AFTERHERE is the brand new project of HEAVEN 17 front man Glenn Gregory and live keyboardist Berenice Scott.
Glenn Gregory along with band mates Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh scored a number of hits including ‘Temptation’, ‘Come Live With Me’, ‘Crushed By The Wheels Of Industry’, ‘Sunset Now’ and ‘This Is Mine’ as HEAVEN 17. Berenice Scott joined their live set-up in 2011 while releasing her most recent solo album ‘Polarity’ in 2014.
As well as HEAVEN 17, the pair have also been part of HOLY HOLY, the supergroup led by Spiders drummer Woody Woodmansey and producer Tony Visconti who perform the songs of David Bowie from the period between 1969 to 1973 at concerts around the world. As AFTERHERE, Berenice Scott and Glenn Gregory got their first commission for the soundtrack of the ITV drama ‘Liar’. With their debut album ‘Addict’ due for release later this month, music from it will feature in another ITV drama ‘Vanity Fair’ due for broadcast in September 2018.
Berenice Scott kindly chatted about the comings and goings of AFTERHERE and more…
You’ve been working live with HEAVEN 17 since 2011, so how did AFTERHERE happen?
Glenn and I started chatting about working together on something a couple of years into my playing with HEAVEN 17. We didn’t really have a firm idea of what that might be, we just kind of started conceptualising things… Glenn would occasionally ping ideas my way, things he was working on for his other film / TV composing projects, or new H17 tracks, things like that.
But it wasn’t until we were touring together with HOLY HOLY that we began to formulate AFTERHERE and what that entity might be. In fact, I remember standing in the corridor of a rehearsal studio in London called The Joint, guitars blaring out David Bowie and both of us deciding on the name. So I guess that’s the moment that it happened!
You began with providing the soundtrack of the TV drama ‘Liar’? How did you find that experience of putting music to moving pictures?
Absolute joy from start to finish. I’d witnessed Glenn at work scoring for a TV film before we started working together and it was enthralling to see the process and also the choices Glenn would use and why he would do particular things in places to aid the pace, mood and story. Since studying piano classically from a young age I’ve always written piano compositions, so when Glenn and I were pitching for ‘Liar’ it was fascinating to combine all these elements. Particularly with a heavy subject content such as ‘Liar’ it was moving to be supporting the storyline whilst retaining that subtlety that’s needed for scoring. With pop music, it’s out and out emotion isn’t it! Glenn and I love building the sometimes long tension and release that’s involved with film composing.
I think I’d say that I find the initial approach to writing very similar; I still try to access the same creative flow and emotion, but that very quickly becomes a joint project, with both our wells of taste and experiences being pooled together. Because we have a very similar work ethic it is a pretty seamless transition from the singer / songwriter world I’ve inhabited to the more cinematic, electro concept we visualise as being ‘us’.
What particular artist influences were each of you bringing to the table?
As the album started taking shape we both started to naturally pick out and identify various influences… Glenn being part of one of the most innovative electronic bands calls to mind elements of KRAFTWERK and of course HEAVEN 17. We both love classic, brilliant songwriting such as the HALL & OATES catalogue and one of my favourite singers is Karen Carpenter, and then we kind of end up meeting somewhere in the middle with a shared love of DAFT PUNK. When we’re asked about what our tracks sound like I think we both agree that those could be our references.
What is the creative dynamic of AFTERHERE with Glenn, was it decided quite early on that you would be lead vocalist?
There’s never a moment before we start writing a song that we decide on who will sing. In fact strangely we just start an idea and write as if we both could sing it, almost as if we might be writing for another singer because it’s the song and story that is most important to us. It’s only when its fully taken shape that the song settles on either one of us. It’s invariably a case of “you do it” – “No you do it!” That kind of thing for a while before we agree on who has to stand up and leave the comfy studio chairs to sing.
When I get to the studio in the mornings, Glenn will usually have been in a couple of hours before me, brushing up on yesterday’s session, having a fresh listen etc. Often I get there and he’ll play me what he’s been up to and I’m always like “Yes that’s f****** brilliant!!” Well, on one of those mornings he played me ‘Dark Star’ with his vocals and I was blown away. It had to be a duet. The lyrics suddenly made sense and gradually the ending vocal arrangement developed and became a much bigger thing too in the process.
You’ve played around with a few subtle vocal processing techniques on the album, so when do you decide it’s appropriate to use in a recording?
I don’t know really, it shifts and changes for me every day. Some days I’ll wake up and just sing with a morning growly voice and not give a sh*t. ‘Blackout’ was one of those. And then sometimes I’m searching for a precision and particular sound that probably doesn’t exist, but I’m still going to die trying and also test Glenn’s patience in the process ha! It’s all just a choice isn’t it?
What are your views about how it is used in modern mainstream pop?
As long as you know you’re happy to sit down in a room with a piano or guitar and just sing without a mic, effects etc, then I’d say just knock yourself out in the studio – experiment away. Even if you arrive back at a place without any effects. Glenn’s voice for example requires nothing at all! You could leave a channel completely naked with his voice and still have clarity, volume and presence. I’m all for that, I also love creating an almost ethereal atmosphere, but it’s a fine balance.
‘Blackout’ started with an early morning after a late night voice, it was all about the feel of the vocal.
I played it to Glenn who loved it immediately, the only danger was would we be able to find that voice again when we finally wrote the finished lyrics!
Glenn did some beautiful work on the backing track, in fact it was ready for a vocal for about 4 weeks, all we had to do was wait for the right time to do it.
We had planned to do it after getting back really late from a gig one night – I stayed over at Glenn’s house with the intention that we both got up at 6AM to go straight into the studio to get the same husky vocal from the guide, but of course that didn’t happen! Waking up late and Starbucks got in the way of that. It was about a week later when I finally did the vocal and thankfully managed to match the vocal from the rough.
And if it’s Dubstep Soul that we created, I’m very happy that we did.
HEAVEN 17 lyrics are often reflecting socio-political concerns, has this been the case with AFTERHERE or have they been much more personal?
It’s more personal, well, universal and personal I’d say, all the songs on the album are emotional and connected both musically and lyrically.
Was the Kim Wilde track ‘Without Your Love’ which you and Glenn did with Gary Barlow for the ‘Fly’ soundtrack souvenir from 2016 originally pencilled in for AFTERHERE?
Well spotted! In a roundabout way it was sort of pencilled in… we actually had a song that Glenn sang, I forget the title now, anyway Gary Barlow happened to hear it as he was in contact with Glenn for a different track for the soundtrack, and somehow we all started working on that original piece to eventually make ‘Without Your Love’. Kim felt like the perfect choice, so Glenn gave her a call and that was that.
So what’s the title track album opener ‘Addict’ all about?
‘Addict’ is all about emotion and emotional involvement, exploration of relationships, it’s about discovering depths, nuance and desire. Sometimes leaving something or someone behind is the only way to discover that you need it, and maybe that you shouldn’t need it! It’s about connection beyond the everyday and the heartache or joy involved in that.
That’s really great to hear, thank you! We always wanted to have a driving track on the album that you could hopefully move your feet to, party to… possibly get in a little trouble! I don’t know, we’re both fans of classic club tracks and I guess as the song is set in a club-type setting it was always going to push towards having that feel.
You’ve done a trip-hop styled cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’, how did that come together? The song’s been reinterpreted by many people in the past, which version is your own favourite?
Glenn and I were working closely with the director James Strong when we were composing for ‘Liar’, and as he started filming for the new ITV blockbuster ‘Vanity Fair’, he came to us to bat ideas around for a possible theme for the show. He knew he wanted it to be slightly dark in tone, but also to have the lyrical relevance needed for introducing the show each episode.
We all circled around ‘Watchtower’ and let that idea percolate for a bit whilst James continued filming and we were recording our album. At some point it just popped up and sprung itself into shape in the studio as the edits of the opening titles started being sent over to us along with visuals and ideas from James.
In terms of my favourite version I would have to say Jimi Hendrix’s, it’s the version I know most well and I’m sure I’m not alone in that!
Glenn! Haha! No but seriously, when I was laying down vocals something felt very different to any other times I’ve recorded in studios, whether alone with myself engineering or with other artists and producers. We sort of found a zone, I can’t really explain it other than a total trust just being there which allows you that kind of creative freedom.
Equally if something isn’t working it’s fantastic to have that trust so you can set aside ego and move on and try different things.
Are there any plans to take AFTERHERE out live at all?
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Berenice Scott
The ‘Addict’ album is released on 31st August 2018 via Manners McDade
Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
4th August 2018, updated 31st August 2018