Alex Hush is the noted dance producer best known for his work in DAYBREAKERS with Ric Scott and before that, KOISHII & HUSH with Simon Langford.
Based in Toronto, undoubtedly now one of the liveliest and most creative hubs for modern electronic music, Alex Hush has an impressive portfolio that includes U2, MADONNA, ERASURE, PET SHOP BOYS, YAZOO, DURAN DURAN and INXS among others.
His latest work has been with DAYBREAKERS and an excellent remix of ERASURE’s new single ‘Hey Now (Think I Got A Feeling)’.
Alex Hush was also behind the famed seven volume ‘Retro:Active – Rare & Remixed’ CD compilation series on Hi-Bias Records in Canada which dug deep in the vaults for rare tracks by VITAMIN Z, LEISURE PROCESS and SEONA DANCING as well as featuring notable extended versions from the likes of A-HA, DEAD OR ALIVE, CAMOUFLAGE, OMD and THE CURE.
The Electricity Club spoke to him about his career to date DAYBREAKERS, KOISHII & HUSH and a whole lot more…
All the projects you have been involved with are largely associated with a dance friendly sound, what sort of clubs, DJs and environments influenced your approach to music?
Good question. I suppose I would say I was shaped by the music I grew up listening to in the 80s and to this day. In Toronto, there was a station called CFNY which played a ton of new wave and house tracks that were hugely influential. After that, people like Judge Jules, Pete Tong, Armin Van Buuren etc, all had a big influence with the tracks they played.
Who were the artists that you grew up loving?
ERASURE, NEW ORDER, DEPECHE MODE, PET SHOP BOYS, DEAD OR ALIVE, THE CULT, THE CURE, DURAN DURAN and many more. Even artists that only had one or two songs made an impact. I suppose for most people, if you liked one of the bands I mentioned, you more than likely listened to all of them.
So you love songs and you love remixes?
I do. I am no different than anyone when it comes to remixes. Sometimes a remix will turn a good track into a great track and other times I may not love the remix that was done. When it comes to remixes, fans can be very passionate and very opinionated and I am no different.
Who are your favourite remixers?
So many great ones but off the top of my head, the ones that I really like(d) are Shep Pettibone, Matt Darey, Tin Tin Out, Mark Saunders, Ferry Corsten. Any time their names appear you know you are getting something special.
Your first big name remix as DAYBREAKERS was ‘Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way’ for U2, there were a lot of remixes commissioned for that, what was your approach to make it distinct?
For that mix, we wanted to try something with a bit of a deeper vibe to it while using the vocals in a unique way. We did two mixes and Bono really liked the ‘main’ mix and had an idea for an extra vocal. So he recorded it and sent it over and we incorporated it into the final mix which we were really pleased about. Nice to have his input and something unique.
How did you feel when MADONNA came calling for ‘I Rise’? Did you get to find out what she thought of your mix?
Just to work on U2 and MADONNA tracks was a thrill. We got the MADONNA mix right after the U2 one and it was a lot of fun to work on also. Because of the style of song, we took that in a different direction and was glad she and her team were happy with it. No, we never got any direct feedback from her, but we were honoured that our mix was one of the ones chosen to be included on the RSD vinyl release.
DAYBREAKERS have produced a remix for ERASURE’s new single ‘Hey Now (I Think I Got A Feeling)’, do remixers get set a brief or is the point of being involved is that you are given artistic freedom?
I suppose that would depend on the project. We have never been given any sort of guidelines for a remix, but on occasion I have asked the label if they have any sort of direction for the mix. That can save a lot of time if you start out doing a mix in style a) and they really had style b) in mind. Other than that though, we have never had any sort of restrictions or template given to us.
The ERASURE mix was a lot of fun. We started out making a very progressive house sound and it was sounding good but neither Ric nor myself thought it was truly capturing the feel of the original. We completed that and set it aside, during which time Ric came up with a cool idea of a ‘pop’ mix, which ended up morphing into the final mix you hear now.
‘Marigold’ by the NEW ORDER offshoot SHADOWPARTY was another track remixed by DAYBREAKERS, would you like to be asked to work on an actual NEW ORDER song one day?
Yes! That is definitely on our bucket list! ‘Marigold’ was a great track to work on. Loved the original and having known Tom and Phil from NEW ORDER and BAD LIEUTENANT and getting to know Josh, doing a mix for them seemed like a no brainer. They are very passionate about what they do and great musicians.
Speaking of NEW ORDER, you worked with Gillian Gilbert on ‘Lifetime’ in KOISHII & HUSH, how did that come together?
I have been friends with NEW ORDER management for ages, and when we sat down to come up with our dream collaborators list, Gillian was on it.
Her vocals on THE OTHER TWO project are so good, we had to get her singing something for us, so we pitched the idea and luckily, she agreed! The entire NEW ORDER camp are great.
KOISHII & HUSH were known for using some unusual vocalists as in artists who were not known for singing. Had that been a conscious concept or did it evolve naturally?
Hmmmm. I don’t think we ever set out to make a ‘non singers’ list – it just kind of happened. We did have a running list of people we wanted to work with just because we thought the combinations would be unique and quite cool, but it was not really a concerted effort. I would say that of all the people we approached, we got about 90% of them on board. We still have many unreleased K&H tracks that will see the light of day at some point.
One example was DURAN DURAN’s John Taylor and ‘C’est Tout Est Noir’, what inspired the collaboration?
Well both Simon and I were fans of DURAN DURAN and I knew John had done stuff on his own and always liked his style. His track ‘I Do What I Do’ from the ‘9½ Weeks’ soundtrack really stood out in my mind and he considers ‘C’est Tout Est Noir’ a follow-up to that song, which is very cool.
‘C’est Tout Est Noir’ had a superb remix by Mark Reeder, when you write and produce a song, can you get “possessive” about things or does your experience allow you to remain objective?
Yes and no. Like I mentioned before, I can have the same reactions to remixes as anyone. What I do try and do though is remove myself from the equation and listen to it as someone not involved, which is not always easy to do. If you love a remix someone has done of your work, then great. If at first it is not really grabbing you, you need to think “ok, maybe this is not MY style but it might be for someone else”.
To be honest, I can only think of one occasion ages ago where a remix was submitted and we were not enamoured with it, but as it was not ‘our’ sound, who were we to judge? In Mark’s case, yes, it’s a great mix and we were thrilled to have him involved. I know John really liked his mix too and used it as the backing track on a vlog he made flying from London to LA.
The KOISHII & HUSH track ‘Rules & Lies’ was sung by Sarah Blackwood, what was she like to work with?
Total diva. LOL just kidding! She was great. Super sweet and did a great job on the writing and vocals. We met with Sarah at a coffee shop in London and hit it off right away. We were thrilled to have her involved because I had been such a huge fan of DUBSTAR. She is an underrated talent and would love to work with her again.
Is the album dying art? In the dance environment where there is less focus on the long player format?
It certainly seems that way, which I think is unfortunate. With so much of music being based on quick hits on social media, and with songs getting shorter to take advantage of streaming services, I think the whole experience that an album used to bring is gone. It obviously started with the ‘death’ of the CD and it has only gotten worse. Music seems to be the only instance where this seems to happen. You don’t watch bits of a movie or only read a few chapters of a book…
You’ve remixed DURAN DURAN, PET SHOP BOYS, YAZOO, INXS, WHEN IN ROME and B-MOVIE among others in your various guises, do you have any particular favourites from your career?
Oh sure. The remix of INXS’ ‘Need You Tonight’ was a big one and I think it still holds up to this day. ‘Storm In A Teacup’ for ERASURE and others, but it’s tough to pick out individual ones. They are all different and hopefully special to the listener in their own way.
Is there anyone else who you would really like to work with or remix?
I would really like to remix DEPECHE MODE or A-HA. I know we would love to work with a bunch of other people but I am not going to mention any names in case I jinx something 😊
What’s next for DAYBREAKERS or anything else you are working on?
We have our first single signed to a label and that will be coming out soon. We are really excited about this one. We think it sounds great and hopefully others think so too!
The Electricity Club gives its grateful thanks to Alex Hush
DURAN DURAN were described by The Guardian in 2015 as “an electronic band with a heavy rock guitarist bolted on”.
Meanwhile, Greek duo MARSHEAUX added that “Synthpop is a lot of other things, not just a synthesizer. Apart from the music, there is also the attitude in a band. Υou can tell DURAN DURAN’s debut is synthpop, even if there are real drums, bass and guitar on all tracks”. Influences like ROXY MUSIC, DAVID BOWIE, KRAFTWERK, GIORGIO MORODER, JAPAN and THE HUMAN LEAGUE helped them gain the support of synth aficionados.
DURAN DURAN were founded by Birmingham boys John Taylor and Nick Rhodes; in his book ‘In The Pleasure Groove: Love, Death and Duran Duran’, Taylor remembered: “Seeing THE HUMAN LEAGUE for the first time was a turning point. Nick and I saw them supporting SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES at the Mayfair Ballroom in the Bullring shopping centre and watched in amazed silence. They had no drummer. No guitars. They had three synthesisers and a drum machine instead. So Nick’s mum, Sylvia, made a £200 investment: the first Wasp synthesizer to arrive in Birmingham…”
While 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, the bottom line of DURAN DURAN’s enduring appeal is great timeless pop songs.
However, as with all great bands, there were creative tensions, particularly when Simon Le Bon and Nick Rhodes’ artier aspirations conflicted with Andy and John Taylor’s more straightforward musical approach.
But legend has it that Andy Taylor would deliberately write songs in a key that the limited but passionate voice of Le Bon would struggle with; this came to a head with ‘The Wild Boys’, a song that the Northumberland guitarist wrote “in E” and apparently insisted was “staying in f***ing E”! Later, Le Bon retaliated in kind with the line “who really gives a damn for a flaky bandit?” in ‘Notorious’.
Now just about everyone knows DURAN DURAN’s massive hit singles like ’Planet Earth’, ‘Girls On Film’, ‘Hungry Like The Wolf’, ‘Save A Prayer’, ‘Rio’, ‘The Reflex’, ‘The Wild Boys’, ‘A View To A Kill’, ‘Notorious’, ‘Ordinary World’ and ‘Come Undone’ even if they don’t like them. But what of the lost jewels tucked away on albums or B-sides and artistic diversions that might also deserve a mention?
With a restriction of one song per album project, this is not a best of list or a history of the band. Friends of mine, this is The Electricity Club’s own Beginner’s Guide to the work of DURAN DURAN…
DURAN DURAN Late Bar (1981)
When The Electricity Club asked John Taylor when he knew DURAN DURAN would trump SPANDAU BALLET, he replied “To Cut A Long Story Short”! Although ‘Planet Earth’, produced by Colin Thurston, was the debut hit that launched DURAN DURAN to the world, it was the B-side ‘Late Bar’ that affirmed their songwriting chops and potential for longevity while Andy Taylor showed his worth as a guitarist. Clocking in at less than three minutes, this celebration of night life was vibrant, energetic and confident.
Although written acoustically, the arrangement of ‘The Chauffeur’ began with Nick Rhodes programming a Roland TR808 and layering up with his synths, particularly those from the Jupiter family. The lyrics came from a poem written in 1978 by Simon Le Bon who also provided some windy ocarina, while the barely audible closing monologue was sourced from a natural history documentary on insects. In 1995, a bizarre update was recorded as ‘Drive By’ for their best forgotten covers album ‘Thank You’.
Available on the DURAN DURAN album ‘Rio’ via EMI Records
DURAN DURAN Secret Oktober (1983)
Third album ‘Seven & The Ragged Tiger’ yielded a No1 single in a Nile Rodgers remix of ‘The Reflex’ but overall, it was an over produced disappointment in the shadow of Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’. Tucked away on the B-side of ‘Union Of The Snake’, this atmospheric ballad from the sessions turned out to be the most synth led recording under the DURAN DURAN name and showcased more esoteric influences. In hindsight, ‘Secret Oktober’ now sounds like the start of the ARCADIA project…
John and Andy Taylor became disillusioned with the growing reliance on technology within DURAN DURAN and wanted to venture more into rock with THE POWER STATION. With CHIC’s Bernard Edwards and Tony Thompson coming on board respectively as producer and drummer, the sound developed a rhythmic funk edge. The idea had been to use guest vocalists but after Robert Palmer recorded ‘Communication’, he wanted to do more. ‘Some Like It Hot’ with its stabbing horn section was the combo’s dynamic debut single.
DURAN DURAN had more or less split up, but the two factions reconvened to record the theme to ‘A View To A Kill’, the fourteenth film in the James Bond franchise. Co-written with John Barry and produced by Bernard Edwards, Roger Taylor’s heavy percussive template owed more to THE POWER STATION while the staccato influence of THE ART OF NOISE was also lurking. The song was a triumph but following a strained performance at Live Aid, Roger and Andy Taylor exited the band…
Available on the DURAN DURAN album ‘Greatest’ via EMI Records
ARCADIA Goodbye Is Forever (1985)
In response to THE POWER STATION, ARCADIA was Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes and Roger Taylor’s attempt to be JAPAN, although the songs were smothered in an esoteric pond of self-indulgence. However, one of the songs that did show promise was ‘Goodbye Is Forever’, a steadfast art funk number that pointed to where DURAN DURAN would eventually head with the ‘Notorious’ album. It is possibly one of the more under rated tracks in DURAN DURAN history.
When Robert Palmer declined to tour with THE POWER STATION, his place was taken by Michael Des Barres who afterwards, was offered a soundtrack opportunity for a new risqué film called ‘9½ Weeks’. ‘I Do What I Do’ was written by Des Barres with John Taylor and producer by Jonathan Elias but was originally intended to be sung by Canadian singer Lisa Dalbello. After she declined, Taylor took the lead vocal, adding his own Bowie-esque tones to proceedings.
Available on the soundtrack album ‘9½ Weeks’ (V/A) via Capitol Records
DURAN DURAN Winter Marches On (1986)
The remaining trio attempted to get Andy Taylor back into DURAN DURAN, but the matter ended up in litigation. The guitarist did end up contributing to ‘A Matter Of Feeling’ and ‘American Science’ while the album’s remaining six string duties fell to MISSING PERSONS’ Warren Cuccurullo and producer Nile Rodgers. Although the album is noted for the funkier vibes of the title song and ‘Skin Trade’, as the title suggests, ‘Winter Marches On’ was a solemn synth laden art piece reminiscent of ARCADIA, only much better.
Available on the DURAN DURAN album ‘Notorious’ via EMI Records
DURAN DURAN All She Wants Is (1988)
With new producers Jonathan Elias and Daniel Abraham on board, the ‘Big Thing’ album saw a more programmed electronic approach for the three piece, with a drum machine being used for writing purposes and John Taylor putting aside his bass guitar. One of the results was ‘All She Wants Is’, possibly the closest DURAN DURAN have come to replicating the robotic overtures of KRAFTWERK. It gained the band a surprise UK Top 10 hit in early 1989, but their fortunes were beginning to wane…
Available on the DURAN DURAN album ‘Big Thing’ via EMI Records
DURAN DURAN None Of The Above (1993)
After the lame plod rock of the underwhelming ‘Liberty’ album in 1990, live guitarist Warren Cuccurullo joined DURAN DURAN as a full member and was inspirational in revitalising the remaining trio. Setting up a home studio is Cuccurullo’s Battersea home and pushing for back-to-basics songwriting, the huge hits ‘Ordinary World’ and ‘Come Undone’ were birthed. The beat-laden jam of ‘None Of The Album’ was another of the highlights from ‘The Wedding Album’ and even earned its own single release in Japan.
By 1997, DURAN DURAN were in trouble; John Taylor had left halfway through recording the ‘Medazzaland’ album while end product was only released in the US, resulting in the end of the band’s tenure with EMI. Touted as the first song available for digital purchase on the internet, with Rhodes penned lyrics about falling in love with a robot, the deviant ‘Electric Barbarella’ was a close relative to ‘Hold Back The Rain’, with screeching guitars alongside the processed electronics.
Available on the DURAN DURAN album ‘Greatest’ via EMI Records
THE DEVILS Big Store (2002)
Stephen Duffy had been the original DURAN DURAN vocalist but left in 1979. 20 years on, Duffy found a recording of a concert from his days in the band and following a chance meeting with Nick Rhodes, suggested re-recording some of those pre-Le Bon songs using vintage instruments and the original lyrics. Entitled ‘Dark Circles’, an album highlight was the superb ‘Big Store’ which came over like a camp Iggy Pop over synth backing that exuded a hint of Giorgio Moroder.
Available on THE DEVILS album ‘Dark Circles’ via Tape Modern
TV MANIA Euphoria (2003)
TV MANIA was Nick Rhodes and Warren Cuccurullo’s on/off side project formed in 1995. Rhodes described it as a “social junk culture triptych opera”, but despite its more experimental nature using TV sound samples, some of the tracks ended up on ‘Medazzaland’. The project was abandoned after Cuccurullo left DURAN DURAN following the reunion of the classic-up and ‘Euphoria’ was made a free download by the guitarist. But after the DAT masters were found by Rhodes, an album was finally released in 2013.
After the classic line-up reunited for a highly successful world tour in 2004, they entered the studio for their first album together since ‘Seven & The Ragged Tiger’. However, the long awaited long player ‘Astronaut’ did not meet expectations, with far too many producers like Nile Rodgers, Dallas Austin and Don Gilmore involved. But the album’s lead single ‘Sunrise’ and second song ‘Want You More!’ managed to recapture some of that bouncy old DURAN DURAN magic.
Available on the DURAN DURAN album ‘Astronaut’ via Sony Music
FERRY CORSTEN featuring SIMON LE BON Fire (2005)
Ferry Corsten’s association with DURAN DURAN began when he reworked ‘Sunrise’ into a banging largely instrumenatal club track! Having worked with Marc Almond and Howard Jones, the Dutch producer’s work, which first came to wider attention as SYSTEM F, often highlighted the spiritual connection between trance and Synth Britannia. ‘Fire’ was based around ‘Serious’, one of the few reasonable tracks from the ‘Liberty’ album, although the vocals were re-recorded by Le Bon.
Available on the FERRY CORSTEN album ‘L.E.F.’ via Flashover Recordings
DURAN DURAN The Valley (2007)
An album entitled ‘Reportage’ was shelved by Sony, leading to Andy Taylor leaving for the second time. At the suggestion of the label, the involvement of Timbaland and Justin Timberlake in ‘Red Carpet Massacre’ confused fans and critics alike. According to Roger Taylor, Sony wanted to make something “a bit pop” and forced them to collaborate with Timbaland. While the album was another mixed bag, the synth heavy pulse of ‘The Valley’ was a terrific standout and even featured an unexpected bass solo from John Taylor.
MARK RONSON & THE BUSINESS INTL featuring SIMON LE BON Record Collection (2010)
Producer Mark Ronson had been mining classic horn filled soul arrangements to achieve fame for himself, despite being reliant on guest vocalists. For ‘Record Collection’, he dumped the brass and took an interest in vintage synths. With Ronson himself taking the deadpan lead vocal, Simon Le Bon sang almost ironically in the chorus, “I only want to be in your record collection and I’d do anything it takes just to get there!” – this collaboration was to prove to be key for both parties…
Produced by Mark Ronson, the New York based Londoner was keen to see DURAN DURAN reclaim their quintessential sound. Recalling the wonderful ambience of ‘Tel Aviv’ from the first album and the haunting spectre of ‘The Chauffeur’, the moody ‘The Man Who Stole A Leopard’, aided dreamily by songstress Kelis and with string arrangements by Owen Pallett, was just one of the songs which affirmed Nick Rhodes’ assertion that the album ‘All You Need Is Now’ was “undoubtedly one of the strongest of our career”.
KOISHII & HUSH featuring JOHN TAYLOR C’est Tout Est Noir – Black Night Remix (2013)
‘C’est Tout Est Noir’ by dance duo KOISHII & HUSH featured John Taylor on lead vocals, but its best incarnation came courtesy of Berlin based remixer Mark Reeder who recalled: “At first, I thought he would be playing bass guitar on the track, but then to my surprise he was the vocalist. He has a great voice and I really liked the track. The original is quite trancey and so I wanted to make it more cinematic and add some guitar and extra bass. John loved it…”
Available on the MARK REEDER album ‘Collaborator’ (V/A) via Factory Benelux
DURAN DURAN Face For Today (2015)
As in 1995 with the release of the covers turkey ‘Thank You’ to follow-up ‘The Wedding Album’, DURAN DURAN stole defeat from the jaws of victory with the gloriously under par ‘Paper Gods’. In an attempt to get down with Da Kidz, the excruciatingly painful dance anthem ‘Last Night In The City’ was a particular low point. However, at least they proved they still had it with ‘Face For Today’, a catchy synth laden number in the vein of the classic DURAN DURAN people knew and loved.
Available on the DURAN DURAN album ‘Paper Gods’ via Warner Bros Records
DURAN DURAN 2017 live dates include:
Rancho Mirage Agua Caliente Resort (17th-18th March), Dallas Music Hall at Fair Park (21st March), Houston Smart Financial Center at Sugar Land (22nd March), Sao Paulo Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace (25th-26th March), Belo Horizonte BH Hall (29th March), Buenos Aires Hippodrome de San Isidro (1st April), Santiago Parque O’ Higgins (2nd April), Florida Hard Rock Live (5th April), Atlanta Chastain Park Amphitheatre (8th April)
Mark Reeder has carved out an impressive reputation for his catalogue of fine remixes.
When Mark Reeder spoke to The Electricity Club in 2011 about his remixing style, he said: “I’m old school. I like to still be able to hear the song, but give it my own signature and atmosphere, while at the same time use as many of the original elements as possible”.
He had moved to West-Berlin from Manchester in 1978, having become fascinated by the artistic diversity of the city and was Factory Records representative in Germany between 1978 to 1982. He is credited with introducing Bernard Sumner to the world of electronically propelled dance music, thus being instrumental in the development of NEW ORDER’s influential hybrid sound.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Reeder had great success with his electronic dance music record label Masterminded For Success (MFS). For the last few years, Reeder has been heavily involved in a documentary film about his adopted home city:
“’B-Movie (Lust & Sound in West-Berlin)’ is about the forgotten city of West-Berlin during the 80s. When the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, not only did communist East Germany cease to exist, but the walled-in island of West-Berlin did too. Most people have forgotten, or have no idea how the city was back then. In ‘B-Movie’, I guide the viewer through this decade, but as the film is also about my life in this city too, I show you some of the things I saw and experienced during the 1980s, while participating in what has now become, the legendary subkultur of West Berlin.”
In a break from his hectic worldwide schedule promoting ‘B-Movie (Lust & Sound in West-Berlin)’, Mark Reeder kindly gave The Electricity Club an insightful commentary into the tracks that shaped his own musical career.
DIE UNBEKANNTEN Radio War (1981)
Reeder formed DIE UNBEKANNTEN with Alistair Gray when he settled in West-Berlin.
We were actually given the name DIE UNBEKANNTEN by a journalist, who saw our feeble first gig at the SO36. That gig was supposed to have been just a one-off, but he was surprisingly impressed and thought we were very avant-garde and apparently enjoyed our miserable performance.
In his magazine review of the event, he just called us two unknown Englishmen and from then on, people just called us DIE UNBEKANNTEN (“The Unknown”). A few weeks later, we played at the Genial Dilletanten Festival and were inadvertently presented as ‘Necropolis’, which was actually the title of our intro track. A while later, after Elisabeth Recker of Monogam Records witnessed what was probably our most chaotic performance – we were on acid – she believed we would fit perfectly with the abstract style of the rest of the artists on her record label.
Our Swiss friend Thomas Wydler became our drummer and we recorded a three track EP featuring ‘Radio War’, ‘Poseidon’ and ‘Casualties’.
The record not only sounded nothing like any of Monogam’s previous releases, but it also caused a lot of controversy because of my design for its front cover image (a photo depicting three East German border guards) and the striking Germanic style of type face which I had chosen.
Our second, and final DIE UNBEKANNTEN record, was much more electronic. By this time, Thomas had left us and joined DIE HAUT and we had gone back to using a drum machine and had also acquired some more electronic instruments. Our friend, Adrian Wright from THE HUMAN LEAGUE gave us a brand new drum computer to test for him.
He had actually been asked to try out a very early prototype Roland TR606, but couldn’t be bothered and so he gave it to us to trial for him, so along with the Transcendent 2000 (the very same one which Bernard Sumner had played in JOY DIVISION with) and a Moog that Klaus Schulze had also given us, we immediately went into the studio and recorded ‘Don’t Tell Me Stories’ for our ‘Dangerous Moonlight’ EP. This became the first record to feature a Roland TR606.
One of the bands who grabbed Reeder’s attention in West-Berlin were the uncompromising all-female combo MALARIA!
I already knew Bettina Koester and Gudrun Gut from their first band MANIA-D. Musically, their approach was so different from anything I had ever heard before, as the conventional rules of male dominated rock and roll didn’t apply to the way these girls made music at all and that was what made them so exciting.
They were no virtuosos, but that didn’t matter one bit, because it was exactly that ingredient which made their music so interesting. After Beate Bartel left MANIA-D to form LIAISONS DANGEREUSES, Gudrun and Bettina formed MALARIA! a five piece all-girl band and quite an international one too, being a mixture of German, American and Dutch.
Their striking, on-stage image, all dressed in black with bright red lips, is considered a Goth image nowadays; but back in the 80s, MALARIA! did it first, and after their debut appearance in London with THE BIRTHDAY PARTY, this image was obviously hi-jacked from them for the Robert Palmer video ‘Addicted To Love’, even to the point of making the emphasis that the girls in his video also couldn’t play their instruments.
At some point very early on, I became their manager. At that time, I was the only man allowed into their sphere, and because I knew what the band wanted to sound like live, I also became their sound engineer too and naturally, as I also had my own band, DIE UNBEKANNTEN, we became their support band.
The girls trusted me, they knew I understood their ideology and I liked their music and most importantly, I didn’t interfere.
Reeder’s own musical journey has to an extent, mirrored that of Bernard Sumner’s. DIE UNBEKANNTEN morphed into SHARK VEGAS to become a more electronic and disco friendly proposition.
After performing for nearly four years as DIE UNBEKANNTEN, we were asked by NEW ORDER if we would like to accompany them on their European tour after the success of ‘Blue Monday’.
We decided this would be a good moment to change our name and musical style, especially after adding two new members to our band. Besides, after our first disastrous London performance in the Barracuda Club, I thought DIE UNBEKANNTEN was much too difficult to pronounce outside of Germany, as people thought we were called DIE UNBEKANNTEN as in “Death Unbekannten” and so we urgently needed a new name and image.
Me and my partner-in-crime, Alistair Gray just threw a few ideas together one night and SHARK VEGAS became our name. I wanted something obscure sounding that didn’t actually mean anything apart from it being our band name.
Al and I were huge fans of pulsating electronic dance music – most probably since ‘I Feel Love’ – and the small Berlin underground gay-disco scene, which ran parallel to the abstract avant-garde scene, was the place to go and always a great way to spend a late Friday and Saturday night, before finally crashing and burning in the Risiko club.
Besides, musically, DIE UNBEKANNTEN had already been moving away from being depressive and miserable and had become much more electronic high energy disco too, so this tour proposal presented itself as a welcome opportunity to literally, regroup.
During a short break in the NEW ORDER tour, we went into Conny Plank’s studio with Bernard Sumner and recorded our first single ‘You Hurt Me’, but the session was a bit of a disaster, as the studio engineer had a slipped disc and was in terrible pain. He had to lie on a camp bed in front of the mixing desk and shout instructions up to us, while Conny Plank spent all his time playing table tennis in the yard outside. That single became FAC111.
‘Love Habit’ was one of the tracks we initially recorded during the session for the FacUS ‘Young, Popular & Sexy’ compilation. We were asked to perform ‘Love Habit’ for a video, for a special Berlin edition of ‘Music Box’, Britain’s first cable TV music show and using my US Army AFN contacts, I managed to get permission to make our video on the divided Glienickebrücke (the so-called ‘Bridge of Spies’). In the video, we appear as beaten up and tortured spies in raincoats, as if we had just been let out of an East German prison.
Unfortunately, the US army forgot to inform the Soviet Army that we were making a video on the bridge and so, on the East side there was a right flap on. They sent out East German patrol boats to find out what we were doing on the bridge. I guess they thought we were trying to provoke World War III. ‘Love Habit’ was intended to be an album track, but it became one of the last songs we recorded as SHARK VEGAS and it was never released, at least not until we included it on the recent ‘B-Movie’ soundtrack.
Released on East German state label AMIGA, DIE VISION’s ‘Torture’ was the last album to be recorded in communist East Berlin in 1989 and featured Reeder as producer.
I was invited by the band to be the producer for their debut album. At first it seemed incredible that they had actually managed to get the AMIGA to agree, as no-one from the West had ever been allowed in their state-run recording studio, let alone produce an album there.
It transpired that because the band were allowed officially to sing in English(ese), they agreed to let them have an English-speaking producer too. In reality, I later discovered, the STASI wanted to know what kind of subversive activity I was involved in, especially after helping to arrange two illegal and meanwhile legendary secret gigs with West German punk band DIE TOTEN HOSEN in East Berlin. So I guess this was their brilliant plan to keep a close watch on me.
DIE VISION’s singer Uwe, was studying English at the Humbolt University – to be able to do that, you had to speak fluent Russian too – and he was so very insistent that I come over and produce their album. So I did. What an opportunity. Now, forming a band in communist East Germany was very, very difficult. It was nothing like forming a band in the West.
You couldn’t just go into a shop and buy a guitar, bass and drums and bash away. Everything was controlled by the Communist state, especially music. Before you could play to the public, your ability was first considered, then your song lyrics scrutinised to see if there were any subversive hidden anti-state messages and even getting electric instruments was difficult, you needed permits to first buy and then one to play, an electric guitar in public.
Then as a band, you performed before a group of people, who would assess your proficiency. This determined if, when, or where you might be able to play, eg youth clubs and how much you would get paid. DIE VISION had quite a sudden rise in popularity in the East and rather than ban them, the Authorities decided to sign them, that way everything would be under control. That is, until I came along…
As we were making this album, the GDR was literally falling apart. It was very difficult making this album with a feeling of imminent doom hanging over the studio and with constant power fluctuations, people fleeing to the West and general grumbling unrest. I called the album ‘Torture’ because it was exactly that to make!
Available on the DIE VISION album ‘Torture’ via AMIGA / Zong & Vulture Records
PAUL VAN DYK Words – Original Version radio edit by Paul van Dyk, Wolfgang Ragwitz + Mark Reeder (1996)
In 1990, Reeder established MFS and discovered Trance DJ PAUL VAN DYK…
One of my first artists on MFS, COSMIC BABY made some great records, but DJs kept complaining that they couldn’t play them because he always had DJ-unfriendly intros. I suggested he find a DJ who could help him to construct DJ friendly intros to his tracks.
One night, Cosmic was performing live in the Turbine club. One of the warm up DJs was a young lad called PAUL VAN DYK. The two hit it off almost immediately and I suggested that Paul come to the office the following Monday to discuss working with Cosmic. Paul told me he was from Hamburg, but it later turned out he was originally from Eisenhuettenstadt in deepest East Germany, but had moved to East Berlin before applying to leave East Germany for Hamburg shortly before the wall came down.
I was actually very happy to hear he was from East Germany, because that was my initial intention with MFS to create a platform for young Eastie kids; he was my first. One night, he came to me while I was working in my bar and begged me to help him to become a professional DJ.
He was working as an apprentice carpenter at that time and absolutely hated it. I told him, if he would promise me that he would work hard to be the best DJ in the world, then I would help him to achieve his goal. I told him there were no prizes for second best.
I put him in the studio with Cosmic and they recorded two amazing singles together as THE VISIONS OF SHIVA. Then I let him remix HUMATES’s track ‘Love Stimulation’ and that remix attracted a lot of attention. I knew from the start that he could do it simply because he was ambitious enough. He didn’t know it at that time of course, because his talent had to be coaxed out of him. By giving him a platform and motivation and the help of Johnny Klimek’s studio, he was able to discover his own music making talent.
Of course, I believed absolutely in Paul and invested everything, love, creativity, all my time and effort and all I had in propelling him onto an international stage. I guided and advised him, compiled and mastered his records, designed his covers and basically created the legend of PAUL VAN DYK. I used my contacts and credibility to get him high profile remixes, such as ‘Spooky’ by NEW ORDER and even answered his interviews, anything which would enhance his credibility, profile and status.
Sadly, once he had reached the brink of DJ superstardom, he decided he no longer needed me and ditched me without a word of thanks.
SAM TAYLOR-WOOD & PET SHOP BOYS I’m In Love With A German Filmstar – Stuck In The 80s remix (2008)
The ‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’ film director recorded a number of covers with her favourite pop duo like ‘J T’aime… Moi Non Plus’, ‘Love To Love You Baby’ and this new wave classic…
Neil and Chris asked me to do this remix after hearing the mix I had made of ‘Miracle Cure’ featuring Bernard Sumner for BLANK & JONES. It was quite thrilling being asked to do this song, as I’ve always loved the original.
The PET SHOP BOYS / SAM TAYLOR-WOOD version was more minimalistic and techno sounding though, so I thought I would make mine more retro-modern-disco sounding.
I thought, as its going to be released on Kompakt, they are probably going to have banging techno remixes done anyway. I know they were completely surprized at the label to hear it, because they really expected me to make some sort of cheesy trance mix. It is such an iconic and mystical song though, and I was worried I would be able to do it justice as a dance track. I made three different versions, a long mix and two shorter mixes and all in 5.1 surround sound, which I put on ‘Five Point One’.
I was very pleased when Sam said she thought it was “wicked” and totally relieved that the Boys also liked it too. But when THE PASSIONS contacted me themselves, to tell me that they really loved it, well, that was like a stone being lifted from my heart.
BLANK & JONES, MARK REEDER Manifesto – Save Yourself Mix (2009)
Reeder collaborated with popular German dance duo BLANK & JONES on a restyling project entitled ‘ReOrdered’ which featured Bernard Sumner, Robert Smith and Claudia Brücken. But one of the album’s highlights was ‘Manifesto’ featuring Vanessa Daou.
‘Manifesto’ was actually the third track of Vanessa’s that I reworked for ‘ReOrdered’. The first was ‘Consequences’.
I really liked her voice and her lyrics though and I asked BLANK & JONES if I could rework another track, that was ‘Heart Of Wax’. After that, the idea for ‘ReOrdered’ was born and I would go on to rework all BLANK & JONES’ vocal-dance tracks into songs, it was a bit like back engineering a remix. The first two tracks were quite soft, so I wanted ‘Manifesto’ to be a little tougher and sound more like a nu-beat track with trippy elements.
Available on the BLANK & JONES, MARK REEDER album ‘ReOrdered’ via Soundcolours
BAD LIEUTENANT Sink Or Swim – Rettungstring Radio remix (2010)
Prior to the recent return of NEW ORDER sans Hooky, Bernard Sumner had an interim, guitar led project BAD LIEUTENANT. However, many followers of NEW ORDER missed the sound Sumner had become synonymous for.
After Hooky decided to leave NEW ORDER, I think Bernard needed some distance and formed BAD LIEUTENANT, together with Jake Evans and the remaining members of NEW ORDER.
Jake is such a talented person and a brilliant guitarist – he’s definitely one to watch in the future. I really liked the parent album ‘Never Cry Another Tear’, it’s a wonderful summer album and I think it is very underrated.
I was given the opportunity to do some remixes for them and decided to rework their guitar tracks into electronic dance versions. ‘Sink Or Swim’ was the first and I think I made about six different versions of this track, Bernard took the piss out of me for the amount of mixes we made. The song had been performed live and so the tempo varied within the song from the start to finish, which made it a bloody nightmare to mix into a 4/4 dance track.
To make it sound organic, we had to take all the instruments and slice them up and then carefully put them back together again by hand. It was a mammoth task and at the time, I thought “I never want to have to do that again”.
After ‘Sink Or Swim’, we mixed ‘Twist Of Fate’, which I also made about four or so mixes. The same time consuming slice and move ritual applied as with ‘Sink Or Swim’. As the remixes were only released digitally, I decided to include some of them on my ‘Five Point One’ album, and later, ‘Collaborator’.
Available on the MARK REEDER remix album ‘Collaborator’ via Factory Benelux
JOHN FOXX Underpass – Sinister Subway remix (2010)
Reeder’s reworking of JOHN FOXX’s calling card was mighty and he relished the challenge.
JOHN FOXX was putting together the ‘Metatronic’ compilation album and I was in contact with his manager about something different entirely. During our conversation, he told me about the compilation and I said jokingly that I could do a remix perhaps, as a bonus track.
Well, after they had listened to a few of my remixes, he called and asked me if I would like to remix ‘Underpass’. My studio partner Micha Adam and I couldn’t believe it. It was a dream come true. No-one had ever been allowed to remix this legendary song before and so it was such an honour. Then the reality set in. If I balls this up, the fans will lynch me.
Being a huge fan of the song myself, I decided I could only do it as I would want it to sound myself. Yet I didn’t want to drive too far away from the original though either and wanted to keep as many elements in there as possible.
I was sent the parts, eight tracks in all… but that iconic massive synth riff was missing. All I had been given was the riff, played by a small tinny sounding synth. Well, that was it. I realised, the huge reverb sound was added live, during the mix-down and so we had to reconstruct it.
I recalled what kind of instrumentation and effects they might have used back then and dug out my old Space Echo. Once we had reconstructed the original version, we made a 5.1 mix of it (it is a hidden Easter Egg on ‘Five Point One’). Then, I remixed it. I made three versions, a short radio mix in stereo and 5.1 plus a longer Sinister Subway mix for the ‘Metatronic’ compilation album.
Available on the JOHN FOXX album ‘Metatronic’ via Metamatic Records
Cult goth icon ANNE CLARK is an English poet, who sets her poems to music and is probably more well-known outside of the UK.
Anne is truly a great artist. I first met her when she played in Berlin after recording ‘Sleeper In Metropolis’ with David Harrow, who lived in Berlin at that time. This timeless track is one of my all-time favourite 80s songs and it became almost like an anthem to the divided city, especially so to the kids in the East.
She was (and still is) absolutely adored in the East, mainly because her dark and descriptive poetry set to music, clearly struck a chord with them and it was something they all could identify with. Side two of her first album was recorded with Vini Reilly of THE DURUTTI COLUMN.She kept with the electronic side and made her second album with JOHN FOXX. Over the years, she has cultivated her poetry with a wide variety of musical sounds from Synthetic to Rock to Classical.
After a chance meeting a few years ago, when she performed in the Russian embassy in Berlin, I reworked the track ‘The Hardest Heart’ she had made for BLANK & JONES for our ‘ReOrdered’ album and then I remixed two of her tracks ‘Full Moon’ and ‘If’ in 5.1 surround sound for my ‘Five Point One’ album,
DEPECHE MODE Sweetest Perfection – Sweetest Conception remix (2011)
Reeder was given the opportunity to rework a track from the iconic ‘Violator’ album by Daniel Miller.
Like ‘Underpass’, this was almost reverential territory. Depeche were putting together the ‘Remixes 2 81-11’ compilation and Daniel asked me if I would like to do a remix for it. By the time I had received the list of possible tracks to remix, all the most popular songs had been taken and so I was left with songs no-one dared to touch.
‘Sweetest Perfection’ was always one of my favourite tracks though and I thought it would be a real challenge to remix. Not only in terms of actually attempting to remix it, but with the thought that as a fan, how would I want it to sound and if I f*cked up, I would probably have to leave the planet.
We already had a really short deadline to finish the remix on and only three days into the mix, I got a call from my mother telling me that my dad had been rushed to hospital with a broken hip after being pushed over. The situation looked very serious, he was a very old man and the doctors didn’t give him much chance of survival. I had to down tools and fly over and consequently, I missed the deadline for submitting my remix for the DM album.
Fortunately, I was in the process of putting ‘Five Point One’ together and decided to finish the remix anyway and asked Daniel if I could license it for my album. He spoke with the band and they said I could (I was told it was the first time a previously unreleased DM song had ever appeared on another album) and as we were looking for images to accompany the 5.1 mixes, Anton Corbijn kindly gave me one of his old, unseen photos of the band for me to use.
I wanted my remix to retain as many of the original elements as possible, but I added extra strings, more swirling synths and a real bass guitar, as well as my own little riff with a broken piano which I hoped would make it sound a bit more Eastern European.
Reeder took a liking to stop / start Midlands duo ELECTROBELLE and delivered an edgier reimagining of ‘Falling’ before they belatedly got round to releasing it themselves officially in 2012!
I heard ‘Mirrorball’ by ELECTROBELLE on the 2009 ‘Electronically Yours’ compilation released by Undo Records. I really liked Charlotte’s vocal style and so I asked them if they would like to contribute a track to my ‘Five Point One’ album.
They sent me the parts of a demo track they had made and this became ‘Falling’. The idea for the ‘Five Point One’ album was to include remixes I had made for famous artists, coupled with lesser known ones and mix them all in 5.1 Dolby surround sound.
While busy remixing legends in synthesized pop, Reeder also kept an eye on newer acts that were emerging from Europe…
I had been a fan of Undo records, FOTONOVELA and MARSHEAUX for a while and after The Electricity Club posted a link to one of their tracks, I asked Chi if he could hook us up, as I thought that ‘So Close’ would fit in well on my ‘Five Point One’ album and asked them if I could remix it.
‘So Close’ had a melancholic element, but I wanted to give the song a more filmic feeling and make it even more melancholic, with sweeping strings and added bass guitar. Filmmaker Paul Morgens heard the track and immediately loved it. He made a great video for it made up of old footage he had found in his aunties archive.
Available on the MARSHEAUX deluxe album ‘Inhale’ via Undo Records
Düsseldorf punk veterans DIE TOTEN HOSEN have maintained a long standing kinship with Mark Reeder.
I have a long, close connection with Die Hosen. I first met Campino in Bochum. MALARIA! were playing a gig there and he was allocated as my driver. He told me about his new band DIE TOTEN HOSEN and about their hideous, but hilarious high-waisted flared trousers, which they bought by the kilo.
A couple of months later, I became their live sound engineer, and together with my rebelliously minded Eastie friends, I managed to help organise a very secret gig with them in an East-Berlin Church. It was disguised as a religious church service, a so-called Blues Mass. Although heavily monitored, the East German clergy was seen as a passive resistance movement against the communist government and although not officially acknowledged, they were tolerated and thus had a certain amount of flexibility within the system. That way we could arrange our secret gig there using this loophole.
DIE UNBEKANNTEN went on tour with DIE TOTEN HOSEN and one of the highlights was performing in the Kogasz club, in the Karl-Marx-University in Budapest. It was supposed to have been a top secret gig in the Young Artists club to a few music lovers, organised by photographer Janos Veto, but so many people eventually wanted to see the gig, that it was moved to the University.
During this tour we had many problems with our car. DIE TOTEN HOSEN were so sceptical our car would even survive the trip, they bet us a crate of beer, that we wouldn’t make it to Budapest.
We did, but had such a horror trip trying to get there, as our car kept breaking down. Upon our arrival in the University, Janos told us we couldn’t play!
The authorities had decided the gig was illegal and it had officially been pulled, but we thought we have come all this way so f*ck them and we did the gig anyway. After we had performed, someone stole our drum computer. We were paid in beer vouchers (Hungarian Forints) and had so much of it, we invited everyone in the YAC for drinks, as we couldn’t take the cash out of the country… I don’t remember much about that night after that.
‘Disco’ was a track off the DIE TOTEN HOSEN album ‘In Alle Stille’ and I thought it would be fun to make an Italo disco sounding mix of this track. The original is a fast paced, rock song and when we received the parts, we discovered there were about 40 guitar tracks. We had to apply the same procedure as with BAD LIEUTENANT in slicing and moving all the elements so that they would fit into the new tempo and yet still sound organic.
KOISHII & HUSH featuring JOHN TAYLOR C’est Tout Est Noir – Black Night Remix (2013)
‘C’est Tout Est Noir’ was the DURAN DURAN bassist’s best lead vocal since his solo single ‘I Do What I Do’ in 1986.
KOISHII & HUSH had made a remix for BAD LIEUTENANT’s ‘Twist of Fate’ and after telling me how much they liked my version, they asked me if I would like to remix their track ‘C’est Tout Est Noir’ which they had made together with DURAN DURAN bassist John Taylor.
At first, I thought he would be playing bass guitar on the track, but then to my surprise he was the vocalist. He has a great voice and I really liked the track. The original is quite trancey, so I wanted to make it more cinematic and add some guitar and extra bass. John loved it and immediately used my rough demo as his soundtrack to a vlog he’d made flying from Austria to LA.
Available on the MARK REEDER remix album ‘Collaborator’ via Factory Benelux
A stomping electro disco number produced by Reeder, Elizabeth Morphew’s cooing Bush-like howls and breathy euphoria were a total delight to the ears while the mighty cavernous sound provided the heat!
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.
Chi thought we might make a nice collaboration and so I got in touch with her to compliment her and she asked me to remix ‘Neon’ which eventually ended up on ‘Collaborator’. We then made a cover version together of Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’. I then wrote two songs ‘Suicide’ and ‘United’ for her debut album ‘Cocoon’.
Available on the QUEEN OF HEARTS deluxe album ‘Cocoon’ via Night Moves
WESTBAM featuring BERNARD SUMNER She Wants – Old School remix (2013)
Techno legend WESTBAM made his return with the impressive ‘Götterstrasse’ which featured Iggy Pop, Hugh Cornwell, Brian Molko and Lil Wayne. Naturally, Reeder reworked an excellent track featuring the vocals of Bernard Sumner.
My relationship with WESTBAM goes back to the early days when he was trying to establish himself as a DJ in Berlin. He played in the Metropol disco and towards the end of the 80s in the UFO club.
His involvement in the evolution of the Berlin Techno scene is reluctantly accepted, but arguably without his engagement, many things probably wouldn’t have happened. He was a vital participant in parties and events and was the first Berlin DJ to play in the Soviet Union.
While we were putting ideas for songs for ‘B-Movie’ together, he gave us a demo of ‘You Need The Drugs’ featuring Richard Butler of THE PSYCHEDLIC FURS. It was a great track and we all immediately loved it. He said he was making a songs album and would love to make a track with Bernard Sumner on vocals. He sent Bernard the demo and he really liked the track and agreed to do it. As thanks, I was given the opportunity to remix it which was perfect timing, as I was in the process of putting together my ‘Collaborator’ compilation for Factory Benelux and we could therefore give it a physical release on CD.
Available on the MARK REEDER remix album ‘Collaborator’ via Factory Benelux
MODERN FAMILY UNIT Mmh Mmh Aahh – Eyy & Aarrgghh remix (2015)
Reeder went back to Manchester to rework the local electro wave duo MFU and added some Berlin Burlesque groove.
Dave Haslam told me about MFU and that they would like a remix. They sent me ‘Mmh Mmh Aahh’ and I loved it. I don’t know why, but it reminded me somehow of early ROXY MUSIC. I wanted to make it a bit dancier, but retain its overall atmosphere and add a little bit of Berlin mystique with the zither.
Available on the single ‘Mmh Mmh Aahh’ via GaS Records
From the soundtrack to Reeder’s film ‘B-Movie’, it enabled him to soundtrack his memories of the divided city with a 21st century outlook. Modern technology helped the process…
During the ‘B-Movie’ editing process, we wanted to use the DAF track ‘Kebab Träume’ for the burning of the Berlin Wall birthday sequence, but after long and rather unproductive negotiations, they wouldn’t let us have it.
So I decided I would write a track myself, using only a couple of analogue sequencers and synths to accompany this great piece of footage by the incredible Knut Hoffmeister.
When NEW ORDER made their recorded return with ‘Music Complete’, Reeder was given the opportunity to rework some tracks and indirectly became part of their new live show.
I was asked if I would like to remix a track from the latest NEW ORDER album so I chose one of my favourite songs ‘Academic’, as it seemed like it was up for the challenge, being mainly a traditional style guitar track.
But while I was in Bucharest with ‘B-Movie’ and hanging out with CROWD CONTROL, I got an urgent call asking if I would be able to make a quick remix of ‘Singularity’. I raced back home and immediately started work on it.
It’s a great track and I really enjoyed remixing it. Which is fitting, Bernard was also so impressed with my ‘B-Movie’, that he asked me if NEW ORDER could use some footage for their backdrop video in their live shows.
This was so well received, that it then became the promo video clip for the ‘Singularity’ single. The even faster-cut images and theme of the song work really well together with the music.
When NEW ORDER performed recently in Berlin, I was very pleased to have the honour of introducing the band.
MARK REEDER has carved out an impressive reputation for his catalogue of fine remixes since the success of his electronic dance music record label MFS which launched the careers of internationally renowned DJs such as PAUL VAN DYK and COSMIC BABY.
He had moved to Berlin in 1978 having become fascinated by the artistic diversity of the city and was Factory Records’ representative in Germany between 1978 to 1982.
He also worked with bands such MALARIA! and DIE TOTEN HOSEN while simultaneously being part of cult duo DIE UNBEKANNTEN who later morphed into SHARK VEGAS and toured Europe with NEW ORDER.
His passionate attention to detail gained many notable admirers within the music industry.
So when Reeder focused on remixing at the start of the new century with his studio partner Micha Adam, he was given the opportunity to work with major artists such as JOHN FOXX, PET SHOP BOYS, DEPECHE MODE and BLANK & JONES.
As the man credited for introducing NEW ORDER to electronically propelled dance music, when MARK REEDER spoke to The Electricity Club in 2011, he said: “I’m old school. I like to still be able to hear the song, but give it my own signature and atmosphere, while at the same time use as many of the original elements as possible”. Reeder’s visceral approach provided a developmental enhancement to the music while retaining an all important degree of familiarity and accessibility. A number of these results ended up on his lush surround sound compilation package ‘Five Point One’ in 2011.To follow-up ‘Five Point One’, the revived Factory Benelux label have issued ‘Collaborator’, a new compendium of remixes and collaborations by the still Berlin-based Reeder.
A significant number of tracks feature his long-time friend Bernard Sumner who appears vocally in four guises with the songs reworked in a classic electronic style not really heard since NEW ORDER’s ‘Here To Stay’ in 2002 and ELECTRONIC with Johnny Marr. First, there are Reeder’s versions of BAD LIEUTENANT singles ‘Sink Or Swim’ and ‘Twist of Fate’ which are without doubt, more enjoyable that the guitar driven originals.
Meanwhile, the wonderful ‘Miracle Cure’ helmed by dance merchants BLANK & JONES could easily be mistaken for a NEW ORDER dance track in its Reeder interpretation. Best of all though is ‘She Wants’, Sumner’s most recent collaboration with WESTBAM – given an Old School Remix by Reeder, it does what its says on the tin.
However, the previously unreleased demo of ‘Crystal’ which Sumner first recorded with Reeder and Corvin Dalek is perhaps less essential but welcome, giving as it does, a very different Deep House view of the song from its ‘Get Ready’ rock out. But how marvellous it is to hear Sumner being given a synth driven backbone again? Now while his guitar has always been an essential ingredient to NEW ORDER, his tracks on ‘Collaborator’ are evidence if any that should the Manchester brand ever record new material again, not only should the direction be electronic but also, MARK REEDER should be behind the mixing desk as well.
‘Collaborator’ also highlights Reeder’s love of female fronted synthpop. Reeder’s So Close Remix of MARSHEAUX’s ‘So Far’ and a smooth Euro styled Sweet & Sticky rework of MARNIE’s ‘Sugarland’ both display an affinity with The Electricity Club’s own tastes. But things are then taken to the next level with his remix of QUEEN OF HEARTS’ ‘Neon’; TEC is pleased to say it assisted in bringing the two parties together and the resultant Electrically Excited Remix is a rich slice of euphoric electro schaffel that has been well worth the creative intervention.
The remaining collaborations are an interestingly eclectic bunch it has to be said. How many compilations can claim to bring together post-punk veteran Anne Clark, DURAN DURAN bassist John Taylor AND artist Sam Taylor-Wood?
Clark cuts her stern poetry on ‘The Hardest Heart’, a track originally reconfigured for Reeder’s ‘Reordered’ project with BLANK & JONES while Sam Taylor-Wood teams up with old pals PET SHOP BOYS for an extended retro restyling of THE PASSIONS’ I’m In Love With A German Film Star’.
John Taylor’s ‘C’est Tout Est Noir’ however is more intriguing being a recent offering with KOISHII & HUSH and the first lead vocal from the David Beckham of New Romantic since his solo single ‘I Do What I Do’ from the ‘9 ½ Weeks’ soundtrack in 1986.
Reeder’s Black Night Remix improves on the original, bringing with it a body of stark musicality as well as bringing out the moodier aspects of the song.
The conclusion of the album completes the circle of Reeder’s musical journey and goes back to DIE UNBEKANNTEN’s ‘Radio War’ from 1982 and SHARK VEGAS’ 1986 Factory Records release ‘You Hurt Me’. This pair of archive recordings actually shows how Reeder’s own musical journey has to an extent, mirrored that of Sumner’s.
Photo by Carlos Heinz
‘Radio War’ is more like JOY DIVISION, all doom laden, bass heavy and claustrophobic while ‘You Hurt Me’ produced by Bernard Sumner is characterised by the sort of New York disco sequence programming that made NEW ORDER famous. Both are interesting curios in the story of how Reeder has arrived here today.
In the excellent interview by John Cooper featured within the booklet liner notes, Reeder says: “I always want my remixes to be as recognisable as their original song. This is always my concern when making a remix”.
This CD only package (please take note record labels – vinyl is NOT everything!) is a fine catalogue of MARK REEDER’s career to date covering key aspects of classic and contemporary electronic pop.
‘Collaborator’ proves that the modern day club remix doesn’t have to be death by four-to-the-floor and can be a song oriented art form in itself.
With thanks to James Nice at Factory Benelux
‘Collaborator’ is available now on CD only via Factory Benelux from Amazon and other retail outlets
Some have questioned The Electricity Club’s endorsement of DURAN DURAN but the bottom line of their appeal is simply great timeless pop songs.
While that essential element has been crucial to their massive worldwide appeal, it has also been their fusion of influences such as ROXY MUSIC, DAVID BOWIE, KRAFTWERK, CHIC, SEX PISTOLS, GIORGIO MORODER, JAPAN and THE HUMAN LEAGUE that have made them more appealing than the average boy band and allowed them to cross over into the hearts of synth aficionados.
DURAN DURAN particularly took the arty poise of JAPAN, who had been wooing teenage girls in Japan itself, and toned down their androgynous outré to make it more accessible.
Keyboardist Nick Rhodes was essentially a David Sylvian clone and within his role, it was the burgeoning movement in post-punk Britain involving affordable synthesizers that was to prove crucial to the development of the band he founded with bassist John Taylor.
In his new autobiography ‘In The Pleasure Groove: Love, Death and Duran Duran’, John Taylor remembers: “Seeing THE HUMAN LEAGUE for the first time was a turning point. Nick and I saw them supporting SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES at the Mayfair Ballroom in the Bullring shopping centre and watched in amazed silence. They had no drummer. No guitars. They had three synthesisers and a drum machine instead. So Nick’s mum, Sylvia, made a £200 investment: the first Wasp synthesizer to arrive in Birmingham…”
Of course, this synthfluence went the full hog on their ‘Red Carpet Massacre’ tour in 2007-2008 with a mid-show electronic interlude. Performed in the style of KRAFTWERK, the set included covers of ‘Warm Leatherette’ and ‘Showroom Dummies’ as well as a Klingklang rework of their own ‘Last Chance On The Stairway’ and their most RFWK inspired number ‘All She Wants Is’. When The Electricity Club asked John Taylor about this and commented it was a refreshing change from acoustic sets, his swift reply was: “Yes, exactly… fun wasn’t it. Nick and I really hate those ‘oh so sensitive’ acoustic sets!”
The David Beckham of the New Romantic movement launched his book at London’s Leicester Square Theatre with a sold-out book reading and signing, where he was met by applause and cheers from ladies of a particular demographic who were quite clearly dumbstruck at being face-to-face with someone who had adorned their bedroom walls in their teens. There was excitement and anticipation, but it was quite apparent that these ladies were also into the music, something that is not always obvious with female fans of some bands.
But of course, it was this adulation that ultimately sent JT off the rails into a well documented misadventure of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll!
The book gives him a chance to tell his side of the story and to be honest, as outrageous and debauched some of these anecdotes are, it would have been difficult for most red-blooded men, thrust into the position he was at the age of 21, to have acted any differently…
John Taylor was a lanky bespectacled music geek called Nigel when he formed DURAN DURAN in 1978. He changed his name to the cooler John, while his pal Nicholas Bates felt the surname Rhodes (after the fashion designer Zandra and THE CLASH’s manager Bernie) would be slightly more aesthetically pleasing… after all, it’s not very nice to be called “Master Bates”.
Anyhow, they loved ROXY MUSIC, whose lavish aspirational demeanour was key to their appeal… the message being that an ordinary man, like son of a miner Bryan Ferry, really could attain and get to date Kari-Ann, the glamorous model who was the first ROXY MUSIC cover girl. JT also joked to the audience about Roxy’s peacock synthesist Brian Eno: “They had this keyboard player who just turned knobs… how the hell does that work??”
Despite Nick’s Wasp and latterly accquired Crumar Performer, a number of line-ups featuring clarinets and various lead singers proved fruitless although one girl who auditioned, Elayne Griffiths, suggested JT should wear contact lenses after he took off his glasses for a video shoot.
Luckily, the owners of the legendary Birmingham club The Rum Runner, the Berrow brothers believed in their potential. Michael Berrow even sold his flat to finance the band, such was his commitment. Drummer Roger Taylor had joined, but the turning point was the recruitment of guitarist Andy Taylor who was to become JT’s party partner–in-crime and drama student drop-out Simon Le Bon as vocalist.
Le Bon may not have had the greatest voice in the world but he had swagger and he had lyrics. He gave the fledgling band focus and the rest would become history. The albums ‘Duran Duran’ and ‘Rio’ would become big sellers with singles such as ‘Planet Earth’, ‘Girls On Film’, ‘Hungry Like The Wolf’ and ‘Save A Prayer’ while crucially, the band toured like there was no tomorrow, unlike their arch rivals SPANDAU BALLET.
The other advantage they had over them was their songwriting prowess. In fact, The Electricity Club asked JT what was the particular moment when he realised DURAN DURAN were going to blow away the Islington quintet; he gleefully answered: “To Cut A Long Story Short!”
A bit like in that scene at the start of ‘The Inbetweeners Movie’, when The Electricity Club left school, the Deputy Headmaster warned everyone to “beware of slow horses and fast women”…
JT most definitely ignored the latter and reaped all that was on offer; he was like a kid in a sweet shop.
In one of the evening’s book reading segments, JT told everyone over their smirks of laughter: “I had been a nerd at school, never had a regular girlfriend. Now, I had only to wink in a girl’s direction in a hotel lobby, backstage or at a record company party, and have company until the morning.”
Over time though, enjoying The Hokey Cokey, fast cars and even faster women took priority over the music… the book includes a recollection of JT having a hissy fit when asked to redo a bass part in Sydney for ‘Seven & The Ragged Tiger’, their multi-million selling but disappointing follow-up to ‘Rio’.
Is it any wonder that the quality of a band’s output diminishes once they find the trappings of success? Incidentally, the ‘Seven’ of the album’s title was the five band members plus the Berrow brothers (in case you thought they couldn’t count!) while ‘The Ragged Tiger’ was fame!
DURAN DURAN fragmented in 1986 following THE POWER STATION and ARCADIA side projects… there was even a JT solo single ‘I Do What I Do’! Eventually despite a 1993 renaissance, the band was left with just Le Bon and Rhodes and no Taylors when JT himself departed in early 1997.
But in 2000 following the disastrous ‘Pop Trash’ album, a social meet-up in LA with the three of them at JT’s pad led to the definitive line-up reuniting for a triumphant world tour in 2004. When you’ve got it, you might lose your way but if you can re-focus and get your demons conquered, you can get it back.
However, the below expectations comeback albums ‘Astronaut’ and ‘Red Carpet Massacre’ followed and although they lost Andy Taylor again and a record deal with Sony on the way, their persistent efforts bore artistic fruit with the superb 2011 album ‘All You Need Is Now’ released on Nick Rhodes’ Tape Modern imprint. JT admitted it took three albums to get it right and was gracious in his regret that Andy Taylor was not still in the band to make his distinct contribution.
Observing JT on stage without his bass and his bandmates was strange at first. But reading from a lectern in the style of a presidential address, he was articulate and came over as charming, humourous, and humble. He was also thankful he was still around to tell the tale. He talked about the passing of his parents and how the book had been inspired by the enormous family archive he had found when clearing up his childhood home.
He gamely accepted questions from the evening’s compere, book co-writer Tom Sykes and also the audience, some of whom endearingly could not contain themselves when actually speaking to their hero!
Entertaining and witty, this thoroughly enjoyable and well organised event was carried off with charisma and fun.
Meanwhile, the book itself is a very good, easy read. With a more than generous selection of archive photos, it provokes laughter, sadness, affection and raised eyebrows in equal measure.
One of the ingredients to a male popstar’s success is to make female fans fall in love with them and make male fans want to be them. While some observers may complain about how some bands fail to get recognition over others they consider less deserving, a lot of it can be pinned down to lack of engagement on the band’s part… consider the fact that a number of the bands from that New Romantic / Synth Britannia era did not really tour much back in the day, if at all.
John Taylor may have been excessive in his pursuit of the fringe benefits that came with success but he, like the rest of DURAN DURAN, pursued their dreams and made some very good records on the way.
As Simon Le Bon once remarked on the ‘Top Ten New Romantics’ documentary back in 1999: “Decadent DURAN DURAN? We weren’t, we were just hard working!”