Category: Vintage Synth Trumps (Page 2 of 3)

Vintage Synth Trumps with CIRCUIT3

With every new album comes an adventure and for Dublin-based CIRCUIT3, his next one is in outer space.

The rocket-propelled vehicle of Peter Fitzpatrick, the Irishman delighted electronic music fans with a series of intimate live streamed shows from his home studio of cover versions and original works during lockdown. The performances were also an opportunity to road test new material and those songs now formally appear on the new CIRCUIT3 opus ‘Technology For The Youth’.

An ambitious work that presents a chronology of the space race and pirate radio in relation to the socio-political environment of today, the album has been launched with a single ‘Future Radio’ co-produced by Sean Barron, best known for his Wolfgang Flür collaboration ‘The Activity Of Sound’ as iEUROPEAN.

Heavily influenced by the classic era of synth before digital as well as its modern analogue variant, as on KRAFTWERK’s ‘Radio-Activity’ and OMD’s ‘Dazzle Ships’, ‘Technology For The Youth’ features conceptual instrumentals alongside more precise pop structures. That progression of movement toward the stars continues on the new single ‘Overview Effect’ featuring the vocals of Italian singer Alessia Turcato. It was inspired by the life imitating art scenario of William Shatner who played James T Kirk on ‘Star Trek’ to became oldest person in space at 90 onboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard sub-orbital space rocket.

With that in mind, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK challenged CIRCUIT3 to a game of Vintage Synth Trumps while chatting about his latest musical journey into the galactic frontier…

Alright, the first card is a Korg Mono/Poly. Are you an owner of a Mono/Poly?

No. I’m curious about the Mono/Poly because it’s really a paraphonic synth rather than polyphonic, but that trick where you can cycle through each of the VCOs with the arpeggiator on is interesting. Each VCO can be set to a different waveform. My friend Brian O’Malley. better known to you as POLYDROID. has one and likes it. So yes I’m curious but not enough to get one and I’m unsure about the quality of the Behringer clone

Are you a fan of Korg gear anyway?

Yeah, I think they’re interesting but I just haven’t had the same relationship with them like I have with Roland and Sequential. I tried an MS10 in 1979 and it was absolutely bewildering to me. I couldn’t get a sound out of it. It was only the second synth I touched – the first was that Tandy RadioShack synth that Moog made for them. I have an MS20 on loan (from POLYDROID) which has these interesting harmonics coming off the filter and not the raw sound that I was expecting. I associate the MS20 with a more synthpunk filter. Maybe I need lessons.

I have a Poly 61M which is the factory MIDI version of the Poly 61 but have no room for it so that’s in storage until someone offers me a trade for it. It was released about the time of the Roland Junos coming out and I just found it difficult to get wild sounds out of it. I think that the filtering on it is just too polite and it needs a lot of treatment when you’re recording it, it didn’t really have any character and I was hoping for more. No wait… I had a Poly 800… yeah it’s coming back to me now! I had a Poly 800 which was rubbish. Just not good at all. Sounds like a plastic bag with bees in it.

I remember KID KASIO aka Nathan Cooper told me he found a Poly 800 in a skip, which he retrieved and put in his Fiction Studios…

He really should have left it there. I remember that at the time, I had a decision to make between the Poly 800 and the Juno 106.

The Juno 106 had a much larger 61 note key bed but the Poly 800 had a little sequencer in and that mattered at the time because I was thinking value for money. They were polysynths, of course I could only buy one of them. I’m so glad I went with the 106 in the end.

OK, here’s the next card and it is the Korg 700s which of course, your friend Martyn Ware had as his first synth and Daniel Miller…

There was a recent reissue of that, you turn it on and it’s instant Daniel Ware or Martyn Miller whichever way you want to describe it! It’s impossible not to sound like “THE HUMAN NORMAL”! *laughs*

I am tempted by it, but I really have to think carefully because there’s just it’s a space consideration now. And it has those funny buttons on it. I don’t know if I could get used to that. They look weird.

What you mean underneath the keyboard?

Yeah, that’s just to me having played lots of gigs that screams “they’re going to get broken!”. They’d get in the way where they are. Just like the old ARPs where the keys would protrude over the edge of the chassis and you’re thinking, no, something’s going to smack against that. So yeah, I have to try one. I’ve seen lots of really cool demos.

It looks really interesting. And I know Martyn got a copy of the reissue and he loves it. Martyn was using it at the ‘Reproduction / Travelogue’ shows, so look, if it’s still good enough for him, then it’s good enough for the rest of us.

Daniel Miller showed me his Korg 700s recently at the Robert Rental & Thomas Leer exhibition and he told me it still works… OK, the next card is a Roland Jupiter 6. But you have a Jupiter 4?

I do, I can’t afford a Jupiter 8 and I missed a Jupiter 6 two years ago. One came up for sale locally at a really low price and I missed it by 30 seconds. The seller said, “oh, there’s a small fault with it, but I can’t be bothered fixing it”. I’m like “you idiot, you absolute idiot!” and the person who bought it then sold it on for a nice profit.

It’s a good pad machine. I think there’s a lot of confusion about the concept of the Jupiter name on Roland synths and what it actually means. They are only related in the fact that the name Jupiter was used. In Roland’s world, Jupiter meant their then current flagship synth. It’s completely different beast to the Jupiter 4 and 8.

There is a there’s a module version of it, which apparently isn’t exactly like the keyboard version. The filter is different I think. I don’t think I would pay the current asking price for a Jupiter 6 because I don’t think it has enough character not in the same way that the 4 has, or just the majesty of the 8. I’ve got the likes of a Prophet 10, OB6 and a Juno 106 which covers a lot of that Jupiter 6 space in my opinion. I think it’s an interesting synth. I would have paid the asking price though… €1200 was a bit of a bargain.

So your Jupiter 4, how long have you had that now?

Hmm… it feels it feels like Martyn had it longer than I did because of the pandemic.

I think I got about 4 years ago, drove to the West of Ireland to a small little place called Athenry that people will know from a very famous folk song, ‘The Fields Of Athenry’. And quite appropriately, I drove in my electric car to pick up a Jupiter 4. How more Numan can you get?

When we arrived, the seller had cold feet at the last minute. And he was thinking of keeping it. I’m like “No ! Please don’t do this to me. I really want this instrument”. Later I tracked it down online. It had history. It had appeared on the Matrixsynth site.

When it had made its way from Japan to the UK, it said in an eBay listing that had a little bit of work done to it. It’s not entirely clear what had been done to it, because when I had it checked out here by our local synth tech, everything was original, nothing inside had been replaced and no servicing was required except replacing the memory back-up battery.

But it came with the original case, which is cool. It came with the music stand. And it came with the metal legs. Picture yourself around ‘78-‘79 and what Roland were trying to do with these instruments, they were targeting jobbing musicians playing cabaret clubs. So it would be used with say a CR78 which has a similar sort of fake wood finish on it, it would fit just nicely to one the side of the top panel of the Jupiter 4.

You could lock the arpeggiator synced to a CR78 so you’ll get both going together. Of course you could see it being used for the occasional solo, but the selling point is as a programmable polysynth with patch memory, because there’s an awful lot of monosynth type sounds possible with this. I was the first thing Martyn tried when he powered on my Jupiter: no chords!

Anyway what seems to have happened is that a bunch of people realised “oh we can do other things with these”, so that seemed to be that the origin of it being used in more interesting ways just like what happened with the Roland TB303 and TR808. Of course first thing I did when I got at home was open it up. I had to have a look inside. Had to date it. Had to see what was going on. There were hairs inside! This was very clearly a Roland technician’s hair, sitting still on the board! You know, half a century later. It’s brilliant. And I fell in love with it.

I have done a very simple MIDI enablement on it where I haven’t drilled into the chassis, there’s no way I’m drilling holes in this thing and I’ve managed to do it in such a way that the MIDI interface doesn’t interrupt anything and it just arpeggios for hours. It’s just gorgeous.

On your new album ‘Technology For The Youth’, there’s a track called ‘Jupiter City’?

The Jupiter features on a few tracks and is the only synth on ‘Jupiter City’. So Martyn Ware borrowed the Jupiter 4… for those who don’t know even though, I keep bragging about this cause it’s the coolest thing that could possibly have happened.

It was following an interview he did with you where you asked him about using the old synths for the ‘Travelogue’ and ‘Reproduction’ shows that they were planning pre-pandemic.

The question you put to Martyn was, well, aren’t you going to use the all since the original synths? And he answered something like “If we can find them and the challenge being they’re pretty expensive, we might have to hire something”. Martyn doesn’t have the original, even the System 100 he has was a gift from Vince Clarke in the 90s. I emailed him and said ”I’ve just read the interview with Chi, do you want to borrow my Jupiter 4?” And his first response was, well, absolutely. Thank you. Are you sure? And I said, yeah, I want to see these shows happen too. So I brought it over to London and we had lunch.

Then the bloody pandemic hit and it was sitting in his studio for a couple of years until they could reschedule the shows. Not that I minded because he’s been very kind with mentioning my music in interviews. He programmed the preset sounds for the shows and I heard it being used in some of the little instrumental pieces he was doing in his Electronically Yours podcast. The sound of it is instantly recognisable as soon as you hear it, you know when he’s using a System 100, and you know when he’s using a Jupiter 4.

At soundcheck for the Roundhouse gig when I was chatting with him and Glenn, they said one of the voices went out of tune. I reckon it was just the journey from Sheffield to London after the previous gig and you know the Roundhouse being a bit colder. Typical analogue synths right? But once I got it home, it was simply just a calibration that was needed.

Of course, he used it live and he saved a bunch of presets for the shows. Some of them are obvious. You’ll know, like ‘Dreams Of Leaving’. I said to them jokingly in the after show at the Roundhouse “I’m going to use those presets and do a track and call it ‘Jupiter City’”. So the sounds are Martyn’s with a few effects and my playing. All coming from the Jupiter 4.

The new CIRCUIT3 album is quite different from the previous two and it’s very ambitious in a conceptual kind of way. And I was just wondering why you headed that down this road? Were you influenced by similarly conceptual albums like ‘Radio-Activity’ by KRAFTWERK or ‘Dazzle Ships’ by OMD?

No, actually it was Hannah Peel, somebody I just admire so much. I’ve had a couple of chats with her and met her after gigs. I really admire Hannah Peel as an artist, and it was basically one of her albums ‘Mary Casio: Journey To Cassiopeia’ that got me thinking. I thought wow, that’s really interesting. And then you know the story where she referenced her grandmother’s dementia, and so on. All of the references in the album under this overarching concept really struck me.

Around about the time when I was just writing these songs I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I knew that on my next album, I wanted to stretch myself a little bit and thought to myself “I could try to do what Hannah has done” because I’ve never done anything like that before. All the Apollo anniversaries were happening and I had been fascinated as a kid about space travel. I started using working titles of different satellites and things like that just for a name on a recording session and the next thing I know, I realised oh wow, this is actually beginning to feel space-like and a concept was forming simply because of the subject matter

I was listening to TANGERINE DREAM type stuff which some people would call space rock, a lazy term, but all of that was just really influencing me at the time. I hadn’t thought about the OMD or KRAFTWERK thing, but yeah, I’ll happily sit alongside those.

There is one particular track ‘Valentina Fly’ about Valentina Tereshkova track that sort of evokes OMD?

Lots of people have said that. It’s hard to deny your influences; they come out, don’t they? And so I took that as a huge compliment when during the live stream shows I was doing during the pandemic a couple of people said “that’s real OMD”. Like I said, I didn’t hear it myself at first. I had to step back a bit to listen and now I can see what they’re saying.

It’s because of the string machine thing I suppose. I tried to strip it down, strip all of the arrangements on the album down as much as possible. I thought I was being clever with the song title. I originally called the song ‘Maiden Russia’ as in “maiden… made in” and then I realised, no, you’re going to have to explain that ridiculous wordplay to everybody. So I just retitled it ‘Valentina Fly’. Yes it’s about Valentina Tereshkova, who was the first woman in space. Rather unfortunate about her politics these days, but I’ll have to separate that from what she did.

When I wrote that song, it got me thinking about, well, what are you going to do with this collection of songs and what direction are you going with them? You can’t just write about the first man on the moon. Everybody’s done that. So I thought about these untold or lesser told stories. Everything from, Valentina Tereshkova, who some people will know about, but she’s not a celebrated as Yuri Gagarin and in some respects, what she achieved was much greater.

Even today, for a woman to do something that is taken for granted for a man, the bullsh*t they have to go through to get there is completely and conveniently forgotten, the barriers that are put in their way. And of course, the story of the first black African American in space… Ed Dwight who was supposed to be first but was screwed over by the government and NASA. While reading about this, I thought, “that’s what I’ll write about”.

That joint US Soviet Apollo Soyuz mission in 1975 which was particularly interesting because the astronauts and cosmonauts learnt to speak each other’s language for the mission…

Yeah, you look back and see when that happened and you think, “wow” because there was still that Cold War politic going on. But remember the scientists were working on this for a long time through the 1960s until that mission in 1975. All of the scientists who are working on it, all of the engineers are working on it while the politicians flipped and flopped on whatever arguments they were having. It showed so much promise for us all.

As a child looking at it, I was fascinated by the idea of a Soviet and American joint mission, I thought “Oh cool, they’re finally realising it’s so much better when you when you collaborate together and you’ve got joint ambition rather than it being a competition”. They just stopped which was hugely puzzling and as such a shame. You think about what we could be doing…

The Ed Dwight story covered on ‘Spacewalking’ is interesting because I only actually first heard of him during the 60th anniversary Apollo 11 celebrations. I was quite keen on following the space race when I was younger, but he’s literally been wiped from the history books. It’s was enlightening to see the context of how he was marginalised within NASA. And then other people that saw him as just symbolism and not a genuine candidate. It’s the kind of racist nonsense that we’re still having to deal with, in light of Black Lives Matter and everything else around that…

Yeah, I wrote the song around about the start of the Black Lives Matter movement becoming front and centre in our news. It was in our daily experience and news feed but it didn’t just happen then of course. This situation has been going on for forever and it just was brought to wider attention. During that time, I was reading a little bit more around Ed Dwight and I saw a clip of an interview that he did and it was incredibly moving because you realised the guy got screwed over. It was for such nonsense reasons, and it’s just heart-breaking. And then you think, well, hang on, you know, you’re seeing this and then you ask yourself “what other hidden history do you not know about?”

And that’s where representation matters, because those stories should be uncovered. I started seeing more and more around Black African Americans scientists who became involved in the shuttle missions etc, and the Black African American women who went to space and then the good things they did with their lives after that in the foundations they started and so on. I thought, well, these are much more interesting stories. Not to put down anything that Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin or any of the crews did. It doesn’t take away from what they did when you shine a light on what other people did.

I think it would be helpful for people like me, the middle age white guys, to understand what others had to overcome to do what they did, because it was not a level playing field and still isn’t a level playing field.

OK, I’m going to pull out another card, a Roland SH 101…

Ooh, I have one. I have an SH101 right over there behind me and it’s glorious in grey. I was so pleased when I got it because of a buddy of mine had one back in the 80s and we used it with a Juno 106, it has a little sequencer in it and I couldn’t figure out “why can’t I sequence the Juno 106?”… I was such an idiot because obviously the SH101 had a CV Gate and no MIDI.

Behringer have done a clone of it and Roland have done their own boutique version of it. I’ve tried both, sold both! What they are missing? Well, the Roland comes close, the Behringer is almost, but not quite. What really annoyed me about both of them was the interface. And there is a huge difference in the physical interface. On the SH101, the slider travel distance from top to bottom is much larger. It gives you a much more detailed level of control, especially when you do stuff with the filter and a millimetre can make all the difference and that was the big learning I got when I got my hands on the SH101 and realised “ah, OK I was right size does matter”.

This is why the other two, the Behringer clone and the Roland boutique didn’t satisfy me either because it didn’t quite sound right in case of the Behringer while the Roland boutique just felt too restricted those tiny little sliders. I sequence the 101 with CV and gate, I have a little MIDI interface for it. But to be honest, CV and gate is just so much more easy and straightforward to use. I’ve found it an absolute beast for just doing simple basslines and it’s great for that. And it’s also fun where if you’re running something like an ostinato step sequence going over and over, you can do little things to make it interesting for you like applying external modulation to the filter.

There’s a little modification I did to it where suddenly you just pull out the sub-oscillator or something and you can make the sound interesting without doing anything too radical. And it’s fun also for live work with an echo effect unit. I’ve used it on a couple of live stream shows while patching the sounds in real time and flying, it’s on the by the seat of my pants. Look Ma, no presets!!

OK, here’s another card and it’s a Yamaha CS-80, I don’t suppose you have had one of those?

No, I don’t nor anyone who I know. Someone in Dublin was several, apparently. It’s a mythical synth, isn’t it? It really is and the obvious point of reference is Vangelis. I don’t know enough about it because I’ve never ever touched one, much less seen one in the flesh. Obviously I’ve got some of the software versions. If I found one in a skip and I pulled it out, I would probably put my back out.

I think you would need your family to help you get that one out! *laughs*

Behringer said they’re going to try and do a reissue of it. And then of course, there’s the Deckard’s Dream clone which is a modern day interpretation of it which sounds quite glorious, but it’s pricey enough at $4000-5000. I’d want to be certain I really want it because you can achieve that ‘Blade Runner’ stuff with other synths. You’ll get pretty close.

You’ve launched this album with a single called ‘Future Radio’. So is there a future for radio?

It depends who’s running it, I think…

Let’s rephrase the question. You’re an independent artist who is selling enough to be able to fund another album and buy more synths, which is ultimately an achievement…

Yeah, that would be fair, CIRCUIT3 is self-funding…

So does radio play in a wider sense, matter for an artist like you anymore? Or is there other ways of selling your product now?

Yeah, I think for I think for any artist it my position or even an artist who maybe is having a little bit more success than me, by success, I mean just reaching a bigger audience, you have to use multiple tools. There’s no one answer. So that’s where radio still absolutely has a part to play. And when I talk about radio, I mean actual traditional radio as in FM radio as much as online because the internet is just another means of transmission.

I have found that where I’ve been able to get radio play, it has definitely benefited me because the better shows focus on the music they’re playing and it’s not about the presenter, it’s not about the station, it’s about the music they’re playing and they properly announce tracks to let people know this is who the artist is. They might even read out a link that will enable the listeners to go find out more info. That brings more fans into the relationship.

I found have stuff through traditional radio like BBC 6 Music that was being released by an Italo disco label. It played in the middle of the morning and I was like, “oh you don’t expect to hear this on 6 Music in the middle of the day” and I went straight to Bandcamp and snagged a couple of LPs.

Radio definitely has a part to play. But I think if an artist thinks that by just guaranteeing radio play on an online station that it’s going to somehow help them, I’ve got news for them, IT’S NOT! You really have to do ALL the PR and networking stuff, you have to play live whether that’s live stream or in physical venues or both. You also have to do things like go online, make little videos. You’ve got to create a much broader presence than you probably realise and that’s some of the stuff I’ve learned over the last few years.

So specifically the ‘Future Radio’ song, what’s it about?

The song… it’s a boy’s adventure tale.

Ah, like A-HA?

Yeah, it’s a little bit like that. It’s about me aged 9 or 10 years and my fascination with my space travel, I mean ‘Space 1999’ and science-fiction “this is going to be my future”. Plus, I was obsessed with pirate radio. If you think about the late 70s, all that great stuff that was in broadcast that you would only hear on pirate radio.

The first time I heard say, NEW MUSIK, it was a pirate radio station. The first time I heard any of the Giorgio Moroder material with Donna Summer was on a pirate radio station. You just didn’t hear it on the boring old grown up radio. And so that was key for me and stations kept popping up everywhere in Dublin. I fascinated by all of that.

So all of those memories went into a chat I was having with Brian McCloskey. On every album, Brian and I have co-written a song. Brian does really clever lyrics. So he sent them over and it was irresistible. I thought “oh, this is going to be a BUGGLES song”. And then, of course, I made the mistake of trying to record it like THE BUGGLES. And you can’t! I’m not Geoff Downes.

And you’ve not got a Yamaha CS80! *laughs*

No, no! But it was a starting point. I tell you one thing that did assist with what I was trying to do: create as many Trevor Horn whizzbang moments as possible. He talks about the ear candy that you have to have on a single. So there’s little bits and pieces popping in and out. I sent the track over to Sean Barron who people will know as iEUROPEAN who’s done stuff with Wolfgang Flür and was in EMPIRE STATE HUMAN. He’s a really clever producer and I explained to him what I’m trying to do with the track. So he did a bit of production and added a lot of these random little sounds. One off sounds that were a little bit of ear candy.

‘Future Radio’ is the most upbeat thing on the album and I put it out first because when people hear the album, they’ll see I’ve gone in a bit of a different direction. I didn’t want to lead with a radically different track from everything I’ve ever done. So this track is like a bridge between the last couple of albums and this one. It’s a fun song and I had great fun making the video for it going for a retro Space TV vibe in it.

You mentioned you heard NEW MUSIK on pirate radio, and their leader Tony Mansfield is a bit of an underrated guy, despite producing A-HA, NAKED EYES and obviously NEW MUSIK themselves. Isn’t it quite interesting that his aesthetic has ended up in the mainstream again under the guise of THE WEEKND?

I’ve heard some good stuff by THE WEEKND and I think it’s great. I’m not gonna complain if anybody is bringing that gorgeous sound to the mainstream. I do have to resist the temptation to not to be a grumpy old man and say “look kids you didn’t invent this”. It’s fine. I have reconciled myself with the fact that many people think they’ve discovered something that’s brand new and that’s part of the joy of being young and getting into music. I just hope that they’ll go back and rediscover the origins of all of this.

Imagine, hearing NEW MUSIK for the first time? I’m envious of anybody who gets to do that for the first time. I would love to see what they what they else they find when they discover who Tony Mansfield and all the stuff he’s done without the prejudice of the music press snobbery at the time. Just look at the stuff he did for CAPTAIN SENSIBLE like ‘Glad It’s All Over’, what a track. You listen to and just think, wow. I’m really hoping people rediscover this stuff, that would make me happy.

OK, another card Sir. And it is a Sequential Pro-One…

Oh I have a Pro-one and I’m so happy with it. It is of course the Vince Clarke sound. The Pro-One is hard to make a bad sound on. I defy anybody to get a Pro-One and just make it sound, you know, like a dying toothbrush. Not possible.

It’s great for bass…

It’s also great for atmospheric stuff, so there is one track that’s actually the digital B side to the ‘Future Radio’ single called ‘Kosmos 954’. It’s named after a satellite and that track features the Pro-One. I was doing the Vince Clarke trick when each note plays on the sequence, he will change the filter on various notes by using 2 sequences running in parallel so the second sequence is opening and closing the filter to different degrees changing the sound.

So I did it on a very slow track and I was doing some pretty extreme things with the filter where it was almost feeding back then pushing the Pro-One through a Strymon Big Sky reverb, which of course, then brings out all those gorgeous harmonics. It meant that on the track, I really only needed two synths because you’re getting such a rich soundscape. People overlook the Pro-One for ambient. The envelopes are so snappy and fast for bass. It’s the perfect instrument.

This album is 17 tracks of instrumentals and some pop songs, but also more obscure art pop. What are your hopes and fears for ‘Technology For The Youth’?

The biggest fear is that nobody will listen to it. My biggest hope is that when people have listened to it and it gets them to check out some of these stories, then I think I’ve really achieved something. I really hope though that people look into some of the back stories, whether it’s about the lost cosmonauts, whether it’s about Ed Dwight, whether it’s about Valentina Tereshkova, whether it’s about the Apollo Soyuz joint mission. I’m hoping people go and read about these things and enjoy it.

Go look up some of the names on the titles of the instrumental tracks, whether its animals that went to space or satellites that crashed into Canada or whatever – You will start finding out about all of the hidden history. Yeah, I’d love to sell lots of copies of it, I really hope it breaks even but I mostly hope lots of people hear it.

Talking about the animals that went into space, Laika the space dog was the first animal in space. I first heard about her at school but when you got older, you realise she didn’t come back, they didn’t tell us that at school did they?

No, they didn’t! They didn’t tell us a lot of things about what happened to the animals. In some places I know the French have a statue to one of their dogs. See, this is what happens, you start reading these stories and there’s a little bit of sadness, but now they have their own statue somewhere which is cool.

We were really cruel to these creatures and there’s always an argument to be made with any form of scientific research, do you think an animal is expendable? That’s an argument for another day. But it was a different time and we probably would not take that approach now.

OK, the final card is an EMS VCS3, introduced in 1969, the same year as Apollo 11…

Looking at it, without ever having had the opportunity to try one, you think that’s impenetrable. I’m curious to see if somebody’s going to clone or reissue it, isn’t the story of EMS really interesting as well?

Yeah, there’s several documentaries on EMS and they are absolutely fascinating. My first memory of seeing the VCS3 for the first time was Brian Eno, they showed a clip on a on a BBC2 synth special. I’d imagined him pulling this giant lever, but it wasn’t. It was a tiny little joystick sort of thing, him operating it looked amazing.


Yeah, I didn’t know what on earth he’s doing, it was sounding weird but you look back now, on the Old Grey Whistle Test clip of ‘Ladytron’ and there’s that spacey treatment at the end…

Yeah, it’s a very British synthesizer. It has that bakelite vibe off that doesn’t it?

It’s a Doctor Who type of synthesizer, isn’t it?

It definitely wouldn’t be out of place on the TARDIS. And you know, you can play battleships with it!

Yeah. Actually talking of music technology ending up on spaceships, you know the controls of an Oberheim DX ended up on the Starship Enterprise?

And an Eventide Harmonizer was on ‘Alien’…

‘Close Encounters Of The Third Kind’, it was an ARP 2500 that spoke to the aliens…

And the sound of R2-D2 was an ARP 2600… shall we stop there?

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

‘Technology For The Youth’ is released by AnalogueTrash on 15th July 2022 on CD, digital and various coloured vinyl LP formats, pre-order from

Vintage Synth Trumps is a card game by GForce that features 52 classic synthesizers

Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
18th June 2022

Vintage Synth Trumps with MESH

In 2017, Bristol’s MESH granted access to a film crew to document the second leg of their tour of Germany in support of their seventh album ‘Looking Skyward’.

Filmed in Hamburg, Cologne and Königsstein, as well as 23 live tracks presented in an engaging fast cut style capturing the energy of a MESH show, ‘Touring Skyward – A Tour Movie’ also includes honest interviews with founder members Mark Hockings and Richard Silverthorn.

There is additionally footage from backstage and during soundcheck, with each of the band including keyboard player Richard Broadhead and drummer Sean Suleman explaining their performance set-ups. Compiled like a musical road movie, there are other insights such as the band relaxing on the tour bus after another successful show and interviews with fans. As a live record and documentary, ‘Touring Skyward – A Tour Movie’ is everything that DEPECHE MODE’s tediously difficult to watch ‘Spirits In The Forest’ was not.

Richard Silverthorn joined ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK from his studio for a game of Vintage Synth Trumps and talked about the four and a half year journey to bring ‘Touring Skyward – A Tour Movie’ to their ‘Friends Like These’.

Your first card is a Korg Poly Six…

I never owned a Poly Six but I do remember when they were around. I just wasn’t really into Korg and I don’t know why! My first synth was a Pro-One and then I had some Roland stuff but I never had a Korg. I have a couple of Korgs now and I quite like them, I have an MS-2000 and a Trinity rack which I use a lot of pianos and things. Korg never felt “cool” to me, all the bands I was into, I never saw them play a Korg.

Who were you into?

For me, the first thing that got me into electronic music was the ‘Dr Who Theme’, as a kid it was like “woah”, I didn’t know what the hell it was, it was quite scary, unusual, bleak and amazing. Then there was the OMD stuff, Gary Numan blew me away… I was never really a big fan but the singles at the time like ‘Cars’ and ‘Are Friends Electric?’ were just leaps and bounds ahead of what anybody else was doing, it was such a big unusual sound.

Then, YAZOO and DEPECHE MODE were a big influence. I really loved up to and including ‘Songs Of Faith & Devotion’. ‘SOFAD’ has got a great grim atmosphere and you can really feel the angst. But after Alan Wilder left, I don’t think it’s been anywhere near as good. I have seen them a couple since, I find it all a bit lacking the atmosphere and energy it used to. I still find myself wanting to like it but I really don’t. I was also into the lesser known electronic pioneers like DAF, FAD GADGET and PORTION CONTROL.

So you have the ‘Touring Skyward – A Tour Movie’ film coming out. When you are performing, how conscious are you that the cameras are filming?

Yes, at the start…. we filmed three shows so you know which shows are going to be done and where the cameras are going to stand but by the time you’ve got on stage, you go into the routine of doing a show and kinda forget about them. To be honest, the six members of the film crew had SLR type cameras so it was very discrete.

So if you know you are going to be filmed for three shows, do you do things like co-ordinate stage clothes so that you are wearing the same thing on each night because in DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Spirits In The Forest’, Dave Gahan knew he was being filmed on two nights but wore two different coloured shirts so in the final cut, the colour of his shirt keeps changing!?

Haha… no, we wanted to feature performances from three shows, so it was in contrast to that, we were after a different look and feel for each.

Another card and it’s an EMS VCS3…

Really old, this is going back to the ‘Dr Who Theme’ in a way! This synth is way out of my league, I’ve never owned one and I’m not sure I’d want to… for me, it’s a noise generator, not so much a musical thing! I struggle with that like I struggle with that whole modular thing! I find it all fantastic but for me I find it distracting when I’m trying to write, I just don’t want to know it!

With the ‘Looking Skyward’ album, I did some modular stuff but everything was already written and the lines were there, but we started replacing those lines with modular sounds. On one track, I played a slide guitar-type effect and we decided to replace it with a modular sound… it took FOUR HOURS to replicate this sound, at the end of it, I just wanted to put the guitar back in!

In the end, we did use it and every time I hear it, I love it but only because I know how long it took. This is the thing with modular people, they know how clever it is and how long it took, but to the outside world, it could have been done on any cheap keyboard if you know what I mean. Don’t get me wrong, I do love the results but it’s so time consuming. If I had an EMS, it would sit here in the studio and do nothing apart from gather dust.

It’s been 4 years since the tour, how involved can you want to get in finishing the ‘Touring Skyward – A Tour Movie’ after so long, especially as the ‘Involved – Retrospective Tour’ has happened since?

The plan was for a film which after it was recorded was handed to the label for editing which obviously is a big job. Then things slowed down and it was beginning to frustrate me.

I had the original job of mixing the audio but after three tracks, I literally could not do anymore! I’d written the album with Mark and heard the songs a million times in the studio, then I reprogrammed all the songs for the tour, and then when I came back, I just physically could not listen to the songs anymore.

So I passed it over to our monitor guy on the tour Elliot Berlin and he had a few issues with some of the files so it was a bit of a disaster… then the Covid thing came along which slowed everything! It has taken forever and I had almost lost interest, but it’s now all come together and people seem to be quite excited about it so I’m glad to still be onboard.

What Dependent do with the boxed sets is second to none. Obviously it’s my boxed set but it looks fantastic, all the boxed sets they done have been amazing, they still think there’s a fanbase who are collectors who want vinyl, CD and something special they can hold. The last one was limited but they sold instantly.

Was there much post-production work needed on the recorded concert sound?

The final mix is from the tracks that were recorded… there is a massive temptation to pitch correct and autotune here there and everywhere, take off the bum notes and add new lines but because it went outside of the band to do, he just mixed what we had and it is just those 24 tracks of live audio. There are parts where I really wanted more ambient mics so that you could hear the audience, but they were missing… so it’s difficult to turn them up without bringing everything else up. It is an honest account of what a MESH show is like, it’s not polished up in any way.

The next card is a Multimoog, are you a Moog enthusiast?

My first synth was a Pro-One but I very nearly bought a Moog Prodigy. I then went almost through my whole career not owning a Moog but then 2-3 years ago, I bought the DFAM drum machine and a Mother32. Now I’ve got a Grandmother as well so I’m a latecomer to the party. I love the DFAM, it sounds sh*t but it sound so sh*t that it sounds really good, if that makes sense.

It gives you that weird horrible percussion thing, I love things that have got a character, that are a little bit out of tune and distorted. It’s very cool stuff. It’s semi-modular and very flexible.

Obviously this film is based around the ‘Looking Skyward’ album, did you feel the pressure of following-up ‘Automation Baby’? It was a tough act to follow…

I thought so as well, dead truthfully, even when I was writing for the album, I was quite anxious the whole time… thing is, you couldn’t play it to many people but I wanted to play it to somebody just to see if it was living up to expectations. Yeah, I had a hard time of it, it was a difficult album to make because I did really feel the pressure. I don’t know why ‘Automation Baby’ was such a success, obviously I liked it and thought we had put out a really good album, but it went bigger than we ever expected it to.

It was a difficult time and but ‘Looking Skyward’ did better in sales and chart position than ‘Automation Baby’ did… I’m feeling the pressure again now, with what can I do different or better with the next album. I liken it to LINKIN’ PARK, the first album ‘Hybrid Theory’, it was amazing, then the next one came out and people said “It’s sounds the same as the last album!” and everyone was disappointed. But then for the third album, they did something completely different and everyone then went “That doesn’t sound like LINKIN’ PARK!” You can’t win! *laughs*

You know what I mean, it’s that feeling and that’s where I am at the moment! I’m desperate to do something new, fresh and different but we need to keep the fans happy without disappointing them by doing the same thing. Sometimes it’s better just to shut off and try and do your own thing and not over think it.

Mark doesn’t do interviews very often but is quite happy to talk on camera, did that take much persuading?

Mark does do interviews but he is the “quiet” one, maybe haha… the film crew had full access all day and asked questions and he was quite happy to answer in a relaxed situation.

Richard and Sean each get a slot too, Richard’s bit explaining the keyboards was a bit like Alan Wilder in ‘101’?

Yeah, they do interview all four of us showing what we do on stage and going through all the technical bits…

Another card and it’s a Roland SH101!

OH! NOW YOU’RE TALKING! I’ve got one here in the studio. I have a story about my SH101.

When I bought my Pro-One back in the day, my best friend Gary decided he was going to buy a synth and the SH101 was a slightly cheaper synth at the time. He lost interest quite quickly after buying it so I acquired his synth at a good price and that’s the one I still have now.

Unfortunately he committed suicide when we were 21 and it made a massive hole in my life so my SH101 means a lot to me. I use it a lot, it’s a fantastic synth and I would never get rid of it. It has had a few repairs with the occasional switch dying but still fully functional. There are so many lines on all the albums that were made with this, great for just putting the sequencer into record, writing a sequence and transposing it around… the track ‘Confined’ from ‘In This Place Forever’ is pretty much all made with the SH101.

‘The Traps We Made’ features Raleigh Choppers, did you have one yourself when you were younger?

I DID! I had a blue one, a Mk2, that was my first bike! *laughs*

It’s a funny thing, Mark is about the same age as me so into the same kind of stuff and we often talked about Raleigh Choppers, it was a running joke. Then one afternoon ahead of the tour, he called me and said “I wanna do some filming, just come round”. When I got to his house, he pushed out these two Raleigh Choppers. It was the friend of a friend who collects them who let us play with them. So we spent about an hour riding down this street on these Raleigh Choppers and did a bit of filming.

Did you ever try and do Evel Knievel type stunts on your Chopper?

Yeah! Plenty of cuts and bruises, I still do now mate with my mountain biking and motocross! *laughs*

Evel Knievel was my childhood hero, I used to have a poster in the studio from the Evel Knievel UK tour and I had tickets to see him at Bristol City Football Club but he crashed at Wembley Stadium so the whole thing was cancelled! I was absolutely devastated as a young kid!

‘The Last One Standing’ has become something of a crowd favourite? Was that a surprise?

That one, yes! We always write to the best of our abilities, we’ve never put out anything where we’ve gone “Oh that’ll do”. But songs come alive when you play them live… you get different reactions but with that track, I don’t know why! It became one of the big things on that tour… I recently got our Spotify End Of Year things and that was the biggest streamed track of ours this year, 4 years on…, it’s still really popular! I don’t know why but you strike a chord with certain things, people warm to it.

It’s a bit like ‘Taken For Granted’, when we did it first time round, I really liked it and it was a great track. But then we played it at a show in Gothenburg and everybody started singing it at the end. It was like “Woah! This is a bit strange” but because of the internet, a video got posted up and at the next gig, everyone there starting doing it and it because this self-perpetuating thing and got bigger and bigger and bigger to becoming at standard thing to do at our shows now.

Photo by Bernd Schwinn

‘Taken For Granted’ has become your ‘Never Let Me Down Again’ type anthem…

You don’t know whether these tracks when you put them out, if they are going to be firm favourites or just another track… I still love playing it!

Are there ones where you’re enthused at the beginning of a tour but halfway through, you’re like “do we have to play this one, can’t we do something else?”?

There have been a couple… we reprogramme everything for the tour so it’s not just album backing track sh*t, when you see MESH, it will not be the CD versions. Sometimes, you programme something and you think it sounds great and it’s going to be good but then after two or three shows you realise “this isn’t quite working!”; you don’t know why and just drop it but we’ve always got a couple of spare tracks lying around for a tour and we try each night to chuck a different one in and try something. By the time you get to the end of the tour, you got this almost perfect set.

The final card is an Oberheim 8 Voice…

I haven’t got a great deal of Oberheim stuff, the only thing we had was Mark had a Matrix 1000, it was quite cool but kept on playing up, it would lose every 4th note because one of the voices was going. He had it repaired a few times but it took a bit of a back seat from then on because we were almost too scared to use it in case it broke down again.

In the film, there’s behind the scenes footage on the tour bus, the playlist was good fun and featured THE LIGHTNING SEEDS, RACEY and BONEY M… some fans have this impression of bands like MESH only listen to dark electronic music but that’s probably the last thing you want to hear when you are winding down?

That’s exactly it mate! Our German tour manager Jan Winterfeld really likes RACEY and other 70s and 80s nonsense… I find that so funny, RACEY are from Weston-Super-Mare which is just down the road from where I live! He plays BONEY M and SHAKIN’ STEVENS, it is that whole release thing all day there is that pressure, you are all doing your own thing, the stress of the day and the show then you get to the end, you have a few drinks and someone puts on that stuff and you’re like “Yeah! It’s relax time”… it’s all kinda funny when you’ve had a stressful day *laughs*

What’s your highlight from the film?

We did an outdoor show in Königsstein which is an old castle in Germany which came across really well and looked good.

But I loved all the clips on the tour bus… as a fan of other bands, I don’t really want to see the performance as I’ve probably seen that on the tour, I want to see all the nitty gritty stuff that goes on behind-the-scenes like the setting up and the talking to the band etc! This was one of the things we wanted to have on our film as it reminds me of a good time, that’s the thing that stands out for me.

Finally, is there a synth you covet, old or new?

It’s not a synth, it’s a sampler… I really want an Emulator II, just because every band I was into had one, it was a statement, like “Look at us, we’ve got some money, we’re cool!” – they were £8000 back in the day, which way over what I could afford. Then they came down to almost into the hundreds when they were superseded by something new and I wish I bought one then. I keep looking and now they’re back to £3000-4000 but I know if I had it, I would never use it. I’ve got an EMAX II which is far superior to the Emulator II but I just want it because it’s an iconic thing for me. I would hang it on the wall as a piece of art.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to Richard Silverthorn

Special thanks to Stefan Herwig at Dependent Records

‘Touring Skyward – A Tour Movie’ is released on 28th January 2022 by Dependent Records as a limited edition 60 page photo art book containing a 3 ½ hour Blu-ray and two audio CDs, pre-order available direct from

Vintage Synth Trumps is a card game by GForce that features 52 classic synthesizers available from

Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
12th January 2021

Vintage Synth Trumps with MARK REEDER

Photo by Crystal Reeder


Mark Reeder is the jovial Mancunian who ventured over to Germany in 1978 in search of electronic music records and never returned home, eventually settling in West Berlin.

Immersing himself in the local art and punk scene, he arranged JOY DIVISION’s now legendary gig at Kant-Kino, managed MALARIA! and was Factory Records representative in Der Bundesrepublik.

On Mayday 1982, he paid a visit to the DDR and while taking photos of the grand parade in East Berlin, he was arrested by the STASI and taken in for interrogation, under suspicion of working for M16. Unable to draw any conclusions, other than he was trying to corrupt the youth of East Germany with pop music, the East German Secret Police marked his file ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’.

The experience inspired Reeder’s most recent double album named after his STASI classification. Comprising of productions and remixes made by himself and his engineer Micha Adam, it celebrated his cross-border artistic ethos and also included collaborations with the likes of Fifi Rong and Alanas Chosnau, as well as solo work on which he lent his own spoken voice.

The two high profile centrepieces of ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ focus on Reeder’s reworkings of NEW ORDER’s first new single since 2015 ‘Be A Rebel’ and YELLO’s evergreen ‘Vicious Games’. But room is also given to newer acts such as the Dutch-based American BIRMINGHAM ELECTRIC, Manchester’s MFU, DEER Mx from Mexico and hailing from the Chinese city of Chengdu, STOLEN who opened for NEW ORDER on their 2019 European tour.

Another NEW ORDER support act Zachery Allan Starkey makes appearance via a remix of ‘Coked Up Biker Anthem’ which saw Reeder realise some of his mad axeman fantasies having grown up as a fan of Jimi Hendrix. But accepting ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s invitation to play a round of Vintage Synth Trumps, Mark Reeder kindly chatted about his love of classic synthesizers and how they have been used throughout his career.

Ok, our first card is the Roland SH7…

I’ve seen one but never had one, I had an SH9 which I used at the end of DIE UNBEKANNTEN and the start of SHARK VEGAS. In fact, the bassline of ‘You Hurt Me’ which we released on Factory in 1984 was made with an SH9. They were very similar kinds of synthesizers but the SH7 had a few extra features. I actually played the bassline of ‘You Hurt Me’ by hand all the way through for six minutes non-stop, it wasn’t a sequencer! If you made a mistake, there was no way of going back and you had to start again! *laughs*

What was the drum machine you were using at the time?

We had an 808 and a 606…

And the next card is an Oberheim 2 Voice…

I never knew anyone who could afford Oberheim stuff until it became more affordable in the late 80s, no-one I knew had the 2 Voice. But the OBXs was really good, you could do some great things with them but the earlier ones weren’t readily available, so you didn’t really see anything you could buy… no-one had any money in Berlin in the 80s! A Prophet 10 would be like 10 years wages! *laughs*

So, when you were conceiving ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ which was a reference to that time in 80s Berlin, and your cover photo of the May Day parade and your STASI file, did you select a palette of specific vintage synth sounds to work with?

I’ve always worked like this, when I started to get back into actually making music again, as more of a remixer and producer than before, I had this idea that I only wanted to have a small selection of things that I could draw from to maintain a particular sound. I made my own drum kits, three different kinds and I would interchange within each one.

So, I might have three different claps but I’d put two together and manipulate them to create another type of clap sound. So, the sounds are all drawn from the same three basic kits and say with a snare, I might add another instrument into that snare mix, but it’s all the same block if you like.

It’s the same in a way with synthesizers as well, I don’t have loads, and I keep it reasonably contained. If you have too many, you end up spending too time trawling through thousands and thousands of sounds, but if you have a limited amount of possibilities, then you have to be creative within those few things. I’ll take pads off one synthesizer and put the dirt in from an MS20 underneath, and it will change the sound of the pad. And if you put that through a chorus, it will automatically give that a different sound.

I’ve not got loads of synthesizers in the studio, but we’ve got quite a few. We’ve got quite a few plug-ins too, initially I was a bit dubious about them, but meanwhile a few of them are really quite good and very useful…

Do you have a favourite of the plug-ins?

Well, we’ve got Omnisphere which we use regularly, as I find it’s got a few sounds which I’ll always use and they’re easy to manipulate, but they’re always the same basics. I think I always choose the same couple of sounds *laughs*

We’ve got an ARP plug-in and that is quite good and an EMS one because I could never afford a real one. I’ve got a plug-in version of the Roland SH101 but having the original thing is different, it has a totally different feeling to it. It depends what you want to do with it. The plug-in doesn’t come near, but it has its own sounds that are useful. I have a Juno 106 and my studio partner Micha Adam has a plug-in 106 and a boutique version, although it’s similar in certain sounds, neither sound like a real 106. But each has features that the real 106 doesn’t have, like the arpeggiator or the delay, so you kind of mix them all together, that’s how I work.

Photo by Crystal Reeder

What was your approach to reworking ‘Vicious Games’ by YELLO from 1985 for ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’?

The original track was like “I’ve got a sound sampler and I’m gonna show you how to use it” so it’s like all these ideas together and a vocal connecting everything.

When YELLO sent me the parts, I realised there were more vocals recorded than used on the track and I thought it was a shame that this track of idea wasn’t actually a song. So, I reworked Rush Winter’s wonderful vocals into a song, to give it a definitive verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure, like a 21st Century version of an 80s song.

I used the Oberheim OBX and Juno to make the pad at the beginning and made it more song structured. I looped the guitar part so that it became a groove. People have come up to me and said they love the Donna Summer ‘I Feel Love’ bit that I added, but it’s in the original track, it’s just that you can’t hear it because it’s mixed down so much within the track. You don’t really get to experience that part, so I thought it would be nice to feature that as the break, so I cannibalised the original.

What did Boris and Dieter think of it?

They love it, Boris said I was very daring for changing their song so much and not make it sound like their original, but it does! You can hear I’ve used as many of the original parts as possible but I’ve rearranged it completely.

Photo by Chi Ming Lai

So, we go from you remixing ‘Vicious Games’, an old YELLO track to remixing a brand new NEW ORDER song ‘Be A Rebel’…

As with all my remixes, I like people to be able to recognise the song, I don’t want to take some unused backing track and just drop in some vocals, to me that’s not a remix. I take all the parts I require from the original song and rework them so that they will fit my groove. The idea was make the Elektron bassline more pulsating, give a driving feeling to it.

The first mix I made was the Cheeky Devil one, which appears on ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ that I made more for the elderly semester of NEW ORDER fans that don’t like the techno side. I know people who will get a remixes CD or vinyl and they’ve got techno versions of the track that they love, but they can’t get their heads around it. I thought I’d do one which had a “ploddy” kind of feel that’s not so fast even though it’s exactly the same tempo, one that chugged along and put more emphasis on the vocals.

For the Dirty Devil remix for the NEW ORDER release on Mute, I wanted to make it so that Bernard could listen to it in his car while he was on the motorway, more driving and I must confess I prefer this remix to the one I did for ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ but that chuggy version had to work within the framework of my album. I just changed the volume of a few things within the mix like the loudness of the hi-hats in the Elektron driving version.

You actually added some guitars into your remixes of ‘Be A Rebel’ which aren’t on the NEW ORDER original?

There was initially no bass guitar on the original version. There was a guitar, but it was all quite jangly… that style kind of slowed my track down, so I played what I needed… in fact my guitar mirrors Bernard’s vocal quite a lot. I thought I’d play a melody on the guitar like a sequence… some people thought it sounded like the ghost of Hooky’s bass, but it’s my Les Paul playing that and some power chords to embellish the end.

So what’s your guitar playing like compared with your keyboard prowess?

That’s equally as cr*p! *laughs*

Time for another card and it’s a Prophet 10…

I don’t know anybody who owned a Prophet 10. Susanne Kuhnke from MALARIA! owned a Prophet 5 but I only ever saw a Prophet 10 in a music shop and you weren’t allowed to touch it!

By the time when you supported NEW ORDER as SHARK VEGAS in 1984, they would have swapped their Prophet 5s for Octave Plateau Voyetras?

Yes, they’d just got it. A few years before, Bernard had got an ARP so he gave me his Transcendent 2000…

Did you ever do anything useful with the Transcendent 2000?

It just makes a noise! It doesn’t make any kind of like sounds that your granny is going to like! It goes “KKKKHHRRRKK” or “TSCHHHHHH”, it’s a noise synthesizer, white noise, pink noise! A Wasp you can kind of play but the Transcendent didn’t make any keyboard notes. All the crazy “TSCH-TSCH-TSCH-TSCH” noises you hear on the JOY DIVISION records were made by the Transcendent *laughs*

Photo by Kai von Kröcher

On your albums, you like to do new collaborations and on ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’, you worked with Fifi Rong who has a connection with YELLO…

I met Fifi Rong at a YELLO gig in Berlin. She told me she was playing a gig in a small bar the next evening and invited me. She was absolutely mind-blowingly good and she explained what each song was about, it was very endearing. I thought she was so talented, she’s very hands on and so determined.

I thought it would be nice to work with her to give her another platform other than YELLO. You could hear that she has an interesting voice with that high Asian tone. So, I remixed ‘Future Never Comes’, that was such a nice track and as I was doing that, I had another track that I asked her to do a vocal on. I didn’t hear anything from her for about 3 weeks and then she sent me this track that became ‘Figure Of 8’. I decided to start and close ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ with Fifi because I felt she deserved to have those important positions within the framework of the record. She’s been working on her own new album for 2 years and it’s finally getting there, it is an interesting record, a really nice album, I think she’s done really well and got the right ambience.

And the next card is a Yamaha CS30…

I must confess I always found Yamaha gear to be interesting but very cold. I have a TX module which is like a DX7 and has all the sounds, which I’ve had for decades… it’s a limited thing. I don’t use it much, only for specific things like if I want a hard tone filtered in with something else to give it a colder edge. I never bought an actual DX7 because it was too complicated to programme. It had bits like marimba sounds that sounded good, but everyone had one, as it was the first big affordable synthesizer back in the 80s. Everyone dumped their analogue synths for a DX7 and I’m thinking WHY!?!

The DX7 sounded super modern and dead professional at the time, but I didn’t get my module until very late when nu-beat and acid house started, it made a slappy kind of hard bass sound that fitted.

Photo by Martyn Goodacre

Did you get into Akai samplers at all?

I had an Akai S900, I was talking to Micha Adam about them just the other day and how they were the best thing on the market at the time with the longest sampling time. I had a Roland sampler which had an expanded sampling time of 2 seconds! And then there was the Ensoniq Mirage which had its own 30 second samples but when you tried to sample something yourself, you only had a small amount of time. And then came the Akai S800 and that had 20 seconds!! *laughs*

The Akai S900 cost a fortune and was so complicated, there was a lot of fiddling around, twiddling knobs and pressing things! It had a manual the size of the Holy Bible and they knew no-one was going to read this thing, so it came with a VHS video cassette so that you could watch how to programme the thing! It was a really good tool to use once you got used to it and sounded good compared to the others. But then the Akai S1000 came and that had 90 seconds of sampling time which was amazing! I did a couple of remixes in the 90s with the Akai, one for Nina Hagen of ‘Du Hast Den Farbfilm Vergessen’… she hated it! It never came out! *laughs*

How did you put together your 13 minute epic ‘You Can Touch Me’?

That was an idea that’s really three tracks in one and it kind of went on and I thought I’d better stop it at some point! *laughs*

It was originally born from an idea for an album, that had a great underlying groove and I took a snippet from an Eiven Major track to use as a loop in the techno part of the track. I like taking a track that will morph from one thing and end up as another. ‘With You Can Touch Me’, it became that. It starts off very sexual, dark and mysterious… it’s like when you meet someone for the first time, you go through the actions of foreplay and it gets to the climax, the song is a bit like that, very Wet & Hard! It goes into the lyric where “you can’t touch me” and at the end, it goes into this mad techno thing. I’m not a singer, but for that track, it fitted and it sounds alright. I couldn’t find anyone else who wanted to do it to be honest.

I made it just so I could play it in clubs, mostly the DJ who plays after me is usually a techno DJ so I wanted to give them something at the end of my set that they can mix into. It’s my closing track and it’s so long, I can pack all my stuff away while it’s playing and the DJ after me can either let it play out or mix into it. *laughs*

The final card, it’s an EDP Wasp!

I never actually owned one, I borrowed a Wasp, Mijk van Dijk had a Wasp. It’s a bit like the Transcendent, but it has more tone and easier to use. I never recorded anything with it, I just messed around with it, it was quite good. You could mix it with other sounds to add some grit.

You’re working on the debut album of BIRMINGHAM ELECTRIC who are on ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ with your remix of ‘How Do We End Up Here?’?

We’ve been working on quite a lot of songs together and they’ve become an album. It’s a synthpop album in its own way, Andy Evans has got a very distinctive voice that colours the music and gives it his own edge. It’s not dissimilar to how I work with Alanas Chosnau, but I try to keep Alanas’ song ideas directed towards his kind of sound, if you know what I mean. I’m also working on a second album with him. I keep them separate, but as I use the same kind of sounds, there is always this “me” thread running through the music.

When you’re writing songs with people, you have gaps while they’re figuring out their part, especially when having to do it online, so you can use the time to work with somebody else. So for example, I’m doing something with Andy and when there’s a break, I’ll do something with Alanas in between. I’m quite happy the way the BIRMINGHAM ELECTRIC album has turned out, it’s been quite a nice project.

Photo by Crystal Reeder

What’s happening with STOLEN at the moment?

STOLEN have gone from being “a band to watch” to playing headline gigs in China now. Since the pandemic, their career has had a meteoric rise, as no Western artists are allowed to play in China at the moment, so promoters have been forced to look at their home-grown talent and have realised they actually have some really good and interesting bands there.

With STOLEN having opened for NEW ORDER on their 2019 European tour, it boosted their credibility enormously back home and has added to their attraction, so now they’re performing at festivals to 25,000 people. They’re playing a gig virtually every week and in between, they’re trying to write and record another album. So, they’re sending their parts to me too, that means I’m doing three albums parallel!

I guess whoever’s gets finished first will get released first! But it’s a lot more difficult not having them in the studio, because if they were there in person, you can bounce ideas off immediately. And the time difference with someone in China and being in Europe isn’t easy, usually when they’re in the studio, you’re going to bed! It’s a bit complicated! *laughs*

I want to make everyone happy, but I also like a challenge. When it all fits, it can be very rewarding.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to Mark Reeder

‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ is released as a download double album, available from

Mark Reeder’s Dirty Devil Remix of ‘Be A Rebel’ features on the NEW ORDER double 12” clear vinyl EP and expanded CD collection released by Mute Artists also featuring mixes by Arthur Baker, Stephen Morris, Bernard Sumner, Maceo Plex and Paul Woolford

A one hour long Operating//Generating special on Mark Reeder is broadcast for 4 weekends from Saturday 4th September 2021 at 1800 CET on at

Vintage Synth Trumps is a card game by GForce that features 52 classic synthesizers available from

Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
1st September 2021

Vintage Synth Trumps with JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM

With a pair of excellent albums ‘Like Before’ and ‘Utopia’ now under his belt, Swedish synthesist Johan Baeckström has more than established his solo credentials.

Best known as a member of DAILY PLANET, Baeckström had been making plans to return to music on his own prior to an unexpected reunion of the acclaimed duo in 2014 with the appropriately titled ‘Two’. Since then, Baeckström has maintained a solo career in parallel with DAILY PLANET.

DAILY PLANET’s most recent album ‘Play Rewind Repeat’ saw a guest vocal from Mac Austin of WHITE DOOR on the sublime tune ‘Heaven’. Baeckström had already covered two WHITE DOOR songs ‘School Days’ and ‘Jerusalem’ for B-sides, so it was not entirely a surprise when it was announced that he would be joining WHITE DOOR for the recording of their long awaited follow-up to the 1983 long player ‘Windows’.

From his studio utopia via the wonders of online communication, Baeckström challenged ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK to a round of Vintage Synth Trumps and told a few interesting stories about his fabulous collection of electronic keyboards and much more.

The first card is the Roland Jupiter 8, so what have been your experiences with this?

I have almost none, I don’t think I’ve ever played one. I’ve seen them and it’s an important icon synth, that Howard Jones cover of ‘New Song’ with the Jupiter 8 made a huge impact and made me think synthesizers looked cool. But I always thought the Jupiter 6 looked better, it had a nicer design with a better colour scheme, I have one of those and that’s one of my favourites. I know what a Jupiter 8 sounds like, I’ve heard a million demos and it’s on lots of records, it defined the early / mid 80s polysynth sound.

So how close can you get a Jupiter 6 to sound like a Jupiter 8 aesthetically?

I think they are quite different because the Jupiter 8 to me sounds a bit softer and lush. The Jupiter 6 can be lush as well but it’s got a sharper edge to it, which suits my music better as it’s quite percussive and detailed; it’s warm but not as warm as the Jupiter 8. The Jupiter 6 can do harsh, crispy sounds which you can´t really do on the Jupiter 8 because of the multiband filter on the 6, for example.

Which recordings of yours are quite dominated by the Jupiter 6?

When I bought it, the first thing I did to try it was a cover of WHITE DOOR ‘School Days’! It turned out quite nice and I released it as a B-side as you know. Everything on that is the Jupiter 6, also a DAILY PLANET song on the ‘Play Rewind Repeat’ album called ‘Drown’, everything is the Jupiter 6 except for the bass which is a Pro-One.

You mentioned about how you saw the cover for Howard Jones ‘New Song’ when you were younger, but at the time of DAILY PLANET’s first album, you had very long hair… often that’s not a fashion requisite associated with synths? *laughs*

I probably didn’t want to be like everyone else, I started to grow my hair long when I was 14 years old, at first I had “synthpop” hair with everything standing straight up! Then I grew the hair from the neck like Nik Kershaw and then I grew it all very long, I think it was down to my waist at its longest!

Were you a rocker?

I had a time in a rock band when I was 16-17, more a pop rock band like TOTO! I’m not ashamed of it! *laughs*

It was good music, I feel stronger about this now when I heard Daniel Miller in an interview and he admitted he was a big fan of TOTO! If he can admit it, I can!

Of course, Daniel Miller had quite long hair when he started making music with synths…

… it’s the interest on TOTO that does it! *laughs*

So saving money on hair conditioner has enabled you to buy more synths? *laughs*

That is true! *laughs*

Next card, it’s the ARP Odyssey…

I have the reissue from Korg and I use it quite extensively. It’s the same as with the Jupiter 6, it has a sharp edge to it and this Korg one has all three filter types that it was released with. The first is a two-pole filter which is very crispy and has a lot of higher frequencies coming through. It can do everything from bass to percussion.

So when you buy a synth, are you influenced by the bands they are associated with?

I’m sure I am… for example to me, the Jupiter 8 IS Howard Jones and the Pro-One IS Vince Clarke, he basically built an album around that synth. The Odyssey I know Billy Currie of ULTRAVOX used it a lot but so did KRAFTWERK. So yes, to a certain extent.

Do you use the mini-keyboard on the Korg ARP Odyssey reissue or do you MIDI up another full-sized keyboard to it?

I have very few modules, most of my synthesizers have keyboards because when I create sounds and write music, I like to play the instrument I’m programming. So for that, mini-keys are fine but I would probably not bring it out to play live, I would miss a few notes here and there because it’s too small. I would have preferred a full sized keyboard but this was not an option on this reissue by Korg and I’m not prepared to cough up the money for an original one, or the FS version of the reissue.

Was the acquisition of so many synths what led to you building a new studio, or was it to allow for expansion possibilities in the future?

We actually bought a new house so we moved, and one of the rooms in the basement of this house was everything I needed to build a studio, it just needed a new floor, some paint and acoustic panels. The old one was getting a bit cramped so it’s nice to have a bigger studio and in this one, I can have a lounge with a sofa and table, so it’s a much nicer working environment.

The next card is the Korg 800DV…

It’s a good looking one with lots of wood on the sides, but I have no relation to it.

You said your B-side ‘Synth Is Not Dead’ was sort of tongue-in-cheek?

That’s true, I did it for fun which is why it wasn’t put on any album. On the other hand, I think it turned out quite nice so that’s why it came out as a B-side digitally. And thanks to you, some people seem to like it! *laughs*

Next card… oh, here’s an Octave Kitten!

I remember the Octave Cat was a competitor to the ARP Odyssey, I think John Davies from WHITE DOOR still has a Kitten, he used that on the demos for the ‘Windows’ album.

You mentioned the Octave Cat was a competitor to the ARP Odyssey, it had basically the same circuit design!

Yeah, it was a rip-off! That was the Behringer of its day! *laughs*

I think it’s quite interesting how there is so much litigation with song copyright now, but in the synthesizer world, copying is common, even back in the day. Like the circuitry for the Simmons SDS-V was based on the ARP 2600… any thoughts on this modern day cloning thing like with Behringer?

I’m having a hard time with this cloning of everything. If you take the Simmons example, if it’s a total rip-off, then that’s not a nice thing to do because there was probably some patent, but on the other hand, that was a drum module so it’s different from a synthesizer, so perhaps that doesn’t matter.

What Behringer is doing, I suppose it’s positive for people to buy synthesizers which are now largely unobtainable. I mean if you want to buy a vintage Minimoog, it costs a fortune, something like £4000 but a Behringer clone, which from what I heard sounds quite close, is what £250? *laughs*

On the other hand, it’s not their products, they “stole” it! But the patents are free, it’s nothing illegal, it just comes down to ethics and morals. Everyone has to make their own decision as to whether to support it or not, but I can see myself buying Behringer. I haven’t yet but if they do release an Oberheim OBX-a clone and it sounds as it should, I can’t see myself resisting! *laughs*

Talking of American synths, the next one is the Prophet 5…

That’s an icon, probably the one that has meant the most as far as how synthesizers look and behave today. The Minimoog was the first, but the Prophet 5 with its architecture, memories and five octave keyboard, the sound of it was amazing. Now you can get the new Prophets which sound pretty much the same and can do much more, so it’s still relevant after all these years.

I’ve never had one myself, I played it once or twice. I don’t think I would get one now as they are so expensive and I have the Prophet 08, and if I want to come even close to that sound, I can get the Prophet 6. It’s a beautiful instrument to look at as well, it’s a fantastic design in my eyes.

The next card is the Pro-One, tell us about your relationship with it…

I haven’t had my one for too long, I bought it in 2014 and I still can’t understand why I didn’t get one sooner, I should have had one in the 80s. It’s probably my favourite synth, at least my favourite monosynth. It sounds amazing and has superfast envelopes which make perfect bass and percussion sounds, sharp blips and blops, y’know *laughs*

It’s got a great modulation matrix, if you compare it with the Minimoog for example, you can do much more with a Pro-One. It’s always a reward to programme it because whatever you do, it sounds great. But the build quality is so-so, it’s quite plastic and the knobs are a bit flimsy, it’s not built like a tank, it’s more like a Trabant! *laughs*

It’s interesting that you mention the build quality of synths, a lot of these machines are quite fragile and not built to be taken on the road. But one vintage synth which is still around now that tends to end up on stage is the Roland Juno 60. Why do you think that one has been able to survive the years better than any others?

I think the reason the Juno 60 still gets used on stage is because it is quite stable as it uses DCOs. With a Jupiter 6 or Jupiter 8, temperatures can mess up the tuning. It was built very solidly, they seem to stand the test of time and it’s not like the Juno 106 which has these chips which go bad after 30 years. I’ve used my Juno106 live a few times, it’s no problem but you’re right, you see the Juno 60 more.

Another card, it’s a Korg Trident…

Oh! I had one! It’s quite a strange synth, because it’s three machines in one, a polysynth, a string machine and a brass machine, which you could combine. It had very fat sounds coming from it, it was huge and looked very powerful, I loved the way it looked. I got it very cheap after the first DAILY PLANET album ‘The Tide’, but I never used it on any records as it had no MIDI; as I sequence everything, MIDI is quite important for me.

Someone offered to trade it with me for a Roland D20!! It was not great but at least it had MIDI, so I traded it! I think you’d get £80 for a D20 today whereas a Trident gets £2500 so it wasn’t my best decision! I regret it still today, I wish I still had it and have been looking for one. Perhaps Behringer can clone one for me *laughs*

So synths that don’t get used much get traded in?

Not today, but back then I had no money. I could have installed a MIDI kit for the Trident but would have cost me £300 which I didn’t have because I was young and unemployed. So the only thing that made sense was to trade it for something I could use. A few of my synthesizers are not used very much but I don’t trade.

Saying that I did trade a Micro-Korg which I had not used for three years, although it was on ‘Synth Is Not Dead’ for the vocoder, that was probably the only time I recorded with it. I posted up on a Swedish synth forum and got offered a Roland JV1080 and P330 piano module, now I haven’t used them for two years, it’s probably time to trade those as well!

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK can’t imagine you using piano sounds much, but is that a possible direction for the future?

On the new WHITE DOOR album, there are a few piano sounds while on my latest album ‘Utopia’, they are on the cover song I did ‘Into The 80s’, there’s a CP70 type sound low in the background of the middle. But you won’t hear anything like CHICAGO piano! *laughs*

OK, the next card which will lead an interesting discussion, it’s the Moog Prodigy…

I’ve never had one but I’m told it’s great, it’s pretty much a slimmed down Minimoog with two oscillators instead of three, everything from Moog is great in different ways, because the newer ones are not the same as the older ones, but if I had to choose, the older Moogs are the ones that sound the best, Howard Jones, Vince Clarke and DEPECHE MODE use it…

Now this is where we’re going with the conversation. So the Moog Prodigy was the one that Fletch was “seen” with in early DEPECHE MODE videos and TV appearances, he later moved onto the Moog Source. So did you have any feelings or thoughts about Martin Gore getting the Moog Innovation Award?

I saw you had a rant about that! I best be quiet about it *laughs*

I actually don’t have an opinion. Exactly what that award is meant to represent, I’m not sure…

That’s ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s point, Martin Gore was never seen with Moogs, we could understand Gary Numan getting the award. We don’t question his ability as a songwriter during the imperial phase of DEPECHE MODE, but he was NEVER the synth innovator in the group, so we struggled with the title of that award; if it was a Moog Songwriter award, it would be different. The synth innovators in DEPECHE MODE were Vince Clarke first, and then Alan Wilder…

I agree, those Martin Gore song demos that leaked out, it’s not synthesizer virtuoso stuff so he is not the innovator, sound wise. He was a genius with his songwriting and one of the best there ever was, so what the hell? He can have an award just for the songs. But as an innovator, Alan Wilder would deserve it more, but more so Vince.

You recently covered DEPECHE MODE ‘It Doesn’t Matter Two’? Why that song and particularly a Martin Gore voiced one?

That is one of my all-time favourite songs and this will make me sound cocky, but the arrangement on the original is a shame, it’s such a great song but it’s got this silly “bop-boop-bop-boop” arrrangement. They could have done so much more with it. I guess I don’t like that kind of vocal sampling which they built it around. So my cover is what I wanted it to sound like, it’s an amazing song… that shows you how good it is if I can keep listening to it even though I didn’t like the original arrangement and production.

Did you do ‘It Doesn’t Matter Two’ because your voice is more Martin Gore’s key than Dave Gahan’s?

No, but you’re right, I’m more in his key than Dave’s, I just love the song and had this idea for a new arrangement, I think it turned out quite nice. I was asked to do a DM cover for a Swedish podcast called ‘Blå Måndag’, so I decided to do this one since it´s been one where, after a few beers, me and my friends use to singalong and do harmonies to by the piano!

And the next card is a Korg MS20…

Another classic! I have the reissue, it was one of the first I bought when I started rebuilding my collection back in 2013, I’d sold everything I had back in the 90s to go to software. After that, I got a Prophet 08 and a Moog Little Phatty. I still use it a lot but less with this recent album, probably because I had more synthesizers to choose from.

It’s good for noise effects, it’s got a great filter for bass and percussion sounds like on ‘Nobody’s Friend’ from the second DAILY PLANET album and ‘Talking In My Sleep’ on my first solo album. However, the envelopes are too slow for really good snappy bass and percussion. I think the Pro-One has a better low-end and has more powerful oscillators. With the MS20, I use the ring modulator a lot for metallic sounds, I used it for hi-hat type sounds.

How did you find your first ever UK gig at Synth Wave Live 3?

It was nice, the people who were there were very dedicated. I was very thankful for all who came to see the show.

It also saw you on stage with WHITE DOOR, you’ve joined the band now and there is a new album?

I hadn’t met the WHITE DOOR guys before, they’re really nice chaps and to have them do the show with me was a bit surreal as I was listening to them when I was a teenager. It was hard to imagine then I would be on stage with them! It was good but we hadn’t rehearsed so it probably could have been a more perfect performance, but I think people enjoyed it and we had a really fun time.

WHITE DOOR sprung from a prog rock band called GRACE who they still perform as, and a live video that came from a recent festival was fascinating, they were doing this track called ‘The Poet’ which started like WHITE DOOR, then mutated into GENESIS and before you knew it, it had turned into JETHRO TULL! *laughs*

Yes, there is the same “melody language” (as we say in Sweden) with WHITE DOOR and GRACE, although they are very different bands.

I would think that a lot of the way WHITE DOOR turned out is partly thanks to producer Andy Richards who later worked with FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD and OMD, he was the machine wizard. The demos for the ‘Windows’ album were electronic and John Davies had synthesizers but there was also guitars and real bass.

How is the WHITE DOOR album coming along?

It’s coming along nicely, it’s been a slow process but we almost have enough material for an album. I’ve played a few tracks to close friends who love WHITE DOOR and they say it sounds like WHITE DOOR. Now that’s important, when DAILY PLANET reunited in 2014, my plan was that we should not try something too modern, what people wanted was DAILY PLANET to sound like DAILY PLANET. The same approach is what I’m doing with WHITE DOOR although it will sound fresh and be better sounding because of the technology, but there will be a clear connection to the old stuff.

The final card is an ARP 2600…

I’ve never had one, my first connection with it was one of those early software emulations in the early noughties. It’s been used by a lot of artists that inspired me, Daniel Miller’s kick drum on the ‘Speak & Spell’ and ‘Upstairs At Eric’s’ is amazing, plus they also did the “voice” of R2-D2 with it!

But my friend Daniel Bergfalk who mixed my solo albums and joins me on stage sometimes, actually has two of TTSH clones and I’ve played a lot with that, it’s basically the same. It’s amazing and I will probably get one someday, but not an original and that would now cost the same as a car! Probably a TTSH although there are rumours that Behringer will be doing a clone!*laughs*

You’re performing at Pop+Synth Festival in Copenhagen this November with SOFTWAVE, TRAIN TO SPAIN and OCTOLAB?

I’ve never played in Denmark before so it’s gonna be great to enter a new market live.

Why do you think Denmark seemingly has not had an interest in electronic pop in the way neighbours like Sweden, Norway and Finland have?

There never has been, all the acts I know from Denmark are rock like GASOLIN’ but then, there’s not such a big music scene there at all, I can’t even think of many Danish bands in any genre…

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK knows one and that’s LUKAS GRAHAM, f***ing hate that song ‘7 Years’! Such inane childish lyrics! *laughs*

I don’t know them! It sounds horrible!

Oh and there’s TRENTEMØLLER who has been featured on ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK…

TRENTEMØLLER is Danish? I thought he was Norwegian! *laughs*

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Johan Baeckström

‘Like Before’ and ‘Utopia’ are released by Progress Productions in CD and digital formats, downloads available direct from

Johan Baeckström plays the ‘Pop+Synth Festival’ at Krudttønden in Copenhagen on Saturday 2nd November 2019, also performing are SOFTWAVE, TRAIN TO SPAIN, OCTOLAB plus many more acts, tickets available from

Vintage Synth Trumps is a card game by GForce that features 52 classic synthesizers

Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
31st August 2019

Vintage Synth Trumps with FAKE TEAK

FAKE TEAK was founded by singer, bass player and synthesist Andrew Wyld back in 2011.

First name checked on ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK by Martin Swan of VILE ELECTRODES, the band has since evolved into a group of musicians whose ideas draw on diverse influences such as Krautrock, Afrobeat, funk, rock and electronica for a distinctive sound to soundtrack a dystopian present.

Completing the line-up of the London-based quartet are Alastair Nicholls on guitar, synthesizer, bass + vocals plus Joanna Wyld on synthesizer + vocals and Andrea Adriano on drums, production + vocals.

With a love of vintage hardware and a quirky new single ‘Post Office Tower’ b/w ‘Breathless’ just out, it was natural that FAKE TEAK would relish an opportunity for a round of Vintage Synth Trumps…

OK, first card, we have an Oberheim 8 Voice, does that spark any thoughts?

Joanna: There’s one in the Horniman Museum… I always ogle it even though it’s behind glass!

Alastair: They let you go into a side room where there are various instruments you can play, they have a thumb piano and some kind of tubes where you can whack them with flip-flops.

Andrea: My initial reaction was more notes, bigger chords!

Andrew: With the 8 Voice, it’s really hard to get it to do exactly what you want it to do because if you want to repatch, you have to do it eight times! It takes ages to do but it sounds amazing!

Andrea: Seven grand back in the day!!

Alastair: Isn’t there a HOT CHIP link here, because you played me ‘Flutes’ by them and you said it reminded you of the Oberheim?

Andrew: Yes, there’s a one line where an entire chord follows that line and it reminded me of what happened you play it set-up like a 16 oscillator synthesizer with 8 filters and 8 envelopes, or a chord using one note.

My first impression of FAKE TEAK as a band was that you were influenced by HOT CHIP?

Joanna: HOT CHIP is definitely one element, I actually prefer them live to their recordings.

Andrew: I think we have two strands, there’s the synthesizer sound from HOT CHIP, LCD SOUNDSYSTEM and CAN plus TALKING HEADS in the writing strand.

Alastair: I’d like to add THE CHEEKY GIRLS as well! *laughs*

Another card then, Gleemen Pentaphonic… even I don’t know what that is!

Alastair: My head is a blank!

Andrew: That sounds like something you would make up, if you were making up synthesizers!! *laughs*

OK, moving on… the next card is an ARP Axxe! *everyone cheers*

Alastair: We know a lot about ARP!

Andrew: This one is like the cut-down Odyssey… we have a full-sized Odyssey.

Joanna: Ours is the 1972 model…

Andrew: It’s the Mk1 before proportional pitch control came in and with the two pole filter. So seemingly it’s less desirable but I really like it.

KRAFTWERK used a Mk1 Odyssey, how did you acquire it?

Andrew: I’d been after one for a long time and a friend said there was one in Bedford, so I got the train up. There were keen on a quick sale and I mentioned that as it was a Mk1, could they sell it for a lower price and they gave me this figure… it was like the worst negotiation in the history of haggling! I took it home in a blanket that smelt of air freshener! *laughs*

Alastair: I don’t get to use it in the band but it can make some fantastic sounds, but it can sound horrendous too! And that’s the great thing about it, it can be beautiful and it can be horrific, you have to learn how to control it and I cannot!

Andrea: It’s like if someone took the autopilot out of a jumbo jet…

Andrew: I have a mathematical background so I got the hang of it after a while but there’s a lot of different things to it and quite complicated.

Joanna: It is key, especially with the Odyssey, that we have a good sound engineer because if the balance is wrong, it can sound really bad.

Alastair: We actually use a compressor live with the Odyssey to try and mitigate that problem so we try and make life easier for engineers.

Andrew: What I’ve found in the past is some engineers think the synths are used for decoration rather than a main part of the sound and that can be a problem. But music has changed a lot in the last 5-10 years, people are more used to the idea of synths as part of the backbone.

How did each of you first hear electronic sounds in music?

Andrew: When I was 6, a teacher of mine Miss Wickes played us ‘Autobahn’, this noise that I’d never heard before and I thought it was really cool. Then she played us ‘Numbers’!

Alastair: I don’t I’ve got anything as cool or fringe, but the first time I noticed electronics in music was ‘Bad’ by MICHAEL JACKSON, I was given a Walkman and a tape of the album.

Andrea: ‘Blade Runner’ and VANGELIS with the CS80, that was it for me. I’d always liked synths but Mellotrons were really cool for me and after my teens, I got heavily into APHEX TWIN and then later SQUAREPUSHER.

Joanna: It would be ‘Doctor Who’ and DELIA DERBYSHIRE, we went to see the talk and concert of THE RADIOPHONIC WORKSHOP at the Science Museum but also, my dad’s collection of the ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA, on the back of one of these albums was the letters M-O-O-G and I became fascinated with Moogs and thinking “what is that?”

Andrew: VANGELIS and ELO used the CS80, so we just ordered a Deckard’s Dream which is a CS80 replicant, but we’ve since discovered we got to buy £1100 of components to build the thing!

Next card, it’s Roland Juno 106…

Andrea: We have a Juno 60 and I’m about to buy a 106… the Juno 6 didn’t have a memory patch pack, so the 60 had presets and when the 106 came out, they changed the output stage.

Why do you think the Juno, out of all the vintage synths, is still so robust?

Andrew: Because of the way it’s laid out, if you have a basic knowledge of analogue synths, it’s straightforward to use compared to the Odyssey. A lot of people say the Juno is not an analogue machine because of its digital control, but the way that the voices work, the actual oscillators are very similar to those in a Moog. The 106 was one of the first synths to have MIDI, so you have can have those wonderful warm sounds but controllable and easy to use.

Joanna: For me, it is straightforward to use and versatile, the practicality of playing on stage, you want to make it easier, not more difficult. On a Juno, the same voice will work in different contexts really well, there’s a ‘Chariots Of Fire’ sound I use…

Alastair: Oh, Patch 42? Every time you play something on Patch 42, it makes you kind of weepy! It’s got that quality of the Meaning Of Life!

Andrea: It goes very well with the Scottish Highlands!

When’s the FAKE TEAK album out?

Andrew: It’s recorded and Andrea did a wonderful job…

Joanna: It’s gone to Abbey Road for mastering…

Alastair: The band has been going a good while and the line-up has changed over the years, sometimes it takes a while to bring things together. With the four of us, we have the focus and found a sound and recording style that works for us. We’re releasing a few singles first and then the album should be out in 2018.

Your first single is ‘Post Office Tower’, why is this structure still so iconic?

Andrew: The Post Office Tower is an iconic part of the North London skyline and was bombed by the IRA in 1972, they were trying to destroy a publically visible monument… so my inspiration was the thought of “what if they had succeeded?”, would that have changed society in the way 9/11 did? The Post Office Tower is a brutalist piece of architecture and very idealistic, coming at the time of new towns and new motorways… of course, that was a very flawed ideal. What I wanted to do with the song was express admiration for the ideal of society as something you can improve, whilst saying it’s possible to make a mistake about the specific direction you’re at, and come back from that to move into a better direction, which is something I think we’ve lost sight of.

Alastair: Yeah, I went to an exhibition about the utopian ambitions of the 60s and how great the world might be able to be, that’s fallen away slightly and now people are just trying to figure out good solutions to problems, rather than great ideas and big pictures.

Joanna: It also had a revolving restaurant which was just amazing, why has it not reopened? People would flock to it! *everyone laughs*

How did ‘Post Office Tower’ come together musically?

Andrew: I wrote it in Durham and started with a fairly specific skeleton but it’s evolved.

Joanna: Right at the beginning, I do some ‘sample and hold’ which creates the atmosphere and all the connections with the Post Office Tower.

How did you go about producing your drum sounds?

Andrea: When it came to the album, we wanted to record the drums live. I wanted to use a particular interface because it had better converters etc but just 8 inputs, so we were restricted to 4 tracks with 2 overhead mics for stereo drums which got the toms, plus a snare and a kick mic. I don’t think we’d have got away with it using more modern pre-amps, they don’t sound big. Everything sounds bigger on the old ones plus we had the luxury of recording onto tape.

Alastair: There are great drum samples these days but the important thing was to get the whole sound of the band breathing, not to be locked down to a metronome. To have that little bit of breathing just makes the whole track feel natural and exciting.

Andrea: In the original incarnation of the band, there was this view that everything should be to ‘click’, and I strongly disagreed with that! It was only when we started playing together and I recorded the rehearsals, I was like “can we concentrate a bit more?”

OK, another card, it’s a Roland SH3a…

Andrew: We were in a studio with one once…

Tell us about the track ‘No Shame’ which got a good response online in its demo form…

Joanna: It started as an affectionate parody of HOT CHIP; I came up with a few lines and Andrew said it was quite catchy and that I should try and do something with it. The start was quite sarcastic, but I built it from there with influences from ‘Ready For The Floor’ and LCD SOUNDSYSTEM’s ‘Us V Them’ and that disco feel. The lyrics evolved from that slightly odd beginning to about when people pretend to socialise together so that they don’t look like they’re on their own. But then, there’s that strange unity where you come together on the dancefloor.

Alastair: Yes, you’re having a good time whether you’re going to speak to them again, it’s that moment.

Joanna: People do seem to quite like ‘No Shame’ because it’s catchy, we did a wedding and they did a conga to it, which was a sort of peak for me.

That’s why I said on Twitter that it was “delightfully odd”, it was weird but it was nice and fun to listen to…

Joanna:“weird but nice and fun”, I’m going to put that on a T-shirt! *laughs*

The next card is an Elka Synthex, much loved by JEAN-MICHEL JARRE…

Joanna: We listened to ‘Oxygene’ a lot at home, and along with our younger brother, we used to pretend we were space people!

Andrew: Didn’t we do a radio play? We had a reel-to-reel tape recorder that we speeded up and slowed down to use for sound effects! *laughs*

Joanna: I don’t know Elka stuff, I have to admit

Andrew: Elka did great strings machines and we have a Roland RS-202, that’s like the Rhapsody…

Alastair: …yes, it’s a string machine that inexplicably has a brass mode! That inspired ‘101’ on our album! *laughs*

Joanna: So was that inspired by the 202 divided by 2, because that would be amazing!

Alastair: I wish it was… you know in America, you do a class for the basics of something, like ‘English Language 101’? So the song ‘101’ is like learning the basics… of relationships!

Joanna: So deep! Why did I ever ask? *laughs*

One last card… yes, it’s a Roland Jupiter 8!

Andrew: Yes please, but I don’t have £8000 spare! *laughs*

Alastair: Originally, they were only £4000!

One of the members of the DEPECHE MODE tribute band SPEAK & SPELL has Alan Wilder’s old Jupiter 8…

Joanna: …I sometimes wonder about our Odyssey that because they’re so rare now, when I see things like a photo of Brian Wilson with one… could it be the same one? I get really excited at the idea! *laughs*

You’re a bit of a Brian Wilson fan aren’t you?

Joanna: Yes, I love Brian Wilson, I think he’s a genius… I under rated him at first like a lot of people, because the harmonies are apparently so simplistic and cheery and nice. But you go a bit deeper and realise that he’s touching on more emotion… in fact, there’s times when I have to take a break from listening to it because it’s so powerful. Also structurally, what he’s doing, his layers are so sophisticated yet it appears so effortless and not contrived in any way. There’s something so spontaneous and sincere in his character and that comes across in his music.

So what would you like to achieve as a band?

Joanna: Realistically, we understand it’s a very competitive field but we’d like to go as far as we can… we love to make it and tour, but it’s taking one step at a time and building on that. All joking aside, we really believe in the songs and the sound we create. I think the album sounds amazing so I can’t wait to share it with everyone.

Andrew: It’s something we take very seriously, we think it’s really worth listening to… it’s been a complex road to get to that so we’re taking it one step at a time, we really do believe in it.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to FAKE TEAK

‘Post Office Tower’ is available as a download single from

Vintage Synth Trumps is a card game by GForce that features 52 classic synthesizers

Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
15th January 2018

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