‘Rodney’s English Disco’ is RODNEY CROMWELL’s first new body of work since his critically acclaimed debut album ‘Age Of Anxiety’ in 2015.
Although its themes were heavy, the album was perfect those who like their synthpop lo-fi but with tunes.
With four new songs plus some accompanying remixes, a sombre mood continues to loom in his discothèque, perfect fodder for his battered armoury of Moog, Korg, Roland and ARP synths accompanied by a Boss DR-55 rhythm box.
Driven by a meaty electronic bassline and metronomic backbone, the marvellous vocoder-laden ‘Comrades’ has a really chilling Cold War atmosphere, bathed in an ensemble of sweeping synth oboes and cosmic string machines. Rich with melody and a panoramic resonance, RODNEY CROMWELL surreally captures the sound of Giorgio Moroder played through a Soviet Foxtrot submarine intercom system.
Continuing the solemn Cold War metaphors, ‘Barbed Wire’ adds live bass and guitar to the crisp template in a take on JOY DIVISION if Stephen Morris had actually been a drum machine, as supposed to trying be one, the end result coming over like one-time Factory Records signings THE WAKE. Meanwhile, the neo-instrumental ‘Technocrats’ throws in some piercingly creepy organ chords and a stuttering vox machina sample robotically repeating the title.
There’s a bit of an early OMD feel on ‘Dreamland’, a bitter reflection on domesticity and failed relationships with a life of Chinese remedies, herbal teas, taking Diazepam and going to Homebase now over.
“Why did you have to leave? We had such a charmed life!” mourns Rodders amongst the catchy burst of synthetic rimshot and haunting strings.
The winter of discontent backing is made even more malcontent by some Hooky bass, although a surprise is sprung with a warm cascading synth line to close…
‘Rodney’s English Disco’ happily and robotically wallows in its misery. Oddly, one can be quite happy dancing to something quite miserable.
RODNEY CROMWELL continues the ‘Ohm From Ohm’ tour with THE FRIXION, NATURE OF WIRES and VIEON, dates include: London The Islington (10th May), Coventry In Music & Arts (11th May), Southend Railway Hotel (12th May) – tickets available from http://www.ohmfromohm.co.uk
Like PET SHOP BOYS, NEW ORDER collaborated with other artists from quite an early stage in their career, as well as later working on their own various projects during the band’s recurring hiatuses.
Even in the JOY DIVISION era, Ian Curtis, together with manager Rob Gretton produced ‘Knew Noise’ by SECTION 25 in 1979.
Following the passing of the charismatic front man, NEW ORDER underwent a well-documented musical transformation, aided by the advancements in music technology.
While NEW ORDER began with electronic instruments such as the Doctor Rhythm DR-55 drum machine, ARP Quadra and Sequential Pro-One, their synth armoury would expand to a Moog Source, Emulator, several Prophet 5s and an Oberheim DMX.
Bernard Sumner in particular relished the opportunity to further his craft by recording with other artists. Although more naturally inclined to the live environment, Peter Hook did bring his experience into the studio as well, while Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert primarily found an outlet for their knowhow within television. The compilation boxed set ‘NEW ORDER Presents Be Music’ released on Factory Benelux gathered many of these works.
Photo by Donald Christie
But there are still a significant number of tracks which featured the artistic input and involvement of a NEW ORDER member that are worthy of discovery and recognition.
So here are 20 tracks which encapsulate the spirit of NEW ORDER through the medium of collaboration and joint working, restricted to one track per project and presented in chronological order.
MARTHA Light Years From Love (1983)
Martha Ladly was already part of the NEW ORDER family having produced the paintings for the Peter Saville Associates artwork of ‘Temptation’ and the ‘1981-1982’ EP. Formally of MARTHA & THE MUFFINS, she teamed up with fellow Canadian Brett Wickens on this charming pop tune that echoed THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Open Your Heart’. Peter Hook provided his distinctive melodic six-string bass and dynamic production came from Steve Nye. The promo video was directed by Midge Ure and Chris Cross of ULTRAVOX.
Originally released as a single on Island Records, currently unavailable
While the trailblazing electro of ‘Cool As Ice’ was solely produced by Donald Johnson, Bernard Sumner contributed the synth basslines which were from a Moog Source run from a Powertran 1024 sequencer; it was to become the trademark feature on many of the NEW ORDER front man’s productions. The hybrid of authentic Manchester soul courtesy of Beverley McDonald’s vocals and New York urban influences was unsurprisingly a cult success across the Atlantic.
One of Bernard Sumner’s productions for Factory with Donald Johnson, ‘Reach For Love’ featured the late Marcel King who was a member of SWEET SENSATION, a vocal group who won ‘New Faces’ and had a No1 with ‘Sad Sweet Dreamer’. With its distinctive Moog bassline programming, this was a vibrant electro disco tune that couldn’t have been more different. Shaun Ryder of HAPPY MONDAYS remarked that if this had been released on a label other than Factory Records, it would have been a hit!
Despite Peter Hook’s more rock inclined sympathies and productions for acts like STOCKHOLM MONSTERS and THE STONE ROSES, he showed that he knew his way around the dancefloor as well with this Moroder-esque offering by Hull combo NYAM NYAM which he produced. Featuring a Roland TR808 plus NEW ORDER’s Emulator and Prophet 5 amongst its instrumentation, ‘Fate/Hate’ certainly today deserves to be as lauded as SECTION 25’s ‘Looking From A Hilltop’.
SECTION 25 Looking From A Hilltop – Restructure (1984)
In a change of direction where founder member Larry Cassidy stated “you can’t be a punk all your life”, Factory Records stalwarts SECTION 25 recruited vocalist Jenny Ross and keyboardist Angela Cassidy to go electro. Produced by Bernard Sumner and Donald Johnson, the clattering drum machine accompanied by ominous synth lines and hypnotic sequenced modulations dominated what was to become a much revered cult club classic.
Possibly the best NEW ORDER song that NEW ORDER never recorded, although ex-JOSEF K front man Paul Haig demoed the song to an almost complete standard, when as Haig told The Electricity Club: “Bernard Sumner and Donald Johnson started adding more to it like extra guitar, bass and percussion. We spent a long time on the sound of the percussion” . ‘The Only Truth’ was like a brilliant cross between ‘Blue Monday’ and ‘Temptation’, and the 12 inch version was almost as long!
Available on the PAUL HAIG album ‘At Twilight’ via Les Disques Du Crepuscule
Mark Reeder moved from Manchester to Berlin in 1978 having become fascinated by the artistic diversity of the city and was for a time Factory Records’ representative in Germany. Reeder often sent records to Bernard Sumner from the emerging electronic club scenes around the world. His own Deutsche musical journey started with DIE UNBEKANNTEN, who mutated into SHARK VEGAS; the sequencer heavy ‘You Hurt Me’ was produced by Sumner at Conny Plank’s studios near Cologne.
The aptly named REVENGE was Peter Hook’s response to Bernard Sumner’s ELECTRONIC. Comprising of Hook, Dave Hicks and Chris Jones, the single ‘Seven Reasons’ backed with the edgy gothique of ‘Jesus I Love You’ got in the shops a few weeks before ‘Getting Away With It’. Coming over like early SISTERS OF MERCY with some extra raw power, it was a promising calling card. However, as things progressed, the output of REVENGE was not particularly well-received by the music press.
Miami duo THE BEAT CLUB were the husband and wife team of producer Ony Rodriguez and singer Mireya Valls. The Bernard Sumner remix of ‘Security’ was the first ever release on Rob’s Records, the imprint of Rob Gretton. Sumner’s creative additions saw an overhaul of the original version with the crucial addition of his own vocal contribution, giving it an unsurprisingly NEW ORDER-like feel along the lines of a more fully realised ‘State Of The Nation’.
808 STATE Spanish Heart featuring BERNARD SUMNER (1991)
Having been largely instrumental and sample based on their debut ‘90’, the Manchester dance collective used guest vocalists on their more melodic second long player ‘Ex:El’; while Björk contributed to ‘Ooops’, Bernard Sumner added his voice to the dreamy Balearic of ‘Spanish Heart. A less frantic cousin of ‘Mr Disco’ from ‘Technique’ with its holiday romance subject matter, ‘Spanish Heart’ had a blissful feel not too distantly related to ELECTRONIC’s ‘Some Distant Memory’.
Available on the 808 STATE album ‘Ex:El’ via ZTT Records
Frustrated with the conflicts and confines within NEW ORDER, Bernard Sumner had planned a solo album. But on bumping into Johnny Marr who had just departed THE SMITHS, it was turned into a collaborative project with the occasional guests including Neil Tennant, Chris Lowe and later Karl Bartos. It was ELECTRONIC not just in name but also in nature. The beautiful closing section of ‘Some Distant Memory’ featuring the oboe of Helen Powell enhanced the string synth melancholy.
Available on the ELECTRONIC album ‘Electronic’ via EMI Records
Having done the music for the BBC shows including ‘Making Out’ and ‘Reportage’, Gillian Gilbert and Stephen Morris began turning their stockpile of unused material into songs when NEW ORDER went into hiatus. The original singer slated as the vehicle for these tunes was Kim Wilde, but when this fell through, Gilbert took over on lead vocals. Amusingly titled after a fish and chip shop near Stockport, ‘Tasty Fish’ was a catchy electropop single that should have been a big hit.
Available on THE OTHER TWO album ‘And You’ via LTM Recordings
Smoother, tighter, speedier and dancier plus more ELECTRONIC in both name and nature, A CERTAIN RATIO reconfigured and re-recorded their 1980 signature cover with Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr at the production controls, all as part of a 1994 updates retrospective for Creation Records. Originally a rare groove track by BANBARRA from 1975, this new version was popular with those who had not previously enjoyed the Mancunian band’s earlier industrial funk exploits.
Available on the A CERTAIN RATIO album ‘Looking For…’ via Creation Records
With the demise of REVENGE and seemingly NEW ORDER, Peter Hook regrouped with guitarist David Potts to form MONACO, a combo very much in the mould of the latter. Proudly embracing his signature melodic bass sound, the first single ‘What Do You Want From Me?’ sounded like it could have come off ‘Technique’, with Hook’s Curtis-like baritone and Potts’ Sumner-esque refrain enabling a prompt audience acceptance for the duo.
THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS featuring BERNARD SUMNER Out Of Control (1999)
‘Out Of Control’ was THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS’ sonic template actually fulfilling its potential within a song based format with Bernard Sumner as the willing conspirator. With echoes of NEW ORDER’s 12 inch only excursions like ‘Blue Monday’, ‘Confusion’ and ‘Thieves like Us’, ‘Out Of Control’ had everything from a bombastic backbeat, cerebral sequences and bizarre lyrics, especially when Sumner resigned to the fact that “Maybe my moustache is too much…”
Available on THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS album ‘Singles 93-03’ via Virgin Records
BLANK & JONES featuring BERNARD SUMNER Miracle Cure (2008)
Having worked with Robert Smith of THE CURE, German trance duo Piet Blank and Jaspa Jones had Bernard Sumner high on their list of singers for their album ‘The Logic Of Pleasure’, which also featured Claudia Brücken. The track managed to fill the electronic dance gap that had opened up with NEW ORDER’s more rock focused albums ‘Get Ready’ and ‘Waiting For The Siren’s Call’, while the single release came with excellent remixes from Mark Reeder and Paul Humphreys from OMD.
FACTORY FLOOR A Wooden Box – STEPHEN MORRIS remix (2010)
Some say the music of FACTORY FLOOR is genius, others a load of repetitive bleeping to an incessant four-to-the-floor beat. Stephen Morris was a fan, hearing kindred spirits in their use of sequencers next to live drums and guitars, sometimes on the brink of post-industrial noise chaos. With his remix of ‘Wooden Box’, Morris brought out its more tuneful elements and added some vocoder processing. He continued to work with the band as the producer of 2011’s ‘(Real Love)’.
Available on the FACTORY FLOOR single ‘A Wooden Box’ via Blast First Petite
Techno DJ WESTBAM celebrated 30 years in the music business with an intriguing mature collection of songs under the title of ‘Götterstrasse’ which featured Iggy Pop, Brian Molko and Hugh Cornwall as guest vocalists. ‘She Wants’ saw the return of Bernard Sumner on a new electronic recording. With the guitar driven BAD LIEUTENANT having been his main vehicle over the intervening years, it was great to hear him on something approaching the classic sound of synth-centred NEW ORDER again.
NEW ORDER featuring BRANDON FLOWERS Superheated (2015)
Brandon Flowers named THE KILLERS after a fictional band in the ‘Crystal’ video while his own combo covered the JOY DIVISION standard ‘Shadowplay’ for the ‘Control’ film. So a collaboration was not totally unexpected in this union of the sorcerer and the apprentice. A Stuart Price production featuring Flowers on the chorus, ‘Superheated’ was a slice of supreme pop which despite the frantic drum ‘n’ bass elements, sounded more like THE KILLERS than it did NEW ORDER.
Simon Langford and Alex Sowyrda are the British-Canadian duo KOISHII & HUSH whose tracks have featured unusual vocalists ranging from DURAN DURAN’s John Taylor to actress Joanne Whalley. Gillian Gilbert lent her voice to ‘Lifetime’, sounding not unlike Sarah Blackwood who incidentally sang on their 2015 offering ‘Rules & Lies’. The remix from FM ATTACK aka Canadian synthwave exponent Shawn Ward added a serene crystalline quality to proceedings.
Available on the KOISHII & HUSH single ‘Lifetime’ via Grammaton Recordings
RUSTY EGAN featuring PETER HOOK The Other Side (2017)
With the opening salvo ‘The Otherside’ featuring Peter Hook on Rusty Egan’s debut solo album, sonic comparisons with NEW ORDER were inevitable and the song’s melodic basslines showed how much his sound was a vital part of the band. The Bass Viking’s vocals also exuded a vulnerability that listeners could empathise with. But with Hooky touring the JOY DIVISION and NEW ORDER back catalogue, new material from him has been rare.
FREEBASS You Don’t Know This About Me – Remix Instrumental (2017)
A Mancunian supergroup of three bassists Hooky, Mani and Andy Rourke that spent five years in gestation before imploding. Producer Derek Miller aka OUTERNATIONALE was a fan and told The Electricity Club: “Really liked this song despite Hooky’s project falling apart on him! As you know, I’ve started and thought it deserved a proper release, albeit belatedly! So, I’ve been back in the studio with it and totally overhauled it sonically. There’s also a surprisingly punchy instrumental mix now”
The Amazing Adventures Of Mr Normall have gained a loyal cult following within the post-punk and electronic music world.
With a handshake, big smile, good guy profile, the Finnish music fan’s charming photographs with members of SPARKS, JAPAN, ULTRAVOX, BLANCMANGE, HEAVEN 17, DEPECHE MODE, VISAGE and MARSHEAUX among many, have endeared visitors to his website chronicling his travels.
After appearances in a number of promo videos including Kim Wilde and BEF’s cover of ‘Every Time I See You I Go Wild’ , Mr Normall was more recently cast as the star of the silent art movie ‘Nuntius’.
The film with its live soundtrack by Jimi Tenor and Jori Hulkkonen has played to audiences around the world, with Mr Normall occasionally joining the musicians with on stage cameos at selected performances.
The Electricity Club had the pleasure of catching up with Mr Normall for another chat about his continuing amazing adventures…
Since The Electricity Club last spoke to you in Spring 2011, your fame spread far and wide in some unexpected places. Richard Barbieri wanted his photo taken with you, what was the story here?
Oh yes… that was a surprise and very positive one. We had been friends on Facebook for some time but I had no idea that he knew who I was or that he had paid any attention to me. Then last December – all of a sudden – he tags me and comments “it’s my ambition to have a photo with you”.
Of course it was humour, but I was very pleased nevertheless. JAPAN is my No 1 favourite band and to be sort of acknowledged by one of them was very cool. Mr Barbieri had his wish come true three months later in Birmingham where I went to see him play live. Richard Barbieri is a first-class artist and a very nice person.
You were also recognised by someone in 2014?
I did speak with Jonathan Ross at the SPARKS aftershow at the Union Chapel in December 2013 but he didn’t recognise me, I would have been really surprised if he did. The subject of our chat was ULTRAVOX. He prefers the John Foxx version of the band.
Do you think this recognition all escalated after Jori Hulkkonen asked you to appear in the ‘Take Me To Your Leader’ video for PROCESSORY?
In Finland, a few people did comment about the music video when meeting me but I don’t remember it happening anywhere else. However, I’m certain that ‘Take Me To Your Leader’ video made Mr Normall better known, even if I haven’t got much feedback about it.
The music video was done and released in spring 2011. I was really hoping to see it on TV back then, but it was just about that time when music videos disappeared from TV altogether.
The idea on me appearing on Jori Hulkkonen’s music video started actually almost a year before at the night when ULTRAVOX was playing live in Jori’s home town of Turku. After the gig was over, I and several other people – including Warren Cann – went to the unofficial ULTRAVOX after party at the club called Dynamo. There I told Jori, that if he’s interested to feature me on a music video in the future, I’m game. Few months later Jori contacted me about the subject and the result was ‘Take Me To Your Leader’ music video.
I must tell you this… after the ULTRAVOX gig in Turku when we arrived at the Dynamo club, I had a really good “Steve Strange moment”: The gig venue was quite far from city centre, so we took a big taxi to get the posse to the club. When we got to the Dynamo, I was walking in first and Warren Cann right behind me.
The DJ was playing ‘Fade To Grey’ by VISAGE and at that moment I felt just like that bit on the VISAGE music video tape where Steve Strange arrives a club in Paris and ‘Fade To Grey’ is playing in the background. That was THE way to enter to the club.
Of course after this, Jori and his musical partner Jimi Tenor asked you to appear in their film ‘Nuntius’, this had an interesting concept?
Jori Hulkkonen and Jimi Tenor had talked about making a film, but I suppose they didn’t have clear idea what it should be about. In July 2013 I met both of them at the Turku Modern festival and said that I would like to be in their film if they were interested.
The big idea was to make a silent film that would be shown only with live soundtrack by Tenor and Hulkkonen themselves. The film and its music would never be released in any format or be ever available online. Live performances only.
First days of filming ‘Nuntius’ were in May 2014. We started the car journey from Central Finland where I live and drove next to the Russian border in South-East Finland. The destination was an amazing place called Parikkalan Patsaspuisto (Parikkala sculpture park). We stopped to film where ever the scenery looked right. As far as I know, there wasn’t any actual plot ready when we started.
The only rough plot in the beginning was that “I’m being sent from one place to another to get something from there” and the genre is going to be Sci-Fi, perhaps something à la Tarkovsky.
What was filming like for you?
Those first two days of filming in May 2014 were the most fun and memorable for me. Maybe because it was a new situation and the realisation that this is really happening. Also the car journey itself with Jimi, Jori and Marjaana was fun.
There was three more filming days in 2014 and they were mainly done in an art studio in Helsinki. The studio is very high inside and it has a round platform which moves up and down, and also rotates. The studio was made in 1950s and it was made for the sculptor Kalervo Kallio, who was a son of Finland’s President Kyösti Kallio. The studio is the setting for the “other place” where Mr Normall is being sent somewhere else to get something. I would have never spent time at this special place if it wasn’t for ‘Nuntius’.
In May 2015, there were two days of filming in Helsinki for the second version of ‘Nuntius’. Those shoots were done at several locations. The latest shoots were just recently in July 2017 when we filmed around Estonia over three days.
It was much like the first shoots three years earlier because also this time we drove around the country and stopped where scenery was suitable to be filmed. There are strange ex-military places in Estonia that have been deserted after the Russian Army left them when Estonia got independent. Those were exciting days and I definitely wouldn’t had ever visited those places without ongoing ‘Nuntius’ production.
I don’t know yet what will become of all the new shots; will it be the third version of ‘Nuntius’ with a lot of new stuff or will they became a whole new entity à la ‘Nuntius – Part 2’ or something like that?
You made a new friend named Louis while riding a motorcycle?
Louis the dog was only one year old, but he was already a real pro. There was one shot with Louis which could have ended badly… I was driving a sidecar motorcycle in a tunnel in Helsinki and Louis was sitting in the sidecar. It was a public road and there was other traffic too. The shot had to be done several times and if Louis had jumped out of the sidecar, he might have been hit by a car.
He had a collar and a leash was around my arm, but I’m not sure what would have happened if Louis wanted to jump out of very loud old motorcycle. Luckily he was very cool all the time and it seemed like he knew what we were doing.
I saw Louis again last year and he wouldn’t stop barking at me. I’m not sure what he meant by that.
‘Nuntius’ has taken you around the world with you making cameos while Jori and Jimi are performing. Which locations or events have you found most interesting? Any funny stories?
I have attended several ‘Nuntius’ shows in Finland and also few abroad. Berlin was special because that day was also Jimi Tenor’s 50th birthday, so that evening at the Lido was also his birthday party.
The Sonar Festival 2015 in Barcelona: ‘Nuntius’ was on Saturday afternoon and DURAN DURAN played at the festival the same night. There was my big chance to meet them but it didn’t happen. Barcelona in June is hot even late in the evening and I was wearing a heavy 3-piece suit. Not the best possible choice when everyone else had T-shirt and shorts.
The most important ‘Nuntius’ performance for me has been the one in Düsseldorf in October 2016 where it was a part of the ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE. ‘Nuntius’ was the last item of the two day conference – or rather a festival of electronic music – and right before it, the stage was occupied by John Foxx and co for their ‘Evidence Of Time Travel’ performance.
What made this particular ‘Nuntius’ showing so special was that there was several of my favourite artists in the audience, as well as friends whom I have seen at gigs before. Jori summed it up very well: “The audience wasn’t big but it was a good quality audience”.
I have been watching John Foxx on my TV screen hundreds of times and now he was watching me on the big screen. Surreal.
One more special memory… my first – and so far only – visit to Berlin was in March 2015. After arriving to the city and finding my hotel, I went out to have my first ever walk in Berlin. Kreuzberg was only few minutes away so I went that way. Soon I saw some gig posters on a wall – not THE wall – and among them was the special ‘Nuntius’ poster made for the evening’s show. My first time in this big city and when I step out of my hotel there’s a poster featuring a photo of me. It was a unique and strange moment for a visitor from the Finnish countryside.
You’ve made a number of other appearances in videos and photoshoots, are there anymore in the offing?
We are likely to do more shots for ‘Nuntius’ later this year but that’s all. It would be nice to feature in a music video again, especially by an artist that I like. It would be great to experience that again.
Peter Hook had an amusingly and typically Mancunian response when you introduced yourself to him in Düsseldorf?
What was it that he said? I think his kind reply was “there’s nothing normal about you” when I introduced myself. I disagree, of course 😉
Tony Visconti has just about seen it all, so what was your encounter with him like?
I did meet him briefly a few times when HOLY HOLY played live in London and Sheffield during September 2014. I was also at the ICA to listen to Tony Visconti and Woody Woodmansey talk about making the album ‘The Man Who Sold The World’. Both of them were very friendly and didn’t mind signing a few Bowie CD sleeves for me. Getting records signed is a good excuse to approach an artist and it gives you a moment to have a brief chat.
MIRRORS were your favourite new synth act but sadly they are no more. Is there anyone you’ve listened to who you would you rate today?
I suppose you mean new or relatively new acts? Hannah Peel makes good music with often unusual and interesting arrangements. One new band that I like is TINY MAGNETIC PETS. I’ve been listening to their new album on Spotify quite a lot.
Your portfolio has grown over the last few years, but is there anyone left you would still like to meet and be photographed with?
I have met quite a few artists but there are still many of my “official favourites” that I haven’t met yet. With some it’s already too late, but for those still in this dimension I would say David Sylvian and DURAN DURAN are the most important not-yet-met-artists.
Then there’s several others like one ex-member of KRAFTWERK whom everyone else seems to have met but not me. I’m not done yet with these ‘Close Encounters Of The Third Kind’.
The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Mr Normall
Vinyl still holds a special affection with the emotional attachment given to a piece of music captured on bit of plastic almost unparralled.
So here are 30 synth friendly obscure alternatives from the era when vinyl was king, which for whatever reason, have been lost in the mists of time. These are great but obscure singles and album tracks from places as far flung as Australia, Japan and Canada that were overlooked at their time of release in the UK, but which all deserve critical reappraisal.
Although best known for his pseudo-punk hit ‘Ça Plane Pour Moi’, the Belgian BILLY IDOL recorded this superb electronic Eurodisco single with vocoders galore that would have done GIORGIO MORODER, CERRONE and SPACE proud. A bit hit in Greece, ‘Tout Petit La Planète’ featured a template that would be later borrowed by many Italo disco records, PET SHOP BOYS and KELLY OSBOURNE. Incidentally, fellow Belgians TELEX released their own robotic cover version of ‘Ça Plane Pour Moi’ shortly after.
Pre-OMD, the synth duo on The Wirral was DALEK I LOVE YOU. However, by the time their debut album ‘Compass/Kum’pas’ was released, OMD were already having hits and keyboards man Dave Hughes left to join their live band. Shortening their name, ‘Destiny’ was their most accessible song with a precise KRAFTWERK percussive appeal, while Alan Gill’s vocals were eccentrically nasal. Hughes left OMD to form GODOT featuring vocalist Kevin Hartley who later then joined the fully named DALEK I LOVE YOU!
The project of German musician Andreas Dorau, ‘Fred Vom Jupiter’ was a quirky curio released as a single in the UK by Mute, created during a project week at the Otto-Hahn-Gesamtschule in Hamburg. The then 16 year-old Dorau composed the music while fellow students Natalia Munoz Valderrama, Nicole Kahl and Birgit Mensur provided the lyrics about a “very attractive and also very muscular” Kosmonaut; the vocals came from a quintet of teen and pre-teen school girls during a far more innocent time in history!
FOX were Kenny Young and kooky Australian singer Susan Traynor aka Noosha Fox. They had numerous hits like ‘S-S-S-Single Bed’ but disbanded in 1977. The pair reunited for ‘Electro People’, written as the theme music for ‘The Kenny Everett Show’ which came over like a quirky Middle Eastern flavoured synthpop take on ALTERED IMAGES in a tribute to Synth Britannia; altogether now: “Ultra-Human-Depeche Mode-Tubeway-Kraftwerk-Soft-Manoeuvres-Gary-Orchestal-Army-Duran-League”!
The success of the band JAPAN gave a number of opportunities for Japanese musicians to show off their talents. One was Masami Tsuchiya of IPPU DO whose eccentric wailing guitar style coupled with German electronic influences caught the attention of David Sylvian who invited him to join JAPAN for their final tour. ‘Time Of The Season’ is a brilliant pentatonic take on the old ZOMBIES hit with mad warbling vocals and frantic percussion to produce a startlingly original cover version.
Comprising of Claude Arto and Edwige Belmore, the pair emerged from the Parisian club scene with their arty nouveau music. On ‘Disco Rough’, pulsing synthseizers and almost spoken staccato vocals were punctuated by unusual stabs of sax. Their only album ‘Les Visiteurs Du Soir’ fused filmic strings and brass sections with electronic backing and baroque melodies. Sadly both Arto and Belmore have passed away, but have left their mark via Gallic tinged duos STEREO TOTAL and MISS KITTIN & THE HACKER.
JAH WOBBLE, JAKI LIEBEZEIT & HOLGER CZUKAY How Much Are They? (1981)
Although dominated by PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED refugee Wobble’s full-on bass, his icy synth flourishes alongside Czukay’s chattering beatbox and Dictaphone were essentials to the wonderful machine dub of ‘How Much Are They?’ while Liebezeit added some abstract avant garde trumpet. Originally featuring on the ‘Trench Warfare’ EP, the music was dedicated to JOY DIVISION’s Ian Curtis and a fitting instrumental celebration of his enigmatic aura, as well as the sadly recently departed Liebezeit and Czukay.
E.M.A.K. stands for Elektronische Musik Aus Köln and was a technology based sound project by Kurt Mill and Matthias Becker using a similar visual aesthetic on their artwork to NEU! Using strict motorik rhythm programming and incessant pulsing sequences, ‘Filmmusik’ was a fine example of the instrumental blueprint of Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger synthesized for the new decade. This template was later borrowed by SIMPLE MINDS on ‘Androgyny’ and ORBITAL on ‘Pants’.
A member of the group METRO, Peter Godwin was well placed for success as a regular visitor to The Blitz Club and mate of MIDGE URE who produced his debut solo single ‘Torch Songs For The Heroine’. ‘Images Of Heaven’ was a big potential hit single with chunky synths and dominant Simmons drums from ULTRAVOX’s Warren Cann. Despite not reaching the charts, Godwin had his bank balance enhanced in 1983 when DAVID BOWIE covered his song ‘Criminal World’ on the ‘Let’s Dance’ album.
Despite Australian Top 5 success as lead singer of JIMMY & THE BOYS, IGNATIUS JONES went solo and released ‘Like A Ghost’. Sounding like GARY NUMAN lost in the Outback, the song was written by Steve Kilbey of THE CHURCH whose ‘Walking Under The Milky Way’ later appeared on the ‘Donnie Darko’ soundtrack. He also recorded a cover of Jules Shear’s ‘Whispering Your Name’ which was a hit for Alison Moyet in 1994. Latterly, Jones directed the closing ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Originally released as a single by WEA Records, currently unavailable
Featuring Ross Middleton and Gary Barnacle with production by Martin Rushent, ‘Love Cascade’ is the missing link between PETE SHELLEY and THE HUMAN LEAGUE. The vocals are virtually unintelligible as the clattering LinnDrum, pulsing synths, squawky guitar and sax merge together for a cool dancefloor friendly tune that’s full of the decadent spirit of the times. LEISURE PROCESS released three more singles on Epic Records before splitting.
The project of David Hewson, POEME ELECTRONIQUE was very much a family affair, as it also involved brother Les Hewson plus cousins Julie Ruler and Sharon Abbott. The spacey synthpop coupled to a vocal template crossing GRACE JONES and ABBA caught the ear of John Peel. Returning in 2007, the material they recorded back in the day was finally issued, while members of the combo also appeared as part of Anglo-German collective TWINS NATALIA who released an album ‘The Destiny Room’ in 2014.
SANDII &THE SUNSETZ Living On The Front Line (1982)
Another Japanese act who got a leg up from David Sylvian was the beautifully voluptuous Sandii O’Neale and her band of men THE SUNSETZ whose first album together ‘Heat Scale’ was produced by Haruomi Hosono of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA. Opening for JAPAN on their final tour in 1982, this dreamily percussive ditty featured Sylvian’s lyrics and vocals; when he harmonised with Sandii’s KATE BUSH-like tones, it was the ultimate marriage of West and East, both wonderfully cultured and coutured!
Available on the album ‘Immigrants’ via Alfa Records Japan
Like a cross between their Merseyside neighbours OMD and CHINA CRISIS, BOX OF TOYS were mix of synths and woodwinds with a prominent percussive attack. The majestic vocals have almost an English choir boy quality and dominate the track. A strange romantic warmth comes across with images of meadows, forests and blue skies. Its moody follow up ‘Precious In The Pearl’ almost 34 years on now sounds like the prototype version of MIRRORS!
Originally released as a single by Inevitable Records, currently unavailable
WhenTHE WILD SWANS split, two thirds formed the basis of THE LOTUS EATERS while its singer Paul Simpson teamed up with ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN producer Ian Broudie. Combining heavily strummed acoustic guitars with strong synthesizer melodies and melancholic vocals, ‘My Boyish Days’ had a very traditional feel despite the incumbent technology. But the duo split before their debut album was completed. Simpson reformed THE WILD SWANS while Broudie eventually became THE LIGHTNING SEEDS.
The success of ABC and HEAVEN 17 heralded a new age of technologically enhanced blue-eyed soul. One band with aspirations in that field were ENDGAMES. The Glawegian combo had European support slots with HOWARD JONES, DEPECHE MODE and EURYTHMICS in their time. ‘Love Cares’ was like a funky CHINA CRISIS walking into the recording sessions of ‘The Lexicon Of Love’. By pure coincidence, singer David Rudden had a passing resemblance to CHINA CRISIS’ Gary Daly!
Originally released as a single on Virgin Records, currently unavailable
Fans of DEPECHE MODE’s post Vince Clarke pop period may remember a skinny lad in a pink suit who was their support act through 1983 to 1984. ‘It’s So High’ was a catchy tune 6/8 time featuring a strong synth bassline, big band brass and backing vocals by Eddi Reader. Alas, Fretton was dropped by Chrysalis after two more singles despite getting a Smash Hits front cover. He became a classical music promoter, but sadly took his own life in 2013 following the tragic passing of his partner Sussie Ahlburg.
Originally released as a single by Chrysalis Records, currently unavailable
Led by the vivacious Adele Nozdar, INDIANS IN MOSCOW were a kind of TRANSVISION VAMP with synths. ‘Miranda’ was a macabre tale about a psychotic girl murdering her criminally minded father. A crisp production came from Nigel Gray who worked with THE POLICE and SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES. An irritating-to-the-point-of-catchy synth portamento combined with Adele’s ghoulish scream provided a unique if polarising take on electronic pop.
THE LOTUS EATERS You Don’t Need Someone New (1983)
‘You Don’t Need Someone New’ was neither a hit nor originally included on THE LOTUS EATERS’ debut album ‘Sense Of Sin’. More synth dominated than ‘The First Picture of You’, it was produced by Alan Tarney who went on to work his magic on A-HA’s ‘Take On Me’ and ‘The Sun Always Shines On TV’. With hints of CHINA CRISIS, this was wonderfully light and even came in a picture disc with a real flower pressed into it! But the band wanted a purer sound and dropped Tarney as producer.
The stunning Martha Ladly was more than just a pretty face; she was a musician, vocalist, artist and designer. Following her stints with MARTHA & THE MUFFINS, ASSOCIATES and doing paintings for Peter Saville’s NEW ORDER sleeve artwork, she teamed up with fellow Canadian Brett Wickens on this charming pop tune that echoed THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Open Your Heart’. Peter Hook provided his distinctive melodic six-string bass and dynamic production came from Steve Nye.
Originally released as a single by Island Records, currently unavailable
The classic RATIONAL YOUTH line-up of Tracy Howe, Bill Vorn and Kevin Komoda gained acclaim for their 1982 debut album ‘Cold War Night Life’, which became one of the biggest-selling Canadian independent albums at the time and secured a deal with Capitol Records. However, Vorn left to continute his university studies, but contributed synth programming to this typically overwrought warning about the dangers of drug running. By 1985’s ‘Heredity’ though, RATIONAL YOUTH was effectively a Howe solo project.
Originally released on the EP ‘Rational Youth’ by Capitol Records, re-recorded version available on the album ‘Heredity’ via Capitol Records
Pre-fame Ricky Gervais with his university pal Bill McRae came up with a pretentious name, donned New Romantic togs and delivered the kind of stereotypical synthpop that was being satirised by ‘Not The None O’Clock News’. While it’s not exactly the most original work of the period, it is fared well in the tuneage department and became a cult favourite on US college radio! Comedian Paul Merton later sarcastically remarked to Gervais on ‘Room 101’: “DAVID BOWIE’s nicked all your stuff!”
‘Blue Monday’ met EINSTÜRZE NEUBAUTEN in this electronic metal bashing extravaganza featuring vocals by Sinan Leong. Robotic sequencers and found objects were both equally prominent in the mix of ‘Metal Dance’. Much more musical than their German counterparts, this group of Aussies named after the radical Marxist group Sozialistisches Patientenkollektiv provided a danceable interpretation of musique concrete and collapsing new buildings. Stark and scary!
Nuneaton’s artful musical duo of Martyn Bates and Peter Becker described their music as “veering crazily from filmic ambiance to rock and pop, industrial funk to avant-folk styles”. Always more of a cult proposition, ‘Sunbursts In’ was EYELESS IN GAZA’s most commercial offering, sounding like a cross between prime TEARS FOR FEARS and OMD. A synthetic brass riff compliments a strong if nasally vocal, driven by a stuttering drum machine sound.
Leer was a reluctant electro pioneer who first came to prominence in 1978 with ‘Private Plane’. A song called ‘International’ was its B-side but this was a completely different composition altogether. ‘International’ appeared to be a pleasant song about jetsetting, but was actually a social commentary about the trafficking heroin across the continents, telling of “travelling across the world, selling it to boys and girls… a secret compartment holds the Chinese white”. He later formed ACT with Claudia Brücken.
The former BE BOP DELUXE guitarist took an early interest in synths and drum machines after going solo and while he always had the legacy of DAVID BOWIE hanging over him, he was a fine exponent of the E-Bow, a device which could sustain a guitar note infinitely. This allowed solos to merge in with electronics without standing out in a clichéd rockist manner. ‘Acceleration’ was his energetic flirtation with the dancefloor and benefited from this US remix by John Luongo who worked with BLANCMANGE.
TEARS FOR FEARS and A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS had demonstrated that a rock guitar oriented sound seasoned by modern electronics could do wonders across the Atlantic on MTV. Sheffield’s VITAMIN Z were one of the bands who showed some spark, ‘Circus Ring’ sounding like a cross between TEARS FOR FEARS and ICEHOUSE. A support slot with Midge Ure raised hopes of success but it was not to be. However, vocalist Geoff Barradale now manages ARCTIC MONKEYS!
Hailing from Ontario, darkwavers PSYCHE comprised of brothers Darrin and Stephen Huss who were one of the main trailblazers for independent electronic music in North America. The magnificent sweeping blip drama of ‘The Saint Became A Lush’ was probably the pinnacle of their creative partnership with a suitably detached vocal performance from the older sibling. Stephen sadly passed away in 2015 but Darrin Huss, now based in Germany, continues as PSYCHE with Stefan Rabura.
An earlier single ‘Mouth Of An Angel’ had been produced by Martin Rushent, but TWO PEOPLE’s sound was more typical of a conventional duo dressed with synths like CHINA CRISIS. ‘Heaven’ sounded like THE LOTUS EATERS fused with THE TEARDROP EXPLODES. With punchy brass, aspirational lyrics and modern production by Chris Porter, this was a perfect pop song in anyone’s ears but failed to catch the imagination of the record buying public despite extensive radio airplay.
Originally released as a single by Polydor Records, currently unavailable
WHEN IN ROME were vocalists Clive Farrington and Andrew Mann with keyboardist Michael Floreale. The oddly styled trio’s nearbrush with fame came with ‘The Promise’, a glorious cross between ULTRAVOX and THE WALKER BROTHERS. It failed to gain a UK chart foothold, but was used in the closing scene and end credits of ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ in 2004. However, the renewed interest only heightened tensions between the estranged vocal and instrumental factions, with each laying claim to the name…
Peter Hook needs no introduction as The Bass Viking in both JOY DIVISION and NEW ORDER.
Although not originally known as a vocalist, he contributed lead vocals on ‘Interzone’ from JOY DIVISION’s debut long player ‘Unknown Pleasures’.
Meanwhile two songs ‘Dreams Never End’ and ‘Doubts Even Here’ from ‘Movement’ featuring his voice became cult favourites among the NEW ORDER faithful.
Hook got to flex his larynx during his solo projects REVENGE and MONACO, the latter combo scoring a No11 UK hit with the mighty ‘What Do You Want From Me?’ in 1997.
He and musical partner David Potts were to record one more self-titled album, with its opening track ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’ up there with much of the NEW ORDER back catalogue. Fast forward to today and Potts is back with The Bass Viking in PETER HOOK & THE LIGHT, touring the world and showcasing entire albums from the JOY DIVISION and NEW ORDER canon.
But aside from celebrating his history and telling his story, Hook has been recording new material. ‘The Otherside’ on Rusty Egan’s ‘Welcome To The Dance Floor’ opens The Blitz Club DJ’s debut solo album and also features Midge Ure, Tony Hadley and Chris Payne.
The song’s melodic basslines show how much Hook’s sound was a vital part of NEW ORDER and boasts his passionately delivered vocals over a pounding backing track reminiscent of his former band.
In a break from the ‘Substance’ tour which will hit Australia, New Zealand, Holland, France and Spain in the Autumn, Peter Hook had a quick chat with The Electricity Club…
‘The Otherside’ with Rusty Egan is the first new song you’ve recorded in a while, how did you come to be involved?
We met again at Rewind Festival. We were great mates in the 80s 😉
He asked… I liked the tune!
The song is very musically you… how did the demo sound when it was first presented to you and what inspired the lyrics?
Most of the song is written by Rusty, I added a middle eight and an ending and a third verse, so it is more their’s than mine.
I was inspired by them. The spirit is great! Of course, I like to think I made it better 😉
You’ve also been involved in the live element of Martyn Ware’s BEF project at Rewind. How did you find it?
I was terrified at first but once done it was great. Everyone is so lovely, it’s dead easy and very enjoyable.
You’ve been doing lead vocals on your JOY DIVISION and NEW ORDER album showcases for a few years now, are you finally getting comfortable with singing?
Yes I am, I like it now… just have to watch the dad dancing 😉
The PETER HOOK & THE LIGHT’s ‘Substance’ shows have been going down very well around the world. What were the biggest challenges for you in ensuring such a long and complex setlist worked well as a live presentation?
It’s art… I first had to persuade, coerce the band, but it is done with the perfect amount of honesty, enthusiasm and passion.
Your ‘Substance’ shows always began with a few of the B-sides from the collection and London included the lost single ‘Procession’. That must be the most under rated of all New Order songs? Discuss…
It is, a great little pop tune that turned out not to be indicative of our new direction. People love to hear it.
The ‘Substance: Inside New Order’ book ran to a hefty 752 pages and has some great anecdotes plus plenty of information for equipment geeks. How has the book been generally received overall?
Very well, I have had no law suits.
‘Technique’ must be in line for an album showcase?
It is next…
…but are you going to bother with ‘Republic’?
Of course, I think it will sound much better, hopefully less like the PET SHOP BOYS!
The ‘Hacienda Classical’ concerts have proved to be very popular, what was the ethos behind this project and how does it work?
It works well, it is just to recreate a club vibe with violins. A lot of these songs have never been performed, that I think is what people love.
What’s next for you?
Christ… Court, Jail, the lunatic asylum, bankruptcy… who knows but it will be interesting.
Lov Hooky ’17
The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Peter Hook