ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK aims to feature the best in new and classic electronic pop music. It doesn't promote bands or support scenes, it just writes about the music it likes, and occasionally some music it doesn't like...
With informed opinion and trivia, it embraces synthpop, ie pop music that uses synthesizers, while aiming to avoid lazy terms such as analogue, 80s and contemporary. It's like acid house never happened... AND WE'RE PROUD OF IT!
In 1978, Schroeder named his second son after Klaus Schulze and this event, which featured some self-composed music used at the christening placed him on the cosmic synth maestro’s radar, eventually resulting in him being signed to Schulze’s Innovative Communication label later that year.
What differentiated Schroeder from some of the artists of his era was his willingness to build custom-built electronic instruments including his own step sequencer and a less experimental more pastoral melodic approach with guitar textures as well as synthetic ones.
2021 sees the emergence of a new album ‘Pyroclast’ by Schroeder who has constantly released new works as well as revisiting some of his older pieces since his imperial phase. Album opener ‘Pressure’ is a hypnotic piece with analogue drum machine and guitar loops modulating up and down in key through its ten minute length; reversed guitar textures and a 4/4 kick are interspersed with Mellotron choirs and sporadic bursts of live percussion throughout.
‘Plasma’ starts off as a far more ambient proposition, almost like THE ORB with snippets of distant voices and phased strings; at the five minute mark analogue-generated kick, snares and open hats fade in with added Mellotron choir textures.
‘Tephra’ is a delicate piano piece with a time-stretched child’s voice and subtle underpinning strings. Shorter in conception than most of the tracks on ‘Pyroclast’, it features more classic era pad sounds but suffers due to the over repetitive piano figure which is repeated all the way through.
‘Eruption’ is more string-based in nature with pulsing cello and skittering acoustic tambourine loops; the track is pleasant enough and functions well as switch-off chill-out fare. ‘Fertile Soil’ with its monk choral samples recalls a more ambient-sounding ENIGMA; a Minimoog-style solo, live-sounding drums and triplet delayed percussion sample provide an intriguing mix of textures throughout.
‘Exothermic Energy’ is less ambient then the preceding tracks on ‘Pyroclast’ and this upping of pace is welcome. The first five minutes are centred around a two chord sequencer part and laid-back 4/4 drum part with interspersed drum flourishes, whilst the conclusion of the track takes it into ‘Oxygène’ territory with lush pads and echoed synth parts. Closer ‘Pyroclastic Flows’ is arguably one of the strongest pieces on ‘Pyroclast’, again very hypnotic with vocal samples, guitar soloing and a Mellotron choir outro which ends the album in the mood that fits in with much of the ambient aesthetic of the album.
A pyroclast and a tephra are elements of volcanic material which are spewed out by volcanic activity and those approaching this album expecting a similarly ‘wild’ and untamed musical direction will find something which is almost the polar opposite.
If ‘Pyroclast’ has its place, then it is definitely as music for zoning out to and aiding relaxation; fans of THE ORB and the ambient genre will certainly enjoy much of the works here; but those seeking tracks which function as stand-alone listening will probably struggle with the ‘background’ nature of the album.
‘Pyroclast’ suits its demographic perfectly and from that perspective is a success, but just lacks that ‘X Factor’ which would convince new listeners to delve into repeated listening.
Comprising of vocalist Aidan Casserly and musician Mike Wilson, SILVER MOON captured a musical journey in synth, indie and pop about love and life on their first album ‘Empty Rooms’ released at the end of 2020.
Aidan Casserly is best known as the man behind EMPIRE STATE HUMAN while Mike Wilson heads up Ditto TV and Playworks TV who produced the 2016 documentary film ‘You Keep Me Running Round & Round’ which looked back at the life of Irish electronic music enthusiasts as they gathered to attend the first concert in Dublin by BLANCMANGE.
Esoteric and challenging the minds of potential listeners, an eclectic range of styles sees SILVER MOON explore anything from opera to country & western for their own technologically constructed falsetto tinged art rock.
Not content with sitting on their laurels following ‘Empty Rooms’, the Irish duo now have a new EP ‘All The Stars’ with five completely new compositions with their own distinct air of poetry and theatre ready to unleash onto the public. The Irish duo chatted to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about their considered artistic ethos…
How would you describe the concept of SILVER MOON and how has it differed from your previous musical outings?
Aidan: Firstly, thank you for this opportunity to chat with you. It’s a great honour. I’ve written and produced about 40 albums since signing EMPIRE STATE HUMAN to Ninthwave records. Being an artist is my living dream, and one I always wanted to do since I was about 6. Staying creative is a major part of this lifestyle and I do something creative every day of my life. It’s a natural state of mind.
Working with Mike on SILVER MOON since July 2020, has been a joyous and natural experience. The way we work with him doing the music and me doing vocals/lyrics helps define the sound and gives it great gravitas and individuality, from my previous bands and releases as I now release under the name of SEBASTIAN & THE DREAM, with 4 albums coming over the next 12 months.
Electronic pop / acoustic / intimate and reflective piano and voice; this difference is essential, as a big part of the growing into oneself as an artist, is visualisation of an end point. I see SILVER MOON as much as I can hear it.
Mike: The concept behind SILVER MOON is really great songs created with a theatrical, maybe even an avant-garde twist with a strong identity. We’ve been exploring bold black and white imagery revisiting some of the pioneers of early film in our videos.
Two things differ from other projects:
1) ‘Freedom’: I work fulltime in the creative industry. With SILVER MOON, I am not composing, producing or responding to a client brief. It’s all ‘ours’ with no commercial pressure. That’s hugely liberating.
2) ‘Teamwork’: We are a creative team, Aidan words and vocals, while I compose and produce.
But the SILVER MOON concept is more than music, it’s cinematic. We are joined with JessB, JessM, Abbey and Oscar on the visual and digital side of the work. That visual presentation of the work is a huge part of what we are creating, and how our audience engages with us.
With being involved in several different projects, are there times when ideas blur?
Aidan: No not really. We’re both very focussed and professional in outlook and work ethic. I think the best creative people I’ve met are that way. Bluffers in this game get found out. So that important characteristic of doing rather than just talking about doing it, is such a confidence boost when collaborating.
Mike: When producing ideas do blur across things – from a new instrument, to a new piece of software – it’s like a new toy – you want to bring it out to play with everyone! Every day at work we are constantly moving from production to production – from making a pop video, to producing a show. That keeps everything fresh and on track to a deadline.
Your press release A-Z shows the breadth of your influences, is this a reaction to modern music becoming far too compartmentalised with stupid sub-genre designations like Tropical House and Footwork?
Aidan: I always felt genres were stifling and the holding on to them a really negative trait. I have released a wide range of styles and albums, as it’s what my own musical tastes are. I’m eclectic. I’ve composed films scores (‘Amityville Toybox’), written poetry books and recorded spoken albums. Yet I love electronic pop, and that particular medium has given such immense pride to me. Working with Wolfgang Flür or having a number one in the US iTunes dance charts with a cover of John Carpenter’s ‘Halloween’, mean a lot to me, as they break through barriers and genres. I always look forward and never backwards as a rule. It’s a shark mentality I guess.
Mike: Hahaha! I had to Google ‘Tropical House’ and ‘Footwork’! Growing up with my Mum and Dad’s records it was T-REX, next to Johnny Cash, alongside ABBA – with THE CHIEFTAINS in there too! And always The Beatles. My collection today is similar – I’ll stick on THE MURDER CAPITAL alongside SAULT. So, you are probably right, that it is some form of genre rejection – or at least calling it out. A huge part of the attraction is the variety of our influences.
You recorded much of your debut album ‘Empty Rooms’ during the pandemic, how was it having that spectre looming and did it affect the way the music was constructed?
Aidan: Funnily enough, the backdrop of the pandemic never features in any theme or lyric, so the only impact in reflection is that the use of lockdown time, was to stay creative and positive. Construction of the music came directly from Mike. At times we would discuss a type of song or indeed a lyrical theme in advance. As a guide or just to whet the appetite.
Mike: The pandemic had an impact in an unexpected way. Aidan and I never meet, or even speak – we text each other! It’s all very ‘Gen Z’! I send a backing track with basic instrumentation and scoring of a demo.
Aidan sends back the vocals, and I set about writing, arranging and producing. I rarely if ever comment on the vocals or lyrics, and similarly Aidan rarely comments on the music. We are not a conventional band. I think the pandemic and lockdown had some sort of influence on that approach.
The closing track ‘Ode To The Lost’ was inspired by an iconic piece of music… now tell the truth, did you hear this melody via Elvis Presley’s ‘GI Blues’ movie or watching the Offenbach opera ‘The Tales Of Hoffmann’?
Aidan: Truthfully, I was only aware of the classical piece. It’s a wondrous and almost essential composition. I wasn’t aware of that Elvis version. Lyrically, I wanted to create a David Lynch ambiance in words. Like you were peering over the shoulder of the writer / singer, into their most intimate moments. When Mike brought up the idea of writing a contemporary lyric to it, I was at first intimidated but soon after I felt it was a real challenge to take in both hands. Lyrically it’s one of my favourites from the debut album ‘Empty Rooms’.
Mike: Elvis of course! I love classical music, and it’s a bit of theme for our ditto TV shows to end on a big number – ‘Conte Te Partiro’ – with confetti canons! I felt a classical twist at the end of the album would round off the listening. Aidan’s original lyrics alongside those synths. Wow! On Elvis… ‘A Pocket Full Of Rainbows’ and ‘Blue Moon’ are fabulous songs, a big influence.
For your first single ‘Flames’, you mentioned NEW ORDER and Country & Western in the same breath, but that’s not as weird as it sounds as the Mancunians’ did ‘Love Vigilantes’?
Aidan: Yes it’s an odd marriage. But like the Odd Couple, its differences offer its charm. I was more aware of the musical drive in the demo Mike sent me. It was something raw and unforgiving. The flame metaphor was something that came quite quickly.
Mike: It’s back to my folks records again – Ennio Morricone sitting alongside Jean-Michel Jarre!
Which have been your own favourite songs on ‘Empty Rooms’?
Aidan: For me when I complete an album, I rarely listen back. It’s always the journey to completion that excites me. When I listen back now, I hear moments and memories. ‘Winter on Earth’, for its almost Scott Walker/Billy Mackenzie depth is a highlight. As is ‘I Dance’ which I wrote lyrically about Louise Brooks. ‘Shadows’ has a Billie Holiday impact for me. Ethereal and sad. Finally, ‘Luminous’ has the foot tapper radio hit appeal.
Mike: The title track ‘Empty Rooms’ – the first thing we wrote. It’s dramatic and contains many influences. Spanish guitar, 80s clashing drums and a bubbly acid house bass! We enjoyed the process so much we said – let’s make an album! And hey presto!
You seem to have been on a roll because you have a new EP ‘All The Stars’ of five completely new songs, were these originally intended for ‘Empty Rooms’?
Aidan: None where intended for ‘Empty Rooms’, all were written fresh. We decided to go straight into writing and recording a new EP, on the back of our live streaming event in December. It’s gave us great impetus and motivation to grab the challenge of a new EP so soon after a full album. I really think songs like ‘Gin Song’, ‘A Soldier’s House’ and ‘Sides’ are so moving and memorable. We were patient and focused and I think this approach works wonders on a song like ‘Kiss them awake’.
Mike: All new songs, with an all new composing and production approach. I wanted to really push the sound forward. For sure electronics, but there is added live basses, yet more guitars, banjo, harmonica – there is even an accordion in there!
There appears to be much more of an Americana influence on this new EP and maybe some Roy Orbison creeping in?
Aidan: I absolutely love The Big O. What an angelic and iconic singer. Where Johnny Cash wore black for the disenfranchised and disconnected, Roy Orbison sung to the human condition of melancholy. I take any references as a great, great compliment. Thank you.
I totally agree with the Americana reference. We talked about this and it’s again new territory, as I’ve always seen myself as a European style artist, so it’s been very appealing for me to add something else.
Mike: I hear that too, that’s the banjo and Gretsch! I’ve been listening to lots of Marc & The Mambas and Nick Cave too. It certainly has that feel. Musically the EP is much more coherent than the first album, the songs sit together really well.
You named yourselves after the David Sylvian song from ‘Gone To Earth’? Which is your favourite body of work involving him?
Aidan: Apart from his JAPAN catalogue I love David’s ‘Brilliant Trees’ album. The depth to which he can take the listening is inspirational and when the mood is right, he can often be otherworldly. I recently covered ‘Forbidden Colours’ for SEBASTIAN & THE DREAM, and I kept it simple, just piano and voice, and I was floored by the lyrics. Almost beyond poetry and I am a big, big lover of Petey. Neruda, Lorca, Sylvia Plath and Lord Byron are some of my favourites.
Mike: ‘Secrets Of The Beehive’ (and ‘Orpheus’ in particular). It’s a production reference point for me. David Sylvian has an uncompromising high quality bar in his creative output. Something I greatly admire. If you are going to do something make it as good as you possibly can.
How do you see the future of releasing music and how the financial aspects might develop?
Aidan: Generally for full time musicians, I think the pandemic is ripping up the rule book. It’s been a great leveller and it doesn’t care if you a million seller or a twenty seller, as music as a business is now changed forever. It’s forcing bands, record labels, promoters and venues rethink their models and many will not return to pre Covid-19 days. Once you take away the fear, you are left with resilience, and that human strength could very well save us.
Mike: A great question. I think it’s a hugely challenging and also weirdly an exciting time for artists. Live will come back. But I think releasing music and media will blur. More Bandcamp, SoundCloud, non-label supported releases. Patronage and subscription models. NFTs. There is so much innovation. Artists will stretch across media – music, film, visuals, digital. This is a transitional time. Selling music and gigging will not be a primary source of income for many artists, or indeed only how audiences will want to engage.
Who do you hope SILVER MOON might appeal to? What’s the future for you?
Aidan: Finding an audience is tough for any act, and having a great album doesn’t guarantee one. You can plug a song to death and you can approach DJs, Bloggers and music sites until you’re blue in the face. No guarantees. No definite results are offered. Once you get past hard work, focus and talent, good old fashioned good luck and right time / right place are so important.
SILVER MOON has the potential to appeal to those who like pop music to think by. Romance with a touch of melancholy and poetry. If you want some beauty and warmth then come to us. We’ll gladly offer you some.
Mike: Opportunities like this interview are really great to share our story and raise awareness, it’s really appreciated. I hope SILVER MOON appeals to folk who like thought out, well produced music, made with a sense of theatre. The singles have a pop sensibility, while the album tracks give a different flavour.
For the future… more music, more videos… I would love us to present the project in a live cinematic setting, that would be very cool.
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to SILVER MOON
‘Blitzed’ is the new Sky Arts documentary about the colourful London club night attended by aspirational young people driven to escape, express and create.
It was the start of the Thatcher era and before it was infiltrated by leg warmers, deely boppers, fluffy dice, yuppies and soddin’ Pat Sharp, the clientele of The Blitz were planting the seeds that were to shape the eighth decade of the 20th Century.
With the late Steve Strange acting as its Pied Piper, these personalities who emerged from a movement that got labelled The Blitz Kids, The Cult With No Name and The New Romantics were to have a big impact on popular culture. They included costume designers Fiona Dealey and Michele Clapton, journalists Robert Elms and Dylan Jones as well as royal hat maker Stephen Jones. They tell their stories of that flamboyant period alongside the usual suspects of Rusty Egan, Boy George, Steve Dagger, Princess Julia, Gary Kemp, Marilyn, Andy Polaris, Chris Sullivan and Midge Ure.
While those not fully immersed in the history of The Blitz Club will delight in the 90 minutes of ‘Blitzed’, aficionados of New Romantic history will be disappointed to see many of the same old faces repeating variations on anecdotes told many times before. Meanwhile others will despair that music is not the main topic of discussion, although it would be fair to say that TV specials looking at key hit songs by VISAGE, ULTRAVOX, SPANDAU BALLET and CULTURE CLUB have been a plenty on Channel 5 lately…
However, some new faces do appear and Darla Jane Gilroy’s recollections of being chosen to be an extra in David Bowie’s ‘Ashes To Ashes’ video after he graced The Blitz are delightful.
The inclusion of Elly Jackson of LA ROUX though is questionable; obviously chosen as an example of a modern day Blitz Kid because of her “Flock of Tilda Swintons” hairdo and having a No1 with the synth-driven ‘Bulletproof’ in 2009, she comes across as blissfully unaware of the long term influence of The Blitz but then she did aspire to be a folk singer as a teenager!
Another frustrating aspect of ‘Blitzed’ that could have been better researched is when David Bowie is mentioned in his position as the Godfather of The Blitz; a fair proportion of the archive footage accompanying this section is from after the club closed including his spiky-haired ‘Glass Spider’ period in 1987 and in one clip, the ‘Earthling’ period of 1997!
Reliably entertaining in ‘Blitzed’, resident DJ Rusty Egan makes some memorable and amusing observations of the time. Acting as co-consultant and providing new music for the documentary, the recently released soundtrack album additionally features period pieces by his former protégés SHOCK and RONNY as well as inspired by tracks from artists such as WE ARE BRANDO and TINY MAGNETIC PETS who he would be playing at The Blitz Club if it was still around and hadn’t closed in Spring 1981. The interconnected collection concludes with a live version of David Bowie’s ‘Where Are We Now?’ by Boy George.
Edited down from an amusing conversation that went on for nearly 4 hours, Rusty Egan chatted about the making of the ‘Blitzed’ documentary and its accompanying soundtrack.
It looks like the ‘Blitzed’ documentary has gone down well with the general public?
Yeah, it’s been very well received by the GENERAL public. But within the community of actual Blitz Kids, I put together a list of 50 or so of the most important people that went to The Blitz like John Galliano who would have been 18-19 year old students and part of the hub… I shared it online and called it “The 50 Blitz Kids Who Were Too Cool To Be In A Documentary About The Blitz”! *roars of laughter*
The quip went down well with them because they were being labelled “too cool”, it’s got a funny juxtaposition; of course, a lot of them couldn’t be squeezed into 90 minutes anyway!
So I acknowledged them by doing a video for a track called ‘Catwalk’ which is part of the ‘Blitzed’ soundtrack… I told them I wouldn’t be in the documentary unless I did the music! It was my chance to right some wrongs, the sound I was trying to get on the accompanying OST album, whether I wrote it, produced it or got someone else to do it, was not a retro album or another compilation with ‘Ashes To Ashes’ or ‘The Model’ which it easily could have been, it’s a different thing!
‘Catwalk’ appears to have the same chord progression as ‘The Model’ by KRAFTWERK?
NO! It’s the same chord progression as ‘Turn To Dust’ which Boy George sent me which I stripped down and added my sequence. So it was that music which accompanied the video footage of KRAFTWERK. But with that chord progression of ‘The Model’, you could sing 50 or so reggae or dance tunes over that…
…yeah! ‘Ride On Time’ by BLACK BOX is one!!
Well there you go!! I could probably do a mash-up of ‘The Model’ with ‘Ride On Time’! The DJ Robin Skouteris did one mixing ‘Fade To Grey’ with ‘Magic Fly’ and HURTS ‘Wonderful Life’ and even dropped PET SHOP BOYS in! He could stick the song ‘New Romantics’ by Taylor Swift with Dolly Parton and Mark Ronson in a never ending mix, unbelievable what he can do with the technology of today!
It would be fair to say people who had been more aware of The Blitz and its history have said many of the same people who were in the BBC’s ‘A Fine Romance’ 2001 documentary were in ‘Blitzed’?
When the producers said they wanted my help and said they wanted the phone numbers of Midge Ure, Boy George etc, I thought “oh, same old sh*t!” – so there was a bit of bartering, I said I’d to it if I did the music and I got paid!
Chris Payne did a piano and violin version of ‘Fade To Grey’. I thought I should put bass and drums onto that and extend it, cos you know I love an extended, and then for people like you, there’s a three and a half minute version there! *laughs*
Now, there was Chris Payne, Rusty Egan and Oscar Egan, there was no Midge Ure or Billy Currie, just us three making a version of ‘Fade To Grey’ at 105 BPM. I think it’s a good beautiful piece of music with wonderful arpeggios from Chris, low voice by me and my ex, the French speaking Belgian girl Brigitte. I am still in contact with her so I asked her to reprise it, we did as good as we could without Midge or Billy in our remake of ‘Fade To Grey’.
It’s all in my home studio, not in Abbey Road! Everybody says they’ve liked what we’ve done, that’s it! It’s not like I’ve added a rapper! I didn’t add a dance beat, I just made it clearer and louder with a middle break. It’s not like I had Abbey Road, the mixing desk of Conny Plank, Alan Parsons producing, Michael Rother on guitar and made a pile of sh*t! If I did that, you’d be right to have a go! It’s a labour of love!
Some more seasoned enthusiasts did not really find out anything new from watching ‘Blitzed’, it could have benefitted from the perspective of say, actress Eve Ferret who actually performed at The Blitz and Jacqueline Bucknell who brought David Bowie down that night…
I gave the producers a list of everyone, you know me, I’m very inclusive… Marilyn actually didn’t want to do it, I had to phone him up and told him “it’s better to be in it than not in it”… I do agree with you, but you’re discussing something I had no control over.
Overall, were you happy with how ‘Blitzed’ turned out?
NO, I LOOK FAT!
Yeah, a white shell suit is not a good look on you even if it’s Ralph Lauren!! *laughs*
They told me everyone wears black, please wear white!!!!
But yes, I’m pleased with the documentary because when was the last time fashion was intertwined with music? You don’t look at THE KILLERS and go “what are they wearing?”, they’re just a band from Las Vegas! You don’t look at NEW ORDER and go “what is Barney wearing?”, they’re not a fashionable band.
SPANDAU BALLET were very ambitious and eventually successful, but you helped them out?
Steve Strange fancied Martin Kemp so wanted to put SPANDAU BALLET on at The Blitz. But he asked me to take a look and advise them what to do, so I did!
Gary Kemp could sit there in his mansion and talk about how he knew if he jumped on that stage, he could take the scene… but he didn’t know Richard James Burgess, he didn’t know how to make a dance record, he didn’t know what a synthesizer was, he was just a young kid.
That SPANDAU BALLET comeback song ‘Once More’ in 2009, it was so bloomin’ middle of the road, it needed its own government safety film!! *laughs*
Ouch! They wanted to be pop stars, as did DURAN DURAN and DEPECHE MODE, they wanted to make pop music.
‘Blitzed’ is not a music documentary but were you surprised ‘Vienna’ only got mentioned for 15 seconds and ‘Fade To Grey’ for about 30?
I actually didn’t want them to play ‘Vienna’, I didn’t want them to play ‘Ashes To Ashes’, cos I didn’t want them playing the same songs… having that clip of Bowie doing ‘Heroes’ on ‘Top Of The Pops’ probably cost them £20,000! The labels have a chart of what songs are worth and they run it like a business, and because they go on the premise that they generally can only sell a song once, the price can be very high!
So what’s your favourite moment on ‘Blitzed’ that isn’t you?
I loved Boy George in it… y’know he could have died several times over the decades, but I saw a happy Boy George who had a whiter smile than me, happy to tell people he was a thief because he had no money and lived in a squat… thing is, Steve Strange was also a thief but lied about it! They had nothing and wanted to be wearing the latest clothes! They wanted to go clubbing every night and that cost a fortune!
Whereas although I went to borstal like in the film ‘Scum’ and I learned to survive with billiard balls in a sock to protect myself, I was always nice and said “come and stay round my house” and they would rob me sadly! Looking back at those people from 40 years ago, they are many who never made it, I could list a load of people. Y’know, it’s lovely to be an old man with my bus pass and to get my jab, having people I knew when I was 20 like Eve Ferret contacting me on a daily basis.
A lot of people don’t like me, they like Steve Strange and feel I shouldn’t be taking any of the glory on ‘Blitzed’. Even a friend of mine who I got DEPECHE MODE tickets for on the last tour wrote “it’s not all about you Rusty”… but I didn’t make the documentary, I’m just a bloke in it! I’VE GOT NO CONTROL OVER NOTHING!
Your new song ‘When We Were Young’ features prominently in ‘Blitzed’, it’s quite obviously influenced by Gina X’s ‘No GDM’ but I just wanted to say that its co-writer Zeus B Held has heard it and says he’s not going to sue you! *laughs*
Well, if he did, he wouldn’t be suing me, he’d be suing Paul Statham of B-MOVIE who came up with the music! He sent me the bassline and synthline, I put in a straight four LinnDrum beat and made it bigger. But ‘No GDM’ was a song I heard in Düsseldorf and brought in to play at The Blitz and it inspired so many people in the UK like FASHION and DEAD OR ALIVE because it was produced by Zeus B Held, ‘Nice Mover’ was another one from the album that I played.
So yes, I agree 100% that there’s a link! But the end result with the lyrics about “Tonight’s the night, we danced to Iggy, Ferry and Bolan, hey, we found love when we were young” became perfect for ‘Blitzed’.
‘When We Were Young’ manages to be retro-referencing but modern, and that’s quite a tricky thing to achieve…
You know that’s what I was trying to do, cos you kept moaning “Rusty, can you stop trying to be modern?!?” *laughs*
It’s my sound but we are in 2021 and I don’t want to be on at Rewind or Let’s Rock between Limahl and Kim Wilde! I’ll be hopefully doing Rusty Egan Presents VISAGE 1980-2021 at W-Festival in Belgium this August, performing the first two albums with Zaine Griff, Chris Payne and Dave Brookes before OMD headline on the Saturday night.
It’s is so difficult to write anything completely original! If I spoke to Ralf Hütter, he would say that to do KRAFTWERK, he had to put his blinkers on, turn everything off, turn off American Forces radio, turn off the TV with its schlager music, go into the lab at Kling Klang, be German and go into himself as to who he is!
So what was unique about the era captured in ‘Blitzed’ and why could it not really happen today?
As you know, I still go to night clubs and I went to one called The Box in Soho which I’ve been to about 20 times. It’s been going for about 7 or 8 years and is described as the “Studio 54 of today” and “The Blitz Club of today”. There are creative people in their 20s there who love Lee Bowery and Boy George, the sort of people who support LGBTQ+, would watch the Channel 4 drama series ‘It’s A Sin’ and love the music of the 80s or similar. They are creative types who can’t make a living from what they do, but might be influencers…
I met with the owners of ‘The Box’, the club started in New York and it was attended by the richest people in the city, the dot com millionaires, the “in with the in-crowd” types! They were putting on people miming to Lady Gaga songs and freak shows of people putting knitting needles through their nipples as entertainment. So it was loads of rich people throwing away money that flew in their letter box while they were asleep on their friends or so-called models on Instagram, all while the DJ is playing Kanye West!
But it sounds like a nightmare! That doesn’t interest me! So I suggested them putting on original artists and musicians, but they said they didn’t want to do it as they were making loads of money with people coming in six nights a week! Everything was about money!
The thing is, The Blitz was real, we were all broke, we were all thieves or on the dole, we were no-ones! The Box looks like The Blitz, but it’s not!
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Rusty Egan
‘Blitzed’ is available on demand via Sky
The ‘Blitzed’ soundtrack album is released by Future Music and available now via digital outlets
Rusty Egan, Zaine Griff, Chris Payne and Dave Brooks perform the music of VISAGE 1980 x 2021 at W-Festival in Belgium on Saturday 28th August 2021 – tickets are available from https://w-festival.com/en/
The illustrious career of the Swiss electronic trailblazers YELLO is being celebrated in a new lavishly packaged 4CD earbook retrospective entitled ‘YELL4O Years’.
As well as containing their best known tracks, the duo’s more melodic cinematic works are compiled as a separate volume while there is also the inevitable collection of remixes from the likes of DJ Hell, Carl Craig and Mark Reeder. Frustratingly YELLO’s biggest UK hit ‘The Race’ appears in a 2016 live version from their Berlin Kraftwerk residency rather than its studio variants or even the wonderful atmospheric Magician’s Version for Tempest & Cottet!
Boris Blank founded YELLO in Zurich together with Carlos Perón through a mutual love of jazz, musique concrète and tape experimentation. Blank had a taste for the considered uncompromising aspirations of THE RESIDENTS and sent demos to Ralph Records, the label that the American art collective founded. Around the same time, at the suggestion of Paul Vajsabel who ran the Music Market record shop in Zurich which they mutually frequented, Blank and Perón were joined by Dieter Meier as lead vocalist.
Meier was the son of millionaire banker with his own business interests and had also been a professional gambler who had played cards in the presence of Marilyn Munroe. But perhaps in a reaction to his background, Meier had a penchant for performance art. In the rather conservative environment of Switzerland where a policy of neutrality is adopted to not upset anyone, secret banking is available to all with no questions asked and nuclear fallout shelters are a legal requirement in every home, artists were generally frowned upon, so they often had to develop a thick skin and a sense of humour to survive.
And it was within this society that YELLO’s tongue-in-cheek avant pop was born. As if to reinforce this, the name came from wanting a simple brand identity like Lego, inspired a comment made by Meier about “a yelled hello”. The first YELLO album ‘Solid Pleasure’ attracted the interest of Do It Records, the British label formed by Robin Scott of M and Ian Tregoning who had released the debut ADAM & THE ANTS album ‘Dirk Wears White Sox’.
As a result, one of its tracks ‘Bostich’ was played regularly at The Blitz Club by its resident DJ Rusty Egan. Its opening military drum tattoo was deceiving as an electronic throb quickly set in for a perfect slice of avant garde disco. With a quirky range of vocal pitches from Meier achieved by various tape manipulations, it introduced a style of speedy European rap later that was to become YELLO’s trademark.
The conga madness of ‘Pinball Cha Cha’ from the 1981 album ‘Claro Que Si’ proved they were not a straightforward electronic band. Boris Blank had begun with a Farfisa organ as his instrument of choice, later upgrading to the ARP Odyssey and Sequential Pro-One, but it was the purchase of the Fairlight CMI that was to change everything.
Opening up endless possibilities, Boris Blank said to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK in 2016 that “When making the music for YELLO, I never think about a certain aesthetic or a certain kind of concept. It just comes out. When you work every day, like I do in my studio, more as a painter than like a traditional musician, then things come up that I never knew before. I just make music for fun, of course – it should be fun all the time. At the end, that is the result, reflecting more or less my fantasy from the past months and years that I’ve been working on those tracks.”
Blank laboured over his Fairlight, sampling anything from broken guitars, percussion, rusty brass instruments, screaming, opera singers and golf swings, eventually building up a huge catalogued library of over 14,000 sounds.
“There was a lot of heart and sweat in those old samples. I recorded everything at the time” he said, “I threw a snowball at the studio wall and worked it into a bass drum in the end – things like this”
A self-confessed non-musician, his tendency was not to play notes or count rhythms, but to be like child playing with a classic Lego set comprising of many coloured bricks and no instructions, surmising “Working with modern technology is much more convenient though, it stops you making final decisions.”
With Dieter Meier, his delivery was more like a storyteller or acting as another instrument rather than being a traditional singer. And with the handy Fairlight, Blank had another colour on his palette. YELLO was not a democratic band with equal collaborative input and it was admitted by Blank that only when a track was instrumentally complete would Meier be invited to make his contribution. But while Meier wasn’t that involved in the studio aspects of the music, his voice would give YELLO their personality, much like his cravat would be the crucial statement that complimented his suit.
Having already released a solo record ‘Impersonator’, Carlos Perón left YELLO in early 1983, just after release of their third album ‘You Gotta Say Yes To Another Excess’ on Stiff in the UK and Elektra in the US. It spawned the rhythmic gothic drama of ‘I Love You’ which utilised an unusual wobbly bassline that was doubled by a staccato voice sample, as well as pitched-up repeats of the title and lyrics inspired by ‘The Empire Strikes back’.
But with a synthesized squelch that predated acid house by several years, the moody disco number ‘Lost Again’ became the opening theme to the BBC2 yoof music show ‘ORS’, signalling an interest from TV and cinema in YELLO’s music. And although Do It folded in 1982, Ian Tregoning continued to work with YELLO and introduced the music of the Swiss duo to film director John Hughes.
As YELLO’s fourth studio album ‘Stella’ became their biggest seller to date, Blank and Meier made their mainstream breakthrough. An intricately woven patchwork of samples, the catchy ‘Vicious Games’ featuring the sexy vocals of Rush Winters became a US dance Top10 hit. Meanwhile, the quirky leftfield pop of ‘Oh Yeah’ appeared prominently in the 1986 John Hughes’ film ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’.
‘Oh Yeah’ centred around a deep slowed down Meier going “BEAUTIFUL, OH YEAH!”; the track possessed a comic element that led to it being synched in situations whenever an attractive lady would appear, although it ultimately became ubiquitous as Duffman’s signature tune in ‘The Simpsons’.
Despite the novelty of two mature continental eccentrics becoming the toast of Hollywood and perhaps more unexpectedly, Urban America, YELLO also had a more cinematic European side that was more akin to their cosmopolitan origins; after all, Switzerland is a middle European landlocked country that has four official and very different languages.
From the 1987 album ‘One Second’, ‘The Rhythm Divine’ was an immense brooding ballad originally written as part of an ambitious project about Marilyn Monroe under the working title of ‘Norma Jean’. On lead vocals was Shirley Bassey who had been introduced to Blank and Meier by Prince Hubertus Von Hohenlohe. The lyrics were written by the late Billy MacKenzie of ASSOCIATES whose own ghostly neo-operatic vocals proved to be vital as the mighty diva worked around the dynamics of this epic number.
Despite ‘The Rhythm Divine’ being a European hit, Dieter Meier reflected later that the song hadn’t been very YELLO and decided that their next album ‘Flag’ should be as YELLO as possible, with the focus on Blank and himself. It yielded ‘The Race’, their biggest hit yet in English speaking territories like the UK, Ireland and New Zealand. Frantic, thrilling and gimmick laden, ‘The Race’ featured in the 1990 film ‘Nuns On The Run’ and perhaps not surprisingly on the cable channel Eurosport, keeping Meier flush in casino chips and allowing Blank to purchase even more studio equipment.
Billy MacKenzie continued working with YELLO and Boris Blank remembered “The songs ‘Capri Calling’ and ‘Because You Love’ still get under my skin. Working with Billy was always a pleasure. He worked fast and sang with his whole heart and soul, he gave everything. You could see it was very emotional for him. And for me.”
Included on 1991’s ‘Baby’ album, ‘Capri Calling’ was a smooth sunset romance that captured a gentle Mediterranean spirit. The soaring ‘Baby’ title track did not actually appear on the album but later featured on Mackenzie’s first solo long player ‘Outernational’ in 1992. The groovy jazz inflected ‘Rubberbandman’ from ‘Baby’ with Meier pitch shifted down to sound like Louis Armstrong continued the quirky ingenuity.
However from hence on, YELLO made albums less frequently as Meier’s business interests in coffee, wine, watches, silk garments and organic beef took up more of his time. The 1997 album ‘Pocket Universe’ featured the enigmatic Swedish songstress Stina Nordenstam on the techno-flavoured ‘To The Sea’, but the follow-up long players ‘Motion Picture’ and ‘The Eye’ saw public interest wane, even in Switzerland and Germany which had been YELLO’s strongest markets.
After signing to Polydor, 2009’s ‘Touch Yello’ saw a revival in fortunes, reaching No1 in the homeland, their first long player to do so since ‘Stella’. Notably, guest singer Heidi Happy provided a sumptuous smoky quality to the airy ballads ‘Stay’ and ‘You Better Hide’, the latter fittingly appearing at the end of the dystopian Swiss sci-fi movie ‘Cargo’.
The interim period saw Dieter Meier release a solo album ‘Out Of Chaos’, while Boris Blank collaborated with Malawian jazz singer Malia and issued a boxed set of unreleased solo material called ‘Electrified’. Reuniting in 2016 and coinciding with their first full live shows in Berlin, ‘Toy’ released arrived with much fanfare.
‘Limbo’ was a classic YELLO single laced with Meier’s distinctive drawl over a big metronomic beat syncopated by rhythm guitar for something suitably racey. Meanwhile the superb ‘Electrified II’ saw a duet with a guesting Malia in a slice of seductive energetic electro-cabaret.
Meanwhile, Beijing-born chanteuse Fifi Rong offered her own dreamy elegance on ‘Kiss The Cloud’ as addition to the tradition of sophisticated YELLO mellows. She said when Boris Blank first approached her to collaborate: “He reached out to me by email and said he really liked my music and the way I do my harmonies in my tracks.”
YELLO’s most recent album ‘Point’ did not disappoint their cult following. There was no mistaking that the lead single ‘Waba Duba’ was them, all tribal and elastic while punctuated with staccato horn stabs that recalled ‘The Race’. ‘Arthur Spark’ presented a purer electronic vision while ‘The Vanishing of Peter Strong’ showed an artistic affinity with THE ART OF NOISE.
It’s together with THE ART OF NOISE that YELLO have a legacy in technical innovation, pioneering digital sampling and turning found sound into danceable pop music.
More importantly, Boris Blank and Dieter Meier incorporated a sense of humour in their art, something that was largely absent from a significant number of electronic artists. For the general public though, YELLO’s legacy manifests itself in movies, the segments familiar despite the pair remaining largely anonymous.
It would be fair to say that when doing uptempo material, YELLO did not deviate from their signature sound much with songs like ‘Bostich’, ‘The Race’, ‘Tied Up’, ‘Jungle Bill’, ‘Limbo’ and Waba Dubba’ all being close relations! However, in their more downtempo collaborations with other artists like Shirley Bassey, Billy Mackenzie, Heidi Happy and Fifi Rong, they ventured into something more otherworldly and the third “Mello YELLO” volume of the 4CD earbook provides a well-deserved platform for this less appreciated aspect of their catalogue.
‘The Absurdity of Human Existence’ is the first album by DANZ CM, formally known as COMPUTER MAGIC.
New York based Danz Johnson is the synth girl behind both vehicles with a passion for the development of the electronic music.
Having started the ‘Synth History’ online platform which has to date interviewed Gary Numan, Vince Clarke, Rick Wakeman, Dave Smith, Suzanne Ciani, Pete Townsend and James Murphy amongst others, she also produced an acclaimed podcast on the career of electronic music pioneer Wendy Carlos.
Her first COMPUTER MAGIC album proper ‘Davos’ came out in 2015, but her most recent long playing offering ‘Danz’ released in 2018 was much darker than the enjoyably escapist ‘Obscure But Visible’ EP and its utterly charming highlight ‘Lonely Like We Are’ from 2016. So a compromise adaptation of her moniker was almost inevitable to reflect her artistic maturity.
Capturing a sombre disposition reflecting the album’s title, the enjoyable opening song and first single ‘Idea of You’ is a stark statement that she’s “Gotta step back to put things in perspective”. ‘Domino’ continues in the vein, Johnson’s afflicted vocals cascading while backed by a range of sweeping timbres over vintage drum machine as everything topples around her; “I wish that my love was enough” she despairs.
With schizophrenic overtones, ‘My Other Self’ is spacey and has and exudes a stark vulnerability while ‘Low’ makes good use of deep synth bass for a burst of hi-hat driven avant pop. Pacier with synth triggers concocting a kaleidoscopic sound, ‘Don’t Stop’ sees Danz wanting to take action and coming over like a girly John Grant as her f***ing mind is blown.
‘Breaking Point’ uses an icy variation on the ‘Stranger Things’ arpeggio with Johnson coming over rather forlorn, but far more boisterous and almost indie rock is ‘Something More although it does amusingly see Johnson exclaim “it doesn’t f***ing suit you”!
‘I Don’t Need a Hero’ is a homage to THE CURE’s ‘Fascination Street’ with added throbbing electronics and blistering stabs of synth while ‘Not Gonna Stand By’ takes a curveball and lightens the mood with disco bass and brass, but her honest vocal offsets any apparent cheerfulness although this contrast is precisely the song’s harm.
However, the best is saved until last with the total melancholic brilliance of ‘Human Existence’, a glorious string synth laden set piece in the manner of OMD meeting CHROMATICS where Johnson declares “you can’t save me, I can’t save you”.
“I outgrew COMPUTER MAGIC. I outgrew the shy bedroom pop girl a long time ago” said Danz Johnson when she announced the birth of DANZ CM and certainly the innocence of her previous work is certainly absent on ‘The Absurdity of Human Existence’.
What is in its place is a more intense presence and a wider ambition exploring different music styles and timbres while still remaining at its core, the creation of a talented woman who has overcome her shyness and had the courage to engage with and learn from some of the biggest names in synth.