Category: Carry On Synthpop (Page 2 of 3)

Carry On Synthpop: A Guide To Electronic Gig Audiences

Concert crowds, whatever the genre, can be a funny lot to observe at times.

Yes, there’s Drunk Dancing Girl, The Guy Who Shouts and Finger Whistles So Loud Your Eardrums Throb, The Fan Who Doesn’t Know The Words But Is Singing Along, The Mystery Person Smoking Weed and The Bored / Apathetic / Unimpressed Person With Their Arms Crossed, all as outlined in an amusing article recently by Jezebel. But there are more.

Based on true events experienced by ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK from involvement in websites, events and gigs over the years, here is a light hearted look at electro gig audiences…

Electro Hipster

The one member of the audience who knew the band before they had even formed! He hopes they will not get too big but will actually announce to anyone else who will listen: “this time next year, they’re going to be really big”. But once the band start playing venues like The Borderline and The Lexington, you can be sure Electro Hipster will be nowhere to be seen… he’ll have now turned his attention to a bunch of noise merchants who have promised never to record a note, because doing singles and albums is far too corporate!

Angry Synth Fan

He’s mad and he’s intense: ”Why isn’t this band more popular? Why haven’t they been signed? Why aren’t they played on the radio? IT MAKES ME SO ANGRY!”… calm down dear, it’s only a pop concert!

The Stalker

Not the stalker of the band but your own stalker… he’s come to the gig alone and is desperate for company, yet has nothing interesting to say. He somehow didn’t realise that Mute were not the only label to have released electronic music and is desperate to know your gig itinerary for the next six months… oh well, stalk ya later!

Member Of A Band That No-one Has Actually Heard Of

“Oh, that’s so-and-so from whatsit” cries Electro Hipster… ”WHO?” you go! But of course… he’s dressed like his famous relative! Y’know? The one he doesn’t want you to know about despite the fact that their famous family name has been used in his last three bands’ monikers… oh no, not him again!

The Pub Crawler

There is always one member of the audience who disappears while band are playing their biggest hit only to return and barge his way through with up to four pints of beer unsteadily in his hands… there’s only 15 more minutes of the show left, can’t it bloody wait? And then when he finds his mates, he starts blabbering about football!! There are places where you can drink beer and talk about football, they’re called PUBS! And no, the support band is not an excuse for “more time in the bar…”

Analogue Synth Nazi

He knows about every vintage synth around and will claim it is not real electronic music unless it is exclusively analogue. He will happily listen to KRAFTWERK’s vocoders or GARY NUMAN’s harmonised voice treatments all day but will object to the use of Autotune. He will also tell you how the Dave Smith Prophet 08 is no match for the original Sequential Prophet 5, even though the latter kept breaking down and going out of tune. But then it turns out the only synths he actually owns are a Yamaha DX5 and a Korg Prophecy!!

The Air Synth Guy

This solitary being doesn’t actually own a synth but is always at gigs wearing a faded Moog T-shirt. Totally immersed playing the keys of an invisible Sequential Circuits Pro-One, he will even attempt to play the programmed sequencer passages of the songs by hand!

The Vinyl Bore

“Oh it’s the sound – oh it’s the warmth – oh it’s the artwork – oh it’s the ritual”… ZZZZzzzzz!

The Hogger

He’s met the band many times before and is now “more of a friend than a fan” but will always shove his way into being first in the queue at the aftershow meet and greet. He’ll speak with the lead singer for hours at a time, presenting him with yet another item from his collection for signing but that’s not enough! There’s the photo, then another and then a guided tour of the photos he’s taken during the gig. And all this while it is painfully obvious that others are in-line patiently waiting!

Attendee Seemingly Not From Usual Synthpop Demographic

Yes, say hello to the drug dealer!

The Heckler Whose Witty Comments Actually Make Band Members Laugh

There is always useless heckling at a gig like shouts of “HUMAN LEAGUE!” during a LITTLE BOOTS concert or “you’re cute” when CHVRCHES are playing… but every now and then, there will be a Smart Alec who actually makes the band laugh with a witty, well timed comment. In 1998 at Manchester NYNEX, Boy George introduced all the other members of CULTURE CLUB. “And this is Roy Hay who lives in LA now for some reason…” said The Boy; “THAT’S COS HE’S GOT YOUR MONEY!” someone shouted back! The former George O’Dowd had to turn his face away as he got stuck into fits of laughter!

The Bloke Who Shouts For The Song The Band Did Earlier

Shouting for songs is part of the fun at gigs but NOT when the song has already been performed… so PAY ATTENTION! And when shouting for a song, at least get the title right! There is no such song by KRAFTWERK or OMD called ‘Radio’!

The DVD Commentator

This character happily tells his accompanying mate about the history of the band they are seeing… unfortunately it’s during the gig itself!

The Indecent Proposer

You’re in luck, this sexy continental lady has been flirting with you all night even though her husband has been standing there quietly watching the band. But then she makes an indecent proposal to you: “I want you to come home with me… I want you to f*ck my husband while I watch”!

Mr iPhone

Shoving their hands in front of people’s faces, this person wants to flash the fact that they have an iPhone rather than enjoy the actual performance… and then that 44 second blurred, distorted clip ends up on YouTube… now, just what is the point???

Amateur Pro-Photographer

He’ll have been in the queue since 6pm to get a vantage point for the best shots having checked all the venues on the tour itinerary for suitable photo opportunities. Not as annoying as iPhone Man, because he is at the front and stuck in his position, he will not generally impede sightlines. However, he will be disappointed when he realises he’s in the wrong position, so will have just good photos of the faceless session bassist and blurred ones of the lead singer to show for his trouble.

The Little Hitler Promoter

This person will invite selected punters to the gig to prioritise media and blog coverage but will refuse to speak to them on the night of the gig as the job of getting promo has been done. Then, he’ll start handing out wrist bands for a non-existent aftershow party to make himself seem really important.

The Know-All Who Knows Nothing

There will always be Know-Alls at gigs but this variant will taint their credibility with quips like “I am almost sure Enola Gay was a B-52” and “I bet you’ve not been into CHINA CRISIS since ‘African & Black’ have you?”. Not to be relied on for insider gossip on a band!

The Womaniser

Usually accompanied by a better looking, musically savvy but less outgoing wingman, the Womaniser has no interest in the band, just the drunken divorcees and singletons who will be attending the gig. However, he does his research and name drops fan favourite albums such as ‘Dazzle Ships’ and sensitive female friendly ditties like ‘It Doesn’t Matter2’ to aid his seduction. His advice to Hopeless Romeos at gigs though would be that it usually helps to get your musical facts right… so there is no singer named “Gary Newman” and THE LIGHTNING SEEDS song which MARSHEAUX covered is called ‘Pure’, not ‘Pure & Simple’!

The Hopeless Romeo

More annoying than The Womaniser because at least The Womaniser will have actually left the gig with his conquest before the headline band have finished performing. The Hopeless Romeo meanwhile will haplessly spend half the night telling an Argentinian Devotee that he’s NOT into DEPECHE MODE as his chat-up line!!!

The 40something Divorcee

This poor lady missed out on seeing most of the Synth Britannia acts back in the day as she was busy bringing up the kids. But now most of these bands have returned to the live circuit and she’s rid herself of that boring husband, she’s making up for lost time. Usually wearing black because it has a slimming effect, she will have got so excited and alcoholically refreshed at the prospect of her first concert for 27 years that she will be snogging a Member Of A Band That No-one Has Actually Heard Of at the end of the gig because The Womaniser has gone off with her 26 year old daughter!

The Human Trafficker with Accessory Girlfriend

He’s seven foot tall and looks like he’s chewing a wasp while she has a poor sense of rhythm having intoxicated herself at Frankie and Benny’s before the show. He will threaten to break the legs of any male remotely looking at his bird while she will be flirting like mad with them… be careful, he’s probably got a gun! Yes, he’s got political asylum in the UK because he was locked up by the penal system in his own country… there was probably a reason why!!!

Off-Duty Copper

He obviously wants to get his own back on Numanoids, so will be waving his badge around and threatening to arrest any passing fan who has their hands in the air for causing an obstruction and enjoying themselves! Quite what he is doing at the gig in the first place is really a police matter…

The Aspiring Musician

This is the person who keeps telling you about their band and to look them up on Facebook, yet has no flyers to pass on to you or actual CDs to listen to… or if they do have any CDs on them, they then can’t actually look you in the eye to pass one over to you.

Text by Chi Ming Lai
20th January 2014, updated 20th January 2019

Carry On Synthpop: A Glossary Of Terms

The music business and journalism in general is spattered with assorted jargon, terminology and buzz words.

Even ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK has taken to introducing some of its own language with a handshake, big smile, good guy profile. So to clarify exactly we and other blogs are possibly going on about, please find here listed, a glossary of terms .

These are our not always entirely serious definitions for the amusement of our readers and casual observers alike. ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK wishes to acknowledge The Word Magazine for providing the inspiration for this article 😉

80s : That decade between 1980 to 1989; but term commonly used by lazy, uninformed journalists to describe any synth based music. Please note, not an instrumentation style or a genre of music…

Abba-esque : Reference to any Scandinavian act who uses a two-part vocal melody. See also: Nordic

Acoustic : Term used by OMD fans to refer to a stripped back duo performance by Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys, despite very obvious use of laptop and Roland Fantom X8 Workstation

Analogue : Signals or information generated by continually changing quantities of electrical current. Great sound when quality equipment is available to handle it, less noticeable on budget systems. Please note, not a genre of music…

Ambient : Electronic music with no beat, popular with insomniacs

Artful : Pretentious

Audio-Visual Experience : Live performance with a Powerpoint slide show

Blokey : Scruffy male member of band out to steal vocal limelight from attractive female lead singer with a far superior voice

Bluesy : American sounding

Cerebral : Best listened to while on drugs

Chav Rave : Aggressive, speeded up club music… popular in Doncaster!

Chill Out : Dance music that clocks in at less than 118 BPM

Chromatic : Eastern European sounding

Cinematic : Music that sounds like it has been produced properly

Classic : Old

Cold War Chic : Romanticised term to describe post-war Eastern European fashions and cultural reference points without referring to Communism. Please note, not Brezhnev’s answer to disco…

Contemporary Electro : So-called modern electronic music but actually features no synthesizers

Darkwave : Loud electronic music with doomy gothic vocals

Deadpan : Spoken

Deep House : Jazz Funk produced using technological means

Devoted : Nickname for long standing DEPECHE MODE fans, usually dressed in black with outstanding Facebook friend requests to Alan Wilder

Digital : Signal or information generated as a series of numbers in electrical signals. Less tactile than analogue but certainly not the death of music as we know it.

DIY : Recorded badly

DJ : Person who presses ‘play’ button

Dolls House : A house for dolls, not to be confused with ‘House Of Dolls’, the controversial book by Polish born Jewish writer Ka-Tzetnik from which JOY DIVISION got their name!

Drum ‘n’ Bass : Frantic, off-beat variant of dance music characterised by rhythm that sounds like it’s come from a drum machine that’s been thrown down the stairs and switched on again

Dubstep : Freakish bass driven form of dance music based on half step patterns popularised by SKRILLEX, sounds like a skipping CD!

Duranie : Nickname for long standing female DURAN DURAN fans, usually still very glamourous and with a penchant for standing on the left hand side of gigs

EDM : Short for ‘Electronic Dance Music’, what Americans call ‘rave’…

Electro : Loose categorisation used by London club nights actually meaning ‘R’n’B’. Please note, this includes themed evenings named after classic No1 synthpop songs… what d’ya mean “you were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar”?

Electroclash : Failed early 21st Century attempt by Ministry Of Sound to combine dance music and DJ culture with synthpop and New Romantics into one centralised entity. Please note, record labels still persisting in centralisation attempts today with promotional campaigns such as Electrospective… Mussolini was another one who was into the idea of centralisation!

Electronica : Electronic music that’s not synthpop

Electropop : Generally accepted term used to describe electronic music with a tune. See also: Synthpop

Electro-Industrial : Industrial with less shouting and more of a synthpop element

Electro R‘n’B : R’n’B

Electro Swing : Jazz produced using technological means

Emotive : Will make you to want to slash your wrists

Experimental : No tunes

Folktronica : Acoustic songs accompanied by a drum machine

Future Pop : Dark synthpop

Guitar Solo : Similar to premature ejaculation… you know when it’s going to happen but there’s sod all you can do about it!

Hauntronica : Slow, brooding electronica made by moody female musicians pretending to be witches! See also: Witch House

Hipster : Obnoxious music fan, usually with beard and ironic sense of vagrant fashion who jumps on anything new and claims it to be the next big thing… but will disown it if it actually does become the next big thing! Considers promotion to be corporate prostitution

Industrial : Loud electronic music with shouting

Influential : Always being ripped off!

Interpolation : Piece of music analysed, then manipulated and passed off as the creation of another!

Intimate venue : Pub

Jazz funk : Tedious fusion of funk and jazz characterised by virtuoso slap bass and endless sax solos. Soundtrack of school bullies during the Synth Britannia era

Keyboards : What Americans call synthesizers

Kling Klang : KRAFTWERK’s recording studio, also loosely used to describe anything KRAFTWERK related or influenced… much better term than ‘Krafty’

Landfill Electro : Similar to ‘Landfill Indie’, a wasteland of ubiquitous but derivative, bland music… only with synthesizers!

Leftfield : Weird

Live Band : Acts like much loved Irish combo U2 who are considered “one of the best live bands in the world” by real music purists, even though they actually use almost as much programming and sequencing as PET SHOP BOYS!

Maestro : Long standing musical innovator still making cracking tunes that put younger acts to shame.

Minimal Synth : DIY sub-genre that does exactly what it says on the tin… minimal tune, minimal instrumentation, minimal production values and minimal promotion. Characterised by off-key vocals… acts can take up to 30 years to release an album and often exclusively on cassette

Mittel Europa : Romanticised term to describe Europe in the first half of 20th Century without referring to The Third Reich!

Modernism : Intelligent, uncluttered design and cultural philosophy largely initiated by Walter Gropius and Bauhaus… that’s the German art movement, not the Gothic rock band led by Peter Murphy who was a key influence on the ‘Twilight’ saga!

Motorik : Beat style formulated by Klaus Dinger of NEU! that actually originated from Native American Apache tribes. Template featured on drum machine programs of countless OMD songs!

Musical Differences : Phrase meaning “Someone in the band wants to use a banjo!”

Nervous Exhaustion : Drug problem

New Wave : What Americans call music with keyboards from 1977 and beyond

Nordic : Loose term used to describe melodic, melancholic music coming from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland as the latter two are technically not Scandinavian. See also: Abba-esque

Nostalgia Business : Economic model based on recycling old material for public consumption. Please note, this includes using archive photos to promote new projects and 180 gramme vinyl reissues which seem to overlook the inclusion of the original album’s inner bag… what a confidence trick!

Numanoid : Nickname for long standing GARY NUMAN fans, usually still seen wearing ‘Telekon’ jump suits from 1980 at gigs during the ‘Splinter’ tour!

Pentatonic : Oriental sounding

Personal Differences : Phrase meaning “the bassist’s girlfriend has just moved in with the singer!”

Programmer : Person who presses buttons

Real Music : Mysterious all encompassing genre much loved of hipsters that does not feature synthesizers or drum machines… banjos and beards figure highly though

Sample : Piece of music taken wholesale from original recording, then manipulated and passed off as the creation of another!

Sawtooth : Piercing waveform used to simulate brass on synths but now ubiquitous in its stabbing spacey variant on horrible Beatport tracks which DJs pass off as electronic music!

Schaffel : Hard, Germanic 6/8 danceable beat made popular in Glam Rock and reutilised to startling effect by GOLDFRAPP

Schizophrenic : Music with two incongruous but simultaneous genre personalities… hang on, who said that?

Soaring Melodies : High register out-of-tune vocals used to feign emotion and sensitivity, often found in ‘Landfill Indie’

Softsynth : A computer program or plug-in for digital audio generation. Can sound ‘analogue’ but isn’t. Please note, not a cushioned head support with a Minimoog pillowcase

Stunning Return To Form : Phrase meaning “The last album was cr*p, the new one is much better… sort of!”

Stuttering : Not in time

Syncopated : Rhythm construction using an accented off-beat that makes music looser and more fun via a teasing, elasticated momentum. Also makes music much more danceable for the ordinary person without the use of drugs, hence the difference between “music you can dance to” and “dance music” which often consists of death by 4/4 and can’t be danced to without drugs!

Synth Britannia : Originally a BBC4 documentary but used as a term referring to the golden period between 1977 to 1982 when the synthesizer went mainstream in Britain and took over the world… briefly! Please note, only three of its six years were part of that decade between 1980 to 1989!

Synthesizer : Electronic music instrument that generates waveforms into tuneable sound. Voltage controlled analogue version developed into a commercially viable proposition by Dr Robert Moog in 1965, FM digital variant made popular by affordable Yamaha DX7 in 1983. Not always controlled by keyboards, synthesizers can sometimes be driven by sequencers, voices, wind instruments, drums and even guitars!

Synthpop : Polarising term used to describe electronic music with a tune. Also known as synth-pop, Synth Pop, electropop, Electro Pop, Electro-pop and 80s…

Techno : Songless repetitive monotony made for clubs… Songless repetitive monotony made for clubs… Songless repetitive monotony made for clubs… Songless repetitive monotony made for clubs…

Teutonic : Less controversial way of saying “would sound great at the Nuremberg Rally!”

Thatcher Era : Metaphor for that decade between 1980 to 1989!

Trance : Dance music influenced by JEAN MICHEL JARRE fused to an uptempo beat

Uncompromising : Unlistenable

Unorthodox : Can’t Play

Unrivalled : No-one has tried copying their sound

Urban : R’n’B

Vinyl Replica Sleeve : Miniature cardboard packaging for CDs much beloved particularly by Mute Artists in order to recreate LP nostalgia for the ordinary listener. Actually defeats object of CD’s superior durability in the first place by encouraging the playing surface to scratch when being removed from sleeve for playing… jewel cases were invented for a reason, even fragile digipaks didn’t cause damage to the CD!

Vintage : Preferred word to ‘analogue’ used to describe a classic sounding synth tone which may actually have been produced using a VST plug-in

VST : Short for ‘Virtual Studio Technology’, the software interface that integrates software synthesizer and effect plug-ins with recording systems

Wanabee : Musician who attempts to gain ubiquity despite limited talent through endless self-promotion via social media

Warm : Incorporates hisses and scratches. See also: Analogue

Witch House : Not to be confused with “Which house?” as in House, Acid House, Progressive House, Deep House, Dolls House, Ambient House, Hard House, Tech House, Curry House, Chicago House, Tropical House, Edison Lighthouse, EDM, Rave, Chav Rave, Techno, Trance etc!

Text by Chi Ming Lai
6th January 2014, updated 24th October 2017

Carry On Synthpop: VINYL JUSTICE

‘The Adam and Joe Show’ was a Channel 4 comedy programme, written and presented by Adam Buxton and Joe Cornish which ran between 1996 and 2001.

Featuring a variety of school boy minded antics and sketches, most weeks would see Adam and Joe recreating a popular film or TV show using cuddly toys or ‘Star Wars’ action figures. But another regular feature was ‘Vinyl Justice’ where Buxton and Cornish would visit various rock stars’ homes to search for criminal records in their possession.

The skit involved illicit and embarrassing vinyl or CDs being uncovered, the owner being interrogated and then humiliated by being made to perform the song to the cameras as part of the forfeit. One particular week in 1997, Buxton and Cornish knocked on the door of Gary Numan. Among the records that Mr Numan is questioned about are releases by BELOUIS SOME and SIMPLE MINDS!

Among the rituals Numan is forced to undertake are trying to play ‘Cars’ on a portable keyboard and passing wind in-synch to the phrase “incontinent” to Thomas Dolby’s ‘Windpower’! However, on closer scrutiny, his record collection is not actually that shameful when compared with some of the other musicians featured in the series!

Other victims of the ‘Vinyl Justice’ squad have included Thomas Dolby himself, Cerys Matthews , Mark E Smith  and Neil Hannon

‘The Adam & Joe DVD’ is released by Video Collection International

Text by Chi Ming Lai
5th July 2013

Carry On Synthpop: Star Wars In Their Eyes

‘The Adam and Joe Show’ was a Channel 4 comedy programme, written and presented by Adam Buxton and Joe Cornish which ran for four series between 1996 and 2001 featuring a variety of school boy minded antics and sketches.

Most weeks, Adam and Joe would re-create a popular film or TV show using cuddly toys and cardboard sets. Their memorable spoofs included of ‘Toytanic’, ‘The Toy Patient’, ‘Toytrainspotting’, ‘Saving Private Lion’, Fur-riends’ and ’Stuff This Life’.

In a variation to the theme, Adam and Joe also used ‘Star Wars’ action figures to parody mainstream British TV shows. One of the best was ‘Star Wars In Their Eyes’, a send-up of pre-X Factor karaoke talent show ‘Stars In Their Eyes’. With host Chewbacca as Matt-Chew Kelly, characters such as Hammerhead and Darth Vader impersonate their favourite pop stars, but best of all are R2-D2 and C-3PO who rather amusingly and appropriately appear as the PET SHOP DROIDS!!

Several other programmes such as ‘Big Brother’ and ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’ were parodied, all with Obi-Wan Kenobi amusingly portrayed as a drunken vagrant!

Among the other regular musical segments to the series were ‘Vinyl Justice’ and ‘Baaad Dad’ featuring Adam Buxton’s father Nigel reviewing music videos of pop groups that he obviously didn’t know anything about (best quote: “if this is ‘Song 2’, let’s hope they never get to ‘Song 3!’”), recording with rappers and memorably visiting Tribal Gathering!

‘The Adam and Joe DVD’ is released by Video Collection International

Text by Chi Ming Lai
11th February 2013

Carry On Synthpop: A Fan Reacts to DEPECHE MODE’s Paris Press Conference

When DEPECHE MODE announced at a much hyped press conference in Paris that they were to release a new album and tour in 2013, many fans watching the live stream were feeling they were missing something… in fact, they were! Neither the name of the album, tour or even the song that was previewed were announced although Mode enthusiasts have since uncovered that the track’s working title is ‘Angel’.

However, the album and tour titles still remain elusive! Meanwhile, the tour dates had already been leaked the night before so the effect of the press conference was strangely muted.

In Germany, tickets had already gone on sale during the press conference itself!! This rather bizarre episode sent DEPECHE MODE fans into overdrive with one disillusioned but loyal fan making their views plain… please note, this video will probably be meaningless if your first language is German!

Using a key bunker scene from the acclaimed film ‘Downfall’, Sean S and Amanda C of the DM blog ‘And Then’ have created this brilliant, highly amusing skit to send up the whole shambolic state of affairs with the press conference and the perceivably exploitative nature of the music business.

Indeed, when the former Herr Schicklgruber snarls: “They don’t know we’ll even like the album…”, it accurately highlights the ridiculous situation of how fans are expected to buy tickets for a tour nearly a year in advance while the accompanying album is not likely to surface until a few days before its start! Thus, it very much captures the mixed emotions of what it is to be a one of the Devoted.

The video soon viralled across the DEPECHE MODE fan community with one prominent figure remarking: “absolute work of genius. EXTREMELY funny and SPOT ON…”! The ‘Downfall’ clip has been used for a variety of music satires featuring acts as varied as KRAFTWERK and GIRLS ALOUD, but this latest DM one is by the far the best.

Text by Chi Ming Lai
2nd November 2012

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