Tag: Michael Oakley (Page 1 of 3)

TEC’s 2019 End Of Year Review

2019 was a year of 40th Anniversaries, celebrating the synth becoming the sound of pop when ‘Are Friends Electric?’ reached No1 in the UK chart in 1979.

While GARY NUMAN opted for ‘(R)evolution’ and two of his former sidemen RRussell Bell and Chris Payne ventured solo for the first time, OMD offered a 7 disc ‘Souvenir’ featuring a whole album of quality unreleased material to accompany a concert tour to celebrate four decades in the business.

That was contrary to DEPECHE MODE who merely plonked 14 albums into a boxed set in a move where the ‘Everything Counts’ lyric “the grabbing hands grab all they can” became more and more ironic…

MIDGE URE partied like it was 1980 with the music of VISAGE and ULTRAVOX, while SIMPLE MINDS announced an arena tour for 2020 so that their audience could show Jim Kerr their hands again. HEAVEN 17 announced some special showcases of the early material of THE HUMAN LEAGUE and got a particularly warm reception opening on tour for SQUEEZE as a trailer ahead of their own ‘Greatest Hits’ jaunt next year.

Celebrating 20 years in music, there was the welcome return of LADYTRON with a self-titled comeback album, while Swedish evergreens LUSTANS LAKEJER performed the ‘Åkersberga’ album for its 20th Anniversary and similarly GOLDFRAPP announced a series of shows in honour of their magnificent cinematic debut ‘Felt Mountain’.

Cult favourites FIAT LUX made their intimate live comeback in a church in Bradford and released their debut album ‘Saved Symmetry’ 37 years after their first single ‘Feels Like Winter Again’.

As a result, their fans were also treated to ‘Ark Of Embers’, the long player that Polydor Records shelved in 1985 when the band were on the cusp of a breakthrough but ended with a commercial breakdown.

Modern prog exponents Tim Bowness and Steven Wilson got back together as NO-MAN for their dual suite electronic concept record ‘Love You To Bits’, but an even more ambitious undertaking came from UNDERWORLD with their boxed set ‘Drift Series 1’.

Also making live returns were one-time PET SHOP BOYS protégé CICERO with a charity gig in his hometown of Livingston, WHITE DOOR with JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM at Synth Wave Live 3, ARTHUR & MARTHA at TEC005 and Mute Records veterans KOMPUTER at TEC006.

After a short hiatus, the mighty KITE sold-out three gigs at Stockholm Slaktkyrkan and ended the year performing at an opera house, while GIORGIO MORODER embarked on his first ever concert tour where his songs were the stars.

Although their long-awaited-as-yet-untitled third album was still to materialise, VILE ELECTRODES went back on the road in Europe with APOPTYGMA BERZERK and THE INVINCIBLE SPIRIT. Meanwhile, Chinese techno-rock sextet STOLEN opened for NEW ORDER on their Autumn European tour and EMIKA performed in a series of Planetariums.

Despite the fall of The Berlin Wall 30 years ago, there were more evident swipes to the right than there had been for a long time, with the concept of Brexit Electro becoming a rather unpleasant reality. So in these more sinister times, the need for classic uplifting electronic pop was higher than ever.

To that end, three superb debut albums fitted the bill. While KNIGHT$ offered quality Britalo on ‘Dollars & Cents’, the suave presence of OLLIE WRIDE took a more MTV friendly direction with ‘Thanks In Advance’.

But for those wanting something more home produced, the eccentric Northern electronic pop of the brilliantly named INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP continued the artistic lineage of THE HUMAN LEAGUE.

QUIETER THAN SPIDERS finally released their wonderful debut album ‘Signs Of Life’ which was naturally more understated and Denmark had some worthy synthpop representation with SOFTWAVE producing an enjoyably catchy debut long player in ‘Game On’.

On the shadier side of electronic pop, BOY HARSHER achieved a wider breakthrough with their impressive ‘Careful’ long player but as a result, the duo acquired a contemporary hipster element to their fanbase who seemed to lack manners and self-awareness as they romped around gigs without a care for anyone around them. But with tongues-in-cheeks, SPRAY continued to amuse with their witty prankelectro on ‘Failure Is Inevitable’.

Photo by Johnny Jewel

Italians Do It Better kept things in house as CHROMATICS unexpectedly unleashed their first album for six years in ‘Closer To Grey’ and embarked on a world tour.

Main support was DESIRE and accompanied on keyboards by HEAVEN singer Aja, the pair took things literally during their cover version of ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ with a girl-on-girl kiss in front of head honcho Johnny Jewel.

Other ITIB acts on the tour dependent on territory included DOUBLE MIXTE, IN MIRRORS and KRAKÓW LOVES ADANA. But the best work to appear from the stable came from JORJA CHALMERS who became ‘Human Again’.

There were a variety of inventive eclectic works from FAKE TEAK, MAPS, FINLAY SHAKESPEARE, ULTRAMARINE, TYCHO, THE GOLDEN FILTER, FRAGRANCE. and FADER. Meanwhile VON KONOW, SOMEONE WHO ISN’T ME and JAKUZI all explored themes of equality while BOYTRONIC preferred ‘The Robot Treatment’.

But expressing themselves on the smoother side of proceedings were CULT WITH NO NAME and notably SHOOK who looked east towards the legend of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA.

Dark minimalism reigned in the work of FRAGILE SELF and WE ARE REPLICA while no less dark but not so aggressive, WITCH OF THE VALE cemented their position with a well-received opening slot at Infest.

Touring in Europe with OMD and MIDGE URE, TINY MAGNETIC PETS unleashed two EPs ‘The Politburo Disko’ and ‘Girl In A White Dress’ as fellow Dubliner CIRCUIT3 got political and discussed ‘The Price Of Nothing & The Value Of Everything’.

2019 was a year of electronic instrumental offerings galore from NEULAND, RICARDO AUTOBAHN, EKKOES, M83, RELIEF, FEMMEPOP and OBLONG, although ERIC RANDOM’s dystopian offering ‘Wire Me Up’ added vocoder while BRIAN ENO celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing ‘For All Mankind’.

The King of Glum Rock LLOYD COLE surprised all with an electronic pop album called ‘Guesswork’ just as PET SHOP BOYS set an ‘Agenda’. HOWARD JONES released his most synthy work for years in ‘Transform’ and while CHINA CRISIS acted as his well-received support on the UK leg of his 35th Anniversary tour, their front man GARY DALY ventured solo with ‘Gone From Here’.

Among the year’s best new talents were IMI, KARIN MYGRETAGEISTE and ALICE HUBBLE with their beautifully crafted avant pop.

And with the media traction of artists such as GEORGIA, REIN, JENNIFER TOUCH, SUI ZHEN, THE HEARING, IONNALEE, PLASMIC, ZAMILSKA, IOANNA GIKA, SPELLLING, KANGA, FIFI RONG and I AM SNOW ANGEL, the profile of women in electronic music was stronger than ever in 2019.

Sweden continued to produce quality electronic pop with enjoyable releases from the likes of MACHINISTA, PAGE, COVENANT, OBSESSION OF TIME and LIZETTE LIZETTE. One of the most interesting acts to emerge from the region was US featuring the now Stockholm-domiciled Andrew Montgomery from GENEVA and Leo Josefsson of LOWE, with the catalyst of this unlikely union coming from a shared love of the late country legend Glen Campbell. Meanwhile, veteran trio DAYBEHAVIOR made the best album of their career ‘Based On A True Story’.

However, Canada again gave the Swedes a good run for their money as ELECTRIC YOUTH and FM ATTACK released new material while with more of a post-punk slant, ACTORS impressed audiences who preferred a post-post-punk edge alongside their synths. DANA JEAN PHOENIX though showed herself to be one of the best solo synth performers on the live circuit, but artistically the best of the lot was MECHA MAIKO who had two major releases ‘Okiya’ and ‘Let’s!’.

Despite making some good music in 2019 with their ‘Destroyer’ two-parter, the “too cool for school” demeanour of TR/ST might have impressed hipsters, but left a lot to be desired. A diva-ish attitude of entitlement was also noticed by The Electricity Club to be disappointingly prevalent in several fledgling acts.

Synthwave increased its profile further with the film ‘The Rise Of The Synths’ narrated by none other than John Carpenter. MICHAEL OAKLEY released his debut album ‘Introspect’, BETAMAXX was ‘Lost In A Dreamworld’, COM TRUISE came up with a ‘Persuasion System’ and NEW ARCADES were ‘Returning Home’.

Scene veteran FUTURECOP! collaborated with PARALLELS, COMPUTER MAGIC and NINA prior to a hiatus for the foreseeable future, while there were promising new talents emerging in the shape of POLYCHROME, PRIZM, BUNNY X and RIDER.

However, several of the sub-genre’s artists needed to rethink their live presentations which notably underwhelmed with their static motions and lack of engagement.

While promoters such as Outland developed on their solid foundations, others attempted to get too big too soon like the musical equivalent of a penis extension, leaving fans disappointed and artists unpaid. Attempting to turnover more than 10 acts during in a day with a quarter of an hour changeover has always been an odious task at best, but to try 15?!? One hopes the headliners were well paid despite having to go on at midnight when most of their supporters went home so as not to miss the last train…

Now at times, it was as if a major collective midlife crisis had hit independent electronic music in the UK during 2019.

It was not unlike how “born again bikers” have become a major road safety risk, thanks to 40somethings who only managed Cycling Proficiency in Junior School suddenly jumping onto 500cc Honda CMX500 Rebel motorcycles, thinking they were Valentino Rossi.

Something similar was occurring in music as a variety of posturing delusional synth owners indulged in a remix frenzy and visions of grandeur like it was normal behaviour, forgetting that ability and talent were paramount.

This attitude led to a number of poorly attended events where attendees were able to be counted on one hand, thanks to clueless fans of said combos unwisely panning their video footage around the venue.

Playing at 3:15pm in an empty venue is NOT performing at a ‘major’ electronic festival… “I’ll be more selective with the gigs I agree to in the UK” one of these acts haplessly bemoaned, “I’ve played to too many empty rooms!” – well, could that have been because they are not very good?

Bands who had blown their chance by not showing willingness to open for name acts during holiday periods, while making unwise comments on their national TV debut about their lack of interest in registering for PRS, said they were going to split a year in advance, but not before releasing an EP and playing a farewell show in an attempt to finally get validation for their art. Was this a shining example of Schrodinger’s Band?

Of course, the worst culprits were those who had an internet radio show or put on gigs themselves so that they could actually perform, because otherwise external promotors were only interested in them opening at 6.15pm after a ticket deal buy on for a five band bill. Humility wouldn’t have gone amiss in all these cases.

It’s a funny old world, but as The Electricity Club comes up to concluding its tenth year as an influential platform that has written extensively about not one or two or three or four BUT five acts prior to them being selected to open on tour for OMD, luckily the gulf between good and bad music is more distinct than ever.

Artwork by Heloisa Flores

The Electricity Club had a compilation released by Amour Records gathering some of the best music from the last 10 years and reached No2 in the German POPoNAUT charts.

It will be interesting to see if the high standard of electronic pop will be maintained or whether the influx of deluded poor quality artists will contaminate the bloodline.

So The Electricity Club ends the decade with a complimentary comment by a punter after TEC006 who had also been to TEC004: “You don’t put on sh*t do you…”

May the supreme talent rise and shine… you know who you are 😉


THE ELECTRICITY CLUB Contributor Listings of 2019

PAUL BODDY

Best Album: UNDERWORLD Drift Series 1
Best Song: MOLINA Venus
Best Gig: RAMMSTEIN at Milton Keynes MK Bowl
Best Video: SCALPING Chamber
Most Promising New Act: SCALPING


IAN FERGUSON

Best Album: NO-MAN Love You To Bits
Best Song: NO-MAN Love You To Shreds
Best Gig: RAMMSTEIN at Stadion Slaski Chorzow
Best Video: RAMMSTEIN Deutschland
Most Promising New Act: IMI


SIMON HELM

Best Album: PAGE Fakta För Alla
Best Song: PAGE Fakta För Alla
Best Gig: LAU NAU at London Cafe OTO
Best Video: LAU NAU Amphipoda on Buchla 200 at EMS Stockholm
Most Promising New Act: THE HIDDEN MAN


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: KNIGHT$ Dollar & Cents
Best Song: OMD Don’t Go
Best Gig: KITE at Stockholm Slaktkyrkan
Best Video: NIGHT CLUB Your Addiction
Most Promising New Act: IMI


RICHARD PRICE

Best Album: KNIGHT$ Dollar & Cents
Best Song: OMD Don’t Go
Best Gig: MIDGE URE + RUSTY EGAN at The London Palladium
Best Video: IMI Margins
Most Promising New Act: PLASMIC


MONIKA IZABELA TRIGWELL

Best Album: MECHA MAIKO Let’s
Best Song: KANGA Burn
Best Gig: DANA JEAN PHOENIX, KALAX + LEBROCK at London Zigfrid von Underbelly
Best Video: IONNALEE Open Sea
Most Promising New Act: PRIZM


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Ian Ferguson
16th December 2019

OLLIE WRIDE Interview

Although best known as the voice for FM-84, Ollie Wride has ventured solo with his recently released debut album ‘Thanks In Advance’, co-produced by Michael Oakley.

And while songs like ‘Running In The Night’ and ‘Wild Ones’ with FM-84 made him more widely known within Synthwave circles, ‘Thanks In Advance’ explores more dynamic synth-led territory with an FM rock flavour, particularly in songs like ‘The Driver’, ‘Miracle Mile’ and ‘Never Live Without You’, although there are more balladic numbers too like ‘Luna’.

A very immediate pop album with a suave presence and that classic MTV friendly feel, the positive acclaim for ‘Thanks In Advance’ has led to Wride announcing his first solo concert in London at Camden Assembly on Saturday 16th November 2019.

With only a few tickets remaining for the Outland hosted show, The Electricity Club had the pleasure of talking to Ollie Wride about his career to date, both with FM-84 and solo, plus his future plans.

What led you to depart the UK for the USA, was it purely musical or was it more romantic, inspired by the films and TV shows of your youth?

Firstly, thank you so much for having me Chi and for your unwavering support. Just to clarify I am still a UK resident! I do however spend a large portion of my time stateside, predominantly due to work as well as some of my closest friends and colleagues are based there. You’ve got to go where the action is! As for being inspired by pop culture into taking the leap – doesn’t everyone at some point in their youth fantasise about getting on a Jumbo Jet and making for the West Coast to go and carve a career in Rock n Roll… or “tech” nowadays?

Who are your key musical influences? The Electricity Club can’t help hearing Lindsey Buckingham in your voice but we mean that as a compliment 😉

That’s a heavy compliment to drop, one that I shan’t take lightly. You’ve hit the nail on the head with Buckingham, we’re talking that kind of pedigree generally here. I’m transparent as far as the term “influence” goes, I wear them on my sleeve, I’m sure it would come as no surprise to some reeling off David Bowie, Bryan Ferry / Roxy, Peter Gabriel and QUEEN as key players. I could go on…

You’re best known as the voice of FM-84, the project of San Francisco-based Scotsman Col Bennett, how did that association come about?

The genesis stemmed from when I was first made aware of the retro wave genre by my long time friend and collaborator Josh Dally back in 2015. I don’t recall the precise ins and outs, but he was working with Jordy aka TIMECOP1983 on the ‘Reflections’ record which would later become ‘Let’s Talk’ and suggested I got involved.

I had just come out of a deal in LA, and being candid I was pretty jaded and burnt out… my only real concern was how was I going to make the next rent cheque, let alone get back in the saddle musically! However, Josh twisted my arm and Jordy and I quickly hit it off. ‘Wild Love’ was the result and reignited my enthusiasm.

Shortly after, I started to familiarise myself with the up and coming producers in the scene, one of whom happened to be Col (FM-84) and the ‘Los Angeles EP’, I quickly developed a large affinity with it. So much so, I paired one of my ideas to his instrumental ‘Out Of Time’ before we ever even spoke. The serendipity came when Col approached me to work on the record that would later be called ‘Atlas’, having heard ‘Wild Love’. It was only by chance that we were huge fans of one another’s work! The rest they say, is history…

So how would FM-84 tracks like ‘Running In The Night’ and ‘Wild Ones’ have evolved in the studio, and at which stage would you have been asked to get involved?

‘Running In The Night’ was the first song we wrote together, believe it or not! In that particular instance, Col had a pretty defined template that he had initially worked on with another writer, but to no avail. I took the instrumental and sat with it, reworking at the piano for about two weeks I recall.

Using the verse progression as a springboard, I had the chorus locked in pretty quickly after re-harmonising the chord structure to give it that sense of tension and urgency – it breathed a new lease of life into it I felt, although I was still unsure whether he’d go for it. Still, from there the verse lyric and melody soon emerged soon after. I handed the reins back to Col and he brought his production finesse, we’re lucky to have that song.

A similar scenario with ‘Wild Ones’, an instrumental bed was already established to work from and I was given freedom to rearrange / change the chord structure so I could develop into the song – this dynamic has continued throughout the majority of our work together.

The success of FM-84 and the album ‘Atlas’ had led to you touring the world with them, but what inspired you to do a solo album, has that always been on the cards?

Well, it’s important to highlight that I’m very fortunate to be a part of something that enjoys even a semblance of ’success’ or should I say gives enjoyment to lots of people, particularly in what is still widely considered as a niche market. So honestly, I had no aspirations to deviate from something that I had already invested so much of myself into…

I give 110% of myself to whatever project I am involved with at the time – when ‘Atlas’ took off and the response was so overwhelming, the only desire I had was to continue to build upon the work we had accomplished, making music that we love and inspires us first and foremost.

However, I am a workaholic and I detest prolonged periods of inactivity. I’ve been both marred by bad luck and great fortune, but managed to earn my crust as a writer and performer since I was 19, therefore I am always looking for the next song. Having pitched a few ideas for the next FM-84 record, it quickly became apparent that another thread was emerging, and one that was more in line with my direct influences, I wanted to pursue a concept I had in my head for many years, that occasionally seeps through in the FM-84 world but ultimately this required its own store front.

For ‘Thanks In Advance’, you’ve been working with another Scot in Michael Oakley… a coincidence or do you feel a spiritual affinity? Is there a secret stash of RUNRIG albums in your collection? 😉

Purely owing to Michael’s wonderful nature and sharpened skill set! Well, aside from us developing a great friendship, we share a commonality in that we love melody, sincerity and well-made records. We’ve been working pretty closely for the past year and a half on one another’s records. A sort of services trade if you will… he polished my productions / mixes and I gave him lyrics and melodies where he required. I feel we’ve developed a great understanding of what the other is searching for in our respective fields. Never treading on one another, but enhancing each other’s vision. If that makes sense?

Your solo work has a more synth rock edge compared with the smooth atmospherics of FM-84, especially on songs like ‘Never Live Without You’ and ‘Driver’, please take us through how those two songs came together?

This relates to what I mentioned earlier in that this is a solo record through and through. Turning the lens towards my direct influences and the records that I fell in love with as a kid having raided and studied my Dad’s record collection – like so many others did I’m sure. It’s not a conscious decision, more a natural environment for me.

’Never Live Without You’ was the second song I wrote for the record that was a clear front runner from the outset. I worked through 4 different versions before landing on what you can now hear… I wanted to channel the sentiment of Springsteen and Jeff Lynne, this pulsing rhythm combined with soaring vocal line.

’The Driver’ was the last track I wrote for the record, which emerged from a 32 bar guitar pluck that Chris Huggett sent me in passing. So simple, yet oozing with menace, glam and swagger. I felt so inspired by the riff, I frantically mocked up a demo comprised of verse and chorus, both lyrical concepts are referring to rediscovering or maintaining sense of self / vision. I seldom write that fast, generally that’s a pretty good barometer for a great succinct song.

How involved do you get in the instrumentation process?

Perhaps a common misconception about singers in general? But I’m involved from the ground upwards, I write, produce and arrange all of the material you hear on the record, as well as a lot of instrumentation and arrangement in FM-84, the majority of this I work on in my studio at home. I’m a total perfectionist and proud to be.

‘Miracle Mile’ sounds like it might have been inspired by a moonlit convertible drive? Was it?

That sounds wonderful, but I hate to disappoint, I gave up my car when the lease was up… 😉

I actually wrote the makings of it, when I was hard up, in LA living in an Extended Stay dive, between Ventura Blvd and the 101 for 5 months as part of the accommodation plan my then-label put me in.

Despite the musty marijuana that pervaded the air, cops turning up every other night to address domestic disturbances and an air conditioning unit that hadn’t been serviced since 1997, I didn’t mind it all that much, I convinced myself that I was living ’The American Dream’ or a rendition. The song is loosely a true story about the lengths we go to, in an attempt to find what we seek.

‘I’m A Believer’ embraces the influence of Hollywood-era Giorgio Moroder, do you have any favourite films of that period? 

Thank you! It was certainly a modest attempt to evoke a sense of nightclubbing in that era. I assume you’re referring to ‘Scarface’ with the Moroder connection?

I’m a sucker for a Gangster picture for sure. ‘Goodfellas’, ‘Casino’, ‘The Godfather’… however specifically the early – mid 80s? ‘Bladerunner’, ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, ‘Raging Bull’ spring to mind.

Any hopes and fears about how ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ might turn out?

I have a heck of a lot of time for Tom Cruise, simply irrepressible, I have every faith in ‘Top Gun’: Maverick’.

You do love a power ballad, as ‘The Rising Tide’, ‘Hold On’ and ‘Luna’ show but you largely manage to keep the AOR thing in check? There’s a flavour but not too much of it? Any thoughts?

I meant to take you to task on this! Haha! Do I? You can’t have light without shade in my view! I can see why to an extent, slow burners / lower tempo numbers seem to default into that category – however it is not intentionally so… I feel ‘Luna’ is the only true embodiment on the LP.

Simply as it was intended as an open letter about two lovers who meet over the internet on opposite sides of the world with contrasting lifestyles, in the face of adversity and external pressures they reconcile their feelings to try and realise a future.

As far as AOR goes… well, I don’t consciously steer towards or veer from anything stylistically. I approach each song from the stand point of, what is the message? Does it make me feel anything? Is it truthful? If those ingredients aren’t present then I think labels are irrelevant, the song will invariably not make the grade!

Which have been your own personal favourites from the album and why?

That’s like trying to select your favourite child? Perhaps it’s unspoken? 😉

Well, ‘The Driver’, ‘Miracle Mile’ are stand outs for me, but ’The Rising Tide’ is much more of a luscious contrast for me, untethering myself, a ROXY MUSIC homage come blue eyed gospel moment in the spirit of Peter Gabriel.

Without dissecting the message here, all I will say is lyrically the pen is turned directly on myself, an acknowledgement of the pitfalls and facing them with a grin come what may – vocally I went to town, it’s definitely not a “sit back and relax” moment, I’m giving everything I’ve got in the tank which is both liberating and a real challenge I put to myself, I’m really pleased with the result.

‘Thanks In Advance’ is almost made to be performed live, was that something that had been a consideration during its production?

That’s an excellent observation. Honestly it’s never a conscious decision until after the fact… Songwriting and the studio is the factory, the stage is the test track and I adore that environment, it’s a fight or walking a tight rope I feel to an extent. It’s a privilege to be able to do and have the responsibility to ensure you have it nailed. Although, initially at least, I seldom consider the challenges of delivering half of my songs live! They’re certainly a work out, but I do a huge amount of prep and rehearsal.

So how will your solo show in London this November differ from when people saw you fronting FM-84?

Well, it’s imperative to highlight that I am always myself… authentic and sincere, what you see is what you get up there – it is my job to entertain you for an hour and a half for the price of admission. Aside from the glossy veneer, I’m looking forward to showing more of my chops as far as playing live goes.

I teased this on the recent FM tour we just wrapped with rolling out the Keytar during our cover of TEARS FOR FEARS, this will be an extension – yes you’ll get the synths but it will be a live show, with real musicianship from real musicians, something that I am a huge advocate of and feel is lacking in the scene at least.

Synthwave, synthpop, popwave… do these terms and classifications matter, surely it’s all pop music? 😉

I am by no means an arbiter of other people’s tastes / views etc. I’m well aware, labels go with the territory, whilst I don’t shirk away from them and I’m grateful to be even considered a member of any ‘movement’ – it is my personal view that rather than rush to create so many different sub genres and factions – why don’t folks simply concentrate on the meat and potatoes here… creating the best possible music they can muster in the first place?

What’s next for you musically, either solo or with FM-84 or anything else?

It’s still early days for my debut LP, having only been released last week, the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, exceeding my expectations… far more receptive than I expected truth be told. It’s a pretty daunting prospect stepping out of the spotlight of an entity that so many people love and may associate you with – so first things first, I am likely going to be performing a few select shows starting in the UK and US subject to the album’s trajectory of course! I already have tracks lined up for a possible second record… where they eventually land, we shall see.

FM-84 has been the main focus since I became a part, however it requires a huge team effort to see the second record across the line, so when the time is right and Col is ready, I will be there to play my part – if I’m still needed! In other news, I’m due to begin work with Michael Oakley on his follow up to ‘Introspect’ shortly, as well as working with a few of peers within the scene with a possibility of the long awaited duet on the cards! 😉


The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Ollie Wride

Special thanks to Stuart McLaren at Outland

‘Thanks In Advance’ is released by New Retro Wave, available in vinyl LP, cassette and digital formats direct from https://newretrowave.bandcamp.com/album/thanks-in-advance

OLLIE WRIDE plays London Camden Assembly on Saturday 16th November 2019 and Glasgow Classic Grand on Friday 10th April 2020

https://olliewride.com/

https://www.facebook.com/olliewrideofficial/

https://twitter.com/OllieWride

https://www.instagram.com/olliewride/

http://www.nrwrecords.com

https://open.spotify.com/artist/1anhHn744LbctzF9EHpvea


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Portrait Photos by Randy Jacob
Live Photo by Electric Brixton
31st July 2019, updated 26th October 2019

OLLIE WRIDE Thanks In Advance

The stylish figure of Ollie Wride could become popwave’s own Bryan Ferry.

Just as Ferry had a parallel solo career alongside ROXY MUSIC, the suave lead vocalist for FM-84 on songs like ‘Wild Ones’ has been partying like it’s 1985 on his enjoyable debut long player ‘Thanks In Advance’.

Co-produced by the Toronto based Scot Michael Oakley with guitars by Chris Huggett, Los Angeles based Englishman Wride uses the opportunity to channel his inner Lindsey Buckingham.

There are certainly flashes of FLEETWOOD MAC’s synth assisted ‘Tango In The Night’ album within opening song ‘Never Live Without You’, a number fashioned with a fine balance of synths, guitars and MTV friendly vocals that is better than anything which THE KILLERS have fashioned in the last ten years.

Rhythmically swung, ‘Overcome’ is rocky but avoids the dreaded AOR indulgences often found within synthwave circles. Meanwhile the muted funk guitar and sparking synthlines of ‘Back To Life’ offer sunny soulful pop, with Wride’s voice superbly anthemic and likely to induce swooning. Plus there’s even an unexpected key change and sax thrown in!

With gently percussive World Music overtones, ‘The Rising Tide’ offers a colourful ballad in the vein of Tom Lord-Alge’s work with Steve Winwood but with the threat of MR MISTER looming, this won’t necessarily be for everyone.

Offering some big love, it all gets back on track with ‘Miracle Mile’, the pulsing triplet providing the backbone to a wonderful open top driving number. The imagery conjured may be a cliché but the fact that the song produces pictures for the listener at all is a fine achievement for any artist.

Coming over like Richard Marx, Wride dons his balladeer hat again on the appropriately moonlit ‘Luna’, before the sun rises for the filmic bass synth laden cascade of ‘I’m A Believer’, which embraces the hypnotic Hollywood influence of Giorgio Moroder as well as utilising some rousing layers of vocals.

‘Hold On’ reimagines what a slowie for the soundtrack of ‘About Last Night’ would be like in the 21st Century, but ending ‘Thanks In Advance’ is ‘The Driver’.

Putting into dynamic realisation as to what SIMPLE MINDS might have sounded like had Moroder-graduate Keith Forsey produced the 1985 ‘Once Upon A Time’ album instead of Jimmy Iovine and Bob Clearmountain, the superb grouchy FM synth rock of ‘The Driver’ see Wride successfully cross Jim Kerr with Billy Idol!

So is this a synthwave album? Well no! Is it good accessible pop record with a melodic synth aesthetic that invokes memories of Brat Pack movies, aviator sunglasses and designer stubble? YES!

Ollie Wride has proved with ‘Thanks In Advance’ that he can cut it on his own outside of the FM-84 nest. While there might be too many power ballads for some listeners, this is an impressive debut long player that will be likely to gain further momentum once it is carried into the live arena by Wride’s charismatic stage presence.


‘Thanks In Advance’ is released by New Retro Wave, available in vinyl LP, cassette and digital formats direct from https://newretrowave.bandcamp.com/album/thanks-in-advance

https://olliewride.com/

https://www.facebook.com/olliewrideofficial/

https://twitter.com/OllieWride

https://www.instagram.com/olliewride/

http://www.nrwrecords.com


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Portrait Photos by Randy Jacob
22nd July 2019, updated 20th March 2020

MICHAEL OAKLEY Introspect

Toronto based Glaswegian MICHAEL OAKLEY rode the Synthwave with his debut solo EP ‘California’ in late 2016.

Admittedly more synthpop than Synthwave, Oakley’s songcraft was what set him apart from much of that Trans-Atlantic influenced movement, with an emotional centre capturing the youthful angst of Brat Pack rom-coms and the coming-of-age movies of John Hughes.

Following the positive reception for ‘California’, his debut full-length offering ‘Introspect’ sees MICHAEL OAKLEY re-exploring the music of his teenage years.

In particular, Oakley has studied that era’s now retrospectively unique sound design. The Scot told The Electricity Club: “I deliberately used Yamaha DX sounds and Fairlight sounds to capture more of that mid 1980s Trevor Horn sound and cut back using too many analogue sounds. Especially on bass.”

The opening instrumental title theme echoes David Foster’s soundtrack work on ‘St Elmo’s Fire’, but the album starts proper with the mighty Italo Disco statement of ‘Left Behind’. Complete with obligatory orchestra stabs and a rousing chorus, it gleefully fuses SAVAGE, RAF, PET SHOP BOYS and BEE GEES within a big Trevor Horn styled kitchen sink!

But despite the fun laden octave shift frenzy on ‘Left Behind’, the lyrics contain an early midlife reflection, something which Oakley confessed to The Electricity Club: “the song is about me feeling like everyone around me was getting settled in their career, getting married and taking out a mortgage. Yet I was still living in my parents’ house, chasing a dream of being a musician that wasn’t working out.”

Meanwhile, ‘Crystal Ships’ is not a cover of THE DOORS, but a delightful synth AOR number that apes John Waite, the one-time front man of THE BABYS who found Trans-Atlantic fame and fortune with ‘Missing You’. Its biggest surprise is a synthetic panpipe sound which is cheesy as hell but works perfectly in the context of the track; guilty pleasure ahoy!

With some superb digital percussive manipulation akin to Trevor Horn’s work on the fifth variation of ‘Slave To The Rhythm’ from the album of the same name, ‘Control’ is Oakley at his most darkest and aggressive yet, gloomier but not so lovelorn. But to put that into perspective, despite the more serious overtones, this is not NIRVANA.

‘Rain’ takes a PET SHOP BOYS bassline lead and references Glasgow as Oakley dreams of escaping his hometown in another reflective midlife number that conceptually could be THE BLUE NILE gone disco.

With an opening Fender Rhodes, the ballad ‘Now I’m Alive’ with Synthwave Queen DANA JEAN PHOENIX and an air of the 1985 film drama ‘White Nights’ which Phil Collins and Lionel Ritchie contributed recordings for. However, once the heat rises between Phoenix and Oakley, it conjures images of Demi Moore and Rob Lowe in romantic fornication!

The rhythmic ‘Push It To The Limit’ is something of a maniac, complete with a blistering FM rock guitar solo; listeners will cry out “MONTAGE” but this is one to dust off the lycra leotards to and get physical!

While Oakley pushes the boundaries of AOR within his rock assisted popwave and enjoyably gets away with it for most of ‘Introspect’, the closing ‘American Dream’ takes it too far. A big but short piano ballad, it’s a bit over sentimental and wet, yet it potentially could end up as an audition staple on TV talent shows.

A worthy follow-up to his debut EP ‘California’, Oakley once again proves his songwriting talent but adds experience to his production knowhow. Now happily settled in Canada, he is comfortable in his own skin to mix influences that ultimately make for great pop music.


‘Introspect’ is released as a vinyl LP, cassette and download album by NewRetroWave direct from https://newretrowave.bandcamp.com/album/introspect

MICHAEL OAKLEY plays Outland Toronto 2019 on Saturday 6th July at the Mod Club Theatre alongside DANA JEAN PHOENIX, PARALLELS, MECHA MAIKO, TIMECOP1983, FM ATTACK + KALAX – ticket available in advance from https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/outland-toronto-2019-retrowave-festival-tickets-57180793292

https://www.facebook.com/MichaelOakleyOfficial

https://twitter.com/MichaelOakleySW

https://www.instagram.com/michaeloakleyofficial/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
8th March 2019

DANA JEAN PHOENIX Interview

Synthilicious ditties aren’t usually the thing of the colder climates of Toronto, but as far DANA JEAN PHOENIX is concerned, the Atari worthy tracks flow like liquid candy; pink and glossy, sweet and retro.

Bringing back that elusive feel of youth, first loves and first disappointments, DANA JEAN PHOENIX offers feel good music that doesn’t have to be too serious and too complicated, recalling a world when things were simpler and exciting.

With a European tour approaching and including an Outland hosted event in London at Easter, The Electricity Club had the pleasure to chat with the Alternative Ice Maiden and check out her super poppy world.

Sheridan College provided your first musical education, what was it in the form of?

After I studied Jazz at Humber College, I attended Sheridan for Musical Theatre. The two experiences really helped me in understanding songwriting, song structure, and putting on a more theatrical show experience.

When did you start writing your own music?

When I was on tour as a singer for Canadian R&B Queen JULLY BLACK, I was inspired to write my own music. Then when I became a lead singer for the Canadian funk band, GOD MADE ME FUNKY, I got to hone those skills while writing more electrofunk and disco.

What attracted you to using synths?

My parents had a stacked record collection growing up. I would root through them and always come back to the albums that were heavily synth and funk inspired! Then I moved on to my brother’s electronica collection and fell in love with the warm, melancholic and nostalgia inducing synth sounds of BOARDS OF CANADA.

With influences from?

The greats like MJ, PRINCE, MADONNA and HOWARD JONES are always influences, but my love for synth funk in groups such as CHANGE, D-TRAIN, SHALAMAR, THE TIME, S.O.S BAND and ZAPP & ROGER are a major source of inspiration.

2013 saw you performing in musical theatre…

Right out of theatre school, I was fortunate to land a lead role in a show called The Musical of Musicals of Musicals at an indie theatre festival, which then got picked up by Mirvish (Canada’s equivalent to Broadway or the West End in London). I got to explore musical comedy in that time, which really inspired me to be fearless to try new things in front of an audience.

‘Drrty Shooz’ was your first long player. It was well received. That must have been a dream come true? How do you look back on it now?

I was experimenting in styles and stretching my voice in new ways on the album. Looking back, it was my stepping-stone into immersing myself in the synthwave genre, as it was the first time I had collaborated with synthwave artists such as SUNGLASSES KID and ROBOTS WITH RAYGUNS. It was an organic transition, merging my previous forays in songwriting to fully fledged synthpop and retrowave.

And then your music started featuring in motion pictures…

TIMECOP1983 sent me the music for what would become ‘Dreams’ and I got chills as I was writing the vocals because I knew it was special. Just as awesome as having that song featured in two Netflix original films and the PS4 game ‘Crossing Souls’ though, was getting to perform the song live with Jody in Stockholm last year!

For the stage adaptation of ‘The Wedding Singer’ in 2015, you were nominated for ‘Best Supporting Actress In A Musical’…

That was a totally rad experience! I played the role of ‘Holly’ played by Christine Taylor in the movie, so all of my costumes were MADONNA inspired and I got to dance and sing my heart out every night over super 80s pop music! I got doused with a bucket of water every show a la the famous ‘Flashdance’ scene. It was great example of how the retro aesthetic and nostalgia really resonates with people of all ages and backgrounds.

You’re known for your collaborations, which one would you say you’re the most proud of?

It’s always dope working with MECHA MAIKO – she produced ‘Be Alright’ on my new album ‘PixelDust’ and it felt great to collaborate with a fellow female synth artist from Toronto.

She also inspired me to start producing more of my own music, like my song ‘Funky Fly Free’ – my first fully self-produced song.

MECHA MAIKO also worked with you on ‘Cold’, which featured on her debut album ‘Mad But Soft’, and she was thrilled working with an icon like you…

I really dug her work with DEAD ASTRONAUTS, so it was hella cool finding out she was also a Torontonian in the scene. We’ve since performed ‘Cold’ live together in Toronto, Philadelphia, and at the inaugural NEON RetroFest in Rhode Island.

You’ve also collaborated with MICHAEL OAKLEY on a track called ‘Now I’m Alive’ for his new album ‘Introspect’… The Electricity Club can picture Demi Moore and Rob Lowe making out to that one!!

Right?! We created a powerhouse retro ballad.

It’s so fun to write and perform harmonies with an amazing singer and songwriter like Michael.

You describe yourself as a “Retro Synthwave Singer”. Could you expand on that?

A consistent theme in my music is self-empowerment and the courage to be in control of your own destiny. Retro music brings you back to a time when possibilities seemed endless and inspires those moments of boldness and courage. I combine these elements into pure synth jams that will make people wanna shake their ass on the dance floor and feel empowered while doing it!

‘PixelDust’ is girly and fluffy, fully reminiscent of the good old times; would you say you changed how you make your records much?

Since touring Europe and the US and Canada last year, my writing has become more focused to making songs that will rock in a live setting, keep you dancing, and make you wanna blast it in your headphones!

You’ve moved away slightly from pure Synthwave styles and have adopted other branches of electronic pop, which are your own favourite songs on ‘PixelDust’ and why?

I love rocking out with my keytar, Jareth, onstage, so it was great to add my first keytar solo to the Darkwave inspired ‘Red Line’ produced by Favorit89, and ‘Only One For One Night’ produced by Powernerd and ‘Iron Fist’ produced by Straplocked have made for awesome music videos.

But of course, you were born towards the end of the synthpop era, do you wish you were born earlier so that you could have experienced the real thing?

I’m actually so glad to be here and now. As awesome as the 80s were, there were huge barriers of entry for artists who weren’t willing to have record companies dictate their sound and image.

Today, we have the technology to binge watch ‘Top of The Pops’ and ‘Miami Vice’ and fully immerse ourselves in the era, but we also have the ability as independent artists to reach a broader audiences than before and have more creative control over our music and career.

The synth revival still continues, with the latest addition of ‘Stranger Things’, and the renaissance of the era’s clothing, gaming and music…

Proof that the world needs Synthwave! Anyone who resists is a total mouth breather.

Last year saw you touring Europe extensively, how did that go? Any favourite places?

I toured Vienna, London, Warsaw, and Stockholm and every show was special! I was overwhelmed by the turnout and the passion the European audiences brought.

Any plans to return and include the UK?

I’ll be playing London at Zigfrid von Underbelly Hoxton with Outland Presents on Thursday April 18th alongside KALAX and LEBROCK! Brett and Stu run a tight ship and know how to put together an epic retro party. I’m excited to come back and shred some more keytar solos.

What’s next for you?

I’ll be releasing a Deluxe Edition of my album ‘PixelDust’ with some darkwave remixes by Tommy ’86, Gregorio Franco, FacexHugger, The Rain Within, Dredd, and Oceanside85!! I’m super geeked to come back out to Europe in April for my ‘PixelDust’ Tour!!


The Electricity Club gives its sincerest thanks to DANA JEAN PHOENIX

‘PixelDust’ is released by New EmPire Entertainment, available from https://danajeanphoenix.bandcamp.com/album/pixeldust

DANA JEAN PHOENIX appears at Zigfrid von Underbelly of Hoxton in London on Thursday 18th April 2019. Presented by Outland, the event also features KALAX + LEBROCK – tickets available from https://www.wegottickets.com/event/462089

https://www.danajphoenix.com/

https://www.facebook.com/danajeanphoenix/

https://twitter.com/danajeanphoenix

https://www.instagram.com/danajeanphoenix/


Text and Interview by Monika Izabela Trigwell
Additional questions by Chi Ming Lai
Portrait Photos by Hayley Stewart
23rd February 2019

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