Tag: Fotonovela (Page 1 of 5)

Lost Albums: KID MOXIE Selector

As KID MOXIE, Elena Charbila has been on a most interesting musical journey, one which has included collaborating with Angelo Badalamenti on an updated version of ‘The Mysteries Of Love’, the ‘Blue Velvet’ song best known in its original form voiced by Julee Cruise.

Her most recent release was the soundtrack to Greek film ‘Not To Be Unpleasant, But We Need to Have a Serious Talk’ which was released on the Grammy-nominated label Lakeshore Records, home to the physical editions of ‘Drive’ and ‘Stranger Things’.

While KID MOXIE achieved a breakthrough with the ‘1888’ album in 2014, it all started slightly less conspiciously. Having released a debut EP entitled ‘Human Stereo’ in 2007, a long playing statement was made in 2009 with ‘Selector’. At the time of its making, KID MOXIE was a duo comprising of Elena Charbila and Erica Zabowski.

Elena Charbila kindly chatted about how her journey began on ‘Selector’ and may have led her down the artistic paths she follows today…

Despite ‘Selector’ being the debut KID MOXIE album, it sounds quite transitional now?

11 years have passed and I am a different person and that is reflected musically on this album. It’s like growing up and seeing your development through your music, like a public diary. Any song you write, any album you make, there’s a public diary of where you’re at during each stage of your life.

So like reading your diary from high school, you cringe! But it also rings true to you because you remember how you feel and what you wanted to sound like. Looking back at ‘Selector’, I wasn’t as honest and free with myself as I feel now. I was not as mature or savvy, instrumentation or production-wise *laughs*

When I was in my 20s, I was mostly going out for style rather than substance. I was thinking “I’m going to make an electropop record, it’s supposed to sound like this and I’m supposed to sing it like Madonna in her early years etc!”… it was like Paris Hilton in the nid-2000s or whatever! *laughs*

So it was very nubile and adolescent, it was very immature, the way I sounded, the way I wrote! But there was something endearing because it’s like looking at an old picture of yourself when you’re a kid, so this album was more “Baby Moxie”!

Creatively, what would have been the dynamic within KID MOXIE at this point?

I had just moved to my first apartment in LA and my roommate Erica who was a violinist and I found in the LA Times, we started KID MOXIE together, she was a big fan of electropop. We were composing and rehearsing in our living room but then, we were later evicted for making too much noise!

We had a garage space so we were practicing there. It was so hot in LA that summer that we even had naked practice days on Tuesdays, wearing bikinis! It was like a sauna in there, 110 degrees in that garage.

We had a producer walk by while he was getting coffee and he heard what we were doing. He thought we were interesting and fresh so invited us to record in his studio on the same block. So that’s how the ‘Selector’ album started! We were practicing pretty much naked and doing this kind of obnoxious electropop and this producer saw something in that! *laughs*

At that point, I was writing most of the music and Erica was co-writing the lyrics with me. But even then, although I enjoyed being in the band set-up, I still knew that I was a bit of a Billy Corgan, I liked to do things my way and wanted full control. I was never comfortable sharing the creative experience of making music, minus having a producer to make things sound better sonically. So the process back then was very different because there were more people involved and you can hear it. We were very young and trying to get into the new scene in LA at the time, which was very bleepy and poppy and fun.

What sort of music would you have been listening to as inspiration?

I was always listening to a lot of GOLDFRAPP but by no means did I sound like that, but I loved that style. I also listened to BELLE & SEBASTIAN, French pop and a big fan of DAFT PUNK and AIR.

Plus just though my contacts in Greece, I loved MARSHEAUX and close to them as we were friends and I felt sonically that I belonged in this group. Inevitably, if you feel you belong somewhere, you emulate it. So the Undo Records crowd of the late 2000s was very much shaping my sound.

Around this time, you recorded a cover of Madonna’ ‘Burning Up’ which is not on the album and has never been released, is this an indicator of your mindset during this stage of KID MOXIE?

For sure, I was listening to a lot of early Madonna… as she got older, her music got better I felt and her voice… she never had an excellent voice but the songs were great. But in the early 80s, stuff like ‘Burning Up’ and ‘Borderline’ was a massive influence, probably more than anybody. I was like “Hey! I think I can sound like that!”, the spoilt girly type of thing, I thought I could do that…

One thing that has been a continuing artistic thread is vocalising en Francais which you did on ‘French Disco In Space’, had done before on ‘Ma Romance D’Hiver’ on your first EP and did later on ‘Lacuna’ from ‘1888’?

I studied French at school and got quite fluent; being Greek, you have to learn more than your own language. English is a given when you are in first grade, and most Greek kids take another language and it’s either French or German.

I think it’s the most beautiful language, I like the sound of it and it sounds great in a song format. It’s so crisp and has such a beautiful ring to it. ‘Ma Romance D’Hiver’ and ‘French Disco In Space’ which actually has a French rap, both got on major TV shows.

‘Ma Romance D’Hiver’ was used in ‘The L-Word’ and ‘French Disco In Space’ got in the film ‘Yoga Hosers’ which was directed by Kevin Smith and produced by Johnny Depp, it stars their daughters. So these early songs, they got on big media productions.

‘What Kind Of Girl’ is an interesting track and has a gothic resonance, like a girly IAMX in retrospect?

I was very happy with that song because even then, without really knowing it, there was composition… it had violins and things that go beyond a pop format, it intrigued me. I was feeling really good that I could write something that included real instruments and bring it into a pop format. I would explore this more years later, bringing me to this point where I’m doing a lot more scores and stuff for film and TV. So that was kind of like the seed in an odd way.

I love classical stuff, I come from a classical background having been trained on piano as a kid, so it was refreshing to have done this little something among all the bleepy girly attitude, it felt more redeeming.

The title song and ‘Medium Pleasure’ were quite poppy, but they ended up much better when remixed by FOTONOVELA and MARSHEAUX respectively, have you any thoughts on that?

They were… the original production was way better than I could have achieved but FOTONOVELA and MARSHEAUX put them both in a new light and better than the originals.

In my next album ‘1888’, you can hear the different sonically because I introduced different producers for different tracks that made them sound so much more solid and crisp than on ‘Selector’, so I definitely learnt that lesson from these two remixes. Also ‘Tsunami’ was remixed by Serafim Tsotsonis and got a ton of airplay, and still gets played on the biggest Greek radio station as their “signal”.

‘Tsunami’ was an attempt at the more atmospheric music with that ‘Twin Peaks’ feel that came later with KID MOXIE and the backing sounds like OMD. It’s quite naïve but do you now see it as an indicator of where you were heading?

I think yes, you’re spot on. Again as with ‘What Kind Of Girl’, ‘Tsunami’ is a favourite from this record as it create atmosphere with very few words. All the other songs were verse-chorus-verse-chorus, this one was ethereal vocals maybe for the first time and more sparse; it became my signature later on. It much more what I’m about now. I wrote it on my MicroKorg in my bedroom and it felt like an accomplishment at the time. It came out of a dream and I basically reiterated the dream. But that remix was much better and that’s why it became a radio hit in Greece.

‘Neon Tears’ and ‘Dream In Pale Blue’ are moody tracks that also perhaps signal ‘1888’… it would appear that the rhythmic side needed work, it this as a result of limited equipment and experience?

I don’t feel that was the case for ‘Dream In Pale Blue’. Serafim Tsotsonis who remixed ‘Tsunami’ only worked on that one track and did the rhythm section, that still hits a chord with me, I am still feeling that one. But ‘Neon Tears’? Absolutely, that’s a very loose song, it could have been done way better like a lot of stuff on this album, I do cringe at a lot of aspects of ‘Neon Tears’.

‘Polytechnic’ sees you sounding like THE B-52s, was this conscious?

Oh God! It might have been! It was just two chicks being arsey and wordy, giving attitude!

It had that 60s pop vibe going on and to me, it sounds so hollow right now, it’s like my diary at 15! *laughs*

Were you’re still figuring out how best to use your voice?

Yes, I was still working out what to do with my voice; I was working with a male producer and perhaps looking back subconsciously, there was some kind of male-pleasing aspect to my singing at the time although I wasn’t about that. The dudes I was hanging around with liked that so I kind of went with it. The producer though the girly thing was very appealing. But honestly, I was trying to figure out my voice, but I don’t I think I did during that album! I died trying! *laughs*

That airy continental vocal style you’re known for now is nowhere on this album, so how did that eventually emerge?

There a tiny bit of it on ‘Tsunami’ as a precursor… I worked on a lot of different projects for various Greek producers; I tested myself on their tracks. That liberated me from fabricating this persona that I had in mind that I should be following or doing. So I decided I would follow their music and see how my voice translated onto other people’s stuff. And eventually, I brought it into my own sound and crystallised it because it has sounded so good then. That other work shaped my new voice on ‘1888’.

So was ‘The Bailor’, which came a few years after ‘Selector’, the breakthrough song where you found your sound?

Yes, I love that tune, it still speaks to me. I’m proud of it and feel ‘that’s’ my voice.

And here we are today, do you see ‘Selector’ as an important album to your development as an artist or would you have preferred it not to have been released in hindsight?

I’m going to reply to this in a very personal way! I look on this like any relationship I’ve had that I’m not happy with. I’ve made mistakes in my life and I’m not one of those people who is proud of everything I’ve done and wouldn’t change a thing, like why? If I had the power to go back in time, I would have changed a few things. But it did feel right at the time…

I wish it was sonically better, I wish I had found my voice earlier and done a different job with it. At the same time, I look on it endearingly (like at my teen diary) even though I cringe. It’s like my first crush, my first time.

It was my first attack in a record and a production, I messed so many things up. I wish I could have changed them but I can’t so I look as it now as an endearing time of my life.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its grateful thanks to Elena Charbila

‘Selector’ is available as a name your price download direct from https://kidmoxie.bandcamp.com/album/selector-2

http://www.facebook.com/kidmoxie

https://twitter.com/KIDMOXIEMUSIC

https://www.instagram.com/kid.moxie/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
30th May 2020

A Beginner’s Guide To OMD

Celebrating their 40th Anniversary, OMD are one of the acts from the Synth Britannia era whose creative powers now are as strong as their chart heyday.

Setting a high standard of romantic retro-futurism with lyrical gists ranging from technology and war to deceased religious figures and long distance relationships, OMD released their debut single ‘Electricity’ in 1979, a statement about the environment that would have made today’s young campaigner Greta Thunberg proud.

Those who complain that OMD’s music is not dark enough often forget that within their highly melodic songs, subjects have included the suicide of a charismatic musician, the suicide of a woman who worked as a stripper because she had no other means of supporting herself, the racially motivated massacre of five innocent demonstrators by the Ku Klux Klan, the death of over 140,000 people by nuclear attack and most notably on two hit singles, the brutal execution of a teenage girl!

Founder members Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys began an impressive run of acclaimed albums and hit singles, starting with the Mike Howlett produced ‘Messages’ in 1980. The huge European popularity of the follow-up ‘Enola Gay’ captured the Cold War angst of the times under the spectre of Mutually Assured Destruction, while ‘Maid Of Orleans’ became the biggest selling single of 1982 in West Germany when Der Bundesrepublik was the biggest Western music market after the USA and Japan.

Long-time drummer Mal Holmes and live keyboardist Martin Cooper joined the fray as full band members for 1983’s ‘Dazzle Ships’ album, but things went creatively awry for OMD as McCluskey and Humphreys found themselves in an existential crisis, following journalistic criticism that songs about dead saints were not going to change the world. The more politically charged and experimental album failed to sell, but has since been re-evaluated in the 21st Century as a meisterwerk.

Bruised and under commercial pressure, OMD opted to pursue more conventional ambitions and traditions to stay in the black and scored the Top5 US hit ‘If You Leave’ from the John Hughes movie ‘Pretty In Pink’ in 1986. However a North American tour opening for DEPECHE MODE in 1988 failed to sustain momentum. In the backdrop of the resultant fallout and the inevitable musical differences, Humphreys, Holmes and Cooper departed, leaving McCluskey with the OMD brand name.

However, the split precipitated a number of interesting artistic and creative diversions for McCluskey and Humphreys which despite the triumphant reunion of the classic line-up in 2007 and the success of OMD’s most recent album ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’ in 2017 , continue in varying degrees today in parallel with band activities.

In his most recent interview with ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK, Paul Humphreys said: “I still find it utterly amazing and rather fantastic that after 40 years, OMD is still alive and well, selling out big tours and making what even our harshest critics consider to be relevant new records.”

By way of a Beginner’s Guide to showcase the diverse facets of OMD, a hefty 25 tracks of interest have been selected from their career, although largely eschewing those made famous by singular consumption.

But with so many tracks available and the list already being VERY long, links to the OMD family tree like THE ID, as well as work with MARSHEAUX and contributions to the soundtracks of ‘For The Greater Good’, ‘Eddie The Eagle’ and ‘The D-Train’ (which between them saw McCluskey working with notable names such as Danny Boyle, Gary Barlow, Hugh Jackman and Jack Antonoff) have been omitted.

With a restriction of one track per album project, they highlight how two lads from The Wirral have maintained their standing as a creative and cultural force four decades on, despite their numerous ups and downs.


OMD The Messerschmitt Twins (1980)

With their passion for military aircraft and German music, Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys were nicknamed ‘The Messerschmitt Twins’; this mournful Compurhythm driven synth ballad of the same name had mournful if cryptic lyrics which could be seen as the thoughts of aircrew during wartime missions, pondering whether they would return to home. The bleak fatalistic narrative was given further resonance by Andy McCluskey’s resigned vocalisation.

Available on the OMD album ‘Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark’ via Virgin Records

http://www.omd.uk.com/


OMD 2nd Thought (1980)

The ‘Organisation’ album saw OMD purchase their first polyphonic synthesizer, a Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 which allowed Paul Humphreys to explore more haunting gothic timbres away from the cheesier chords of the Vox Jaguar organ. Shaped by eerie choir textures and a repeating two note synthbass motif set to Mal Holmes’ simple marching snare pattern, the beauty of ‘2nd Thought’ echoed the third section of KRAFTWERK’s ‘Autobahn’ and displayed a maturity in OMD’s developing sound.

Available on the OMD album ‘Organisation’ via Virgin Records

https://www.facebook.com/omdofficial/


OMD Sealand (1981)

Running at almost eight minutes, the nautical adventure of ‘Sealand’ demonstrated OMD’s mastery of the epic, mysteriously beginning with a ghostly collage of melodica and reed horns before sad synths and progressive sweeps made their presence felt. Featuring just a minute of vocals in the sparse middle section, the penultimate movement collapsed into a fit of industrial noise before a slow misty reprise of the main melodic theme, like a lost ship in the fog.

Available on the OMD album ‘Architecture & Morality’ via Virgin Records

https://twitter.com/OfficialOMD


OMD International (1983)

Like ‘Maid Of Orleans’, the harrowing ‘International’ was musically inspired by the skippy waltz of ‘Back In Judy’s Jungle’ by Brian Eno. The introductory news report about “a young girl from Nicaragua whose hands had been cut off at the wrists by the former Somoza guards…” acted as one of the fuels for Andy McCluskey to express his anger about economic corruption, political hypocrisy and torture in captivity, all topics which are still sadly relevant today.

Available on the OMD album ‘Dazzle Ships’ via Virgin Records

https://www.instagram.com/omdhq/


THE PARTNERSHIP Sampling The Blast Furnace (1984)

THE PARTNERSHIP was an unrealised side project of Peter Saville cohort and ex-SPOONS member Brett Wickens with Roger Humphreys (no relation) who recorded as CERAMIC HELLO. Produced by William Orbit,  the pulsatingly uptempo ‘Sampling The Blast Furnace’ featured guest vocals from Andy McCluskey alongside vocodered voices and chants by Martha Ladly. While this version remains unreleased, the slower McCluskey-less demo was on the reissue of CERAMIC HELLO’s only album.

Not officially released, alternate version available on the CERAMIC HELLO album ‘The Absence Of A Canary V1.1’ via Vinyl On Demand

https://www.studiobrettwickens.com/


OMD Apollo (1984)

After the critical mauling that ‘Dazzle Ships’ received, OMD were in debt to Virgin Records and realised that they would have to sell more records to survive. The commercial pressure led to a trip to the sunnier climes of AIR Studios in Monserrat and the musically diverse ‘Junk Culture’. A song about McCluskey’s intimate liaison with a local girl, the bizarre mix of carnival whistles, soca, Mellotron choir, rhythm guitar and 808 driven electro came over a bit like AZTEC CAMERA produced by Arthur Baker.

Available on the OMD album ‘Junk Culture’ via Universal Music

https://www.last.fm/music/Orchestral+Manoeuvres+in+the+Dark


OMD Stay (1986)

1985’s ‘Crush’ was Stephen Hague’s first full album production and opened the doors for OMD’s ambitions in the US. Following the success of ‘If You Leave’, ‘The Pacific Age’ continued the partnership and was intended to reinforce momentum. The opening song ‘Stay’ threw in the kitchen sink from Mal Holmes’ mighty drums to layers of synthetic strings plus the addition of soulful female backing singers, brass and heavy metal guitar. But the esoteric elements that made OMD so appealing were being wiped away.

Available on the OMD album ‘The Pacific Age’ via Virgin Records

https://www.setlist.fm/setlists/orchestral-manoeuvres-in-the-dark-73d6ba31.html


ETIENNE DAHO & OMD So In Love (1986)

The suave and sophisticated Etienne Daho was seen as France’s answer to George Michael. While OMD were in Paris recording ‘The Pacific Age’ at Studio de la Grande Armée, they took part in a ‘Les Enfants Du Rock’ French TV special also which also saw their French label mate interviewing his musical influences like Françoise Hardy and  Serge Gainsbourg. The DAHOMD duet saw Daho and McCluskey’s low voices blend well over the original Stephen Hague produced single from ‘Crush’.

Available on the ETIENNE DAHO deluxe album ‘Pop Satori’ via Virgin Records

https://dahofficial.com/

ARTHUR BAKER & THE BACKBEAT DISCIPLES Walkaway (1989)

Producer Arthur Baker gathered a studio collective to make a pop record tracing his love of soul, synthpop, disco, HI-NRG and Europop. His first recording since the fragmentation of OMD, Andy McCuskey contributed lyrics, keyboards and vocals to the electro-reggae of ‘Walkaway’ which threatened to turn into CULTURE CLUB’s ‘Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?’. The vocal cast of the ‘Merge’ album included Al Green, Martin Fry, Jimmy Somerville and Etienne Daho.

Available on the ARTHUR BAKER & THE BACKBEAT DISCIPLES album ‘Merge’ via A&M Records

https://twitter.com/arthurhbaker


OMD Walking On Air (1991)

Going it alone as OMD, Andy McCluskey became open to collaboration. Meeting Stuart Kershaw and Lloyd Massett from pop rap combo RAW UNLTD, the pair set about modernising the rhythmic elements of McCluskey’s new songs. The ghostly ‘Walking On Air’ referenced ‘Statues’ from ‘Organisation’ while the mechanical bossa nova evoked the mellow moods of Bryan Ferry. Kershaw has since taken over the drum stool from Mal Holmes who left OMD in 2014 for health reasons.

Available on the OMD album ‘Sugar Tax’ via Virgin Records

https://www.youtube.com/user/OMDenglishelectric


THE LISTENING POOL Where Do We Go From Here? (1993)

With bursts of sampled choir, electric piano and wah-wah guitar, ‘Where Do We Go From Here?’ came from THE LISTENING POOL’s only album ‘Still Life’ released in 1994. Driven by a gently percolating drum machine programmed by Mal Holmes, the understated air reminiscent of CHINA CRISIS was sweetened by Martin Cooper’s soprano sax with Paul Humphreys vocally pondering their creative situation with the threesome having now departed the OMD camp.

Available on the THE LISTENING POOL album ‘Still Life’ via Telegraph Records

https://malholmes.com/the-listening-pool/


ELEKTRIC MUSIC Kissing The Machine (1993)

Recorded for his ELEKTRIC MUSIC project after leaving KRAFTWERK, Karl Bartos’ collaboration with Andy McCluskey featured one of his best melodies synth melodies. Bartos told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK: “He suggested we do something together and I was up for it… We picked some cassettes and finally I found the opening notes of ‘Kissing The Machine’”. With fabulously surreal lyrics about a love affair with a sexy robot, the song was later resurrected with new backing from Paul Humphreys for ‘English Electric’.

Available on the ELEKTRIC MUSIC album ‘Esperanto’ via SPV Records

http://www.karlbartos.com/


OMD Best Years Of Our Lives (1993)

On a commercial roll and aiming for a younger pop market, ‘Liberator’ featured lots of busy modern dance effects but saw Andy McCluskey losing his way in the song department. Its confused schizophrenic nature was compounded by the pure genius of darker numbers like ‘King Of Stone’ and ‘Christine’. The symphonic string laden ‘Best Years Of Our Lives’ was another of the better tracks, borrowing its solemn topline from ‘Spanish Harlem’, a song made famous by Ben E King.

Available on the OMD album ‘Liberator’ via Virgin Records

https://www.youtube.com/user/OMDVEVO/videos


OMD The New Dark Age (1996)

After the muted reception for 1993’s painfully poppy ‘Liberator’, Andy McCluskey brought in a more conventional rock sound for 1996’s ‘Universal’. However, the OASIS sounding ‘Walking On The Milky Way’ failed to get major traction. One of its B-sides ‘The New Dark Age’ gave a haunting nod to ‘Statues’ using the auto-accompaniment on the Elgam Symphony organ and was the last great synth song of the solo era as the OMD vehicle was quietly retired by McCluskey… for now!

Available on the OMD single ‘Walking On The Milky Way’ via Virgin Records

https://www.discogs.com/artist/9462-Orchestral-Manoeuvres-In-The-Dark


ATOMIC KITTEN Right Now – Demo version (2000)

When Andy McCluskey joined Stuart Kershaw to make some dysfunctional pop for a girl group, most thought he had lost his marbles. The original project HONEYHEAD was stillborn, but when three girls from Liverpool were recruited to form ATOMIC KITTEN, it eventually led to a UK No1 single with ‘Whole Again’. However, the demo of the first single ‘Right Now’ sounded like disco evergreen ‘Never Can Say Goodbye’ arranged like ‘Sugar Tax’ era OMD, but with female vocals!

Available on the ATOMIC KITTEN single ‘Right Now’ via Innocent Records

https://www.atomickitten.com/


THE GENIE QUEEN What A Girl Goes Through (2005)

Having been ousted from Team AK by a coup d’état, Andy McCluskey licked his wounds and recruited another three local girls to form THE GENIE QUEEN. Featuring soon-to-be WAG / top model Abbey Clancy and future TV presenter Anna Ord, ‘What A Girl Goes Through’ was an appealing pop R ’n’ B number based around samples of ‘Souvenir’. The project disbanded without being signed, but a track intended for THE GENIE QUEEN called ‘Pulse’ appeared on ‘History Of Modern’ featuring the girls.

Never officially released

https://twitter.com/anna_ord


ONETWO Anonymous (2007)

Paul Humphreys and Claudia Brücken released their only album as ONETWO in 2007 and from it was ‘Anonymous’, a song that began life as a demo from the aborted PROPAGANDA reunion and which had also been co-written with Andy McCluskey. The pretty ringing melodies and elegiac atmospheres were very reminiscent of classic OMD. But the collaboration had been unusual as at the time of the song’s conception, as Humphreys had not yet committed to rejoining McCluskey in his old band.

Available on the ONETWO album ‘Instead’ via https://theremusic.bandcamp.com/album/instead

http://www.claudiabrucken.co.uk/


BLANK & JONES featuring BERNARD SUMNER Miracle Cure – Paul Humphreys Onetwo remix (2008)

Having worked with THE CURE’s Robert Smith, trance duo Piet Blank and Jaspa Jones had Bernard Sumner of NEW ORDER high on their list of vocalists for their album ‘The Logic Of Pleasure’, which also featured Claudia Brücken. The German duo remixed ONETWO’s ‘Kein Anschluß’, so naturally the gesture was reciprocated when Paul Humphreys offered his smooth offbeat atmospheric rework of ‘Miracle Cure’ in what could be seen as the nearest thing to a NEW ORDER vs OMD collaboration.

Available on the BLANK & JONES single ‘Miracle Cure’ via Soulfood

http://www.blankandjones.com/


OMD Green (2010)

Of this ‘History Of Modern’ highlight, Paul Humphreys said: “It was a song Andy did many, many years ago with Stuart and I think it was done in the 90s. He played it to me and it sounded a bit like a rock ballad. I said ‘I think the vocal tune’s great, but everything else has to go. Give me the vocal stem and I’ll do a whole new track for it’, so I came to my studio and completely reworked it.” – the result was mesmerising and even dropped in ROXY MUSIC’s ‘If There Is Something’ at the close.

Available on the OMD album ‘History Of Modern’ via Blue Noise

https://twitter.com/stukershaw


MIRRORS Secrets – Andy McCluskey remix (2011)

Mal Holmes once said that “MIRRORS do OMD better than OMD do OMD!”… originally a ten minute epic split into three movements, ‘Secrets’ closed MIRRORS’ outstanding ‘Lights & Offerings’ long player, driven by an intense percussive tattoo and a shifting octave bass riff that was pure Klingklang. While pushing forward the synthetic claps, Andy McCluskey stripped down and the backing and shortened proceedings, making it much less claustrophobic and militaristic than the original.

Originally on the MIRRORS deluxe album ‘Lights & Offerings’ via Undo Records, currently unavailable

https://www.facebook.com/theworldofmirrors/


PAUL HUMPHREYS & DOUGLAS COUPLAND Electric Ikebana (2012)

A collaboration between ‘Generation X’ author Douglas Coupland, and Paul Humphreys, ‘Electric Ikebana’ was an audio visual installation to act as the voice of the network for French telecoms company Alcatel-Lucent. The beautiful piece had conceptual hints of KRAFTWERK’s ‘The Voice Of Energy’ while there was also a charming mathematical formula recital “x = [-b +- √(b² -4ac)] / 2a” to the tune of the nursery rhyme ‘Pop Goes The Weasel’ which recalled ‘ABC Auto-Industry’ from ‘Dazzle Ships’.

Not officially released

https://www.coupland.com/


OMD Helen Of Troy (2013)

Of ‘Helen Of Troy’, Andy McCluskey said to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK: “George Geranios and Nick Bitzenis of FOTONOVELA were our label bosses in Greece via their Undo Records and they sent me this track…the demo had Nick going “Helen Of Troy – Helen Of Troy” so I took his vocal off as you do, chopped it all up and rearranged it… it’s gorgeous! I have used some of Nick’s backing vocals… I love it to bits! And ‘Helen Of Troy’ is much more of a metaphor than either of the ‘Joan Of Arcs’ were.”

Available on the OMD album ‘English Electric’ via BMG

https://www.facebook.com/undofotonovela/


ERASURE Be The One – Paul Humphreys remix (2014)

Andy Bell’s debut solo album ‘Electric Blue’ had been produced by ONETWO’s backing band THE MANHATTAN CLIQUE and featured two duets with Claudia Brücken. ‘The Violet Flame’ album saw ERASURE express an infectious zest for the future with songs beginning as pre-recorded dance grooves from Vince Clarke. But the best number from the sessions was ‘Be The One’ remixed by Paul Humphreys who added some of the beautiful Synthwerk magic that characterised ‘English Electric’.

Available on the compilation album ‘The Electricity Club’ (V/A) via Amour Records

http://www.erasureinfo.com


VILE ELECTRODES The Vanished Past (2016)

The avant pop approach of VILE ELECTRODES is reminiscent of early OMD, with ‘Deep Red’ capturing Andy McCluskey’s interest enough to invite the duo to support the German leg of the ‘English Electric’ tour. With its potent drama, ‘The Vanished Past’ came complete with a mighty drum climax like ‘Navigation’. Bleak and wonderful, “not everything is as it seems” as a forlorn stranger joins in after five minutes. As the adventure unfolds like a lost OMD epic, that stranger reveals himself to be Mr McCluskey!

Available on the VILE ELECTRODES album ‘In the Shadows of Monuments’ via https://vileelectrodes.bandcamp.com/album/in-the-shadows-of-monuments

http://www.vileelectrodes.com/


OMD Don’t Go (2019)

OMD began their recorded career with a KRAFTWERK homage and four decades on, have come full circle. A great grandchild of Klingklang and cousin of ‘Metroland’ from ‘English Electric’ but refined for BBC Radio 2 airplay, ‘Don’t Go’ captures the essence of OMD’s enduring electronic appeal. With crystalline synth melodies from Humphreys and a spirited vocal delivery from McCluskey attached to a hypnotic Synthanorma backdrop, OMD continue to produce quality avant pop tunes.

Available on the OMD album ‘Souvenir: The Singles Collection 1979 – 2019’ via Universal Music

https://open.spotify.com/artist/7wJ9NwdRWtN92NunmXuwBk


The ‘Souvenir’ 5CD + 2DVD deluxe boxed set is released on 4th October 2019 by Universal Music

OMD Souvenir 40th Anniversary 2019 – 2020 European + UK Tour, dates include:

Lisbon Aula Magna (15th October), Porto Casa da Musica (16th October), Madrid Riviera (19th October), Barcelona Apolo (21st October), Belfast Ulster Hall (23rd October), Dublin Olympia (24th October), Nottingham Royal Concert Hall (26th October), York Barbican (27th October), Hull Arena (28th October), Gateshead Sage (30th October), Glasgow Royal Concert Hall (31st October), Manchester Apollo (1st November), Sheffield City Hall (3rd November), Liverpool Empire (4th November), Birmingham Symphony Hall (5th November), Leicester De Montford Hall (7th November), Bath Pavilion (8th November), Oxford New Theatre (9th November), Guildford G Live (11th November), Portsmouth Guildhall (12th November), Watford Colosseum (13th November), Cambridge Corn Exchange (15th November), Ipswich Regent (16th November), Bexhill De La Warr Pavilion (17th November), Bournemouth Pavilion (19th November), London Hammersmith Apollo (20th November), Rostock Stadthalle (25th November), Dresden Kulturpalast (26th November), Leipzig Haus Auensee (28th November), Berlin Tempodrom (29th November), Hamburg Grosse Freiheit 36 (30th November), Berlin Tempodrom (2nd December), Stuttgart Leiderhalle (3rd December), Düsseldorf Mitsubishi Electric-Halle (5th December), Frankfurt Jahrhunderthalle (6th December), Krakow Studio (3rd February), Warsaw Progresja (4th February), Oslo Rockefeller Musichall (7th February), Stockholm Berns (9th February), Malmo KB (10th February), Copenhagen Vega (12th February), Brussels Ancienne Belgique (14th February), Utrecht Tivoli (15th February), Paris La Cigale (16th February)


Text by Chi Ming Lai
29th August 2019, updated 19th April 2021

A Beginner’s Guide To SARAH BLACKWOOD

Photo by Corinna Samow

Born in Halifax, Sarah Blackwood has been a most striking vocal and visual presence since 1995 when DUBSTAR hit the UK singles charts with ‘Not So Manic Now’, a cover of an obscure song by Wakefield band BRICK SUPPLY.

Sarah Blackwood studied Spatial Design at Newcastle University and it was while living in the city that she met Chris Wilkie and Steve Hillier, joining DUBSTAR as lead singer.

Scoring hits under the auspices of OMD, PET SHOP BOYS, ERASURE and NEW ORDER producer Stephen Hague, kitchen sink dramas like ‘Stars’, ‘No More Talk’ and ‘I Will Be Your Girlfriend’ appealed to both electronic music and indie audiences.

DUBSTAR bridged the gap between Synth Britannia and Britpop, opening for ERASURE while also simultaneously being label mates with BLUR, JESUS JONES and SHAMPOO. But after three albums ‘Disgraceful’ ‘Goodbye’ and ‘Make It Better’ on Food Records, with worsening band relations, management tensions and waning audience interest, DUBSTAR disbanded.

In 2002, Blackwood joined multi-instrumentalist Kate Holmes in female synthpop duo TECHNIQUE after original singer Xan Tyler was unavailable for a European tour opening for DEPECHE MODE in Europe. The support slot was a success and led to the pair forming crucial friendships that would help their relaunch as a brand new project.

Morphing into CLIENT and releasing their self-titled debut album in 2003, they initially shunned using their real names, choosing to be mysteriously referred to as Client A and Client B in a ‘1984’ inspired Orwellian twist. Interest in their mysterious allure coincided with the emergence of acts like LADYTRON, MISS KITTIN, BLACK BOX RECORDER and GOLDFRAPP.

A favourite act of Karl Bartos who they opened for at his London ULU gig in 2003, CLIENT became a popular cult draw in Europe and released a further three albums ‘City’, ‘Heartland’ and ‘Command’ before Blackwood officially departed in late 2010, coinciding with a reunion of DUBSTAR.

But despite a well-received 2013 comeback concert at The Lexington in London, things went quiet until Summer 2018 when Blackwood and Wilkie announced they had recorded a new DUBSTAR album as a duo entitled ‘One’. Released in Autumn 2018, it was well-received and considered by some observers to be one of the best albums of the year.

Although best known as the front woman of DUBSTAR and CLIENT, Sarah Blackwood has always been open to collaboration and has lent her charming voice to a number of recordings helmed by artists from Germany, Greece and Canada as well as the UK. Also adept in the art of reinterpretation, among the artists she has covered are TUBEWAY ARMY, PET SHOP BOYS, ADAM & THE ANTS, VISAGE, NEW ORDER, DEPECHE MODE and THE SMITHS.

By way of a Beginner’s Guide to her work, here are eighteen recordings highlighting the varied musical portfolio of Sarah Blackwood, presented in chronological order with a restriction of one track per album project.


DUBSTAR The Day I See You Again (1995)

Possibly one of the standouts from DUBSTAR’s debut long player ‘Disgraceful’, ‘The Day I See You Again’ featured the immortal line “If the man you’ve grown to be is more Morrison than Morrissey”. Blackwood captured a deeply Northern English cynicism which actually transferred abroad, with the song’s American producer Stephen Hague dusting the tune off for the German songstress Claudia Brücken to cover on her reinterpretations album ‘The Lost Are Found’.

Available on the DUBSTAR album ‘Disgraceful’ via Food / EMI Records

http://dubstarofficial.co/


DUBSTAR La Bohème (1997)

One of the B-sides to ‘No More Talk’ and co-written by the late Charles Aznavour, ‘La Bohème’ became the Frenchman’s signature song and an acknowledged chanson classic, telling the tale of a painter recalling his younger years in the Parisian bohemian suburb of Montmartre, hungry yet happy. Applying a wonderful Anglo aesthetic to the translation, Blackwood gave a superb interpretation which more than suited its relocation to West Yorkshire over its icy electronic backdrop.

Available on the DUBSTAR CD single ‘No More Talk’ via Food / EMI Records

https://www.facebook.com/dubstaruk/


DUBSTAR featuring GARY NUMAN Redirected Mail (2000)

Having covered TUBEWAY ARMY’s ‘Everyday I Die’ for the ‘Random’ tribute album, it was now Blackwood’s turn to duet with Gary Numan himself, albeit remotely. “I was in Manchester when we recorded ‘Redirected Mail’” she said, “but Steve and Chris actually went down to Gary’s and sat and had ham and chips with him. They had a right laugh and had a really good time.” As a result of that visit south, Steve Hillier also bought a Roland CP70 electric piano from Numan.

Available on the DUBSTAR CD single ‘The Self Same Thing’ via Food / EMI Records

https://twitter.com/dubstarUK


CLIENT Client (2003)

Having secured a deal with Mute Records via Andy Fletcher’s Toast Hawaii imprint, CLIENT’s stark mission statement of “satisfaction guaranteed” also included a striking look which had a distinct element of Cold War chic. “It started because we didn’t know what to wear on tour with DEPECHE MODE” said Blackwood knowing they would be performing in front of some very partisan Devotees, “if they threw anything at us, we wanted it to be something that was sort of disposable so we thought of the uniforms!”

Available on the CLIENT album ‘Client’ via Toast Hawaii

https://www.facebook.com/ClientMusic/


CLIENT featuring MARTIN GORE Overdrive (2004)

For their second album ‘City’, CLIENT got more ambitious by featuring some guest vocalists which included THE LIBERTINES. But the most notable one was DEPECHE MODE’s Martin Gore in a collaboration that was instigated by Blackwood writing him a letter: “Martin had this newly set-up studio and recorded himself. The thing is, when we mixed the two vocals together, that was a moment! I didn’t know how it was going to work but when you heard it, it was like ‘woo!’…it was a bit spine tingling really!”

Available on the CLIENT album ‘City’ via Toast Hawaii

http://www.martingore.com/


DIE KRUPPS featuring CLIENT Der Amboss (2005)

Of DIE KRUPPS‘ mighty industrialised cover, Ralf Dörper said: “When I first heard ‘The Anvil’ (‘Der Amboss’) by VISAGE, I thought ‘what a perfect song for DIE KRUPPS’ – it just needed more sweat, more steel. And it was not before 2005 when DIE KRUPPS were asked to play a few 25-year anniversary shows that I remembered ‘Der Amboss’… and as I was a big CLIENT fan at that time, I thought it would be a good opportunity to ask Fräulein B for assistance in the vocal department”.

Available on the CLIENT EP ‘Untitled Remixes’ via Out Of Line Records

http://www.diekrupps.de/


CLIENT featuring ROBERT GÖRL Der Mussolini (2006)

To beef up their concert sound, CLIENT expanded to a trio to include bassist Emily Mann aka Client E and became a gritty live act which exuded an electronic body presence that powerfully complimented Blackwood’s stoic stage persona as Client B. Occasionally and fittingly, they would be joined on drums by Robert Görl from esteemed Industrial Godfathers DEUTSCH AMERIKANISCHE FREUNDSCHAFT and together they would end the set with their seminal EBM classic ‘Der Mussolini’.

Originally on the self-released CLIENT ‎album ‘Live In Porto’, currently unavilable

http://www.robert-goerl.de/


CLIENT It’s Not Over – Marsheaux remix (2007)

Of Athens-based female duo MARSHEAUX, Blackwood said: “They sort of copied us but it was the biggest form of flattery because they’re such lovely girls! It’s nice to think I’ve inspired something”. So when the two parties toured Germany together in 2008, it was a most appropriate pairing. On their remix of ‘It’s Not Over’, some Hellenic shine was added to the original’s more dystopian demeanour with additional Eurocentric riffage for a slice of electronic pop perfection.

Available on the compilation album ‘Electronically Yours’ (V/A) via Undo Records

https://www.facebook.com/marsheaux/


CLIENT B True Faith (2008)

Described as “one of my favourite Northern folk songs” and arranged by Chris Wilkie on acoustic guitar more or less as such, this live solo performance of this NEW ORDER evergreen formed part of a free download series which also included stripped down versions of CLIENT and DUBSTAR songs as well as THE SMITHS ‘Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before’. “I just think a good song will work if you can do it acoustically” Blackwood would later remark.

Originally on the CLIENT B EP ‘Acoustic At The Club Bar & Dining’, currently unavailable

https://twitter.com/sarahblackwood


CLIENT Make Me Believe In You (2009)

Having previously tackled new wave pop like ‘White Wedding’ and ‘Xerox’, CLIENT took a diversion and covered Curtis Mayfield’s soultastic and groove laden ‘Make Me Believe In You’. Co-produced by one-time KILLING JOKE bassist Martin Glover aka Youth who added a more rhythmic energy, things were danced up with an icy edge coming from his frenetic guitar work. This approach more than suited their fourth album’s “brazenly bossy” title of ‘Command’.

Available on the CLIENT album ‘Command’ via Out Of Line

https://www.discogs.com/artist/80278-Client


DUBSTAR I’m In Love With A German Film Star (2010)

Although at the time Blackwood was still in CLIENT, the newly reformed DUBSTAR were invited to submit a cover of their choice as part of a project for Amnesty International Catalunya. While songs by THE ROLLING STONES and the late Kirsty MacColl were considered, the trio settled on this 1981 cult classic made famous by THE PASSIONS. While there was to be an emotional reunion concert in Spring 2013, the DUBSTAR’s reformation as a trio was not to last…

Originally on the compilation album ‘Peace’ (V/A) via Amnesty International, currently unavailable

https://www.discogs.com/artist/72608-Dubstar-2


WILLIAM ORBIT featuring SARAH BLACKWOOD White Night (2010)

While things had become uncertain within the CLIENT camp, Blackwood took time out to work on a Rico Conning penned track for William Orbit’s album ‘My Oracle Lives Uptown’ which dated back to their TORCH SONG days. Although her version did not appear on the final tracklisting, her take was offered as a free download. More accessible than some of CLIENT’s offerings but more purely electronic than DUBSTAR, this was a priceless pop gem which lyrically expressed her pain during that period.

Originally available as a free download, currently unavailable

https://www.williamorbit.com/


SOMAN featuring SARAH BLACKWOOD Blue Monday (2010)

No stranger to cover versions, Blackwood was invited to add her suitably forlorn voice to German producer Kolja Trelle’s version of NEW ORDER’s signature tune. The esteemed musical ears of Stephen Hague always felt that Bernard Sumner and Sarah Blackwood would make a perfect duetting partnership but until that happens, covers are what the public has to make do with for now. Now imagine if she had had sung on ‘Tutti Frutti’ instead of Elly Jackson of LA ROUX?

Available on the SOMAN album ‘Noistyle’ via Trisol Music Group

https://www.facebook.com/SOMAN.Musik/


FOTONOVELA featuring SARAH BLACKWOOD Justice (2013)

The concept of FOTONOVELA’s sophomore offering ‘A Ton Of Love’ was to produce a supreme electronic record featuring vocalists from all stages of classic synthpop. Andy McCluskey was the first on board for the project but the resultant song ‘Helen Of Troy’ turned out so well, it ended up on OMD’s ‘English Electric’! Undeterred, the duo recruited Sarah Blackwood. Halifax’s own Queen of electro took FOTONOVELA onto a cloudier but enjoyable hitchhike through the North West of England with the very personal ‘Justice’.

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

https://www.facebook.com/undofotonovela/


KOISHII & HUSH featuring SARAH BLACKWOOD Rules & Lies (2015)

Keeping herself busy, Blackwood collaborated with progressive house duo KOISHII & HUSH. “Sarah was one of the vocalists we had always wanted to work with. We managed to get in touch with her and decided to meet in London to discuss the idea.” said Alex Hush, “She was quite keen on the project and after that initial meeting, we sent Sarah a rough backing track which she wrote and recorded vocals for. We then did some tweaks and additional production on ‘Rules & Lies’ and are thrilled with the final version”.

Available on the KOSHII & HUSH single ‘Rules & Lies’ via Grammaton Recordings

http://www.koishiiandhush.com/


VILE ELECTRODES featuring SARAH BLACKWOOD Captivity In Symmetry (2016)

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK initially described VILE ELECTRODES as “Client B born and raised in the Home Counties fronting Dindisc-era ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK”, so a duet with Anais Neon was perhaps inevitable. Blackwood added a nonchalant almost-spoken vocal to a variation of the gorgeous ‘Twin Peaks’ flavoured ‘Captive In Symmetry’ as part of a bonus CD ‘Not Everything Is As It Seems’ which came with the initial run of their second album ‘In The Shadows Of Monuments’.

Available on the VILE ELECTRODES special edition album ‘In The Shadows Of Monuments’ via https://vileelectrodes.bigcartel.com/product/in-the-shadows-of-monuments-special-edition-cd-package

http://www.vileelectrodes.com/


RADIO WOLF featuring SARAH BLACKWOOD Rock ‘n’ Roll Forever (2017)

RADIO WOLF is Canadian musician and producer Oliver Blair who remixed ‘It’s Now Over’ and ‘Can You Feel’ under his KINDLE moniker as well as playing guitar on ‘Command’. Now performing with PARALLELS as well as recording in his own right, his debut EP combining electronic music with rock ‘n’ roll featured a stellar cast of female vocalists including his bandmate Holly Dodson, Marika Gauci from his previous combo HOTEL MOTEL, Kelli Ali ex-SNEAKER PIMPS and on the title song, Sarah Blackwood.

Available on the RADIO WOLF EP ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Forever’ via Oliver Blair

https://www.radiowolfmusic.com/


DUBSTAR Locked Inside (2018)

Just when it looked like that was it over for DUBSTAR, Sarah Blackwood and Chris Wilkie snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with ‘One’. While Wilkie took on prime songwriting duties, the classic bittersweet aura remained, albeit within a more organic setting. Produced by Youth, the most electronic number on ‘One’ was the gorgeous ‘Locked Inside’ with elements of KRAFTWERK creeping in and even TEARS FOR FEARS while Blackwood poignantly reflected on how “my hands are tied”.

Available on the DUBSTAR album ‘One’ via Northern Writes

https://www.instagram.com/dubstaruk/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
30th December 2018

EKKOES Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What influences shaped the EKKOES sound?

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

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

How did the dual male / female vocal template emerge?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That really is a difficult question to answer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which is your personal favourite song on ‘Kinetik’?

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

http://ekkoes.com

https://www.facebook.com/ekkoes

https://twitter.com/ekkoesmusic

https://www.instagram.com/ekkoes/


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

EKKOES You Got The Light

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

http://ekkoes.com

https://www.facebook.com/ekkoes

https://twitter.com/ekkoesmusic

https://www.instagram.com/ekkoes/

https://soundcloud.com/ekkoesmusic


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

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