Category: Interviews (Page 2 of 106)

ZAINE GRIFF & CHRIS PAYNE Interview

Zaine Griff and Chris Payne first met when they worked on the Gary Numan song ‘The Secret’ in 1984.

Releasing his first solo album ‘Ashes & Diamonds’ in 1980, Zaine Griff’s portfolio includes working with David Bowie, Kate Bush, Tony Visconti, Yukihiro Takahashi, Midge Ure, Warren Cann and Hans Zimmer.

Meanwhile, Chris Payne made his mark as a member of the Gary Numan band during his imperial phase and co-writing an instrumental ‘Toot City’ with Billy Currie which became the huge international hit ‘Fade To Grey’ for VISAGE after Midge Ure added lyrics and a melody line.

36 years later, Griff and Payne were brought together by Rusty Egan for what was then billed as VISAGE 1980-2020 to celebrate the legacy of the project fronted by the late Steve Strange with live shows and new material. The worldwide pandemic put paid to the original concept but the pair kept working together, resulting in a new Zaine Griff album ‘A Double Life’.

A joint collaborative effort between Griff, Payne and veteran American producer Hilary Bercovici, ‘A Double Life’ is now out there for those who appreciate songcraft and the mannered vocal style of Griff which while reminiscent of David Bowie, actually originates from the pair studying dance and mime under the late theatrical legend Lindsay Kemp.

From opposite sides of the world, Zaine Griff and Chris Payne spoke to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about the journey leading to ‘A Double Life’…

How did your creative union begin?

Zaine: I had a phone call from the VISAGE team in 2020 inviting me to perform with them at W-Fest in Belgium later that year. With the event of Covid that festival never happened. However learning the entire set, I built up an understanding of VISAGE’s song structures. When it was announced the show cancelled, it was suggested that we should put forward compositions that could be part of a new album for VISAGE. Chris sent me his musical ideas, beats and melodies and I took it from there. I took them into a studio and proceeded to lay down the vocal ideas I got from his beautiful music. Melodies just flowed, backings and counter point. It seemed to work beautifully and so easily. I had never composed with anyone else in my past, so this was different and inspiring. It is incredible that I had sung on ‘The Secret’ for Gary Numan in 1984 at Rock City Studios in Shepperton, was when I first met Chris.

Chris: Zaine and I were asked to write demos for the new VISAGE project overseen by Rusty Egan. Zaine had been chosen as the vocalist so it was an exciting positive time to get involved. Unfortunately, the songs didn’t work for Rusty and he made drastic changes to them. Zaine and I continued to work on our songs and before we knew it we were already creating a project for ourselves

Out of necessity, this was a remote writing experience so how was the creative dynamic between with you both and how did you overcome the various challenges that came along the way?

Zaine: It was amazing. There was not one hitch. If Chris didn’t like something he would tell me, and I would do likewise. Everything flowed, even tracks that were awkward at first, rediscovering them in a different light helped construct the songs. The tracks became more theatrical. They just needed more time. ‘Masquerade’, ‘It Never Stopped’ and ‘Trip Stumble & Fall’ all certainly trend toward the theatrical.

Chris: For me it was easy. Because I live in France I am used to remote working. Zaine and I just clicked from day one. I was giving him backing tracks and he would find a melody within days, sometimes hours. He would then record the ideas in a studio near his home in Auckland and we carried on from there.

How far down the line had these songs got to becoming “VISAGE” songs before it was decided that they were more suited to a Zaine Griff album?

Zaine: The songs were basically rejected by VISAGE but Chris and I continued and become a writing team. It has and always will be a Zaine Griff / Chris Payne album. Hilary Bercovici input took things to another level. It was Chris and Hilary that out voted me on the artist title of our album.

Chris: As soon as Rusty had issues with the demos… actually, Rusty to me didn’t seem happy with Zaine’s voice as this was a constant criticism when he critiqued the demos. I disagreed with Rusty but he had the ultimate say which was fair enough. So he went in his direction with the two songs he rearranged for his album and we went in our direction with them.

Hilary Bercovici is the album’s producer, what impressed you most about his track record and what ideas did he contribute which perhaps neither of you would have initially considered?

Chris: I’ve known Hil for a few years. Apart from coming from a dynasty of screenplay writers he is a brilliant musician and engineer having worked at countless studios in LA with so many different artists from Stevie Wonder to Prince, Madonna to Chaka Khan.

Zaine: It wasn’t until we were well into ‘A Double Life’ that Chris introduced me to his collaborator Hilary Bercovici. Then when I heard his contribution to what Chris and I recorded, suddenly we shifted up so many gears. So now there were three of us Chris, Hilary and me. Hilary sent me his adaption of ‘Flowers’ and I was reduced to tears, it was absolutely beautiful.

‘Flowers’ was on the ‘Figvres’ album and featured Kate Bush. It’s a song about Lindsay Kemp, so what was it like was returning to it?

Zaine: When Hilary sent me his adaption, I really was turned sideways. I mean his arrangement in the bridge section sent shivers down my spine. The feel sits in such a groove and I think this comes from Hilary’s incredible experience.

Trip Stumble & Fall’ has undergone a transformation since the video premiere in 2021, where did you see you could make improvements?

Chris: Even if I say so myself, it is a very interesting song about how relationships break down as you get older, becoming even more painful due to insecurity, lack of trust and a kind of realisation that you could be spending the rest of your days alone. The initial mix I did for the video had the vocals up far too loud. Hils version tempered that and made the whole production tie in with the rest of the album and Martyn Ware’s remix gave a totally different musical account of the song but equally emotionally powerful. I especially like the instrumental version as he’s managed to create a synch-friendly interpretation.

Martyn Ware’s remixes of ‘Trip, Stumble & Fall’ are very cinematic, how did he become involved?

Chris: I think it was through an interview he did for his Electronically Yours show with Zaine?

Zaine: Martyn Ware interviewed me and at the end of the show said he would love to do an adaptation of ‘Trip Stumble & Fall’. The song was theatrical enough as it was, what Martyn did created a different theatrical spin on it. Whilst talking to Martyn in the interview, I suddenly realized this was a direction in which Chris Hilary and I should pursue.

Who is ‘The Night Watchman’, what were the lyrical and musical catalysts?

Zaine: The idea lyrically for ‘The Night Watchman’ came from the Louise Erdich book and other articles written about how young Red Indian Native women were and still are abused by white trash. ‘The Night Watchmen’ are those men who looking out for them and dedicate their time to protecting them. Too many young women go missing from the Reservations.

Chris: I was using a lot of Arturia software. These guys create excellent analogue sounds from instruments like Minimoogs, ARP Odyssey, Prophet 5 (especially Numan’s famous preset 36 with the mod wheel up) and the OBXa . Using these instruments plus the piano were the basis for creating the backing tracks.

Was ‘A Double Life’ about anyone or anything in particular?

Zaine: ‘A Double Life’ is purely a personal documentary of one’s life and understanding the different personalities in others. It is also a mirror of what was once and what is now. A reflection of who we were and who we are. There is more to one person than meets the eye.

Recording YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA’s ‘You’ve Got To Help Yourself’ is an inspired choice… last year we sadly lost Yukihiro Takahashi and Ryuichi Sakamoto, what are your own personal memories of this pioneering Japanese band?

Chris: I know that Zaine had worked with them over the years. My recollection of Ryuichi Sakamoto was that when Gary Numan performed in Tokyo, he was introduced to us after one of the shows. I found him charming and somewhat reserved. I only wish I had engaged in conversation with him

Zaine: My personal memories of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA are backstage after they played Hammersmith Odeon and discussing music ideas with them. I was immersed in conversation with Peter Baraken who translated for them. Yukihiro said yes to playing drums on my ‘Figvres’ album and he asked me to write a song on his album ‘What Me Worry’ album. It was great timing, arranging everything and recording with Yuki whilst they were in London. Time was tight, but we pulled it off around our schedules.

‘This Strange Obsession’ was a duet with Ronny on ‘What Me Worry’, what was your vision for the 2024 version?

Zaine: Purely a tribute to Yukihiro Takahashi and to bring a more up-to -date sonic sound. Jol Mulholland’s E-bow was a one take wonder flowing Bill Nelson’s lines.

A cover of ‘Blue Jean’ is included on the album, how did the decision to do one of David Bowie’s hits rather than say, a cult favourite like ‘Fantastic Voyage’ from ‘Lodger’ or ‘Teenage Wildlife’ from ‘Scary Monsters’ come about?

Zaine: This idea came from Hilary. The way Hilary constructed the song was nailing the original feel so it became fun to sing. I have to say I feel ‘Blue Jean’ is a track that David came close to where he wanted to be rhythmically. It has that slouchy kind of hi-hat thing moving you.

Chris: ‘Blue Jean’ was Hil’s idea. He had arranged a version of it previously and thought that it would work well with Zaine’s voice.

Talking of hits, Gary Numan’s ‘Cars’ is also covered, had any thought been given to revisiting ‘The Secret’ from ‘Berserker’ which you both featured on back in 1984?

Chris: Interesting question and in retrospect we should have done another song. I think it was just laziness on my part. ‘Cars’ is a relatively easy song to knock up in a few hours and this is what happened. I guess in my dotage, I’m looking for the songs I can remember during my time with Gary!

Zaine: I was looking at ’The Secret’. Chris sent me ‘Cars’ and I had a go at it and in the end it has such a great feel. I can’t wait to do this live. Chris’s keyboards are such driving power house.

What are your own favourite tracks on the album?

Zaine: Has to be ‘Walking In The Rain’, ’Masquerade’ and ‘It Never Stopped’. ‘Walking In The Rain’ fell into place so easy. I love the chorus and Dominque Payne voice gives the track a great flavour. ‘Masquerade’ is on this list because I really had to think twice as to what Chris was expressing in music when I first started. Again, Dominque’s voice helped create the mood. Her voice is so haunting. ‘It Never Stopped’ sums up the whole album to me and thank you RRussell Bell taking my head off. What I mean is that music, art, performing has “Never Stopped” for all of us. ’Trip Stumble & Fall’ is perhaps the best song I have ever been involved in. The passion, the expression from images. And thank you again Martyn Ware for such a fine adaptation and Kate Hauxwell for the beautiful video.

Chris: I love the crazy guitar Hil put on ‘Walking In The Rain’. I also love the more eclectic pieces such as ‘Masquerade’. I can’t say I have a standout favourite. It changes each time I hear the album.

There is a real mix of styles and instrumentation on the album so who do you hope the album might appeal to?

Zaine: All age groups and nationalities. The mix of styles just fell out of the sky. This album has been a fabulous experience and fun to make. I am privileged to have been able to collaborate with such fine musicians as Chris and Hilary. Let me emphasise that from day one this was a collaboration between us all not just a Zaine Griff album.

Chris: Because it has such a diversity that’s a tough one to answer. I can’t imagine it appealing to Under 18s… but you just never know!

What is next, will you do more work together or play together live?

Zaine: Yes, Chris Hilary and I have started writing more music for another album. To me ‘A Double Life’ is the beginning, we are looking forward to bring this music to an audience live in the future.

Chris: Apparently Sony Japan are more than happy for us to record another album, so that’s the plan between the three of us. Some live shows anywhere would be welcome. The only issue is getting us together between Normandy, New Zealand and LA!


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Zaine Griff and Chris Payne

‘A Double Life’ is released by Sony Japan as a Blu-spec CD, available from https://www.cdjapan.co.jp/product/SICX-30190

https://www.zainegriff.com/

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https://twitter.com/ZaineGriffOffic

https://www.instagram.com/zainegriff/

https://www.facebook.com/chrispaynecomposer/

https://twitter.com/clanvis

https://www.instagram.com/chris.payne.music/

https://open.spotify.com/artist/3pOc46WCIxqlE5cCCtYzMl


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
10 January 2024, updated 1 March 2024

S.P.O.C.K Interview

Swedish electronic pop veterans S.P.O.C.K celebrated their 35th Anniversary in 2023.

Standing for STAR PILOTS ON CHANNEL K, S.P.O.C.K began in 1988 to perform ‘Star Trek’ themed songs at a birthday party. This well-received performance unexpectedly led to further local live bookings and a record deal.

S.P.O.C.K’s breakthrough came with the catchy and amusingly morose 1992 single ‘Never Trust A Klingon’ which became a cult favourite not just on their home planet but in Germany as well. The 1993 debut album ‘Five Year Mission’ showed they were more than just a novelty act with the long playing follow-ups ‘Alien Worlds’, ‘Assignment: Earth’ and ‘S.P.O.C.K: 1999’ expanding their audience and allowing the band to tour the world including the US in 1999.

Despite having not released any new music since ‘2001: A S.P.O.C.K Odyssey’, the band remain a draw on the live circuit in Europe. 2023 became their busiest year since their heyday with appearances at festivals such as Amphi, NCN and V2A as well as sold-out headlining club shows. There was even a S.P.O.C.K beer brewed in their honour called ‘Alien Attack’.

While various crew members including Captain Eddie B Kirk, Plasteroid and Crull-E have come and gone over the years, Yo-Haan and Val Solo currently man the engine room. But the constant at the helm of S.P.O.C.K has been Android, better known to his family by his earth name of Alexander Hofman.

With his characteristic boyish grin and phasers set to fun, Android hailed frequencies and chatted to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about the band’s inter-galactic adventures in Spock ‘n’ Roll via his communicator…

How on earth did this ‘Five Year Mission’ become a 35 year one?

I don’t know, it just went on and on and on to paraphrase the ABBA song. There was never any intention or plan, we just kept doing it because it’s possible. The first 13 years or so, every second year there was a new album. But when we released our last album ‘2001: A S.P.O.C.K Odyssey’, the music industry changed due to the internet, MP3s and all that.

At that time, it was virtually like a full time job although it was with the support of the Swedish government. So it wasn’t like we were driving Rolls Royces or drinking champagne for breakfast. So we needed to change and it was time for us to get regular jobs. But it was impossible to just quit, a lot of bands quit but for S.P.O.C.K, it was never an option or even mentioned.

What was the moment when ‘Never Trust A Klingon’ was out that you realised you would not be able to take conventional shore leave again?

That’s never really happened to us, ‘Never Trust A Klingon’ was our breakthrough and is still an underground classic; this is the sub-cultural thing, we had an underground hit but we could still walk the streets without getting attacked *laughs*

At the time of its release, it didn’t feel like a breakthrough. During the years when we released albums, it all just felt natural, “OK, let’s do a song, let’s do another song, let’s do an album, let’s tour” and we kept repeating that cycle for a few laps. So yes, 2001 was when we had to change our lives and we never got round to doing another album… I know the question is always “will there be a new album?”, I don’t know… “will there be new music?”, I hope so…

Perhaps the question is “how is it possible to still keep going?”… well it’s because it’s fun, that would sum it all up. You’ve seen us, we are a bunch of guys who are tons of fun on stage… just to get invited to do those shows and take that responsibility and have a bunch of people showing up to see us, that’s energy enough. That’s the reason we didn’t quit, who would want to miss out on all that? You were at Amphi Festival, there were like thousands and thousands of people there, everybody wants to be appreciated and get some tender love and care. I would be stupid to say “let’s call it a day” *laughs*

The addition of dialogue by William Shatner as Kirk from ‘Star Trek III: The Search For Spock’ gave ‘Never Trust A Klingon’ some camp but simultaneously a poignant resonance. Did it take Paramount much convincing to let you use the sample?

We never asked them! *laughs*

We did ask Paramount about other things like to do with our name but not that. That was first released in 1992 and at that time, everyone was sampling stuff. That was the era when it was still being debated as to how much you were allowed, if anything, to sample. A lot of artists sampled like crazy and we were doing what everyone else was doing. But had it been today, it wouldn’t have been possible but back then, it was!

‘Charlie X’ is an interesting song as that is the story of a disturbed teenage boy who develops a crush on the lesser known ‘Star Trek’ character Yeoman Janice Rand who had an incredible beehive, have S.P.O.C.K had any stalkers?

Yes and no but “stalker” is the negative version… there have been people who have shown a lot of interest but it’s never been scary or anything so in that sense. I would say no, let’s call them very devoted fans… I’ve never been afraid that someone would stand outside the stage door waiting for me or the crew 😀

Did you meet any Orion girls on tour? Or were they more Astro Girls?

Dude! You know that what happens on the tour bus stays on the tour bus! *laughs*

There was that time in 2020 in London when your uniforms got lost en route to the show! What’s your favourite funny memory in the Captain’s Log?

There are a lot stories, many I have forgotten from being old or being drunk! *laughs*

There was this incident when we actually bumped into William Shatner at a ‘Star Trek’ convention! We were touring the States in 1999 and paid a lot of money to do it to buy ourselves into the market. Two of those shows were at the start of the tour in Pasadena at the biggest ‘Star Trek’ convention in the world. For some reason, they put us on a bill where attendees had to pay extra as they do at these things, but we said no, we wanted to present ourselves to attract an audience… anyway, we had the biggest number of aliens attend a S.P.O.C.K show, they were dancing around and it was amazing because nobody knew us *laughs*

I remember William Shatner was there on one of the days we were playing and people were standing in line along a wall in our concert hall because he was signing books and photos. So some people couldn’t help but see us and Shatner was backstage on our stage. When we were done with our show, the event promoter asked if we would like to meet William Shatner so his manager and the event promoter talked and we got to meet him.

William Shatner didn’t care that much but we asked if we could have a picture with him… he’s not that tall and certainly not as tall as we were, so when the photo was being taken by our sound engineer, being a total professional, just before the shutter clicked, Shatner stepped up on his toes to make himself as tall as us! *laughs*

Talking of uniforms, the cover of ‘Alien Worlds’ portrays Plasteroid as a dead redshirt… there was that ‘Star Trek: Every Redshirt Death Ranked From Worst To Best’ list, do you have a favourite death scene?

That was a great article but no I do not, I’ve never ranked them in that sense myself. Maybe it’s because we loved our version of the redshirt death on ‘Alien Worlds’. I had to apologise to Plasteroid aka Johan Billing because when he came aboard, we treated him not too nice *laughs*

He was very young, me and Captain Eddie B Kirk had been in the band for 5 years and told him he had to do some hard work as we’d paved the way, he wasn’t going to get things served to him on a plate. So the first thing we do when we show him on the cover of the album, he’s shot! We killed him! He’s cool with it nowadays and we hang out every so often and have become good friends since *laughs*

What’s your favourite original ‘Star Trek’ episode?

Oooh! When we performed as a band in the late 80s, the original series was shown on a quite new Swedish network at the time so wasn’t available to all, and this was the first time since the 70s. So we had gatherings at my place to watch those episodes and drank beer… some episodes are cheesy right? *laughs*

YEAH! 😉 *laughs*

Even by the late 80s, the special effects were so-so and the acting was “hmmm” so there was a lot of laughs of course. But I remember there was this one episode ‘The City On The Edge Of Forever’, there was dead silence in the room because it was such a great episode. I saw it again 2 months ago, every time I have some sort of anniversary, I watch an original series episode. It’s a time travelling story and I don’t usually like those but I liked that. Doctor McCoy goes insane and jumps though a forever portal which can talk! So he lands in the 30s and meets a good looking lady…

That’s the Joan Collins one and she gets run over by a car? *laughs*

Exactly… and in those time travel stories, something changes so Kirk and Spock have to go back as well and sort the situation! And that means sacrificing the love interest of Kirk! *laughs*

It’s amazing how S.P.O.C.K continues to be embraced by the darker alternative music community in Europe, what do you put that down to?

I have no idea, in a way it surprises me. When we started, in the heydays of the 90s, it was the natural thing, ‘Never Trust A Klingon’ and the first album were much more rough, there was a big scene at that time for such music. But along the road, we got more sleek and polished, had better production and drifted away from this dark scene. I have this theory that the dark scene don’t appreciate quality as we introduced more and more choruses and harmonies. *laughs*

In the dark scene, there used to be more electronic pop bands, nowadays and in the past decade or so, there are hardly any “pop” bands within the dark scene. Yes, there are electronic pop acts now and have been in the last 10 years like the ones you feature but it doesn’t fit this scene at all. So how do we fit in? Nostalgia I guess, I don’t mind. There’s a difference in Sweden and Germany where we mostly do our shows, as there are living scenes with festivals. The UK, I don’t know, is there that much left? We do challenge that dark scene because everyone there is dressed in black, and we dress up in white!*laughs*

I do that almost on purpose to tease them and make them think it’s possible to be happy. So much of that scene is so negative, full of death and angst and all that sh*t. We just want to be happy, have fun and party, that’s why we do it and apparently, people at these events appreciate it. There is hope for these gloomy persons out there. And since we haven’t released anything in 22 years, that means we mostly do festivals and it’s kinda easier to ride on the other bands’ success so people show up anyway because they are there anyway and they know we are a good live act. It’s happiness, joyful, dancey, it’s their few minutes of fun… maybe that’s the reason we can still be appreciated by that audience, it creates some balance in the universe *laughs*

S.P.O.C.K are not that well-known in the UK but you were invited to do festival in the Autumn. How did that go?

This festival was organised by V2A who are a scene band and have this Mad Max theme. They play at all the major Mad Max post-apocalyptic festivals, they love S.P.O.C.K and they said we needed to play their festival. We were concerned that nobody would know us, but they told us not to worry because they were so open-minded.

So for the first time in many-many-many years, we stood in front of a crowd who absolutely did not know about us and that was a challenge…. but we convinced them all and I’m so happy that we still have that in us. Because we have so much experience, we tell ourselves it’s OUR stage and we own this stage and we do what we’re good at, which is expressing our enthusiasm and professionalism about our work. Even though they are not the best songs in the world, it’s the overall package with S.P.O.C.K and although it was a small festival, the crowd were blown away, people were dancing and screaming and shouting and having a lot of fun. I would say the rate of positive comments after the festival compared to how many people were there was very very high.

So I was super happy and also it was the most wicked experience in my life. The whole weekend was totally crazy, we lived in cottages that looked Hobbitland run by a guy who was renovating a dinosaur mini-golf course and had a double decker bus on his drive with a Thai restaurant called ‘Thai In The Sky’. It was just the weirdest wonderful experience and I’m still wearing the wristband from that festival! I’m gonna wear it for a little longer 😉

The Sci-Fi notions of S.P.O.C.K meant that it could only have been an electronic act, or could it have been formatted for a rock audience?

NO! *laughs*

We grew up with electronic pop music in the 80s and it just went to our hearts, it was the natural thing to do for us to explore electronic music. Maybe we could have dreamt about it and become more successful being a rock act. I know that at times back in the day, I would joke that we should have been a sleaze metal act, then we would have got more girls and become a bigger thing. I mean, the heavy metal or rock ‘n’ roll scene, to me it’s a bit like electronic music, there are a wide range of styles within… so in electronic music, it could range from ERASURE to RAMMSTEIN… and in metal, there can be this sophisticated stuff to well, actually RAMMSTEIN! So there is so much in between. The rock scene is very much alive and has been always, whereas the electronic scene is unfortunately declining-declining-declining.

Well, I think 2023 was one of the worst years for electronic and synth music since 2012, one observation I’ve made is there are acts now that say they are “synth” or “electronic” who are anything but, they are actually funk, pop and rock acts etc. Have you come across yourself?

No, I haven’t but that does not mean that doesn’t exist, it’s more about me not keeping up to date, I have no idea what is going on anymore. I often joke I have not listened to any new music since the turn of the millennium. I haven’t spent a day listening to any new music released in 2023 and I know that sounds stupid but I only have so much time.

I think that’s understandable, in our age group, we’ve reached a point in our lives where we know what we like and finding new music is just not No1 anymore… but let’s talk about more fun stuff… S.P.O.C.K had the ‘Alien Attack’ beer brewed in its name recently?

There’s no short answer to this one so thank you! *laughs*

I’ve been a beer nerd for 7 or 8 years now, I met someone who was very into the IPA revolution when I was only into drinking lousy backstage beer. With him, I stumbled across a sour beer and that blew my mind. That was a shift in life and I have since tried a few sour beers. I don’t collect but I have ended up with a substantial collection at home because I buy more than I drink.

S.P.O.C.K continued to do shows and we actually have done a show every year except the Corona year. But it occurred to me on tour drinking that backstage beer that it would be fun to do a beer, because I love beer and I love my band. Knowing the beer community, it has such a happy smiling atmosphere, the opposite of how I see the wine snobbery world… I’ve never been a wine drinker, you need to be so super snobby to do it and that’s not me! The beer community has a lot of creativity and a lot of fun, I felt this was my world.

There’s a lot of micro-breweries who do collaborations so I had two choices. Either I pay someone to do my beer or I do a collab. I wasn’t into paying someone and it wasn’t about earning or business, I wanted to find someone who was eager.There was this local brewery near where I live called Rocket Brewing which was a perfect name. I approached them at a beer festival on the common theme of space, beer and local connections… and their response? It was just emptiness, void! *laughs*

So I approached another brewery in town named Elmelevel via a friend, their labels were amazing pieces of art and with their titles were pure science-fiction, but they replied and said no as they didn’t know the band. I appreciated their answer, at least they were honest and I needed to find someone that wanted to do this.

So still no S.P.O.C.K beer, what happened next?

Time went on and I went to another beer festival a year ago walking amongst other beer nerds and down this aisle, a guy with a long beard who pulled me aside to his taps and went “You’re Alexander from S.P.O.C.K, I grew up with your music and you made such an impact on me, can I offer you a beer or two?” – so he was totally enthusiastic, he met the superstar of his life and while we were talking, along comes another guy who goes “WOAH! IT’S YOU! You’re Alexander from S.P.O.C.K!” And this carried on, there was a third guy and then a fourth guy… usually I can walk around the city quite anonymously but then I come to a beer festival being mobbed by beer nerds who know about my music!

So back to the first guy who pulled me aside, I told him that I wanted to do a beer and how the breweries had rejected me and he gave me his card. His brewery Ten Hands Brewing was in a city 400 miles north of me in Sweden, but there was a nearby club who had noticed I was more active on social media with S.P.O.C.K and asked us to do a show. Then I remembered this was the brewery city, it was the stars aligning so I called him. I told him we were doing a show in his town in a few months and asked if there was any chance they could do a beer. His reply was “WE CAN DO IT!” so we did a beer.

How did you complete your beer mission?

Two months later, I stepped on a train and brewed the beer, I don’t know anything about how they brew a beer but I can tell you what I like or don’t like, I can’t tell you what a beer is, except it’s something that makes me drunk. The brewer asked me what kind of beer I wanted and it was a sour beer. When he asked about flavour, I suggested elderflower. We sat in the kitchen of the brewery and it was like a chemistry experiment with plastic bottles and pipettes, I poured something into something and that’s how I made it… that was fun and as a bonus thing, we developed quite a friendship and he confirmed all the love in the brewing world.

When it came to naming, he had a shortlist of a hundred names, all sci-fi and space related like ‘Space Flower’ but I didn’t want something as braggy as IRON MAIDEN or MOTÖRHEAD as a branded thing. I wanted something that was cool and laid back that was an apparent S.P.O.C.K beer but not call it S.P.O.C.K, because if I had called it that, it would be a merchandise product. So I thought, let’s go for a song title so that was a possible 60 songs. Although ‘Never Trust A Klingon’ is our well-known song within the scene, our biggest hit outside of it and especially in Sweden where we have all sorts people coming to our shows is ‘Alien Attack’; we performed it on the Swedish equivalent of BBC TV a thousand years ago so ‘Alien Attack’ it was!

You mentioned that you got noticed recently because you had become active on social media, so what was the motivation to use it more to maintain S.P.O.C.K’s profile? Do you enjoy it?

I enjoy it to a certain extent and I need to now, every artist does… we had a website once that took ages to update and when we changed the host, everything disappeared so that meant I had to do Facebook. It’s free but I read a book by George Takei about using social media so I thought, if he’s doing it, so should I.

Although we are doing it for fun, S.P.O.C.K is a professional product and even though that word might be the wrong word to use, we need to nurture S.P.O.C.K and show to promoters and fans that we are alive. Although it takes a lot of time, there is a creative touch to it and it’s fun. I am eager to be creative. I will write a summary of 2023 which has been amazing and it’s important to show we are here and there.

As S.P.O.C.K, are you interested in utilising the possibilities of AI for anything, whether that’s in music, video or promotion?

It’s a very good question and it’s a valid one. I don’t know much about AI but I would never close that door. 2023 is the AI year right and I’m not up to speed yet, but after I’ve taken a breather, I want to see what AI can do, apparently it’s anything and everything. Do I think it’s a big no-no? Of course not, it’s highly interesting… isn’t that what the electronic scene is about? To push the frontiers. So let’s do it but it’s too early to tell, ask me again in a year *laughs*

You cannot change the laws of physics, but is there anything you would have liked to have done differently with S.P.O.C.K?

In the past 22 years, it has not been as creative and up until 2001 with the fifth album, nothing was planned and we kept working-working-working even though there were changes in crew but the product continued to develop… up to that point, there is nothing I regret because it was all natural development. However, if I were to change anything, then I could have pushed harder in the few years following ‘2001: A S.P.O.C.K Odyssey’ to see what we could have done creatively. At that time, we did sell less and had to take regular jobs just to be able to pay the rent at all. Perhaps we could have found a balance but that’s easy to say now. Every now and then when I get asked that question, I reply as I mentioned earlier, I wish we did sleaze rock instead *laughs*

What are the future missions of S.P.O.C.K?

We will continue! *laughs*

The 35th Anniversary has been amazing, we did 10 shows in 2023 which I know doesn’t sound much…

…it’s more than a lot of bands!*laughs*

That’s true! I haven’t done 10 shows in a calendar year for 22 years either! We worked out we had 21 travelling days this year with S.P.O.C.K so it’s a lot of travels and we have daytime jobs to attend to. Every show has a week of preparation and there’s administration plus of course there’s social media traction etc, it’s a lot of work. But it’s very encouraging because all 10 of those shows were more or less sold out, it was 7 club shows and 3 festivals. So we are super tired but I feel that we get better and better, we are a frakkin’ good live act right now so we should continue. But we are taking a break now because no-one else has booked us and I haven’t reached out to any promoters! *laughs*

Will there be any new music? I prefer not to answer that one because if I say something, expectations will go up, I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes so I remain silent… so if there is something, there’s going to be this huge bang, it’s better that way. We have had a few jamming sessions so let’s see what happens with that… 🖖😀


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its fascinated thanks to Alexander Hofman

‘Assignment: Earth’, ‘S.P.O.C.K: 1999’, ‘2001: A S.P.O.C.K Odyssey’ and the compilation ‘Another Piece of the Action: The Best of the SubSpace Years’ are still available via SubSpace Productions on the usual download channels

https://www.facebook.com/StarPilotOnChannelK

https://www.instagram.com/starpilotonchannelk/

https://open.spotify.com/artist/2sDfbgbPqK8cnEDV5bCyby


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
6 January 2024

CIRCUIT3 Louder Than Words

Photo by Paul Maxwell

Following his history of space travel concept opus ‘Technology For The Youth’ in 2022, Peter Fitzpatrick has landed back on earth and returns as CIRCUIT3 with ‘Louder Than Words’.

Featuring the tasty sounds of a Minimoog Model D, Sequential Prophet 10, Roland Juno 106 and Oberheim OBX-8, the synth-obsessed Irishman has headed down to the disco for a glitterball pop groover unlike any of his previous works. This CIRCUIT3 track is an exclusive which forms part of a new AnalogueTrash Label Sampler which also features SPRAY and VIEON. ‘Louder Than Words’ also comes with a striking visual accompaniment generated by AI.

Peter Fitzpatrick chatted to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about the making of ‘Louder Than Words’ and the impact of technology for the middle aged man…

‘Louder Than Words’ is a disco song, is this signs of a new direction?

I’m getting braver I guess. Over the last 2-3 years I’ve listened to a lot of current and legacy dance music. I can’t dance so it’s a little perverted that I dare try this. Feeling a burst of new creative energy after what was a challenging year health-wise, it’s going to come out in some form or another. Somehow I doubt I’ll be able to just ‘do’ dance tracks and there’ll have to be an element of classic synth pop miserable-ism in there. The title and lyrics came from my regular writing partner Brian McCloskey (host of the Smash Hits blog ‘Like Punk Never Happened’). When I started to put my own spin on his lyric the imagery which came to mind was the Silence=Death Project. “Silence has spoken…. Louder than words”.

The music came from a host of new instruments in my studio including the classic Minimoog and an OBX-8. Someone at the label said “ohh that solo is like CHROMEO”. Loved hearing that as I do like to listen to funk and sometimes late at night in the studio, I pretend I can play it.

You did the video using AI, how did that come about?

In my day job, I’ve been learning how to apply Generative AI and naturally instead of doing actual work, I was exploring how I might apply it to my music. Using a commercial Generative Video AI service, I learned in a few hours that I loved doing this. I’ve always enjoyed making video but I’m a frustrated visual artist. My prompts to the AI toolset allowed me use various models and piece together over a few evenings the video you’re sharing now. The technology is really enabling for me.

There’s a bit in the middle with the car which appears to be very Jack Vettriano in imagery, what that part of the brief you’d instructed?

Well spotted! Until I started playing with the AI toolset, I had no idea who Mr Vettriano is. With AI it can create a model based upon certain style or content. On my request, the tool created a section which used the style of Jack Vettriano. All I saw were some visual options I could use and I liked how it looked. After you pointed it out, I went back and indeed that’s the style of the model I chose.

Dunno about you, but I’m getting sick of these one minute reels that are passing for videos on socials appeasing listeners with low attention spans when those us with a bit more focus want a full length visual presentation… so with AI, musicians have no excuse not to make videos, discuss 😉

The dumbing down continues. When a 4 minute video is considered long-form, I think we’re in trouble! AI is another tool for musicians. For this video I chose to do it entirely using an AI toolset but my preference would be to use it to enhance other video content. In fact I’m working on making an AI model of myself with a view to creating hybrid real-life / AI video. Watch out though because there’s about to be a lot of really sh*t video created.

What is next for CIRCUIT3? I’m getting tired of the single track release strategy used by many acts to max the Spotify algorithm, are you going to join in on that one or will it be an EP, mini-album or full length long player for you?

I’m back writing and demo’ing across 3 different projects right now. One of them will be a Dystopian Disco building up on this first track ‘Louder Than Words’. The other 2 could not be further away from anything I’ve done before. My live show has been revamped to become more interactive and inventive. I’m working on a niche project which was offered to me by someone on the night of the Vince Clarke live show in the London School of Economics in late 2023 which signals the direction of that endeavour.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Peter Fitzpatrick

‘Louder Than Words’ is available now as a download exclusively on the AnalogueTrash Label Sampler Vol. 7 using a pay-what-you-can model via https://analoguetrash.bandcamp.com/album/analoguetrash-label-sampler-vol-7

http://www.circuit3.com/

https://www.facebook.com/circuit03/

https://twitter.com/Circuit3Music

https://www.instagram.com/circuit3music/

https://soundcloud.com/circuit3/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
29 December 2023

CZARINA The Fox’s Wedding

A film by The Kitsunés, ‘The Fox’s Wedding’ is both inspired by the East Asian folklore and legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa’s short film of the same title.

From ‘Arcana’, the acclaimed second album of Warrior Goth by New York born CZARINA, the immaculate visual presentation is directed by her and her husband DeadlyKawaii who together are The Kitsunés. It sees East embrace West with a nod to deep roots and lineage, following three mischievous children entering a magical forest filled with fantastical creatures and stumbling upon a magical wedding procession that they secretly follow.

As has been central to all previous CZARINA videos, care and attention has been applied to location and props. Filmed in the Spanish region of Galicia, there are hand painted masks with both Asian and Galician floral motifs as well as a traditional Galician Sporran.

CZARINA chatted to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about the making of ‘The Fox’s Wedding’ and her future plans…

Out of the remaining tracks on the ‘Arcana’ album, what made you feel ‘The Fox’s Wedding’ deserved a video treatment?

I wrote ‘The Fox’s Wedding’ as the wedding march song for my and DeadlyKawaii’s wedding. We got married on Winter Solstice 5 years ago, but we had a low key ceremony and celebrations in New York at the time as our families were sprawled across 3 different continents. We are still hopeful to have a grand ceremony here in Galicia with our families together where we can actually utilise the song. But for now, we figured to work on a video that can visually elaborate on the magic that inspired the song, as well as a Winter Solstice offering to close Arcana before I move on to the next record.

Who is “The Fox”?

Both bride and groom in the video, along with the entire entourage. We just went with the singular “Fox” following the traditional title for the Asian folklore – in this case, the Japanese version, “Kitsune No Yomeiri.

It’s interesting how foxes are vilified by the English Aristocracy and other Western cultures but Ancient Chinese traditions admired them?

The tale of the Fox Spirit – called kitsune in Japan, kumiho in Korea, and huli jing or Nine Tails in China and other parts of Asia – is a massive part of the diasporic traditional folklore of Asia.  Magical creatures, shapeshifters and demi-gods seen as both benevolent and malevolent in their role in maintaining cosmic balance as karmic deliverers, fox spirits are said to have brought downfall to certain dynastic empires.  But the legend of ‘The Fox’s Wedding’ is one that has been quite popular and has received numerous beautiful depictions throughout Asian history to today.  We wanted to capture a lot of the details of the legend in the video – from the sunshine rain to the kitsunebi ghost lights that appear in the forest and of course, the mischievous trickery and final reveal at the very end of the video.

Were the lit paper lanterns and boats inspired by the imagery of Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival?

Yes, we wanted to bring some of the most beautiful Asian traditions into the ambience, especially the dance of lights and the lantern boats from Chinese Mid-Autumn festival and DuanWu. The video is a unique amalgam of Asian traditions mixed with Galician to reflect both my and DeadlyKawaii’s diverse lineage and backgrounds.  We wanted to weave that beautiful visual tapestry that bridges the East with the West.  I always felt like it’s our personal duty with this project to symbolically communicate this bridge in both art and music, and this video gave the platform to showcase this.

The designs on the entourage’s fox masks were inspired by Sargadelos – which is the iconic Galician porcelain and ceramic wares found all over the region.  The entourage also wore blue robes as that is the official colour of Galicia.  Whereas the bride and groom have a mix of traditional Asian ceremonial attire with Galician motifs and accessories like the Galician Sporran, with their fox masks symbolising nature and the cosmos.

The faerie creatures that appear were also a mix – from kodamas or “tree spirits” found in Japanese folklore, also called nuno in Filipino, to the horned forest guardians found in Gaelic and Druid legends.

How was it directing the child stars in the story?

It was so much fun working with the kids! I felt we got very lucky because they were so perfect and such natural talents.  The two boys, Tico and Torgas, are the fraternal twins of our associate producer, and the girl Charlotte is their friend from school whom they eagerly suggested we cast. So they already have that natural bond with each other and were funny and goofy, yet curious at the same time.  We usually film our own videos, but this time we enlisted the help of Galician cinematographer, Raul Lorenzo, who worked with us in directing the kids for the shots.  All their shots were so precious and hilarious, so it was quite hard to choose what would go in the final edit. They did a beautiful and tremendous job ushering the audience into the magic and throughout.

You played for the first time in Germany at Dark Dance Treffen recently, how was it and are you doing more?

Performing at Dark Dance Treffen so far is one of my greatest highlights. I really had a great time at the festival and getting to know the German dark music and alternative scene.  The scene was quite next-level and I was truly in awe by how cool and awesome they are. And yes, I would love to do a tour in Germany soon and do more fests. The next dark fest I’ll be performing at is at the iconic Castle Party in Poland in July 2024.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to CZARINA

‘The Fox’s Wedding’ is from the album ‘Arcana’ released by darkTunes Music Group, available from https://czarinaofficial.bandcamp.com/

https://www.czarinaofficial.com/

https://www.facebook.com/czarinanyc

https://twitter.com/CZARINAnyc

https://www.instagram.com/czarinaofficial/

https://lnk.to/arcana


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
22 December 2023

LOULA YORKE Interview

Loula Yorke is the Oram Award winning live modular synthesist whose excellent new album ‘Volta’ is released at the start of 2024.

Prior to releasing her 2022 full length debut ‘Florescence’, the Suffolk-based composer was a member of underground dance duo TR-33N with her partner Dave Stitch, self-releasing an album ‘Tigerforce 10’ and experimenting with the sounds of footwork and jungle.

While her initial solo works had more of an experimental DIY punk aesthetic, ‘Volta’ is more about weaving more subtle patterns into sound on a modular synth and has been described by Loula Yorke herself as “luminous”. Acting as a trailer to the album, ‘It’s been decided that if you lay down no-one will die’ is a bittersweet meditation on overwhelm: the difficulty in trying to make space while everything still rushes in. The only way to end the cycle is to surrender.

After returning from performing in Northern Ireland for the Northern Lights Project, Loula Yorke took some time out to answer some questions put to her by ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about her creative ethos and the making of her new album ‘Volta’.

It is well known that some involved in electronic music develop an equipment collection fetish, so how do you balance things and focus on the task in hand which is using these synths and modules to create and make music while being excited about new developments?

I have a serious aversion to consumer culture and shopping in general. I’ve no interest in buying or collecting synths. I don’t consciously keep up with what’s being released. Apart from anything else I can’t afford it! Instead I agonise over every purchase for months, and only press the button when I genuinely feel it’s going to progress things significantly. I’m quite good at selling modules I don’t use rather than feeling I have to hold onto them for an imagined future where they might come in handy.

What is your set-up at present and what does it help you do?

At the moment I have two Arturia Rackbrute 84hp 6U cases set up side-by-side. One is for synths – oscillators, filters, modulation sources, envelope generators, VCAs and a stereo delay. My main sound is a Verbos Harmonic Oscillator, which took me 4 years to get hold of. I bought it secondhand. The other case is for sequencing, creating rhythms, drums, textures, processing and mixing.

My main sequencer is an Erica Synths Black Sequencer, again a purchase I probably took a year to make. I also have a side project OULAN with a vocalist, Una Lee, and for that I use a single case with a mixture of modules focused on envelope following and vocal processing, with the Verbos providing a drone.

Do vintage synthesizers interest you?

Yes and no. I’m not into the ‘collector’ angle but I do appreciate the unique sonic peculiarities and eccentricities of vintage synths. How temperamental, how changeable they are, their warmth. My partner Dave Stitch has a Yamaha CS-60 in his studio as well as a TR-808 and some other classic synths. I particularly like the CS-60 actually – the range of sounds it can create is out of this world! My track ‘YES’ that came out on Accidental Records was made with layers of CS-60. I actually played a couple of gigs with it but it’s very delicate, heavy, and quite scary to take out so that adventure didn’t last long.

What did you think of the ‘Sisters With Transistors’ film which celebrated the little known female electronic music pioneers? Did that provide any inspiration or reassurance?

I really enjoyed it! I had the privilege of being on a panel with the Director Lisa Rovner as part of the promotion around the UK release back in 2020. The film is still being shown and having loads of impact as it reaches new people – for example, I’m playing in Leeds next year at an event where it’s being shown. It pairs really well with the documentary on Beverly-Glenn Copeland also. Just these fascinating glimpses into the history of the form. It’s great to see so many different approaches and manifestations of how electronics are used by composers who you can relate to a bit more readily.

Your previous album ‘Florescence’ appeared to be more random and rhythmic in its content than ‘Volta’ which has more structure?

I’d say they’re both rhythmic, but ‘Volta’ is born out of composed sequences, whereas ‘Florescence’ came more from experiments with patching and routing coupled with melodic content that relied on improvised pseudo-random quantised pitches.

What were the rules you set for ‘Volta’?

The idea was to create a series of monophonic sequences that would gradually reveal themselves over time, ie not all the notes would sound at first, rather they would build up to create a full piece over the course of each track. I wanted to use delay and picking different steps out with different voices to give the implication of multiple parts and voices, sometimes implying a bassline or a chord progression that isn’t actually there in a sense.

While on the creative roll, did you need to break any of your rules for the benefit of the outcome?

Yes! I ended up recording a couple where there was more than one sequence playing at once, and I discovered that that’s OK too. I had been worried that by having notes playing under other notes it would end up sounding too obvious, like a “song”, but it turned out fine.

You’ve described ‘Volta’ as “luminous”, does synaesthesia enter into any of your compositional approaches?

Interesting! So I’m not consciously evoking synaesthesia, but I did want this album to emanate or transmit a feeling of light – something shining, illuminating, uplifting, as well as the more spatial geometric forms that I imagine the sequences to weave.

‘The grounds are changing as they promise to do’ is inspired by nature, how important is being in a rural location for your creativity? Could you do what you do while living in a city?

The countryside is not an idyll. There is barely anything left of what we might think of natural landscape or wildlife habitat where I live in East Anglia, outside of a few dedicated conservation areas. What we have is a desert of arable monoculture farmland interspersed with roads with a few besieged hedges along their peripheries. I am very lucky to live on a protected piece of common land which is left for wildflowers and ‘taken for hay’ in late June. However, it has two busy roads intersecting right in its middle – the noise from which immediately pulls you out of any pastoral fantasy. The ‘natural’ inspiration behind that track is evoking that moist, fertile feeling of autumn leaves underfoot – something you’d be able to experience more readily walking in a wooded park in a town or city than standing in a freshly ploughed 8-acre field.

Which are your own favourite pieces on ‘Volta’?

One of my favourites is the closing track ‘Falling Apart Together’ because of the savage amounts of glide applied to a veeeeeery slow-moving sequence played right up against another sequence that is musically totally disconnected from the first. Yet your mind creates a connection. Your mind and ear working together makes it happen.

What are your hopes and fears for the future of music creation and consumption as an independent artist, especially with streaming, social media, business changes in platforms like Bandcamp and the development of AI?

Oh gosh, an answer to this question could be like 20 whole articles! All I will say is we need artist-first solutions that are not reliant on the goodwill of a single centralised platform.

Finally, who do you hope ‘Volta’ will appeal to and where would you like to take your music next?

I think ‘Volta’ will appeal to people who are intrigued by the sounds of “Laurie Speigel meets AUTECHRE”. Also listeners to Suzanne Ciani, Lisa Bella Donna, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Caterina Barbieri, lovers of ambient techno or anthemic dance music. As for “where next”, there will be more music, there will be more live shows, I just want to keep making and sharing what I make with kind and gentle ears. I’ve just started a free email newsletter called ‘Yorke Talk’ that I would encourage anyone reading this to sign up to https://eepurl.com/igs-cP


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Loula Yorke

‘Volta’ is released on 23 January 2024 via Truxalis as a CD, cassette and download, pre-order available from https://loulayorke.bandcamp.com/music

Loula Yorke 2024 live dates include Ipswich The Smokehouse (12 January), Norwich Arts Centre (27 January)*, London Cafe Oto (30 January)**, Leeds Howard Assembly Room (23 February)***

*opening for Mary Ocher
**opening for Vito Ricci + Lise Vachon
***‘Sister With Transistors’ screening plus live sets including NikNak + Gracie T

https://loulayorke.com/

https://www.facebook.com/loulayorke

https://twitter.com/loulayorke

https://instagram.com/iamloula


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
14 December 2023

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