Tag: Gareth Jones (Page 1 of 2)

2020 End Of Year Review

“It’s such a strange day, in such a lonely way” sang NEW ORDER on ‘Truth’ in 1981.

The coronavirus crisis of 2020 put the entire live music industry into limbo as concerts were postponed and tours rescheduled.

The situation was affecting everyone with several musicians like Bernard Sumner, Andy McCluskey, John Taylor and Sarah Nixey publicly stating that they had contracted the virus. Even when all pupils returned to schools in the Autumn, there was a ban on indoor singing in English classrooms. It was an indication that out of all professional fields, the arts was going suffer the most.

To make up for the absence of live shows, online streamed events become popular. Two of the best live online gigs were by Swedish veterans LUSTANS LAKEJER from the KB in Malmö and Sinomatic techno-rockers STOLEN with Lockdown Live From Chengdu. Not strictly a lockdown show but available for all to view on SVT was a magnificent live presentation of KITE at the Royal Opera House in Stockholm recorded in late 2019 combining synthesizers, orchestra and choir, proving again why Nicklas Stenemo and Christian Berg are the best electronic duo in Europe.

Concluding his ‘Songs: From the Lemon Tree’ series, Bon Harris of NITZER EBB presented a wonderful set of four electonic cover versions including songs made famous by Joan Armatrading, Connie Francis and Diana Ross. Meanwhile among independent musicians, Dubliner CIRCUIT3 led the way with an innovative multi-camera effected approach to his home studio presentation and Karin My performed al fresco in a forest near Gothenburg.

Taking the initiative, ERASURE did a delightful virtual album launch party for their new album ‘The Neon’ on Facebook with Vince Clarke in New York and Andy Bell in London, talking about everything from shopping to classic synthpop tunes.

Demonstrating a possible new model for the future, Midge Ure launched his subscription based ‘Backstage Lockdown Club’ which included intimate live performances and specials guests like Glenn Gregory and Howard Jones.

Other streamed forms of entertainment came via podcasts and among the best was ‘The Album Years’ presented by Steven Wilson and Tim Bowness. Their knowledgeable and forthright views on selected years in music were both informative and amusing. It was interesting to note that at the end of the 1976 episode, the pair nominated ‘Oxygène’ by Jean-Michel Jarre as the most important album of that year while for 1979, it was ‘The Pleasure Principle’ by Gary Numan.

Many artists who had scheduled releases in 2020 went through with them, although in some cases, there were the inevitable delays to physical product. But a few notable acts couldn’t help but abuse the situation, notably a certain combo from Basildon.

There were already “quality control issues” with the lavish ‘MODE’ 18 CD boxed set, but there was uproar even among the most hardcore Devotees with the ‘Spirits In The Forest’ release. The cardboard packaging was reported to be flimsy and prone to dents, while there was continuity errors galore as Dave Gahan rather cluelessly and selfishly wore different coloured outfits over the two nights in Berlin that the live footage was filmed under the direction of Anton Corbijn.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, there was an Anton Corbijn official illustrated history of DEPECHE MODE entitled ‘DM AC’ in the form of a coffee table photo book published by Taschen which retailed at €750; even though it was signed by Messrs Gahan, Gore and Fletcher, the price tag was a mightily steep. The increasingly ironic words of “The grabbing hands grab all they can…” from ‘Everything Counts’ were not lost on people, who are people, after all!

But Andy Fletcher did provide the most amusing and spot-on quote of the year; during DEPECHE MODE’s acceptance speech into that dinosaur institution The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, when Dave Gahan remarked to his bandmates that “I dunno what the hell I would have been doing if I didn’t find music to be quite honest…”, the banana eating handclapper dryly retorted “YOU’D HAVE BEEN STILL STEALING CARS DAVE!”

There were lots of great albums released in 2020 and Berlin appeared to be at the creative centre of them.

There was ‘LP II’ from LINEA ASPERA who made a welcome return after eight years in hiatus and  the playful debut by ULTRAFLEX, a collaborative offering from Berlin-based Nordic artists SPECIAL-K and FARAO which was “an ode to exercise, loaded with sex metaphors badly disguised as sports descriptions” .

The DDR born Jennifer Touch told her story with ‘Behind The Wall’ and resident New Yorker DISCOVERY ZONE was on ‘Remote Control’, while Lithuania’s top pop singer Alanas Chosnau made ‘Children of Nature’, his first album in English with Mark Reeder, who himself has lived in the former walled city since 1978; their collected experiences from both sides of the Iron Curtain made for a great record with the political statement of ‘Heavy Rainfall’ being one of the best songs of 2020.

Synth-builder and artist Finlay Shakespeare presented the superb angst ridden long player ‘Solemnities’ with its opener ‘Occupation’ tackling the social injustice of unemployment. A most frightening future was captured in musical form by New York-resident Zachery Allan Starkey who saw his home become a ‘Fear City’, while WRANGLER got themselves into ‘A Situation’.

SPARKS discussed ‘The Existential Threat’ and ‘One For The Ages’ while pleading ‘Please Don’t F*ck Up My World’ on their eclectic 25th album ‘A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip’, just as NIGHT CLUB reflected what many were thinking on ‘Die Die Lullaby’ with ‘Miss Negativity’ looking to ‘Die In The Disco’ while riding the ‘Misery Go Round’.

ASSEMBLAGE 23 chose to ‘Mourn’ with one of its highlights ‘Confession’ illustrating what DEPECHE MODE could still be capable of, if they could still be bothered.

But it was not all doom and gloom musically in 2020. With the title ‘Pop Gossip’, INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP did not need to do much explaining about the ethos of their second album and drum ‘n’ synth girl GEORGIA was happily ‘Seeking Thrills’.

Veterans returned and 34 years after their debut ‘Windows’, WHITE DOOR teamed up with the comparative youngster Johan Baeckström for ‘The Great Awakening’, while CODE made a surprise return with their second album ‘Ghost Ship’ after an absence 25 years.

‘The Secret Lives’ of German duo Zeus B Held and Mani Neumeier illustrated that septuagenarians just want to have fun. Along with Gina Kikoine, Zeus B Held was also awarded with Der Holger Czukay Preis für Popmusik der Stadt Köln in recognition of their pioneering work as GINA X PERFORMANCE whose ‘No GDM’ was a staple at The Blitz Club in Rusty Egan’s DJ sets.

Incidentally, Rusty Egan announced that Zaine Griff would be joining him with Numan cohorts Chris Payne and David Brooks in a live presentation of VISAGE material, although the announced dates were postponed, pending rescheduling for 2021.

Swiss trailblazers YELLO were on ‘Point’ and continuing their occasional creative collaboration with Chinese songstress Fifi Rong, while one time YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA collaborator Hideki Matsutake returned as LOGIC SYSTEM and released a new long player ‘Technasma’, his project’s first for 18 years.

It was four decades since John Foxx’s ‘Metamatic’ and Gary Numan’s ‘Telekon’, with the man born Gary Webb publishing ‘(R)evolution’, a new autobiography to supersede 1997’s ‘Praying To The Aliens’. Meanwhile, the former Dennis Leigh teamed up with former ULTRAVOX guitarist Robin Simon plus his regular Maths collaborators Benge and Hannah Peel for the blistering art rock statement of ‘Howl’ as well as finally issuing his book of short stories ‘The Quiet Man’.

2020 saw a lot of 40th anniversaries for a number of key albums including ‘Vienna’ by ULTRAVOX, ‘Travelogue’ by THE HUMAN LEAGUE and ‘Closer’ by JOY DIVISION.

Back in 1980, it was not unusual for bands to release two albums in a calendar year as OMD did with their self-titled debut and ‘Organisation’, or JAPAN did with ‘Quiet Life’ and ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’.

It appeared to be a tradition that BLANCMANGE were adopting as Neil Arthur delivered the acclaimed ‘Mindset’ and an enjoyable outtakes collection ‘Waiting Room (Volume 1)’.

PET SHOP BOYS and CERRONE proved they still liked to dance to disco because they don’t like rock, but the year’s biggest surprise came with THE SMASHING PUMPKINS whose single ‘Cyr’ crossed the templates of classic DEPECHE MODE with DURAN DURAN.

Interestingly, Gary Daly of CHINA CRISIS and Michael Rother of NEU! used sketches recorded many moons ago to inspire their 2020 solo creations, proving that if something is a good idea, it will still make sense years later. Veteran Tonmeister Gareth Jones released his debut solo album ‘ELECTROGENETIC’ having first come to prominence as the studio engineer on ‘Metamatic’ back in 1980, but Jah Wobble was as prolific as ever, issuing his ninth album in four years, as well as a run of download singles over lockdown.

ANI GLASS had her debut long player ‘Mirores’ shortlisted for Welsh Music Prize and OMD remixed her song ‘Ynys Araul’ along the way, while SARAH P. was ‘Plotting Revolutions’. NINA and a returning ANNIE vied to be the Queen Of Synthwave with their respective albums ‘Synthian’ and ‘Dark Hearts’, although Canadian synth songstress DANA JEAN PHOENIX presented her most complete and consistent body of work yet in ‘Megawave’, a joint album with POWERNERD.

RADIO WOLF & PARALLELS contributed to the soundtrack of the film ‘Proximity’ released on Lakeshore Records and from the same label, KID MOXIE made her first contribution to the movie world with the score to ‘Not To Be Unpleasant, But We Need To Have A Serious Talk’ that also featured a stark cover of ALPHAVILLE’s ‘Big In Japan’. Meanwhile gothwavers VANDAL MOON made their most electronic album yet in ‘Black Kiss’ and POLYCHROME got in on the kissing act too with their new single ‘Starts With A Kiss’.

It would be fair to say in recent times that the most interesting and best realised electronic pop has come from outside of the UK; the likes of TWICE A MAN explored the darker side of life, although TRAIN TO SPAIN used the dancefloor as their mode of expression, 808 DOT POP developed on the robopop of parent band METROLAND and ZIMBRU preferred disco art pop.

In Scandinavia, there was the welcome return of UNIFY SEPARATE (formally US) and HILTIPOP aka Magnus Johansson of ALISON who finally released some music in his own right; once he started, he didn’t stop with 9 releases and counting in 2020! APOPTYGMA BERZERK released ‘Nein Danke!’, their self-proclaimed return to “New Wave Synthpop” and out of that set-up sprang the very promising PISTON DAMP.

Within the PAGE camp, Eddie Bengtsson continued his Numan fixation on the ‘Under Mitt Skinn’ EP although his musical partner Marina Schiptjenko teamed up with LUSTANS LAKEJER bassist Julian Brandt to ride the Synth Riviera for a delightful second helping of their electro crooner concept cheekily titled ‘For Beautiful People Only’.

Over in Germany, U96 teamed up Wolfgang Flür while RENARD, the solo vehicle of Markus Reinhardt from WOLFSHEIM teamed with Marian Gold of ALPHAVILLE and Sarah Blackwood of DUBSTAR. DUBSTAR themselves released a striking corona crisis statement entitled ‘Hygiene Strip’ which saw reconfigured duo reunited with producer Stephen Hague. Meanwhile another poignant song on the topic ‘Small World’ came from SNS SENSATION, the new project by Sebastian Muravchik of HEARTBREAK. In lockdown, TINY MAGNETIC PETS recorded an entire album which they called ‘Blue Wave’.

Of course, 2020 was not full of joy, even without the pandemic, as the music world sadly lost Florian Schneider, Gabi Delgado-Lopez, Chris Huggett, Andrew Weatherall, Matthew Seligman, Dave Greenfield, Rupert Hine, Tom Wolgers, Harold Budd and Ennio Morricone.

An introspective tone was reflected the music of female fronted acts such as and ZANIAS, PURITY RING, WE ARE REPLICA, KALEIDA, LASTLINGS, NEW SPELL, WITCH OF THE VALE, REIN, BLACK NAIL CABARET, GLÜME, GEISTE THE FRIXION, FEMMEPOP and SCINTII. However, countering this, the optimism of RIDER, ROXI DRIVE and NEW RO presented a much brighter, hopeful take on life and the future.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK celebrated 10 years as a platform and affirming the site’s intuition about synth talent in anticipation of them achieving greater things, SOFTWAVE opened for OMD on the Scandinavia leg of their ‘Souvenir’ tour. The Danish duo became the sixth act which the site had written about to have become part of a tradition that has included VILLA NAH, MIRRORS, VILE ELECTRODES, METROLAND and TINY MAGNETIC PETS.

On a more cheerful note, S.P.O.C.K beamed down to Slimelight in London before lockdown for their first British live performance in 17 years. Meanwhile on the same night, LAU NAU and VILE ELECTRODES did modular sets at Cecil Sharp House, the spiritual home of English traditional music.

At that event, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK took delight in curating a DJ set comprising of John Cage’s 4’33” in variations by DEPECHE MODE, GOLDFRAPP, ERASURE, NEW ORDER and THE NORMAL from Mute’s Stumm433 boxed set. This defiant act of silence even caused a curious Jonathan Barnbrook to raise an eyebrow, this from the man who designed the artwork with the white square on David Bowie’s ‘The Next Day’ 😉

The final live event that ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK attended before the March lockdown was an informative lecture at Queen Mary University in London presented by noted cultural scholar Dr Uwe Schütte, in support of his book ‘KRAFTWERK Future Music From Germany’.

Also attending was Rusty Egan who held court at the reception afterwards by having a debate with another musician about the state of UK synth music. He then loudly beckoned ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK over and mentioned how the site was only interested acts that scored “9 out of 10” before admitting that a number of acts he supported only scored “6 out of 10”, with his reasoning being that if acts aren’t supported, then there will be no synth acts existing at all. After a decade in existence, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK remains proud that it is still extremely selective.

In 2020, the notion of reviews being needed to achieve a promotional profile underwent an existential crisis among media platforms. With streaming now being the main method of music consumption, why would anyone want to read a blog for an opinion about an album when they can just hit ‘play’ and hear the thing for themselves on Spotify, Amazon, Tidal or Bandcamp?

The sound of classic synthpop does live on happily in today’s mainstream via singles by THE WEEKND, DUA LIPA and even STEPS! In that respect, the trailblazing kings and queens of Synth Britannia from four decades ago did their job rather well.

From SUGABABES mashing-up ‘Are Friends Electric?’ for ‘Freak Like Me’ in 2002 to ‘Blinding Lights’ borrowing a bit of A-HA in 2020, the sound of synth is still strong.

It is up to any potential successors to live up to that high standard of Synth Britannia, which was as much down to the quality of the songwriting, as much as it was to do with the sound of the synthesizer. It is a fact that many overlook and if aspiring musicians could pay more attention to the song, instead of making the synthesizer the excuse for the song, then classic electronic pop music may still be around for a little longer and continue to evolve.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK Contributor Listings of 2020


Best Album: LOGIC SYSTEM Technasma
Best Song: NEW ORDER Be A Rebel
Best Gig / Live Stream: NICOLAS GODIN at London Rough Trade
Best Video: POLLY SCATTERGOOD Snowburden
Most Promising New Act: RUE OBERKAMPF


Best Album: ASSEMBLAGE 23 Mourn
Best Song: DUBSTAR I Can See You Outside
Best Gig / Live Stream: WITCH OF THE VALE online Unplugged Live for SAY Women
Best Video: STEVEN WILSON Personal Shopper
Most Promising New Act: LASTLINGS


Best Song: PAGE Blutest Du?
Best Gig / Live Stream: LAU NAU + VILE ELECTRODES at Cecil Sharp House
Best Video: STRIKKLAND Dance Like A God
Most Promising New Act: INDEPENDENT STATE


Best Song: ALANAS CHOSNAU & MARK REEDER Heavy Rainfall
Best Gig / Live Stream: LUSTANS LAKEJER online at Malmö KB
Best Video: ULTRAFLEX Olympic Sweat
Most Promising New Act: LASTLINGS


Best Album: ERASURE The Neon
Best Song: DUBSTAR Hygiene Strip
Best Gig / Live Stream: IŻOL Koncert online at Ziemi Rybnickiej
Best Video: PET SHOP BOYS Monkey Business
Most Promising New Act: MENTRIX

Text by Chi Ming Lai
21st December 2020


The first solo album from Gareth Jones is set for release in September.

He is perhaps best known as the producer of DEPECHE MODE’s first albums with Alan Wilder – ‘Construction Time Again’, ‘Some Great Reward’, and ‘Black Celebration’.

Jones first made his name as an electronic music pioneer on John Foxx’s groundbreaking album ‘Metamatic’.

It was John Foxx who recommended Jones to Mute’s Daniel Miller, starting a creative relationship that shaped many of the towering recordings from FAD GADGET, WIRE, ERASURE and DIAMANDA GALÁS. Other acts who have benefited from Jones’ deft studio work include EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN, GUS GUS, TUXEDOMOON, GRIZZLY BEAR, INTERPOL, MESH, APPARAT and THE HOUSE OF LOVE.

For many years, Jones has worked to inspire young artists and studio techs through the Red Bull Academy and online videos. He has also chosen projects with the aim to help new artists get a foothold, in preference to more commercially advantageous work.

What has been less visible is the humble Jones’ own music. As one half of SUNROOF, he has created covers and remixes of Krautrock classics together with Miller. With Nick Hook, he has created three SPIRITUAL FRIENDSHIP albums and has another in the pipeline. He has also discreetly issued a number of experimental works over the years, ranging from spoken word pieces to ambient electronics.

‘ELECTROGENETIC‘, Jones’ first album under his own name, comes after his milestone 65th birthday, and it is a highly personal set of compositions.

Built on modular patches, it is also an accomplished melding of humanity and electronics; an organic interface between Mensch and Maschine. The cover features Jones’ father’s wedding ring and an Ankh; symbols of connectedness and life.

The notes prepared by Jones on his microsite for the album explain the spiritual inspirations for certain tracks, which include the passing of his mother-in-law and his own mother. In them, he describes the album as a form of requiem and credo. He seems to have taken to heart the line from Revelations 13:14: “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write…”

The music speaks for itself, however. Infused with modular sequences that are almost danceable, it is not pop. There are traces of THROBBING GRISTLE and hints of TEST DEPARTMENT, but it is not industrial. There are fusions of found sound and electronics that are reminiscent of The Orb, but it is not ambient house. Best listened to as a piece with different movements, ‘ELECTROGENETIC’ has the internal coherence to make up for its defiance of genres.

The album opens at ‘The Beginning’ with a reading from the book of Genesis. Initially sketched on an iPad, Jones developed the track in visits to a Methodist chapel near his studio.

‘Trinity’, which follows, borrows found sound from a choral practice in a Cambridge chapel. It also incorporates instruments from Jones’ childhood – an approach that develops in ‘Mercury’ with the addition of ocarina, recorder and tin whistle, supplemented by piano and a Roland JX-3P. The piano is actually a virtual instrument, played in Kontakt, using Joan-na, a sample bank that Jones made from his childhood piano and named after his late mother.

‘Michigan’ is built on a drone and incorporates vocal samples from WOVOKA GENTLE’s Immie Mason making a reference to his wife’s home state. It was in Detroit that Jones also developed ‘Safe Travels’, another of the stand-out tracks on the album.

The microsite created by Jones to accompany the album offers a set of virtual Post-It notes, leading to handwritten sleeve notes for each track and a link to sample packs. Visitors can download selected samples and import them into their own projects – the DNA of ‘ELECTROGENETIC‘ can live on beyond the album itself.

Gareth Jones spoke virtually from his studio, theArtLab, in the heart of London’s Strongroom complex.

How have you been coping with Covid-19?

I’m an urban cyclist, so I’m pretty comfortable travelling about, you know. I don’t like the Tube too much.

I’ve been very creative, though. In our home, I set up a Studio B in my back bedroom with a laptop, headphones, and a few little synths and things.

But I did loads of amazing work—it was quite astonishing to me that it turned out to be so productive. I’m lucky, in that I had food delivered every day—and I count my blessings, brother, for sure—but it was, strangely, musically a very productive time.

The album marks the passing of people close to you and touches on a number of deep themes – family, spirituality, connectedness. What led you in these directions?

At this stage of my life, I guess these are like major, major events that happened in my life. If there’s a theme, I guess that’s just my voice, my personality, my approach to electronics, and my approach to making music.

I’m not choosing a theme consciously; I’m just walking my path. This is what’s happening. I made a small commitment to myself, in 2019, that I would like to finish a solo project, inspired by all the collaborative work that I’ve done, which I very much enjoyed – you know, with Nick Hook in SPIRITUAL FRIENDSHIP and Chris Bono in NOUS ALPHA – and with all the remix work I’ve done. I just felt it was time for me to dig deep and do a solo project, and that was my personal contract with myself in 2019.

It came off the back of two very dear mothers dying in 2018: my mother-in-law and my own mother. Somehow, it all started to resonate with me, and the emotional impact of that emerged through the work over the year. It didn’t start as a project to commemorate the mothers, and I hope it’s more than that. It’s not just commemorating the mothers, but that was a certainly a big part of several of the songs – ‘Safe Travels’ being one of them, of course, and ‘Farewell’ another. The writing of those was in my mother-in-law’s house.

I gave up smoking when I was 50; and, perhaps it was a coincidence, but it seemed like a symbolic number. With the double loss—and all the parents are gone now—I felt this need or responsibility to myself to make this solo work. And, so, that’s my humble offering—what you hear is what stands before you.

Was your mother close to your work?

No, my mother thought that music was not a proper job. It took a while before my parents came around to the idea that, actually, I might be able to support myself working in music. Both my parents were big lovers of music, as consumers of music, if you like—listeners. They were huge lovers of music: classical music, very much so; not so much jazz and whatever; popular culture music they didn’t really get. A great musical inspiration came from my dad—a love of music from an early time.

My in-laws were much more lovers of popular culture–the Frank Sinatra period. Not just Frank Sinatra, but Tony Bennett, Howard Keel and the 40s, 50s and 60s—they were big lovers of music from that time.

So, there was a lot of music around, of course, but they were not professional musicians. My mother played a little bit of piano, I think, when she was a kid, but I didn’t grow up with parents playing music.

There are many references to spirituality in the material and in your notes on the micro-site for the album. The cover features the Ankh and a wedding ring: one an ancient symbol for life and the other representing connection and togetherness…

It has deep symbolism, the ring, doesn’t it? It is also symbolic of power and continuity – and, you know, eternity. As I get older, I hope my inward life develops deeper and deeper, and part of that is considering the larger questions. We can’t avoid them: birth and death. You know, this is life, brother.

On your site, you refer to ‘The Prophet’ by Kahlil Gibran. Was that book a big influence on you?

When I was when I was adolescent, for sure. I haven’t read it for a long time. The idea of the trees came back to me when I was working on ‘Alone Together’. That was a very influential book on me as a teenager. It seems like a beautiful discourse on the nature of love and life.

You were previously releasing material with Nick Hook as SPIRITUAL FRIENDSHIP. Is that still happening?

Yes, it is very much ongoing. Nick’s a great inspiration, and the record’s coming out on his label. He’s got a label in Brooklyn called Calm + Collect. It felt like the right place for the record. He always said that he would help me bring my solo record to the world when I completed it, so we both stuck to our commitment. We are men of our word. We’re working currently on the fourth SPIRITUAL FRIENDSHIP album, which we’re very excited about. It’s got a bit more of a harmonic content than the last record, which was all drums.

We had plans to get together during the lockdown period to complete the record; but those plans were—like many people’s plans—disrupted, so we are attempting to finish it remotely. We’ve made quite a lot of progress, but all the work we’ve done so far has been the two of us in the room, and that’s very vibrant and very creative; and very fast, very enjoyable. It’s been a bit more difficult focusing energies remotely. That’s weird, but we will get there. The record is close to being finished.

The modern marketplace for music is becoming narrower, and major labels don’t seem to want to invest anything in artists who aren’t going to produce mainstream hits. Shopping something like this must be challenging, because there a limited number of labels that you could go to…

I didn’t try to shop it. Nick and I had this talk about it. We had a commitment. We did try to, as you say, shop the first SPIRITUAL FRIENDSHIP album, and we have between us a few influential colleagues in the business—lovely people and friends. Many people were kind enough to say how much they liked the record, but no one was remotely interested in putting it out. That was a depressing experience for both of us, which lasted about a month. Then, after a month or so, we said, okay, we just have got to put it out ourselves.

We are trying to make Calm + Collect like a small independent gallery where we can hang our stuff on the wall and say, “Look, we made this. If it’s of any interest, please explore the label further or hit us up or get in touch.”

Of course, it’s wonderful to have the support of a label with the PR and the contacts and the guidance, and even some funding. It’s a marvelous thing for an artist. But if you can’t get it, you can’t give up. You don’t give up.

You talked about the modern marketplace. The huge benefit of the modern technology is that we can bring our music to the world. On Calm + Collect, we can put music out that you can hear in Australia, the day after it’s come out, if you want to. Of course, there is huge, massive noise to try to get yourself noticed, but you have to try and rise above it. How wonderful, though, that we can present our wares to the world and say, “Well, look, here it is. Come and have a listen if you’d like to!”

One of the things that was interesting about the Web site that you can get sample packs, so that you can play with your sounds independently. Are you hoping that people will make their own mixes of the songs or just take the samples and use them in their own projects?

It’s my record company’s idea. All credit to Nick Hook for that. Nick said “Why don’t you make a sample pack?”

He suggested that I could sell them on Bandcamp, if I want, but I just decided to put them out as a gift, if people are interested. There are some elements of the songs, but you can’t remix a whole song from those because they’re not stems of the pieces—they’re not complete. They’re snippets. I went quickly through the nine pieces and chose what I thought were some interesting snippets. I said, well, there you go. If anyone’s interested in having these, then have them and make something with it.

I enjoyed the process. It didn’t take me too long. It seemed like a nice addition, and it was Nick’s idea. Nick and I try to implement each other’s ideas; we try not to shut each other down. So, I thought, okay, I’ll do it. I’m pleased I did it, and it’s something I’ll do in the future, too, I think.

It makes it more like an open source project. With the sample packs, people can look into the source code, and they can pick around and learn from it…

Great. There is a possibility that, down the line, I may well release the multi-tracks, where people can then really dig around if they want to—they can see the whole thing. Everyone who’s remotely interested in music now has some kind of Garage Band type thing on their computer, where they can just drag in a bunch of files and there it is—it plays.

I know, for me, it’s absolutely wonderful to hear other people’s multi-tracks. It’s wonderful to hear some of my old multi-tracks from the past, actually. I pull them up and I think, oh look, we made that 35 years ago or something—there is the multi. So, it’s a special vision, the multitrack. Obviously, I want people to hear my versions of the tunes first, but down the line I might well just link to the multitrack, so that people can see, hear, and dig around—like it’s open source. They can see how it’s made.

A key feature of the album is that you’re using modular kit, which carries an element of chance. One of the nice things about synthesisers is that it is not always predictable what they’re going to sound like and where they’re going to go. Is modular something of interest to you, which is why it was brought into this project?

Yes, it is deeply important. Thank you for asking about it, because it’s reflected in the name—even the name of ‘ELECTROGENETIC‘ is an attempt for me to convey the idea that the birth of the riffs and rhythms and timbres is here in the electronics. It’s born through the electronics.

Modern modular gear—Eurorack, I should say—has empowered me hugely as a musician to be able to speak and channel energies. I hesitate to use the word “express” because I’m a bit nervous about expressing myself. I feel more that I’m more of a channel or tool to concretise or realise, spiritual energy. The modulars have certainly allowed me to do that in a way that I’ve never found really from another instrument, and my personal development as a musician is deeply tied into my involvement with modern modular.

It’s not cheap, but it’s vaguely affordable, whereas the vintage modular that that is so loved is hugely expensive—and hugely expensive to maintain. That’s outside my league, really.

We have had digital gear and sequences for so long, do you think that the modular world brings back the organic quality that was apparent in the albums played by hand, like ‘Metamatic’ and the first two albums by THE HUMAN LEAGUE?

It’s hugely deep and hugely broad, and so it could be, but it can also be extremely rigid. It really is a very broad church, working with modular, and everyone engages with it in their own way. One of the joys for many of us is building a patch that unexpectedly delivers something that we can still interface with; to perform on. We’re joyfully surprised by elements that emerge from the patch we build. That is a very creative way for many of us working with modular setups.

We don’t get many people that — I know certainly that I don’t — go in with a rigid idea and then attempt to construct it in modular, in the sense that I imagine some people might try to write a string quartet, or perhaps how Wendy Carlos made ‘Switched On Bach’. It’s more about building patches, delving deeper and deeper into what emerges; modifying the patch; touching the patch; turning knobs; recording interesting events that occur. You know, it’s not random, by any means, but it’s very rich and very deep, once you embrace the chance element of it.

Do sound design and work on the patches themselves suggest the music? Do you get the idea that this new sound is going to give me the right kind of timbre, the right the right kind of voicing, to make this kind of song?

A lot of the patches already have rhythm and timbre, of course. Most of the pieces on the ‘ELECTROGENETIC‘ record started with a modular patch, which might be quite dense.

There were, of course, other modular patches I made in the period that didn’t develop further; but most of them started with an improvisation by me on a modular patch that I built, which might have melodies, counter-melodies, rhythms, counter-rhythms, all kinds of layers and textures–it can be quite complex.

That is available for further editing and overdubs. In my case, it certainly inspired some simple melodic extra layers performed with the piano, the voice, or the recorder or whatever. I can’t over-emphasise the importance of the improvisations on the modular as groundwork, though; as a very fertile field that this record grew out of. That’s highlighted in the microsite. I’ve even acknowledged my friends at Make Noise. Credit to the synthesiser manufacturer.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its grateful thanks to Gareth Jones

Additional thanks to Mat Smith at Calm + Collect

‘ELECTROGENETIC’ is released digitally on 18th September 2020 via Calm + Collect




Text and Interview by Simon Helm
20th August 2020

A Beginner’s Guide To DANIEL MILLER

This history of Mute Records and its esteemed founder Daniel Miller is more than well documented.

The lavish book ‘Mute: A Visual Document From 1978 – Tomorrow’ published in 2017 captured the iconic label’s visual aesthetic. Already a fan of German kosmische scene, Daniel Miller began taking an interest in synthesizers for making pop music after hearing KRAFTWERK’s ‘Autobahn’.

The advent of affordable synthesizers from Japan manufactured by the likes of Korg and Roland made it possible for him to adopt punk’s DIY ethic by buying a Korg 700s for the price of a guitar. That enabled him to make music using just one finger, instead of having to learn three chords.

Conceiving a punk single with electronics, he wrote and recorded ‘Warm Leatherette’ b/w ‘TVOD’ for a one-off independent single release in 1978. Miller’s sense of experimentation within a structured albeit avant pop context led to kindred spirits sending him tapes, thanks to him including his mother’s address “16 Decoy Avenue London NW 11 England” on the back of the MUTE 001 sleeve.

Mute Records’ first signing was a former art student Frank Tovey who released the macabre ‘Back To Nature’ as FAD GADGET in 1979 as MUTE 002 with Miller co-producing. It began establishing a good reputation for experimental electronic pop music. As well as running the label and working in the studio with his own roster of acts, Miller also produced and remixed other artists, although this became less frequent as Mute Records achieved more and more success.

If Daniel Miller had a characteristic sound during the pioneering years of Synth Britannia, then it was his use of the ARP 2600 driven by an ARP 1601 analogue sequencer, particularly for unique rhythmic templates obtained from the percussive capabilities of this versatile American synth.

Always keen to keep up-to-date with the latest technology, Miller’s later acquisitions included a Synclavier, PPG Wave 2, Emulator, Roland System 100M and Roland MC4 Micro-Composer. Many years later, Miller even bought the customised vocoder used on ‘Autobahn’ from the late Florian Schneider even though it was not in fully working order.

While Miller’s production work with DEPECHE MODE over five albums naturally led American new wave acts like BOOK OF LOVE to seek his knowhow, indie band THE HOUSE OF LOVE were surprisingly curious enough to secure his services on their track ‘Safe’. Meanwhile, post-punk art rock combo WIRE saw him as a kindred spirit keen to explore new interesting ways of recording and worked with Miller in various guises.

While Daniel Miller stepped back from producing DEPECHE MODE in 1987 to concentrate on Mute Records, it was his mix with Phil Legg of the Flood produced ‘Enjoy The Silence’ that became the international hit single; Miller had felt the version that François Kevorkian had presented was too electronic. 

While work had been going well with the French-born DJ’s mixes for the ‘Violator’ album, Miller’s instincts told him ‘Enjoy The Silence’ needed to be brought back slightly with a more organic vision. The song had already been transformed in the studio from a funereal ballad to an electronic disco number with house influences!

Although Mute Records was bought by EMI in 2002, Miller reached an agreement in 2010 to establish a second independently run record label under the name Mute Artists while the Mute Records name and rights to the label’s archive recordings remained under the control of EMI’s present owners Universal. More recently, Daniel Miller has been happily DJ-ing around the world playing largely techno sets for Berghain in Berlin, Sónar in Barcelona and IMS in Ibiza among others.

Meanwhile he has also occasionally given talks at events such as MoogFest. Red Bull Music Academy, LEAF and the Electri_City_Conference.

With a vast and varied portfolio to investigate, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK looks back at the creative career of Daniel Miller in music via eighteen of his productions and remixes, with a restriction of one track per artist moniker, presented in yearly, then alphabetical order.

THE NORMAL Warm Leatherette (1978)

Daniel Miller’s sense of experimentation and vision of the synth being the ultimate punk instrument requiring the use of just one finger led to him making his first record. Lyrically inspired by JG Ballard’s ‘Crash’ with its story around car collision symphorophilia, the dystopian ‘Warm Leatherette’ was based around two noisy notes and a twitchy rhythmic backbone that was menacing yet enthralling at the same time. It turned out to be something of a game changer.

Available on THE NORMAL single ‘ Warm Leatherette’ / ‘TVOD’ via Mute Records


FAD GADGET Coitus Interruptus (1980)

Following the success of singles ‘Back To Nature’ and ‘Ricky’s Hand’, a FAD GADGET album was eagerly anticipated and it came with ‘Fireside Favourites’ which brought in a Korg Rhythm 55 drum machine, conventional instruments and various found objects alongside the synths. A four way production effort between Frank Tovey, Daniel Miller, Eric Radcliffe and John Fryer, the superb ‘Coitus Interruptus’ was a deeply cynical commentary on casual relationships.

Available on the album ‘Fireside Favourites’ via Mute Records


ALEX FERGUSSON Stay With Me Tonight (1980)

Larry Least was a production pseudonym inspired by the producer, Rak Records mogul and ‘New Faces’ judge Mickey Most. This infectious solo single by Alex Fergusson featured Daniel Miller’s distinctive electronic footprint and his involvement helped the ALTERNATIVE TV guitarist transform from post-punk to more synthesized song experiments. With Fergusson forming PSYCHIC TV with Genesis P-Orridge, it wasn’t until 1992 that a white label only self-titled solo album was released.

Available on the boxed set ‘Electrical Language: Independent British Synth Pop 78-84’ (V/A) via Cherry Red Records


SILICON TEENS Memphis Tennessee (1980)

Following THE NORMAL, Daniel Miller decided to undertake a new project where rock ’n’ roll standards like ‘Just Like Eddie’ and ‘Memphis Tennessee’ were reinterpreted in a synthpop style, using a fictitious group called SILICON TEENS as a front. While Miller sang like he had a clothes peg attached to his nose and produced the recordings as Larry Least, several actors hired to appear in videos and do press interviews, although lead vocalist ‘Darryl’ was played by Frank Tovey.

Available on the SILICON TEENS album ‘Music For Parties’ via Mute Records


ALAN BURNHAM Science Fiction (1981)

For a one-off single on Cherry Red Records, the dystopian minimal synth of ‘Music To Save The World By’ from the little known and somewaht reclusive Alan Burnham was produced by Daniel Miller at Blackwing Studios. He also worked on its B-side ‘Science Fiction’ which was just as haunting as the main act. Perhaps more organic thanks to the use of live drums by Cam Findlay, it took a leaf out of the quirky cult Wirral duo DALEK I LOVE YOU and their song ‘The World’ in particular.

Available on the boxed set ‘Electrical Language: Independent British Synth Pop 78-84’ (V/A) via Cherry Red Records


SOFT CELL Metro MRX (1981)

The original ‘Metro MRX’ came from the SOFT CELL debut EP ‘Mutant Moments’ released in October 1980, but the sub-two minute Daniel Miller take of ‘Metro MRX’ for ‘Flexipop’ magazine borrowed the same synthetic rhythm track as DEPECHE MODE’s ‘New Life’ to accompany Almond’s snarls of “he’s a mutant!”. Miller also produced ‘A Man Can Get Lost’, ‘Persuasion’ and perhaps most significantly, the proto-house of ‘Memorabilia’ at those same Stage One recording sessions.

Available on the SOFT CELL boxed set ‘Keychains & Snowstorms’ via Universal Music


DEPECHE MODE Nothing To Fear (1982)

While Eric Radcliffe was holed up working with Vince Clarke and Alison Moyet on the first YAZOO album at Blackwing Studios on the night shift, during the day Daniel Miller was working with DEPECHE MODE on their second. With punchy Simmons Drum modules and a catchy melodic theme, ‘Nothing To Fear’ was a glorious instrumental statement from an important long player that made the most of Miller’s programming expertise to ensure an optimistic future for Messrs Gahan, Gore and Fletcher.

Available on the DEPECHE MODE album ‘A Broken Frame’ via Mute Records


THOMAS DOLBY Radio Silence (1982)

When recording ‘Radio Silence’ for singular consumption, Thomas Morgan Dolby Robertson sought the assistance of Daniel Miller thanks to his track record with DEPECHE MODE. Bringing in his PPG Wave 2 and helping with the final mix, it was released as a single in early 1982 with an alternative rockier guitar driven version on the B-side which was favoured in the US. Both takes also featured the voice of Akiko Yano, who was married to Ryuichi Sakamoto at the time.

Available on the THOMAS DOLBY album ‘The Golden Age Of Wireless’ via EMI Records


DUET EMMO Or So It Seems (1982)

WIRE refugees, Bruce Gilbert and Graham Lewis had been working under the name DOME, so when a collaborative adventure with Miller was suggested, an anagram of that moniker and Mute resulted in DUET EMMO. Recorded at Blackwing Studios, ‘Or So It Seems’ was their debut offering, a slice of experimental pop shaped with grumbling synthesized bass, captivating electronics and textural harmonic guitar while Lewis’ haunting vocals provided the emotional centre, spooked by sombre bursts of brass.

Available on the DUET EMMO album ‘Or So It Seems’ via Mute Records


YAZOO Situation (1982)

Originally the B-side to ‘Only You’, ‘Situation’ was one of only three writing collaborations between Alison Moyet and Vince Clarke, as well as only being one of five YAZOO tracks that Daniel Miller co-produced with Eric Radcliffe. Clocking in at barely two minutes in its original form, it made its impact with some rousing blues based sequenced dance pop; it became a US club favourite when it was remixed by Francois Kevorkian who later worked with KRAFTWERK and DEPECHE MODE.

Available on the YAZOO boxed set ‘The Collection’ via Mute Records


ROBERT GÖRL Mit Dir (1983)

Following DAF’s Virgin album trilogy produced by Conny Plank, the duo borke up in a haze of sex, drugs and sequencer. Drummer and synthesist Robert Görl signed to Mute as a solo artist and began his account with the standalone single ‘Mit Dir’. Dark, brooding and magnificent, the song was co-produced by Daniel Miller and went on to become a favourite among the cognoscenti, reinterpreted for Prada commercials and covered by DJ HELL with STEREO MCs.

Available on the ROBERT GÖRL album ‘Night Full Of Tension’ via Mute Records


HARD CORPS To Breathe (1985)

Polydor A&R man Malcolm Dunbar managed to gain Daniel Miller’s interest to help out on a HARD CORPS track that Martin Rushent had started. “It was an offer we could not refuse and ‘Respirer’ duly ended up being completed with Daniel producing” said the band’s Clive Pierce, “So now we had two of the best ‘electronic’ music producers in the UK both helping on our track”. Exquisitely Gallic, Polydor however released ‘Respirer’ in English as ‘To Breathe’ but it was not the hit that they were seeking.

Available as ‘Respirer’ on the HARD CORPS album ‘Metal & Flesh’ via Sub Culture Records


NITZER EBB Join In The Chant – Gold! (1987)

Chelmsford’s NITZER EBB were founded by school friends Douglas McCarthy, Bon Harris and Bon Harris. Originally produced by Pete Waterman associate Phil Harding, the ambiguous chants of “muscle and late, lies, lies, gold, gold” in ‘Join In The Chant’ encouraged exactly as the title suggested in the manner of a DAF body sculpture. Daniel Miller and Flood’s Gold! restructure took out the Balearic beats and pushed forward a more Teutonic industrial thrust complete with metallic tools to boot.

Available on the NITZER EBB album ‘Body Of Work’ via Mute Records


ERASURE Supernature – Daniel Miller & Phil Legg Remix (1990)

ERASURE were not shy about doing cover versions with ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!’ and ‘River Deep Mountain High’ having already been reinterpreted by this point. Andy Bell and Vince Clarke’s take on Marc Cerrone’s electronic disco landmark saw Daniel Miller and Phil Legg present this tight electro-dance remix extended to over seven minutes. Miller and Legg got together again for DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Enjoy The Silence’ and it was their mix that became the ‘Violator’ album version and single release.

Available on the ERASURE deluxe album ‘Wild!’ via Mute Records


CHRIS & COSEY Synaesthesia – Daniel Miller Mix (1991)

After leaving industrial pioneers THROBBING GRISTLE, Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti became a popular cult duo with their experimental pop utilising electronics, sampling, rhythms and even cornet alongside Cosey’s distinctive nonchalant vocals. Superbly sinister but beautiful metallic synthpop, ‘Synaesthesia’ exuded hints of PET SHOP BOYS ‘Euroboy’ but a good year before it. Meanwhile Daniel Miller’s brilliant rework took on a different groove to the harder bleepy house laden original.

Available on the CHRIS & COSEY single ‘Synaesthesia’ via Conspiracy International


SUNROOF! Hero (1998)

SUNROOF! was Daniel Miller’s occasional project with Gareth Jones who he first worked with on DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Construction Time Again’ album. Exploring their love of Kosmische, it was perhaps no surprise that they covered the symbolic NEU! track ‘Hero’. Given more of a pulsing electronic treatment, the alluringly detached vocals came from Alison Conway who has part of the Mute family having been part of AC MARIAS, a project which also featured Bruce Gilbert of WIRE and Barry Adamson of MAGAZINE.

Available on the album ‘A Homage to NEU!’ (V/A) via Cleopatra


POPPY & THE JEZEBELS Sign In, Dream On, Drop Out! – Richard X Meets Larry Least Mix (2012)

POPPY & THE JEZEBELS were a school band based in Birmingham signed to Mute Song. ‘Sign In, Dream On, Drop Out!’ was superbly playful girly synthpop with the ‘Isolation’ bassline borrowed from JOY DIVISION bouncing around in electronic form while sinister Maggie Thatcher voice samples echoed. Originally produced by Richard X, Larry Least came out of retirement when the girls persuaded Miller to remix the track using his trusty Korg 700s synth.

Available on the POPPY & THE JEZEBELS single ‘Sign In, Dream On, Drop Out!’ via Gunball Machine


WRANGLER Theme From Wrangler – Daniel Miller rework (2016)

The brief from WRANGLER to remixers of tracks from their album ‘LA Spark’ was simple: “We provide some basic stems from a track selected by you from our debut album ‘LA Spark’ and you add whatever sounds you like – the only rule being that you use just one analogue modular synthesiser system of your choice.” Sweetened by flanged string machine, Daniel Miller provided a gliding rumbling bassline over a metronomic kick on his rework of ‘Theme from Wrangler’.

Available on the WRANGLER album ‘Sparked: Modular Remix Project’ via MemeTune Records


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Simon Helm and Volker Maass
Photos by Simon Helm
4th June 2020, updated 14th February 2021

JOHN FOXX: The Metamatic Interview

May 2018 sees a new edition release of John Foxx’s seminal 1980 album ‘Metamatic’.

Although arguably there can be very few electronic music fans who don’t possess a copy, this new version includes a third disc of unreleased instrumentals and prototype demo versions that will appeal to completists and fans alike.

The 3CD package also includes some previously unseen photos and drawings by John with 49 tracks in total.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK were fortunate to get an advanced preview of the new additions and there are some real gems in there.

From the alternative mix of the TANGERINE DREAM-like ‘Glimmer’ through to the appearance of a prominent acoustic piano in ‘Fragmentary City’, also worthy of a mention is the droning ‘Critical Mass’ which feels like it would make a superb instrumental prelude to ‘Underpass’.

Also present are early demos of some of the best known tracks on ‘Metamatic’ including ‘Touch & Go’ and two versions of ‘No One’s Driving’; one sequencer driven, the other more piano chord-oriented.

Other pieces including unreleased track ‘Miss Machinery’ which has such a beautifully honed mix suggesting that it must have been in strong consideration to be included on the final album.

John Foxx kindly talked about the gestation of the album and the transition from ULTRAVOX Mk1 to solo artist.

What impact did the studio location and surroundings at Pathway in London have on the sound and content of ‘Metamatic’?

Great location for me – a cycle ride away, so I could wobble home at night. I was living in Finsbury Park at the time. It was all very urban North London and I liked that too.

How important was the influence of JG Ballard on your work at this point?

Well, he was the first writer who seemed to be addressing what I’d come to call ‘the unrecognised present’. It takes us all a little time to realise exactly how we’re living, since circumstances are changing so quickly and in that gap, some it gets out of hand. For instance, I felt cars were out of hand at that (and this!) point.

Without noticing, we found we were all living on diminishing islands, surrounded by an ocean of cars, dominating the environment completely, enabling new crimes and new situations, forcing new ways of living and changing everything – even architecture and the shape of cities, as harried city councils threw up welcoming worlds of concrete to accommodate them.

We had to try to live with all that. Ballard had understood and mapped this process and how it can all come tumbling down. He could see how fragile things really are, I guess from his childhood, when his world was torn apart by the Japanese invasion. He wasn’t the only one though, there were others, some writers such as Burroughs and Philip K Dick and several film makers – Tarkovsky, that ‘Chien Andalou’ film by Dali and Bunuel, Alain Resnais’ ‘Last Year in Marienbad’- and so on.

Songs such as ‘He’s A Liquid’ and ‘Touch & Go’ had debuted live as ULTRAVOX! numbers… how did the shift towards you playing synthesizers and programming drum machines yourself evolve?

I wrote those at home using a drum machine, then we developed them with the band, but I didn’t really feel they’d reached their potential until they were synth and drum machine only. I had a certain sound in my head that I wanted to get to – that more minimal electronic / primitive / dub sound. It simply needed tape, synth, drum machine, voice – and nothing else.

So basically, it was an ARP Odyssey, Elka String Machine, a Compurhythm and go!?

Exactly. Everything fell into place then.

On ULTRAVOX’s 1979 US tour, you debuted ‘Touch & Go’ and ‘He’s A Liquid’ with the band. What are your feelings or emotions when you listen back to these prototype versions now?

Oh, I like them – and I also really enjoyed working with the band, but that naked electronic thing was feeling urgent – I just had to get that working. Speaking of prototypes – I think the band was responsible for a couple of generations worth of prototypes – there were really so many basic seeds sewn by us by that point.

I remember being really torn in ‘77-‘78, because there were two great directions we’d evolved- first the modern rock thing which is a line that extends from ‘Systems Of Romance’ and is still running – it goes on through SIMPLE MINDS / JOY DIVISION / U2 / BLUR / ELASTICA / FRANZ FERDINAND / RADIOHEAD / HORRORS and so on. Inventive Britrock. We defined that very early on, and we were the first to do it, with songs like ‘Slow Motion’ and ‘I Can’t Stay Long’ etc, we’d mapped it some years before – even that branch of OASIS and STONE ROSES, with our nod to THE BEATLES Psychedelic thing on ‘When You Walk Through Me’ from ‘Systems’ in 1978.

Then there was the minimal studio electronic thing that was really just beginning – but we’d done that a good two years before with ‘My Sex’, then ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ and Dislocation’ and ‘Just For A Moment’ etc. We’d recorded ‘My Sex’ in summer 1976. I really felt things branched dramatically at the point of ‘Systems’, not just for us, but for the entire future of Brit music, and I think we’d mapped both directions as inevitables, some years before.

How did you feel when the main riff for ‘Touch & Go’ ended up on ULTRAVOX’s ‘Mr. X’? Was there any kind of legal challenge with this?

Oh, impossible to untangle who did what after you’ve been in the studio together. Everyone has their own perspective and they’re all different. Bit of a road accident really. It would’ve been declared a mistrial. All witnesses concussed.

‘A New Kind of Man’ was originally slated to be the first single off of the album? What inspired the song?

It was a continuation of the ‘Quiet Man’ theme – I’d begun to write the stories, and in one he steps out of and into a film screen. That image also provided the ‘Metamatic’ cover image.

What was the background to deciding to issue ‘My Face’ as a yellow flexi-disc with ‘Smash Hits’; it’s quite a strange combination looking back in hindsight, but perhaps indicates how open the interpretation of pop music could be in 1980?

They asked if I had a track they could use and I’d just recorded it. Having a track on that magazine was a good thing and I could choose whatever I liked.

You’re right – it was an example of how things had opened up after Punk and just at Gary Numan’s jump into the charts. He was the point the floodgates opened for the entire Brit electronic movement. Everyone has a lot to thank him for.

Is it true that you were influenced by dub reggae on the album?

Absolutely, it all goes back a very long way…

As with most good things, it all began in Chorley. There was a great West Indian couple I’d known since I was about eight years old – Mr Huey and his wife May. They’d come over from Jamaica in the late 1950s and been lodgers with a Polish friend of mine, Richard Woczeck.

Huey and May then got a terraced house at the top of Corporation Street, were my Gran and uncles lived, so I saw them often. They’d occasionally invite me and my mate Arthur Sweeney to a Blues party in their yard – we’d be around mid-teens at that point and young mods, so right into all that – Curried Goat, beer and Prince Buster. Great!

After that, I listened to things developing in Manchester, when I was an art student there, at the Ponda Rosa, a three storey Café – food on the ground floor, then some secret gambling and shenanigans upstairs. They had a home-built sound system, one of the first I’d seen. Great bass and the music was changing, too.

Then, when I came to London and formed the band, I found Chris Cross was from Tottenham, not far from Broadwater Farm, and he was a decent dub bass player too. At the other end of town, the Ladbroke Grove scene was also in full swing – big custom sound systems on the street. Island Records was West Indies central, so Billy Currie and I used to go into Island studios Basing Street to listen to Lee Perry and Bob Marley sessions. Well foggy in there!

Then, when I started work at Pathway studios in 1979, a tiny eight-track place in North London, Gareth Jones and I heard lots of dub sessions.

A crew of guys would book two hours studio time and bang out half a dozen dub tracks for 12″ singles, which were a new thing then. I was fascinated by that mixing technique of stripping everything right back to give one sound all the power.

So when we mixed ‘Metamatic’, we did a lot of that. In fact I chose the studio partly because it had a home-built desk that was especially good for punching sounds in and out and throwing effects on the sound live in the mix. That technique became part of our repertoire. The drums and synth on ‘Underpass’ are done like that, for instance, and the bass is consciously Dub-style. It’s a Dub rhythm track with Euro electro toplines and voice.

Although ‘Metamatic’ is an electronic album, there’s quite a bit of bass guitar by Jake Durant. Was it quite tricky get the synth bass to work the way you wanted with the ARP Odyssey back then?

Well, it wasn’t always easy to get the right depth of bass from the Odyssey. It’s a demon for unusual and complex noises – the best there is at tearing down walls and taking the skin off your back.

A Minimoog was best for bass. Richer. I used that too, on ’He’s a Liquid’, for instance, but I preferred the precision and vitality of the ARP. Much quicker, more vicious and more intuitive for me.

Do you subscribe to the Philip Oakey viewpoint that synthesizers are more ‘punk’ than guitars?

Bang on Phil – you only need the one finger! No chords. As soon as synths became affordable, I knew there’d be a permanent revolution. Inevitable.

Listening back to the album now, what strikes most is how stark and minimalist it sounds, what kind of reception did you get from Virgin when you submitted it?

Oh, I think they simply stepped back and put the record out. It was certainly weird, minimal, cold, harsh and surreal for that period – all that BROTHERHOOD OF MAN stuff in the charts. At that time though, everyone at Virgin was in close cahoots and out for a bit of fun.

It was a great time. Simon Draper, the real power and judgement there, was totally supportive. A marvellous visionary character. He created Virgin really.

The extra songs which feature as part of this package and the ‘Metamatic Plus’ edition (including ‘Cinemascope’ and ‘My Face’) all seem strong enough to have made it onto the original album, was it a difficult process deciding which tracks would make the final cut first time around?

There was no shortage of material. I was just listening to the demos and ideas from cassettes recently. Tons of stuff. Lots of unfinished song starts. It drives me nuts. I’m going to destroy it all, just for peace of mind.

The ‘Metamatic’ follow-up ‘The Garden’ saw quite a significant change in sound for you, especially with the re-integration of more live instrumentation, why did you move away from the colder electronic aesthetic with that release?

I remember wanting to reclaim some of the territory I’d defined with ‘Systems’ – the other side of things, as I mentioned earlier, also I loved working with Robin Simon’s great guitar playing. Power and ideas. He’s the most inventive guitarist – or musician – I’ve ever worked with. Doesn’t do cliches. Forget everyone else, no other player comes close to him, in my opinion.

With ‘My Face’, ‘Burning Car’, ‘20th Century’, ‘Cinemascope’, ‘Young Love’, ‘To Be With You’ and the amount of unreleased material in this new boxed set indicates that a follow-up in the style of ‘Metamatic’ was on the cards; how do you think you might have evolved this sound if you hadn’t had thawed out on ‘The Garden’?

I remember not wanting to repeat myself . In retrospect, though, maybe I should have carried on with the CR78 and ARP and made another record, it would have been interesting – but I was impatient as always and had another set of songs and lots of ideas left over from ‘Systems’.

However, there was the immediate influential aftermath of ‘Metamatic’; it is said Daniel Miller hired Gareth Jones to engineer DEPECHE MODE as a result of his work with you, while TUXEDOMOON were also fans and worked with him too…

Oh yes, Dan came to the studio with Depeche and I eventually managed to persuade Gareth to work with them. At first he thought Depeche were a bit light, but we’d both really liked ‘Warm Leatherette’, so he trusted Daniel and I think that’s what swung it. They all had a great instant rapport when they finally worked together. Still do.

Tuxedo were a fierce, inventive band we both liked, so Gareth was straight in there, no problem. I liked them all and their work. They were an interesting lot. I remember encountering a certain member wandering about on Shoreditch High Street in the rain in winter, no shoes on, totally oblivious, clearly hallucinating. I especially liked Blaine L Reininger’s playing – he’s a truly exceptional instinctual musician. It was good to hear him again on that ‘Blue Velvet Revisited’ album we all did recently with CULT WITH NO NAME.

Remixes of classic synth tracks rarely turn out well, an exception is Mark Reeder’s ‘Sinister Subway’ mix of ‘Underpass’, what are your feelings on this interpretation?

I think it’s superb! A big surprise, how well it turned out. He translated it for today.

I like Mark Reeder a lot. He’s one of those people you instantly feel you might have known all your life – you know, like someone you might have been at school with. His instincts and tastes are perfectly in line. He’s Mr German Electronic – Manc Branch. And his Berlin movie is brilliant….

There have already been several reissues of ‘Metamatic’, what’s the most special aspect for you about this new package for you?

The notebooks and synth patches etc, and all the experimental sounds from the master eight-track tapes. They do show another aspect of the work Gareth and I were doing then. I also liked the way Steve D’Agostino picked up on all that, some years ago, with that soundtrack for Alex Proyas’ short film.

You’ve stepped out of the live arena for a few years, are there any plans to do live dates to support this release?

No plans at the moment, but things are always brewing, so we’ll see!

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its grateful thanks to JOHN FOXX

With thanks to Steve Malins at Random PR

‘Metamatic’ is released as 3CD boxed set by Metamatic Records




Text and Interview by Paul Boddy
Additional Questions by Chi Ming Lai
2nd May 2018

Involved: The MESH Retrospective Interview

Often described in the electronica circles as “Bristol’s Finest”, MESH have been creating their very own kind of synthpop since 1991.

With the strong core of passionate lyricist Mark Hockings on vocals and Richard Silverthorn in charge of programming, keyboards and guitar, the duo have gone from strength to strength, to achieve cult status in Germany.

Despite being a comparative secret in the UK, Robbie Williams is a noted fan while MESH continue to gain new followers with every release, charting high in mainland Europe thanks to their gripping sound and Hockings’ vocal wizardry.

Having been producing their magnificent material for over 25 years, the twosome who can “mend hearts” embark on a journey down memory lane in 2018, with MESH’s second album ‘The Point At Which It Falls Apart’ being re-released on Dependent Records, as well as a string of live performances.

‘Involved – The MESH Retrospective Tour’, named after the opening track of their first album ‘In This Place Forever’, will take place in chosen venues in Germany and promises “singles, B-sides, rarities and more”. Richard Silverthorn talked about the past, present and future of MESH.

1991… a long time ago… although your early fans had to wait till 1996 for the first long player, the five years in between were spent on making sweet creations, which were later released under the name ‘Original 91-93’. Why such a set up? Maybe you just didn’t think there was “time enough to”? 🙂

When we first started, we were just trying to find our way. Just writing songs and doing our best to establish some kind of sound for ourselves. In those very early days, we wrote lots of demos and ideas which probably never ended up as full songs or productions. When we eventually decided to make our first CD and release it ourselves, we started by writing new material. The ‘Original 91-93’ is pretty much a collection of all those lost recordings and demos.

Around that time, you produced ‘My Perfection’…

Yes, there are a few little gems on there 🙂

To be fair some of the songs were ok, but maybe our production skills were still in their infancy.

Did you have high expectations for ‘In This Place Forever’?

I think with every release, the expectations are high. It was our first full album on a record label, Momento Materia from Sweden – I think that album got us quite a lot of press coverage at the time and made a few ripples in the scene. Tracks like Confined’ are still huge favourites with fans across the world so from that point of view, it done its job.

‘The Point At Which It Falls Apart’ brought a plethora of magnificent tracks with even more electronics. Clearly nothing “fell apart” at that point?

For me personally, I think this is the album that had some kind of sound uniformity. We started to sound like us. We knew at this point how we wanted to sound (although limited by technology) and started to understand our audiences. We had already started touring Europe and had an idea of what was going on outside the mainstream UK charts, which was all we knew at the time.

How did you decide which direction to take with your musical creations after the success of the first album?

I’m not sure we ever really had a plan. It was just 3 guys with synthesizers and different musical backgrounds and tastes trying to write songs. Our only middle ground was the fact we like electronic music.

Neil was very much into THE KLF and dance music, Mark and I was listening to similar music like YAZOO, OMD, DEPECHE MODE and the less mainstream stuff like DAF and FRONT 242 etc. It was pretty much a combination of influences with Mark reluctantly taking on the role as lead singer.

How did the collaboration with MARK ‘OH come about? A handful of Brits know the man and his notable successes in German dance charts, whether on his own or in tandems with the likes of John Davies?

‘Scares Me’ was picked up by a dance producer Christian Cambas and he done a club / dance track with a huge sample taken from that track. I think MARK ‘OH had heard of us and had heard that track. He somehow talked his record company into tracking us down and asked if Mark would like to provide vocals on one of his projects. When we were asked, we had no idea who he was or his popularity in Germany at the time.

Who chose BLANCMANGE’s ‘Waves’ as the song to cover?

It was a track that MARK ‘OH wanted to do and had recorded a version of it with The London Session Orchestra. He was looking for the right person to provide the vocals. Mark was asked and it went from there.

And it came with a video too…

Yes! Haha… We were flown out to Fuerteventura where the locals had made us this makeshift raft. We were towed out to sea and filmed by a speed boat circling us. It was one of the funniest and bizarre experiences ever. I had a broken arm at the time and had the cast removed for the video. Neil couldn’t actually swim so the look of terror in his eyes is real. At one point the boat broke down and we were left drifting out to sea. I’m surprised we survived 🙂

Then came ‘Who Watches Over Me’ with the massive ‘Friends Like These’, which is still a firm live favourite…

Yes, this felt like a huge turning point for us. We had just signed a major record deal with Sony Music and gave up our day jobs to embark on a full-time music career. We found ourselves in Home Studios Hamburg (formally Chateau De Pape where DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Songs Of Faith & Devotion’ was mixed and produced) with Peter Schmidt, a former Hansa Studio engineer.

It all of a sudden felt very real and expensive. We spent 3 weeks mixing at £1500 per day. It was a very expensive album with big budgets. ‘Friends Like These’ and ‘Leave You Nothing’ came from that album and became very well played tracks across Germany. ‘Leave You Nothing’ ended up on many radio stations and was even played regularly on a Germany soap opera.

‘We Collide’ brought more crowd pleasers such as ‘Open Up The Ground’. It’s as if you write songs that you know will be huge live?

Who knows…? We just write at the best of our ability at the time and hope for the best.

On ‘We Collide’ you went the whole hog, inviting Gareth Jones, known for having worked such legends as ERASURE, DEPECHE MODE, NICK CAVE and JOHN FOXX to name a few. And it was big…

Yes, that was a strange experience. Our record company really pushed for Gareth to be involved in the production, but us as a band were a little hesitant and reluctant because of the whole DEPECHE MODE thing.

We had spent years trying to shrug off the DM comparisons, so the last thing we wanted was the guy who shaped their sound working with us. As it happened, he was a really nice guy.

He actually rocked up at our studio in Bristol armed with a MacBook and a few other outboard boxes and we spent about 10 days locked in eating Chinese food, laughing and mixing ‘We Collide’. He was a very focussed engineer and brought out a lot of what we thought were quite incidental bits of music to the foreground and made them the hooks. We learnt quite a lot.

Any favourites from that opus?

‘Petrified’, ‘What Are You Scared Of?’ and ‘This Is What You Wanted’ all left their mark I think. It was quite a dark album from its lyrical content, but maybe doesn’t come across like that on first listen.

Around that point Neil Taylor decided to part ways with MESH. Were you very impacted by his departure?

Yes definitely. Mark and I thought it was the end. I think we both thought “where do we go from here?” We had had the major record deal and done all the big studios etc, what was left? We found ourselves with no deal at the time and a band member missing. It took a few weeks of pondering before we both realised that we just enjoy writing and producing music at any level. So we dusted ourselves down and started writing again.

Olaf Wollschläger took the production reigns on ‘A Perfect Solution’ and the perfect working relationship was established…

I knew of Olaf from other bands and his work with them. Our new label Dependent suggested him, so we thought “yeah why not?”

We hit it off straight away. I think Olaf was really in tune with what we were trying to achieve with each album. His mixing and production skills are second to none.

How did it feel to be placed around other “legends of synthpop” for a string of US gigs, accompanying DE/VISION and IRIS?

Oh I cringe at that title… legends? It was a great experience. We travelled right across America doing a show every night. It was like starting again for us. No real roadies or tech crew, just 3 bands, a few crew members and a cowboy driving the bus. We played some really big shows and some downright awful small shows, but the whole thing was so good. It really does take experiences like that to establish you as a band. We came back with a new lease of life and a whole lot of respect of what we actually had in Europe.

‘Automation Baby’ came out with a bang and to many, it’s the most definitive MESH album to date… ‘Looking Skyward’ raced up the German charts, reaching No 12 which is your highest to date. That must have felt good?

Yes indeed. We are both very proud of what we achieved with these albums.

We never in our wildest dreams expected things to take off like they did with both of these albums.

To enter into the mainstream album charts was quite an experience. To see yourselves up there in the charts with people like Adele or whoever was completely mad.

In the meantime, you enjoyed playing with a full orchestra for ‘Goth Meets Klassik’…

It was an evening of a lifetime. To hear a full orchestra play something you had written was breathtaking. I remember Mark and I looking at each other in disbelief. It was a very emotional night and one I will never forget. 2000 people giving you a standing ovation was something very special.

Currently you are preparing to embark onto a retrospective tour, and some B-sides and rarities are promised. Does it mean that ‘My Perfection’ could find its way to the set?

Who knows… watch this space 😉

Yes, the plan is to play a load of songs that we don’t usually play or something that hasn’t even been played before live. In the beginning, we were a little reluctant to do a tour like this when it was first suggested.

We didn’t want to dwell on the past but always saw ourselves as a band that keeps pushing forward. After a bit of time to contemplate this, we thought “hey this could be ok”

We are doing new versions of the old material. Trying our best to keep the original feeling but bringing it up to date. It’s a lot of work and I’m sure there will be a lot of thought going into the visuals too, so it should be fun. I know that tickets sales are going exceptionally well so…

Do you set out to perform the crowd pleasers while preparing set lists, and who makes the final decision?

Yes, it’s a balancing act really. You have to throw in all the old favourites but you have to make it interesting too. There was a Facebook poll on our page recently which was surprising. Songs that we had kind of forgot about were mentioned and voted for, so we will have to see what we can do.

You also have to pace the setlist so you get a balance of different styles and tempos finishing in a big track.

Will UK dates for ‘Involved- The MESH Retrospective Tour’ be added at some point?

We are still at the negotiating stages with some venues here in the UK, but I’m sure there will be something announced soon.

We are headlining the Infest Festival in Bradford on 25th August and playing The Watchet Festival in Somerset the day after. There is also talk of an interesting London show / festival soon, so we will see.

When can we expect to hear brand new MESH material?

We will start writing again very soon. Things are a little busy here with the tour prep, but as soon as that settles down we will be back in the studio.

ELECTRICITY CLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to Richard Silverthorn

The remastered edition of ‘The Point At Which It Falls Apart’ with extras tracks will be released by Dependent Records, selected items from the MESH back catalogue are available from http://en.dependent.de/artists/mesh/

‘Involved – The MESH Retrospective Tour’ 2018 live dates include:

Bradford Infest Festival (25th August), Watchet Music Festival (26th August), Hamburg Mojo Club (14th September), Oberhausen Kulttempel (15th September), Erfurt HSD Gewerkschaftshaus (21st September), Berlin Columbia Theater 22nd September), Munich Backstage (25th September), Frankfurt Das Bett (27th September), Braunschweig Lokpark (28th September), Dresden Reithalle Strasse E (29th September)

MESH also perform at ‘Black Celebration’ as very special guests of DAF at The Forum in London on Sunday 28th October 2018, tickets available from https://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/Black-Celebration-tickets/artist/1994037





Text and Interview by Monika Izabela Trigwell
27th February 2018, updated 9th August 2018

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