Tag: Billy Mackenzie (Page 1 of 4)

BILLY MACKENZIE Satellite Life Recordings 1994-1996

Blessed with a majestic operatic voice akin to Mario Lanza on amphetamines, the late Billy MacKenzie first found fame as one half of ASSOCIATES with Alan Rankine.

Following the success of their 1982 album ‘Sulk’ featuring the hit singles ‘Party Fears Two’ and ‘Club Country’, ASSOCIATES imploded just before a UK concert tour was about to begin with Alan Rankine departing. Billy MacKenzie continued with the ASSOCIATES name and worked with YELLO before taking the solo plunge with ‘Outernational’; sadly it was to be his only solo long playing release during his lifetime.

25 years after his passing, ‘Satellite Life Recordings 1994-1996’ compiles the majority of his final recordings, highlighting his collaborations with musician Steve Aungle in particular. The pair has met in 1979 when Aungle declined MacKenzie’s invitation to join ASSOCIATES in favour of playing in a local cabaret band!

After 1985’s ‘Perhaps’ album which saw MacKenzie bring Martin Rushent and Martyn Ware into the production fold, Aungle collaborated on the song ‘Set Me Up’ which was pencilled in for the next album ‘The Glamour Chase’, only for ASSOCIATES’ label WEA to shelve the record.

Working more as a writer’s assistant rather than co-writer, a full composing partnership between the pair did not occur until 1994 when MacKenzie entered one of the most prolific phases of his career. As Aungle remembered: “Stylistically, we were all over the place. Piano ballads one minute, electronica the next, then we’d switch to 70s glam rock or 60s soul. A marketing nightmare for any record label to deal with…”

A number of the recordings appeared on the posthumous albums ‘Beyond The Sun’ (1997), ‘Eurocentric’ (2001), ‘Transmission Impossible’ (2004) and ‘Auchtermatic’ (2004). But Aungle felt his work with MacKenzie had not been presented or sequenced satisfactorily, hence his involvement in this newly curated 3CD compilation.

On ‘Satellite Life Recordings 1994-1996’, the music has been compiled into three themes ‘Winter Academy’, ‘Consenting Holograms’ and ‘Liberty Lounge’ with around a third of the material previously unreleased. With some of the tracks being demos, understandably the sound quality varies considerably.

Primarily comprising of stripped down material based either around piano or guitar, ‘Winter Academy’ provides a fitting backdrop for MacKenzie to excel as a charismatic interpreter. MacKenzie’s covers of ‘Wild In The Wind’ (made famous by Johnny Mathis and David Bowie) and SPARKS ‘Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth’ are outstanding. But the chilling drama of the self-composed ‘The Soul That Sighs’ encapsulates everything that is loved about Billy MacKenzie.

The haunting orchestrated reading of Randy Newman’s ‘Baltimore’ produced by Dennis Wheatley will be familiar to those who enjoyed the wonderful deep tech house JiiHoo bootleg by Jori Hulkkonen from 2011 which sampled the vocals, while ‘Sing That Song Again’, the ‘Winter Academy’ song and ‘Return To Love’ prove that the MacKenzie / Aungle partnership were more than adept at composing timeless torch songs.

The electronic dance approach of the ‘Consenting Holograms’ set is very much of its time and has not aged particularly well with the frantic ASSOCIATES gone techno material such as ‘3 Gypsies In A Restaurant’ and ‘Diamanda’ getting lost amongst all the energetic rhythmic rattle.

Originally from the posthumous ‘Eurocentric’ album, ‘Hornophobic’ experiments with drum ‘n’ bass and not surprisingly, sounds likes it could have come from David Bowie’s ‘Earthling’ album while the previously unreleased ‘Eurocentric’ title track moderates the percussive pace for something more palatable.

‘Liberty Lounge’ presents a mostly band-oriented sound. Among the standouts are the Pascal Gabriel produced ‘Give Me Time’ which was written with Paul Haig and the Cold War trip hop of ‘At The Edge Of The World’ which saw COCTEAU TWINS Simon Raymonde at the production helm; both were part of ‘Beyond The Sun’. The set ends fittingly with Aungle’s piano and violin instrumental ‘Von Hamburg’ which poignantly represents MacKenzie’s absence…

As an eclectic document of the final creative years of Billy MacKenzie, ‘Satellite Life Recordings 1994-1996’ does the job very well and his dedicated followers will be more than happy with the wealth of unreleased material presented in the highest quality possible.


‘Satellite Life Recordings 1994-1996’ is released by Cherry Red Records on 22nd April 2022 as a 3CD set, pre-order from https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/billy-mackenzie-satellite-life-satellite-life-recordings-1995-1996-3cd/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
27th March 2022

Oh Yeah: The Legacy Of YELLO

The illustrious career of the Swiss electronic trailblazers YELLO is being celebrated in a new lavishly packaged 4CD earbook retrospective entitled ‘YELL4O Years’.

As well as containing their best known tracks, the duo’s more melodic cinematic works are compiled as a separate volume while there is also the inevitable collection of remixes from the likes of DJ Hell, Carl Craig and Mark Reeder. Frustratingly YELLO’s biggest UK hit ‘The Race’ appears in a 2016 live version from their Berlin Kraftwerk residency rather than its studio variants or even the wonderful atmospheric Magician’s Version for Tempest & Cottet!

Boris Blank founded YELLO in Zurich together with Carlos Perón through a mutual love of jazz, musique concrète and tape experimentation. Blank had a taste for the considered uncompromising aspirations of THE RESIDENTS and sent demos to Ralph Records, the label that the American art collective founded. Around the same time, at the suggestion of Paul Vajsabel who ran the Music Market record shop in Zurich which they mutually frequented, Blank and Perón were joined by Dieter Meier as lead vocalist.

Meier was the son of millionaire banker with his own business interests and had also been a professional gambler who had played cards in the presence of Marilyn Monroe. But perhaps in a reaction to his background, Meier had a penchant for performance art. In the rather conservative environment of Switzerland where a policy of neutrality is adopted to not upset anyone, secret banking is available to all with no questions asked and nuclear fallout shelters are a legal requirement in every home, artists were generally frowned upon, so they often had to develop a thick skin and a sense of humour to survive.

And it was within this society that YELLO’s tongue-in-cheek avant pop was born. As if to reinforce this, the name came from wanting a simple brand identity like Lego, inspired a comment made by Meier about “a yelled hello”. The first YELLO album ‘Solid Pleasure’ attracted the interest of Do It Records, the British label formed by Robin Scott of M and Ian Tregoning who had released the debut ADAM & THE ANTS album ‘Dirk Wears White Sox’.

As a result, one of its tracks ‘Bostich’ was played regularly at The Blitz Club by its resident DJ Rusty Egan. Its opening military drum tattoo was deceiving as an electronic throb quickly set in for a perfect slice of avant garde disco. With a quirky range of vocal pitches from Meier achieved by various tape manipulations, it introduced a style of speedy European rap later that was to become YELLO’s trademark.

The conga madness of ‘Pinball Cha Cha’ from the 1981 album ‘Claro Que Si’ proved they were not a straightforward electronic band. Boris Blank had begun with a Farfisa organ as his instrument of choice, later upgrading to the ARP Odyssey and Sequential Pro-One, but it was the purchase of the Fairlight CMI that was to change everything.

Opening up endless possibilities, Boris Blank said to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK in 2016 that “When making the music for YELLO, I never think about a certain aesthetic or a certain kind of concept. It just comes out. When you work every day, like I do in my studio, more as a painter than like a traditional musician, then things come up that I never knew before. I just make music for fun, of course – it should be fun all the time. At the end, that is the result, reflecting more or less my fantasy from the past months and years that I’ve been working on those tracks.”

Blank laboured over his Fairlight, sampling anything from broken guitars, percussion, rusty brass instruments, screaming, opera singers and golf swings, eventually building up a huge catalogued library of over 14,000 sounds.

“There was a lot of heart and sweat in those old samples. I recorded everything at the time” he said, “I threw a snowball at the studio wall and worked it into a bass drum in the end – things like this”

A self-confessed non-musician, his tendency was not to play notes or count rhythms, but to be like a child playing with a classic Lego set comprising of many coloured bricks and no instructions, surmising “Working with modern technology is much more convenient though, it stops you making final decisions.”

With Dieter Meier, his delivery was more like a storyteller or acting as another instrument rather than being a traditional singer. And with the handy Fairlight, Blank had another colour on his palette. YELLO was not a democratic band with equal collaborative input and it was admitted by Blank that only when a track was instrumentally complete would Meier be invited to make his contribution. But while Meier wasn’t that involved in the studio aspects of the music, his voice would give YELLO their personality, much like his cravat would be the crucial statement that complimented his suit.

Having already released a solo record ‘Impersonator’, Carlos Perón left YELLO in early 1983, just after release of their third album ‘You Gotta Say Yes To Another Excess’ on Stiff in the UK and Elektra in the US. It spawned the rhythmic gothic drama of ‘I Love You’ which utilised an unusual wobbly bassline that was doubled by a staccato voice sample, as well as pitched-up repeats of the title and lyrics inspired by ‘The Empire Strikes back’.

But with a synthesized squelch that predated acid house by several years, the moody disco number ‘Lost Again’ became the opening theme to the BBC2 yoof music show ‘ORS’, signalling an interest from TV and cinema in YELLO’s music. And although Do It folded in 1982, Ian Tregoning continued to work with YELLO and introduced the music of the Swiss duo to film director John Hughes.

As YELLO’s fourth studio album ‘Stella’ became their biggest seller to date, Blank and Meier made their mainstream breakthrough. An intricately woven patchwork of samples, the catchy ‘Vicious Games’ featuring the sexy vocals of Rush Winters became a US dance Top10 hit. Meanwhile, the quirky leftfield pop of ‘Oh Yeah’ appeared prominently in the 1986 John Hughes’ film ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’.

‘Oh Yeah’ centred around a deep slowed down Meier going “BEAUTIFUL, OH YEAH!”; the track possessed a comic element that led to it being synched in situations whenever an attractive lady would appear, although it ultimately became ubiquitous as Duffman’s signature tune in ‘The Simpsons’.

Despite the novelty of two mature continental eccentrics becoming the toast of Hollywood and perhaps more unexpectedly, Urban America, YELLO also had a more cinematic European side that was more akin to their cosmopolitan origins; after all, Switzerland is a middle European landlocked country that has four official and very different languages.

From the 1987 album ‘One Second’, ‘The Rhythm Divine’ was an immense brooding ballad originally written as part of an ambitious project about Marilyn Monroe under the working title of ‘Norma Jean’. On lead vocals was Shirley Bassey who had been introduced to Blank and Meier by Prince Hubertus Von Hohenlohe. The lyrics were written by the late Billy MacKenzie of ASSOCIATES whose own ghostly neo-operatic vocals proved to be vital as the mighty diva worked around the dynamics of this epic number.

Despite ‘The Rhythm Divine’ being a European hit, Dieter Meier reflected later that the song hadn’t been very YELLO and decided that their next album ‘Flag’ should be as YELLO as possible, with the focus on Blank and himself. It yielded ‘The Race’, their biggest hit yet in English speaking territories like the UK, Ireland and New Zealand. Frantic, thrilling and gimmick laden, ‘The Race’ featured in the 1990 film ‘Nuns On The Run’ and perhaps not surprisingly on the cable channel Eurosport, keeping Meier flush in casino chips and allowing Blank to purchase even more studio equipment.

Billy MacKenzie continued working with YELLO and Boris Blank remembered “The songs ‘Capri Calling’ and ‘Because You Love’ still get under my skin. Working with Billy was always a pleasure. He worked fast and sang with his whole heart and soul, he gave everything. You could see it was very emotional for him. And for me.”

Included on 1991’s ‘Baby’ album, ‘Capri Calling’ was a smooth sunset romance that captured a gentle Mediterranean spirit. The soaring ‘Baby’ title track did not actually appear on the album but later featured on Mackenzie’s first solo long player ‘Outernational’ in 1992. The groovy jazz inflected ‘Rubberbandman’ from ‘Baby’ with Meier pitch shifted down to sound like Louis Armstrong continued the quirky ingenuity.

However from hence on, YELLO made albums less frequently as Meier’s business interests in coffee, wine, watches, silk garments and organic beef took up more of his time. The 1997 album ‘Pocket Universe’ featured the enigmatic Swedish songstress Stina Nordenstam on the techno-flavoured ‘To The Sea’, but the follow-up long players ‘Motion Picture’ and ‘The Eye’ saw public interest wane, even in Switzerland and Germany which had been YELLO’s strongest markets.

After signing to Polydor, 2009’s ‘Touch Yello’ saw a revival in fortunes, reaching No1 in their homeland, their first long player to do so since ‘Stella’. Notably, guest singer Heidi Happy provided a sumptuous smoky quality to the airy ballads ‘Stay’ and ‘You Better Hide’, the latter fittingly appearing at the end of the dystopian Swiss sci-fi movie ‘Cargo’.

The interim period saw Dieter Meier release a solo album ‘Out Of Chaos’, while Boris Blank collaborated with Malawian jazz singer Malia and issued a boxed set of unreleased solo material called ‘Electrified’. Reuniting in 2016 and coinciding with their first full live shows in Berlin, ‘Toy’ released arrived with much fanfare.

‘Limbo’ was a classic YELLO single laced with Meier’s distinctive drawl over a big metronomic beat syncopated by rhythm guitar for something suitably racey. Meanwhile the superb ‘Electrified II’ saw a duet with a guesting Malia in a slice of seductive energetic electro-cabaret. Meanwhile, Beijing-born chanteuse Fifi Rong offered her own dreamy elegance on ‘Kiss The Cloud’ as addition to the tradition of sophisticated YELLO mellows. She said when Boris Blank first approached her to collaborate: “He reached out to me by email and said he really liked my music and the way I do my harmonies in my tracks.”

YELLO’s most recent album ‘Point’ did not disappoint their cult following. There was no mistaking that the lead single ‘Waba Duba’ was them, all tribal and elastic while punctuated with staccato horn stabs that recalled ‘The Race’. ‘Arthur Spark’ presented a purer electronic vision while ‘The Vanishing of Peter Strong’ showed an artistic affinity with THE ART OF NOISE.

It’s together with THE ART OF NOISE that YELLO have a legacy in technical innovation, pioneering digital sampling and turning found sound into danceable pop music.

More importantly, Boris Blank and Dieter Meier incorporated a sense of humour in their art, something that was largely absent from a significant number of electronic artists. For the general public though, YELLO’s legacy manifests itself in movies, the segments familiar despite the pair remaining largely anonymous.

It would be fair to say that when doing uptempo material, YELLO did not deviate from their signature sound much with songs like ‘Bostich’, ‘The Race’, ‘Tied Up’, ‘Jungle Bill’, ‘Limbo’ and Waba Dubba’ all being close relations! However, in their more downtempo collaborations with other artists like Shirley Bassey, Billy Mackenzie, Heidi Happy and Fifi Rong, they ventured into something more otherworldly and the third “Mello YELLO” volume of the 4CD earbook provides a well-deserved platform for this less appreciated aspect of their catalogue.


‘YELL4O Years’ is released by Polydor on 30th April 2021, available as a 4CD collector’s box, 2CD, abridged double vinyl LP and digital download – further information at https://40years.yello.com/

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https://www.instagram.com/yello_official/


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Simon Helm
19th March 2021

A Short Conversation with KATJA VON KASSEL & CHRIS PAYNE

The highlight of German songstress KATJA VON KASSEL’s ‘Walking In West Berlin’ EP, the song ‘Someday’ was a timeless slice of sophisticated magnificence.

The song was the start of a new writing partnership with former Numan keyboardist Chris Payne. It captures Fraulein von Kassel sorrowfully pondering over the phone and questioning after her moment of haste if “it is foolish to dream”.

Capturing the beautiful melancholy of Billy Mackenzie, the doomed romantic tragedy of ‘Someday’ is echoed by the chanteuse’s deep forlorn delivery, accompanied by Payne’s hypnotic bassline and haunting vox humana treatment over a simple but hypnotic rhythmic loop.

Fresh from their successful and well-received performance at Electrowerkz in London, where they performed the ‘Walking In West Berlin’ EP and their joint cover of ‘Fade To Grey’, Katja and Chris chatted about the genesis of ‘Someday’.

How did ‘Someday’ come about?

Chris: This was one of the first songs I wrote for Katja, I became interested in working with her because of her voice. I get to hear some really good singers but there are very few that have got that extra something, that dynamic, that individuality, that emotion, whatever you want to call it.

When I listened to her earlier stuff, I realised the connection with that Dita von Teese / Marlene Dietrich / Liza Minnelli / Weimar Cabaret vibe but it was too obvious, so I wanted to take it into another dimension and create this atmosphere of Katja a dynamic declamatory singer on stage. When I sent her the backing track, she loved it and found the words straight away which led to us doing other pieces.

What was going on in your mind with the lyrics?

Katja: When Chris sent the backing track, straight away I had the melody which was just calling out for the lyrics. The music was so amazing that the melody felt like it already existed in my head.

‘Someday’ has a very timeless melody and recalls Billy Mackenzie in particular…

Chris: It wasn’t until you mentioned it that I remembered ASSOCIATES and I thought “Wow”!

It wasn’t a conscious direction, but maybe in my sub-conscious the song does have that atmospheric analogue sound of that period, mixed with some FM modular pads.

It does encapsulate something of a forlorn tragedy…

Katja: What’s strange is when you hear something as an artist when you hear the music, you just feel it and it comes out of you without any logic behind it, the phrase ‘Someday’ just opened it all up and everything else just fell into place. It feels like it HAS to be this way with the melody and lyrics…

Chris: What I didn’t realise when I sent you the backing track, was that it unlocked something, that’s amazing! That’s always a good sign! Another interesting thing about ‘Someday’ is after Katja had done her vocals, for a bit of fun I took all the percussive elements out and it created another track where the entire emotion had changed, I thought that was amazing so that’s why this Cinematic version is also on the EP.

Is there going to be more work from you two?

Chris: OH YEAH!

Katja: Yes!

Chris: Obviously, we’re trying to get a whole album together which will take time…

Katja: So we need everyone who likes our music to let others know we are existing, because that’s the difficult thing as an artist these days.


‘Someday’ and its Cinematic version are on the ‘Walking In West Berlin’ EP, available as a download or CD from https://katjavonkassel.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/KatjavKassel/

https://twitter.com/katjavonkassel

http://www.chrispaynemusic.com/

http://www.electroniccircus.co.uk

https://www.facebook.com/Chris-Paynes-Electronic-Circus-1871328086461350/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
22nd April 2018

KATJA VON KASSEL Walking In West Berlin EP

The captivating German songstress KATJA VON KASSEL follows up her debut EP with a three song plus bonus variants compendium entitled ‘Walking In West Berlin’.

Having worked previously with LADYHAWKE collaborator Alex Gray, ‘Walking In West Berlin’ sees a change of direction in a new writing partnership with former Numan keyboardist Chris Payne, fresh from a rebooting of his ELECTRONIC CIRCUS side-project and his successful stint writing with Rusty Egan where his contributions were sung by luminaries such as Midge Ure and Tony Hadley.

“The tragedy of life is always a good inspiration to me” Katja once said and this is none more apparent on the airy magnificence of ‘Someday’. Capturing the beautiful melancholy of ASSOCIATES’ Billy Mackenzie, the doomed love affair is echoed by the chanteuse’s deep forlorn delivery, accompanied by Payne’s hypnotic synth bassline and haunting Numan-esque vox humana over a simple but hypnotic rhythmic loop.

And when some gentle piano cascades into the song’s second half, it generates an emotional lift which takes ‘Someday’ into a dreamy stratosphere; a sparse alternate Cinematic take of the song prolongs the song’s inherently introspective mood sans percussion.

Exuding purer electro Weimar cabaret with her Dietrich-like overtones, ‘Radio Symphony’ is more dramatic with a harder percussive edge, but still distinctly European and technolstagic in its Kraftwerkian fascination of the broadcast medium’s highly contrasting moods and motivations.

The ‘Walking In West Berlin’ title track is laced with Europäisch Neu Romantisch, to the point that it almost sounds as it is going to burst into ‘Fade To Grey’, the German No1 for VISAGE in 1981 which Chris Payne co-wrote with Billy Currie and Midge Ure; there are also hints of Scott Walker in his lonely Jean-Paul Satre phase too within the poetic grandeur of Katja’s delivery.

Bolstered by versions of all the tracks in Deutsch, this EP contains a thematically cohesive trio of songs that showcase the best in the musical sensibilities of both Fraulein von Kassel and Monsieur Payne.

If not a full-length album, then a follow-up EP is a must. It really would be a shame if the chemistry and compatibility of the von Kassel / Payne partnership was not artistically furthered.


The eight track ‘Walking In West Berlin’ EP featuring German versions of the songs is available as a download or CD from https://katjavonkassel.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/KatjavKassel/

https://twitter.com/katjavonkassel

http://www.electroniccircus.co.uk

http://www.chrispaynemusic.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Chris-Paynes-Electronic-Circus-1871328086461350/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
10th March 2018

PAUL STATHAM Interview

What do DEPECHE MODE, SOFT CELL, BLANCMANGE and THE THE have in common?

They all appeared on the ‘Some Bizzare Album’ which acted as a springboard for their fame and fortune.

But the silent success story of the ‘Some Bizzare Album’ has to be Paul Statham; while his band B-MOVIE with Steve Hovington, Rick Holliday and Graham Boffey were unable to achieve a foothold in the mainstream like The Big Four, the guitarist later found considerable success as a songwriter and producer.

Working with personalities as varied as Peter Murphy, Jim Kerr, Billy Mackenzie, Dido, Dot Allison, Sarah Nixey, Kylie Minogue, Lisa Scott-Lee, Tina Arena and Rachel Stevens, Statham’s credits also include groups such as THE SATURDAYS and RIGHT SAID FRED.

Statham was also a member of cult electropop trio PEACH with Pascal Gabriel and Lisa Lamb, whose song ‘On My Own’ from their only album ‘Audiopeach’ featured during a key scene in the Gwyneth Paltrow movie ‘Sliding Doors’.

Although B-MOVIE reformed in 2004, Statham has continued his songwriting and production career in parallel. More recently, there has also been his dark country project THE DARK FLOWERS, while he has also been releasing a series of ambient electronic albums, as well as establishing his own label Loki Records.

Paul Statham kindly took time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions about his career outside of B-MOVIE…

What has motivated you to start Loki Records in the current climate?

Well, exactly the words “current climate”! I did approach some leftfield labels, but the response time was tragic! Also as a long standing writer through Warner Chappell, there is always the thought that the song has to be commented on or is specifically ‘aimed’ at something , even going through an experimental label. So setting up my own label means I can go sit in the woods filming the moon all night, then decide that will be the video as it was for the track ‘Who Won’t Wait’! Of course who sees the video is then down to you endlessly trying to put links up!

After years of songwriting, how did this move towards more experimental music come about?

I have been involved in writing or creating pieces of instrumental music since 2002 through an art curator friend Victor De Circasia to run alongside writing more commercial music.

My project THE DARK FLOWERS put a small element of experimental into traditional song using backdrops of wind or recorded atmosphere behind tracks, but my favourite album is Brian Eno’s ‘Another Green World’ and also I love reading about his compositional practice.

Your third ambient release is ‘Asylum’, how does this differ in concept from your first two releases of this type ‘Ephemeral’ and ‘Installation Music 1’ which were given away on Bandcamp?

I did plan to do it this way. The first two are unaltered pieces that were actually used in two installations, ‘Installation Music 1’ is very specific to a sculpture ‘Diving Woman’ by Sottish artist David Mach. ‘Asylum’ took some installation music from the Asylum Chapel in Peckham and simply used it as the starting point to create an album that was added to and experimented on over time.

What do you get out of this more experimental direction that you wouldn’t get from writing pop songs?

Total Freedom. A real journey from going out and exploring sounds in the outside world to developing artwork / films and setting out and letting the unfolding music direct where it heads to with no thought of who may like this. That’s why sometimes I’ll give them away for free!

Any thoughts about trying to compose hour long pieces like Brian Eno has done?

I already have a 28 minute piece that was used in an installation. It involved 28 pieces of thirty seconds long, starting with one then adding to it the next piece every 30 seconds to create a collage of found sound, then after 28 minutes it reverses. I will locate it and put it out for free on Bandcamp now you have reminded me! It was accompanied by painter Daisy Cook’s series of 28 small paintings of the Australian landscape but taken from the air. We made a film but I’ve since lost it!

The B-side to B-MOVIE’s ‘Marilyn Dreams’ was ‘Film Music Part 1’, what ever happened to Part 2 and is composing film music a direction you would like to head in?

That was written by Rick and I really like it! I think it was Rick, although Steve wrote most things back then! Film music is something I would love to do and would offer the music for free to any budding or low budget film in need!

After B-MOVIE first ended, you started to work with Peter Murphy in 1988 and continue to do so today, how would describe your creative dynamic?

Slow development! No, it’s completely different than my usual co-writing and has been long distance, with us rarely or actually ever sitting down in the same room and writing anything together. ‘Love Hysteria’ was me sitting in his attic with a four track and a few instruments, then leaving it with him. ‘Deep’ was similar but in a studio room, with Peter adding stuff once I’d put any sort of sketch down. After his move to Turkey, I would visit Ankara but again go into his studio room alone and sketch ideas, whilst he would then go in after me later at night and really shape them up. Since the internet, we simply share files. Some people find this dynamic difficult but after such a long time, I find it easy to send him anything I feel will intrigue.

Photo by Pete Walsh

In 1996, you formed PEACH who you described as “ABBA Meets THE KLF”? What inspired this?

Hahahaha! That was meeting Pascal Gabriel who produced the Murphy album ‘Cascade’. After the ‘Holy Smoke’ album, Peter dropped THE 100 MEN (band) and I went back to co-writing the whole album via sketches and lots of different styles, but with a more electronic feel.

We all went to Spain to record, Peter, Pascal and myself and it was fairly high pressure. On returning to London, I began to hang out with Pascal and he suggested that we form a very up dayglo electronic trio… very different to my Murphy work and at the time, it was something I definitely needed to do.

How did getting signed to Mute come about? It appeared to happen quite quickly…

We signed to Daniel Miller’s Mute label after playing him two demos in his office with no singer and Pascal sorting of humming vocal ideas. I really respect Daniel Miller and how he got what we were trying to do immediately and offered us a deal on the spot!

I will always be grateful to Pascal as he gave me studio keys and access to all these incredible synths and recording gear and simply let me learn my way around it, whilst we simply began recording with no agenda, other than kicking electropop tunes!

While your first single ‘On My Own’ wasn’t a UK Top 40 hit, it attracted positive responses…

It was a hit in the States and reached No 11 on the radio charts and also was a pop Top 40 hit. It was No 1 in Canada, Israel and bizarrely Singapore where Lisa Lamb and myself headed out to play the city’s 33rd birthday celebrations…v v odd!

How did you feel when ‘On My Own’ featured in the film ‘Sliding Doors’?

I remember being very excited, especially meeting Gwyneth Paltrow at the aftershow of the London premiere. Also seeing your name come up at the end of the film credits was worth it!

‘From This Moment On’ is a timeless pop tune…

I wrote the majority of that alone, picturing a sort of ABBA / ACE OF BASS crossover with a different rhythmic feel than the rest of the more uptempo songs.

I started with the sequencer and then went back and wrote this long intro as I may have discovered a jazz chord or two from some book! Lyrically, I just liked the sound of the words / sentiment without it being particularly about anything! I don’t normally write lyrics, perhaps you can see why!

The eventual ‘Audiopeach’ album was one of the last recordings that the late Billy Mackenzie contributed to. His ad libs on ‘Deep Down Together’ are so unmistakable, how did you know him and what was he like to work with?

Billy Mackenzie was a friend of Pascal’s and I was a HUGE fan of ASSOCIATES. It was shortly before he committed suicide and he arrived very down to earth and humble with a few cans of beer. He simply opened his mouth and that voice exploded. I loved it so much, I owned a DAT tape of him simply singing his vocal line unaccompanied, it was so pure with such a range. He also sang on ’Give Me Tomorrow’, replacing the high sampled opera vocal. I have read ‘The Glamour Chase’ biography twice now and recently have started listening to him a lot.

Photo by Joe Dilworth

By the time ‘Audiopeach’ came out in 1998, the momentum appeared to have stalled, what happened?

Basically we didn’t all get on. Lisa proved difficult at the time, while Pascal and her were complete ‘Polar Opposites’ in just about everything. I think Lisa herself will admit she found it difficult and although we had success, our vision of what PEACH should sound like / appear like were pulling in two very different directions.

I was sad as I had left a long running collaboration with Murphy, found success with this pop / electronic vibe, signed to Mute and then walked away from it all.

PEACH supported ERASURE in London but did not play live much, could this have been a contributory factor?

I loved playing live, especially after some amazing live shows around the world with Peter Murphy, who was and is a great frontman and thrived on chaos. Pascal wasn’t so much a live musician and Lisa just got more outrageous, so it wasn’t really a live show at all, just playing a few chords over a backing track. We played three shows with ERASURE in London and before that, two in Hamburg. The German shows were a real success and very enjoyable, but somehow we’d lost enthusiasm by the time we played London!

PEACH appeared to help kickstart your next phase as a pop writer with artists like Kylie Minogue, Rachel Stevens and Lisa Scott-Lee?

Yes, that was only due to the fact I signed via PEACH to Warner Chappell and became great friends with my A&R man Mike Sault who began getting us co-writes with other artists and also, the great work that Sandy Dworniak at TMT Management did as Pascal’s and my manager.

Some might say your best known song is ‘Here With Me’ which you did with Dido, how do you look back on it?

It was so good as Dido had no expectations on her and I loved her voice; as a person and collaborator, she was great fun and wrote quickly and strongly in terms of her lyrics / melodies. We wrote quite a lot of songs and I remember vividly writing ‘I’m No Angel’ with her in about two hours!

So how would you approach a song for a singer, as opposed to artists like Dido, Sarah Nixey or Dot Allison who are more involved in the composition side? Is there a brief from the label?

Yep, sort of. It’s always strange as they give you a reference video by another artist, then the artist plays you something different and the management tell you they want something off the wall and different, so I just try and write the most interesting music I can and see where it goes. It’s so hard to get these things right and you end up with literally hundreds of very very good songs, but then so does everyone else who co-writes with them. It’s frustrating going back and seeing a huge iTunes library with lots of songs that you feel could be hits if the artist / A&R / manager had chosen to go with the song you co-wrote!!

You also worked with Jim Kerr on ‘Return Of the King’, a tribute to Billy Mackenzie for his LOST BOY solo project and subsequently, ‘Kill Or Cure’ for SIMPLE MINDS, what was that like?

Fantastic! I saw SIMPLE MINDS four times in one year when I was a teenager and was a HUGE fan of the first four albums. Not so much ‘New Gold Dream’ onwards, but ‘Reel To Real Cacophony’ and ‘Empires & Dance’.

So writing with Jim Kerr in my small bedroom sized home studio was one of those moments you think if I could have told my 18 year old self that, he wouldn’t have believed me! Also we share a lot of great music references in Bowie, Bolan, Roxy and certain literary styles / books. Jim is a very optimistic and supportive friend, he encouraged THE DARK FLOWERS and we have written a lot of material that may or may not see the light of day!

So what’s happening with THE DARK FLOWERS, which has featured Jim Kerr, Peter Murphy and Dot Allison amongst others?

I have all the music… it’s like herding cats trying to get a song or two from each person as they are all involved constantly in their own work. However I’m getting excited about the second album as its shaping up well… darker in tone than the first (deliberately) and featuring David J as well. Lloyd Cole was interested and started a track, but as of yet???!!!!

In all, are you quite happy with how you music career has turned out in its various guises?

I’m very happy… more so than ever. I re-signed to Warner Chappell in January and balance my week with running a course at BIMM in London once a week and heading up the songwriting workshops at Solent University (sixth year now) once a week too. This leaves me plenty of time to work on my own stuff and collaborate with long standing friends / artists

What’s next for you in whatever guise?

– THE DARK FLOWERS 2
– The continued release of experimental music via Loki Records
– AFTER THE RAIN (my new sample / DJ Shadow style project)
– New B-MOVIE album
– New Peter Murphy collaborations
– A new KRAFTWERK / vaporwave project with film composer Magnus Fiennes out in LA
– And continued co-writing via Warner Chappell’s, particularly with electro R‘n’B singer Billie Black.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its grateful thanks to Paul Statham

‘Asylum’ is released on CD by Loki Records, available from https://www.lokirecords.com/shop

http://paulstathammusic.com

https://www.facebook.com/paulstathammusic/

https://paulstatham.bandcamp.com/

http://www.inspiracy.com/peach/

https://www.lojinx.com/artists/the-dark-flowers

https://www.facebook.com/theflowersdark/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
22nd February 2018

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