Tag: The Durutti Column

FROM BRUSSELS WITH LOVE

Originally released on 20th November 1980, the deluxe cassette compilation ‘From Brussels With Love’ celebrates its 40th Anniversary.

Writing for NME, Paul Morley said at the time: “The arrival of this thin tape from Belgium provides a reminder – without really trying, without being obvious – that pop is the modern poetry, is the sharpest, shiniest collection of experiences, is always something new”.

It was the first proper music release on Les Disques du Crépuscule, a boutique Belgian label that emerged from Factory Benelux.

FBN was the European Low Countries wing of the iconic Manchester label that at the time was the home to JOY DIVISION, A CERTAIN RATIO, THE DURUTTI COLUMN and SECTION 25. It had primarily been set-up as an outlet for spare tracks by Factory Records acts and one of its later notable releases in Autumn 1981 was the 12 inch remix of NEW ORDER’s ‘Everything’s Gone Green’ which featured the non-album songs ‘Mesh’ and ‘Cries & Whispers’ on the B-side.

But from its inception with direction from head office, the Obscure Records influenced Les Disques du Crépuscule was to be a separate entity despite being run by the same Factory Benelux founding team of Michel Duval and Annik Honoré; the pair had established the Plan K venue in Brussels which hosted two JOY DIVISION concerts to establish the Manchester link.

‘From Brussels With Love’ was notable for featuring the first released recording by the three surviving members of JOY DIVISION following the sad passing of Ian Curtis before they adopted the name NEW ORDER; ‘Haystack’ was a collaboration with Leicester-born singer-songwriter Kevin Hewick. Conceived as a concert journal and curated by Duval, Honoré and radio show host / composer Wim Mertens, as well as a range of international avant-garde and new wave music,  it contained modern classical work from Gavin Bryars and a then-unknown Michael Nyman.

There were also spoken segments including a poetry reading from THE SKIDS’ Ricard Jobson plus interviews with Brian Eno and Jeanne Moreau; the latter featured a beautiful piano background by Claude Coppens to accompany the words of the notable French actress, thus producing an art piece in its own right.

‘From Brussels With Love’ was diverse, varying from exquisite ivory pieces like ‘Children On The Hill’ by Harold Budd to ‘The Music Room’, a Frippish guitar noise experiment from JOY DIVISION producer Martin Hannett accompanied by a drum machine.

But of interest to electronic music enthusiasts were three exclusive jingles by John Foxx and an early rhythm machine backed take on ‘Airwaves’ by Thomas Dolby. Meanwhile from Europe, there was the doomy synth laden post punk on ‘Cat’ by THE NAMES and the quirky electronic Neue Deutsche Welle of DER PLAN’s ‘Mein Freunde’.

To celebrate its 40th Anniversary, ‘From Brussels With Love’ has been reissued as a lavish 10” x 10” 60 page hardback earbook with rare images, posters, sleeve designs and memorabilia, plus a detailed history of the Crépuscule label between 1979 and 1984. The audio features not only the 21 tracks from on the original cassette in 1980 on one CD, but a bonus collection of 18 related tracks from the period on a second CD including those contributions unable to be included due to space considerations.

For John Foxx completists, this set will be essential as it includes two more jingles from the former ULTRAVOX front man, as well as his superb garage robo-funk instrumental ‘Mr No’.

Among the other musical highlights are Bill Nelson’s ‘Dada Guitare’, a Far Eastern flavoured instrumental of glorious E-bow and THE DURUTTI COLUMN’s beautiful ‘For Belgian Friends’, composed by Vini Reilly in honour of Michel Duval and Annik Honoré. Produced by Martin Hannett, his technologically processed techniques made Reilly’s dominant piano sound like textured synthetic strings, complimenting his sparing melodic guitar and the crisp percussion of Donald Johnson.

Also produced by Martin Hannett and another welcome inclusion in the ‘From Brussels With Love’ appendix is THE NAMES ‘Nightshift’ with its chilling synth embellishing the archetypical arty post-punk miserablism of the period. Another Belgian band POLYPHONIC SIZE make an appearance with ‘Nagasaki Mon Amour’, an intriguing minimal tribute to ULTRAVOX with its detached Gallic delivery over buzzing synths and icy string machines produced by Jean-Jacques Burnel of THE STRANGLERS.

Of interest to PROPAGANDA fans will be JOSEF K’s frenetically paced ‘Sorry For Laughing’ which was covered on ‘A Secret Wish’; their front man Paul Haig went on release a number of EPs and albums via Les Disques du Crépuscule including the acclaimed ‘Rhythm Of Life’ and ‘The Warp Of Pure Fun’.

Over four decades on, the catalogue of Les Disques du Crépuscule included artists like Anna Domino, Isabelle Antena, Alan Rankine, Winston Tong, Blaine L Reininger, John Cale, Helen Marnie and Zeus B Held as well as bands such as TUEXDOMOON, MARINE, CABARET VOLTAIRE, MIKADO, THE PALE FOUNTAINS, ULTRAMARINE, MARSHEAUX and LES PANTIES.

Sophisticated and exhibiting a tasteful visual aesthetic, Les Disques du Crépuscule established itself as a cosmopolitan and culturally significant artistic outlet with a distinct identity that outlasted its parent company Factory Records. ‘From Brussels With Love’ was the start of a story that continues today.


In memory of Annik Honoré 1957 – 2014

‘From Brussels With Love’ is released on 6th November 2020 by Les Disques du Crépuscule as a deluxe 40th Anniversary 10” x 10” 60 page hardback earbook with 2CDs, available direct from https://www.lesdisquesducrepuscule.com/from_brussels_with_love_twi007.html

It is also reissued as a limited edition facsimile cassette package in PVC wallet and gatefold double LP set featuring first disc in black vinyl and the second in white; both come with a download key

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Text by Chi Ming Lai
20th October 2020

Use Hearing Protection: The FACTORY RECORDS Interview

To celebrate the four decade legacy of Factory Records, Rhino / Warner Music Group have released two lavish boxed sets.

‘Use Hearing Protection: Factory Records 1978-1979’ gathers facsimile editions of the first 10 Factory items issued with a catalogue number including the first music releases ‘A Factory Sample’ (Fac 2), ‘All Night Party’ by A CERTAIN RATIO (Fac 5), ‘Electricity’ by OMD (Fac 6) and ‘Unknown Pleasures’ by JOY DIVISION (Fact 10).

Meanwhile, the early history of Factory Records is told in its accompanying 60 page book with text by label historian / biographer James Nice and photos by Kevin Cummins, while presented on DVD is the 8mm short film ‘No City Fun’ (Fac 9) featuring music by JOY DIVISION.

Additional items in ‘Use Hearing Protection: Factory Records 1978-1979’ include a white label 12” single by THE TILLER BOYS (originally intended as FAC3 but not released) and a previously unheard audio interview with Tony Wilson, Rob Gretton and JOY DIVISION from 1979 conducted by journalist Mary Harron restored across two CDs.

Featuring booklet notes by James Nice and Paul Morley, the second boxed set ‘Factory Records: Communications 1978-92’ is a reissue of the 4CD collection originally released in 2009 featuring JOY DIVISION, NEW ORDER, OMD, SECTION 25, JAMES, THE RAILWAY CHILDREN, ELECTRONIC and HAPPY MONDAYS among many as a set of 8 coloured vinyl LPs.

The ‘Use Hearing Protection’ exhibition premiered at London’s Chelsea Space for a limited period in the Autumn featuring the first 50 Factory items, but an expanded version will open in July 2020 at The Science & Industry Museum in Manchester.

James Nice took time out to chat to The Electricity Club about all things Factory…

How important were Factory Records?

That’s a huge question! Can I defer to all 546 pages of my book ‘Shadowplayers: The Rise and Fall of Factory Records’, published in 2010? I still maintain that Factory has more influence and cultural capital than any other record label since.

The design sensibility counts for as much as the music, but having said that I’ve played ‘Unknown Pleasures’ many times in 2019, and even with the passage of 40 years it still sounds utterly fresh and contemporary. Hats off to Martin Hannett as well as the band.

Are you happy with how the ‘Use Hearing Protection: Factory Records 1978-1979’ box turned out?

Yes, very much so. When WMG asked in 2018 whether there was something we could do to mark the 40th anniversary of the founding of the label, I suggested a mixed media ‘exhibition in a box’ containing the first 10 numbered artefacts because it seemed like an impossible challenge.

Aside from some complex licensing issues, some of the sleeves are exceptionally hard to reproduce. I don’t think any other label could have realised ‘Use Hearing Protection’, to be honest. At no time did Warners veto any element as being too costly, or object to bonus items such as THE TILLER BOYS 12” or the double CD interview with JOY DIVISION, Rob Gretton and Tony Wilson.

The first Factory Records music release FAC2 ‘A Factory Sample’ had a now iconic sleeve design, what was the process to ensure this reproduction was as close to the original as possible?

That was a significant challenge. The originals were hand-folded, hand-assembled – and even heat-sealed by hand using some sort of contraption no-one could identify 40 years later. The process took Factory several weeks back in 1979. The new edition was produced by a specialist printer in Italy and uses a heavier gauge polythene, but otherwise it’s faithful. Actually that’s not true – we corrected all the spelling errors on the sleeves and posters also. Hopefully that will stop anyone trying to sell these as originals.

Legend has it that the thermographic process used on FAC6 ‘Electricity’ by OMD set the black-on-black sleeve on fire during the original manufacturing run, how was the effect achieved this time round?

Well, that’s what Peter Saville says. The black–on-black design concept of Fac 6 is fantastic, but I think the original thermographed sleeves ended up looking more ‘interesting’ than beautiful. The new version uses embossing and a spot varnish, and actually I think it looks better. That’s just my opinion though. Several classic Factory sleeves are pretty much impossible to replicate exactly now because the old technology is gone.

Fac 6 is one. Another is Fact 14, DURUTTI COLUMN’S first album. No-one makes 12-inch square glasspaper sheets any more. In fact no-one in Europe even makes glasspaper.

There has also been the 40th Anniversary of FAC10 ‘Unknown Pleasures’ by JOY DIVISION recently, is this the key release that allowed Factory Records to become a sustainable entity for the next few years?

Fact 10 was the logical endpoint to the UHP box, for sure. ‘Unknown Pleasures’ sold quite well at the time, although in June 1979 indie distribution was still in its infancy and it took a while to actually recoup. Obviously Ian Curtis died in May 1980, and sales of JOY DIVISION and NEW ORDER subsequently underwrote Factory for a long time afterwards.

Here’s what Tony Wilson had to say: “It began slowly. We did ‘Unknown Pleasures’, pressed 10,000, sold 5,000 off the back of the truck. The other 5,000 came home to Palatine Road. As soon as you’d got going, suddenly the mood changed, and by the end of ‘79 there was Rough Trade distribution, and that political identity you felt about being an independent label had arrived. But it wasn’t until maybe six months after Unknown Pleasures. By the time you got to ‘Closer’, it was all there.”

What’s inside the 60 page hardback book that is part of the ‘Use Hearing Protection: Factory Records 1978-1979’ box?

The book is in the style of an exhibition catalogue, so each of the items included – records, posters, films, stationary, egg-timers – is given several pages. The explanatory text for each item take the form of first person quotes from those involved.

I also wrote an introductory essay about the formation of Factory, and there’s also a highly perceptive Melody Maker piece by Mary Harron from 1979 which keys into the interview CDs. All the photos are by Kevin Cummins and provide an acute sense of time and place. It really was a joy to work with Howard Wakefield and Peter Saville on the whole project, and cut the singles at Abbey Road.

‘Factory Records: Communications 1978-1992’ has been reissued as a boxed set of 8 coloured vinyl LPs, what are your favourite five tracks from it and why?

In no particular order: ‘True Faith’ by NEW ORDER, which I think is their best pop song; ‘Mercy Theme (aka Duet)’ by DURUTTI COLUMN, very composed and classical yet warm and emotive; ‘Baader Meinhof’ by CABARET VOLTAIRE, because it still sounds terrifying; ‘Nightshift’ by THE NAMES, dark, understated pop by an underrated band; ‘Flight’ by ACR, thin boys punching above their weight to great effect.

Is there something you feel should have been included on it that isn’t?

ESG; they asked for silly money 10 years ago when the original CD version appeared. I don’t think anyone was very keen to try again this time. It’s a great shame though, as their Factory single is a timeless gem. I love ‘Can’t Afford’ by 52ND STREET too, but there wasn’t space to include it on this comp.

Factory Records were known for their great artwork and sleeves, which were the five that you liked best?

I like pretty much every sleeve design by Peter Saville, 8vo, Martyn Atkins and Mark Farrow. My five favourites are probably ‘Unknown Pleasures’ (Fact 10), the tracing paper sleeve for the first SECTION 25 single (Fac 18), ‘Without Mercy’ by DURUTTI COLUMN (Fact 84), ‘Always Now’ by SECTION 25 (Fact 45) and ‘Power, Corruption & Lies’ by New Order (Fact 75). Ben Kelly worked on a couple of excellent Factory sleeves too – Fac 18, and ‘Sextet’ by ACR – as well as The Haçienda.

The ‘Use Hearing Protection FAC 1 – 50 / 40’ exhibition made its debut at Chelsea Space in London, where is it heading next?

It will open in Manchester in 2020, and will be slightly bigger too. I liked the merchandising WMG produced with Saville – the SECTION 25 ‘Always Now’ tea towel in particular.

The ‘Use Hearing Protection’ T-shirts are only available in yellow in childrens’ sizes, I don’t wear T-shirts much but I’d have bought an adult one of those… do you think an opportunity may have been missed there?

Nothing to do with me!

However our ‘Drifting Cowboys’ DURUTTI COLUMN tee doubles as an ‘early’ Factory shirt, and is available in all sizes from Factory Benelux.

Why does Factory Records continue to be of cultural fascination in the 21st Century?

I’m going to be lazy and paraphrase from my text in the UHP book. According to Peter Saville, the remarkable Factory saga is one of the last authentic stories in pop music. “Because for 14 years nobody ever made a decision based on profitability”. Rather, as Saville points out with admirable candour, the equity invested in the company was death.

Firstly that of troubled JOY DIVISION singer Ian Curtis, who took his own life in May 1980, and in ‘Unknown Pleasures’ left behind him perhaps the best debut album of all time. Those record sales underwrote The Haçienda, another astonishing story embracing druggy excess and gangland drama. Ultimately the label collapsed in spectacular style, and Tony Wilson, Rob Gretton and Martin Hannett also died far too young. Forget ‘24 Hour Party People’ – the Factory story would make a great longform drama on Netflix or HBO.


The Electricity Club gives its sincerest thanks to James Nice

‘Use Hearing Protection: Factory Records 1978-79’ and ‘Factory Records: Communications 1978-92’ are released by Rhino / Warner Music Group, available from https://store.rhino.co.uk/uk/factory.html

The next leg of ‘Use Hearing Protection’ exhibition takes place at the Science + Industry Museum in Machester between 3rd July 2020 to 10th January 2021, further information can be found at https://www.scienceandindustrymuseum.org.uk/whats-on/use-hearing-protection

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Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
22nd November 2019, updated 18th January 2020

The Electronic Legacy of EUROPE

Europe is the spiritual home of electronic music, inspiring it not just artistically but forming an important bond with the continent’s classical tradition through the romance of its historical imagery.

Continental Europe is defined as being bordered by the Arctic Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Often considered to be separated from Asia by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas and the waterways of the Turkish Straits, it includes the part of Russia where Moscow and St Petersburg are located.

Mark Reeder was one of the first British music personalities to fully adopt Europe, making West Berlin his home in 1978 and subsequently releasing a number of themed compilation albums such as ‘European’ in 1995 and ‘Assorted (E For Europe)’ in 1999 on his MFS label. His fellow Mancunian and friend Bernard Sumner of NEW ORDER said to The European in 2016: “I feel European, I regard myself as a European… as a musician I’ve always been massively influenced by Europe and its people”.

From Paris to Vienna back to Düsseldorf City, Europe fascinated British musicians who having been open-minded enough to use synthesizers, now embraced many different mindsets, languages, cultures and cuisines, all within a comparatively accessible geographical land mass. Meanwhile, European instrument manufacturers such as PPG, Elka, Crumar, RSF, Jen and Siel found their products in the thick of the action too.

The Electricity Club stands proud of its Eurocentric focus. Esteemed names like Hütter, Schneider, Flür, Bartos, Moroder, Jarre, Vangelis, Plank, Rother, Dinger and Froese have more than highlighted the important debt that is owed by electronic music to Europe.

While the UK may have scored an equalizer with Synth Britannia, it was the Europeans who took that crucial half time lead. So to disengage with the European tradition would be betraying everything that The Electricity Club is all about.

Presented in yearly and then alphabetical order with a restriction of one track per artist moniker, here are The Electricity Club’s favourite twenty electronic tunes that were inspired, either directly or obliquely, by the legacy of Europe…


DAVID BOWIE Warszawa (1977)

‘Warszawa’ was named after the Polish capital city but accurately captured the Cold War tensions in Europe without the need for lyricism. At Hansa Studios where the sessions were being mixed, the watch towers in East Berlin could look into the windows of the building! Tony Visconti’s production only enhanced the collaborative drama between David Bowie’s enigmatic wailing over Brian Eno’s Minimoog and Chamberlain keys. This formed part of an all instrumental suite on the ‘Low’ album’s second side.

Available on the DAVID BOWIE album ‘Low’ via EMI Records

http://www.davidbowie.com


KRAFTWERK Europe Endless (1977)

With KRAFTWERK utilising a customized 32-step Synthanorma Sequenzer and a Vako Orchestron with pre-recorded symphonic string and choir sounds sourced from optical discs, if there was such a thing as a musical European travelogue, then the romantically optimistic beauty of ‘Europe Endless’ was it. This lengthy work influenced the likes of NEW ORDER, OMD and BLANCMANGE who all borrowed different aspects of its aesthetics for ‘Your Silent Face’, ‘Metroland’ and ‘Feel Me’ respectively.

Available on the KRAFTWERK album ‘Trans Europe Express’ via EMI Records

http://www.kraftwerk.com/


THE DURUTTI COLUMN For Belgian Friends (1980)

‘For Belgian Friends’ was written in honour of Factory Benelux founders Michel Duval and the late Annik Honoré. Although not strictly electronic in the purest sense, Martin Hannett’s technologically processed production techniques made Vini Reilly’s dominant piano sound like textured synthetic strings, complimenting his sparing melodic guitar and the crisp percussion of Donald Johnson. This beautiful instrumental was one of Reilly’s best recordings, originally on the compilation ‘A Factory Quartet’.

Available on THE DURUTTI COLUMN album ‘LC’ via Factory Benelux Records

http://www.thedurutticolumn.com/


FATAL CHARM Paris (1980)

Nottingham combo FATAL CHARM supported ULTRAVOX and OMD in 1980. Their excellent first single ‘Paris’ was produced by Midge Ure and could be seen reflecting the electronically flavoured new wave template of the period. Singer Sarah Simmonds’ feisty passion gave a freshly charged sexual ambiguity to the European love story written in the days before the Channel Tunnel. Instrumentalist Paul Arnall said to The Electricity Club: “we were able to use Midge’s Yamaha synth which gave it his sound”.

Available on the FATAL CHARM album ‘Plastic’ via Fatal Charm

http://fatalcharm.co.uk/


IPPU DO German Road (1981)

Did you hear the one about the Japanese band impersonating a German band and doing it rather well? Influenced by the motorik backbeat of NEU! and also heavily borrowing form its guitarist Michael Rother’s solo track ‘Karussell’, IPPU DO’s leader Masami Tsuchiya was something of a multi-cultural sponge, later joining JAPAN for their final ‘Sons Of Pioneers’ tour in 1982. Meanwhile IPPU DO are still best known in the UK for their startlingly original cover version of THE ZOMBIES ‘Time Of The Season’.

Remixed version available on the IPPU DO album ‘Essence: The Best Of’ via Sony Music

http://www.ne.jp/asahi/masami/london/


LANDSCAPE European Man (1980)

Electronic pioneer Richard James Burgess said to The Electricity Club: “I think we all embraced this new direction because of our raw excitement over the new technology…We discussed it in the band and everyone was on board so I started working on the lyrics that became ‘European Man’”. Colin Thurston was the producer assisting in realising this new direction and interestingly, the rear artwork of the first issue featured an early use of the term “electronic dance music”.

Available on LANDSCAPE album ‘From The Tea-Rooms Of Mars…’ via Cherry Red Records

https://twitter.com/Landscape_band


SIMPLE MINDS I Travel (1980)

“Europe has a language problem” sang Jim Kerr on ‘I Travel’, adding “in central Europe men are marching”. Aware of the domestic terrorist threats that were apparent in every city they were visiting on tour, SIMPLE MINDS captured a claustrophobic tension within its futuristic frenzy like a doomy disco take on Moroder. It was a favourite of DJ Rusty Egan at The Blitz Club where its shadier spectre was highly welcomed by its clientele, reflecting their own discontent closer to home.

Available on the SIMPLE MINDS album ‘Empires & Dance’ via Virgin Records

http://www.simpleminds.com


TELEX Eurovision (1980)

TELEX’s manifesto was “Making something really European, different from rock, without guitar.” Having previously visited a ‘Moscow Disko’ and with tongues firmly in cheeks, they entered the 1980 Eurovision Song Contest with a bouncy electropop song that had deliberately banal lyrics about the whole charade itself. Performing to a bemused audience in The Hague with the sole intention of coming last, unfortunately Finland decided otherwise! Who said the Belgians didn’t have a sense of humour?!

Available on the TELEX album ‘Ultimate Best Of’ via EMI Music Belgium

http://www.telex-music.com/


ULTRAVOX New Europeans (1980)

If there was a song that truly represents The Electricity Club’s ethos, then the synth rock fusion of ULTRAVOX’s ‘New Europeans’ is it! Noting that “his modern world revolves around the synthesizer’s song” in lyrics largely written by drummer Warren Cann, it all pointed to an optimistic way forward “full of future thoughts and thrills” that would later be opened up by direct train travel across the channel with freedom of movement to and from the continent for “a European legacy and “a culture for today”.

Available on the ULTRAVOX album ‘Vienna’ via EMI Records

http://www.ultravox.org.uk/


VISAGE Moon Over Moscow (1980)

While in his dual role as DJ at The Blitz Club and VISAGE’s drummer, Rusty Egan had become inspired by the melodic interplay of Japanese trio YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA which had been European influenced: “I liked the album and played it along with TELEX and SPARKS. The sound was an influence on VISAGE. By the time we recorded ‘Moon Over Moscow’, that was to include Russia, Japan, Germany and France in our sound… the drummer was also using the same drum pads as me!”

Available on the VISAGE album ‘Visage’ via Alliance Import

http://rustyegan.net/


ASSOCIATES White Car In Germany (1981)

ASSOCIATES first musical signs of a fascination towards European influenced electronic music came with the funereal pulse of ‘White Car In Germany’. The swirling electronics, cold atmosphere and treated percussion were intended to sound as un-American as possible. Billy MacKenzie’s observational lyric “Aberdeen’s an old place – Düsseldorf’s a cold place – Cold as spies can be” accurately captured post-war tensions under the spectre of the bomb.

Available on the ASSOCIATES album ‘The Very Best Of’ via BMG

https://www.facebook.com/theassociatesofficial/


JOHN FOXX Europe After The Rain (1981)

Foxx admitted he had been “reading too much JG Ballard” and had thawed considerably following ‘Metamatic’. Now spending his spare time exploring beautiful Italian gardens and taking on a more foppish appearance, his new mood was reflected in his music. Moving to a disused factory site in Shoreditch, Foxx set up a recording complex which he named ‘The Garden’ and the first song to emerge was the Linn Drum driven ‘Europe After The Rain’. Foxx had now achieved his system of romance.

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ‘Modern Art: The Best Of’ via Music Club

http://www.metamatic.com/


JAPAN European Son (1981)

Recorded as a JAPAN demo for the 1979 Giorgio Moroder sessions that produced ‘Life In Tokyo’, this sequencer heavy number was rejected by the Italian disco maestro. Left dormant in the vaults of Ariola Hansa, the song was finished off under the supervision of John Punter and later given a single remix by Steve Nye with redone parts by Mick Karn. ‘European Son’ showed David Sylvian’s vocals in transition from the catty aggression of earlier albums to the Ferry-ish croon most now associated with the band.

John Punter version available on JAPAN album ‘The Very Best Of’ via BMG

http://www.nightporter.co.uk/


THE MOBILES Drowning In Berlin (1981)

THE MOBILES’ were from the sleepy shores of Eastbourne; while ‘Drowning In Berlin’ may have come across as a ‘Not The Nine O’Clock News’ New Romantic parody on first listen, its decaying Mittel Europa grandeur was infectious like Hazel O’Connor reinterpreting ‘Vienna’ with The Master of Ceremonies at the Kit Kat Klub. And like ‘Vienna’, ‘Drowning In Berlin’ was inspired by a holiday romance, in this case one that singer Anna Maria had while visiting the divided city.

Available on THE MOBILES album ‘Drowning In Berlin: The Best Of’ via Cherry Red Records

https://www.discogs.com/artist/98916-Mobiles


BERLIN The Metro (1982)

Inspired by acts like ULTRAVOX and KRAFTWERK, Californian band BERLIN with their approach to synthesizers were a far cry from the way they were being used Stateside within rock. And in ‘The Metro’ with its frantic motorik drum machine and Teutonic pulses, songwriter John Crawford aimed to capture the tense filmic romance of Paris despite never having visited the city, a vibrant but detached feeling ably projected by partner and singer Terri Nunn in a similar fashion to FATAL CHARM.

Available on the BERLIN album ‘Best Of’ via Geffen Records

http://www.berlinpage.com/


DEPECHE MODE Oberkorn (1982)

Radio Luxembourg broadcasted pop music to the UK using the most powerful privately owned transmitter in the world. But when DEPECHE MODE played the country in early 1982, they were booked to perform in a small town called Oberkorn. With a glorious ambient instrumental on the B-side of the then soon-to-be-released single ‘The Meaning Of Love’ requiring a title, Martin Gore needed no further inspiration, unconsciously capturing the air of the Grand Duchy’s countryside and oceanic climate.

Available on the DEPECHE MODE boxed set ‘DMBX1’ via Columbia Records

http://www.depechemode.com/


THE MOOD Paris Is One Day Away (1982)

Before the days of the Channel Tunnel, young York based New Romantic trio THE MOOD noted the how long it took by boat and train to get to the French capital. ‘Paris Is One Day Away’ was the hit that got away; reaching No. 42, it secured a slot on ‘Top Of The Pops’. However, it was the 1982 World Cup and a match heading into extra time meant that a hasty edit was made. And it was THE MOOD’s performance as the new and unknown act that ended up on the cutting room floor!

Available on THE MOOD album ‘The Singles Collection’ via Cherry Red Records

http://www.themood.info/


RATIONAL YOUTH Saturdays in Silesia (1982)

After ‘Dancing On The Berlin Wall’, RATIONAL YOUTH mainman Tracy Howe turned his attention towards Poland. “What was it like to be young person behind the Iron Curtain? What did they do on a Saturday night anyway?” he told The Electricity Club, “Did they have clubs to go to? Probably underground ones. They’d probably break down the door. Apart from the fact that there are no ‘navy docks’ in Silesia, this record makes a jolly racket and may well be the first recorded instance of a Roland TR-808.”

Available on the RATIONAL YOUTH album ‘Cold War Night Life’ via EMI Records

https://www.facebook.com/RationalYouth/


IAN ANDERSON Different Germany (1983)

Fascinated by the likes of Thomas Dolby and Gary Numan, JETHRO TULL frontman Ian Anderson went synth in 1983. Assisted by Peter John Vitesse, ‘Different Germany’ embraced both the electronic and progressive sides of Anderson’s career perfectly with a marvellous middle section featuring a bristling keyboard solo. The end result sounded not unsurprisingly like Tull fronting ULTRAVOX; of course, the circle was completed when Midge Ure covered ‘Living In The Past’ in 1985.

Available on the IAN ANDERSON album ‘Walk Into Light’ via EMI Records

http://jethrotull.com/ian-anderson-bio/


THE STRANGLERS European Female (1983)

Born to French parents in Notting Hill, THE STRANGLERS’ bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel was a loyal European, even releasing a 1979 solo album entitled ‘Euroman Cometh’ where “a Europe strong, united and independent is a child of the future”. Taking lead vocals for the beautiful ‘European Female’, it possessed an understated quality with subtle Spanish guitar from Hugh Cornwell alongside Dave Greenfield’s sparkling synths and Jet Black’s electronic percussion to celebrate the allure of continental mystery.

Available on THE STRANGLERS album ‘The Very Best Of’ via EMI Records

http://www.thestranglers.co.uk/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
18th April 2019

Twilight Time: An Interview with JAMES NICE

JamesNice-byPeter StaessensJames Nice is a music publisher and writer whose acclaimed 2010 book ‘Shadowplayers: The Rise and Fall of Factory Records’ provided a detailed and objective account of the legendary label. He also worked for the prestigious Belgian label Les Disques du Crépuscule in Brussels between 1987-91.

More recently, James has resurrected Les Disques du Crépuscule along with its sister Factory Benelux offshoot as platforms to reissue a vast catalogue of experimental and artistically driven music, in addition to releasing newer material from acts such as MARSHEAUX, MARNIE and DEUX FILLES. Back in the day, Les Disques du Crépuscule and Factory Benelux operated as separate entities, although the two labels shared the same premises and staff.

Among Crépuscule’s roster were Blaine L Reininger and Winston Tong from TUXEDOMOON, ASSOCIATES instrumentalist Alan Rankine and former JOSEF K leader Paul Haig. The first music release on Crépuscule came in 1980; ‘From Brussels With Love’ was a carefully curated cassette compilation which included music from John Foxx, Bill Nelson, Harold Budd and Thomas Dolby as well as spoken recordings by Brian Eno and Richard Jobson.

everything's gone green new order FBN12Meanwhile Factory Benelux notably released the 12 inch extended remix of NEW ORDER’s ‘Everything’s Gone Green’ in 1981 and spare recordings from Factory affiliated artists such as A CERTAIN RATIO, SECTION 25, THE WAKE and THE DURUTTI COLUMN.

The latter’s beautiful instrumental ‘For Belgian Friends’ was written in honour of the two labels’ founders Michel Duval and the late Annik Honoré. James Nice kindly chatted to The Electricity Club about his various endeavours, past and present.

You wrote the book ‘Shadowplayers’ on the history of Factory Records. There have been several books about the label, what do you think your account gave that hadn’t been provided before?

Well, reliable facts properly researched! I did ‘Shadowplayers’ as a DVD first, in 2006, but I didn’t do the book until after Tony Wilson passed away the following year.

shadowplayers_book_french_edition_450One of the books which influenced the approach I took was an excellent Creation Records history by Dave Cavanagh, which Alan McGee slated as the accountant’s version of Creation when it first appeared (though he changed his mind later).

I feared Tony might say the same thing about a Factory history written by me. He was more into myths and legends than truth.

I also wanted to include all the bands and artists, not just JOY DIVISION, NEW ORDER, HAPPY MONDAYS and The Hacienda; THE STOCKHOM MONSTERS have a tale to tell too. The French edition won a prize, actually. They sent me a leather jacket – which was a bit too small.

How do you see the public’s continued fascination with Factory Records?

I just glance at it in passing these days, because ‘Shadowplayers’ came out in 2010 and I’ve long since moved on. The entire story of Factory was hugely dramatic, genuine tragic in places, and populated by larger than life characters. You can’t really say the same of, for example, 4AD or Domino. I’m not sure you’ll see it repeated either, because music no longer produces the kind of revenue stream that would allow radical mavericks like Tony Wilson and Rob Gretton to build another Hacienda, and Peter Saville is a complete one-off.

Factory was a classic example of do the right thing, and the money will follow. Unfortunately, they then blew all the money on big recording projects and ill-judged property investments. Let’s leave it at that.

from brussels with loveFactory Benelux and Les Disques du Crépuscule have common roots, but were quite different entities in their original ethos?

Both labels started in 1980. Factory Benelux was intended as an outlet for spare Factory recordings, hence a lot of the early releases like ‘Shack Up’ by ACR, ‘The Plateau Phase’ by CRISPY AMBULANCE and ‘Key of Dreams’ by SECTION 25 were exclusive to FBN. As time went on it became more like a normal licensee.

Crépuscule was something else entirely – a cosmopolitan boutique label, with an international roster and aspirations to kick start some kind of art movement in Brussels. In truth Factory were a little suspicious of Crepuscule early on, although later some Crépuscule albums appeared on Factory in the UK eg Anna Domino and Wim Mertens.

You worked for Les Disques du Crépuscule back in the day and lived in Brussels for five years. What are your particular memories of that time?

Way too many to mention. A couple of days after I quit Crépuscule (an argument about a 23 SKIDOO contract, not that anyone will be interested), I took a train to Amsterdam to meet William S. Burroughs.

He was holding court in a hotel with his manager, James Grauerholz. I took along some books to sign, as well as the Burroughs album I’d released on LTM, ‘The Doctor Is On the Market’. I don’t think WSB had even seen a copy before, but he scribbled “Good Work” on it. There was another guy there who was a Lufthansa pilot by day and wrote experimental cut-up novels in his spare time. I remember thinking at the time, I’d like to be that guy.

What are the aims of Factory Benelux and Les Disques du Crépuscule under your direction now?

Heritage curation, and new recordings where appropriate. Michel Duval is quite interested again, and we collaborated on the ‘Ni D’Eve, Ni D’Adam’ compilation at the end of 2015.

I really enjoyed that process, as a matter of fact. The new tracks and artists he brought to the project really added to it, and the artwork by Clou was great too.

I do a lot of boring back office stuff as well as making records, chiefly rights administration. You have to have all your ducks in a row when, for instance, Kanye West decides to sample a SECTION 25 track from 1981.

As well as reissues, Factory Benelux and Les Disques du Crépuscule have released new albums by SECTION 25, MARNIE, DEUX FILLES and others. What attracted you to back these recordings?

In the case of new albums by heritage groups like SECTION 25, THE NAMES and CRISPY AMBULANCE, as long as fresh studio projects are financially viable, and the music is good, then of course we want to be involved. Any label can simply recycle back catalogue, but I like to think we’re a little more committed.

The MARNIE album came to Crépuscule because I’m a LADYTRON fan and it was a perfect fit for the label. It worked for her too as she’d successfully funded ‘Crystal World’ via Pledge Music, but was less sure about how to actually deliver the CD version.

It’s important to back new music, and I’m delighted to be releasing ‘Cold Science’ by LES PANTIES later in 2016. They’re a young band from Brussels – terrible name, but great music!

MARSHEAUX-twi1151cdLes Disques du Crépuscule also released ‘Odyssey’ in 2014, a career spanning compilation of MARSHEAUX. What do you find appealing about their music and which are your favourite songs?

I liked MARSHEAUX anyway, even before we began Crépuscule again back in 2013. Like MARNIE, they seemed like a good fit with the label’s heritage, much of which was modern electronic pop music. The focus was on original songs though rather than covers.

The title is a riff on Homer’s ‘Odyssey’, and the idea of a chronological story, and of course the old ARP Odyssey analogue synth. I’m quite good at coming up with album titles, if I say so myself. ‘Retrofit’ by SECTION 25 is probably the best – it popped into my head while I was watching a documentary about the making of ‘Blade Runner’. Perfect for a remix / reboot album.

Yes, very clever of you. But what’s your favourite MARSHEAUX song?

Well, the ‘Ghost/Hammer’ mash-up is the one we keep putting on LDDC compilations.

You maintain a close relationship with Paul Haig. Is he one of the unsung heroes of post-punk in your opinion?

I wouldn’t say unsung because Paul’s always attracted a lot of press and remains well liked by music writers, but I suppose he’s ‘unsung’ in the sense that he never had a proper chart hit. Ironically, his most popular album – on reissue anyway – is ‘Rhythm of Life’, which was considered far too mainstream at the time.

Paul Haig RoLPaul just did things his way and wasn’t prepared to jump through all the hoops required of a mainstream pop star. For a start he was – and remains – far too shy.

Since you mention post-punk in the question, I’ll take this opportunity to plug a forthcoming Paul project for later in 2016, which is a 1982-based double archive CD including his early pop material (‘Justice’, ‘Running Away’), the Sinatra-styled ‘Swing In 82’ EP, the experimental electronica cassette ‘Drama’, and loads of odd singles and sessions.

He’d just left JOSEF K but had not yet signed to Island, and I’m not sure anyone else was quite that diverse and experimental at the time. It’ll be called ‘Metamorphosis’ – another Kafka reference. Told you I was clever with titles. Paul’s quite nervous about it, I have to say!

You’ve also worked closely with Alan Rankine in his post-ASSOCIATES career?

Well, not so much me personally. Back in the 1980s, Alan was married to Belinda Pearse, who was a Crépuscule director at the time, and so for a while he pretty much became the in-house producer at the label, working with Paul Haig, Anna Domino, Winston Tong, Ludus and his own solo material.

My time at LDDC in Brussels did overlap with his, but I didn’t work on any of those projects. He did three solo albums under the auspices of Crépuscule, and some of the music is the equal of anything he did with Billy Mackenzie. Unfortunately Alan isn’t quite as good a singer, though he is a brilliant writer, arranger, producer, guitarist and keys player. The instrumentals he did for Crépuscule work best, I think. We’ve spoken a couple of times this year. Once was to return some master tapes to him, and I also suggested him as a producer / collaborator for MARNIE.

FBN112CD_12pp_bookletAnother unsung hero of the era is Mark Reeder and the release of his remix collection ‘Collaborator’ on Factory Benelux was a fitting acknowledgement of that. What was the process like to select the tracklisting?

Hmm. We tried to avoid replicating too many tracks that were on the earlier ‘Five Point One’ collection, and having Bernard Sumner singing on quite a few of the tracks should have made it seem more like an artist album than just a compilation.

Not sure the concept really gelled though. Mark isn’t easy to label – a lot of people think he’s a DJ, which is the one thing he isn’t (but probably should be). ‘Collaborator’ is a great album and should have sold a lot more than it did. In fact Mark regularly reminds me of that!

As a label manager, how do you decide on the formats that releases will be issued in? When do you know one format will be more viable than another, eg some are CD only, others are vinyl only?

Vinyl tends to be reserved for prestige items, and / or where you can fashion an art object from it, like THE DURUTTI COLUMN album with the die-cut glasspaper sleeve, which I’ll talk about later.

JOSEF K It's Kinda FunnyThe recent JOSEF K singles collection ‘It’s Kinda Funny’ was vinyl only because there have been several JOSEF K CD compilations already, and because a 12” matt board sleeve was a great way of exhibiting the original artwork by Jean-François Octave.

I still prefer CDs because the sound is better, you can fit more material on them, plus they are easier to keep in print over a long period of time. In an era of declining physical sales, the increasing fragmentation of formats isn’t too helpful, at least as far as labels are concerned.

Vinyl retains cultural clout though. Releasing albums used to be like publishing books, whereas once the market became saturated with releases, it’s kind of become degraded and often feels as if you’re just publishing magazine articles. But a vinyl album still has the heft of a book.

Factory Benelux and Les Disques du Crépuscule were both known for tasteful artwork and you have maintained this aesthetic. The vinyl reissue of ‘The Return Of The Durutti Column’ had an interesting genesis?

FACT14With the Benelux reissue in 2013, the original intention was to replicate Fact 14 from 1980, with coarse sandpaper front and back and a flexi-disc.

Back then Tony Wilson was able to source 12-inch square sheets from a local company called Naylors Abrasives in Bredbury, near Stockport. They still exist, but they don’t manufacture sandpaper any more, and when I got in touch in 2012 to explain the project, they clearly thought I was a lunatic.

I’m not sure that glasspaper is even manufactured anywhere in Western Europe now. In the end we had to go to a company in China, whose minimum order was 10,000 sheets. What was a cheap and (relatively) easy package for Factory in 1980 turned out to be pretty much impossible to copy three decades later. It’s probably easier to source glasspaper in lurid colours rather than plain old beige, and the biggest rolls were only 11 inches wide. You can still source flexi-discs from one plant in the States, but they end up costing more per unit than a 12-inch vinyl album. Fortunately, however, not being able to do a straight copy served to liberate the project somewhat, so that we began to think in terms of a new edition which referenced the original, but offered something different.

The flexi became a hard vinyl 7”, which sounds far better, and we were now able to add an inner sleeve with period images and explanatory text. The 11-inch glasspaper squares took about eight months to arrive from China, and while we were twiddling our thumbs the designer, Carl Glover, came up with the idea of seating the glasspaper sheet on the front in a recessed deboss. A bit like a frame, thereby underlining the ‘art’ credentials.

The Return Of The Durutti Column

Somewhat to my surprise the pressing plant in Germany agreed to assemble the finished package from start to finish, which was fortunate since I couldn’t imagine NEW ORDER agreeing to help out. I didn’t much fancy the idea of doing it myself. Like the building trade people we had to go through en route to China, the pressing plant just couldn’t understand why we’d want to release a record in a glasspaper sleeve. Someone suggested a photo of some sandpaper might be better…

Then, when the sheets finally arrived, some of the cutting was pretty rough, and the pressing plant insisted on a 3mm tolerance between each side of the sheet and the deboss. That would just look as though we’d fluffed the measurements, besides which even with a deboss, the glasspaper sheets simply stuck on the cover just didn’t have that ‘wow’ factor.

I spent a few days arguing with the plant about tolerances, and agonising generally, then decided that a die-cut would be just as impressive, with the glasspaper underneath, as if you were seeking it through a window. This scheme also overcame the issues about imperfect size and cutting of the glasspaper.

fbn114insituThe only obvious, practical shape for the die-cut was Peter Saville’s original ‘bar chart’ logo, which appeared on the labels of most Factory releases between 1979 and 1980, Fact 14 included. It just looks right, and is also suggestive of a graphic equalizer, which I suppose is a bit Hannett. The pressing plant had already printed 2000 copies of the original inner bag though, so we had to throw those away. All the problems and changes also mean that the release date was late. Very Factory, I suppose.

The finished package looked even better than anyone dared to imagine, and housed in the polythene bag it has a fantastic 3D quality, plus the glasspaper catches the light beautifully. I was particularly delighted that Vini Reilly liked it. All the various headaches and reverses improved the design no end, and the addition of the die-cut means that you now have this unique Reid/Saville hybrid. Truly a happy accident.

LesDisquesduCrepuscule+FactoryBenelux logosYour CD reissues on Factory Benelux and Les Disques du Crépuscule are known for their comprehensive sleeve notes which are written by you. What is your philosophy and style regarding this?

I tend to focus on facts, and direct quotation from the people involved.

Creative writing I leave to experts like Paul Morley, Simon Reynolds and Kevin Pierce. My notes tend to be honest rather than gushing or pseudo-academic, and that’s probably why I rarely get commissioned to write liner notes for other releases! I think the last time was an ELECTRONIC retrospective. Johnny Marr just wanted a hagiography in which everything and everyone was, like, amazing and brilliant, all the time. Buyers aren’t stupid and don’t really want that. Then again, I probably have been a bit too glass half empty at times.

What are your thoughts on modern music, particularly the synthpop and electronic variety, having worked with a number of the original pioneers?

I really like EDM, it’s probably my favourite genre for blasting out loud in the car, annoying my daughter etc; RIHANNA, MISS KITTIN, TODD TERJE, electroclash, Xenomania productions.

A lot of what Crépuscule released during the golden years – the 80s, basically – was either very poppy (Paul Haig, Anna Domino, Isabelle Antena, Kid Montana), or pretty abstract (Wim Mertens, Glenn Branca, Gavin Bryars). That’s probably why my taste in music remains similarly schizophrenic.

If you’re asking who my current / recent favourites are then its TEGAN & SARA, ROBYN, M83, some NINE INCH NAILS, and the last NEW ORDER album. That was a spectacular return to form. Hats off to them, and to Mute.

Which have been your favourite reissues or products on Les Disques du Crépuscule and Factory Benelux over the years?

I can answer that in a heartbeat. My all-time favourite LDDC album is ‘Night Air’ by Blaine L Reininger, which came out in 1984 and was his first proper solo album during the time he was absent from TUXEDOMOON.

Blaine L Reininger Night AirIt’s a magical album about exile in Brussels and was a key influence on my relocating to the city a couple of years later. Expertly recorded and engineered by Gareth Jones, I might add. I’d love him to tour the whole album – maybe there will be an opportunity after TUXEDOMOON are done touring ‘Half Mute’ during 2016.

My favourite FBN reissues would be the glasspaper Durutti, or the pochette 2xCD edition of ‘Always Now’ by SECTION 25. Both presented considerable challenges, and both came off.

Are there any upcoming releases on Factory Benelux or Les Disques du Crépuscule you can tell us about?

I’ve been talking to a group from Brussels called LES PANTIES for a couple of years. I love their music – poised, sophisticated cold wave, with a hint of shoegaze – they have a great aesthetic sense, and Sophie Frison is an excellent singer. We just couldn’t agree about the name though. It might work in a French speaking country, but elsewhere it sounds like a novelty band. Eventually I just gave in and collected all their singles on an album, ‘Cold Science’, which is coming out on Crépuscule in September. It’s a bit of a passion project for me, I suppose. But it’s also one in the eye for people who carp we do nothing but reissues.


The Electricity Club gives its grateful thanks to James Nice

http://lesdisquesducrepuscule.com/

http://factorybenelux.com/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Portrait photo by Peter Staessens
28th May 2016, updated 5th February 2017

A Beginner’s Guide To FACTORY RECORDS

With an identifiable post-modern aesthetic and idealistic ethos, Factory Records was one of the most iconic record labels that emerged post-punk.

Founded in 1978 by Granada TV presenter Tony Wilson and actor Alan Erasmus, noted record producer Martin Hannett and graphic designer Peter Saville were also part of the original directorship, along with JOY DIVISION manager Rob Gretton.

A respected television journalist, Wilson became more widely known for his TV series ‘So It Goes’ which featured acts such as IGGY POP, THE SEX PISTOLS and BUZZCOCKS, so was seen as a champion of new music.

FAC2The Factory name was first used for a club venture which showcased bands like THE DURUTTI COLUMN, CABARET VOLTAIRE and JOY DIVISION. All three featured on the label’s debut double EP release ‘A Factory Sample’. The combined run-out groove messages read: “EVERYTHING – IS REPAIRABLE – EVERYTHING – IS BROKEN”. The release was given the catalogue number FAC2, as FAC1 had been allocated to a poster designed by Peter Saville for the club.

FAC1 was famously not printed in time for the opening event but despite his reputation for not meeting deadlines, Saville’s style was to become a highly coveted and he was head-hunted in early 1980 to work for boutique Virgin subsidiary Dindisc Records who had signed OMD following their debut on Factory.

FACT14Factory Records was initially based in Alan Erasmus’ flat at 86 Palatine Road in Didsbury, Manchester. It was very much a home-based operation, with members of JOY DIVISION once being roped in to glue together the striking sandpaper sleeves for ‘The Return of the Durutti Column’… inspired by Situationist Guy Debord’s book ‘Mémoires’, the album was intended to destroy the records next to it but as Factory used wallpaper paste rather than glue, the sleeves later themselves fell apart!

Factory were known for their extravagant packaging, off-the-wall promotional gimmicks and in-jokes like the Menstrual Abacus (FAC8), Martin Hannett’s legal settlement (FAC61) and Rob Gretton’s dental work (FAC99). Pop magazine Smash Hits even joked that they would be doing a NEW ORDER poster magazine, but it would be baked inside a cake and made available only in the Channel Islands.

Factory’s first LP ‘Unknown Pleasures’ by JOY DIVISION was released in June 1979 to wide acclaim. But the success was later clouded by tragedy when their charismatic singer Ian Curtis took his own life in May 1980 prior to the release of the single ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ and second album ‘Closer’. With the future uncertain for Factory, hopes rested on A CERTAIN RATIO. Together with Alan Erasmus, Tony Wilson managed the doomy post-punk funk merchants, but the band polarised audiences.

JOY DIVISION’s remaining members Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris recruited Gillian Gilbert to become NEW ORDER. Although their sombre 1981 debut album ‘Movement’ was generally panned, the quartet reinvigorated themselves by taking an interest in the New York club scene. This led to Factory and NEW ORDER’s decision to open a nightclub in Manchester. Legend has it that Rob Gretton (himself a former DJ) wanted to have a place where he could “ogle women”.

The move infuriated Martin Hannett, who had wanted to purchase a recording studio with a Fairlight CMI, and threatened to wind-up the company. With the Factory catalogue number of FAC51, The Haçienda opened in May 1982 and was a loss making enterprise for the next five years.

FAC51_HaciendaEven when the advent of acid house in 1987 filled the club every weekend thereafter, the crowds’ preference for illegal Ecstasy and therefore water, rather than the licensed and more profitable alcohol meant that Factory’s cashflow was tenuous to say the least. Problems with the Inland Revenue, Police and local gangsters meant the writing was on the wall. However, Factory still went ahead with a move out of Palatine Road into the rather expensive FAC251 building on Charles Street in September 1990.

But a major UK property slump occurred soon after and was set to cripple the label even further. By the beginning of 1992, both HAPPY MONDAYS and NEW ORDER were over budget and late in delivering their respective new albums ‘Yes Please’ and ‘Republic’.

Happy-Mondays-Yes-Please-FAC420London Records entered negotiations to take over Factory, but the deal fell through when it was discovered the label did not actually own many of its master recordings. So Factory was left to collapse in November 1992, while NEW ORDER signed a separate deal with London. When asked by Q Magazine what he was getting with London that was different from Factory, Sumner sheepishly replied “PAID!” But Factory had never been a conventional A&R led company.

It had let OMD and JAMES leave for major deals, and passed on THE SMITHS, THE STONE ROSES and BLACK BOX. It was not very business minded either, with the elaborate die-cut packaging for NEW ORDER’s ‘Blue Monday’ initially costing more than the per unit net profit.

Joy-Division-Substance-FACT250The label’s idealistic ethos meant commercially unviable acts like MINNY POPS and STOCKHOLM MONSTERS had a platform to release records, but it also meant there was seldom enough capital coming in, other than monies from sales of JOY DIVISION and NEW ORDER. However, much of that was being syphoned off to keep The Haçienda afloat which had its own troubles relating to drug dealing, police clampdowns and rival factions of gun-toting gangsters.

In The Electricity Club’s view, while JOY DIVISION and NEW ORDER undoubtedly had a huge influence on music, Factory perhaps did not have a wider back catalogue that was as strong as Virgin or Mute.

Smash Hits’ independent scene columnist Red Starr once said Factory’s artwork was often better than the records they contained. But Factory’s visual presentation has made its presence felt in popular culture from Next to Givenchy, while other observers relished Tony Wilson’s cool credentials (to quote HAPPY MONDAYS’ Bez) as “a Red on the quiet” and his undoubted ability to give a good quote. Sadly today, many of Factory’s major players like Wilson, Rob Gretton and Martin Hannett are no longer with us.

So via its great and not so good, using a restriction of one song per artist moniker, The Electricity Club gives its own take on Factory Records’ arty, but chaotic adventure…


OMD Electricity (1979)

OMD FAC6FAC6 was the first single to be released on Factory. Tony Wilson has often been credited with discovering OMD, but it has also been said that he was largely oblivious to their charms. The instigation to release ‘Electricity’ on Factory came from his then-wife Lindsay. According to her memoir ‘Mr Manchester and the Factory Girl’, the former Mrs Wilson reckoned that the decision to allow OMD to sign to Dindisc was a tit-for-tat response by her husband, to spite her in their fractious marriage.

Available on the OMD album ‘Peel Sessions 1979-1983’ via Virgin Records

http://www.omd.uk.com


JOY DIVISION Decades (1980)

Joy_Division_Closer‘Atmosphere’ was possibly JOY DIVISION’s greatest song, but was originally released on Sordide Sentimental rather than Factory as part of the ‘Licht Und Blindheit’ package. Next in line though, ‘Decades’ was the sonic cathedral that Martin Hannett had been striving for in the studio. With layers of ARP Omni processed through a Marshall Time Modulator and percussion enhanced through an AMS Digital Delay, it provided a solemn but beautiful Gothic backdrop for Ian Curtis’ elaborate musical suicide note.

Available on the JOY DIVISION album ‘Closer’ via London Records

http://joydivisionofficial.com/


A CERTAIN RATIO Shack Up (1980)

ACR Shack Up FBN1-004Originally issued in July 1980 on Factory’s Benelux arm which acted as an outlet for spare recordings by Factory bands, ‘Shack Up’ was a cover of a cult club favourite originally recorded by BANBARRA and showcased A CERTAIN RATIO’s new funkier direction. Other subsequent exclusive releases via Factory Benelux included NEW ORDER’s superior 12 inch remix of ‘Everything’s Gone Green’ and the instrumental ‘Murder’. ‘Shack Up’ was given a more accessible ELECTRONIC makeover in 1994.

Available on the A CERTAIN RATIO album ‘Early: A Definitive Anthology Of ACR Recordings From 1978-85’ via Soul Jazz Records

https://www.acrmcr.com/


THE NAMES Night Shift (1981)

The Names FAC29Led by Michel Sordinia, Belgian band THE NAMES were archetypical of the post-punk miserablism that Factory was signing in the wake of JOY DIVISION. Better than most of their contemporaries with the icy synth embellishing the cacophonic Martin Hannett produced soundtrack, ‘Nightshift’ was a promising release, although unlikely to crossover beyond alternative circles. Their debut album ‘Swimming’ came out on Les Disques du Crepuscule in 1982.

Available on THE NAMES album ‘Swimming’ via Factory Benelux

http://www.thenames.be/


NEW ORDER Your Silent Face (1983)

NEW ORDER fact75‘Your Silent Face’ was dubbed the “KRAFTWERK one”, the ultimate homage to the romantic ‘Trans-Europe Express’ era of the Düsseldorf quartett. With the replication of the pulsating Synthanorma sequence and Vako Orchestron strings from ‘Franz Schubert’ using a SCI Polysequencer and Emulator, this was the stand-out song from NEW ORDER’s second album. Incidentally, the original artwork package featuring a cryptic colour alphabet code saw Peter Saville spell the title incorrectly as ‘Power, Corrruption & Lies’!

Available on the NEW ORDER album ‘Power, Corruption & Lies’ via London Records

http://www.neworder.com


CABARET VOLTAIRE Yashar (1983)

FAC82 Cabaret VoltaireReturning to the Factory fold for a one-off interim release before signing their much lauded to Some Bizzare / Virgin phase, ‘Yashar’ launched the more club friendly direction of CABARET VOLTAIRE. The single went down particularly well on the New York club scene. A track originally from their 1982 album ‘2X45’, it was extended and remixed to nearly eight minutes by John Robie who had worked with Arthur Baker on AFRIKA BAMBAATAA’s ‘Planet Rock’.

Available on the compilation album ‘Of Factory New York’ (V/A) via Factory Benelux

https://www.facebook.com/CabaretVoltaireOfficial


SECTION 25 Looking From A Hilltop (1984)

SECTION 25 Looking From A HilltopIn a change of direction where founder member Larry Cassidy stated “you can’t be a punk all your life”, Factory Records stalwarts SECTION 25 recruited vocalist Jenny Ross and keyboardist Angela Cassidy to go electro. Produced by Bernard Sumner and Donald Johnson, the clattering drum machine, accompanied by ominous synth lines and hypnotic sequenced modulations, dominated the mix of FAC108 to provide what was to become a much revered cult club classic.

Available on the album ‘From The Hip’ via Factory Benelux

http://www.section25.com


AD INFINITUM Telstar (1984)

TELSTAR FAC96This cover of Joe Meek’s ‘Telstar’ for FAC93 was rumoured to be NEW ORDER in disguise. This curio certainly had a number of distinct elements like the Hooky bass and the drum programming style which recalled ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’. Peter Hook was indeed involved, as was Andy Connell who went on to form SWING OUT SISTER. Fronted by Lindsay Reade, her intended new original lyrics for ‘Telstar’ were vetoed by The Joe Meek Estate, so a version with more abstract vocals was released instead.

Available on the compilation album ‘Fac Dance 02’ (V/A) via Strut Records

http://www.strut-records.com/Fac-Dance-2/


THE WAKE Talk About The Past (1984)

THE WAKE Talk About The Past THE WAKE were probably what NEW ORDER would have continued to sound like had they not discovered the joys of the dancefloor. A dour Scottish four-piece who also had a female keyboard player Carolyn Allen in their ranks, their music could be claustrophobic. ‘Talk About the Past’ however showed a brighter side with scratchy rhythm guitar, shiny synths, melodica flourishes and barely audible vocals. Featuring Vini Reilly of THE DURUTTI COLUMN on piano, FAC88 was probably their career highlight.

Available on THE WAKE album ‘Here Comes Everybody’ via Factory Benelux

http://factorybenelux.com/the_wake.html


MARCEL KING Reach For Love – New York Remix (1985)

MARCEL KING Reach For Love FAC92RAnother Bernard Sumner’s production with Donald Johnson, ‘Reach For Love’ featured the late MARCEL KING who was a member of SWEET SENSATION, a vocal group who won ‘New Faces’ and had a No1 with ‘Sad Sweet Dreamer’. A vibrant electro disco tune, HAPPY MONDAYS’ Shaun Ryder remarked that if this had been released on a label other than Factory, it would have been a hit! The beefier New York Remix was issued on a second version of the 12 inch.

Available on the compilation album ‘Of Factory New York’ (V/A) via Factory Benelux

http://factorybenelux.com/of_factory_new_york_fbn55.html


SHARK VEGAS You Hurt Me (1986)

shark-vegas-FAC111Mark Reeder was Factory Records representative in Germany between 1978 to 1982. Reeder often sent records to Bernard Sumner from the emerging electronic club scenes around the world. His own Deutsche musical journey started with DIE UNBEKANNTEN, who mutated into SHARK VEGAS and delivered this 1986 Factory release. ‘You Hurt Me’ was produced by Sumner and characterised by the New York disco sequence programming that made NEW ORDER famous.

Available on the MARK REEDER album ‘Collaborator’ via Factory Benelux

http://www.5point1.org/


THE RAILWAY CHILDREN Brighter (1987)

RAILWAY CHILDREN BrighterLed by Gary Newby, THE RAILWAY CHILDREN showed promise by taking the more guitar driven aspects of NEW ORDER to the next level. Produced by ’Low-life’ engineer Michael Johnson, their second single ‘Brighter’ took a marimba sample and sequenced it as the backbone to a marvellous melodic number that could compete with THE SMITHS and LLOYD COLE & THE COMMOTIONS. However, despite releasing a full-length album on Factory, THE RAILWAY CHILDREN departed to Virgin Records.

Available on THE RAILWAY CHILDREN album ‘Reunion Wilderness’ via Ether

http://www.railwaychildren.co.uk/


THE DURUTTI COLUMN Otis (1988)

durutti column vini reillyHaving shown his atmospheric and melodic credentials with the beautiful ‘For Belgian Friends’ in 1980, the latest technology was perfect foil for the most Factory of the label’s artists Vini Reilly aka THE DURUTTI COLUMN. Finally convinced to stop singing, the instrumental ‘Vini Reilly’ album opened the musician’s texture palette with the dreamy ‘Otis’ being the pivotal track. Over a hypnotic sequence, samples of the late iconic soul singer were flown in as Reilly improvised along on his six-string.

Available on THE DURUTTI COLUMN album ‘Vini Reilly’ via Kookydisc

http://www.thedurutticolumn.com


HAPPY MONDAYS WFL – Vince Clarke remix (1988)

WFL FAC232With a name inspired by NEW ORDER’s best selling 12 inch single, HAPPY MONDAYS would emerge as Factory’s other best-selling act. It was a steady start for the band who began as something much more ordinary. But when they merged acid house with indie guitar rock, Shaun Ryder, Bez and Co would be hailed as flagbearers for the Ecstasy fuelled mini-movement known as ‘Baggy’ along with THE STONE ROSES. The Vince Clarke electronic remix of ‘Wrote For Luck’ from ‘Bummed’ aided the crossover process.

Available on the HAPPY MONDAYS album ‘Bummed’ via Rhino UK

http://www.happymondaysonline.com


ELECTRONIC Getting Away With It (1989)

ELECTRONIC FAC257Frustrated with the conflicts and confines within NEW ORDER, Bernard Sumner had planned a solo album. But on bumping into Johnny Marr who had just departed THE SMITHS, it was turned into a collaborative project with the occasional guests. ELECTRONIC not just in name but also in nature, the first offering was the very PET SHOP BOYS-like ‘Getting Away With It’ featuring additional vocals by Neil Tennant and a beautiful string arrangement by Anne Dudley.

Available on the ELECTRONIC album ‘Electronic’ via EMI Records

http://www.electronicband.com/


REVENGE Slave (1990)

REVENGE Slave FAC279The appropriately named REVENGE was Peter Hook’s response to ELECTRONIC. However, it was not particularly well-received by the music press. A slightly messy track in its original album incarnation, the superior New York disco oriented single remix by Daddy-O also featured a surprise rap. It enhanced the song’s lyrical slant which with the well-documented joyless division between himself and Sumner, appears now to be a veiled attack on his bandmate. Hook’s project later morphed into MONACO.

Available on the REVENGE album ‘One True Passion V2.0’ via LTM Records

http://www.peterhook.co.uk


THE OTHER TWO Tasty Fish (1991)

the other twoNot to be left out of the NEW ORDER side project game, Gillian Gilbert and Stephen Morris formed the ironically named THE OTHER TWO. Amusingly titled after a Fish and Chip shop near Stockport, ‘Tasty Fish’ was a catchy electropop single with a confident vocal from Gilbert that should have been a hit. Factory was beginning to enter a state of turmoil by this point and the CD version of the ‘Tasty Fish’ single never made it into the shops until it started its descent from its UK chart high of No41.

Available on THE OTHER TWO album ‘And You’ via LTM Records

http://theothertwo.co.uk/


CATH CARROLL Moves Like You (1991)

Cath-Carroll-Moves-Like-You-FAC307Previously a member of MIAOW, CATH CARROLL was treated like a future star by Factory. Mixed by Martyn Phillips who had also worked with THE BELOVED, ‘Moves Like You’ was a fine example of the blissful house influenced pop of the period. As with ‘Reach For Love’, it probably would have been a major hit had it been released on a label other than Factory. With expensive studio and photo sessions lavished on her, she is often held up as a symbol of why Factory eventually collapsed.

Available on the CATH CARROLL album ‘England Made Me’ via LTM Records

http://www.ltmrecordings.com/cath_carroll.html


Dedicated to the memories of Larry Cassidy, Ian Curtis, Rob Gretton, Martin Hannett, Marcel King, Jenny Ross and Tony Wilson

Special thanks to James Nice at Factory Benelux

A varied selection of the Factory catalogue can be found on the 4CD box set ‘Factory Records: Communications 1978-92’ via Rhino Records

The DVD ‘Shadowplayers: Factory Records 1978-81’ directed by James Nice is released by LTM

http://factorybenelux.com/

http://www.factoryrecords.net/

http://factoryrecords.org/factory-records.php

http://cerysmaticfactory.info/index.php


Text by Chi Ming Lai
21st September 2015, updated 9th May 2020