Tag: Cabaret Voltaire (Page 1 of 3)

ERIC RANDOM Interview

A veteran of Manchester’s influential post-punk movement, Eric Random has been making music for over 40 years and while he remains something of a cult figure, his curriculum vitae is impressive.

Eric Random’s musical journey began as a roadie for BUZZCOCKS and with their late frontman Pete Shelley, they formed THE TILLER BOYS who opened for JOY DIVISION at The Factory as emblazoned on Peter Saville’s iconic “Use Hearing Protection” FAC1 poster.

When Eric Random released his first solo record ‘That’s What I Like About Me’ in 1980, it was via BUZZCOCKS’ New Hormones label. He also appeared as a member of JELL on the ‘Some Bizzare Album’ with the track ‘I Dare Say It Will Hurt A Little’.

Meanwhile THE TILLER BOYS mutated into FREE AGENTS which led to him meeting CABARET VOLTAIRE. In 1984, with the production input of Stephen Mallinder and Richard H Kirk at their Western Works studio, Random released the alternative club favourite ‘Mad As Mankind’, a slice of soulful tabla-infused electro.

As one of THE FACTION, Random backed Nico, best known as the chanteuse of THE VELVET UNDERGROUND, on her final studio album ‘Camera Obscura’, produced by former Velvet John Cale in 1985.

Although he continued with sporadic FREE AGENTS releases produced by Martin Moscrop of A CERTAIN RATIO, by the start of the 21st Century, Eric Random had gone into hiatus.

In 2014, he made his comeback with the ‘Man Dog’ album on Austrian label Klanggalerie Records and returned to the live circuit, opening for A CERTAIN RATIO and WRANGLER, as well as performing at the 2016 Electri_City_Conference in Düsseldorf.

2019 saw Random release ‘Wire Me Up’, an excellent double album of predominantly electronic instrumentals while his new recently issued long player ‘No-Go’ develops on its dance template with a reintroduction of vocal textures, both natural and sampled as well as robotic.

Echoing FAD GADGET, NEW ORDER, CABARET VOLTAIRE and KRAFTWERK, despite the sinister if melodic nature of ‘No-Go’, a high groove factor is present within the programmed rhythmic lattice, a likely consequence of Random’s period of studying percussion in the Himalayas back in the day.

Eric Random spoke to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about ‘No-Go’ and his refocus on electronic music over the years since his return.

Having been involved in post-punk, early electronica and world music, working with people like Pete Shelley, Richard Kirk, Stephen Mallinder, Nico, John Cale and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, when you returned from hiatus in 2014, you opted to focus on electronic music, what had been the motivation?

My return to releasing music and live performance in 2014 was concentrated on a more electronic aspect. The motivation being that as I would be working as a solo artist once again, I wanted to revisit my earliest influences. Not just to rekindle my love of music from a certain era, but to take a fresh contemporary look.

Had the technology improved to the point that it was a no-brainer?

Although the influx of new technology was exciting, I also relied (and still do) on some old favourites, such as Roland, Korg and Yamaha analogue synths and drum machines.

What was your first synthesizer and what was it like to use?

The first two synths that I owned were a Korg MS10 and I also had a Crumar Trilogy. This was a huge Italian-made synth, really nice but incredibly heavy to cart around.

What equipment set-up do you opt for these days in the studio, are there any particular tools of choice?

As I mentioned earlier, when in the studio I still go to my analogue gear along with a mix of modular units also some Moog, Electron and MFB gear.

At around the same time, had you been aware that Stephen Mallinder was making a return as part of WRANGLER, did you maintain a kinship with each other over the years?

As friends for more than 40 years, we did lose touch for a while, both being off on travels in different parts of the world. Then we met up again when asked by Walter Robotka to do a ‘Double Vision’ event in Vienna. With Stephen being such an easy going guy, we took up again as though we had only just recently seen each other. He also went straight back to being an inspiration with my first taste of a WRANGLER performance.

How do you look back on those first three comeback albums ‘Man Dog’, Words Made Flesh’ and ‘Two Faced’?

I see the first three Klanggalerie albums as somewhat of a re-learning curve, not only on the technical side of recording but also in writing the kind of work I want to produce. ‘Man Dog’ being the transition between the kind of music I was making just previous, which still showed some of the ethnic and slight jazz influences to the now purely electronic.

Your recent music has featured guest singers, ethnic vocal samples, your own voice and vocoder treatments, how do you decide what suits particular tracks, if at all?

The vocals on these albums are mainly through vocoders or various effects. Not usually starting out with a definite sound in mind, sometimes a case of trial and error. Mostly working my voice into something that’s textured and sinuous.

2019’s ‘Wire Me Up’ was a primarily instrumental set and had less “vocals” than on ‘Two Faced’, had there been any particular reasons for this direction?

‘Wire Me Up’ was intentionally more instrumental orientated as it was a vinyl release for Sleepers which is a club inspired label. The song format for me seems to, not restrict but can contain the accompanying music to a degree. So purely instrumental tracks allow the different kinds of sounds to open up and expand, giving certain parts more significance.

Was ‘Systematic’ from ‘Wire Me Up’ a nod to KRAFTWERK?

My appreciation of KRAFTWERK is quite evident when listening to ‘Systematic’, but there was no actual conscious decision to pay homage.

Also from ‘Wire Me Up’, the lengthy ‘You Seem The Same’ managed to fuse colder sounds with a real groove which was an interesting contrast?

Yes, I find fusing darker emotional, more unsettling sounds that have a sense.

You opted to release ‘Wire Me Up’ on Sleepers Records, after the previous three were on Klanggalerie. But you have now returned to Klanggalerie for ‘No-Go’, so is a label still important for an independent artist of your standing?

For playing their part in keeping physical formats alive and staving off complete digitisation of the industry. This and the discomfort I feel at the thought of selling myself, even after all these years of releasing albums make labels very much important to me.

‘No-Go’ continues your pursuit of a techno-based dance direction, but although the Detroit influences are there rhythmically, your music continues to maintain a Northern Industrial vibe. So the surroundings you grow up in never really leave your psyche?

I suppose the experience of growing up in a bleak industrial city in decay that was Manchester in the 60s will be part of me forever. Along with the sense of alienation and paranoia often felt in the 70s as a teenager when on the city streets. All of which must play a part in what I still produce today.

‘Synergy’ is a great opener that signals a natural progression from ‘Wire Me Up’, had your approach altered much while making ‘No-Go’?

Compared to ‘Wire Me Up’ in which I kept to a very immediate, raw almost improvised approach which just naturally progressed. ‘No-Go’ was written with more definition of process, more sculptured and manipulated over a period of time.

The wonderfully dark and blippy demeanour to ‘Compulsion’ is like a doomy PET SHOP BOYS, how did that come together?

I can see where you’re coming from suggesting these comparisons. I first wrote it as a brooding, dark groove track. Then I had the idea to do a vocal which was less processed than my usual style, which gave it that dreamy kind of retro feel.

‘Dirt’ does do what it says on the tin with them rather gritty sounds, what were you doing to construct those?

The overall sound and texture of ‘Dirt’ comes from running a sequence into modular VCOs then feeding them through a bitrazer and delays to achieve a gritty chaotic feel.

The Sci-Fi disco of ‘Fundamental Phenomena’ has an enjoyably futuristic quality, are you a fan of those kind of books and films? Any particular ones?

Sci-Fi disco, definitely my kind of thing, I love the greats like Philip K Dick, Isaac Asimov and Harlan Ellison. One of my all-time favourite movies is ‘Fahrenheit 451’, watching this as a youngster on TV was a game changer.

‘What Does It Feel Like’ is a bit more unusual and goes away from the dance template of the other tracks on ‘No-Go’ with that creepy arpeggio line, had the track been inspired by anything particular?

Wanting to briefly step away from dance type rhythms, I began working on this track by experimenting with the bass sequence producing an almost uneasy feeling of imminent threat. Then added to this the excitement and chaos of the synth lines that cut across the rhythm.

Which are your own favourite tacks on ‘No-Go’?

My two personal favourites are ‘Dirt’ for its lyrical relevance and being the first thing I wrote just as the lockdown in March 2020 occurred. The other, ‘Is The Sun Up’ because it has that cold space to it and is set to strong hypnotic beats, then goes on an aggressive tangent at the end.

What’s next for you, is live work still of interest or has everything that’s been going on made you think being stuck indoors is not such a bad thing after all?

As for the future, a couple of projects that were postponed or had to be rethought due to the situation of the past year will hopefully see daylight. First of all, a track I wrote with THE POP GROUP’s Mark Stewart should see the light of day. Coming out on the Texas based label Emergency Hearts also, a track featuring a vocal trio from Mark, Stephen Mallinder and myself. As for performing again, well it’s a very uncertain. I actually had gigs in LA, SF and across Europe which were cancelled last year. Apart from the pandemic there is also the political climate and Brexit all piling on the difficulties of travelling to do gigs in Europe. We shall see.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Eric Random

‘No-Go’ is released by Klanggalerie Records as a CD and download, available direct from https://klanggalerie.bandcamp.com/album/no-go

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https://www.ltmrecordings.com/eric_random.html


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
1st May 2021

STEPHEN MALLINDER Interview

In a career that started in 1978 with the first releases by CABARET VOLTAIRE, Stephen Mallinder has worn many hats with other outfits such as ACID HORSE, SASSI & LOCO, WRANGLER and CREEP SHOW featuring John Grant.

Widely acknowledged as an experimental electronic music pioneer, despite fronting CABARET VOLTAIRE through their imperial phase and a number of iconic tracks such as ‘Nag Nag Nag’, ‘Yashar’, ‘Sensoria’ and ‘Just Fascination’, his releases as a solo artist have been scarce.

Indeed, Stephen Mallinder’s surrealist second album ‘Um Dada’ was only released in 2019.

But it rekindled interest in his first solo record ‘Pow Wow’ from 1982. Ice Machine, a new sub-label of the Canadian electro imprint Suction Records is reissuing an expanded deluxe edition of that debut.

This new version of ‘Pow Wow’ now includes the trippy dub excursion of ‘Temperature Drop’ and the more motorik ‘Cool Down’ from the 12 inch single that came out on Fetish Records in 1981 prior to the album, as well as a recreation of the original iconic Neville Brody designed artwork, painstakingly recreated using scans of the original.

Reflecting on more than four decades in the music business, Stephen Mallinder spoke about his solo work, his CABARET VOLTAIRE years and much more.

‘Pow Wow’ was recorded simultaneously as doing CABARET VOLTAIRE, what was motivating you do work on solo material. Had it been intended that maybe some of these tracks would morph into Cabs tracks?

I tend to be quite reactive, and I like a challenge, so it was driven initially by being asked to do a release with Fetish rather than a burning desire to have a solo career.

We were really busy with lots of Cabs things but I was running around doing other stuff, and had friends all over.

There was a direct connection with Rod who set up Fetish, and Neville (Brody) who was a good friend, as were 23 SKIDOO, who came up to Western Works to record ‘Last Words’.

Fetish had become synonymous with Neville, the label’s identity was in part shaped by his designs and detailed ‘look’. So there was collective component, people who I was associated with it so it seemed natural that I’d be happy to record for them.

Musically it was a chance to do things on my own, it was an experiment to play everything myself. We had a studio, Western Works, I had the opportunity and so used the downtime during the night to try things out. They were never intended to be embryonic Cabs tracks because we had a different way of working. We were very collaborative and the tracks were made with us all together – it was never a case of individuals writing a piece and the others adding their names – we worked as a group from initiation to completion.

What would have been your equipment set up at this time at Western Works? 

It was still centred on tape recording as the key process. Although we had synths and a sequencer, these were still cobbled together, with bits of homemade gear and cheap instruments; it still had a futuristic junk shop vibe.

We had built up to using 8 track but didn’t move to 16 track until later when Richard and I did the Some Bizarre / Virgin deal.

We ended to put what money we had into outboard gear so we built up the rack of effects: compressors, noise gates, reverb, delays and processors. I think the MXR Harmoniser and Lexicon delay/multi effects get used a bit on the album. We also invested in drum machines and pedals. Multitracking, overdubbing and processing were the main means of working.

‘Pow Wow’ had a very rhythmic template and coincided with CABARET VOLTAIRE’s growing interest in the dancefloor?

To be honest it was always there, Richard and myself were old soul boys and were originally friends from the hanging out in record shops and blagging into nightclubs, illegally, when were 14-15 years old. But it’s fair to say that there was a growing interest in what was emerging from clubs, and importantly that through dance music, the 12inch single was becoming more accepted as a format which meant we could mess with that extended medium.

If you then throw in our interest in dub, a nod to the repetition of disco, and looser forms of funk and African music, there was a pattern emerging. We were starting to corral all these different elements before electro had even popped its head up so we were well placed. ‘Pow Wow’ was the early part of this curve – ‘Cool Down’ was done as a 12inch single, prior to, and independently from, the album.

How do you think ‘Pow Wow’ helped you in your future musical endeavours?

I’m not sure, perhaps it demonstrated I was capable of playing all the parts and taking on every role whenever I felt I needed to. It did contrast with the Cabs where there was a happy interaction between everyone and we knew it was a consequence of 2 or 3 individuals combining, complimenting and contrasting with each other to achieve a result. I guess it made me aware of different ways of working creatively.

On ‘The Crackdown’, you were working with a young producer by the name Flood, what did you see in him that would fit into the CABARET VOLTAIRE aesthetic?

Haa, it’s kind of funny because I think Flood refers to those as his dark days so maybe you should ask him what he thought of working with us. I don’t think it was us personally as we had some great times making music with Flood.

He was great for us because until we went to record ‘The Crackdown’ in Trident, where Flood was the in-house engineer, we had never really spent time in a proper outside studio.

Flood was open, inquisitive, up for anything so great for us and we had a good chemistry. And he came back to co-produce ‘Micro-Phonies’ with us – he even came to Western Works to contribute to the recording process before we went to Sarm and mixed that album. I think his subsequent history shows how great he was, I hope he has some good memories of it all.

The ‘Crackdown’ title track is often highlighted, but ‘Just Fascination’ was an excellent if underrated single in its John Luongo remix?

Yes, John was our first foray into the specialist club remix. He was great, very amiable and my lasting memory is him working relentlessly to get the perfect kick drum sound – it took pretty much a whole day. But we should also acknowledge Peter Care’s video for that track, the first vid we did together.

How do you look back now on that Some Bizzare / Virgin Records trilogy of ‘The Crackdown’, ‘Micro-phonies’ and ‘The Covenant, The Sword & The Arm Of The Lord’?

With a sense of satisfaction. It was an interesting, and challenging time. We were trying to mould our sound, and whole approach, to a changing situation – technology, formats, media, audiences were all moving rapidly and we were in the middle of all that. We wanted to move forward but not to lose what we had achieved until then – being on the outside creating noise and disruption – but knowing we should embrace the changes. Those albums capture that tension both for us, and the times.

What opportunities did the move to Australia present that weren’t open to you in the UK at the time?

It was a bit of a shock because I had to survive, bring up my daughters, and continue with my creative work. I didn’t know a single person there. I learnt how to adapt but retain the core of yourself.

Although it felt like starting again, it was an opportunity to try things without feeling the weight of expectation on top of me all the time. I could try whatever I wanted without as much attention so I was able to write, start a record label, set up a production company, promote gigs and festivals, become a radio producer running arts and current affairs, DJ, have radio shows, complete my PhD. I did them all in a relatively short space of time which I think was only possible being away from the UK bubble.

How different was Australia to the UK when you moved there? Especially Western Australia which is in itself even more ‘remote’?

It was quite disconcerting at first as you become very aware of how small and distant you can feel when detached from your past, and that very familiar world.

But I was lucky in that I developed strong connections in Sydney and Melbourne so travelled a lot doing music and the label. I was also very lucky in that the radio show was a way of getting people in. That plus the gigs through the production company, meant every week I had someone from overseas coming in or staying with me.

So one week it might be COLDCUT, the next MR SCRUFF, KRUSH, GRANDMASTER FLASH, JURASSIC 5 or mates like MOLOKO, Jarvis Cocker or whoever passing through. I became like Our Man in Havana in Graham Green’s novel.

Also the Off World Sounds label was run by me and Pete Carroll, brother of Central Station’s Matt and Pat, and Shaun Ryder’s cousin, so barely a month would go by without half of Manchester coming to stay.

Was there any particular reason the ACID HORSE project with MINISTRY only produced one single? Was the plan for it to be an ongoing act in the vein of REVOLTING COCKS?

No it could only be a one off. In fact to this day we’ve never owned up to it really. We were in the studio in Chicago with Marshall Jefferson recording tracks for ‘Groovy, Laidback & Nasty’ and did some moonlighting with Al (Jorgensen) and Chris (Connelly) to do ACID HORSE. EMI had paid for the trip to record with Marshall so would have taken a dim view of us doing a bit on the side, hence we were credited under pseudonyms on the release.

You finally followed-up ‘Pow Wow’ after 37 years with ‘Um Dada’, while you had been recording and releasing albums as part of WRANGLER, what was the impetus to do another solo record after so long?

I just felt like taking control for a bit, and because we’d been so busy with WRANGLER, there was suddenly a bit of time to do it.

There was no particular plan, in fact I can’t really remember how it happened. I think I started making tracks at home because I had a bit of time, it followed from there.

I was never conscious of not making solo stuff until it was pointed out it’d been years since I did something under my actual name. I feel ownership of all music that I’ve worked on from CABARET VOLTAIRE, SASSI & LOCO, WRANGLER etc, there’s but tons of releases so really it was just the name for me. I’ve always preferred hiding behind a branded name, but it was nice to think there could be a direct connection by using my own.

How would ‘Working (As You Are)’ have come together and would it have been something you could have done while doing ‘Pow Wow’?

No, technology changes things, and context too. Each are a result of their own specific time and place. Although the common elements of rhythm and simplicity are consistent. I’m the link and what feathers my duster remains pretty stable.

How have the continual changes in music technology influenced the way you work? How would a young Master Mallinder have reacted to the vast libraries of sounds available at the click of a mouse?

Like everyone it gives choices. I can work from home on my laptop, and I can also choose to go into a studio. I do enjoy that flexibility, and I like that each can have their own approach and sound, or grain. And at this moment working remotely but collaborating is a good thing to be able to do.

I think the bigger changes are in transmission – how we share that music and how we choose to present ourselves. As the tangible content – the product itself – has been transformed, almost lost, so has the exchange value and our relationship to creative work. It’s certainly not all good, but we have to work with it. For every annoyance that Spotify and YouTube have made music seem like a free product, Bandcamp, coupled with social media, have given us the opportunity to quickly upload and sell.

Music, like much creative output, has become a utility. A consumable, available at the end of a click.

How did you find the reception for ‘A Situation’, your third album with WRANGLER? Did you enjoy working in Benge’s new Cornwall studio complex and seeing what he had brought into that already vast synth armoury?

Well we’ve been working all along in the Cornwall space – we did the previous album ‘White Glue’ there, recording in the upstairs space before the studio was built, plus CREEP SHOW and I finished ‘Um Dada’ there.

You won’t be surprised to know Phil and I were the first ones in there… we pretty much followed the removal truck down.

But yes, Benge has done a great job – it has taken a few years but it’s brilliant, perfection I’d say. I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to work there but really it’s about the people and I love working with Benge and the guys. We can work anywhere though… Benge and I finished a Laura Marling mix in an Air B&B in Glasgow.

Yes, we released the WRANGLER album as lockdown happened. We were fortunate to do a couple of gigs before the shutters came down but not great timing… particularly for the videos Aki did, they are too amazing to be missed so I hope they get seen.

The current lockdown is highlighting something you have written about in the past, namely the place of live music in a digital world. With many artists at this time performing set on platforms like Zoom, do you see audiences perceptions of what is ”live” being changed forever?

Zoom is the work of the Devil… a mate just messaged me and said that!

We have to adapt so I see this as a response to a situation, but music was never meant to be experienced live though laptop speakers. I find the funniest thing is how celebrity culture functions in lockdown – the need for attention seems to drive much of it, not a burning creative desire.

Much music is rooted in the experience, and importantly a sense of shared experience. We need a feeling of connection. Live gigs on Zoom seem a bit shit, but everyone is trying to make things work so I don’t want to be moaning on the sidelines, it’ll be interesting to see what we choose to take from all this.

What’s next for you in terms of future projects whether musical or academic, lockdown depending?

Oh I seem to have lots of things on: mixes, collaborations, film projects under way. I’ve shot bits for two promo clips in my bedroom in last three weeks. I’ve written the follow-up to ‘Um Dada’ but need to get to studio to finish.

Sadly all the gigs been cancelled or postponed. I think much seems in preparation for the big return… although that may be a series of small returns right now. One footnote being “try running a Sound Arts course online!”; big respect to everyone out there doing their best to make things work in this different world.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its grateful thanks to Stephen Mallinder

Additional thanks to Steve Malins at Random Management

‘Pow Wow’ is reissued by Ice Machine on 19th June 2020 in double baby blue vinyl LP, CD and digital formats, pre-order via https://pow-wow.bandcamp.com/album/pow-wow

‘Um Dada’ is available via Dais Records as a vinyl LP in three colours plus the standard black as well as CD and download from https://www.daisrecords.com/products/stephen-mallinder-um-dada

‘A Situation’ is released by Bella Union as a CD, vinyl LP and download

https://www.facebook.com/stephenmallinderofficial/

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https://www.instagram.com/malmallinder/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Interview by Chi Ming Lai and Ian Ferguson
10th June 2020

FINLAY SHAKESPEARE Interview

Influenced by the experimental side of Synth Britannia and the groundbreaking electronica of Warp Records, Bristol-based Finlay Shakespeare has presented one of the most impressive releases of 2020 in his second album ‘Solemnities’.

Passionate and intense in his vocal delivery, the music of Finlay Shakespeare is strangely pop, but his modular laden backdrop will satisfy those seeking more of a colder mechanised edge. He encapsulates the spirit of early Mute Records and that’s probably just as well because he has just been signed by Mute Song for publishing.

Reference points range from THE HUMAN LEAGUE and THROBBING GRISTLE to AUTECHRE and THE FAINT, while the socially conscious lyrics recall Paul Weller during his time in THE JAM.

Also an independent musical device manufacturer via his Future Sound Systems umbrella, ‘Solemnities’ captures the balance of melody and freaky angst that was showcased live to BLANCMANGE fans who arrived early when Shakespeare opened for Neil Arthur & Co in 2019.

Finlay Shakespeare kindly took time out and spoke about the making of ‘Solemnities’, its lyrical inspiration and gave a fascinating insight into the equipment involved in the album’s realisation.

Your new album ‘Solemnities’ is rather on point in the current situation, but what had been your original concept?

The majority of material that I write, at least lyrically speaking, tends to come from improvisation, and in the case of ‘Solemnities’, recording many iterations and honing in on a finished version. I’ve always tried to capture a sense of the present when writing and recording too – I like the idea that music can form a time capsule to be listened back to. Much of the subject matter across ‘Solemnities’ is politically motivated, and how I see the UK’s current political situation affecting me and others around me.

While you have said ‘Solemnities’ has a rawer approach, it appears to be a lot more focussed and disciplined than your debut album ‘Domestic Economy’?

Hugely – this predominantly came from returning to a more conventional writing form. The base material of ‘Domestic Economy’ comes from the total improvisation of the ‘Housediet’ sessions – no re-takes, simple edits, etc. – which was then fleshed out and reworked slightly for the album.

For ‘Solemnities’, it’s been more a case of overdubbing each individual element as a track comes together. These elements may be rather spontaneously recorded, but through allowing myself to edit and arrange more deeply, the songs became more rigidly structured.

‘Solemnities’ does capture more of what you’re like on stage, how did you find opening for BLANCMANGE?

The BLANCMANGE shows were a great experience – I had been hankering for more live appearances for a while, and was lucky to be given the chance through, not only Neil Arthur, but also Jez Bernholz and Steve Malins. Playing those support slots definitely made me focus more on my live practice. How do I get this modular synth to do what I want it to do? How do I make these songs come to life on stage?

Trying to answer those questions also informs the writing and recording process to a degree. It was also fantastic to spend some time with Neil, Liam Hutton, Oogoo Maia and Adam Fuest – they’re a great bunch of people and I hope to see them all again soon.

What had got you interested in making music with synthesizers? What was your first electronic instrument?

A childhood fascination with my parents’ record collection is really what kicked all this off. LPs and CDs by JEAN-MICHEL JARRE, VANGELIS, KRAFTWERK – I wanted to know where all these sounds came from. I remember staring at photographs of their studios, intrigued by all the equipment that surrounded these pioneers.

I took keyboard lessons from a young age and was lucky enough to be entering my early teens at the height of the ‘virtual analogue’ synth boom. My first synth was a Korg Electribe EA-1 – I have very fond memories of it, but sadly sold it a while ago to buy other gear!

You founded Future Sound Systems, so would you describe yourself as electronic musician first or second, or is it all embroiled and co-dependent?

It’s very much a co-dependent thing in my eyes – I got into designing and building equipment because I felt that might be a cheaper way of acquiring more gear. On one hand, that was very much incorrect, but the learning curve (which I’m still very much following) gave me some degree of knowledge that led to the day job I have now. Many of the designs that come from FSS are dreamt up whilst I’m playing music myself, and that music often incorporates some of the equipment we design and build, so it’s very much a feedback loop.

How did you develop musically as you sound like post-punk acts such as THROBBING GRISTLE and THE NORMAL meeting Warp Records?

By the time I had exhausted my parents’ LPs, I started getting into the acts that were recording and releasing at the time – I feel lucky to have been growing up when acts like ORBITAL, THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS, DAFT PUNK etc were at their prime.

I’d drag my family to record fairs and such, buying up what I could save with pocket money and going between various artist recommendations that we’d typically get from the stall holders.

I remember hearing APHEX TWIN’s ‘Come To Daddy’ and ‘Windowlicker’ amidst all this, and those were pretty monumental in terms of showing me that electronic music still had the potential to be very different. We also had a music library local to us, which proved to be a huge resource of harder-to-find music. I’ve still got a cassette of avant-garde works by Mimaroglu, Cage and Berio which I bought at one of their sales – that was ‘really’ eye-opening stuff to hear as a kid!

You also have been very vocal about your love of the ASSOCIATES album ‘Sulk’, why do you think this record is so special?

I’ve got a great deal of respect for artists and bands who really are totally unique, and ASSOCIATES are high up on that list, particularly the partnership between Alan Rankine and Billy Mackenzie. Typically, I find myself listening to ‘Fourth Drawer Down’ more so than ‘Sulk’, but ‘Sulk’ deserves legendary status simply because there’s no other record like it. It’s truly manic in every aspect – its musicianship is frantic, the lyrics are all over the shop, and the mix sounds like nothing else. There’s also the more archival aspect where seemingly no two issues of the album are the same!

So how did your intense fraught vocal style emerge?

I’ve never really thought that much about how I sing.

What I try to do is use my vocal as a way of expressing emotion, almost to bolster the atmosphere of a track, and I guess a lot of what I’m singing about is rather intense!

There’s always the aim of doing something a little bit calmer in the future, but I’m not sure that it’ll ever happen.

The ‘Solemnities’ opener ‘Occupation’ makes a real musical as well as lyrical statement and appears to recall THE FAINT, was it inspired by personal experience?

‘Occupation’ draws from various imagined scenarios given the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, particularly how the exit has been pushed by self-serving politicians, but also how it will prevent citizens of the UK from enjoying various freedoms and privileges that are about to be removed from them. The track began life exactly how it’s heard on the album – the drums came from a really aggressive patch I had going on an ARP 2600 clone and some Serge modular equipment, so vocally and lyrically it needed to reflect that.

‘The Information’ really showcases your love of the early period of THE HUMAN LEAGUE? It undergoes a few structural changes within its four and a half minutes, how would you have constructed this in the studio?

‘The Information’ dates back to tracks I was writing back when I was finishing school, so the majority of elements here are at least ten years old! When putting ‘Solemnities’ together, I wanted to revisit some old work of mine that was never really finished, so I loaded up ‘The Information’ and wanted to see where I could take it. It’s funny how it can take more than a decade to finish off a four-minute track!

What are your preferred tools at the moment? Is it modular all the way for you?

I’m in no way a purist – I end up making a lot of hybrid configurations of synths and other gear at the studio, which I like to think lends itself to finding new sounds and getting to a place that’s a little different from using separate pieces of gear stand-alone. For example, I have a Korg MS-20 and MS-10 which I often chain together to create, what I often label, an MS-30. There’s a lot of that on the album, as well as the aforementioned ARP / Serge combo. Since running the majority of the studio’s equipment into a patchbay, I can treat the entire studio as a patchable modular-esque set-up.

At the moment, I’m trying to get deeper into the Nord G2X that I’ve had for a while – it’s a digital modular environment which is still really powerful and flexible despite being a little old now! Again, there’s a lot of G2X on the new album, but used mainly to process other sounds.

‘Second Try’ appears to play homage to both THROBBING GRISTLE and KRAFTWERK?

‘Second Try’ actually came from powering the G2X up with a ‘mad’ patch on it – that’s what’s heard at the intro, then a couple of passes of that patch get looped to form the drums. ‘Second Try’ came together really quickly, and is actually a great example of how I try to work now – still working very quickly and not spending a lot of time on things, but managing to get a lot done in that session.

The poignant ‘Crisis’ features a range of fantastic textures, one set being the impactful spacey synthetic voices, how you set about sound designing those?

‘Crisis’ came almost completely from my Elektron Digitakt sampler/sequencer. I had been booked to play a show in Nantes and was terrified about checking my modular rig in to the hold in case it never made the connecting flight. The Digitakt was coming in my hand luggage, so I had prepared this back-up improvisatory set using that and the Mutable Shruthi synth that I also use live now. ‘Crisis’ was born out of that set, using the Shruthi for the bass then the Digitakt for almost all the other melodic elements, including that pitched Mellotron choir sample.

You may be pleased to know that the modular never disappeared, but ‘Crisis’ made an impromptu premiere as the encore to that Nantes show!

You show more of your understated side on ‘Fantasy’, had this been a conscious move as part of the album’s journey?

I was definitely trying to form more of an ‘arc’ for this album – two sides of vinyl that feel they have some degree of flow to both – and ‘Fantasy’ felt right in between two relatively more energetic tracks. This track was born out of two sessions coming together – powering up the studio after the recording of ‘Occupation’ and the drum patch falling over itself, hence the pounding bass drum that runs throughout, and a long take of overdubbed feedback guitars I had recorded a few years prior. I also wanted to experiment with building up a small choir of myself, making many overdubs of the same vocal with different harmonies.

You go for an extended banging adventure on ‘She Says / Nothing Ends’ to finish, was it originally two songs that morphed into one epic track?

Almost – it was always treated as one track, but I wanted the feel of two distinct sections to it, both of which would crescendo as much as they do, almost as though they ‘could’ be two individual tracks. However, the fluttery, glitchy chords of the latter half, and the distorted vocals ‘were’ recorded as part of another separate session, and brought in on top of the near-gabber that already existed.

Who do you hope ‘Solemnities’ might appeal to?

I’ve always wanted my music to be a bridge between what I’m influenced by and something more present, perhaps even futuristic. Therefore, I’m hoping ‘Solemnities’ would appeal to fans of the late 70s / early 80s greats who may have been there at the time, as well as younger electronic music fans who perhaps aren’t so aware of all those albums approaching their 40th anniversaries.

If my work puts people on to acts like THE HUMAN LEAGUE, CABARET VOLTAIRE, SEVERED HEADS, FAD GADGET etc, then I feel that I’ve definitely done my job.

Your music is released by Editions Mego in Austria, is it still important for modern independent artists to have some kind of label support in your opinion?

Very much so. Whilst self-releasing online is easier than ever, there are more and more people doing it, and with the lack of any curation, it can be really difficult to be found as an artist. I have huge respect for what Peter Rehberg at Mego does – he releases whatever he wants to put out on Mego, there are no stylistic boundaries that he’s following, so the label is truly in line with his tastes. There’s no nonsense.

If you’re into what is on Mego, it’s likely you’ll enjoy whatever the next release is. It’s that curation that is really important for being an artist released by a label – your work becomes part of a stream that can be followed by the label’s fans.

You recently signed to Mute Song, joining a renowned family, what does that bring to you which perhaps you were unable to do when handling your own publishing?

It’s still early days at the moment, but even talking to the Mute Song team has been hugely reinvigorating. It’s a similar story with getting to know Peter at Mego better – it’s really helpful being able to send people music and get an honest response back that you know you can trust. It’s akin to the whole Bowie-ism of never being truly comfortable in what you’re doing – there were things on ‘Solemnities’ that I wanted Peter’s thoughts on, simply because I wasn’t so sure of them at first.

Having a wider net of ‘primary ears’ can only be a good thing, particularly when those ears are working with the roster of artists that are with Mute Song. From an industry point of view, I’d say I still don’t really know what I’m doing, and being able to ask for advice from such an experienced team is a huge benefit.

Where do you think you might like to take your next album?

There are already some initial sketches, but it seems that I’m trying to push the studio further, incorporating more guitars and drums into the mix, but taking the synths into more abstract territory – trying to do weirder things but perhaps make them poppy. I’ve started trying to listen to how musicians whose work I love have played their instrument, and whether I can map any of that to completely different practices. I still want to be able to play a synth the way that Andy Gill played guitar, but conversely, what happens if you have a guitar made to sound like what Ian Craig Marsh was doing in THE HUMAN LEAGUE?

What’s next for you? Is there anything interesting coming out from Future Sound Systems?

There are some really exciting collaborations in the works right now, both new and old, and I’m always striving to bring people together in the studio.

As I hinted at above, I’m really interested to see what happens when different styles and practices are brought together, and I hope I can continue that this year.

Meanwhile, at FSS, we are designing plenty of new equipment which I hope will pique other producers’ interest – there’s certainly a lot of it that I want to spend more creative time with! Watch this space!


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Finlay Shakespeare

‘Solemnities’ is released by Editions Mego in vinyl LP and digital formats, available from https://editionsmego.bandcamp.com/album/solemnities

http://finlayshakespeare.com/

https://www.facebook.com/FinlayShakespeareUK/

https://twitter.com/FinShakespeare

https://www.instagram.com/finlayshakespeare/

https://www.futuresoundsystems.co.uk/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
12th May 2020

ERIC RANDOM Wire Me Up

Manchester electronic veteran Eric Random has a fascinating history as a Factory Club stalwart in THE TILLER BOYS and post-punk experimentalist.

As a member of BUZZCOCKS’ inner circle, his first album ‘That’s What I Like About Me’ came out in 1980 on New Hormones ‎who released the seminal ‘Spiral Scratch’ EP; it was co-produced by Stephen Mallinder and Random later worked with CABARET VOLTAIRE on their ‘2X45’ album.

But Random made his return in 2014 with ‘Man Dog’ released by Austrian label Klanggalerie, ‎having last issued a long player using his own name in 1986 as ERIC RANDOM & THE BEDLAMITES.

‘Words Made Flesh’ then appeared in 2016 before being quickly followed by ‘Two Faced’ a year later. With his new work ‘Wire Me Up’ released by analogue underground independent Sleepers Records, Random’s stark style of presentation remains, but his vocals in the vein of FAD GADGET take a breather on this primarily instrumental set. However, vocodered vocals do appear by ‘Stealth’ over a chromatic soundtrack of rhythmic passages not unlike DEPECHE MODE when they were good, while they are more robotically direct on the obviously KRAFTWERK-inspired ‘Systematic’.

But it all starts with the gentle pulsing of ‘Nothing Is True’, although that mood is immediately offset by the playful noise arrangements on ’Target’. ‘Monochrome’ offers something dark and bleepy as a slice of voice sample laden electro, with the occasional clatter of an 808 snare and some doomy synth vibrato providing a suitably anxious feel. Meanwhile ‘Commence Countdown’ is catchy techno-funk despite its fits of industrialised noise terror.

Held around a hypnotic bassline, the eerie sweeps of ‘Skid Row’ recall the arthouse cinematic work of John Foxx, while cut from a similar sheet of steel, the brilliant ‘You Seem The Same’ exploits a minimal use of vocoder while catching the ear with some wonderful bursts of cold vox humana strings over what can only be described as a bouncy backbone.

Chunkily uptempo, ’The Louder You Scream’ is accessible with a wide range of buzzy textures and chilling vibes.

With lashings of synth arpeggios and simplistic claps, ‘Hypnophobia’ has menace in its claustrophobic air before it all ends with the comparatively ambient overtures of ‘The Outsider’.

‘Wire Me Up’ is an enjoyable collection of classic synth instrumentals with an edge. For those who prefer their electronica to be vocal-free but desiring a musical hook every now and then, Eric Random’s double length long player is an ideal listening experience.


‘Wire Me Up’ is released as double vinyl LP by Sleepers Records, audio preview and information on stockists at https://soundcloud.com/sleepersound-2/eric-random-wire-me-up

https://www.facebook.com/theericrandom/

https://twitter.com/theericrandom

https://www.ltmrecordings.com/eric_random.html

https://www.instagram.com/theericrandom/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
26th June 2019

THE KVB Only Now Forever

The follow-up to 2016’s ‘Of Desire’, ‘Only Now Forever’ develops on the brooding post-punk sound of THE KVB.

Getting together in 2011, the British audio-visual duo of multi-instrumentalist Nicholas Wood and keyboardist Kat Day actually relocated to write and record in Berlin, adding a more independently-minded edge to their reverb coated sound in the process.

If NEW ORDER had been weaned on shoegaze, they might have sounded like THE KVB.

Signed to Geoff Barrow’s Invada Records, with previous collaborators such as Joe Dilworth and Mark Reeder on their curriculum vitae and a prestigious invitation to perform at Robert Smith’s meltdown Festival 2018, THE KVB certainly have their esteemed admirers.

The excellent uptempo motorik of ‘Above Us’ is a good start, accessible yet suitably mysterious and coming over like LADYTRON fronted by Kevin Shields. Under layers of string synths and attached to a solid bass rumble, ‘On My Skin’ has a good chorus while with more psychedelic overtones, ‘Only Now Forever’ recalls early ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN when they used the odd smidgen of synth and drum machine.

The unsurprisingly gothic ‘Afterglow’ looms with heavy beats and penetrating textural six string as Wood announces “here comes the night” but with ‘Violet Noon’, there’s a more steadfast nocturnal mood, like THE JESUS & THE MARY CHAIN with more washes of atmospheric synths, as if the Reid brothers had been dropped onto the set of ‘Twin Peaks’.

The guitars take more of a backseat on ‘Into Life’ while the spectre of CABARET VOLTAIRE circa ‘The Crackdown’ make its presence felt via a hypnotic bass sequence and assorted sweeps; it also sees Day put her breathy allure to the forefront on this arty slice of moody electro-disco

‘Live In Fiction’ recalls THE CURE meeting THE SOFT MOON but is less reliant on wall of sound intensity, but the wonderful clubby vibe of ‘Tides’ offers some vibrant electricity with a combination of sequences and synths for possibly the album’s highlight.

The 6/8 percussive drift of ‘No Shelter’ looms away but cut from a similar cloth to ‘Above Us’, ‘Cerulean’ does have a slightly more frantic edge, Woods’ vocals harmonised by Day’s angelic tones although the track does seem to disappear into a cacophony of haze.

More refined and sharper than previous offerings, the melodic emphasis on ‘Only Now Forever’ has paid off and there is plenty of crossover appeal for those who like a bit of synth and a dash of alternative rock. Some might find THE KVB’s overall template old-fashioned, but being uninhibited in their willingness to mix technology with live instruments and a bit of darkness like in days of yore can only be a good thing.


‘Only Now Forever’ is released by Invada Records on CD, double vinyl LP and digital formats

THE KVB 2018 live dates include:

Glasgow Hug and Pint (24 October), Newcastle Think Tank (25th October), Manchester Yes (26th October), Leeds Hyde Park Book Club (27th October), York The Crescent (28th October), Birmingham Hare & Hounds (29th October), Brighton Green Door Store (30th October), London Corsica Studios (31st October), Bristol Rough Trade (1st November), Roubaix La Cave Aux Poetes (2nd November), Nantes Soy Festival (3rd November), Le Havre McDaids (4th November), Amsterdam Sugarfactory (6th November), Cologne Bumann & Sohn (7th November), Gent Charlatan (8th November), Hamburg Hafenklang (9th November), Copenhagen Stengade (10th November), Stockholm Debaser Strand (11th November), Oslo Revolver (12th November), Berlin Lido (14th November), Poznan Meskalina (15 November), Warsaw Poglos (16th November), Prague Café v Lese (17th November), Brno Kabinet MUZ (18th November), Budapest Dürer Kert (20th November), Vienna Fluc (21 November), Munich Kranhalle (23rd November), Yverdon-les-Bains L’Amalgame (24th November), Zurich La Mascotte (25th November), Rome Largo Venue (27th November), Bologna Locomotivclub (28th November), Barcelona SiDecemberar (30th November), Madrid Moby Dick (1 December), Jurançon La Ferronnerie (3rd December), La Rochelle La Sirene (4th December), Bordeaux Iboat (5th December), Paris Le Badaboum (6th December), Amiens La Lune des Pirates (7th December)

http://www.thekvb.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/thekvbmusic/

https://twitter.com/TheKVB

https://www.instagram.com/thekvb/

https://thekvb.bandcamp.com/music


Text by Chi Ming Lai
20th October 2018

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