Tag: FM Attack (Page 2 of 3)

OUTLAND Interview

Founded by Brett Simpson and Stuart McLaren, Outland have perhaps become one of the best known synthwave and retrowave brands in the United Kingdom.

The success of ‘Drive’ and ‘Stranger Things’ with their notable synth dominated soundtracks attracted a new audience to electronic music. With it came a desire for live events incorporating filmic aesthetics that embraced a nostalgic futurism for an escapist world that was more like David Hasselhoff’s ‘Knight Rider’ rather than David Cronenberg’s ‘Crash’.

Having organised big events in London, Glasgow and Toronto, as well as double and triple billings alongside summer sunset boat cruises on the River Thames, Outland recently launched a record label.

Outland’s next adventures include two shows headlined by OLLIE WRIDE in Glasgow and London, with a multi-act presentation led by DANA JEAN PHOENIX called ‘Retrowave D’Luxe’ following in the capital a few months after.

Stuart McLaren kindly took time out from his busy schedule to talk about Outland’s aspirations and progression within the realms of modern synth music.

Outland has just announced ‘Retrowave D’Luxe’ taking place on Saturday 6th June, this is your biggest live event for a while?

It’s quite a big line-up in that we have six artists performing and the last time we did anything like this in London, was back in 2017 for the first Outland city-series event. However, ‘Retrowave D’Luxe’ is more of a boutique-style synthwave event since it’s held at Gigi’s Hoxton Underbelly, which is only 220 capacity.

‘Retrowave D’Luxe’ is not on a boat, starts early and doesn’t go on too late… that sounds perfect for ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK! What can people expect? 😉

Aaah yes, we’re well aware of ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s aversion to water-going craft and the fast moving water of the Thames! This event will showcase the lighter poppier side of synthwave, so expect vocal performances and a distinct inclination towards the retrowave aspects of the genre. We’ll be focusing on the positive and feel-good side of live synthwave while keeping the tempo and energy up.

No matter how big or small though, each Outland event showcases the talents of our VJ Will C, who creates bespoke visual elements which are projected on stage for each of the artist performances. We never try to stray from providing a seamless immersive experience of live synthwave for any of the shows we produce. We approach every show as a first; a showcase for folks who are attending an Outland gig for the first time or who have only recently discovered synthwave.

What inspired you to put on synthwave themed events in the first place?

There weren’t any taking place! Modern synthwave music remained largely an internet phenomenon consumed through online streaming platforms, at least first through Myspace circa 2007 when THE VALERIE COLLECTIVE out of Nantes France kicked off what would later become known as ‘synthwave’, along with the UK’s very own 80S STALLONE and US acts like LAZERHAWK and MIAMI NIGHTS 1984.

I guess synthwave still remains a largely bedroom / home studio-produced music genre – there’s nothing wrong with that of course, some of the best 80s synthpop was written and produced in dank bedsits across the country in Thatcherite England.

By the time the mainstream caught whiff with the release of the movie ‘Drive’ with its luscious synth soundtrack and also M83’s ‘Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming’ in 2011, there was still no sign of live synthwave performance, at least not in London. When British synthwave act GUNSHIP (ex-FIGHTSTAR members Dan Haigh and Alex Westaway) released their self-titled debut in 2015, there was yet to be some form of live synthwave event here in the old smoke. At the time, I was performing in a Prefab Sprout tribute act and promoting and managing touring South African artists and comedians in the UK.

My old friend and synthwave cohort Brett Simpson suggested we form a brand and host live synthwave events in London. It was really for the love of the music and to satisfy our own selfish needs of wanting to see our favourite synthwave artists live! And so Outland was born – we presented the first Outland production at London’s Clapham Grand in 2017. I’m not sure what we were thinking going into a 1200-capacity venue, but it certainly caused a stir having piqued the interest of Gary Langan of THE ART OF NOISE and the other 650 people in attendance – a massive ball-twisting gamble which paid off somehow!

Were there any particular artists that you enjoyed who made you think something like a scene was emerging?

Absolutely. Artists like GUNSHIP, TIMECOP1983, TREVOR SOMETHING and FM-84 began blowing up on social media and also through video releases on New Retro Wave (Synthwave YouTube channel now with almost 1 million subscribers). We knew there was an online market but there’s one thing contemplating that and knowing one can put bums on seats in a venue – it’s so risky but then that’s par for the course with live music promotion, I guess. It took some convincing for the venue managers and programmers and of course lots of marketing spend, but luckily that first show panned out – London’s live synthwave scene was born!

We were lucky to have gained the trust and participation from some of the biggest names in the scene at the time in TIMECOP1983, NINA, 80S STALLONE and SUNGLASSES KID. We would have had London’s NEW ARCADES on that line-up too had they been available and not cavorting on the ski slopes of Chamonix!

Outland had put on more, shall we say manageable sized presentations over the last 18 months like NINA + KNIGHT$ or DANA JEAN PHOENIX, KALAX + LEBROCK, FM ATTACK + FUTURECOP! and OLLIE WRIDE + WOLF CLUB, having tried the all-day and late-night event formats initially?

Well actually, we’d have preferred to continue hosting the big shows in London year on year but a couple other synthwave promoters picked up on things in 2017, so we felt things were becoming a bit crowded in what we felt was still a very niche market.

So we took our big city-series productions on the road to Glasgow in 2018 and then Toronto last year, with the view of proliferating and propagating the ‘word’ beyond London. But being London-based, we also wanted to ensure we were looking after touring artists who might be including the capital with their European tour plans. That’s how the first DANA JEAN PHOENIX show came along with NIGHTCRAWLER in March 2018 at Electrowerkz.

I have a long-standing relationship with The Halfmoon in Putney and was offered an Independent Venue Week slot in February last year, and what a better showcase for synth in South West London than to host NINA and KNIGHT$, which turned out to be quite a party south of the river. We generally also found attendance levels dropping so by necessity we had to drop capacity and work with venues which only offered ‘gig slots’ with curfews at 10pm-11pm.

It was all a bit hit and miss really, until we were able to find a formula that now sort of works, which is selling out smaller venues with artists that the ‘scene’ hasn’t seen yet. This is why the FM ATTACK show was such a phenomenal success as well Ollie’s sold out solo show at Camden Assembly.

Had these gigs been to test the water and build an audience?

Yes in the sense that we were trying to gauge what artists work and what artists don’t, as well as what capacity it took to sell out the venues we put those artists in. One can rely a little bit on Spotify listening stats and social media vanity stats, but those don’t necessarily paint the whole picture.

Take L’AVENUE for example. Here’s a new kid on the synthwave block with very little Facebook reach, yet his inclusion in the ‘Retrowave D’Luxe’ line-up has had an enormously positive response so far. Ultimately though, we’d like to think we’re building an audience from the artists’ fanbases as well as those who simply want to attend an Outland show for the experience.

The FM ATTACK gig which Outland put on at Electrowerkz was interesting as that appeared to attract a much younger club crowd than would normally be seen at synth-based events?

I’m thrilled you mention that. A large chunk of the average demographic of attendance to synthwave shows is in the region 35-45 years old and mostly male. I think popular synthwave blogger Vehlinggo calls this the Dadwave effect haha. We’ve been trying to break the scene to the ultimate viral market – students – but I guess grime and reggaeton is the new grunge now! We’ll get there though. I suppose both FM ATTACK and FUTURECOP! draw a younger fan base due to the nature of their style of music, which lends itself more to crossover contemporary club beats and melodies. Whilst FM ATTACK has one foot firmly in 80s keys and synthwave, the other is always stepping forward with modern arrangements and future sounds.

So what’s it been like dealing with the various venues in the UK?

We’ve found that once we’ve dealt with the venue programmers and booking teams and produced the shows, we’re always invited back due to the both the numbers we pull and the bar sales on alcohol. We’ve always had compliments back from venue managers on what a fantastic trouble-free crowd the synthwave lot are. I guess it’s also important to pay careful attention to venue hire agreements and terms so that there are no surprises down the line.

However, all this doesn’t necessarily make things easier in securing the right venues for Outland productions. In London especially, we’ve understood that much of the synth crowd hold high pressure jobs and tend to prefer weekend shows. This is problematic since most decent venues in the capital are booked out months in advance – in most cases 6-8 months. The other issue we face, which seems to be a new thing across the board, is that venues seem only prepared to offer live ‘gig slots’ with 5pm load-ins and 10pm curfews, so as to make way for their own ‘club nights’ thereafter.

Photo by Connor Watt

Live synthwave of course can be presented both as a live band performance but also as one-man DJ + MIDI keyboard and pattern sequencer performances, so the whole production lends itself to an all-nighter type experience. We’d prefer also to run our events to the early hours, like our promoter friends Miami Cyber Nights (Frankfurt) and Retro Synth Fury (Paris) across the channel do.

Whilst venue hire fees are reasonable in London, there are one or two venues we’d love to work with but the rates are just way over the top for the capacity on offer, which is a pity. Mind you, we were exploring running the next city series show in New York City this year and when I found out that a 1000 cap room on average there costs over $15k a day, my eyes shot out their sockets – it’s still unbelievable to me.

Outland ran its most ambitious event yet in Toronto, how did you find working in that city compared with London?

It was hot! Devil’s-ass hot! Seriously though Toronto in the high 30s is almost unbearable, mad as a box of frogs that was – I don’t recommend it. We were however very lucky to secure the 660 cap Mod Club in the Little Italy area of Toronto. Management and tech over there were great to work with and very accommodating with load-in and late curfew times – we went on until 1am I recall.

The whole lead up to that event and the phenomenal support we had there from both the fans and the artists was eye-watering. Nothing beats promoter satisfaction flying artists from all over Europe and America to Canada and then selling out the room. I’m not sure we can trounce that one but we’ll see what happens later this year…

Canada does appear to be something of a creative hub for synth music at the moment; did that make it more straightforward to put together a dreamboat line-up in Toronto?

Well, we aspire to taking these big city-series events across the world to new places – in cities where there’s a healthy music-loving market, especially if there’s even a hint of synthwave and retrogaming fandom. Toronto was an easy choice for us because some of the most cutting-edge synth artists are locals: DANA JEAN PHOENIX, MICHAEL OAKLEY, PARALLELS and MECHA MAIKO. Not only that but Canada forms a big part of the whole history behind synthwave.

THE VALERIE COLLECTIVE’s David Grellier aka COLLEGE teaming up with Canadians ELECTRIC YOUTH to write arguably the most well-known synthwave tune ‘A Real Hero’, which appeared on the movie ‘Drive’ featuring Canadian actor Ryan Gosling. Then there’s the whole LE MATOS and MIAMI NIGHTS 1984 affiliation to Canada and, lest we forget, the incredibly hilarious antics of popular synthwave video blogger and Torontonian Andy Last from Beyond Synth.

We generally prefer to take Outland to cities where synthwave hasn’t necessarily been showcased live yet, hence the reason not taking the brand across the channel to Stockholm, Berlin, Frankfurt, Paris or Amsterdam, where popular synth promoters Night Arcade operate.

There was the cancellation of an event in Manchester that was due to be headlined by TIMECOP1983, is synthwave set to be a London-centred phenomenon, in the UK at least?

Yeah that was a bit unfortunate. It’s disappointing seeing synthwave shows cancelled outright because then people start talking about the genre for all the wrong reasons. I’m just not sure if enough promotion went into that event. A popular Kiwi musician once told me: “Stu son, if you want to fill a venue then make bloody sure you spend at least 10% of your perceived gross on promotion! That’s Marketing 101 fella.”

Manchester actually has a healthy little synthwave scene on the boil there with local promoters like MCR Nights / Max Speed and Steel City Synthwave holding the torch. THE MIDNIGHT performed there last year in Albert Hall and it was near full. While London continues to top worldwide Spotify listenership stats for synthwave in general, we’re very positive that the penchant for the genre is growing across the country. Our Glasgow event in 2018 was well attended and LEBROCK are selling out small venues from Bristol to Peterborough, so there’s definitely something happening.

As an enthusiast of synth-based music for over 40 years, it’s had its ups and downs while ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK has seen many promoters come and go, some good and some very poor. Is it important to manage expectations as far as the perceived popularity of the form and therefore, adapt events to that?

Great point and absolutely. When we saw attendance numbers dropping a tad in 2018, we had to think out of the box and that’s how the Outland Sunset Cruises came about. There’s a helluva lot more financial risk hiring a Thames River vessel for 200, but ultimately people flocked to it and were willing to part with their dollar as it was a new experience – we do it year on year now.

I think it’s important for managers, promoters and artists alike to look at ways to add value to stage performances, whether that’s spending extra on LX / FX or adding a visual element. Gone are the days where U2 and dare we say DEPECHE MODE, are the only acts that can afford to sprinkle on a little technical gold dust and wow factor. Simple and affordable solutions now exist that leaves no excuse to being creative with presentation in small venues. It is what will drive popularity of the live performance across the music spectrum, especially in this modern era where people can laze out live streaming live concerts on massive HD home theatre systems from the comfort of their home sofas.

Is there much mileage in long all-day events or ones running through the night with more than ten acts?

London is crying out for this sort of thing. Combine that with a screening of a retrosynth film like ‘Kung Fury’ and some relevant cosplay dress up, together with live performances in separate rooms of chillwave / lo-fi acts, retro synthwave and darksynth and we’ve got a synth festival winner. A venue like Electrowerkz lends itself perfectly to this, but the issue is finding a weekend that isn’t booked up a year in advance by the goths or Torture Garden! *laughs*

Outland has now gone down the record label route, how is that progressing? Please tell us about your signings?

It’s going really well, but it’s lots of work. We’re trying to take it slow so we’re actually turning down quite a fair amount of submissions.

Apart from MORGAN WILLIS, we’ll be looking at a releasing a few other artists this year, but ultimately, we need to be realistic and continue to offer the best we can in focused artist development and promotion.

We’re not a glorified physical merch distributor acting as a label – there’s release plan and content strategy, upstream and distribution, registering rights, release promotion and PR. Then the label management aspect as well as artist development and A&R.

We’re moving into the publishing side as well because there appears to be so much value in synchronisation opportunities for synthwave. The ‘Stranger Things’ OST is only the tip of the iceberg. It seems the whole music industry is being turned on its head and if a music company is not diversifying, then there’s risk it can get left behind or go bust.

Record labels are becoming streaming services; talent management companies are becoming record labels; distributors are having a go at becoming managers and publishing agents. Ticket agents have become venue owners. And artists are stuck in the middle.

However, we were already promoting artists and their releases, as well as showcasing their talents live through the events. All we were missing was the content to get behind, so going the label route was a natural progression for us. I guess we’re trying to ensure we’re covering all the bases we know we can manage well, to ensure the genre gets the recognition it deserves without taking too much of an unmanageable bite at the same time. It’s a fine balancing act but it’s a thrilling ride.

It would seem there is a lot more what is being termed “vocal synthwave” and this variant is enjoyable this is more like classic synthpop, so how do you see synthwave developing? The purists do seem to prefer things to be solely instrumental…

I think there’s a common misconception, even from the so-called synthwave purists, that the music became popular through its instrumental roots. This couldn’t be further from the truth – much of the gateway songs to the genre originate from the ‘Drive’ soundtrack, so, ‘A Real Hero’ by COLLEGE & ELECTRIC YOUTH, DESIRE’S ‘Under Your Spell’, KAVINSKY’s ‘Nightcall’ and so forth. GUNSHIP’s seminal debut was almost entirely vocal synthwave at its purest.

I can understand why there’s a preference for the instrumental though – WAVESHAPER’s ‘Sarah’s Theme’ is a glorious piece of music. The MIAMI NIGHTS 1984 back catalogue is instrumental synthwave at its purest. While there seems to be traces of insanely possessive custodianship of the definition and preferred path synthwave should take, I think it’s ultimately vocal synthwave which will present the sub-genre to the mainstream properly and place it firmly on the map.

It’s already happening – THE MIDNIGHT are filling +1500 cap rooms across the UK, Europe and US. From experience of the UK market, those numbers tell me many of their fans don’t even realise they’re listening to synthwave, which I think is a good thing – it means the music is traversing boundaries of genre. If there were 1500 ‘synthwave’ fans in Manchester, the Night Arcades TIMECOP1983 event there would not have been cancelled.

Yes, it’s like CHVRCHES fans aren’t exclusively ‘synthpop’ enthusiasts, Kerrang called them an “alt-pop trio” when they were featured so as not to upset their regular readership…

There’s a fine line distinguishing vocal synthwave apart from 80s and modern synthpop, and certainly some artists can be palmed off as both eg MICHAEL OAKLEY, NINA, OLLIE WRIDE, DANA JEAN PHOENIX, PARALLELS, NEW ARCADES and of course THE MIDNIGHT. But at the same time we’ve found that there are loads of modern synthpop acts that are trying to pass themselves off as synthwave, just to climb on the bandwagon of the recent popularity of the genre.

Of course like back in the day, there are those who want nothing to do with being ‘synth’ at all despite using synths! It happens the other way round too though, as there are OMD fans who are in denial about the band using sequencers…

Yes, we have what I would define as the synthwave deniers – the popular gateway acts that are well and truly synthwave in many aspects, but distance themselves entirely from the genre label – I think it’s unhelpful.

As a synthwave promoter, we’re obviously keen to push the value of propagating the term and related hashtags and to ensure it obtains the genre recognition it deserves within distribution aggregators and digital advertising platforms. Furthermore, referencing synthwave for what it is, sets it apart from the tens of thousands of standard synthpop and electro acts that exist today.

It’s interesting how the ‘synthwave’ term does allow more variation in some ways, with the metal sensibilities of LEBROCK and the AOR aspects of THE MIDNIGHT?

Yes for sure. Well, we like to define the term synthwave as “electronic music and art aesthetic influenced by 80s synthesized music, soundtracks and video games which inspire the listener to imagine a future that never quite happened”.

LEBROCK ticks that box as they define themselves as “80s melodic rock riffs with shimmering synthwave melodies…”. Perhaps the term ‘Retrorock’ should be added to the myriad of synthwave sub genres to make matters even more confusing!

Seriously though, the rock element within the synthwave genre isn’t new – axe wielding wizards DANCE WITH THE DEAD are famously synthwave and when we start drawing in darksynth acts like CARPENTER BRUT and PERTURBATOR with their almost metal sensibilities, they’re still synthwave acts at heart to their fans, and indeed even gateway artists to the whole genre.

However, while those acts are able to fill The Roundhouse, I feel THE MIDNIGHT, FM-84 and OLLIE WRIDE, who are represented professionally by the best agents in the business, are less underground and therefore in a better position to put the genre on the map via daytime play on mainstream radio stations.

Photo by Gina-Leigh Smith

OLLIE WRIDE does look set to become synthwave’s first crossover star don’t you think?

Yes, he is a true musical legend in the making and quite frankly, one of the best singer songwriters I’ve ever come across personally. Even Thomas Dolby rates him highly. I think he has already solidified his image as the Prince of Synth within the synthwave community, but I also think he has that star quality and work ethic to stand up next to (and even show up?) Brandon Flowers at Coachella for example. His work as a frontman on stage is second to none and there’s no wonder we’ve seen comparisons to performances from artists like Freddie Mercury, Michael Hutchence, Billy Idol and even Tina Turner. His shows in London and Glasgow in April are going to be next level.

Taylor Swift has been borrowing from CHVRCHES, do you think she will go synthwave next?

It appears a few mainstream artists are borrowing, intentionally or unintentionally from the synthwave aesthetic, both in music and art. Though CHVRCHES don’t define themselves as synthwave and neither does Taylor Swift, her latest album definitely exudes touches of synthwave. ‘The Archer’ could be mistaken for a NINA song, but then 2015’s ‘Style’ is baked in a synthwave / outrun soundscape, so she has been at it for some time now.

Is it intentional or is it just that vintage synthesizers like the Roland Juno60 are coming back into fashion? Does a track with an 80s synth bass arpeggio make it synthwave? Our backline provider was saying that in the last few years he has seen a tremendous increase in hire of early 80s analogue synths. Artists like JAI WOLF and THE WEEKND are all experimenting with synthwave soundscapes but it remains to be seen whether that’s intentional or not.

It’s a well-known fact that many mainstream artists worth their salt keep their nose firmly on the underground and emerging fads to incorporate into their own. Take MUSE for example – their album ‘Simulation Theory’ is steeped in synth and retrowave visual aesthetic and there’s no bones about it that they enjoy the genre – KALAX’s song ‘Levitate’ was used as an outro on their 36-date ‘Simulation Theory’ World Tour! THE BLACK EYED PEAS went full tilt synthwave / outrun visual aesthetic recently, but don’t even get me started on that! *laughs*

What were your thoughts on ‘The Rise Of The Synths’ film?

I thought it was an absolute wonder work and a fantastic representation of the roots of modern synthwave. The documentary might have included a few more active and current players and artists within the scene, but when we consider that the project was over five years in the making, it’s still a well-rounded presentation. It started out as a crowd funding effort and as we know, sometimes those things don’t pan out well for anyone. But kudos to the team for sticking it out and delivering on their promises. I think it’s a well-produced and perfect introduction to synthwave and I would love to see it placed on Amazon Prime or Netflix someday soon.

Talking of films, are you looking forward to ‘Kung Fury 2’?

Absolutely. We tend to include retro films in our annual city-series events – ‘Turbo Kid’ was screened in Toronto and ‘Kung Fury’ featured at Outland Glasgow 2018. If ‘Kung Fury 2’ is anything like the original short film, then we’re in for some more of the same absurdity and martial arts hilarity from the upcoming release. Throw in Arnold Schwarzenegger and Michael Fassbender this time around – what could go wrong!

Are there any other plans in the pipeline that you can talk about?

Well we have another one of ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s favourite boat parties is happening in London on 1st August and we’re also working on the next city series event, with our eye on the US around September / October. We’re also booking agent for FM ATTACK and MORGAN WILLIS, so they’ll be performing quite a bit this year. I work closely with OLLIE WRIDE’s agents in a management capacity and there are some exciting things planned there.

As for the label, we have a few more releases and continued work around our current roster artists, as well as an exciting release of a new mobile retro-inspired driving game called ‘Retro Drive’, available on iOS this Summer. We’ve partnered with the developers and will be licensing some exclusive synthwave and outrun belters for the game, which will later be released as a compilation album.

In closing, I would just like to say a big thank you for the support that ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK have shown for us at Outland and for giving synthwave a new voice – we look forward to seeing your readers at our shows. x


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Stuart McLaren at Outland

Further information on upcoming Outland events can be found at https://www.weloveoutland.com/

https://www.facebook.com/outlandsynth/

https://twitter.com/OutlandSynth

https://www.instagram.com/outlandsynth/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
3rd February 2020, updated 15th February 2021

OLLIE WRIDE I’m A Believer – FM ATTACK Remix

What a 2019 it has been for Ollie Wride. Having made his name as the vocalist of FM-84 with songs like ‘Running In The Night’, he made his first steps towards a parallel solo career.

Co-produced by Michael Oakley, the resultant album ‘Thanks In Advance’ was one of the best of the year, a collection of MTV friendly pop, synth rock and colourful ballads.

But with the positive reception for the record and a sold-out live debut in London, a deluxe edition has just been released and two further UK shows are upcoming for Spring 2020. Featuring new songs and remixes by key figures in synthwave, one of the album’s highlights ‘I’m A Believer’ has been given a sympathetic and enjoyable makeover by FM ATTACK.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK is well known for not being big on modern remixes but Shawn Ward’s restylings of ACTORS ‘Slave’ and ‘Lifetime’ by KOISHII & HUSH featuring the voice of NEW ORDER’s Gillian Gilbert have demonstrated his ear for enhancing songs electronically without detracting from the tune, thanks to his love of Synth Britannia and New Wave.

This superb FM ATTACK remix of ‘I’m A Believer’ has also been given the honour of its own visual accompaniment, directed by Brad A Kinnan. The final part of a video trilogy with ‘The Driver’ and ‘Back To Life’, it sees our hero all battered, bruised and confused. Caught up with a loony religious cult, he is sent out into the desert wilderness to resist the seductive lure of raven haired temptresses and eventual evangelical brainwashing, before making his escape… or has he?

‘Thanks In Advance’ has proved that Ollie Wride can cut it outside of the FM-84 nest. With a natural energetic on-stage charisma, Wride is not only engaging but also probably as good George Michael when he was in his live prime.

His upcoming shows are not to be missed with the London leg featuring the bonus treat of the German synthy songstress NINA as special guest.

She said via her social media: “I’m so excited to announce that I’m opening the show for my synth brother Ollie Wride on December 5th at Lafayette Kings Cross. Over half of the tickets have already been sold. This is going to be one hell of a party! ?


The deluxe edition of ‘Thanks In Advance’ featuring brand new songs ‘Stranger Love’ and ‘Juliette’ as well as remixes from FM ATTACK, SUNGLASSES KID, KALAX, ANORAAK, WOLF CLUB, LIFELIKE and more is released by New Retro Wave as a double yellow vinyl LP with marble effect, cassette and CD only, available from https://newretrowave.bandcamp.com/album/thanks-in-advance

OLLIE WRIDE plays London Lafayette on Sunday 5th Decmber 2021 – tickets available from https://rockfeedback.seetickets.com/event/ollie-wride/lafayette/1467713

https://olliewride.com/

https://www.facebook.com/olliewrideofficial/

https://twitter.com/OllieWride

https://www.instagram.com/olliewride/


Text and Photo by Chi Ming Lai
12th January 2020, updated 15th February 2021

2019 End Of Year Review

2019 was a year of 40th Anniversaries, celebrating the synth becoming the sound of pop when ‘Are Friends Electric?’ reached No1 in the UK chart in 1979.

While GARY NUMAN opted for ‘(R)evolution’ and two of his former sidemen RRussell Bell and Chris Payne ventured solo for the first time, OMD offered a 7 disc ‘Souvenir’ featuring a whole album of quality unreleased material to accompany a concert tour to celebrate four decades in the business. That was contrary to DEPECHE MODE who merely plonked 14 albums into a boxed set in a move where the ‘Everything Counts’ lyric “the grabbing hands grab all they can” became more and more ironic… MIDGE URE partied like it was 1980 with the music of VISAGE and ULTRAVOX, while SIMPLE MINDS announced an arena tour for 2020 so that their audience could show Jim Kerr their hands again.

HEAVEN 17 announced some special showcases of the early material of THE HUMAN LEAGUE and got a particularly warm reception opening on tour for SQUEEZE as a trailer ahead of their own ‘Greatest Hits’ jaunt next year.

Celebrating 20 years in music, there was the welcome return of LADYTRON with a self-titled comeback album, while Swedish evergreens LUSTANS LAKEJER performed the ‘Åkersberga’ album for its 20th Anniversary and similarly GOLDFRAPP announced a series of shows in honour of their magnificent cinematic debut ‘Felt Mountain’.

Cult favourites FIAT LUX made their intimate live comeback in a church in Bradford and released their debut album ‘Saved Symmetry’ 37 years after their first single ‘Feels Like Winter Again’.

As a result, their fans were also treated to ‘Ark Of Embers’, the long player that Polydor Records shelved in 1985 when the band were on the cusp of a breakthrough but ended with a commercial breakdown.

Modern prog exponents Tim Bowness and Steven Wilson got back together as NO-MAN for their dual suite electronic concept record ‘Love You To Bits’, but an even more ambitious undertaking came from UNDERWORLD with their boxed set ‘Drift Series 1’.

Also making live returns were one-time PET SHOP BOYS protégé CICERO with a charity gig in his hometown of Livingston, WHITE DOOR with JOHAN BAECKSTRÖM at Synth Wave Live 3, ARTHUR & MARTHA and Mute Records veterans KOMPUTER.

After a short hiatus, the mighty KITE sold-out three gigs at Stockholm Slaktkyrkan and ended the year performing at an opera house, while GIORGIO MORODER embarked on his first ever concert tour where his songs were the stars.

Although their long-awaited-as-yet-untitled third album was still to materialise, VILE ELECTRODES went back on the road in Europe with APOPTYGMA BERZERK and THE INVINCIBLE SPIRIT. Meanwhile, Chinese techno-rock sextet STOLEN opened for NEW ORDER on their Autumn European tour and EMIKA performed in a series of Planetariums.

Despite the fall of The Berlin Wall 30 years ago, there were more evident swipes to the right than there had been for a long time, with the concept of Brexit Electro becoming a rather unpleasant reality. So in these more sinister times, the need for classic uplifting electronic pop was higher than ever.

To that end, three superb debut albums fitted the bill. While KNIGHT$ offered quality Britalo on ‘Dollars & Cents’, the suave presence of OLLIE WRIDE took a more MTV friendly direction with ‘Thanks In Advance’.

But for those wanting something more home produced, the eccentric Northern electronic pop of the brilliantly named INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP continued the artistic lineage of THE HUMAN LEAGUE.

QUIETER THAN SPIDERS finally released their wonderful debut album ‘Signs Of Life’ which was naturally more understated and Denmark had some worthy synthpop representation with SOFTWAVE producing an enjoyably catchy debut long player in ‘Game On’.

On the shadier side of electronic pop, BOY HARSHER achieved a wider breakthrough with their impressive ‘Careful’ long player but as a result, the duo acquired a contemporary hipster element to their fanbase who seemed to lack manners and self-awareness as they romped around gigs without a care for anyone around them. But with tongues-in-cheeks, SPRAY continued to amuse with their witty prankelectro on ‘Failure Is Inevitable’.

Photo by Johnny Jewel

Italians Do It Better kept things in house as CHROMATICS unexpectedly unleashed their first album for six years in ‘Closer To Grey’ and embarked on a world tour. Main support was DESIRE and accompanied on keyboards by HEAVEN singer Aja, the pair took things literally during their cover version of ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ with a girl-on-girl kiss in front of head honcho Johnny Jewel.

Other ITIB acts on the tour dependent on territory included DOUBLE MIXTE, IN MIRRORS and KRAKÓW LOVES ADANA. But the best work to appear from the stable came from JORJA CHALMERS who became ‘Human Again’.

There were a variety of inventive eclectic works from FAKE TEAK, MAPS, FINLAY SHAKESPEARE, ULTRAMARINE, TYCHO, THE GOLDEN FILTER, FRAGRANCE. and FADER. Meanwhile VON KONOW, SOMEONE WHO ISN’T ME and JAKUZI all explored themes of equality while BOYTRONIC preferred ‘The Robot Treatment’.

But expressing themselves on the smoother side of proceedings were CULT WITH NO NAME and notably SHOOK who looked east towards the legend of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA.

Dark minimalism reigned in the work of FRAGILE SELF and WE ARE REPLICA while no less dark but not so aggressive, WITCH OF THE VALE cemented their position with a well-received opening slot at Infest.

Touring in Europe with OMD and MIDGE URE, TINY MAGNETIC PETS unleashed two EPs ‘The Politburo Disko’ and ‘Girl In A White Dress’ as fellow Dubliner CIRCUIT3 got political and discussed ‘The Price Of Nothing & The Value Of Everything’.

2019 was a year of electronic instrumental offerings galore from NEULAND, RICARDO AUTOBAHN, EKKOES, M83, RELIEF, FEMMEPOP and OBLONG, although ERIC RANDOM’s dystopian offering ‘Wire Me Up’ added vocoder while BRIAN ENO celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing ‘For All Mankind’.

The King of Glum Rock LLOYD COLE surprised all with an electronic pop album called ‘Guesswork’ just as PET SHOP BOYS set an ‘Agenda’. HOWARD JONES released his most synthy work for years in ‘Transform’ and while CHINA CRISIS acted as his well-received support on the UK leg of his 35th Anniversary tour, their front man GARY DALY ventured solo with ‘Gone From Here’.

Among the year’s best new talents were IMI, KARIN MYGRETAGEISTE and ALICE HUBBLE with their beautifully crafted avant pop.

And with the media traction of artists such as GEORGIA, REIN, JENNIFER TOUCH, SUI ZHEN, THE HEARING, IONNALEE, PLASMIC, ZAMILSKA, IOANNA GIKA, SPELLLING, KANGA, FIFI RONG and I AM SNOW ANGEL, the profile of women in electronic music was stronger than ever in 2019.

Sweden continued to produce quality electronic pop with enjoyable releases from the likes of MACHINISTA, PAGE, COVENANT, OBSESSION OF TIME and LIZETTE LIZETTE. One of the most interesting acts to emerge from the region was US featuring the now Stockholm-domiciled Andrew Montgomery from GENEVA and Leo Josefsson of LOWE, with the catalyst of this unlikely union coming from a shared love of the late country legend Glen Campbell. Meanwhile, veteran trio DAYBEHAVIOR made the best album of their career ‘Based On A True Story’.

However, Canada again gave the Swedes a good run for their money as ELECTRIC YOUTH and FM ATTACK released new material while with more of a post-punk slant, ACTORS impressed audiences who preferred a post-post-punk edge alongside their synths.

DANA JEAN PHOENIX though showed herself to be one of the best solo synth performers on the live circuit, but artistically the best of the lot was MECHA MAIKO who had two major releases ‘Okiya’ and ‘Let’s!’.

Despite making some good music in 2019 with their ‘Destroyer’ two-parter, the “too cool for school” demeanour of TR/ST might have impressed hipsters, but left a lot to be desired. A diva-ish attitude of entitlement was also noticed by ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK to be disappointingly prevalent in several fledgling acts.

Synthwave increased its profile further with the film ‘The Rise Of The Synths’ narrated by none other than John Carpenter. MICHAEL OAKLEY released his debut album ‘Introspect’, BETAMAXX was ‘Lost In A Dreamworld’, COM TRUISE came up with a ‘Persuasion System’ and NEW ARCADES were ‘Returning Home’.

Scene veteran FUTURECOP! collaborated with PARALLELS, COMPUTER MAGIC and NINA prior to a hiatus for the foreseeable future, while there were promising new talents emerging in the shape of POLYCHROME, PRIZM, BUNNY X and RIDER.

However, several of the sub-genre’s artists needed to rethink their live presentations which notably underwhelmed with their static motions and lack of engagement.

While promoters such as Outland developed on their solid foundations, others attempted to get too big too soon like the musical equivalent of a penis extension, leaving fans disappointed and artists unpaid. Attempting to turnover more than 10 acts during in a day with a quarter of an hour changeover has always been an odious task at best, but to try 15?!? One hopes the headliners were well paid despite having to go on at midnight when most of their supporters went home so as not to miss the last train…

Now at times, it was as if a major collective midlife crisis had hit independent electronic music in the UK during 2019. It was not unlike how “born again bikers” have become a major road safety risk, thanks to 40somethings who only managed Cycling Proficiency in Junior School suddenly jumping onto 500cc Honda CMX500 Rebel motorcycles, thinking they were Valentino Rossi.

Something similar was occurring in music as a variety of posturing delusional synth owners indulged in a remix frenzy and visions of grandeur, forgetting that ability and talent were paramount. This attitude led to a number of poorly attended events where attendees were able to be counted on one hand, thanks to clueless fans of said combos unwisely panning their video footage around the venue.

Playing at 3:15pm in an empty venue is NOT performing at a ‘major’ electronic festival… “I’ll be more selective with the gigs I agree to in the UK” one of these acts haplessly bemoaned, “I’ve played to too many empty rooms!” – well, could that have been because they are not very good?

Bands who had blown their chance by not showing willingness to open for name acts during holiday periods, while making unwise comments on their national TV debut about their lack of interest in registering for PRS, said they were going to split a year in advance, but not before releasing an EP and playing a farewell show in an attempt to finally get validation for their art. Was this a shining example of Schrodinger’s Band?

Of course, the worst culprits were those who had an internet radio show or put on gigs themselves so that they could actually perform, because otherwise external promotors were only interested in them opening at 6.15pm after a ticket deal buy on for a five band bill. Humility wouldn’t have gone amiss in all these cases.

It’s a funny old world, but as ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK comes up to concluding its tenth year as an influential platform that has written extensively about not one or two or three or four BUT five acts prior to them being selected to open on tour for OMD, luckily the gulf between good and bad music is more distinct than ever. It will be interesting to see if the high standard of electronic pop will be maintained or whether the influx of poor quality artists will contaminate the bloodline.

So ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK ends the decade with a complimentary comment by a punter after attending two of its live events: “You don’t put on sh*t do you…”

May the supreme talent rise and shine… you know who you are 😉


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK Contributor Listings of 2019

PAUL BODDY

Best Album: UNDERWORLD Drift Series 1
Best Song: MOLINA Venus
Best Gig: RAMMSTEIN at Milton Keynes MK Bowl
Best Video: SCALPING Chamber
Most Promising New Act: SCALPING


IAN FERGUSON

Best Album: NO-MAN Love You To Bits
Best Song: NO-MAN Love You To Shreds
Best Gig: RAMMSTEIN at Stadion Slaski Chorzow
Best Video: RAMMSTEIN Deutschland
Most Promising New Act: IMI


SIMON HELM

Best Album: PAGE Fakta För Alla
Best Song: PAGE Fakta För Alla
Best Gig: LAU NAU at London Cafe OTO
Best Video: LAU NAU Amphipoda on Buchla 200 at EMS Stockholm
Most Promising New Act: THE HIDDEN MAN


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: KNIGHT$ Dollar & Cents
Best Song: OMD Don’t Go
Best Gig: KITE at Stockholm Slaktkyrkan
Best Video: NIGHT CLUB Your Addiction
Most Promising New Act: IMI


RICHARD PRICE

Best Album: KNIGHT$ Dollar & Cents
Best Song: OMD Don’t Go
Best Gig: MIDGE URE + RUSTY EGAN at The London Palladium
Best Video: IMI Margins
Most Promising New Act: PLASMIC


MONIKA IZABELA TRIGWELL

Best Album: MECHA MAIKO Let’s
Best Song: KANGA Burn
Best Gig: DANA JEAN PHOENIX, KALAX + LEBROCK at London Zigfrid von Underbelly
Best Video: IONNALEE Open Sea
Most Promising New Act: PRIZM


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Ian Ferguson
16th December 2019, updated 29th Janaury 2021

FM ATTACK + FUTURECOP! Live in London

Outland presented an enticing synthwave double billing with Vancouver’s FM ATTACK and Manchester’s FUTURECOP! at Electrowerkz in London.

The London-based promoters have had a busy year where they undertook their most ambitious undertaking yet in Toronto during the summer featuring DANA JEAN PHOENIX, MECHA MAIKO, PARALLELS, MICHAEL OAKLEY, KALAX, TIMECOP1983 and FM ATTACK.

It was the success of FM ATTACK’s appearance at the event that led to mainman Shawn Ward’s visit to London and Dublin.

But to start proceedings in an already packed Electrowerkz was FUTURECOP! The musical vehicle of synthwave stalwart Manzur Iqbal, his most recent album ‘Voltrana’ featured the vocals of PARALLELS and COMPUTER MAGIC.

In a set more akin to a DJ styled experience and accompanied on stage by Will Cunningham on visuals, Iqbal presented pre-prepared song-based material wispily vocalised by the likes of Holly Dodson and Danz Johnson such as ‘Edge Of The Universe’, ‘We Belong’ and ‘Star’.

‘1988 Girls’ from ‘The Movie’ drew the biggest cheers while musically cut from a similar cloth, ‘Starworshipper’ showcased Iqual’s Sci-Fi mysticism.

As a show, FUTURECOP! did lack a live element, but the audience happily danced throughout and Iqbal did a good job of warming everyone up in anticipation of FM ATTACK. While there was no sign of the new NINA voiced single ‘Against the Tide’, there was a closing playback of the Giorgio Moroder-produced ‘Never Ending Story’ by Limahl, a song now being enjoyed by a new younger audience thanks to its inclusion in the final episode of ‘Stranger Things 3’.

Sporting a gold lame suit and with a Roland Juno 60 taking centre stage, Shawn Ward was grinning as he took his position to play his first London gig as FM ATTACK.

With ‘Drive’ star Ryan Gosling a notable FM ATTACK admirer, Ward has concocted a unique hybrid electronic sound combining Gino Soccio and Giorgio Moroder with Italo disco, French house, new wave and post-punk.

From 2009’s ‘Dreamatic’ album although in instrumental form, the groovy electro-disco of ‘Yesterday’ opened up the gates, but the funkier ‘I Saw Her Dancing’ saw Ward delightfully take to vocoder. With some lovely synth keys and rhythmic fervour, ‘Dreamer’ kept up the neon-lit robotic pace while ‘A Million Miles Away’ added some mood to go with the dance.

Another number from ‘Dreamatic’, ‘Sleepless Nights’ did what it said on the tin, crossing arpeggios with octave lilts for an Italo flavoured romp before the comparatively recent bleep bop of ‘Little Angel’. ‘Shadows’ closed the main set with a gloriously filmic synth laden space journey, but Ward got a well-deserved encore and came back from ‘A Million Miles Away’ with a sparkling tune that was swathed in an enigmatic gothic allure, thanks to his obvious affection for THE CURE.

With regards FM ATTACK’s live presentation, Shawn Ward deserved full kudos for accepting his limitations as a one-man synth act and therefore, selecting material to suit the format.

He could have so easily relied on playback to virtually recreate the presence of the numerous guest vocalists on his albums, but he chose not to and that must be applauded. With another well-attended event under their belt, Outland are steadily building their community.

Always exuding a warm friendly atmosphere, any serious synth enthusiast should pay them a visit, even if only out of curiosity.


Special thanks to Stuart McLaren at Outland

FM ATTACK ‘New World’ is released by Starfield Music in vinyl LP, cassette and digital formats, available from https://fmattack.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/fmattackmusic/

https://twitter.com/fmattack

FUTURECOP! ‘Voltrana’ is released by New Retro Wave Records as a download album, available from https://newretrowave.bandcamp.com/album/voltrana

https://www.futurecop.info/

https://facebook.com/futurecopofficial/

https://twitter.com/futurecopx

The next Outland events feature OLLIE WRIDE at London Camden Assembly on Saturday 16th November 2019 and Glasgow Classic Grand on Friday 29th November 2019

https://www.weloveoutland.com/

https://www.facebook.com/outlandsynth/

https://twitter.com/OutlandSynth


Text and Photos by Chi Ming Lai
28th October 2019

FM ATTACK Interview

Shawn Ward is the DJ and producer behind FM ATTACK. The Vancouver native grew up enjoying New Wave synthpop with ‘Space Age Love Song’ by A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS being a particular favourite.

He released his first EP ‘In The City’ under his own name on Tiga’s Turbo Recordings in 2001 before, after over a dozen solo releases, creating FM ATTACK in 2009 to fashion much more dreamier electronic disco vibes.

With a dance style not too dissimilar to regular Tiga associate Jori Hulkkonen, the debut FM ATTACK album ‘Dreamatic’ got a profile boost in 2011 when ‘Drive’ actor Ryan Gosling mentioned the directing team were fans of the record during interviews promoting the now-influential cult movie.

2013’s ‘Déjà Vu’ moved into more song-based movie soundtrack and Italo territory, but the third FM ATTACK album ‘Stellar’ in 2017 featured Texan combo MNYNMS and saw Ward’s love of new-wave and post-punk truly entering the fore, alongside the neon aesthetic that was now known as Synthwave.

With a new album just released appropriately titled ‘New World’ featuring the likes of MECHA MAIKO and VANDAL MOON on vocals alongside the more understated tones of Ward, he kindly spoke about his career to date as FM ATTACK and his upcoming live appearances in the British Isles this Autumn which include a London date with FUTURECOP!

What attracted you to produce music that had more of an atmospheric filmic vibe, rather than say full-on EDM?

My parents brought me up watching all the great 70s and 80s films and albums so that was definitely a big influence. My mom was more into new wave and my dad was a rocker.

What are the tools of your trade? Have your views on the hardware / software debate changed as you’ve progressed in your career?

I’m a vintage synth nerd, there is something very unique about programming your own sounds, the ones I use often are the Roland Jupiter 8, Jupiter 4 and the Emu Emax, I think software based synths can be great too, I’ve heard some great songs that are totally software based. Analog gear seems even more popular than ever now as people realize that you can really get “that” sound using the old gear and also they are a lot of fun!

How do you look back on your development from the first FM ATTACK album ‘Dreamatic’ in 2009 to 2017’s ‘Stellar’ which featured the vocals of MNYNMS on two tracks?

‘Dreamatic’ is more on the disco side of things and even touches on some French house vibes. ‘Stellar’ I think is more of a listening album and journeys into some more indie / post-punk vibes.

‘Magic’ from 2013’s ‘Déjà vu’ is considered to be your most popular track and is sung by Kristine, what was it inspired by and how did that come together in the studio?

I reached out to Kristine after I had done a remix for FLAMINGO DRIVE (SATIN JACKETS) with her on vocals. I originally sang on that song but thought her vocals would suit it much better, so I sent it to her with the lyrics. She sent me back her takes within a day and nailed it!

‘Ultraviolet’ from your most recent album ‘New World’ reflected a modern day take on Giorgio Moroder, is he a key influence?

I’m a big fan of Italo Disco so it came about pretty naturally. I’ve always been a Giorgio fan and also love Gino Soccio who did a lot of groundbreaking electronic disco tunes.

The subtle vocoder aesthetic which permeates through a number of FM ATTACK tracks is an interesting style, how do you decide when a track remains instrumental or needs a vocal whether natural or treated?

The vocoder gets used quite a bit of use in my studio. I like to use it for harmony vox to get dreamy textures or sometimes for funky main vocal lines.

Speaking of natural vocals, you collaborated with MECHA MAIKO on ‘Stranger’, what was she like to work with?

Hayley is a very talented artist. She knew exactly what to sing and came up with an amazing chorus when I sent her ‘Stranger’. Everything just clicked on that song.

The ‘New World’ title track has an interesting twist with more of a gothic vibe, plus it features VANDAL MOON on vocals… it sounds like THE SISTERS OF MERCY gone synthwave! Please discuss *laughs*

Yes! Blake (Vandal) has an amazing voice and adds a huge vibe to this song. We recorded his vocals on the fly in my studio – The guy is brilliant.

And ‘Believe’ sounds like THE CURE gone Synthwave??

Again I can’t say enough about Blake’s talent. He has so much passion and vibe in his vocal delivery and he encapsulates so many epic darkwave influences. He also wrote the lyrics instantly and we recorded the takes right away.

You remixed ‘Lifetime’, a great track by KOISHII & HUSH voiced by Gillian Gilbert in 2016, how was it to work on a track featuring one of NEW ORDER?

This was a very exciting and fun remix and I just love Gillian’s voice and always thought she sang amazing with THE OTHER TWO. It was pretty surreal when they announced the remix on New Order’s webpage too!

Canada appears to be a hotbed of electronic talent in its various sub-genres and at all levels, what might be in the water at the moment in your opinion?

Haha. Yes it seems like a lot of great synth wave / synthpop artists are coming out of here nowadays. It’s funny I think the same thing was said back in the 80s maybe? 🙂

There is a not entirely unfair criticism about Synthwave in a live context, so how do you undertake the challenge of presenting your music engagingly to an audience in a club or concert hall?

It’s never easy to perform live and deliver your show to an audience. Try to just let the music speak as I’m not a big stage performer and have very little stage presence.

You’ll be coming to play in London and Dublin this October, how are you looking forward to your first gigs in The British Isles?

London and Dublin are epic cities so I feel very lucky to play shows in both! The people are quite passionate about the music there so I am quite excited!

What’s next for you as FM ATTACK?

I am finishing off a remix for this great band from Vancouver called ACTORS. There is a new BETAMAXX album due for release in the Fall that I am working on also!


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Shawn Ward

Special thanks to Stuart McLaren at Outland

‘New World’ is released by Starfield Music in vinyl LP, cassette and digital formats direct from
https://fmattack.bandcamp.com/ along with all the back catalogue

FM ATTACK plays London Electrowerkz on Thursday 24th October 2019 with FUTURECOP! – tickets available from https://www.wegottickets.com/event/479136

There will also be a performance at Dublin Whelan’s on Monday 28th October 2019 – tickets available from http://www.whelanslive.com/index.php/fm-attack/

https://www.facebook.com/fmattackmusic/

https://twitter.com/fmattack

https://www.instagram.com/fmattack/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
19th August 2019

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