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synth.nu is a long established Swedish language web publication that covers a broad spectrum of electronic music.

Founded in March 2004, synth.nu follows an ethos that covers both new and established acts. With a team of contributors, their mission statement is “We make reviews, interviews and live reviews in synth / electronic music from all over the world” be it “synth, electronica, EBM, industrial, wave, darkwave and stuff that applies”.

With Sweden being the epicentre of modern electronic music, synth.nu are suitably positioned to report on what is an highly vibrant and creative scene. As kindred spirits following their passion for electronic music, it was only natural that ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK and synth.nu would eventually get together and have rather a lot to talk about.

Following a first meeting at the Electronic Summer 2015 Festival in Gothenburg, Martin Brandhill from synth.nu chatted to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK founder Chi Ming Lai for an interview feature that was originally published in the Swedish language at the synth.nu site on 16th March 2016…

When did you start to like electronic music and become fascinated by this music genre?

My very liberal and Bohemian junior school teacher played KRAFTWERK’s ‘Autobahn’ and the soundtrack of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ to us all in class and the sound of both was unusual, yet captivating. It wasn’t until later that I got into synthesizer music properly first through Gary Numan, then Jean-Michel Jarre and OMD before moving onto ULTRAVOX, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, JAPAN, SOFT CELL, DEPECHE MODE, HEAVEN 17,  SIMPLE MINDS and John Foxx

As I got older, I caught up with the influential acts of the past like Brian Eno, David Bowie, ROXY MUSIC, TANGERINE DREAM, NEU! and LA DÜSSELDORF.

How and why did you start the electronic music website ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK back in 2010? Were there not any electronic music websites prior to that, who supported the electronic music scene in UK?

The main motivation to do ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK came from my disgust at classic synthpop being lumped in with the so-called 80s revival.

I hated how OMD and DEPECHE MODE were being associated with T’PAU, SWING OUT SISTER and LIVING IN A BOX! Everyone wanted to remember the 80s whereas I didn’t, so there was a definite reaction to the nostalgia industry that was starting to build. “Synthpop NOT 80s!” was my mantra! There are still people who should know better that don’t understand the difference! Incidentally, the writers are banned from using the term “80s” to describe the music in their articles 😉

I’d been writing music reviews since college, progressing from student newspapers to fanzines and then online media. There were a number of websites featuring acts I liked, but many focussed on just the 80s or particular bands. And then there were others that were only about dance music or new artists exclusively…

I wanted to somehow combine coverage of new and classic synth based pop, but away from dance music which to be honest, is something I generally loathe.

When ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK launched in March 2010, LITTLE BOOTS, LA ROUX, LADYHAWKE and LADY GAGA had been hailed as the next big things. And with their synth dressed credentials, I embraced them… but it turned out to be a false dawn. Luckily though, just as The L-Word Foursome started disassociating themselves from the whole synthpop thing, MIRRORS, HURTS, VILLA NAH and VILE ELECTRODES emerged and sat nicely with classic acts such as VISAGE, OMD, HEAVEN 17, ULTRAVOX, THE ART OF NOISE and PROPAGANDA who ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK featured in that first year.

What is the main goal that you want to achieve with the website?

You could nickname it ‘Now That’s What Chi & Friends Call Music’ 😉

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK is about electronic pop music with roots to Synth Britannia; that was a great BBC documentary about the post-punk UK synth movement. It featured GARY NUMAN, OMD, DEPECHE MODE, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, JOHN FOXX, NEW ORDER, PET SHOP BOYS, SOFT CELL, ULTRAVOX, YAZOO and CABARET VOLTAIRE.

However, the site was never just going to be about established acts, it was always the intention to feature newer ones. But the site launch didn’t take place until our interview with Paul Humphreys of OMD was completed, because having that was the best way to get people to look at the site. And it worked, because parts of the interview were later quoted in The Guardian newspaper in their article about OMD’s then new album ‘History Of Modern’.

So by attracting people who want to read about the acts they know and love, they might then stick around and have a look at the new artists featured who have been seeded from those same electronic pioneers. The act I have been most proud of featuring in the last five years has been VILE ELECTRODES.

Andy McCluskey read about them on the site and as a result, they ended up supporting OMD on their 2013 German tour and winning awards too. And they recently did a live session for BBC Introducing. It’s a great upward trajectory they are on right now. They’re a fine example as to what can be achieved by an independent synthesizer act in this day and age.

Which philosophy does the website follow with writing new reviews, interviews or articles in general?

The heart of the site is properly written features, not buzz blogging. I don’t like the whole “this is a song, now here’s another…” approach that other websites indulge in. People of a certain adult demographic just haven’t got the time or inclination to go through 10-15 new acts each week; they want to know which band you think is the best and why they should spend money or invest an hour of their time for them.

That is why the articles have easy-to-understand musical references, trivia and critique. It’s my style and always has been since I started writing about music as a student; I think you can tell if I am really into something when you read my text. It’s storytelling, rather than lecturing or trying to be cool. I’ve been told by friends in Europe that my style is easy to understand for people whose first language is not English.

If people connect with your ethos and enjoy what you write, then they will trust your opinion and return for more. But you need to maintain quality control. So ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK has to be about what’s good, not what’s going on in The Scene. This is why the site doesn’t have many news bulletins. If people don’t like what the site features or its style of referencing, then that’s ok. They can always do their own blog as some have done. That’s great because then there’s another music platform. We have our choices.

What do I look for in a new act submission? A good song accompanied by a reasonable video with hopefully two or three other numbers of comparable quality. The video is important because it tests the commitment of the artist with regards their visual presentation, as well as their songwriting and production. I come from a generation where videos and sleeve artwork were important; so it’s not just about the music and bands need to be aware that.

I probably give a track about twenty seconds! I’m not after a song that I necessarily love on first hearing, it’s more about it being interesting enough to play on to the end and then, listen to again. People have sent me demos that go on for over eight minutes… that’s not a good idea even if it is your art!

The most clueless submission was a five song live gig video recorded at a kid’s birthday party and nothing happened for the first minute! I literally get hundreds of emails each month. There are complaints that we don’t reply or give feedback. But if we replied to each one, we would never get any articles done.

A fair few get deleted straight away, especially if the accompanying press release mentions “deep house”, “bangin’ techno”, “DJ”, “80s” or “shoegaze”, or the band photo has more than two members with a beard! I remember Neil Tennant once saying he knew THE KILLERS’ second album was never going to be as good as the first, because Brandon Flowers had grown a beard! *laughs*

Just because an act hasn’t been featured on ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK before, it doesn’t mean they won’t be in the future. The best example of that is Glasgow’s ANALOG ANGEL who I passed on in 2011. They were quite industrial back then, but changed direction and became more synthpop. So when they released ‘We Won’t Walk Away’ in 2013, I asked them for a video to feature on the site which they duly presented.

By the same token, just because an act has had coverage before doesn’t mean that their future releases will be featured. One artist demanded we remove a second video that we had on an article about them, so that it could be used for a future  review… hang on! There is a strange sense of entitlement from some artists which I find baffling. ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK is not a crowdfunded promotional service. *laughs*

Some people do take things rather personally if they’re not featured; one individual shouted abuse at me in a pub before a gig and stormed off, but he then proceeded to lie and tell everyone I was rude to THEM! It wasn’t as if ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK had written a negative review… would they rather have that? Because there have been a few of those when appropriate as well!

But slagging ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK off on social media and to their friends is not the best way to gain favourable attention from us. The thing is, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK is not the only platform covering electronic music… other blogs ARE available.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK has existed now for over five years. Has it been lots of fun and an exciting journey when you are looking back at the development of the website and meeting lots of famous people in the electronic scene, since you started the website back in 2010?

It’s definitely been fun, it’s the reason why I am still doing it and would like to do it for a few more years yet 😉

Two interviews spring to mind as favourites and good examples of the site’s development. In 2011, I interviewed Stephen Morris from NEW ORDER. I was surprised ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s request was accepted, but we had a brilliant 70 minute chat. He said something about “Never say never” when it came to the future of NEW ORDER. Then a few months later, NEW ORDER announced they were returning, but without Hooky. So the site was inadvertently part of a subtle promotional campaign to rebuild the band’s profile before the news broke!

Our 2013 interview with GARY NUMAN was a significant one. In the past, we would lobby for a major interview, but probably end up NOT getting it, like DURAN DURAN or GRIMES. In 2011, we were only granted a short email Q&A with GARY NUMAN. But in 2013, the site had built up such a good reputation that Numan’s representatives got in touch and literally said “you’re interviewing GARY NUMAN at 6.00pm on Thursday!” – Numan was great and he wouldn’t stop talking, which was great for the eventual article!

Having been invited to meet both Karl Bartos and Wolfganng Flur, I’ve sort of got nowhere else to go now! It’s not every day you get to be photographed together with two KRAFTWERK legends. Is there anyone else I’d like to meet and interview? I guess Jean-Michel Jarre would be one. And I’ve never met or interviewed Vince Clarke either.

Has 2015 been a good or disappointing music year? Will we remember this year when we look back in a couple of years?

I think 2015 has been good, especially for veteran acts proving they can still do excellent music, be it JEAN-MICHEL JARRE, A-HA, JOHN FOXX or NEW ORDER. Age is not a barrier to creativity, although lack of motivation to challenge oneself artistically in later years might be… 2015 was certainly better than 2012, which I felt was a lacklustre year for electronic pop.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK appears to be very critical at times against synthpop legends DEPECHE MODE, why is that?

DEPECHE MODE can still do brilliant stuff, my favourite 21st Century songs are ‘Oh Well’, ‘I Feel Loved’, and the TRENTEMØLLER club mix of ‘Wrong’; I think from those three, you can work out how I prefer DEPECHE MODE to sound today. But personally, I am not keen on DEPECHE MODE’s modern day concert format which is more rock based and dominated by live drums; however, I need to clarify about why I’m so critical of them and in particular, Christian Eigner aka ‘The Drumhead’ 😉

Yes, Alan Wilder was a sticksman on the ‘Devotional’ tour but he wasn’t a drummer in a John Bonham sense, so he only played what was needed. Herr Eigner on the other hand is a traditional rock drummer, a role that has a very egocentric and bombastic mindset. So he fills every nook and cranny with drums, whether they really ought to be there or not, that’s the difference!

Now, did you know that THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Dare’ has no crash cymbals on it? That’s because the Linn LM1 Drum Computer used did not have enough chip memory to store such a sound. So the restrictions meant they had to be artistically inventive and think out of the box to nurture the dynamics of each song. The most recent example of a no crash cymbal policy has been CHVRCHES ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’.

The first five OMD albums have no crash cymbals either and I think you’ll find the majority of DEPECHE MODE recordings up to 1990 are the same. Do you see a pattern here? What I’m trying to say is, live drums and crash cymbals can be a bit of a rock ‘n’ roll cliché… the point about most good electronic pop music is that it is anti-rock ‘n’ roll *laughs*

The word is that it’s Dave Gahan who wants it everything to be overtly rockist, but I can’t think of anything more boring! He apparently refuses to sing over exclusively programmed rhythm tracks now.

Ironically though, it’s that rigid electronic percussion which helps give those truly great DEPECHE MODE songs that tension and soul.

It’s why the tribute band SPEAK & SPELL have their place on the live circuit as a recreation of that three synths and a tape machine era. The strange thing is that I’ve been accused of featuring and referencing DEPECHE MODE too often.

But on the opposite side of the coin, there are people who think I am very negative about DM… neither are true. But do I really enjoy DM gigs in the 21st Century? They have their moments on stage, but the last show I saw at Birmingham NEC in 2014 was terrible!

Are you not grateful for all the great music and achievements DEPECHE MODE has done for electronic music in the UK and for the genre in general?

To use an F1 analogy, DEPECHE MODE are Michael Schumacher from an achievement point of view. But personally, I find the gifted but flawed drivers like the late Ronnie Peterson who never became World Champion, or lively new talent such as Max Verstappen much more interesting. Well, that’s what I think, for what it’s worth 😉

I’m an armchair DEPECHE MODE fan from ‘Speak & Spell’ up to ‘Ultra’, as opposed to being a Devotee. My favourite album is ‘Violator’, while I have a lot of affection for ‘A Broken Frame’. I was in my early teens at the height of Synth Britannia, so when SOFT CELL, DEPECHE MODE and DURAN DURAN emerged, it was all very exciting.

But what you have to understand is that at the time, SOFT CELL were generally seen by people, including myself, as the better prospect. By the time DEPECHE MODE got darker on ‘Black Celebration’, I was at college and had started DJ-ing so was naturally inclined towards more danceable electronic acts like PET SHOP BOYS, NEW ORDER and ERASURE… in hindsight, you can see PSB are actually a smoothed out SOFT CELL! I was still keeping an eye on DM in 1987-1988, but effectively lost touch as I was doing my final examinations. So like many in the UK, when ‘101’ came out in 1989, I was like “what on earth has happened here?” *laughs*

I’ve been lucky enough to have interviewed Alan Wilder three times now and was honoured that the only interview he granted for the 25th anniversary of ‘101’ was with ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK. He’s always been very honest and forthright. I remember at the RECOIL film Q&A in London, one girl took exception to his answer to her question about BECK. “YOU ASKED ME FOR MY OPINION!” he retorted. Brilliant!

Like many, I still feel the missing artistic ingredient in today’s DEPECHE MODE is Mr Wilder. Yet, DM have got bigger in terms of their live audiences! So go figure *laughs*

In Sweden, there was a big discussion in many local synth / electronic music communities about the genre’s status. It started because of my discussion event ‘Är Synthen Död?’ (In English: Is The Synth Dead?) which I held in Gothenburg last December. The panel discussed if the genre was still vital and interesting to the youth of today and to old electronic music lovers here in Sweden; or more plainly dead, has no future and will become like Rockabilly music. What are your personal points of view on this subject, when you look at the UK scene?

There was a period in the UK when the dance scene and Britpop effectively killed off synthpop; this would have been 1994-1999. I never really liked acid house or club oriented music. Acts like LEFTFIELD, UNDERWORLD, THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS and ORBITAL did great singles, but they weren’t very song based and their albums left me underwhelmed, especially as the tracks often went on for far too long! And I wasn’t into the Industrial duff-duff shouting-in-German thing that was going on in Europe either!

But for me, there was a turning point for the synth in an avant pop context, and that came in 2000-2001 with LADYTRON, GOLDFRAPP and CLIENTBecause they had female vocalists, they also gave a fresh slant to the old Synth Britannia template. 

KYLIE MINOGUE’s ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’ and SUGABABES ‘Freak Like Me’ were also significant; it’s fair to say quite a few people got into GARY NUMAN because of the latter! 

So synthpop effectively returned, if in a slightly different but still recognisable form. The period helped to shape the sort of music I enjoy listening to now, like MARSHEAUX, KID MOXIE, Hannah Peel and GwennoUnfortunately, although a lot of music is electronically based now, as PAGE’s Eddie Bengtsson said to me, classic synthpop appears to be a dying art.

A friend of mine, who is a video director, received a brief for a “contemporary electropop band”… but they were so contemporary, there was hardly any electropop in their music! The lines are getting too blurred and that’s not a good thing. Like this trio YEARS & YEARS that have been labelled a synthpop act by the mainstream press! Err, no! They are basically BROS with a housey beat!


Luckily, the success of CHVRCHES has confirmed there is still an international market for synthpop. They have a broad appeal which connects with people who don’t necessarily know, or want to know, what a Minimoog Voyager is. Their songs could be covered by Taylor Swift and become massive hits. Acts like CHVRCHES are the key to younger musicians being influenced to make electronic pop music in the future.

Is the genre dead or alive in UK? Has it a bright future or will genre just have a few followers?

Things are quite strange in the UK… synth music is alive but slightly wounded in my opinion. There is also the weird phenomenon of promoters who don’t even really like electronic music, putting on electronic music events.

In my opinion, there’s big fish in a small pond syndrome going on, in that there’s a sub-culture of acts who just prop each other up and think just because they get a few plays on an internet radio station, they’re heading for the big time. But they are not as good as they like to think they are. Ok, everyone has to start somewhere and grow, but they need to show some humility and give themselves time to learn their craft.

It is important to support bands that are good, not just any band because they are electronic. The trouble is, the entry point to electronic music, podcasting and blogging is very low so if everything is of a mediocre standard, it misrepresents the genre and no-one actually has a quality bar they can work towards. Healthy competition is a good motivator.


But when an act appears out of nowhere and has the potential to break into the mainstream like LA ROUX, MIRRORS or CHVRCHES, The Scene doesn’t like it and turns on them. The lack of recognition for MIRRORS still bothers me, I really miss them and it’s a shame that they didn’t stick together having delivered one brilliant album and a bunch of fabulous B-sides. People have caught onto them since retrospectively, but it’s a bit too late and now we’re stuck with average bands that go on and on and on!

As far as the UK is concerned, the most promising beacon of light for electronic pop is EAST INDIA YOUTH; he’s a bit like a one-man MIRRORS and it will be interesting to see how he progresses. There’s also Rodney Cromwell who is a bit more unorthodox and whose music I like very much. As they’re both solo acts, they can’t split up!

Will we see more unusual electronic music countries or trends that will rise and get more attention, instead of the traditional electronic music countries like the UK and Germany? I was thinking about the rising profile over the past few years for electronic music coming from, for example Canada, Australia, South Africa and even from my native country Sweden?

My favourite new act at the moment is KITE from Sweden. They have a melancholic, majestic sound that I love. To me, Sweden is the modern hub of electronic pop and has been for several years. When I visited Gothenburg for the 2015 Electronic Summer Festival, I was very impressed by the Swedish passion for electronic music; it appeared a lot more honest than in the UK and I really felt at home. It’s not just Sweden though, the Nordic region has been producing electronic acts of a very high standard, particularly Norway and Finland. VILLA NAH came from Helsinki and although they appear to be no more, they have at least morphed into SIN COS TAN who are really good.

North America is proving to be one area of growth for electronic music, with Canada being the most creative with acts like TR/ST, AUSTRA, GRIMES, PURITY RING and ELECTRIC YOUTH; but don’t forget the country has a cult tradition dating back to RATIONAL YOUTH and PSYCHE. The USA has some great acts too like SOFT METALS, NIGHT CLUB, FEATHERS and HYPERBUBBLE.

Germany is making a return, although to my ears, much of the new music coming from there is derivative, although of a good standard. But the emergent nation in electronic music appears to be China with Fifi Rong and QUIETER THAN SPIDERS being two of its most notable acts. I am pleased that ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK features acts from all around the world, and does not base itself around a single scene, city or country.

What are your expectations and hopes for electronic music in 2016?

I have learnt over the years to be quietly optimistic and not to have too many expectations… I always think it’s quite funny when bloggers announce that an album is “going to be brilliant” when they haven’t actually heard it yet, and then after its release, go “oh, actually, it’s not very good…” *laughs*

Obviously, I hope there is going to be lots of new high quality synthpop in 2016… if there isn’t, then the site will focus on being more retrospective, like with those career spanning Beginner’s Guides listings which we do and have become quite popular with readers. It’s a way of showcasing how good things have been in the past, so that new acts know what to aspire to.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK will not just feature sub-standard output just because it’s electronic. There’s a lot of new music out there, but it needs to stand the test of repeated listening; only time can tell if you were right or wrong… and we  got it wrong with a few acts that were featured in 2012 😉

People say to me the site should cover other forms of electronic music like dubstep and more leftfield sub-genres but frankly, I’m not interested… I know what I like and I’m happy to stand by it. When I was in Gothenburg, Alexander Hofman from S.P.O.C.K complimented me on the fact that ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK focusses on pop. As OMD once sang “It’s my direction, it’s my proposal…”

Speaking of whom, OMD have a new album pencilled in. I remember there was great anticipation about the comeback album ‘History Of Modern’ back in 2010, yet it turned out to be a major disappointment. So when it came to ‘English Electric’ in 2013, I expected nothing, but it was their best album for 30 years! I would like there to be another great OMD album, but I will not be too upset if it doesn’t happen. I got the album I’d been waiting for since 1984 with ‘English Electric’, so as far as I am concerned now, OMD have nothing left to prove.

On the other hand, DEPECHE MODE have plenty to prove again; they really need to take a leaf out of OMD’s book and regain some of that artistic high ground. But the thing is, OMD brought back their Alan Wilder ie Paul Humphreys and let him take control of the production reins; the end result of ‘English Electric’ speaks for itself 😉

This interview was originally published in Swedish at http://synth.nu/




Interview by Martin Brandhill with thanks to synth.nu
23rd March 2016

The Electronic Legacy of MUTE RECORDS

Without doubt, Mute Records is one of the most important record labels in the history of electronic music. 

While the early electronic legacy of Virgin Records helped the genre gain its first foothold in the mainstream, the discerning ethos of Mute has maintained its presence in both pop and more experimental fields.

Like many, Mute supremo Daniel Miller began taking an interest in synthesizers as tools for making pop music after hearing KRAFTWERK’s ‘Autobahn’. The son of Austrian Jewish refugees, he was DJing on the continent after completing his film studies course when he became enthralled by the Kling Klang sound.

He was inspired to make electronic music himself but at the time, the equipment was prohibitively expensive. That all changed with the advent of affordable synthesizers from Japan manufactured by the likes of Korg and Roland.

Already a fan of German kosmische scene, his sense of experimentation and an adoption of punk’s DIY ethic led him to buying a Korg 700s. Wanting to make a punk single with electronics, he wrote and recorded ‘Warm Leatherette’ b/w ‘TVOD’ for a one-off independent single release in 1978. He needed a label name and chose ‘Mute’ after the button that came on the equipment that he had used as a film studies student.

Distributed by Rough Trade, MUTE 001 was a surprise success and thanks to him including his mother’s North London home address on the back of the striking monochromatic crash test dummy sleeve, Miller started receiving cassettes from kindred spirits who were keen to explore the brave new electronic world; he realised that a new scene was developing.

Through his connections at Rough Trade, he became aware of former art student Frank Tovey. As FAD GADGET, Tovey recorded ‘Back To Nature’ which was issued as MUTE 002 in October 1979. A seminal work that was also critically acclaimed, it helped establish Mute’s credentials as a champion of electronic music.

The first album released on Mute was ‘Die Kleinen Und Die Bösen’ by German band DEUTSCH AMERIKANISCHE FREUNDSCHAFT (DAF) in March 1980. Miller had signed them because “they weren’t relying on past rock”. The majority of STUMM 1 was recorded with the legendary Conny Plank at the controls of the studio recordings, while the remainder came from tape of a live gig at London’s Electric Ballroom.

DAF set the ball rolling in furthering Mute’s aspirations, while the Germanic influence continued through into the label’s cataloguing system as the album prefix Stumm was the German word for Mute.

Meanwhile, Miller was fascinated about the idea of synthesizers as the future of popular music and conceived a teenage pop group who would use only synths; he called them SILICON TEENS although in reality, this was actually his solo electronic covers project. Something of a novelty, his cover of ‘Red River Rock’ ended up on the closing credits of the Steve Martin / John Candy comedy ‘Planes, Trains & Automobiles’ in 1987!

But Miller’s dream became flesh and blood when he came across a young quartet from Basildon called DEPECHE MODE. Signed on a handshake 50/50 deal, while the group was a chart success, they fragmented after their 1981 debut album ‘Speak & Spell’. However the remaining trio of Andy Fletcher, Dave Gahan and Martin Gore recruited Alan Wilder, soldiered on and the rest is history. Meanwhile, the departed Vince Clarke went on to further success with YAZOO, THE ASSEMBLY and ERASURE.

With the label’s commercial success, Mute were able to back more experimental releases from Germany including the quirky single ‘Fred Vom Jupiter’ by ANDREAS DORAU & DIE MARINAS, and ‘Los Ninos Del Parque’ by LIAISONS DANGEREUSES. Mute’s business ethos, where money made from record sales allowed acts to develop within a sympathetic creative environment free from interference, proved to be key to its artistic and financial prosperity.

As the label expanded over the years, further signings included EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN, NICK CAVE, LAIBACH, WIRE, BOMB THE BASS (through the Blast First subsidiary), INSPIRAL CARPETS, MOBY and GOLDFRAPP. Meanwhile Miller took the ultimate step in his love of German music, acquiring the rights to the music of CAN and becoming the winning bidder for the vocoder used on ‘Autobahn’ when it came up for auction!

In May 2002, Mute Records was bought by EMI for £23m, although Miller remained as a figurehead and in charge of the company’s global activities. The label became the brand for the multi-national’s electronic music activities and when KRAFTWERK’s back catalogue was finally remastered by EMI, it was released under the Mute banner.

However, with rapid changes occurring within the industry as a result of the new digital marketplace, EMI and Miller reached an agreement in September 2010 to establish a second independently run record label under the name Mute Artists for new acts, while the Mute Records name and rights to the label’s archive recordings remained under the control of EMI via its new owners Universal. As owners of their own catalogue, DEPECHE MODE formally ended their association with the label that launched them and signed a lucrative licencing agreement with Sony BMG.

But the Mute story continues with acts such as MAPS and Polly Scattergood, while Miller’s latest addition to the roster has been NEW ORDER whose new album ‘Music Complete’ will be out on 28th September 2015.

So what twenty albums or EPs best represent Mute’s electronic legacy? With a restriction of one release per artist moniker, here are ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s choices…

FAD GADGET Fireside Favourites (1980)

Following the success of singles ‘Back To Nature’ and ‘Ricky’s Hand’ with a small but loyal fanbase now established, a FAD GADGET album was eagerly anticipated. It came in September 1980 with ‘Fireside Favourites’ co-produced with Eric Radcliffe and John Fryer. it developed on the minimal industrialism of the singles. The superb ‘Coitus Interruptus’ was a cynical commentary on casual relationships while the Cold War tensions were documented on ‘Fireside Favourite’.

‘Fireside Favourites’ was released as STUMM 3


SILICON TEENS Music For Parties (1980)

Following the acclaim that was accorded to THE NORMAL, Daniel Miller decided to undertake a new project where rock ’n’ roll standards such as ‘Memphis Tennessee’, ‘Just Like Eddie’ and ‘Let’s Dance’ were reinterpreted in a synthpop style, with Miller singing like he had a clothes peg attached to his nose. With his inherent shyness, the vehicle he used was SILICON TEENS, a fictitious synth group where several young actors were hired to appear in videos and do press interviews.

‘Music For Parties’ was released as STUMM 2


YAZOO Upstairs At Eric’s (1982)

Disillusioned by the pop circus following the singles success of ‘New Life and ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’, Vince Clarke departed DEPECHE MODE in late 1981 and formed YAZOO with Alison Moyet. Although they only released two albums, YAZOO’s impact was long lasting. The debut ‘Upstairs at Eric’s’ was a perfect union of passionate bluesy vocals and pristinely programmed synthpop. Songs such as ‘Only You, ‘Don’t Go’, ‘Midnight’ and ‘Winter Kills’ set a high standard but Clarke and Moyet parted ways.

‘Upstairs at Eric’s’ was released as STUMM 7


ROBERT GÖRL Night Full Of Tension (1984)

In a departure from DAF’s pioneering electronic body music, drummer Robert Görl lightened up considerably with a solo synthpop record that even had him posing bare chested by a swimming pool on the cover. ‘Night Full Of Tension’ even featured vocal contributions from EURYTHMICS’ Annie Lennox on ‘Charlie Cat’ and ‘Darling Don’t Leave Me’. Although not featuring on the original LP, the brooding but accessible single ‘Mit Dir’ was an electronic cult classic and included on the CD reissue.

‘Night Full Of Tension’ was released as STUMM 16


ERASURE The Circus (1986)

Although success for ERASURE was not instant with debut album ‘Wonderland’ and its lost single ‘Oh L’Amour’, the chemistry between Clarke and Bell possessed a special spark. ERASURE toured the college circuit and built up a loyal fanbase, eventually hitting chart paydirt with ‘Sometimes’. ERASURE added political commentary ‘It Doesn’t Have To Be’ and ‘The Circus’ title track, while songs such as ‘Spiralling’ and ‘Hideaway’ confirmed they were more than just a great singles act.

‘The Circus’ was released as STUMM 35


LAIBACH Opus Dei (1987)

Controversial Slovenians LAIBACH played with Teutonic rhythms and Third Reich imagery, while their unique covers of QUEEN’s ‘One Vision’ and OPUS’ ‘Life Is Life’ indicated they were either ironic art terrorists or possibly, preachers of a dangerous political message. There were accusations of Mute tolerating artists having far right sympathies but with Daniel Miller’s Jewish heritage, this was unlikely. Their industrial torture made an impact with ‘Opus Dei’ and laid the foundations for many including RAMMSTEIN.

‘Opus Dei’ was released as STUMM 44


MARTIN GORE Counterfeit (1989)

‘Counterfeit’ allowed Gore to indulge in a mini-album of six covers with varying origins. The emotive traditional standard ‘Motherless Child’ revealed his love of the Blues while a great version of SPARKS’ ‘Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth’ was a fitting look back at the eccentric pop that would have fed the young Mr Gore. Reinterpretations of cult artists such as TUXEDOMOON, THE DURUTTI COLUMN and THE COMSAT ANGELS revealed there was a lot more to Gore’s record collection.

‘Counterfeit’ released as STUMM 67


DEPECHE MODE Violator (1990)

Why is ‘Violator’ so important and highly celebrated? It is still DEPECHE MODE’s most complete and accomplished body of work. It was the classic Fletcher/Gahan/Gore/Wilder line-up firing on all cylinders and at their most happiest as a unit. The end result was four hit singles but also songs such as ‘Halo’, ‘Waiting For The Night’ and ‘Clean’ which were easily their equal. And on ‘Blue Dress’, Gore’s lyrics possessed an honesty that while dark and deviant, still retained a naïve innocence that many could relate to.

‘Violator’ was released as STUMM 64


NITZER EBB As Is (1991)

‘As Is’ saw Essex industrialists NITZER EBB at the height of their imperial powers. Although produced by the band, each song was mixed by a different artist or producer. These included Jaz Coleman from KILLING JOKE, producer Flood and MAGAZINE’s Barry Adamson. But the best number was ‘Come Alive’ mixed by Alan Wilder which had the legacy of ‘Violator’ stamped all over it. Although the subsequent album ‘Ebbhead’ which was produced by Wilder and Flood, appeared sans ‘Come Alive’.

‘As Is’ was released as MUTE 122


RECOIL Bloodline (1992)

While there had been two EPs ‘1 + 2’ and ‘Hydrology’ by RECOIL, Alan Wilder’s solo sideline to DEPECHE MODE, it wasn’t until 1992 that there was a full length album. Entitled ‘Bloodline’, it featured vocals from NITZER EBB’s Douglas McCarthy, Toni Halliday of CURVE and MOBY. Wilder’s brooding electronic soundscapes and meticulous production made their presence felt and it was McCarthy’s contributions to a cover of THE ALEX HARVEY BAND’s ‘Faith Healer’ that stole the show.

‘Bloodline’ was released as STUMM 94


MOBY Everything Is Wrong (1995)

When MOBY was signed by Daniel Miller, he was considered to be a one hit wonder with ‘Go’ in 1991. His first proper album ‘Everything Is Wrong’ arrived in 1995. The superb instrumental ‘First Cool Hive’, the happy hardcore of ‘Feeling So Real’, the gospel punk of ‘All That I Need Is To Be Loved’ and the neo-classical ‘Hymn’ showcased his eclectic tastes. Miller’s tremendous foresight turned out to be a wise decision when the unexpected success of ‘Play’ in 1999 provided a boost in income for Mute.

‘Everything Is Wrong’ was released as STUMM 130



London-based duo Simon Leonard and David Baker began in 1982 as I START COUNTING and then morphed into FORTRAN 5. But as KOMPUTER, they created some heavily KRAFTWERK influenced numbers to make up for the lack of new material from Kling Klang. From their 4 track ‘EP’, ‘We Are Komputer’ was their own ‘The Robots’, while there was also the marvellous tribute to the first female Cosmonaut ‘Valentina Tereshkova’ which mined ‘The Model’.

‘Komputer’ was released as MUTE 175


PEACH Audiopeach (1997)

The concept of PEACH was ‘ABBA meets THE KLF’. Released in September 1997, ‘Audiopeach’ is one of those albums that has been lost in the midst of ‘Cool Britannia’. The album’s reputation was based on the participation of its two instrumentalists Pascal Gabriel and Paul Statham. Completing PEACH’s line-up was singer Lisa Lamb. The album’s launch single ‘On My Own’ was classic pop for the modern era with Lamb’s vocal delivery akin to Belinda Carlisle going electro.

‘Audiopeach’ was released as STUMM 153


ADD N TO (X) Add Insult To Injury (2000)

While LADYTRON were using their Korg MS20s making sinewaves in a more pop oriented setting, ADD N To (X) took their MS series synths into more obscure, experimental territory. ‘Add Insult To Injury’ had one half written / performed by Ann Shenton and Steve Claydon, while the other was written / performed by Barry 7. The wonderful robotic sexual tension of ‘Plug Me In’ was the highlight while the fun continued with the bouncy ‘Adding N To X’ and the creepy noise fest of ‘Hit For Cheese’.

‘Add Insult To Injury’ was released as STUMM 187


GOLDFRAPP Felt Mountain (2000)

One of Mute’s best ever albums, ‘Felt Mountain’ was a superb introduction to the then electro Weimar Cabaret cinematics of Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory. Beginning with the superb ‘Lovely Head’ with its spine tingling whistle and MS20 assisted banshee wails, the album thrilled with Morricone style widescreen inflections to accompany an ascent to the Matterhorn rather than a trek through a Spaghetti Western. ‘Felt Mountain’ was a slow burner that was deservedly nominated for the Mercury Music Prize.

‘Felt Mountain’ was released as STUMM 188


VINCENT CLARKE & MARTYN WARE Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle (2001)

‘Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle’ was composed in 2000 as part of an art installation where the colours referred to in the titles of the six lengthy pieces were ‘programmed to cross fade imperceptibly to create an infinite variation of hue’ in a white clothed room. Tracks like ‘White – You Are In Heaven’, ‘Yellow – You Are On A Beach’, ‘Blue – You Are Underwater’ and’ Green – You Are In A Forest’ were all utilised to full effect with a binaural 3D mixing technique best heard using headphones.

‘Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle’ was released as STUMM 194


CLIENT Client (2003)

In 2002, DUBSTAR’s Sarah Blackwood was recruited to front female synthpop duo TECHNIQUE by Kate Holmes. Somewhere in Leipzig supporting DEPECHE MODE, they became CLIENT and were mysteriously referred to as Client A and Client B in a ‘1984’ inspired Orwellian twist. Signed to Mute via Andy Fletcher’s Toast Hawaii imprint, they announced “Client… satisfaction guaranteed… innovate never imitate… we aim to please… at your service” before a “F*** OFF! DON’T TOUCH ME THERE!”

‘Client’ was released as TH 003


DAVE GAHAN Hourglass (2007)

His solo debut ‘Paper Monsters’ was a disappointment, but Gahan was still finding his feet as a songwriter, becoming more realised on ‘Playing The Angel’. His second album ‘Hourglass’ was better and ‘Kingdom’ could have made a great DM recording. But in the same way that Mick Jagger’s 1984 Nile Rodgers produced solo debut LP having very few takers meant that the ROLLING STONES would continue ad infinitum, would DEPECHE MODE still be going if Mr Gahan’s solo career had actually taken off?

‘Hourglass’ was released as STUMM 288


MAPS Vicissitude (2013)

While Mute continues to diversify, the more esoteric pop aspirations of Mute’s synthetic roster continues. MAPS is the vehicle of James Chapman; with a more expansive electronic template, his third album ‘Vicissitude’ was a selection of very personal songs with a strong melodic backbone. Unafraid to let the instrumental synth elements take a role in the overall aesthetic, tracks like ‘AMA’ and ‘You Will Find a Way’ put MAPS into the same league as M83 and EAST INDIA YOUTH.

‘Vicissitude’ was released as STUMM 354



POLLY SCATTERGOOD signalled the more electronic journey of her second album ‘Arrows’ with the marvellous electro-COCTEAU TWINS twist of ‘Wanderlust’. While there were still signs of her folkier roots, synthetic textures and technological trickery were very much part of the action. The sad but driving pop of ‘Falling’ and ‘Subsequently Lost’ attracted empathy with Polly World, while the highly emotive ‘Miss You’ and the dreamy ‘Cocoon’ displayed her passion and vulnerability.

‘Arrows’ was released as STUMM 328


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Simon Helm at Cold War Night Life
23rd June 2015


Integrated Circuits
Photo by Jack Robinson / Getty Images

Photo by Jack Robinson / Getty Images

With 2013 having been one of the strongest years in electronic pop since its post-punk heyday, 2014 was always going to struggle to compete,

This was despite it being the 50th Anniversary of the Moog synthesizer’s first prototype demonstration at the Audio Engineering Society convention in October 1964.

While 2014 was nowhere near in terms of the high profile releases of 2013 or even 2011, it certainly surpassed the comparatively quiet year of 2012.

But there were still a lot of live shows as momentum continued in support of the previous year’s releases with NINE INCH NAILS, GARY NUMAN, DEPECHE MODE, CHVRCHES, FEATHERS, GOLDFRAPP, COVENANT and SOFT METALS among those doing the rounds.

Electronic pioneer KARL BARTOS began the year with his first concert tour since 2003 in Germany. His ‘Off the Record’ live presentation highlighted the best of his KRAFTWERK co-compositions alongside excellent new material.

Coincidentally, on the same night Herr Bartos opened in Cologne, Ralf Hütter picked up a Lifetime Achievement Grammy on behalf of KRAFTWERK, thus finally validating electronic music in the traditionally synthphobic territory of the USA. And by the end of the year, there was even a belated nomination for The Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall Of Fame.

Staying in Germany, cult trio CAMOUFLAGE celebrated over 30 years in the business with a lavish package ‘The Box 1983-2013’ and a best of CD ‘The Singles’.

CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN though surprised everyone by strapping on an acoustic guitar for her third solo album ‘Where Else?’, but its mix of electronics and six string proved to be well received by her fans.

And on the subject of Germanic influences, Belgian duo METROLAND returned with their Kling Klang flavoured technopop courtesy of the multi-formatted single ‘Thalys’, a tie-in with the European high speed train operator and a rather original cover of ‘Close To Me’ for ‘A Strange Play – An Alfa Matrix Tribute To THE CURE’. Meanwhile, iEUROPEAN teamed up with Wolfgang Flür for some ‘Activity Of Sound’. Flür himself delighted KRAFTWERK fans by announcing he would be playing London gigs in the New Year.

MemeTune Studio in London’s trendy Shoreditch proved to be a hotbed of electronic activity throughout 2014.

Already the location for the largest array of vintage synthesizers in the UK, from the complex emerged fabulous music from the likes of HANNAH PEEL, GAZELLE TWIN and WRANGLER featuring ex-CABARET VOLTAIRE frontman Stephen Mallinder.

MemeTune even found time to curate its own live event ‘MUS_IIC.01’.

Well known for his connections with that stable, JOHN FOXX came back from a break (by his recent prolific standards) with the audio / visual collaboration ‘Evidence Of Time Travel’ in partnership with STEVE D’AGOSTINO.

Other Synth Britannia stalwarts were in action too. OMD celebrated their ‘Dazzle Ships’ era with a pair of concerts at the Museum Of Liverpool and SIMPLE MINDS continued their grandiose demeanour with ‘Big Music’. Meanwhile, MIDGE URE released a fine collection of songs entitled ‘Fragile’, his first of original solo material in 12 years; it also featured a great collaboration with MOBY entitled ‘Dark Dark Night’. As well as that, he worked on a track with Dutch composer Stephen Emmer for an orchestral laden crooner album called ‘International Blue’ which additionally featured his pal Glenn Gregory.

Mr Gregory wasn’t idle either, recording ‘Pray’ b/w ‘Illumination’, HEAVEN 17’s first new material since 2005’s Before After’.

He even found time to impersonate DAVID BOWIE for some special live shows performing ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ with Tony Visconti and Woody Woodmansey as HOLY HOLY.

And to cap it all, HEAVEN 17 presented ‘The Tour Of Synthetic Delights’ with BLANCMANGE, proving that heritage events could be both nostalgic and credible if the line-up was right.

After last year’s seasonal offering ‘Snow Globe’, ERASURE made a full return in 2014 with ‘The Violet Flame’, the marriage of Andy Bell and Vince Clarke showcasing their best work since 2005’s ‘Nightbird’. Interestingly, ‘The Violet Flame’ was launched via the crowdfunding platform Pledge Music, although this appeared to be more as a promotional tool and fan networking opportunity.

CHINA CRISIS went the Pledge Music route too, announcing their first album in 20 years entitled ‘Autumn In the Neighbourhood’ while also crowdfunded, YELLO’s Boris Blank delivered ‘Electrified’, a solo box set of unreleased material.

Not to be outdone, his YELLO bandmate Dieter Meier responded with his grouchy solo offering ‘Out Of Chaos’ which appeared to be a tribute to Tom Waits. And unexpectedly on the back of ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ becoming a terrace chant for Aberdeen FC’s Scottish League Cup victory, ex-HUMAN LEAGUE member Jo Callis launched a new project called FINGER HALO.

The enduring legacy of many of these veterans was celebrated in ‘Mad World: An Oral History of the New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s’, possibly the best book of its kind about that musical era which the Americans like to refer to as New Wave. Featuring brand new interviews with key protagonists like GARY NUMAN, OMD, NEW ORDER, DURAN DURAN, YAZOO, ULTRAVOX, A-HA and HEAVEN 17, it was a high quality publication that made up for some previously clumsy attempts by others at documenting the period.

Also a good read was Bernard Sumner’s memoirs ‘Chapter and Verse’ which covered his career to date with JOY DIVISION and NEW ORDER.

Coincidentally, Mark Reeder, the man often credited with introducing electronic dance music to Sumner, had a career spanning compendium called ‘Collaborator’ issued containing his earlier work as a member SHARK VEGAS, right up to his more recent remixes of DURAN DURAN’s John Taylor and Sumner’s various projects with BLANK & JONES and WESTBAM.

It was a particularly active year for the industrial scene; AESTHETIC PERFECTION toured Europe with their more accessible but still aggressive ‘Til Death’ opus while ASSEMBLAGE 23 frontman Tom Shear continued developing his SURVEILLANCE side project with ‘Oceania Remixed’. Swedish trio LEGEND gained acclaim for their live performances in support of their debut album ‘Fearless’, Texan duo IRIS released a new album ‘Radiant’ and DIE KRUPPS blasted their way into the South East of England for their first UK dates since 2008.

In more contemporary circles, LA ROUX finally released a second album, appropriately named ‘Trouble In Paradise’. Singer Elly Jackson had split with silent partner Ben Langmaid due to good old fashioned musical differences and as expected, the songs were less synthpoppy than the self-titled debut. Reaching for more disco orientated leanings such as CHIC, GRACE JONES and TOM TOM CLUB, this was if nothing, a more superior offering to either what LITTLE BOOTS or LADYHAWKE managed with their sophomore albums. North of the border, MARNIE did her bit for the Scottish Independence Campaign with the rousingly anthemic ‘Wolves’.

imogen + taylorThe delightfully eccentric IMOGEN HEAP showcased her innovative collaborative developments in music technology via her new album ‘Sparks’ and even squeezed in a collaboration with pop princess TAYLOR SWIFT for the latter’s million selling album ‘1989’.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK commented in 2012 about how CHVRCHES‘ ‘The Mother We Share’ sounded like “Taylor Swift gone electro”, so in a give some, take some back move, the young songstress came up with ‘Out Of The Woods’, a ditty quite obviously influenced by the Glaswegian trio and a synth laden tune entitled ‘New Romantics’ on the bonus edition.

By coincidence with her slight passing resemblance to Miss Swift, QUEEN OF HEARTS launched her debut musical charter ‘Cocoon’ after several years in the making to confirm that pop was indeed not a dirty word.

In the leftfield electronica arena, Warp Records issued ‘High Life’, a collaboration by KARL HYDE and BRIAN ENO while there was also the long awaited new album from APHEX TWIN entitled ‘Syro’. And former MASSIVE ATTACK producer DAVIDGE released an impressive debut collection of songs ‘Slo Light’ that featured SANDIE SHAW, CATE LE BON and EMI GREEN among its vocalists.

One act establishing themselves as major players in the modern electronic scene were Canada’s TR/ST. Led by the polarising “Eeyore gone goth” moodiness of Robert Alfons, the ironically titled ‘Joyland’ was an excellent second album that captured the sleazy nature of a 21st Century SOFT CELL and attached it to the grumpiness of Leonard Cohen.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn minimal duo XENO & OAKLANDER gave the world ‘Par Avion’, possibly their most accessible and colourful work yet. Also from the area came the shadowy huskiness of AZAR SWAN and the alternative mystique of REXXY. Over in LA, NIGHT CLUB showed further promise with their best offering yet in their third EP ‘Black Leather Heart’ while in San Antonio, HYPERBUBBLE launched an ‘Attack Of The Titans’.

Baltimore’s FUTURE ISLANDS however divided opinion; their fans included Andy McCluskey, Vince Clarke, Martyn Ware, Rusty Egan and Jori Hulkkonen, but their unintentionally amusing live appearance on ‘The David Letterman Show’ performing ‘Seasons’ came over to some observers like a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit on the 80s. However, with two sold out dates at London’s Roundhouse in March 2015, Samuel T. Herring and Co are the ones having the last laugh.

The Nordic region proved itself again to be the centre of electronic creativity. The dream partnership of ROBYN and RÖYKSOPP reconvened after the success of 2010’s ‘The Girl & The Robot’ to ‘Do It Again’ while RÖYKSOPP themselves released what they announced to be their last album, appropriately titled ‘The Inevitable End’.

Also featuring on that album was Nordic vocalist of the moment SUSANNE SUNDFØR who has her own new eagerly awaited long player ‘Ten Love Songs’ out in 2015.

KARIN PARK and MARGARET BERGER provided another united Scandinavian front when they performed together at Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix while Finnish duo SIN COS TAN delivered their third long player in as many years with a concept album called ‘Blown Away’.

From Sweden came the welcome return of KLEERUP with ‘As If We Never Won’, the first of two new EPs before an album to follow-up the brilliant self-titled debut from 2008. Meanwhile, EMMON delivered her fourth album ‘Aon’ as well as a baby. There was more glacial oddness from IAMAMIWHOAMI with her second album ‘Blue’ while the brooding Nordic Noir pop of stunning identical twins SAY LOU LOU started to gain a foothold in readiness for their first long player ‘Lucid Dreaming’.

Nordic friendly music blog Cold War Night Life curated possibly the best electronic event of the year with ‘An Evening With The Swedish Synth’ at London’s 93 Feet East. In a bill supported by the promising TRAIN TO SPAIN and synth rock duo MACHINISTA who delivered a great debut album in ‘Xenoglossy’, the event was headlined by synthpop veterans PAGE. Incidentally, Eddie Bengtsson of PAGE’s solo project SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN produced some interesting covers of OMD and DEVO, both reworked i Svenska.

And all this while ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK bore witness to a puzzled British musician who actually asked with a straight face “What’s so special about Sweden then?”!! ‘An Evening With The Swedish Synth’ was a fine example of what could be achieved when an electronic event was actually curated by electronic music enthusiasts, as this was not always the case in several instances during 2014.

Following a four year hiatus, CLIENT rebooted and released ‘Authority’ with new singer Client N doing a fine impersonation of MARNIE on the single ‘Refuge’. After a long gestation period, Anglo-German collective TWINS NATALIA released their debut long player ‘The Destiny Room’ and pleasantly wallowed in the neu romance of classic synthpop, dressing it with the vocal styles of GRACE JONES and ABBA.

TWINS NATALIA’s ‘The Destiny Room’ was released on Anna Logue Records who in 2015 will issue ‘Signs Of life’, the debut album from enigmatic South East Asian combo QUIETER THAN SPIDERS. Possibly the best new synthpop act to emerge in 2014, as befitting their name, they made their music, edited some videos and just discretely got on with it, thus proving the theory that those who shout loudest are not always necessarily the best…

kid moxie-twin peaksMARSHEAUX celebrated ten years in the business with a compilation called ‘Odyssey’ on the prestigious Les Disques Du Crépuscule label. They also announced an unusual project for 2015, an album covering DEPECHE MODE’s ‘A Broken Frame’ in its entirety. Also on Undo, KID MOXIE released her second album ‘1888’ featuring a collaboration with acclaimed film score composer Angelo Badalamenti to compliment her new cinematic pop approach. Meanwhile, one-time Undo label mates LIEBE started getting traction on MTV Europe and MIKRO maintained their position as Greece’s premier power pop band with their seventh album ‘New’ despite the departure of singer Ria Mazini following its unveiling.

From Dublin came the filmic ambience of POLYDROID while cut from a similar cloth, there was the haunting soundscapes of Trans-Belgian pairing MARI & THE GHOST. There were also several other promising female led talents ranging from the sugary pop of PAWWS and the quietly subversive electro of I AM SNOW ANGEL to the soulful moodiness of HUGH and the mysteriously smoky allure of FIFI RONG.

VILE ELECTRODES confirmed their position as the best independent electronic act in the UK currently when they snared not just one, but two Schallwelle Awards in Germany.

To celebrate the first anniversary of their brilliant debut album ‘The future through a lens’, the sparkling duo of Anais Neon and Martin Swan played alongside DEPECHE MODE tribute act SPEAK & SPELL for a wonderful evening that also featured SARAH BLACKWOOD.

Miss Blackwood gave spirited live vocal performances of several songs from her own career as part of a singing DJ set including ‘Justice’, her recent collaboration for the FOTONOVELA album ‘A Ton Of Love’. There was additionally the bonus of her duetting with SPEAK & SPELL on ‘A Question Of Time’ during their ‘101’ performance celebrating the film’s 25th anniversary.

Analog Angel-in-profilePossibly the best independently released album of 2014 came from Glasgow’s ANALOG ANGEL who freed themselves of their industrial shackles to produce a collection of sophisticated synthpop entitled ‘Trinity’.

Having been around since 2009 and with two albums already to their name, the Scottish trio put their money where their mouths were. Their decision to avoid crowdfunding and invest in their own music was an applaudable decision, especially when other bands, who were still yet to prove themselves, were out with the begging bowls.

Indeed, 2014 was a strange year in which ego appeared to overtake ability and none more so than on the live circuit, where that old adage about needing to learn to walk before running ran true. Wanabee promoters with no notable experience bit off more than they could chew by playing Fantasy Festival, as was proven by the Alt-Fest debacle.

Despite a much publicised crowdfunding exercise, the simple use of a pocket calculator would have shown that an event of such magnitude could not be underwritten by such a comparatively small amount of cash and anticipated ticket sales. When rumours abounded that Alt-Fest was to be cancelled due to a lack of funds, the organisers’ silence and lack of resolve caused much resentment. Risk is all part of the game, but live ventures require solid finance, spirited commitment and an attempt at least to get in the black.

Alt-Fest-cancelledHowever, a few promoters appeared to want to make life difficult for themselves from the off. In its investigations, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK found that with one poorly attended event back in 2013, there was no way the event could have balanced its books, even if it had sold out its ticket capacity!

Meanwhile, there was another gig in 2014 publicised so covertly with restricted social media and bizarre pricing structures, it was as if the promoters didn’t want anyone to attend! Of course, there was also that tactic of announcing an event almost a year in advance without confirming any of the acts for several months, as if the event was more important than any of the music!

As Whitby Goth Weekend’s Jo Hampshire pointed out: “Alt-Fest had put its tickets on sale while still booking acts including headliners, which is potentially disastrous”! Despite the general feeling that independently curated live initiatives should be anti-corporate, everything is about business at the end of the day.

However, a number of promoters at this end of the market failed to realise this. Any artists performing must be paid their expenses and fees as per any agreement, regardless of the final ticket sales unless terms such as door percentages or ticket sale buy-ons have been arranged.

But as one-time TECHNIQUE singer Xan Tyler pointed out: “Musicians get ripped off at every turn, online stores take a huge cut, Spotify don’t remunerate artists properly, venues expect you to play for bugger all (and in some case they expect you to pay to play). If you want to make money from the music industry, don’t be a musician!”

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK is coming into its fifth anniversary and continues to maintain a readership of discerning music fans, despite protestations in some quarters to the contrary.

The site’s manifesto has always been about celebrating the best in new and classic electronic pop music.

It has never made claims about supporting unsigned acts or any music that happens use a synthesizer.

As Client A put it franklyin the Autumn: “in the electronica age, anyone can be a musician but that also makes it a free for all with every tom, dick or curly clogging up the internet with their crap music…”

Meanwhile, NIGHT CLUB added: “People forget about things so quickly these days because the internet is so inundated with crap…”

So ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK considers what music it features very, very carefully. it may not manage to be first, like many so-called buzz blogs try to be, but it has always had longevity in mind, even if that is difficult to predict.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK Contributor Listings of 2014


Best Album: TODD TERJE It’s Album Time
Best Song: RÖYKSOPP & ROBYN Do It Again
Best Gig: NINE INCH NAILS at Nottingham Arena
Best Video: MAPS You Will Find A Way
Most Promising New Act: TODD TERJE


Best Album: RÖYKSOPP The Inevitable End
Best Song: RÖYKSOPP featuring JAMIE IRREPRESSIBLE Something In My Heart
Best Gig: COVENANT + LEGEND at Gothenburg Electronic Summer Festival
Best Video: PRINCESS CENTURY Das Schlimmste
Most Promising New Act: LEGEND


Best Album: MIDGE URE Fragile
Best Song: MIDGE URE Dark, Dark Night
Best Gig: THE RADIOPHONIC WORKSHOP at Glasgow Quayside
Best Video: IMOGEN HEAP The Listening Chair
Most Promising New Act: WRANGLER


Best Album: ERASURE The Violet Flame
Best Song: ANALOG ANGEL Drive
Best Gig: DEPECHE MODE at Strasbourg Zénith
Best Video: DIE KRUPPS Robo Sapien
Most Promising New Act: PAWWS


Best Album: RÖYKSOPP The Inevitable End
Best Song: RÖYKSOPP featuring JAMIE IRREPRESSIBLE I Had This Thing
Best Gig: GARY NUMAN at Hammersmith Apollo
Best Video: KID MOXIE Lacuna
Most Promising New Act: TWINS NATALIA


Best Album: MIDGE URE Fragile
Best Song: ANALOG ANGEL The Last Time
Best Gig: KARL BARTOS at Cologne Live Music Hall
Best Video: LIEBE I Believe In You
Most Promising New Act: QUIETER THAN SPIDERS


Best Album: ERASURE The Violet Flame
Best Song: SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN Stadens Alla Ljus
Best Gig: ANDY BELL in ‘Torsten The Bareback Saint’ at London St James Theatre
Best Video: ANDY BELL I Don’t Like
Most Promising New Act: PULSE


Best Album: ERASURE The Violet Flame
Best Song: POLLY SCATTERGOOD Subsequently Lost
Best Gig: PET SHOP BOYS at Brighton Dome
Best Video: JOHN FOXX B-Movie
Most Promising New Act: PAWWS

Text by Chi Ming Lai
9th December 2014

XAN TYLER Interview

Xan Tyler is perhaps best known in electronic music circles as the vocalist of cult synthpop duo TECHNIQUE.

The brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Kate Holmes, the concept was a female interpretation of PET SHOP BOYS crossed with NEW ORDER’s post-punk edge, hence the moniker after the Mancunian quartet’s fifth album.

The pair had two minor hit singles ‘Sun Is Shining’ and ‘You & Me’ in 1999, both under the auspices of acclaimed producer Stephen Hague while a mini-album ‘Pop Philosophy’ belatedly came out in 2001. As a result, TECHNIQUE were booked to support DEPECHE MODE in Europe but Tyler was unavailable for the tour, rumoured to be AWOL. DUBSTAR’s Sarah Blackwood was recruited to replace her and the new duo eventually became CLIENT in 2002.

xan tyler-Kelly McintyreMeanwhile, Xan Tyler continued to work on a variety of projects and has now unleashed a new EP ‘Into The Blue’ which adopts an electro-acoustic flavour not entirely dissimilar from Hannah Peel, particularly on the spacious piano-led title track. The jazz flavoured ‘Rainmaker’ could be a British take on Julee Cruise while ‘No One Like You’ is a pretty, atmospheric number with sweeps and beeps alongside some acoustic strumming. ‘Stop The Clock’ adds a drum machine to the EP’s template but ‘If’ takes an even more electronic stance with the beats taking a more prominent role. Closing with ‘This Room’, it is this one that perhaps is most reminiscent of TECHNIQUE despite the six string picking.

Now based in Scotland, Xan Tyler kindly spoke to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about her career, the new approach to her music and heading ‘Into The Blue’…

You first became known to the synth world as part of TECHNIQUE with Kate Holmes. How do you look back on that time?

Really fondly… before that, I had been a jobbing singer, touring and doing the odd session here and there. Then all of a sudden I was doing live telly, making expensive videos and partying on expenses. I had a great time.

TECHNIQUE were signed to Creation but were out of place with the post-Britpop mood of the times. The music environment was not as sympathetic to electronic pop, particularly fronted by women, then as it is now… the press appeared to be quite hostile to you?

Well, not all of them were hostile, we did get some great press but yeah, it was tough here in the UK. We did better in Europe and Japan in that respect. The British press just couldn’t get past Kate’s relationship with Alan McGee. Despite her being an established artist in her own right years before she met Alan, the British press were just obsessed with it and it really got in the way. Also, I do think musically we were a bit early. We paved the way for others… including CLIENT!

But TECHNIQUE were vindicated when ‘You & Me’ became a hit in China via a cover version by Coco Lee in 2000?

Well, it was covered by Coco, so obviously I had very little to do with that but I was chuffed for Kate because she did well out of it. It was a nice two fingers up to all the doubters.

TECHNIQUE worked with Stephen Hague and seven tracks appeared on the ‘Pop Philosophy’ mini-album via Poptones in 2001 after Creation folded. Mr Hague is known for his ‘painstaking’ approach’, how close were you to finishing a full length album?

‘Pop Philosophy’ was always going to be a mini-album. It’s a cracking little album and I still get messages from TECHNIQUE fans that say they listen to it often. Stephen Hague is a genius.

TECHNIQUE supported DEPECHE MODE on tour in 2001 but you were not part of it and the group eventually morphed into CLIENT. What’s your side of the story and do you have any regrets?

At the time, I was working with Timo Maas on Positiva and I was involved with a club night in London that clashed with the tour. It was only one night that clashed as I remember and with hindsight I probably shouldn’t have blown out the whole DM tour for it but no, I don’t regret it. That time was an important turning point for me personally and career-wise… it was meant to be. If Sarah Blackwood hadn’t come in at that point, CLIENT wouldn’t have happened… that was also meant to be. Kate and I wouldn’t have evolved into CLIENT. Besides, if I had done the tour, I wouldn’t have had the enjoyment of reading press reports that described me as AWOL!

You subsequently worked in the dance scene. How did you find this compared with TECHNIQUE and which of your tracks/collaborations were your particular highlights?

It wasn’t all dance music after TECHNIQUE. I also did a dub album with MAD PROFESSOR, which featured a guest vocal from Lee Scratch Perry. That was released on Poptones too. ORINOKO was the highlight of my dance chapter. I collaborated with Timo Maas and Martin Buttrich on that track and at the time, the two of them were massive. Positiva was a really cool label and they were putting out amazing stuff – it was nice being a part of that scene.

In 2011, there came the surprising news that you were to join CLIENT. But what happened there?

TECHNIQUE 1999It was after Sarah had left CLIENT and I visited Kate in Wales. At the time, Kate was busy setting up her Client London brand but she knew she wanted to do another album and that there might be a tour. She asked me if I would stand in on any gigs and I said yes. It was only ever going to be for live shows and as it turned out, nothing came in before the start of the album. Kate and I are good mates. Who knows, we might collaborate again in the future.

You’ve finally gone solo and have a brand new EP ‘Into the Blue’ which, while having an electronic base, explores more acoustic territory?

Yeah, I’ve always listened to wide mix of different music and I wanted to make something that reflected my varied tastes. Stuart Crossland (producer) and I were involved in the London underground scene near the end of my involvement with TECHNIQUE. We shared a lot of ideas about music across a lot of genres and it was only a matter of time before we would collaborate on some kind of creative project. We have bonded over everything from folk, pop, deep house to techno. We didn’t feel we needed to restrict ourselves during this project. We finally got together in 2013 when Stuart found time from his busy schedule at Artspace Studios. It was a collaboration that was destined to happen and it brought together a whole load of influences and artists to create an interesting mix of sounds.

What is the story behind ‘This Room’, which is probably the track that’s a good entry point for anyone who has been aware of your previous work?

I actually feel any of the last three songs on the EP are a good starting point for those people as they are all more rooted in an electronic vein.

‘This Room’ is about a break up but it’s also about the sense you can get when you’re in a relationship that you’ve lost yourself and don’t recognise who you once were. The industrial noises and beats really give a sense of that loneliness. But above and beyond, it’s simply a really good dance track.

What are your particular favourites from the ‘Into the Blue’ EP and why?

The first track, ‘Into the Blue’ is about strength and courage coming from a delicate source. I wanted it to be spacious and light. When the flugelhorn and trombone come in during the chorus it feels bright and hopeful. I love that moment because it sounds exactly the way I heard it in my head when I wrote it!

Stuart and I both wanted a retro sound for ‘Rainmaker’ and Jamie Fisher came in and put down these incredible Mark Ronson-esque drums. They are perfection. On ‘No One Like You’ I really love the double bass played by Andy Tolman. The song is about unrequited love and somehow the double bass gives both sadness and hope. It’s lovely. I’ll never tire of hearing those horns (Titch Walker and Kieron O’Neill) kick in either… I’m a sucker for a horn section!

‘If’ is a bit of a nod to James Figurine (DNTEL) who Stuart and I both rate. I really love the production of that track and the beats are sublime.

I’m aware that the tracks are all quite different from each other but I think there is a thread running through them that ties them together. My voice and writing style alongside Stuart’s incredible production… I think it works, hopefully others will too.

This is your first release without label backing. So what is the future for an artist of your position in this modern music world? Is it crowdfunding? Or does an artist now have to aim for it to perhaps be a sustainable hobby while juggling a day job?

It’s really hard to make money through music now more than ever. The industry is going through a shake up and big bands are giving away their music. Musicians get ripped off at every turn, online stores take a huge cut, Spotify don’t remunerate artists properly, venues expect you to play for bugger all (and in some case they expect you to pay to play). If you want to make money from the music industry, don’t be a musician!

As for me, I’m putting together a live set and rehearsing for gigs next year. I’m promoting this EP and already writing songs for the next one.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Xan Tyler

Special thanks also to Sara Jones Management

‘Into The Blue’ is available via https://xantyler.bandcamp.com/album/into-the-blue-ep




Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Portrait Photos by Kelly McIntyre
7th December 2014, updated 27th February 2015

CLIENT Interview

CLIENT Authority3After a five year long hibernation, CLIENT are back with a new line-up and studio album ‘Authority’.

With original vocalist Client B leaving the band in 2010, the future looked uncertain for CLIENT but with the release of the preceding singles ‘You Can Dance’ and ‘Refuge’, new lead vocalist Client N was revealed.  ‘Authority’ starts with a news monologue that states “The prime goal of government is to protect the minority of the opulent from the majority…”

After four albums including two released by Mute Records via Andy Fletcher’s Toast Hawaii imprint and a hiatus of four years since the departure of original vocalist Client B, the UK pioneers of female electronica are back, albeit in a rebooted format.

CLIENT 2.0 feature a new vocalist Client N on their fifth long player ‘Authority’ which has been hailed as a return to the group’s roots in minimal electronic pop music when they attracted fans as diverse as Karl Bartos, Martin Gore, Robert Görl, Carl Barât and Pete Doherty.

Certainly the excellent first single from the new line-up launched in 2013 from the album didn’t disappoint. Dynamic and club friendly, ‘You Can Dance’ lyrically reflected on the chemical reliance associated with clubland and managed to even sound like Frida fronting FAD GADGET. Even better though was the second single ‘Refuge’ with Client A’s surreal Cold War disco essence being complimented by Client N’s vocals reminiscent of LADYTRON’s Helen Marnie.

Meanwhile, the album’s remaining ten tracks all possess the hard edged but danceable synthesized template that has been CLIENT’s trademark over the years. The opening title track begins like a routine Euro synthpop tune but then mutates into a discordant chorus for something quite unusual while the vibrant synthbass driven ‘Obsession’ with it rich gated melodies and the electro power rock of ‘Design’ continue the sub- LADYTRON vibe. A big surprise is the HI-NRG cowbells on ‘XXX Action’ although the end result is more of a distorted rhythmical groove than an actual song.

Now, as Client morphed from a group called TECHNIQUE, it’s not surprising that some enjoyable New Order influences continue to linger, particularly on tracks like ‘After Effect’ and ‘Faith’. And in another nod to their past, ‘Artificial’ with its electro boogie-woogie shuffle sounds like it could have come from one of Client’s earlier long players, as does the pretty beat ballad ‘The Shining Path’. Producer David Francolini of DRAGONS and LEVITATION fame does a good job of fusing minimal electronics and post-punk gloom as on the Siouxsie goes electro snarl of ‘Quarantine’. And risks are taken with the sub-nine minute ‘Nocturnal Eyes’; imagine Joanne and Susanne of THE HUMAN LEAGUE going all prog synth!

Long standing fans may dismiss ‘Authority’ as not being CLIENT … this is CLIENT, but as with governments entering their second term, there’s been a cabinet reshuffle though the manifesto still remains. So for those who do miss the presence of Client B aka Sarah Blackwood, there’s always her two vocal contributions ‘Justice’ and ‘Beautiful’ on Fotonovela’s recent ‘A Ton Of Love’ LP.

Client A remains the driving force behind the act, but has now been joined musically by David Francolini – a producer / musician with a pretty diverse musical background. She kindly spoke about what motivated her to reboot CLIENT, some of the act’s history and what we can expect from the new album.

There is a new member in Client N, and production duties on ‘Authority’ have been taken over by David Francolini, formally of Dragons and indie rock bands Levitation and Strangelove. How does it feel to return after what appears to have been an uncertain number of years?

Well it was certainly my intention not to ever make a CLIENT record again after the split with Client B. I had become jaded, worn out, burnt out and had decided that fashion and horse riding were my new joie de vivre! BUT then I met David Francolini by chance and he said he loved CLIENT and would love to work with me… he said he would start on some music and we could then collaborate … which is what happened and exactly a year after we met to the date, ‘Authority’ was born!

CLIENT you can canceThe production on the new album appears to be much smoother and more lush sounding than on previous CLIENT outings?

I think it is just a little heavier… more drum-based, less guitar so sounds smoother…

How did Client N find adapting to a very different style of music environment from what she has been used to? Has there been any particular electronic acts she has newly discovered and enjoyed?

Although Client N has another side to her musically, she is embracing the journey that joining CLIENT has brought and jumping in the electronic pop pool has been great for discovering a world of electronic pop and at the moment, she is playing CHVRCHES a lot.

How would a typical CLIENT song come together with the two of you for the new album?

We did a lot over the internet and Skype, and then would meet in Bristol to finalise.

New single ‘Refuge’ has quite a melancholic vibe to it, what is the concept behind this song?

This song speaks about a lifetime of making mistakes, however when one door closes another door opens.

The syncopated bassline on ‘You Can Dance’ is like a more funkier / rhythmic LADYTRON… what has influenced this looser dance direction?

Well I love LADYTRON, NEW ORDER… all the electro gurus but with ‘Authority’, I wanted people to be able to actually dance, so the BPMs are a little faster….

The opening voice you hear on the title track ‘Authority’ states that “The prime goal of government is to protect the minority of the opulent from the majority”. Considering we are living in very dark times at the moment, should more musicians use their position to make an active political stance?

I never really think music and politics mix as people are either great politicians or great musicians – unless you talk about the folk heroes like Dylan who was the real deal and of course the black singers like Billie Holiday. Now everything is diluted and no-one wants to offend anyone… what there is of politics in music is virtually non-existent except perhaps PUSSY RIOT, but they are more of an art group symbolising what is so bad about Russia today… great politics and message but the music is unlistenable!

With the somewhat fluid CLIENT line-up changes down the years, don’t you ever worry about morphing into an underground SUGABABES?

I have always rather liked the SUGABABES!!! No honestly, people change, music changes… but the identity can still be a factor. We could have changed the name from CLIENT but as the brand has an (albeit small) fanbase, it seemed logical to keep the name and change the face.

CLIENT’s identity was initially kept strictly under wraps with the members’ faces being deliberately kept out of shot. How do you think things in female fronted pop are nowadays, where sometimes there is very little left to the imagination?

Pop music now is a mixture of cool greatness (LANA DEL REY) and vulgarity (X Factor wannabes and bad R’n’B)… I could despair but you just have to soldier on… I love to make the new image for each album become a reality and for ‘Authority’, took ‘The Sopranos’ New Jersey and melded it with the Sicilian mafia….

In a bit of a change of tact, ‘Authority’ is also the first CLIENT album cover to feature its members from the neck up… any thoughts?

We were bored!!! Wanted a change!!!!

The music industry has changed quite brutally and significantly since CLIENT started in 2002, how challenging do you find it releasing electronic pop in the current musical climate?

Pretty challenging as it seems no-one really cares about music or reveres it like before… in the electronica age, anyone can be a musician but that also makes it a free for all with every tom, dick or curly clogging up the internet with their crap music…

It’s hard … you have to only do music for love now…

How do you look back on your time with Andrew Fletcher’s Toast Hawaii imprint and Mute Records? And how has your relationship with Out Of Line differed, especially with the recent changes within the CLIENT camp?

We had the best time with Toast Hawaii and the Andy Fletcher years….honestly it was the stuff of a reality TV show!!! But things have to change and we ended up with the brilliant and business-like Out Of Line who have worked their socks off for CLIENT, so we love them for that!

Previous CLIENT collaborations have notably included Martin L Gore, THE LIBERTINES, DIE KRUPPS and NITZER EBB. Are there any dream acts or artists you would love to work with on a future CLIENT release?

Can I dream? DAVID BOWIE please… or even a great young female singer… or MARNIE.

How are things coming along for the German tour in the Autumn? What are the plans for the format and instrumental make-up of the new live band?

We’ve just done Electronic Summer in Sweden …very hard, loud with the sweet voice of Client N…

What’s next for CLIENT?

Anything and Everything!

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Client A

Additional thanks to Matt Reynolds at Savage Gringo PR

‘Authority’ is available as a CD via Out Of Line Records or as a download from iTunes and Amazon

CLIENT’s 2014 German tour includes:

Essen Hotel Shanghai (18th October), HamburgTurmzimmer (19th October), Berlin Berghain Kantine (20th October), Cologne Blue Shell (21st October), Munich Strom (22nd October)




Interview by Paul Boddy
Additional Text by Chi Ming Lai
25th September 2014

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