With two high profile European tours coming up this autumn opening for MIDGE URE and OMD, TINY MAGNETIC PETS are back with a new EP ‘Girl In A White Dress’ out on Happy Robots Records.
Although moving away from the Cold War themes of their previous EPs, ‘Girl in a White Dress’ does though continue their different Germany adventure as seen from the Emerald Isle.
Based around a re-recording of the title song which originally featured on their 2010 debut album, it sees the Dublin trio of Paula Gilmer, Sean Quinn and Eugene Somers explore the realities of modern life.
The now Mellotron heavy take on ‘Girl In A White Dress’ fits in with its lyrical theme of a nostalgic re-connection to a past carefree existence. With a more punchy rhythmic backbone compared to the version originale, it recalls ‘On An Inter-City Train’ from the ‘Stalingrad’ EP.
A sublime slice of Motorik with its vintage aesthetics and swathed in an uplifting understated energy, the song is sure to become a live favourite in the future.
Meanwhile, winning the award for song title of the year if nothing else, the superb ‘Kicked Off In Ikea’ takes its cue from indie-pop NEW ORDER with a good use of synths, bass guitar and live drums like ‘Age Of Consent’ meeting ‘Love Vigilantes’.
Inspired by a real incident in London where a Black Friday sale turned into a riot, Paula Gilmer attacks crass out-of-control consumerism as she feistily pushes her vocals out in a way that is strangely alluring, yet away from the airier delivery that many listeners may be more used to.
That airy vocal styling though shapes the more ambient art piece ‘All The Mad Things’ which despite the SAINT ETIENNE feel, pushes perceptions by featuring a predominately spoken vocal and some unexpected a trumpet passages.
The neo-instrumental ‘Above & Overture’ sees Paula Gilmer do her gorgeous Sarah Cracknell inspired ad-libs, while caked in Mellotron with smatterings of guitar and a reverbed Roland TR77, the drum machine used by Warren Cann on ULTRAVOX’s ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’. As Eugene Somers augments with reggae-inflected offbeats, it evokes a sinister alienated feel that appropriately ends the short collection. Showcasing further facets within the TINY MAGNETIC PETS canon, it will be interesting to see where the long awaited third album ‘The Point Of Collapse’ actually heads.
Proving the luck of the Irish, TINY MAGNETIC PETS continue their upward momentum with imminent European tours opening for MIDGE URE and OMD.
And if that wasn’t enough to keep them busy, there will be a new EP released on Happy Robots Records entitled ‘Girl In A White Dress’ to coincide. Meanwhile, the long-awaited third album ‘The Point Of Collapse’ is set for 2020 with all-new material.
The delightful Dublin trio of Paula Gilmer, Sean Quinn and Eugene Somers kindly took some time out from rehearsals to speak to The Electricity Club about all the latest goings on within the TINY MAGNETIC PETS camp.
Since opening for OMD in 2017, TINY MAGNETIC PETS have been able to undertake a number of headline dates, how have those been for you? Any particular favourite cities or gigs from those jaunts?
Seán: We are so privileged that we are now able to do our own headline shows and it was really great that people came out to see us. It was such a buzz. Synth Wave Live 2 at Electrowerkz in London was really good as we got to play with Chris Payne.
Paula: The Islington was an absolute pleasure to play. It was packed to the brim, hot, loud and sweaty! Loved every minute of it.
Eugene: There have been so many memorable moments on TMP’s journey so far but definite highlights for me it was the hot and sweaty gig in The Islington in London on our second outing on our own mini-tour 2019.
How do you look back now on your 2017 album ‘Deluxe/Debris’?
Paula: ‘D/D’ holds plenty of fond memories for me. It was a great album to write and it came together surprisingly easy. ‘Semaphore’ has become a permanent fixture on our live set and it’s a personal favourite of mine!
Seán: I love ‘D/D’ and I’m still listening to it at home. I remember the thrill of working with Wolfgang Flür! We recorded some of it in Westland Studios here in Dublin and just being in the same place where KATE BUSH, THE CURE and HORSLIPS had recorded was a real vibe. I also love that the actual song ‘Deluxe/Debris’ is not on it!
Eugene: I love our sonic progression from ‘Return Of…’ to now. I feel we have grown together as writers and performers and ‘D/D’ is a highlight in those areas for me. I loved the studio time writing and recording it and now I love playing those songs live in our set. A highlight for me in the set is and I’m sure will always be ‘Semaphore’.
What direction are you heading in for the new album ‘The Point Of Collapse’, same but different or radical? How’s it coming along?
Seán: It’s finished apart from the final sequencing which we’ll probably do over Christmas. We tend to spend a while getting the tracks in the best order. As far as direction goes, ‘same but different’ would fit, yeah but it’s a step on from ‘Deluxe…’ in that it’s a bigger album – it’s even got an orchestra on it! As the title would suggest, it’s lyrically a lot darker than its predecessors – Dystopia beckons and as much as we want to retreat into the music and blot it all out, we can’t.
Also, for the first time we got someone else to mix: Charles ‘Chicky’ Reeves who we met on the OMD tour. As well as doing OMD’s sound and ours, he recorded our live album ‘Pink/White’ without us knowing and we liked it so much we asked him to mix the new album. A couple of people asked how we could just hand our work over to someone else to mix but we’d spent a month on the road with him and we trusted him and he did an amazing job. We’re all really proud of it – it’s our best album yet.
Paula: I am proud of this album. We pushed ourselves maybe a little out of our comfort zone by getting Chicky to mix it, but it was without a shadow of doubt the right decision. ‘The Point Of Collapse’ has, as Seán says above a definite bigger sound and from a vocal point of view, well I’m very happy with how it sounds and can’t wait to get it out there!
Word has it that Seán has dug his guitar out and is singing lead vocals on a track?
Paula: Don’t believe everything you hear!
Seán: I’ve had a few comments about the guitar, but this is the only TMP album where I don’t play any. All the guitars you do hear are played by Seamus Quinn and it’s not your typical guitar playing either. It’s also him singing the lead vocal with Paula on ‘French Cinéma’, not me.
I do it live, though. We only use guitars if we have something to say with them. There are way too many people playing guitars without an idea – just whack a bit of distortion on a few barre chords and it’s ROCK! – It absolutely isn’t! It’s one of the main reasons that rock isn’t what it was – and I love rock music.
One of the tracks already premiered live from ‘Point Of Collapse’ is ‘Falling Apart In Slow Motion’, how did that come together?
Paula: Oh I do love singing this live. It’s quite an emotional song. I guess it happened when Seán came up with an initial sketch and developed from there.
Seán: I had written a sketch on guitar with a different chorus, then switched to synths with a Bhangra beat for the demo and found the chorus didn’t work, so we ditched the chorus, Eugene ditched the Bhangra, Paula did the vocal and Seamus added guitars and backing vocals. It’s about a relationship that’s ending, but they’re both trying to save it and the mixed feelings that ensue. Whether the breakup is amicable or not is not specified but despite their best efforts, it’s over. Its working title was ‘Roxy Thang’…
‘Cексичок’ takes on an unexpected rhythmic stomp, it’s almost 60s like?
Seán: It does have an odd arrangement doesn’t it? The 60s was coolest decade and I think there are quite a lot of 60s references on the new album. ‘Not My Day’ has a very BEATLES feel to it without actually sounding like them, the organ breakdown in the middle of ‘Sitting Target’ reminds me of THE SMALL FACES and take the Simmons drums out of ‘European Grey’ and it could be a 60s TV theme.
We’re huge BEATLES fans and to this day, they remain one of the oddest bands for instrumentation, production and arrangement quirks. We’re still trying to decode their messages from the 60s…
Eugene: When I presented the drums for ‘Cексичок’ Seán said and I quote: “You’re taking it down Rio way…”, so I took that as a compliment 😉 and continued down Rio way. All joking aside; I’m a big fan of 60s grooves and one groover in particular – the one and only Ringo! He is a musical drummer and I from time to time, take a leaf from his book.
Seán: Wolfgang Flür loves Ringo!
Having had Wolfgang Flür appear on two tracks for ‘Deluxe/Debris’, are you able to reveal any of the guests that you have gathered for ‘The Point Of Collapse’?
Eugene: It’s an absolute honour to have the very talented and true gent that is Chris Payne on two tracks and another hugely talented man is Erik Stein of CULT WITH NO NAME on our closing track.
Paula: Erik Stein and I do a duet on a song called ‘Cosmonaut’s Lullaby’.
After three EPs ‘Stalingrad’, ‘The NATO Alphabet’ and ‘The Politburo Disko’ over the last five years, there’s a new EP on the way via Happy Robots Records, what can you say about it and does it also have a Cold War theme?
Seán: The 21st century Cold War is boring – sitting at home hacking an election is not as cool as a stand-off with huge nukes in space and it’s down to you to save the planet… so no Cold War theme this time.
We re-recorded ‘Girl In A White Dress’ as we felt it never had a fair shake in the first place. This EP has more vintage instruments: Mellotron, Stylophone and of course the ubiquitous TR77 – sorry Paula! It’s covered in Mellotron, actually. It also has the usual false ending on one track.
A lyrical first for us is the inclusion of a song about an actual event: ‘Kicked Off In Ikea’ which is about an incident in London in 2013 where a Black Friday sale turned nasty. It’s written from the perspective of a person scoffing at the crassness of it all but the curiosity gets the better of them and they turn up to see what it’s all about. It’s a sad indictment of modern consumerism and society that people will resort to violence just to get some cheap furniture. It’s a very ‘Happy Robots’ record!
TINY MAGNETIC PETS offer good value for money by not duplicating tracks from albums on EPs and vice versa, but what has been the process in deciding what tracks go on the album and which up end on the EPs?
Seán: Given that everyone writes, we always have plenty of material to work with and as albums take shape, it’s obvious which of the recorded tracks will make the cut. Our motto is: “You know it when you hear it”. We try not to force anything, it all has to flow naturally so the opening and closing tracks usually make themselves known early on.
Once we’ve established this, then it’s a question of what’s the best track to follow the opener, what follows that and so on until we meet the closing track. We only finish the ideas we really love so there are usually five or six tracks that, for one reason or another didn’t find a place on whichever album. These usually get issued as EPs, which we view as stand-alone works so we don’t include them on albums – ‘Girl In A White Dress’ is a one-off.
Are there any particular favourite tracks from either of the two upcoming new releases?
Paula: ‘Above & Overture’ (EP) and currently ‘Echoes’ or ‘French Ciméma’ from the album. Ooooh, there’s also ‘No Time Today’ and…
Eugene: ‘Above & Overture’ is my favourite from the EP and currently ‘Dreamless’ and ‘Cosmonaut’s Lullaby’ from ‘The Point Of Collapse’ are both my favourites at the moment, but it changes week by week. Why? Because they are so beautiful TBH 🙂
Seán: It keeps changing but at the moment: ‘All The Mad Things’ on the EP, ‘Not My Day’ and the ten minute ‘At The Point Of Collapse’ (almost a title-track) on the album.
TINY MAGNETIC PETS played the W-Festival in Belgium alongside a host of big names, what’s it like as an occasion? Are you able to be choosier about what types of festivals you will play now?
Seán: We had a great time at W-Fest. It was just a nice vibe and nice to be at a festival where it didn’t rain! We hung around backstage, I did a painting and we watched the bands until it was our turn. We missed KILLING JOKE because we had to leave early as our hotel was actually in France! As regards what types of festivals – I don’t think we’re at the choosy stage just yet.
Two years on from supporting one set of Synth Britannia heroes in OMD, you’re opening for MIDGE URE on selected dates of his ‘1980’ Tour…
Seán: Hard to believe isn’t it? And we’re doing it again with OMD! We are so honoured that it’s the ‘Vienna’ / ’Visage’ tour and OMD’s 40th. Andy McCluskey once said that KRAFTWERK was in OMD’s DNA, well OMD and ULTRAVOX are in ours. Sorry we won’t be around for any of the shows with Rusty Egan…
Eugene: What dreams are made of; I still have to pinch myself sometimes.
Do you have any favourite Ure-related ULTRAVOX and VISAGE tracks that you’re looking forward to hearing live?
Eugene: ‘Astradyne’ for sure, most definitely ‘Vienna’ and another of my favourite ULTRAVOX songs is ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’.
Seán: ‘Astradyne’ and ’New Europeans’ for me, and of course we all want to hear ‘Fade To Grey’.
Paula: ‘All Stood Still’, ‘Vienna’ and ‘Fade To Grey’.
So with all this activity, is the new album ‘The Point Of Collapse’ more likely to have a 2020 release now?
Seán: It is going to be 2020.
Paula: Yup 2020 it is!
TINY MAGNETIC PETS have shown how a band at this independent level of modern synthpop can gain traction and make in-roads within the music industry today, so are there any words of wisdom you could offer to fellow acts who have been observing your progress and have similar aspirations?
Eugene: Keep doing what you love and what drives you!
Paula: As long as music makes you happy, just do what you love and keep going for it. Don’t hold back! It’s definitely a roller coaster of emotions, but the highs absolutely outweigh the lows!
Seán: The only advice I could possibly offer is stick to your guns when everybody is ignoring you and get out on stages and social media, make connections and LET EVERYONE KNOW YOU’RE HERE – oh! And send your music to Rusty Egan!
The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to TINY MAGNETIC PETS
The one thing that Rusty Egan is not short of is something to say…
It makes him the most ideal guest for talk events and ‘An Audience with Rusty Egan’ returns to London this June for a fun couple of hours in the animated company of The Blitz Club DJ and VISAGE drummer.
Loud and frank, not always subtle and occasionally angry, but always interesting and lively, his anecdotes combine laughter, tears and a vivid eye-witness account of his role as a catalyst in popular culture over the past four decades.
The Electricity Club had originally met up Rusty Egan for what was intended to be a 10 minute chat to obtain quotes for a mooted Beginner’s Guide listings article but one hour later, the interview ended and only because he had a soundcheck to do for a DJ slot at Blow Up.
The resultant career spanning conversation over several cups of tea was far too enthusiastic, amusing and informative not to make public, so this is Rusty talking, with only a few edits to stop him from going to jail…
How did VISAGE come together in 1978?
Midge Ure and I had some demo time left over after THE RICH KIDS’ demise and EMI let us have Manchester Square Studios.
We got Barry Adamson and Dave Formula from MAGAZINE, Midge and me in, during that time we did ’If You Want Me To Stay’, ‘In The Year 2525’, ‘The Dancer’ and ‘Eve Of Destruction’, I can’t remember much about that last one as I wasn’t a fan, it was something Steve Strange wanted.
Photo by Sheila Rock
So ‘In The Year 2525’ and ‘The Dancer’ were among the first VISAGE recordings?
We did ‘In The Year 2525’ in half a day, but it was an example of the future sound of London you could call it, it was an example of what we wanted to do, as was ‘The Dancer’; these were demos for what became VISAGE but were turned down by EMI! ‘In The Year 2525’ was just me and Midge with him doing vocals and vocoder.
We were keeping it simple and all that but it was heavily influenced by KRAFTWERK. I had my CR78 Compurhythm and drum triggering while there was that Morse codey type intro. I loved it and I think still sounds great today, although some people hate it!
‘The Dancer’ was obviously influenced by NEU! as you can hear from my drums and a little bit of ‘One Of These Days’ by PINK FLOYD, we wanted that “sccchhiiiing!” and that was one of our trademarks. As Midge was doing guitar and John McGeoch played the sax.
How come ‘If You Want Me To Stay’ was made during those early VISAGE sessions with Ronny singing it?
I met Ronny in Paris, she was very androgynous and she had a low voice so people were going “is it a boy, is it a girl?”. I had this song in mind, Barry Adamson absolutely loved Sly Stone and at the time, we were being VISAGE. We knocked out as much as we could, as fast as we could.
I adored that record and we had an instrumental flipside. It had a lounge type concept like ‘Cracked Actor’; we literally played it live, got it going and pressed record. I bought the Swan Vestas to have the sound of the cigarette match burning.
Ronny later met Warren Cann who then introduced her to Hans Zimmer who he was working with in HELDEN at the time. Then through them, she met Vangelis and then Peter Godwin, so her whole creative life opened up. We remained friends and I’d often see her in clubs but as far as recording went, she was doing her own thing.
You spent a period playing drums with THE SKIDS in 1979?
There’s a hell of a lot of intricate drumming on THE SKIDS, when you talk about the NEU! drumming, I was trying to be a Motorik drummer. So on ‘Charade’, I got this CR78 drum machine banging away and the producer Bill Nelson, who did a great track called ‘Living In My Limousine’, he loved working with them.
So you influenced Bill Nelson’s later use of drum machines in his work?
Yes, I worked quite closely with him on the production of ‘Days In Europa’ at Rockfield Studios in Wales.
DALEK I LOVE YOU were in the next studio, I lent them my drum machine. Funnily enough at the same time, SIMPLE MINDS were in the rehearsal room there! So I’m stuck in Wales and going “Who’s here? Oh SIMPLE MINDS in the farmhouse!”, so we all got to hang out with each other as there was nothing else to do on a farm.
Want to know why the album is called ‘Days In Europa’? THE SKIDS had a hit in Germany and we were on a TV show called ‘Scene 79’ in Munich… it always happens to me but they only had one drum kit in the studio! It’s a live mimed show, MOTORHEAD were on before us and Philthy Animal Taylor wanted ALL the drums.
So I’m waiting for the kit to be moved from MOTORHEAD’s stage and the announcer goes “Und jetzt DER SKIDS!”… I’ve not even got my f***ing drum kit and I’m standing there like “great!”, the track’s already started and the roadies are bringing me the kit but it’s a live show! *laughs*
You got involved with the New Romantic mime troupe SHOCK and recorded a cover of ‘Angel Face’ backed with ‘R.E.R.B.’ for their first single in 1980?
When VISAGE was recording demos etc, I found out Midge had a professional relationship with some 70s pop writers Bill Martin and Phil Coulter who were involved with SLIK, the bottom line is this led him to know John Hudson who worked with THE GLITTER BAND and owned Mayfair Studios. I thought “Brilliant, I don’t have to go to Wales”
We sat in the control room talking, I loved THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s cover of ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll’ and said I wanted a sound like that clap, so John went round the back and got these two floorboards with some door handles and clapped them together, that’s how they the claps did those records! I said I’d like to do this sound but with computers and triggered drums.
I said I could make a track with this trademark sound but without physically playing anything. So I told him I knew this bloke called Richard Burgess who had been doing the linking interludes on the VISAGE album and had that massive Roland System 700 modular with the Micro-composer. Richard had a Fairlight as well, he seemed to be able to get access to all this stuff via the tech companies.
Basically Richard was my tech guy, he’d got hold of Dave Simmons and got me a deal on only the brain of the synthesized drum system they were working on, cos they hadn’t got the pads as they hadn’t been made yet. He said I could trigger them which is how I got the drum fills on ‘R.E.R.B.’
So basically, doing ‘Angel Face’ was the catalyst for ‘R.E.R.B.’?
We programmed the whole thing to do a cover of ‘Angel Face’ first at Mayfair and John Hudson said “You know I can get hold of Gerry Shephard who wrote the song”, so he came along and helped us with the backing vocals… and the lead vocals! *laughs*
Meanwhile, Robert Pereno from SHOCK did ‘Top Of The Pops’ as a member of TIGHT FIT for that ‘Back To The 60s’ medley before ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’!
You know that Tim Friese-Greene produced ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ and it was when Mark Hollis heard that, he got him to work with TALK TALK?
REALLY? Well, the sound of that was amazing! Anyway I haven’t finished!! *laughs*
So we’re talking about SHOCK, and “R.E.” Rusty Egan and “R.B.” Richard Burgess… so we had this 7 inch and 12 inch record of ‘Angel Face’ done, John went to RCA and said they loved it and would put it out, but we needed a B-side. So I quickly threw up ‘Angel Face’ and took off all the vocals and things, me and Richard sat at the piano to do that “da-da-dah” theme. I wanted to call it ‘The Red Bridge’ because it was in Luxembourg and has the most beautiful view, I had been there with Brigitte who was the girl’s voice on ‘Fade To Grey’, I wanted to get this feeling of European grandeur but we ran out of time to do any words. So ‘R.E.R.B.’ came out of ‘Angel Face’.
Now if you go back to THE SKIDS, on the album track ‘Animation’, the closing track of ‘Days Of Europa’ is ‘Animation’ backwards, but with the drums put forwards while Stuart Adamson and Richard Jobson wrote another song over it, but it was the basically same backing track. So I had this idea that you could do music over another one, so that’s what we did on ‘R.E.R.B’ with a new melody and those signature drums.
Your first remix was ‘ Burundi Black’…
It was 1980 and I’m DJing in a club. I knew Marco Pirroni from ADAM & THE ANTS and they dropped this record ‘Kings Of The Wild Frontier’ and I knew it was the Burundi drums. So I said to my then partner Jean-Philippe Iliesco who produced SPACE about wanting to get hold of it and he said he knew Eddie Barclay of Barclay Records who had released it; so he called him and got the multi-tracks for me. I just wanted the drums on their own with the tribe and no music, then I added a drum machine and some playing, I wanted this tribal feel and the future together.
I don’t believe I did a great job on that to be honest… it’s funny but recently Mark Reeder released an album ‘Mauerstadt’ and as I was listening to it, I noticed one track ‘Giant Mushrooms’ was like that, I heard the Burundi sample and loved it. I mentioned it to Mark and said “Oh, you sampled Burundi” but he replied he’d sampled someone who’d sampled Burundi! *laughs*
And that’s the world of sampling now! I might come back to that you know, I’ve got an idea based on what you can do today.
Let’s talk about ‘Yellow Pearl’…
If I’m not mistaken, ‘Yellow Pearl’ was a track that Midge was working on for the VISAGE album but hadn’t got past the drum machine stage. But I had done the break in a rehearsal room somewhere with him that lodged in his head.
After Midge did the THIN LIZZY tour, Phil Lynott came to The Blitz Club and heard the sounds there so when he was doing his solo album, he said he wanted me in on the drums. I did a few songs like ‘Kathleen’ which were very normal. Then I got this call back from Midge that Phil wanted me to do ‘Yellow Pearl’ and use that break. So I said “yeah”, turned up and I did that. Then Midge’s manager showed up with a single piece of paper and asked me to sign my life away so I did, then it got on ‘Top Of The Pops’ as the theme and I was a bit p*ssed off because I’d signed my life away!
SPACE are most famous for ‘Magic Fly’ and you did a remix of a later single ‘Tender Force’…
When I get a remix, I don’t necessarily want to put Rusty all over it, I just like something a lot and I feel that I can shine a light on it.
If you get a song which you like that didn’t make it, sometimes a remix can bring people’s attention to the original and people go “I heard this version by Rusty which I didn’t like, but then I found the original”. So I did timbale drumming cos when you’re a drummer, why don’t you do some drums?
SPACE introduced me to Didier Marouani and Jannick Top who were exceptional musicians, I thought these guys were amazing. Through them, I got on really well with Roland Romanelli and I programmed everything on his solo album ‘Connecting Flight’ which was very pioneering.
So what was ‘Do What Ya Wanna Do’ by THE CAGE featuring Nona Hendryx all about?
I’d got myself a TR808 by now, I had this beat and sequence to make people dance so I’m playing around with it and thought “why don’t I do T-CONNECTION but totally electro?”, it could sound like ‘I Feel Love’. I called up Gary Barnacle who played with SOFT CELL, he brought his bass playing brother Steve and we had this little Casio out for the break, there’s this 64 bar build with the percussion before I smash a light bulb, it was literally hitting fire extinguishers, bashing everything. It was great, I was grabbing everything in the studio, bits of wood…
Through my trips to New York, I’d known Nona Hendryx was session singing having been in LABELLE who did ‘Lady Marmalade’. So Vicki Wickham who managed Dusty Springfield and Nona suggested having her on the track. It was this time that I met producer John Luongo who had remixed THE JACKSONS, so it was all about dance music for me as The Camden Palace was about to open and had the biggest sound system in the world.
The final classic VISAGE track ‘I’m Still Searching’ was moody but still very New York…
It was actually just me and Steve, mostly me although I did credit the other members of VISAGE because at the time, I didn’t believe we had split up, the fact that they weren’t there was irrelevant. VISAGE was always about a group of people where some show up and some can’t like John McGeoch, but he was still a member. So we had to do a B-side…
It’s unusual in that it was a VISAGE B-side that had a vocal…
Yeah, it was just one finger on the synth…
It sounded a bit like PET SHOP BOYS…
I’d never heard of PET SHOP BOYS back then in 1982…
Well that’s cos they didn’t exist at the time! *laughs*
Ok, so what’s the story about your UK remix of MADONNA’s ‘Everybody’?
I’ve been recently linking and tweeting over the years about how upset I am about this, but the reason I’m upset is based on my knowledge of Blockchain and how in the future, musicians will ALL be paid, there will be none of this not paying people and all the b*llocks that the music industry loves…
So the bottom line is we did a verbal agreement in New York that I would remix the track for Warner Bros that needed a British introduction. Basically at the time, you could make it easier in England than you could in America.
Was this a thing you sorted with Seymour Stein of Sire Records who were part of the Warners set-up?
Yes, I did a lot with Seymour, I gave him SOFT CELL whose publishing I looked after, B-MOVIE, the ‘Batcave: Young Limbs And Numb Hymns’ compilation album, we did a lot.
Everything was agreed and we put her on at The Haçienda in Manchester, that would introduce her to ‘cool’ England, the tune would be cool and I think it did the job, the press were all over it. I think I did a great mix and you can find it online. If you go to madonna.com there is information on it even though it’s not credited “Rusty Egan”, it says “UK mix” but that IS the Rusty Egan mix. I only played my mix at The Camden Palace, all the time…
So what did you do specifically on your mix that was different to make it more UK friendly?
I gave it a lot more space, it was more on vocals and guitar because I liked that rhythm thing like on ‘The Anvil’ plus I especially liked the talking. I think the regular MADONNA version is a pop song and I made it more of a seductive groove in a club, I extended the breaks, I put echoes and delays on the vocals and brought it right up.
So, let’s enter ‘The Twilight Zone’…
I had an agreement with Warner Chappell and each project they turned down, this was a Warner movie and a classic theme, I did not want to use the main theme, just the well-known sequence adding all the rest myself, bassline and string stabs and percussion. Rob Dickens of Warners came to the studio and said he would not accept the mix unless I edited in the main orchestral and organ theme. So it was released like that as ‘The Twilight Zone’, RUSTY 1 on Warner Bros Records.
That tw*t John Pitcher of MRC who stole VISAGE, ‘R.E.R.B’ and Blitz Club Records then added it to a compilation ‘Trevor Jackson – Metal Dance 2: Industrial New Wave EBM Classics & Rarities 79-88’. But what Trevor did was edit out the main theme back to what I submitted, so it’s all me.
TIME ZONE ‘Wild Style’, you’ve reclaimed this one…
The story is I heard this band called YELLO and I was invited by Ian Tregoning of their label Do It Records to meet them. There was this place on the way by train where these blokes SUPERSEMPFT had made a record I liked, so we went to their studio. I sampled all these records by BLANCMANGE and KRAFTWERK into a beat, programmed the drum machine, played the bass on the Moog and did all the pieces in one night.
I had a cassette of it and went on my journey to meet YELLO, but when I got back, I sent it to Celluloid Records in New York who released a lot of French electronic music I was liking like MATHÉMATIQUES MODERNE, the French seemed to like quite odd records at the time. Anyway, next thing I know, Afrika Bambaataa loves it and suggested we go 50:50 as I’d done the music.
But over the years, people online I’ve never heard of who have claimed they wrote it by logging into this publishing database, I didn’t know about that… in 1993, Todd Terry made a record called ‘My Definition Wild Style’, all he did was take the B-side of the record and added a nice beat, that was it! We don’t mind that BUT what we mind is he claimed he wrote the f***ing thing! I was furious, then a load of other blokes claimed they wrote it, so I had to get Notting Hill Music to say 100% written by Rusty Egan and all the others can F*** OFF! But they’d all been paid for 20 years!
Anyway, I reworked it for ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’ as ‘Wonderwerke’ because I kept saying in German “Was ist das? Ein Wonderwerke?”, so I’ve reclaimed it from Todd Terry!
To continue the German connection, what about when you worked with German act HONGKONG SYNDIKAT in 1984?
These guys sampled Ronald Reagan’s speech in Berlin for a track called ‘Berlin Bleibt Doch Berlin’ and they did this beat. I met with Gerd Plez from HONGKONG SYNDIKAT, he played me the demos for the next album and I suggested mixing it at my Trident Studios and adding overdubs. We did this song ‘Divided By’ which was literally a pocket calculator that went “9-8-7, 7-8-9, divided by-divided by”, it was hard, maybe too hard.
Then there was a song called ‘Too Much’, I introduced him recently to HP Hoeger and the chill out mix has ended up on a few ‘Buddha Bar’ albums.
Now, you formed THE SENATE and released ‘The Original Sin’…
Yeah, with Kirk Brandon… well, ‘The Original Sin’ was the one everyone says is about Kirk’s friendship with Boy George. Now the other day on The Blitz Club Facebook group, there’s a picture of Kirk Brandon which the poster labelled “closet”, what a f***ing thing to write? Don’t forget, The Blitz was a place where people who were unsure of their sexuality could go to.
While it wasn’t a gay club, you had to be open-minded so why do we have people on The Blitz Club Facebook group talking like a homophobic thug?
Well it’s rather like electronic music fans who are into KRAFTWERK ‘Europe Endless’ and ULTRAVOX ‘New Europeans’ but being staunchly pro-Brexit…
Yes, so basically this song is Kirk admitting that Boy George was a beautiful boy, as was Marilyn, and about when you’re 19-20 years old and you are unsure of your sexuality. We loved that “is it a boy, is it a girl?” time and when I heard that lyric “since you came into my life, I had to rearrange my heart”, boy did Kirk have a voice and I wanted to have this orchestrated epicness behind it, but I think I went way over the top!
Was THE SENATE meant to be a limited project?
Yes, it was one-off, me and Kirk were mates and I’d produced SPEAR OF DESTINY, ‘Mickey’ is a classic and featured Anne Dudley on strings.
PULSE’s cover version of LED ZEPPELIN ‘Whole Lotta Love’, you were having a hit again…
This was 1988, on the bottom of the rear artwork, it says “Every generation has a musical revolution…” and I was part of the 1980 musical revolution. But I was sitting in the Island Records office, working as a friend for U2 on a little salary, I’d lost my wife, my home, my car so basically I’m losing it, 80% of the people at Island were into DEACON BLUE and I was at my lowest ebb! It really wasn’t happening, I liked THE CHRISTIANS and SHRIEKBACK but I was desperately looking for something.
I knew Paul Oakenfold and all these DJs that had come to The Camden Palace so I thought to myself “something is going to happen musically to get me out of this”. But in the meantime, it wasn’t house as it hadn’t arrived yet, electro and techno had probably peaked. I did this psychedelic record sleeve and I just thought of Robert Plant, so I had this idea of doing ‘Whole Lotta Love’ with Tracy Ackerman from SHAKATAK on vocals, an amazing singer.
Dave Robinson who was Stiff Records but now Island MD at that time was linked with Trevor Horn cos of FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD.
So I was invited down to Sarm Studios and they offered to let me use it, so we made that! Then U2 released it on their Son Records imprint…
Ah yes, Son Records released that novelty Country & Western cover of ‘The Fly’ by THE JOSHUA TRIO and ‘Riverdance’…
And again, I never got paid! *laughs*
So it all ended for a few decades but you came back with a club remix of FILTHY DUKES ‘Messages’ in 2009…
I think it’s f***ing great that mix! The late Mick Clark who signed SOUL II SOUL suggested I remix so they put me in this studio with all the parts of FILTHY DUKES, but of course I hadn’t been in one for 20 years so didn’t know what to do, it was all computerised! So I’m there with this guy Sie Medway-Smith who I was told had remixed DEPECHE MODE and I was like “WHAT?”… they said he was the right guy for me.
BUT, when you go back into the studio for the first time in ages and don’t really know how it works anymore, you tend to let other people do things and then say “I don’t like it”… but when you say “I don’t like it”, it tends to go down like nails down a blackboard! So what happened with him was he went “well, this is how it works mate!”
I just wanted it simple and I did all the synths, but everything about it was an argument! Sie Medway-Smith was way advanced and in-demand so acted like he was doing me a favour, I couldn’t p*ss him off!
So there’s this interesting side-story with LA ROUX…
Because of that mix, through Mick Clark I got the chance to see and remix LA ROUX. I went to the Notting Hill Arts Club and I heard ‘Bulletproof’. So I went back to Sie and said “I want to do this!”, but he went “it’s f***ing rubbish Rusty”! Sie pulled up the lead vocal and said “it’s terrible” and I was like “IT’S NOT! IT’S A POP SONG!”, so we basically had this argument. I’m trying to do a remix and he’s literally downing tools, doing anything to avoid finishing it! *laughs*
I was powerless cos I don’t know what to do, so we get like a half finished version to Mick Clark who said “it’s good but it’s not right and you’ve missed the deadline, they’ve gone for some drum ‘n’ bass guy and it’s blowing up!”…. I had to ask what that meant!! I was so angry! You can hear it on my Soundcloud.
Fast forward to 2014 and you do this mash-up with Antony Toga on TINY MAGNETIC PETS ‘Control Me’?
I search for stuff all the time and I found ‘Control Me’, I thought it was brilliant although the drums were sh*t, so I knew Antony Toga and his adaptation of ‘Seconds’ by THE HUMAN LEAGUE so I mashed them together and sent it to the band. I said “I think you’re great and I love your songs but you need to sort your drums out”…
Funnily enough, I said the same to them after I first saw them live in Düsseldorf 2015…
It was only supposed to be an idea, but TINY MAGNETIC PETS made a video and uploaded it saying I did it but it wasn’t me as such. They left it as it is but I suggested they contact Antony Toga to make sure he didn’t mind. They do this version live…
Some of your most high profile remixes recently were for U2?
I had always been a U2 fan, but I lost it around ‘How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb’. I hadn’t really reconnected to their new music, their first five albums were classic as most people I think would agree, although I did like ‘Beautiful Day’. But I reconnected on this new album ‘Songs Of Experience’, I felt it had a message and that message was love. It had vocoders, synthesizers and I thought “this isn’t your rock ‘n’ roll’, I would love to do something with this”.
So I wrote to U2 asking if I could remix them, not realising 20 other DJs had already done so. They sent me a link and they were HORRIBLE, sh*tty terrible EDM! I asked to do ‘Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way’ which I did with HP Hoeger, one without drums, one with drums and one in the style of ‘In The Air Tonight’ by Phil Collins.
NOW, we all know ‘In The Air Tonight’ is a Roland CR78 drum machine, it’s got this sound but I just wanted to put a beat on it, which I programmed on a plug-in. I sent it to the band and they loved this version but wanted more guitars on, so it became like the ‘band’ mix. But the Chill mix without the drums is my preferred mix…
U2 go with the ‘band’ mix which is not the one I love, but then this well-known remixer from Holland, Ben Liebrand is on YouTube and Soundcloud going “RUSTY EGAN HAS STOLEN MY DRUMS!”, so I’m like “what?”… I searched and found he had remixed a version of ‘In The Air Tonight’ in 1988, I listened to it and went “OH F*CK! It sounds like the same thing!”, but then that’s because it’s the same drum machine!
Anyway, when you Google “Drums In The Air Tonight Phil Collins”, there’s all these YouTube tutorials going “Hi! Whassup? Today we’re going to show you how to programme the ‘In The Air Tonight’ drums”… I was like “Hang on Ben Liebrand, there’s 25 guys here who can programme the ‘In The Air Tonight’, I DIDN’T do ‘In The Air Tonight’, I did U2 and used the same f***ing drum machine! There is no ‘In The Air Tonight’ drums on it, it is just SOUND!”
But using a drum sound is not like nicking a bit off an actual song…
That’s right! So if you want to get into that, I made THE ART OF NOISE drum sound! I’d brought JJ Jeczalik who did ABC into my studio, I paid him £500 to press all these buttons on a Fairlight as none of us knew how to work it, he took my sound and he had a band of his own called THE ART OF NOISE!
Was that the VISAGE ‘Beat Boy’ drum sound?
YES! You can tell ‘Beat Boy’ and THE ART OF NOISE are the same sound! We made it before! *laughs*
If Ben Liebrand had written to me privately about the similarity or whatever, we could have handled it in an “oh my god, I didn’t realise” manner. ‘Yellow Pearl’ IS my drum sound, people when they listen to music always go “oh, it sounds like…”
Let’s talk about ‘Thank You’, the closing track on your album ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’…
‘Thank You’ is as it is, I just believe a lot of people should say “thank you” but they don’t… so I felt when I made my album, my career and everything that I am is because of that list of people.
And even if in there I thank Nikonn who worked with me on that album and I clashed with, or people that I disagreed with, it’s about the music. I even end it poignantly by saying “VISAGE”, regardless of any problems or issues that I had with Steve Strange, I am still immensely proud of the music I made with VISAGE, so I am very upset when it is imitated or faked as anybody would be…
The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Rusty Egan
As well as hosting the reunion of Alice Hubley and Adam Cresswell as ARTHUR & MARTHA, TEC005 will also be celebrating the 10th anniversary of Happy Robots Records.
A boutique independent record label based in London, Happy Robots Records specialises in dreamy electronic robotpop, it was originally set-up to release ARTHUR & MARTHA’s only album to date ‘Navigation’.
It has since developed an international roster of acts including TINY MAGNETIC PETS, HOLOGRAM TEEN, RODNEY CROMWELL, PATTERN LANGUAGE and SINOSA. Happy Robots artists have been notable for being featured in a variety of mainstream publications and newspapers as well as receiving BBC Radio airplay.
With TEC005 taking place at The Islington in London on SATURDAY 2ND MARCH 2019, Happy Robots CEO and self-confessed “Moog snob” Adam Cresswell took time out from ARTHUR & MARTHA rehearsals to chat to The Electricity Club about the label’s first decade and what might be in store for the future.
Is it true Happy Robots was partly created out of necessity?
Partly. I had always wanted to start my own label, just the plan had been to start it after I’d given up making music. Alice and I had ARTHUR AND MARTHA’s ‘Navigation’ in the can for ages, but we kept getting mucked about by labels. But then when the LITTLE BOOTS / LA ROUX synthpop explosion happened, we thought let’s start a label now so we won’t completely miss the boat. We got the distributor Cargo on board and it all came together.
At the time ARTHUR & MARTHA ‘Autovia’ was released as a single as BOT1, the record industry was going through a state of flux, dilemmas about downloading, whether to release vinyl, self-releasing versus labels and the onset of social media. What was that like to have to deal with?
Running a label is always a massive gamble but now you don’t just gamble on the bands, you gamble on formats as well. When we started, it was really good for labels and artists as the download and streaming services were paying really well. But they realised they couldn’t make enough profits so they massively slashed the return to labels. Revenue nose-dived leading to the situation we are in now. I have been looking back on old invoices and we made more from the download of the Autovia EP than anything until BOT10.
How had your dealings with labels in the past been?
Like anything, mostly very good with the very occasional bad egg. With labels, I find you always remember the promises that they make but don’t keep – which is why I always try and be very measured and honest with the acts on Happy Robots. No false expectations, just cold hard reality.
Happy Robots issued a compilation ‘Botpop Volume One’ as BOT2, what was the aim of that, how was it to put together and will there ever be a ‘Volume Two’?
‘Botpop Volume One’ was our calling-card to the world. We didn’t want the label to be just about ARTHUR & MARTHA. It was mostly acts we knew – in truth – mostly acts Alice knew. I found KATSEN on MySpace, but Alice found most of the rest. It had some great reviews, not least in The Guardian which I still use on the website. I did talk about doing Volume Two a couple of years back, but I would need Alice or someone else involved in selecting the acts, otherwise it would probably end up being 50 minutes of post-Soviet darkwave.
Doing singles is one thing but albums is another, so how did you find releasing your first artist long player ‘Navigation’ by ARTHUR & MARTHA as BOT4 in 2009?
Sadly by the time it came out, I was already sick of it. For one thing we’d both gone through some pretty dark times making it, and I’d become a real pain in the arse to work with.
It was just Alice’s enthusiasm that kept us going. I still like ‘Navigation’ but see it as a wasted opportunity on my part.
I was just mentally and emotionally burned out – I hadn’t taken any time away from music after the difficult spilt of SALOON, and I needed space. I’m very grateful that there are people who really love ‘Navigation’ though – even if it took us almost ten years to realise it.
‘Navigation’ can’t have been easy to promote then as printed press via Q, NME and The Word was still the expected route back then?
Ha. No, it seemed infinitely easier than now because there was an established promotional route. We had a brilliant and lovely press agent and we got loads of features for all the ARTHUR & MARTHA records – NME, Word, Zoot, The Guardian, Artrocker. We had lots of Radio 1 play too which seems unthinkable now.
You took a break but you and Happy Robots returned in 2015 with BOT5 which was ‘Age Of Anxiety’ by RODNEY CROMWELL. Now this appeared to gain promo momentum in a way that ‘Navigation’ didn’t… discuss!
Well ‘Navigation’ got good press and then disappeared almost overnight along with the band. With ‘Age of Anxiety’ I put it out and, apart from Gideon Coe, everyone ignored it until TEC picked up on it. Then I just kept plugging away at it, I took on an agent and kept sending to more bloggers and DJs until by the end of 2015, RODNEY CROMWELL featured in a load of ‘Best Of’ lists. It was a lot of work but ‘Age of Anxiety’ was the foundation for v2 of Happy Robots.
HOLOGRAM TEEN ‘Marsangst’ as BOT7 in 2016 was your first foray into releasing artists outside of the Happy Robots circle?
I worked with Morgane on the ‘Let’s Get Static’ album by THE PROJECTS in 2003 and we struck up a friendship. She moved to LA but we kept in touch and when she asked me to put out a record, it seemed a perfect idea. Obviously having been in STEREOLAB, she could have gone with loads of labels, but she chose Happy Robots. We’ve both know though, the ability to trust and get on with the people you’re going to work with is way more important than anything else.
How did you come across PATTERN LANGUAGE for BOT9?
Chris aka PATTERN LANGUAGE was fan of HOLOGRAM TEEN, he liked the look of the label and pitched me some tracks. Some of his earlier tunes were a bit ‘out there’ but I thought I’d take a punt anyway. I’m glad I did because then he sent me ‘Total Squaresville’ which is one of my very favourite Happy Robots records.
It must have been quite interesting when Happy Robots released TINY MAGNETIC PETS ‘Deluxe / Debris’ as BOT10 in 2017 and they went on a UK tour opening for OMD; that was originally going to be a vinyl and digital only release but eventually due to demand, there was a CD…
Interesting isn’t the word! I was already a fan of the first TINY MAGNETIC PETS album. But when I offered to put out their second one, I had no idea that Wolfgang Flür would be on two of the tracks or that they would go out on tour with OMD.
The original plan was to just do vinyl and digital but when I heard the OMD news, I thought I’d better press up some CDs and merch too. My only regret is not doing more XXL T-shirts.
Happy Robots released the debut single of performance artist SINOSA as BOT11, so is the label expanding and planning to sign more acts?
There are no plans for major expansion; Happy Robots just exists to help out acts I like and to get them heard more. I’ve got a full time job, a wife and two kids, there are only so many hours in the day and I’m not mad enough to think I could do this for a living.
The Electricity Club thinks that demand for vinyl is not as high as the music industry would like the public to believe, while there appears to be a conspiracy to deliberately sabotage CD… discuss!
I don’t subscribe to conspiracy theories. Different formats appeal to different markets. There is no point doing a CD for a band with an under 40s fanbase. Equally, unless you are releasing indiepop, there is very little demand for 7” singles. The one thing about vinyl is it has at least remained consistent and if you’re pressing 250 vinyl LPs, you’d be pretty unlucky not to sell them all out in a few years.
There’s no BOT13… so you didn’t fancy being the Pastor Maldonado of independent electronic music?
BOT13 is reserved for the ARTHUR & MARTHA remix album – it seemed appropriate. 10 years in the making and still late! It’s a terrific collection with top remixes by GABE KNOX, SOFT RIOT, KATSEN, BRUTALIST ARCHITECTURE IN THE SUN, HONG KONG IN THE 60s and loads more.
ARTHUR & MARTHA will be reuniting to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the release of ‘Navigation’ at TEC005 in March 2019, what’s planned for that?
All the hits, lo-fi visuals, barely in-tune old synths, silly clothes. Ours was never the most well performed or technically proficient show, but it was never dull!
What’s next for Happy Robots Records?
I’ve just confirmed some more Happy Robots gigs for TINY MAGNETIC PETS. Then we have albums from ALICE HUBBLE, PATTERN LANGUAGE and ARTHUR & MARTHA up soon. I’m also putting out one record which is all 9 minute long Krautrock jams and another which is 30 second long KPM-library music. Something for everyone. 2019 is going to be a busy year.
The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Adam Cresswell
An interim collection of tracks before TINY MAGNETIC PETS’ third album ‘The Point Of Collapse’ is released, ‘The Politburo Disko’ EP follows on the Dublin trio’s previous Cold War themed offerings ‘The NATO Alphabet’ and ‘Stalingrad’ released in 2016 and 2014 respectively.
A wealth of quality material emerged from those standalone statements of interregnum, notably ‘Everybody Knows’, ‘Klangfarben’, ‘We Shine’ and ‘On An Inter-City Train’. Following on as part of a now extended play trilogy, ‘The Politburo Disco’ EP is no different.
‘Enigma Code Variations 1 & 2’ is an instrumental that provides an eerie artful collage of arpeggios to start before ‘Blitzed’, a surprising tune with an uptempo thrust. Despite the rock edge, it still maintains Paula Gilmer’s alluring sophisticated poise alongside Sean Quinn’s rawer dual vocal, with some punchy metallic energy and subtle pentatonic phrasing.
Perhaps more in line with what might be expected from TINY MAGNETIC PETS, the musically Numan-esque ‘Non-Aligned’ is a marvellous moodier cousin of ‘Control Me’ with polyrhythmic live fills from Eugene Somers during several unexpected time signature variations which verge on prog. Meanwhile a lonely electric piano shapes ‘A Strange Kind Of Loneliness’ around some ambient synth with airs of Brian Eno which allow Gilmer to take centre stage.
With a primitive rhythm box leading into ‘The Politburo Disko’ title track featuring a cacophony of buzzing keys, sonar bleeps and Russian dialogue, quite what Leonid Brezhnev would have made of it is another matter.
But anyone who loved the sort of oddball electronic instrumentals that used to make their way onto B-sides during the ‘Synth Britannia’ era will love this.
While tracks from ‘The Politburo Disko’ will not be on ‘The Point Of Collapse’ which is currently being mixed by OMD soundman Chicky Reeves, it nicely fills the gap before fabulous songs like ‘Falling Apart In Slow Motion’ and ‘Sexy Choc’ finally get unleashed to the wider public.