Veterans of three albums released on Mute Records, KOMPUTER were a reaction to the hangover that was Britpop.
But taking a leaf out of the low monobrow antics of OASIS, the duo of Simon Leonard and David Baker decided “instead of ripping off THE BEATLES we’d rip off KRAFTWERK”.
Their first release ‘EP’ in 1996 set out to create some heavily KRAFTWERK influenced numbers and more than made up for the lack of new material from Kling Klang. ‘We Are Komputer’ was their very own take on ‘The Robots’, while there was also the marvellous tribute to the first female Cosmonaut ‘Valentina Tereshkova’ which mined ‘The Model’.
Best of all though was the blippy ‘Komputer Krash’ while ‘Oh Synthesizer’ was an electronic hymn in the vein of ‘Neon Lights’, right down to the near identical schlagzeug stance and leadline melody.
A debut album ‘The World Of Tomorrow’ in 1998 followed featuring the marvellous train ride that was ‘Terminus Interminus’ and a tribute to their home city ‘Looking Down On London’, the ‘Metroland’ mix of which was sampled by OMD for their 2010 tune ’The Right Side?’.
Indeed, sampling was the next path KOMPUTER would take and with the discarded vinyl they sourced on visits to Spitalfields Market, 2002’s ‘Market Led’ was produced. But an exclusive track more in keeping with their more traditional electronic sound ‘My Private Train’ appeared on the 2003 Lucky Pierre compilation ‘Robopop Volume 1’ which also included CLIENT, SPRAY, MY ROBOT FRIEND, WHITE TOWN, EMPIRE STATE HUMAN, VIC TWENTY and MACONDO.
With advances in technology, the third album ‘Synthetik’ in 2007 explored virtual synths using traditional song structures and more experimental ideas. From it, ‘Headphones & Ringtones’ was a witty observation on how music consumption had changed in the 21st Century, while ‘International Space Station’ captured a glorious spirit of unity.
Leonard and Baker had actually been collaborating since 1982 as the synthpop combo I START COUNTING who had a pair of albums released by Mute Records and opened for ERASURE.
Then the pair mutated into the more dance driven FORTRAN 5 who also had three albums on Mute and recorded a hilarious ‘Derek Sings Derek’ cover of ‘Layla’ featuring a camp theatrical monologue by the late comic actor Derek Nimmo.
Highlights of their eight album catalogue were compiled for the excellent ‘Konnecting…’ retrospective in 2011 and with this special live reunion at TEC006, Leonard and Baker have promised material from their I START COUNTING and FORTRAN 5 periods as well as KOMPUTER.
In a break from making preparations for the show, David Baker had a quick chat about Russian history, OMD, Daniel Miller and more…
‘Valentina’ celebrated the first woman in space, what fascinated KOMPUTER about that mission and the Soviet space programme in general?
It was actually more inspired by BONEY M! We had always loved ‘Rasputin’, we even did a cover version. We wanted to do a song with a narrative that documented someone’s life. Simon had a book on the history of space exploration, which is where we discovered the mostly neglected story of Valentina Tereshkova.
‘Oh Synthesizer’ must have lit the touch paper of those obsessed with the “K” word, can you remember what the response was like to the debut self-titled EP?
It was like a similar to someone’s recent recollection of one of our earliest gigs: “My memory of that Garage gig is a very animated and upset young man in an ill-fitting jumper, spilling Tuborg about the place, screaming at the top of his voice, ‘WHAT IS THE FACKING POINT?!’”
How did you feel about OMD sampling ‘Looking Down On London’ for ‘The Right Side?’
Very pleased. Sting asked if he could do a version of ‘Looking Down On London’ as ‘Looking Down On Sunderland’ for some charity thing. We said no because it’s a silly idea and he’s a twat. But we love OMD, ‘Tesla Girls’ in particular and it does a great mash-up with ‘Hersham Boys’ by SHAM 69.
‘Terminus’ is one of your most popular tracks, what was its genesis and do you have a favourite mix?
Daniel Miller’s Mix, the Memory mix was our favourite. The COSMIC BABY mix was chosen to be the lead track but we always preferred Miller’s. COSMIC BABY’s mix was a swap, we did a remix of his track ‘Lucifer’, which was very good.
ELECTRICITY.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to David Baker
Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Simon Helm
Photos courtesy of David Baker
2nd November 2019