Tag: Dramatis (Page 1 of 3)

Lost Albums: DRAMATIS For Future Reference

Following the retirement of Gary Numan with his spectacular farewell shows at Wembley Arena in April 1981, four of his erstwhile backing band officially went solo under the moniker of DRAMATIS.

RRussell Bell, Denis Haines, Chris Payne and Ced Sharpley toured the skies with the Machine Music pioneer and had been instrumental (pun totally intended) in the success of Numan’s powerful live presentation.

While success for DRAMATIS for not exactly assured, several things were in place for a smooth transition to independence.

First the quartet had signed a deal with Elton John’s Rocket Records. Secondly, they had also secured the services as engineer and co-producer of Simon Heyworth who had worked with on Mike Oldfield’s ‘Tubular Bells’. And finally, they had use of Ridge Farm Studios, one of the best residential recording facilities in the UK at the time.

DRAMATIS were a brainy bunch. Guitarist RRussell Bell had a degree in Physics / Psychology and was versatile enough to handle unusual instruments such as the Moog Liberation keytar, Chapman Stick and Vi-Tar electric violin.

Drummer Ced Sharpley previously had cult success with prog rockers DRUID who were signed to EMI and had appeared on ‘Old Grey Whistle Test’; his clean, dynamic drum breaks on ‘The Pleasure Principle’ tracks such as ‘Cars’, ‘Films’ and ‘Metal’ became very influential within the US Hip-Hop community.

Handling mostly keyboard duties, both Chris Payne and Denis Haines were classically schooled; Payne had also co-written VISAGE’s ‘Fade To Grey’ and been noted for his viola playing on Numan standards such as ‘M.E.’ and ‘Complex’. He had even mastered a Medieval reed instrument called a Cornamuse. Meanwhile it was Haines who had played the piano version of ‘Down In The Park’ that made it onto the flip of ‘I Die:You Die’. However, it was exactly this type of musical background which the British music press still had total disdain for in the wake of punk.

“Between Denis Haines and myself, we used a Prophet 10 and Prophet 5, CP70 piano, Minimoog, ARP Axxe, Roland 330 vocoder, and Moog Taurus pedals” Payne said of the instrument armoury, “RRuss also had a Chapman stick which was sometimes heavily effected to sound synth like, and to complete the madness on the song ‘Human Sacrifice’, I played the cornamuse for that ancestral sound!”

Released after Gary Numan’s Wembley concerts, the grandiose debut single ‘Ex Luna Scientia’ showed DRAMATIS’ potential immediately. Celebrating the adventurous spirit of NASA, it coincided with the launch of the first Space Shuttle and sounded like a cross between ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA and VISAGE.

But it was too much for the savage journalists who already had their knives resharpened following usage on their former employer. “We had a lot to prove musically because Gary Numan had been getting so much flak in the press which reflected on us.”

Chris Payne remembered, “They said the music was naïve, the band couldn’t play and that was quite hurtful.” 

Unfortunately, comments like “chicken without its head” were being banded about while other writers couldn’t get their brain cells round a catchy vocodered chorus sung in Latin!

Undeterred, a follow-up single ‘Oh! 2025’ was put out but this was quite pedestrian synth rock compared to ‘Ex Luna Scientia’. Incidentally, its beautiful B-side ‘The Curtain’ was later recycled by ULTRAVOX’s Billy Currie for a solo track called ‘Requiem’!

With Rocket Records still sniffing for a hit, the next single ‘No-One Lives Forever’ was swiftly issued. This was much better; the anthemic chorus, deep chanting bridge and Bell’s heavy metal guitar solo contradicting the dystopian resignation of Haines’ lead vocal.

Gary Numan said on the Radio 1 review show ‘Roundtable’ that it was “the best thing they’ve done yet”. It even got played by Steve Wright although he was unimpressed; “I know it’s deliberate but those vocals are awful” he quipped. It would be fair to say vocals were DRAMATIS’ Achilles heel and sounded strained at best. But RRussell Bell explained: “When we recorded the first DRAMATIS album, we recorded the backing tracks first, then I’d lock myself in a room and write the lyrics. Then we’d start putting the vocals down, that’s when I discovered that they were all in keys that were a bit high for my voice. Basically, I’m a baritone…”

To attract interest in their forthcoming album, Rocket Records came up with a bold strategy with the release of ‘No-One Lives Forever’… they put a one minute sample each of four songs on the B-side.

The idea was ahead of its time as snippet based promotion is now standard practice on many platforms. Alas, the single wasn’t a hit and the album (which had already been advertised in the press) was now delayed.

A total remix of the album was made at the behest of the label while a new sleeve depicting the band as futuristic university lecturers was necessitated.

“The initial idea was supposed to be a Victorian glass display in the British museum with us as an exhibit” recalled Bell of that photo session, “The concept of glass cases came in but it was like four glass telephone boxes with us standing in them in an empty office. There was nothing British Museum about it. We looked at the pictures and they were crap. So that idea was scrapped!”

“Oh God, it was a mess!” remembered Payne, “I never understood why we spent ages recording it in one of the best studios in England at the time, only to remix it at Marcus studios in London, which was bloody awful. All this messing around when we had perfectly good mixes drove me to despair. It took forever, cost a fortune, we had to re-do the cover of the album. Denis Haines and I thought the album lost something. Having said that, the time spent at Ridge Farm was brilliant. It was a really inspirational environment and had a great pub in the village just up the road. Needless to say where we were most evenings.”

Meanwhile while they were recording the album, Gary Numan paid a visit to his former colleagues at Ridge Farm Studios before he departed on an ambitious round-the-world flight. He particularly enjoyed the backing track of a song that had been written about their days touring together. Entitled ‘Love Needs No Disguise’, Numan asked if he could sing it. The band happily accepted.

With Sharpley’s sparse drum machine intro dressed with his timbale rolls and Haines’ stark piano chords, this was a lot barer than Numan’s own recordings although he himself had been experimenting with minimalism on ‘Dance’. Some pretty guitar and viola was the final touch and the track was released as a joint single on Numan’s label Beggars Banquet. It reached No 33 in the UK chart but not as high as many had hoped.  The parent album ‘For Future Reference’ then slipped out in December 1981 almost unnoticed. It was though Rocket had decided to pull back on it.

Overall, the album had many impressive moments but also had several flaws. Featuring all the singles, one of the highlights was ‘Turn’, voiced by Chris Payne and throwing in everything from a classical intro, progressive interludes and pounding drums to clattering rhythm box, synth solos and angry if slightly ham vocals. “I have never felt comfortable about my own voice” Payne clarified, “It was always put down whilst I was at music college and as a result I really didn’t care that much. ‘Turn’ was composed by me and I only recorded my own voice for either Denis or RRussell who were the principle vocalists on the album. But after I recorded it, everyone thought it fitted the track so we kept it.”

The following ‘Take Me Home’ had the drama of a vintage silent movie with Chaplin-esque piano and strings heart wrenching as Haines cried like a disturbed teenager, repeating the title over and over again. Haines’ Peter Gabriel impression could grate and was not to everyone’s taste but his ‘On Reflection’ was another musical highlight on the second half of the LP, a sad lament about lost friendships. With a more conventional if limited rock oriented vocal, RRussell Bell had his moment with the incessant ‘I Only Find Rewind’ while ‘Human Sacrifice’ possessed aggressive tribal synthetics and an LFO squence from the Moog Liberation but was spoiled by a weak chorus.

DRAMATIS’ only album so far showcased the band’s virtuoso abilities and while the use of four different lead vocalists confused the continuity of the album, instrumentally, there was much to enjoy. Chris Payne certainly agrees: “I think it’s a really good album. My only regret was that we didn’t have just one person who could have sung everything to make it more of a cohesive album. We had Gary as a guest which was fair enough but me singing a track… c’mon? We should have stuck to one singer, that was a big mistake… but musically, it stands up.”

Very much the outsider even when he was in Gary Numan’s band, Haines left DRAMATIS after he declined to tour the album and embarked on a solo career.

He released a Numan-esque 12” single in Germany called ‘It Spoke To Me Of You’ and an ambient album entitled ‘The Listening Principle’ which featured versions of ‘The Curtain’ and ‘Take Me Home’ retitled ‘In Loving Memory’.

But at the start of 1982, the remaining trio released a great 7 inch pairing featuring the ULTRAVOX-like ‘Face On The Wall’ backed with the neo-classical jig of ‘Pomp & Stompandstamp’. They then topped it with ‘The Omen’ Goes Disco magnificence of ‘The Shame’ a few months later although further chart action didn’t materialise.

RRussell Bell thought it was one of their best songs and in a 2007 interview with NuReference amusingly recalled: “the line ‘train crash killed the heroine’ was about a starlet who died in a train crash. But the music press thought it was about heroin, which shows how bad their spelling is and also how f*cking stupid they are to even think I’d write a song about the most evil, insidious drug in the world. However, the guitar solo was pretty cool.”

Following an appearance on ‘The David Essex Showcase’ (a short lived BBC talent showcase which also featured TALK TALK amongst others!), their final John Punter produced single ‘I Can See Her Now’ reached No 57 in late 1982.

But just as they were about to make a breakthrough with a second album on the way, the politics of the music biz had worn the threesome down.

While losing interest in their own band, Gary Numan meanwhile had got the bug back for touring and played clubs in the US during the summer of 1982 with a new backing band which featured Rob Dean, ex-JAPAN and soon-to-be-in-demand fretless bassist Pino Palladino. However, for his forthcoming ‘Warriors’ assault, Numan decided to call up his former band. With the prospect of more secure employment, DRAMATIS were no more.

Fast forward to 2000 and with Gary Numan getting critical reappraisal for his imperial years, ‘For Future Reference’ was rather misleadingly reissued and promoted as a lost TUBEWAY ARMY album under the title ‘The DRAMATIS Project’ by Castle Select.

The CD was pressed from a vinyl cutting master while the seamless join between ‘Turn’ and ‘Take Me Home’ was spoiled by the atmospheric intro of the latter being faded out and then restarting again on its chilling ivory motif after a gap!

Meanwhile, the clueless booklet notes also implied that Messrs Bell, Haines, Payne and Sharpley were actually members of TUBEWAY ARMY… most Gary Numan fans knew the band effectively didn’t exist when ‘The Blue Album’ was released in 1978!

RRussell Bell was dismayed when asked about this reissue: Oh don’t! The DRAMATIS ‘project’, it was never a project, it was a band!” But he had good news: “I’ve recently got back control of the album and bought back the rights, so we now own it again. And DRAMATIS is back together and releasing the second album”.

So a properly remastered ‘For Future Reference’ finally gets its first official resissue on CD thanks to Cherry Red Records and the three post-album singles make their belated digital debut too with the B-sides ‘Lady DJ’, The Curtain’, ‘Pomp & Stompandstamp’  and ‘One Step Ahead’ also appearing. The BBC In Concert recorded at the Paris Theatre in 1982 featuring the unreleased ‘Sand & Stone’ and all the extended 12 inch versions are additionally included in the plethora of bonuses.

Looking back recently on the period, Chris Payne said: “Personally the standout for me is and always will be ‘The Shame’. It started with the chord patterns whilst rehearsing at the old Nomis rehearsal studios in Earls Court and gathered pace from there with RRussell adding his parts with melody and lyrics, plus a brilliant guitar solo in the middle eight. I seem to remember that we recorded that at the old Trident studios in London, and it was a shame (excuse the pun) that we didn’t continue there as I found this to be the perfect studio sound for DRAMATIS.”

DRAMATIS were undoubtedly finding their feet as a solo proposition in 1982 but their tenure was cut short. Sadly, Cedric Sharpley passed away in 2012 but with a new single ‘A Torment of Angels’ and a live return in 2021, DRAMATIS can now finally reference their past for a future.


In memory of Ced Sharpley 1952 – 2012

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to RRussell Bell and Chris Payne

Special thanks also to Stephen Roper at The Numan Arms

‘For Future Reference’ is reissued as a 2CD set by Cherry Red Records on 22nd April 2022, pre-order from https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/dramatis-dramatis-2cd-digipak/

The Numan Arms YouTube channel featuring an interview with Chris Payne and an archive audio only chat with the late Ced Sharley is located at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-rRuX6k___Y4ZkTHwQg–Q/videos


Text and Interviews by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Brian Aris
14th April 2022, based an article originally published 19th April 2012

MUSIK MUSIC MUSIQUE 2.0 1981: The Rise Of Synth Pop

1981 is the year covered by the second instalment of Cherry Red’s ‘Musik Music Musique’ series.

1980 was something of a transition year for the synth as it knocked on the door of the mainstream charts but by 1981, it was more or less let in with welcome arms. From the same team behind the ‘Close To The Noise Floor’ compendiums and the most excellent ‘Electrical Language’ boxed set, ‘Musik Music Musique 2.0 1981 – The Rise Of Synth Pop’ presents rarities alongside hits and key album tracks from what many consider the best year in music and one that contributes the most to the legacy of electronic music in its wider acceptance and impact.

Featuring HEAVEN 17  with ‘(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang’, OMD with ‘Souvenir’ and the eponymous single by VISAGE, these songs are iconic 1981 canon that need no further discussion. Meanwhile the longevity of magnificent album tracks such as ‘Frustration’ by SOFT CELL and ‘I Remember (Death In The Afternoon)’ by ULTRAVOX can be summed by the fact that they have featured in 21st Century live sets alongside their parent acts’ hits.

Although not quite as celebrated, ‘You Were There’ from pastoral second John Foxx long player ‘The Garden’ captures the move from stark JG Ballard imagery to something almost romantic. DEVO are represented by the LinnDrum driven ‘Through Being Cool’, the opener of the ‘New Traditionalists’ album which comes as a statement that the mainstream was their next target; the Akron quintet were one of the many acts signed by Virgin Records as the label focussed on a synth focussed takeover that ultimately shaped the sonic landscape of 1981.

Then there’s TEARS FOR FEARS’ promising debut ‘Suffer The Children’ in its original synthier single recording and The Blitz Club favourite ‘Bostich’ from quirky Swiss pioneers YELLO. Another Blitz staple ‘No GDM’ from GINA X PERFORMANCE gets included despite being of 1978 vintage due to its first UK single release in 1981. The use of synth came in all sorts of shapes and FASHIØN presented a funkier take with ‘Move Øn’ while the track’s producer Zeus B Held took a more typically offbeat kosmische approach on his own ‘Cowboy On The Beach’.

Pivotal releases by JAPAN with the ‘The Art Of Parties’ (here in the more metallic ‘Tin Drum’ album version) and A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS ‘(It’s Not Me) Talking’ highlight those bands’ then-potential for mainstream success. But in the battle of the New Romantic boy bands, the sitar tinged DURAN DURAN B-side ‘Khanada’ easily blows away the SPANDAU BALLET album track ‘Reformation’ in an ominous sign as to who would crack it biggest worldwide.

The great lost band of this era, B-MOVIE issued the first of several versions of ‘Nowhere Girl’ in December 1980 on Dead Good Records and its inclusion showcases the song’s promise which was then more fully realised on the 1982 Some Bizzare single produced by the late Steve Brown although sadly, this was still not a hit.

The best and most synth flavoured pop hits from the period’s feisty females like Kim Wilde and Toyah are appropriate inclusions, as is Hazel O’Connor’s largely forgotten SPARKS homage ‘(Cover Plus) We’re All Grown Up’. But the less said about racist novelty records such as ‘Japanese Boy’ by Aneka, the better… the actual nation of Japan though is correctly represented by their most notable electronic exponents YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA with ‘Cue’ from ‘BGM’, the first release to feature the Roland TR808 Rhythm Composer.

With these type of boxed sets, it’s the less familiar tracks that are always the most interesting. As the best looking member of TANGERINE DREAM, Peter Baumann had a crack at the single charts with the catchy Robert Palmer produced ‘Repeat, Repeat’ while former Gary Numan backing band DRAMATIS are represented by ‘Lady DJ’ although its epic A side ‘Ex Luna Scientia’ would have equally merited inclusion. But BEASTS IN CAGES who later became HARD CORPS stand out with the stark dystopia of ‘Sandcastles’.

The one that “should-have-been-a-pop-hit” is the ABBA-esque ‘I Can’t Hold On’ by Natasha England and it’s a shame that her career is remembered for a lame opportunistic cover of ‘Iko Iko’ rather than this, but the delightful ‘Twelfth House’ demonstrates again how under-rated Tony Mansfield’s NEW MUSIK were, and this with a B-side!

The rather fraught ‘Wonderlust’ by THE FALLOUT CLUB captures the late Trevor Herion in fine form on a Thomas Dolby produced number with a dramatic Spaghetti Western flavour that is lushly sculpted with electronics. Over a more sedate rhythm box mantra, ‘Love Moves In Strange Ways’ from BLUE ZOO swirls with a not entirely dissimilar mood.

Mute Records founder Daniel Miller was breaking through with his productions for DEPECHE MODE in 1981, but representation on ‘Musik Music Musique 2.0’ comes via the colder austere of ‘Science Fiction’ by Alan Burnham. ‘West End’ by Thomas Leer adds some jazzy freeform synth soloing to the vocal free backdrop, while ‘Surface Tension’ from ANALYSIS is an appealing instrumental.

The strangely accessible weirdness of CHRIS & COSEY’s ‘This Is Me’, MYSTERY PLANE’s ‘Something To Prove’ and the gritty ‘Brix’ from PORTION CONTROL will delight those more into the leftfield, while AK-47’s ‘Stop! Dance!’, the work of Simon Leonard (later of I START COUNTING and KOMPUTER fame) is another DIY experiment in that aesthetic vein.

Some tracks are interesting but not essential like Richard Bone’s ‘Alien Girl’ which comes over like an amusing pub singer SILICON TEENS, Johnny Warman’s appealing robopop on ‘Will You Dance With Me?’ and the synth dressed New Wave of ‘Close-Up’ by THOSE FRENCH GIRLS. For something more typically artschool, there’s the timpani laden ‘Taboos’ by THE PASSAGE and SECOND LAYER’s screechy ‘In Bits’.

More surprising is Swedish songstress Virna Lindt with her ‘Young & Hip’ which oddly combines showtune theatrics with blippy synth and ska! The set ends rather fittingly with Cherry Red’s very own EYELESS IN GAZA with the abstract atmospherics of ‘The Eyes Of Beautiful Losers’ although they too would eventually produce their own rousing synthpop statement ‘Sunbursts In’ in 1984.

Outside of the music, the booklet is a bit disappointing with the photos of OMD, TEARS FOR FEARS, HEAVEN 17, B-MOVIE and a glam-bouffanted Kim Wilde all coming from the wrong eras. And while the liner notes provide helpful information on the lesser known acts, clangers such as stating Toyah’s ‘Thunder In The Mountains’ was from the album ‘The Changeling’ when it was a standalone 45, “GONG’s Mike Hewlett” and “memorable sleeve designs by Malcolm Garrett’s Altered IMaGes” do not help those who wish to discover the origins of those accumulated gems.

But these quibbles aside, overall ‘Musik Music Musique 2.0’ is a good collection, although with fewer rare jewels compared with the first 1980 volume which perhaps points to the fact that those who had the shine to breakthrough actually did… 40 years on though, many of those hit making acts (or variations of) are still performing live in some form.

Was 1981 the most important year in synth as far becoming ubiquitous in the mainstream and hitting the top of the charts internationally? With VISAGE’s ‘Fade To Grey’ becoming a West German No1 in Spring 1981 through to SOFT CELL taking the summer topspot in the UK and culminating in THE HUMAN LEAGUE eventually taking ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ to No1 in the US, the sound of synth had done its job. Setting the scene for 1982 and 1983, further editions of ‘Musik Music Musique’ are planned.


‘Musik Music Musique 2.0 1981 – The Rise Of Synth Pop’ is released on 15th October 2021 as a 3CD boxed set

https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/musik-music-musique-2-0-the-rise-of-synth-pop-3cd-clamshell-box/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
12th October 2021

10 Years of ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK – BIRTHDAY GREETINGS FROM PEOPLE YOU MIGHT KNOW

Over the last 10 years, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK has been a voice for the discerning enthusiast of electronic pop.

With a balancing act of featuring the classic pioneers of the past alongside the emergent new talent for the future, the site has become well known for its interviews and reviews.

It asks the questions people have always wanted to ask while celebrating the continuing development of the synthesizer in popular music.

All this while holding to account those who deliver below expectations, assuring the listener that if they are perhaps not hearing the genius that some devoted fans are declaring, then ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK is there to assist in affirming or denying that assessment.

But when artists do deliver, they tend to build a strong relationship with ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK. So with the site celebrating its first 10 years, presented here are greetings and messages from some people who you might know…


Rusty Egan, VISAGE

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK is 10 years old with the synth knowledge of a 50 year old. If I can’t remember something electronic I don’t Google, I visit ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK!


Glenn Gregory, HEAVEN 17

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK and its wonderful leader Chi is like the League Of Super Heroes for Electronic Music. Our future is safe in his hands.

I have been involved in electronic music making for 40 years, yet one half hour conversation with Chi makes me realise how little I know. From then to now, he’s knows!


Neil Arthur, BLANCMANGE

Chi has been brilliantly supportive of BLANCMANGE, for which I am very grateful. We’ve always managed to have a good laugh during our interviews, as he would ask me about the darkness and gloom lying within a given BLANCMANGE song! I look forward to our next chat.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK has a very important place and a role to play, in spreading the news of electronic music, new and old, far and wide. Here’s to the next ten years. Well done and good luck.


Gary Daly, CHINA CRISIS

Thanks for all your wonderful support Chi, so glad someone has taken the time to ask some great questions…


Sarah Blackwood, DUBSTAR

I love the website. It’s a treasure trove of informative articles, both a very readable historical archive and a forward looking platform for encouraging new talent. In what can be traditionally and lazily categorised as a very male dominated scene, Chi encourages great music regardless of gender and I enjoy the updated Spotify playlist if I’m ever stuck for what to listen to whilst running.

As regards interviews, it’s always enjoyable – Chi is a bit too easy to talk to and his passion for music and synth geekery shines through – heaven forbid you try sneaking a (cleared) sample past him, he will spot it!

Is it 10 years already? Happy birthday ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK!


Chris Payne, DRAMATIS

With 18,000 likes and 12,000 Facebook followers; ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK under the guidance of its purveyor Chi Ming Lai, has become the leading place for the Electronic Music fan. Intelligent, well written and well researched journalism with a great team of writers presenting an array of brilliant fascinating new acts (and some older ones as well!), hopefully it will continue for at least another 10 years.


Tracy Howe, RATIONAL YOUTH

Congratulations to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK on ten years of brilliant reporting of, and support to, the electronic pop scene. ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK is the authoritative publication “of record” for fans and makers of synthpop alike and is the international rallying point and HQ for our music. We look forward to many more years of in-depth interviews and probing articles, all in the beautifully written style. Happy birthday ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK!


Mark White, ABC + VICE VERSA

Chi Ming Lai and Paul Boddy are two of the most learned, nay, erudite music journalists I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, a rare experience indeed to be quizzed by a pair who know their onions. And unusual integrity. Chi promised me if we asked, he would turn off the tape recorder and it would never appear in print. And has been true to his word. This has literally never happened in my career. Also these two chaps are bloody good fun. I laughed til I cried. Go see the movie!


Rob Dean, JAPAN

10 years of ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK? Only one for me (yes, I know…), but it’s heartening to know that Chi and the crew have created a site so cutting edge for us die-hard fans of electronica. Having read the highly entertaining VICE VERSA chaps interview, I was delighted to be asked to do my own, confident that the questions would be thoughtful and intelligent and yes, a little bit probing too. Here’s to the next 10 and thank you!


Richard Silverthorn, MESH

On several occasions I have done interviews for ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK. Every time I felt like they actually cared about the music and scene and put some educated thought into the questions. It’s good to feel that enthusiasm.


Tom Shear, ASSEMBLAGE 23

Congratulations on 10 years of covering and supporting the scene! Here’s to another 10 and beyond…


Sophie Sarigiannidou, MARSHEAUX

I first met Chi at Sparrowhawk Hotel, Burnley in November 2000 for an OMD convention. It took me 13 hours to reach by train to Burnley from London due to bad weather. I saw him playing live (!!!!) with his covers band THE MESSERSCHMITT TWINS, they were having their time of their life, dancing and singing, so so happy! Us too of course!! From that moment on we became friends. Then he supported our band MARSHEAUX from the very early beginning and I thank him a lot for that!

It’s always great having Chi asking questions for interviews. We as a band had our best interviews with ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK! We spent a lot of hours talking about the history of electronic music and the future of synthpop. My favourite articles are the “Beginners Guide To…” series, you have a lot to learn from these pages!!! Happy Anniversary Chi, we’ve indeed had 10 amazing years with ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK. I hope and wish the next 10 to be even better.


Mark Reeder, MFS BERLIN

Congratulations and a very Happy 10th Birthday! Over the past 10 years, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK has developed into becoming the leading website for all kinds of electronic synthpop music. It has become a familiar friend, because it is something I can personally identify with, as it is maintained by fans, for fans.

However, it is not only commendable, but can also be quite critical too, and that is a rare balancing act in the contemporary media world.

It has been a great source of regular electronic music information. I have discovered and re-discovered many wonderful electronic artists, and regularly devour the in-depth interviews and features.

Through ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK, I have been introduced to and worked with some of the wonderful artists presented on your pages, such as QUEEN OF HEARTS or MARSHEAUX and in return, it has supported my work, my label and my artists too, and I thank them for that! We can all celebrate ten years of ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK and together, look forward to the next 10 years of inspiring electronic music.


Per Aksel Lundgreen, SUB CULTURE RECORDS

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK is a highly knowledgeable and very passionate site! They are digging out rarities from the past as well as exploring and discovering new acts, giving them attention and writing about them often before anybody else around have even heard of them.

This makes ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK a very interesting page to follow, as their in-depth stories about older bands “missing in action” as well as the latest stuff “in the scene” gets perfectly mixed together, giving you all you want basically in a one-stop-site for everything electronic. I also love the way they give attention to unsigned / self-released bands and small indie-labels, giving everybody a fair chance as long as the music is good enough. Congrats on the 10th Anniversary, well deserved!


Jane Caley aka Anais Neon, VILE ELECTRODES

When VILE ELECTRODES were just starting out, we heard through the Facebook grapevine about a new electronic music blog called ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK. We had a London gig coming up, and had recently made a promo video for our song ‘Deep Red’, so we dropped them an email about both, not expecting to hear back, since we were virtually unknown.

However it transpired they really liked our sound, likening us to “Client B born and raised in the Home Counties fronting Dindisc-era ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK”.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK subsequently gave this very description to Andy McCluskey, which piqued his interest such that he checked out our music. We were invited to tour Germany with OMD as a direct result!


George Geranios, UNDO RECORDS

Chi is a really rare quality of a man. He is passionate about music which is so obvious of course while reading ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK. Through our mutual love for OMD, we discovered that we have the same musical taste. ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK helped us promote all of Undo Records projects and finally we ended collaborating and releasing this brilliant double CD compilation! Chi, I wish you health and to continue writing the best music texts in the industry!!


Adam Cresswell, HAPPY ROBOTS RECORDS

Some people say ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK doesn’t support the scene but I’ve not found that to be the case; having been a part of two gigs and the recent CD, I know how much blood, sweat and tears they put into what they do. ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK might get a few people’s back-up, but they know their stuff when it comes to synth-driven music and I’m massively grateful that they have supported so many Happy Robots artists since 2010.


Stuart McLaren, OUTLAND

It’s no secret that the burgeoning new synthwave genre shares a common history with the great synthesizer acts and pioneers of the 80s, like Dolby, Jones, Luscombe, Wilder, Daly et al who created new soundscapes with what we now define as vintage synths.

These sounds are brought back to life by pioneers in their own right like FM ATTACK, GUNSHIP, ESPEN KRAFT and BETAMAXX to name a few.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK and Chi Ming Lai have always been at the forefront of championing, interviewing and reviewing the luminaries of this great instrument past to present, and are likely to remain the de facto voice of the synth scene well into the future… we agree on one thing and that is FM-84’s singer Ollie Wride is deffo one to watch as a star for the future!


Paula Gilmer, TINY MAGNETIC PETS

Happy Birthday ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK. thank you for your support. You never fail to impress with your encyclopedic knowledge of synthpop. Here’s looking forward to 10 more!


Mr Normall, NUNTIUS

I’ve been following most of my favourite artists since they were brand new and often this means it’s a period of 30+ years, yet when reading articles and interviews by ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK, I have learned every time something new about of my favourites.

Following ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK have made me pay attention to several new acts that I would likely know nothing about if they hadn’t appeared on the page.


Catrine Christensen, SOFTWAVE

An outstanding magazine supporting new and upcoming artists whom they choose carefully as they have great taste of music regarding to their huge knowledge within the synthpop genre, when it comes to their writing and promotion – there’s no one like them. Happy birthday ?


Elena Charbila, KID MOXIE

Happy 10th birthday ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK! Your love and commitment to the synth community is unparalleled and your support has meant a lot to me on a professional but also on a personal level. Here’s to the next 10 years! ?


Alexander Hofman aka Android, S.P.O.C.K

I’m a fan of ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK for several reasons. You showed up when I perceived the majority of the electronic scene had turned more and more harsh; as much as I can appreciate an occasional emotional outburst, I’m a happy guy and thus I’m into pop – ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK showed, and still shows me that there’s still electronic pop music being made. Good electronic pop! Which makes me glad, as I find the greater part of the generally popular darker scene to be of lower musical quality.

Moreover, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK writes in an amazingly happy tone – remember, I’m a happy guy, so it’s right up my alley. Add the fact that ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK regularly publishes interesting articles, using intelligent and varied vocabulary, shows enormous knowledge and interest of the theme, the style, the scene – and I’m hooked. Thanks for being around – keep up the good work, it’s much needed! And congratulations – let’s grab a beer again! ?


Text compiled by Chi Ming Lai
15th March 2020

DRAMATIS Interview

DRAMATIS were a band of GARY NUMAN sidemen who toured the skies, but came into being as their own entity after their boss prematurely formalised his retirement from live performance at Wembley Arena in April 1981.

Their debut album ‘For Future Reference’ released later that year did not sell well despite the Numan voiced Top40 hit single ‘Love Needs No Disguise’, but it became something of a cult favourite.

After Denis Haines departed over disagreements about touring, the remaining trio of RRussell Bell, Chris Payne and Ced Sharpley played a series of live dates and issued a trio of singles ‘Face On The Wall’, ‘The Shame’ and ‘I Can See Her Now’ which were exhibiting a musical progression and a potential breakthrough.

However, a combination of frustrations with their label Rocket Records and their former boss’ desire to return to touring led to DRAMATIS being put in hiatus, as Bell, Payne and Sharpley returned to the Numan fold.

In 2012, there had been plans to DRAMATIS to reunite but the untimely passing of Sharpley led to a period of uncertainty as Bell and Payne grieved for their bandmate.

2019 saw RRussell Bell and Chris Payne make their belated solo debuts but for the start of the new decade, there was the unexpected announcement of a new DRAMATIS single entitled ‘A Torment of Angels’. Written by Bell and with a prog synth template likely to satisfy fans of ULTRAVOX, Payne said: “RRuss is a very clever composer. He has always managed to create incredible memorable tunes but not in a standard way. His construction of chords and melody are very ‘angular’ and never follow convention. This is what makes him so unique as a writer.”

With work now progressing on a second DRAMATIS album, RRussell Bell kindly chatted about why it has taken so long to follow-up ‘For Future Reference’ and the possibility of live dates…

After the various false starts, it was a pleasant surprise to hear there was a new DRAMATIS single to start the decade?

Yes, we finally got it together. To be honest, losing Ced was a massive blow that seriously knocked us back.

Even now, whenever I program a drum track, I always try to imagine what Ced might have played and attempt that.

Also, with Chris living in France, it was difficult for us to get together regularly and our studio software isn’t entirely compatible so working purely online is difficult.

You recently released your debut solo EP ‘Like-A-Human’, so what inspired you to head down the DRAMATIS route?

I totally updated my studio a little while ago and that was the impetus to start recording a backlog of songs I’d written, as well as writing new stuff. I really enjoyed recording the ‘Like-A-Human’ EP and it was a big learning curve getting the whole thing ready for release, doing the artwork for the CD, organising worldwide distribution, filling in tax forms for the US and packing and posting merchandise from home.

We used to have record companies to do all that crap but it’s more than worth the effort to be independent. Getting the EP out gave me enough confidence to then look at finishing the second DRAMATIS album with Chris. We were both ready for it.

What were DRAMATIS’ original influences and what have you been listening to recently to help point out a direction?

Everyone seems to be obsessed with Influences and genres these days.

My influences comprise the sum total of everything I’ve ever heard and learnt throughout my life but I don’t listen to music, not at home and not in the car because I really don’t want to be influenced by what other people are doing. If you try to follow a trend you’re always going to be behind it.

For me it’s important to write and record music that I like, regardless of whether other people like it. I think you have to be true to yourself and when you’re an independent artist you don’t have a record label saying, “Quick! Jump on this bandwagon” so you can follow your own path. That kind of freedom is wonderful.

Of course, it also gives you plenty of opportunities to fall flat on your face. I like that. However, going back to the original question, Gary has obviously been a big influence on me because he was a major part of my musical life for a decade, so I’ll happily and gratefully put my hands up to that one.

How would you describe the new DRAMATIS material?

Personally, I’m aiming for the musical equivalent of a barely controlled explosion, with epic synths, wailing guitars, orchestral strings and horns, multiple tribal drum tracks and soaring melodies. That’s what I’m aiming for. It’s not for me to decide if I’m anywhere near achieving that. It might sound like a wet fart to some people but you can’t please everyone.

How has writing and recording for this new music differed from when you last wrote as DRAMATIS?

I’m not aware of having changed the way I write songs. Recording is easier now in my own studio with modern equipment.

In fact, recording is so easy now that anyone, even someone tone deaf with no sense of rhythm can put together something that sounds a bit like a proper song, because the software gives you the rhythm and tunes and all the bum note.

But that doesn’t mean anyone can write a good song! I constantly have to fight the urge to rely too heavily on software, it can sap your creativity and make you sound anodyne and derivative.

‘A Torment Of Angels’ and your solo track ‘Like A Human’ saw you changing your vocal style and singing in a much lower key?

Yes, the funny thing is, when we recorded the first DRAMATIS album, we recorded the backing tracks first, then I’d lock myself in a room and write the lyrics. Then we’d start putting the vocals down, that’s when I discovered that they were all in keys that were a bit high for my voice. Basically, I’m a baritone. The verses of ‘I only Find Rewind’ are at a comfortable level for me and that’s around the pitch I write songs at now.

There was a song called ‘Retro Alien Thing’ that previewed in 2014. What was that about and will it be part of the new album?

That was an early song that Chris came up with, I wrote a totally different set of lyrics with a different melody, so now we have two songs with the same backing track. One of them might be on the album. Basically, we’re going to record as many songs as possible and then pick the best ones for the album.

Is ‘Sand & Stone’ which was played live during your tour in 1982 going to part of this new album?

A properly recorded studio version of ‘Sand & Stone’ is a contender for the album. I’ll let you know if it makes the cut as soon as we’ve decided.

Lyrically many of DRAMATIS’ songs reflected the dystopia of the times, and that all seems to have come full circle?

Yeah, it’s basically the same old sh*t happening to different people, which pretty much sums up the history of the human race. We never seem to learn anything from history.

So we’re just doomed to make the same mistakes over and over again. At least it gives us songwriters something to whinge about.

Are there any songs from the DRAMATIS reboot that you can tell us apart and how they’re coming together?

Today I’m working on a track called ‘Time Flies’. It has a floaty ethereal chorus, a slightly edgy verse and a weird bit in the middle that might well get the boot and be replaced by something with less oddness.

You and Chris have been appearing with and as support for your former boss at various points over the last ten years, what has that been like?

Playing with Gary is always fun. He’s so easy to work with and also, I finally got to play at the Albert Hall, even if it was just one song. Brilliant.

There was talk of a remastered ‘For Future Reference’ with its associated Rocket-era tracks coming out, what’s the state of play there?

Yes, that’s part of the plan but we still need to track down the original tapes. We also need them to assemble some backing tracks for live gigs as there’s only two of us now, so we obviously can’t play everything live.

If we can’t find them, we’ll have to re-record them, which will be a major pain in the arse. If anyone knows where they are please get in touch with me via Chi, it would be massively appreciated.

What are your favourite DRAMATIS songs from that first phase? Are there any particular memories, either personal or during recording attached to them that you can recall?

I think my favourites from that era are ‘I Only Find Rewind’, ‘The Shame’ and ‘Love Needs No Disguise’. I also have a soft spot for ‘I Can See Her Now’.

You played a Chapman Stick on ‘For Future Reference’, did you ever get the hang of it because it looks a bugger to play?

Yes, it was good for bass parts because it went down to bottom C and the left hand fingering was pretty easy for a guitarist but the upper register tapping with the left hand was tricky and also sounded like a weedy clavinet. It needed quite a few effects to make it sound half decent. I wasn’t using it very much, so I chopped it in for a drum machine and a microphone.

Do you still have your Moog Liberation?

Yes, I still have the Moog Liberation. It’s in the attic in London. God, that was a heavy bit of kit to lug around the stage.

I haven’t used it for years because I lost the 16 core lead that attaches it to the rack unit.

Is DRAMATIS playing live a possibility in the future?

Yes, DRAMATIS playing live is a very distinct possibility in the not too distant future.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to RRussell Bell

‘A Torment of Angels’ is available as a download single from https://dramatis.bandcamp.com/

‘For Future Reference’ is reissued as a 2CD set by Cherry Red Records on 22nd April 2022, pre-order from https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/dramatis-dramatis-2cd-digipak/

https://twitter.com/RRussellBell


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
14th January 2020, updated 28th February 2022

RRUSSELL BELL Like-A-Human EP

It’s been a long time coming but one-time Numan guitarist and sideman Richard Russell Bell (hence the RRussell spelling!) releases his first EP ‘Like-A-Human’.

Russell Bell joined Chris Payne, Cedric Sharpley, Paul Gardiner and Billy Currie’ for Numan’s ‘The Touring Principle’ in 1979.

This was during the electronic pioneer’s imperial phase, playing to sold-out crowds in the UK and then the world after Billy Currie left to rejoin ULTRAVOX, replaced Denis Haines.

But Bell wasn’t just required for duties on his chosen instrument as he told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK in 2012: “I was the guitarist and I had five synths!! I had a Polymoog, two Minimoogs, Moog Taurus pedals, Synares and a Roland guitar synth!”

On ‘The Teletour’, he would be required to play violin while when he formed DRAMATIS with Payne, Sharpley and Haines, he would add saxophone, Chapman Stick and a Moog Liberation to his armoury.

DRAMATIS only released one album ‘For Future Reference’ in 1981. Haines left shortly after so the remaining trio of Bell, Payne and Sharpley soldiered on to issue a further three singles before disbanding and rejoining their former boss for the ‘Warriors’ tour.

Decades later, DRAMATIS announced they were reforming but sadly Cedric Sharpley passed away in 2012. A new track featuring Bell and Payne called ‘Retro Alien Thing’ had radio play in 2014 but since then, there has been something of an are they or are they not going saga with DRAMATIS. Chris Payne issued a solo album ‘The Falling Tower’ this year while the pair performed ‘Fade To Grey’ together at the Royal Albert Hall in 2018 opening for Numan on his string laden tour with The Skaparis Orchestra.

The title song could easily be retitled “Like-A-Numan”, with Bell adopting the verbal mannerisms of the former Gary John Webb in a touching homage that will be enjoyed by long-standing card carrying Numanoids. Meanwhile on guitar, Bell turns into Robert Fripp!

On ‘Haunted By You’, Bell springs a another vocal surprise in a duet with the fabulous feminine allure of Charlie Jones, while the man himself offers a deeper vocal resonance away from the strained larynx heard on the work of DRAMATIS. The straightforward rhythmic backbone is perfect for the song’s cinematic surroundings.

Cut from a similar cloth, ‘We Drown In Bars’ is exotically Eastern and airy, especially within its guitar motif with Bell offering another confident low register vocal with some Numanesque overtones. To end the EP, the gothic prog of ‘Cold Zero’ maintains the baritone while there is some fabulous frantic drum programming and a full-fat guitar solo emerging from the haunting choir filled soundtrack.

Russell Bell says there will be new DRAMATIS material and it appears that the ‘Like A Human’ EP is a welcome first step in sparking such a possibility.


‘Like A Human’ is released as a digital EP, available now from https://rrussellbellslike-a-human.bandcamp.com/

https://www.rrussellbell.com/

https://twitter.com/RRussellBell


Text by Chi Ming Lai
19th April 2019

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