Tag: Recoil (Page 2 of 2)

ALAN WILDER Discusses Spirit Of Talk Talk

Alan Wilder has been acting as the musical and production supervisor for ‘Spirit Of Talk Talk’, a double tribute album celebrating the visionary band who released a series of highly regarded albums. 

Led by the enigmatic Mark Hollis and also featuring Paul Webb on bass and Lee Harris on drums, TALK TALK were originally dismissed by the press for being DURAN DURAN copyists… they shared a label in EMI, producer in Colin Thurston and even had a repeated word name!

However, their first album ‘The Party’s Over’ was an impressive synth flavoured collection that indicated they had more in common with artistically thoughtful collectives such as JAPAN and ULTRAVOX.

Following the departure of their original keyboardist Simon Brenner and an excellent interim single ‘My Foolish Friend’ produced by Rhett Davies of ROXY MUSIC fame, their acclaimed second album ‘It’s My Life’ was released in 1984. This was the first time they had worked with producer Tim Friese-Greene; he was to become Hollis’ future creative partner. Although the album sold well in Europe, it was largely ignored in the UK.

However, this overseas success allowed EMI to provide a bigger budget for their third long player ‘The Colour Of Spring’. Hollis had insisted around this time that he hated synthesizers apart from their use in live work and the band had only used them because they couldn’t afford traditional instruments or the session musicians to play them. So with the benefits of extra finance, they went in pursuit of a more organic sound. This was expanded further with the release of the more freeform ‘Spirit Of Eden’ in 1988 which eventually led to the dissolving of their relationship with EMI.

Sensing the band were indeed ahead of their time, EMI released a Top 3 compilation ‘Natural History’ in 1990 which led to ‘It’s My Life’ belatedly becoming a Top 20 hit and a remix album ‘History Revisited’ which was issued against the band’s wishes. The story goes that EMI commissioned a series of new remixes and then charged the band for the privilege from their unexpected boost in royalties.

TALK TALK sued EMI and won, leading to remaining copies of this blot in the band’s catalogue to be destroyed. TALK TALK released one more album ‘Laughing Stock’ via the jazz label Verve revived by Polydor Records before disbanding.

Due for release by Fierce Panda in September 2012, ‘Spirit Of Talk Talk’ features acts as diverse as WHITE LIES, ZERO 7, TURIN BRAKES, JOAN AS POLICE WOMAN and of course, RECOIL. There are also contributions from Ian Curnow, David Rhodes, Gaynor Sadler and Martin Ditcham, all of whom worked with TALK TALK.

The double CD package has been designed by original TALK TALK graphic artist, James Marsh, using his cover created in 1983 for a prospective album ‘Chameleon Hour’ which was never released. There will also be a richly illustrated, accompanying book by Chris Roberts, tracing TALK TALK’s evolution and reflecting on their unique journey from synthpop to near-silence.

Alan Wilder took time out from his schedule preparing the Recoil Blu-ray to chat about one of his favourite bands..

Can you remember how you first discovered the music of TALK TALK and what your initial impressions were at the time?

By default I was exposed to the band’s music from the time of their very first singles and appearances on TV and radio in the early 80s. I liked the sound of the singles ‘Today’ and ‘Talk Talk’ but never heard the first album. In fact I still haven’t heard that album in full.

When their first album ‘The Party’s Over’ came out in 1982, you had not long been in DEPECHE MODE. As both acts were perceived initially as synthpop, did you consider them rivals or comrades-in-arms?

Neither rivals nor comrades, just one of many bands who were around during that period. It was a heady time for us, running about like headless chickens, rolling into town for endless promotion, live shows, guest appearances etc.

We did encounter Mark Hollis a couple of times. A seemingly more miserable person I couldn’t really imagine as we, as young Moders, would be met with a complete blank stare whenever we tried to make conversation. We would typically bump into each other at a European TV studio – I guess they would be miming to ‘Today’ or ‘Life’s What You Make It’ while we pranced around to ‘Stripped’ or ‘People Are People’ on the next stage.

One night I asked the other two why Mark never showed up to any of the clubs we would frequent after those appearances. Paul replied that he was in his room “thinking”. He said that Mark does a lot of ‘thinking’ and added that he himself also ‘thinks’ a bit, while the drummer Lee doesn’t ‘think’ at all 🙂

‘It’s My Life’ showed the band were ahead of their time, especially when  the title track only became a hit single belatedly in 1990. Considering ‘synthesizer’ music was still very much in vogue in 1984, why do you think brilliant pop songs like ‘It’s My Life’ and ‘Such A Shame’ weren’t given the recognition they deserved at the time?

Undoubtedly these tunes were underrated, as the band themselves always have been.

They didn’t court publicity and I guess often fell under the radar. I can remember sitting in Hansa’s mix room listening to ‘Such A Shame’ with Daniel Miller and the others – and we were really knocked out with the sound and atmosphere created using sampled animal sounds mixed with synths, sequencers and so on. It was an unusual sonic blend even then – quite different to anything else around at the time, especially with the tense Hollis voice adding to the effect.

Then there was an artistic jump with ‘The Colour Of Spring’ where they ditched most of the synthesisers for more organically derived keyboard sounds and sporadic use of jazz based players and guitars; very modern but traditional at the same time. How did this affect your thinking musically about a ‘keyboard’ player’s role in a band?

I was always bemused by this great need to differentiate between ‘types’ of instrumentation one could use to make records. In DM, we would employ ridiculous ‘no guitar’ rules which, thankfully, went out the window later. I think the directive was installed mainly through fear of being regarded as ‘rock’, or perhaps just ending up sounding like everyone else.

‘The Colour Of Spring’ album wasn’t specific in influencing me/us in this aspect but it was an extremely confident and focused record, with the emphasis still firmly on the songs, and with Mark’s voice maturing with its unique character.

Perhaps subconsciously we could see a group growing rapidly in its sophistication while still retaining a great pop sensibility, all of which would have rubbed off and encouraged the feeling that experimentation is okay, and can still produce commercial results at the same time.

‘Living In Another World’ and ‘Time It’s Time’ are just epic aren’t they? Did ‘The Colour Of Spring’ have any influence in inspiring you to start RECOIL?

No – I don’t really see a link to that. At that point, TT still very much felt like a band, although I was aware of the influence of Tim Friese-Greene and the important partnership which was obviously developing between Tim and Mark.

For ‘Spirit Of Eden’, the jazz influences came to the fore along with a chamber orchestra and Nigel Kennedy. The intro of ‘The Rainbow’ sounds like Miles Davis and conventional song form had all but disappeared. It wasn’t what EMI wanted and it sounds like a completely different band to one from 1984, let alone 1982. What were your first thoughts on this album?

As I said, ‘The Colour Of Spring’ was an excellent but transitional album where one could visibly see the band mutating from well-crafted, intelligent pop into something much deeper and more thought provoking. However, the revelation presented by ‘Spirit Of Eden’ was still totally unexpected.

My first reaction was astonishment to be honest – initially at the use of space and silence, and then at the sheer audacity of an approach which went so far against the grain. It was brutally non-conformist. This has to be one of my all-time favourite albums. Mind-blowingly brilliant in its diversity, atmospherics, musicianship and topped off with ‘that’ voice again which found its true position floating painfully over the top (in the best possible way). Whenever I’m stumped for something to listen to, I reach for this album to restore my faith in all that is good about modern music. It encompasses so many of the things I enjoy about sound, post-modernity, sophisticated arrangements, and eclecticism. Frankly, I’m jealous that I have never been able to make a record which has the confidence to be so exposed.

‘Laughing Stock’ must have confused the few listeners the band would have gained from ‘It’s My Life’ being a hit?

Sadly, ‘Laughing Stock’ was the last TT album (aside from one Hollis solo offering which appeared after). There was a direct correlation between the quality increase and the popularity decrease which says a lot about your average music listener. It was clear that Mark Hollis in particular was never comfortable wearing the cloak of pop stardom. We can all see, with hindsight, where his aspirations lay having now heard the later, definitive albums.

Here was a man clearly very frustrated working within the confines of the format – something I appreciate myself and which led me to start my own RECOIL project in order to alleviate the very same limitations – to explore other musical avenues. Sad to see that in the case of TALK TALK, there was obviously much less understanding of this creative need from their record company who must have panicked as the sales started to decline. I am given to understand that (apart from very recently) relations between Talk Talk and EMI never recovered, with disillusionment and bitterness the inevitable result.

What would you say are your favourite TALK TALK songs?

There are many but, off the top of my head: ‘Wealth’, ‘Inheritance’, ‘Living In Another World’, ‘Such A Shame’, ‘I Believe In You’.

How did you become involved in the ‘Spirit Of Talk Talk’ project?

My involvement began with a quote provided for the book and escalated quite quickly towards the music part of the project, to the point where over the last year I have become executive music producer, offering feedback and advice to many of the artists and to Toby Benjamin, our project leader. Toby kept asking my view on things so I said you’d better employ me as supervisor!

I took on more responsibility just to help him along while he juggled with so many artistes and their management people. I kept out of most of the direct communication and reported my musical findings to Toby, particularly about where versions could be improved, tweaked or edited, and then how they might all fit together to form a cohesive album. Not an easy task with so many to keep happy. He and I didn’t always see eye-to-eye and, personally, I would have included less tracks. Or maybe we could have spread the contributions over 3 discs instead of 2 – which would have reduced the fatigue factor of listening to all in one go. It was an intricate process, and being a charity record, Toby wanted to be ‘charitable’ and keep everyone happy as far as possible. We also had to be aware of costs and assure that the project was affordable and workable for all.

RECOIL has recorded covers of ‘Dum Dum Girl’ and ‘Inheritance’, why did you choose those two songs in particular and what was your approach?

When I was first presented with the cover version idea, ‘Dum Dum Girl’ just kept popping into my head – which I took as a sign – and I could immediately hear a way it might be re-fashioned.

In fact Toby tried to talk me out of that choice and suggested other songs. He wanted me to tackle ‘Time It’s Time’ but I didn’t have any thoughts on that track, or to be more accurate, I couldn’t really imagine a way to re-work it. It can be quite a daunting prospect attempting to do justice to some of the most inspirational music ever produced. I felt ‘DDG’ offered greater scope for re-interpretation (with a female voice this time).

A group of musicians all connected with TALK TALK were placed on hand to help out, so it almost felt like a collective even though I was in charge of the production. Shara Worden came on board and sent me her vocal stems after I provided a quick demo of my initial idea, and then I went about collecting various performances from others in order to put it all together.

With ‘Inheritance’, this came about when Toby suggested getting Linton Kwesi Johnson involved in the project. He asked me how we might incorporate Linton’s voice on the album, so I started thinking about it. It was a pretty left-field idea which I was unsure about for a long time, but I said I would try a few ideas (with no promises) to see if I could make it work. Again – a real challenge. No-one had come up with a decent version of that song at that point, so I dived in.

We recorded Linton up at RAK studios – in record time. He wasn’t actually interested to hear what I had prepared musically but just preferred to recite the words in solo – so I extracted as many variations from him as possible before he shot off to find some sushi for his lunch (LKJ was distracted by hunger that day!). I still have no idea what he thinks of the results but he gave his blessing for the inclusion. The problem was I also needed a voice for the chorus – someone who could really carry off the soaring melody for those sections. I’d already heard Paul Marshall’s voice on ‘Wealth’ and was determined to get him involved on this one. Luckily he was up for it and did a great job…

Was there one you wanted to do but couldn’t because someone else was already down to record it?

I feel we are missing a great cover of ‘Such A Shame’. It was attempted by one artist but rejected (rightly). That is a key song which should have appeared ideally.

One of the biggest names apart from yourself on the album are WHITE LIES who have covered ‘Give It Up’. How has that one turned out?

Kind of electronic pop, if you like that sort of thing…

What are your own favourites on the ‘Spirit Of Talk Talk’ album?

My personal favourites are by Feiner / Dangerfield / Wilson, Jack Northover, Joan As Police Woman, Nils Frahm / Peter Broderick and ZERO 7 – all of whom thought really carefully about how to re-interpret the originals in a completely fresh and exciting way. This is the approach I tried to take with my own submissions too. I am also a big fan of Lone Wolf’s haunting cover of ‘Wealth’.

Have Mark Hollis, Paul Webb or Lee Harris said anything about this project?

Not that I know about. I think they are all aware of it. Mark apparently gave it his blessing but that’s about it.

Do you think this tribute CD and book might go some way into reviving interest in TALK TALK’s music?

One would certainly hope so – this is a really interesting and impressive collection of heartfelt covers, submitted with genuine affection and respect for the TALK TALK legacy. As such, despite any flaws it may contain, it is well worth exploring and seeing how the influence spreads far and wide. It also makes you realise what a great singer Mark Hollis was (is) and how difficult it can be to emulate that aspect. In fact the best versions don’t really attempt to copy the originals in any way but rather re-interpret them.

The Electricity Club gives its grateful thanks to Alan Wilder

‘Spirit Of Talk Talk’ is released as a 2CD set and download by Fierce Panda on 3rd September 2012. All proceeds from the release will be going to The Rare Bird Club charity.

A 2019 reprint of the ‘Spirit Of Talk Talk’ book by James Marsh, Chris Roberts & Toby Benjamin will be available in July – featuring a preface by Simon Brenner, additions include new interviews with Paul Webb and Lee Harris; it can be pre-ordered from direct from http://spiritoftalktalk.com/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
1st June 2012, updated 11th May 2019


vintage-TMDRThe plush confines of London’s Royal Festival Hall was the venue for the wonderful ‘Electronic Phuture Revue’ curated by Back To The Phuture’s Mark Jones and HEAVEN 17’s Martyn Ware.

Forming part of the three day Vintage Festival, despite the nostalgia vibe of the weekend’s proceedings celebrating five decades of British cool, this showcase was certainly no cheesy nostalgia ride.

Instead it promised a show with classic and new interpretations of synthpop NOT 80s, in a distinct move away from the dreaded ‘Remember The Here & Now’ type associations! Opening the Revue, Alan Wilder’s RECOIL orchestrated a moody cinematic presentation that included forays into his side of the DEPECHE MODE story.

A terrific ‘Jezebel’ mashed-up with ‘Walking My Shoes’ and TUBEWAY ARMY’s ‘Are Friends Electric?’ was the first musical highlight of the evening while despite the early start, a powerful Aggro mix variation of ‘Never Let Me Down Again’ third track in managed to encourage a few of the devotional to get up and do the cornfield wave. With Paul Kendall as his willing conspirator, Wilder’s carefully selected cinematic segue also included elements of ‘Personal Jesus’ to help people to “reach out”. 

vintage-recoilThese various segments of familiarity provided accessible counterpoints to RECOIL’s more organic, sample based productions like ‘Prey’ and ‘Faith Healer’.

Speaking of DEPECHE MODE, New York based MOTOR were next and their new glam stomper ‘Man Made Machine’ features vocals by Martin Gore in a collaboration that sounds not unlike a camp IGGY POP being backed by an angry GOLDFRAPP.

Tonight, it is voiced by MOTOR themselves although Gore himself lurked in the video projections as the duo delivered their brand of harder edged techno electro. Their long awaited song based album is out later this year and will feature vocals by GARY NUMAN, ELECTRIBE 101’s Billie Ray Martin and NITZER EBB’s Douglas J McCarthy.

The DJ interval with Mark Jones allowed a breather before the arrival of MIRRORS. Despite the obvious comparisons with a certain synth act from the Wirral Peninsula, MIRRORS live are actually more like a young KRAFTWERK meeting DEPECHE MODE.

vintage-mirrorsWith recent appearances at fashion shows for the likes of Michalsky and Glastonbury under their belt plus their album ‘Lights And Offerings’ gaining the praise of many plaudits, 2011 has been very good for the sartorially chic quartet.

Their sharp but moody aura, combined with an artful sensibility shone through as they exhibited their development of the classic Synth Britannia sound.

Unfortunately though, tonight they were limited to just ‘Fear Of Drowning’, ‘Into The Heart’, ‘Hide And Seek’ and ‘Ways To An End’ for their sojourn. However, MIRRORS impressed again and much of the aftershow chat was about their potential. Avoiding worries, the future of synthpop is bright and in eight very good hands.

vintage-claudiaONETWO gave a highly polished recital that delved into a variety of songs from Claudia Brücken and Paul Humphreys’ corresponding histories as well as their more recent compositions. Synthpop standards ‘P-Machinery’, ‘Messages’, ‘Electricity’ and ‘Duel’ got the audience dancing and sat nicely side-by-side with the atmospheric dramas of ‘Sequentia’, ‘Thank You’, and the Martin Gore co-write ‘Cloud Nine’.

Even if the DEPECHE MODE songwriter wasn’t there physically, his presence was certainly felt in spirit throughout the event, such has been his influence on electronic pop music. Ms Brücken herself was in tremendous voice as usual, her chanteuse demeanour perfectly at ease with the sophisticated surroundings of the Royal Festival Hall. Afterwards, Paul Humphreys and Alan Wilder were spotted chatting in the foyer before the start of THOMAS DOLBY’s set.

Wilder + Humphreys 2011The two keyboardists hadn’t seen each other in ages; had it really been 23 years since DEPECHE MODE beat OMD in that infamous cricket match, as documented in Steve Malins’ excellent DM biography ‘Black Celebration’, during the ‘Music For The Masses’ US tour? Meanwhile in a very impressive performance, THOMAS DOLBY teamed up with his tribute act THE PIRATE TWINS in a most touching musical union.

What a moment it must have been for Darren Goldsmith and Andrew Down to be playing with their hero, almost mirroring the occasion when Dolby himself and his band backed DAVID BOWIE at Live Aid.

Opening with the terrific ‘One Of Our Submarines’, Dolby journeyed back first with ‘Europa And The Pirate Twins’ and later ‘Hyperactive!’. On the latter, drummer Mat Hector did a brilliant job tightening his trousers to reprise Adele Bertei’s backing vocal!! Of course, there was also the madness of ‘She Blinded Me With Science’, with Dolby affectionately reminiscing about his recording sessions with the late Dr Magnus Pyke in his introduction and demonstrating the various samples used.

vintage-TMDR2But then Dolby looked to the future with a superb exotically flavoured dance number entitled ‘Spice Train’. Guest singer Nicki Wells joined in and provided some alluring ethnic stylings for a great live preview of THOMAS DOLBY’s new album ‘The Map Of The Floating City’.

This symbolised one important aspect of all the classic acts in tonight’s line-up who had played up to this point; much as they have dozens of highly popular, memorable hit songs between them, they all performed material that was either new or from the last decade ie the 21st Century. Rewind Festival this evening was most certainly not!

To climax this special ‘Electronic Phuture Revue’ were HEAVEN 17 who truly delivered in their position as headliners. Although they were the only classic act not to play new or recent material, they made up for it instead by making a statement “to change people’s perceptions through the medium of reinterpretation” as Martyn Ware himself so eloquently put it to The Electricity Club last May.

With a stark soundscape opening, the detuned tones of THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s take on ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’ clanked in. So here was the sight of Glenn Gregory and Martyn Ware duetting as The Right-on Brothers.

With this surprise still causing aftershocks, ‘Fascist Groove Thang’ and ‘Crushed By The Wheels Of Industry’ quickly got everyone on their feet by way of a Friday night disco atmosphere.

But what followed was an even more unexpected moment in a magnificent updating of THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘The Black Hit Of Space’ from ‘Travelogue’, providing the highlight of the evening. Futuristic sounds warbled off and on – and yes, they weighed more than Saturn! Gregory was clearly enjoying his “Tonight Matthew, I will be Phil Oakey” moment and even Mark Jones left his DJ pulpit to mingle with the punters at the front for an impromptu singalong.

With ‘The Luxury Gap’ being played live in full at The Roundhouse in the Autumn, it made sense that ‘Come Live With Me’ and ‘Let Me Go’ got renditions to ease stunning new keyboard player Berenice Scott into the live band. But then the much heralded special guest took to the stage. Giving her spirited interpretation of ‘Ball Of Confusion which first brought TINA TURNER back into the limelight on the BEF Music Of Quality Of Distinction LP was THE COMMUNARDS’ Sarah-Jane Morris.

Big BEFaIt was JANIS JOPLIN doing electro Motown and with the state of upheaval in the world at this present moment in time, the song’s forthright message was wholly relevant. As an entertaining experiment, it boded well for The Roundhouse shows later this year. With the inevitable ‘Temptation’ following and backing singer Billie Godfrey doing her usual star turn, to close it was another ‘Stars In Their Eyes’ moment for Glenn Gregory as HEAVEN 17 ended with their powerful take on ‘Being Boiled’.

Despite being an absolute treat musically, a few grumbles about the occasion have to be highlighted. At no time was the auditorium ever full, even for the later performing acts. The fault with this probably has to lie with the ticket distribution. Top price tickets were anything from £85 to £100, which priced most music fans out despite the impressive line-up assembled. Ticket sales were slow but following a 2-for-1 offer in The Guardian, the online seating plan appeared to show that the ‘Electronic Phuture Revue’ was gaining momentum.

However, judging by the number of people who took their seats for only ten minutes at a time and then promptly left, never to return, it would seem that tickets had been given to various people associated with the Vintage Festival like stall holders and VIPs who clearly had no interest in synthpop. Surely it would have been better to have had an affordable ticket price in the first place to fill the venue with music fans? This was disappointing for all the acts playing to say the least.

But the ridiculous curfew of 10.30pm meant that RECOIL were ushered in at 6.30pm and the following acts had to be so tightly packed into the schedule that there was minimal time for any of the audience to take a comfort break without missing at least one song by the next band!

With the various Vintage themed club happenings such as Northern Soul and Rockabilly happily banging away in the complex until 1.00am, surely some kind of licensing compromise could have been negotiated by the Vintage Festival organisers, South Bank Centre and local authority to make things a lot more practical and workable for such a unique gathering? There are lessons to be learnt by all.

But these issues should not dampen what a tremendously memorable evening this actually was. Like ‘Back To The Phuture -Tomorrow Is Today’ and ‘Short Circuit Presents Mute’ earlier in the year, the ‘Electronic Phuture Revue’ was yet another great event that reinforced electronic music’s credibility as the groundbreaking and vital cultural force it thoroughly deserves to be. Roll on the HEAVEN 17 / BEF weekender in October then…

Electronic Phuture Review posterWith special thanks to Lindon Lait and Tom France








Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Richard Price, Steve Gray and 7und70
2nd August 2011


In 1982, when young ALAN WILDER answered an advertisement in Melody Maker; “Keyboard player needed for established band – no timewasters”; it would prove to be a life-changing moment.

bio1987aThe band in question was DEPECHE MODE and Wilder would be stepping into the shoes of founding member Vince Clarke. As a classically-trained musician, Wilder’s contribution to DEPECHE MODE’s sound would prove to be remarkable.

Whilst he wrote only a few songs for the band, including ‘If You Want’ from ‘Some Great Reward’ and frenetic B-side ‘In Your Memory’, his flair for interpreting and arranging Martin Gore’s songs would quickly lead to a winning formula.

Most famously, it was Wilder who transformed Gore’s early demo version of ‘Enjoy The Silence’ from a morose ballad into the upbeat dance track that went on to become a worldwide hit. During the Wilder years, DEPECHE MODE released a string of their classic and best loved albums, culminating in their dark masterpiece ‘Songs of Faith and Devotion’. Over the same period they conquered the States with sell-out stadium tours.

However, in spite of helping to steer them to world domination, Wilder felt increasingly frustrated by tensions within the band and his perceived lack of recognition from his bandmates. It was following the well-documented excesses of the Devotional tour, which Q magazine dubbed “the most debauched rock tour ever”, that he announced his decision to leave DEPECHE MODE on 1st June 1995.

Wilder could now devote himself full time to RECOIL, the solo project that he had been pursuing as a sideline to DEPECHE MODE. There were two EPs ‘1’ and ‘2’ and ‘Hydrology’ before RECOIL released a full length album in 1991 called ‘Bloodline’ which featured vocal contributions from NITZER EBB’s Douglas McCarthy and Toni Halliday of CURVE.

=alan2Subsequent albums ‘Unsound Methods’ (1996), ‘Liquid’ (2000) and ‘SubHuman’ (2007) were each highly acclaimed. Whilst each album has its own distinct identity, they share Wilder’s brooding electronic soundscapes and meticulous production.

Wilder is a perfectionist in the studio and draws on a wide pallet of sounds and styles to craft his recordings. He remains a passionate supporter of the physical format, still choosing to release his albums on vinyl as well as CD. He has been highly critical of MP3 download culture, both for the loss of sound quality and the devaluation of music that it entails.

In 2010, Mute Records released a RECOIL compilation entitled ‘Selected’, and this was followed by a successful world tour. In February of the same year, Wilder made a surprise appearance onstage with his former bandmates DEPECHE MODE for their Teenage Cancer Trust show at London’s Royal Albert Hall, to the unsurpassed delight of the fanbase.

His appearance prompted speculation in some quarters that a full reconciliation was on the cards. These rumours were further fuelled when Wilder reworked ‘Sounds Of The Universe’ track ‘In Chains’ for 2011’s ‘Remixes 2’ album. Whatever the future may hold, ALAN Wilder’s place in electro royalty is already well established.

In September, fans will be able to bid for their own piece DEPECHE MODE or RECOIL history, when Wilder auctions a large collection of his studio equipment, vinyl and memorabilia. The ALAN WILDER / DEPECHE MODE Collection auction will take place in September at the Zion Arts Centre in Manchester.ALAN WILDER kindly took time out of his busy schedule to talk to The Electricity Club about RECOIL, DEPECHE MODE and his forthcoming auction.


You released a RECOIL retrospective ‘Selected’ last year. Was it difficult to choose a tracklisting that represented the work of RECOIL, yet acted as a cohesive listening experience?

Well – you could say that was the aim (or challenge) from the moment that Mute suggested putting together a collection.

They told me they were planning a series of compiled albums for a number of their artists just to bring people up to speed, and when I realised there weren’t any restrictions, the collection idea started to appeal.

I kind of knew it would be possible to create an album with continuity, atmosphere and pacing. My inclination was that it would mainly consist of material from the last three RECOIL albums -so while there is a decent cross section of RECOIL’s overall output, the ‘Selected’ album is more about my own favourites rather than a ‘cater to all’ concept. It works well I think, and wasn’t particularly difficult to put together.

You’ve toured ‘Selected Events’ all around the world now to an enthusiastic reception. But what initial apprehensions did you have when conceiving the RECOIL live show and how have you managed to overcome them?

My main worry would have been the perception of live versus playback. The show was always designed as an audio/visual presentation rather than an out-and-out live performance. The music was certainly tailored to work in the live arena, and was constructed specifically with that in mind. It intrinsically links with a synchronised film and I think it is clear from our set-up that we’re obviously not playing all the parts, but rather adding live elements and effects (which vary with each venue) to a prepared bedrock.

Perhaps this is a more modern way to present music than the traditional 5-piece, guitar-drums-bass-synth-vocalist, which is something I wanted to avoid. As the tour continued, it became clear which aspects of the presentation worked better than others, and we have therefore adapted it to be a little more crowd-friendly along the way.

There’s a Telemark modular synth which you have on stage with you. How are you finding that to use?

I use any number of synthesisers during the events depending on what I can get a hold of at a given time – as long as it is a modular-type with an external signal input.

This allows me to feed plenty of our sounds directly into the synth in order to affect them using resonance, filtering, attack and so on.

I’ve only used the Telemark a couple of times and haven’t fully explored it.

You’ve played Back To The Phuture, Short Circuit Presents Mute and are now playing Vintage Festival. Bearing in my mind the battles you’ve fought in the past with the ‘real music’ brigade, do you think electronic based music has finally got the recognition it deserves?

I think electronic music has been recognised for a long time, but we do see more and more acts using film and computers within their performances, and in these modern times (with portable applications on smaller and smaller devices, even your phone), this is becoming more acceptable, even to the diehards. The boundaries between what is performed or programmed is much more blurred. Does it matter? Not really. The bottom line is the effect on the listener/viewer and the enjoyment and entertainment imparted.

You recently reworked DEPECHE MODE’s ‘In Chains’ for ‘Remixes 2’. Why did you choose that track and what do you think you gave the track that wasn’t part of its original vision?

To help me decide which song to work on, I asked Mute to provide stems from several short-listed songs, so that I could listen to component parts and make a more informed decision. In the end I decided that ‘In Chains’ could maybe benefit the most from my treatment, hopefully expanding the dynamics and overall power. I thought the song and the existing vocal performance was strong, and even though we ended up with two quite different versions I’m happy with the results.

There is to be a sale of memorabilia and equipment from your career in September through Omega Auctions which focuses mainly on the years between 1982 to 1995. How has this come about?

It began as a small sale of studio equipment and grew into something much bigger when I realised that the process of selling multiple items can be quite complicated. It therefore made sense to maximise everything (in one hit so to speak), so we expanded the consignment to include all kinds of memorabilia. As I got deeper into the process, even though complicated, it actually became strangely enjoyable – to go back through all the years worth of collectibles and review what they all meant etc. The end result will be, I hope, a very exciting event in Manchester, to include workshops, a talk, a documentary film, perhaps even a performance and some other interesting things for the fans.

What do you think is the most unusual item on sale and the story behind it?

I think that would have to be the unreleased box set known as ‘DMBS 1-4’. Thought of as the Holy Grail, these are 4 extremely rare white labels from a DEPECHE MODE boxset that was never released. The proposed set was recalled for unknown reasons. Who knows why? The 4 test pressings were made and sent to me for approval in 1988.

Among the items for auction are several of your vintage synths. Are there any memories associated with particular ones that you can tell us a few anecdotes about, like for example the Minimoog, the ARP Odyssey or Oberheim OB8?

The Minimoog was my first synthesiser bought around 1977, pre-Mode, when I was a member of DAFNE & THE TENDERSPOTS. It was a big deal for us at the time as it was quite expensive and we couldn’t really afford it until we secured our record deal.

It is still probably my all-time favourite synthesiser due to the famous fat 3-oscillator sound, and of course it’s an absolute classic. I continued to use it for many years on early Mode recordings such as ‘Construction Time Again’ and ‘Some Great Reward’ and even had a MIDI update added during the 80s.

I bought the ARP in the late 70s privately in London and this also featured on quite a few of my pre-Mode recordings with various bands.

I guess I always had a soft spot for the Minimoog but once you accepted that the ARP was never going to sound as fat and realised that it could be used as a completely different kind of tool, then it came into its own. MIDI upgrades were added later when I used the ARP on some of the earlier RECOIL recordings such as ‘Hydrology’. I can’t pretend I was ever a skilled operator (unlike Daniel Miller for example) but it is certainly a lot of fun to fiddle about with.

To my disappointment, when I powered the OB8 up recently, I couldn’t get an actual sound although I’m told that it is just the voices which need attention. I was surprised as it has been looked after well and, cosmetically, it’s in superb physical shape. I used this synth during my time with REAL TO REAL and THE HITMEN in the early 80s. It has a fat, warm sound and was my first polyphonic synth. I loved the fact that I could actually store patches for the first time and it introduced me to the Oberheim sound which has a unique quality. I have been a fan of Oberheim ever since.

There’s a EDP Wasp in there too. There was an article featuring producer Dave Bascombe which said that you used it on ‘Music For The Masses’?

Yes, that’s true, it was used to create the famous bass sequencer parts in the Aggro mix of ‘Never Let Me Down Again’.

I think we used the Wasp and Spider sequencer and then probably sampled the result, as it isn’t MIDI controllable. We may have been able to sequence it using cv/gate – I can’t quite remember.

What has been your favourite piece of equipment over the years?

In the studio, I’ve always loved my 1970’s Neve console, Roland space echo, Manley amps and compressor, VCS 3, Minimoog and Oberheim synths… I have plenty of other gear but it’s largely redundant. My needs are quite simple these days: Logic Audio, Ableton Live, plenty of plug-ins. I now work on a MacBook Pro so I’m much more portable these days, finally making music on the move (at least sometimes).

If there’s a favourite all time DEPECHE MODE track here at The Electricity Club, it’s ‘Halo’. Could you tell us how you and co-producer Flood put together the palette of sounds that comprised the final arrangement?

From memory, the drums were sampled from LED ZEPPELIN’s ‘When the Levee Breaks’ (but secondhand from a rap record). It is one of the most commonly used drum samples – for obvious reasons as it has that very special Bonham sound. The same snare drum sound appears on DM’s ‘Get Right With Me’. I’ve also heard that snare on a MASSIVE ATTACK record and many others.

antonI think ‘Violator’ was the first album that we used whole performance drum loops to create rhythm tracks, as opposed to programmed single drum sounds, and ‘Halo’ was one of the first tracks we recorded for ‘Violator’ in fact. Flood and I were listening to quite a lot of hip hop and rap records at the time – those artists were the forerunners when sampling larger sections of rhythms and grooves.

And the unusual feels that were created on those albums really influenced ‘Violator’ and ‘Songs of Faith and Devotion’. Other sounds on ‘Halo’, I’m more vague about. But we certainly would have used Flood’s ARP 2600 in conjunction with other modular synths to create the bass parts and other sequencer parts.

For the end choruses, there are some string samples which I think were derived from Elgar. One of my techniques is to find sections of classical strings and transpose / stretch these, then add my own samples, in order to formulate new and unusual arrangements. This was a case in point. The DM track ‘Clean’ utilised classical strings in a similar way.

How did that fabulous sequence on ‘Waiting For The Night’ come together?

‘Waiting For The Night’: the main sequencer part here was produced using the ARP 2600 synth and sequencer, because it has many flaws when setting up your 16 note sequence (for example tuning and gate length) – this makes for happy accidents and almost random events.

We would have fiddled around with that sequence for a while, tweaking the filters and envelopes within the ARP until we arrived at that particularly hypnotic end result.

The resulting sequence shape would follow any held note on a keyboard to transpose between the song’s basic chord changes as it ran, which we would then record, and that is essentially the spine of the whole thing. All the other sounds in that song act as mere embellishment.

Each song is different though and we would employ a different approach to creating sequencer parts depending on what was appropriate.

Your surprise appearance with your former bandmates at the Teenage Cancer Trust gig in 2010 was a genuinely show-stopping moment, and became The Electricity Club’s Event of 2010. Were you surprised at the sheer scale of the welcome you received from the crowd? Do you have fond memories of the night?

Well, being there on stage felt strangely familiar – which is maybe not surprising considering how much touring we used to do – but it was like I’d never been away. I had forgotten just how it feels though when a large audience is behind you like that. A proud moment for me knowing that most people were so happy about it. It was great to see everyone (band and crew) and to catch up with their news, see how they were all fairing. The fact that is was for a worthy cause was also important of course, and I felt there would be a warm reaction from the people – which there definitely was :)

DM SOFADOver the years you have amassed a remarkable back catalogue with DEPECHE MODE and RECOIL. Which songs / albums are you most proud of?

‘Songs of Faith and Devotion’ is my favourite album, and the tracks ‘In Your Room’, ‘Walking In My Shoes’ and ‘Never Let Me Down Again’ amongst others. No particular RECOIL favourites. Anything from ‘Unsound Methods’ onward, really.

You commented on MP3 culture and the decline of the music industry to Side-Line Magazine in early 2008. Three years on, what do you think of the situation now and how it affects you as an artist?

Since then, there have been some marketing re-thinks for the better – a more tactile approach perhaps. We are seeing a return to higher quality formats, collectable editions, vinyl and so on. Mute have embraced the idea of limited editions where everyone can benefit – the consumer who gets total choice ranging from a simple download right through to the most luxury items, the artist who can indulge all his creative whims, and the record company who can charge the appropriate price for each product in order to make some profit (as long as they do not over produce and get lumbered with expensive stock).

The music business is of course one of the fastest mutating industries and one has to try to understand why things adapt in the way they do. If the consumer isn’t particularly passionate and wants free music (which now seems inevitable amongst most listeners) then I’m not against the Spotify-type concept for example where, in effect, the artist receives his payment via advertisers.

Are there any acts from the new generation who you particularly admire?

Unfortunately, due to a complicated life (which seems to get more so by the day), I never find I have enough time to research and discover much new music but I enjoy trawling through my catalogue, built up since I was a teenager – and occasionally something new comes along to excite.

RECOIL’s sound is on the organic side of electronic with use of samples and influenced by trip hop, blues, and jazz. How do you see RECOIL developing in the future?

I have never undertaken a RECOIL project with a particular idea in mind, usually just a very vague notion. My approach is always both experimental and methodical so I just start throwing different sounds and loops together until I get a spark.

I may say to myself that I’d like to work more with live musicians or perhaps not include too much spoken-word but these loose rules are never set in stone. I prefer to allow the music to flow completely naturally. Time will tell…

The Electricity Club gives its sincerest thanks to ALAN WILDER

RECOIL open the Vintage Festival Electronic Revue at the Royal Festival Hall on Friday 29th July 2011. Please note that the performance will start promptly at 6.30pm. Also on the bill are HEAVEN 17 plus special guests, THOMAS DOLBY, ONETWO, MIRRORS and MOTOR.

=logo_01The ALAN WILDER / DEPECHE MODE Collection Auction will take place at the Zion Art Centre, 335 Stretford Rd, Hulme, Manchester M15 5ZA. Viewing will take place between 10.00am to 8.00pm on Friday 2nd September 2011 while the auction will be from 10.00am to 4.00pm on Saturday 3rd September 2011.

All sale items will include a signed letter of authentication from ALAN WILDER with details of use and each winning bidder will also receive a free DVD of ‘ALAN WILDER – Collected’.




Interview by Chi Ming Lai and Steve Gray
Additional Text by Steve Gray
27th July 2011, updated 19th March 2017


Documentary Evidence

Some of the most successful and influential underground acts of the last 30 years performed over the two day programme at Short Circuit Presents Mute.

The event was curated by the innovative independent record label started by Daniel Miller in 1978 to originally release his single ‘Warm Leatherette’ / ‘TVOD’ under the moniker of THE NORMAL.

But added to that was a unique and possibly equally exciting lecture series featuring production luminaries including Gareth Jones and Flood. The weekend drew fans literally world-wide to Camden, and the event became not only a rare opportunity to see the stars of the Mute stable past and present on stage – and the collaborative possibilities that presented – but also a meet up for social groups mainly cultivated on the internet, people recognising their tribal brothers and sisters by way of band-logo emblazoned T-shirts and tattoos.

Unsurprisingly, DEPECHE MODE fans seemed to win in the easiest to spot category, but also probably the most common. The presence of two current members and two ex-members of the synthpop overlords had led to barely measurable levels of anticipation of a possible mega-Mode reunion.

Arriving at the beginning of RECOIL’s performance at the early hour of 7.30pm Friday evening, the festival was already very healthily attended, and it would be fair to say that DEPECHE MODE fans made up at least two thirds of the audience in the main room. Cameras were held aloft constantly aimed not only at Alan Wilder and co. on stage but also at the VIP balcony, where Mode celebrity Martin Gore could be seen relaxing with friends.

RECOIL’s show was engaging and slick, surprisingly beefed up from the sound of his recent albums. His recent association with support act and sometime collaborator Daniel Myer (aka ARCHITECT, HAUJOBB and COVENANT drum programmer) seems to have steered Wilder back in a direction closer to his early work ‘Unsound Methods’ and even to shades of the ‘Songs of Faith and Devotion’ era Mode. As could be expected, the crowd ignited when RECOIL performed a DM mega-remix section, with elements of ‘Never Let Me Down Again’, ‘Behind The Wheel’ and ‘Walking In My Shoes’. At the end of the segment the crowd – who had dutifully engaged in the Cornfield Wave already – cheered rowdily, leading Alan to dryly observe “you like a bit of the Mode, don’t you?”

Shortly afterwards we were treated to our first but by no means last example of the Mute Family guest spots, with Wilder bringing out NITZER EBB’s frontman Douglas McCarthy for a spirited rendition of ‘Faith Healer’. But if that wasn’t enough to slake the greedy thirst of Mode fans, after an equinanimous rendering of NITZER EBB’s ‘Family Man’ – a track that Wilder had produced – they climaxed the entire affair with a teaser of what could possibly be in store for DM fans – Douglas McCarthy singing ‘Personal Jesus’. Even for non-DM fans, it was an extraordinary moment, reminding us all of the vast possibilities an event such as this one holds, and just how packed with talent Mute has consistently been.

Why this is so, and why this even is so exciting, subsequently, does come down in many ways to the foresight of just one man – Daniel Miller. And so much did and does Miller believe in his acts and associates that many call him their mentor and friend, influence and support. In return, Miller’s genuine passion for his acts is evident, as he could frequently be spotted in the crowd, nodding or dancing to the act on stage.

NITZEREBBMikeCooper (2)After RECOIL left the stage to loud adulating applause, the stage was set up for NITZER EBB. McCarthy may not have had far to stroll to get back on stage, but he was kind enough to perform a costume change between appearances, coming out in his trademark Terminator-esque shades and slick narrow cut suit, accompanied by Bon Harris in a designer version of a miner’s outfit (braces and flatcap) and current drummer Jason Payne also sharply besuited.

I challenge you, dear reader, to find any frontman more charismatic than Douglas McCarthy, and the NITZER EBB show was a dynamic and stylish yet powerful affair, taking their back catalogue bests for a prowl to a very enthusiastic crowd who lapped up McCarthy’s posing and pacing.

‘Hearts And Minds’, ‘Control I’m Here’, ‘Getting Closer’, ‘Let Your Body Learn’ and many more NE back catalogue highlights, entertained the familiar and the uninitiated alike, with much impressed clapping and shouting – not to mention gesticular dancing – peppering the whole set.

Having seen the crowd growing steadily, and particularly having spied bottlenecks to enter the Studio space where the night’s industrial luminaries were about to take over for a handful of hours, one had to accept that until cloning is viable we can’t be in two great rooms at once and leave before the Nitzer encore to ensure a place at the CHRIS & COSEY (from THROBBING GRISTLE) show.

Whilst TG’s output was always experimental and confronting, CHRIS & COSEY specialised in a more club-friendly sound, making strange dancefloor hypnotic anthems. With the Optimo label’s recent rerelease of early album The Space Between showing the groove that infuses much of CHRIS & COSEY’s more danceable work, it was no surprise to fans who packed themselves tighter than industrial sardines into the small Studio space that the Carter Tutti meets Nik Void (from FACTORY FLOOR) show was at its heart a techno influenced affair.

With a U-shaped stage absolutely covered in gear including effects pedals, synths and laptops, Chris Carter steered the groove with pulsing spacey beats, whilst Cosey Fanni Tutti added guitar, bass and reverb-soaked vocals, Nik Void punctuating the affair with guitar played with a violin bow. It was awesome, brilliant and a little strange. Just a good amount of strange, leaving many first-timers more converted than freaked out.

As to the issue of freaking out the crowd, that was the accepted raison d’etre of following act NON. After CHRIS & COSEY, those who wanted to see NON had the smarts to remain in place through the intermission, as lines streamed up the ramp outside.

Reports gave the average waiting time to get into the Studio from the beginning of the CHRIS & COSEY show until after NON at at least an hour, some seeing none of these acts at all, which understandably resulted in massive disappointment. These acts should have played a larger room, however the limitations of space in the Roundhouse gave no larger space to allocate.

NON’s show was brief and far less confronting than his reputation may suggest. Beginning with iconic track ‘Total War’, the first 20 minutes saw NON man Boyd Rice running through extended versions of a handful of NON pieces, accompanied by hypnotic visuals. His final piece was facilitated by an audience member just happening to have a drill key handy – what are the chances? After fixing his clearly ailing drill Rice treated the audience to a short burst of noise, as he used said drill to play his bass guitar. And then, suddenly and too soon, it was over.

Following this was a very different flavour of electronic sound, Mute producer and electronic artist POLE played an hour of excellent dub techno and house to an oddly mixed crowd, unsure whether to watch or dance. Eventually the dancing won out – as it should have, given the infectious nature of POLE’s grooves. Daniel Miller himself was spotted grooving in the corner, affably speaking with members of the crowd when they were brave enough to approach him.

At this point it seemed prudent to leave some energy for the extremely early showing required for Gareth Jones’ 11am lecture, and T RAUMSCHMIERE was abandoned as a good but unachievable luxury. Sadly, the best laid plans of mice and music-nerds were significantly scuppered by a swarm of takers for the Jones talk, again heavily skewed with DEPECHE MODE fans. After long sighs and cowed shoulders at the words “I’m sorry, this talk is now full”, it was time to wander inside and tinker with the open-to-public modular set up in the floyer.

A Tardis-like construction of modular modules, with several panels wired to speakers so one could share the variably wonderful and execrable bleeps and arpeggios of one’s construction with anyone in hearing vicinity. Nearby were enthusiasts armed with soldering irons, resistors and PCBs, building their own Mute Synths. Converging on the lecture space a couple of hours later to catch POLE – aka Stefan Betke, talking about mastering.

A talk for the more nerdy of the crowd, it did not suffer from the same crowding issues as the earlier Jones talk, and much of the information and question subjects were from and for musicians and home-producers. A criminally under-rated studio producer who has worked with a number of Mute artists in the past, Betke was charming and informative for those who chose to listen. In fact, listening was his best advice for home-production: “learn. how. to. listen”

FLOODMikeCooperA quick dash back to the bar gave 45 minutes to wait for what would reveal itself as arguably a weekend highlight, the talk given by Flood about his role in the development of what have become classic albums like NICK CAVE’s ‘Mercy Seat’ and DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Violator’. Flood proved to be an entertaining and cheeky speaker, taking affectionate digs at the whims of artists. His impersonation of Martin Gore’s first reaction to the disco-ed up studio version of ‘Enjoy The Silence’ with a slighty nerdy “…it ain’t my kind of disco” drew huge roars of laughter. There are plenty of YouTube clips of his talk, and you should indeed look them up.

Whether or not they are your favourites, great bands play daily in the UK. But hearing a producer and all-round nice guy like Flood give insights into the making of iconic albums we know and love – was quite an emotional experience and difficult indeed to top for best weekend experience. Not for the first or last time, listeners at this talk felt a sense of commonality – of mutually felt joy and not a little awe at what we all realised was almost a unique opportunity to see Flood in the flesh.

FLETCHMikeCooperHuman needs for sustenance and liquid fortitude took precedence, next, as we waited out the pre-ERASURE hours eating, drinking, bumping into a multitude of familiar faces and finding ourselves unable to manage more than five minutes of THE RESIDENTS.

Like many Mute acts, they were confrontingly strange, odd and unique – but not a cup of tea I found particularly drinkable. And I joined a massive crowd- easily the largest of the weekend – who had gathered to hear ERASURE, expecting and hoping to hear the unexpected.

Rumours had gathered pace as to what may happen on stage, especially when DEPECHE MODE’s Fletch got into the DJ booth beforehand. And whilst it may not have been exactly what was wished for, the ERASURE showcase certainly did not disappoint.

After the hysteria caused by ERASURE’s stage show, LAIBACH were always going to confuse and potentially scare the more commercially oriented part of the crowd. And – they did. Obviously the main influence for RAMMSTEIN, the LAIBACH approach is equal parts martial bombasticness and tongue-in-cheek pomp, best understood when listening to any of their impressively silly covers.

Tonight, after treating the crowd to chart-anthem ‘Live Is Life,’ they chose to cover QUEEN’s ‘One Vision’, repositioning it as a propagandist anthem. ERASURE fans leave in droves quickly, but whilst the audience may have thinned there were no shortage of LAIBACH devotees in the crowd, singing, shouting, air-punching and generally loving what was definitely an enjoyably visual and expansively imperial performance. Ending their set with a refreshing take on one of the most fitting – and most covered – electronic dance tracks from Mute’s back catalogue ‘Warm Leatherette’, LAIBACH put a tougher more menacing spin on the track, after RECOIL’s more groove oriented rendition the previous evening. Another weekend highlight, this was a worthy tribute to the amazing Mr Miller and his Mute legacy.

Closing the weekend’s proceedings was a late running DJ set by DEPECHE MODE’s Martin Gore. Many remained in The Roundhouse, hoping for a Mode tune or two but Gore stuck to his guns with a well thought out set of rugged techno for his kind of disco! Those who were lucky to get invitations to the aftershow party DJ-ed by REX THE DOG carried on partying while many others hung around the outskirts of The Roundhouse to chat.

The influence on popular culture of Daniel Miller’s vision and the Mute back catalogue cannot be under estimated. Its acts have helped shaped genres as diverse as RAMMSTEIN’s industrial metal, house music from the likes of DERRICK MAY and even all singing-all dancing girl pop such as THE SATURDAYS!

A fabulous weekend all round; if this review had a five word limit, I would choose the meeting of like minds to summarise the unique musical, social and creative experience that was the Mute Festival.

Text by Nix Lowrey
Live photos by Mike Cooper
5th June 2011

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