Despite B-MOVIE having released their debut EP ‘Take Three’ back in 1980, their guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Paul Statham is now possibly busier than ever musically.
As well as releasing B-MOVIE new material in the shape of the excellent three song ‘Repetition’ EP featuring the superb ‘Stalingrad’, his experimental solo ambient work and the avant Americana adventure of THE DARK FLOWERS, Paul Statham has now unveiled his DJ Shadow-inspired sample-based electronica soundscape project AFTER THE RAIN.
Statham’s career has included the electropop trio PEACH who had a US Top20 hit with ‘On My Own’ in 1997, as well as collaborations with people as diverse as Peter Murphy, Jim Kerr, Billy Mackenzie, Dido, Dot Alison, Sarah Nixey, Kylie Minogue and Rachel Stevens.
Now while AFTER THE RAIN does feature vocals, the tracks are not in the conventional song vein which saw Statham become one of the quieter success stories of ‘Some Bizarre Album’.
With Moby as a ubiquitous reference point, lead track ‘Gospel Train’ uses an emotive four line sample of ‘The Gospel Train’ sung by Belleville A Cappella Choir taken from a collection entitled ‘Southern Journey Vol. 1: Voices from the American South’. Offset against a propulsive electronic framework, the two contrasting elements hauntingly and successfully combine to recall the work of not just the one-time Richard Melville Hall, but also that of Alan Wilder in RECOIL.
Also cut within a gospel backdrop, the strangely vibey ‘Black Is The Colour’ uses phrases from the traditional standard of the same name made famous by Nina Simone, vocalised for AFTER THE RAIN by London soul jazz artist Billie Black. Punctuated by atmospheric and big beat sections, it offers a rather cerebral listening experience.
Beginning with acoustic six string, ‘Waterfront’ is less synthetic, its country roots flavour providing a nod towards THE DARK FLOWERS. Given an alien outlook by vocodered phrases borrowed from the similarly titled John Lee Hooker number, the brooding combination is unusual if nothing else, coming over like some of the Brian Eno song based album ‘Another Day On Earth’ from 2005.
Constructing new music around decades old archive material can be a thorny subject, but in his introductory offer for AFTER THE RAIN, Statham does it well and respectfully. Mysterious, yet hopeful and familiar at the same time, he adds yet another string to his talented bow.
In the five years since its formation, The Electricity Club has reviewed over a hundred gigs and witnessed some fabulous live performances as well as some not so great ones… one was so bad in fact, TEC declined to submit a review in the end!
There have been sell-out concerts and also ones where literally one man and their dog have been attendance, until the dog realised it was at the wrong gig and left!
Despite the downturn in music sales overall, the live scene has been vibrant with gigs and events sympathetic to electronic music springing up all over Europe. Again, the quality of these has been variable, but at least acts using synthesizers no longer have to necessarily perform on incongruous bills alongside indie bands, folkies and rapper MCs.
Listed in chronological order with a restriction of one headline gig per artist, here are The Electricity Club’s 30 favourite gigs from the period between 2010 to 2014… modesty prevents The Electricity Club from listing its own TEC001, TEC002 and TEC003 events 😉
LA ROUX + HEAVEN 17 at BBC Maida Vale (2010)
In a performance for BBC6 Music, when Glenn Gregory took the lead on the verses of ‘In For The Kill’, any scepticism lingering about the connection between LA ROUX, HEAVEN 17 and early HUMAN LEAGUE was quashed. Before ‘Temptation’, Martyn Ware gleefully told everyone that Gregory only got 78% doing it on ‘SingStar’. While Elly Jackson might not have a natural soul voice, she certainly hit those high notes. An uptempo cover of TERENCE TRENT D’ARBY’s ‘Sign Your Name’ finished a unique evening.
Part of the Teenage Cancer Trust series of gigs, rumours that DEPECHE MODE had something special up their sleeves were spreading like wild fire among The Devoted as they gathered from all over the world in South Kensington. And it came in the shape of the much missed Alan Wilder appearing with DM for the first time since 1994 to accompany Martin Gore on a rendition of ‘Somebody’ during the encore. “A proud moment for me knowing that most people were so happy about it” Wilder said.
Following their triumphant reunion in 2009, ULTRAVOX returned for a second leg with an expanded setlist. The line-up of Warren Cann, Chris Cross, Billy Currie and Midge Ure were much more relaxed and with a stripped down lightshow, it was all about the music. Highlights included an even more Kraftwerkian rendition of ‘Mr X’, ‘I Remember (Death In the Afternoon)’ where Currie opted to do the closing piano motif one-handed and the effervescent quadruple drum action climax to ‘The Voice’.
French songstress EMILIE SIMON is an embodiment of the truly independent female artist. And as in the PET SHOP BOYS song ‘Opportunities’, she really did study at the Sorbonne. Her one woman performance at The Jazz Café showcased her range of musical devices such as a Yamaha Tenorion, an amazing ‘effects’ gauntlet and a futuristic Casio guitar synth alongside her faithful keyboards. The brilliant avant pop of ‘Dreamland’ wonderfully highlighted her inventive use of electronics.
With some eccentric Fe-Mael intuition, Marina Diamandis was possibly the nearest thing to SPARKS meeting LENE LOVICH. She arrived on the stage like Aphrodite, the Olympian Goddess of Love and Beauty, all dressed up to the nines in a most elegant full length black gown. Fabulously quirky songs like ‘I Am Not A Robot’, ‘Oh No!’ and her attack on WAG culture ‘Girls’ showed she was no poppet. ‘Shampain’ and the so far unreleased ‘Jealousy’ proved she could do classic synthpop too.
On a cold Autumn evening, something unusual was happening; Alison Goldfrapp was having fun! It was if the thigh booted ice queen of yore had melted and turned into Olivia Newton-John. The ‘Head First’ album dominated the middle part of this show and was tailor made for the dynamics of live performance. The bouncy FM synth rock numbers ‘Alive’, ‘Believer ‘and ‘Rocket’ had that punch the air feeling and sat well alongside the Schaffel stomps of ‘Ooh La La’, ‘Train’ and ‘Strict Machine’.
It says something about a band’s standing when the song that gets the biggest applause is a new one, and the one that everyone thinks should have been played is also new… A-HA’s ‘Foot Of The Mountain’ was a true return to form for the Norwegian trio and its title track was the best received moment of the show at Wembley. Sadly, ‘Nothing Is Keeping You Here’ wasn’t played, but with so many great songs in their catalogue, that didn’t matter in a glorious live celebration of their career before disbanding.
CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN gathered a number of friends to celebrate her career. As well as Paul Humphreys, Andy Bell, Glenn Gregory and Martyn Ware, there was the wonderful 3/4 reunion of PROPAGANDA with Susanne Freytag and Ralf Dörper on ‘Dr Mabuse’ and ‘P Machinery’. There was also a surprise performance of HEAVEN 17’s demo version of ‘Temptation’ where a suitably detached vocal from Ms Brücken enhanced the song’s more electronic origins, along with material from her projects ONETWO and ACT.
DURAN DURAN proved they could recapture the performing zest of their glory days, but now thanks to the ‘All You Need Is Now’ album, they had the new material to back it up too. Beginning in true DURAN DURAN style with a Bond Theme overture delivered by a string quartet of blonde, brunette, red and raven haired beauties, the band launched into a glorious set of hits and highlights from the new long player. And best of all, they didn’t bother with their horrendous cover of ‘White Lies (Don’t Do It)’ 😉
IAMX have captured an electro Gothic aesthetic that combines the theatrics of Weimar Cabaret with themes of sex, alienation and dependency which have appealed more in Europe than at home. So it was appropriate that the contradiction theme of ‘Think Of England’ was a live centrepiece that evening in Cologne. Delivering a mechanical cabaret with a deluge of haunting East European scales and neo-classical flourishes, the disturbingly militaristic cinematic waltz of ‘President’ was a great finish.
Pop Noir quartet MIRRORS were an outstanding live act with their powerful synthetic sound resonating alongside their grainy impressionistic film projections and stark lighting. On their first headlining tour of Germany, the extra setlist time allowed for the premiere of the neo-electro disco of ‘Toe The Line’ and their 10 minute epic ‘Secrets’. New’s majestic vocal style took a backseat in the song’s third movement as he adopted a sub-Ian Curtis persona and screamed out during the screeching military tattoo of its climax.
Short Circuit Presents Mute at The Roundhouse (2011)
This two day celebration of Mute Records had everything except DEPECHE MODE themselves. Alan Wilder appeared as RECOIL with Doug McCarthy of NITZER EBB joining him for a performance of ‘Personal Jesus’, while Andy Fletcher and Martin Gore each did DJ sets. The live centrepiece was a special set featuring ERASURE, YAZOO and THE ASSEMBLY, although one memorable moment of the day was non-musical with Flood’s lecture on the making of ‘Enjoy The Silence’ and his goofy mimicking of Martin Gore!
Korg is a four letter word…but then so is love. LADYTRON pulled off that rare feat of being an electronic based act that appealed to rockers, emos, indie kids and synthpopsters alike. Their only UK gig of 2011 was drawn from all of their albums. Mira Aroyo’s distinctive Bulgarian over the mechanical buzz of ‘True Mathematics’, a fabulously frantic cover of DEATH IN JUNE’s ‘Little Black Angel’ and old favourite ‘Discotraxx’ with its repeated claptrap fill were key show highlights.
The Electronic Phuture Revue at Royal Festival Hall (2011)
‘The Electronic Phuture Revue’ curated by Martyn Ware and Mark Jones featured a stupendous line-up of HEAVEN 17, ONE TWO, THOMAS DOLBY, MIRRORS, ONETWO, RECOIL and MOTOR. And although not there, the musical legacy of Martin Gore lingered in the sets of the latter three. But the event was clouded by a poor attendance, caused by the high ticket price from hosts The Vintage Festival charging gig goers a compulsory extra £50 to enter a clothing fayre that they were never going to attend…
Featuring Sandie Shaw, Boy George, Kim Wilde, Green Gartside, Polly Scattergood, Midge Ure and of course, Glenn Gregory, Martyn Ware’s ambitious BEF covers project became a live entity for the first time. As well as the great and varied music on offer, one of the highlights was Boy George’s unsurprisingly camp take of ‘These Boots Are Made For Walking’. His onstage tale about going with Martyn Ware to see Gary Glitter in concert and getting the convicted felon’s autograph was priceless: “…I don’t think it’s worth much now” he quipped!
Foxx and Mathematical partner Benge took to the road on a national tour and in the backing band were the glamourous duo of Hannah Peel and Serafina Steer handling synths among several other conventional instruments. With ‘Interplay’ being Foxx’s most complete body of work since ‘Metamatic’, material from both albums sat comfortably side-by-side within the set. But it was Hannah Peel’s eerie violin contributions on the ‘Metamatic’ era songs like ‘Burning Car’ and ‘He’s A Liquid’ that were probably the show’s biggest revelation.
Ja Ja Ja 3rd Birthday Party at The Lexington (2012)
London based Nordic music night ‘Ja Ja Ja’ celebrated its third birthday where the beautiful and the bearded mingled alongside musical figures from different generations such as KARIN PARK and RUSTY EGAN. It featured the first live performance outside Finland of SIN COS TAN. The highlight of SIN COS TAN’s set was marvellous extended workout of ‘Trust’. A cold dark evening and synthesizers… it was a concoction made in heaven. Concluding the evening, headliner MØ was impressive too, coming across like LANA DEL REY trapped in a frozen Fjord.
REPUBLICA’s gig at London’s Garage had a superb line-up of supporting players. There was the enjoyable disco pop of KOVAK fronted by the very sexy Annelies Van de Velde and the electro rock fusion of the almost equally sexy TENEK. Like two parts Toyah: one part Siouxsie at a warehouse party, Saffron provided the feisty focus while Tim Dorney and Jonny Glue acted as complimentary foil to recreate the punchy REPUBLICA sound. With luminaries like SAMANTHA FOX and RUSTY EGAN also in the audience, it was a fun filled occasion for all.
KARIN PARK’s fourth album ‘Highwire Poetry’ was a steady burner embraced through word of mouth, but its embracement couldn’t have prepared audiences for the spectacle of her live show. With an obviously towering presence, her animated stares and jerky movements had the crowd transfixed. In an unusual set-up featuring her heavy metal loving brother David primarily on drums, the siblings showed themselves to be impressive multitaskers with David even venturing onto keyboards while Karin dabbled with a Korg MS20 and keytar.
MESH, DE/VISION + TORUL at Islington O2 Academy (2013)
Bristolian electro-rock duo MESH ended their successful European tour in style with a rousing show at the O2 Academy in London’s Islington district. Supporting an excellent bill were TORUL, a promising trio hailing from Slovenia and German veterans DE/VISION. But MESH’s set sprang into technological life as screens and projections set the scene for a live presentation of their best album yet ‘Automation Baby’. With songs such as ‘Born To Lie’, ‘Adjust Your Set’ and ‘Taken For Granted’, MESH were at the height of their powers.
Tickets for CHVRCHES gigs were exchanging hands at ridiculous prices but it was easy to see why as there was an endearing charm about them. Pulling out the stops with a huge laser display at Village Underground, singer Lauren Mayberry surreally remarked that it would have been cruel for anyone to have brought their cat to the show!! ‘Lies’, ‘Science & Vision’ and ‘The Mother We Share’ showcased what was to come with their debut LP while PRINCE’s ‘I Would Die 4 U’ was a good choice in the “we haven’t got enough songs, let’s do a cover” conundrum that haunts new acts.
VILE ELECTRODES got to play their most OMD derived number ‘Deep Red’ on the final night of their German tour supporting their heroes. Meanwhile, new OMD material such as ‘Dresden’ and ‘Kissing The Machine’ satisfied the crowd alongside the usual OMD favourites. Live duds ‘So In Love’ and ‘Walking On The Milky Way’ were also dropped for the welcome, good natured surprise (due to audience demand) of ‘Secret’. The almost frightening Teutonic shout of “ZU-GA-BE” by the audience in time to the closing drum machine of ‘Enola Gay’ was another unforgettable moment.
For Virgin Records 40th Anniversary, THE HUMAN LEAGUE were invited to play a special concert but declined. Instead, founder member Martyn Ware stepped into the breach. Loaded with surprises such as a ‘Marianne’, ‘Circus Of Death’ and ‘WXJL Tonight’, Glenn Gregory relished the vocal challenge while Ware took to the mic himself for a new rendition of IGGY POP’s ‘Nightclubbing’. HEAVEN 17’s hits satisfied members of the audience who still weren’t quite sure of the connection and with support provided by SCRITTI POLITTI, it was an unforgettable evening.
Numan’s shows in last ten or so years have been frustrating, often with great highs but then spoiled by severe lows, thanks to the one dimension nature of numbers from the ‘Jagged’ album. But with the ‘Splinter’ album and tour, Numan got it right. Free of the ballast from ‘Jagged’ and incorporating the best elements of ‘Replicas’, ‘The Pleasure Principle’, ‘Telekon’, ‘Pure’ and ‘Dead Son Rising’, The Roundhouse show was back to Numan at his formidable best. The dynamic and tempo variation plus the return to more electronics appeared to have done the trick…
KARL BARTOS’ ‘Off The Record’ show was a perfect multi-media history of electronic pop that celebrated the innovation of the past while moving forward musically. While the sounds are meatier, the technology more versatile and the tools much simpler to operate, what remains are the melodies, the traditions and the soul. It may be an unusual way to describe things related to Kling Klang, but with an evening of solo and KRAFTWERK material that coincided with Ralf Hütter receiving a Lifetime Achievement Grammy on behalf of the Düsseldorf quartet, this couldn’t have been truer.
A little basement studio in Hoxton houses one of biggest collections of vintage synths and within it, the delightful Miss Peel launched her marvellous ‘Fabricstate’ EP with an intimate performance using primarily just synths and samplers. On the title track, Peel launched into an amazing whirring synth solo on a DS Mopho x4 while with the haunting award winning ‘Chloe’, she showed her sensitivity. There was also a treat in a music box driven cover of PAUL BUCHANAN’s ‘Cars In The Garden’ with the said antique sequencer operated by a member of the audience.
An Evening With The Swedish Synth at 93 Feet East (2014)
Featuring synth veterans PAGE alongside comparative newcomers MACHINISTA and TRAIN TO SPAIN, Nordic friendly music blog Cold War Night Life’s ‘An Evening With The Swedish Synth’ proved what could be achieved when a genuine electronic music enthusiast curated an electronic event. A fair number of Swedes and Norwegians were in attendance so with the added cocktail of that Scandinavian sense of enjoyment and their insatiable appetite for liquid refreshment, it was a fun, good natured occasion that captured the spirit of how great music can unite people.
DIE KRUPPS are rightly cited as a huge influence on the likes of NITZER EBB, FRONT 242, DEPECHE MODE and most significantly RAMMSTEIN. Vocalist and founder member Jürgen Engler is still a great front man, playing up to Teutonic clichés and bashing metal with aplomb, particularly on a frenzied cover of VISAGE’s ‘The Anvil’ with special guest Sarah Blackwood. With big, sequenced basslines from Ralf Dörper, Marcel Zürcher’s crushing guitars and powerful drumming by Bradley Bills, it was a strangely joyful mechanised experience that was indeed, metal machine music.
MUS_IIC Festival.01 at Shoreditch Red Gallery (2014)
MemeTune, the acclaimed London studio and label curated its first festival featuring WRANGLER, GAZELLE TWIN and MINNY POPS. While MINNY POPS’ provocative art school antics divided opinion, the sheer anonymity of GAZELLE TWIN combined with some unsettling put powerful music made her voyeuristically enticing. But it was WRANGLER led by ex-CABARET VOLTAIRE man Stephen Mallinder who most had come to see. And he delighted his followers with reworked versions of ‘Sensoria’ and ‘Crackdown’ alongside great new dystopian material such as ‘Lava Land’.
‘The Violet Flame’ was ERASURE’s return to more uptempo material with a reinvigorated energetic zest within the duo. A number of hits were reprogrammed into a more disco format, but this was balanced with preserving the integrity of the original songs. It didn’t spoil the fun as a guessing game element was added to proceedings. In tour programme foreword, Mute supreme Daniel Miller quoted Seymour Stein of Sire Records who said “the reason ERASURE are so great is because they make people feel good about themselves”.
It was the document that put DEPECHE MODE into the big league.
But while ‘101’ affirmed the Basildon boys’ status into Trans-Atlantic Stadium Monsters, it also symbolised the end of the synth wars… the battle of Synth Britannia had now been won but with no fight left, the journey had come to an end.
And at the post-Live Aid roundabout, DEPECHE MODE had to take a different course to survive and maintain their new found prosperity.
So they got rockier and bluesy to fatten the sound for those huge venues while Dave Gahan’s stage gestures got more provocative and more physical as he had the cover the width of the stage. Even Fletch’s arms aloft gestures became a key part of the bigger show. This ultimately culminated with the pseudo-rock explosion of ‘Songs Of Faith And Devotion’ and its corresponding self-destructive tour. But all that was to come later…
Released 25 years ago in the UK on 13th March 1989, the ‘101’ double album and accompanying film directed by acclaimed filmmaker D A Pennebaker was aimed squarely at telling onlookers-at-large that DEPECHE MODE were no longer those fey synthpoppers in need of a good tailor, but a band with the potential to do battle with U2, who coincidentally had their own film ‘Rattle and Hum’ out in the same year.
While a popular live draw stateside in 1988, DEPECHE MODE had only previously headlined arena sized venues on America’s two coasts.
The popularity of British post-punk acts among white American teenagers thanks to the Anglophile soundtracks of John Hughes films like ‘The Breakfast Club’, ‘Pretty In Pink’ and ‘Some Kind Of Wonderful’ was at an all time high.
SIMPLE MINDS had nailed a US No1 with ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’ from ‘The Breakfast Club’ while OMD had hit the Top5 with ‘If You Leave’ from ‘Pretty In Pink’.
Indeed, Depeche’s American label Sire had attempted to relaunch them in this Hollywood centred environment by having their B-side ‘But Not Tonight’ as the theme to a largely forgotten teen movie ‘Modern Girls’. The song flopped which proved to be a blessing, especially when looking at the later career trajectories of SIMPLE MINDS and OMD following their initial post-John Hughes flushes of success…
To capitalise on the momentum of increasing US album sales of the album ‘Music For The Masses’ and their most successful American tour yet, they elected to play a ‘Concert for The Masses’ at the 70,000 capacity Pasadena Rose Bowl on 18th June 1988. The 101st and final show of their ‘Music For The Masses’ tour, it was a risky strategy at the time as the band had achieved only one Top 40 single ‘People Are People’ in the US.
But the buzz around the band, especially from the listenership of the influential college friendly radio stations such as KROQ indicated that DM’s newly Devoted American fanbase would make the special trip to witness what was effectively their own musical Superbowl.
Recorded around backstage antics and a road trip following a group of fans on their way to the show inter-dispersed with concert footage from various shows, it was to establish DEPECHE MODE as a credible worldwide force, particularly with dissenters in the UK press who had always been resistant and cynical to their success.
The result of the release of ‘101’ was that even neutrals in the UK, who had bought the odd album or single in the past, were astonished to find synthpop classics such as ‘Everything Counts’ were now being aired to the masses in all the world’s stadiums… at least that was the perception. Jim Kerr of SIMPLE MINDS was quite bemused at their newly acquired status, retrospectively commenting to Word Magazine in 2006: “Who would’ve thought Depeche Mode plink-plonking away would play in stadiums?”
As a profile building exercise for DEPECHE MODE, ‘101’ was a big success but its legacy also had an effect on Mode’s contemporaries. Rather than opening doors, ‘101’ inadvertently shut them to others. Having been Vince Clarke’s original inspiration to take up the synthesizer and eventually launch DEPECHE MODE, main support act OMD could only watch in awe as their apprentices wowed the massive crowds night after night.
It must have been demoralising to Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys despite their own, not unsubstantial success in Europe. But in the rush to break America, OMD may have had a Top 5 US single to their name, but they could not (and have never been able to) attract the Devoted loyalty which Messrs Gahan, Gore, Fletcher and Wilder had steadily built and enjoyed.
They could only go one way after this and looking back, their split in 1989 was predictable!
Supporting proceedings that night in Pasadena was THOMAS DOLBY who also had to rethink his own artistic aspirations. Despite a Top 5 US hit single to his name, he had his own struggles with pressure for more hits from his various record labels.
As a solo act, he could not split with himself but after his 1992 album ‘Astronauts and Heretics’, he effectively retired from the music industry.
Working in Silicon Valley on music integration software for the brave new world of the internet with great success and developing the polyphonic ringtone engine for Nokia along the way, he only returned to music in 2006 and supported DEPECHE MODE again at London’s Hyde Park that same year.
By the time of the more organic but still primarily electro album ‘Violator’, DEPECHE MODE had overtaken all their peers, and this symbolism was highlighted when they played at Dodgers Stadium in August 1990 to conclude the North American leg of the ‘World Violation’ tour. The support act were ELECTRONIC, a supergroup made up of refugees from NEW ORDER and THE SMITHS plus both PET SHOP BOYS thrown in for good measure! Messrs Gahan, Gore, Fletcher and Wilder had now become the UK independent scene’s biggest post-punk success story.
One of the protagonists at the Pasadena Rose Bowl on 18th June 1988 was of course, Alan Wilder. In an exclusive interview for its 25th Anniversary, he kindly answered some questions about ‘101’ and discussed its legacy…
In hindsight, the ‘101’ film, while good for DEPECHE MODE’s profile at the time, appeared to focus on some of the wrong things ie there’s too much footage of the fans on the bus, not enough actual music?
Even though Don Pennebaker had previously made music concert films (David Bowie at Hammersmith Odeon for example), he is primarily a documentary filmmaker – which was appealing to us although it is debatable whether the pre-determined set-up of the group of bus people (collected and auditioned a la ‘Big Brother’) is not an inferior form, as opposed to entering an already existing situation and truly being a fly on the wall. After all, Reality television has little to do with reality.
Once commissioned and given a fairly free reign, Pennebaker looked at his options and decided to make a film about what he considered to be the most (perhaps the only) interesting factors of the DM phenomenon. The fact that Don had not really even heard of the group, let alone any of its music, gave him an outsider’s perspective and he soon realised that he wasn’t likely to glean any pearls of wisdom from the band members. As individuals, we were not deep-thinking angst-driven people with massive world insight. His decision to focus on the fans was probably the right one.
In its defence, it shouldn’t be forgotten that we’ve all been saturated with the kind of voyeurism that Reality TV has spewed forth into our consciousness for more than two decades, but in 1987 this was an unusual and precarious approach.
Nobody knew what would transpire or whether it would be of any interest at all. I’d go as far as to say the idea was somewhat groundbreaking as it clearly pre-dates all that MTV malarky which most people consider to be where the Reality craze got started.
Also, the naivety and carefree exuberance with which the bus protagonists go about their adventures has a charm which could probably not be repeated today, given the knowing self-promoting instincts from most who take part in these ventures now, along with the predictable audience consumption, moral judgements and salacious anticipation of all things about to fall apart.
This kind of format has not only become hugely popular but also the centre of heated discussions about tabloidisation, media ethics, privacy and the representation of the real.
At the time, I felt short-changed by ‘101’ as I wanted the band itself to be explored more profoundly, preferably by someone who had knowledgeable insight into the music, our working practices and what we (albeit sometimes clumsily and naively) were generally trying to do. Pennebaker didn’t pretend to understand the band at all – he made no bones about that fact – but, with hindsight, he did manage to make a piece which says something about the era and I think, allied to the fact that it holds no pretentions (unlike some rock docs of the period – err… hummm… ‘Rattle and Hum’), it stands the test of time. Having said that, I find the film at best curious rather than ‘deep’.
The fanbase connection with the band appeared to be what was trying to be highlighted on ‘101’. For example, the crowd has been mixed in very loudly on the live footage and audio whereas a good number of live albums of the time would neutralise the audience noise?
I feel to highlight the fanbase connection was fair enough.
After all, this is the real crux of the DM fascination – how “four Walters from Basildon” (to quote an early single review) could form the source of nothing short of a worldwide phenomenon, the nature of which is quite perplexing, way out of proportion for a pop band – a strange, bizarre and enduring religion which has been demonstrated again more recently in Jeremy Deller’s film ‘The Posters Came From The Walls’.
Is that right about the crowd levels? I haven’t listened for a long time to the album but the film soundtrack may be even more that way.
Again, I haven’t watched the film for many years and it’s possible that the Pennebaker crew had some extra control over that music-to-crowd balance. My memory though is that we controlled the music mixes and so the album balance would have been the decision of those of us who mixed the tracks.
‘101’ symbolises DEPECHE MODE’s entry to the wider international stage but perhaps also, the end of Synth Britannia as of those support acts who played that day in Pasadena, OMD split up soon after while THOMAS DOLBY retired from the music industry a few years later. It was as if DM had set a bar that their peers couldn’t hope to reach… any thoughts on that?
I’m not sure that DM’s ‘success’ would have had any negative bearing on other electronic artists. If anything, the expectation of positive reverberations and opening of doors would have been more likely.
A lot of it was luck for DM though, coupled with plenty of donkey work touring in the US leading up to the big (and unexpected to such a degree) explosion. It seems the timing was right for that kind of music where genres were being choked by mainstream rock radio as a huge cult level of other music listeners were being shafted.
We benefited from a kind of breaking of the dam which finally gave way, resulting in those stations almost being forced into recognising and playing the newer UK artists of the time – such as The Cure, The Smiths, New Order, DM and many other groups which had been, up until then, considered ‘alternative’ or ‘cult’ in the states. I can’t hazard a guess about the examples you cite or speculate as to why some acts may have failed to capitalise. I do know that there is never a correlation which one should assume between the quality of a band / artist compared to the amount of people who turn up to their concerts. It’s a funny old game…
With that in mind and with DEPECHE MODE established publically with ‘101’ as a ‘stadium act’, had the development into a more organic, rock / bluesy sound to suit those types of venues been a conscious move in order for DM to maintain that position with ‘Violator’ and ‘Songs Of Faith And Devotion’?
Subconsciously there may be an element due to the nature of the venues and larger (more distant) crowds needing to be serviced. Dave, I’m sure, would have welcomed the more ’rocky’ approach to release and enhance his own stage performances.
But ‘Violator’ is still a very electronic album when you listen to it now, and its less electronic elements, rather than derived from stadium experiences, were mainly influenced by the wave of hip hop and rap music which permeated the scene at that time. The methods of those artists employing more left-field sampling techniques left a significant mark on both myself and Flood.
We were attracted to the inherent feel of played drum loops for example rather than precisely programmed rhythm from machines or individual drum samples. This ‘looping’ was taken much further with ‘SOFAD’ of course – an album style conceived mainly because we didn’t want to just repeat ‘Violator’ despite its success. That would have been seen as stagnation and some of us at least were very wary of that.
You did not appear in the interviews or commentary for the bonus features on the ‘101’ DVD reissue, why was that?
A surprising amount of pressure was put on me to take part in the ‘director’s commentary’ idea, mainly from Daniel Miller and Pennebaker himself, but I didn’t feel I had some exciting anecdotes or anything particularly insightful to add for the reissue.
I’ve never enjoyed the commentary concept – frequently empty and often unnecessarily demystifying (I like to retain something for the imagination). The ‘101’ film is not exactly complicated and doesn’t contain any technical issues which needed explaining either. It speaks for itself.
Even though, on paper, the idea of a group and director ‘talkover’ maybe could have worked – i.e. jogging each other’s memories etc – I just knew that putting four rock band members together in a room to randomly comment would result in silly giggling, talking over each other and the spouting of mainly nonsense. And that filled me with dread.
The Electricity Club gives its sincerest thanks to ALAN WILDER
Special thanks to Michael Rose
The DEPECHE MODE ‘101’ film and uninterrupted Pasadena Rose Bowl concert highlights are available as a 2DVD package via Mute Records. The ‘101’ 2CD live album is still available
Following a successful series of worldwide screenings, RECOIL ‘A Strange Hour In Budapest’ had the first of its UK Cinema premieres at Everyman’s Screen On The Green in Islington.
Its comfortable surroundings provided the ideal setting for this lavish high definition film directed by Attila Herkó. Released earlier this year exclusively on Blu-Ray, in Alan Wilder’s words it was “to supply the most accurate experience of being at the concert”.
Intercut with picturesque views of the Danube city, live footage filmed at the venue and the special projections directed by Steve Fabian, Igor Dvorský & Dmitry Semenov, ‘A Strange Hour In Budapest’ is a powerfully resonant audio/visual document that presents many highlights from Alan Wilder’s career in a concert setting.
In addition to bespoke computer generated graphics, there are illustrations ranging from monochromatic erotica, abstract space photography and austere footage of crashing aircraft. The latter are particularly poignant as they reflect Wilder’s own near death experience when an RAF Tornado jet crashed in front of him while he was on a driving holiday in Scotland back in 1994. Although those shocking memories are musically captured in the track ‘Black Box’ from 2000’s ‘Liquid’ album, that trauma is highlighted in the live presentation with the pulsing Shotgun rendition of ‘Prey’, the tension exasperated by its disturbing images.
Trippy grooves as on the haunting Siobhan Lynch vocalled ‘Drifting’ and the cosmic vibes of the Tangerine Dream sampling ‘Allelujah’ dominate the first part of the show but inevitably, it is the song based material such as ‘Faith Healer’ featuring Nitzer Ebb’s Douglas McCarthy and the reworkings of Depeche Mode that get the Szikra audience into a frenzy, particularly with the Aggro Mix of ‘Never Let Me Down Again’ and the late Johnny Dollar’s superbly powerful Jeep Rock take on ‘In Your Room’.
Incidentally, the sound reproduction throughout the film is outstanding and at times in the cinema, it was actually difficult to distinguish between the applause in the film and that of the audience watching!
Other highlights of ‘A Strange Hour In Budapest’ include the grainy projections of Wilder’s live partner Paul Kendall practicing robotics during a great cover of ‘Warm Leatherette’ and a superb mash-up of ‘Jezebel’, the Grungy Gonads Mix of ‘Walking In My Shoes’ and ‘Are Friends Electric?’.
Asked about it by The Electricity Club during the post-film Q&A, Wilder replied: “It was when we did the American leg of the tour, I wanted to make a few changes to the set to keep it more interesting having learnt from the first leg of the tour that there was a dip that needing picking up…so I came up with the idea of using ‘Walking in My Shoes’ . At the same time, we were going to play a gig with Gary Numan in Chicago so I thought it be fun to throw that track in and see if he noticed…and he didn’t!!” The cinema cracked up with laughter.
“He watched the set but he didn’t even notice his bit of music in it… ‘Cloth Ears’ I call him,” Wilder affectionately quipped. He added: “’Jezebel’ and ‘Walking In My Shoes’ just happened to fit tempo-wise, I had to change ‘Jezebel’ by a semitone to make it work with the ‘Walking…’ key signature but it worked well”.
Alan Wilder’s Q&A was an entertaining experience with him superbly articulating his thoughts and views. “No! I’m not going back to Depeche Mode!” he announced, setting the scene. On the subject of the loudness war, he was also forthright: “Just turn the volume knob up!” But on the future of RECOIL though, he was less specific: “All I know is I want to make some new music but whether it’s for an album, I’m just not sure because the concept of albums seems to be something people are losing interest in and they way people are listening to music is changing…I would like to work with film, a couple of people have approached me about that”.
When Keith Trigwell from Depeche Mode tribute band Speak & Spell mentioned how 2011’s auction sharing Wilder’s memorabilia connected with the fans, he candidly answered: “Shared?!? I’d like to share my stuff with you…for this much!”
Wilder’s honesty is one of his many traits that have made him such a revered and respected figure in the music scene.
However, some present seemed rather perturbed when Wilder gave answers that perhaps they didn’t want to hear. On BECK’s new album campaign where fans have been recording their own backing tracks via sheet music provided online, he observantly commented: “It’s up it’s a*se isn’t it? How easy a life does he want?” However, he did concur that he is always open to exploring innovative ways for musicians to connect with their fanbase.
On the move away from hardware synths to software, he replied: “I’m not that nostalgic… we were struggling to get clicks to synch together and would spend three days on something that you can do in five minutes on a computer now…some of these plug-ins are amazing and stay in tune! Let’s not get over nostalgic about the past…but there are some great bits of vintage gear of course”.
On the studio process and how adversity can produce great music, he remembered ‘In Your Room’ as being “a tough track to record”, eventually being a combination of three different versions. By the opposite token though, ‘Enjoy The Silence’ “came together (like that) within a couple of hours”, the bassline achieved simply by playing around with a sequencer.
What was less enthralling during the evening however were some of the more inane lines of questioning by some attendees who seemed to be more interested in talking as much as possible while NOT actually listening to the replies of the evening’s humble host.
Wilder rightfully called it “random crap”. There is an etiquette to these things and sorry, “’Construction Time Again’, how exciting was that!” is NOT a great question!
But despite this, there was a warm family atmosphere with Wilder being the consummate professional, answering questions intelligently and with humour throughout.
Figures from the DM fan community such as Deb Danahay and all four members of Speak & Spell mingled alongside fans while Mr Wilder gave his time to everyone readily and happily. It was a memorable evening for all concerned and a fascinating selected event to boot…
The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Alan Wilder
‘A Strange Hour In Budapest’ is released on Blu-ray by Shunt Production in conjunction with Umatik Entertainment. Please see www.store.recoil.co.uk for full product details.
Following a 52 city world tour to celebrate 25 years of the RECOIL project and an auction of memorabilia from his career including his time with DEPECHE MODE, he got straight into production for his RECOIL concert film ‘A Strange Hour In Budapest’, released exclusively on the Blu-ray format.
Directed by Attila Herkó, it captures the final 2010 show of the Selected Events tour as a full HD production with a DTS-HD 5.1 surround sound and stereo audio soundtrack, mixed by Alan with Paul Kendall. Intended “to supply the most accurate experience of being at the concert”, ‘A Strange Hour In Budapest’ is a powerfully resonant audio/visual document that presents many highlights from Alan Wilder’s career in a concert setting.
Alan Wilder took time out from his schedule preparing the Recoil Blu-ray to chat about his live concert document.
The RECOIL ‘A Strange Hour In Bupapest’ film is on the way. This is being released exclusively on Blu-ray so how will this be different from a standard live DVD?
The film project, like most things, really came together more by chance than design.
I never planned to make a concert film but when we arrived for the second show in Budapest, our local promoter had already arranged for Attila and his crew to be there, in order to discuss whether they might be able to film the event. It was something they themselves wanted to do and I saw no reason to object.
I guess it was a mutually beneficial idea – they could try to promote their own production company while I got a film made for RECOIL.
I only really considered a format for it that would be capable of representing the film in the best possible way – to supply the most accurate experience of being at the concert. If you want a great memory of having seen and heard the show, then anything less would not be doing it justice. Blu-ray is the nearest one can get to the full experience. I don’t want to see the film dumbed down to a (dying) DVD format, and nor do the filmmakers. Also, these days, people expect much higher quality audio/visuals – and so they should.
High resolution audio seems to be very slow in becoming widely available. People want it, and frankly deserve it. We have been accepting 16bit CD technology for too long now (I won’t mention MP3!) which really doesn’t cut it any more. Many on the cutting edge (the likes of Peter Gabriel. Trent Reznor, Kate Bush etc.) already offer their audio in full 24bit resolution.
For the visuals, same applies to DVD – people are starting to expect higher resolution, with HD TV easily outshining DVD. Technically, bringing it all to a conclusion has been the hardest part for me – and a big learning curve as to how best to prepare for and author a Blu-ray disc. We are still working on that aspect now in fact, although it is 98% complete.
As I write this, I have STILL not seen the whole film in full HD myself! I have also listened to the response from some fans who demand higher end products. And I have therefore adapted the proposed formats to reflect their desire for a standalone soundtrack (as 24bit wav) which will be available on a USB stick.
What are you up to next musically?
Some brand new RECOIL music I hope, rather than more remixes which people keep asking me to do – although the whole idea of making a complete album in this day and age feels a bit like a futile exercise, especially as we witness the demise of the (album) concept, coupled with a general decline in CD sales and the expectation from most that music should be free and largely disposable.
I’m not against high resolution audio downloads as a way forward (as long as combined with desirable tangible objects) but I really wonder about the best way to move now in terms of how to release new music. I want to see a return to real value put on the output of all artists with the work made available in formats which make most sense in the current climate. Besides all this of course, I have a busy life with a new daughter and many personal commitments, which means I have to consider working in a smarter, easier to manage and more lucrative way.
The Electricity Club gives its grateful thanks to Alan Wilder
RECOIL ‘A Strange Hour In Budapest’ is released on Blu-ray by Shunt Production in conjunction with Umatik Entertainment. The first 1000 copies come in a deluxe digipack with 16-page booklet and are individually hand-stamped / numbered. For more details and how to pre-order, please visit: http://store.recoil.co.uk/