Tag: Andrew Poppy


Andrew Poppy is the post-minimal composer who was part of the first wave of ZTT artists with FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD and PROPAGANDA.

He began in music by playing bass in a progressive rock band before Bartok, Debussy, Cage, Feldman, Riley, Glass and Reich and musique concrète pointed to further possibilities. He studied music at Kingsway’s College and Goldsmiths College, London University, graduating in 1979, while attending a summer school with John Cage himself along the way.

Having been a member of minimalist ensemble THE LOST JOCKEY, Poppy signed to ZTT, releasing his first solo record ‘The Beating of Wings’ in 1985. His second album ‘Alphabed’ brought in a Fairlight, the first Akai samplers and vocals from Annette Peacock. Poppy also provided the orchestral arrangements on ERASURE’s ‘Two Ring Circus’ and to NITZER EBB’s ‘I Give To You’ from the ‘Ebbhead’ album.

In 2005, Poppy partnered up with Claudia Brücken for ‘Another Language’, a collection of cover versions using minimal instrumentation featuring songs by solo artists such as Kate Bush, Grace Jones, Marianne Faithful, David Bowie, Elvis Costello and Elvis Presley as well bands including RADIOHEAD, ASSOCIATES and THE PIXIES. That same year, a boxed set of all Poppy’s recordings for ZTT including an unreleased album ‘Under The Son’ was issued.

Poppy’s vast portfolio has also seen scores for theatre, opera, film, contemporary dance and art installations, but his latest project sees him adopt the Mister Poppy persona for an avant-garde vocal experiment entitled ‘JELLY’. “Jelly is like time. Jelly fits any mould. It resists the sentimentality of form” he says, “Jelly is a state of putrefaction before dust. Jelly is the most vulnerable of the body’s materials. You have to crack the nut of the protective skull to reach the meat of the jelly brain. Yum, so this is the seat of understanding and awareness. Yum! ‘I see’ is also ‘I hear you’, locating and judging the proximity of that other juicy presence. Yum!”

Andrew Poppy kindly talked with ELECRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about ‘JELLY’ and a lot more…

Your new album ‘JELLY’ is in 5 parts each around 12 minutes long, has the time duration got any specific significance?

Yes, I think there is something mysterious about 12. The 12 months of the year and the day is divided into two twelve-hour halves. It’s kind of arbitrary, so why does the midnight hour have such significance? It’s when we all turn into pumpkins. Cinderella must leave the ball. Everyone gets drunk on New Year’s Eve, we sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and kiss strangers. I wanted to have a way of chopping up a continuous hour of music into equal parts. There are lots of possibilities, but 5 x 12 minutes seemed suggestive. It’s a practical thing, an invisible grid that maybe takes on those mysterious powers through repetition.

You have used your voice prominently on this album, is this why you have introduced the Mister Poppy persona?

I just watched the series ‘Godless’. It’s a contemporary western. One of the main characters, who is both good and bad, is called Roy Good. He goes over to the bad side for a while but gradually makes his way back to the light. Then along the way, there comes a point when he understands what’s at stake and by chance his name gets changed to Mr Ward.

His new name protects him somehow. The narrative is more complex than that, but that’s the basic outline. I’m not hiding from something like Roy Good, but the composing and performing ‘selves’ are different.

For some reason, a number of my friends call me Mister Poppy. So, it’s a christening of sorts and because this is the first time I’ve made a completely vocal album where it’s all my voice. It’s been coming for while though and is there in the three records that precede ‘JELLY’, particularly ‘Hoarse Songs’ and ‘Shiny Floor Shiny Ceiling’.

There is this minimal bass and heavy sense of foreboding looming on the first two pieces ‘Tattoo / Copy Something That You Love’ and ‘Mister Post-Man / No More Fumbling In The Dark’? What’s happening there?

I think the bass sound absorbs some of the anxiety in the language somehow. Sounds are very absorbent. The gunpowder of a firework can be exciting as it cracks and splinters, but gunshots and explosions in real life are terrifying I’m sure.

At the beginning of ‘JELLY 1: Tattoo’, the speaking voice is trying to stop the tick of the clock. But then it changes. Is the speaker – me perhaps – being tattooed by you and also, are you being tattooed by me? There’s a mutual seduction. It has an erotic edge. The voice could be talking about a tattooing pact or a conversation or some sensuous love-making thing that’s happening over a long period of time between two friends or lovers. The sung part ends with the words “a letter to the one you love”. I’m hoping that it’s hopeful.

‘JELLY 2: Mister Post-Man / No More Fumbling In The Dark’ picks up on that idea of the messages that get sent and what we expect in the mail. The love letters and the disappointments in the messages you receive.

The first part of ‘There Is A Walk We Can Make’ could be like SUICIDE if it had been attached to a drum machine and arranged in a more synth-punk rock fashion… but what was the genesis of this track and how it developed?

All the’ JELLY’ electronic tracks were made a few years before the texts. I started by making five electronic pulses at different tempos / BPM. The pulse was divided into two, like the day, with an on-beat and off-beat. Like the bass drum hi-hat in dance music or the hocket technique in Louis Andriessen’s Hocketus.

Your SUICIDE idea is great. I should do it. I really like it when an artist does two versions of a song which aren’t remixes. THE BEATLES’ two versions of ‘Revolution’ are fascinating. And there are two versions of UNDERWORLD’s ‘Ring Road’. My connection with punk drum-machine music would be UNDERWORLD, particularly ‘Second Toughest In The Infants’ and LCD SOUNDSYSTEM. But they are not as minimal as SUICIDE and perhaps the vocals aren’t as sweet.

I go through periods of scribbling poems and phrases and prose-poem type things. They just come somehow. ‘There Is A Walk We Can Make’ was written in the middle of the night. I started remembering the first trip I made with Julia (Bardsley), my partner, and it spiralled off into exploring what it means to be in a different country. The different food and ways of doing things, attitudes to sensuality, love and violence.

I’ve just released a radio edit of ‘There is a Walk We Can Make’ with a video by Julia. It’s on YouTube and Bandcamp.

The synth solo on ‘A General Choosing / Feather in The Flames’ sounds like it might be about to break into Jean-Michel Jarre’s ‘Oxygene 5’? Is that a coincidence?

It’s a good connection but it wasn’t intended. I think Jean-Michel Jarre must have been influenced by Terry Riley’s 60s album ‘A Rainbow In Curved Air’. That’s what I hear in those keyboard lines and patterns. That album and Riley’s approach to repetition, improvisation and pattern making were an inspiration for me as well when I heard it in the very early 70s. I’ve performed Riley, Glass and Reich and in doing that I learnt a different way of composing. A different way from writing songs or sonatas.

The part you mention is a transition between the ‘A General Choosing’ spoken text and the sung ‘Feather In The Flames’ lyric. It’s played on a classic 60s instrument, the Wurlitzer 200 electric piano, that I bought in the 70s. It’s processed with an overdrive pedal, live, so it sounds much more electronic, especially in a reverb.

‘On The Back Of The Seat in Front of Me’ is a poem set to a piano mantra with a classically oriented interlude, what was the idea behind it?

The idea of the poem was a response to all the photographs on the inner sleeve of my first album, ‘The Beating of Wings’. I wrote the text for a staged-version of ‘The Beating of Wings’ that was presented at the Capstone Theatre, Liverpool in 2017.

Back in 1985, I carefully chose the photographs for the album because I wanted to suggest the connections and the spaces between writing something, the performing of it, the recording of it and the audience’s role in all that. So, the text starts off talking about what a vinyl record is as a physical thing. As the title suggests, with certain caveats, ‘The Beating of Wings’ album was some kind of “take-off” moment for me.

What I like about the piano on this track is that it connects with the piano on ‘Goodbye Mr G’ on my second album ‘Alphabed’. The piano floats in and out. It’s not really a solo. It could be a minimalist piano piece or a sample of one.

Is there a particular track from ‘JELLY’ which gives you the most satisfaction?

Dave Meegan made the final mixes. We talked about the details in a lot of depth. Sometimes the doubts I had were things that really needed attention and at other times, they were just a nervous self-consciousness. It’s a life saver working with someone you trust. Without it, some doubts escalate and start to unravel what you’ve made. In some ways it’s a creative thing. Tearing it down and starting again can be good. You get another piece. Other times you realise, much later, that the original version was OK.

But once it’s done and mastered and art-worked, it is what it is. Until… scratch, scratch, scratch, those doubts… Some moments on ‘There is a Walk We Can Make’ began to itch. That is until Philip Marshall, who designed the CD, told me it was his favourite track. So, finally, I could relax.

Actually, the whole project, as a complete thing, gives me the biggest buzz. It’s one piece in 5 parts. The co-ordinating of all the elements has its up and down moments. When I was working on ‘JELLY’, I saw an exhibition of large Rauschenberg paintings called ‘Nightshades & Phantoms’. They are a collage of photographic images screen-printed onto brushed aluminium. The way the images are buried in the material somehow gave me permission. I saw some analogue with what I was doing. I’m pleased with the way ‘JELLY’ sounds and flows, especially after the brilliant mastering by Stephan Mathieu.

Is making music more straightforward for you these days compared with back in the day? What are your favourite tools?

Maybe it is more straightforward now, in that I have accepted I like to do things in different ways. I’ve been restless from the beginning.

I like to start in a different place with each new project. I use pencil and paper to notate things, sometimes from the get-go. But sometimes, once the piece has been built in the studio, notation gives me a more detached perspective on the pitches and rhythms. So, near the end of making ‘JELLY’, when all the tracks and the vocals were done, I notated the vocals and made myself a score for each piece. The score helps me to move things around and to understand how the musical space is working.

Another tool is the studio. I want to let the technology into the creative game. Back in the day, the studio was a building with an engineer and a tape op / assistant and a technical department who fix things when they break. And in some studios, like Sarm West, a kitchen and a Jamaican chef who cooks the most amazing chicken, rice and plantain! The point is, now, the studio is a piece of software that you can even use on your phone, on the train. That’s definitely more straightforward.

I like being able to get up and go straight into my studio and pick up what I was doing the day before. It’s also a bit like getting up having coffee and going to the piano and playing stuff for a couple of hours. It may be a new piece I’m working on, or it may be doing stuff by other people. The last year or so I’ve been bashing through the Philip Glass piano etudes. They have such amazing energy. Like Jerry Lee Lewis or Barrel House. They’re actually quite bawdy. So, the piano is the original creative tool for me. I doodle around on the keyboard because notation can seem too complicated and takes me away from making a sound.

How do you think you have developed as an artist since your first two ZTT albums ‘The Beating Of Wings’ and ‘Alphabed (A Mystery Dance)’?

The question goes to the heart of it somehow. ‘JELLY’ is a small break-through moment. I’m feeling more comfortable with performance. I don’t have to think about identity. It’s out of my hands anyway.

I don’t have to decide between being a composer or playing the piano or singing or making a record. I can feel they are all legitimate because it’s what I’m doing.

Going back to the question about the name Mister Poppy – it’s a bit like the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa, who wrote under lots of different names and personas, each with a different style and values. One is a shepherd, one is a futurist. I think everyone has different voices and versions of themselves in the same skin.

So those two albums set up a kind of oscillation. ‘The Beating of Wings’ is mostly acoustic pieces with completely notated scores for me and other musicians to play, for example, ‘32 Frames For Amplified Orchestra’.

‘Alphabed’ is a studio record. The pieces are mapped out with notation in some kind of sketch or short score, with some notated parts for the singers and instrumentalists. But the orchestration and arrangement is made in the studio, with different keyboards and a sampler, by trying out different sounds and improvising.

In 2005, you released ‘Another Language’ with Claudia Brücken which comprised of minimally structured covers, have you discussed possibly doing a second volume?

It was a great project and developed very organically. We knew each other from working at Sarm West Studios at the same time in the 80s and were both on the bill for ‘The Value of Entertainment’ show in the West End. 15 or so years later we were chatting at a party and ‘Ruby Tuesday’ came on and we started talking about how interesting it would be to do a cover. We didn’t do that one in the end!

For me ‘Another Language’ connects to the arranging things I did in the 80s: PSYCHIC TV, NITZER EBB, BLACK and THE THE. But it probably connects most with the three arrangements I made for ERASURE, because I started with just the vocal line, and rebuilt the song from the inside. Which is what I did with ‘Another Language’. The original tracks by the original artists are perfect somehow. The only thing to do is to try and reinvent the song from another point of view. I’m very pleased when people ask about a second album. It’s a vote of confidence. We see each other socially but are both busy with our own projects at the moment.

You have ‘Ark Hive of A Live’ coming out at the start of 2023, what is the concept behind this collection?

If ‘JELLY’ is picking up a thread of ‘Alphabed’, with its vocal and electronic and multitrack studio processes, then ‘Ark Hive of A Live’ is echoing ‘The Beating of Wings’, with its collection of mostly acoustic instrumental concert pieces. All the pieces on ‘Ark Hive’ are live performances recorded straight to stereo. But it’s not really an album or even a box set. There is a folded sleeve containing the four CDs and a book with 128 pages of writing and images, all contained in an archival slipcase. The book part is quite substantial, with writing by me about the pieces as well as poems, prose-poems and reflections. There are four great pieces of commentary from Paul Morley, Leah Kardos, Rose English and Nik Bärtsch.

One of the touchstones for me, when I was talking with CJ at False Walls and the designer, David Caines, was a book by Moyra Davey called ‘Les Goddesses / Hemlock Forest’. Her work is an intriguing hybrid. She is a photographer and filmmaker who writes. Her book is full of photographs accompanied by writing that seems like a memoir and then a historical biography or documentary, that tips over into a review of something. The fragments swirl around. Reading the book, you bounce between the photographs and the writing.

There are many paths through the memory portal that is an archive. The ‘Ark Hive’ images of performance and performer portraits remember and suggest the diversity of ways music happens. So that, along with the writing and the recordings, some kind of hybrid experience emerges from the words, music and images. In some ways it’s what is happening all the time. Seeing and listening and reading all feed me at the same moment.

The movement between modes is the basic concept of the project and is captured in the two images of the title, the Ark and the Hive. It became a way of thinking about the archive. It’s collection of fragments. A collage.

What are your plans with regards future projects?

More performances and releases. I just did a CD launch event at Iklectik in London where I performed material from ‘JELLY’, ‘Hoarse Songs’, ‘Shiny Floor’, ‘Shiny Ceiling’, ‘Ark Hive’ and ‘The Beating of Wings’. There’s a Tape Worm event being planned by Philip Marshall and Travis Elborough for early in the new year. I’ll be involved in that. Venue TBA. And also a launch event for the ‘Ark Hive’ probably at the end of January.

ELECRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to Andrew Poppy

‘JELLY’ is released by Field Radio and available as a CD and download available from https://andrewpoppy.bandcamp.com/





Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
6th December 2022

A Beginner’s Guide To CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN

Photo by Patrick Lichfield

With her distinctive ice maiden delivery, Claudia Brücken is the undoubted queen of cinematic avant pop.

She first came to prominence with PROPAGANDA and the Trevor Horn produced film noir drama of ‘Dr Mabuse’. Together with Susanne Freytag, Michael Mertens and Ralf Dörper, the Düsseldorf based quartet released their acclaimed album ‘A Secret Wish’ on ZTT in 1985. But despite the album being a favourite of musical figures such as Quincy Jones, Martin Gore, John Taylor and Jim Kerr, PROPAGANDA split following business and creative tensions as a result of their deal with ZTT.

Remaining with ZTT, Brücken formed ACT with early electronic pioneer Thomas Leer and released an album ‘Laughter Tears & Rage’ in 1988 which featured an array of lush synthetic dynamics glossed with a touch of starlet glamour. Not one to rest on her laurels, her first solo album ‘Love: & A Million Other Things’ came in 1991 on Island Records before she took a career break.

There was a brief reunion of PROPAGANDA in 1998 with ‘Ignorance’, ‘No Return’, ‘To The Future’ and ‘Turn To The Sun’ among the songs demoed. Although a video for ‘No Return’ was produced, the title proved poignant so when that came to nought, Brücken spent much of the new millennium’s first decade working and touring with OMD’s Paul Humphreys in ONETWO, supporting ERASURE and THE HUMAN LEAGUE along the way.

Since then, she has released two further solo albums and more recently been spotted in the studio with Susanne Freytag and Stephen J Lipson, while a new collaborative project with Jerome Froese is also in progress.

Although her catalogue is wide and varied, Claudia Brücken is perhaps still very much regarded as a cult figure on the music scene. In 2011, she celebrated her career with a special show at The Scala in London with various friends and collaborators, all captured on the live DVD ‘This Happened’.

Certainly, she deserves greater recognition so with a restriction of one track per release of a very impressive collaborative portfolio, here is a 20 track Beginner’s Guide to her work…

TOPOLINOS Mustafa (1982)

TOPOLINOSBrücken and Freytag first met on the Düsseldorf scene based around Die Ratinger Straße. “There was this interaction between art and music happening and everyone kind of knew one another” she said. They formed TOPOLINOS, literally translated as ‘The Mickey Mouses’! Using a rhythm unit, budget organ lines and Middle Eastern flavoured vocal phrasing, ‘Mustafa’ appeared on ‘Partysnäks’, the soundtrack to ‘Die Tanzbeinsammler’.

Available on the compilation album Electri_City 2 (V/A) via Grönland Records

PROPAGANDA p: Machinery (1985)

Propaganda ‎– pMachineryAt the suggestion of Freytag, Brücken was recruited into PROPAGANDA and they were marketed as “ABBA in Hell”! ‘p: Machinery’ captured their Teutonic edge and the charm of state-of-the-art technology. Produced by Stephen J Lipson, the song also had an unexpected contributor as Brücken recalled: “It was amazing when David Sylvian came in. On ‘p: Machinery there is this line he wrote on a little keyboard…”

Available on the PROPAGANDA album ‘A Secret Wish’ via Union Square

GLENN GREGORY & CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN When Your Heart Runs Out Of Time (1985)

Glenn+Claudia When Your HeartBrücken and the HEAVEN 17 vocalist met during the video shoot for ‘Dr Mabuse’ as Gregory’s then-wife did the make-up. Written by Will Jennings, best known for ‘My Heart Will Go On’ from ‘Titanic’ and ‘Up Where We Belong’ from ‘An Officer & A Gentleman’, ‘When Your Heart Runs Out of Time’ was recorded for the film ‘Insignificance’ and produced by Midge Ure under the pseudonym of Otto Flake Junior.

Available on the compilation album ‘The Art Of The 12 Inch’ (V/A) via Union Square

ACT Absolutely Immune (1988)

ACT Absolutely Immune

After PROPAGANDA fragmented, Brücken formed ACT with Thomas Leer in 1987. Working again with Stephen J Lipson, alongside the technological marvels came a more playful, decadent glamour with some political flirtations. ‘Absolutely Immune’ was a commentary on the apathy of the nation at large with its “I’m alright Jack” selfishness, the sentiment lost on a British public still drowned in blue emotion.

Available on the ACT album ‘Love & Hate’ via Union Square

JIMMY SOMERVILLE Run From Love (1990)

jimmy_somerville-the_singles_collection_1984-1990The acclaim and respect that ‘A Secret Wish’ attained led to Brücken being offered many opportunities to collaborate. One of the first came from Jimmy Somerville. ‘Run From Love’ was a lesser known BRONSKI BEAT number reworked in a more house fashion by S’EXPRESS producer Pascal Gabriel for the diminutive Glaswegian’s greatest hits collection and Ms Brücken provided backing vocals in the chorus.

Available on the JIMMY SOMMERVILLE album ‘The Singles Collection 1984/1990’ via London Records

CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN Absolut[e] (1991)

Claudia Brucken Absolut(E)Despite ACT ending, Brücken signed a deal with Island Records for her debut solo album produced by Pascal Gabriel. ‘Absolut[e]’ was very much dominated by Gabriel’s dancefloor instincts. But all was not well within. “The MD from Island suddenly left and all the people who worked on my album left as well” she remembered, “A new guy came in and already I could sense what would happen, so Pascal and I decided to get really experimental”.

Available on the CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN album ‘Love: & A Million Other Things’ via Cherry Red Records

CHROME SEDUCTION Light The Way (1993)

Brücken took a career break to bring up her daughter Maddy, emerging only occasionally to record the odd guest vocal. ‘Light The Way’ with CHROME SEDUCTION was a frantic club number that also saw a reunion with former partner-in-crime Susanne Freytag. The project of Magnus Fiennes, brother of actors Joseph and Ralph, it was independently released by Mother Alpha Delta.

Available on the CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN album ‘ComBined’ via Union Square

THE BRAIN I’ll Find A Way (1996)

THE BRAIN I'll Find A WayThe project of Düsseldorf based DJ Dietmar Andreas Maier, ‘I’ll Find A Way’ was typical of the frantically paced Euro-Trance of the period along the lines of fellow Germans COSMIC BABY and SNAP! Co-written with Michael Mertens, the seed of a PROPAGANDA reunion began with a number of songs demoed but Brücken later announced: “The reunion was worth a try, but did not work out.”

Available on THE BRAIN single ‘I’ll Find A Way’ via BMG

OCEANHEAD Eyemotion (1997)

OCEANHEAD EyemotionContinuing to contribute the occasional guest vocal, ‘Eyemotion’ was a co-write with John Etkin-Bell which coupled a shuffling drum loop with some beautifully chilled out atmospheres. Brücken’s breathy whispers and a muted synthetic brass motif à la PET SHOP BOYS provided the colourful sonics on an elegant piece of downtempo electronica, blowing away the likes of ENIGMA and SACRED SPIRIT.

Available on the OCEANHEAD single ‘Eyemotion’ via Land Speed Records

CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN & PAUL RUTHERFORD This Is Not America (2000 – not released until 2011)

After the aborted reunion of PROPAGANDA, Brücken accepted an invitation in 2000 to join Paul Humphreys on his solo tour of the US, one of the first recorded fruits of their partnership was a cover of ‘This Is Not America’ featuring a duet with FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD’s Paul Rutherford  A beautifully crafted synthesized tribute to David Bowie & Pat Metheny, it had been intended for a film soundtrack but shelved.

Available on the CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN album ‘ComBined’ via Union Square

APOPTYGMA BERZERK Unicorn – Duet Version (2002)

APOPTYGMA BERZERK HarmonizerEurope maintained a vibrant industrial music scene and in a one-off collaboration with Norway’s cult electronic body merchants APOPTYGMA BERZERK, Brücken returned to the more Teutonic overtones evident in PROPAGANDA. In an electronic rework of the heavier guitar focussed original, the combo provided a suitably aggressive but accessible backing track for her to duet with frontman Stephan Groth on ‘Unicorn’.

Available on the APOPTYGMA BERZERK album ‘Harmonizer’ via WEA

ONETWO Cloud 9ine (2004)

ONETWO ItemBrücken formalised her musical partnership with Paul Humphreys and together they named themselves ONETWO. They dusted off a track that had been demoed during the aborted PROPAGANDA reunion. The song in question was ‘Cloud 9ine’, a co-write with Martin Gore which also featured the guitar of DEPECHE MODE’s main songwriter. It was the stand-out song on ONETWO’s debut EP ‘Item’.

Available on the ONETWO EP ‘Item’ via https://theremusic.bandcamp.com/

ANDY BELL with CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN Delicious (2005)

ANDY BELL Electric BlueBrücken joined ERASURE’s Andy Bell to sing on two tracks for his debut solo album ‘Electric Blue’. More club oriented than ERASURE, it was produced by THE MANHATTAN CLIQUE who were also part of the ONETWO live band. The call-and-response Hi-NRG stomp of ‘Delicious’ saw Brücken in her most playful mood since ACT and in rare poptastic glory, despite the bittersweet, reflective lyrical nature of the song.

Available on the ANDY BELL album ‘Electric Blue’ via Sanctuary Records


ANOTHER LANGUAGEBrücken teamed up with former ZTT label mate Andrew Poppy to record a number of stripped back covers for her first long form release since 1991. The songs came from bands such as RADIOHEAD and ASSOCIATES, as well as divas like Marianne Faithfull and Kate Bush. One highlight was a dramatic take on ‘Libertango’, better known as ‘I’ve Seen That Face Before’ made famous by Grace Jones.

Available on the CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN & ANDREW POPPY album ‘Another Language’ via http://theremusic.bandcamp.com/

ONETWO Anonymous (2007)

Humphreys and Brücken finally released an album as ONETWO in 2007 and from it was ‘Anonymous’, a song that began life as a demo from the aborted PROPAGANDA reunion that had been co-written with Andy McCluskey. The pretty ringing melodies and elegiac atmospheres were reminiscent of OMD. The collaboration had been unusual as at the time of conception as Humphreys had not yet rejoined his old band.

Available on the ONETWO album ‘Instead’ via https://theremusic.bandcamp.com/

BLANK & JONES Don’t Stop (2008)

BLANK & JONES The Logic of PleasureIn between the aborted PROPAGANDA reunion and ONETWO, Brücken guested with the popular German dance duo BLANK & JONES on ‘Unknown Treasure’, a most gorgeously shuffled electrobeat ballad. The parties reunited in 2008 but while ‘Unknown Treasure’ was in her words, “a real collaboration”, “’Don’t Stop’ was in reverse, they gave me all the music and then I did the words and sent it back to them”.

Available on the BLANK & JONES album ‘The Logic Of Pleasure’ via Soundcolours


=LA NoireRockstar Games wanted a German singer for a new game called ‘LA Noire’ soundtracked by THE REAL TUESDAY WELD’s Stephen Coates who was known for producing jazzy cabaret-style music with subtle electronica influences. “I thought: why not?” said Brücken, “I heard the songs and thought they were so beautiful. I found it a really good challenge doing something I hadn’t done before”. ‘The Things I Love’ was the alluring highlight of three songs recorded.

Available on the soundtrack album ‘L.A. Noire’ (V/A) via Rockstar Games

CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN One Summer Dream (2012)

Claudia Brucken One Summer DreamThe B-side to ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA’s ‘Mr Blue Sky’, ‘One Summer Dream’ was the first song to emerge from Brücken’s reinterpretations project with producer Stephen Hague which also included songs by Julee Cruise and David Bowie as well as new versions of songs he’d originally worked on by PET SHOP BOYS and DUBSTAR. It built to a dreamy John Barry influenced ‘Felt Mountain’-era GOLDFRAPP string arrangement.

Available on the CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN album ‘The Lost Are Found’ via There (there)

OMD Kissing The Machine (2013)

OMD-English-ElectricAlthough this co-write by Andy McCluskey and Karl Bartos first appeared in 1993 on the ELEKTRIC MUSIC album ‘Esperanto’, Paul Humphreys completely reworked the backing track of ‘Kissing The Machine’from scratch for OMD. “Paul had the idea of asking Claudia to do the vocal in the middle eight” remembered McCluskey before thinking “y’know, could you ask Claudia to do it in German as well?”... the result was electronic magic.

Available on the OMD album ‘English Electric’ via BMG

CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN Time To Make Changes (2014)

CLAUDIA BRUCKEN Where ElseThe biggest surprise musically on Brücken’s third solo album was her adoption of the acoustic guitar. Working with producer John Owen Williams, the songs dealt with “emotion, beginnings, endings, past life and future hopes”. Like ABBA meeting THE SMITHS in a lush organic backdrop, ‘Time To Make Changes’ very much reflected her personal mindset following the end of her relationship with Paul Humphreys.

Available on the CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN album ‘Where Else…’ via Cherry Red Records

For further information on the upcoming projects of Claudia Brücken, please visit her official website and Facebook page





Text by Chi Ming Lai
30th July 2016

THE REST IS NOISE – 19 eighties: the rhythm of a decade

Photo by Mark Allan/BBC

The decade you either love, or love to hate…

The Southbank Centre’s year long ‘The Rest Is Noise’ festival concluded its musical journey through the 20th century with a special event entitled ‘19 eighties: the rhythm of a decade’ which saw classical meet synthpop. Broadcast live by BBC Radio3, the evening was hosted by journalist, cultural commentator and ZTT strategist Paul Morley in the company of the BBC Concert Orchestra.

Featuring the work of contemporary composers such as Andrew Poppy, Sir John Tavener, Steve Martland and Michael Nyman as well as tracks from THE ART OF NOISE and the synthpop era arranged in a special orchestral suite by Anne Dudley, it was billed as “a one-off documentary soundtrack to the decade you either love, or love to hate”.

It is well documented how ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK feels about that decade, or rather how it has been generalised. While some of the greatest and most innovative pop music ever produced came from between 1980-1989, the decade also gave rise to some of the worst.

So to have lazy journalists glamourise about how it was one wonderful party for all is not only ignorant, but extremely insensitive to those who suffered in the era.

Music was often an escape for these troubles and for every pioneer who pursued artistic values as a reaction to the system, like today in our X-Factor / Heat magazine driven society, there were corporations and aspiring celebrities prepared to go to the lowest common denominator in order to get rich quick.

But the biggest gripe ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK particularly has is how the synthesizer has been marginalised as a by-product of that era, only be used now as an instrument to reflect nostalgic intent or mock rather than pushing boundaries and encouraging forward thinking. Comments from unenlightened observers who think of Alison Moyet’s ‘the minutes’ album as being “80s sounding”, rather than a songwriter’s experiment in modern electronica, are an example of the imbecilic attitude at large.

So it was apt that to start the evening in the foyer of Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, HEAVEN 17 and BEF’s Martyn Ware gave a talk entitled ‘A Journey In 20 Synths’.

The Nile Rodgers of Synth Britannia was joined by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop’s Peter Howell with the pair leading an informative and lively discussion about the electronic music decade. Interestingly, most of the chat focussed around equipment from the decade before.

It all started with an instrument that was first launched in 1971, the Stylophone 350s. Ware commented that he thought he was Brian Eno when he got one. Next up was the EMS Synthi 100, one of those huge telephone exchange beasts that have gone down in legend; Howell recalled it had a knob called ‘Option4’ which wasn’t actually connected to anything and often used by members of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop to trick difficult TV producers into accepting their soundtracks by offering tweaks in their presence… ”Oh! Hang on, it just needs some more Option4”!

Ware then gleefully talked about the Korg 700s and Roland System 100, the two synths which effectively helped realise his post-punk musical vision. First manufactured in 1974 and 1975 respectively, these two were the rhythmical powerhouse of THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s first single ‘Being Boiled’ in 1978.

Affection was also bestowed on Roland’s Jupiter 4 from 1978 (described by Ware as his “dream synth”) and the Linn LM1 which Ware said was the “best drum machine ever”.

Asked by a member of the audience whether he liked Oberheim gear, Ware commented that he was not a big fan of American synths as they were designed for musicians, with the filters not being particularly extreme enough for experimentalists. Howell highlighted that one of the beauties of synthesizers was being able to change timbre and tones mid-composition, thus enabling the creation process to be taken into a direction that would not have been possible using acoustic instruments such as guitar or piano.

After adding that he had three Roland TB303 Basslines which were all stolen from the studio because they were pocket sized, Ware groaned as the subject headed towards digital synths of the period.

The Roland D50 from 1987 provoked an interesting debate with Howell in favour of its possibilities while Ware bemoaned the fact that he traded in his Jupiter 8 for a Yamaha DX7!!! Howell then admitted that he used the DX7 as a controller keyboard for the recent Radiophonic Workshop live shows. But both agreed that with FM synthesis, everyone fell into the preset trap and started to use the same sounds… the result inevitably being that pop music became much more homogenised in the latter part of the decade.

Following a comment that the Korg M1 was the worst synth ever designed, Ware walked over to fire up the Roland System 100 and Korg 700s he had brought with him to demonstrate to the receptive audience.

Using the original patches from ‘Being Boiled’, the familiar industrialised rhythm poured from the expanded System 100 driven by its 104 sequencer module. After some temporary 103 Mixer glitches, Ware stood behind the Korg 700s for a run through of the song’s distinctive bass riff

TheKorg 700s’ dual oscillators rumbled the plush confines of the Queen Elizabeth Hall. It was an entertaining and accessible presentation with Ware and Howell articulating their thoughts without too much technical talk in a humourous manner.

Photo by Mark Allan/BBC

And so onto the main event; Paul Morley introduced the evening’s proceedings as “using words and music to summon up memories of that decade, to eradicate some others” and “to try and work out what the hell happened there…”

The ‘rhythm of a decade’ concert itself began with ’32 Frames For Orchestra’, a piece conceived by one time ZTT artist Andrew Poppy as “merging Beethoven with The Velvet Underground”.

In an onstage chat with Morley, Poppy reflected a spirit of adventure that shared an affinity with the innovators of Synth Britannia before taking to the piano himself for a rendition of ‘Almost The Same Shame’. There then followed touching tributes to the recently departed composers Sir John Tavener and Steve Martland. The solemn tranquillity of Tavener’s ‘The Lamb’ captured the sadness of the era eloquently while Martland’s powerfully rhythmic ‘Remix’ represented how he felt classical music could be given a broader audience, a stance reflected in his commitment to music education and as a curator of the short lived Factory Classical label.

Celebrating THE ART OF NOISE and ZTT’s 30th Anniversary, an announcement came forth via Morley in his usual, wittily provocative style: “thirty years after our first record ‘Into Battle’ which was neither an album nor a single, which was really a series of musical movements in the abstract, each of which lasted different lengths from the quite short to the fairly long, the time has perhaps come for a reunion… this is our reunion, hidden in the middle of something else altogether!”

Photo by Mark Allan/BBC

The orchestral premiere of THE ART NOISE’s debut 1983 EP ‘Into Battle’ specially arranged by Anne Dudley was a delight, coming over at times like a lost Bond film soundtrack. The EPs two best known tracks ‘Moments In Love’ and ‘Beatbox’ each had their component parts reinterpreted by classical instruments as “memory of a memory”; the distinctive bassline of ‘Beat Box’ was represented by French horns while the iconic vocal samples of ‘Moments In Love’ had their places taken by an ensemble of violins.

After the interlude, classical music’s link to synthpop was emphasised further before the Grand Finale with a recital of Michael Nyman’s ‘Chasing Sheep’. Itself based on Purcell’s ‘Prelude to Act III, Scene 2’ from ‘King Arthur’, it was recently used by PET SHOP BOYS as the basis of their ‘Love Is a Bourgeois Construct’. A duo with links to many involved in THE ART OF NOISE including Anne Dudley, plus of course Trevor Horn and JJ Jeczalik, all were in attendance for this spirited evening. Engineer Gary Langan was in the audience too, making it a full reunion of THE ART OF NOISE in spirit if not performance.

Photo by Mark Allan/BBC

To conclude the concert, Anne Dudley took to the piano for the much anticipated ‘rhythm of a decade’. While Paul Morley narrated his musings on Thatcher’s Britain, he was accompanied by an orchestral soundtrack arranged by Dudley… and what a soundtrack! Beginning with her own familiar intro to ‘Two Tribes’ before segueing into the beautiful pentatonic melodies of ‘Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence’, there then followed a significant number of synth classics transcribed for everyone’s listening pleasure.

From the dystopian shrills of ‘Underpass’ and ‘Fade To Grey’ to the euphoric club tunes of ‘Pump Up The Volume’ and ‘Pacific State’, each had been carefully chosen by Dudley for their distinctive riff laden elements to complement the dynamics of Morley’s monologue.

The biggest surprise came with a blast of SOFT CELL’s ‘Sex Dwarf’ while ‘Mad World’, ‘Situation’, ‘Love Action’, ‘True Faith’ and ‘Blue Monday’ all figured in proceedings alongside more conventional numbers of the period such as ‘Back To Life’, ‘Let’s Dance’, ‘Ghost Town’ and ‘Running Up That Hill’. It all worked together marvellously for what was slowly emerging effectively as a spoken word art piece accompanied by music.

Overall, Anne Dudley’s orchestral interpretations were a great success, much more so than say OMD’s hit and miss experiment with the Liverpool Philharmonic immortalised on the ironically titled ‘Electricity’ DVD. As for Morley’s narration, for those who have loved his commentary over the years, this was perfect entertainment but for those who have found him an irritant, this would have been an intrusion to the music.

The evening was a triumph that reflected on that decade as not being the cheesefest it has often been portrayed as by the media and the public at large.

The fact that these synthesizer tunes (which have often been derided as not being real music) have been able to be orchestrated by one of modern pop’s most successful arrangers is a testament to their value and integrity. Yes, the rhythm to a decade but also a rhythm to many more…

Special thanks to Victoria Taylor and Camilla Dervan at the BBC






Text by Chi Ming Lai
2nd December 2013


Claudia says HI

Last Autumn saw the release of ‘The Lost Are Found’, an emotive body of songs recorded by Claudia Brücken in collaboration with top producer Stephen Hague, best known for his work with PET SHOP BOYS, OMD, NEW ORDER and ERASURE.

Each of the compositions came from their very own world and were respectively adopted to form an eleven episode triste drame. One of the album’s highlights Everyone Says Hi’ has just been released as a single ahead of Claudia’s upcoming UK and German tour.

Claudia Brücken’s lively reinterpretation of one of David Bowie’s latterly compositions from ‘Heathen’ is dressed with catchy synth riffs and fuzzy shades. And the fabulous accompanying promo video could be interpreted as a visual dramatisation of Major Tom’s final voyage from ‘Space Oddity’.

Claudia only features halfway through but also look out for cameos from Glenn Gregory, Andrew Poppy, Paul Humphreys and even Claudia’s dog Patsy… joyous it may be but poor Major Tom is ultimately doomed, left to drift in space’s wilderness. So “Tell my wife I love her very much…”

As well as touring in March. Claudia will be making a very special guest appearance on the new OMD album ‘English Electric’, to be released on 8th April 2013. She will feature on a new version of ‘Kissing The Machine’, a track written by Andy McCluskey with the electronic godfather Karl Bartos in 1993 for the ELEKTRIC MUSIC album ‘Esperanto’ which has been reworked by her ONETWO partner and OMD founder member Paul Humphreys. The track which could be perceived by many to be KRAFTWERK vs OMD vs PROPAGANDA is eagerly awaited.

‘Everyone Says Hi’ and ‘The Lost Are Found’ are released by There (there)

Claudia Brücken ’s 2013 Spring tour includes:

Glasgow O2 ABC2 (12th March), Birmingham O2 Academy 3 (13th March), Manchester Academy 3 (15th March), London Borderline (16th March), Brighton Concorde 2 (17th March)



Text by Chi Ming Lai
26th February 2013


“Sooner or later, one has to take sides in order to remain human” CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN 2005

Claudia Brücken is the original first lady of cinematic electronic pop. Successfully maintaining an icy but approachable aura that draws from Germanic divas as varied as Marlene Dietrich, Nico, Nina Hagen and Gina Kikoine, one aspect that stands out about her is how she’s maintained her values and artistic integrity over the years.

For her, it is all about quality rather than quantity. She could so easily have been trudging around the dreaded ‘Here & Now’ and ‘Rewind’ circuit singing ‘Duel and ‘Dr. Mabuse’ accompanied by an unsympathetic house band. But thankfully, she is much better than that.

Her varied back catalogue as a solo artist and with PROPAGANDA, ACT and ONETWO (as collected on her recent retrospective ‘ComBined’) has captured the essence of her thoughtful imagination and focussed aspirations. It’s a testament to the strength of her musical reputation that she’s been able to gather the ComBinations of very special guests who join her tonight to celebrate her illustrious career.

The list reads like a who’s who of avant pop: Paul Humphreys, Glenn Gregory, Martyn Ware, Andy Bell, Susanne Freytag, Ralf Dörper, Andrew Poppy. And together, they gather to perform a cross section of her Eurocentric classics for an eager audience that has waited years for a solo CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN concert.

Taking to the stage, the glamorously attired Claudia is joined by her ONETWO partner Paul Humphreys who acts as the evening’s musical director plus the regular live band of guitarist James Watson and MANHATTAN CLIQUE’s Philip Larsen. With the addition of one time PET SHOP BOYS percussionist Dawne Adams, they are the core musicians for this unique live event.

The loyal Claudia faithful, who have travelled far and wide to here on this cold March night, are rewarded with ‘Kiss Like Ether’ as the show’s opener, its squelchy ‘State Of Independence’ bass driving alongside the ethereal voices of Claudia in harmony with backing singers Melissa D’Arcy and Dave Watson.

‘Sequentia’ follows and fills The Scala with the chilling widescreen spectre of the ASSOCIATES. Many have said Claudia duetting with the late Billy MacKenzie would have made a dreamboat pairing. Both songs act perfectly as a two movement overture to the stylish proceedings.

The first guests of the night arrive in the shape of a three quarters reunion of PROPAGANDA for ‘Dr Mabuse’. Ralf Dörper reprises his stern role from the original while Susanne Freytag completes the trio by concurring with Claudia in her distinct Teutonic tone.

Watching this reunion reminds everyone that not only were the Düsseldorf based quartet the “ABBA in Hell”, but they were also the proto-LADYTRON. ‘Dr Mabuse’ sounds magnificent and loses none of its mystery and magic.

It’s all lovingly recreated using laptops and Roland Fantom workstations… and to think this could have only been produced in 1984 using Trevor Horn’s £40,000 Fairlight… a new Toyota MR-2 (as emblazoned on the cover of LA ROUX’s ‘In For The Kill’) would have cost around £10,000 then! How technology has moved on!

The only disappointment is that the mics cut in and out with Susanne Freytag particularly being unable to be heard at times. Apart from this slight glitch, the music comes over loud and clear throughout the evening. Interestingly, ‘Absolut(E)’ almost steals the show in this early section, the beefy house rhythms that drive it are further enhanced by some finely tuned programming and a crystal sound.

Despite the all-star cast, one person who doesn’t appear tonight is DEPECHE MODE’s Martin Gore. On his co-write ‘Cloud Nine’ though, James Watson acts as a worthy substitute recreating Gore’s distinct six string rhythm textures before finishing with a layer of pretty infinite guitar to enhance one of the highlights from ‘Instead’.

Claudia then introduces HEAVEN 17’s Glenn Gregory who returns the compliment of Claudia’s appearance at last year’s triumphant Sheffield Magna gig to take over Thomas Leer’s vocal duties on ACT’s ‘Snobbery And Decay’. Poor Thomas was unable to take part due to a hospitalised illness and was sadly missed. But Mr Gregory did a superb job on one of the great lost ZTT singles that lyrically has now become relevant again, thanks unfortunately to a return to the unpleasant social economic climate of 1987.

Following on, Martyn Ware joins his erstwhile HEAVEN 17 colleague to tackle the demo version of ‘Temptation’. Much starker than the soul fusion of the famous hit single, Claudia gives it a sexy deadpan delivery over the backing like a more sinister electronic take on SOFT CELL’s version of ‘Tainted Love’.

HEAVEN 17 remain for the debut recital of country and western cover ‘When Your Heart Runs Out Of Time’ from the film Insignificance. This cult favourite narrowly missed inclusion on ‘ComBined’ but was luckily dusted off for inclusion on ZTT’s ‘The Art Of The 12 Inch’ collection. Tonight, it soars with its synthesized instrumentation arranged like an ULTRAVOX ballad, almost in tribute to the recording’s producer Midge Ure.

Everything takes a breather when ZTT’s arch minimalist Andrew Poppy accompanies Claudia on solo piano for a stark cover that was first premiered on their ‘Another Language’ album. The audience are respectfully attentive as the pair tackle a touching rendition of KATE BUSH’s ‘Running Up That Hill’ before following with an emotional take on ROY ORBISON’s ‘In Dreams’.

Claudia then steps out of the spotlight for a moment as Susanne Freytag re-emerges next to the microphone stand and announces “all that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream”.

Written by Edgar Allan Poe in 1849, that segment of poem initiates an unexpected but breathtaking rendition of the epic opener from ‘A Secret Wish’. Textured with real trumpet, it is magnificent and brooding with the incessant backing sounding like a cross between PET SHOP BOYS and prime SIMPLE MINDS that builds to the massive percussive break.

Dawne Adams is a total star here, frantically doing justice to original exponential template on this most special of moments.

The audience then get even more secret wishes as Ralf Dörper returns and shouts “PROPAGANDA” over some bleepy mechanics to launch ‘P.Machinery’. The second instalment of the 3/4 reunion is full of motor, power, force, motion and drive. The machine funk and synthetic brass stabs are all faithfully recreated, testament to Paul Humphreys’ engineering and programming skills.

‘Night School’ is the first of Claudia’s new songs tonight and the groove laden shuffle keeps the momentum going. “What are you waiting for?” monologues Claudia during the song… it turns out it’s actually Susanne Freytag who almost doesn’t make it on stage for ‘Light My Way’ when it inadvertently starts without her! But it turns out to be a fine live debut of what in 1993 was originally the first recorded return of the PROPAGANDA ladies since ‘A Secret Wish’.

The brilliant ‘Home (Tonight)’ from ONETWO’s ‘Instead’ appears in blistering remix form steered by Philip Larsen to compliment the superb collection of dancier numbers that make up this second half of the show.

Andy Bell arrives fresh faced for their energetic duet ‘Delicious’ with the playful chemistry between Claudia and himself very apparent on stage. Friends since collaborating on his 2005 MANHATTAN CLIQUE produced solo debut ‘Electric Blue’, Andy Bell stays on for a superb airing of ACT’s ‘Absolutely Immune’. Amusingly requiring a lyric sheet and a trendy pair of spectacles to complete the task, he is on good form throughout and all bodes well for Mute’s Short Circuit 2011 concert at The Roundhouse in May and the new ERASURE album due later this year.

For the last song ‘Duel’, Claudia’s best known song is joined by Susanne Freytag on keyboards while Paul Humphreys does rather a good job hammering away for the song’s mad piano solo!

Meanwhile, Melissa D’Arcy treats everyone to a marvellous dance routine in semi-literal fashion that sparkles and shines. ‘Duel’ is such a classic, it can’t do any wrong and is a fitting end for the main set.

Sending a little sign of Claudia’s continued excellence after over 25 years in the business, the encore is the Stephen Hague co-write ‘Thank You’. Like A-HA’s 2009 hit single ‘Foot Of The Mountain’, ‘Thank You’ brings Claudia’s sound up-to-date while retaining all the classic qualities of the past. It acts as a perfect finale with its JOHN BARRY-esque vibes and wonderfully moody percussive textures.

This was a once in a lifetime experience. With a well paced set, the song choice tonight couldn’t be faulted. Love and a million other things could certainly be felt with Claudia quite visibly moved by an ecstatic response from the crowd.

In fine voice throughout, she captured the hearts of all who were present and was humbly appreciative in return. It was an outstanding evening, delightfully performed and presented… almost perfect in fact.

For those who missed this special occasion, the concert was filmed and is due to be released on DVD later this year.

‘ComBined’ is released by ZTT/Salvo and available now




Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Richard Price
13th March 2011