Category: Interviews (Page 1 of 85)

ITALOCONNECTION Interview

Fred Ventura is a legend of Italo Disco; meanwhile Paolo Gozzetti is a stalwart of Italian electronic music. Together they are ITALOCONNECTION.

Known to British audiences for their remixes of HURTS, THE HUMAN LEAGUE and KNIGHT$, their new album ‘Midnight Confessions Vol1’ is a sun-kissed eight track collection featuring a number of specials guests including French pop veteran Etienne Daho, the striking androgynous personality of Swede Tobias Bernstrup, modern Italo duo CARINO CAT and newcomer Francesca Diprima.

As well as songs about love, ‘Midnight Confessions Vol1’ also brings in a wider commentary including environmental issues, the worldwide pandemic and human rights.

Fred Ventura and Paolo Gozzetti spoke to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about their latest adventure as ITALOCONNECTION and to make some midnight confessions…

The new ITALOCONNECTION album is called ‘Midnight Confessions Vol1’, had there been any conceptual intention musically?

Paolo: When we started to work on this new album, we wanted it to be deep, nighty and sophisticated. We wanted to create a story through the lens of our vision creating some kind of metaphysical perspective of the dancefloor. Not a direct, but a more reflective and mediated approach.

Fred: The production of this album was like a long journey, going through bad weather and back to the sun several times. We had to face the reality of working from distance and without the usual production jam we used before the pandemic

Did the concept include the synths you were using, where there any self-imposed restrictions on the palette of sounds used to achieve your aims?

Paolo: Our aim is always to sound vintage in a modern way. So yes, we used a certain number of selected synths and drums, but we like to work on it to make it sound somehow unique and up to date. We love to start from a palette and tweak with knobs, filters and effects to achieve sounds that suit that particular song in a “sensual” way.

Fred: I love the freedom to be able to work with sounds we like, instead of following a dogma or being stuck in the past or obsessed by new technology.

How would you describe your creative dynamic as ITALOCONNECTION?

Paolo: We come from a common ground and we share a lot of passions varying from musical acts to artistic imaginaries. When we work together, we are very fast on revealing where a track could lead us to. We usually start tweaking and then something happens. It could be a bassline that reminds some particular song or artist, or a melody or harmony that makes us unveil where the song could go. This is very special and it works because we know each other very well and love what we do.

Fred: The good thing is that we never follow any rule, we know our background and we exactly know where we want to bring the ITALOCONNECTION sound.

ITALOCONNECTION have been busy with productions and remixes, do you have a favourite from the recent batch of work?

Paolo: Remixes are like a gym where you can play and practise different things you wouldn’t normally do with the strain of production. It’s fun because you are free, and forced to work on a different pattern and this can be stimulating. We had great fun remixing Etienne Daho and recently Josep Xortó & The Congosound and Rago e Farina. Productions are a totally different playground because you have to translate the artist’s idea into something that reflects both his and your vision. We had massive satisfaction working on the album of La Prohibida.

Fred: It’s a nice feeling to work for other artists because you experience a different involvement, less personal but with a strong focus so to reach a result that make all the people involved happy.

How do you look back now on your previous album ‘Metropoli’ and the covers collection ‘Disco Boutique’?

Paolo: Yesterday I had the chance to listen to ‘Metropoli’ for the first time in ages, and I had a “detached” listen, while before I was always too much involved and critical. I must admit it still sounds timeless and focused. It clearly shouts for urgency and character and sounds monolithic and big. It is almost a sound manifesto and I still love it. We wanted to take a picture of our imaginary. ‘Metropoli’ is an interpretation of what we felt and saw when playing in Berlin, London, Paris, Helsinki. A ‘Metropoli’ of sound, in a European vision.

Fred: In a way ‘Metropoli’ is a collection of images, we always bring back good memories and images from our touring that sooner or later end up influencing the atmosphere and lyrics of the songs

Paolo: ‘Disco Boutique’ is a tribute to some of the most iconic or obscure tracks that somehow inspired us over the years, remixed with our feeling and sound. This project is both fun to make and useful to have because we wanted to give a layer of fresh paint to songs that would sound somehow dated or unfamiliar to many. This is an open project, we don’t exclude, we could work on new ‘Disco Boutique’ material in the future.

Talking of covers, you recorded a version of THE ELECTRONIC CIRCUS’ ‘Direct Lines’ in 2017 with Francesca Gastaldi, how did you discover the song as it is quite obscure, even in the UK?

Paolo: The story behind ‘Direct Lines’ is peculiar. I listened to it in a skate documentary and I had the impression I already heard it before. I loved it since the first riff, which goes directly to the point and captures that new wave spleen immediately. Then I discovered that this song was written by Chris Payne who played with Gary Numan and co-wrote VISAGE ‘Fade To Grey’ so all the elements of the puzzle made sense immediately. There is this long rope of tension that bends all the people that were involved in the new wave and post-punk environment together. And yes, I am definitely a “Blitz Kid”!

You opted to have a number of special guests on ‘Midnight Confessions Vol1’, what was the idea behind this?

Paolo: ITALOCONNECTION is a duo, and at the same time an open project (hence the name “connection”). We want to be a bridge to collaborations with people we admire and respect. We love to create connections and listen to how artists translate our vision. We had guests also in ‘Metropoli’. We love to have guests.

How did you meet French superstar Etienne Daho to make ‘Virus X’, that title is a very relevant subject?

Fred: I had the chance to meet Etienne Daho at the after party of French iconic new wave band MARQUIS DE SADE reunion concert in Rennes a few years ago. I’ve been a big fan of him for more than 35 years and this collaboration is a real dream come true.

Paolo: When we approached Etienne we wanted him to have the broadest freedom on the interpretation of the song. We were stunned by the song melody itself and the inspiring lyrics. He made this clever comparison between a toxic relationship and a virus, which is actually very true.

‘All I Want Is You’, ‘All Over’ and ‘Get Together’ feature some very confident and rousing vocal performances, but how did you decide which songs were sung by yourselves and which were sung by the guests?

Paolo: Fred is very confident with the potentialities of the songs he chooses he could sing in. and he is very good at finding a melody that works. Sometimes songs come up already with a melody and we feel they could be perfect for some artist we love. Other times we just have an instrumental song and we want to challenge some of our artist friends to find and sing a new melody for us. There is no rule here. It’s just fun and we are very focused on the songs we are working on. For example: ‘Year Of The Sun’ was perfect for the mood and the key of CARINO CAT, and we decided it was the case.

Fred: I’m definitely more than happy sometimes to leave the lead vocal role to other artists that we both respect, it is also a way to make our sound more interesting and international

‘Year Of The Sun’ with CARINO CAT has a great nostalgic feel that parties like it’s 1985?

Paolo: There are “waves” of inspiration during times where we write in a certain style of music. In this case, we had a grape of songs that were very nostalgic and 80s in a ‘Donna Rouge’ style. So we thought that CARINO CAT were perfect for that particular song.

Fred: I’m still so proud of releasing their debut album on my label Disco Modernism, they are very talented and real, and most of all great songwriters

‘Rainbow Warrior’ featuring Swedish performance artist Tobias Bernstrup on lead vocals tells the story of the Greenpeace ship which was attacked by French Secret Service?

Paolo: Yes exactly, but not only. It’s a tribute to people that stand up for rights. We are always up for human rights and peoples rights in general.

A feminine element is brought to ‘Since You Went Away’ by Francesca Diprima, has this song been inspired by real life events?

Paolo: Not really; you have to think that when in the studio, we play a lot with imagination. This song is like a film, inspired by the music. And we pictured ourselves in a 1981 rainy and windy Paris at Montparnasse, searching for the lost love. Francesca Diprima is the connection with the loved one, ideally a telephone call in the storm, a retro-modern drama.

Fred: I’m pretty fascinated by this feeling of loneliness you feel when you are left by somebody and you are wandering in a big city, among buildings and lights under the rain

The album ends more introspectively with ‘Humans’, what is your message here?

Paolo: The point of this song sounds like it may have a direct connection with the recent age of pandemic, which may be true, but could be applied to a wider spectrum of our relationships. We are humans, we need to relate, we were made to relate. You can hide, you can escape, but the truth is we all need to relate.

Fred: The lack of physical contacts of the last 15 months made me realise how I miss shaking hands and holding people you are close with. The eyes connection is not enough, unfortunately

Which are your own personal favourite songs on ‘Midnight Confessions Vol1’?

Paolo: It is very difficult to make a choice. Every song hides a story and a long development. Every song is a confession.

Fred: I don’t have a proper favourite one but ‘Virus X’ definitely represents a reached goal and an emotional moment

The production on ‘Midnight Confessions Vol1’ is superb, very clear and spacious yet powerful. Have you any thoughts about how modern music production is heading now and the harsh sound that some acts are adopting, like on DURAN DURAN’s ‘Invisible’ for example?

Paolo: Being a musician, a sound engineer and synth lover with a fetish for “that” sensual sound, makes it automatic to think of an album as a whole. A unique piece of art made of music, sound, melodies and words with a precise image and vision in the background. We are very careful at sounding good.

We don’t want to sound harsh. We rather prefer to sound big and enveloping. To achieve this, we always want to have complete control over every aspect and stage of production. We think of an album as a piece of art, be it a film or a painting. Something that remains over the years.

The title ‘Midnight Confessions Vol1’ indicates there will be more music in this style, what is next for ITALOCONNECTION?

Paolo: ‘Midnight Confessions Vol1’ is the first volume of a wider collection of songs. We had too many for a single album, so expect it to be part of a big selection of ‘confessions’.

Fred: Yes, we still have a lot of ‘confessions’ to reveal.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to ITALOCONNECTION

‘Midnight Confessions Vol1’ is released by Bordello A Parigi on 21st June 2021, the vinyl LP and CD are available direct from https://bordelloaparigi.com/artist/italoconnection/

https://www.facebook.com/italoconnection

https://www.instagram.com/italoconnection/

https://italoconnection.bandcamp.com/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
13th June 2021

A Short Conversation with CAPITAL X

British duo CAPITAL X are back after their 2019 ‘Unlocked’ album and with signs that the world can come out to play again, they are all ‘Go!’…

With themes of strength in the face of adversity and calls to action, the gritty ‘Go!’ also comes in remixes from the likes of DAME BONNET and BISSSPUREN. There’s a video filmed by James Knights as well.

Comprising of Ruth C and Julz J, their straight up slices of hard electro compliment their riotous attitude of empowerment, as exemplified by the feisty ‘Stingray’ which was included on the recently released ‘Trans-Global Excess Volume 1’ compilation from Specchio Uomo.

CAPITAL X chatted to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about ‘Go!’ and becoming ‘Unlocked’…

How have your attitudes changed since you released ‘Unlocked’, is that why things are all ‘Go!’?

‘Go!’ is the only track to be taken outside the context of ‘Unlocked’. We weren’t going to lift any singles from the album, just concentrate on creating a series of videos for our favourite tracks ‘Majesty’, ‘Teeth’ and ‘In Us We Trust’. The videos came out great and ‘Unlocked’ was released at the end of 2019, with a launch party at Madame Claude in Berlin to kick everything off. Then suddenly everything was cancelled, and we’ve been waiting along with everyone else in the scene for live shows to return.

‘Go!’ has become a perfect soundtrack to the anticipation and the sentiment fits perfectly with preparing for what’s next, so it had to have its own release. It’s a reminder to show the world what you’re about and to never stop pushing.

How did the ‘Go!’ EP come together, were there any particular inspirations?

Since our first ever release ‘Club Midnight’, every single has had strong remix contributions. We like to reach out across genres and do something unexpected. We’ve worked with Steve Bond (CHIKINKI), CJ (THE WILDHEARTS), Maethelvin (VALERIE COLLECTIVE) and VICE SQUAD before, and wanted to keep to the idea of taking the track in different directions for ‘Go!’

Our good mate Dame Bonnet gave us his atmospheric new wave post punk take on the track, and we flipped to something totally different with some techno from BISSSPUREN. ‘Go!’ also marks the first ever CAPITAL X release on lathe cut vinyl. Our merch is always limited edition, but for this one we only made one copy… it’s out there somewhere!

Filming a video during the current conditions is not straightforward, how did you come up with the concept?

All three of the suite of videos from ‘Unlocked’ were made entirely by us, and although we’ve added visuals to a remix for this last one instead of the main track, it had to fit the set. If you like our trademark black-and-white chop-and-zooms and the idea of a one-woman garage techno party you’re in for another treat.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its grateful thanks to CAPITAL X

Special thanks to James Knights

‘Go!’ is available as a download bundle from https://capitalxmusic.bandcamp.com/

https://capitalxmusic.com/

https://www.facebook.com/capitalxmusic/

https://www.instagram.com/capitalxmusic/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
3rd June 2021

JORJA CHALMERS Interview

A dark reality check swathed in largely improvised synths and sax, ‘Human Again’ was a fine debut long player from Jorja Chalmers released in 2019 by Italians Do It Better, home to CHROMATICS, DESIRE and GLÜME.

Australian multi-instrumentalist Jorja Chalmers was a member of HOTEL MOTEL, a stylish new wave pop trio that also featured front woman Marika Gauci and guitarist Oliver Blair who as RADIO WOLF recently recorded a joint award winning soundtrack with PARALLELS for the film ‘Proximity’. She then joined Bryan Ferry as his sax and keyboard player for live work.

It was while touring the world with the ROXY MUSIC leader that ‘Human Again’ was conceived, capturing the hotel room comedown after facing adulation from concert crowds only hours earlier. Her recently issued second album ‘Midnight Train’ was a product of lockdown and recorded nocturnally at her spare room studio.

Although a natural development of its predecessor, ‘Midnight Train’ added more refinement, structure, sax and vocals, as well as three cover versions of songs made famous by artists as diverse as THE DOORS, SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES and ENYA.

Jorja Chalmers spoke to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about feeling ‘Human Again’ and taking the ‘Midnight Train’…

Looking back, you’ve had an amazing musical journey, coming to London from Australia, opening for Claudia Brücken of PROPAGANDA and Paul Humphreys of OMD, joining Bryan Ferry’s band and now releasing your own music on Italians Do It Better…

It’s been full of surprises! I’ve been fortunate to work with so many great artists like Marika and Oliver from HOTEL MOTEL and Bryan Ferry and his incredibly talented band. All of these encounters shape the music that you make. Italians Do It Better have helped me to be able to share the music I’m making which is a dream come true.

Is sax your first instrument? What led you to becoming more of a multi-instrumentalist?

Actually, piano is my first instrument. I started playing when I was really young and learnt mostly by ear which helped me to start writing my own songs. I joined the school band when I was 11 and asked to play the saxophone and fell in love with the sound. It’s nice to be able to play a few different instruments if you’re producing your own music. I’m also learning to play guitar so there may be some guitar in the live shows soon.

Your first band in London HOTEL MOTEL attracted some interest, Mark Moore from S-EXPRESS was a fan while there were some recording sessions with producer Bob Kraushaar who worked with PROPAGANDA, ERASURE and PET SHOP BOYS. There was also a video for ‘Sucker Man’, so are these nice memories to look back on?

Absolutely, HOTEL MOTEL will always be dear to my heart and I’m lucky to call Marika one of my closest friends after all these years.

One of the last HOTEL MOTEL tracks was ‘No Way’ in 2006 which you had a prominent role in, but the band appeared to lose momentum after that, what happened?

It was a shame, really. ‘No Way’ was a fun song to write but we could have taken it so much further. It was at a time when many bands were still leaning heavily on outsourcing engineers to make the music. I think if it had been a few years later, I would have had the skills to help Marika craft the songs. I was also at the early stages of getting into synths and wanted to write darker, more experimental songs and it didn’t really fit with the HOTEL MOTEL sound.

How did you come to work with Bryan Ferry? Are there any particular Ferry or Roxy songs which you particularly enjoy playing live?

HOTEL MOTEL were playing a gig at Bar Music Hall for Marika’s club night, ‘Computer Blue’. I think it was 2007. Bryan’s PA at the time came to the gig and the next day I got a Myspace message asking me to audition for Bryan’s band. I got the job and have been working with him ever since. My favourite songs to play live are ‘Don’t Stop the Dance’, ‘Windswept’, ‘If There Is Something’, ‘Editions Of You’, ‘Bitter Sweet’… too many to name! They are all so fun to play. Andy Mackay is a genius at writing lyrical and simple melodies that say so much. I always try to do the same with any sax parts that are in my songs.

Much of your debut album ‘Human Again’ was conceived while touring with Bryan Ferry, what had been the catalyst to start composing?

There can be a lot of time spent alone in hotel rooms on the road which can be a bit isolating. I started taking a mini studio with me on the road and wrote the album on days off and after shows.

The ‘Human Again’ title track was quite an abstract song but captured many emotions and is almost ‘Blade Runner’ like? Was the film or Vangelis an inspiration at all?

I read a book called ‘Eleven Kinds Of Loneliness’ written by Richard Yates and it’s been a constant source of inspiration for me. It’s a series of short stories that explore the human condition. I’ve always been interested in these themes of connection and isolation and it runs through a lot of my music. That coupled with my love of Vangelis and ‘Human Again’ was born.

At what point do you decide that a piece of music remains instrumental or needs a vocal, however abstract?

I’ve never really identified as a singer so when I sing, I see it more as an extension of an instrumental which is why it often sounds abstract. The new album is different from ‘Human Again’. There’s a lot more singing and saxophone. It feels good to sing out finally.

‘The Sum Of Our Sins’ from ‘Human Again’ with its doomy synths could have come from a horror movie, is that a film genre you enjoy?

I do love cinematic music. It originally stems from my love of classical composers like Rachmaninoff. The sense of melodrama really appeals to me as fun and not at all gloomy. The funny thing is I’m not particularly into horror films, although I love the aesthetic of the old horrors like Dario Argento’s ‘Suspiria’. So it’s the look and sound I love.

How did Italians Do It Better become interested? The connection naturally points to ‘Twin Peaks’ and ‘Drive’, but what soundtracks have musically touched your soul?

I wrote the demo of ‘Human Again’ and thought nothing would come of it but quite spontaneously sent it to Italians Do It Better and Johnny Jewel got back to me right away to say he loved it and wanted to release it. I was of course thrilled to be working with them as I’d been following the label for a number of years. The ‘After Dark’ compilation, released in 2007 was THE soundtrack for our friends and the London party scene we were in at the time.

Composers like Goblin, John Carpenter, Angelo Badalamenti, Brad Fiedel and of course, Vangelis had a huge impact on my musical taste.

While your new album ‘Midnight Train’ is a natural progression from the last record, there is undoubtedly an increased sound to it, especially in the use of your voice and the wider palette of instruments. What were the main inspirations behind this new record?

The first album is more a series of jams and this one is more considered. I think I got a little braver with my song writing for this album so there’s more meat on the bone.

There’s also the use of live drums on this album too, like on ‘I’ll Be Waiting’ which does have a rather lovely floaty feel?

I wanted to introduce some live drums for this album. I asked my friend Joe Ryan to play and gave him a reference to make it sound like Bill Ward from BLACK SABBATH. When Joe plays drums, he’s adding so music musically. His parts are so beautifully interesting. He helped me to create a back bone for what could be a light and fluffy song without drums. It makes a hypnotic and emotional ride.

Your sax style evokes Berlin-era Bowie, had those instrumentals like ‘Subterraneans’ and ‘Neuköln’ influenced you?

I’m heavily influenced by Bowie and Eno, mainly because they didn’t worry about following the rules. It was strange music even back then but people trusted them as artists and listened and loved what they heard.

The dramatic sequence of ‘Rabbit In The Headlights’, ‘Boadicea’, ‘Love Me Tonight’ and ‘Nightingale’ could almost be considered movements of a much bigger piece, had the idea of a 10 minute track been the original concept?

Not really. The order of tracks wasn’t decided until the very end.

What inspired you to do ‘Riders On The Storm’?

I’ve always loved this song. My dad had these amazing speakers he built and one rainy day when I was little, he sat me down and played that track and I fell in love the sound and memory of it. When I was writing this album, I thought I’d like to add some covers and ‘Riders On The Storm’ felt like a special tribute to my dad and his love for music.

There is more song-based material on ‘Midnight Train’… some of it like the wonderful ‘Rhapsody’ comes across a bit like eerie avant garde Cyndi Lauper and that is meant as a compliment… how did that one come together?

I was asked to contribute to a SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES covers album that’s coming out this summer and it gave me a chance to cover one of my favourite tracks. I loved it so much it had to go on the album.

‘On Such A Clear Day’ and the ‘Midnight Train’ title song, there are some great synth passages and arpeggios, what were you using to construct those?

I’m using the arpeggiator for some elements of those tracks. I like to write long instrumental tracks where you can explore themes and variations, just like in classical music. I’d love to hear these tracks played by an orchestra one day.

Both ‘Human Again’ and ‘Midnight Train’ are albums in the true sense, they have to be listened to all the way through, but do you have any personal highlights from either?

My favourites from ‘Human Again’ would have to be ‘She Made Him Love Again’ and ‘Copper Bells’. Favourites from ‘Midnight Train’ are ‘I’ll Be Waiting’, ‘Riders On The Storm’ and ‘Rhapsody’.

With everything going on, it is difficult to make plans but what do you hope is on the cards for you in the future?

Since I’ve been off the road, I’ve been enjoying teaching saxophone and piano. I hope to keep writing and releasing music and play some live shows, too.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Jorja Chalmers

Special thanks to Frankie Davison at Stereo Sanctity

‘Midnight Train’ is released by Italians Do it Better in CD, vinyl LP and digital formats, available from https://jorjachalmers.bandcamp.com/album/midnight-train

https://italiansdoitbetter.com/jorja-chalmers/

https://twitter.com/jorja_chalmers

https://www.instagram.com/jorjachalmers/

https://open.spotify.com/artist/4AB4sOhd7x98tjAMB4SgNY


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Caitlin Mogridge, Karolina Paczkowska and Chi Ming Lai
2nd June 2021

PISTON DAMP Interview

Jonas Groth and Truls Sønsterud are PISTON DAMP and the Norwegian duo are hoping to be ‘Making The World Great Again’ with their soon-to be released debut album.

Groth has been making music mostly with his old brother Stephan and his band APOPTYGMA BERZERK and on their most recent EP release ‘Nein Danke’, contributed lead vocals to the electronic ballad ‘Nearest’. Meanwhile the classically trained Sønsterud is known for remixes under the TRÖLL moniker.

The first PISTON DAMP single ‘Something In Me’ was a classic synthpop statement while the other 12 tracks on ‘Making The World Great Again’ vary from interlude soundscapes to EBM while dropping in hints of DEPECHE MODE, A-HA and THE BEATLES in between.

PISTON DAMP spoke collectively to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about their genesis of their debut album and why it has taken them 20 years to arrive at this point.

‘Making The World Great Again’ is a rousing album, it has to be said!

Wow! Thank you so very much. We’ve put a lot of time and energy into making it a positive / celebrative album. Not like party-party, but an album with a clear message as to how we see the world and the people in it.

The ‘Making The World Great Again’ title song pays homage to ‘Black Celebration’ in the intro and optimistically declares “we won’t make the same mistakes as them”, was it important for you to make this kind of statement?

This is the last song to be written for the album – actually after the title was already on the table.

The line “we won’t make the same mistakes as them” refers to “them” as being those who came before us.

When Jonas started writing the song, it was with a clear intention to make it a follow-up to the song ‘Hearts On Fire’. Both are meant as fight songs or speeches to a lost generation, if you will. The Internet has made us, as a species, feel lonelier and more disconnected from each other. We don’t necessarily need to get rid of the Internet, but we need to make people understand that there is more to life than what it seems like at the moment.

The relatively new phenomenon Social Media is trying to substitute real relationships, and this is what Jonas is talking about in these lyrics – Starting a movement that shows people how important it actually is to be social and that the reason why love (as a concept) has become a cliché, is that it actually works and that more people probably should be spending time on trying to give and receive love, rather than distancing oneself behind a screen. ‘Black Celebration’ and the following three DM-albums are indeed inspirations for most of the songs on this album, both lyrically and musically.

You formed in 2000 so why has it taken so long to release music? Are any songs from those formative years on the album?

We formed as a fun project, working out of Jonas’s brother Stephan’s studio whenever he wasn’t there. He had an Apple computer and loads of synthesizers, especially the Waldorf Q and XTk were exciting ones to experiment with.

Jonas wrote a lot of songs for this project, and at least 7 exist in demo form from that period. In 2001, Jonas became a father and life just and several other music projects happened to both of us for the next 15 years. The last five years, we have tried to get together and re-record some of the songs on several occasions, but something always came up.

In the spring of 2020, Truls called Jonas and basically told him that since it still hadn’t happened, he wanted to get it out of his system and just ban the entire project for good. This sparked something in Jonas, and he wrote ‘Something In Me’ (or rather the Danish version ‘Noget I Mig’) that same evening. Upon hearing this they decided to give it one last try, and here we are! Hehehe…

The album tracks:

1 ШУМ (new)
2 Hearts On Fire (reworked from Jonas’ 2014 demo)
3 Runaway (Original PD track from 2000)
4 Something In Me (new)
5 Depth Of Your Eyes (Original PD track from 2000)
6 Factor Out (new)
7 Never Thought It Would End (reworked from Jonas’ 2010 demo)
8 Making The World Great Again (new)
9 Don’t (reworked from Jonas’ 2012 demo)
10 Loose Ends (Original PD track from 2000)
11 Sacred Secret (reworked from Jonas’ 2016 demo)
12 Testimony (Original PD track from 2000)
13 Another Pain (reworked from Jonas’ 1994 demo)

The first single ‘Something In Me’ announced that PISTON DAMP was very much a synthpop act, which artists had been inspirations in developing this sound?

For Jonas, it’s DEPECHE MODE (83 – 98), ERASURE (86 – 97), OMD, APOPTYGMA BERZERK, DURAN DURAN and ELEGANT MACHINERY, while for Truls, it’s PET SHOP BOYS, ERASURE, APOPTYGMA BERZERK and A-HA.

‘Hearts On Fire’ recalls Swedish combo THE MOBILE HOMES, does that formative period of Nordic new wave pop which also includes bands like LUSTANS LAKEJER and PAGE deserve more recognition outside of Scandinavia?

Absolutely. Sweden in particular has had an enormous and impressive electronic scene that we Norwegians have loved since it started. When Jonas has toured with APOPTYGMA BERZERK, he has often been confronted with band names like ELEGANT MACHINERY, SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN and COVENANT, even in places like South America and Israel. So maybe it has more to do with exposure rather than recognition…?

Did you use vintage synthesizers to achieve your aims or are you software based?

Truls has built quite a large synth studio, and we use hardware almost exclusively when we record our music. Some synthesizers are used in almost every song, and some are more randomly used, like if we’re looking for a particular sound. Roland Juno-106 is a classic, and of course we use that. For strings, we prefer Roland RS-505. It has some massive, powerful strings, but they can also be tender and soft.

For bass, we use a wide variety of synths, for example Roland SH-101 and Minimoog Voyager. We also use modular stuff, drones and a lot of pedals, like the Moogerfoogers. The sonic possibilities both in vintage and new synths are endless in the creative process. The experimentation with hardware is important both for creating the sound and for inspiration to develop and expand the sonic and musical landscape. Among the rarer stuff is, for example, the Elektron SidStation and it is made with the original C-64 sound chips. This is the main synth on the theme and ARPs on ‘Another Pain’.

The anthemic ‘Runaway’ had the remix treatment from MESH and DIE KRUPPS when released as a pre-album bundle, how do you feel when you let others adapt your work?

Oh, we love it. The interpretations are always really exciting to hear. And listening to the four remixes of that song back-to-back is still great (MESH, DIE KRUPPS and SUBSTAAT plus the Extended version).  Getting talents we admire to reinterpret our basic ideas is an amazing way to get inspiration for moving on to whatever comes next. This is also a cool thing about the ‘Something In Me’ single where (apart from the A-side), the TECHNOMANCER remix is the version mostly played on Spotify. On YouTube, this version is by far our most played track.

The energetic ‘Don’t’ is the closest PISTON DAMP get to EBM and sees an old friend COMPUTORGIRL return for a cameo vocal, how was this reunion?

It was great fun. Especially since ‘Don’t’ originally was intended as a band song much inspired by THE CURE’s ‘A Foolish Arrangement’, and we only picked it up because we needed a B-side for the ‘Loose Ends’ single.

The track listing for the album was more or less finished, so we wanted a separate track as B-side. The middle part was instrumental, and we considered several solutions for this part including a spoken German poem, noises and effects, and other stuff.

One night Jonas was listening to one of his favourite albums – ‘Forever’ by CRANES – and the voice of Alison Shaw reminded him of Benedicte who is COMPUTORGIRL, whom he immediately wrote the vocal part for. Jonas did the vocal pre-production of the COMPUTORGIRL EP in 2002. Luckily, she was excited to do it, and the vocals were recorded the very next day. The song title was made up just as a word to save the song as when it was written. The word never came up in the lyrics, and therefore it became obvious that COMPUTORGIRL’s lines should all begin with that word. Eventually the song was nearly considered to be the A-side of the single, and ultimately it was given a place on the album too.

With its 6/8 signature and orchestrations, ‘Depth Of Your Eyes’ is quite different from the other tracks on ‘Making The World Great Again’?

Indeed, but it is actually the song that has changed the least since its 2000 demo form. This is the way it was intended to sound. The only difference is that the strings have now been played rather than being programmed. Tarjei Nysted and Kaja Pettersen play the exact notes that Jonas programmed 20 years earlier. The inspiration from the 86 – 93 DEPECHE MODE period is obvious here. We allowed ourselves to do stuff that wasn’t necessarily “genre correct”, simply because we wanted to do it, much like DM did when they brought in guitars, live drums etc.

‘Never Thought It Would End’ is almost hymn-like and comes over like U2’s ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ mashed-up with DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Waiting For The Night’?

It’s hard to define ‘Never Thought It Would End’ without commenting on ‘Factor Out’ which leads into ‘Never Thought It Would End’. ‘Factor Out’ was made as an intro, but quickly proved to have a life of its own. Truls kept expanding it both time wise and sound wise, which made the transition into ‘Never Thought It Would End’ much more exciting. They can both be viewed as separate tracks, but also as part 1 and 2 of the same song.

Jonas’s love of harmony vocals became a powerful tool here, and we wanted the song to have a lot of air in the mix (hence the panning of the vocals which vary throughout the song). The demo of the track was recorded with acoustic guitar on a laptop while the rest of the house was asleep, which makes it a very quiet and emotionally sore sounding demo. We tried to keep that vibe going in the electronic PD version.

‘Testimony’ borrows the guitar line from DM’s ‘Precious’ and sort of morphs into CAMOUFLAGE, how did this song come together?

‘Testimony’ was the only song we actually made a proper release-worthy version of 20 years ago. Due to Jonas working as a Label Manager Assistant at Hard:Drive (partly owned by Stephan), at the same location as where Sebastian Komor from ICON OF COIL had his studio.

Seb produced the track for us and gave us a clearer direction for the song. Most of his additions were very 2000/2001, and have thus been subtracted from the new version again. But the guitar part is the same now as then, and DM’s ‘Precious’ is from 2005, so who knows – maybe the borrowed it from us? Hahaha… Somewhere on the Internet you will probably still be able to find the ‘ICON OF COIL mix’ of ‘Testimony’.

The album closer ‘Another Pain’ appears to reveal THE BEATLES as an influence which perhaps is an unusual template for electronic pop?

Being one of the first songs Jonas ever completed (1994), it is very much a Beatles influenced song. THE BEATLES have always been a huge thing for Jonas (when asked about his top three favourite bands he usually replies: “THE CURE, DEPECHE MODE and KENT, but that’s just because THE BEATLES is a given and I don’t need to use up a place for them”. The sound collage at the end of ‘Another Pain’ is inspired by the latter years of THE BEATLES, but also by PINK FLOYD, which is a huge deal for Truls.

We share a love of the same kinds of music, but rarely the same bands. The album version of ‘Another Pain’ was the first one to be made, and the ‘Blue Hearts Version’ which was used as a B-side for ‘Something In Me’ was made from this version. If you listen closely, you can hear an element of each of the other album tracks in this outro.

Which are your own favourites on ‘Making The World Great Again’ and why?

For Jonas, this changes all the time. At the moment it is ‘Don’t’, but his favourite one to record was ‘Making The World Great Again’.

This changes for Truls as well. Right now he would say ‘Testimony’, but he had a plan very early in the making of this album, that it was going to be musically arranged and produced so that each song should set the mood for the song after, and as well be a contrast to the foregoing song. And that makes it hard to pick a specific song out of the context. The songs make each other good, and the combination of them makes them even better than when they stand alone.

What are your future plans, if you have been able to make any?

Well first of all, we’re planning a virtual release party for the album on June 5th where you can hear all the songs from the album 5 days before the release, and we’ll perform 3 songs live, do some interviews, giveaways, competitions etc. So, we’re quite looking forward to that, as it will give us an early indication of what people think of the album.

We have already started on the next single, and we are planning what to do for the next album. There are still some really strong songs left from the original demos, and we want to use some of them for a follow-up album as soon as possible. We’d love to play live shows, and we have a few gigs already being planned, so we’re just hoping for the world to open up so we can help make it great again!

We’re both very keen on getting on stage to try our songs out on a live audience as soon as time permits, so both festivals, club-gigs and support gigs for other acts are what we’re planning and looking for, to be honest. Safe to say, PISTON DAMP is hard at work, and there will be more coming from us in all shapes, sizes, and forms in the months ahead!


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to PISTON DAMP

Special thanks to Per Aksel Lungreen at Sub Culture Records

‘Making The World Great Again’ is released 21st June 2021 by Sub Culture Records, available direct from https://subculturerecords.bandcamp.com/album/making-the-world-great-again

The PISTON DAMP Virtual Release Party takes place on 5th June 2021 at 1700 UK time via Facebook, details at https://www.facebook.com/events/369780110999711

https://www.pistondamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pistondampcom

https://www.instagram.com/pistondamp/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Kine Jensen
31st May 2021

BETAMAXX Interview

BETAMAXX is the Pittsburgh-based musician and producer Nick Morey whose work is inspired and created by vintage synthesizers.

In acknowledgement of his artist moniker, the first BETAMAXX album was entitled ‘Lost Formats’; released in 2012, it became acknowledged as a trailblazing example of synthwave in the wake of the Ryan Gosling movie ‘Drive’ and its acclaimed soundtrack.

Meanwhile, his 2014 remix of TANGERINE DREAM’s ‘Love On A Real Train’ brought wider recognition and enhanced his reputation.

Despite a short publically announced hiatus in 2015 following ‘Plug & Play’, he returned refreshed after a profile boost with his track ‘Redlining 6th’ from 2013’s ‘Sophisticated Technology’ being included in the soundtrack of the Sci-Fi martial arts comedy featurette ‘Kung Fury’.

2017’s ‘Archaic Science’ was like he’d never been away, but it was 2019’s ‘Lost In A Dreamworld’ featuring vocals by VANDAL MOON, GLITBITER and MECHA MAIKO that realised the crossover potential that had been itching to get out since the first BETAMAXX releases.

Despite his zest for collaborations, having also previously worked with PERTURBATOR, ARCADE HIGH and PRIMO THE ALIEN, the new BETAMAXX record ‘Sarajevo’ is a much more reflective solo offering with no vocals or vocoder, a soundtrack to an imaginary film centred around the Bosnian city that hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics.

Nick Morey kindly chatted to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about synths and stuff in his career as BETAMAXX.

What got you interested in making music with synthesizers and who were your influences?

Good question and kind of a long story. I attribute my initial interest to Madonna’s ‘Immaculate Collection’ which was given to me on cassette by my mother at a very young age. In my late teens, I heard the track ‘Eyes Without A Face’ by Billy Idol and was smitten by the sounds and melodies that I heard. I took a trip to my local CD store (Coconuts Music, which is long since defunct) and I asked the clerk about this song. He responded “Ahhh, that’s Billy Idol with that rich synthesizer sound…” which made me realize how the music was created and how much I loved music from the 80s.

Fast forward to 2010, a good friend of mine showed me some very early “synthwave” from artists like TESLA BOY, FM ATTACK, MITCH MURDER, GRUM and MIAMI NIGHTS 1984 and I was hooked immediately. At that point, I was committed to taking my shot at making this type of music. I had already had some DAW production skills making techno and other random electronic music. By early 2012, I purchased my first truly amazing synth – the Roland Juno 60, which I still own to this day.

How do you now look back on your 2012 debut album ‘Lost Formats’, that’s a great title?

Honestly, very fondly. I still pop it on now and again and feel the energy and excitement I had back then. It finally got the proper pressing it deserved a few years back, and has since sold out. I think it will be remembered as one of the classic early synthwave albums.

‘La Cabane Noir’ from 2013’s ‘Sophisticated Technology’ featured PERTURBATOR, how did that come about as it’s a lot less heavier than the material he’s become well-known for…

Wow, I haven’t thought about that in a long time.

James and I used to chat back in the day before he got huge. And, don’t get me wrong, I am super happy for him and I think he’s a super genuine and funny guy.

I believe I reached out and simply asked him to throw some parts on it and it ended up working out.

You retired in 2015 but then Gary Numan did so in 1981… what happened there? Are artists still very much vulnerable to burn out despite history having demonstrated that applying too much pressure on musicians can lead to all sorts of issues?

This is not the first time I’ve been asked this. 2015 was a really difficult year for me personally. If I would have met 2015 “me” now, I probably would have kicked my own ass. I attribute it to a low point in my life, but I don’t regret the decisions I’ve made. Artists can be fickle at times, as a good handful of artists get swallowed up in their own emotions. I’m glad to still be producing music.

‘Lost In A Dreamworld’ could be considered your breakthrough record in that it reached audiences outside of what could be considered the synthwave scene, why do you think it was able to crossover?

Generally speaking, I like mixing things up. I like to experiment and crossover genres, especially new wave, house, Italo and post-punk. I happened to connect with Blake Voss of VANDAL MOON through my good friend Shawn Ward from FM ATTACK, and became instant friends. ‘Never Sleep Again’ was proof of this, considering it’s not much like anything else I’ve ever created.

As well as VANDAL MOON, you worked with some diverse vocalists such as GLITBITER and MECHA MAIKO to achieve the variation in styles that were collected on ‘Lost In A Dreamworld’, what was the collaborative process like with each of them?

For these specific tracks, I started with various instrumental ideas and reached out to them to see if they were interested in working with me. Thankfully, all parties agreed and I let them essentially do whatever they wanted, stepping back from a creative control standpoint and letting them have fun and do their thing.

The ‘Lost In A Dreamworld’ instrumental could be considered a refinement of the synthwave form but do you think the term has become too restrictive artistically?

Yes, I do. I feel like that term gets thrown around quite loosely, and I don’t really feel like I fit into that category so much anymore, being that my sound has been more or less consistent over the years.

I haven’t found the urge to start writing polished, carbon copy radio pop with a grid, a palm tree and a sunset on my album cover.

‘Disco Dreamgirl’ does what it says on the tin, was the track’s muse a real person?

I’m not at liberty to say who that is! *laughs*

So after ‘Lost In A Dreamworld’, what inspired you to compose a largely downtempo instrumental concept album such as ‘Sarajevo’?

I was really itching for something new to create and a new style to dive into. I’ve been in love with BOARDS OF CANADA’s music since my early 20s and decided that I wanted to take a crack at writing in that style. I looked at the gear that I have and realized that was totally possible, if not for some hard work and experimentation. The first track I wrote was ‘Sarajevo’, the title track on the album. I had just purchased the reissue of the Sequential Circuits Prophet 10 which provided a lot of inspirational sounds right off the bat for this record.

But why the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics, because for example, there have been two films ‘Cool Runnings’ and ‘Eddie The Eagle’ made about events at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics? It’s perhaps not an obvious subject, or is it?

Once again, a long story… I’m a big enthusiast of brutalist architecture, specifically 80s and prior angular / geometrical style structures. I was looking at architecture online, and stumbled upon “Hotel Igman”, which you see in the cover of the album. I became intrigued about this building, and started reading more in depth about the history of it. I also was fascinated by the fact that, in modern times, it’s a completely bombed out shell of its former self. After I discovered the ‘84 Olympics, I was compelled to write something that I felt about it, and the various stories I have read about Sarajevo. It just seemed right to me and the music sort of poured out of me.

‘Igman’ is a key track as that hotel has becoming something of a symbol now in its derelict state?

Yes, I’d say so. I think it was an absolutely stunning piece of architecture then and even now. It drew me in immediately and needed to know the whole story. I’ve watched several YouTube videos of people exploring it. It blows my mind.

Had there been any particular archive photographs or videos that you imagined soundtracking, like your own film documentary on those Games for any of the tracks?

I kind of did a deep dive into loads of footage from the ‘84 Winter Olympics and was inspired by a ton of things that I saw, particularly Bill Johnson’s run, as well as Jane Torvill and Christopher Dean’s performances on ice.

How would you have constructed a track like ‘Downhill’ which celebrates Bill Johnson’s gold medal victory in the Downhill event?

I wanted at least one track that was suspenseful and intense. After watching some footage of downhill skiing in Sarajevo, I found the clip of Bill Johnson and could feel the excitement in the announcers’ voices. It was totally unintentional, but I felt that sample absolutely needed to be included in the intro of the song.

The ‘Sarajevo’ title track actually applies some dub echoing, what had been on your mind to shape the track in this manner?

Good question, this was also completely unintentional. The friends I’ve showed that to seem to all say it’s a very “industrial” track, but I guess I just don’t hear it that way. I wanted to lay something down that was really dark, ethereal, and heavy. The CMI sampler I used seemed to compliment the bridge of the song.

‘Ceremony’ closes the album with a slow waltz and it has this elegiac Arvo Pärt ‘Spiegel Im Spiegel’ feel about it?

Truth be told, I am not at all familiar with that artist, although I very much look forward to checking that out. I wanted to portrait a very emotional track with drifting (sliding in and out of tune) synths to give it an almost “unsettling” vibe. I think it’s kind of a beautiful track, and it would suit well in a specific movie scenario.

You have a fine collection of analog synthesizers, do you have any particular favourites?

Why thank you! Yes, I’ve been collecting for a number of years now. I’d say my Sequential Circuits Prophet 6 is to attribute to a lot of my sounds. It’s an extremely versatile synth with a lot of amazing real time features that are easy to get inspired by.

Sequential makes amazing products, which I would recommend to anyone in the market to buy a thick, meaty analogue synthesizer with useful features.

Is there a synth you desire and is there any particular reason?

Not to sound cliché, but I would love to own a real Jupiter 8 someday. Other than that, I’m actually really happy with the gear that I have. I feel like I honestly have too much, but that is usually good for when I’m bored with my main stuff, to switch out to and experiment with.

What do you think of these copycat synths that Behringer are making?

Honestly, not super into them right now. Behringer makes some quality basic musical products, but I’m not super sold on their synths. One of my best friends swears by their 808 clone, but I haven’t played with it yet. I was really disappointed with the Deepmind 12, unfortunately. Programming wasn’t very friendly and I didn’t care a lot for the sounds, it also sounded very thin to me. That all being said, I’ll always give them a chance. Some of their clones are super intriguing, but generally are not available for demos at retail stores.

How do you think synthesizer music is developing now?

I don’t feel it’s going in a great direction. Most artists now are focusing on the same equation to make it big. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but the bottom line is that I’m just not seeing a lot of artistry involved, and it’s more or less a “copy and paste” methodology and it seems to really work well for some people. I refuse to not put extremely serious though into what I put out, regardless of potential backlash.

You have both self-released and worked with record labels, do artists these days still need one? How do you see music distribution moving forward?

I feel that, if an artist can’t afford to press their own record and or tape or whatever, go for a label if they’re interested.

You have a strong relationship with Shawn Ward aka FM ATTACK and he has done some additional production on ‘Sarajevo’ as well as being your label boss at Starfield, but have the two of you considered doing a full album together as a joint effort?

Oh yeah, for sure. And I wouldn’t call him my boss in affiliation with Starfield, he’s one of my tightest homies. We confide in each other quite a bit and stay in contact regularly. I’m blessed to call Shawn a good friend of mine. Right now, it’s kind of hard to be able to do a fully collaborative album for the both of us, although that would be really rad to accomplish sometime down the road.

Your recent single with PRIMO THE ALIEN ‘Watch Me’ was a rather groovy concoction, is this an indicator of a future direction for you?

Hopefully! I really dig the groove of that track, and I think it succeeded in a lot of ways. I feel it’s a lot different from anything I had previously released, and it felt good to scratch that itch. I’m not the greatest into diving into “the funk” but I think I did right by ‘Watch Me’.

So will your next album be a pop / dance oriented one or would you like to develop the more ambient side of your music as showcased on ‘Sarajevo’?

Honestly, I really don’t know enough to tell you the next writing style I’m going to be focusing on. It will be interesting and heartfelt, whatever that may be. Lately I’ve been really enjoying the ambient stuff.

What’s next for you, what are your hope and fears for the future?

Looking forward to collaborating with friends and building something, whatever that may entail. I won’t be straying from producing music.

I would like to go on tour again soon, but I likely won’t be booking any dates this year due to the pandemic. I really miss traveling, seeing the world and meeting new friends.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to BETAMAXX

‘Sarajevo’, ‘Lost In A Dreamworld’ and most of the BETAMAXX back catalogue is available in various formats direct from https://betamaxxmusic.bandcamp.com/music

https://www.facebook.com/betamaxx80s/

https://twitter.com/betamaxx80s

https://www.instagram.com/betamaxx/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
19th May 2021

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