Tag: John Foxx (Page 1 of 17)

THE ELECTRONIC LEGACY OF 1981

Was 1981 the most important year in synth as far becoming ubiquitous in the mainstream and hitting the top of the charts internationally?

Yes, ‘Autobahn’ and ‘Oxygène’ came before, while the Giorgio Moroder produced ‘I Feel Love’ by Donna Summer is acknowledged as being the track that changed pop music forever and still sounds like the future even in the 21st Century. French electronic disco like ‘Magic Fly’ and ‘Supernature’ also made its impact.

Meanwhile closer to home, a post-punk revolution was already permeating in the UK with the advent of affordable synthesizers from Japan being adopted by the likes of THE NORMAL, THROBBING GRISTLE, CABARET VOLTAIRE and THE HUMAN LEAGUE. But it was Gary Numan who took the sound of British synth to No1 with ‘Are Friends Electric?’ and ‘Cars’ in 1979. It signalled a change in the musical landscape as the synth was considered a worthy mode of youthful expression rather than as a novelty, using one finger instead of three chords.

Despite first albums from John Foxx and OMD, 1980 was a transitional time when the synth was still the exception rather than the rule. But things were changing and there had also been the release of the first Midge Ure-fronted ULTRAVOX album ‘Vienna’ and the eponymous debut long player by VISAGE just as The Blitz Club and the New Romantic movement were making headlines. With the acclaim for the ‘Some Bizarre Album’ in early 1981 which launched the careers of DEPECHE MODE, SOFT CELL, BLANCMANGE, THE THE and B-MOVIE, a wider electronic breakthrough was now almost inevitable.

VISAGE’s ‘Fade To Grey’ went on to be a West German No1 in Spring 1981 and this exciting period culminated in THE HUMAN LEAGUE taking ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ to the top spot in the US six months year after becoming the 1981 UK Christmas No1. It would be fair to say that after this, the purer sound of synth was never quite the same again.

For many listeners, 1981 was a formative year and had so many significant new releases that it was difficult to stretch the limited pocket money to fund album purchases. The Electricity Club even took to selling bootleg C90 cassettes on the school playground, promising a value-for-money “two albums for one” deal to support this disgusting habit!

Looking back to four decades ago when there were also albums from DEVO, EURYTHMICS, FAD GADGET, LOGIC SYSTEM, SPANDAU BALLET, SPARKS and TANGERINE DREAM, here are twenty albums which The Electricity Club sees as contributing to the electronic legacy of 1981. Listed in alphabetical order with the restriction of one album per artist moniker, this is the way it was in the past, a long long time ago…


DAF Alles Ist Gut

Under a haze of “sex, drugs and sequencer”, the late Gabi Delgado and Robert Görl released an acclaimed album trilogy produced by Conny Plank. The first ‘Alles Ist Gut’ featured their fierce breakthrough track ‘Der Mussolini’ which flirted with right wing imagery in its sardonic reflections on ideology. Causing controversy and confusing observers, DAF attracted a following which Delgado hated. Despite his parents escaping from the Franco regime in Spain, he was always unapologetic about the provocation within his lyrics.

‘Alles Ist Gut’ is still available via Grönland Records

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


DEPECHE MODE Speak & Spell

Having conceived the idea of a teenage synthpop group called SILICON TEENS, this dream of Daniel Miller became flesh and blood when he came across a young quartet from Basildon called DEPECHE MODE. Signing on a handshake 50/50 deal to his Mute Records, the group became a chart success. Despite other great songs like ‘Puppets’ and ‘Tora! Tora! Tora!’, the group fragmented on the release of their 1981 debut album ‘Speak & Spell’. The remaining trio of Andy Fletcher, Dave Gahan and Martin Gore recruited Alan Wilder, while Vince Clarke formed YAZOO with Alison Moyet.

‘Speak & Spell’ is still available via Mute Records

http://www.depechemode.com/


DRAMATIS For Future Reference

Following the ‘retirement’ of Gary Numan with his spectacular farewell shows at Wembley Arena in April 1981, four of his erstwhile backing band became DRAMATIS. RRussell Bell, Denis Haines, Chris Payne and Ced Sharpley had been instrumental in the success of Numan’s powerful live presentation and their only album showcased the band’s virtuoso abilities. While the use of four different lead vocalists (including Numan himself on the superb ‘Love Needs No Disguise’) confused the continuity of the album, instrumentally, there was much to enjoy.

Originally released by Rocket Records, currently unavailable

http://www.numanme.co.uk/numanme/Dramatis.htm


DURAN DURAN Duran Duran

It would be fair to say that the classic line-up of Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Roger Taylor and Andy Taylor took the arty poise of JAPAN and toned down their androgynous outré to make it more accessible But the enduring appeal of DURAN DURAN is great timeless pop songs and that was apparent on the self-titled debut album which at times sounded like an electronic band with a heavy metal guitarist bolted on, especially on ‘Careless Memories’ and ‘Friends Of Mine’. But most will just remember the two hits ‘Planet Earth’ and ‘Girls on Film’.

‘Duran Duran’ is still available via EMI Records

http://www.duranduran.com/


JOHN FOXX The Garden

Thawing considerably following the release of the acclaimed ‘Metamatic’, John Foxx admitted he had been “reading too much JG Ballard”. Exploring beautiful Italian gardens and taking on a more foppish appearance, his new mood was reflected in his music. ‘The Garden’ album featured acoustic guitar and piano as showcased in the Linn Drum driven single ‘Europe After The Rain’. With choral experiments like ‘Pater Noster’, a return to art rock on ‘Walk Away’ and the more pastoral climes of the lengthy title track, Foxx had now achieved his system of romance.

‘The Garden’ is still available via Edsel Records

http://www.metamatic.com/


HEAVEN 17 Penthouse & Pavement

Fronted by the cool persona of vocalist Glenn Gregory, HEAVEN 17’s debut ‘Penthouse & Pavement’ was a landmark achievement, combining electronics with pop hooks and disco sounds while adding witty social and political commentary, taking in yuppie aspiration and mutually assured destruction. The first ‘Pavement’ side was a showcase of hybrid funk driven embellished by the guitar and bass of John Wilson. The second ‘Penthouse’ side was like an extension of THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Travelogue’, Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh’s swansong with the band.

‘Penthouse & Pavement’ is still available via Virgin Records

http://www.heaven17.com/


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Dare

After Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh left to form HEAVEN 17, vocalist Philip Oakey and Adrian Wright recruited Susanne Sulley, Joanne Catherall, Jo Callis and Ian Burden to record ‘Dare’ under the production helm of Martin Rushent. Like KRAFTWERK meeting ABBA, the dreamboat collection of worldwide hits like ‘Love Action’ and ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ had a marvellous supporting cast in ‘The Things That Dreams Are Made Of’, ‘I Am The Law’, ‘Seconds’ and ‘Darkness’. Only the Linn Drum rework of ‘The Sound Of The Crowd’ blotted the album’s near perfection.

‘Dare’ is still available via Virgin Records

http://www.thehumanleague.co.uk/


JAPAN Tin Drum

JAPAN took the influences of the Far East even further with the Chinese flavoured ‘Tin Drum’. A much more minimal album than its predecessor ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’, there was hardly any guitar while the synths used were restricted to an Oberheim OBX, Prophet 5 and occasionally the Roland System 700. David Sylvian’s lyrical themes of ‘Tin Drum’ flirted with Chinese Communism as Brian Eno had done on ‘Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), a point highlighted by the pentatonic polyrhythmic single ‘Visions Of China’ and its less frantic sister song ‘Cantonese Boy’.

‘Tin Drum’ is still available via Virgin Records

http://www.nightporter.co.uk/


JEAN-MICHEL JARRE Magnetic Fields

With his synthesized symphonies, Jean-Michel Jarre helped popularise the sound of electronic music. ‘Magnetic Fields’ was his first long player to utilise the Fairlight CMI which allowed him to absorb some musique concrete ideas such as water splashing and hydraulic train doors into his compositions. Featuring the klanky Korg Rhythm KR55, it was a much more percussive album than ‘Oxygène’ and ‘Equinoxe’ had been, complementing the metallic textures that featured. However, ‘The Last Rumba’ confused some who considered the home organ closer incongruous.

‘Magnetic Fields’ is still available via Sony Music

http://jeanmicheljarre.com/


JON & VANGELIS The Friends Of Mr Cairo

Having scored an unexpected UK hit with the sonic beauty of ‘I Hear You Now’, Jon Anderson and Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou presented a second album in ‘The Friends Of Mr Cairo’. Featuring ‘State Of Independence’ which was to become a hit for Donna Summer, the album was laced with spiritual overtones over symphonic synths, cinematic piano and dialogue samples from films. However, the album is now best known for the single ‘I’ll Find My Way Home’ which had not been included on the original tracklisting.

‘The Friends Of Mr Cairo’ is still available via Polydor Records

https://www.jonanderson.com/

https://www.facebook.com/VangelisOfficial/


KRAFTWERK Computer World

‘Computer World’ could be considered one of the most prophetic albums of its time. KRAFTWERK forsaw the cultural impact of internet dating on ‘Computer Love’, but the title track highlighted the more sinister implications of surveillance by “Interpol and Deutsche Bank, FBI and Scotland Yard” with the consequences of its prophecy still very relevant discussion points today. But the dynamic rhythmic template of ‘Numbers’ was to have a major impact on Urban America as it was mutated into hip-hop, rap and techno.

‘Computer World’ is still available via EMI Records

http://www.kraftwerk.com/


LANDSCAPE From The Tea Rooms Of Mars To The Hell-holes Of Uranus

Jazz fusion combo LANDSCAPE were led by producer Richard James Burgess who co-designed the Simmons SDSV with Dave Simmons as the first standalone electronic drum kit, with circuitry based on the ARP 2600. Using a Lyricon, the first wind-controlled synth played by John Waters as its lead hook, ‘Einstein A-Go-Go’ was a fabulously cartoon-like tune about nuclear weapons falling into the hands of theocratic dictators and religious extremists! Meanwhile, ‘European Man’ predated EDM by having the phrase “electronic dance music” emblazoned on its single sleeve.

‘From The Tea Rooms Of Mars To The Hell-holes Of Uranus’ is still available via Cherry Red Records

https://twitter.com/Landscape_band


NEW ORDER Movement

Rising from the ashes of JOY DIVISION and reconvening in late 1980, Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris chose the name NEW ORDER as a symbol of their fresh start and after deciding against recruiting a new vocalist, Morris’ girlfriend and later wife, Gillian Gilbert was recruited. Despite Martin Hannett still producing, recording sessions were fraught although synths were taking greater prominence while Morris used a Doctor Rhythm DR55 drum machine on ‘Truth’ and ‘Doubts Even Here’. ‘Movement’ may not have been a great debut album, but it was an important one.

‘Movement’ is still available via Rhino

http://www.neworder.com/


GARY NUMAN Dance

Following his much-publicised retirement from live performance, the last thing Numanoids expected from their hero was an understated Brian Eno homage. At nearly an hour’s playing time, ‘Dance’ outstayed its welcome and despite the title, these were mostly downtempo pieces with ‘Slowcar To China’ and ‘Cry The Clock Said’ stretching to 10 minutes. Much was made of JAPAN’s Mick Karn playing fretless bass although he was only on five of the eleven tracks. It was the wrong album at the wrong time but in ‘A Subway Called You’ and ‘Crash’, there were some great moments.

‘Dance’ is still available via Beggars Banquet Records

https://garynuman.com/


OMD Architecture & Morality

”I think ‘Architecture & Morality’ was a complete album, it was just so whole” said Paul Humphreys to The Electricity Club in 2010. The big booming ambience of the album next to big blocks of Mellotron choir gave OMD their masterpiece, tinged more with the spectre of LA DÜSSELDORF rather than KRAFTWERK. Featuring two spirited songs about ‘Joan Of Arc’, these were to become another pair of UK Top 5 hits with the ‘Maid of Orleans’ variant also becoming 1982’s biggest selling single in West Germany.

‘Architecture & Morality’ is still available via Virgin Records

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


SIMPLE MINDS Sons & Fascination / Sister Feelings Call

A generally overlooked ‘double’ opus, ‘Sons & Fascination / Sister Feelings Call’ exploited the KRAFTWERK, NEU! and LA DÜSSELDORF influences of SIMPLE MINDS to the full, under the production auspices of Steve Hillage. From the singles ‘The American’ and ‘Love Song’ to the mighty instrumental ‘Theme For Great Cities’ and the unsettling dentist drill menace of ‘70 Cities As Love Brings The Fall’, with basslines articulating alongside synths and guitars layered in effects that when harmonised together were almost as one, this was SIMPLE MINDS at close to their very best.

‘Sons & Fascination / Sister Feelings Call’ is still available via Virgin Records

https://www.simpleminds.com/


SOFT CELL Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret

In their cover of Northern Soul favourite ‘Tainted Love’, SOFT CELL provided the first true Synth Britannia crossover record. Possibly one of the best albums of 1981, ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ captured the edginess of minimal synth arrangements while married to an actual tune. At the time, art school boys Marc Almond and Dave Ball were rated higher than DEPECHE MODE. But with the  follow-up success of the Top5 singles ‘Bedsitter’ and ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’, the pair became reluctant popstars, chased around by both teenagers and paparazzi.

‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ is still available via Mercury Records

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


TELEX ‎ Sex

‘Sex’ was Belgian trio TELEX’s third album and a collaboration with SPARKS that saw the Mael bothers contribute lyrics to all nine tracks. Experiments in swing on ‘Sigmund Freud’s Party’ displayed a sophisticated vintage musicality and ‘Haven’t We Met Somewhere Before?’ was the hit single that never was. Meanwhile, like KRAFTWERK meeting YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA, ‘Brainwash’ was quite obviously the blueprint for LCD SOUNDSYSTEM’s ‘Get Innocuous!’. However, the tracklisting was considerably revamped for the UK release in 1982 as ‘Birds & Bees’.

‘Sex’ was released by Ariola, currently unavailable

https://www.facebook.com/TELEX-312492439327342


ULTRAVOX Rage In Eden

‘Rage in Eden’ began with the optimistic spark of ‘The Voice’ but it was something of a paranoia ridden affair having been created from the bottom up at Conny Plank’s remote countryside studio near Cologne. There was synthetic bass power on tracks like ‘The Thin Wall’, ‘We Stand Alone’ and ‘I Remember (Death In The Afternoon)’, but there was also the tape experimentation of the title track which used the chorus of ‘I Remember’ played backwards to give an eerie Arabic toned “noonretfa eht ni htaed… rebmemer i ho” vocal effect.

‘Rage In Eden’ is still available via EMI Records

http://www.ultravox.org.uk/


YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA BGM

‘BGM’, the third full length album from YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA was the first recording to feature the now iconic Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer and was also made using a digital 3M 32-track machine. Following the technopop of the self-titled debut and ‘Solid State Survivor’ albums, ‘BGM’ included reworked pieces such as ‘Loom’ and ‘1000 Knives’. The best song ‘Camouflage’ was a curious beat laden blend of Eastern pentatonics and Western metallics from which the German synth band CAMOUFLAGE took their name.

‘BGM’ is still available via Sony Music

http://www.ymo.org/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
9th January 2021

TEC’s 25 BBC RADIO1 SESSION TRACKS

The origin of the BBC radio session came about due to restrictions imposed on the corporation by the Musicians Union and Phonographic Performance Limited with regards the airing of recorded music.

The thinking behind this was to create employment, as well as force people to buy records and not listen to them free of charge on the air. As a result, the BBC had to hire bands and orchestras to perform cover versions of recorded music to make up for the shortfall.

When the policy evolved with the advent of the more pop and rock oriented station Radio1, bands ventured into BBC’s Maida Vale studios to lay down between 3 to 5 tracks, with in-house personnel such as John Walters, Dale Griffin, Jeff Griffin, Chris Lycett, Mike Robinson, John Owen Williams and (not that) Tony Wilson helming the sessions.

The most celebrated of these BBC sessions were recorded for John Peel, but equally of merit and perhaps more of an indicator to potential breakthroughs into the mainstream were those produced for Richard Skinner and Kid Jensen.

Sessions were usually recorded and mixed in a single day, so had a rougher feel that lay somewhere between a live performance and a studio recording, sounding almost like a polished demo.

While acts would often use the opportunity to promote their latest single or album, others would premiere recently written compositions, try out different arrangements on established songs or perform cover versions. A number of these session recordings were even superior to their eventual officially released versions.

So The Electricity Club presents its favourite 25 BBC Radio1 session tracks with other selection criteria including rare songs or tracks capturing the zeitgeist and signalling a change in the course of music. Presented in chronological and then alphabetical order within each year with a restriction of one track per artist moniker, here are some special moments from our beloved Auntie Beeb.


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Blind Youth (John Peel 1978)

In Summer 1978, THE HUMAN LEAGUE perhaps surprisingly recorded their only session for the BBC which included ‘Being Boiled’, ‘No Time’ (which became ‘The Word Before Last’), a cover of ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’ and ‘Blind Youth’. The latter was the frantic percussive highlight of the four, a wonderfully shambolic slice of synth punk with bum bleeps and avant waves of white noise, all held together by the metallic rhythmic bed of a sequenced Roland System 100.

Not officially released

http://www.thehumanleague.co.uk/


TUBEWAY ARMY I Nearly Married A Human (John Peel 1979)

Although only comprising of three tracks, Gary Numan’s session as TUBEWAY ARMY for John Peel in early 1979 captured an artist in transition. From the comparatively punky ‘Me! I Disconnect From You’ to the dystopian synthpop of ‘Down In The Park’, the electronics were gaining more prominence to suit his increasingly unsettling lyrical themes. And on the mostly instrumental ‘I Nearly Married A Human’, the machines launched a coup d’etat and took over like an army of replicants with the murmurs of the title being the only sign of flesh and blood.

Available on the GARY NUMAN ‎// TUBEWAY ARMY album ‘Replicas – The First Recordings’ via Beggars Banquet

http://garynuman.com/


OMD Pretending To See The Future (John Peel 1980)

Several months after the release of their self-titled debut long player, OMD returned for their second of their four John Peel sessions with Paul Humphreys and Andy McCluskey accompanied by drummer Malcolm Holmes and keyboardist Dave Hughes. By now, their live sound had expanded and this change was captured on this session with the version of ‘Pretending To See The Future’ having more presence and a looser percussive edge compared with the underwhelming drum machine-led album version.

Available on the OMD album ‘Peel Sessions 1979-1983’ via Virgin Records

https://www.omd.uk.com/


B-MOVIE Polar Opposites (John Peel 1981)

One of the bands alongside SOFT CELL, DEPECHE MODE and BLANCMANGE who got a profile boost from their inclusion on the ‘Some Bizzare Album’, although they were signed by Phonogram to take on DURAN DURAN, B-MOVIE had more of a psychedelic vibe as reflected by songs like ‘Welcome To The Shrink’ and ‘All Fall Down’ on their first John Peel session in March 1981. But the highlight was ‘Polar Opposites’ with its mighty ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ synth line. It would have made a great single, but never properly was!

Available on the B-MOVIE ‎album ‘BBC Radio Sessions 1981-1984’ via Cherry Red Records

http://www.b-movie.co.uk/


DEPECHE MODE Boys Say Go (Richard Skinner 1981)

Broadcast in Summer 1981, this session captured the original DEPECHE MODE line-up of Dave Gahan, Martin Gore, Andy Fletcher and Vince Clarke several months before the release of debut album ‘Speak & Spell’. Refining into a pop band but still retaining much of the synthetic rawness that linked them artistically to acts like FAD GADGET, the session was characterised by use of the Korg Rhythm KR55 drum machine with its charming klanky metallics. This version of ‘Boys Say Go’ possessed an aggression that was lost on the eventual album cut.

Available on the compilation ‎album ‘1 & Only – 25 Years of BBC Radio 1’ (V/A) via BBC Enterprises / Band Of Joy

http://www.depechemode.com/


DURAN DURAN Like An Angel (Peter Powell 1981)

Like THE HUMAN LEAGUE, DURAN DURAN only did the one BBC session for their biggest champion Peter Powell. Broadcast in June 1981 to coincide with the release of their self-titled debut, they recorded near-facsimile versions of ‘Girls On Film’, ‘Anyone Out There’ and ‘Night Boat’. But a surprise came with ‘Like An Angel’, a sprightly love song unreleased at the time which pointed away from the New Romantics to the more mainstream pop ambition of the ‘Rio’ opus that was to come just a year later.

Available on the DURAN DURAN boxed set ‘Duran Duran’ via EMI Records

http://www.duranduran.com


SOFT CELL Seedy Films (Richard Skinner 1981)

Contributing five songs to their first BBC session as ‘Tainted Love’ was rising up the UK chart, brilliant songs like ‘Bedsitter’, ‘Entertain Me’, ‘Chips On My Shoulder’ and ‘Youth’ demonstrated the potential of Marc Almond and Dave Ball, even in basic form. While ‘Seedy Films’ was faster paced and a bit “snap, crackle and pop” compared to the more sophisticated and laid-back clarinet-laden ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ album version, it outlined why at the time, SOFT CELL were rated higher than DEPECHE MODE.

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

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


SPANDAU BALLET Mandolin (Studio B15 1981)

‘Studio B15’ was a short-lived Sunday afternoon magazine show presented by the late Adrian Love that often invited their guests to perform live. SPANDAU BALLET had just released their debut album ‘Journeys To Glory’ and as a band that didn’t tour and rarely played live, this was an opportunity to demonstrate their abilities. ‘Mandolin’ featured a prominent Yamaha CS10 synth line while this version featured Simmons drums and a much clearer vocal with a more pronounced diction from Tony Hadley compared to the oddly smothered album version.

Available on the SPANDAU BALLET deluxe album ‘Journeys to Glory’ via EMI Records

http://www.spandauballet.com/


BLANCMANGE Running Thin (John Peel 1982)

Aired in February 1982, BLANCMANGE were captured in their only John Peel session as a much darker proposition than was later perceived by their UK chart success. It included an early take on ‘Living On The Ceiling’ without its Indian embellishments but the session was notable for ‘I Would’ and ‘Running Thin’, two songs that would not make it onto the ‘Happily Families’ tracklisting. ‘Running Thin’ in particular saw Neil Arthur and Stephen Luscombe trapped in a stark state of gloomy resignation.

Available on the BLANCMANGE album ‘The Very Best Of’ via Demon Music

http://www.blancmange.co.uk/


CHINA CRISIS This Occupation (John Peel 1982)

Recorded nearly six months before the release of their debut album, CHINA CRISIS’ first John Peel session saw the duo exploring territory that sat between electronic and traditional pop. ‘Seven Sports For All’ and ‘Some People I Know To Lead Fantastic Lives’ ended up on the album while the more moody ‘Be Suspicious’ was already a B-side. But this version of ‘This Occupation’ was pure machine-propelled synthpop complete with sequencing and strong lead lines; later recordings that appeared on the B-sides of ‘Wishful Thinking’ were never as good.

Available on the CHINA CRISIS deluxe album ‘Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms’ via Caroline Records

https://www.facebook.com/chinacrisisofficial


EURYTHMICS I’ve Got An Angel (Kid Jensen 1982)

After their 1981 German-inspired debut ‘In The Garden’, Annie Lennox and David A Stewart explored the possibilities of the synthesizer and acquired a Movement Drum Computer to live up to their moniker. In a BBC session that also included ‘Love Is A Stranger’ which was soon to be issued as a single , ‘I’ve Got An Angel’ was an unusual hybrid of synths, electronic drums and wah-wah guitar, with flute by the front woman alongside her particularly intense and raw vocal. By comparison, the released version on the ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)’ album was more restrained.

Not officially released

https://www.eurythmics.com/


NEW ORDER Too Late (John Peel 1982)

Not actually recorded at the BBC, NEW ORDER’s second self-produced John Peel session was a fascinating document of the Mancunian’s transitioning sound with the throbbing sequences of ‘586’ highlighting a future proto-dance direction. Meanwhile ‘Turn The Heater On’ was a cover of the Keith Hudson reggae song in tribute to Ian Curtis and ‘We All Stand’ had avant jazz overtones. But ‘Too Late’ was significant, sounding like it could have come off debut album ‘Movement’ with its lingering gothic doom but also remaining unreleased, discarded as if a relic from another era.

Available on the NEW ORDER boxed set ‘Power, Corruption & Lies’ via Rhino

http://www.neworder.com/


TEARS FOR FEARS Memories Fade (Kid Jensen 1982)

Featuring ‘The Prisoner’, ‘The Hurting’, ‘Start Of The Breakdown’ and ‘Memories Fade’, the arrangements for this BBC session aired after TEARS FOR FEARS’ success with ‘Mad World’ differed significantly from the versions on their debut album. Featuring Linn Drum programming and Banshees-like guitar instead of sax, this version of ‘Memories Fade’ was far superior, utilising a much more powerful mechanised rhythmic tension that reflected the fraught paranoia and resignation of Roland Orzabal’s lyrical angst.

Available on the TEARS FOR FEARS boxed set ‘The Hurting’ via Mercury Records

https://tearsforfears.com/


YAZOO In My Room (Kid Jensen 1982)

Reshaped with a Fairlight and Linn Drum Computer, this version of ‘In My Room’ recorded in session for Kid Jensen was far superior to the irritating album version on ‘Upstairs At Eric’s’. Forming the basis for the live interpretation, it was now free of Vince Clarke’s “Our Father” tape loop monologue and allowed Alison Moyet space to express her emotive frustration to reveal a fantastic song free of distractions. Other songs in the session included beefed up takes on ‘Bring Your Love Down (Didn’t I)’, ‘Situation’ and ‘Too Pieces’.

Available on the YAZOO boxed set ‘Three Pieces’ via Mute Records

http://yazooinfo.com/


DEAD OR ALIVE Give It To Me (Kid Jensen 1983)

Co-written with Wayne Hussey, ‘Give It To Me’ was Pete Burns at his filthy lyrical best, declaring that “Apart from all your obvious attractions, I’ve got the bullets, you’ve got the gun, bang me into action, let’s make this obvious distraction, physically you are just what I wanted!”. Although this slice of  Middle Eastern favoured HI-NRG later surfaced as a bonus track on the 12 inch single of ‘I’d Do Anything’, it seems almost unbelievable now that this potential hit single was never developed further in the studio.

Available on the DEAD OR ALIVE boxed set ‘Sophisticated Boom Box MMXVI’ via Edsel Records

https://dead-or-alive-band.fandom.com/wiki/Dead_or_Alive


JOHN FOXX Hiroshima Mon Amour (Saturday Live 1983)

‘Saturday Live’ was a show that featured interviews and live sessions. Having ventured out touring for the first time since his ULTRAVOX days in support of his third solo album ‘The Golden Section’, John Foxx eschewed material from ‘Metamatic’ but perhaps more surprisingly, mined his former band’s catalogue. Backed by Robin Simon, Peter Oxdendale, David Levy and Barry Watts, Foxx performed an interesting arrangement of ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ sans rhythm machine but with guitars, ARP Odyssey and the ubiquitous thud of Simmons drums.

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

http://www.metamatic.com/


HOWARD JONES Don’t Put These Curses On Me (Kid Jensen 1983)

Having triumphed opening for CHINA CRISIS in Spring 1983, Howard Jones impressed with his first BBC session featuring songs like ‘New Song’ and ‘Natural’ which would be included on his debut album ‘Human’s Lib’. The album title track also featured on the session with its original love triangle monologue intro. But ‘Don’t Put These Curses On Me’ would not be released until 2003, thanks to Jones considering the song unlucky following an equipment breakdown while attempting to perform it on the live Channel 4 TV show ‘Loose Talk’.

Available on the HOWARD JONES boxed set ‘Human’s Lib’ via Cherry Red Records

http://www.howardjones.com/


SIMPLE MINDS The Kick Inside Of Me (Kid Jensen 1983)

By the end of 1983, SIMPLE MINDS were leaning heavily towards more rockist climes with songs like ‘Waterfront’. But for a three song BBC session which also featured a reprise of ‘New Gold Dream’, there was the debut of ‘The Kick Inside Of Me’, a lively track with catchy synth riffs, an infectious bassline and minimal guitar. But come the released version for the Steve Lillywhite produced ‘Sparkle In The Rain’, it had totally been ruined with distorted guitar, overblown drums and yobbish shouting in a pointless attempt to emulate THE SEX PISTOLS!

Available on the SIMPLE MINDS boxed set ‘Sparkle In The Rain’ via Universal Music

https://www.simpleminds.com/


TALK TALK Why Is It So Hard? (Kid Jensen 1983)

This session captured TALK TALK after the departure of keyboardist Simon Brenner but before producer Tim Friese-Greene came on board as Mark Hollis’ writing partner. Showcasing at the time four brand new songs, only ‘Call In The Night Boy’ ended up on the next album ‘It’s My Life’ while ‘For What It’s Worth’ and ‘Again A Game Again’ became B-sides. But most interesting was ‘Why Is It So Hard?’ which was only released in Canada on the ‘It’s My Mix’ EP as an Extended Version and didn’t get a UK release until 1998 on the ‘Asides Bsides’ collection.

Not officially released

https://www.facebook.com/Talk-Talk-Mark-Hollis-12307963901/


VISAGE Questions (Kid Jensen 1983)

With only Steve Strange and Rusty Egan now remaining, VISAGE surprised all by recording a BBC session with new members Steve Barnacle and Andy Barnett, featuring previously unheard songs ‘Can You Hear Me?’, ‘Only The Good Die Young’, ‘The Promise’ and the funky standout ‘Questions’. With a more live feel, there was hope that VISAGE would be able to sustain some creative momentum despite the departure of Midge Ure, Billy Currie and Dave Formula but the eventual over-produced ‘Beat Boy’ album was rotten, marred by heavy metal guitar and hopelessly off-key singing!

Not officially released

http://www.therealvisage.com/


HARD CORPS Metal + Flesh (John Peel 1984)

Despite the patronage of Rusty Egan, Daniel Miller and Martin Rushent as well as a tour opening for DEPECHE MODE, the industrial pop of HARD CORPS did not breakthrough and by the time their only album ‘Metal + Flesh’ was released in 1990, all momentum had been lost. But the gothic tension and edgy energy of their music was perhaps best represented by their BBC sessions for John Peel and Richard Skinner, with ‘Metal + Flesh’ from the 1984 Peel session far outstripping the eventual album title track studio incarnation.

Available on the HARD CORPS album ‘Radio Sessions’ directly via https://hardcorps.bandcamp.com/album/radio-sessions

https://www.facebook.com/hard-CORPS-217860235015406


BRONSKI BEAT The Potato Fields (John Peel 1984)

For an Autumn session before the release of their debut album ‘The Age Of Consent’, BRONSKI BEAT took the unusual step of recording three solo tracks, with the only band offering being a take on ‘Why?’ B-side ‘Close To the Edge’. Larry Steinbachek presented a HI-NRG instrumental ‘Ultraclone’ while Jimmy Somerville offered the acapella ‘Puit D’amour’. But Steve Bronski contributed the most unusual track, a beautifully new age piece called ‘The Potato Fields’ which took its lead from the Japanese composer Kitaro, a version of which ended up as a bonus on the ‘I Feel Love’ 12 inch.

Not officially available

http://www.bronskibeat.co.uk/


FIAT LUX Breaking The Boundary (Kid Jensen 1984)

From Spring 1984 to coincide with the release of their new single ‘Blue Emotion’, FIAT LUX stepped into BBC Maida Vale for a session to demonstrate their diversity and musicality as more than just a synth act. As well as ‘Blue Emotion’, there was its Brechtean B-side ‘Sleepless Nightmare’ and an acoustic version of ‘Secrets’. But best of all was ‘Breaking The Boundary’, a glorious burst of uptempo North European melancholy that did not officially see the light of day until the shelved FIAT LUX album ‘Ark Of Embers was finally released by Cherry Red Records in 2019.

Not officially available

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


ERASURE Who Needs Love Like That? (Bruno Brookes 1985)

With ERASURE, Vince Clarke had found himself back to square one after YAZOO and THE ASSEMBLY. Recruiting Andy Bell as the flamboyant front man capable of falsetto and creating the vocal tones of Alison Moyet, ‘Who Needs Love Like That?’ did sound like a YAZOO outtake and in this BBC session recording, was busier and more percussive than the already released single version. While ERASURE were not an instant success, the song did eventually chart on its remixed re-release in 1992.

Available on the ERASURE deluxe album ‘Wonderland’ via Mute Records

https://www.erasureinfo.com/


PET SHOP BOYS A Powerful Friend (John Peel 2002)

John Peel was not a fan of PET SHOP BOYS or much synthpop for that matter, so it was a surprise when Neil Tennant and Chris Love did a session for him using the back to basics approach that they had adopted for the ‘Release’ tour with guitars, bass and percussion in the line-up. But the bonus for fans was that two of the songs recorded ‘If Looks Could Kill’ and ‘A Powerful Friend’, which had been written in 1983 and shelved, were specially revived for the occasion. Both numbers were particularly energetic with the latter even featuring very loud rock guitars!

Available on the PET SHOP BOYS deluxe album ‘Release: Further Listening 2001 – 2004’ via EMI Records

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


Text by Chi Ming Lai
2nd January 2021

JOHN FOXX The Quiet Man

Over the past four decades, John Foxx has been writing short stories about ‘The Quiet Man’, imagining an enigmatic parallel world.

Various excerpts have appeared over the years in John Foxx artefacts, fanzines and spoken word albums over the years but the text has now finally made it to print as a beautifully bound book designed by Barnbrook Studios.

Dressed in European grey, The Quiet Man himself chatted to The Electricity Club.

The ‘Quiet Men’ first appeared in the 1978 ULTRAVOX song ‘Systems Of Romance’, so who were they? Was it a reaction to the character in ‘I Want To Be A Machine’ from ‘Ultravox!’?

Well, there wasn’t a conscious connection to the ‘I Want To Be A Machine’ character, but I guess that was also concerned with stepping aside and looking on, in a detached way. The idea of the quiet man began after I bought an old grey suit from a charity shop in 1977. It was clearly from the 1950s and I got to imagining who it might have belonged to.

This prompted the phrase ‘the quiet men’ and the song followed. The quiet men seemed to be some mysterious people living discreetly among us, purpose unknown, but clearly some kind of great emotional tide in the background somewhere, while they remain completely unnoticed.

I’d found that wearing the suit allowed me to became anonymous, almost invisible.

This was a great relief, because I was beginning to get deranged by touring. The start of a long period of being gently bewildered. Onstage, you have no choice but to be the centre of attention.

So It was a delight to feel quietly unnoticed after being whirled away by all the mayhem of a rock band’s life on the road. I’m glad I experienced all that, but I’d begun to realise it wasn’t the sort of life I wanted.

Simply stepping away and wearing the grey suit prompted a flood of ideas and small stories. Then some further connections began to occur. A realistic painting a friend had – of Oxford Street and Centrepoint completely overgrown – that somehow fitted with the suit. (Perhaps via the Surrealists, who would always dress conservatively, while living and thinking surreally).

After that, I began to glean a whole body of writing and imagery – etchings by Piranesi, Rose Macauley’s book ‘Pleasure of Ruins’ old photographs of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and so on. I sort of transposed it all into an overgrown London, and got the Quiet Man to explore it.

I’d also grown up in the north of England when the mills and factories were falling into ruin. Trees began to grow out of some of these buildings. As kids, we’d play in Lord Leverhulme’s abandoned gardens at Rivington and swim in the huge ponds by the overgrown factories at Birkacre.

When I arrived in London, Shoreditch was empty and beginning to fall into ruin, just like Lancashire. I was also periodically exploring the old, locked side of Highgate cemetery. All this resonated and gave me lots of ideas. I felt I’d hit a very rich seam of imagery, which meant a lot to me. And it literally became my way of writing myself out of the band.

Even as far back as ‘Metamatic’, you were talking in interviews about ‘The Quiet Man’, how much had been written by then?

The basic ‘Quiet Man’ section, which describes a deserted and overgrown London, was written in 1977, followed by ‘Cathedral Oceans’ and several shorter pieces. So the writing was well on its way by the time I was working on ‘Metamatic’.

How much of ‘The Quiet Man’ is autobiographical?

Oh, quite a bit, really. It was a way of exploring ideas about time – and all those fleeting sensations you get while wandering around any city. You know, I often ask myself – What is a city? Why do we make them? Aren’t they a bit like a living organism and aren’t we a little like blood cells circulating through the larger entity? Is anyone really conscious of exactly what we’re doing there?

Then there’s this question of time – I read J.W. Dunne’s book and began to question that, too. What is time? Why does it seem to change – move faster or slower, and how does this work with memory? How does architecture affect all that – and us? – and so on. The writing became a way of exploring some of that, after its primary purpose of providing raw material for songs.

In 1981, the illustrative art booklet ‘Church’ that came with early copies of ‘The Garden’ featured text from ‘The Quiet Man’, was that to test the water? Did it get the response you hoped for?

Virgin Records were happy to include a booklet in ‘The Garden’ album cover and I had the pieces written to generate the songs. So that was it. I wasn’t really looking for any sort of response. Certainly never saw myself as a literary sort of writer. Still don’t. It was initially a way of generating songs, but over the years it became a sort of world in itself. Now I look back over it and think how satisfying that an entire body of work can evolve in that way – songs, stories, images and music.

Had your hiatus from music after ‘In Mysterious Ways’ in 1985 affected your enthusiasm to finish ‘The Quiet Man’ as well?

Well, it certainly gave me more time. I was also free to wander around London, plus a few other cities, which generated lots more ideas.

A further excerpt appeared in the Extreme Voice fanzine in 1996 when you returned to music, but the book was still being finished… what was on your mind at the time?

Always uncertain about my ability as a writer, found the idea of publishing a real book a bit intimidating, so I became good at putting it off.

Then in 2009, there was a spoken word album of ‘The Quiet Man’, narrated by Justin Barton, with a piano soundtrack from yourself, how do you look back on that presentation? Does it work for you today?

Oh, yes – I really liked that. Mark Fisher and Justin Barton had just made a fascinating recording called ‘Under London’ and they sent a copy to me. I’d known Mark since he was a student and we’d been in touch for years. I found what they’d done really intriguing and asked Justin if he’d read ‘The Quiet Man’ in the same sort of way. I wanted it to seem like some half-remembered BBC radio piece from the 1950s.

So for this published edition of ‘The Quiet Man’, what was the impetus to finally get it out? Why ultimately did it take so long? In your mind, is it actually abandoned now rather than finished?

I think it’s not really the sort of thing that ever gets finished. More like a series of diary entries, or notes. Jonathan Barnbrook, Steve Malins and Rob Harris finally did the hints and prods that got me to put enough of the stuff together to make a book.

Was there much edited from the original transcript? Any difficult decisions?

A few full stops and commas, that’s all. There were plenty of pieces to choose from, and lots of others are still in the notebooks.

Do you have a favourite passage or short story from ‘The Quiet Man’?

It changes. At the moment, I like ‘The Nebula’ and ‘The Notebooks’ sections. I’m still not sure I did justice to the original idea of ‘The Nebula’, it was so mysterious an idea. Sometimes you realise you got close, but wonder if you might have done better.

You maintain your close working relationship with Jonathan Barnbrook for the book’s cover design. Did you not fancy doing this yourself, having designed several book covers yourself over the years?

It’s difficult to be objective about your own work. You’re far too close. I’ve always liked Jonathan’s work, so had no reservations at all. In fact, I was pleased he wanted to do it.

Strangely, the colour and style of his cover was exactly like some of my favourite old notebooks, the ones I most enjoyed writing the original stories in. So instinctively and telepathically, he got it exactly right.

What would be the music from your own catalogue you would recommend to have on while reading ‘The Quiet Man’, any particular albums for particular stories?

No particular track for each story, but the music that creates a suitable background, I think, might be ‘Translucence / Drift Music’, ‘London Overgrown’, of course – and ‘Nighthawks’.


The Electricity Club gives its sincerest thanks to John Foxx

Additional thanks to Steve Malins at Random PR

‘The Quiet Man’ is published as a hardback book and available only from https://johnfoxxbook.com/

http://www.metamatic.com

https://www.facebook.com/johnfoxxmetamatic

https://twitter.com/foxxmetamedia


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
5th November 2020

FROM BRUSSELS WITH LOVE

Originally released on 20th November 1980, the deluxe cassette compilation ‘From Brussels With Love’ celebrates its 40th Anniversary.

Writing for NME, Paul Morley said at the time: “The arrival of this thin tape from Belgium provides a reminder – without really trying, without being obvious – that pop is the modern poetry, is the sharpest, shiniest collection of experiences, is always something new”.

It was the first proper music release on Les Disques du Crépuscule, a boutique Belgian label that emerged from Factory Benelux.

FBN was the European Low Countries wing of the iconic Manchester label that at the time was the home to JOY DIVISION, A CERTAIN RATIO, THE DURUTTI COLUMN and SECTION 25. It had primarily been set-up as an outlet for spare tracks by Factory Records acts and one of its later notable releases in Autumn 1981 was the 12 inch remix of NEW ORDER’s ‘Everything’s Gone Green’ which featured the non-album songs ‘Mesh’ and ‘Cries & Whispers’ on the B-side.

But from its inception with direction from head office, the Obscure Records influenced Les Disques du Crépuscule was to be a separate entity despite being run by the same Factory Benelux founding team of Michel Duval and Annik Honoré; the pair had established the Plan K venue in Brussels which hosted two JOY DIVISION concerts to establish the Manchester link.

‘From Brussels With Love’ was notable for featuring the first released recording by the three surviving members of JOY DIVISION following the sad passing of Ian Curtis before they adopted the name NEW ORDER; ‘Haystack’ was a collaboration with Leicester-born singer-songwriter Kevin Hewick. Conceived as a concert journal and curated by Duval, Honoré and radio show host / composer Wim Mertens, as well as a range of international avant-garde and new wave music,  it contained modern classical work from Gavin Bryars and a then-unknown Michael Nyman.

There were also spoken segments including a poetry reading from THE SKIDS’ Ricard Jobson plus interviews with Brian Eno and Jeanne Moreau; the latter featured a beautiful piano background by Claude Coppens to accompany the words of the notable French actress, thus producing an art piece in its own right.

‘From Brussels With Love’ was diverse, varying from exquisite ivory pieces like ‘Children On The Hill’ by Harold Budd to ‘The Music Room’, a Frippish guitar noise experiment from JOY DIVISION producer Martin Hannett accompanied by a drum machine.

But of interest to electronic music enthusiasts were three exclusive jingles by John Foxx and an early rhythm machine backed take on ‘Airwaves’ by Thomas Dolby. Meanwhile from Europe, there was the doomy synth laden post punk on ‘Cat’ by THE NAMES and the quirky electronic Neue Deutsche Welle of DER PLAN’s ‘Mein Freunde’.

To celebrate its 40th Anniversary, ‘From Brussels With Love’ has been reissued as a lavish 10” x 10” 60 page hardback earbook with rare images, posters, sleeve designs and memorabilia, plus a detailed history of the Crépuscule label between 1979 and 1984. The audio features not only the 21 tracks from on the original cassette in 1980 on one CD, but a bonus collection of 18 related tracks from the period on a second CD including those contributions unable to be included due to space considerations.

For John Foxx completists, this set will be essential as it includes two more jingles from the former ULTRAVOX front man, as well as his superb garage robo-funk instrumental ‘Mr No’.

Among the other musical highlights are Bill Nelson’s ‘Dada Guitare’, a Far Eastern flavoured instrumental of glorious E-bow and THE DURUTTI COLUMN’s beautiful ‘For Belgian Friends’, composed by Vini Reilly in honour of Michel Duval and Annik Honoré. Produced by Martin Hannett, his technologically processed techniques made Reilly’s dominant piano sound like textured synthetic strings, complimenting his sparing melodic guitar and the crisp percussion of Donald Johnson.

Also produced by Martin Hannett and another welcome inclusion in the ‘From Brussels With Love’ appendix is THE NAMES ‘Nightshift’ with its chilling synth embellishing the archetypical arty post-punk miserablism of the period. Another Belgian band POLYPHONIC SIZE make an appearance with ‘Nagasaki Mon Amour’, an intriguing minimal tribute to ULTRAVOX with its detached Gallic delivery over buzzing synths and icy string machines produced by Jean-Jacques Burnel of THE STRANGLERS.

Of interest to PROPAGANDA fans will be JOSEF K’s frenetically paced ‘Sorry For Laughing’ which was covered on ‘A Secret Wish’; their front man Paul Haig went on release a number of EPs and albums via Les Disques du Crépuscule including the acclaimed ‘Rhythm Of Life’ and ‘The Warp Of Pure Fun’.

Over four decades on, the catalogue of Les Disques du Crépuscule included artists like Anna Domino, Isabelle Antena, Alan Rankine, Winston Tong, Blaine L Reininger, John Cale, Helen Marnie and Zeus B Held as well as bands such as TUEXDOMOON, MARINE, CABARET VOLTAIRE, MIKADO, THE PALE FOUNTAINS, ULTRAMARINE, MARSHEAUX and LES PANTIES.

Sophisticated and exhibiting a tasteful visual aesthetic, Les Disques du Crépuscule established itself as a cosmopolitan and culturally significant artistic outlet with a distinct identity that outlasted its parent company Factory Records. ‘From Brussels With Love’ was the start of a story that continues today.


In memory of Annik Honoré 1957 – 2014

‘From Brussels With Love’ is released on 6th November 2020 by Les Disques du Crépuscule as a deluxe 40th Anniversary 10” x 10” 60 page hardback earbook with 2CDs, available direct from https://www.lesdisquesducrepuscule.com/from_brussels_with_love_twi007.html

It is also reissued as a limited edition facsimile cassette package in PVC wallet and gatefold double LP set featuring first disc in black vinyl and the second in white; both come with a download key

https://lesdisquesducrepuscule.com/

https://www.facebook.com/LesDisquesDuCrepuscule

https://twitter.com/twilightdisques

https://www.instagram.com/lesdisquesducrepuscule/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
20th October 2020

GARETH JONES Interview

The first solo album from Gareth Jones is set for release in September.

He is perhaps best known as the producer of DEPECHE MODE’s first albums with Alan Wilder – ‘Construction Time Again’, ‘Some Great Reward’, and ‘Black Celebration’.

Jones first made his name as an electronic music pioneer on John Foxx’s groundbreaking album ‘Metamatic’.

It was John Foxx who recommended Jones to Mute’s Daniel Miller, starting a creative relationship that shaped many of the towering recordings from FAD GADGET, WIRE, ERASURE and DIAMANDA GALÁS. Other acts who have benefited from Jones’ deft studio work include EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN, GUS GUS, TUXEDOMOON, GRIZZLY BEAR, INTERPOL, MESH, APPARAT and THE HOUSE OF LOVE.

For many years, Jones has worked to inspire young artists and studio techs through the Red Bull Academy and online videos. He has also chosen projects with the aim to help new artists get a foothold, in preference to more commercially advantageous work.

What has been less visible is the humble Jones’ own music. As one half of SUNROOF, he has created covers and remixes of Krautrock classics together with Miller. With Nick Hook, he has created three SPIRITUAL FRIENDSHIP albums and has another in the pipeline. He has also discreetly issued a number of experimental works over the years, ranging from spoken word pieces to ambient electronics.

‘ELECTROGENETIC‘, Jones’ first album under his own name, comes after his milestone 65th birthday, and it is a highly personal set of compositions.

Built on modular patches, it is also an accomplished melding of humanity and electronics; an organic interface between Mensch and Maschine. The cover features Jones’ father’s wedding ring and an Ankh; symbols of connectedness and life.

The notes prepared by Jones on his microsite for the album explain the spiritual inspirations for certain tracks, which include the passing of his mother-in-law and his own mother. In them, he describes the album as a form of requiem and credo. He seems to have taken to heart the line from Revelations 13:14: “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write…”

The music speaks for itself, however. Infused with modular sequences that are almost danceable, it is not pop. There are traces of THROBBING GRISTLE and hints of TEST DEPARTMENT, but it is not industrial. There are fusions of found sound and electronics that are reminiscent of The Orb, but it is not ambient house. Best listened to as a piece with different movements, ‘ELECTROGENETIC’ has the internal coherence to make up for its defiance of genres.

The album opens at ‘The Beginning’ with a reading from the book of Genesis. Initially sketched on an iPad, Jones developed the track in visits to a Methodist chapel near his studio.

‘Trinity’, which follows, borrows found sound from a choral practice in a Cambridge chapel. It also incorporates instruments from Jones’ childhood – an approach that develops in ‘Mercury’ with the addition of ocarina, recorder and tin whistle, supplemented by piano and a Roland JX-3P. The piano is actually a virtual instrument, played in Kontakt, using Joan-na, a sample bank that Jones made from his childhood piano and named after his late mother.

‘Michigan’ is built on a drone and incorporates vocal samples from WOVOKA GENTLE’s Immie Mason making a reference to his wife’s home state. It was in Detroit that Jones also developed ‘Safe Travels’, another of the stand-out tracks on the album.

The microsite created by Jones to accompany the album offers a set of virtual Post-It notes, leading to handwritten sleeve notes for each track and a link to sample packs. Visitors can download selected samples and import them into their own projects – the DNA of ‘ELECTROGENETIC‘ can live on beyond the album itself.

To find out more, The Electricity Club met Jones virtually in his studio, theArtLab, in the heart of London’s Strongroom complex.

How have you been coping with Covid-19?

I’m an urban cyclist, so I’m pretty comfortable travelling about, you know. I don’t like the Tube too much.

I’ve been very creative, though. In our home, I set up a Studio B in my back bedroom with a laptop, headphones, and a few little synths and things.

But I did loads of amazing work—it was quite astonishing to me that it turned out to be so productive. I’m lucky, in that I had food delivered every day—and I count my blessings, brother, for sure—but it was, strangely, musically a very productive time.

The album marks the passing of people close to you and touches on a number of deep themes – family, spirituality, connectedness. What led you in these directions?

At this stage of my life, I guess these are like major, major events that happened in my life. If there’s a theme, I guess that’s just my voice, my personality, my approach to electronics, and my approach to making music.

I’m not choosing a theme consciously; I’m just walking my path. This is what’s happening. I made a small commitment to myself, in 2019, that I would like to finish a solo project, inspired by all the collaborative work that I’ve done, which I very much enjoyed – you know, with Nick Hook in SPIRITUAL FRIENDSHIP and Chris Bono in NOUS ALPHA – and with all the remix work I’ve done. I just felt it was time for me to dig deep and do a solo project, and that was my personal contract with myself in 2019.

It came off the back of two very dear mothers dying in 2018: my mother-in-law and my own mother. Somehow, it all started to resonate with me, and the emotional impact of that emerged through the work over the year. It didn’t start as a project to commemorate the mothers, and I hope it’s more than that. It’s not just commemorating the mothers, but that was a certainly a big part of several of the songs – ‘Safe Travels’ being one of them, of course, and ‘Farewell’ another. The writing of those was in my mother-in-law’s house.

I gave up smoking when I was 50; and, perhaps it was a coincidence, but it seemed like a symbolic number. With the double loss—and all the parents are gone now—I felt this need or responsibility to myself to make this solo work. And, so, that’s my humble offering—what you hear is what stands before you.

Was your mother close to your work?

No, my mother thought that music was not a proper job. It took a while before my parents came around to the idea that, actually, I might be able to support myself working in music. Both my parents were big lovers of music, as consumers of music, if you like—listeners. They were huge lovers of music: classical music, very much so; not so much jazz and whatever; popular culture music they didn’t really get. A great musical inspiration came from my dad—a love of music from an early time.

My in-laws were much more lovers of popular culture–the Frank Sinatra period. Not just Frank Sinatra, but Tony Bennett, Howard Keel and the 40s, 50s and 60s—they were big lovers of music from that time.

So, there was a lot of music around, of course, but they were not professional musicians. My mother played a little bit of piano, I think, when she was a kid, but I didn’t grow up with parents playing music.

There are many references to spirituality in the material and in your notes on the micro-site for the album. The cover features the Ankh and a wedding ring: one an ancient symbol for life and the other representing connection and togetherness…

It has deep symbolism, the ring, doesn’t it? It is also symbolic of power and continuity – and, you know, eternity. As I get older, I hope my inward life develops deeper and deeper, and part of that is considering the larger questions. We can’t avoid them: birth and death. You know, this is life, brother.

On your site, you refer to ‘The Prophet’ by Kahlil Gibran. Was that book a big influence on you?

When I was when I was adolescent, for sure. I haven’t read it for a long time. The idea of the trees came back to me when I was working on ‘Alone Together’. That was a very influential book on me as a teenager. It seems like a beautiful discourse on the nature of love and life.

You were previously releasing material with Nick Hook as SPIRITUAL FRIENDSHIP. Is that still happening?

Yes, it is very much ongoing. Nick’s a great inspiration, and the record’s coming out on his label. He’s got a label in Brooklyn called Calm + Collect. It felt like the right place for the record. He always said that he would help me bring my solo record to the world when I completed it, so we both stuck to our commitment. We are men of our word. We’re working currently on the fourth SPIRITUAL FRIENDSHIP album, which we’re very excited about. It’s got a bit more of a harmonic content than the last record, which was all drums.

We had plans to get together during the lockdown period to complete the record; but those plans were—like many people’s plans—disrupted, so we are attempting to finish it remotely. We’ve made quite a lot of progress, but all the work we’ve done so far has been the two of us in the room, and that’s very vibrant and very creative; and very fast, very enjoyable. It’s been a bit more difficult focusing energies remotely. That’s weird, but we will get there. The record is close to being finished.

The modern marketplace for music is becoming narrower, and major labels don’t seem to want to invest anything in artists who aren’t going to produce mainstream hits. Shopping something like this must be challenging, because there a limited number of labels that you could go to…

I didn’t try to shop it. Nick and I had this talk about it. We had a commitment. We did try to, as you say, shop the first SPIRITUAL FRIENDSHIP album, and we have between us a few influential colleagues in the business—lovely people and friends. Many people were kind enough to say how much they liked the record, but no one was remotely interested in putting it out. That was a depressing experience for both of us, which lasted about a month. Then, after a month or so, we said, okay, we just have got to put it out ourselves.

We are trying to make Calm + Collect like a small independent gallery where we can hang our stuff on the wall and say, “Look, we made this. If it’s of any interest, please explore the label further or hit us up or get in touch.”

Of course, it’s wonderful to have the support of a label with the PR and the contacts and the guidance, and even some funding. It’s a marvelous thing for an artist. But if you can’t get it, you can’t give up. You don’t give up.

You talked about the modern marketplace. The huge benefit of the modern technology is that we can bring our music to the world. On Calm + Collect, we can put music out that you can hear in Australia, the day after it’s come out, if you want to. Of course, there is huge, massive noise to try to get yourself noticed, but you have to try and rise above it. How wonderful, though, that we can present our wares to the world and say, “Well, look, here it is. Come and have a listen if you’d like to!”

One of the things that was interesting about the Web site that you can get sample packs, so that you can play with your sounds independently. Are you hoping that people will make their own mixes of the songs or just take the samples and use them in their own projects?

It’s my record company’s idea. All credit to Nick Hook for that. Nick said “Why don’t you make a sample pack?”

He suggested that I could sell them on Bandcamp, if I want, but I just decided to put them out as a gift, if people are interested. There are some elements of the songs, but you can’t remix a whole song from those because they’re not stems of the pieces—they’re not complete. They’re snippets. I went quickly through the nine pieces and chose what I thought were some interesting snippets. I said, well, there you go. If anyone’s interested in having these, then have them and make something with it.

I enjoyed the process. It didn’t take me too long. It seemed like a nice addition, and it was Nick’s idea. Nick and I try to implement each other’s ideas; we try not to shut each other down. So, I thought, okay, I’ll do it. I’m pleased I did it, and it’s something I’ll do in the future, too, I think.

It makes it more like an open source project. With the sample packs, people can look into the source code, and they can pick around and learn from it…

Great. There is a possibility that, down the line, I may well release the multi-tracks, where people can then really dig around if they want to—they can see the whole thing. Everyone who’s remotely interested in music now has some kind of Garage Band type thing on their computer, where they can just drag in a bunch of files and there it is—it plays.

I know, for me, it’s absolutely wonderful to hear other people’s multi-tracks. It’s wonderful to hear some of my old multi-tracks from the past, actually. I pull them up and I think, oh look, we made that 35 years ago or something—there is the multi. So, it’s a special vision, the multitrack. Obviously, I want people to hear my versions of the tunes first, but down the line I might well just link to the multitrack, so that people can see, hear, and dig around—like it’s open source. They can see how it’s made.

A key feature of the album is that you’re using modular kit, which carries an element of chance. One of the nice things about synthesisers is that it is not always predictable what they’re going to sound like and where they’re going to go. Is modular something of interest to you, which is why it was brought into this project?

Yes, it is deeply important. Thank you for asking about it, because it’s reflected in the name—even the name of ‘ELECTROGENETIC‘ is an attempt for me to convey the idea that the birth of the riffs and rhythms and timbres is here in the electronics. It’s born through the electronics.

Modern modular gear—Eurorack, I should say—has empowered me hugely as a musician to be able to speak and channel energies. I hesitate to use the word “express” because I’m a bit nervous about expressing myself. I feel more that I’m more of a channel or tool to concretise or realise, spiritual energy. The modulars have certainly allowed me to do that in a way that I’ve never found really from another instrument, and my personal development as a musician is deeply tied into my involvement with modern modular.

It’s not cheap, but it’s vaguely affordable, whereas the vintage modular that that is so loved is hugely expensive—and hugely expensive to maintain. That’s outside my league, really.

We have had digital gear and sequences for so long, do you think that the modular world brings back the organic quality that was apparent in the albums played by hand, like ‘Metamatic’ and the first two albums by THE HUMAN LEAGUE?

It’s hugely deep and hugely broad, and so it could be, but it can also be extremely rigid. It really is a very broad church, working with modular, and everyone engages with it in their own way. One of the joys for many of us is building a patch that unexpectedly delivers something that we can still interface with; to perform on. We’re joyfully surprised by elements that emerge from the patch we build. That is a very creative way for many of us working with modular setups.

We don’t get many people that — I know certainly that I don’t — go in with a rigid idea and then attempt to construct it in modular, in the sense that I imagine some people might try to write a string quartet, or perhaps how Wendy Carlos made ‘Switched On Bach’. It’s more about building patches, delving deeper and deeper into what emerges; modifying the patch; touching the patch; turning knobs; recording interesting events that occur. You know, it’s not random, by any means, but it’s very rich and very deep, once you embrace the chance element of it.

Do sound design and work on the patches themselves suggest the music? Do you get the idea that this new sound is going to give me the right kind of timbre, the right the right kind of voicing, to make this kind of song?

A lot of the patches already have rhythm and timbre, of course. Most of the pieces on the ‘ELECTROGENETIC‘ record started with a modular patch, which might be quite dense.

There were, of course, other modular patches I made in the period that didn’t develop further; but most of them started with an improvisation by me on a modular patch that I built, which might have melodies, counter-melodies, rhythms, counter-rhythms, all kinds of layers and textures–it can be quite complex.

That is available for further editing and overdubs. In my case, it certainly inspired some simple melodic extra layers performed with the piano, the voice, or the recorder or whatever. I can’t over-emphasise the importance of the improvisations on the modular as groundwork, though; as a very fertile field that this record grew out of. That’s highlighted in the microsite. I’ve even acknowledged my friends at Make Noise. Credit to the synthesiser manufacturer.


The Electricity Club gives its grateful thanks to Gareth Jones

Additional thanks to Mat Smith at Calm + Collect

‘ELECTROGENETIC’ is released digitally on 18th September 2020 via Calm + Collect

http://electrogenetic.com/

https://twitter.com/geniusjones

https://www.instagram.com/garethgeniusjones/


Text and Interview by Simon Helm
20th August 2020

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