Category: Interviews (Page 1 of 88)

NINA I’ll Wait

Utilising samples from Cliff Martinez’s ‘Drive’ score, the ‘Control’ EP released at the end of 2020 was possibly Nina’s darkest work yet.

A couple of solo songs ‘Carnival Night’ and ‘Gold Heart’ have since followed but her new single ‘I’ll Wait’ is something altogether different. It is from the upcoming horror movie ‘There’s No Such Thing As Vampires’ directed by Logan Thomas.

The story sees two strangers, Joshua and Ariel, crash into each other’s cars in the dead of the night. They then find themselves pursued across the North American desert, the target of an unstoppable supernatural force!

Composed by Logan Thomas and produced by Oscillian with additional instrumentation by Greg Beaton and long-term collaborator Lau, ‘I’ll Wait’ begins with a sparse backdrop where Nina gives a wonderfully emotive performance over a heart murmur and sparkling understated arpeggios, before a Phil Collins style drum barrage takes hold; ‘I’ll Wait’ could be her very own ‘In The Air Tonight’ or ‘Mama’!

Nina and Logan Thomas spoke to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about both song and film…

‘I’ll Wait’ is something of a departure, was this prompted by it be specifically for the film or where you are heading musically now? Any particular inspirations?

Nina: The film’s director, Logan Thomas wrote the original song and then asked me to sing it. I naturally made it my own and brought on one of my collaborators Oscillian to produce the final recording. Dark romanticism has always been part of my musical DNA and I am definitely embracing it more with songs like ‘I’ll Wait’ and my previous single ‘Carnival Night’.

Was there a brief or a free reign?

Logan: I was composing the synth score for the new feature film ‘There’s No Such Thing as Vampires’ and was deeply influenced by the Synthwave movement while I was directing and cutting that movie. We eventually brought in songs by FM84, Jessie Frye, Marsheaux and Nina.

But I also wanted an original love song for the film. You gotta have an original song in a movie like this! Think Annie Lennox’s song for Coppola’s ‘Dracula’! It needed that kind of longing, and I knew Nina was the perfect voice for that! Now, I had only been focusing on directing and composing since I’d moved to Los Angeles, but before that I was heavily into song writing.

So I crawled back into my studio and worked out a melody and lyric that I hoped would build in layers. Almost a hypnotic roundabout until the song reached its climax. So I recorded a demo here and sent it to England for Nina to record it for the film. They finished and sent it back to us in LA. Greg Beaton and I went back in and I added some more synths. Then Greg did some remixing and added that big, wonderful ‘In the Air Tonight’ drum track! So it was definitely a cross continental collaboration with a lot of artists.

So “what” are you waiting for?

Logan: HA!… Well, I suppose you have to see the movie to know that..

Nina: For me, it’s all about music and love. I will wait forever for romance and the song I have not yet written. I hope I never lose that feeling of endless desire.

How did the video come together as a concept?

Logan: Ah, the video… Well. So originally we (the production company) had set up everything to shoot the video here in CA. We crewed up. Had the location, and even began building Nina’s wardrobe. Nina was set to fly here and we would shoot for 2 days. It was going to be a very ‘The Hunger’ inspired music video. Big 80s glam with smokey gothic interiors. Think early Tony Scott and Russell Mulcahy. The COVID restrictions were sure to finally lift in June 2021, allowing international travel to America… and then… they didn’t.

Now we had everything in place and couldn’t get Nina here. So, gotta think pretty fast!… we set up a short session in Berlin to have Nina filmed just singing at, or past the camera. Very simple. Then, for 2 days, we took the footage of Nina and projected it all over the location that we had set in Los Angeles for the original video. Ironically, this method of “projection” ties in very nicely with it being a song for a “movie”! I just love that video. So necessity was definitely the mother of innovation there.

You are living in Berlin again, have you settled back into the groove of the city yet? Has anyone said you are speaking German in an English accent?

Nina: It’s great to be back in my home city with family and friends. I try my best to enjoy life as normal as possible (COVID restrictions). I spend most of my time in my home studio writing/producing and playing with my adorable Snow Bengal ‘Kimba’. Berlin has a unique atmosphere that I find very inspiring, so my creative process is different in a very special way. Yes, some people do notice a little twist in my accent, and I like it!

How are the other new songs coming along, what’s next, anything you can tell people about?

Nina: The new songs are coming along very well, thank you. I am taking my time with Nina Vol 3 because I am trying new things. In the meantime, I am completing collaboration projects with Kid Moxie and Radio Wolf. 2022 is going to be a very fun year for releases!


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Nina and Logan Thomas

‘I’ll Wait’ is released as a digital single via Ascent Releasing

The film ‘There’s No Such Thing As Vampires’ is released on 12th December 2021 in North America and Great Britain on Video On Demand and BluRay

https://www.iloveninamusic.com/

https://www.facebook.com/iloveninamusic

https://twitter.com/iloveninamusic

https://www.instagram.com/ninasounduk/

https://www.neardarkfeatures.com/

https://www.facebook.com/theresnosuchthingasvampires

https://www.instagram.com/theresnosuchthingasvampires/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
3rd December 2021

UNE Interview

The Spomenik were a series of memorial monuments commissioned by Marshal Tito during his rule of the Former Yugoslavia to honour its Partisan resistance against Nazi occupation and oppression during the Second World War.

Envisioning a diverse utopian society, Tito saw these brutalist monoliths as symbols of progressive optimism and unity. For their third album, Manchester duo UNE have been inspired by these concrete and steel relics from The Cold War, reflecting the tensions of the era when Eastern and Western Europe were divided by an Iron Curtain.

Comprising of BBC broadcaster Mark Radcliffe and producer Paul Langley, UNE have presented ‘Spomenik’ as a seamless listening experience, with each track is inspired by a specific location. But while the music celebrates the new hope that was signalled by these beacons of post-war modernism, the period’s chilling spectre of possible nuclear Armageddon is also very much is evident, with the knowledge that Tito’s vision would crumble after his death and lead to a horrific civil war.

UNE’s Mark Radcliffe kindly answered some questions from ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about the making of their ‘Spomenik’ opus plus some insight into its musical influences…

The pair of you first bonded over Factory Records and Manchester City?

Man City first as I recall. Then dogs. We got on to music after that.

Do you have any memories of that Denis Law back heel goal for City at Old Trafford in 1974 that effectively put United into Division 2? 😉

Well, which City fan doesn’t remember that? I do try and be grown-up about football and not get too bogged down by vicious rivalry, but there is no better news on a Saturday than City have won and United have lost. That, more or less, never used to happen, but rather marvellously it’s quite a regular occurrence now. Which clearly is a delightful state of affairs.

Coming from the Manchester music scene, there are probably too many names to mention, but which characters did you have the closest affinity to in this community? And were there any who you didn’t get on with, or found difficult?

Paul and I are ten years apart age-wise, so we come from different eras of Manc sound. I was there right at the beginning of Factory and so really forged a bond with Tony Wilson and the fabulously empowering mantra he spread of us being able to do it all ourselves in Manchester, without waiting for permission from someone in London. I’ve known Bernard, Stephen and Hooky quite well for a good number of years and in recent times have enjoyed convivial walks at country parks with Johnny Marr.

Paul was really close to the Hacienda mob – Mike Pickering and all those guys – as his brother Bobby was a DJ there. In fact the only Manc scene people I’ve ever found difficult have been the Langley brothers; who are right pains-in-the-arse.

Was electronic music a natural forte for you both as a means of expression?

Very much so. As an avid Bowie fan, his experiments with Eno were key for me. Also KRAFTWERK and TANGERINE DREAM, of course. Plus people like John Foxx and his ‘Metamatic’ album were a big influence. I loved the idea that pop music didn’t have to have drums and guitars in it. I guess THE HUMAN LEAGUE also alerted me to that possibility.

For Paul, it was the beats of people like Afrika Bambaataa and the influence of Gary Numan, especially. That was the first gig he saw, aged 11 (Paul – not Gary).

How would you describe the creative dynamic between you both in UNE?

We work separately most of the time. I will find a concept that will inform the aesthetic and sound of the whole album. Next I’ll think of some titles and start on the words. Then I’ll talk to Paul about the idea, send him some titles and maybe some pictures, and he’ll start on musical sketches.

He’ll then send them back to me and I’ll find lead vocal and instrumental lines over the top. We’ll probably finally get together to edit it into the shape of a song.

Of your music to date on your first two albums ‘Lost’ and ‘Deux’, some of it has been very club-influenced while other material has featured people as diverse as punk poet John Cooper-Clarke and Gary Kemp of SPANDAU BALLET…

I guess so, which would be down to Paul’s influences, but there are also ambient leaning tracks like ‘Boketto’, ‘Ubuntu’ and ‘Ultraglitch’ which are much more like tone poems or mood pieces. The guests and outside contributors just seemed to work for those tracks, but ‘Spomenik’ was just the two of us. We felt we’d done ‘lush’ and wanted to go ‘stark’.

‘Spomenik’ is mostly instrumental in concept, had you intended to use less vocals for this album or did the monument theme dictate that first?

There are eight main tracks on ‘Spomenik’, of which four have vocals. We did always intend this to be a more instrumental record, but clipped vocals in a telephone quality like vintage radio broadcasts were always going to be part of it. We wanted it to sound mysterious and crackly like an old radio programme from behind the Iron Curtain, or something.

The songs were basically written by me with my old Yamaha DJX which I got down from the loft during the second lockdown, and those compositions just came so quickly. I demoed them on my phone before sending them to Paul to embellish and polish. The instrumentals were more Paul’s doing, except for ‘Nis’, which was my attempt at Bowie’s ‘Subterraneans’. The brutalist concrete structures of the Spomeniks very much dictated the sound though.

How did you become fascinated by these ‘Spomenik’ in the Former Yugoslavia?

I just saw a picture of Podgarić and thought “what the hell is that”? Once you go down that rabbit hole, this strange world opens up. They present an amazing concept, carried out on such a huge scale across the Balkans. They are war memorials but also signposts to a bright and optimistic future in Yugoslavia that kind of never came. That designs like that could be approved and built by local committees in such great numbers is incredible.

Why do you think that whole Cold War era still holds a fascination for filmmakers, photographers, artists and musicians alike?

I think because it presents a moody, shadowy world of secrets, mysteries and enigmatic presences. It’s like a world we knew so little of that almost seemed to be a parallel universe to the one we, or our forebears, inhabited. No one was quite sure what was going on and who knew what about whom – and so that seems like fertile ground for imagination and creativity.

Where were the fanfares that start and end ‘Spomenik’ sourced from?

I wrote those on my DJX. They’re both the same actually and that was the first thing I wrote for the album. I always wanted it to be like a jingle or something from an obscure radio station on the other side of the Berlin Wall.

‘Podgarić’ sounds like it could be from OMD’s ‘Dazzle Ships’…

We love OMD, so thank you. I was actually trying to write my ‘Europe Endless’. I failed obviously as that is one of the greatest pieces of electronic music ever composed. What I love about classic KRAFTWERK is the simplicity and yet ear-worm nature of their melodies. They sound simultaneously retro and futuristic, even now, like someone has just composed them. But they also have the feeling that they could have been around for a hundred years.

‘Kadinjača’ really captures the paranoia of the era of Protect & Survive?

It is a very unsettling track and that’s because it has lots of wrong notes in it. We did the overdubs for that on my kitchen table and I played one of the keyboard parts with the backs of my hands so I wasn’t following the chords Paul had already laid down.

What inspired the spacier moods of ‘Ostra’, ‘Niš’ and ‘Barutana’?

Really just the starkness and mystery of the monuments themselves. Most of them are located in quite barren and isolated spots and so we wanted those tracks to have a sort of widescreen, windswept alien landscape feel to them. ‘Niš’ is the really brutal one, whereas the others have a slightly more reflective quality.

‘Kosmaj’ is much sparser with a gentle cacophony of electronics, perhaps the most KRAFTWERK sounding piece on ‘Spomenik’. What are your own favourite tracks by the Düsseldorf pioneers?

Yes. Well, all of it really. All of ‘Trans-Europe Express’ and ‘The Man Machine’ in particular, but probably sonically the biggest influence in our minds doing this was the pre-remix version of the ‘Radio-Activity’ album. The sinister starkness of that was very much front and centre in our thinking.

‘Tjentište’ is inherently gloomy too and syncs in with these strange times we are living in now. Had the lockdown resonated in your approach to the music of ‘Spomenik’?

That one sounds a bit DEPECHE MODE to me. It wasn’t intended to reflect lockdown really – it just happened that we had time on our hands like everyone else and so just got on with it. I couldn’t say that we intentionally tried to make it more widely relevant than the core subject matter. Although, looking at it now, there is the sense of an uncertain future pervading the record and of course, we’ve all had to get used to that idea: that the future we foresaw might not actually materialise in quite the same way.

You chose to release ‘Spomenik’ via the boutique label Spun Out Of Control, how did they become involved?

Gavin from Spun Out Of Control had sent me some records and I loved the look of them and the care he’d taken in every aspect of their presentation. When I listened, I found there was a lot of stuff I liked; ‘The Sunset City’ by TURQUOISE MOON in particular.

I played some of that on my radio show and our friendship grew from there and so when we had this new concept, Gavin seemed the obvious person to talk to. I love what he’s doing; his meticulous attention to detail and the fact that the albums are limited editions often collected by label completists. Which meant we were guaranteed to sell a few at least.

Have you had the opportunity to present the ‘Spomenik’ material live?

‘Podgarić’ is an ever-present in our set now, but we did play a venue in Manchester called Aatma where we played the whole 38 minutes of ‘Spomenik’ in one continuous chunk, which is how we intended it to be heard. In fact we had two ‘songs’ on the set list that day: the entirety of ‘Spomenik’, plus our thumping electro stomp version of THE RAMONES’ ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’. So the first ‘song’ was 38 minutes long – and the second was two!

What’s next for you, what shape will your next work take?

We’re in the very early stages of an album that may or may not end up being called ‘Whirl’. It’s about things that revolve and was inspired by watching the dance trances of the whirling dervishes. The idea’s spreading out into the orbits of celestial bodies, the astronomer Copernicus, windmills, whirlwinds – and cyclists going round and round a velodrome. Paul played me his first ‘sketch’ the other day and we’re just working out how we want the drums and rhythms to sound at the moment. I’ve written quite a lot of words for it, but I think the mix of instrumental and vocal will be similar to ‘Spomenik’, which will mean a lot of them will have to go eventually. Let’s see.

Oh, and we’re going to try and play a gig at the Saxa Vord Spaceport, right at the top of The Shetland Islands!!


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives it sincerest thanks to Mark Radcliffe

Special thanks to Gavin Stoker at Spun Out Of Control

‘Spomenik’ is released by Spun Out Of Control, available as a silver or permafrost splatter vinyl LP direct from https://spunoutofcontrol.bandcamp.com/album/spomenik

https://www.unemusic.com/

https://www.facebook.com/wereUNE

https://twitter.com/weareUNE

https://www.instagram.com/weareune/

For more information and history on the Spomeniks of the Former Yugoslavia, please visit https://www.spomenikdatabase.org/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
27th November 2021

CATHERINE MOAN Interview

CATHERINE MOAN is the musical vehicle of Philadelphian songstress Angel Jefferson. Her rework of DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Fools’ launched her into the world of electronic pop.

Part of an emerging group of independent North American female synth artists that include DANZ CM, GLITBITER, CLASS ACTRESS and MECHA MAIKO, the debut CATHERINE MOAN album ‘Chain Reaction’ is a short but sweet collection of eight dreamily innocent synthpop songs with a consistent sound and feel running throughout.

The album’s lead single ‘Drop It!’ captured the mindset of many and craved the excitement of nightlife. Set over a classic four chord progression, its proclamation was to “keep this fire burning ‘til the record stops turning, ‘til the lights and the drugs stop working…”

Angel Jefferson talked to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about being CATHERINE MOAN and provided some insight into her ‘Chain Reaction’…

How did you become interested in making pop music with synthesizers?

I first became interested in making pop music on a whim when someone offered to gift me a cheap sampler and I realized how intuitive and easy it could be at its bare minimum. After years of obsessing over and listening to so many pop musicians and imagining if that could be me, I felt that spark and reached out for it to see if I could manifest that.

Had you tried making music in other styles or with other people before?

Great question! I have a few demos sitting on my laptop where I went for a more alternative indie vibe with just a guitar, drum machine, and vocals. In the end, it just didn’t feel very authentic to me and what I wanted to be making.

There’s also a few demos I worked on with a friend that was kinda witch housey and darker than what I usually make, but for similar reasons, I just felt like I couldn’t follow through because it didn’t feel like what I wanted to say was coming through.

The up-and-coming British singer-songwriter Hattie Cooke uses just GarageBand for her recordings; did you opt for a hardware set-up or take advantage of what modern software had to offer?

Just checked out Hattie Cooke and wow what a talent! I wish it wasn’t a debate that people even have, but I think if we have the means to use it. I will always favor modern software because it is so forgiving and intuitive. Not to deprecate myself but I am a very instant gratification brained person, and GarageBand gave me just what I needed as a jumping off point. All the songs on my first EP were made entirely in GarageBand, it makes the songwriting process so fool proof for a beginner. As someone who at the time had never made music before, it really gave me the tools I needed. And while I have nothing but respect for people who opt for fully analog, I enjoy the simplicity and comfort of a digital workspace.

Technologically, is there any particular synth that you don’t own but particularly covet?

The Prophet, I use the digital version a bit and it is just a powerhouse when it comes to the dreamy, melancholic, cinematic timbres I like to look for. Another synth I would love to have is the Moog Minitaur, I love using the virtual Moog Mini and when I found this compact bass centered synth they made, I immediately got starry eyed because the bass sounds it makes are so tasty. Unfortunately I don’t have it like that when it comes to money. so it will never be a justifiable purchase!

Were there any particular acts that you looked up for your more predominantly synthesized template?

The acts that I look up to the most are FEVER RAY, CHRISTINE & THE QUEENS, and CHVRCHES. I think all of those artists do a really great job of taking a diverse array of synthesized sounds and interpolating 80s and 90s “vibes” and making them sound really fresh and modern.

In North America, there are a number of emerging female synth artists like DANZ CM, GLITBITER, CLASS ACTRESS and MECHA MAIKO, do you feel any affinity or kinship with them?

I’ll have to sit and listen to all these artists, I’m definitely a huge fan of Danz. I listened to a lot of COMPUTER MAGIC when I was first getting into production, I was very inspired by the DIY bedroom synthpop vibes.

There was been a significant sonic leap from your self-titled debut EP to ‘Chain Reaction’ in terms of production values, although ‘Cut It’ indicated you were interested in more European music forms? How do you look back on your first work as “Catherine”?

The production quality leap absolutely came from entrusting someone else to do the mixing and mastering. The CM EP was kind of a crash course in songwriting and production for me, and once I knew I could do it, I didn’t feel adverse to the idea of letting someone else in to help get it to a more professional sonic quality. While I started off with a DIY mindset, I ended up favoring the idea of being more collaborative and passing the music around to other ears to get it the best it could be rather than leave it sounding raw.

I look back on those first tracks fondly, it was a very exciting moment for me. They are sloppy, weird and unconventionally structured songs from a brain with little to no musicality and I hope I can channel that in future work.

Why did you feel the need to create the CATHERINE MOAN persona to channel your creativity?

I think the persona originally came out of a desire to be discreet and not attached to my real self. It seems like it’s a bit easier to act with more bravado and confidence when you’re pretending to be someone else. But to be honest CATHERINE MOAN is 100% me, it’s just a cooler sounding name than my real one.

You came to wider attention with a really good cover version of DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Fools’, your choice was interesting not just because it was a B-side but because it was written by Alan Wilder, the man many fans cite as being the sonic soul of the band’s imperial era, what was your approach in your reinterpretation?

‘Construction Time Again’ is a VERY good album! Specifically the deluxe edition with all those B-Sides, the idea to cover one of them came from intensely listening to that record last winter. I almost covered the song ‘Get The Balance Right’, but ‘Fools’ has that whimsical fun energy that I really feel a connection to. When I was recording the cover, the first thing I wanted to do was make it unique to the original, I changed the key to be in a more comfortable vocal range and cut out the entire middle of the song and made up a riff inspired by the original’s composition.

The album’s title ‘Chain Reaction’ reflects some of your emotive impetuosity but has this enforced lockdown helped you become more patient or do you feel that life is short and you should “go for it”?

100% Life is short, go for it. While the album is melancholic at times, I don’t regret chasing the highs that lead to a lot of my disappointments and painful memories. Hindsight is 20/20 and regret lasts forever, but you never know unless you take chances. The past few years of my life have been a whirlwind of spontaneity and huge life altering decisions and I really wanted to channel the manic and introspective elements of that in my songwriting.

I think those moments of my life were the true catalyst for me to even start songwriting, that’s the real chain reaction huh haha.

So was ‘Drop It!’ composed before or during the lockdown, what was the song’s genesis?

‘Drop It!’ was composed in the middle of the pandemic! I had this fling with someone where we would just dance around my room to our favorite songs, and it made me long so much for the bright lights and booming bass of the clubs. I channeled that into the song, very intentionally writing a really basic pop song in a tongue-in-cheek generic method.

Creating in lockdown was a challenge for anyone, but you managed to produce a charming and optimistic video for ‘Drop It!’ too?

Thank you! It was honestly a happy accident, I was scrambling for ideas and the idea hit me like a bolt of lightning. The intensity of manically trying to make something deep or provocative in the confines of my bedroom sparked the idea to do something extremely constricted to just one color and scene. It ended up working very well as a metaphor for how I was feeling when I wrote the song.

‘Wasted’ is like a cousin of ‘Drop It!’, and substantiates a sonic continuity that runs through this album?

Yes! It was a very deliberate decision to have those songs in succession. I wrote them both with the same synthesizer, my Korg Minilogue. And they both somehow conveyed such opposite spectrums of an emotional scale and it felt like a good yin and yang of my 2020 mania.

The striking of an anvil is a recurring percussive texture on ‘Faces’, was this as a result of listening to DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Construction Time Again’?

YES! I wrote that song before the ‘Fools’ cover and I was so enthralled by the percussion of that album and was really trying to mimic some of the sounds. When I was writing the track, all I could think about was someone just banging on drums like a hammer.

‘Lucky Lobotomy’ has to be the song title of year and is quite funky, what is this actually about?

That’s my favorite song on the album right there! The idea from the song came from this emotional state that is close to hysteria when it comes to infatuation. Like sometimes you just want to just shut your brain off or at least just hit the brakes but it just isn’t possible. The chorus is just a mantra to myself to be low key and calm down, a cognitive behavioral therapy to subdue my erratic lovesick mind.

The sound of the album deviates slightly with some guitar on ‘Body Work’ and ‘The Ordinary’, where does this influence in your sound come from?

Specifically the guitar on ‘Body Work’ is influenced by post punk bands like JOY DIVISION and NEW ORDER, it’s certainly my most moody song and I really wanted a very emotional guitar tone to fit the energy of that track.

‘Skin Graft’ is quite sombre yet wonderfully dancey, which kind of sums up the sad/happy dichotomy of your music?

I’m glad someone is noticing this song! ‘Skin Graft’ was the last song I wrote and to me it was the cherry on top of the albums theme of converting heavy emotions into palatable danceable pop songs! My thesis when it comes to my music is even when I’m at my saddest, to make the tracks something you want to bob your head and sway too, because if you’re gonna be in your feelings, you might as well have some fun! And in truth I’m a very optimistic person, even when I’m at my lowest, I try to aspire myself into happier more light-hearted thinking.

As an album, ‘Chain Reaction’ is short and sweet and leaves the audience wanting more, where do anticipate you might take your music in the future?

Thank you! Right now I’m in creative limbo where I’m not 100% sure what to do, but I know I’m not calling it quits anytime soon. I want my next assortment of songs to be dancier, catchier and impossible to get out of your head. And I think what that entails is being more serious and tending to the music more. ‘Chain Reaction’ was very much me trying to prove a point to myself, that I as an amateur with no musical upbringing can make an album.

You played your first live gig as CATHERINE MOAN recently, how was it? Do you consider yourself a natural performer?

My first live shows have been electric! I had never performed before and I was really afraid but I really think I’m a natural performer. Once I’m on the stage, I just want to dance and influence the people watching to dance to, it’s just pure fun honestly.

What’s next for you?

For now it’s focusing on playing live and getting my sea legs, because I think it’s going to take a while to really get the chops to become a quality life performer. But I really want to get back into the studio writing, all in due time I guess 🙂

Thanks for the great questions, and of course thanks for sharing my music and being a supporter!


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Angel Jefferson

‘Chain Reaction’ released by Born Losers as a transparent electric blue vinyl LP and download, available from https://catherinemoan.bandcamp.com/album/chain-reaction-2

https://www.facebook.com/Catherine-Moan-105421111625150

https://twitter.com/catherinexmoan

https://www.instagram.com/catherinemoan_/

https://open.spotify.com/artist/1j3eSDACLPhrEDYDkHYF9I


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
23rd November 2021

ROBIN HATCH Interview

A wonderful delightfully odd experience that is accessible on many levels, ‘T.O.N.T.O.’ is the fifth album in 3 years by the Canadian musician Robin Hatch.

The eight track body of work uses the huge customised synthesizer system created for the music of TONTO’S EXPANDING HEAD BAND, the duo comprising of Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff who together co-produced some of Stevie Wonder’s best known albums such as ‘Talking Book’ and ‘Innervisions’.

Hatch was first introduced to “The Original New Timbral Orchestra” by Cecil at a Los Angeles trade show in 2015 while later, she met up with Margouleff to discuss the suitability of her compositions for T.O.N.T.O. Having previously issued piano and experimental works, Hatch’s fourth record ‘Noise’ featured vocals and drum machine with occasional inclinations into pop.

But the entirely instrumental ‘T.O.N.T.O’ was written and recorded by Hatch at the National Music Centre in Calgary where “The Original New Timbral Orchestra” is now based, just before Malcolm Cecil passed away at the age of 84. Hatch has dedicated the album to him, which has also been mastered by Robert Margouleff.

Robin Hatch kindly chatted to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about her career to date and utilising the vast possibilities of T.O.N.T.O. for her own expressive purposes under some challenging circumstances.

You have described yourself as “a classical player trying to play jazz and not being very good at either”, why did you say that?

I don’t practice enough, so I think it’s just a way to cover my bases there, plus it immediately lets people know about my neuroses.

You effectively lead a triple life as a musician in classical, alternative rock and experimental synth, are your tastes quite eclectic? Is there any genre which you don’t embrace?

I enjoy listening to all types of music — left to my own devices, I generally listen to yacht rock or music that sounds like it could be on ‘The Immaculate Collection’. I don’t like present day Top 40 pop music all that much, but you still get a good song in there every couple of years or so.

How did you get into synthesizers and what was your first acquisition or experience?

I think my first synthesizer purchase was for an all-female WEEZER cover band I played in, SHEEZER. I got a digital Roland Juno-Di I think because it was the cheapest synth available where I could easily replicate the ElectroComp 101 sound that they used on ‘Pinkerton’. My first analog synth was a used Nord Lead 2X that I picked up when I joined OUR LADY PEACE on tour.

You’ve cited John Cage as an influence on your approach as he “embellished the weird”?

I love John Cage, he was so strange. I like how he treated the composition of music as high art that you might find in a gallery (such as his list of New York waltzes where it’s a list of groupings of three streets, and performing the waltz requires you walk between the three streets), and then could go on television and show a TV host how he’d made a distorted microphone face mask and laugh maniacally at his own invention.

I think there is a fine line between this and insanity and John Cage was always good at remaining in the academic realm. I’m reading a book called ‘Where The Heart Beats’ right now about how he got into Zen Buddhism.

I once did DJ set of 4’33” covers between live acts during an event that even made Jonathan Barnbrook who did the minimalist artwork for David Bowie’s ‘The Next Day’ raise an eyebrow, what’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for the sake of artistic expression?

Ha ha! Well I never went to school for theatre or visual art so in my early 30s, I think I’m just discovering sides of performance where people who study performance might roll their eyes. I get pretty outrageous on Twitter and I think it’s interesting to call that artistic expression, whether or not that’s valid artistic expression. It’s about as artistic as a personal blog, I suppose.

There’s a very vibrant outspoken guy here in Canada named Frank D’Angelo who is a very successful businessman, film director, and jazz musician. He also hosts his own talk show called ‘Being Frank’.

I had chirped him one day on Twitter, saying a song of his that I’d heard on the radio sounded like it was ripping something else off.

He name-searches, so he replied right away and ended up inviting me on his talk show, where I played one of my strange 5/8 time signature piano pieces.

He gave all the guests on the show that day (me and many Canadian television actors) a copy of his latest film script, and told me he’d “f*ckin kill me” if I ever showed anyone. It was a fun day overall and hope to work with him again someday.

After the experimental ‘Hatch’ album plus your previous piano works, you opted to feature vocals and drum machine on your fourth album ‘Noise’? ‘Tie A Bow’ is almost the closest you’ve got to pop?

I’m trying harder for these new songs I’m working on! If I had unlimited budget, the rest of it would have sounded poppier too but still sort of figuring out mixing and arranging on the fly.

‘Planetarium’ sounds as if you are exorcising demons?

Yeah, I was trying to be as strange as possible. I think I had this idea during Covid that I could do some sort of girl version of Klaus Nomi. I can’t even listen to it now because the vocals embarrass me so much.

So how did you discover T.O.N.T.O. and its history?

I was in LA for a trade show called NAMM in 2015 to try and network myself for sponsorships. I had auditioned for Dave Stewart the day before to play in his daughter’s band, and turned down the gig offer because I had a boyfriend back home (like an idiot!). This was the final day of the trade show, and this is still true but it’s pretty hard to get taken seriously by most people you speak to as a female musician, so I was on my way out with my tail between my legs and saw a mad scientist-looking fellow frantically pointing around over
by the Moog booth.

I basically walked up and cold-asked him who he was… it was Malcolm Cecil and he very kindly told me all about T.O.N.T.O. and gave me an autographed copy of TONTO’S EXPANDING HEAD BAND CD. I was already a Stevie fan from Motown cover bands I was playing in back in Toronto, and that interaction sort of solidified that love.

It represented for me, at that time, an appreciation for music which was separate from needing to have success within the industry, plus I got to see the tip of the iceberg in terms of the type of knowledge you need in order to create any synthesizer, let alone a massive Frankenstein like T.O.N.T.O.

How did you come to conceive a work around T.O.N.T.O.?

In the summer of 2019, I toured the National Music Centre in Calgary, AB, where T.O.N.T.O. is currently housed, and found out about residencies they offer there.

I posted about that to my Instagram, and a friend of mine reached out that he knew Robert Margouleff through the VR microphone industry.

I was in California that fall for a wedding and went to meet Robert mostly out of corny fan interest in picking his brain for stories. At that time I had released my first album, ‘Works For Solo Piano’, and Robert asked to hear some of the songs off of it.

He is the only person who has ever immediately identified Béla Bartók as one of my influences, ha! He comes from a classical background as well. It was Robert’s advice to try to sort of re-conceive the contrapuntal piano pieces I already write as separate voices in chamber pieces, and to run those parts into the separate synthesizers in T.O.N.T.O. essentially treating it as a MIDI chamber group automaton.

For the uninitiated, please can you tell us what is incorporated within the T.O.N.T.O. system and how did you find using it?

It has two Moog Modular 3 systems, two ARP 2600s, Oberheim SEM modules, and custom Serge modules as well as modules designed by Malcolm and Robert. While I was there, the Oberheim modules were out of commission so I used Studio Bell’s Four Voice instead.

There was a massive learning curve. It helped to study the Arturia Vintage VSTs in advance and get somewhat of a sense of the layout of those synthesizers. It is incredibly difficult to keep the thing in tune and most of the time, the best you can get it to sound, 50 years since it was built, is sort of like when you hear a group of children playing their first violin recital.

Jason Tawkin at Studio Bell had a lot of hands-on experience with Malcolm Cecil and (the late engineer and equipment technician) John Leimsider who restored T.O.N.T.O. – so Jason’s expertise in assisting with programming was invaluable, especially for songs like ‘Water’. I found the ARP 2600s easier to dial in, but the Moog modulars were a nightmare.

Was a four day residency enough to fully explore the possibilities of T.O.N.T.O.?

No… originally it was supposed to be twelve days but because of COVID, it was postponed for a year and pushed back to four days.

I could have used a lot more time plus “heads up” time to write the record, but I wasn’t about to complain when I got the e-mail it was moving forward!

‘Buttercups’ and ‘My Lucid Mind’ recall Wendy Carlos, has she always been a source of inspiration for you?

I am a massive fan of Wendy Carlos’ early film scoring and if it reminds you of those, that is extremely flattering.

I think I was trying to rip off the orchestrations from ‘Peter & The Wolf’ and then Robert Schumann for ‘Buttercups’… I had written the melody part on electric guitar and then fleshed it out more via that ostinato line. Then ‘My Lucid Mind’, I was trying to experiment with the tritone and diminished scales plus adding a countermelody that could play with and bounce off of the main melody.

You bring in a LinnDrum Computer for ‘Rest Stop’, was it the LM-1 which didn’t have enough chip memory for a cymbal crash?

I think that’s true of the LM-1. I was working with an LM-2 which had been hacked so it had MIDI. You know, I only had four days in studio and wish I had had more time to dial in a proper Linn sound for the record. It was what it was, but I almost wish I had overdubbed the song with VST LinnDrums because they don’t sound as full as I’d like.

How do you find the digital drum machines compared with the primitive analogue rhythm boxes?

In terms of digital drum machine emulators of vintage analogue rhythm boxes, it’s pretty difficult to tell the difference at this point.

But it’s a lot more difficult to get a good sound from the analogue rhythm boxes and I imagine they sound beefier live.

‘Brazil’ ventures into jazz, what’s the story here?

I think the goal was to try and make something that sounded musically like a Stevie Wonder song, the spaces in modal jazz where you can’t tell if someone is playing in sharps or flats. It originally had LinnDrums similar to those on ‘Rest Stop’, but as a shot in the dark, I asked Eric Slick if he would drum on the song, and his playing plus Leland on sax just caused a more jazz-like sound.

‘Airplane’ is very solemn and tense, it features the violin of Laura Bates?

There was a Therevox (Canadian-made version of the Ondes Martenot) in the production room and I decided to attempt my best Jonny Greenwood there. Not being a string player myself, only about 20 seconds of that ended up on the recording, but Laura Bates, who is an incredible violinist and has a great metal band called VOLUR, helped me out with nailing the rhythm properly on those lines.

Amongst all the analogue synths on the ‘T.O.N.T.O.’ album, you use a Fairlight VST for a voice sample on ‘Mockingbird’, but have you ever used a real Fairlight CMI before?

No. I got to see one in person at EMEAPP this past month in Harleysville, PA. Hoping to get to use theirs someday. It’s on the “bucket list”.

Are there any other synths you would like to try out or are you happy with the set-up you have for the moment?

That new ARP2600 that Korg has out is pretty killer. I have a Prophet 12 that I’m still learning the ins and outs of, and I picked up an Elektron Rytm MkII drum machine last year with some of my pandemic unemployment, so I’ve got plenty to keep me occupied before I delve into modulars, for instance. I wouldn’t say no to a Moog Grandmother.

There’s a great distorted pipe texture on ‘Inspector’, how did you sound design that?

That is basically a sine wave patch where one of the oscillators is then running into a ring modulator. It gets pretty gritty towards the end but the ring modulator happened to be in tune enough and it was my favourite take of that song.

 

You used an RMI Explorer with its Flying Hammers?

I played the RMI Explorer on ‘Water’ and ‘My Lucid Mind’. For the former, the (excellent) engineer Jason Tawkin had helped me patch in a sound similar to water flowing on one of T.O.N.T.O.’s two Moog Modular 3 systems, which we were using on ‘Airplane’ and it was the end of the second day and we decided to jam out over that particular sound, and that plucked RMI Explorer patch seemed to complement the flowy, river-like nature of the Moog atmospherics.

For ‘My Lucid Mind’, it was the final day and I was tossing off some overdubs to add a more whimsical, weird circus-like energy to the song.

What were your personal favourite moments during the making of the ‘T.O.N.T.O.’?

I had some free time and I dialled in one of the sounds listed in the original ARP2600 patch book called “Jonathan Synthesized Seagull”, and it sounded exactly like a seagull. I’ll send you a video clip of it.

It made me laugh to think of the guy who stayed up and designed that for the manual, and how keyboard patch name humour hasn’t really changed much over the decades.

Just before the pandemic hit, I passed the audition to play in Dweezil Zappa’s band for some summer dates, and it felt like I was finally able to break out of the glass ceiling. I’ve been sober for four years now and it has been a real struggle to get my life back in order. I live with my parents and one of them was high-risk so I hardly had any social interaction for the entire year. Obviously a bleak year for everyone; I was extremely depressed and the Canadian employment benefit was running out.

So having this residency scheduled was sort of like going to heaven, or getting the golden ticket to go to the chocolate factory. It was a Cinderella moment to get an e-mail asking which of the other synthesizers in the museum’s collection I’d want to use for additional overdubs.

Are you tempted to build a modular system of your own in the future?

Hmm. I doubt it.

What’s next for you? Do you think you might venture into songs and vocals again?

I am working on more pop-focused synthesizer music that is influenced equally by indie music of the early noughts as it is by early 80s Top 40 New Wave… I actually read a lot of the synthesizer track breakdowns posted on ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK to get ideas! Then I think it would be a good idea to finally get out and play some shows… I’ll likely do another piano album at some point. Playing my first American show this month in New York City, and hopefully some more US dates down the line. I’ve got a New Year’s gig playing in Andy Kim from THE ARCHIES’ band that I’m quite jazzed about. Aside from that I’ve been writing music for podcasts, and hoping to break into film and TV composing. Like all musicians, I am incredibly desperate for work at this time!


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Robin Hatch

Special thanks to Jake Saunders at Ramp Global

‘T.O.N.T.O.’ is released by Robin Records as a CD, vinyl LP and download, available from https://robinhatch.bandcamp.com/album/t-o-n-t-o

Robin Hatch plays New York’s Berlin Under A on Friday 19th November 2021

https://twitter.com/robinhatch

https://www.instagram.com/robin__hatch/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Stephanie Montani and Robin Hatch
15th November 2021

A Short Conversation with ALICE HUBBLE

Synth earth mother Alice Hubble recently returned to follow-up her acclaimed 2019 album ‘Polarlichter’ with the similarly inspired ‘Hexentanzplatz’.

Previously best known for fronting cult favourites ARTHUR & MARTHA and COSINES, she has presented another mix of the forlorn avant pop and endearing instrumentals that characterised her debut, but with an expanded textural palette.

Released by Happy Robots Records, tracks from ‘Hexentanzplatz’ have already secured BBC radio airplay from the likes of Janice Long, Lauren Laverne, Cerys Matthews and Steve Lamacq. From auroras to mountains, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK spoke to Alice Hubble about the making of ‘Hexentanzplatz’ and retaining that mystic but accessible air within her work.

Judging by album titles, was ‘Hexentanzplatz’ very much a variation on the theme of ‘Polarlichter’?

I didn’t set out for the album to have a German title, it just sort of happened! I like the way the words feel in your mouth. The name of a mountain translates to mean “the Witches Dance Floor”, it was so perfect in its nature / disco / witchy connotations that I couldn’t help be drawn to it.

So it’s “a beautiful mountain” but did you actually get to visit Hexentanzplatz?

In Summer 2020, I was lucky to take a visit to Germany. As with everything in the pandemic, it was quite an ordeal getting there, our flights were cancelled three times, so when we got there I couldn’t quite believe it and it was quite a surreal visit. One day in our trip, we visited the Harz mountains to go to the Unicorn Cave, mainly because they filmed some of the TV series ‘Dark’ at the cave, but also I like a good cave (see ‘Ruby Falls’…) as much as I like a good mountain. This is where the back cover photo of the LP was taken.

On the drive to the cave, I learnt of Hexentanzplatz, the mountain is an old Saxon cult site known for its Walpurligsnacht celebrations. We were hoping to visit this summer but our visit is now planned for December. I’m so excited to visit the mountain, but I’m prepared for the reality to be a bit different to the mystical wonderland inclusive disco party I’ve imagined!

How was your overall approach to ‘Hexentanzplatz’ compared to ‘Polarlichter’?

A few tracks were started before, but the majority of the LP was written during the first lockdown. Though none of the tracks were explicitly about lockdown, I feel the anxiety of the time is so clearly captured in the music. With the first LP, I was working out what Alice Hubble is, whereas with ‘Hexentanzplatz’, my overall writing approach was more focussed and confident.

I went to the recording studio last October and I spent 10 days in Ramsgate working on additional recording and mixing with Mike Collins at Big Jelly Studios. It was really nice to have this concentrated time to focus on the record.

Did you have any new or different toys at your disposal? How was the recording process this time round?

I bought a Roland RS202 string machine which is quite prominent on some tracks. With this LP, everything happened a lot quicker and the record sounds more spontaneous as a result. With the first LP, I felt the need to be very much in control in every creative decision. With this record I felt a lot free-er and relaxed in working with a producer and open to external suggestions.

Your trusty Moog Prodigy still make a fabulous noise…

Of course 🎹😉

You’ve continued to combine standalone instrumentals like ‘West Reservoir’ and ‘Gleichfalls’ alongside your songs, do you have any particular artists whose work is primarily instrumental that you have been inspired by?

Manuel Göttsching and Laurie Spiegel who have been big influences on my instrumental work. I’ve also been listening to Kitaro and early 80s library music records which my partner plays at home a lot.

The first single from ‘Hexentanzplatz’ was ‘Power Play’, how do you feel about recent events closer to home which have made the lyrical content even more poignant?

The lyrics to ‘Power Play’ were sparked from reading an article about the mass hex of Brock Turner, but also my comment on what happens in a post #metoo world, when the news stories have been had.

I’m not sure what particular recent events you’re referring to (there are sadly so many), but I think the whole system of sexual assault trials and convictions needs a reform, the “innocent until declared guilty” track doesn’t support victims in any way and one of the reasons why a lot of cases get dropped or don’t get to court in the first place.

‘Projections’ recalled NEW ORDER’s ‘Love Vigilantes’ with a quite rousing chorus?

This is probably the oldest song on the LP, it’s probably at least 5 years old, and was a song that I wrote to confront myself regarding past affections with woefully inappropriately located men. A lot of the time you write these songs and they’re actually too personal to put out there at the time. Having some distance from the song definitely helped me.

NEW ORDER was definitely a reference, though the ‘Republic’ era was what I was going for. ‘Love Vigilantes’ has definitely been a favourite through over the years though. The track also has a guitar solo on it, which feels quite adventurous for an Alice Hubble track!

You had an opportunity to reflect on your late parents with ‘My Dear Friend’ while the music was reminiscent of the earthier moods of LADYTRON when they made ‘Gravity The Seducer’?

I’m ashamed to say I don’t know that LADYTRON album, however ‘Witching Hour’ is definitely an LP I referenced a lot when making ‘Hexentanzplatz’. I do gravitate music that mixes the synthetic with the organic, ‘Seventh Tree’ is my favourite GOLDFRAPP LP.

Which tracks on ‘Hexentanzplatz’ are your own favourites?

Oh my it’s hard to say, I love ‘Make Believe’ cause it sounds so unsettled and heavy, and ‘Gleichfalls’, I know I made all the sounds on that record happen, but I’m still not sure how it happened!

You’ve expanded the line-up for your concerts, do you feel more confident with the challenges of live performance?

I’m glad I did play solo, but being the only person on stage is a lot for anyone to take on. I’d be trying to perform but also then would be worrying about all the tech stuff too, it was fun, but at times quite stressful, especially with a laptop which is on the brink of death!

Bringing in Tom Hilverkus to the live band was a natural choice, he’s already in the Hubble Bubble (he’s my partner), but also is a great musician and has a real calming influence on me and can look after some of the techy stuff. This gives me more mental space to focus on performing and also gives us more flexibility to make the live show more interesting sonically.

What’s next for you?

Looking to next year, there’ll be some UK and German dates and festival shows. There’s another EP at some point and I also need to find space to write some new tracks.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to Alice Hubble

‘Hexentanzplatz’ is released by Happy Robots Records in vinyl LP and digital formats, available direct from https://happyrobotsrecords.bandcamp.com/

https://www.happyrobots.co.uk/alice-hubble

https://www.facebook.com/alicehubblemusic/

https://twitter.com/alice_hubble

https://www.instagram.com/alice_hubble/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Adrian Hextall
11th November 2021

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