Tag: Ekkoes (Page 1 of 2)

EKKOES Interview

With their brand new album ‘Kinetik’, pop trio EKKOES are continuing their upward momentum following a prestigious slot opening for THE HUMAN LEAGUE on 2016’s ‘A Very British Synthesizer Group’ tour.

Comprising of Jon Beck, Dave Fawbert and Rosalee O’Connell, EKKOES released their well-received debut album ‘Elekktricity’ in Summer 2016.

Three of its tracks were co-written and co-produced with MARSHEAUX’s production team FOTONOVELA, while respected Berlin based remixer Mark Reeder has been a notable champion of their music.

The new album’s launch single ‘You Got The Light’ is a catchy slice of shiny electronic pop which could be their most accomplished yet, while the rugged drive of the bittersweet ‘Love Won’t Save You Now’ maintains EKKOES’ aim for “maximalism”. That ambition continues in abundance with the seven and a half minute title track.

A North West vibe emerges with ‘When You Wake’ on which O’Connell sings the verse lead, the guitar and synth backing echoing THE RAILWAY CHILDREN in their latter day Virgin guise.

The vibrant Italo house flavoured ‘Victim Of Love’ is not a cover of the ERASURE song but is equally danceable, while the spirit of PET SHOP BOYS can be heard loud and proud on ‘Without You I’m Nothing’, complete with muted synthetic trumpet solo.

Dave Fawbert from EKKOES kindly took time out from rehearsals for their album launch gig in London for ‘Kinetik’ to answer a few questions about their career to date…

What influences shaped the EKKOES sound?

It’s the clichéd answer but really it’s a combination of everything that we’ve ever listened to. You can write something and then realise later that it’s based on a snatch of lyric or melody from some long-forgotten hip hop track you listened to back in 1997 or something.

But I guess the artists we love the most come through the strongest: the pure pop songwriting of the likes of PET SHOP BOYS, ERASURE and Max Martin, the sonics of NEW ORDER and newer stuff like CHVRCHES, the precise guitar playing style of Johnny Marr, the atmospherics and beauty of SIGUR RÓS, a touch of MASSIVE ATTACK, the beats of LEFTFIELD, the euphoria of great trance – it’s all in there somewhere.

How did the dual male / female vocal template emerge?

Myself and Jon have always made music together and EKKOES was formed out of the ashes of a previous band – we just decided to do something new where it was just the two of us and we didn’t have to rely on, or wait for anyone else to do what we wanted (that went as far as me making the decision to learn how to produce as well, so we could literally do everything ourselves), so we didn’t initially plan on having any vocals other than Jon’s.

But we briefly worked with the legendary manager Jazz Summers – just before he had to step back from music due to illness – who suggested we try adding a female vocal into the mix. Rose was the first person to apply via a good old-fashioned rehearsal room advert, we tried her out on a couple of tracks (I think the first one was ‘Last Breath’, which ended up being our first album opener), and we liked what we heard – it just added that extra lift and dynamic to the songs. Now it’s hard to imagine our sound or songs without her.

In terms of writing and production, what is the creative dynamic between the three of you?

I’m a bit of a lone wolf when it comes to getting songs off the ground – I’ve tried co-writing and I find it quite difficult to have the confidence to experiment and work through a load of absolute rubbish, often for hours, before getting something great.

So usually I get a song 70% done on my own first and then take it to Jon, who’ll suggest improvements and changes, and then we usually work on the lyrics together before finishing off the rest of it.

We’ve written together for a long time and we can be very honest with each other – virtually every suggestion he makes ends up being the right one. Rose usually comes in at the end and works on the harmonies and extra backing vocals to take it to the next level – she’s a true pro and has a great ear for exactly what will work and benefit the song.

How did you come to the attention of Mark Reeder who then subsequently gave you your first official release with his remix of ‘Ice Cold’ on his ‘Five Point One’ album?

‘Ice Cold’ was the first track we ever stuck up on our Soundcloud and it was picked up by a blog called Electronic Rumors, who were big early fans of ours and passed it on to Mark Reeder cos they thought he’d be a fan. Lo and behold he was, and ever since has been a valued and enthusiastic supporter of ours. When he asked if he could remix the track for his ‘Five Point One’ album, then of course we were hugely flattered and said yes… it’s worth noting that this remix is credited to our old spelling of ECHOES – we should get that changed on streaming services actually!

You did a couple of new tracks ‘Electricity’ and ‘Heartbeat’ recorded with Mark Reeder that were released in 2017, how was it to be working with him again?

Those songs actually came about while we were putting our first album, ‘Elekktricity’, together – we looked at Mark being the producer of the record and gave him those two songs to work on. We loved what he did with them, but ultimately decided that we wanted the first album to be self-produced – I think we’d spent so long working towards it that we just wanted it to be our ‘statement’ of exactly who we were.

In the end, it was quite lucky really, as neither ‘Electricity’ nor ‘Heartbeat’ ended up on the album, as they didn’t quite fit with the other songs, so when Mark asked if he could use them for his ‘Mauerstadt’ album, it meant that they were nice new songs to bridge the gap between ‘Elekktricity’ and ‘Kinetik’. Our original version of ‘Electricity’ (which was mixed by the guys from SEEB, before they got mega famous with their brilliant Mike Posner remix) will be on ‘Kinetik’.

You also entered into a collaborative partnership with George Geranios and Nick Bitzenis aka FOTONOVELA who produce MARSHEAUX, how did that happen?

We originally got to hear of George Geranios because he wanted to release our first album in Greece on his Undo Records label whenever it was ready. Then Wall of Sound came knocking and, with George being a huge fan of Mark Jones, he then said he’d be happy to just licence it in Greece from WoS.

That never ended up happening which was a shame (more on that in a minute) but while we were waiting for things to be sorted, he asked us if we wanted to work on a track together for his new FOTONOVELA album, ‘A Ton Of Love’. He sent us some backing tracks as a starting point and we wrote ‘Fight The Feeling’ by chopping one up, rearranging it, writing the melody and lyrics and adding extra stuff to it. We were so happy with it we asked George if we could keep it to be the lead single for our own album and he said yes – but we said we’d do another one for their album.

Well the same thing happened again – twice! We wrote ‘Heaven’ and ‘Last Breath’ and asked if we could keep those too; luckily, George, being a lovely guy, said yes! Finally we wrote ‘Arrows’ and George and Nick got that one for ‘A Ton Of Love’. We also asked them to do some extra production work on ‘You Just Walked Away’ – a song that we re-recorded about five times before arriving at a final version, and their finishing touches were exactly what was needed.

EKKOES had a few label upheavals which led to a delay in the release of ‘Elekktricity’, how do you look back on what happened?

I won’t lie – it was enormously frustrating for us. We were signed to Wall of Sound and we had the album ready to go for around 18 months before it eventually came out – we waited and waited for label issues to be sorted out and eventually we realised that we’d be better off just going on our own.

We will always be grateful to Mark Jones though – we wouldn’t exist were it not for him… not long after forming, we bumped into him on Oxford Street just before we did what we thought would just be a one-off gig before we went off to do other things, and he asked us to send him our songs, so we thought there might be something in what we were doing after all. But yeah, it’s a shame we couldn’t have released that album earlier than we did – but we got there in the end.

What would you advise new acts to do with regards whether to go with a label or not?

That really is a difficult question to answer.

It’s never been easier to release stuff yourself (and to record and produce it yourself) but the big problem is how to get anyone to take any notice?

Ultimately the big labels still control most of the access to radio and big streaming playlists – and they have the cash that sometimes you need to get off the ground.

If a good label approaches you with a sensible deal and an A&R that gets what you’re trying to do and will support you through ups and downs, then signing a deal can still be a very positive thing.

On the other hand, there are countless acts that have signed deals and then something changes at the label and they never end up releasing anything, get dropped, and finish, having never achieved anything.

Either way, the bigger you can make yourself and the more work you do before going with a label, the better deal you’ll be able to command, and the more artistic control you’ll have. And, of course, if you can get popular without a label, then you’ll make a hell of a lot more money as you own everything.

Some good friends of ours, a band called THE DAYDREAM CLUB, have racked up millions of Spotify plays releasing totally independently, so it can be done – but it’s not easy, and you need patience, commitment and no small slice of luck. We’ve been lucky to release independently (KIDS Records is my own label, which I released stuff by lots of great artists on since 2005) but have the odd touch of help by people with industry connections to kickstart things – like Mark Jones, Mark Reeder and our manager Simon Watson.

You opened for THE HUMAN LEAGUE at the end of 2016, what was the experience like for you to actually go on an extensive UK and European tour?

It was nothing short of incredible from start to finish. It was everything we’ve ever wanted to do. Over the course of our band – and ones before this one – we’ve often been promised stuff that has never materialised, so we learned not to get our hopes up, lest they be dashed at the eleventh hour. Right up until the tour started we were convinced it was all going to fall through; that we’d be replaced, or one of us would break our arm or something.

So the first show, in a snowy Stockholm, was amazing for us – just to get through the gig, our first to crowd of that size in a very long time, and our first outside the UK. Of course, once we’d made it through without disaster, the next task was to actually get the set to be as good as it could be – there’s nothing like a run of gigs to enable you to sharpen every aspect of a set, from the music itself to the stagecraft. I remember by about the fourth or fifth show suddenly realising that I’d played the whole set without even thinking about what I was actually playing with my fingers, or worrying about it – I’d just been enjoying it and putting everything into the performance, and that’s an amazing feeling, to be in total control of what you’re doing.

The show in Berlin was particularly memorable – to play in such an iconic city of electronic music supporting pioneers of the game – I remember playing the first chord and then thinking, “well, if I drop dead now, I can still say I played a gig in Berlin”. And then the UK shows were a total joy – we had the set nailed, we were confident, and playing arenas for the first time – in Brighton, Birmingham and Sheffield – was a great experience. Of course, it helped that THE HUMAN LEAGUE crowd were so friendly and enthusiastic and keen to give a new band a chance – we had virtually full houses for every show.

Over the past few years, you’ve also opened for ERASURE, BLANCMANGE, BEF and xPROPAGANDA… have there been any concerns that EKKOES might get pigeonholed?

Yes, it’s definitely been something we’ve talked about, but fundamentally, we love and respect all of these bands and anyone should feel lucky to have the opportunity to play in front of those crowds. We’d love to also support newer big bands like CHVRCHES, ST LUCIA or anyone really, but so far we haven’t been asked and we’re not exactly going to turn down chances to play with these legends.

We personally don’t feel that we’re a total 80s retro act – while, of course, we are heavily influenced by it, I think we have plenty of other more modern influences that come through in our songs as well – but if fans of 80s acts like us, then we’re certainly not going to complain – it’s an honour that anyone takes the time to listen to our music or see us live.

You like your cover versions, with ‘Self Control’ on ‘Elektricity’ and ‘Wallflower’ on your new album ‘Kinetik’, they’re from quite opposite ends of the spectrum? Any other ones you’d like to try?

Making a cover version is an incredibly enjoyable experience. It sounds obvious, but simply because all of the pressure is off in terms of songwriting – you know it’s a great song, otherwise you wouldn’t be covering it – so you can concentrate purely on the sonics and the arrangement and really experiment in that department. It’s just really, really fun.

Of course, the world is full of covers these days so you have to try and find something interesting and unusual to stand out; ‘Self Control’, while obviously an iconic song, is still something of a cult hit (I’d never heard of it until my hairdresser recommended I check out the version by RAF – we literally recorded our version of it the day after), while ‘Wallflower’ isn’t even on Spotify – a travesty, given that we think it’s a total lost classic.

We have a constant and ever-expanding list of songs we want to cover – forgotten classics, overlooked album tracks, modern hits from a completely different genre – we’ve mulled over the idea of a covers EP at some point, but it would need to be seriously good for it to be worthy of releasing.

Your new album ‘Kinetik’ appears to be a step forward, with ‘You Got the Light’ possibly being your best single yet, have you made any changes in approach with regards recording?

Yes, we got stuck straight into it pretty much straight after finishing THE HUMAN LEAGUE tour. My initial instinct had been to do that whole introspective, darker thing on the second album, but I soon realised that actually we should do the exact opposite.

I was constantly moaning about how boring so much modern pop music was – minimal, introspective, zero dynamic, virtually no big melodies or choruses – and suddenly thought, well why would we want to add to that? Why not go in the total opposite direction?

Go huge. Go technicolour. Make everything big and euphoric. Go ‘maximal’ instead of minimal. And the first two tracks that came out of it were ‘You Got The Light’ and ‘Wallflower’, and they set the template for the rest of the album.

Sonically I wanted massive drums, big sweeping synths, huge vocals – I invested in a few new nice plugins and a new vocal mic to achieve all this. We also got Stu, our live percussionist, to record parts for virtually every track – he wasn’t on the first album and I think it makes a massive difference that he’s on ‘Kinetik’.

Some observers have found some of your music a bit on the polite side, what would you say to that?

It’s funny, listening back to ‘Elekktricity’ after finishing the tour with THE HUMAN LEAGUE, I kinda understood that. Playing the songs live we’d ended up beefing them up with extra guitar parts, Stu’s live percussion on top and the confidence of gigging them night after night – and they sounded massive. So listening back to the album, it did sound a little polite in comparison. I guess this is inevitable though really, and I’m still really proud of the album – ultimately, the songs, I think, are strong and will stand the test of time.

The new single is called ‘Love Won’t Save You Now’, what’s that one about and how did that come together in the studio?

It’s actually a song that’s been knocking around with us for a while. We’ve always loved it, and wanted to save it for the second album where it could really get its moment of glory. I’ve always liked songs that have the confidence to take their time building, knowing that the final payoff will be worth the wait, which is why we decided to have the song in two parts – to really build that tension and let that glorious synth pad roll around for the first minute and a half before any drums come in. When the first ‘big’ chorus kicks with, with guitars blasting away, that bubbling arpeggiated synth and Jon and Rose going for it, it really is a moment.

Lyrically – it’s a strange one, the chorus words just came to me without thinking as I was writing the melody, and then when me and Jon sat down to finish the rest of we realised it kinda sounded like a murderer – who regretted what they’d done, but a murderer nonetheless – on the run, so we just went with that theme. What would be going through your head if you knew the net was closing in on you and no one was going to believe you?

Which is your personal favourite song on ‘Kinetik’?

I think ‘Wallflower’ is probably my favourite – just because I have such an emotional attachment to that song; I loved it as a kid and have pretty much been waiting my whole life to cover it – and we even have the blessing of Gerry and Danny from MEGA CITY FOUR, who like our version, which means a lot.

But I’m also very proud of the last track on the album, ‘Nothing Here Lasts Forever’, which is totally restrained – there’s no drums, it’s just guitar, piano, some very subtle synths and Jon’s vocals – and it has a certain magic to it – it’s both desperately sad, but also quite touching I think. Stu says it reminds him of Johnny Cash’s version of ‘Hurt’ and I can’t think of much higher praise than that.

What are your hopes and fears for ‘Kinetik’ and the future of EKKOES?

I remember Jazz Summers telling us that if one person enjoys your song, then you’ve made a positive contribution to the world. You’ve created art from nothing, and you’ve improved one person’s life, no matter how small an improvement that might be. It’s always stuck with me, particularly as someone who previously worked in the music industry and saw how easy it was to get sucked into toxic talk of units, sales and profitability.

Our only hope is that more people like ‘Kinetik’ than dislike it, and that as many people like it as possible – be that a hundred, a thousand or a million. As for EKKOES, we want to keep making music as long as we’re able to, and as long as people are interested. It’s a simple answer, but it’s true.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its grateful thanks to Dave Fawbert

‘Kinetik’ is released by KIDS Records on 7th September 2018 in CD and digital formats

EKKOES play live at The Lexington in London on Monday 10th September 2018 with special guest RODNEY CROMWELL





Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Dan Beck
5th September 2018

EKKOES You Got The Light

EKKOES release their most accomplished single yet in ‘You Got The Light’, a catchy slice of shiny electronic pop that probably would have made the Capital Radio playlist back in 1991.

Comprising of Jon Beck and Rosalee O’Connell on vocals with Dave Fawbert handling the instrumentation and programming, EKKOES released their debut album ‘Elekktricity’ in 2016, with three of its tracks ‘Fight The Feeling’, ‘Heaven’ and ‘Last Breath’ co-written and co-produced with MARSHEAUX production team FOTONOVELA.

It would be fair to say that ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK have found EKKOES a bit too musically polite in the past, but there were signs of more muscular development with two new songs ‘Electricity’ and ‘Heartbeat’ recorded in collaboration with one of the trio’s biggest champions MARK REEDER; he featured both tracks on his ‘Mauerstadt’ long player released last year and it was Reeder who gave EKKOES their first formal release with his remix of ‘Ice Cold’ on his ‘Five Point One’ collection in 2011.

Having opened for the likes of THE HUMAN LEAGUE, ERASURE, BLANCMANGE, BEF and xPROPAGANDA over the years, EKKOES showcased their wares to a potentially receptive audience, although with the various label upheavals they were exposed to during the realisation of ‘Elekktricity’, some momentum was lost.

But with a fresh start and buoyed by the interest from other established music figures like CHICANE who invited O’Connell to contribute vocals on his new album, EKKOES’ second album ‘Kinetik’ out in September promises more big choruses and an aim for, as they put it, “maximalism”. After their rollercoaster career to date, this could be their time…

‘You Got the Light’ is available now on digital platforms and from the upcoming second album ‘Kinetik’ released by Kids Records on 7th September 2018

EKKOES launch ‘Kinetik’ with a live date at The Lexington in London on Monday 10th September 2018






Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photo by Dan Beck
28th July 2018

A Not So Short Conversation with MARK REEDER

Having remixed NEW ORDER, DEPECHE MODE, PET SHOP BOYS and BLANK & JONES, Berlin-based Mancunian MARK REEDER possesses a notable portfolio of work.

The one–time Factory Records representative for Germany and respected techno trailblazer has been credited with introducing electronic dance music to NEW ORDER.

Meanwhile, his acclaimed documentary film ‘B-Movie (Lust & Sound in West-Berlin)’ captured the legendary subkultur of the divided city from the post-punk era to The Iron Curtain fall at the end of 1989; playing in cinemas all around the world, a number of showings were accompanied by Q&As with Reeder himself afterwards.

The symbolism of The Berlin Wall and its relevance to the current worldwide political climate inspired his album ‘Mauerstadt’ which was released in Summer 2017, featuring remixes of NEW ORDER and INSPIRAL CARPETS, plus collaborations with THE KVB, EKKOES, MFU and QUEEN OF HEARTS amongst others.

Taking time out from his busy schedule, MARK REEDER chatted about a number of his recent music projects, including an exciting new Chinese band called STOLEN he has produced and whose debut album ‘Fragment’ will be released on his iconic record label MFS, which has been resurrected for the occasion.

A year on, how do you think ‘Mauerstadt’ has been received and are you generally still happy with it?

Well Chi, to be honest, I’m never ever one hundred percent satisfied. I always feel that I could have done better, that’s just me. I am very strict on myself. Luckily, I know when to stop and always hope that I can improve with the next release.

The ‘Mauerstadt’ limited CD was released in Autumn 2017 and the limited double vinyl finally at the end of December, just in time for Christmas. Naturally, it would have been really nice if we had been able to release them simultaneously and sell thousands, but in today’s physical record market, that’s sadly no longer the case.

That said, it’s done really well and I’m quite pleased at the reactions. I think it’s an album you can listen to today or in ten years time.

We still have a couple of CDs and a handful of white limited vinyls left on the mauerstadt.com website available, because we put a few aside for latecomers, but once they are gone, people will start selling them on eBay for ridiculous prices, like some of my previous releases.

The main attention drawn towards ‘Mauerstadt’ was with your two remixes for NEW ORDER of ‘Academic’ and ‘The Game’?

Of course, yes the main attraction of ‘Mauerstadt’ were my two versions of ‘Academic’ and ‘The Game’ that I had made for NEW ORDER. These were released a few weeks before my album by Mute as a digital download package only, so all those NEW ORDER music completists that want to have a physical version are practically compelled to buy my album, which I hope doesn’t disappoint them too much.

Initially, I was asked to remix ‘Academic’, but then I ended up remixing ‘Singularity’ instead and so ‘Academic’ found its way on to my album, along with ‘The Game’ that I had reworked especially for ‘Mauerstadt’.

One of the most interesting collaborations was with THE KVB, what attracted you to their brooding percussive sound?

I had been following THE KVB for quite a while and I really loved their ‘Of Desire’ album. Then I discovered they were living in Berlin, so we met up for a coffee and one thing led to another. I ended up remixing one of my favourite tracks off their album, ‘White Walls’, which they released on a limited edition 12” vinyl.

As I was in the process of putting together ‘Mauerstadt’, I asked them if they would be interested in collaborating on a track. They told me they had started on a piece, but it was basically a skeleton, in fact, just a simple guitar sequence, so I added some twangy rhythm, a bass guitar and a synth melody and Kat fleshed it out by adding vocals, more keyboards and her riff; Nic added more guitars and vocals and then it started to come together.

I wanted to make it sound foreboding and tense, and present a dark insight to what our future could be if we don’t get our act together, by giving it a bit of a dystopian feel with the threat of imminent nuclear attack.

On the other side of the spectrum, you did two songs with synthpoppers EKKOES who appear to have a much tougher sound when you’re at the helm?

I like them. I worked with them on one of their first tracks and debuted it and the band on my ‘Five-Point-One’ surround sound album. They made a very surreal and dreamy video for it. I think John has got a very distinctive voice, which is complemented by Rose and Dave is a man of many talents. I wanted these two songs to have a more poppy-dance feel to them. Of course, their versions of these songs will eventually be featured on their own album.

You recently remixed Mute signings LIARS’ ‘Staring At Zero’, what was your approach to that?

I think LIARS are fantastic. One of the best live bands I’ve seen. So entertaining. I met Angus in Berlin and a while later I was asked to remix ‘Staring at Zero’, a track off their ‘TFCF’ album. Their original version is quite disjointed and I wanted to make a version that I could play in my DJ sets. So I listened intensely to the track and discovered all the little bits that I could use.

I took a short part, looped it and added a heavy duty beat, with a sub bass, which I then made into the main groove and then I added a crunchy bass guitar riff and more synths. As always, I used as many of the original parts as I could so that I could retain the feeling and sound of their version. Angus was really pleased and thanked me by saying it was the best LIARS remix he’d ever heard, which was a huge compliment, especially coming from him.

You’ve been to China and worked with an electronic band called STOLEN, how did you discover them and how do you assess their potential?

I was introduced to STOLEN by an old DJ friend of mine, radio show host, NiBing of Drum Rider Records. I have worked with NiBing since the end of the 90s and he brought me over to China many times.

He had arranged for me to perform at a great little festival on the edge of a forest outside of Chengdu and STOLEN were headlining one of the nights. Just before I arrived, they sent me a few demos and I could already hear their potential. They just didn’t know how to get there… yet.

Before the gig, I sat in at one of their practice sessions and I was really impressed. Their demos didn’t do them justice at all. So, we went into the studio in Chengdu after the festival and we recorded three new demo songs, more to see what would happen than anything else. They posted them up in China, and the response was very positive and so the band decided to release them in China as an EP. It was quite successful for them.

In China they don’t have a chart, they have a ratings system, whereby a song, album or film is rated by how many likes it receives. Their EP got a very high rating, which brought the band to ask me to produce their new album, but as these three songs were already on the EP, I decided to remix them for the album, so that they are different to the EP versions. I really like STOLEN as people, they are a dedicated and ambitious bunch of working class lads, who are very passionate about their music. They work, practice, write and tour. They obviously live and breathe it every day and I like to see that ambitious fever.

China is a huge country, so have different music genres grown and mutated in particular regions?

Yes it is, and unfortunately I haven’t seen all of it yet, but I hope to one day. From what I have seen though, there is a desire to achieve acceptance, especially from the West. Most Chinese bands feel they are not worthy or competent enough to compete with their image of well-promoted Western bands, but I think this is an illusion and quite the wrong attitude.

They should be proud, as they have some super talented and creative musicians in China, all waiting for that one lucky break, and it’s really only a matter of time before they get recognised by the West and are able to perform on an equal platform.

Like I previously mentioned, there is a budding new music scene in Chengdu, and I saw some great bands there like the all-girl group HORMONES. I noticed there are a lot of girls making music and DJing in China. Which was very refreshing. At most of the talks I gave, the girls were always in the majority. While I was in China, I also produced an album for an all-girl band from Beijing called HANG ON THE BOX, who told me they had initially been inspired by MALARIA!

In a weird way, the rapid rise of K-Pop in the West is starting to open doors and change perceptions towards all kinds of East Asian artists. Westerners are discovering new things from Asia all the time, thanks to connected links and tags on platforms like YouTube or Vimeo and this is broadening people’s musical horizons.

Of course, there are a lot of imitators out there too, especially when it comes to musical styles, such as EDM, hip hop and rap or even traditional techno. It’s easy to jump on an already successful bandwagon. It’s normal, once something becomes popular everyone wants a piece of the action. We also have to understand, the young Chinese don’t have a long, evolving pop or rock music history, like we do in the West, as theirs is only happening now. We all know that copying is all part of learning, but eventually, you decide to go it alone. You want to establish yourself, and this is where China finds itself now.

The über-commercial pop music styles, which the West has successfully sold to the Chinese since the start of the millennium, have over-saturated themselves and are becoming a bit stale.

After talking to many young students for example, I could feel their frustration and I felt that Chinese kids shouldn’t really be imitating America anymore, because that’s a one-way street.

They should now be thinking about creating their own playworld. I guess they just had never thought about that before, because it just wasn’t possible before. The new generation of fashionable twenty-odd year olds that I met, are simply thirsty for culture, but who up until now, they didn’t have much in the way of an alternative to adhere to and certainly not a home-grown one whereby people could really identify or be proud of.

Now the tables are slowly turning. I believe if one Chinese band manages to achieve recognition and real success in the West, this will open up a whole new playing ground for both sides. A prospect which I find really exciting.

If the USA carries on shutting the doors on foreign artists, they will eventually stop being influential. We need to look towards the East and embrace these young, fresh and eager artists and see how we can come together and be creative. That is exciting!

The Chinese are on the brink of creating their own brand of progressive underground music and the scene to go along with it.

I found there is a very strong desire to create something new, the bands are experimenting by mixing genres and styles and adding a touch of their own, they just haven’t found the right formula to get there yet. Eventually they will. Being a musician in China still isn’t easy however.

They still have strict rules and regulations, especially when it comes to lyrics, but these are just obstacles an artist has to work around, to find a compromise which will make both sides happy. It is not rebellion, that is all part of being creative. It’s great that they’re almost reinventing themselves.

I discovered that STOLEN are an exceptional band, they are all very good musicians and each can equally play drums, guitars, bass or keyboards. They have been together since their early teenage years. I discovered some very talented people on my tour too, many who are floundering in their huge mega cities and not knowing there are others out there with a similar desire and no idea where to turn.

This maybe has something to do with the lack of focal points, like the availability of music periodicals or platforms which focus on a particular music and fashion genre. That is unfortunately, the modern world. China is so immense and there is not a single platform anymore. I hope that with their achievements, STOLEN can help to change that.

You brought STOLEN over to Berlin to record their album ‘Fragment’. What changes did you see in them as they absorbed the local atmosphere?

Actually, almost none, as there just wasn’t enough time. We had such a tight schedule, that we decided to take advantage of their jet-lag and so we worked all day in the studio and in the late evenings they just ate, rested watching TV, listened to music and slept.

They hardly went out. Besides, Berlin in winter was much too cold for them, coming from the tropical climes of Chengdu. They went to a couple of gigs while they were here, but really not much else. I was very happy with their conscientious approach to work, which was great, as we could always start really early.

Thankfully, they had been to Berlin before on a holiday trip, so they had already experienced the music scene here and had visited clubs like Tresor, Berghain, Griessmuhle and such places. I think this time, they probably spent more time in music instrument shops, supermarkets and cooking than clubbing – By the way, they are all great cooks too – Szechuan style!

As a six-piece band, how did you capture STOLEN’s obvious spiky energy while ensuring that there was a reasonably polished product that at the end of the day could sell their sound?

We had quite a few long talks even before they came out to Berlin. I wanted to see where they wanted to go, what is their aim. They had played me a few demo ideas and expressed their desires.

Atmosphere was very important to them. We wanted the album to invoke a particular feeling. One thing they were initially worried about was performing the songs live. Their first idea was to just record the songs and then mix them so they had more of a live feeling, but I thought it would be a wasted opportunity. I wanted to make them an album that would help to elevate the band to another level.

I started out with their live idea and just worked on fine tuning the rest, that way I was able to capture the energy of the live element without it sounding like a live recording. I convinced the band that they had to separate live from studio, after all, the album is the thing that will last, whereby a live gig is a thing of that moment.

I also thought, it would be good for them to have a challenge afterwards, to bring their album to the live stage, as that would help them to solve problems and evolve.

They asked me to choose the running order of the album and so I decided it should unfold a bit like a story, similar in the way they write their songs. I am very pleased with the end result, as it has turned out to be something to listen to as well as dance to.

Personally, I wanted their album to sound like nothing that had come out of China before, as their music is not stuck in one particular style, but is a nice mixture of darkwave rock, techno and a billion other influences, even krautrock. They are such talented and open-minded musicians that it was very easy to suggest something and try it out, and when it worked, then we would just go with the flow.

They were also always very excited when I played something on a track too, and as soon as I would go to the keyboard or guitar, all their phones would immediately come out. I think ‘Fragment’ is a very listenable album. The club tracks work in a club environment, I know that because I have tried them out in my DJ sets, and the quieter tracks are to sit back and relax to.

So you’ve revived your label MFS to release ‘Fragment’?

Yes, I have decided to defrost MFS and bring it out of retirement, as I wanted the album to go to a good home and I wanted to be able to manage, to a degree, what happened to it, as the album has a lot of me in there too. So what better place than to release it on my own label?

Although I am not managing the band, I feel a necessity to guide and help them understand the mechanisms of the Western music industry. I wanted to give their music the best possible platform and by re-igniting MFS, I thought that in itself would be an interesting attraction too. I think this band deserve to be heard and seen. This is only the start.

You’ve been doing a few DJ sets at selected events, how are you finding this or do you prefer the live Q&As that you’ve done for ‘B-Movie (Lust & Sound in West-Berlin)’?

It’s all part of the job really, the Q&As are usually fun and hopefully informative, the DJing has just evolved out of that. As ‘B-Movie’ has now been accepted by the educational system and become part of the German school curriculum, I do quite a few Q&As over the year.

I used to get asked to show the film and then DJ at an 80s style after-party event, then it just became playing a DJ set, but I’m not your traditional techno DJ and I don’t play generic techno, or a load of lacklustre oldies. I only play the tracks and remixes that I have made or produced myself. That way I can usually test new stuff too and see what works and what doesn’t.

I never had the ambition to be a DJ, if I had I would have started decades ago, I simply see DJing as part of the event and it is actually quite fun too. Events are all different and as it’s usually never a straight techno event, I can just play whatever I want.

I always try and take the crowd on a little journey though, and they get to hear tracks they might even know in their original form, but when I play, they are all remixed by me.

What’s next for you?

I have quite a few projects on the go at the moment, but I really don’t like to talk about things that are not finished. One thing is for certain, I won’t be making ‘E Movie’. My main focus right now, is getting the STOLEN album out at the end of September and working on the promotion and remixes. Everything else is top secret.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to MARK REEDER

‘Mauerstadt’ is released in CD and double vinyl formats by Kennen, still available direct from http://www.mauerstadt.com/

STOLEN ‘Fragment’ co-produced by MARK REEDER is released by MFS, available from https://mfsberlin.com/





Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
4th July 2018

MARK REEDER Mauerstadt

‘Mauerstadt’ literally translated from German means “wall city” and it’s the title of the new album from renowned Berlin based remixer MARK REEDER.

Its release date set is on the day that the French Revolutionaries broke down the walls of the Bastille, so Reeder says the album title is significant “because my album’s title / theme is about breaking down the walls in your head and confronting the idea that building a wall to keep your enemies out or your own people in, is starting to become fashionable again and how it really isn’t such a good idea”.

Reeder adds “It’s not a concept album though, it’s basically an album full of tragic love songs”, but he readily admits “ok, it’s basically ‘Collaborator’ part 2” 🙂

‘Collaborator’ was Reeder’s previous compendium of remixes and of course, musical collaborations released on Factory Benelux in 2014. Featuring highly on the album with a number of vocals was his long standing friend Bernard Sumner on tracks by BAD LIEUTENANT, WESTBAM and BLANK & JONES.

Despite his association with Factory Records as their German representative in Berlin and NEW ORDER over the years, it was only until recently that Reeder got to work on material from his favourite band when they returned to the fold in 2015 with ‘Music Complete’. Invited to remix three of its tracks, two of them appear on ‘Mauerstadt’ as the centrepieces of the collection.

The ‘Akademix’ version of ‘Academic’ gives the primarily guitar driven anthem a superb sequenced makeover that improves on the original. But with the already quite electronic number ‘The Game’, Reeder takes a different approach on the ‘Spielt Mit Version’ by stripping it down and restructuring it with more orchestrated overtones.

Although both previously released on the ‘Remix’ download EP through Mute, these tracks now get a much requested physical release as part of ‘Mauerstadt’.

As well as NEW ORDER, Reeder is also known for his love of female fronted electronic pop with MARSHEAUX, MARNIE and QUEEN OF HEARTS among the notable inclusions on ‘Collaborator’. The latter contributes two songs on ‘Mauerstadt’, the best of which is a mighty extended ‘Bonded by Sadness Mix’ of ‘United’.

Effectively the song with a lengthened instrumental end section, after Queenie coos passionately in Bush-like banshee style, Reeder takes to his guitar for a short solo that is part-Sumner and part-Hooky. Meanwhile, the heart wrenching ‘Killer Queen Mix’ of ‘Suicide’ sees more strings added to the QUEEN OF HEARTS fan favourite from her album ‘Cocoon’.

But ‘Mauerstadt’ opens with British duo THE KVB and ‘In Sight’, their brooding collaboration with Reeder. More accessible than FACTORY FLOOR, this is danceable electro with mood and melody.

The album is also notable for featuring some of Reeder’s more recent solo work. There’s a tribal filmic quality to ‘Giant Mushrooms’, while his ‘RIAS Mix’ of the title track which was originally part of his ‘B-Movie – Lust & Sound in West-Berlin 1979-1989’ soundtrack, is a cavernous swirl of hard electronics and big beats.

The frantically paced ‘Like A Sonic Tonic Remix’ of ‘You’re So Good For Me’ for INSPIRAL CARPETS is a fine tribute to their late drummer Craig Gill on one of his last recordings with the band, providing an enticing indie disco hybrid. Continuing the Mancunian theme, ‘Mmm Mmm Ahhh’ from electro wave duo MFU grooves along with some Cold War inspired drama and a gritty bass guitar line on Reeder’s ‘Umm & Arrggh Remix’.

Driven by a mighty Linn handclap and an imperial PET SHOP BOYS styled club vibe, the ‘Power Surge Mix’ of EKKOES’ ‘Electricity’ certainly delivers more bite than their original material on the ‘Elekktricity’ album, although the Italo House feel of ‘Heartbeat’ on Reeder’s ‘Heart Throb Mix’ is perhaps less appealing.

Thrusting with a synthetic bass triplet, ‘Broken Hearts’ is Reeder’s collaboration with Swedish songstress MAJA PIERRO and with its uplifting HI-NRG feel, blips away for the kind of hypnotic dance number that Our Man In Berlin is known and appreciated for. Perhaps coincidentally, the ‘Will Love You Tomorrow Remix’ of ‘If You Love Me Tonight’, also featuring Pierro, sounds like a female fronted EKKOES or could that be more that the Reeder sound is actually the identifying factor here?

So MARK REEDER does the trick again with ‘Mauerstadt’ and ably uses his punk, pop, disco and trance sensibilities to procure another fine collection of remixes that work at home, on headphones, in the car and on the dancefloor. That is no mean feat; as Reeder’s friend Rusty Egan once commented about the inane material contained within Beatport: “Name that tune, if you can hear one…”

Luckily, ‘Mauerstadt’ has the tunes and the beats.

‘Mauerstadt’ is released in CD and double white vinyl LP formats by Kennen Limited, available from http://www.mauerstadt.com/




Text by Chi Ming Lai
26th June 2017, updated 24th September 2017


What In the World…

tec2016review-mopho2016 will forever be remembered as the year when a significant number of cultural icons and popular musical figures left us; David Bowie, Prince, Isao Tomita, Pete Burns, Colin Verncombe, Keith Emerson, Don Buchla and Leonard Cohen were just some of the names who sadly departed.

But despite sadness that loomed, the year did produce some good music, particularly in the second half of the year.

GARY NUMAN launched an ambitious Pledge Music campaign and released some excellent collaborations with JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS, JEAN-MICHEL JARRE and TITÁN. But with his retrospective tour of material from his three most popular albums taking up much of his year, his new crowdfunded album did not meet its planned October release deadline.

jarreyello2016Meanwhile JEAN-MICHEL JARRE had an excess of material and issued the second volume of his ‘Electronica’ project which also featured YELLO and PET SHOP BOYS, plus a third instalment to his classic opus ‘Oxygène’.

YELLO and PET SHOP BOYS also released new albums to a positive reception, proving again that partnerships featuring personnel over the age of 60 can still create music that is fresh and relevant.

Incidentally, one of YELLO’s young vocalists FIFI RONG continued to maintain her artistic profile with successful campaigns for her releases ‘Forbidden Desires’ and ‘Alone’.

Hannah-Peel-2016-042016 saw two concept albums emerge in ‘The Ship’ from BRIAN ENO, a solemn art piece with poignant anti-war messages and ‘Awake But Always Dreaming’, a very personal musical statement by HANNAH PEEL on the traumas of dementia. It was a busy year for Miss Peel with her also contributing her voice to BEYOND THE WIZARDS SLEEVE and JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS, as well as showcasing her own MARY CASIO side project.

WRANGLER released a new album ‘White Glue’ which exuded a less rigid format compared to its predecessor ‘LA Spark’ and collaborated with JOHN GRANT at the Rough Trade 40 live celebrations, while the prolific Neil Arthur issued another new BLANCMANGE album in ‘Commuter 23’ while also launching a new side project NEAR FUTURE with BERNHOLZ.

midgerusty-2012The Manchester veteran ERIC RANDOM issued ‘Words Made Flesh’, the second album of his recent return to the music while RUSTY EGAN finally presented ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’ which despite its title, was actually a collection of classic styled synthpop. After many years of trials and tribulations for the co-founder of VISAGE, the long player featuring MIDGE URE, TONY HADLEY and CHRIS PAYNE who co-wrote ‘Fade to Grey’ exceeded expectations.

Space travel and synths were just made to go together, so JØTA and VANGELIS conceived projects covering The Cold War space race and the more recent Rosetta probe respectively. Meanwhile, WHITE LIES again showed they are as synthy as they are guitary on their ‘Friends’ album, and even started to sound like A-HA!

Fellow blog Cold War Night Life released ‘Heresy: A Tribute to RATIONAL YOUTH’ which featured PSYCHE and MACHINISTA as well as the Canadian trailblazers themselves. Meanwhile Ireland staked its claim as a new territory for synthpop talent; CIRCUIT3 ‘siliconchipsuperstar’, TINY MAGNETIC PETS ‘The NATO Alphabet’ and EMBRACE THE CRISIS ‘Black Heart’ were good examples of what was on offer from the Emerald Isle.

Over in the UK, VILE ELECTRODES, SPRAY and ANALOG ANGEL all released new albums. There were long awaited long players too from SHELTER and SINESTAR, but these suffered when compared to respective acts from Sweden, JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM and PRESENCE OF MIND.

So again, Sweden still proved it was special with SILENT WAVE and MY GOD DAMN TERRITORY exhibiting varying degrees of potential. But it was REIN in particular who was causing a stir within the ranks of EBM, while the country’s best kept secret KITE toured North America and Asia. However, neither of these two latter artists figured in the line-up of Gothenburg’s Electronic Summer 2016 festival.

The Nordic region saw the welcome return of VILLA NAH with the album ‘Ultima’ after a five year absence, while TRENTEMØLLER made the case again as to why he is still the perfect producer for DEPECHE MODE with his new long player ‘Fixion’.

However, Norwegian acts APOPTYGMA BERZERK and ELECTRO SPECTRE ensured the Swedes, Finns and Danes did not have it all their own way.

Greece was still the word with LIEBE, KID MOXIE and MARSHEAUX all presenting brand new releases, while SARAH P. maintained her profile with a series of inventive promo videos highlighting the ongoing issues of equality for women within the music industry. Embracing the same issue on the other side of the Atlantic, I AM SNOW ANGEL immersed herself in setting up the FEMALE FREQUENCY collective while also releasing her own music.

2016 was a good year for female acts with EMIKA, KALEIDA, ANI GLASS, THE HEARING, KITE BASE, KATJA VON KASSEL, HOLOGRAM TEEN and VOI VANG among those making a positive impression. There was also ‘SVIIB’, the final album from SCHOOL OF SEVEN BELLS and the emergence of CHRISTINE & THE QUEENS, while LADYHAWKE remembered what a good album sounded like with ‘Wild Things’.

night-club-requiem-for-romance-2016Over in LA, NIGHT CLUB developed on the promise of their EP trilogy and got a bit heavier on their debut long player ‘Requiem For Romance’, ending up sounding not unlike Britney fronting NINE INCH NAILS in the process!

After gestation periods of nearly six years, both EKKOES and THE MYSTIC UNDERGROUND finally released their debut albums.

Meanwhile the instrumental front, Texan couple HYPERBUBBLE provided some ‘Music To Color By’, Brussels duo METROLAND touchingly paid tribute to their late friend Louis Zachert with ‘Things Will Never Sound The Same Again’ and ULRICH SCHNAUSS went ‘No Further Ahead Than Today’. And MOBY offered a gift to profound relaxation with his free ‘Long Ambients 1: Calm. Sleep.’ download package.

PERTURBATOR James Kent - Photo David FittPERTURBATOR’s ‘The Uncanny Valley’ became a flag bearer for the synth wave movement, along with the acclaimed soundtrack by SURVIVE members Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein for the absorbing Netflix drama ‘Stranger Things’.

Less well-received though was ‘2Square’ by VINCE CLARKE & PAUL HARTNOLL with its banal experiments in electro swing.

This was a supposed new dance sub-genre that in reality was just computerised jazz… nice! But one artist who did manage to pull off fusing synthpop and jazz successfully was DISQO VOLANTE.

New material from veterans MESH, AESTHETIC PERFECTION, ASSEMBLAGE 23, DE/VISION, IAMX, COVENANT and ROTERSAND kept the black clad European audiences happy, while MARI KATTMAN and BLACK NEEDLE NOISE added some trip-hop and rock edges respectively to their already dark templates. Expressing slightly less intensity were two surprise packages in Germany’s DAS BLAUE PALAIS with ‘Welt Am Draht’ and Canada’s DELERIUM with ‘Mythologie’.

marc-almond-blueBut totally unexpected was ‘Silver City Ride’, a full length electro album from MARC ALMOND in collaboration with STARCLUSTER featuring his most synth laden body of work since SOFT CELL.

The biggest surprise of 2016 was ‘Fly’ the soundtrack souvenir to ‘Eddie The Eagle’, the light hearted biopic of the bespectacled Olympic ski jumper; featuring new material by members of FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD, SOFT CELL, SPANDAU BALLET, ULTRAVOX, ERASURE and OMD in collaboration with TAKE THAT’s Gary Barlow, this looked like a terrible idea on paper.

But it was brilliantly executed and the resultant album was a largely enjoyable collection of retro flavoured pop.

Electronic acts actually got to headline the Glastonbury Festival in 2016, albeit on The Other Stage as opposed the main event; NEW ORDER and CHVRCHES wowed the crowds when they shared the bill on the Saturday night. There were rumours that KRAFTWERK and DEPECHE MODE might feature in 2017 but this was not to be, although both acts sent social media into overdrive when they announced major tours.

Among those accorded career spanning multi-disc boxed sets were ERASURE, MARC ALMOND, DEAD OR ALIVE and THE HUMAN LEAGUE. Somehow though, SIMPLE MINDS managed to milk a six disc variant of ‘New Gold Dream’ in the third of their classic album deluxe box editions; it was an amazing feat seeing as only ten songs were completed during the original sessions! The collection boasted no less than twelve takes of the aptly titled ‘Promised You A Miracle’; but the latest incarnation of the Glaswegians combo’ first big hit with KT TUNSTALL for their ‘Acoustic’ album proved to be one version too many.

Associates-dempsey-mackenzie-rankine-getty2Much better value for the money for the discerning music fan were the four ASSOCIATES double CD reissues, supervised by Alan Rankine and Michael Dempsey.

Based around their first three albums and a ‘Very Best Of’ compilation, each additionally featured a plethora of rare and previously unreleased songs; they were a fitting tribute to the late Billy MacKenzie.

Nostalgia was very much a part of 2016, with HEAVEN 17, OMD and PETER HOOK & THE LIGHT all touring popular albums. And following the success in recent years of retro festivals such as ‘Rewind’ and the strangely named ‘Let’s Rock’, classic synthpop finally found itself part of the holiday camp circuit.

Part of the Butlins Music Weekender series, ‘Electric Dreams’ featuring OMD, MARC ALMOND, HEAVEN 17, BLANCMANGE and HOLLY JOHNSON almost went badly off-piste with the addition of GO WEST and THE ZOMBIES (!?!) to the programme. But the organisers pulled an unexpected surprise and booked modern synth acts like MARSHEAUX and AVEC SANS to support the bill.

avec-sansHardened retro festival goers are notorious for not embracing new music, but this ethos has to be welcomed and could provide an interesting new model for the future of event based entertainment. However, based on photographic evidence, the presence of inflatable pink flamingos and coloured wigs indicated the crowd atmosphere might have been no different to any of the usual nostalgia outings, but with a roof and central heating added!

Elsewhere, the second ELECTRI-CITY CONFERENCE in Düsseldorf boasted yet another impressive line-up that read like a ‘Who’s Who?’ of electronic music with JOHN FOXX, DANIEL MILLER and MARK REEDER among those taking part in talks. One of the highlights of the weekend came with Mr Foxx chatting about working with the legendary Conny Plank.

And while MARSHEAUX, KID KASIO and RODNEY CROMWELL in Norwich was not in the same league, it was a fine showcase for the best in independent synthpop.

Both events proved again that the best electronic music events are those actually curated by electronic music enthusiasts, something that is not the case with several other events.

In all, 2016 was not a vintage year for electronic pop. If there was a lesson this year, it’s been to cherish and appreciate great life’s moments where possible, especially with the number of music figures that have been lost in the last 12 months.

Things cannot go on forever sadly…

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK Contributor Listings 2016


Best Album: PERTURBATOR The Uncanny Valley
Best Song: SOULWAX Transient Program for Drums & Machinery
Best Gig: JEAN-MICHEL JARRE at London O2 Arena
Best Video: BATTLE TAPES featuring PARTY NAILS Solid Gold
Most Promising New Act: VOX LOW


Best Album: VILE ELECTRODES In The Shadows Of Monuments
Best Song: ASSEMBLAGE 23 Barren
Best Gig: ASSEMBLAGE 23 at Denver Oriental Theatre
Best Video: I AM SNOW ANGEL Losing Face
Most Promising New Act: VOX LOW


Best Album: ERIC RANDOM Words Made Flesh
Best Song: RATIONAL YOUTH This Side Of The Border
Best Gig: Troika! featuring KITE BASE, HANNAH PEEL + I SPEAK MACHINE at Shacklewell Arms
Best Video: I AM SNOW ANGEL Losing Face
Most Promising New Act: ZANIAS


Best Album: VILLA NAH Ultima
Best Song: VILE ELECTRODES The Vanished Past
Best Gig: JEAN-MICHEL JARRE at London O2 Arena
Most Promising New Act: ANI GLASS


Best Album: MARSHEAUX Ath.Lon
Best Song: RODNEY CROMWELL Baby Robot
Best Gig: GARY NUMAN at Norwich UEA
Best Video: MARSHEAUX Like A Movie
Most Promising New Act: DISQO VOLANTE


Best Album: APOPTYGMA BERZERK Exit Popularity Contest
Best Song: KID KASIO Full Moon Blue
Best Gig: SPEAK & SPELL at Islington Academy
Best Video: BLACK NEEDLE NOISE featuring JENNIE VEE Heaven
Most Promising New Act: JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM

Text by Chi Ming Lai
17th December 2016

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