Tag: Electronic Circus (Page 2 of 2)


With the ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE now running for its third successive year, 2017’s event gathered together another stellar line-up of speakers and performers to celebrate Düsseldorf’s standing as the spiritual home of electronic music.

Noted previous participants have included Jean-Michel Jarre, Andy McCluskey, Daniel Miller, Rusty Egan, John Foxx, Mark Reeder, Peter Hook, Stephen Mallinder, Gabi Delgado-Lopez and Michael Rother.

In keeping with the best-selling ‘ELECTRI_CITY – The Düsseldorf School of Electronic Music’ book by Rudi Esch which got the ball rolling, its ethos is to reflect on the cultural impact of the city, while providing a platform for both new and veteran artists.

While the conference still had its usual international feel, there was a distinct focus closer to home with local heroes such as Robert Görl, Zeus B Held, Eberhard Kranemann, Bodo Staiger and Tommi Stumpff all speaking at the event, while others such as Wolfgang Flür and Ralf Dörper graced the event with their presence.

Proceedings began with a showing of ‘Blue Velvet Revisited’, an art documentary on the making of the David Lynch film.

German filmmaker Peter Braatz aka Harry Rag spoke about how he captured the psyche of the maverick director and the behind the scenes tensions on set as a young intern on the iconic movie.

Following on, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK chaired a panel discussion with renowned music producer Zeus B Held and one-time GARY NUMAN band member Chris Payne, whose musical lives changed when they were introduced to synthesizers. While Held became a member of the German prog rockers BIRTH CONTROL, Payne first became acquainted with German music at music college via FAUST, while he was also a fan of English band VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR who were also a favourite of Paul Humphreys from OMD.

Although Held wanted to make a cold electronic album with GINA X PERFORMANCE, he found that the art student’s eroticism countered the coldness which in turn, created something completely new. For Payne, he admitted it took him some time to get over his original perception that synthesizers were cold, but Numan possessed a strong creative vision that used techniques that could not be learnt at music college, like using diminished 5th chords that suited the dystopian aura of work.

After GINA X PERFORMANCE, Held attended a 1980 Numan gig in Düsseldorf which Payne was a part of. The pair would cross paths again via DEAD OR ALIVE.

In a lively and light hearted chat, the pair recalled their experience of working with their larger-than-life frontman Pete Burns who passed away 12 months ago.

In the studio, Held said “I got on fine with Pete because his mother was German, so we had a few common words we could use. He had a clear vision of what he wanted and the emotional thing he was aiming at. It was crazy, we used four microphones because he sings very loud!”

Meanwhile as live musical director, Payne remembered: “We were rehearsing in Liverpool in 1985 for the ‘Youthquake’ tour, none of the backing singers had arrived, it was just myself and the band making sure everything was in place. Pete was actually quite shy to talk to and he didn’t say anything for the first few days apart from hello… then all of a sudden while we were playing, I heard this VOICE! I looked round and it was Pete who was coming over clearly, but he had no microphone! We could hear him over our racket! It was absolutely extraordinary, I’ve never ever heard anything like it! Although he was insecure, he was a great performer!”

What was particularly striking about the DEAD OR ALIVE material produced by Zeus B Held was that it successfully integrated sequencers and programmed drums with live bass guitar, percussion and brass as on the cover of ‘That’s The Way (I Like It)’ – “It was quite risky and we had to squeeze the brass in” recalled Held, “but Pete wanted this stabbing brass in and we were lucky as we had some good guys, THE KICK HORNS, and explored the spaces we could use them and made sure the sequences weren’t too much on the one to get a feeling of rhythm”

The other artist both Payne and Held have a shared history is of course Gary Numan. Payne was one of the musicians on ‘The Pleasure Principle’ in 1979 and recalled “We all played together, we had drums, we had a bassist and myself and Gary on keyboards… there were overdubs but the fundamentals were recorded together”.

From it, ‘Cars’ became a UK No1 and was remixed in 1987 by Held who remembered “I had my new secret weapon called the Fairlight, so I synched up my points and put in car noises. It was also the week the Roland D50 came out so with this and the multi-tracks of ‘Cars’, it was a dream job… I beefed up the drums a bit and I had fun”. With both Held and Payne now in their 60s, their reinvigorated enthusiasm for electronic music and playing live in their respective projects DREAM CONTROL and ELECTRONIC CIRCUS are proof that age is no barrier to continuing musical creativity.

Despite being from London and  almost unknown in her home country, Anne Clark became a cult favourite within Germany’s vibrant alternative music scene. Growing up in South London, her aim was to put music to poetry and punk opened the doors for her. She said: “the punk thing exploded culturally in everything including comedy, theatre, dance and literature… the things that came after are still resonating”

On her love of electronic music, it was the energy that attracted her, particularly Giorgio Moroder and ‘I Feel Love’. Although Clark has almost near anonymity in the UK, key figures such as John Foxx and Mark Reeder have worked on her music. On why her work has been more appreciated in Germany, she said: “I don’t know, maybe in mainland Europe, people are much more open minded”, although Clark still remembers there was disbelief when ‘Sleeper In Metropolis’ and ‘Our Darkness’ became German hits as she “didn’t fit into the pop star mould”.

The first day of talks was concluded with an excellent presentation by Jonathan Barnbrook entitled ‘Designing Bowie’; “It sounded like someone doing an impression of David Bowie” remembered the Grammy award winner on when the much missed legend phoned Barnbrook about becoming his graphic designer, after seeing his work on a Damien Hirst monograph. He found Bowie to be a charming man who made the process of working with him really enjoyable and fun; this in turn got the best out of Barnbrook.

Referring to designers such as Peter Saville, Malcolm Garrett and Vaughan Oliver, Barnbrook said: “when the magic of the graphics works, it makes something better of the album’s music and the artist, and it’s beyond marketing and something almost spiritual”

On the polarising artwork for ‘The Next Day’ which was the “Heroes” album sleeve with a white square over the top, Barnbrook said it questioned why a new image was expected of an artist every time they released an album, especially with an artist like Bowie who was often shackled by his past.

Also as Bowie hadn’t done an album for 10 years, it was a direct reference to ‘Where Are We Now?’, the lead single from the album. So the artwork effectively subverted Bowie’s whole history by defacing it.

Although the process took six months to get to the white square, various studies had been carried out using the ‘Aladdin Sane’ and Pin Ups’ sleeves, as well an old photo of Bowie performing in New York with a particularly isolated look.

Of course, the artwork was not entirely embraced but with good humour, Barnbrook gamely showed screen captures of some of the more critical responses he received. One was “@barnbrook the Bowie cover? come on, it really is bollocks right?”, but maybe this was actually referring to DEPECHE MODE’s recent live reinterpretation of “Heroes”? 😉

But ‘The Next Day’ artwork became a viral marketing sensation with the public, something that had not been planned at all, with cats inevitably figuring later on. While the passing of Bowie in January 2016 inevitably lingered over the follow-up ‘Blackstar’, its graphics and various ‘secrets’ were again an internet talking point.

“It’s a system and not an album cover” reflected Barnbrook, referring to how modern visual representation of albums ranges from iTunes, CD and vinyl to posters and advertising boards.

Remembering a question the young Barnbrook asked William S Burroughs about the future of typography, the Texan replied “it’s between Egyptian hieroglyphics and airport pictograms…” – inadvertently, the postmodernist writer had predicted emoticons!

So this was discussed with Bowie and the idea for using the Unicode U+2605 pictogram came into being, with the eventual black-on-black vinyl edition of ‘Blackstar’ becoming a much talked about art piece on its own. Barnbrook’s fascinating insight into his work proved to be one of the highlights of the conference.

The musical programme was opened by ELECTRONIC CIRCUS, the combo led by Chris Payne featuring his wife Dominique Hemard plus college buddies Nigel Bates and Mike Stewart.

The emotive gallop of ‘The Trapeze’ and the midlife reflection of ‘Roundabout’ provided a captivating start, with Hemard providing her sweetly naïve Gallic voix. Meanwhile, with Trump and Kim treating the 38th Parrallel like a school playground, the frantic ‘Direct Lines’ was a stark reminder that nuclear war is still a real threat

Mid-set, Payne remained on stage for the arrival of Katja von Kassel to showcase three magnificent songs that the pair had co-written over the last few months. ‘Someday’ captured the beautiful melancholy of Billy Mackenzie while ‘Radio Symphony’ exuded pure electro Weimar cabaret.

A new song ‘Walking In West Berlin’ gave an indication of what is to come on Fraulein von Kassel’s new EP, before the chanteuse and the band swapped positions again for some ‘Space Invaders’.

Returning to the stage to join ELECTRONIC CIRCUS for their final number, those present were treated to a wonderful synth laden version of ‘Fade To Grey’, the German No1 for VISAGE which Payne co-wrote with Billy Currie and Midge Ure.

CREEPS gave a suitably mysterious performance as per their name, the trio donning masks with hints of ‘Twin Peaks’ within their carefully thought out presentation. However, the illusion was tempered slightly when they thanked the audience at the end, rather than moodily walking off stage which would have suited their aura better.

A good proportion of the crowd were gathered for Anne Clark to savour her stark observations on the darker side of the human condition. Beginning with dramatic ‘Sleeper In Metropolis’, she kept her audience entranced. With electronic backing provided by Herr B, Clark has said her future live performances will be more selective, but she gave a confident performance which more than satisfied her enthusiastic fans, especailly when she encored with her big German hit ‘Our Darkness’.

The second day of the ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE 2017 had a more Germanic flavour and Dr Uwe Schütte, who compiled the academic guide ‘German Pop Music’, addressed the conference on KRAFTWERK who all but put the city of Düsseldorf on the world map, while Tommi Stumpff recollected the development of electronic body music with journalist Ecke Stieg.

Bodo Staiger from RHEINGOLD made a rare appearance to talk about his career with Rudi Esch; the band never performed live despite the popularity of songs such as ‘Fluss’ and ‘Dreiklangdimensionen’ so have almost become lost whenever the history of German pop is discussed.

RHEINGOLD are certainly under rated and the excellent new album ‘Im Laut Der Zeit’ is a fine return after an absence of original material for many years.

With questions from Jochen Oberlack of Bellerophon Records, the enthusiasm of original KRAFTWERK member and multi-instrumentalist Eberhard Kranemann aka Fritz Müller brought a smile to proceedings. Talking about his new project KRAUTWERK with Harald Grosskopf, he enthused about taking their updated art school kosmische to places as far flung as China. Inspired by the lack of new material emerging from his former colleagues at Kling Klang, the talkative Kranemann certainly has the zest of a man half his age.

Following a presentation of visual and audio interpretations of DAF under the title of ‘Der Räuber Ist Der Prinz’ by students from Der Hochschule in Düsseldorf, it was fitting that the focus of the conference moved towards the duo who formed around the scene at the city’s punk club Die Ratinger Hof.

With the release of the ‘Das Ist DAF’ boxed set on Grönland Records, the profile of the EBM trailblazers is in the ascendancy again. While the music of DAF was aggressive by nature, drummer Robert Görl smiled a lot and revealed an endearing sense of humour during his chat with Rudi Esch.

This was especially evident when pretty photos of himself and partner Gabi Delgado-Lopez, that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Smash Hits or Bravo, were projected on the big screen.

With a biography on the duo written by Esch as a companion to the boxed set on the horizon plus more new material too, new generations of electronic music enthusiasts have the opportunity to discover DAF.

ARCTIC SUNRISE began the musical leg of the second day with their enjoyable brand of dark synthpop. Songs like ‘Tell The Truth’ and ‘When Traces End’ recalled CAMOUFLAGE and particularly DE/VISION whose singer Steffen Keth has clearly influenced the vocal style of Torsten Verlinden.

While mostly remaining behind his rack of keyboards, Steve Baltes dusted off a Roland GR77 bass guitar synth to use on ‘Silent Tears’.

In the absence of his DAF partner, Robert Görl bravely performed along to a selection of pre-laid backing tracks comprising of material from his ‘Glücksritter’ live only project. Musically close to DAF but without the live drums, the material was laced with amusingly deviant lyrics while there was a techno edge in keeping with his more recent and largely instrumental output. However no songs from his brilliant solo debut ‘Night Full Of Tension’ were aired, but Görl’s uptempo set was enjoyable with songs like ‘Schieb Das Kind’ and ‘U.S. Acidboys’.

Modular trance duo STRÖME provided the musical surprise of the weekend. With their magnificent tandem Doepfer A100 systems in full view, the pairing of Mario Schönhofer and Tobi Weber kept the audience’s attention, with their combination of pulsing electronics and moderate but energetic synthesized rhythms showing how modern EDM should be done.

And so ended another fabulous weekend with a friendly, intelligent cultured atmosphere that held plenty of insight and passion; the 2018 event promises a new central location and a big name speaker as the ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE continues to develop and build its reputation even further.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its grateful thanks to Rudi Esch and Carsten Siewert

Next year’s ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE will take place on 12th-13th October 2018



Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Chi Ming Lai, Kerstin Key and Anja Deerberg
6th November 2017


Welcome Bienvenue Willkommen Benvenuto and Valkommen to ELECTRONIC CIRCUS…

Described as “A human cannonball of electronic sounds”, the project was co-founded by Chris Payne, the keyboard and viola virtuoso who was a member of Gary Numan’s band between 1979 to 1990. He notably co-wrote ‘Fade To Grey’ which became a huge international hit for VISAGE and more recently, he was involved in five songs for Rusty Egan and his ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’ album which were sung by Midge Ure and Tony Hadley amongst others.

ELECTRONIC CIRCUS actually began life in 1981 with a single entitled ‘Direct Lines’, a release which found its way into bargain bins not long afterwards. But it has since gained cult status via a million views on a fan made YouTube video using an obscure Swedish art movie. Gathering together some of the original band including Paul Johnson Rogers, Tim Vince and Mike Stewart, Payne has put together a new four song EP inspired by ‘Direct Lines’ from his base near Rouen in France.

Reworked with vocals by Chris Payne’s wife Dominique and daughter Marikay, ‘Direct Lines 2017’ retains the frantic magic of the original and the fact that it sounds like it could have been written today is evidence of its longevity. The French Family Payne add a child-like pourquoi plea to proceedings on lyrics about the threat of nuclear war, a horrifying spectre that is looming today as the powers that be square off along the 38th Parallel… a superb synth solo accentuates the tension.

With a sombre air of remembrance, ‘In Red Fields of Flanders’ hauntingly remembers those lost in World War One; of course, the worrying thing is if World War Three happens, there won’t be any fields of any colour and no-one around to do any kind of remembering…

’The Trapeze’ is a brilliant neo-instrumental with electronic bass triplets and a symphonic theme that bursts with melody and musicality like ULTRAVOX galloping across the plains of Normandy. And when The French Family Payne join in for the final minute, it adds a wondrous tone of humanistic unity.

With his adopted home surroundings very much the backbone of the EP, the considerably lighter ‘Roundabout’ offers more authentic Gallic charm, courtesy of Dominique Payne.

The exquisite, almost naïve vocals over the most incessant synth riff will delight or irritate to the point of submission. But note that the seemingly banal words referencing driving are actually a very clever metaphor for midlife.

It is great that at this particular roundabout, Chris Payne has chosen electronic music again. The ‘Direct Lines’ EP is just the start. With an album on the way and a new electro-folk version of ‘Graceland’ too, ELECTRONIC CIRCUS are finally delivering on the promise that they first showed thirty six years ago.

The ‘Direct Lines’ EP is available as a download direct from http://www.electroniccircus.co.uk/store/

A free download of ‘Direct Lines 2017’ is available as a try before you buy incentive from http://www.electroniccircus.co.uk/history/







Text by Chi Ming Lai
23rd April 2017

A Not So Short Conversation with CHRIS PAYNE

Chris Payne is best known as being a long standing member of Gary Numan’s band between 1979 to 1990.

First appearing with Numan as part of TUBEWAY ARMY when they appeared on ‘Old Grey Whistle Test’ to perform ‘Are Friends Electric?’, he played a vital role on the synth pioneer’s solo debut ‘The Pleasure Principle’ sharing keyboard duties and contributing the beautiful viola part on ‘Complex’.

It was while on ‘The Touring Principle’ that during soundchecks, Payne and fellow keyboardist Billy Currie (on hiatus from ULTRAVOX) began jamming with a number they’d written entitled ‘Toot City’. The pair eventually recorded the track at Genetic Studios with band mate Ced Sharpley on drums; a few months later it was reworked by Midge Ure and morphed into ‘Fade To Grey’, a 1981 No1 in West Germany for VISAGE.

Although always remembered for an iconic video featuring Steve Strange and Princess Julia, musically ‘Fade To Grey’ was shaped by the hypnotic synth bassline and haunting string tones played by Payne on a Polymoog.

While Numan was on a much publicised touring hiatus after three spectacular farewell shows at Wembley Arena in 1981, Payne joined Cedric Sharpley and guitarist RRussell Bell in DRAMATIS, releasing an album ‘For Future Reference’ on Elton John’s Rocket Records.

After leaving the Numan band, Payne moved to France where he began a successful career in Celtic music as the mastermind behind CELTIC LEGEND. More recently, he has returned to the synthpop fold, co-writing five songs with Rusty Egan for his new album ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’.

With the simultaneous revival of his old side project ELECTRONIC CIRCUS as well, Chris Payne chatted to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK

Are you pleased overall with how your co-compositions have turned out on Rusty Egan’s ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’ long player?

Yes, very pleased. Having spent many years composing orchestral music plus the CELTIC LEGEND project, it was great to get back to synth basics again. Basically my role was to create backing tracks of synth pads, bass lines and rough arrangements with various synth lines, piano etc and hand the tracks over to Rusty, who then worked on melodies and lyrics with new drum patterns etc.

It is an amazing feeling when you hear the melodies for the first time. On a couple of the tracks, it completely transformed the song into something I could never have imagined. It’s a very good way of working providing you’re not too precious about your original ideas.

I have to hand it to Rusty, he had gone through some horrendous moments to get this album done, but credit to him. He never gave up, whereas a lot of musicians would have. I admired his determination and I guess that’s what kept me in touch with him during the entire period. Plus I wanted these songs to be finished as much as he did.

How did you feel when Midge Ure reworked ‘Glorious’?

It was like completing a cycle and I remember punching the air with joy when I first heard Midge’s version. I should explain the background to ‘Glorious’ and it will make more sense. For a while, I had had this idea of writing a track called ‘Glorious’ with reference to the English National Anthem in the chorus of the song but slightly transformed. “I’m feeling glorious, you make me feel so victorious” type of thing, which mad though I am, I thought could be quite interesting.

I tried to get the point over to Rusty and he came back with some tunes he’d written with another very talented songwriter called Gerard O’Connell. They were good, but it was all a bit chilled and not what I’d envisioned.

Well, time passed and one day I had a call from Rusty saying that Midge had recorded some of his ideas on ‘Glorious’. When I heard it for the first time I was delighted. Midge had transformed the chorus into this huge anthem sound and stripped back the verses and added his guitar and voice. It’s curious that 35 years earlier ‘Fade to Grey’ was also constructed this way with Billy Currie and I doing the backing track and Midge adding lyrics and melody. He really made the song into what you now hear, and I have to say it is probably my favourite track on the album.

And what about ‘Lonely Highway’ featuring Tony Hadley?

That song has a weird history; I had come up with this simple synth riff and very basic simple chord structure using very old analogue synth sounds through a Roland JV 1080 and Alesis Quadrasynth. The odd thing was that Rusty tried loads of very good singers on the song and surprisingly, they just didn’t work. It didn’t make a great deal of sense to me as both Gerard and Rusty had come up with a great vocal melody and the key was fine for most singers.

Anyway, ‘Lonely Highway’ was lying around for about two years and suddenly I get an email from Rusty telling me that his friend Tony Hadley from SPANDAU BALLET had agreed to record it. That was another revelation for my ‘ageing’ ears. What a vocal he produced, simply stunning and the way he sings it, you’re hooked in from the start.

One thing that is apparent is Rusty’s choice of singers. It’s true that he has used famous names like Tony Hadley, Midge Ure, Arno Carstens and Peter Hook, but equally he has had some outstanding vocalists that have given such colour to the songs. So acknowledgement has to go to these amazing singers including Kira Porter, Erik Stein (who performed with us in Düsseldorf), Andy Huntley and Emily Kavanaugh.

You had the chance to put your vox humana Polymoog touches on songs like ‘Hero’ and ‘Ballet Dancer’, was that intentional?

Yes, very much so. When Rusty first approached me with a view to writing songs for what was then going to be another VISAGE project, I intentionally worked with old analogue sounds admittedly by using plug-ins rather than the original instruments (have you seen the prices of Minimoogs and Polymoogs these days???)

The Polymoog vox humana was the obvious one for me as it is synonymous with the early Numan sounds of ‘The Pleasure Principle’ and ‘Telekon’, plus ‘Fade To Grey’. This was my attempt to place sounds on Rusty’s album directly relating to my past life as Numan’s keyboard player from 1979 until 1990, and with DRAMATIS and VISAGE’s ‘Fade to Grey’. I thought it might work and having heard what Rusty did to ‘Hero’, it worked very well.

‘Evermore’ has turned into a frisky little number now with the vocals of Emily Kavanaugh from LA synthpop duo NIGHT CLUB, did that surprise you?

A big surprise; this was the very first track I presented to Rusty back in 2011 and he quickly added the guitar of ex-ULTRAVOX guitarist Robin Simon who played with that very distinctive sound that he used on ‘Systems of Romance’. Gerard had sung on it and although it was only supposed to be a guide vocal, it sounded very good and then it was kind of shelved for ages.

Then as always with Rusty, this MP3 arrives one morning with a female voice recorded on ‘Evermore’. Of course, I hadn’t a clue what was going on and when I questioned Rusty, he told me about Emily Kavanaugh’s role in the song.

Her vocals fit ‘Evermore’ perfectly and in my opinion have given it a slight change in direction. She is a very talented young singer and performer, and I like her non-conformist rebellious attitude. She’s definitely going far if you ask me.

You played a short selection of material as part of the ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE 2016 in Düsseldorf, how was it for you to be back on stage again after so long?

I had done some Gary Numan shows in 2012 as a guest performer so it wasn’t as if I hadn’t been on stage for ever. But you’re right, I’m not a regular performer and I’d like this to change.

The Düsseldorf Festival was a great weekend and I got to meet some great people over there including event organiser Rudi Esch who is an amazing person. Also putting together this event in what is after all a historic city for electronic music was something very special.

The show went very well considering Rusty and I with another keyboard player Nick Bitzenis from the band MARSHEAUX had never rehearsed together. I remember meeting Nick at the hotel for the first time and having a coffee with him and Rusty comes up to me and says: “Guys, we’re 10 minutes short so Chris, can you improvise something?”. I just looked at Nick and buried my head into my cup of coffee in despair!

Because of the lack of preparation, the show was a bit scary in that respect but it worked well in the end for a first show and certainly it came across well on the TV channel ARTE who filmed the event. My only regret was not being able to stay for John Foxx’s performance, but I had to get back to work in France.

Your short set featured material recorded for your first solo album ‘Between Betjeman, Bach and Numan’ in 2012, how do you look back on it today?

Yes it was a short set. I think it lasted about 10 minutes or so and I just improvised sections of it, punctuated by references to ‘Cars’ and ‘Are Friends Electric?’ and playing ‘Down in the Park’ and ‘Fade to Grey’ on piano. It went well apart from the occasional harmonic howler! But my philosophy is if a mistake is made, smile and move on… life’s too short

So ELECTRONIC CIRCUS is being formally rebooted again, what’s happening there?

Well, this all came about in the strangest of circumstances. I’ve been trying to bury this bloody project for years and it keeps coming back to me as if to say “record it and they will come”.

I know it sounds a bit melodramatic, but it really feels like this to me.

It all started up (again) when my old music college buddy Michael J Stewart contacted me one day and said that our original song called ‘Direct Lines’, which had been recorded back in 1980, had received nearly one million YouTube views. Of course I was astounded, but it seems that a song released back in the day and having sold about six copies has gone a bit viral as a synthpop classic. How bizarre is that?

Now to cut a long story short, I have never really wanted to go out and perform under my name. To me ‘An Evening with Chris Payne’ sounds like you’re going to go to a tedious event in a village hall and listen to some old git banging on about crop rotation in the 19th Century!

So I added the name Chris Payne’s ELECTRONIC CIRCUS, which will be dropped the moment I’m associated with EC… for a more detailed history check out our site www.electroniccircus.co.uk

There’s going to be a reworking of the brilliant ‘Roundabout’ coming; now some may think the lyrics are a bit banal but they’re metaphoric…

Well spotted. Yes, I have to admit that my lyrics are entirely based on satire and metaphors disguised as banality. The notion of the roundabout is a quirky and fun ‘mid-life crisis song’, but at the same time quite frightening. We have choices in life and life is very challenging. I liked this idea of using the roundabout as a ‘map of life’ where you can either turn around, take a different direction or carry straight on. A simple idea, but effective with the music.

You’ve turned a previously released piano ballad into an electronic track?

Yes indeed, another track that I’ve re-worked is called ‘Graceland’. Most people hear this as a simple love song but oh no!! It’s actually about the tragic destruction of the Planet Earth’s environment believe it or not, and not a love song.

It started as a piano ballad to test my daughter Marikay’s vocals under studio conditions. I’m not saying this because she’s my daughter, but she has a good voice and a lot of potential. She will sing a bit with ELECTRONIC CIRCUS, but she’s more into folk acts like OMNIA and that style, and I think this is where she will head towards eventually.

How is the other ELECTRONIC CIRCUS material turning out?

It’s all going well and a lot of fun. It is an eclectic mix so far. I have songs, instrumentals in the style of Jean-Michel Jarre, classical styles, pop and minimalist, also what I call naive synth. With Mike’s contributions, that will add another dimension as he was trained under the great British composer Sir John Tavener and as you know, I’m capable of throwing in a medieval crumhorn for good measure. So as it says on the label, it is an Electronic Musical Circus where virtually anything goes, providing it’s predominantly electronic of course.

Now this is going to sound contrived, but I swear it isn’t. The new ELECTRONIC CIRCUS album is tentatively called ‘Trumpety Trump’ to add to the slightly quirky nature of the project, and the obvious references to ‘Nelly The Elephant’ (and something else that escapes me for the time being?)

What’s happened to the DRAMATIS comeback?

To be honest and this might sound bad, but as far as I’m concerned, DRAMATIS died with Cedric.

RRuss and I met up with him the weekend before he had his fatal heart attack and for me, the project’s never been the same since.

Yes it’s true that RRussell and myself had written and recorded a few songs before we met back up with Ced, but it’s been so long now, I can’t see it coming together. Also RRuss is so busy with other projects as am I. Also bear in mind we live in different countries, so it’s very difficult to get the momentum back.

I will never rule out another album, but unless circumstances change, I’ve got to be realistic and say it’s doubtful.

How do you feel how modern electronic pop is heading, where would you take it? Is there enough musicality these days?

I think there are interesting times ahead. Of course, history has proved on so many occasions that you can’t predict music fashion. But I have a strong feeling something big is around the corner and possibly involving synthpop. I don’t see my ELECTRONIC CIRCUS project being hugely influential as it’s very diverse and will no doubt end up a bit mad.

As for musicality, I honestly don’t know. It would be nice to see a few bands playing some great synth solos like Billy Currie did with Gary Numan and ULTRAVOX, as there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of that as far as I have heard. Personally I’d like to hear a band as good as ABBA songwriting wise, but all in the electronic domain. In spite of my academic but rather stultifying classical music training, I’m a shameless fan of ABBA’s. Actually that’s given me an idea. ‘Waterloo’ and ‘Dancing Queen’ with Polymoogs…

What’s next for you?

Well I would really love Rusty’s album to break through and do more shows with him. Finish ELECTRONIC CIRCUS album and see where that takes me, but that’s all I have time for. I run a music resource business with producer Nigel Bates called the ‘Electronic Music Library’ which is great fun but time consuming, and not a lot of people know this, but I am a licensed acupuncturist practising Chinese medicine in the Dordogne, South West France.

So as you can imagine I don’t really have time for anything else at the moment. But knowing me, that will all change!

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to CHRIS PAYNE

Rusty Egan’s ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’ is released by Black Mosaic

ELECTRONIC CIRCUS ‘Direct Lines’ EP will be available from https://www.electroniccircus.co.uk/store/






Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
11th February 2017


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s Chi Ming Lai had the pleasure of interviewing CHRIS PAYNE live on stage during the first day of the 2016 ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE in Düsseldorf.

Best known as a member of GARY NUMAN’s band between 1979-89 and for co-writing VISAGE’s ‘Fade To Grey’, Payne was also DEAD OR ALIVE’s musical director when the band were touring their ‘Youthquake’ album.

More recently he has been working on RUSTY EGAN’s upcoming debut solo long player ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’, while also composing material for his production company Electronic Music Library and his synthpop project ELECTRONIC CIRCUS.

Now domiciled in Normandy, CHRIS PAYNE happily chatted about his period with GARY NUMAN and the genesis of ‘Fade To Grey’ during soundchecks on ‘The Touring Principle’ in 1979. The Cornishman studied Mediaeval music and even treated the audience to a quick burst of ‘Cars’ on his bass Cornamuse, a double reed instrument from the period.

The discussion formed part of the 2016 ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE’s weekend long programme of talks and live music to celebrate Düsseldorf’s electronic music legacy.


Conference co-organiser Rudi Esch recently published ‘ELECTRI_CITY – The Düsseldorf School of Electronic Music’, an English language version of his acclaimed book documenting the development of city’s innovative and inspiring music scene.

CHRIS PAYNE’s solo album ‘Between Betjeman, Bach & Numan’ is released by Coverdrive Records

‘Roundabout’ by ELECTRONIC CIRCUS is available as a download single



Text by Monika Izabela Goss
25th October 2016


In one of the most productive years ever for electronic pop music, it has been extremely difficult to whittle down the list to 30 songs.

The standard has been extremely high and songs which would have made the listing in previous years have been left off. This has meant the controversial omission of DEPECHE MODE.

Despite being as popular as ever, grossing over $99 million during the ‘Delta Machine’ tour, once a shortlist for 2013 was drawn, the competition was so stiff that nothing from the album even scraped in!

Yes, 2013 has been that good and wonderful songs by the likes of KELLI ALI, ELEVEN:ELEVEN, GAZELLE TWIN, GHOST CAPSULES, GOLDFRAPP, HANNAH PEEL, IAMX, KOVAK, MOBY, NIGHT ENGINE, NINE INCH NAILS, SAY LOU LOU, and SOFT METALS have just missed inclusion too!

So the songs on this alphabetical list have been released in physical formats, or digitally as purchasable or free downloads during the calendar year with a limit of one song per artist moniker.

ADULT. Idle (Second Thoughts)

The new ADULT. album ‘The Way Things Fall’ was fittingly described by one observer as “a snuff film version of Speak & Spell”. The fears of relationships and the outside world have very much fuelled the dystopian demeanour of ADULT. While still retaining their distinctive edge, their mutant love songs have a magnetic charm. This was particularly evident on the fabulous single ‘Idle (Second Thoughts)’, a vibrant electro hybrid of GINA X PERFORMANCE and SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES which showcased a strange blend of menace and melody.

Available on the album ‘The Way Things Fall’ via Ghostly International


ANALOG ANGEL We Won’t Walk Away

Moving away from the industrial battleground in which they made their name, ANALOG ANGEL began the year with the enjoyably immediate ‘We Won’t Walk Away’, a laudable tribute to OMD’s classic ‘Organisation’ era. Complete with primary chord structures, one-fingered melodies and motorik rhythm programming, there was even a hint of the dulcet tones of Andy McCluskey in John Brown’s vocal. But just one thing though… Paul Humphreys wants his Prophet 5 back 😉

Available on the download EP ‘Pride’ via Carbon 12 Records


KARL BARTOS Without A Trace Of Emotion

‘Without A Trace Of Emotion’ saw KARL BARTOS conversing with his showroom dummy Herr Karl and confronting his demons as an ex-member of the world’s most iconic electronic group. The most straightforward pop song on the ‘Off The Record’ album, its autobiographical resignation was not unlike ‘Life’ from ‘Communication’. But whereas his former colleague Wolfgang Flür vented his spleen in book form with ‘I Was A Robot’, Bartos took a more ironic musical approach with the line “I wish I could remix my life to another beat”, a wry reference to ‘The Mix’ project which drove him to madness and out of Kling Klang!

Available on the album ‘Off The Record’ via Bureau B


BEF feat DAVID J ROCH Same Love

The concept of BEF’s ‘Music Of Quality & Distinction Vol3 – Dark’ is dark interpretations of perceivably upbeat songs using a variety of guest vocalists. One of the beauties of this type of project is how seemingly incongruous elements are fused together for a blissful whole. Here, melodramatic Sheffield singer/songwriter DAVID J ROCH tackles BILL WITHERS’ ‘Same Love’ via Martyn Ware’s wonderful arrangement blending a neo-acapella intro into a meaty electro-disco tune with spacey whistles and haunting invader games like GIORGIO MORODER producing SPACE’s ‘Magic Fly’.

Available on the album ‘Music of Quality & Distinction Vol3 – Dark’ via Wall Of Sound



Co-written by Swedish electro songstress KARIN PARK, Norway’s Eurovision Song Contest 2013 entry came fourth. ‘I Feed You My Love’ was like ROBYN and KELLY CLARKSON fronting ‘Songs Of Faith & Devotion’ era DEPECHE MODE. In fact, its performer MARGARET BERGER came second in the 2004 series of Norwegian Idol so the description was quite apt. The on-paper incongruous outcome was leftfield by Eurovision standards but perhaps not entirely shockingly, it got nul points from the United Kingdom; it summed up mainstream tastes in the UK and the country’s general Euro scepticism if nothing else!

Available as a download single via Macho Records


CHVRCHES The Mother We Share

The saviours of synthpop had an amazing year with sold out club shows and five dates supporting DEPECHE MODE in Europe. CHVRCHES‘ most accessible track ‘The Mother We Share’ was synthpop perfection with the concept of TAYLOR SWIFT gone electro having uprooted to Berlin. It deservedly scooped Popjustice’s Twenty Quid Music Prize for best UK single. Despite its wonderfully catchy chorus, it was not wholly bubblegum with its plethora of futuristic sounds and strange noises! Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook and Martin Doherty delivered on their promise with an impressive debut album ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’, save the two incongruous indie synth numbers sung by Doherty!

Available on the album ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’ via Virgin Records



ELECTRONIC CIRCUS are led by Chris Payne, the keyboard and viola virtuoso who was a member of GARY NUMAN’s band between 1979 to 89 and featured prominently on the Top10 single ‘Complex’. He notably co-wrote ‘Fade To Grey’ which became a huge international hit for VISAGE. With his adopted home surroundings very much the backbone of ‘Roundabout’, the track itself possessed a sexy and authentic Gallic charm, courtesy of Chris’ wife Dominique. The exquisite, almost naïve vocals over the most incessant synth riff either had listeners dancing with delight or irritated to the point of submission… the seemingly banal words were actually a very clever metaphor for midlife!

Available as a download single via Coverdrive Records


FEATHERS Land Of The Innocent

It had to happen and the world found its female DEPECHE MODE! Led by vocalist / songwriter / programmer Anastasia Dimou, the sound was probably more like post-apocalyptic BANGLES or BELINDA CARLISLE with gothic overtones in hindsight. The first single ‘Land Of The Innocent’ was a wondrous epic based around the arpeggio of ‘Ice Machine’ and driven by a hard incessant beat. Possessing an industrial gloom with an enlightening pop sensibility, it was what LADYTRON would have sounded like if they had formed in a Texan desert rather than spectre of Merseyside!!

Available on the album ‘If All Now Here’ via http://feathers.bandcamp.com/



Not content with producing MARSHEAUX and collaborating with OMD on ‘Helen Of Troy’, Greek production duo FOTONOVELA unveiled a new sophomore opus which was more song based using a number of prominent international vocalists. One of the numbers ‘Our Sorrow’ featured the majestic voice of James New from the missing-in-action MIRRORS. The string synth laden ditty was in the vein of classic OMD and with the South Coast combo calling it a day in 2013, this was a fitting way to depart The Hall Of Mirrors.

Available on the album ‘A Ton Of Love’ via Undo Records




JOHN FOXX and JORI HULKKONEN had worked together previously but never before on a body of work with a conceptual theme. Their latest collaboration took on a grainier downtempo template and the lead track ‘Evangeline’was all the more beautiful for it. Full of depth, coupled with an anthemic chorus and vibrant exchange of character throughout, this rousing yet soothingly futuristic number was quite otherworldly. The title of the parent EP said it all…

Available on the EP ‘European Splendour’ via Sugarcane Records




Nobody really knows for sure who are GIRL ONE & THE GREASE GUNS but names like Sissy Space Echo, Warren Betamax, Charles Bronson Burner and Bruce LeeFax are commensurate with their manifesto “to thrive on causing confusion with a mixture of pure synth pop and more experimental electronic sounds”. ‘Jessica 6’ is a tribute to the cult Sci-Fi favourite ‘Logan’s Run’. The eerie post-punk cacophony laced with icy Yamaha string machine makes it the perfect belated choice for the soundtrack. Add in a frantic reverbed backbeat and it all comes over like THE PIPETTES fronting collaboration between JOY DIVISION and OMD.

Available as a download single via Squirrel Records



From a long player with distinctly orchestrated and acoustic overtones, ‘Thea’ was the most overtly electronic song on ‘Tales Of Us’. Alison Goldfrapp’s vocal soared angelically, surrounded by very subtle synthetic dance textures and layers of percussive craft. While the beat was mechanical, it didn’t sound out of place on the very organic parent album.

Available on the album ‘Tales Of Us’ via Mute Records


KID MOXIE The Bailor

kid moxie-the bailorKID MOXIE is the musical vehicle of Los Angeles based Elena Charbila. Her first full length album ‘Selector’ was bolstered by a MARSHEAUX remix of its best song ‘Medium Pleasure’. Always sounding her best when adopting a breathy continental vocal style, Elena Charbila recorded possibly her best song yet as KID MOXIE with ‘The Bailor’, a dreamy and sexy tunes that glistened in the Aegean Sea. The Wayfarer remix of the song was also issued later in the year in aid of The David Lynch Foundation .

Available as a download single via Kid Moxie


MARNIE The Hunter

LADYTRON’s Helen Marnie released her long awaited debut solo album ‘Crystal World’ in the summer. Recorded in Iceland, it suitably captured the island’s beautifully relaxed but volatile atmosphere. Its opening track ‘The Hunter’ was a tremendous calling card and the vibrant electropop single that LADYTRON never quite got round to releasing. Very pretty and delectably glacial, the tune was vocally and musically expansive like an Arctic escapist fantasy, melancholic but free of doom.

Available on the album ‘Crystal World’ via Les Disques Du Crespuscle



MARSHEAUX’s fourth album ‘Inhale’ had been a long time coming. And it appeared as though the Greek financial crisis had loomed heavy over its making, resulting in moodier, midtempo numbers taking centre stage. ‘August Day’ though was a grower, developing on the maturer outlook apparent on the album’s concept, with a hint of CHVRCHES’ steadier paced output. Less immediate but overwhelmingly dreamy, it captured the senses after multiple listens.

Available on the album ‘Inhale’ via Undo Records


MESH The Way I Feel

MESH’s founders Mark Hockings and Richard Silverthorn know their audience so the lattice of danceable electro-rock continued on their best album yet ‘Automation Baby’. But the beautiful ‘The Way I Feel’ showed a more sensitive side with hints of Ennio Morricone. Shaped by acoustic guitar and string machine washes, the atmospheric maturity that MESH were now showcasing was a welcome surprise.

Available on the album ‘Automation Baby’ via Dependent


MONARCHY feat DITA VON TEESE Disintegration

MONARCHY’s ‘Disintegration’ featured the sexy burlesque queen DITA VON TEESE on vocals. With its vampish disco crashing into elements of GIORGIO MORODER, it sounded like the SCISSOR SISTERS gone right and even threw in a few VISAGE frequency warbles! ‘Disintegration’ was a rather excellent, stomping floor filler of the first degree with some hook laden energy and cooing feline appeal.

Available as a download single via Hacan Sound




GIORGIO MORODER is now 73 years old but is as vital as ever having produced the dance track of the year! Commissioned by Google Chrome for their online game ‘Racer’, the piano line was like ULTRAVOX reworked for Studio 54 while the whirring synths and trancey elements made it come over like history of modern electronic dance music squashed into 4 minutes. But as these ideas were mostly borrowed from Da Maestro himself, it was now his time to grab it all back. Moroder easily rivalled any young hopeful with a set of double decks and a laptop.

Available as a free download single via Google Play



AlisonMoyet-changelingALISON MOYET made a return to the electronic experimentation that made her famous as one half of YAZOO on her new album ‘the minutes’. With contemporary synthesized backing over a powerful rhythm construction and stuttering guitar textures courtesy of new collaborator Guy Sigsworth, Moyet’s deep emotional vocal resonated on ‘Changeling’ with a confidence and energy that dispelled the public’s perception of her as just a jazz singer!

Available on the album ‘the minutes’ via Cooking Vinyl.


NIGHT CLUB Poisonous

NIGHT CLUB Love CaSUALTYPositively feline but dysfunctionally dark like Britney gone emo, NIGHT CLUB‘s cutely subversive ‘Poisonous’ based itself, like STEFY’s lost 2007 single ‘Chelsea’, around the riff of ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)’. This superb slice of catchy electronic pop from the LA combo of Emily Kavanaugh and Mark Brooks roused with a huge crossover potential while possessing a sinister edge.

Available on the download EP ‘Love Casualty’ via Gato Blanco


NOBLESSE OBLIGE Hotel California

NOBLESSE OBLIGE are French theatrical performer Valerie Renay and German producer Sebastian Lee Philipp who specialise in a brand of abstract Weimer cabaret tinged with a dose of electro Chanson. NOBLESSE OBLIGE’s lengthy funereal deadpan cover of THE EAGLES’ ‘Hotel California’ highlights the chilling subtext of the lyrics to its macabre conclusion! The synthesizer interpretation of the original song’s iconic twin guitar solo will either be seen as total genius or sacrilege!

Available on the album ‘Affair Of The Heart’ via Repo Records



‘Who Are You?’ is one of those great uptempo anthemic songs in the vein of ‘Listen To My Voice’ from 2000’s ‘Pure’ that confirms when GARY NUMAN hits the target, he hits bulls-eye! Written for a film about a musician with schizophrenic personality, it fitted well with the parent album ‘Splinter’ and its ‘Songs From A Broken Mind’. The album wasn’t just one-dimensional riff monsters and the varied material was some of Numan’s best work for years.

Available on the album ‘Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind)’ via Mortal Records / Cooking Vinyl


OMD Stay With Me

OMD-English-ElectricThe standard of ‘English Electric’ was so high that any one of its song based tracks could have made the list. But ‘Stay With Me’ is the album’s hidden gem. The first Paul Humphreys lead vocal for OMD since 1986’s ‘Forever Live & Die’, the song was originally demoed as ‘Idea 3’ and voiced by Andy McCluskey. Ever the master of melody and inspired by events around him, Humphreys reworked it into a more straightforward love song but added a beautiful cinematic resonance. It came over like ‘Love Theme From St Elmo’s Fire’ meets ‘Souvenir’ with subtle lashings of white noise!

Available on the album ‘English Electric’ via BMG


PET SHOP BOYS Fluorescent

“Incandescent…”; yes the hypnotic ‘Fluorescent’ was basically a buzzy dancefloor makeover of ‘Fade To Grey’ with the chilling Polymoog string preset from VISAGE’s original remaining in the mix while waves of synth sirens attacked it like a Martian invasion. The parent album was ‘Electric’ by name and electric by nature, and easily the PET SHOP BOYS‘ best body of work since ‘Very’. It more than made up for 2012’s lame duck ‘Elysium’…

Available on the album ‘Electric’ via X2 / Kobalt Records



A stomping electro disco number produced by Mark Reeder who previously has remixed JOHN FOXX, DEPECHE MODE and PET SHOP BOYS, QUEEN OF HEARTS‘ cooing Bush-like howls and breathy euphoria are a total delight to the ears while the mighty cavernous sound provides the heat! Yet ‘United’ has ended up as the B-side of the less satisfactory ‘Secret’. However, if songs like this are being seen as outtakes, this is all a good sign for her debut album in 2014 which is eagerly awaited…

Available on the download EP ‘Secret’ via Night Moves


REPUBLICA Christiana Obey (TENEK remix)

Originally, written by Saffron with noted producer Andy Gray, ‘Christiana Obey’ had been doing the airplay rounds in 2012 but finally secured a formal release to coincide with REPUBLICA’s touring comeback this year. With its suitably big chorus, Saffron was on good anthemic form while a meaty remix from TENEK enhanced the song even further and made it ready to go!

Available on the EP ‘Christiana Obey’ via Republica Music



POLLY SCATTERGOOD made her debut in 2009 with a self-titled album released on the iconic Mute Records. With key influences such as BJORK and KATE BUSH, it combined jubilant experimental pop with her innocent, affected vocals. From her second album ‘Arrows’, ‘Wanderlust’ realised her potential with a slice of deliciously wired avant pop in the GOLDFRAPP vein, although closer scrutiny revealed it to be more like electronic COCTEAU TWINS with that rousing air of fragility.

Available on the album ‘Arrows’ via Mute Artists


SIN COS TAN Moonstruck

The Finnish duo of Juho Paalosmaa and Jori Hulkkonen swiftly followed up their acclaimed eponymous debut of 2012 with ‘Afterlife’. Hulkkonen told The Electricity Club back in 2011 that it was being a fan of PET SHOP BOYS that inspired him to make music. ‘Moonstruck’ is a fine melancholic beat ballad in the Tennant/Lowe tradition where Paalosmaa’s emotive lost boy demeanour blends wonderfully with the sweeping drifts and building swathes of synth strings. It is also possibly the best song of its type that Neil and Chris never recorded.

Available on the album ‘Afterlife’ via Solina Records


VILE ELECTRODES Damaged Software

Like ‘Twin Peaks’ meets ORBITAL, ‘Damaged Software’ was an enticing piece of electro from Anais Neon and Martin Swan which affirmed their status as Britain’s premiere independent synth duo. With a tour supporting OMD in Germany where they encountered the likes of Karl Bartos and Wolfgang Flür backstage, their vile adventure of meeting former KRAFTWERK members continued when they shared the bill with Michael Rother at Elektrofest. Three years in the making, the parent album ‘The future through a lens’ was well worth the wait.

Available on the album ‘The future through a lens’ via https://vileelectrodes.bandcamp.com/album/the-future-through-a-lens



Techno DJ WESTBAM celebrated 30 years in the music business with an intriguing mature collection of songs under the title of ‘Götterstrasse’. While the theme of the album centred on the joy and euphoria of underground nightlife, the album’s magnificent launch single ‘You Need The Drugs’ was not actually a celebration of illicit substance use. Voiced brilliantly by THE PSYCHEDLIC FURS’ Richard Butler, WESTBAM himself said it was “the first explicit electronic appeal AGAINST the use of drugs with a clear message: drugs are a bore!”. From a brilliant album that also featured vocalists as diverse as Iggy Pop, Bernard Sumner, Brian Molko, Lil’ Wayne and Kanye West, ‘Götterstrasse’ was the surprise electronic release of the year.

Available on the album ‘Götterstrasse’ via Warner Music Germany


Text by Chi Ming Lai
16th December 2013

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