Alison and Vince, Annie and Dave, Karin and Olaf… and to that list of trailblazing female / male electronic duos can be added Marina and Eddie.
PAGE have had a loyal cult following back home in Sweden since their 1983 debut single ‘Dansande Man’. The duo of Eddie Bengtsson and Marina Schiptjenko released their self-titled debut album in 1992 while their final first phase release ‘Helt Nära’ came out in 1998. In some territories though, PAGE are best known for a version of OMD’s Electricity’ from the 1995 synth covers album ‘To Cut A Long Story Short’ and their take on ‘Dreaming Of Me’ for the DEPECHE MODE tribute compilation ‘Sometimes I Wish I Was Famous’, both released on Energy Rekords.
As well as PAGE, Bengtsson had his ongoing solo mission SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN and found fame with as one of the crew in S.P.O.C.K, while Schiptjenko joined Alexander Bard from ARMY OF LOVERS in VACUUM and then BWO.
PAGE’s most recent trilogy of albums ‘Nu’, ‘Hemma’ and ‘Det Är Ingen Vacker Värld Men Det Råkar Vara Så Det Ser Ut’ have affirmed their position as one of the Nordic region’s leading electronic pop pioneers.
But deep inside his pysche, Eddie Bengtsson has always been something of a Numanoid and the new ‘Start’ EP sees PAGE going the full machine music hog with the ultimate homage to the imperial years of the man born Gary Anthony James Webb.
With the news of a live return to London for PAGE in September alongside RATIONAL YOUTH + PSYCHE, Eddie Bengtsson spoke about space and the synthesizer frontier…
Space travel and Sci-Fi has always been an interest for you but what came first, this or music?
Sci-Fi came first, if we are talking electronic music. Science Fiction got me in to early electronic music. Early electronic music, like French Space-Disco and stuff sounded like Sci-Fi and the future to me. If we not talking electronic music, then it was music that came in to my life before sci-fi. I grew up during Glam&Glitter, so there is where my “musical roots” are, and you can hear that pretty often listening to PAGE.
I think it is an under-appreciated era of music amongst lovers of electronic music at least.
Many Glam bands were early using synthesizers in their songs like THE SWEET and CHICORY TIP.
Did you grow up watching Gerry Anderson TV shows like ‘Thunderbirds’, ‘Joe 90’ and ‘Captain Scarlet’? The associated craft and vehicles were brilliant…
Swedish TV didn’t show an early Gerry Anderson, like ‘Stingray’, ‘Thunderbirds’, ‘Captain Scarlet’ or ‘UFO’ The first series they showed was ‘Space: 1999’, and then only 10 episodes, the episodes that the Swedish National TV thought was suitable for the Swedish audience!
So ‘UFO’ or ‘Space: 1999’?
If I have to choose, then it’s ‘Space: 1999’, but ‘UFO’ comes second on my list of best Gerry Anderson shows.
Well, I have listened to early electronic pop in the last few years. I made a “list” of what I still love and what still inspires me.
I came to the conclusion that there are around nine or so albums that still sounds as cool and fresh as it did then, around 1978 – 1980.
Electronic pop music (and New Wave) doesn’t sound like that anymore, and I wanted to. The artists that are still around are way off the track from what I loved about them.
So, I kinda tried to sound like I wish they still did, or did for more than one or two albums. It’s a silly thing to say, but I think I “found home”.
How important has Gary Numan been to you musically?
Lately, alot! Those three albums ‘Replicas’, ‘The Pleasure Principle’ and ‘Telekon’ are three of the best New Wave / electronic pop albums ever made. There also on my list of best albums ever. I think when they came out, that I didn’t really appreciate them for what they were. There was so much other stuff around, so I didn’t have the time to really LISTEN to them thoroughly. Right before our latest full length CD, I would listen to those three albums alot (and still do) and I discovered so much. Wonderful and perfect albums (and music).
The releases that came from Gary Numan after ‘Telekon’, starting with ‘Dance’ and then ‘Warriors’, I bought them when they came out but, they were really really bad. Gone was all the magic, the sound, the quality, everything. Last year when I sold most of my electronic vinyl collection, those two albums was not keepers. Actually, I had them on CD too and I threw them away. I don’t want to keep albums that I don’t like or have any connection to.
I like to remember Numan as he was, the music he made and how he looked (coolness), therefore I try to shut his new stuff out and therefore I didn’t go to his show when he played here is Sweden. That would have ruined the magic for me. Still… I do respect him as a musician and respect him for that he has fought hard and is still “going strong”.
You covered ‘Tracks’ in Swedish as ‘Spår’ and did a Numan tribute on ‘Utanför’ for your most recent album ‘Det Är Ingen Vacker Värld Men Det Råkar Vara Så Det Ser Ut’? What tricks did you use to pay homage to this imperial Numan sound?
Whenever I buy a new synth (though I have stopped doing that now, I bought probably my last one this Spring), one of the first things that I do is to “Numanize” it.
That means, that I listen to my favourite Numan tracks and try to make those sounds with my new synth. And later on, those are the sounds I use with PAGE.
I also listen to the production, the layers, the drums, the stereo panning, the harmonies. All that stuff fills me with inspiration. Then I mix that with the usual Eddie B touch… *laughs*
‘Stör Ej’ borrows from ‘Love Needs No Disguise’ which Numan did with his former backing band DRAMATIS for their ‘For Future Reference’ album. Were they an under rated band to you?
Oh yeah. DRAMATIS was very underrated. I think they contributed alot to Numan’s sound and arrangement on those three classic albums. And if you listen to ‘Dance’, it seems like that truth. GARY NUMAN, DRAMATIS, CUDDLY TOYS and Zaine Griff are my absolute favourites and the greatest of inspiration sources.
Simple answer, I wanted to something that sounded like ULTRAVOX’s ‘Alles Klar’. Christer Hermodsson (the other part of SMPJ) is a big ULTRAVOX fan and really did a good work on that production and the solo.
With ‘Nere För Räkning’ , I don’t know really. Maybe I tried to mix ULTRAVOX and Numan there. But I don’t think the ULTRAVOX influence was intentional.
The Italo-styled remix of ‘Krasch’ by APOPTYGMA BERZERK is on paper unexpected but also simultaneously quite obvious… how did this union come about?
I never cared about APOPTYGMA BERZERK, because I knew what it was. Hard Electronica, stuff that I didn’t relate to at all. That was until… I got their latest album ‘Exit Popularity Contest’ from my friend and APOP-involvee Per Aksel Lundgreen. He gave it to me and said that should listen to it, because I might like it. And I was all “yeah right!”. What I later on heard in my car going home, totally blew me away! Wonderful electronic music and nothing at all like as had expected. It was electronic music that sounded if it was made in the early 70s and something that Jean-Michel Jarre would sell his soul for to be able to do today. It was obviously heavy inspired by, in my opinion, French early electronic music.
I just felt I had to write down and publish (on Facebook) my feelings about that record and it became in a sense a review of the album. Both Per Axel and Stephan Groth of APOP saw the “review” and from there on, contact was made. Stephan and I both realised that we have alot in common when it comes to preferences when it comes to electronic music. And, maybe there will come more out of this new friendship…
I would say as I always do and have always done; PAGE is electronic pop music. But you can also call it poptronica if you want.
“Synthpop”, I don’t really know what that should be. Pop made on synthesizers?
If so then that genre is huge. Because most commercial contemporary pop music today is made solely using synthesizers.
What do you make of this Synthwave thing coming out of North America in the wake of ‘Drive’?
I don’t know anything about that at all.
The first and last time PAGE played live in London was 2014, how are plans coming together for a return?
There are plans. We are coming in September!
How do you think PAGE have developed musically since the early days and then your comeback with ‘Nu’ in 2010, particularly in the creative dynamic between you and Marina?
I think the music has become less naive, both music wise and lyrics wise. I have grown older and that reflects in the music of course. I have also narrowed in what I do love about electronic music (and pseudo-electronic music) and with that has evolved the sound and the style of PAGE’s music.
Still, there is the element that people recognise and like. It’s not that we have changed altogether like most bands do. Marina does what she always has done, she is my creative feedback giver. She has always given me good honest feedback to the music and always given me advice on things musically.
Was there ever any likelihood that PAGE could have become more of a pseudo-rock band like DEPECHE MODE did?
No. We found our roots, evolved, grew up and matured right from the start (well, almost at least…)
Yeah, that was fun! They was originally something totally different. In start it was more like a “just for fun” thing when I made a redux of one of their songs.
But they liked it so much so, we continued the collaboration and it became what it is; Sweden’s coolest indietronica act. I still do reduxes for them and soon there will be a new single released.
You have started a project THE VOLT with Ulrika Mild aka COMPUTE, how is this progressing and can we expect an EP or album soon?
We did a follow-up to the single, but I think it’s temporarily (I hope) stuck in production “somewhere”.
Referencing ‘Lyssnade På Min Radio’ from the 2013 PAGE album ‘Hemma’, “They don’t play good songs on the radio anymore…”, do we need radio anymore or are streaming playlists the way to go?
Well, I Iike radio, just not the music that the huge stations play. Radio is good, because many people are hearing the same thing at the same time and that’s nice. There is always the joy in knowing that it’s not just you hearing this right now. But, maybe I’m old-fashioned and people today don’t think that way anymore. Everybody is an individualist, or like to think they are. Because what they have on their playlist is just what everybody else have on theirs, it’s just that they don’t hear it at the same time. Maybe I’m exaggerating here I don’t know, but that’s the way I feel that it is.
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its grateful thanks to Eddie Bengtsson
‘Start’ is released by Energy Rekords as a limited edition CD, available direct from https://hotstuff.se/cdm-page-start-ep-digipack-limited-edition-300-copies/68573
PAGE, RATIONAL YOUTH + PSYCHE will play ‘Non Stop Electronic Cabaret’ on Saturday 29th September 2018 at The Islington in London. Presented by Cold War Night Life – tickets available from https://billetto.co.uk/e/non-stop-electronic-cabaret-with-rational-youth-page-and-psyche-tickets-300983
Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
23rd July 2018