Tag: John Grant (Page 2 of 4)

CREEP SHOW Mr Dynamite

CREEP SHOW is an electronic meeting of minds between eclectic US singer / songwriter John Grant and the dark analogue electro of WRANGLER, the trio comprising Stephen Mallinder, Phil Winter and Benge.

Brought together for the Rough Trade 40th Anniversary celebrations in 2016, the first fruit of this collaboration is ‘Mr Dynamite’ – an album which was recorded in Cornwall following the move of Benge’s Memetune studio from its original Hoxton location.

Opening with the title track, ‘Mr Dynamite’ sees Grant’s vocal cut-up, pitch-changed and split over different keys on a vintage AKAI sampler.

This is then laid over a minimalist drum machine, bass pulse and a signature John Grant synth lead.

‘Modern Parenting’ sees a hybrid of funky bass synth and echoed sequenced synths with a typical quirky Grant vocal. The addition of female backing vocals give the overall impression of TALKING HEADS ditching their guitars and going fully electronic instead; the surreal chorus hook of “when your doggy jumps the fence and sets its sights on you” also adds to the playful, funky nature of the track.

‘Tokyo Metro’ is a KRAFTWERK-inspired 8-bit Chip-Tune style piece, the vocodered vocal very reminiscent of ‘Dentaku’, their Japanese version of ‘Pocket Calculator’.

‘Endangered Species’ is a chilled glitchy piece with a floaty string synth; the track also gives Grant a chance to go into his full-on crooner mode and take a squealing lead synth solo. The song ramps up a level with the unexpected addition of CULTURE CLUB’s original backing vocalists Mary Pearce, Maria Q and Zee Asher; having originally toured with Grant, they give the slightly creepy “You are the endangered species” hook a brilliantly quirky resonance. For those familiar with Grant’s work, the nearest comparison here would be his solo tracks ‘Voodoo Doll’ and ‘Black Belt’; the ones where he mixes vitriol and downright bitchiness…

On the final two lengthy tracks ‘Fall’ and ‘Safe & Sound’, the band go full-on KRAFTWERK and GIORGIO MORODER; the songs are given room to breathe and reveal themselves gradually with some wonderfully warmly melodic synth parts. On ‘Fall’, there are tiny slithers of voices which float over the instrumental backing and on ‘Safe & Sound’, Grant reins in the quirkiness to deliver a hazy vibrato-filled vocal.

‘Mr Dynamite’ is a really fresh and uncontrived sounding album, it’s not over-produced and comes across as a piece of work that all involved had a real blast making. It would have been interesting if the band had pursued the sound of the final track a little further though. There still remains a gaping hole in the market for retro synthesizer-based tracks featuring a real vocalist, not just someone that’s appears to have been drafted in as an afterthought (see: some underperforming UK-based synth acts).

The CREEP SHOW album really plays to the combined strengths of WRANGLER and John Grant; the latter’s vocals being the icing on the proverbial electronic cake and ensuring the listener will undoubtedly reacquaint themselves with ‘Mr Dynamite’ time and time again and again.


With thanks to Danielle Carr at Bella Union

‘Mr Dynamite’ is released on 16th March 2018 by Bella Union

CREEP SHOW 2019 live dates:

Sheffield The Foundry (5th October), Liverpool Arts Club Loft (6th October), Bristol Trinity Centre (8th October), London Scala (9th October), Hove Old Market (10th October), Newcastle Boiler Shop (12th October), Glasgow Art School (14th October)

http://creepshowmusic.com

https://www.facebook.com/creepshowmusic/

https://twitter.com/CreepShowMusic

https://www.instagram.com/creepshowmusic/


Text by Paul Boddy
14th March 2018, updated 26th June 2019

GUSGUS Lies Are More Flexible

GUSGUS started within cinematography but gained international acclaim for their electronic productions.

As an eclectic troupe, with various members weaving in and out of the collective over the years, the Icelandic duo of Daniel Ágúst Haraldsson and Birgir Þórarinsson have been the only constants.

Taking their name from a mispronunciation of “cuscus” in a German film ‘Ali: Fear Eats The Soul’, the Reykjavik sound manipulators have always marvelled at being able to play with various styles and genres, mainly producing dance pieces spanning from Euro-disco, through ambient to house.

Whatever the description, the quality of GUSGUS’ fruit has shone brightly over the last nine studio releases and number ten, ‘Lies Are More Flexible’ is no different.

A collection of four vocal and four instrumental tracks is as eclectic as any previous work from the talented bunch, seeing the two founding members hard at work to showcase their ever changing, yet familiar sound.

Starting with stunning synth arpeggios on ‘Featherlight’, bringing back the good old memories of classic ambient dance tracks, the atmosphere is set on cold and icy with occasional specks of warming hope. If they ‘Don’t Know How To Love’ in its progressive house alignments, maybe John Grant, who Þórarinsson once produced, could help on backing vocals? The track is a desperate plea to be taught “how to love”, over a stencil of found sounds and haunting synth.

But now comes the ‘Fireworks’, enveloping the club feel of a perfect dance track, followed by ‘Lifetime’, which is equally bouncy and grabs with its sweet synth punches and exquisite melody. From the word full to word none, ‘No Manual’ offers life affirming capabilities with an equivocal undercoat, while the title track reminisces the familiarity of vintage video games.

‘Towards Storm’ ebbs and flows endlessly, with the album closing on ‘Fuel’, continuing to carry the light and warmth of hope, peace and weightlessness, so consistent in GUSGUS’ offerings.

It is refreshing to listen to a shorter product, where the length of the opus means no lesser amount of work and no compromise in the quality of the recordings.

Those who marvel at Haraldsson’s voice will enjoy their treat, while the others lose themselves in the appreciation of the instrumental only pieces. Both match the high quality that GUSGUS have been known and loved for many years now. Maybe ‘Lies Are More Flexible’, but the truth is the duo are hitting new levels of brilliance with their latest offering.


‘Lies Are More Flexible’ is released by Oroom in digital formats

https://www.gusgus.com

https://www.facebook.com/GusGusOfficial/

https://twitter.com/GusGusOfficial


Text by Monika Izabela Trigwell
1st March 2018

CREEP SHOW Interview

CREEP SHOW sees a dream team collaboration between US singer-songwriter and professed synth-lover John Grant with the established experimental electro triad of Stephen Mallinder, Benge and Phil Winter, collectively known as WRANGLER.

The two parties started to develop a working relationship after the latter remixed Grant which then lead onto live dates at The Barbican and The Royal Albert Hall.

The resulting link-up has since given birth to the ‘Mr Dynamite’ album.

It’s a meeting of minds that in the words of Mallinder is: “…a Hydra. A beast with multiple heads and voices, so no one is quite sure who is saying and doing what. Everything is permitted and everything is possible”

CREEP SHOW spoke about the gestation of the album, the impact of Benge’s studio relocating to Cornwall and some of the tech involved in the making of ‘Mr Dynamite’.

WRANGLER opened for John at The Royal Albert Hall, was this a calculated attempt by John to engineer a collaboration between both parties? 😉

Mal: Well, we’d already collaborated by this point as John and myself had been talking and WRANGLER had done a remix of ‘Voodoo Doll’ from the ‘Grey Tickles, Black Pressure’ album. It was around the time of the Albert Hall show that we’d been asked to work together and play at the Barbican, so the Albert Hall was just a nice cherry on the cake of us joining forces. We were very chuffed being asked to play, it was a lovely gesture by JG and all the team.

Phil: I just remember it being a very surreal evening, but we were made to feel very welcome.

Benge: I think at the time it was the biggest gig we had done – and certainly the poshest! It doesn’t get much posher than the Royal Albert. We even got to meet The Queen (Kylie Minogue)!

JG: Everything I do is carefully calculated which is why I am also a real estate magnate.

With John involved, how did this change the working dynamic of WRANGLER?

Mal: I don’t know if anything had to change too much as we all integrated so well; we worked in the studio with consummate ease. It was just nice to have another element, another tangent to go to, another voice – quite literally when John did vocals. But we all worked on every aspect of the tracks together, no roles were defined which is exactly how WRANGLER work anyway. It was fun though, so just a case of going from being a wonky tricycle to being a wonky car… the fourth wheel was very handy.

Phil: Yeah, nothing really changed, we just had another pair of hands (that could even play chords) and another mouth to feed !

Benge: It was good to find out that John is as up for experimenting with sounds and ideas as we all are. We deliberately don’t usually have many boundaries when we work together as WRANGLER, so I guess it could have been problematic adding in another personality to the mixture, but John is so open minded and up for experimenting that it felt really natural.

JG: It’s always the perverts who are up for “experimenting” – I’m calling my solicitor!

Were they any prior decisions on the direction for the album or did things evolve organically?

Mal: Well the three of us did some preliminary sketches, as John was on tour, but they were very broad ideas that quickly changed when we got together. Plus John had already sketched out the ideas for ‘Mr Dynamite’. After that, it was just all hands on deck but there was no prior discussion about what it should sound like … apart from f*cking great.

Phil: Even if there were, they disappeared very quickly once we realised we were heading in roughly the same direction .

Benge: Before we started, I was asking myself, how is this going to work vocally as Mal and John are stylistically polar opposites – there was a lot of room for it to go horribly wrong! But the interesting thing was that the addition of John’s new dynamic, lyrically, vocally and musically mutated what we do as WRANGLER into something completely new and unique. Originally we weren’t going to have a new band name, we would have been called “Wrangler featuring John Grant” or “John Grant featuring Wrangler”. But we felt we had created something that had its own strong personality

JG: I felt it was very organic and soon we had settled into a comfortable atmosphere of resentment, competitive pettiness and sardonic laughter.

How did the songwriting process work on ‘Mr. Dynamite’?

Mal: We were backstage after his show at the De La Warr Pavilion and John played me the ideas of rhythms for ‘Mr. Dynamite’ that he’d done. We took it all into the studio and then began working on it.

Phil: Do you mean the track, or the album as a whole? Either way it was pretty much the same, get a load of sequences, a beat , and then play and sing over the top .

Benge: And then shove it all through a pitch shifter and flanger.

JG: For my part, Benge and I sampled every single word into an old Akai sampler from the 80s and then played them at different pitches on a keyboard.

Whose idea was the big girlie backing vocals on ‘Endangered Species’?

Mal: I’ll let JG answer that one, but suffice to say we were all happy with it. John and I sat in the studio with the girls and let them rip through it. It was great as they all loved the tracks… when we got to sing on ‘Modern Parenting’, they made the right connections to George Clinton and FUNKADELIC so we knew it was going to work.

Phil: John’s… great call, we’d never do anything like that, love it!

Benge: I think originally John had put some backing vocal parts in at the end of that one, then he casually said “why don’t I get Culture Club’s original backing vocalists to redo them?” – when we realised he wasn’t joking, it was a no brainer.

JG: I don’t mind taking credit for this one. Mary Pearce, Maria Q and Zee Asher have worked with CULTURE CLUB for yonks and I just wanted an excuse to be in the same room with them again as they have toured with me and they are fantastic as you can hear.

Alongside the obvious CABARET VOLTAIRE influence, much of the synth bass on ‘Mr Dynamite’ is reminiscent of classic electro like ‘Bassline’ by MANTRONIX, how much of an influence is era this on your work?

Mal: That period is so important to us all. Technology-wise Benge’s studio is massively invested in that sound and we all love that period as it represents a very dynamic collaboration between machines and people. The whole idea of drum machines, synths and basslines all talking to each other in a very live way. We all grew up with that sound, and on opposite sides of the Atlantic, so it is an important way for all four of us to connect. Phil and I have been friends, and worked together, for years and the whole electro period is our provenance – put on an Oberheim DMX drum machine and Juno bassline and we turn to liquid.

Phil: I guess if we have a default setting it’s that sound, but I’d like to think there are wider aspects to our sound.

Benge: Yes, but when you walk round the studio and you are confronted by a corner of the room that has a DMX, a Roland SH101, Oberheim 4-voice and a Claptrap all connected together, it’s hard not to slip into electro-mode, even just a little bit.

JG: Yeah, that’s just part of my DNA, the synth basses of the 80s – the SH-101 from Roland is beyond all human understanding.

MemeTune studio and its synths has now relocated down to Cornwall, has the change of location had any effect on the music making process?

Mal: Well, it takes a little bit longer to get to, but once we’re there it means we have no distractions. When MemeTune was in Hoxton, there were too many people and places to tempt us out so the working process different. But wherever it is we’ll go and work – I think using ‘Space 1999’ as an inspiration, we need to have a MemeTune Moonbase.

Phil: Obviously, it’s a very different experience to working in a studio in London. But as mentioned, it’s all about the people really (and the dog).

Benge: What’s nice now is when people come down here, it’s a total lock-in. No-one can escape for days on end! It’s a good focus. And yes, even Rothko (my dog) gets involved.

JG: I always feel completely invigorated and inspired by the beauty of Cornwall and Benge’s amazing studio, so it certainly affects me. Sadly, I never saw the London MemeTune studios 🙁

John’s professed love of the Roland Juno 106 is well-known, how well-used was this synth on the album?

Mal: Not at all!

Phil: I think the CS80 has taken his heart ❤

Benge: Or was it the Sequential Prophet VS?

JG: It is indeed the CS80 (the greatest synth of all time) and the Prophet VS which have stolen my heart. But the Juno 106 is still precious to me.

So were there particular go to synths on this album?

Mal: There is always ‘synth of the week’ – usually the one that’s just come back from the Keith the Synth Cobbler – but that’s always changing. There’s a particular little Akai machine that’s been made to work its socks off in the last few sessions.

Phil: I seem to remember the Roland SH2 and the Minimoog providing a lot of the basslines .

Benge: As always at MemeTune, there’s a lot of interplay between all the instruments. Keyboards, drum machines, effects units, analog sequencers, modular systems all get connected together in millions of ways. It’s impossible to keep track of it all

‘Fall’ in places is akin to a lost ‘Autobahn’ era KRAFTWERK track, do you think electronic artists will ever stop paying homage to the German meisters?

Mal: Who? Never heard of them!

Phil: Why would you?

Benge: I’ve heard of an English band called Craftwork

JG: My mother did a lot of craft work as well and there were latch hook rugs all over the place. But to answer your question: I hope not.

‘Safe & Sound’ is a wonderful mix of old-school crooner vocals and analogue electronics and is ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s favourite track on ‘Mr Dynamite’, can you each select a favourite from the album and why?

Mal: ‘Endangered Species’

Phil: Impossible, sorry!

Benge: I like the way ‘Fall’ turned out – I think it’s got a simplicity and beauty and groove that I’m into at the moment

JG: ‘Endangered Species’ for me too. Loved doing that vocal and lyrics and the combo of bassline and pad makes my legs go all rubbery.

So… ‘Mr Dynamite’ a glorious one-night stand of an album or the start of a continuing meaningful relationship between all the parties involved?

Mal: It would be so rude not to call after such a memorable night!

Phil: And I need my scarf back!

Benge: It wasn’t goodbye, it was au revoir.

JG: What they said…


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to CREEP SHOW

Special thanks to Danielle Carr at Bella Union

‘Mr Dynamite’ is released on 16th March 2018 by Bella Union in CD, vinyl LP and digital formats

CREEP SHOW 2019 live dates:

Sheffield The Foundry (5th October), Liverpool Arts Club Loft (6th October), Bristol Trinity Centre (8th October), London Scala (9th October), Hove Old Market (10th October), Newcastle Boiler Shop (12th October), Glasgow Art School (14th October)

http://creepshowmusic.com

https://www.facebook.com/creepshowmusic/

https://twitter.com/CreepShowMusic

https://www.instagram.com/creepshowmusic/

http://www.johngrantmusic.com

https://www.facebook.com/mallinderbengewinter/


Text and Interview by Paul Boddy
21st February 2018, updated 16th June 2019

BLANCMANGE Unfurnished Rooms

Following the collaborative project with Benge as FADER, this relationship is perpetuated with the JOHN FOXX sideman tackling production duties on the new BLANCMANGE album ‘Unfurnished Rooms’.

The eponymous album opener is an intriguing mixture of guitar textures, interlocking monosynths and Linn Drum programming. Neil Arthur’s vocals convey a real sense of loss and a brilliant chanting “search, search!” helps tie the whole piece together. Always one for incorporating ‘kitchen sink’ drama lyrics into his songs, Arthur’s killer line here is “…no amount of online shopping will cover the loss”.

‘We Are The Chemicals’ is an understated, but ultimately catchy track, with a lyric which sounds part news report and part early HUMAN LEAGUE with a “…chemical spillage on a trading estate in Altrincham” forming the centrepiece for the song. Arthur himself provides guitar on the track and a simplistic square wave synth and early Roland JP-style arpeggiator fills in the mid-range on the piece. The track’s beauty lies in that it doesn’t try too hard and in its concluding 50 seconds hits a wonderful, but still low-key climax with some additional soaring keyboard parts.

‘Share it Out’ starts out like a sped-up long distance cousin of MARTHA & THE MUFFINS New Wave classic ‘Echo Beach’ before Arthur’s flanged psychedelic vocals are joined by an early Roland drum machine combo and heads off in an entirely different direction altogether. Very hypnotic and almost ambient in places, ‘Share It Out’ utilises the kind of Eastern melodic scale that made ‘Living On The Ceiling’ such a successful culture-splicing track.

The downtempo ‘Wiping the Chair’ utilises a combination of NEW ORDER-style guitars and OMD-influenced synth textures and is a highlight here; low-key in its delivery, Arthur delivers an emotional song about reuniting with a long-lost friend asking them to “Come back soon”.

‘Anna Dine’ has a wickedly catchy chord progression and features the kind of interlocking monosynth work that made the early DEPECHE MODE and YAZOO albums sound so effective, it also has another classic brutalist Arthur line in “I’ve taken the earth wires from most of your plugs”.

‘In December’ is another atmospheric slow tempo track and another highlight here; with an ambient soundscape aesthetic which drifts over the listener effortlessly.

With its combo of squealing guitar riff-age and discordant modular electronics ‘Gratitude’ takes its cues from NINE INCH NAILS to the point where one could imagine Trent Reznor taking the lead vocal on this track. An angry-sounding Arthur really lets loose here and it provides a welcome rise in tempo on the album.

The song which is most highly anticipated here is the collaboration with JOHN GRANT; the closing 8 minute piece features Grant on backing vocals and piano. ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’ winds the tempo back down again and despite a hooky chorus line, doesn’t quite match some of the earlier highlights on ‘Unfurnished Rooms’.

With the current OMD album setting an extremely high bar for how an electronic record should sound sonically both mix and mastering-wise, the only drawback with ‘Unfurnished Rooms’ is the imagining of how it would sound with a bigger and more expansive production job. Some of the elements of the album feel like they would benefit from more layers (especially Arthur’s vocals) and a finer attention to detail.

For many listeners though, ‘Unfurnished Rooms’ will be fine addition to the BLANCMANGE canon and Arthur’s wonderfully personal songwriting skills show no sign of diminishing anytime soon.


‘Unfurnished Rooms’ is released by Blanc Check on 22nd September 2017 in a CD, vinyl LP and digital, available from http://blancmange.tmstor.es/

BLANCMANGE 2017 live dates include:

Brighton Concorde 2 (5th October), London 229 (6th October), Southend Chinnery’s (19th October), Southampton 1965 (20th October), Darwen Library (25th October), Newcastle Boiler Shop (26th October), Edinburgh La Belle (27th October), Glasgow Audio (28th October), Bristol The Fleece (2nd November), Nottingham Rescue Rooms (4th November)

BLANCMANGE also play ‘The Tour of Synthetic Delights 2’ with HEAVEN 17, dates include:

Sheffield Foundry (10th November), Liverpool Hangar34 (11th November), Hull Welly (17th November), Manchester Academy2 (18th November), Coventry Copper Rooms (24th November), Norwich Waterfront (25th November)

http://www.blancmange.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/BlancmangeMusic

https://twitter.com/_blancmange_


Text by Paul Boddy
21st September 2017

A Short Conversation with BLANCMANGE

To say that Neil Arthur is in the most prolific stage of his career would be an understatement.

Since BLANCMANGE returned in 2011 with ‘Blanc Burn’, there have been a further three long players ranging from the dark pop of ‘Semi Detached’ and the beautiful instrumentals of ‘Nil By Mouth’ to the raw minimal experimentation of ‘Commuter 23’.

And this is without the recent retrospective box set ‘The Blanc Tapes’ and Arthur’s side projects as FADER with Benge and NEAR FUTURE with Jez Bernholz.

September 2017 sees the arrival of the eighth BLANCMANGE long player ‘Unfurnished Rooms’; co-produced by Benge and featuring contributions from renowned guitarist David Rhodes and the towering figure of John Grant, ‘Unfurnished Rooms’ is loosely based around the theme of feeling of being lost in a dream. As Arthur sings on the title track “no amount of online shopping will cover for the loss”.

Neil Arthur kindly spoke to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about ‘Unfurnished Rooms’, working with John Grant and his thoughts on the new LCD SOUNDSYSTEM album…

The ‘Unfurnished Rooms’ title song is a great opener, is that a metaphor for this world of joyless hedonism that society appears to be living in?

You know what I’m like, I prefer there to be less explanation as to what the lyrics may allude to, so that it leaves ambiguity. It would be like if I was a film maker, before you sat down and watched it, I told you what happened at the end! *laughs*

I like people to make their own minds up and obviously, we are all able to observe what’s happening around us, but some of the stuff that goes on in your head, only you know about and it can take you a long time to fathom that out! So it’s not just a metaphor, the idea of unfurnished rooms can mean unfinished work or a journey as well.

I noticed there are what appear to be Linn LM1 drum sounds on ‘Unfurnished Rooms’, how do you go about constructing a track these days?

This album, I worked on a laptop… I write on guitar or synths and put everything onto either Logic or Ableton, it was sort of half and half.

I used a variety of VSTs and a few old synths to make my noises and plus some guitar.

I was fortunate enough to work with Benge over the last couple of years including the FADER album and we thought it would be a really good idea for Benge to replace the VST sounds on the drum parts and rhythm sections with the real thing or analogue synth sounds. Benge has got the real equipment and not only is he a fantastic programmer, engineer and producer, but he’s also a good drummer… he played it all in so there’s a bit of movement there too. But there’s still VSTs on there and my guitar as well as David Rhodes, who’s done much better guitar than I can manage.

So where does FADER end and BLANCMANGE begin, what are the rules of engagement?

They are very different beasts despite both of us being involved. For example, the FADER album ‘First Light’ started with Benge sending me backing tracks and I responded by adding vocals and a few melody lines; after a few exchanges, we then got together in the studio to mix it.

With BLANCMANGE, I write the music and record most of the parts. But in this case, I took the album to Benge and we took it apart to replace the VST rhythms with the real deal and mixed it, so there’s a fundamental difference.

‘Anna Dine’, what a brilliant title, what inspired the wordplay and the song?

I’ve always enjoyed a bit of wordplay. In the first line, I’m finding space in between the normal things to write about *laughs*

Everybody, no matter who they are, those months which take up quite a bit of their time, all those bits joined together for me make a kind of existence. I’m very interested in that mundane aspect of those insubstantial moments, because if there wasn’t a space, there would be nothing to hold us all together.

‘Gratitude’ unleashes some aggression…

I had this groove going that I thought was a bit like ‘Honky Tonk Women! So I was mincing around thinking I was Mick Jagger! *laughs*

I remembered seeing LCD SOUNDSYSTEM on TV and James Murphy was bashing away on this cowbell and it really made me laugh, I thought “there aren’t enough cowbells in songs”; so I had this cowbell thing going! So in all the darkness that can be going on with BLANCMANGE, I was having fun with this music.

This idea of a few simple lines came together about how I was feeling about things and it just came out. If people need a reference, it’s a bit like how I feel when I sing ‘I Can’t Explain’, sometimes it’s good to get it out of your system.

And on the other side of the coin, there’s the sedate Eno-esque ‘In December’…

I don’t sleep well so if I can’t, I get up and do something like write. It was absolutely pouring it down outside although it wasn’t particularly cold, so I opened the doors and recorded the sound of this rain and I just started thinking about the seasons passing.

In terms of it sounding Eno-esque, there’s no intention but thinking about the stuff we did on ‘Irene & Mavis’, you end up trying to fit in somewhere and one of the big influences was ENO & CLUSTER without a doubt, as well as things off ‘Another Green World’ and ‘Evening Star’ with Fripp… when David Rhodes came along to do some guitar, he wanted to try some E-Bow over the top.

It was a feeling I had, lines like “January, don’t p*ss me off, you’re just a June in a mask”, I’m having a bit of fun with the lyrics because the depths of winter can be quite difficult to deal with for some people, I just wanted to write about it.

How did John Grant end up on ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’?

It was through my manager Steve Malins, he manages WRANGLER and they were doing some stuff with John to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Rough Trade at The Barbican. Steve got talking to John who asked who else he looked after and Steve mentioned BLANCMANGE… it turned out John was a big fan and really knew his stuff.

John’s got such a fantastic voice and great songs so when I heard about this, I thought “I wonder…”, so Steve passed this song ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’ onto him and John said it would be an honour, which was flabbergasting to me! He did this piano part and sang along with the chorus with this beautiful backing, so it was an absolute delight when I got it back.

I love the line in ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’ that goes “you look so well… in your online profile”… what’s your take on using the web now for music promotion, but also how it practically rules people’s lives?

How long can you keep your phone in your pocket for? *laughs*

This might answer your question; we were playing in Leeds with HEAVEN 17 and I came on stage. A lot of people were there which was great, but quite a few were watching us through their screen, these little screens! I just said “Watch us”, not in a conceited way, “Don’t watch that! I mean hold it there but don’t look at it”! I’m not immune cos I fall foul of it as well, the problem is that phones are now capable of so much, I write and record lyrics on it, I use it was a torch… I wish in a way I just had a phone that you could just call or text.

But we’re in this post-modern world and it’s quite interesting how social media works. It’s a fantastic way of communicating with people who are interested in your music or finding out about other types of music. But because everything’s accessible immediately, everybody’s got contact… so for example, if you bought a record in the 1970s-1980s, what would you do if there was something wrong with it?

…I’d take it back to the shop!

Ok, so you’d take it back to the shop… so somebody buys a record now, and I think this is quite funny, I get people contacting me! I think it’s lovely and most people know I enjoy a chat and online, I answer a lot of the stuff.

So you get someone going “I bought this off Amazon and two CDs are damaged”… I mean, I’m sorry that they are, but I thought for a moment, and I’m not saying I’m comparing myself to him… could you imagine in the ‘70s if I’d had bought BRIAN ENO’s album and I contacted him to say my record’s scratched?? *laughs*

But this is the modern world isn’t it? Everyone is contactable and 99% of it is fantastic, and that comment did tickle me.

BLANCMANGE are out on tour this Autumn. Now you’ve been back a few years, have you a photo-fit of today’s BLANCMANGE fan and have worked out a live set that can keep you and the audience happy?

I could to a certain extent, what I noticed on the last tour particularly was the audience is changing in that there’s a younger element, whereas when we restarted, it was people who had seen us first time round. We’ve still got those people thankfully and there are inquisitive people from a different generation who are interested in electronic music.

As for keeping people happy, I’m obviously going to promote the new album, but I wouldn’t be doing the new album if it wasn’t for the fact that I’d done all that music with Stephen years ago. So of course, I’d be giving them some blasts from the past. The other thing is since 2011, there’s been more material released than there was first time round. We have a very different audience now and we’re not going to get in the charts, it’s a different world.

I’m not trying to play the game, I’m writing songs that I want to write. Stephen and I did that all those years ago, but we were a lot younger and that’s what we wanted to do. Now what I want to do, I’ve opened the dark door and hopefully, there’s some people who’ll get some pleasure from the stuff that’s old and new. I’ve got to be honest to myself and do what I feel, first and foremost; hopefully, people will come along for the ride.

You have BLANCMANGE, NEAR FUTURE and FADER on the go, plus had the box set and deluxe reissues… how do you manage to juggle so many balls?

Well, I’ve got a very good manager and I think I’m driven. I had the opportunity to work with Benge which was fantastic and I’m looking forward to doing more. We had to work out “how do we finish that and get it released?”, make sure the boxed set was running to schedule and leave a space to get ‘Unfurnished Rooms’ out, so that was time management really.

I’m happy when I’m busy. So Jez Bernholz and I have been exchanging files to finish off the NEAR FUTURE album which will be due next year. I’m keen to move forward all the time.

What are your thoughts on the new LCD SOUNDSYSTEM album ‘American Dream’?

I’m a big fan, I’d heard a few songs earlier in the year and was wondering how they were going to fit together in an album and when I heard it in its entirety, I really enjoyed it and thought it was bloody great. It will be on again without a doubt. It’s fantastically referential, it references so much. James Murphy is a very clever man, there’s the Eno connection, the Frippertronics side of things, TALKING HEADS is in there, there’s a bit of everything and he even references himself which is quite remarkable *laughs*


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to Neil Arthur

Special thanks to Steve Malins at Random Management

‘Unfurnished Rooms’ is released by Blanc Check on 22nd September 2017 in CD, vinyl and digital formats, pre-order from http://blancmange.tmstor.es/

BLANCMANGE 2017 live dates include:

Brighton Concorde 2 (5th October), London 229 (6th October), Southend Chinnery’s (19th October), Southampton The 1865 (20th October), Darwen Library (25th October), Newcastle Boiler Shop (26th October), Edinburgh La Belle Angele (27th October), Glasgow Audio (28th October), Bristol The Fleece (2nd November), Nottingham Rescue Rooms (4th November)

BLANCMANGE also play ‘The Tour of Synthetic Delights 2’ with HEAVEN 17, dates include:

Sheffield Foundry (10th November), Liverpool Hangar34 (11th November), Hull Welly (17th November), Manchester Academy 2 (18th November), Coventry Copper Rooms (24th November), Norwich Waterfront (25th November)

http://www.blancmange.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/BlancmangeMusic

https://twitter.com/_blancmange_


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
12th September 2017

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