Tag: Billie Ray Martin


Photo by Tapio Normall

It was hoped to be a year of positive electricity but with the oddball burst of negative waves, 2022 was summed up by the title of its best album.

The product of Finnish duo SIN COS TAN, ‘Living In Fear’ captured the anxieties of living with The Bear Next Door in a post-pandemic world. With billionaires taking over social media with the intent of allowing the extreme right wing an increased voice, it was as if the lessons of Trump and Bolsonaro had not been learned.

‘The Wolves Are Returning’ warned xPROPAGANDA on a track from their excellent album ‘The Heart Is Strange’, the message coming from two Germans whose grandparents’ generation “did nothing” and had made the mistake of opening up the door to the Nazis was extremely poignant.

It was as if The Cold War had never ended; the poetry of one who has escaped ethnic genocide and been separated from next of kin as a refugee has substance. So for Alanas Chosnau on his second album with Mark Reeder, this was ‘Life Everywhere’ and provided a deeper statement on life during wartime. Meanwhile China’s STOLEN presented their ‘Eroded Creation’ and explained ‘Why We Follow’.

Battles both worldwide and personal were being reflected in music everywhere with ‘War’ by I SPEAK MACHINE being another example. Things did not get much cheerier with Rodney Cromwell whose long-awaited second long player ‘Memory Box’ provided commentary on a sadly post-truth world, the so-called “alternative facts” as Donald Trump’s extremely dim advisor Kellyanne Conway liked to put it.

The decade so far has not been a barrel of laughs and the likes of UNIFY SEPARATE, BOY HARSHER, O+HER, NNHMN, VANDAL MOON and ADULT. captured the zeitgeist of the past 3 years.

Meanwhile, MECHA MAIKO maintained it was still ‘NOT OK’, I AM SNOW ANGEL felt it was now a ‘Lost World’ and Swedish duo SALLY SHAPIRO made their comeback by reflecting on ‘Sad Cities’.

As sardonic as ever, DUBSTAR presented their second collection of kitchen sink dramas since they reconfigured as a duo with ‘Two’ and reunited with producer Stephen Hague for their most acclaimed record since their 1995 debut ‘Disgraceful’.

On a more optimistic note, Italians Do It Better brought their cinematic world to London with headline shows by DESIRE and MOTHERMARY who each had new long form releases to air, while shyness was nice for the most promising breakthrough act of the year Gemma Cullingford who got all ‘Tongue Tied’ on her second long player. Meanwhile DAWN TO DAWN, ULTRAFLEX and H/P offered electronically escapist solutions to the year,

But KID MOXIE was happy to ‘Shine’ with the best video of 2022 while CZARINA got mystical with ‘Arcana’, Karin Park looked back at her ‘Private Collection’ and Patricia Wolf explored ambience on ‘See-Through’. Other female talent that shone brightly in 2022 included Norway’s SEA CHANGE, Sweden’s Hanna Rua, Alina Valentina from The Netherlands, Mexican Valentina Moretti and Anglo-French avant songstress Julia-Sophie but sister / brother duos MINIMAL SCHLAGER and SPRAY proved siblings could continue to work well together in synth.

40 years after the release of their debut album ‘Happy Families’, BLANCMANGE returned home to London Records for a ‘Private View’ while mainman Neil Arthur was keeping himself busy with FADER too. Having being shelved for 30 years, the second ELECTRIBE 101 album ‘Electribal Soul’ finally saw the light of day. And some 39 years after it was first conceived, the lost Warren Cann and Hans Zimmer opus ‘Spies’ was released in a new 21st Century recording by the HELDEN Project’s lead vocalist Zaine Griff.

Although PET SHOP BOYS celebrated their career with the magnificent ‘Dreamworld’ tour for the best live event of 2022 and joined SOFT CELL in the ‘Purple Zone’, Marc Almond and David Ball presented the disclaimer ‘*Happiness Not Included’ before announcing that they would be performing at a run of outdoor events in 2023 despite having stated their 2018 O2 extravaganza would be their last.

Also having declared a final album in 2014, RÖYKSOPP returned with the triple volumed ‘Profound Mysteries’ that featured Susanne Sundfør and Alison Goldfrapp.

Veterans Howard Jones, William Orbit, Jean-Michel Jarre and Wolfgang Flür as well as long-standing Nordic combos LUSTANS LAKEJER and A-HA released new albums but while the quality across the releases was mixed, fans were loyal and happy. After various trials and tribulations, TEARS FOR FEARS returned with ‘The Tipping Point’ and erased memories of the lacklustre 2004 comeback ‘Everybody Loves A Happy Ending’, but the duo were unable to capitalise when the majority of the UK concert tour of stately homes was cancelled due to an unfortunate accident that befell Curt Smith.

Creating a dehumanised technologically dependent Sci-Fi world, DIE KRUPPS opted for more machine than metal under their EBM pseudonym DIE ROBO SAPIENS. With NASA making its first steps back to the moon with the Artemis project, fittingly Italian producer EUGENE spent ‘Seven Years In Space’ and Ireland’s CIRCUIT3 looked back at space travel’s past on ‘Technology For The Youth’. Back on earth, THE WEEKND was still being accused of stealing from synthwave while coming up with the song of the year in ‘Less Than Zero’. In the meantime, having infuriated audiences by saying “f*ck that ‘synthwave’ stuff as u name it” in 2018, KAVINSKY was ‘Reborn’ with a second album that had much less of the wave and expanded into broader electronically generated templates with the occasional funkier overtones.

Celebrating ‘40 Years Of Hits’ on a sell-out arena tour and issuing a new album ‘Direction Of The Heart’ which featured a guest appearance by Russell Mael of SPARKS on the single ‘Traffic’ with the obligatory ‘Acoustic Mix’, as the excellent book ‘Themes For Great Cities’ by Graeme Thomson highlighted, the best years of SIMPLE MINDS are now well behind them. They are a poor facsimile of the great band they once were and as a special Summer concert in Edinburgh in honour of ‘New Gold Dream’ proved, Jim Kerr and Co can’t even play their best album properly.

Music-related books continued to be popular with Martyn Ware and Karl Bartos respectively writing their memoirs ‘Electronically Yours Vol1’ and ‘The Sound Of The Machine’. In a wider historical context, that crucial 1978-1983 period where electronic pop was more or less invented got documented in the encyclopaedic ‘Listening To The Music The Machines Make’ by Richard Evans.

2022 saw several prominent figures depart for the jukebox in the sky; Vangelis, Manuel Göttsching, Angelo Badalamenti, Julee Cruise, Dave Smith, Herb Deutsch, Terry Hall, Robert Marlow and Andy Fletcher will be sadly missed but ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK was particularly devasted by the passing of German electronic legend Klaus Schulze only 4 days after he gave a rare interview to the site.

Meanwhile Dave Gahan and Martin Gore announced yet another tour of underwhelming arena shows plonked into stadiums for an as-yet-unfinished album that at least had a title ‘Momento Mori’. Ticketscalper took advantage with so-called dynamic pricing (or legalised touting) as hapless Devotees were fleeced thousands of dollars in North America… all this just to see a continually ungrateful frontman (who didn’t even sing is own words on a DEPECHE MODE song until 2005) gesture with a microphone in the air on a catwalk rather than actually singing on it and to possibly hear a pre-1985 song performed that will inevitably ruined by The Drumhead and The Noodler!

As Juls Garat of Massachusetts goth band PILGRIMS OF YEARNING observed via social media: “If you’re spending a kidney on DEPECHE MODE tickets and not attending a local show this weekend, I don’t wanna see you complaining that there’s no scene, local venues or new music anymore”. With the lack of curiosity amongst audiences who were content with nostalgia and the like, it was a difficult year for independent acts.

There is no easy answer and as the old saying goes, you can take a horse to water but you can’t force it to drink. But one promoter that did hit on an innovative idea was Duskwaves who came up with afternoon synth gigs. Hosted at various locations in the South East of England with the aim of drumming up daytime weekend business at venues, events started at 2.00pm and ended by 6.00pm to allow for an easy journey home or possibly dinner afterwards. Artists such as YOUNG EMPRESS, INFRA VIOLET, STRIKE EAGLE and AUW joined in the family friendly fun and while the concept was unusual, with classic synth audiences not getting any younger, it has potential.

While the worldwide situation remains uncomfortable and unsettling, for The Cold War generation, it all seemed strangely familiar. As Jori Hulkkonen of SIN COS TAN said in an interview with ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK recently: “It feels kind of comfortable to be back in that same state of mind that you grew up in!! It’s like you grew up in not a nice place, but you get 20-30 years out of it and then you get drawn back into The Cold War state of mind. It’s where I come from and there’s nothing good about it, but somehow feels very familiar so you can handle it in a different way”.

The Cold War inspired songs such as ‘Enola Gay’, ‘Fireside Favourite’, ‘All Stood Still’, ‘Let’s All Make A Bomb’, ‘I Melt With You’, ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’ and ‘Five Minutes To Midnight’ which encapsulated the nuclear paranoia of the times. So if the current tensions go on any longer, how will artistic expression be affected and driven?

But as Synthesizer Patel actor Sanjeev Kohli wittily remarked of the UK’s 41 day Prime Minister aka Mad Lizzie following her successful leadership bid: “Liz Truss has now been trusted with the nuclear button. I honestly wouldn’t trust her with the bossanova button on a broken Yamaha keyboard”.

In a year which saw the bizarre scenario of a black vicar worshipping Enoch Powell on the repulsive gammon TV channel GB News and the truth about Tory PPE scandals becoming clearer, Richy Sunak, Ugly Patel, Cruella Braverman and Krazi Kwarteng continued to be the ultimate race traitors in their Westminster tribute band A FLOCK OF SIEG HEILS. Failing to look in the mirror, their role as collaborators was all as part of a wider self-serving mission to help keep the whites Reich and line the pockets of their already loaded banker mates instead of paying nurses a fair wage. Nurses are for life and not just for Covid. So what did happen to that £350 million promised for the NHS by that pompous lying posh boy Boris Johnson if Brexit happened? As Tim Burgess of THE CHARLATANS summed it all up rather succinctly on Twitter: “Worth remembering that the real enemy travels by private jet, not by dinghy” ✊😉

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 2022 playlist ‘Stay Negative To Be Positive’ playlist can be listened to at https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4Mw0Fn10yNZQcrGzod98MM

Text by Chi Ming Lai
22nd December 2022


Photo by Lewis Mulatero

Billie Ray Martin first became widely known as the front woman of ELECTRIBE 101.

Born in Hamburg, she became immersed in the punk and industrial scenes in Berlin before being introduced to soul music by a local record shop owner. Relocating to London, in a similar way to Alison Moyet, she placed an ad in Melody Maker stating “Soul rebel seeks musicians – genius only”.

Birmingham based electronic dance music enthusiasts Joe Stevens, Les Fleming, Brian Nordhoff and the late Rob Cimarosti replied and together they formed ELECTRIBE 101, named after the Roland synth.

At around the same time, Billie Ray Martin worked with S’EXPRESS on the SLY & THE FAMILY STONE inspired hit ‘Hey Music Lover’. Meanwhile, ELECTRIBE 101’s first single ‘Talking With Myself’ became an underground club favourite. After they signed deal with Mercury Records, Tom Watkins who had previously looked after PET SHOP BOYS became their manager.

The second single ‘Tell Me When The Fever Ended’ and a reissued ‘Talking With Myself’ were both hits and earned appearances on ‘Top Of The Pops’ with Billie Ray Martin’s animated performance coming over like Cilla Black on Acid. With a Top30 debut album ‘Electribal Memories’ released in 1990, ELECTRIBE 101 were part of the bill at ERASURE’s open air ‘Wild! Party and the opening act for DEPECHE MODE on the European leg of the ‘World Violation’ tour.

A second ELECTRIBE 101 album ‘Electribal Soul’ was completed but record company politics led to it being shelved for 30 years. Undeterred, Billie Ray Martin signed a deal with Warners and released the 1995 solo album ‘Deadline Of My Memories’ which included the worldwide hit ‘Your Loving Arms’ and new recordings produced by Brian Transeau aka BT of several songs that had been part of ‘Electribal Soul’.

After her time in the spotlight, Billie Ray Martin adopted a lower profile approach to explore her eclectic interests and recorded her second solo album ‘18 Carat Garbage’ in Memphis to authentically pursue her love of soul with guests including legendary divas Carla Thomas and Ann Peebles. But she returned to electronic music in 2011 in THE OPIATES with Robert Solheim on the album ‘Hollywood Under The Knife’ which was provided a stark dissection of celebrity culture.

With ‘Electribal Soul’ finally getting its belated release and demonstrating that ELECTRIBE 101 had been on the cusp of a wider breakthrough, Billie Ray Martin kindly talked to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about its background as well as other aspects of her career.

‘Electribal Soul’ comes out 30 years after it was intended, how does it feel to actually have it released?

Now that all these incredibly positive press reviews are in, it feels like a very happy thing. Daunting to start with, but now I’m all excited. And to read that the music would have actually broken down all the doors for us, had it been released at the time, makes me sad too.

What was the impetus to finally get it out, had there been any complex contractual issues that needed to be sorted?

Not really. I don’t think anyone, including us, had any interest. We had been dropped by Phonogram so we assumed the album was no good. Finally I felt like someone had to put this out there.

Were there any tweaks on the mix done to release it for the 21st Century or is it basically as it was laid down in 1991?

Exactly as it was laid down.

It seems unbelievable now that your management and label sat on the album, as time has proved now that these songs and recordings are of high quality?

They didn’t sit on it, they shat on it. Manager had been sacked before that, so he had nothing to do with it. The record company heard it and dropped us.

ELECTRIBE 101 had just finished supporting DEPECHE MODE on the ‘World Violation’ tour, had the vicious Devotee reaction helped fire you up when it came to putting together the follow-up to ‘Electribal Memories’?

No it did the contrary. The tour had put a lot of pressure on us. We were canned off stage every night for two months and that took its toll on us as a group of people who were struggling to come together anyway. It was a nail in the coffin.

Photo by Lewis Mulatero

What were band relationships like at the time, were there changes in the creative dynamic for ‘Electribal Soul’ compared with the debut?

We were finding out voice as writers together. Rob came up with all these beautiful chord progressions, once I’d given ideas of what I was looking for. Joe came up with all this incredible production, hooks and beats. And Les on bass. Really, it’s all played live. He’s so great. Brian produced too of course. But I think our confidence as a group was not strong enough so we didn’t seem to know what we had.

A statement of intent comes with the spacey soul opener ‘Insatiable Love’, what was the inspiration?

I was that person. It is about a relationship and every sentence, every word, is me. Musically I think the guys came up with that musical idea and I’d found it easy to write to it.

THROBBING GRISTLE’s ‘Persuasion’ is an inspired choice for a cover that is quite out there, what was the idea behind reinterpreting it?

That was always on my list. I already released with spooky after E 101 broke up. I asked the guys if they wanted to do it and they immediately said: ‘Sure’. I brought some samples (Machines, Machines) which was funny and we had a lot of late night fun playing around with all that.

‘Space Oasis’ would have probably been a Top20 hit had it come out in 1992 and it later appeared on your debut solo long player ‘Deadline Of My Memories’, had it been the intention to do a more immediate pop record with ‘Electribal Soul’?

I wrote the song with Martin King prior to meeting the guys from E 101. I brought it along as we were still not sure if we could write good songs together as a group. We were still trying to find out voice regarding that. So this was a song that they re-interpreted and worked their beautiful magic on. It’s their production that makes it really shine.

A point of interest for anyone who has followed your work is there are also the first finished versions of ‘Deadline Of My Memories’, ‘Hands Up & Amen’, ‘True Moments Of My World’, ‘You & I (Keep Holding On)’ and ‘Moving Downtown’ (which became ‘Running Around Town’), songs that also ended up on your first solo album…

Yes after we split, I sort of took those songs with me to put them on my future work. I felt they were strong songs.

Now you have had some distance, do you have any preferred versions of these songs that are on both albums?

I find the E 101 album much more soulful and as they should be. They are convincing.

While “soul” was naturally the emphasis on this album, despite its proto-trip hop loop, hints of the countrified feel that appeared more prominently on a few ‘Deadline Of My Memories’ tracks emerges on ‘A Sigh Won’t Do’?

It’s such a strong song, maybe our best. I can’t remember what the inspiration was but the guys have a strong reggae background, coming from Birmingham and I remember playing that little additional bassline in the break and they said: how reggae of you. As far as my lyrics and melody go, I always have that soul / country thing going on.

How close was ‘Electribal Soul’ to being actually released back then, were there any realistic options to take it to another label?

It was played to some and turned down. That’s all I know.

When and how did the decision to disband ELECTRIBE 101 and go solo come about?

Being dropped and not getting signed was our last straw as a group of people I think. We really doubted ourselves to the point where it seemed really emotionally painful to continue.

Things worked out well for you when you teamed up with THE GRID to produce ‘Your Loving Arms’ which became a huge hit in 1995, Dave Ball has said that was one of his career highlights…

Dave is an angel and I love him. So nice to work with him on a few occasions. So yes, I guess it was the song that made all the difference for me and does to this day. I am grateful

After knocking on the door of mainstream stardom for a few years, ‘Your Loving Arms’ opened it but how did fame and the increased attention sit with you?

I loved it. It was crazy in America where you’re treated well when you have your 15 Minutes of Fame. I enjoyed every second of it. That’s as far as the audience goes and people celebrating my record in clubs. As far as the ‘industry’ goes, that was all the same bullshit as always. I was not appreciated in any way by these majors. But I’m forever grateful for all that happened.

You formed THE OPIATES and released the album ‘Hollywood Under The Knife’ in 2011. It took a few years to come together but ‘Anatomy Of A Plastic Girl’ and ‘I’m Not Simone Choule’ are fantastic tracks, how do you look back on this project? Will there ever be a second album?

I look back on it and I like it a lot. Again when we did it, with little promotion and not really getting all that much feedback, it seemed like one of those things where you’re not sure if it’s any good. Now I have to say that I underrated it. I don’t think there’ll be another one, because without massive promo budgets, no one would find out about it.

You have a vast portfolio and have recorded music in many different styles, are there any which you would recommend to people who may be fans of ELECTRIBE 101 and your first solo album but who may have lost touch with your work since then?

I like ‘Eighteen Carat Garbage’ in some places, ‘Four Ambient Tales’ but really people should have a rummage and see what appeals to them.

What is next for you, is it true you are working on four albums?

I am indeed, with three already more than half done. Once they’re done there’ll be no getting aways from me! *big laugh*

All developed live in the studio with incredible musicians and no programming in sight!

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its grateful thanks to Billie Ray Martin

ELECTRIBE 101 ‘Electribal Soul’ and other releases from the Billie Ray Martin back catalogue such as ‘Eighteen Carat Garbage’ and THE OPIATES ‘Hollywood Under The Knife’ are available from https://billieraymartin.bandcamp.com/music





Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
30th March 2022

THE OPIATES Hollywood Under The Knife

The Opiates – Hollywood Under The KnifeTHE OPIATES are former ELECTRIBE 101 chanteuse Billie Ray Martin and musician Robert Solheim.

They have been dubbed as The Carpenters of Electro. Despite great tracks such as ‘Talking with Myself’, ‘Tell Me When The Fever Ended’ and ‘You’re Walking’, ELECTRIBE 101 disbanded after their only album ‘Electribal Memories’. Billie Ray Martin went solo and had a worldwide hit ‘Your Loving Arms’ in 1994 produced by THE GRID, the dance duo featuring Dave Ball of SOFT CELL. An album ‘Deadline for My Memories’ followed and featured the excellent technopop of ‘Running Around Town’, although a few countrified excursions confused some fans.

Fast forward nearly 17 years and she has continued to release a variety of transient electronic fusions both in her own name and in collaboration with DJ HELL and SLAM with a forthcoming one due with MOTOR. Robert Solheim meanwhile has worked under the moniker of CURRENT on a variety of ambient and sound based projects.

Taking in the influences of Chicago house, Detroit techno and Kling Klang, THE OPIATES debut long player’Hollywood Under the Knife’ uses that melting pot to present a series of stark Weimar numbers with beats and bleeps to match.

One of the album’s standouts is ‘Anatomy Of A Plastic Girl’, first issued on an EP back in 2008 along with three other tracks from this album. This wonderfully fine, avant pop structure came with Billie Ray Martin’s distinct soulful edge. It tells the tale of a young wannabe actress in Los Angeles who reflects on the facial surgery that has left her scarred and punctured with holes inside and out.

It is these types of stories that so suit Billie Ray Martin’s torch diva demeanour. ‘I’m Not Simone Choule’ uses Roman Polanski’s film ‘The Tenant’as its sinister template, a suitable arthouse setting that is still wholly accessible as a song. And with ‘Rainy Days and Saturdays’ about Warhol Superstar transvestite Candy Darling, this really is electro CARPENTERS with the clue being in the title. Time has not diminished Billie Ray Martin’s abilities; her voice is as captivating as ever, Dietrich-like in its resonance with the added menace of GRACE JONES.

The rest of ‘Hollywood Under The Knife’ is impressive, and comes together like a commentary on social exclusion and emotional breakdown. Titles such as ‘Oprah’s Book of the Month Club (Part Two)’ and ‘Reality TV’ reflect on the vacuous pressures of the modern celebrity obsessed society, cutting synths soundtracking the discomfort, alienation and sadness.

Meanwhile ‘Candy Coated Crime’ is superbly squelchy and looks at a woman’s strange sexual fantasies through watching CSI to keep the boredom of her life at bay. ‘Silent Comes the Nighttime (Again)’ captures the mood of insomnia.

Closing track ‘Dinah and the Beautiful Blue’ is a fittingly sedate number with a fake ending while preceding it, ‘Jalousies and Jealousies’ percolates with pulses and manipulated voice samples to compliment Billie Ray Martin’s fraught story telling. In all, despite the long gestation period, ‘Hollywood Under The Knife’ has been worth the wait.

As a musical narrative with artistic and emotional integrity, THE OPIATES’ collaborative chemistry is a success and will be enjoyed by those who prefer Billie Ray Martin as a pure electronic diva.

‘Hollywood Under The Knife’ is released by Disco Activisto Records and is available now as a CD, vinyl LP and download.



Text by Chi Ming Lai
7th November 2011