Tag: Cold War Night Life (Page 2 of 4)


Montréal’s RATIONAL YOUTH were founded in 1980 by synth enthusiasts Tracy Howe and Bill Vorn.

Along with PSYCHE and MEN WITHOUT HATS, they were among the trailblazers for electronic pop in Canada, a country that has more recently produced acclaimed acts such as GRIMES, PURITY RING, AUSTRA, TR/ST, ELECTRIC YOUTH, PARALLELS, MECHA MAIKO and LOLA DUTRONIC.

Later joined by Kevin Komoda, RATIONAL YOUTH quickly made an impression and supported OMD at Auditorium Le Plateau in March 1982. Shortly after, the trio released ‘Cold War Night Life’, one of the first ever Canadian synthpop albums. It was later to became a cult favourite in Sweden where its influence was readily felt in their domestic electronic scene. Indeed, a 1997 RATIONAL YOUTH reunion concert with Howe and Vorn took place in Lund, Sweden.

Today, Tracy Howe remains the main man of RATIONAL YOUTH with his wife Gaenor ably augmenting the line-up for recordings and live shows.

Featuring ‘Here It Comes Again’, an EP of new material ‘Future Past Tense’ was released in 2016 and showcased ‘This Side Of The Border’, a burst of futuristic sci-fi electronica with a typically gloomy lyric from Howe that captured the tensions of the world’s current socio-political climate. It’s as if the fall of the Berlin Wall never happened and for that reason alone, RATIONAL YOUTH’s observational ethos is poignantly relevant again.

Meanwhile this year, RATIONAL YOUTH recorded a charming cover of ‘Flash In The Night’ for the ‘Night City Tribute’ album to the popular Swedish new wave pop band SECRET SERVICE, the 1982 original of which was a No5 in France.

RATIONAL YOUTH will be playing live in London for the first time at Non Stop Electronic Cabaret on Saturday 29th September 2018. Presented by Cold War Night Life, the triple header will also feature PSYCHE and Swedish poptronica veterans PAGE.

Tracy Howe kindly chatted to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK following completion of this summer’s ‘Canadian Synth Legends Tour’ with PSYCHE…

‘Cold War Night Life’ is considered a landmark in Canadian independent music and now a number of the song’s themes have become relevant again?

Well they seem prophetic now because we seem to be at a similar point in history.

In 1982, it wasn’t just the Cold War, it was the Cold War being fought by Reagan, Brezhnev, Andropov and Chernenko. The doomsday clock was pretty close to midnight. It felt very much like it does now, you know, a sense of impending doom.

Now we seem to have some sort of coordinated US-Russia global push toward authoritarianism and nativism, and rule by oligarchs, and the whole post-World War Two international consensus is being blown to bits. It feels like we are on shaky ground. The ‘Cold War Night Life’ album was about trying to enjoy life under trying circumstances.

What bands most influenced the sound of RATIONAL YOUTH?

Obviously KRAFTWERK, because when we started there weren’t really many other models yet for an all synthesizer band; and also the early HUMAN LEAGUE, and post-punk artists like ULTRAVOX and MAGAZINE. We also liked KLAUS SCHULZE and TANGERINE DREAM, and projects like CLUSTER & ENO. Bill Vorn and I started the band because we both liked this music, and had synthesizers, and the idea was to combine some of the cool minimalism of KRAFTWERK with more specifically song-oriented composition and vocals.

What particular synthesizers were you using for the ‘Cold War Night Life’ album and how did you find them to use?

It’s quite a list. We had three Roland System 100s, and a Roland System 700. These were modular synths that were controlled by a Roland MC4 Micro-Composer, which was a digital sequencer that could output CV and gate to four monophonic synths.

So most of the sequenced stuff went through all that. We also had Roland and Korg analog sequencers that could be synched to that stuff too, and then we had a Roland CR78 first and then a TR-808 drum machine.

We also had a Roland SH5, Moog Source, a Pro-One, a Logan String Melody II and a Roland SVC350 vocoder. The sequencing with the MC4 was much more labour intensive and tedious than it is today with Logic or something, you basically entered the notes in one at a time with several steps involved in formatting that one note. On the other hand it was pre-MIDI so the clocks on those machines were fast and tight, really punchy.

As a one-time drummer, you must have found the Roland TR808 something of a revelation?

Well, I believe we bought one of the first ones to come into Canada. The programmability was mind-blowing, so intuitive, and it had a fair amount of storage. The CR78 had four memory presets and the rest was organ lounge accompaniment, so right away the 808 was liberating. The other thing was the sound, which we all know. I remembered how inspired we were when we got that thing. We plugged it in the first time and it blew our faces off it was so nasty. As time went on, we used Linns and so on, but now I keep coming back to 808 sounds. It kind of defined our sound in a lot of ways really.

Can you remember much about opening for OMD at Montréal’s Auditorium Le Plateau in 1982?

Yes, I remember being really nervous! It was a fairly large concert hall, a thousand seats or so, and this was going to be only our second-ever gig. I remember showing up while OMD’s sound check was going on and before that I thought you know “‘Enola Gay’, ‘Electricity’, it’s not THAT different from us”, but they had a live drummer and they were sound checking his kick drum and floor tom through this massive PA and it sounded like the hammer of Thor, and I thought “hello, we’re going to sound ridiculous next to this!”.

As it turned out, it went over really well and people seemed to react to us in a way that indicated that they’d never seen or heard anything quite like it, and we got mentioned in the daily press reviews of the concert positively, so it was really a thrill for us.

‘Holiday In Bangkok’ is considered by many to be one of RATIONAL YOUTH’s signature tunes but comes a few different versions, which one is the definitive one for you?

Arguably the first one from 1983, because it’s got a harder edge than the 1985 one. They’re essentially the same tracks, just mixed differently. I like the live version too.

The RATIONAL YOUTH back catalogue is rather awkwardly spread out over a number of labels, have you any thoughts on how the music industry has changed over the last 15 years in particular?

I honestly can’t moan about how things are now, because we were actively (and idealistically) promoting the sort of deconstruction of the record industry that we see the result of now from the moment we started.

The way we recorded was a precursor to the in-the-box home recording that has democratised everything to do with the way records are made now. We would come into a recording studio with half of the stuff already programmed, set up the gear, tell the guy to press record and hey presto, there’s half of the record recorded. They’d never seen that in Montreal before. It was already commonplace in London of course. And today, I’m very happy to be able to make a really decent record at home, and get somebody good to master it (and that process has changed too).

As for how it gets distributed, I suppose I am not thrilled about streaming, simply because of the miniscule remuneration artists get, but then I never made anything off records under the old model anyway, so what has changed? You know THE BEATLES’ royalty rate for their first Parlophone record was a PENNY (1d) a side.

A nice thing about the way things are now is it seems as though the vinyl revival is for real. So the reward for me is being able to make real records, they may not sell lots, but we can keep doing it, and to me a vinyl record is a real artefact, like when a painter does a lithograph and prints a certain number of copies. You feel more like you created something tangible than an audio file on the cloud somewhere.

Why have you recently decided not to play the US for the foreseeable future?

We live in Canada, only 45 minutes from the US border. I actually knew Canadians who died fighting for the US-led coalition in Afghanistan. We spent a lot of blood and treasure over the last century being good little allies to them. Now this Trump regime is attacking us in trade disputes because they have decided we are a security threat to the US, and accordingly their Department of Homeland Security is going hardcore on the border (not the one with Mexico, the one with us) and have been harassing Canadians trying to cross.

This has gotten worse since Canada legalised marijuana, and they have been banning Canadians for life if they say the wrong thing. But more than that, we just see them veering very close to all-out authoritarianism, and this is not just a sneaky coup, they are doing this daily, and it’s all out in the open.

The model appears to be something like Russia, where you have elections but you know, it’s an authoritarian regime in thrall to oligarchs. It seems obvious to me. Certainly there is some resistance, but apparently 40% of Americans are 100% per cent behind this racist, theocratic regime that above all else seems to be hell-bent on destroying the environment of this planet with their systematic dismantling of any standards they did have. 40% is a higher level of electoral support than Adolf Hitler had when he became chancellor of Germany in a hung parliament. Remember when we used to always wonder how the Germans let Hitler come to power? Well, now we know.

So I could say it’s like in the days of Apartheid South Africa and that “I ain’t going to play in Sun City”, or just say that, except for a few places on the two coasts where it might be nice to play, we can just as easily not go there, and go somewhere nicer.

‘This Side Of The Border’ from 2016 seems to have prophetically summed up this situation?

Yes, because we like to think that in Canada, we try to have an inclusive society which is more egalitarian, with a greater sense of collective responsibility, than on the other side of the border. And I’ll admit that we Canadians are second to none in the holier than thou department, but we have our own Boris Johnsons and Donald Trumps too, although they don’t hold sway yet. That’s why the song says “Maybe here on this side of the border, there is still a chance that things can change”.

‘Future Past Tense’ was the first longer form collection of all-new RATIONAL YOUTH material for many years, was it a cathartic experience to channel some of that midlife angst?

Oh yes, unquestionably. It really was very much that. And getting back to your very first question, it just feels right to be doing this now, whereas for many years it didn’t make any sense to me to do it.

Thank God people who always liked us stayed with us and were there to welcome us back.

Has the album as a vehicle had its day, are EPs and singles the way to go?

I’m not sure about that. I think in mainstream pop music albums are much less important now, especially since so much of it is consumed online, but for our sort of music I think all three formats have a place.

For me, if it’s an LP or an EP, it’s got to have a fully formed identity. Our last record was an EP, and we deliberately wanted it to be, so that it could be a 10 inch. We just really wanted a 10 inch record, so the form was important conceptually. The next one will most likely be a full-length LP, but that doesn’t mean we won’t do another EP. I’ve always loved EPs though. I have all these vintage EPs by THE SHADOWS, THE BEATLES and CILLA BLACK which are 7 inch 45s with four tracks on them.

RATIONAL YOUTH remain popular in Scandinavia, why do you think your music has an enduring appeal in that region?

Well that’s an easier question than how they latched onto us in the first place. I think the Swedes have a natural affinity for synth music, and pop music, and thus, synthpop. And for whatever reason, the generation who were in their teenage years in the 1980s have passed it on to their children. And the older ones are incredibly loyal, and if they loved you then they love you forever. And perhaps they relate to it because bands like COVENANT have always said nice things about us being an influence and that contributes to it. It’s really a second home for us.

What did you think of the ‘Heresy: A Tribute To RATIONAL YOUTH’ collection’ put together by the Cold War Night Light website which you also contributed to?

It was absolutely a treasure and such an honour, the sort of thing you would never imagine would happen.

And there were so many great versions of our songs, some of them were better than our version to be honest!

Just a lovely package too. We are not worthy.

How do you feel about playing in London for the first time alongside PSYCHE and PAGE this September?

I’ve dreamt of playing in the UK since I was a kid. I used to sit in school at the back of the class making up imaginary tours, where I’d be in a band playing such venues as De Montfort Hall in Leicester, The Cambridge Corn Exchange and Leeds Polytechnic *laughs*

Alas, RATIONAL YOUTH never made much of dent in the British market, but I’m absolutely thrilled that we’re finally coming, even for one show. I once told Robert Marlow that I was determined to sing in London one day, even if I had to bellow ‘My Yiddishe Mama’ out on the pavement in the Old Kent Road, so we’re really looking forward to this.

Of course, it’s always great to hook up with our pals from PSYCHE, and it will be great to see Eddie Bengtsson again. We’ve played with SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN several times, but never with PAGE, so that will be a treat as well.

For those discovering you for the first time, what three songs you would suggest people check out to get a feel for what RATIONAL YOUTH are about and why?

I’d say ‘Coboloid Race’, which is from our first single in 1981 and shows that we sort of prophesied industrial synth music back then; ‘Saturdays In Silesia’ from ‘Cold War Night Life’ because it shows our pure synthpop side; and ‘This Side Of The Border’ from ‘Future Past Tense’ because it shows what we sound like now and how that stacks up against our older material.

What’s next for RATIONAL YOUTH?

We’re working on a new album, and it’s about half done. Then we have a very high resolution, multi-camera video of a show we did in Germany and we’re going to figure out some way of releasing it. A few years ago one would have thought a DVD but they probably don’t sell at all anymore, so maybe we’ll put it on iTunes or something. Then in the new year, we have a number of live things coming up.

We’re going to Mexico in March and there’s talk of expanding it to Peru and Colombia. Then we have some exciting things in Europe to come. Who knows, maybe somebody will want us to come back to the UK.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its grateful thanks to Tracy Howe

Special thanks to Simon Helm at Cold War Night Life

‘Future Past Tense’ is still available as a CD or download from https://rationalyouth.bandcamp.com/

RATIONAL YOUTH, PSYCHE + PAGE will play ‘Non-Stop Electronic Cabaret’ on Saturday 29th September 2018 at The Islington in London. Presented by Cold War Night Life – tickets available from https://billetto.co.uk/e/non-stop-electronic-cabaret-with-rational-youth-page-and-psyche-tickets-300983



Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
30th August 2018

PSYCHE Interview

Photo by Mark Greenmantle

PSYCHE are the acclaimed dark synthpop duo founded by the Huss brothers Darrin and Stephen from Edmonton in Canada.

They became influenced by the likes of SOFT CELL and FAD GADGET, developing their own special brand of horror electronics; the independently released 1985 debut album ‘Insomnia Theatre’ contained the raw mechanical menace of ‘The Brain Collapses’ and was a cult success in Europe.

A wider breakthrough came with their second long player ‘Unveiling The Secret’ in 1986 which included ‘The Saint Became A Lush’, a track that was to become a favourite of noted DJ Trevor Jackson who included the track on the second volume of his acclaimed ‘Metal Dance’ compilation series released by Strut Records.

PSYCHE’s third album ‘Mystery Hotel’ signalled a move towards synthpop while expanding on their Gothic EBM template with tracks like ‘Uncivilized’ and ‘Eternal’, but it also saw the departure of Stephen Huss due to illness. Although he returned for 1991’s ‘Daydream Avenue’ and 1994’s ‘Intimacy’, he was unable to continue with PSYCHE on a full-time basis and sadly passed away in August 2015.

Darrin Huss continued as PSYCHE with various collaborators over the years, with the most recent album of original material being 2005’s ‘The 11th Hour’ released by Artoffact Records which topped the German Alternative Charts.

Now based in Germany, Darrin Huss has focussed on touring with current musical partner Stefan Rabura rather than recording, although there have been collaborations with fellow Canadian trailblazers RATIONAL YOUTH and Belgian artist LUMINANCE, in addition to the 2011 covers album ‘Unknown Treasures’ featuring interpretations of songs made famous by SOFT CELL, THE CURE, DEPECHE MODE, YAZOO, VISAGE, KRAFTWERK and THE DOORS.

Photo by Simon Helm

But Autumn 2017 saw the surprise release of a brand new PSYCHE single in the shape of ‘Youth Of Tomorrow’ b/w ‘Truth Or Consequence’ as a trailer to a new full length album.

PSYCHE will be venturing to London for a special show presented by Cold War Night Life on Saturday 29th September 2018 with RATIONAL YOUTH and Swedish poptronica veterans PAGE.

Darrin Huss kindly chatted about his career to date after completing the ‘Canadian Synth Legends Tour’ of their home country.

It’s been 13 years since the last full length PSYCHE album ‘The 11th Hour’, but there’s been no shortage of demand for live appearances, have the last few years been gratifying in terms of recognition for your work?

Yes, even if it feels like starting over on occasion. We have a following that’s been with us since the beginning, but since the advent of the Internet, we are building a whole new audience often seemingly at random as people discover us through different eras of our songs. I’ve learned to wholly embrace this and not only make a linear projection with my output.

It was a pleasant surprise to get a new PSYCHE single ‘Youth Of Tomorrow’ in 2017, why had it taken so long?

I have felt that ‘The 11th Hour’ could be the last album as I had an inkling that I had reached a peak in my musical development, and themes that I wanted to cover with PSYCHE. I never wanted to repeat myself, and always looking for new experiences. I began to focus more on one-off events, collaborations and the occasional single release such as the JOY DIVISION cover of ‘Disorder’ 10 years ago.

Then came the thirty year wave with the re-releases of our first three albums, and just generally the enjoyment of performing my favourite songs in the PSYCHE repertoire.

The current situation in the world and following social developments globally has prompted new lyrics, and formed the need to make new music with my partner Stefan Rabura for the first time. I have things I feel need to be said, and I also think I need to prove to myself that despite all the different styles of electronic music out there, PSYCHE still has a unique voice and place among synthesists.

What was the inspiration behind ‘Youth Of Tomorrow’?

I just had this title in my head, and came up with a whole chorus part one day thinking about myself being older, and wondering what today’s youth have to look forward to. What did I even expect from the future when I was 17? No one can truly fathom these things. Also I was making a bit of a nihilistic dig at where we stand right now in terms of “the money’s all been spent” and “all gone, youth of tomorrow” meaning myself, and my generation, as well as the future for today’s teens. There’s also a bit about virtual reality, and societies becoming inhumane towards others, “watching holograms of future centuries” and how “we don’t recognise ourselves!”.

When I wrote it, I saw it as a bit of black humour, but occasionally I worry I was being a little cruel. Musically, I wanted it to sound like an 80s PSYCHE track, but with a few new beats and things. My favourite part is actually the wicked synth solo that Stefan came up with.

Photo by Rob Barriales

The excellent story video directed by Rob Barriales for ‘Youth Of Tomorrow’ was a homage to ‘Thriller’?

It was actually inspired by a fairly obscure arthouse horror film called ‘Nomads’ that was Pierce Brosnan’s movie debut in 1986. There’s a scene with street punks played by Adam Ant, Mary Woronov and other 80s personalities that I wanted to emulate the mysterious atmosphere of.

The ‘Thriller’ aspect came later as we realised that the group of people following me resembled that bit with the zombies. There’s no synchronised dancing though. So it’s more just the lighting, and mood that reminds people of that. Besides, not many people ever watched ‘Nomads’…

The B-side ‘Truth Or Consequence’ was a reflection of current worldwide political events?

It started out under the title ‘Life On Trial’ and was about the Bradley Manning (now Chelsea) situation. It took me five years to finish the thing. It’s about the NSA surveillance, whistleblowers, etc. It’s also about the confusion between what is Truth, and what are the consequences of telling it, living it? Do we have safety in numbers? etc. It’s all in the lyrics. It’s a very PSYCHE song with even a nod to ‘The Brain Collapses’ with our use of that song’s drum machine the Oberheim DMX.

Photo by Alain Duplantier

What other synths and equipment were you using when PSYCHE first started out?

The Korg Mono/Poly is very important. Then the Roland SH101, Roland Microcomposer, Sequential Circuits Pro One, Roland TR707. Later we had a Casio FZ1 as our first sampler. We are using these sounds again for our new album because I think they define PSYCHE’s overall sound. Much as the Linn Drum was important to THE HUMAN LEAGUE and BLANCMANGE at the time.

Who were PSYCHE’s main musical influences?


‘Uncivilised’ was one of your notable earlier singles, how do you look back on it?

That was the odd ZZ TOP influence that I mentioned. I’ve seen people comparing it to BRONSKI BEAT’s ‘Hit That Perfect Beat’ on YouTube, but it was actually inspired by the sequence on ZZ TOP’s ‘Legs’!

I was writing about commercialism, and how everything is supposed to look and sound shiny, and clean, but we are still animals. When you look beneath the surface, and take away the house and suit, or have no money, people can be very uncivilized.

‘The Saint Became A Lush’ has become something of a signature song for PSYCHE. Do you remember much about the genesis of it and why do you think it still stands up today?

I’m not sure if it’s our signature song, we seem to have many iconic reference points depending on where you’re coming from. For some it’s ‘Eternal’, ‘Unveiling The Secret’, ‘The Brain Collapses’ or even ‘Misery’. The significance of ‘The Saint Became A Lush’ for me however is the idea of an eight verse poem inspired by HP Lovecraft overtop of a danceable Horror Movie-like soundtrack.

Yes, that is a fairly defining sound for PSYCHE, and I think it’s like the darker relative to ‘Unveiling The Secret’. Many think the main sequence sounds like ‘Tubular Bells’ from MIKE OLDFIELD, and there may be some element of that as it was used in ‘The Exorcist’ movie which my brother loved. It’s also inspired by JOY DIVISION, as I was really going for the sound of a world weary preacher, and channelling the voice of Ian Curtis for that.

The song was one of the first written for the second album as we were already performing it as early as 1986. The atmosphere of foreboding that it creates while still being danceable I think is what makes it stand out above the average so called Electronic Body Music Of The day.

Along with RATIONAL YOUTH and MEN WITHOUT HATS, PSYCHE were trailblazers for Canadian electronic pop, but Canada now appears to be the hotbed of electronic based talent. Have you had the opportunity to listen to artists like TR/ST, PURITY RING, AUSTRA, ELECTRIC YOUTH, PARALLELS and MECHA MEIKO?

I’ve heard TR/ST and AUSTRA, but to be honest many artists that came after the Witch House movement kind of lost me. I’ll have to check out the others you mentioned, but basically these days we are discovering news sounds on occasion through artists that open for us at certain events or by browsing Bandcamp and YouTube where I fell in love with ADAM USI, IN MIRRORS, and recently discovered CARLA DAL FORNO by accident while browsing in an alternative record store.

Most people may already know some of these people before I take notice. I have a love / hate relationship with most electronic newcomers especially whenever I’m told they’re the next big thing. PURITY RING actually wrote some songs for Katy Perry’s last album, so I’m a little sceptical of that!

Photo by Alain Duplantier

You covered ‘Ring The Bells’ brilliantly for the ‘Heresy: A Tribute To RATIONAL YOUTH’ album, why did you pick that song and how did you go about reinterpreting it?

I wanted to the album track that had the most melancholic mood. My choices were ‘I Want To See The Light’ or ‘Ring The Bells’ primarily. We actually had already covered ‘City Of Night’ for a US compilation, but I wanted a song that I could imagine as PSYCHE while paying homage to my feeling of hearing RATIONAL YOUTH for the first time.

To be honest, this was the first thing I recorded after my brother’s death. I had spent over half a year remastering our first three albums, and really didn’t want to think about doing new music for a while. Doing a RATIONAL YOUTH song was a relief and a catharsis for me. The lyrics also have nothing to do with this theme and yet I sang them with the loss of my brother in mind, and managed to give voice to my pain while honoring one of my favourite synth artists, and friend.

Photo by Simon Helm

Has social media been a blessing or curse for PSYCHE in the 21st Century?

Well as Napster and Soul Seek were some of the first things out there, it was pretty scary. Then Megaupload and Bit Torrent made it even more terrifying. These days the good and the bad between YouTube, Spotify, Amazon, iTunes, and Bandcamp keep a constant balance. I’d say I have slowly adapted starting with MySpace in 2004, and navigating through all the changes to stay on my path to date.

Ironically, this is the exact same period that I didn’t make a new album, so maybe it’ll all make sense by the time I do. I’ve had a good time with the vinyl trend, and started getting used to streaming to the point where I would say the curse has been lifted, and the DIY mentality of the early punk days has finally come of age through digital. I would say it that’s a blessing. The curse is only I fear no more iconic artists on the level of Madonna, or the likes of Leonard Cohen.

How are you psyched up about playing in London with RATIONAL YOUTH and PAGE this September? What sort of setlist are you planning?

I am thrilled that we are coming to London after such a long time, and especially on the eve of SOFT CELL’s farewell concert. I really hope the people appreciate what they’ll experience. We will be thinking of something special, and focusing on our 80s highlights. Wait and see…

For those who are curious and may be discovering PSYCHE for the first time, what would be the five songs you would suggest they check out and why?

1. ‘The Brain Collapses’ – this is obviously the roots of our sound, the dark side and yet a somewhat poppy chorus. The strings, the Korg Mono/Poly, driving bass sequences, dramatic vocals. A good start for the early PSYCHE styles.

2. ‘The Outsider’ / ‘Eternal’ – have to put them together as I feel they are essential highlights from ‘Mystery Hotel’, the softer, but somewhat psychedelic side of PSYCHE as Synthpop.

3. ‘Unveiling The Secret’ / ‘The Saint Became A Lush’ – also can’t decide. They are both defining styles for PSYCHE, and live from the main melodies with the poetic lyrics over the soundtrack atmospherics. A definitive part of the PSYCHE legacy.

4. ‘Goodbye Horses’ – I hate to admit it, but this particular cover version of Q LAZZARUS has expanded our audience and given another nuance to our repertoire.

5. ‘Youth Of Tomorrow’ – I am quite proud of our new song because I feel it contains all the elements of intrinsic PSYCHE. The lyrics, my singing style, and the arrangement are something that we do in a very special way, so I’d be just as happy to be discovered though this new song.

What’s next for PSYCHE?

We’re still working on new material. Either a new EP will come first and then an album, or other surprises and collaborations. I’m at the point where I like to let things happen, and see if we can explore new territories where people appreciate our music.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Darrin Huss

Special thanks to Simon Helm at Cold War Night Life

‘Youth Of Tomorrow’ and a selection of the PSYCHE back catalogue is available direct from https://psyche.bandcamp.com

PSYCHE, RATIONAL YOUTH + PAGE will perform at ‘Non-Stop Electronic Cabaret’ on Saturday 29th September 2018 at The Islington in London. Presented by Cold War Night Life – tickets available from https://billetto.co.uk/e/non-stop-electronic-cabaret-with-rational-youth-page-and-psyche-tickets-300983




Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
16th August 2018

A Short Conversation with PAGE

Photo by Petro Vidberg

Alison and Vince, Annie and Dave, Karin and Olaf… and to that list of trailblazing female / male electronic duos can be added Marina and Eddie.

PAGE have had a loyal cult following back home in Sweden since their 1983 debut single ‘Dansande Man’. The duo of Eddie Bengtsson and Marina Schiptjenko released their self-titled debut album in 1992 while their final first phase release ‘Helt Nära’ came out in 1998. In some territories though, PAGE are best known for a version of OMD’s Electricity’ from the 1995 synth covers album ‘To Cut A Long Story Short’ and their take on ‘Dreaming Of Me’ for the DEPECHE MODE tribute compilation ‘Sometimes I Wish I Was Famous’, both released on Energy Rekords.

As well as PAGE, Bengtsson had his ongoing solo mission SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN and found fame with as one of the crew in S.P.O.C.K, while Schiptjenko joined Alexander Bard from ARMY OF LOVERS in VACUUM and then BWO.

PAGE’s most recent trilogy of albums ‘Nu’, ‘Hemma’ and ‘Det Är Ingen Vacker Värld Men Det Råkar Vara Så Det Ser Ut’ have affirmed their position as one of the Nordic region’s leading electronic pop pioneers.

But deep inside his pysche, Eddie Bengtsson has always been something of a Numanoid and the new ‘Start’ EP sees PAGE going the full machine music hog with the ultimate homage to the imperial years of the man born Gary Anthony James Webb.

With the news of a live return to London for PAGE in September alongside RATIONAL YOUTH + PSYCHE, Eddie Bengtsson spoke about space and the synthesizer frontier…

Space travel and Sci-Fi has always been an interest for you but what came first, this or music?

Sci-Fi came first, if we are talking electronic music. Science Fiction got me in to early electronic music. Early electronic music, like French Space-Disco and stuff sounded like Sci-Fi and the future to me. If we not talking electronic music, then it was music that came in to my life before sci-fi. I grew up during Glam&Glitter, so there is where my “musical roots” are, and you can hear that pretty often listening to PAGE.

Glam Rock has been a key influence in PAGE and you’ve even covered ‘Coz I Luv U’ by SLADE, is this an under-appreciated era of music?

I think it is an under-appreciated era of music amongst lovers of electronic music at least. Many Glam bands were early using synthesizers in their songs like THE SWEET and CHICORY TIP.

Did you grow up watching Gerry Anderson TV shows like ‘Thunderbirds’, ‘Joe 90’ and ‘Captain Scarlet’? The associated craft and vehicles were brilliant…

Swedish TV didn’t show an early Gerry Anderson, like ‘Stingray’, ‘Thunderbirds’, ‘Captain Scarlet’ or ‘UFO’ The first series they showed was ‘Space: 1999’, and then only 10 episodes, the episodes that the Swedish National TV thought was suitable for the Swedish audience!

So ‘UFO’ or ‘Space: 1999’?

If I have to choose, then it’s ‘Space: 1999’, but ‘UFO’ comes second on my list of best Gerry Anderson shows.

The ‘Start’ EP parties like it’s 1979, discuss! 😉

Well, I have listened to early electronic pop in the last few years. I made a “list” of what I still love and what still inspires me. I came to the conclusion that there are around nine or so albums that still sounds as cool and fresh as it did then, around 1978 – 1980.

Electronic pop music (and New Wave) doesn’t sound like that anymore, and I wanted to. The artists that are still around are way off the track from what I loved about them. So, I kinda tried to sound like I wish they still did, or did for more than one or two albums. It’s a silly thing to say, but I think I “found home”.

How important has Gary Numan been to you musically?

Lately, alot! Those three albums ‘Replicas’, ‘The Pleasure Principle’ and ‘Telekon’ are three of the best New Wave / electronic pop albums ever made. There also on my list of best albums ever. I think when they came out, that I didn’t really appreciate them for what they were. There was so much other stuff around, so I didn’t have the time to really LISTEN to them thoroughly. Right before our latest full length CD, I would listen to those three albums alot (and still do) and I discovered so much. Wonderful and perfect albums (and music).

The releases that came from Gary Numan after ‘Telekon’, starting with ‘Dance’ and then ‘Warriors’, I bought them when they came out but, they were really really bad. Gone was all the magic, the sound, the quality, everything. Last year when I sold most of my electronic vinyl collection, those two albums was not keepers. Actually, I had them on CD too and I threw them away. I don’t want to keep albums that I don’t like or have any connection to.

I like to remember Numan as he was, the music he made and how he looked (coolness), therefore I try to shut his new stuff out and therefore I didn’t go to his show when he played here is Sweden. That would have ruined the magic for me. Still… I do respect him as a musician and respect him for that he has fought hard and is still “going strong”.

You covered ‘Tracks’ in Swedish as ‘Spår’ and did a Numan tribute on ‘Utanför’ for your most recent album ‘Det Är Ingen Vacker Värld Men Det Råkar Vara Så Det Ser Ut’? What tricks did you use to pay homage to this imperial Numan sound?

Whenever I buy a new synth (though I have stopped doing that now, I bought probably my last one this Spring), one of the first things that I do is to “Numanize” it.

That means, that I listen to my favourite Numan tracks and try to make those sounds with my new synth. And later on, those are the sounds I use with PAGE.

I also listen to the production, the layers, the drums, the stereo panning, the harmonies. All that stuff fills me with inspiration. Then I mix that with the usual Eddie B touch… *laughs*

‘Stör Ej’ borrows from ‘Love Needs No Disguise’ which Numan did with his former backing band DRAMATIS for their ‘For Future Reference’ album. Were they an under rated band to you?

Oh yeah. DRAMATIS was very underrated. I think they contributed alot to Numan’s sound and arrangement on those three classic albums. And if you listen to ‘Dance’, it seems like that truth. Gary Numan, DRAMATIS, CUDDLY TOYS and Zaine Griff are my absolute favourites and the greatest of inspiration sources.

‘Nere För Räkning’ exposes more of an ULTRAVOX influence, although you have been here before with ‘Allt Är Klart’ as SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN? How did this track come together?

Simple answer, I wanted to something that sounded like ULTRAVOX’s ‘Alles Klar’. Christer Hermodsson (the other part of SMPJ) is a big ULTRAVOX fan and really did a good work on that production and the solo.

With ‘Nere För Räkning’ , I don’t know really. Maybe I tried to mix ULTRAVOX and Numan there. But I don’t think the ULTRAVOX influence was intentional.

The Italo-styled remix of ‘Krasch’ by APOPTYGMA BERZERK is on paper unexpected but also simultaneously quite obvious… how did this union come about?

I never cared about APOPTYGMA BERZERK, because I knew what it was. Hard Electronica, stuff that I didn’t relate to at all. That was until… I got their latest album ‘Exit Popularity Contest’ from my friend and APOP-involvee Per Aksel Lundgreen. He gave it to me and said that should listen to it, because I might like it. And I was all “yeah right!”. What I later on heard in my car going home, totally blew me away! Wonderful electronic music and nothing at all like as had expected. It was electronic music that sounded if it was made in the early 70s and something that Jean-Michel Jarre would sell his soul for to be able to do today. It was obviously heavy inspired by, in my opinion, French early electronic music.

I just felt I had to write down and publish (on Facebook) my feelings about that record and it became in a sense a review of the album. Both Per Axel and Stephan Groth of APOP saw the “review” and from there on, contact was made. Stephan and I both realised that we have alot in common when it comes to preferences when it comes to electronic music. And, maybe there will come more out of this new friendship…

So how would you like PAGE to be described? Is it synthpop or is it poptronica or what?

I would say as I always do and have always done; PAGE is electronic pop music. But you can also call it poptronica if you want.

“Synthpop”, I don’t really know what that should be. Pop made on synthesizers?

If so then that genre is huge. Because most commercial contemporary pop music today is made solely using synthesizers.

What do you make of this Synthwave thing coming out of North America in the wake of ‘Drive’?

I don’t know anything about that at all.

The first and last time PAGE played live in London was 2014, how are plans coming together for a return?

There are plans. We are coming in September!

Photo by Simon Helm

How do you think PAGE have developed musically since the early days and then your comeback with ‘Nu’ in 2010, particularly in the creative dynamic between you and Marina?

I think the music has become less naive, both music wise and lyrics wise. I have grown older and that reflects in the music of course. I have also narrowed in what I do love about electronic music (and pseudo-electronic music) and with that has evolved the sound and the style of PAGE’s music.

Still, there is the element that people recognise and like. It’s not that we have changed altogether like most bands do. Marina does what she always has done, she is my creative feedback giver. She has always given me good honest feedback to the music and always given me advice on things musically.

Was there ever any likelihood that PAGE could have become more of a pseudo-rock band like DEPECHE MODE did?

No. We found our roots, evolved, grew up and matured right from the start (well, almost at least…)

You worked with MY GOD DAMN TERRITORY and transformed them into an electronic pop act?

Yeah, that was fun! They was originally something totally different. In start it was more like a “just for fun” thing when I made a redux of one of their songs.

But they liked it so much so, we continued the collaboration and it became what it is; Sweden’s coolest indietronica act. I still do reduxes for them and soon there will be a new single released.

You have started a project THE VOLT with Ulrika Mild aka COMPUTE, how is this progressing and can we expect an EP or album soon?

We did a follow-up to the single, but I think it’s temporarily (I hope) stuck in production “somewhere”.

Referencing ‘Lyssnade På Min Radio’ from the 2013 PAGE album ‘Hemma’, “They don’t play good songs on the radio anymore…”, do we need radio anymore or are streaming playlists the way to go?

Well, I Iike radio, just not the music that the huge stations play. Radio is good, because many people are hearing the same thing at the same time and that’s nice. There is always the joy in knowing that it’s not just you hearing this right now. But, maybe I’m old-fashioned and people today don’t think that way anymore. Everybody is an individualist, or like to think they are. Because what they have on their playlist is just what everybody else have on theirs, it’s just that they don’t hear it at the same time. Maybe I’m exaggerating here I don’t know, but that’s the way I feel that it is.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its grateful thanks to Eddie Bengtsson

‘Start’ is released by Energy Rekords as a limited edition CD, available direct from https://hotstuff.se/cdm-page-start-ep-digipack-limited-edition-300-copies/68573

PAGE, RATIONAL YOUTH + PSYCHE will play ‘Non Stop Electronic Cabaret’ on Saturday 29th September 2018 at The Islington in London. Presented by Cold War Night Life – tickets available from https://billetto.co.uk/e/non-stop-electronic-cabaret-with-rational-youth-page-and-psyche-tickets-300983



Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
23rd July 2018

Heresy: A Tribute To RATIONAL YOUTH

Montréal’s RATIONAL YOUTH were founded in 1980 by synth enthusiasts Tracy Howe and Bill Vorn.

Along with PSYCHE and MEN WITHOUT HATS, they were among the trailblazers for electronic music in Canada, a country that has more recently produced acclaimed acts such as GRIMES, PURITY RING, AUSTRA, TR/ST, ELECTRIC YOUTH and LOLA DUTRONIC. Vorn had a Roland System 100M while Howe used equations to programme sequencers. Later joined by Kevin Komoda, RATIONAL YOUTH quickly made an impression and supported OMD at Auditorium Le Plateau in March 1982.

Shortly after, the trio released ‘Cold War Night Life’, possibly the first ever Canadian synthpop album. A big seller in their home country despite being an independent release on YUL Records, it was later to be a cult favourite in Sweden where its influence was readily felt in their modern domestic electronic scene.


Photo by Kevin Komoda

Indeed, the 1997 RATIONAL YOUTH reunion concert with Howe and Vorn took place in Lund, Sweden.

Now Cold War Night Life, the online magazine of electronic music and culture, has curated ‘Heresy: A Tribute To RATIONAL YOUTH’, a collection of the Canadian synth pioneers’ best-known songs, interpreted by artists from the UK, Sweden, Australia, Norway, Germany and Canada.

Going against the trend of Spotify and downloads, the package is gathered on two vinyl LPs and a 12 inch EP, all contained in a trifold sleeve, plus two accompanying CDs mirroring the vinyl, reflecting Cold War Night Life’s philosophy that “albums are to be touched, read and heard”.

The 12 inch EP features a brand new track ‘This Side Of The Border’ from RATIONAL YOUTH themselves. Now comprising of Tracy Howe and his wife Gaenor, it is classic RY featuring Howe’s characteristically direct, overwrought lyricism but with added midlife angst. The track itself premiered earlier in the year on the comeback six song mini-album ‘Future Past Tense’ released by Artoffact Records.

Perhaps not surprisingly, one of the highlights from ‘Heresy’ is PSYCHE’s take on ‘Ring The Bells’ from the ‘Cold War Night Life’ debut. The clattering 808 beat and elegantly haunting sweeps combined with Darrin Huss’ mournful vocal provide an atmospheric reworking that betters the original. It is also a recording that reflects the decades long kinship between RATIONAL YOUTH and PSYCHE.

Meanwhile on two further songs from ‘Cold War Night Life’, Sweden’s JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM acquits himself well with a blippy version of ‘Saturdays In Silesia’ in the vein of ERASURE while MACHINISTA don’t disappoint on a meaty ‘City of Night’, applying their enjoyable template of THE CURE gone synthpop with a rock ’n’ roll edge.

Speaking of rock, PROJECT GRUDGE do exactly as their moniker suggests on ‘Beware The Fly’, while ROSSETTI’S COMPASS expands on the JOY DIVISION doom pop of ‘Coboloid Race’ by adding a more prominent, metronomic beat in splendid ‘Isolation’.

KORD featuring the vocals of Annie Gylling provide some ADULT. entertainment while ‘Dancing On The Berlin Wall’, although the arrangement itself isn’t that radically different from RATIONAL YOUTH’s.

Although the collection is dominated by songs from ‘Cold War Night Life’, other tunes in RATIONAL YOUTH’s catalogue are represented. Swedish synth project DEN DÄR KILLEN offer a frantically paced ‘In Your Eyes’ from 1985’s ‘Heredity’, but the excellent arrangement is perhaps marred by some ambitious amateurism in the vocal department. TECHNOMANCER join forces with ANGST POP for ‘I’ve Got A Sister In The Navy’ which appropriately sounds very ‘Top Gun’, while PROCEDURE’s ‘Close To Nature (No TDM Mix)’ acts as a squelchy dystopian instrumental interlude.

However ‘Heresy: A Tribute To RATIONAL YOUTH’ does suffer from track duplication, with TOUCHING THE VOID doing ‘Ring The Bells’, CANDIDE also performing ‘City of Night’ and INDEPENDENT STATE attempting ‘Beware The Fly’; all are subsequently overshadowed by PYSCHE, MACHINISTA and PROJECT GRUDGE respectively and although RATIONAL YOUTH have a small catalogue, this repeating of songs is unnecessary in hindsight.

That aside, what this tribute album successfully does is reacquaint electronic music enthusiasts to the catalogue of RATIONAL YOUTH. Time has been kind to their work and it certainly deserves reappraisal. So, anyone fancy a ‘Holiday In Bangkok’?

‘Heresy: A Tribute To RATIONAL YOUTH’ is released by Cold War Night Life as a triple vinyl + double CD set, available from http://www.stormingthebase.com/various-heresy-a-tribute-to-rational-youth-3lp-vinyl-2cd/



Text by Chi Ming Lai
20th August 2016


Following the success of ‘An Evening With The Swedish Synth’ in March 2014, Nordic friendly blog Cold War Night Life presented ‘A Secret Wish’, No2 in their occasional live series at The Lexington.

As with many quality events, it was attended by luminaries from the music scene. Among those present were Sarah Blackwood and Jonathan Barnbrook, the designer whose artwork has adorned recent releases by David Bowie, John Foxx and Hannah Peel.

The audience had an international flavour too, with attendees coming from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Italy, France and the United States.

While not wholly Swedish in line-up this time round, there was a definite Scandinavian slant with Swedish synth veterans SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN making their debut UK appearance and the now Norwegian based studio legend John Fryer spinning a variety of music from his illustrious career. Representing the home crowd were VILE ELECTRODES, now more than fully established as the UK’s best independent synth exponents.

John Fryer cut his teeth with Daniel Miller and Eric Radcliffe at the legendary Blackwing Studios and his opening DJ set covered his wide ranging work for the 4AD and Mute labels.

With live enhancements, this included FAD GADGET’s ‘Back To Nature’, MODERN ENGLISH’s love song to accompany the nuclear apocalypse ‘I Melt With You’, M/A/R/R/S ‘Pump Up The Volume’, COCTEAU TWINS ‘Sugar Hiccup’ and the first DEPECHE MODE single ‘Dreaming Of Me’.

In an exclusive UK performance, Sweden’s SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN (SMPJ – translated as “The Last Man on Earth”) gave an energetic performance that showed why they have been a cult live attraction in Sweden. Led by Eddie Bengtsson, best known for his work with S.P.O.C.K. and PAGE, he was accompanied by his faithful sideman by Christer Hermodsson.

Opening with the steadily building ‘Leonov’, a tribute to the Cosmonaut who was the first man to walk in space, the spacey floating vibe more than fitted in with SMPJ’s regular space travel and Sci-Fi themes. ‘Stanna Kvar’ followed and was a wonderfully immediate slice of melodic synthpop in the Vince Clarke vein, while last year’s single ‘Stadens Alla Ljus’ continued the enjoyable momentum.

While all of SMPJ’s songs are voiced “i Svenska”, Eddie Bengtsson was game enough to sing a few choruses in English. ‘All The City Lights’ from the new ‘Translate’ EP was a particular highlight.

“Are you impressed?” joked Eddie while glancing at his hand scribed lyric sheet. Bengtsson’s intense but charming personality certainly won the audience over as he led the odd ad-libed singalong and even joined the crowd down on the main floor.

The swung Schaffel of ‘Vem Gör Det Då’ gave some rhythmical variation, but there was one brilliant surprise towards the end of the set. It was what Bengstsson referred to as SMPJ’s “ULTRAVOX tribute” and it came in the form of ‘Allt Är Klart’, effectively a Swedish vocal version of their instrumental B-side ‘Alles Klar’. The hard, staccato synth bassline remained from the original, but the track was bolstered by a superb whirring solo from Hermodsson firmly in the ARP Odyssey tradition.

Climaxing ‘A Secret Wish’ were VILE ELECTRODES who played a fair percentage of fresh new material to give a taste of their much anticipated second album.

The mesmerising new single ‘Captive In Symmetry’ with its nod towards ‘Twin Peaks’ sounded sublime. Meanwhile, ‘Last Of The Lovers’ pointed towards the dreamy, but danceable Nordic soundscapes of RÖYKSOPP. Live favourites ‘Empire Of Wolves’, ‘Damaged Software’ and ‘Proximity’ provided everyone with some references of familiarity.

But the funereal ‘Dead Feed’ proved that Anais Neon and Martin Swan could do unsettling experimentation too. The old new number ‘Real 2 Reel Love’ closed proceedings, having been reworked from its original sub-NEW ORDER disco incarnation into a much darker, more progressive proposition.

Some of the audience at ‘A Secret Wish’ were overheard questioning whether VILE ELECTRODES were adding anything new to electronic pop, yet failed to categorically state any examples of what could be considered progress in the genre.

While VILE ELECTRODES may not be playing with ethereal dubstep and glitch techniques like PURITY RING, what Neon and The Swan do produce are memorable songs presented in an artistic, yet accessible manner.

In fact, the line-up of JOHN FRYER, SMPJ and VILE ELECTRODES at ‘A Secret Wish’ had a common thread running through ie good tunes. No matter that Elizabeth Fraser sounds like she’s invented her own language, Eddie Bengtsson rants in Swedish or Anais Neon intonates with a very English Home Counties accent… there is intuitive melody and soul.

Now if melody and soul is what’s making modern electronic pop music sound old-fashioned, then great; ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK and no doubt Cold War Night Life would like to have some more of that!

Cold War Night Life recently coined the term poptronica to describe VILE ELECTRODES and SMPJ. With the dedication and care that they have taken in their live projects, what they have proved is that the best electronic music events are those curated by genuine electronic music enthusiasts.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Simon Helm at Cold War Night Life

SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN’s ‘Translate’ CD EP and ‘Stadens Alla Ljus’ CD single are available from http://hotstuff.se/sista-mannen-på-jorden/x-9189

The albums ‘Tredje Våningen’, ‘Luft’ and ‘Ligg Tyst Ett Tag Med’ are available as downloads via Amazon


VILE ELECTRODES ‘Captive In Symmetry’ EP can be downloaded from https://vileelectrodes.bandcamp.com/album/captive-in-symmetry-ep

The CD EP is available from http://vileelectrodes.bigcartel.com/



John Fryer has two new musical projects. SILVER GHOST SHIMMER’s debut album ‘Soft Landing’ is released on 1st May 2015. Meanwhile MURICIDAE’s ‘Tales From A Silent Ocean’ EP is available now via the usual digital outlets




Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Richard Price
22nd April 2015

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