Tag: Martin Gore (Page 1 of 4)

Vintage Synth Trumps with JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Were you a rocker?

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

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

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

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

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

That is true! *laughs*

Next card, it’s the ARP Odyssey…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The next card is the Korg 800DV…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another card, it’s a Korg Trident…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the next card is a Korg MS20…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How is the WHITE DOOR album coming along?

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

The final card is an ARP 2600…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t know them! It sounds horrible!

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

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


The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM

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

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

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

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

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


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
31st August 2019

HALO The Violator Book Interview

Produced by Flood and mixed in the main by François Kevorkian, DEPECHE MODE’s seventh album ‘Violator’ was the classic line-up of Dave Gahan, Martin Gore, Andy Fletcher and Alan Wilder firing on all cylinders.

The end result was four hit singles and five other songs that were more or less their equal. Although best known for ‘Enjoy The Silence’, ‘Personal Jesus’, ‘Policy Of Truth’ and ‘World In My Eyes’, the album featured some of DEPECHE MODE’s best work.

The beautiful haunting ambience of ‘Waiting For The Night’ using the ARP 2600 synth / ARP 1601 sequencer combination and the climactic electro blues of ‘Clean’ were key highlights that ended each side of the original vinyl.

Of ‘Waiting For The Night’, Alan Wilder told The Electricity Club in a 2011 interview: “the main sequencer part here was produced using the ARP 2600 synth and sequencer, because it has many flaws when setting up your 16 note sequence (for example tuning and gate length) – this makes for happy accidents and almost random events. We would have fiddled around with that sequence for a while, tweaking the filters and envelopes within the ARP until we arrived at that particularly hypnotic end result. The resulting sequence shape would follow any held note on a keyboard to transpose between the song’s basic chord changes as it ran, which we would then record, and that is essentially the spine of the whole thing. All the other sounds in that song act as mere embellishment.”

The seamless second side with its instrumental interludes added tension and experimentation to proceedings while Martin Gore’s lyrics possessed an honesty that while dark and deviant, still retained a naïve innocence that many loners could relate to. The emotive if strange ‘Blue Dress’ is possibly the most under rated song in the DEPECHE MODE catalogue; the simple guilty pleasure of watching your girlfriend get ready for an evening out was a touching moment.

But the undoubted stand-out on ‘Violator’ was ‘Halo’; using drums sampled from LED ZEPPELIN’s ‘When The Levee Breaks’ but secondhand via a rap record, the distinctive bass squelch and screeching Elgar derived string samples hit home as the song built to its terrific, euphoric climax.

The ‘World Violation’ tour in 1990 was also DEPECHE MODE’s best ever. The status of those shows fell into legend as a result of no officially sanctioned concert footage ever being released. The memories of those present still recall in awe, Anton Corbijn’s stark but humourous projections and Dave Gahan’s increasingly confident and exaggerated swagger to suit the increasing bigger venues.

But why is ‘Violator’ so important and highly celebrated? It is still DEPECHE MODE’s most complete and accomplished body of work; people still talk about it because it is a good record. A good record is a good record, no matter what forlorn nostalgia may be lingering within the listener.

‘Violator’ is a complete body of work, unlike the patchier follow-up ‘Songs Of Faith & Devotion’ when on the subsequent ‘Devotional’ tour, Dave Gahan launched into the rock tool mode that to be frank, he has never really managed to escape from…

With DEPECHE MODE effectively no longer being an electronic band, an upcoming book ‘Halo’ documents that era while projecting a retrospective slant on its influence. Kevin May, the man behind ‘Halo’ kindly chatted to The Electricity Club about its genesis…

There have been a lot of books about DEPECHE MODE, why did you choose to do one on ‘Violator’?

The primary reason is that most of the DEPECHE MODE biographies that have been published up to now have been on their history as a whole. What I wanted to do was focus on a particular era… and I say era rather than an album. The period around ‘Violator’ which is 1989-90 is arguably the most important in their career.

The book doesn’t have contributions from the band members, so how did you think out of the box to tell the ‘Violator’ story?

I have been told that DEPECHE MODE do not interviews for biographies, so I needed to talk to people on the periphery of that era, like producers, engineers and tour personnel. So you get everything, BUT from the horse’s mouth. If I didn’t get those people who were intrinsically involved to talk to me, then it would have been just me analysing and reviewing ‘Violator’. There have been many examples of this and I wouldn’t have been able to add anything to the narrative on the album.

Some of the people I spoke to were François Kervorkian who mixed the album, Andy Franks who was involved in the tour, Neil Ferris who was the chief plugger and engineers from every studio they worked in during that period, including two from the Milan sessions; the latter were very funny and informative on some of the things that went on. There were quite a few people who wanted to talk, but not on record, out of loyalty to the band.

‘Personal Jesus’ at the time was quite a startling calling card, from the phoneline ad to the bluesier sound which had started with ‘Pleasure Little Treasure’?

Well you look at that, a lot of people say it’s an obvious track to release. But if you look at what they had done up to that point and since then, they always tried to come out with a record that challenges the pre-conceived ideas of they are. So subsequent to that, you’ve got ‘I Feel You’, prior to that you’ve got records like ‘Stripped’, ‘Blasphemous Rumours’, ‘Master & Servant’…these were tracks that made people go “OH! THIS ISN’T THE DEPECHE I KNEW!”

From a timeline perspective, it was one of the first songs they recorded in Milan. It was certainly the first track François Kervorkian remixed and he did that in Milan, whereas everything else he did for ‘Violator’ happened back in London or New York six months later. They knew that when ‘Personal Jesus’ was recorded and given to François, they knew it was going to be the single because it was so fundamentally different to anything else they’d ever done. It had that rocky influence but also the electronic sensibility that François added to it.

At the end of the day, it’s a good pop song… yes, there are probably songs like ‘Enjoy The Silence’ that were bigger hits, but for a song that was done and dusted very early on in that process, it made perfect sense to release that first.

There’s a lot of discussion about why ‘Personal Jesus’ was controversial, but they realised they had on their hands, a song that was not only really good, but it was going to cause a certain degree of controversy, not least in the US where all of a sudden, they’d been blown into the mainstream.

From what I know, they knew they were playing with fire, so they played with it. They were on the brink of making something beyond their wildest dreams, so why not capitalise on it? At that point, they were a commercial band and ‘Personal Jesus’ was a very commercial song. The idea to do the “pick up the receiver and I’ll make you a believer” phoneline while you dial this number and it plays the song… in another world, it’s just marketing.

The music press at the time, particularly Q Magazine, seemed to focus a bit too much on the guitar elements of ‘Violator’ when as Alan Wilder quite rightly states, it is still a very electronic album; it was like the press were legitimising DEPECHE MODE because they now used more prominent guitar…

There are several points here; it was a crossroads in popular music then. They had created their own sound as a European electronic band with British sensibilities, and the up until that point, their music had been very electronic… yes there had been guitars before, but they were at a point where they were influenced by electronic dance music like house and techno so they were conscious of that. But equally, they wanted to challenge the idea of what an electronic band should be.

Should an electronic band just be three geezers stood behind keyboards with an incredibly charismatic front man doing their thing? Or should they be band that challenges that idea of what music should be. And I think Flood and Alan Wilder in particular wanted to push that idea forward, so they introduced real instruments. There was sampled guitar before but not until that point, had they made the guitar the lead riff or melody. So that was them putting a stake in the crowd and having the confidence to do it.

The production moved away from drum machines to sampled drum loops like on ‘Halo’ but synthwise, to older contraptions like the Roland System 700?

By that point, the technology and the process had become very much secondary to what they were trying to do. Yes, they were an electronic band; yes, they decided to introduce some guitars; and yes, Flood was pushing them in certain ways. But they just wanted to create music that they thought sounded good and would resonate with their own fans.

They had gone beyond agonising over the technology they were using to make the final outcome. They had a songwriter who could play a guitar lick, so why not use him and produce something that sounds good?

The way ‘Enjoy The Silence’ developed from a sparse ballad into a disco number is well documented, but François Kervorkian’s mix was rejected by Daniel Miller. Have you had a chance to hear it and informatively assess why?

From François’ point of view, he spent a lot of time mixing ‘Personal Jesus’ including the remixes and doing the album, there was his own dissatisfaction with how ‘Enjoy The Silence’ was turning out. It’s worth saying that at that point, it already was a disco track; it was the final mix that there was a disagreement.

It was deemed that François didn’t have enough time to work his magic on it, so it was given back to Daniel to do his thing with his own team of engineers like Phil Legg, resulting in the version we now all know.

The trick to any new book or review about an acclaimed body of work from the past is to uncover previously untold stories. What were the biggest revelations for you?

I don’t think there’s a huge revelation in the book. I think what I found most interesting from collecting all the stories was that the band didn’t really quite understand what was about to hit them. So their behaviour was exactly the same as it had been in the previous 8-9 years. But on the other hand, there were a lot of things in place within the machine to capitalise on it. Some elements of this machine realised this was going to fly!

A lot of people say to me that the ‘Violator’ period was a time when the band were having fun. Martin Gore has said in more recent interviews that ‘Violator’ was the last time they had fun making an album. I think that’s really reflected in the output by the vibe among the members at the time.

There was a lot of experimentation, ‘Violator’ was part of an evolution; dance music was starting to happen with the rave scene; rock, grunge and indie guitar was taking a new step forward. DEPECHE MODE were right at the centre of it, not steering it, but they were a band that wanted to try and embrace as many things as they could. And they were all still young guys!

They were enjoying themselves. Of course, it didn’t continue like that after ‘Violator’.

What was the most difficult part of the book to write?

It was difficult having the patience to accept the music industry operates at much slower level than other industries I’m used to writing about!

People have very sketchy memories and that is not because they are being loyal or they’re nervous about revealing something, it’s because at the end of that day, it is something that happened 25 years ago… a quarter of a century! So when you’re asking people to recollect something that happened in a studio in Milan in 1989, you shouldn’t be surprised when they don’t remember! *laughs*

Yes, I have some wonderful soundbites from the guys in Milan about how they would all jump into a car at the end of sessions and go off to a club in the city to give the DJ a copy of the work to test out. But with something specific like how the footsteps on ‘Personal Jesus’ were recorded, if I asked what kind of flight cases they used, they’re not going to remember!

Those were great footsteps by Fletch though!

It wasn’t just Fletch, it was all of them! *laughs*

Why do you think ‘Violator’ still holds a special resonance? How does it stand up against other electronic or even rock albums?

This is the crux of the book; it’s important that it’s about the recorded output, but of equal importance is the marketing, the visuals, the videos and the way the tour was produced. When you put all that together in an era, that’s when it becomes important.

It’s as important as ‘Black Celebration’, but it’s not on the same scale… and I say that because ‘Black Celebration’ was the first album which they really experimented and found their depth, which arguably Alan Wilder had found his feet in what he was able to do musically. It was also the point when they also realised how popular they were as a live act in the US.

But once they got to ‘Violator’, they were able to amplify that to the power of 10! So it’s a combination of the songs, the production, what they did on tour, the way it was packaged, the videos and the impact of the crossover songs like ‘Enjoy The Silence’.

‘Enjoy The Silence’ won ‘Best British Single’ in the 1991 Brit Awards, although by slightly manipulative phone poll means… but the point is, ‘Violator’ was their crossover album. And if crossovers are important, which arguably they are, it exposed DEPECHE MODE to a whole new audience. Everything changed for them after this album.

So, the way that the current incarnation of DEPECHE MODE play tracks from ‘Violator’ live with The Drumhead and The Noodler… discuss!

The ‘World Violation’ tour was the last time they performed as a synth band, I don’t hold up that tour in the annals of history as maybe other Devotees do. I think the ‘World Violation’ has gained its legendary status simply because people don’t have a decent visual recording of it. I think it was a terrific tour, it was the first time I ever saw them and I was blown away. But I don’t think anything will beat the ‘Devotional’ tour.

The ‘World Violation’ tour was DEPECHE MODE knowing and having the confidence to produce a record in a live setting. The ‘Devotional’ tour was them taking that confidence, with whatever means and substances they were using at the time, to the Nth degree. They realised how far they could go and I think it worked.

The interesting thing about ‘Violator’ is that as Alan has said many times before, it is still incredibly programmed. On the one hand, it’s what makes the album so good, not least because François Kervorkian made it the very precise album that it was.

Now, when you take that precision out of some of the ‘Violator’ songs, as we have later seen with the live performances of ‘World In My Eyes’ and ‘Policy Of Truth’… they were really precise and what made them brilliant songs in the first place.

‘Personal Jesus’ is like the elephant in the room, as it’s basically a rock song.

So those ‘Violator’ songs were all about the precision and to suddenly change those to be live drum songs, it’s maybe going against the strengths of ‘Violator’… songs that were created electronically should perhaps be performed electronically, because that is how the fondness for these songs was obtained.


The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Kevin May

Special thanks to Michael Rose for the ‘Personal Jesus’ advert and ‘World Violation’ live photo

‘Halo’ due to be published in March 2020, please visit http://halotheviolatorbook.com/ for more details

https://www.facebook.com/halotheviolatorbook

https://twitter.com/HALOBook


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
19th March 2019

A Beginner’s Guide To SARAH BLACKWOOD

Born in Halifax, Sarah Blackwood has been a most striking vocal and visual presence since 1995 when DUBSTAR hit the UK singles charts with ‘Not So Manic Now’, a cover of an obscure song by Wakefield band BRICK SUPPLY.

Sarah Blackwood studied Spatial Design at Newcastle University and it was while living in the city that she met Chris Wilkie and Steve Hillier, joining DUBSTAR as lead singer. Scoring hits under the auspices of OMD, PET SHOP BOYS, ERASURE and NEW ORDER producer Stephen Hague, kitchen sink dramas like ‘Stars’, ‘No More Talk’ and ‘I Will Be Your Girlfriend’ appealed to both electronic music and indie audiences.

DUBSTAR bridged the gap between Synth Britannia and Britpop, opening for ERASURE while also simultaneously being label mates with BLUR, JESUS JONES and SHAMPOO. But after three albums ‘Disgraceful’ ‘Goodbye’ and ‘Make It Better’ on Food Records, with worsening band relations, management tensions and waning audience interest, DUBSTAR disbanded.

In 2002, Blackwood joined multi-instrumentalist Kate Holmes in female synthpop duo TECHNIQUE after original singer Xan Tyler was unavailable for a European tour opening for DEPECHE MODE in Europe. The support slot was a success and led to the pair forming crucial friendships that would help their relaunch as a brand new project.

Morphing into CLIENT and releasing their self-titled debut album in 2003, they initially shunned using their real names, choosing to be mysteriously referred to as Client A and Client B in a ‘1984’ inspired Orwellian twist. Interest in their mysterious allure coincided with the emergence of acts like LADYTRON, MISS KITTIN, BLACK BOX RECORDER and GOLDFRAPP.

A favourite act of Karl Bartos who they opened for at his London ULU gig in 2003, CLIENT became a popular cult draw in Europe and released a further three albums ‘City’, ‘Heartland’ and ‘Command’ before Blackwood officially departed in late 2010, coinciding with a reunion of DUBSTAR.

But despite a well-received 2013 comeback concert at The Lexington in London, things went quiet until Summer 2018 when Blackwood and Wilkie announced they had recorded a new DUBSTAR album as a duo entitled ‘One’. Released in Autumn 2018, it was well-received and considered by some observers to be one of the best albums of the year.

Although best known as the front woman of DUBSTAR and CLIENT, Sarah Blackwood has always been open to collaboration and has lent her charming voice to a number of recordings helmed by artists from Germany, Greece and Canada as well as the UK. Also adept in the art of reinterpretation, among the artists she has covered are TUBEWAY ARMY, PET SHOP BOYS, ADAM & THE ANTS, VISAGE, NEW ORDER, DEPECHE MODE and THE SMITHS.

By way of a Beginner’s Guide to her work, here are eighteen recordings highlighting the varied musical portfolio of Sarah Blackwood, presented in chronological order with a restriction of one track per album project.


DUBSTAR The Day I See You Again (1995)

Possibly one of the standouts from DUBSTAR’s debut long player ‘Disgraceful’, ‘The Day I See You Again’ featured the immortal line “If the man you’ve grown to be is more Morrison than Morrissey”. Blackwood captured a deeply Northern English cynicism which actually transferred abroad, with the song’s American producer Stephen Hague dusting the tune off for the German songstress Claudia Brücken to cover on her reinterpretations album ‘The Lost Are Found’.

Available on the DUBSTAR album ‘Disgraceful’ via Food / EMI Records

http://dubstarofficial.co/


DUBSTAR La Bohème (1997)

One of the B-sides to ‘No More Talk’ and co-written by the late Charles Aznavour, ‘La Bohème’ became the Frenchman’s signature song and an acknowledged chanson classic, telling the tale of a painter recalling his younger years in the Parisian bohemian suburb of Montmartre, hungry yet happy. Applying a wonderful Anglo aesthetic to the translation, Blackwood gave a superb interpretation which more than suited its relocation to West Yorkshire over its icy electronic backdrop.

Available on the DUBSTAR CD single ‘No More Talk’ via Food / EMI Records

https://www.facebook.com/dubstaruk/


DUBSTAR featuring GARY NUMAN Redirected Mail (2000)

Having covered TUBEWAY ARMY’s ‘Everyday I Die’ for the ‘Random’ tribute album, it was now Blackwood’s turn to duet with Gary Numan himself, albeit remotely. “I was in Manchester when we recorded ‘Redirected Mail’” she said, “but Steve and Chris actually went down to Gary’s and sat and had ham and chips with him. They had a right laugh and had a really good time.” As a result of that visit south, Steve Hillier also bought a Roland CP70 electric piano from Numan.

Available on the DUBSTAR CD single ‘The Self Same Thing’ via Food / EMI Records

https://twitter.com/dubstarUK


CLIENT Client (2003)

Having secured a deal with Mute Records via Andy Fletcher’s Toast Hawaii imprint, CLIENT’s stark mission statement of “satisfaction guaranteed” also included a striking look which had a distinct element of Cold War chic. “It started because we didn’t know what to wear on tour with DEPECHE MODE” said Blackwood knowing they would be performing in front of some very partisan Devotees, “if they threw anything at us, we wanted it to be something that was sort of disposable so we thought of the uniforms!”

Available on the CLIENT album ‘Client’ via Toast Hawaii

https://www.facebook.com/ClientMusic/


CLIENT featuring MARTIN GORE Overdrive (2004)

For their second album ‘City’, CLIENT got more ambitious by featuring some guest vocalists which included THE LIBERTINES. But the most notable one was DEPECHE MODE’s Martin Gore in a collaboration that was instigated by Blackwood writing him a letter: “Martin had this newly set-up studio and recorded himself. The thing is, when we mixed the two vocals together, that was a moment! I didn’t know how it was going to work but when you heard it, it was like ‘woo!’…it was a bit spine tingling really!”

Available on the CLIENT album ‘City’ via Toast Hawaii

http://www.martingore.com/


DIE KRUPPS featuring CLIENT Der Amboss (2005)

Of DIE KRUPPS‘ mighty industrialised cover, Ralf Dörper said to The Electricity Club: “When I first heard ‘The Anvil’ (‘Der Amboss’) by VISAGE, I thought ‘what a perfect song for DIE KRUPPS’ – it just needed more sweat, more steel. And it was not before 2005 when DIE KRUPPS were asked to play a few 25-year anniversary shows that I remembered ‘Der Amboss’… and as I was a big CLIENT fan at that time, I thought it would be a good opportunity to ask Fräulein B for assistance in the vocal department”.

Available on the CLIENT EP ‘Untitled Remixes’ via Out Of Line Records

http://www.diekrupps.de/


CLIENT featuring ROBERT GÖRL Der Mussolini (2006)

To beef up their concert sound, CLIENT expanded to a trio to include bassist Emily Mann aka Client E and became a gritty live act which exuded an electronic body presence that powerfully complimented Blackwood’s stoic stage persona as Client B. Occasionally and fittingly, they would be joined on drums by Robert Görl from esteemed Industrial Godfathers DEUTSCH AMERIKANISCHE FREUNDSCHAFT and together they would end the set with their seminal EBM classic ‘Der Mussolini’.

Originally on the self-released CLIENT ‎album ‘Live In Porto’, currently unavilable

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


CLIENT It’s Not Over – Marsheaux remix (2007)

Of Athens-based female duo MARSHEAUX, Blackwood said: “They sort of copied us but it was the biggest form of flattery because they’re such lovely girls! It’s nice to think I’ve inspired something”. So when the two parties toured Germany together in 2008, it was a most appropriate pairing. On their remix of ‘It’s Not Over’, some Hellenic shine was added to the original’s more dystopian demeanour with additional Eurocentric riffage for a slice of electronic pop perfection.

Available on the compilation album ‘Electronically Yours’ (V/A) via Undo Records

https://www.facebook.com/marsheaux/


CLIENT B True Faith (2008)

Described as “one of my favourite Northern folk songs” and arranged by Chris Wilkie on acoustic guitar more or less as such, this live solo performance of this NEW ORDER evergreen formed part of a free download series which also included stripped down versions of CLIENT and DUBSTAR songs as well as THE SMITHS ‘Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before’. “I just think a good song will work if you can do it acoustically” Blackwood would later remark.

Originally on the CLIENT B EP ‘Acoustic At The Club Bar & Dining’, currently unavailable

https://twitter.com/sarahblackwood


CLIENT Make Me Believe In You (2009)

Having previously tackled new wave pop like ‘White Wedding’ and ‘Xerox’, CLIENT took a diversion and covered Curtis Mayfield’s soultastic and groove laden ‘Make Me Believe In You’. Co-produced by one-time KILLING JOKE bassist Martin Glover aka Youth who added a more rhythmic energy, things were danced up with an icy edge coming from his frenetic guitar work. This approach more than suited their fourth album’s “brazenly bossy” title of ‘Command’.

Available on the CLIENT album ‘Command’ via Out Of Line

https://www.discogs.com/artist/80278-Client


DUBSTAR I’m In Love With A German Film Star (2010)

Although at the time Blackwood was still in CLIENT, the newly reformed DUBSTAR were invited to submit a cover of their choice as part of a project for Amnesty International Catalunya. While songs by THE ROLLING STONES and the late Kirsty MacColl were considered, the trio settled on this 1981 cult classic made famous by THE PASSIONS. While there was to be an emotional reunion concert in Spring 2013, the DUBSTAR’s reformation as a trio was not to last…

Originally on the compilation album ‘Peace’ (V/A) via Amnesty International, currently unavailable

https://www.discogs.com/artist/72608-Dubstar-2


WILLIAM ORBIT featuring SARAH BLACKWOOD White Night (2010)

While things had become uncertain within the CLIENT camp, Blackwood took time out to work on a Rico Conning penned track for William Orbit’s album ‘My Oracle Lives Uptown’ which dated back to their TORCH SONG days. Although her version did not appear on the final tracklisting, her take was offered as a free download. More accessible than some of CLIENT’s offerings but more purely electronic than DUBSTAR, this was a priceless pop gem which lyrically expressed her pain during that period.

Originally available as a free download, currently unavailable

https://www.williamorbit.com/


SOMAN featuring SARAH BLACKWOOD Blue Monday (2010)

No stranger to cover versions, Blackwood was invited to add her suitably forlorn voice to German producer Kolja Trelle’s version of NEW ORDER’s signature tune. The esteemed musical ears of Stephen Hague always felt that Bernard Sumner and Sarah Blackwood would make a perfect duetting partnership but until that happens, covers are what the public has to make do with for now. Now imagine if she had had sung on ‘Tutti Frutti’ instead of Elly Jackson of LA ROUX?

Available on the SOMAN album ‘Noistyle’ via Trisol Music Group

https://www.facebook.com/SOMAN.Musik/


FOTONOVELA featuring SARAH BLACKWOOD Justice (2013)

The concept of FOTONOVELA’s sophomore offering ‘A Ton Of Love’ was to produce a supreme electronic record featuring vocalists from all stages of classic synthpop. Andy McCluskey was the first on board for the project but the resultant song ‘Helen Of Troy’ turned out so well, it ended up on OMD’s ‘English Electric’! Undeterred, the duo recruited Sarah Blackwood. Halifax’s own Queen of electro took FOTONOVELA onto a cloudier but enjoyable hitchhike through the North West of England with the very personal ‘Justice’.

Available on the FOTONOVELA album ‘A Ton Of Love’ via Undo Records

https://www.facebook.com/undofotonovela/


KOISHII & HUSH featuring SARAH BLACKWOOD Rules & Lies (2015)

Keeping herself busy, Blackwood collaborated with progressive house duo KOISHII & HUSH. “Sarah was one of the vocalists we had always wanted to work with. We managed to get in touch with her and decided to meet in London to discuss the idea.” said Alex Hush, “She was quite keen on the project and after that initial meeting, we sent Sarah a rough backing track which she wrote and recorded vocals for. We then did some tweaks and additional production on ‘Rules & Lies’ and are thrilled with the final version”.

Available on the KOSHII & HUSH single ‘Rules & Lies’ via Grammaton Recordings

http://www.koishiiandhush.com/


VILE ELECTRODES featuring SARAH BLACKWOOD Captivity In Symmetry (2016)

The Electricity Club initially described VILE ELECTRODES as “Client B born and raised in the Home Counties fronting Dindisc-era ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK”, so a duet with Anais Neon was perhaps inevitable. Blackwood added a nonchalant almost-spoken vocal to a variation of the gorgeous ‘Twin Peaks’ flavoured ‘Captive In Symmetry’ as part of a bonus CD ‘Not Everything Is As It Seems’ which came with the initial run of their second album ‘In The Shadows Of Monuments’.

Available on the VILE ELECTRODES special edition album ‘In The Shadows Of Monuments’ via https://vileelectrodes.bigcartel.com/product/in-the-shadows-of-monuments-special-edition-cd-package

http://www.vileelectrodes.com/


RADIO WOLF featuring SARAH BLACKWOOD Rock ‘n’ Roll Forever (2017)

RADIO WOLF is Canadian musician and producer Oliver Blair who remixed ‘It’s Now Over’ and ‘Can You Feel’ under his KINDLE moniker as well as playing guitar on ‘Command’. Now performing with PARALLELS as well as recording in his own right, his debut EP combining electronic music with rock ‘n’ roll featured a stellar cast of female vocalists including his bandmate Holly Dodson, Marika Gauci from his previous combo HOTEL MOTEL, Kelli Ali ex-SNEAKER PIMPS and on the title song, Sarah Blackwood.

Available on the RADIO WOLF EP ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Forever’ via Oliver Blair

https://www.radiowolfmusic.com/


DUBSTAR Locked Inside (2018)

Just when it looked like that was it over for DUBSTAR, Sarah Blackwood and Chris Wilkie snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with ‘One’. While Wilkie took on prime songwriting duties, the classic bittersweet aura remained, albeit within a more organic setting. Produced by Youth, the most electronic number on ‘One’ was the gorgeous ‘Locked Inside’ with elements of KRAFTWERK creeping in and even TEARS FOR FEARS while Blackwood poignantly reflected on how “my hands are tied”.

Available on the DUBSTAR album ‘One’ via Northern Writes

https://www.instagram.com/dubstaruk/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
30th December 2018

A Beginner’s Guide To CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN

act_claudiaWith her distinctive ice maiden delivery, CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN is the undoubted queen of cinematic avant pop.

She first came to prominence with PROPAGANDA and the Trevor Horn produced film noir drama of ‘Dr Mabuse’.

Together with Susanne Freytag, Michael Mertens and Ralf Dörper, the Düsseldorf based quartet released their acclaimed album ‘A Secret Wish’ on ZTT in 1985.

But despite the album being a favourite of musical figures such as Quincy Jones, Martin Gore, John Taylor and Jim Kerr, PROPAGANDA split following business and creative tensions as a result of their deal with ZTT.

Remaining with ZTT, Brücken formed ACT with early electronic pioneer Thomas Leer and released an album ‘Laughter Tears & Rage’ in 1988 which featured an array of lush synthetic dynamics glossed with a touch of starlet glamour. Not one to rest on her laurels, her first solo album ‘Love: & A Million Other Things’ came in 1991 on Island Records before she took a career break.

There was a brief reunion of PROPAGANDA in 1998, but when that came to nought, Brücken spent much of the new millennium’s first decade working and touring with OMD’s Paul Humphreys in ONETWO, supporting ERASURE and THE HUMAN LEAGUE along the way.

Since then, she has released two further solo albums and more recently been spotted in the studio with Susanne Freytag and Stephen J Lipson, while a new collaborative project with Jerome Froese is also in progress.

Although her catalogue is wide and varied, CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN is perhaps still very much regarded as a cult figure on the music scene. Certainly, she deserves greater recognition so with a restriction of one track per release, The Electricity Club offers a twenty track Beginner’s Guide to her work…


TOPOLINOS Mustafa (1982)

TOPOLINOSBrücken and Freytag first met in Düsseldorf around Die Ratinger Straße; “There was this interaction between art and music happening and everyone kind of knew one another” she said. Together they formed TOPOLINOS, literally translated as ‘The Mickey Mouses’! Using a rhythm unit, electric organ lines and Middle Eastern flavoured vocal phrasing, ‘Mustafa’ was a typical art school recording of the period and appeared on ‘Partysnäks’, the soundtrack to the film ‘Die Tanzbeinsammler’.

Available on the compilation album Electri_City 2 (V/A) via Grönland Records


PROPAGANDA p: Machinery (1985)

Propaganda ‎– pMachineryAt the suggestion of Freytag, Brücken was recruited into PROPAGANDA and their dynamic sound was marketed as “ABBA in Hell”! p: Machinery captured their Teutonic edge and the charm of state-of-the-art technology such as the PPG Wave and Synclavier systems. Produced by Stephen J Lipson, the song also had an unexpected contributor as Brücken recalled: “It was amazing when David Sylvian came in. On ‘p: Machinery there is this line he wrote on a little keyboard that he brought in…”

Available on the PROPAGANDA album ‘A Secret Wish’ via Union Square


GLENN GREGORY & CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN When Your Heart Runs Out Of Time (1985)

Glenn+Claudia When Your HeartWritten by Will Jennings, best known for ‘My Heart Will Go On’ for the film ‘Titanic’ and ‘Up Where We Belong’ from ‘An Officer & A Gentleman’, ‘When Your Heart Runs Out of Time’ was recorded for the film ‘Insignificance’ directed by Nicolas Roeg. Brücken and the HEAVEN 17 vocalist met during the Anton Corbijn directed video shoot for ‘Dr Mabuse’ when Gregory’s then-wife Sarah was doing the make-up. The song was produced by Midge Ure, under the pseudonym of Otto Flake Junior.

Available on the compilation album ‘The Art Of The 12 Inch’ (V/A) via Union Square


ACT Absolutely Immune (1988)

ACT Absolutely ImmuneAfter PROPAGANDA fragmented, Brücken formed ACT with Thomas Leer in 1987. Working again with Stephen J Lipson, alongside the technological marvels came a more playful, decadent glamour with some political flirtations. ‘Absolutely Immune’ was a commentary on the apathy of the nation at large with its “I’m alright Jack” selfishness. Unfortunately, with the sentiment lost on a British public still drowned in blue emotion, it failed to gain interest in a landscape dominated by the bland blue eyed soul.

Available on the ACT album ‘Love & Hate’ via Union Square


JIMMY SOMERVILLE Run From Love (1990)

jimmy_somerville-the_singles_collection_1984-1990While not a sales success, the acclaim and respect that ‘A Secret Wish’ attained among fellow artists led to Brücken being offered many opportunities to collaborate. One of the first came from Jimmy Somerville. ‘Run From Love’ was a lesser known BRONSKI BEAT number reworked in a more house directed fashion by S’EXPRESS producer Pascal Gabriel for the diminutive Glaswegian’s greatest hits collection and Ms Brücken provided backing vocals in the chorus.

Available on the JIMMY SOMMERVILLE album ‘The Singles Collection 1984/1990’ via London Records


CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN Absolut[e] (1991)

Claudia Brucken Absolut(E)Despite ACT ending, Brücken signed a deal with Island Records which eventually spawned her debut solo album produced by Pascal Gabriel. The first single ‘Absolut[e]’ was very much dominated by Gabriel’s dancefloor instincts. But as the album was being recorded, all was not well within. “The MD from Island suddenly left and all the people who worked on my album left as well” she remembered, “A new guy came in and already I could sense what would happen, so Pascal and I decided to get really experimental”.

Available on the CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN album ‘Love: & A Million Other Things’ via Cherry Red Records


CHROME SEDUCTION Light The Way (1993)

Claudia+SusanneThe reaction to ‘Love: & A Million Other Things’ was muted and Brücken took a career break to bring up her daughter Maddy, emerging only occasionally to record the odd guest vocal. ‘Light The Way’ with CHROME SEDUCTION was a percussively frantic club number that also saw a reunion with former partner-in-crime Susanne Freytag. The project of Magnus Fiennes, brother of actors Joseph Fiennes and Ralph Fiennes, it first surfaced on an independently released 12 inch on Mother Alpha Delta.

Available on the CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN album ‘ComBined’ via Union Square


THE BRAIN I’ll Find A Way (1996)

THE BRAIN I'll Find A WayThe project of Düsseldorf based DJ Dietmar Andreas Maier, ‘I’ll Find A Way’ was typical of the frantically paced Euro-Trance of the period. Co-written with Michael Mertens, the seed of a PROPAGANDA reunion began with a number of songs including ‘Ignorance’, ‘No Return’, ‘To The Future’ and ‘Turn To The Sun’ being demoed. Although a video for ‘No Return’ was produced, the title proved poignant and Brücken later announced: “The reunion was worth a try, but did not work out.”

Available on THE BRAIN single ‘I’ll Find A Way’ via BMG


OCEANHEAD Eyemotion (1997)

OCEANHEAD EyemotionContinuing to contribute the occasional guest vocal, ‘Eyemotion’ was a co-write with John Etkin-Bell which coupled a shuffling drum loop with some beautifully chilled out atmospheres. Brücken’s breathy whispers and a muted synthetic brass motif à la PET SHOP BOYS provided the colourful sonics on an elegant piece of downtempo electronica. Blowing away the likes of ENIGMA and SACRED SPIRIT, the original CD single release was limited to just 2000 copies however.

Available on the OCEANHEAD single ‘Eyemotion’ via Land Speed Records


CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN & PAUL RUTHERFORD This Is Not America (2000 – not released until 2011)

After the aborted reunion of PROPAGANDA, Brücken accepted an invitation in 2000 to join Paul Humphreys on his solo tour of the USA; one of the first recorded fruits of their partnership was a cover of ‘This Is Not America’ featuring FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD’s Paul Rutherford intended for a film soundtrack. A beautifully crafted synthesized tribute to DAVID BOWIE & THE PAT METHENY GROUP, although shelved, it finally saw the light of day on her ‘ComBined’ career retrospective.

Available on the CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN album ‘ComBined’ via Union Square


APOPTYGMA BERZERK Unicorn – Duet Version (2002)

APOPTYGMA BERZERK HarmonizerEurope maintained a vibrant industrial music scene at the start of the new century and in a one-off collaboration with Norway’s cult electronic body merchants APOPTYGMA BERZERK, Brücken returned to the more Teutonic overtones that had been evident in PROPAGANDA. In an electronic rework of the heavier guitar focussed original, the combo provided a suitably aggressive but accessible backing track for her to duet with frontman Stephan Groth on ‘Unicorn’.

Available on the APOPTYGMA BERZERK album ‘Harmonizer’ via WEA


ONETWO Cloud 9ine (2004)

ONETWO ItemBrücken formalised her musical partnership with Paul Humphreys and together they named themselves ONETWO. They dusted off a track that had been demoed during the aborted PROPAGANDA reunion. The song in question was ‘Cloud 9ine’, a co-write with Martin Gore which also featured the guitar of DEPECHE MODE’s main songwriter. It was the stand-out song on ONETWO’s debut EP ‘Item’, but it would be a few years before their first album would be completed.

Available on the ONETWO EP ‘Item’ via There (there) at https://theremusic.bandcamp.com/album/item


ANDY BELL with CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN Delicious (2005)

ANDY BELL Electric BlueBrücken joined ERASURE’s Andy Bell to sing on two tracks for his debut solo album ‘Electric Blue’. More club oriented than ERASURE, the long player was produced by THE MANHATTAN CLIQUE who were also part of the ONETWO live band, and provided the introduction. The call-and-response Hi-NRG stomp of ‘Delicious’ saw Brücken in her most playful mood since ACT and in rare poptastic glory, despite the bittersweet, reflective lyrical nature of the song.

Available on the ANDY BELL album ‘Electric Blue’ via Sanctuary Records


CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN & ANDREW POPPY Libertango (2005)

ANOTHER LANGUAGEBrücken teamed up with former ZTT label mate Poppy to record a number of stripped back cover versions, with just piano or guitar as accompaniment for her first long form release since 1991. Among the reinterpretations were songs originally performed by RADIOHEAD, MARIANNE FAITHFUL, ASSOCIATES and KATE BUSH. One of the highlights was a suitably dramatic take on ‘Libertango’, better known as ‘I’ve Seen That Face Before’ made famous by GRACE JONES.

Available on the CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN & ANDREW POPPY album ‘Another Language’ via There (there) at http://theremusic.bandcamp.com/album/another-language


ONETWO Anonymous (2007)

Onetwo_InsteadHumphreys and Brücken finally released a full length album as ONETWO in 2007 and from it was ‘Anonymous’, a song that began life as a demo from the aborted PROPAGANDA reunion and which had also been co-written with Andy McCluskey. The pretty ringing melodies and elegiac atmospheres were very reminiscent of classic OMD. But the collaboration had been unusual as at the time of the song’s conception, as Humphreys had not yet fully rejoined McCluskey in his old band.

Available on the ONETWO album ‘Instead’ via There (there) at https://theremusic.bandcamp.com/album/instead


BLANK & JONES Don’t Stop (2008)

BLANK & JONES The Logic of PleasureIn between the aborted PROPAGANDA reunion and ONETWO, CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN guested with the popular German dance duo on ‘Unknown Treasure’, a most gorgeously shuffled electrobeat ballad. The parties reunited in 2008 but while ‘Unknown Treasure’ was in Brücken’s words, “a real collaboration”, “’Don’t Stop’ was in reverse, they gave me all the music and then I did the words and sent it back to them”. Despite the remote detachment of the recording, ‘Don’t Stop’ was still elegantly enticing.

Available on the BLANK & JONES album ‘The Logic Of Pleasure’ via Soundcolours


CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN & THE REAL TUESDAY WELD The Things I Love (2011)

=LA NoireRockstar Games wanted a German singer for a new game called ‘LA Noire’ soundtracked by THE REAL TUESDAY WELD’s Stephen Coates who was known for producing jazzy cabaret-style music with subtle electronica influences dubbed Antique Beat. “I thought: why not?” said Brücken, “I heard the songs and thought they were so beautiful. I found it a really good challenge doing something I hadn’t done before”. ‘The Things I Love’ was the alluring highlight of three songs recorded.

Available on the soundtrack album ‘L.A. Noire’ (V/A) via Rockstar Games


CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN One Summer Dream (2012)

Claudia Brucken One Summer DreamThe B-side to ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA’s massive hit ‘Mr Blue Sky’, ‘One Summer Dream’ was the first song to emerge from Brücken’s reinterpretations project with producer Stephen Hague which also included material by DAVID BOWIE, PET SHOP BOYS, DUBSTAR, JULEE CRUISE and THE LILAC TIME. Beginning with a vintage gramophoned segment, it built to a dreamy John Barry influenced, ‘Felt Mountain’-era GOLDFRAPP string arrangement.

Available on the CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN album ‘The Lost Are Found’ via There (there)


OMD Kissing The Machine (2013)

OMD-English-ElectricAlthough this Andy McCluskey / Karl Bartos co-write first appeared in 1993 on the ELEKTRIC MUSIC album ‘Esperanto’, Paul Humphreys completely reworked ‘Kissing The Machine’ from scratch for OMD. “Paul had the idea of asking Claudia to do the vocal in the middle eight” remembered McCluskey, “but I suggested we start it with the ‘I want you to want me – I need you to need me…’ bit through a vocoder and went ‘y’know, could you ask Claudia to do it in German as well?’!” The result was electronic magic.

Available on the OMD album ‘English Electric’ via BMG


CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN Time To Make Changes (2014)

CLAUDIA BRUCKEN Where ElseThe biggest surprise musically on Brücken’s third solo album ‘Where Else…’ was her adoption of the acoustic guitar. Working with producer John Owen Williams whose credits also included BLANCMANGE, the songs dealt with the subjects of “emotion, beginnings, endings, past life and future hopes”. Almost like ABBA meeting MORRISSEY in a lush organic backdrop, ‘Time To Make Changes’ very much reflected her personal mindset following the end of her relationship with Paul Humphreys.

Available on the CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN album ‘Where Else…’ via Cherry Red Records


For further information on the upcoming projects of CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN, please visit her official website and Facebook page

http://www.claudiabrucken.co.uk

https://www.facebook.com/ClaudiaBruckenMusic


Text by Chi Ming Lai
30th July 2016

TEC’s 2015 End Of Year Review

There are no illegal connections…

System100 CakeThe user manual for the Roland System 100 semi-modular synthesizer profoundly stated “there are no illegal connections…”

And in modern electronic music, that is still the case with the accomplished artists of today very much connected to the synth pioneers of yesteryear like KRAFTWERK, OMD, DEPECHE MODE and THE HUMAN LEAGUE.

Belgian duo METROLAND would not exist without the tradition established at Klingklang, while EAST INDIA YOUTH’s interest in BRIAN ENO and Motorik beats curated a sound that has enabled parallels to be drawn with the artful template of the similarly influenced Paul Humphreys and Andy McCluskey.

GWENNO by Jacek Davis PhotographyAnd although SUSANNE SUNDFØR was already an established singer / songwriter in her homeland of Norway, attention was not fully drawn on her new synth based direction until she performed a sympathetic cover of ‘Ice Machine’ with RÖYKSOPP in late 2012. Even the exquisite lo-fi Welsh language electronica of GWENNO can be traced to Sheffield, thanks to the songstress’ previous pop excursions which involved working on an album with the late Martin Rushent.

As JEAN-MICHEL JARRE said: “Electronic music has a family, a legacy and a future…” so to deny the glorious heritage of electronic music when assessing new acts would be futile. Indeed, acknowledging history is very much part of The Electricity Club’s style and it appears to have been appreciated, especially in regard to the feature ‘Five Years of TEC: 30 Favourite Albums 2010 – 2014’, one of a quintet of special articles to celebrate the site’s fifth birthday in March…

“Huge thanks to The Electricity Club” said avid reader Hugh David, “A victory for well-written, artfully conveyed content curation once again… you knew exactly what to say to sell me on one artist or another. That rare ability of a reviewer to pinpoint the precise comparisons that enable me to decide to seek something out based on my own tastes is something lacking in so many other outlets; love that you’ve got that in spades”

Another reader David Sims added: “TEC is a great way of discovering artists you might not otherwise be aware of. A bit like when a friend used to come round your house clutching an LP or C90 saying ‘I really love this, have a listen’, introducing you to new music that makes your neck hairs stand up in ovation”

NEW ORDER2015-Roger Kamp-072014 was a comparatively lean 12 months, but this year found many veterans returning to the fold. NEW ORDER released ‘Music Complete’, a much discussed comeback that was not only the Mancunians’ first album for Mute, but also without estranged bassist Peter HookMARC ALMOND released ‘The Velvet Trail’, his first pop album for many years while ANDY BELL embarked on further solo adventures in support of ‘Torsten The Bareback Saint’.

SPARKS joined forces with FRANZ FERDINAND as FFS while telling everyone to ‘P*ss Off’ and proved that collaborations do work. Electronic music legend JEAN-MICHEL JARRE also went the collaborative root. His first album for several years ‘Electronica 1 – The Time Machine’ featured the likes of LITTLE BOOTS, JOHN CARPENTER, TANGERINE DREAM, AIR, ARMIN VAN BUUREN, GESAFFELSTEIN, MOBY, MASSIVE ATTACK and VINCE CLARKE.

Wolfgang Flur 2015Another legend GIORGIO MORODER made his statement of intent with ‘74 Is The New 24’ and released ‘Déjà Vu’, a disco pop record featuring the likes of SIA, BRITNEY SPEARS, FOXES and KYLIE MINOGUE.

Meanwhile, his artier counterpart ZEUS B HELD gave us some ‘Logic of Coincidence’ and WOLFGANG FLÜR made his solo debut with ‘Eloquence’, his first length album project since 1997.

Liverpool duo CHINA CRISIS delivered ‘Autumn In The Neighbourhood’, their first original material since 1994’s ‘Warped By Success’ while HOWARD JONES showed he could still innovate at 60 years of age when he launched ‘Engage’, “a highly interactive live experience designed to immerse audiences in an audio / visual feast”. A-HA came back after disbanding in 2010 with ‘Cast In Steel’ and DURAN DURAN recruited an all-star cast that included Nile Rodgers, John Frusciante, Kiesza and Lindsay Lohan for the rather disappointing EDM blow-out ‘Paper Gods’.

MG-PRBLANCMANGE’s ‘Semi Detached’ was Neil Arthur’s first without long-time partner Stephen Luscombe and he even found time to release a wonderful instrumental collection entitled ‘Nil By Mouth’. Indeed, there were quite a few instrumental opuses in 2015, with GHOST HARMONIC’s wonderful ‘Codex’ featuring JOHN FOXX and the electronic pioneer’s own glorious ‘London Overgrown’. TUXEDOMOON joined forces with CULT WITH NO NAME for ‘Blue Velvet Revisited’ while not wishing to be left out, DEPECHE MODE’s Martin Gore released the tutorial for his new Eurorack modular system as the simply titled ‘MG’.

2015 saw the 25th anniversary of DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Violator’ and to ignore its significance, as some DM fan related platforms did, would have been incredibly short sighted. However, there was none of that from premier DM tribute band SPEAK & SPELL who played their biggest UK gig yet with a splendid boutique showcase of that landmark album at London’s Islington Academy.

camouflage1__12314_(Credit_Klaus_Mellenthin)CAMOUFLAGE, a band who started off very much under the influence of the Basildon boys, issued the mature statement of ‘Greyscale’ while continuing the DEPECHE MODE album theme, Athens based synth maidens MARSHEAUX gave a worthy of re-assessment of ‘A Broken Frame’ and procured a number of interesting arrangements for some under rated songs.

DIE KRUPPS got more metal than machine on their fifth opus ‘V – Metal Machine Music’. Fellow Germans BEBORN BETON made up for a ten year absence with ‘A Worthy Compensation’ while SOLAR FAKE and SYNTHDECADE also got in on the action too.

CHVRCHES-2015-02CHVRCHES continued their quest for world domination with something that LITTLE BOOTS, LA ROUX, LADYHAWKE and HURTS never managed… a decent second album. But PURITY RING, the Canadian act whose template CHVRCHES borrowed, must have looked over with a touch of envy at the Glaswegian’s success so responded with ‘Another Eternity’.

HANNAH PEEL released an interim mini-album ‘Rebox 2’ which blended centuries of music technology while VILE ELECTRODES came up with the gorgeous ‘Captive In Symmetry’, possibly one of the songs of 2015. EURASIANEYES heeded all the guidance available to them to produce their most accomplished song yet in ‘Call Your God’ and ANALOG ANGEL went on a well-received tour supporting Swedish veterans COVENANT with a message to listeners of ‘Don’t Forget To Love’.

RODNEY CROMWELL -NASAElsewhere in the British Isles, CIRCUIT3RODNEY CROMWELL and SUDDEN CREATION made their first excursions into the long player format just as KID KASIO and KOVAK each delivered album number two while Berlin based Brit EMIKA helpfully titled her third opus ‘Drei’.

“So, what’s so special about Sweden then?” someone once rather cluelessly asked TEC. Well, it is the modern hub of inventive, electronic pop. KARIN PARK offered her profanity laden fifth album ‘Apocalypse Pop’ while SAY LOU LOU finally gave the world their ‘Lucid Dreaming’. SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN offered to ‘Translate’ while TRAIN TO SPAIN told the world ‘What It’s All About’. And this was without feisty youngsters like ME THE TIGER and comparatively experienced hands such as PRESENCE OF MIND, DESTIN FRAGILE, CLUB 8, 047 and HILTIPOP all entering the equation too.

Photo by Madeleine Berg

Still in Sweden, DAYBEHAVIOR went all female PET SHOP BOYS with the Italo flavoured ‘Cambiare’ and MACHINISTA followed up their debut ‘Xenoglossy’ with ‘Garmonbozia’. while there was also the unexpected return of alternative synthpopsters ASHBURY HEIGHTS. But best of all were the mighty KITE; their ‘VI’ EP was a masterclass in epic, majestic electronic pop.

In the rest of Europe, there was an influx of darker female fronted acts such as Hungary’s BLACK NAIL CABARET, Italy’s ELECTROGENIC, Greece’s SARAH P. and Germany’s NINA; the latter’s ‘My Mistake’ even ended up on a Mercedes TV advert. The male contingent did their bit too with Slovenia’s TORUL unleashing their second offering ‘The Measure’ while the prolific Finnish duo SIN COS TAN took things a little bit easier in their fourth year with just an EP ‘Smile, Tomorrow Will Be Worse’, having already released three albums since 2012.

SILVER GHOST SHIMMEROslo based studio legend John Fryer returned with two new projects, SILVER GHOST SHIMMER and MURICIDAE featuring vocalists Pinky Turzo and Louise Fraser respectively. Both reminded listeners of his work with COCTEAU TWINS and THIS MORTAL COIL, but with an Americanised twist. The Icelandic domiciled Denver singer / songwriter JOHN GRANT added some funkier vibes to his continuing electronic direction while IAMX moved from Berlin to Los Angeles, and did no harm to his art with the brooding ‘Metanoia’ album.

On the brighter side of North America, PRIEST’s self-titled debut long player became reality following their dreamy ‘Samurai’ EP, while HYPERBUBBLE made available their wacky award winning soundtrack to the short film ‘Dee Dee Rocks The Galaxy’ and joyous 2014 London show. And GRIMES caught the music biz on the hop when she released a new album ‘Art Angels’, having scrapped an album’s worth of material in 2014.

NIGHT CLUB Nov2015But despite North America itself being one of the territories flying the flag for the synth with acts like NIGHT CLUB, BATTLE TAPESAESTHETIC PERFECTION and RARE FACTURE all figuring, the worst single of 2015 actually came from the USA; decades of synth heritage were eminently obliterated in five soul destroying minutes… was this really what the Electronic Revolution was fought for? This is cultural history and it needs to be protected.

Although the year had flashes of brilliance, it was generally less impressive overall for fledgling electronic artists, with a number forgetting that all important factor of a good tune! Eddie Bengtsson of SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN remarked last year that synthpop was becoming a dying art.

And in 2015, synthpop’s credibility was further tarnished with lazy use of the term by the mainstream press for acts like YEARS & YEARS; one could argue that TAYLOR SWIFT and her ‘1989’ opus is possibly more synthpop than YEARS & YEARS have ever been! In a market where EDM appears to be king and clubbers are happy to witness DJs miming their two hour sets, there is clearly something wrong. Things were not helped by certain media outlets insisting that dance music was the only way; it was as if electronic music had somehow managed to jump from KRAFTWERK to Detroit techno with nothing happening in between.

jarre clarkeAnd then, there were those who had never particularly enjoyed music from that key Synth Britannia period, who were trying to dictate how modern electronic music was being presented and pretending it had popped out of thin air! Some bands were not doing themselves any favours either, showing little empathetic connection to the history of electronic music in their deluded optimism that they were crafting something completely new! As JEAN-MICHEL JARRE amusingly quipped to Sound-On-Sound magazine: “Lots of people in America think that electronic music started with AVICII and it’s not exactly the truth…”

The lack of accuracy in a number of publications over the last 18 months was also shocking, particularly within magazines and online media that continued to employ writers with a history of not knowing their tape recorders from their drum machines. This simply proved the old adage that just because someone is employed as a professional writer, it doesn’t actually mean they are a good writer!

MYSADCAT2015

Photo @MYSADCAT

The domestic live scene had its challenges too with slow ticket sales and a number of events cancelled. But even when some true legends in electronic music were booked, ticket sales could not be guaranteed and efficient promotion was needed to maximise potential.

Some observers were bemoaning a lack of support for the scene, but if line-ups are not particularly appealing, then audiences cannot be expected to invest time and money to attend.

A number of organisational infrastructures also lacked credibility; if a promoter doesn’t have at least some idea if they’re going to sell fifty tickets or five thousand, then they really shouldn’t be in the business! The question that has to be asked then is, has anybody actually learnt from the Alt-Fest debacle of 2014?

ES2015-Marsheaux+TrainToSpainWhile ‘A Secret Wish’ and SOS#2 were a couple of the year’s better UK events, Europe showed once again how things should be done. Electronic Summer in Gothenburg and the Electri_City_Conference in Düsseldorf were two of the most notable electronic music events of 2015; the inherent knowledge and sense of understanding in both differed immensely to some British promoters. This perhaps could explain why electronic pop has generally flourished more in territories across the North Sea.

Electronic pop needs to continue to develop, but quality control must be maintained to ensure the genre is not publically misrepresented. SOFT CELL once sang about ‘Monoculture’ while KID MOXIE declared how everyone was just content with ‘Medium Pleasure’. If all that’s heard is the best of a bad bunch, then younger listeners (and therefore potential future synth oriented musicians) will not be inspired. That is why it is important that CHVRCHES and EAST INDIA YOUTH consolidate their positions as modern electronic pop’s representatives in the mainstream.

Rusty vs Andy - Chi Ming LaiIt is not good practice to support mediocre music just because it happens to be electronic. The finest examples need to be set so as to show what can be achieved; now if that means possibly referencing back to the golden age of synthpop, then so be it. Only then will the synth baton be able to taken up by a new generation who can then truly reinvigorate it.


PAUL BODDY

Best Album: EAST INDIA YOUTH Culture Of Volume
Best Song: NEW ORDER Restless
Best Gig: EAST INDIA YOUTH + HANNAH PEEL at London Village Underground
Best Video: BATTLE TAPES Valkyrie
Most Promising New Act: BATTLE TAPES


DEB DANAHAY

Best Album: IAMX Metanoia
Best Song: KITE Up For Life
Best Gig: NODE at The Royal College of Music
Best Video: IAMX Oh Cruel Darkness Embrace Me
Most Promising New Act: KITE


IAN FERGUSON

Best Album: EAST INDIA YOUTH Culture Of Volume
Best Song: KITE Count The Days
Best Gig: ASSEMBLAGE 23 at SOS#2 Festival
Best Video: VILE ELECTRODES Captive In Symmetry
Most Promising New Act: RODNEY CROMWELL


MONIKA IZABELA GOSS

Best Album: SILVER GHOST SHIMMER Soft Landing
Best Song: IAMX Happiness
Best Gig: IAMX at London Koko
Best Video: TORUL The Balance
Most Promising New Act: SYNTHDECADE


SIMON HELM

Best Album: LAU NAU Hem Någonstans
Best Song: ME THE TIGER As We Really Are
Best Gig: SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN at A Secret Wish
Best Video: JUNO Same To Me
Most Promising New Act: REIN


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: SUSANNE SUNDFØR Ten Love Songs
Best Song: KITE Up For Life
Best Gig: FFS at The Troxy
Best Video: VILE ELECTRODES Captive In Symmetry
Most Promising New Act: RODNEY CROMWELL


RICHARD PRICE

Best Album: EAST INDIA YOUTH Culture Of Volume
Best Song: NEW ORDER Plastic
Best Gig: EAST INDIA YOUTH + HANNAH PEEL at London Village Underground
Best Video: VILE ELECTRODES Captive In Symmetry
Most Promising New Act: KITE


Text by Chi Ming Lai
16th December 2015

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