TRAIN TO SPAIN and OCTOLAB?

I’ve never played in Denmark before so it’s gonna be great to enter a new market live.

Why do you think Denmark seemingly has not had an interest in electronic pop in the way neighbours like Sweden, Norway and Finland have?

There never has been, all the acts I know from Denmark are rock like GASOLIN’ but then, there’s not such a big music scene there at all, I can’t even think of many Danish bands in any genre…

The Electricity Club knows one and that’s LUKAS GRAHAM, f***ing hate that song ‘7 Years’! Such inane childish lyrics! *laughs*

I don’t know them! It sounds horrible!

Oh and there’s TRENTEMØLLER who has been featured on The Electricity Club…

TRENTEMØLLER is Danish? I thought he was Norwegian! *laughs*


The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM

‘Like Before’ and ‘Utopia’ are released by Progress Productions in CD and digital formats, downloads available direct from https://johanbaeckstrom.bandcamp.com/

JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM plays the ‘Pop+Synth Festival’ at Krudttønden in Copenhagen on Saturday 2nd November 2019, also performing are SOFTWAVE, TRAIN TO SPAIN, OCTOLAB plus many more acts, tickets available from https://billetto.dk/e/pop-synth-festival-billetter-365508

https://www.facebook.com/bstrommusic/

https://twitter.com/bstrommusic

https://www.instagram.com/johanbaeckstrom/

Vintage Synth Trumps is a card game by GForce that features 52 classic synthesizers


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
31st August 2019

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