Tag: Diamond Field

DIAMOND FIELD Interview

Like a high tech K-Tel compilation album but from the baton of one conductor, the multi-vocalist self-titled debut album by DIAMOND FIELD captures the spirit of the pioneering MTV era and classic Brat Pack movie soundtracks.

The musical vehicle of the New Zealander Andy Diamond, he looks to studio icons such as Hugh Padgham, Rupert Hine and Peter Wolf as prime inspirations.

Although written before the worldwide pandemic, many of the lyrics deal with hope and positivity and the international cast of Nina Luna, Matthew J Ruys, Miriam Clancy, Nik Brinkman, Cody Carpenter, Becca Starr, Belinda Bradley, Chelsea Nenni and Kyle Brauch do the songs proud.

Andy Diamond spoke to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about the creation of his DIAMOND FIELD opus while also sharing his thoughts on many of aspects of music as an independent artist.

It’s taken a while to get round to there being a DIAMOND FIELD album, were there any particular reasons?

Well, there’s a few reasons for that, ha ha. Like most people, time is a factor and I tend to have a bunch of other things going on – music to learn and rehearse with other artists, remixes and production projects, design work, family life, photography, buying records on Discogs lol. It doesn’t make it easy to allow for solid chunks of time to be blocked out for album production. I’m also collaborating with other artists and they have their own schedules. I’ve had a few instances where I was waiting several months for a vocal for a song, only to have it fall through and having to go through the process again with someone else. That stuff all adds up.

It was only in late 2020 when I finally had all the musical pieces together and was able to sit down and start mixing everything. I set myself a date to have the finished tracks ready for mastering, turning down a bunch of other things to clear time and make it happen. January to June 2021 was spent hard-out on the final mixes, a lot of ‘final’ mixes that led to more final mixes and level tweaking. Add to that all the artwork production and additional non-musical ‘fun stuff’ that goes into preparing a release and it was a busy time.

I was also wary of the increasingly long production times required for vinyl production so I needed to get things rolling. I’m not quite sure how the likes of SELLOREKT/LA DREAMS, BART GRAFT and FAINT WAVES manage to pump all those albums out! Just making one is enough of a big deal, but after all this, I definitely feel more confident in producing DIAMOND FIELD music at a higher rate of output.

Had singles like ‘Neon Summer’, ‘The Nightingale’, ‘Burning Blood’ and ‘Won’t Compromise’ been more toe-dipping exercises, how do you look back on those tracks?

No – all the singles were definite statements – “hey, this is DIAMOND FIELD, this is how we sound and this is what we do”. ‘Neon Summer’ (with Nina Yasmineh aka Nina Luna) is still a good representation of what DIAMOND FIELD was intended to be from the start, sonically and stylistically. For that first release, I carefully prepared how the visuals, social media and music video would look for maximum effect. I purposely released the song as a maxi-single with a bunch of remixes (with some well-known names) to get the widest reach. It was like “we’re here, take note, we’ve thought about this”. None of that ‘drop a song on Soundcloud and cross your fingers’ stuff.

All four singles – ‘Neon Summer’, ‘This City’ (with Matthew J Ruys), ‘Closer’ (with Rat Rios) and ‘Won’t Compromise’ (with Bob Haro) would be right at home on the DIAMOND FIELD album. In fact they were all contenders for the album – I had intended them to be lead tracks for the album but because the other songs weren’t ready, they defaulted to being standalone singles in their own right.

The other songs – the cover of ‘The Nightingale’ (with Rat Rios), “Twin Peaks” tribute ‘Burning Blood’, and then ‘Freedom Pass’ (with Dana Jean Phoenix) were all written specially for compilations that had deadlines. Those weren’t album tracks but still had the DIAMOND FIELD sound. Likewise with all of DIAMOND FIELD’s remixes for other artists (or ‘reworks’ as I prefer to call them). Those all have DIAMOND FIELD DNA in them, and because I use different artists on my own songs, reworking someone else’s song could sound like a DIAMOND FIELD cut because I’m working with supplied vocals and recreating the music in my style. A couple of good examples of those are the DIAMOND FIELD reworks of BUNNY X’s ‘Come Back’ and Roxi Drive’s ‘Electricity’.

It’s no coincidence that vocalists from previous DIAMOND FIELD singles make return appearances on the album. Nina and Matt are there and I had Rat Rios lined up but it didn’t work out this time. I look back at all these early tracks fondly and I’m very proud of them.

You are more influenced by producers like Hugh Padgham, Rupert Hine, Peter Wolf and Stephen Hague rather than actual bands or artists, what do you think these studio icons brought to their respective works?

I do think production is really the main influencer for me. I love the artists of course, but if it were not for the producers, many iconic albums would have sounded a lot different.

I guess it’s kind of a chicken-and-egg situation – what came first? The producer or the artist? Maybe we are in fact mixing the chicken and the egg together here, simultaneously! The common thread with all of these producers is that they weren’t afraid to utilize the emerging technology of the time and figure out how to integrate it. They were hoovering up the latest gadgets and using them to their maximum potential, even though it was a painstaking process and syncing everything up was not as easy as it is today. They were able to create distinctive sounds, rhythms and techniques that became what we refer to as “the sound of the 80s”.

In Padgham’s case it was that big gated drum sound that worked so well for Phil Collins, and Stephen Hague was great with synthesizers and nailed some great sounds that are iconic ear candy and moments. Although many of these producers worked on a lot of electronic music, they were all able to skillfully combine the electronic side of things with the traditional – guitars, bass and drums. That is why with DIAMOND FIELD you hear ‘real’ drums, bass and electric guitars combined with the drum machines, sequencers and synths. They all work so well together for that ‘80s sound that doesn’t focus solely on early DEPECHE MODE man/machine type music.

How did the album begin in earnest, was there a particular epiphany when you thought a long playing record was a realistic possibility?

Again, this was all planned out from day one and the first single ‘Neon Summer’. Everything would build on and progress from that.

The idea was always to have an album of material as the logical end goal, release it physically and play it live.

I’m still a believer in full length albums and never really bought into the “people only listen to singles” thing.

I was talking to Alex Karlinsky aka HIGHWAY SUPERSTAR about the value of albums. Is it better to just drop a single every month so you can stay visible? With an album, it’s a one-time drop. By dropping constant singles you can keep yourself in the limelight more regularly.

Of course there is no reason you can’t take ten singles and release them as an album later down the line, but an album quantifies an artist’s vision as a complete body of work. There’s no p*ssing around with dropping a track here and there – it’s “Wham! Check this thing out!” You need to put some time aside to take this all in.

I’d like to think all the tracks on the DIAMOND FIELD album could be singles and I could push them individually over time (with a music video for example). As for the live thing, that could only really happen after the album was complete as I needed to have enough completed songs to play out!

What criteria did you use to select your vocalists?

Most importantly these are people I like and respect. I’ve also worked with many of them in some way the past, with the exception of Cody. I’ll always start my songs with the music first and then add vocals on top of that. I figure out whose voice might be a good fit for the musical bed and how that could add to the overall picture. Is this a ballad? Would this be better sung from a female point of view? Is this a ‘belter’ that needs a big voice? In that way it’s kinda good to have the luxury of different vocalists because you can get additional scope that you may not get with a sole lead singer.

Sometimes I’ll write the lyrics and the main vocal melody (top line), demo it and give that to the vocalist to copy. I might have a very specific idea and that includes the lyrics and vocal melody. Other times the vocalist may write the lyrics and top line. So I’m open.

Matt and I go way back to our teens making music together and we’re good friends. He’s a total pro when it comes to vocals and full of ideas. There are several songs on the album where over half the tracks in the session are made up of Matt’s BVs alone. Chelsea and I play in her band LATE SLIP and she’s also a pro.

I’ve also played in bands with Nina, Miriam (Clancy) and guitarist Rodger Cunningham so there’s a bit of a history there. Chris Ward (saxophone) was my neighbour and I fed his cats when he was on vacation, and Kyle, Becca and Nik have all done great work on their own projects. Sometimes cold calling someone to collaborate with can work too. That’s how Nina and I originally met and since then we have made a lot of music together over. A successful cold call is a one-time thing and ideally from that you can develop a relationship and keep it going. That said, I’ve had my fair share of being turned down by people who were either not interested or too busy, but it all worked out in the end!

Had the opener ‘New Situation’ with Nina Luna been intended to be your take on TEARS FOR FEARS?

Oh I think everything of mine probably has some subliminal TEARS FOR FEARS in it lol. I was not aware of that connection while making the song, especially since it has a female vocal, but since you mentioned it, I think your reference point might be ‘Head Over Heels’? It has a similar tempo, lots of keyboards and a snare build-up.

‘Head Over Heels’ is one of my favourite TFF songs, so if I have emulated something that makes people think of it without being total rip off, then I think that’s pretty cool.

‘Glowing In The Dark’ featuring Miriam Clancy recalls BERLIN, do you think Terri Nunn’s combo are often forgotten and under-rated…for example, everyone knows ‘Take My Breath Away’ but no-one seems to remember the artist?

BERLIN are one of my favourite bands from the early to mid ‘80s. ‘Pleasure Victim’ and ‘Love Life’ are up there in my list of favorite albums. BERLIN were the epitome of sophisticated US West Coast new wave bands at the time, and like MISSING PERSONS, proved that Americans were quite good at interpreting what Europe was doing musically, but injecting some sex and glam into the equation. ‘Take My Breath Away’ is the least BERLIN sounding BERLIN song since it’s really Terri singing over someone else’s track. Check out ‘The Metro’ and ‘No More Words’ for true BERLIN classics.

Incidentally, I lifted the ‘Diamond’ part of my “stage name” from BERLIN’s synth player David Diamond. I thought it would make a cool sounding name, still being related to DIAMOND FIELD, and when David had hair in the ‘80s, he looked really sharp behind his Prophet 5. Also, BERLIN’s main songwriter John Crawford is a bass player (like myself) and in the ‘80s I sported a similar mullet to his, so I’m really on that aesthetic.

How did ‘Glowing In The Dark’ come about?

‘Glowing In the Dark’ started out as an instrumental and worked quite well in that form. A melody built around muted synth brass, sparkly DX7s and synth bass with programmed drums. Another song I’d say emulates music from 1986/87 in terms of sounds. Since there were already a lot of instrumental hooks on this, any vocals would need to be able to fit with the music (and I wanted vocals). I didn’t want to have to reduce the hooks to fit vocals around, which sometimes needs to happen to avoid conflicts – you need to have space, not competing elements.

Miriam was someone whose work I always loved as both a songwriter and singer. I was looking for an opportunity to work on a song with her and it finally panned out when she said she’d be down to sing on the album. And sing she did. What she delivered in terms of lyrics and vocals on ‘Glowing In The Dark’ were amazing. Everything fit perfectly and it was like the music and lyrics had originally been written together, not in different places at different times. Miriam also dipped-in to her bag of songwriting tricks and refined my initially over-long arrangement, so that it was more concise.

A tricky thing about ‘Glowing In The Dark’ is that it has a key change (something that is underutilized in today’s pop music) and Miriam nailed that transition. At first we thought it could have sounded gimmicky, but combined with the slowed-down ending (emulating the tempo on a sequencer being manually reduced to a stop) I think it is a nice little signature piece. There’s a personal little Easter egg at the end of the song.

In the late ‘80s, there was a very distinctive patch on the Roland D-50 synth called ‘Soundtrack’. I always loved it and wanted to use it some time. I never owned a D-50 but I did have a 1990 Korg T3 synth which had its own variation on the D-50’s Soundtrack patch. I used the T3 extensively for several years and have a big soft spot for that synth. These days I use Korg’s M1 soft synth (which includes all of the T3 sound libraries) and so what you hear at the end of the song is the Korg version of that D-50-type patch. Great to include both a patch from one of my favorite synths and the vocals from one of my favorite singers on the same track!

Matthew J Ruys gets to do two tracks, the brassy electro-funk of ‘Bring Back Love’ and the mighty blue-eyed growl of ‘Out Here For Love’, two quite different styles?

Well that’s Matt for you. He’s a very versatile singer and can sing whatever you throw at him. Back in the late 90s he was doing stuff with ORGANIZED NOISE (OUTKAST) in Atlanta so he’s able to pull off R ‘n’ B and rhymes, but is just as comfortable doing rockers and everything in-between. You can give him an instrumental and he’ll come up with a voice and style to fit. And he knows his sh*t when it comes to BVs.

On ‘Bring Back Love’ I was going for a white boy RnB/Latin feel – a little Michael McDonald and MIAMI SOUND MACHINE crossover. The overt synth brass mixed with real brass samples was intentional – I wanted to capture that ‘80s brass emulation without making it either too sterile or overly real.

For ‘Out Here For Love’, that song started from a piece of music that Australian retrowave artist Lachi James had written. It was originally going to be a collaboration with Lachi, but the timing didn’t work out so I got Matt to sing it and my old friend Rodger Cunningham to throw down the guitar leads on it. I was aiming for that hi-tech pop / rock sound that Michael Sembello was so good at on his ‘Without Walls’ album – the type of song you’d hear on a ‘Rocky’ soundtrack by Robert Tepper. It’s also the most collaborative track on the album with Lachi, Matt, Rodger and myself all contributing.

‘Look To The Stars’ gives a nod to New York electro, where there any key records from the past that helped shape this?

That’s a hard song for me to pin-down, comparison-wise. I mean I am in NYC but that’s about it. I was going for an energetic track with a heavy sequencer vibe, with overdubbed instruments. I’m trying to give the impression of something that’s been made on a Fairlight around 1986 or so, with the tight drums and sequenced bass.

I get the electro angle, in many ways that’s probably coming from the NEW ORDER corner of my brain. Kyle Brauch was a good fit for vocals on this.

I’d done a remix for his MIDAWE project and he’d done a DIAMOND FIELD remix for ‘This City’ so I had been wanting to get his vocals on one of my own songs. Kyle has that Rick Springfield vibe and knows how to belt it out. He came up with the lyrics and vocal melody too.

I added some real bass to compliment the sequenced bass which is something I do quite often (think NEW ORDER’s Peter Hook playing bass over sequenced bass parts), added some electric guitars and had The Saxophone Warrior (Chris Ward) play the sax on it. Chris is a very talented jazz player but also does cool stuff with effects and pushing the sax in new directions (although I had him keep it pretty straight on ‘Look To The Stars’ since it’s a kinda period-specific track). Chris has also played with FISCHERSPOONER who are my favourite electroclash act so that is a cool connection.

How did the wonderful ‘A Kiss Apart’ with Belinda Bradley come together?

This is another example of having an instrumental track and figuring out whose voice might suit it best. ‘A Kiss Apart’ is also tightly sequenced with late ‘80s influences. It has a fuller, more mature, lush synth pop sound so the vocal needed to compliment that. I’ve known Belinda for a while and was a big fan of her band SELON RECLINER who make amazing cinematic, widescreen pop. In a way, with Belinda writing the lyrics and singing, it’s almost like a SELON RECLINER song being covered by DIAMOND FIELD, and I’m just fine with that idea!

‘Used To Be’ pays homage to the THE GO-GO’S?

Oh for sure. In fact more specifically THE GO-GO’S’ Jane Wiedlin and her 1988 song ‘Rush Hour’ that was produced by Stephen Hague. I wanted something upbeat and fun sounding, something that Jane might have done. The original version of ‘Used To Be’ had programmed bass and a drum machine but I decided it would make for a better GO-GO’S new wave pop feel by using real bass, livelier drums and more guitars.

I was playing bass in Chelsea Nenni’s band LATE SLIP and just love her vocals, so if anyone was going to do this song justice it was Chelsea. She wrote the lyrics, came in and did couple of takes and that was it – nailed! The poppy upbeat music with Chelsea’s break up lyrics makes a good combo.

One surprise was Cody Carpenter’s track ‘Spills Like Love’ which was a lot more jazzier perhaps than the work he is associated with via his Horror Master father?

Yeah I think Cody mostly gets associated with the work he does with his dad, whereas his own projects are also really great. It was Cody’s LUDRIUM project that connected with me. The mix of prog and fusion combined with Cody’s vocals in LUDRIUM are something that you don’t often hear these days. He manages to bring together everything good about those styles without the waffling-on that sometimes gives prog a bad rep.

LUDRIUM also reminded me of the 1970s work of DAVID SANCIOUS & TONE who created wonderful, feel good fusion. I’d crafted the instrumental of ‘Spills Like Love’ to be a blend of late ‘70s West Coast vibes, yacht rock and early 80s synths.

So yeah, I had my eye on Cody for this one. He had the perfect voice and vibe. And he didn’t just stop at vocals, he dropped that amazing synth solo on there, giving me visions of Cody blazing on a white-face ARP Odyssey in a wood panelled man cave. I was also referencing ‘70s music like FLEETWOOD MAC, which featured prominent male / female vocals and so I had Becca Starr add BVs to give it that feel.

Which tracks are your own favourites on the album and why?

Oh I think I’d have to say they are all favourites. There are parts of songs I really like such as the percussion tracks in ‘Bring Back Love’ and the DX7 keyboard riff in ‘Spills Like Love’ but they are all special to me based on who is signing on the song and how and when I wrote it. Each song has its own ‘slot’ and I don’t think there’s any ‘filler’. That’s confirmed to me when people listen to the album and tell me which track is their favourite, and that tends to be a different song for everyone. That was my aim in a way, an album that was quite varied but still cohesive, where everyone finds something they like.

A number of the earlier DIAMOND FIELD singles were embraced by the synthwave community but was it a conscious decision to navigate around that scene and focus on doing a pop record?

No, not at all. All the DIAMOND FIELD music comes from the same outlet. It’s always been overtly pop with lots of synth and ‘80s elements so it made total sense to drop it in the synthwave / retrowave sphere. I figured if synthwave fans liked artists like Kristine back in 2013, or Michael Oakley in the current day, you’d probably like DIAMOND FIELD.

If you’re strictly into Darkwave or instrumental Outrun, then maybe it’s not so much your thing (although I always release instrumental versions). Synthwave / retrowave is an obvious audience for me and has become far more accepting of vocal pop. I like to think my audience extends to anyone who likes pop music, regardless of what genres they are in to. A lot of people who love the album have zero awareness of synthwave (or any kind of scenes for that matter). They just like the music, and to me that is mission accomplished!

What’s your take on how some are accusing big acts like THE WEEKND and MUSE of ‘stealing’ from synthwave so should acknowledge that scene? Surely the use of synth arpeggios is decades old, dating backing to Giorgio Moroder while sombre electronic basslines came via KRAFTWERK on ‘Radio-Activity’ so it was not something invented by Ryan Gosling for ‘Drive’? 😉💣

There’s overt rip-offs out there, like the guy who was stealing music and reposting as his own on Spotify, and then there are THE WEEKND vs VANITY & MAKEUP SET situations.

One is easy to prove as a rip off and the other is harder. Arpeggios in electronic music are tough to police because of the way an arpeggiator works.

In a nutshell, you play a note and select the timing of the arp and off it goes. Things change depending on the complexity of the arp you select and the notes played in that sequence. More often than not, the arpeggiator is used for things like basslines which are synced to the drums and tend to be pretty straightforward. That creates a situation where a song might sound very similar to another.

If you did a scientific experiment on songs that use an arpeggiator and stripped away the other tracks, you’d find a great deal of similarity. What goes on top of the arpeggiation is what starts to makes a difference. ‘Blue Monday’ isn’t directly ripping off ‘I Feel Love’ but it is highly influenced by it, as are a gazillion other songs. Does Lorde’s ‘Solar Power’ sounds like George Michael’s ‘Freedom 90’? Sure. But George Michael’s estate is cool with it. How long have we got to compare all the music that sounds like something else?

While music and technology continue to evolve, there are only so many sounds, chords and progressions out there and inevitably you’ll get similarities popping up from time to time. Having a good lawyer and deep pockets can help if you really want to prove your song has been copied. Some artists are successful in doing so and others are increasingly not. Check out Katy Perry’s ‘Dark Horse’ lawsuit from a few years back as an example.

I think what bothers me most is when an artist is part of a ten person songwriting team and still manages to write a song that has obvious melodic or chordal similarities to another song. All those writers and you can’t be more original? Maybe it’s an obvious homage. But if no-one’s suing…

How do you see the future of music with regards formats, platform and live performance after a difficult 20 months for many?

Having experienced total lockdown for over a year myself, not playing or seeing any live music, it’s been so great to come out the other side and spend the six months getting back into it. Live music is very important. People are into it. They need it.

That whole live-performance-on-the-internet stuff was driving me nuts. There were some good performances and it created a new outlet for artists to perform shows online, almost by-default. Online shows are no match for live in-person performances.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to watch recorded live shows but I prefer that interaction of being in a crowd and having the band in front of me. There’s nothing like it. That said I’m really interested to see how this virtual ABBA thing is going to work.

With music formats, vinyl is going apesh*t and the result is that it is now taking six to eight months to get an album pressed. That’s a huge amount of lead time to plan for, especially for indie artists. Fans are now reluctantly reserved to waiting months for a physical release to materialize, having to put their funds up for something that won’t get into their hands until well after the digital release. That is a lot to ask, especially in the instant world of Amazon and music streaming. I can’t see it changing anytime soon though.

I do love the fact that many people are returning to listening to music in a better way, via vinyl and/or with better equipment to take advantage of streaming services that offer master quality hi-fi streams. Artists lamenting about having mixed and mastered their music meticulously only to have the user listen on ‘crappy earbuds’ is looking like it will be a thing of the past sooner than later

You are quite active on social media, but is there a wider caution that support for up-and-coming musicians comes from other musicians, rather than a potential non-creative audience who are actually the ones who spend money on product and gigs?

That’s an interesting question. Without a doubt, artists tend to comment on other artists’ posts, in a kind of empathetic way. But that depends on what style of social media an artist chooses to engage in. If they are fan-centric you’re going to get different posts than if they are talking about production techniques (which will get more engagement from artists vs. fans). Many artists will follow back new artists as a means of showing support but are less likely to engage with them after that. A new artist will probably follow an established artist in hopes of being noticed by that artist (and their fans).

So maybe musically, social media is a bubble with fan interaction limited to a handful of popular artists, and the rest are just talking amongst themselves. That can also be the case with a lot of reviews and online radio, where it’s only the artist that really listens, to hear their own song or to read their own review. Right now, social media is necessary but as well all know, often draining and somewhat soul destroying!

How feasible is it to take DIAMOND FIELD out live with its inherent multi-vocalist format? What are your future plans?

Yes sir – I really dug myself a hole in terms of trying to do a live show and having a dozen different vocalists on my songs! There’s no way I can get everyone together to sing one song only! To make DIAMOND FIELD work live I needed to find a vocalist (locally) that was able to sing a bunch of the songs and make a live set possible.

Luckily for me I have found such a person in Abby Holden. She’s a singer-songwriter who also just happens to be from New Zealand, and has a killer voice. We’ve put together a set list of DIAMOND FIELD songs she feels comfortable singing and are in the process of getting a live show together.

At first it’ll be the two of us with backing tracks and myself on guitar, bass or synths depending on the song. Getting that up and running means we’ll be able to start playing shows, then expand it out with other musicians down the line. These days, audiences are fine with laptops and backing tracks, but as a musician with a long history in playing in bands, I’d love to make everything as live as possible. I’m looking forward to finally getting DIAMOND FIELD on the stage!


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its grateful thanks to Andy Diamond

‘Diamond Field’ is available in vinyl, cassette and digital editions through Sofa King Vinyl at https://sofakingvinyl.com/album/diamond-field-24-bit

https://diamondfieldmusic.com/

https://www.facebook.com/diamondfieldmusic

https://twitter.com/diamond_field

https://www.instagram.com/diamond_field/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
4th October 2021

DIAMOND FIELD Diamond Field

DIAMOND FIELD is the musical vehicle of Andy Diamond, the New York based Kiwi who despite associations with the North American synthwave movement, looks to studio icons such as Hugh Padgham, Peter Wolf and the sadly departed Rupert Hine as his heroes.

The songs ‘Won’t Compromise’ with BMX freestyle godfather Bob Haro and ‘Freedom Pass’ with Dana Jean Phoenix reinforced the perception of a purer synthesizer affinity. But the self-titled debut springs a surprise by mixing traditional instrumental colours with electronic production techniques.

So as can be expected from an artist whose production moniker is named after a Pat Benatar song, electric guitars, live bass and real drum feels are combined with drum machines, sequencers and synths. But the stars of the record are the songs and each of their various international guest vocalists recruited and recorded via the joys of the internet.

With stabbing keyboard themes plus a combination of solid synthbass and loose live sounding drums, ‘New Situation’ with Nina Luna taking lead vocals provides a driving opener that comes over like a more sprightly take on TEARS FOR FEARS ‘Head Over Heels’ if it had been reinterpreted for use in ‘Pretty In Pink’.

Then comes the brassy electro-funk of ‘Bring Back Love’ with Matthew J Ruys approximating Stevie Wonder and the riff laden ‘Glowing In The Dark’ featuring Kiwi songstress Miriam Clancy which sexily rouses like BERLIN before providing an effective slowed tape stop. The college radio rock of ‘In This Moment’ though crosses the darker shades of ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN and THE CURE while referencing SIMPLE MINDS ‘Chelsea Girl’, although the synth riffs along with Nik Brinkman’s mannered delivery point to fellow New Yorkers NATION OF LANGUAGE.

However, the exotic rhythmic moods and jazzy cosmic solos that shape ‘Spills Like Love’ make for a joyous turn from Cody Carpenter that is the antithesis of his work with his Horror Master father, while ‘It’s Your Time’ sung by Becca Starr of Scottish retrowavers THE VAN DAMMAGE offers a percolating rock-infused stomp with a passionate vocal.

With a backing track like NEW ORDER’s ‘Your Silent Face’ reworked by OMD, ‘A Kiss Apart’ is superb and sees a velvet performance by Belinda Bradley of New Zealand collective SELON RECLINER; akin to the other Belinda, Ms Carlisle crossed with Marcella Detroit (who co-wrote ‘Little Black Book’ with THE GO GOS front woman), a gorgeous chorus and some great synth interventions in the instrumental break recall Mute trio PEACH who contributed ‘On My Own’ to the ‘Sliding Doors’ soundtrack.

And speaking of Belinda Carlisle, Chelsea Nenni of LATE SLIP pays homage on ‘Used To Be’ which plays with that sunny rock flavour that THE GO GO’s once took to No1 with ‘Beauty & The Beat’.

With bursts of gratuitous sax and the vocal presence of Kyle Brauch, ‘Look To The Stars’ goes very New York in its mighty machine generated groove. But ‘Out Here For Love’ is the ‘Mighty Wings’ of the collection and as that did on ‘Top Gun’, it ends DIAMOND FIELD’s eponymous debut with Matthew J Ruys returning to give proceedings some blue-eyed growl in the manner of LIVING IN A BOX’s Richard Derbyshire.

This may not be the album that those who have liked DIAMOND FIELD’s previous singles will be expecting at all. It is much more of a pop offering but that isn’t a bad thing as this is the sort of optimistic album many need right now.

Although written before the worldwide pandemic, many of the lyrics deal with hope and positivity. The quality of songwriting is high, something that a lot of synthwave and modern synthpop is lacking.

Applied with engaging productions and arrangements, the music captures the spirit of the pioneering MTV era and classic Brat Pack movie soundtracks. Like a high tech K-Tel compilation album but from the baton of one conductor, this is perhaps the most cohesive multi-vocalist album since the only long player to date by KLEERUP which combined electro-soul, synthpop, Italo, kosmische and ambient. DIAMOND FIELD has successfully thrown in new wave, synthpop, funk, R ‘n’ B and AOR into one escapist pot.

People are very nostalgic right now, whether for the 70s, 80s, 90s or 00s because anything is better than what has happened in the last 18 months, but DIAMOND FIELD has shown that the present and future are going to be alright.


‘Diamond Field’ is available in vinyl and cassette editions through Sofa King Vinyl at https://sofakingvinyl.com/ as well as digitally via the usual online platforms

https://diamondfieldmusic.com/

https://www.facebook.com/diamondfieldmusic

https://twitter.com/diamond_field

https://www.instagram.com/diamond_field/

https://open.spotify.com/album/108IiQzFu9eRr9vPulJoJn


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Claire Price
30th July 2021

VEHLINGGO PRESENTS: 5 Years

Originally released in November 2019, ‘Vehlinggo Presents: 5 Years’ collected together exclusive tracks from the world of synthwave and electronic pop.

Curated by Aaron Vehling, founder of Vehlinggo, the 17 tracks presented the musical ethos of the Brooklyn-based website, podcast and multimedia platform. Having been issued digitally, ‘Vehlinggo Presents: 5 Years’ is now available on CD with a slight adjustment in running order to reflect Vehling’s vision of an imaginary film soundtrack.

Any good compilation contains promising talents alongside established names and this is certainly the case here.

The reconfigured tracklisting begins in a cool stylish fashion with ANORAAK’s ‘Panarea’, a funky nu-disco instrumental. Retrospective references surface with Canada’s PARALLELS on ‘The Magic Hour’, an exquisite slice of synthesized new wave that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in a classic Brat Pack movie.

Remaining in Canada which has become the creative centrepoint for much of the best modern synth music, Ryan Gosling favourites FM ATTACK offer more of their trademark atmospheric electronic disco on ‘Paradise’.

The mood changes though with the appealing girly Italopop of New Yorkers BUNNY X and their ‘Revolving Doors’.

Now THE MIDNIGHT have become possibly the biggest synthwave crossover act with their sax assisted AOR but their appeal still baffles some observers; ‘Sometimes She Smiles’ does not change things and sounds not unlike busker balladeer PASSENGER but constructed using VSTs.

But with the pacey ‘Rage Of Honor’, proceedings are rocked up by LE MATOS although the backbone is still predominantly electronic. With a track entitled ‘Hi-NRG’, BETAMAXX begins proceedings with a cowbell frenzy but the speedy arpeggios soon join in for a Giorgio Moroder homage complete with digital chimes.

The shiny electro continues with the Sweden’s Johan Agebjörn and ‘Have You Ever Been In Love?’; using robotic vocal treatments like FM ATTACK, because this is a dub version of the track, the featured vocal of Tom Hooker, the voice behind many of the hits for famed Italo star Den Harrow, only comes in phrases which proves to be frustrating; the solution is to track down the original mix of the song from the ‘Videoman’ soundtrack.

MAETHELVIN cuts a solid funk groove on ‘Dance Through The Night’ aided by a LinnDrum derived pattern but maintains a chilly air, while from the Italians Do It Better stable, the previously unreleased Johnny Jewel produced ‘Gold’ by IN MIRRORS builds on some staccato tension.

The throbbing ‘Girl On Video’ from FORGOTTEN ILLUSIONS is loaded with hooks and big synthetic drum fills but while it is passable 4/4 synthwave fare, it is overlong and may have benefitted from being constructed around a 6/8 Schaffel to give it more bite.

A self-confessed “21st Century ’80s” artist, DIAMOND FIELD takes the delightful Dana Jean Phoenix into an interesting direction on ‘Freedom Pass’ by producing something that comes over like THE GO-GO’S gone synthpop. It recalls when Jane Wiedlin was working with PET SHOP BOYS producer Stephen Hague after the group first disbanded.

Beginning with some female prose en Français, DEADLY AVENGER‘s ‘Your Phone Is Off The Hook, But You’re Not’ is reminiscent of the quirky French underground from which cult acts such as MATHEMATIQUES MODERNES and RUTH emerged. Meanwhile, the wonderful MECHA MAIKO contributes the arty ‘Selfless’ which stands out with its screechy backdrop before settling into an avant pop concoction that makes hypnotic use of her repeated “It’s alright” phrasing!

‘She Sees A Future’ from Lakeshore Records signing VH x RR perhaps has the most nostalgic references like THE LOVER SPEAKS meeting ANIMOTION, but proceedings are taken down a notch by the filmic vocodered mood piece that is METAVARI’s ‘Be What You See’.

But the best is saved until last with HIGHWAY SUPERSTAR and the gorgeously dreamy ‘Slow Motion’; featuring a fabulous vocal by Zoe Polanski, the end result comes across a bit like ELECTRIC YOUTH.

‘Vehlinggo Presents: 5 Years’ does its job well of showcasing new and established international talent from an American perspective.

Coming from variants of electronic music that have been labelled as synthpop, Italo Disco, synthwave, nu-disco and French disco, what actually matters is whether the music is any good.

Considering this compilation contains largely of previously unreleased material with the baggage that can come with that knowledge, the majority of it is excellent. Listeners will of course have their own favourites, but there really is something for everyone who loves electronic pop with quality and substance.


‘Vehlinggo Presents: 5 Years’ is released as a limited edition CD in a packaged in a six-panel wallet with artists’ notes on 1st March 2021 while the digital album is available now direct from https://vehlinggopresents.com/album/vehlinggo-presents-5-years

https://vehlinggo.com/presents-liner-notes/

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Text by Chi Ming Lai
5th February 2021

ROXI DRIVE Interview

The advent of synthwave as a genre has led to a number of interesting variants with the pop-oriented version of the form being led by international starlets such as DANA JEAN PHOENIX, NINA, and PARALLELS.

Looking to join their ranks with her recently released second album ‘Electric Heart’ is Britain’s very own ROXI DRIVE.

With her own take on the classic MTV friendly sound of Pat Benatar and Laura Brannigan, ‘Electric Heart’ sees Roxi rock out more openly compared with her debut long player ‘Strangers Of The Night’.

Add Brat Pack movies, paranormal comedies and horror films from the era into the mix and ROXI DRIVE evokes colourful images from the past with big hair, leather jackets, sexy jump suits and silk blouses to accompany her synth assisted rock-flavoured sound.

Roxi kindly took time out to chat about her ‘Electric Heart’ and why she loves to party like it’s 1985…

The first thing that has to be said is the cover art for ‘Electric Heart’ is very retro-authentic, had it been inspired by any particular images from back in the day and how did you get the look?

Thank you. Yes I went through 80s single and album covers to find inspiration. I love the whole 80s aesthetic so it was fun putting together the look. I’m very inspired by Pat Benatar and Laura Brannigan so I wanted something reminiscent of their vibe. My friend and band member Glen Jevon came over to mine with all his kit and we had a fun afternoon shooting lots of 80s poses and looks.

What inspired you to enter this world of synths and popwave as your background is in acting?

Well I’ve always loved music and singing. I sung on stage in various roles when I did musical theatre. I then joined a 40s style harmony girl band called THE MORELLAS which was good fun and we gigged up and down the country together.

I much prefer writing and recording than being in the acting game. I remember feeling a distinct lack of enthusiasm for a lot of the roles I was auditioning for. I have always been an 80s nerd so doing this really fulfils me and I have a lot of fun with it.

Is the rumoured Ryan Gosling obsession just legend or truth?

Haha! I think that rumour may have started with you Chi! I love the movie ‘Drive’ as much as the next synth head but not sure I’m obsessed with the guy as pretty as he is.

Who are your musical influences as far as you own music is concerned?

Ohhh too many to mention! I like to skip between slightly more rocky pop and the more funky pop. I love the pop rock chicks of the 80s, Pat Benatar, Laura Brannigan, Kim Wilde, Tuesday Knight and then the more funky pop artists like Nu Shooz, Cyndi Lauper, Meri D Marshal, Stacey Q and Aleshia. Favourite bands would be DEPECHE MODE, SIMPLE MINDS, TEARS FOR FEARS, BANANARAMA.

‘Run All Night’ started it all, how did the track come together and when did you become aware it was getting a positive response?

Yes ‘Run all Night’ basically began with a friend of mine James Secker sending my demo tape to SELLOREKT/LA DREAMS, who’s a producer in LA and he wanted to work with me which I was very excited about. He had already released it previously but felt it would work really well with vocals, so we got to work. It began with a full verse / chorus pattern and lots more lyrics but it wasn’t working, so we cut it down and created a chorus from one of the lines from the verse “Waiting in the dark” which worked well in the end. We were really pleased with the positive response and I knew then this was what I wanted to do.

Photo by Abstract Reality

Your first album ‘Strangers Of The Night’ was promising but it would be far to say it lacked aural cohesion due to the number of producers who worked on it; did you set out to do anything on ‘Electric Heart’ to get more of a sonic continuity?

You would think so, but actually I still worked with a number of producers on this album, although maybe the overall sound is more in sync than the previous album.

I particularly wanted more of an authentic vibe with the tracks and was keen to explore the rockier pop stuff with the electric guitars as I’ve always loved that sound. So a lot of the producers I worked with already had that sound or were more than capable of producing it.

So with a song like ‘Dangerous’, what would be the creative dynamic on that?

‘Dangerous’ was a track JUNO DREAMS produced and it was already pretty much in the bag, production wise. He needed a singer to write and record a melody for it and I got to work. I was very excited to work with him. That track came out better than I think either of us expected. I’ve had a lot of great response on that one, it’s quite an empowering track and I like to think makes you feel like you’re in the 80s soundtrack to your life when listening to it. The lyrics were actually based on one of my favourite 80s horror movies ‘Fright Night’. You’ll see in there the reference to mirrors knowing all the secrets and lies.

‘Breathe You’ has some great synth passages while vocally it’s quite wispily emotive, what is it about?

Yes another one I based on a favourite 80s movie, this time ‘Starman’ by John Carpenter. I always loved this film and the lyrics were about this extra-terrestrial ‘man’ having to go back home but also having to leave this woman that he’s fallen in love with. He can’t stay on Earth because he literally can’t breathe and won’t survive. Every time I see that film I cry so it was nice to write about it in the lyrics.

You’re getting to play out a lot more of your Pat Benatar fantasies on tracks like ‘Breakdown’, ‘Lost In the Game’ and ‘Video Fantasy’?

Yes absolutely! She’s such an inspiration of mine and her performances are so powerful. Her music really lifts the mood. I really wanted tracks like this on the album.

Were you ever a hairbrush in the mirror kind of girl when you were a teenager?

I’m sure I did stand in front of my mirror with a hairbrush. I was always performing in some way, if it was in the school choir, or school plays, or local theatre group. I remember begging my teacher when I was about 10 if I could stand in front of the class and sing ‘Eternal Flame’ by THE BANGLES. I guess the 80s influence was written in the stars even then.

Photo by Abstract Reality

How do you prefer to record your voice? Are you a one take type of girl or is comping better with regards the end product?

Mostly comping. I rarely get a whole song in one take and I would never be happy with that. I’ll do several takes and decide on the right ones.

‘Hot Night’ is a real fist in the air moment like it could have come off a Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckenheimer film, was Bonnie Tyler in the house?

Haha she may have been when Diane Warren wrote it. It was originally sung by Laura Brannigan for the ‘Ghostbusters’ soundtrack and I’ve always loved it.

Why did you opt to include two versions of ‘Electricity’?

I wanted a different spin on it and I really love DIAMOND FIELD’s style of taking a song and reworking it as opposed to remixing it and creating almost an acoustic version which stands well alone as a different song entirely. I didn’t want a typical remix, I wanted it to sound very different.

Which are you own favourite songs on ‘Electric Heart’ and why?

‘All My Dreams’ is a beautiful song written by a wonderful musician called KIDBURN. We both loved working together and it turned out our voices had a really nice synergy. ‘Breakdown’ and ‘Video Fantasy’ are real foot stomping feel good tunes. ‘Electricity’ is really good fun to sing on stage.

Do you feel an affinity with the other synthwave girls like NINA, PARALLELS and DANA JEAN PHOENIX like sisters in arms?

Yes, I love those artists and lots of other female artists doing the retro thing. I’ve always been drawn to female vocalists. I love listening to them sing and it’s so wonderful that we all support each other. Everyone has their own style and vibe which I love.

How are you finding handling social media and marketing your music to an audience? What have been the pros and cons?

I was used to it to a certain extent when I was an actress. It can be tough to have to constantly find content to put out. We don’t get paid for social media posts, we just have to hope that we sell more music or reach out to a wider audience. The pros are most defiantly being able to interact with so many people all over the world. I’ve had the nicest support from people and the kindest of messages about how my music has made people feel or helped them in some way and that means everything to me. Makes it all worthwhile.

How have you been finding performing live? What’s it like compared with acting in a play?

I was bricking it when I first started. Simply because although I’ve been in a band or in plays, I’ve not stood up alone with no one by my side sharing the load. I have found the more shows I’ve performed, the more confident I’m getting and like anything else, it’s a learning experience and my show is building all the time. I now have an awesome drummer called Matt and a keytar player in Glen, so we now have a really nice dynamic on stage as a band. I feel like I can relax and let loose a bit more.

What’s next for you, lockdown depending of course? Are there any hopes and fears with regards doing music?

Yeah it’s a shame as I had some nice shows booked this year. I’ll continue more writing and recording. I’ll soon be releasing a horror track to promote an 80s horror novel David Irons has written called ‘Polybius’. Based on an urban myth about a killer arcade game in the 80s, so that will be released shortly.

I’m working with a couple of other producers on possible side projects. I’ll probably continue to keep varying my style. I don’t like to get stuck in a box. I’ll do what feels right and what I enjoy. I’m filming some live performances at home, so me and the guys can pretend we are on stage from our homes.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives is warmest thanks to ROXI DRIVE

‘Electric Heart’ is available as a download album direct from: https://roxidrive.bandcamp.com/album/electric-heart

Pre-order vinyl LP at https://qrates.com/projects/20465-electric-heart

https://www.roxidrivemusic.com/

https://www.facebook.com/RoxiDrive/

https://twitter.com/RoxiDrive

https://www.instagram.com/roxidrive/

https://open.spotify.com/artist/7hQiyAGXAwCFtakCFSIgHK


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Glen Jevon except where credited
29th April 2020, updated 19th May 2020