Tag: Kid Kasio (Page 1 of 4)

Lost Albums: THE MODERN Life In A Modern World

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK first saw THE MODERN opening for HEAVEN 17 at The Scala in December 2005.

With a colourful stage presence and an immediately catchy sound, they were the one of the new modern synthpop hopes with their debut single ‘Jane Falls Down’ making a good first impression.

Comprising of front woman Emma Cooke, with Nathan Cooper and Chi Tudor-Hart on vocals and synths plus Robert Sanderson on guitar and Bob Malkowski on drums, THE MODERN were signed by Mercury Records, home of TEARS FOR FEARS and DEF LEPPARD.

The band began recording an album under the working title ‘Life In A Modern World’ with producer Stephen Hague, best known for his work with OMD, PET SHOP BOYS, THE COMMUNARDS, ERASURE, NEW ORDER and DUBSTAR. However, after their single ‘Industry’ was disqualified from the UK singles charts in early 2006, THE MODERN were dropped by their label and found themselves out on a limb.

Changing their name to MATINEE CLUB, the album finally saw the light of day in late 2007, now retitled ‘Modern Industry’ and issued as a download only by Planet Clique. It also saw a CD release with a revised tracklisting as ‘The Modern LP’ through Ninth Wave Records in the US, while a 2CD special edition by EQ Music Singapore for the South East Asian market in 2009 saw another tracklisting with B-sides and bonus songs added.

Around this time, the founding trio Emma Cooke, Nathan Cooper and Chi Tudor-Hart returned to being called THE MODERN. But in 2010, Cooper bid adieu and became KID KASIO while Cooke and Tudor-Hart continued as THE MODERN, releasing a brand new album ‘Revenge’ in 2018.

In 2013, ‘Modern Industry’ was reissued under the title ‘Life In A Modern World’ as an album by THE MODERN in an expanded tracklisting which largely resembled the South East Asian 2CD edition.

In whatever variant, the debut album by THE MODERN often provokes many “what if” debates among electronic pop enthusiasts.

Emma Cooke, Nathan Cooper and Chi Tudor-Hart got together to talk about the joys and the setbacks that came with its making and marketing.

When THE MODERN signed to Mercury, did you more or less get despatched to record an album first, or was it very much in steps?

Nathan: We’d never thought of ourselves as an album band. The whole concept was quite alien to us. Every time we wrote a song it was with the intention of it being a single, so when the label started talking to us in terms of an album we just always saw it as a collection of singles with no fillers or anything.

Emma: First thing the label wanted was to find a producer. We were happy with Nick Zart but the label wanted someone known. This took longer than we thought as we were also touring.

How did Stephen Hague become involved in producing THE MODERN?

Nathan: Mercury had sent us round the houses with various different producers. We tried a different track with each producer that we had shortlisted with the label.

Chi: Remember Jeremy Wheatley? We tried recording ‘Discotheque Français’ with him. He was a total knob. He got really upset because Bob ate some of his Jelly Babies that were next to the mixing desk that turned out to be his. He didn’t get us at all and he sulked for the rest of the day over his sweets!

Nathan: We’d been dispatched to Sweden to work with Tore Johansen whose work with Franz Ferdinand was getting massive airplay at that time. I remember him picking us up from the airport in a battered old Volvo and explaining to us the importance of efficiency, which sounded to me like he just wanted to get us in and out as quickly as he could!

The label was obsessing about adding this “indie edge” to the sound, hence FRANZ FERDINAND’s producer, but I was much more interested in chatting to him about his work with ROXETTE which sadly for me he had no interest in discussing! The label had this idea that they wanted us to sound like BLONDIE who of course we all loved, but it became clear quite quickly the live drum sound just wasn’t working for us.

Emma: The sound just didn’t sound big enough for us. Mind you, I quite like listening to his version of ‘Jane Falls Down’ and the vocals on his version were amazing. We then met Stephen Hague and worked with him at Peter Gabriel’s Real World studio. Beautiful place, the studio overlooked a lake with swans swimming around. The start of the session was a disaster as we couldn’t get the drums sounding right. But by the end of the weekend Stephen had ‘Closing Door’ sounding awesome. That nailed it for us to get him to produce the whole album.

Nathan: Rather than record the whole album in Wiltshire, Stephen booked The Strong Rooms in Shoreditch for us to record the album.

Chi: Nick Zart’s production on our demos was so good we got Nick to work on the whole album with us, so really being our 6th member of the band.

Nathan: Stephen was an obvious choice for us. It had dawned on us and the label by this time we were a full on synth pop band and he was the king of that genre, he had worked with all our favourites PET SHOP BOYS, ERASURE, OMD, NEW ORDER.

Stephen Hague worked on ‘Industry’, ‘Jane Falls Down’, ‘Closing Door’, ‘Questions’ and ‘Sometimes’, rather than the whole album, was this down to budget? So how did you go about shortlisting the songs that he would work on?

Chi: No, Stephen produced the whole album. The only track he didn’t do was ‘Suburban Culture’. Matt Jagger, head of Mercury and our champion, hated that track! We loved it so stuck Nick Zart’s version of it on the album anyway.

Emma: Yeah ‘Suburban Culture’ had to be on the album as before we were signed that track was the first song that got radio play on XFM and was always a favourite to play live as it always set the tone.

What was Stephen Hague like to work with, he’s known to be very meticulous with a big focus on vocals?

Nathan: I think our days mixing the album with him in The Strong Rooms in East London were some of my favourites in the band’s history. It really felt like we had taken control and were working with someone who finally understood what we were trying to do.

I have only happy memories of those sessions. I do remember being a bit put out when trying to extract some exciting tit bits of information about his early work with OMD, only for him to confess he didn’t really like synth pop and he had fallen into the genre completely inadvertently, and he actually preferred rock!! He actually said that!

Emma: I agree, I loved recording at The Strong Rooms and really felt Stephen Hague understood us, and as a band and really captured our group dynamic in the recordings

Nathan: I do remember the vocals being particularly difficult for me. Emma sailed through hers but I remember having to do the chorus of ‘Jane Falls Down’ about 100 times. It didn’t fill me with confidence either when after take 82, he said over the talkback that my voice reminded him of a foghorn!

Did you know ‘Smash Hits’ nickname for Tony Hadley was “Foghorn”? 😆

Nathan: Ok I don’t feel so awful now!

‘Sometimes’ sounded like it could have been one of Stephen Hague’s productions for ERASURE’s album ‘The Innocents’, while ‘Questions’ has this frantic energy, where did this stem from?

Nathan: The majority of the album was songs that had begun life as demos myself, Chi and Emma had written over the previous four years with Nick Zart producing. I think there were four songs on the album which had come about in a totally different way, these were ‘Questions’, ‘Jane Falls Down’, ‘Closing Door’ and ‘Sometimes’.

These came from instrumentals that Robert Sanderson our guitarist had made. Myself, Chi and Emma would go to his tiny bedroom studio and just take turns trying out different vocal top lines and ideas over these backings. Loads of really good stuff came out of those sessions, it was competitive but in a friendly super productive kind of way.

We’d be there sitting on Robert’s bed in this little room and he’d blast the verse out of the speakers and you’d have about 10 minutes to sit there and work out something in your head!! You’d be right in the middle of writing down a killer lyric or humming a melody in your head when someone would obliterate your concentration with a cry of “I’ve got something” and run up to the microphone to record it! It was a really strange way to do things but it really worked!!

I think that’s where the frantic energy on ‘Questions’ comes from. It’s sitting in that room desperately trying to get your idea crystallized onto a piece of paper before someone shouts “I’ve got it!”; the song has two choruses crammed into one song vying for attention!

‘Jane Falls Down’ was mighty, were hopes running on this being THE MODERN’s breakthrough?

Nathan: We all hoped as the first single that it would do well. I remember sitting listening to the chart rundown on Radio1 on a Sunday evening and hearing it was at number 32. None of us in the band had been that happy with the way the video turned out and I think the fact it had charted at all with so little airplay was testament to the song and the people who’d bought the single off the back of the live shows.

‘Industry’ was reminiscent of A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS, did Mike Score’s lawyers come knocking on the door?

Nathan: We knew nothing about this until half way through promotion for the single. We’d just finished a sound check somewhere and had been ushered into a local radio station to do a promotional interview for the single. We were sat there in the radio studio with headphones on and the presenter plays both songs back to back, and then goes live to air and asks us if we copied them on purpose!!! I just remember being completely dumbfounded.

Truth is that this one must be my fault because very early versions of the song had come from a demo I’d recorded. The song had been through loads of transitions since then but the vocal melody in the verse had remained the same. I’d always been a big fan of A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS and had a VHS with ‘The More You Live, The More You Love’ on it. I think these things happen subconsciously sometimes. We thought about dropping it from the set when we supported A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS a few years later, but we went and had a chat with Mike Score and he was completely lovely about it.

What was the story behind ‘Closing Door’? It seemed to become oddly prophetic when it ended up as the B-side of ‘Industry’?

Nathan: This was another one that started as one of Robert’s instrumental demos; I think it was touted as a single for a short while. I think the lyrics might have been vaguely about some decisions we had had to make as a band regarding management etc. I actually think it’s one of the most positive songs on the album. It always went down well live that one.

The events that led to THE MODERN being dropped by Mercury in 2006 and the band morphing into MATINEE CLUB are well documented, but how complete was the album at this point?

Chi: The album was completely done and dusted. Mercury got a new head of label, Jason Iley, and he did not like us. This guy was all that is wrong with the industry. When asked what bands he liked, he answered with a straight face, “Bands that sell”… total tw*t! His efforts went into promoting his new signing Matt Willis.

Matt Jagger, who signed us, was ousted, so we no longer had our champion. The chart fiasco happened and the label ghosted us!

How did Planet Clique become interested in releasing what was now the MATINEE CLUB album?

Emma: So when Matt Jagger left Mercury he started a new label under Universal, Europa. He signed us and paid for us to shoot a video for ‘Discotheque Français’. The idea Matt had with Planet Clique was for them to promote us on the underground dance scene.

Europa’s other band was INFERNAL and just had a big hit with From Paris to Berlin so I think they liked the idea of ‘Discotheque’ coming out of the clubs like INFERNAL ’s track.

Chi: Yeah, then true to our luck Europa went under and Planet Clique then offered to release the album on their label, download only, just to get it out there.

Were there many challenges in acquiring the masters for the album now titled ‘Modern Industry’ for release by Planet Clique?

Chi: Lucian Grange, head of Universal, was very nice about giving over all our masters. He always liked THE MODERN.

‘Discotheque Français’ was solely produced by Nick Zart and was released as the lead single for the album, what was the song inspired by?

Nathan: The original song was written in 2001 under the band name DIRTY BLONDE. We had a studio in Hackney at the time and there was a whole collective of producers and remixers living in this massive old factory called The Sweatshop. A friend in the studio next door to us heard us recording it and asked if they could do a remix.

Once a month there would be these massive parties at The Sweatshop and the remix of the song got played there. Somehow from there Eddie Temple Morris got hold of it and played it on his show on XFM. We released it as a white label, which I had a listen to the other day. It sounds like BUGGLES meets THE TOURISTS!

I think the lyric idea in the chorus had stemmed from the summers me and Chi used to spend at my mum’s place in southern France. The highlight of the holidays would be going to these tiny discos in these French villages and dancing to Eurodance music. The house was in the middle of nowhere in rural south west France and there was one radio station we could pick up called radio NRJ.

I used to religiously sit by the ghettoblaster all day long recording these fantastic Eurodance tracks onto cassette, so I’d have them long before they’d be released in the UK. I remember hearing ‘Rhythm Of The Night’ by CORONA about 6 months before it was released over here.

Emma: Actually Eddie Temple Morris got a hold of Ed Solo’s remix of ‘Suburban Culture’. It’s on the 2015 album release, Arts and Craft mix; The Sweatshop lot remixed ‘Suburban’ after the success of ‘Discotheque’.

Stephen did a version of ‘Discotheque ‘but it never came together. He admitted never feeling it.

The cover of David Bowie’s ‘Modern Love’ can be considered either very brave or very foolish, what led you to record it? What do you think about it in retrospect? 😆

Chi: God, I foolishly love our cover!

Nathan: There were a couple of covers we’d sometimes do in the live set that always used to go down well. My favourite was ‘Strange Little Girl’ by THE STRANGLERS. We did a really interesting take on that. We also covered ‘Over You’ by ROXY MUSIC and got the chance to record our version with Phil Manzanera playing guitar! Although I’m pretty sure that never saw the light of day.

Another one was ‘Under My Skin’ by Cole Porter, we did this great minimalistic icy electronic version of that. ‘Modern Love’ came about entirely because of the association with the band’s name and a club night we were doing at the time at Filthy McNasty’s in Islington called Modern Love. I’m pretty sure it was Nick Zart’s idea. In hindsight it might have been foolish, I certainly wouldn’t dare take on such a classic now, let alone a Bowie classic but I thought we brought something to it.

Emma: Filthy McNasty’s! Yes, great club night. We did it every fortnight and THE LIBERTINES did the other weeks.

How do you think ‘Modern Industry’ was received when it finally came out in 2007? There was a loss of momentum but how did it affect the band?

Nathan: I think if we’d brought out the album in 2005 it would’ve looked very different. Maybe it would have had ten tracks on it and been a bit more cohesive, but because there was this massive gap by the time it was released, it almost became a kind of retrospective of everything we’d done over the past seven years. It ended a kind of being a “Best Of” in a way.

It was a strange period for physical formats so were you disappointed the album came out as a download only?

Nathan: That was just the way things were going. No-one in their right mind would’ve released a vinyl album in 2007. It was a time of real change and people were still adjusting to it and trying to work it all out. No ‘Smash Hits’, no ‘Top Of The Pops’, we were in a right muddle!

In 2008, you returned to being called THE MODERN again, what were your reasons?

Emma: We changed the name to MATINEE CLUB as Europa were keen to relaunch us, phoenix from the ashes, but we always felt THE MODERN suited us so we just went back to that.

THE MODERN soldiered on for a few years but then the line-up fragmented in 2010?

Chi: Nathan had much more he wanted to do musically and Emma was doing a lot of acting work so KID KASIO was born. Emma and I have carried on and Rees Bridges, our original drummer came back to us after touring with DIRTY VEGAS. We released ‘Revenge’ in 2018, many of the tracks co-written with Nathan.

‘Modern Industry’ was given an expanded reissue as a release by THE MODERN under the new title of ‘Life In A Modern World’ in 2013, what was the thinking behind this?

Chi: Pure laziness. It just took us this long to get the album in its entirety out there.

Looking back, how do you think the album as a whole stands up? Which are your own favourite tracks?

Nathan: I think all of it still stands up well. My favourites on there are ‘Seven Oceans’ and ‘Sometimes’ and I really like ‘Travelogue’ (which is just on the 2013 re-release). It’s a great set of songs and an album that I’m really proud to have been part of.

Emma: I love ‘Sometimes’. The whole album still sounds fresh to me.

Chi: ‘Questions’ and ‘Nothing Special’. I’m so proud of the whole album.

If you had your time in THE MODERN again, how differently would you have done things?

Emma: We should have released singles and album much faster as back then there was a real coming back of synth bands like THE BRAVERY, FISCHERSPOONER and GOLDFRAPP but by the time we released it, THE ARCTIC MONKEYS got out there and it all went the way of indie guitar.

Chi: Nothing I’d change. I loved it.

Nathan: Yeah same, I wouldn’t have changed anything. The touring got stressful sometimes but on the whole when I look back, I just think of the fun we had and the great songs that came out of it.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Emma Cooke, Nathan Cooper and Chi Tudor-Hart

‘Life In A Modern World’ is available now via Pie & Mash Recordings from the usual digital outlets

https://www.themodernband.com/

https://www.instagram.com/themodernofficial/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
6th August 2020

KID KASIO & KAL-Q-LUS One Chance

The video for the final single from KID KASIO’s 2015 ‘Sit & Wait’ album has an interesting back story as mainman Nathan Cooper told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK:

“Back in 1991, Lewisham Council ran a ‘Search For A Video Star’ competition.

The idea behind the initiative was to provide a platform for young local performers to showcase their talent and foster a sense of community between local musicians and the beleaguered council, who had recently had their arts funding slashed.

The ‘video’ angle set the contest apart from your run of the mill talent showcase, and tied in neatly with the launch of a local cable TV station, which was scheduled for later in the year (it never happened).

Woolworths had got on board, and a futuristic looking booth was erected in the Riverdale shopping centre and the whole affair advertised in the pages of the local Newshopper. I turned up one sunny summer morning in that July of 1991 with my friend KAL-Q-LUS clutching a cassette demo of a song we had recently recorded.

It took some persuading to let the engineer put our tape into the overdubbing machine, as most people turning up that day had been encouraged to sing over popular hits of the time, but after 20 renditions of RIGHT SAID FRED’s ‘I’m Too Sexy’ and BEVERLY CRAVEN’s ‘Promise Me’, I think he was secretly quite pleased to be hearing something different.”

“We stepped inside the booth and stood in front of the green screen as the sound of our scratchy demo drifted over the speakers. It was a shame that my mum, who had accompanied us on the day, insisted that my young cousin Toby joined us in the booth. In hindsight though it was Toby’s dancing that really stole the show that day.

As we exited the booth we were asked to choose a backdrop for the video that would be super imposed onto the green behind us. We chose a random series of acid house style patterns called something like ‘future rave’ and we headed home excitedly clutching a VHS tape of our masterpiece.

The following week the local paper printed a Top 10 of what they deemed were the best performances from the weekend of the booths stay at the Riverdale centre. We didn’t make the Top 10…”

Now some of the facts in this story may not be entirely true… but as the late and much missed Tony Wilson of Factory Records fame once said: “When forced to pick between truth and legend, print the legend.”

Directed by Ed Crofts and filmed at the synthtastically equipped Fiction Studios in Central London, this tongue-in-cheek video certainly helps perpetuate this KID KASIO myth.


Special thanks to Nathan Cooper

‘One Chance’ is from the album ‘Sit & Wait’, both are available via the usual digital platforms

http://www.kidkasio.com/

https://www.facebook.com/kidkasio/

https://twitter.com/KidKasio

https://www.instagram.com/kidkasio/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
18th June 2018

VAL SOLO Songs From Another Time… And Space

If you describe your influences as the “softer” side of synthpop and cite NIK KERSHAW, HOWARD JONES, YAZOO, HEAVEN 17, together with ABBA and ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA as your inspirations and have been making popular synth music since 1983, the good chance is that your name is VAL SOLO.

Valdi Solemo started up in Sweden in a Malmö band POP-OUT, before deciding to relocate to Bulgaria to work with some of the cream of local musicians, producing and writing there.

The music hungry sound shifter produced DR. FONKENSTEIN, before coming back home after ten years to join S.P.O.C.K. Now, VAL SOLO presents his “alone” project, with the exception of remixes from such recognised figures as Johan Baeckström of DAILY PLANET and NASA’s Patrik Henzel in charge of mastering.

‘Songs from Another Time… And Space’ can be best described as a younger brother to the UK’s own KID KASIO, where the prevailing love affair with the synth during its most prolific era is the theme.

The album cover features the music magician surrounded by good old vintage cars depicted in black and white, where Val looks into the future, preserving the feel of the times when life was simpler.

If you’re after a sophisticated, masterfully poignant electronica, you won’t find it here. If however, you’re looking for a cheery, uncomplicated and easy listening pieces to take you back in time, ‘Songs From Another Time… And Space’ are for you.

Is it the super vintage ‘Why Would You Tell Me’, the era love affair of ‘Dream Girl (Purple Eyes)’, or the ‘Star Wars’ inspired ‘Party Like A Stormtrooper’ with its synths a la AND ONE, there’s something for everyone here. The latter even bears the musical blueprint of Essex boys MODOVAR.

‘I’m In Space (Cabdriver Dreams)’ is a perfect disco track with its mantric refrain and fun execution in such a way, there’s nothing left to do but let your hair down and party.

The opening ‘Why Don’t You Talk To Me’ with its additional three remixes, notably one by Johan Baeckström, is the most accomplished number on the opus, reminiscent of YAZOO and early DEPECHE MODE.

Who says synthpop has to be serious… VAL SOLO proves that having fun isn’t a bad thing, especially in the world of today, where we are all bombarded with negativity, politics and dystopian ideas.

Solo’s “solo” is unostentatious, modest and not at all fussy. It’s music for those willing to be transported to much simpler times, with much purer ideas and uncomplicated rhythms.

‘I Believe’ it’s vital to shed the shackles of the ordinary existence and let yourselves go… “let it happen, life is just what you want it to be”.


‘Songs from Another Time… And Space’ is released by Zoolemo Music and available as a download or CD from https://valsolo.bandcamp.com

https://www.facebook.com/ValSoloPop/


Text by Monika Izabela Trigwell
6th January 2018

Vintage Synth Trumps with FICTION STUDIOS

Fiction Studios is a boutique recording studio located right in the heart of London, fully equipped for recording, mixing and mastering while also available to hire for Voiceover and ADR recording.

The studio was set up by brothers Dominic and Nathan Cooper in 2016; Cooper is best known for his role in the film adaptation of ‘Mamma Mia’ while Nathan was a member of THE MODERN and today performs as KID KASIO.

Combining Dominic’s experience in the acting field and Nathan’s background in music production, the air conditioned studio caters for bands, musicians and voiceover artists. The studio also features an array of classic analogue gear which ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK decided would be a good reason to visit and challenge Nathan Cooper to a round of Vintage Synth Trumps…

First card today and it’s a Korg Mono/Poly…

I’ve got the plug-in! My friend’s got a Mono/Poly and he swears by it, we were in a band together when we were young…

…I thought you were young? 😉

Yeah! *coughs*

His name’s Gabriel Prokofiev, we both got into synths at primary school and we’ve both built up a collection over the years. I’m quite jealous of his collection, there’s a few he’s got that I haven’t and the Mono/Poly is one of them.

What was the first synth you owned?

It depends if you want the first good one or the first keyboard? My first keyboard was a Yamaha PSS-110, I found one again recently on eBay and thought I’d buy it on a whim… it’s awful! It’s got these samples of a dog bark and cat meow and what’s supposed to be a cuckoo! *laughs*

So it was more like a toy?

Yes, so I followed that up with a Casio SK1 when I was about 10-11 which had a sampling thing in it, so that you could burp into it and play ‘Happy Birthday’ out of burps! *laughs*

But my first proper synth was when I was 14, I begged my mum to buy me what I wanted, which was a Roland Juno 60. In those days, you went to ‘Loot’ magazine… this was at a time when they were really cheap because everyone wanted a Roland D50 or Korg M1.

I would say it’s the same one I own now, but it isn’t… sadly in the early 90s, I was recording in Ezee Studios with TOYAH and MARILLION’s producer Nick Tauber.

He told me to leave the synth there as we’d be back in a couple of weeks.

But the session got put back and put back and we didn’t go back for nearly a year, so when I finally returned it was gone! I was heartbroken!

A lot of people just stared blankly when I asked where it was, we couldn’t trace where it had gone. The one I replaced it with, I’ve had now for a fair amount of time.

The Juno 60 is a robust old thing isn’t it?

Every synth I have at Fiction Studios has at some point, needed to be completely refurbished, apart from the Juno. It never goes out of tune! The only thing that ever happened to it, was when I was touring with THE MODERN and I snapped one of the keys while I was loading it back onto the van. It was after a horrific gig at an indie venue called ‘Filthy McNasty’s’ which was where THE LIBERTINES were signed, so God knows what we were doing there! *laughs*

What I really wanted was an Oberheim or a Jupiter 8, but that was out of my range, so the Juno fitted in the budget for a birthday present. I know Howard Jones used one and it was analogue so that was it.

OK, next card!! What are the chances, it’s a Juno 60!!! *laughs*

When I set up Fiction Studios, I was lucky to be loaned some of my dream synths like the Oberheim OBXa.

I also have the Prophet 5 which I saved up for ages for, but having said that, the go-to synth is still the Juno 60, it’s still used in my KID KASIO stuff more than anything else.

Maybe it’s because I know it so well and all the patches on it were programmed by me, but there’s something about the interface on it, it’s just so easy to manipulate, it does what you want it to do, to fit into the track. Having said that, you get less happy mistakes with it though. I guess because I know all the sounds on it so well, so it rarely does anything that truly surprises.

Now, here’s a monster on the next card, a Yamaha CS80!!

That’s the dream isn’t it? I’d love one! I have the Arturia softsynth version. I always think of VANGELIS, the ‘Blade Runner’ soundtrack and Stevie Wonder who used it a lot. It’s one of those synths that’s got a ‘sound’ to it with that ribbon controller.

The ribbon controller is an interesting point as the Polymoog had one too and I’m assuming that kind of controllability is very difficult to simulate using software?

Yeah, totally! It’s why I use as much hardware stuff as I can because when I’m using mod wheels, pitch bends and stuff, I’ll programme the part in MIDI and then have the part playing through the synth while tweaking it and then I’ll record the sound onto the computer, adding any kind of modulation manually.

Because you’ve got that tiny bit of human touch to it, that is what people kind of connect to.

Although it’s still synths, it’s got some human authenticity to it. You can use pitch bend and stuff with softsynths but you don’t get that same interaction. And I think that can make or break a sound sometimes.

I remember on one of my KID KASIO tracks ‘Full Moon Blue’, I was using a harmonica sound from a Yamaha DX7 but it wasn’t quite sounding right, and everyone said I needed to use a breath control; so you put this thing in your mouth and plug it into the back of the synth and it will change the sound as you blow.

I love things being electronic and mechanical but sometimes if you add something like that, it adds that human element to it. There’s something about humans AND machines.

So why set up a studio when today, someone can grab hold of a laptop, get GarageBand and do everything there? Why does anyone out there need somewhere like Fiction Studios?

Good question… because many softsynths are now based on old analogue ones, it’s got people hankering after the authentic sound, even though softsynths do a really great job.

I think most people are aware the original sounds are better, but people can’t get their hands on them and they are expensive these days; a lot of people don’t have the room for them as well.

So in the current environment where synthpop is popular, there is a market for people coming in and wanting to play around with the old synths and run their ideas through some classic analogue flagship gear. It’s nice in that sense that people can do that. Some people often just want another pair of ears so if people want me to produce something, I can listen to what they’ve done and steer it in a certain direction.

Modern music has become very inward because of home recording…

Yes, it’s become very introspective. You can get something sounding good on GarageBand and get it up to a professional level but you always need someone else, that’s why all KID KASIO albums are mixed by Adrian Hall because I need that extra pair of ears, he can hear stuff that’s clogging up the track that I’ve been too entrenched in to notice.

So that’s why a studio with an in-house engineer or producer is great to make professional sounding tracks, or they can use the synths to produce their own stuff.

How did your most recent single ‘Drive (Some Kind Of Love)’ come about?

It was inspired by the film ‘Drive’ which came out in 2011; I’d just finished doing the ‘Tamara Drew’ soundtrack with Ben Todd and ‘Drive’ really blew us both away.

We thought it would be great to write a song that could stylistically fit into the film.

We performed it live and realised it went down pretty well. So that’s why I decided to release it.

When it was being mixed, I gave Adrian some reference points which were ‘The Boys Of Summer’ by Don Henley and ‘You’re The Voice’ by John Farnham. The track had this American vibe to it which a lot of my stuff doesn’t have, my sound is very Synth Britannia but for some reason, ‘Drive (Some Kind Of Love)’ just had this MISTER MISTER element to it!

I envisaged the video being filmed on an American highway in an open top car, but it ended up being done in London with me driving around in my Reliant Scimitar classic car and the video came out ok *laughs*

Looking at Fiction Studios, I’m amazed how spacious it is… what did you have in mind when you chose this location?

It is right in the heart of London, very few studios are now, normally you have to go to the East of London or the trendier parts, this is slap bang central.

I was looking for a space with my brother and his accountants have got a firm on the fifth floor of this building. He mentioned to them he was looking for a location to set up a studio and they suggested their store room in the basement.

We came down to have a look and it was not what you would expect an accountancy firm’s store room to look… there were boxes of files but because this firm looked after actors, models and people in the entertainment industry, there was all this weird stuff there.

I was looking around and there were MTV and Nickelodean Awards for ONE DIRECTION!! The firm represented them! So there was a pile of their tour clothes and what was really sad was all their stuff that fans had given them was here!

So there was this huge great portrait of Harry Styles staring at me that some fan had spent ages drawing! And it was down there gathering dust! *laughs*

Anyway, I noticed a library area that looked something out of Hogwarts from ‘Harry Potter’ and it was set up originally as a film set but never got round to being used. They offered to move it but I said not to as I could imagine bands hanging out in this bit because it had a really nice vibe.

The brickwork and features are all fake, but the 6000 old books are real! Occasionally you’ll pick a book out and it’ll be from the 1850s. So it’s great for inspiration, and what I’ve found I’ve done recently is I’ve been tidying up, looked up at the shelves and see the spine of a book that has the title of a song I’ve just written! It’s very weird!

And there’s no curfew or restrictions on the time of day an act can use the studio?

No, people have booked Fiction Studios until very late at night and it has 24 hour concierge so you can come and go when you please.

You have your synths but you are equipped to record acoustically as well, was this important in the viability of the studio?

Yes, the drum kit has been put near the library area. I would happily just set it up as a synth studio but I was looking into this as a business, so I didn’t want to close it off and make it accessible to everyone. And it’s worked the other way, I haven’t really had enough synth acts in here! I’ve had indie bands, opera singers and everything here so it’s been really interesting *laughs*

So, time for another card, an Oberheim 2 Voice…

I haven’t got a 2 Voice but I’ve been really lucky recently to accquire an OBXa, which was one of my dream wants because I’m a big fan of Richard Barbieri from JAPAN, where they used the similar OBX and Prophet 5.

There’s just a sound about the OB series; since getting one I’ve actually come to really respect Richard Barbieri’s work because it’s not as easy as turning it on and having those sounds.

You can find them when you tweak but it’s hard, and makes me realise he was a bit of a genius when it came to that stuff. How I came to acquire it is one of those funny things, I was at a party and I got chatting to a guy called Ian Merrylees who is a TV Editor.

He said “I’ve got a few synths at home”. Now nine times out of ten with these types of conversations, it turns out the synth is a Casiotone… so I asked him what they were and he said “one’s an Oberheim” and I’m like “WHAT?”

It had been in his loft for fifteen years… so I went round to his house to have a look, and not only did he have an OBXa, but he had a Prophet T8 as well! He wanted to see them used, and he very kindly loaned them to Fiction Studios, although they needed loads of servicing… I needed about four people to carry the T8 into the car, it’s a real monster! *laughs*

What other synths do you have here at Fiction Studios?

As well at the Oberheim OBXa, Prophet 5 and Prophet T8, there’s a Crumar Performer which after the Juno 60 is my most used synth, the SH101, Yamaha DX7, Korg MS2000, Korg DS8 and a Korg Poly 800 which my band mate Chi in THE MODERN found in a skip!

My most recent addition to the synth armoury was from when Roland came down to the studio and were impressed with the look. So the deal is they will lend us anything if they can film in here every now and then, so I have been lent a Roland JDXa which Nick Rhodes of DURAN DURAN spearheads the campaign for. It has a really nice interface, it looks amazing.

It’s great for live because unlike the old analogues where you need a torch because you can’t see the controls, this has everything lit up really nicely and there are in-built effects so everything sounds nice straight out of the box.

You have two mixing desks here?

One is for bands to use when they rehearse in the live area, it’s an old Datum series made by Hill Audio who provided the desks for Live Aid.

I was keen on having an old analogue desk, so I got this Soundtracs IL36 32 channel mixer from a friend of mine who was downsizing. That’s the thing about these desks nowadays, no-one wants them, my friend just wanted it taken away, it took five people to lift it! But I love it because it’s got a great sound to the EQs, I run all my synths through it. I have a nice Focusrite pre-amp so that it sounds like those old Neve desks, it’s got a beautiful analogue sound.

I use Logic to record but if people want to use Pro-Tools, they can. I have a nice Neumann U87 microphone and an Avalon pre-amp so you can get a good vocal chain. The monitoring uses Genelec speakers so it’s all here for people if they want it.

Another card, an ARP Odyssey…

I was this close to getting the Korg remake last year and then the studio came up. So when there was the offer of these other synths and I was getting the studio set-up, I had to spend my money on other things. I’d like to get one because ULTRAVOX used it…

…you know Billy Currie’s just sold his?

Did he? Why would you sell it?

He did sell it for £8500!

Ah! That’s why you’d sell it! *laughs*

How much is the remake by Korg?

Don’t quote me on this, but I think it’s about £700 so it’s a lot cheaper than buying an old one and it’s got MIDI.

Now I see here you have a tape recorder AND a drum machine… *laughs*

The tape recorder is all rigged up and came into use recently. Dave Ball from SOFT CELL came in with some old ¼ inch tapes of demos recorded when he and Marc Almond were at Leeds Polytechnic. He wanted to find out what was on them in case there was any other stuff that hadn’t been heard before, and there was!

That was a great experience, he’s such a nice guy and one of my idols, so to sit there and go through this stuff first hand was amazing, This early stuff was almost punk and really out there lyrically, it was amazing how simplistic some of the synth lines were, that’s the beauty of them.

The Oberheim DMX was kindly donated by a friend, I must give it back to him soon as I’ve had it for about ten years *laughs*

It’s got a brilliant kick drum, snare and clap sound which I use in almost everything I do but I tend to sample it rather than use it as a drum machine.

There are modern drum machines like the Roland TR8, but most people just use software, so is there a place for drum machines in recording today?

I think there probably is, but I still use loops quite a lot. Most people will use a programme in Logic for drum sounds called Battery where you can load up whatever vintage drum machine you want and play it on the keys of a synth, layering up the percussion framework into the computer.

I like the inspiration you can get from loops, I use a company that supplies them and you can pick one out by year. When you buy a particular year like say 1982, they send you a pack of a hundred loops played on the popular drum machines of that year in various tempos and stuff. So what I invariably do is use that as a basis and layer the sounds up with real ones from the DMX or a sample from a 12 inch single. The great thing about the DMX is that you can open it up and tune up each drum to the song via the dials inside.

When it comes to using a drum machine to programme, it’s quite fiddly and you end up recording it back into the computer anyway, so it’s a bit pointless. But it is nice to have it hands on.

Final card, it’s the Polymoog…

People say I haven’t got any Moogs in the studio but they’re one of those makes that I never got into.

I want one, partly because Howard Jones had a Moog Prodigy but when I was young, I always associated Moog with the more proggy end of music and it sort of put me off *laughs*

It’s funny because RODNEY CROMWELL admits he’s “a Moog Snob”

I guess it’s the difference between 1977-1980 which is more the lo-fi era of electronics where he comes from musically, while my stuff fits more into the more later end of synthpop 1982-1983…

Ah, the digitally stabilised analogue period…

Yeah, exactly *laughs*

Having said that, if anyone wants to donate a Moog synth? I do have all the Moog plug-ins but it’s just been one of those things.

So what are you up to at the moment musically?

Apart from producing an array of acts here at Fiction, I’m planning the video to the final release from my KID KASIO ‘Sit & Wait’ album. It’s going to be made up of old footage of me in bands from the 90s.

Also I’m putting the final touches to an EP of cover versions I’m releasing next year. And busy writing and recording for my third KID KASIO album.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Nathan Cooper and Fiction Studios

Fiction Studios is based at 22-24 Ely Place, London EC1N 6TE United Kingdom – for further information, please phone +44(0) 207 831 8177 or visit their website at http://www.fictionstudioslondon.com/

https://www.facebook.com/fictionstudioslondon/

https://twitter.com/fiction_studios

https://www.instagram.com/fictionstudios/

Vintage Synth Trumps is a card game by GForce that features 52 classic synthesizers


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
18th August 2017, updated 11th February 2021

DNA: The Legacy of A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS

Out of all the British bands to emerge from the post-punk era, Liverpool’s A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS made one of the most lasting impacts on modern popular culture.

Noted by lead singer and keyboardist Mike Score’s outlandish hairdo, his distinctive bonce was sent up on ‘The Wedding Singer’ and ‘Friends’. Meanwhile, Samuel L Jackson’s “YOU! FLOCK OF SEAGULLS!” line from ‘Pulp Fiction’ in reference to an assassination target’s hairstyle was appropriated by the music press to mock the band!

But A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS have a musical legacy too. In 1983, they won a ‘Best Rock Instrumental Performance’ Grammy Award for the track ‘DNA’, at a time when The Second British Invasion had still yet to fully take hold in an America still drunk on TOTO and JOURNEY!

Then in 2005, THE MODERN released a single entitled ‘Industry’ which bore more than a passing resemblance to ‘The More You Live, The More You Love’. According to band member Nathan Cooper, better known these days as KID KASIO, this was purely accidental: “We didn’t realise until halfway through the promotional tour for it. We were doing an interview for a little radio station in Sheffield and the presenter pointed it out and played both back to back!!!! We were speechless and a bit embarrassed… the verse for both songs is almost EXACTLY the same!!”

Then bizarrely, the poacher met the gamekeeper!

“We actually supported them years later” remembered Cooper, “we were so embarrassed, we were going to drop ‘Industry’ from our set! But in the end, I just went up to Mike Score and explained it and said ‘I’m really sorry, it was unintentional’. He was really lovely about it”. THE MODERN weren’t the only ones mining the Seagull Songbook.

In 2007, MARSHEAUX borrowed the main riff from ‘Space Age Love Song’ for their ‘Dream Of A Disco’, often thought of as the Greek synth maidens’ signature song. Indeed, imitation can be the sincerest form of flattery…

Mike Score unsurprisingly trained as a hairdresser, but music was where his ambitions lay. Joining forces with his drummer brother Ali and bassist Frank Maudsley, they rehearsed as a three-piece and began writing songs along the way. But it was not until after the recruitment of guitarist Paul Reynolds that things began to gain momentum.

By late 1979, Merseyside had become a hot bed of emerging musical talent with acts such as ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN, THE TEARDROP EXPLODES, DEAD OR ALIVE, WAH! HEAT, CHINA CRISIS and OMD. But with their Sci-Fi songs and penchant for dressing up as spacemen, A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS never fitted in with their local contemporaries.

So one could imagine the reaction of Mac The Mouth and Droolian when Mike Score and Co were the the first of the gang to break America when their eponymous debut album reached No75 in the US charts on the back of ‘Telecommunication’, a Bill Nelson produced song from it, becoming a No1 US Dance hit!

A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS had got their original break when Bill Nelson produced and released their debut single ‘(It’s Not Me) Talking’ for his Cocteau label in 1981. But it was with their fourth single ‘I Ran’ that they first nestled just outside the UK Top40. With an echoing guitar kick, this was futuristic synthesized rock along the lines of ULTRAVOX that crucially became a US Top10 in the Billboard Hot 100.

The embracement from America came via MTV; Mike Score’s memorable back combed hair style and the band’s unusual appearance appealed to a college demographic which was tiring of permed long hair and blue denim. With a sound that combined enough conventional rawk guitar to have mainstream appeal while adding a spacey sheen with prominent synths, A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS were onto a winning formula.

Produced by Mike Howlett, who also steered OMD, BLANCMANGE and CHINA CRISIS to chart success, ‘A Flock Of Seagulls’ was a concept album of sorts about an alien invasion that featured ‘I Ran’, ‘Space Age Love Song’ and ‘Telecommunication’, plus other great tracks such as ‘Modern Love Is Automatic, ‘Messages’ and the Grammy Award winning ‘DNA’.

Also produced by Howlett except for the album’s closer ‘(It’s Not Me) Talking’, ‘Listen’ released in 1983 made an even bigger impact, thanks to the song many consider to be A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS’ crowning glory, ‘Wishing (I Had A Photograph Of You)’.

With a percussively clanky backbone and using just black keys for its infectious melody line, it was the big home hit that A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS has been waiting for. Further singles ‘Nightmares’ and ‘Transfer Affection’ were good but did not reach quite the same heights, although that mattered little as at this point, the quartet were one of the most heavily rotated acts on MTV.

Their third album ‘The Story Of A Young Heart’ in 1984 was the beginning of the artistic and sales decline, although the lead single’ ‘The More You Live, The More You Love’ was classic A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS in the vein of ‘Space Age Love Song’.

By the time of the fifth long player ‘Dream Come True’, Reynolds had left the band as the remaining threesome settled into their new base of Philadelphia, but A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS had lost that distinctly British edge that made them so appealing to the US in the first place.

‘Heartbeat Like A Drum’ was a passable watered down digital pop song of a period when British acts like OMD and THE HUMAN LEAGUE were chasing the American dollar, but the Hi-NRG paced ‘Who’s That Girl (She’s Got It)’ was poor and the beginning of the end. By 1986, the Score brothers had fallen out and A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS had disbanded.

The legacy of A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS has now been bolstered by a new compilation on Cherry Pop with the self-explanatory title of ‘Remixes & Rarities’. Featuring most of the band’s singles in radio edit and extended format, it also acts as a document to some of the more hidden experiments of the band, and how popular music was changing under the spectre of MTV and club culture.

There were rumours that while ‘Dream Come True’ was being recorded, A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS were turning into a Mike Score solo act. Two lengthy instrumentals ‘The Last Flight Of Yuri Gagarin’ and ‘Rosenmontag’ that featured on the flip of ‘Nightmares’ certainly give the impression that this was starting to be the case, even back then. Having not been included on Cherry Pop’s album reissues, this pair of collage curios certainly haven’t been missed… also not much cop is the rather badly put together ‘Single Medley’.

Much better though are the nine minute version of ‘Wishing (I Had A Photograph Of You)’, an edit of its B-side ‘Committed’ and the extended remix of ‘Never Again (The Dancer)’ which comes over like OMD but with more guitar.

The ‘Full Moon Mix’ of ‘The More You Live, The More You Love’ fairs less well, being one of those horrid dub styled reworks that were prevalent from 1984 onwards and which featured very little of the actual song!

An assortment of live versions fill the remainder of this compendium and these recordings act as a reminder that despite the exposure on MTV, it was actually A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS’ ability as a live band and a willingness to tour as support to the likes of bigger acts such as GENESIS, THE POLICE and THE GO-GO’S in the US that cemented their success. A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS continue to play live today with Mike Score being the sole remaining original member.

While he might no longer have his hair or his Scouse accent, ‘Remixes & Rarities’ is evidence that despite how they were derided in their own country and have been sent up by popular culture, A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS have a significant number of great songs in their back catalogue that worldwide audiences still want to hear.

And not many bands actually get to achieve that…


With thanks to Matt Ingham at Cherry Red

‘Remixes & Rarities’ is released by Cherry Pop as a double CD set on 24th March 2017, pre-order from https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/remixes-rarities-deluxe-2cd-edition

The albums ‘A Flock Of Seagulls’, ‘Listen’, ‘The Story Of A Young Heart’ and ‘Dream Come True’ are all still available on CD via Cherry Pop https://www.cherryred.co.uk/artist/a-flock-of-seagulls/

http://www.aflockofseagulls.org

https://www.facebook.com/seagullsrunning

https://twitter.com/seagullsrunning


Text by Chi Ming Lai
11th March 2017

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