Tag: La Roux (Page 1 of 2)

RUSTY EGAN Interview

Photo by Adam Szigeti

The one thing that Rusty Egan is not short of is something to say…

It makes him the most ideal guest for talk events and ‘An Audience with Rusty Egan’ returns to London this June for a fun couple of hours in the animated company of The Blitz Club DJ and VISAGE drummer.

Loud and frank, not always subtle and occasionally angry, but always interesting and lively, his anecdotes combine laughter, tears and a vivid eye-witness account of his role as a catalyst in popular culture over the past four decades.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK had originally met up with Rusty Egan for what was intended to be a 10 minute chat to obtain quotes for a mooted Beginner’s Guide listings article but one hour later, the interview ended and only because he had a soundcheck to do for a DJ slot at Blow Up.

The resultant career spanning conversation over several cups of tea was far too enthusiastic, amusing and informative not to make public, so this is Rusty talking, with only a few edits to stop him from going to jail…

How did VISAGE come together in 1978?

Midge Ure and I had some demo time left over after THE RICH KIDS’ demise and EMI let us have Manchester Square Studios.

We got Barry Adamson and Dave Formula from MAGAZINE, Midge and me in, during that time we did ‎’If You Want Me To Stay’, ‘In The Year 2525’, ‘The Dancer’ and ‘Eve Of Destruction’, I can’t remember much about that last one as I wasn’t a fan, it was something Steve Strange wanted.

Photo by Sheila Rock

So ‘In The Year 2525’ and ‘The Dancer’ were among the first VISAGE recordings?

We did ‘In The Year 2525’ in half a day, but it was an example of the future sound of London you could call it, it was an example of what we wanted to do, as was ‘The Dancer’.

These were demos for what became VISAGE but were turned down by EMI! ‘In The Year 2525’ was just me and Midge with him doing vocals and vocoder.

We were keeping it simple and all that but it was heavily influenced by KRAFTWERK. I had my CR78 Compurhythm and drum triggering while there was that Morse codey type intro. I loved it and I think still sounds great today, although some people hate it!

‘The Dancer’ was obviously influenced by NEU! as you can hear from my drums and a little bit of ‘One Of These Days’ by PINK FLOYD, we wanted that “sccchhiiiing!” and that was one of our trademarks. As Midge was doing guitar and John McGeoch played the sax.

How come ‘‎If You Want Me To Stay’ was made during those early VISAGE sessions with Ronny singing it?

I met Ronny in Paris, she was very androgynous and she had a low voice so people were going “is it a boy, is it a girl?”. I had this song in mind, Barry Adamson absolutely loved Sly Stone and at the time, we were being VISAGE. We knocked out as much as we could, as fast as we could.

I adored that record and we had an instrumental flipside. It had a lounge type concept like ‘Cracked Actor’; we literally played it live, got it going and pressed record. I bought the Swan Vestas to have the sound of the cigarette match burning.

Ronny later met Warren Cann who then introduced her to Hans Zimmer who he was working with in HELDEN at the time. Then through them, she met Vangelis and then Peter Godwin, so her whole creative life opened up. We remained friends and I’d often see her in clubs but as far as recording went, she was doing her own thing.

You spent a period playing drums with THE SKIDS in 1979?

There’s a hell of a lot of intricate drumming on THE SKIDS, when you talk about the NEU! drumming, I was trying to be a Motorik drummer. So on ‘Charade’, I got this CR78 drum machine banging away and the producer Bill Nelson, who did a great track called ‘Living In My Limousine’, he loved working with them.

So you influenced Bill Nelson’s later use of drum machines in his work?

Yes, I worked quite closely with him on the production of ‘Days In Europa’ at Rockfield Studios in Wales.

DALEK I LOVE YOU were in the next studio, I lent them my drum machine. Funnily enough at the same time, SIMPLE MINDS were in the rehearsal room there!

So I’m stuck in Wales and going “Who’s here? Oh SIMPLE MINDS in the farmhouse!”, so we all got to hang out with each other as there was nothing else to do on a farm.

Want to know why the album is called ‘Days In Europa’? THE SKIDS had a hit in Germany and we were on a TV show called ‘Scene 79’ in Munich… it always happens to me but they only had one drum kit in the studio! It’s a live mimed show, MOTORHEAD were on before us and Philthy Animal Taylor wanted ALL the drums.

So I’m waiting for the kit to be moved from MOTORHEAD’s stage and the announcer goes “Und jetzt DER SKIDS!”… I’ve not even got my f***ing drum kit and I’m standing there like “great!”, the track’s already started and the roadies are bringing me the kit but it’s a live show! *laughs*

You got involved with the New Romantic mime troupe SHOCK and recorded a cover of ‘Angel Face’ backed with ‘R.E.R.B.’ for their first single in 1980?

When VISAGE was recording demos etc, I found out Midge had a professional relationship with some 70s pop writers Bill Martin and Phil Coulter who were involved with SLIK, the bottom line is this led him to know John Hudson who worked with THE GLITTER BAND and owned Mayfair Studios. I thought “Brilliant, I don’t have to go to Wales”

We sat in the control room talking, I loved THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s cover of ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll’ and said I wanted a sound like that clap, so John went round the back and got these two floorboards with some door handles and clapped them together, that’s how they the claps did those records! I said I’d like to do this sound but with computers and triggered drums.

I said I could make a track with this trademark sound but without physically playing anything. So I told him I knew this bloke called Richard Burgess who had been doing the linking interludes on the VISAGE album and had that massive Roland System 700 modular with the Micro-composer. Richard had a Fairlight as well, he seemed to be able to get access to all this stuff via the tech companies.

Basically Richard was my tech guy, he’d got hold of Dave Simmons and got me a deal on only the brain of the synthesized drum system they were working on, cos they hadn’t got the pads as they hadn’t been made yet. He said I could trigger them which is how I got the drum fills on ‘R.E.R.B.’

So basically, doing ‘Angel Face’ was the catalyst for ‘R.E.R.B.’?

We programmed the whole thing to do a cover of ‘Angel Face’ first at Mayfair and John Hudson said “You know I can get hold of Gerry Shephard who wrote the song”, so he came along and helped us with the backing vocals… and the lead vocals! *laughs*

Meanwhile, Robert Pereno from SHOCK did ‘Top Of The Pops’ as a member of TIGHT FIT for that ‘Back To The 60s’ medley before ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’!

You know that Tim Friese-Greene produced ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ and it was when Mark Hollis heard that, he got him to work with TALK TALK?

REALLY? Well, the sound of that was amazing! Anyway I haven’t finished!! *laughs*

So we’re talking about SHOCK, and “R.E.” Rusty Egan and “R.B.” Richard Burgess… so we had this 7 inch and 12 inch record of ‘Angel Face’ done, John went to RCA and said they loved it and would put it out, but we needed a B-side. So I quickly threw up ‘Angel Face’ and took off all the vocals and things, me and Richard sat at the piano to do that “da-da-dah” theme. I wanted to call it ‘The Red Bridge’ because it was in Luxembourg and has the most beautiful view, I had been there with Brigitte who was the girl’s voice on ‘Fade To Grey’, I wanted to get this feeling of European grandeur but we ran out of time to do any words. So ‘R.E.R.B.’ came out of ‘Angel Face’.

Now if you go back to THE SKIDS, on the album track ‘Animation’, the closing track of ‘Days Of Europa’ is ‘Animation’ backwards, but with the drums put forwards while Stuart Adamson and Richard Jobson wrote another song over it, but it was the basically same backing track. So I had this idea that you could do music over another one, so that’s what we did on ‘R.E.R.B’ with a new melody and those signature drums.

Your first remix was ‘ Burundi Black’…

It was 1980 and I’m DJing in a club. I knew Marco Pirroni from ADAM & THE ANTS and they dropped this record ‘Kings Of The Wild Frontier’ and I knew it was the Burundi drums. So I said to my then partner Jean-Philippe Iliesco who produced SPACE about wanting to get hold of it and he said he knew Eddie Barclay of Barclay Records who had released it.

So he called him and got the multi-tracks for me. I just wanted the drums on their own with the tribe and no music, then I added a drum machine and some playing, I wanted this tribal feel and the future together.

I don’t believe I did a great job on that to be honest… it’s funny but recently Mark Reeder released an album ‘Mauerstadt’ and as I was listening to it, I noticed one track ‘Giant Mushrooms’ was like that, I heard the Burundi sample and loved it. I mentioned it to Mark and said “Oh, you sampled Burundi” but he replied he’d sampled someone who’d sampled Burundi! *laughs*

And that’s the world of sampling now! I might come back to that you know, I’ve got an idea based on what you can do today.

Let’s talk about ‘Yellow Pearl’…

If I’m not mistaken, ‘Yellow Pearl’ was a track that Midge was working on for the VISAGE album but hadn’t got past the drum machine stage. But I had done the break in a rehearsal room somewhere with him that lodged in his head.

After Midge did the THIN LIZZY tour, Phil Lynott came to The Blitz Club and heard the sounds there so when he was doing his solo album, he said he wanted me in on the drums. I did a few songs like ‘Kathleen’ which were very normal. Then I got this call back from Midge that Phil wanted me to do ‘Yellow Pearl’ and use that break. So I said “yeah”, turned up and I did that. Then Midge’s manager showed up with a single piece of paper and asked me to sign my life away so I did, then it got on ‘Top Of The Pops’ as the theme and I was a bit p*ssed off because I’d signed my life away!

SPACE are most famous for ‘Magic Fly’ and you did a remix of a later single ‘Tender Force’…

When I get a remix, I don’t necessarily want to put Rusty all over it, I just like something a lot and I feel that I can shine a light on it.

If you get a song which you like that didn’t make it, sometimes a remix can bring people’s attention to the original and people go “I heard this version by Rusty which I didn’t like, but then I found the original”. So I did timbale drumming cos when you’re a drummer, why don’t you do some drums?

SPACE introduced me to Didier Marouani and Jannick Top who were exceptional musicians, I thought these guys were amazing. Through them, I got on really well with Roland Romanelli and I programmed everything on his solo album ‘Connecting Flight’ which was very pioneering.

So what was ‘Do What Ya Wanna Do’ by THE CAGE featuring Nona Hendryx ‎all about?

I’d got myself a TR808 by now, I had this beat and sequence to make people dance so I’m playing around with it and thought “why don’t I do T-CONNECTION but totally electro?”, it could sound like ‘I Feel Love’. I called up Gary Barnacle who played with SOFT CELL, he brought his bass playing brother Steve and we had this little Casio out for the break, there’s this 64 bar build with the percussion before I smash a light bulb, it was literally hitting fire extinguishers, bashing everything. It was great, I was grabbing everything in the studio, bits of wood…

Through my trips to New York, I’d known Nona Hendryx was session singing having been in LABELLE who did ‘Lady Marmalade’. So Vicki Wickham who managed Dusty Springfield and Nona suggested having her on the track. It was this time that I met producer John Luongo who had remixed THE JACKSONS, so it was all about dance music for me as The Camden Palace was about to open and had the biggest sound system in the world.

The final classic VISAGE track ‘I’m Still Searching’ was moody but still very New York…

It was actually just me and Steve, mostly me although I did credit the other members of VISAGE because at the time, I didn’t believe we had split up, the fact that they weren’t there was irrelevant. VISAGE was always about a group of people where some show up and some can’t like John McGeoch, but he was still a member. So we had to do a B-side…

It’s unusual in that it was a VISAGE B-side that had a vocal…

Yeah, it was just one finger on the synth…

It sounded a bit like PET SHOP BOYS…

I’d never heard of PET SHOP BOYS back then in 1982…

Well that’s cos they didn’t exist at the time! *laughs*

HA HA!

Ok, so what’s the story about your UK remix of MADONNA’s ‘Everybody’?

I’ve been recently linking and tweeting over the years about how upset I am about this, but the reason I’m upset is based on my knowledge of Blockchain and how in the future, musicians will ALL be paid, there will be none of this not paying people and all the b*llocks that the music industry loves…

So the bottom line is we did a verbal agreement in New York that I would remix the track for Warner Bros that needed a British introduction. Basically at the time, you could make it easier in England than you could in America.

Was this a thing you sorted with Seymour Stein of Sire Records who were part of the Warners set-up?

Yes, I did a lot with Seymour, I gave him SOFT CELL whose publishing I looked after, B-MOVIE, the ‘Batcave: Young Limbs And Numb Hymns’ compilation album, we did a lot.

Everything was agreed and we put her on at The Haçienda in Manchester, that would introduce her to ‘cool’ England, the tune would be cool and I think it did the job, the press were all over it. I think I did a great mix and you can find it online. If you go to madonna.com there is information on it even though it’s not credited “Rusty Egan”, it says “UK mix” but that IS the Rusty Egan mix. I only played my mix at The Camden Palace, all the time…

So what did you do specifically on your mix that was different to make it more UK friendly?

I gave it a lot more space, it was more on vocals and guitar because I liked that rhythm thing like on ‘The Anvil’ plus I especially liked the talking. I think the regular MADONNA version is a pop song and I made it more of a seductive groove in a club, I extended the breaks, I put echoes and delays on the vocals and brought it right up.

So, let’s enter ‘The Twilight Zone’…

I had an agreement with Warner Chappell and each project they turned down, this was a Warner movie and a classic theme, I did not want to use the main theme, just the well-known sequence adding all the rest myself, bassline and string stabs and percussion. Rob Dickens of Warners came to the studio and said he would not accept the mix unless I edited in the main orchestral and organ theme. So it was released like that as ‘The Twilight Zone’, RUSTY 1 on Warner Bros Records.

That tw*t John Pitcher of MRC who stole VISAGE, ‘R.E.R.B’ and Blitz Club Records then added it to a compilation ‘Trevor Jackson ‎– Metal Dance 2: Industrial New Wave EBM Classics & Rarities 79-88’. But what Trevor did was edit out the main theme back to what I submitted, so it’s all me.

TIME ZONE ‘Wild Style’, you’ve reclaimed this one…

The story is I heard this band called YELLO and I was invited by Ian Tregoning of their label Do It Records to meet them. There was this place on the way by train where these blokes SUPERSEMPFT had made a record I liked, so we went to their studio. I sampled all these records by BLANCMANGE and KRAFTWERK into a beat, programmed the drum machine, played the bass on the Moog and did all the pieces in one night.

I had a cassette of it and went on my journey to meet YELLO, but when I got back, I sent it to Celluloid Records in New York who released a lot of French electronic music I was liking like MATHÉMATIQUES MODERNE, the French seemed to like quite odd records at the time. Anyway, next thing I know, Afrika Bambaataa loves it and suggested we go 50:50 as I’d done the music.

But over the years, people online I’ve never heard of who have claimed they wrote it by logging into this publishing database, I didn’t know about that… in 1993, Todd Terry made a record called ‘My Definition Wild Style’, all he did was take the B-side of the record and added a nice beat, that was it! We don’t mind that BUT what we mind is he claimed he wrote the f***ing thing! I was furious, then a load of other blokes claimed they wrote it, so I had to get Notting Hill Music to say 100% written by Rusty Egan and all the others can F*** OFF! But they’d all been paid for 20 years!

Anyway, I reworked it for ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’ as ‘Wonderwerke’ because I kept saying in German “Was ist das? Ein Wonderwerke?”, so I’ve reclaimed it from Todd Terry!

To continue the German connection, what about when you worked with German act HONGKONG SYNDIKAT in 1984?

These guys sampled Ronald Reagan’s speech in Berlin for a track called ‘Berlin Bleibt Doch Berlin’ and they did this beat. I met with Gerd Plez from HONGKONG SYNDIKAT, he played me the demos for the next album and I suggested mixing it at my Trident Studios and adding overdubs. We did this song ‘Divided By’ which was literally a pocket calculator that went “9-8-7, 7-8-9, divided by-divided by”, it was hard, maybe too hard.

Then there was a song called ‘Too Much’, I introduced him recently to HP Hoeger and the chill out mix has ended up on a few ‘Buddha Bar’ albums.

Now, you formed THE SENATE and released ‘The Original Sin’…

Yeah, with Kirk Brandon… well, ‘The Original Sin’ was the one everyone says is about Kirk’s friendship with Boy George. Now the other day on The Blitz Club Facebook group, there’s a picture of Kirk Brandon which the poster labelled “closet”, what a f***ing thing to write? Don’t forget, The Blitz was a place where people who were unsure of their sexuality could go to.

While it wasn’t a gay club, you had to be open-minded so why do we have people on The Blitz Club Facebook group talking like a homophobic thug?

Well it’s rather like electronic music fans who are into KRAFTWERK ‘Europe Endless’ and ULTRAVOX ‘New Europeans’ but being staunchly pro-Brexit…

Yes, so basically this song is Kirk admitting that Boy George was a beautiful boy, as was Marilyn, and about when you’re 19-20 years old and you are unsure of your sexuality. We loved that “is it a boy, is it a girl?” time and when I heard that lyric “since you came into my life, I had to rearrange my heart”, boy did Kirk have a voice and I wanted to have this orchestrated epicness behind it, but I think I went way over the top!

Was THE SENATE meant to be a limited project?

Yes, it was one-off, me and Kirk were mates and I’d produced SPEAR OF DESTINY, ‘Mickey’ is a classic and featured Anne Dudley on strings.

PULSE’s cover version of LED ZEPPELIN ‘Whole Lotta Love’, you were having a hit again…

This was 1988, on the bottom of the rear artwork, it says “Every generation has a musical revolution…” and I was part of the 1980 musical revolution. But I was sitting in the Island Records office, working as a friend for U2 on a little salary, I’d lost my wife, my home, my car so basically I’m losing it, 80% of the people at Island were into DEACON BLUE and I was at my lowest ebb! It really wasn’t happening, I liked THE CHRISTIANS and SHRIEKBACK but I was desperately looking for something.

I knew Paul Oakenfold and all these DJs that had come to The Camden Palace so I thought to myself “something is going to happen musically to get me out of this”. But in the meantime, it wasn’t house as it hadn’t arrived yet, electro and techno had probably peaked.

I did this psychedelic record sleeve and I just thought of Robert Plant, so I had this idea of doing ‘Whole Lotta Love’ with Tracy Ackerman from SHAKATAK on vocals, an amazing singer.

Dave Robinson who was Stiff Records but now Island MD at that time was linked with Trevor Horn cos of FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD.

So I was invited down to Sarm Studios and they offered to let me use it, so we made that! Then U2 released it on their Son Records imprint…

Ah yes, Son Records released that novelty Country & Western cover of ‘The Fly’ by THE JOSHUA TRIO and ‘Riverdance’…

And again, I never got paid! *laughs*

So it all ended for a few decades but you came back with a club remix of FILTHY DUKES ‘Messages’ in 2009…

I think it’s f***ing great that mix! The late Mick Clark who signed SOUL II SOUL suggested I remix so they put me in this studio with all the parts of FILTHY DUKES, but of course I hadn’t been in one for 20 years so didn’t know what to do, it was all computerised! So I’m there with this guy Sie Medway-Smith who I was told had remixed DEPECHE MODE and I was like “WHAT?”… they said he was the right guy for me.

BUT, when you go back into the studio for the first time in ages and don’t really know how it works anymore, you tend to let other people do things and then say “I don’t like it”… but when you say “I don’t like it”, it tends to go down like nails down a blackboard! So what happened with him was he went “well, this is how it works mate!”

I just wanted it simple and I did all the synths, but everything about it was an argument! Sie Medway-Smith was way advanced and in-demand so acted like he was doing me a favour, I couldn’t p*ss him off!

So there’s this interesting side-story with LA ROUX…

Because of that mix, through Mick Clark I got the chance to see and remix LA ROUX. I went to the Notting Hill Arts Club and I heard ‘Bulletproof’. So I went back to Sie and said “I want to do this!”, but he went “it’s f***ing rubbish Rusty”! Sie pulled up the lead vocal and said “it’s terrible” and I was like “IT’S NOT! IT’S A POP SONG!”, so we basically had this argument. I’m trying to do a remix and he’s literally downing tools, doing anything to avoid finishing it! *laughs*

I was powerless cos I don’t know what to do, so we get like a half finished version to Mick Clark who said “it’s good but it’s not right and you’ve missed the deadline, they’ve gone for some drum ‘n’ bass guy and it’s blowing up!”…. I had to ask what that meant!! I was so angry! You can hear it on my Soundcloud.

Fast forward to 2014 and you do this mash-up with Antony Toga on TINY MAGNETIC PETS ‘Control Me’?

I search for stuff all the time and I found ‘Control Me’, I thought it was brilliant although the drums were sh*t, so I knew Antony Toga and his adaptation of ‘Seconds’ by THE HUMAN LEAGUE so I mashed them together and sent it to the band. I said “I think you’re great and I love your songs but you need to sort your drums out”…

Funnily enough, I said the same to them after I first saw them live in Düsseldorf 2015…

It was only supposed to be an idea, but TINY MAGNETIC PETS made a video and uploaded it saying I did it but it wasn’t me as such. They left it as it is but I suggested they contact Antony Toga to make sure he didn’t mind. They do this version live…

Some of your most high profile remixes recently were for U2?

I had always been a U2 fan, but I lost it around ‘How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb’. I hadn’t really reconnected to their new music, their first five albums were classic as most people I think would agree, although I did like ‘Beautiful Day’.

But I reconnected on this new album ‘Songs Of Experience’, I felt it had a message and that message was love. It had vocoders, synthesizers and I thought “this isn’t your rock ‘n’ roll’, I would love to do something with this”.

So I wrote to U2 asking if I could remix them, not realising 20 other DJs had already done so. They sent me a link and they were HORRIBLE, sh*tty terrible EDM! I asked to do ‘Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way’ which I did with HP Hoeger, one without drums, one with drums and one in the style of ‘In The Air Tonight’ by Phil Collins.

NOW, we all know ‘In The Air Tonight’ is a Roland CR78 drum machine, it’s got this sound but I just wanted to put a beat on it, which I programmed on a plug-in. I sent it to the band and they loved this version but wanted more guitars on, so it became like the ‘band’ mix. But the Chill mix without the drums is my preferred mix…

U2 go with the ‘band’ mix which is not the one I love, but then this well-known remixer from Holland, Ben Liebrand is on YouTube and Soundcloud going “RUSTY EGAN HAS STOLEN MY DRUMS!”, so I’m like “what?”… I searched and found he had remixed a version of ‘In The Air Tonight’ in 1988, I listened to it and went “OH F*CK! It sounds like the same thing!”, but then that’s because it’s the same drum machine!

Anyway, when you Google “Drums In The Air Tonight Phil Collins”, there’s all these YouTube tutorials going “Hi! Whassup? Today we’re going to show you how to programme the ‘In The Air Tonight’ drums”… I was like “Hang on Ben Liebrand, there’s 25 guys here who can programme the ‘In The Air Tonight’, I DIDN’T do ‘In The Air Tonight’, I did U2 and used the same f***ing drum machine! There is no ‘In The Air Tonight’ drums on it, it is just SOUND!”

But using a drum sound is not like nicking a bit off an actual song…

That’s right! So if you want to get into that, I made THE ART OF NOISE drum sound! I’d brought JJ Jeczalik who did ABC into my studio, I paid him £500 to press all these buttons on a Fairlight as none of us knew how to work it, he took my sound and he had a band of his own called THE ART OF NOISE!

Was that the VISAGE ‘Beat Boy’ drum sound?

YES! You can tell ‘Beat Boy’ and THE ART OF NOISE are the same sound! We made it before! *laughs*

If Ben Liebrand had written to me privately about the similarity or whatever, we could have handled it in an “oh my god, I didn’t realise” manner. ‘Yellow Pearl’ IS my drum sound, people when they listen to music always go “oh, it sounds like…”

Let’s talk about ‘Thank You’, the closing track on your album ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’…

‘Thank You’ is as it is, I just believe a lot of people should say “thank you” but they don’t… so I felt when I made my album, my career and everything that I am is because of that list of people.

And even if in there I thank Nikonn who worked with me on that album and I clashed with, or people that I disagreed with, it’s about the music. I even end it poignantly by saying “VISAGE”, regardless of any problems or issues that I had with Steve Strange, I am still immensely proud of the music I made with VISAGE, so I am very upset when it is imitated or faked as anybody would be…


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Rusty Egan

‘Welcome To The Remix’ + ‘Welcome To The Beach’ are released by Black Mosaic in digital formats, both available from https://rustyeganpresents1.bandcamp.com/

http://rustyegan.net/

https://www.facebook.com/rusty.egan/

https://twitter.com/DJRustyEgan

https://www.instagram.com/rustyegan/

https://soundcloud.com/rusty-egan

https://www.mixcloud.com/rustyegan/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
20th April 2019

HEARTBREAK Interview

When London based electronic disco duo HEARTBREAK first appeared, they prided themselves on being “kind of how the 80s would sound today if the 90s hadn’t got in the way”. 

Fronted by the charismatic Argentinian vocalist Sebastian Muravchik and backed by Chester-born producer Ali Renault’s dramatic heavy metal electro where guitars were substituted for a Roland SH101, they somehow managed to mix BLACK SABBATH with Italo Disco.

This incongruous cocktail came together in a sinister but joyous manner that would “make the world dance with tears in their eyes, like bi-polar maniacs on the brink of an ecstatic panic attack!”.

Anthemic songs such as ‘Destroy All Power’ and ‘My Tears Electro’ put HEARTBREAK alongside WHITE LIES, LITTLE BOOTS and LA ROUX in the promising synthy school of 2008, with the duo touring with the latter two. However, despite these well-received live performances, HEARTBREAK went into hiatus with just one album ‘Lies’ to their name.

But in keeping with their best known song ‘We’re Back’, Sebastian Muravchik and Ali Renault have announced an unexpected return with a reunion gig at The Moth Club in London’s Hackney for Hypnotic Tango with ITALOCONNECTION, the production team featuring Italo legend Fred Ventura.

The duo kindly chatted about what has been happening over the last few years within the HEARTBREAK camp and what they might have planned for the future.

One of the influences in HEARTBREAK was Italo Disco which is now being reappraised in a more positive light with documentaries like ‘Italo Disco Legacy’. How did you come to discover and love it?

Seb and Ali: It was always there, from childhood. It was big both in Italy where Ali lived and in Buenos Aires as well, where Seb is from. But then of course Ferenc drew attention to it through the CBS and then IFM, and here DJ Casionova made us realise this was more than music, it was a mission. It was always there and always will be; to quote Casionova: “Italo is forever”.

Your signature song ‘We’re Back’ is proving to be quite prophetic?

Seb and Ali: In many ways, yes. Back then there were a few nights in the country pushing the sound, but it was mostly ignored in the UK, as it had been for decades since its inception. These days it seems to be a fairly well established scene.

For instance Fred Ventura is a regular visitor here these days, and we’ll be lucky enough to share the bill again with him on the 15th.

Salvatore also managed to finally DJ here a few times before his extremely untimely passing – credit the classic Cyber Dance crew for a lot of this.

There was a certain hypocrisy towards Italo Disco in the UK despite it being an important aspect of PET SHOP BOYS and NEW ORDER?

Seb and Ali: You bet. Italo in the UK carries political weight, in a similar understated way to how Disco was political in the US during the 70s. I think in that sense it is more relevant now than it ever was before.

Another element of HEARTBREAK was the heavy electronic sound and also being very energetic live…

Seb and Ali: Metal was and is very important to us as an influence in a variety of ways.

We called it Metallo, but you know, as soon as we define our work as something we seem to immediately move in a different direction.

Nevertheless, from classic metal like Sabbath and so on through Thrash and into Death Metal, themes, energy and attitude influence what we do – we also greatly admire the scene’s endurance and its uncompromising artistic stance.

Why did the HEARTBREAK hiatus happen in the first place?

Seb and Ali: Love tore us apart.

What did you both do during the break?

Seb: I wrote and produced the SNS album and toured with the band, and also did some acting in the occasional soap opera in Buenos Aires when the political climate allowed it (it’s too risky at the minute, but it was fine for quite a few years before). I have also done some academic work and research on photography and screenwriting, and recently started a third wave of work with Movimiento Improbable, looking a lot into early electronic and tape music, and classic tango of course.

Ali: I went back to concentrating on solo projects under my aliases Ali Renault and Cestrian as well as starting a new EBM influenced project called PARASOLS. In 2013, I started a new label Vivod, now 22 releases in and started my own Radio Show on Intergalactic FM, Vivod Radio 3 years ago. Other than that, I’ve been gigging around Europe taking my live set around but mostly DJ-ing.

Looking back to 2008-2009, it was a crazy time… you had a lot of good press, were collaborating with LITTLE BOOTS on the song ‘Magical’, remixing for SUGABABES + SAINT EITENNE and doing the NME tour with LA ROUX, what do you remember of it?

Seb and Ali: Intense highs, deep lows, considerable joy, considerable pain. But above all, great gigs all round.

How do you reflect on the recording of the ‘Lies’ album? Which tracks do you think still stand up today?

Seb and Ali: ‘Regret’ is our favourite – something special happened there; but also ‘We’re Back’ and ‘My Tears Electro’.

‘The Deadly Pong of Love’ has actually grown on both of us and we love it even more than we did back then. ‘Robot’s Got the Feeling’ does as well, everything basically, except maybe for ‘Give Me Action’ which hasn’t aged too well we think.

‘My Tears Electro’ was a song on the ‘Deceit’ EP, what was that inspired by?

Seb and Ali: Hope against hope, belief in the impossible, and the overwhelming sadness underlying any fight worth fighting. HEARTBREAK in a way was about turning anger and despair into love and lust for life. All of it simultaneously strengthened and undermined by what we consider our own lines of flight.

You did a cover of ‘Loving The Alien’ for the ‘Life Beyond Mars – Bowie Covered’ album but of course, he’s sadly no longer with us…

Seb and Ali: He was an excellent songwriter, a fact sometimes overshadowed by the visual aspect of what he did (which was very strong as well of course), and the overall myth he projected so effectively. His post-modern stance on identity is influential to Seb, and so is his early work as a lyricist, but we cannot say his sound at any particular stage bears relevant influence to HEARTBREAK’s, production-wise.

The ‘Anthonio’ song Sebastian did with Richard X over the ANNIE backing track was good fun and rather authentic…

Seb: I’m really thankful to Richard X for the opportunity to explore that singing register and expression, something I’ve always wanted to do.

It was a fun idea and I’ve learnt a lot from working with Richard on that and another bit of vocal recording for SNS he once helped me with.

I am better as a singer because of that experience. I hope someday somehow I get to work with him again.

How do you feel about how the music business landscape and social media has changed since ‘Lies’ came out in 2008?

Seb and Ali: Best time for music ever. As a business, streaming shows amazing potential. Vinyl costs could be covered by streaming profits, but we also hail the return of the cassette tape, all potentially enhanced by the streaming model’s democratising wealth. In terms of social media, we like the accountability it brings and how it might help to a degree do away with the harmful ghosts that smother the music world in smoke and mirrors, purifying the listening experience and music culture in general. I think it can empower fans and help them through some of the psychological hardships associated with following the work of their favourite artists.

So are HEARTBREAK back for the long haul and will there be new material?

Seb and Ali: We’ll do the Moth Club gig, see how that goes and take it from there. But we’re in a good place right now. This gig to us is a celebration of what HEARTBREAK was, an honest mission full of love at a time where that was (and now probably remains) fairly rare among electronic bands, but also a celebration of a great friendship that we thought had broken down for good and never thought we’d be able to rebuild. Being friends again is a bit of a miracle to be honest, which we value greatly. The idea is that, whatever we do next, this time the friendship comes first.

Your comeback performance will be at The Moth Club in London with Fred Ventura’s ITALOCONNECTION, what have you planned for that?

Seb and Ali: Blood and tears.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to HEARTBREAK

‘Lies’ released by Lex Records is still available as a CD, vinyl LP or download from the usual online retail outlets or direct from https://shop.lexrecords.com/collections/catalogue/products/lies

HEARTBREAK play The Moth Club, Valette Street, Hackney, London E9 6NU as part of Hypnotic Tango on Friday 15th June 2018 with ITALOCONNECTION + IL BOSCO, Facebook event page at https://www.facebook.com/events/228357584413240/

https://www.facebook.com/Heartbreak-14224761975/

https://myspace.com/heartbreak1


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
31st May 2018

NEW ORDER Music Complete

new-order_music-completeBand break-ups, although always problematic, can have a polarising, but often surprisingly positive musical effect on those involved.

The well-documented HUMAN LEAGUE Mark I split, where Martyn Ware was effectively fired from his own band, motivated him, Ian Craig Marsh and new vocalist Glenn Gregory to strive to make an album which was better than the one Philip Oakey’s new version of the band was creating. Although arguably in terms of sales and critical acclaim they didn’t, it still set HEAVEN 17 on their way and certainly didn’t harm their future success.

The troubles in the NEW ORDER camp and the acrimony between Peter Hook and his ex-bandmates have managed to rack up plenty of column inches, reaching a nadir with Hook describing returning keyboard player Gillian Gilbert as a “wonky table leg”, to which she rather more subtly and rightly retorted “I’m on all the best records aren’t I?”. What the split has done though, is allow Hook to tour pretty constantly for the last five years, showcasing a mixture of JOY DIVISION and NEW ORDER material which to his frustration, the band (when he was in it) seldom played.

So now with a new record deal with Mute, it’s an ideal opportunity for Bernard Sumner and his colleagues (old and new) to prove that after a couple of “so-so” albums, that they still have some creative fire left in them and are able to function without their founder member and bassist.

The lead-off single and album opener ‘Restless’ certainly didn’t bode too optimistically for ‘Music Complete’, although in the context of the album is certainly more of a grower and takes a few listens to appreciate its charms. Next up is THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS’ Tom Rowlands produced ‘Singularity’, whose sequencers recall ‘Temptation’ and also features some welcome KRAFTWERK-ian percussion sounds and unhinged resonant synth squeals throughout. The melodic synths and half-time drum patterns used are refreshing for a track which doesn’t try to pander to any particular genre.

New-Order-2015-MusicComplete-01‘Plastic’, which features Elly Jackson aka LA ROUX, revolves around some even more prominent Moroder-ish sequencing with the sort of girly backing vocals which first made an appearance on ‘Crystal’. A Hooky soundalike bassline by replacement Tom Chapman makes an appearance midway which is sure to wind up the ex-bassist and an extended electronic middle section showcases the first significant programmed drum machine work on the album.

‘Tutti Frutti’, with its pitched down Italian vocal, initially recalls ‘Fine Time’ from ‘Technique’ and once the song skips past its jaunty ‘Relax’-style intro, proves itself to be a classic NEW ORDER song. This time, Elly Jackson’s guest vocals compliment Sumner’s perfectly, whose own phrasing during the song’s verse sections showcases a previously unheard lazy vocal delivery from the frontman and includes the classic line “where every scholar means a dollar”. The song’s middle section and ending features a wonderfully orchestrated string section, throws in an acid house drum pattern for good measure and at its climax, some more additional low pitched vocals (sampled from a very suspect Italian game show) which unfortunately could prove the deal breaker for some.

New-Order-2015MusicComplete-02

‘People On The High Line’ with its ultra-funky bass and guitar combination, starts rather worryingly like ‘Club Tropicana’ by WHAM! before descending into a rather forgettable ‘dad house’ piano track – Elly Jackson again guests here. ‘Stray Dog’ is one long IGGY POP monologue which is based upon a poem that Sumner constructed and is surely a wasted opportunity – a sung vocal performance would certainly have proved more intriguing.

‘Academic’ showcases the band-style NEW ORDER sound and is a highlight of ‘Music Complete’; it effortlessly glides past and features some classically direct Sumner guitar which is missed elsewhere on the album. ‘Music Complete’ closer, ‘Superheated’ is a Stuart Price production and features Brandon Flowers from THE KILLERS on vocals – it’s a rather lightweight uptempo conclusion and features more string orchestration. Yet again, like other songs here, it seems to miss Sumner’s trademark guitar.

What this album DOES have in its favour is that it doesn’t try overly hard to win you over. Whereas the recent DURAN DURAN album (with its myriad of guest vocalists and producers) was the musical equivalent of a tired old dog trying to hump your leg to get your attention, ‘Music Complete’ is a far more subtle proposition and is far better for it.

New-Order-2015-MusicComplete-04Although very electronic in places, there is still a real band dynamic here, especially with the use of Stephen Morris‘ drumming and the implementation of producers, which has generally helped rather than hinder the creative process. Though not a classic in comparison with ‘Low-Life’ or ‘Power, Corruption & Lies’, ‘Music Complete’ does in places provide some compelling listening and in many respects is a revitalised, if flawed piece of work.

At the end of the day, what proves ultimately enlightening, is that by the end of the album, Peter Hook’s presence isn’t overly missed. Tom Chapman ably replicates his sound (albeit mixed slightly lower in the songs here) and although hardcore fans will perpetually scream “No Hooky, no New Order!”, ‘Music Complete’ is a complete and musically coherent enough product without him.


‘Music Complete’ is released by Mute Artists in CD, clear vinyl LP, vinyl box set and download formats

http://www.neworder.com/

https://www.facebook.com/NewOrderOfficial

http://mute.com/artists/new-order

https://newordertracks.wordpress.com


Text by Paul Boddy
28th September 2015

Missing In Action: CHEW LIPS

Chew-LipsFormed in Spring 2008, CHEW LIPS rode on the wave of synth friendly female fronted acts of the period that included LITTLE BOOTS, LA ROUX, LADY GAGA and LADYHAWKE.

Less overtly poppy than the L-Word foursome, the music press more closely associated CHEW LIPS with THE TING TINGS and YEAH YEAH YEAHS.

The latter were vaguely exploring an electronically enhanced direction, as showcased on the single ‘Zero’, but despite proclamations by YEAH YEAH YEAHS’ singer Karen O that the band had adopted the synth, the resultant album ‘It’s Blitz’ was more like a glitterball new wave record that was still very guitar driven.

Comprising of singer Alicia Huertas (better known to her friends as Tigs) and multi-instrumentalists Will Sanderson (synths and guitars) and James Watkins (bass guitar and synths), CHEW LIPS were actually much closer to the concept of what YEAH YEAH YEAHS would have sounded like if they really had gone all electronic.

Chew-Lips-saltairWith their “8-bit Casiotone drone-disco”, they quickly attracted the attention of hip tastemakers like BBC 6Music’s Steve Lamacq who invited them to record a radio session after only a handful of gigs.

In 2009, the trio were signed to the ultra-hip French record label Kitsune who had launched LA ROUX and DELPHIC.

With a melancholic edge amongst all the blips and blops, the impressive ‘Salt Air’ showcased an accessible promise with pulsing sequencers and drum machines chugging away augmented by some octave shifting bass and occasional guitar like a female fronted NEW ORDER. Meanwhile, the bleepy second single ‘Solo’ had a charming distorted percussive rattle that came over not unlike THE TING TINGS accompanied by a Boss Doctor Rhythm!

CHEW LIPS’ live act was one of their strongest cards with Tigs being a particularly adept front woman. Indeed, her cheeky, flirtatious demeanour recalled Hazel O’Connor. Although Will Sanderson tended to be stuck behind synths, James Watkins generally played bass guitar and his bouncy movements were reminiscent of a certain George Andrew McCluskey. Indeed, CHEW LIPS would at times look like OMD fronted by Debbie Harry! As well as the tunes, the music was enhanced by club friendly sonic bass booms, so CHEW LIPS attracted the sort of audience who found LITTLE BOOTS or LA ROUX too glitzy and preferred their electronic pop with a slightly gloomier edge.

Signing to ATC Management whose founder Brian Message also co-managed RADIOHEAD, CHEW LIPS took the plunge in 2010 with their debut album ‘Unicorn’. Released independently on their own Family Records, it was produced by David Kosten who had steered BAT FOR LASHES for her first two albums. In a brave move, the threesome decided not to include the two singles that had gained them their initial acclaim and focussed totally on brand new material for the ten track collection.

The launch single was the short and immediate ‘Play Together’. A natural development of FC KAHUNA’s ‘Machine Says Yes’, it connected with the Electroclash movement of a few years before while also acting as a worthy successor to ‘Salt Air’. Referencing the post-punk era, ‘Karen’ was brilliant electronically assisted indie pop with hints of guitar-driven NEW ORDER. It wasn’t all uptempo as ‘Too Much Talking’ and ‘Eight’ proved CHEW LIPS could do dark ballads, while ‘Slick’ gradually built itself to a climax around some initially minimal backing. Indeed, the band displayed a knack for songs that were short and sharp with no progressive doodling.

‘Toro’ played with new wave funk of GOSSIP while one of the album’s highlights ‘Two Hands’ captured the drama of classic DEPECHE MODE. There were other Synth Britannia elements too with some Mellotron choir providing an ‘Architecture & Morality’ grandeur on the album’s closer ‘Gold Key’ while offset by an unexpected FM rock guitar solo. But with its haunting piano motif, Kling Klang rhythm section and sparkling OMD styled synth runs, the best song from the ‘Unicorn’ sessions was the beautiful iTunes only bonus track ‘Rising Tide’. The wonderfully spirited, soulful lead vocal from Tigs made it one of the most accomplished tunes from the 2008 school of female fronted electro.

All–in-all, ‘Unicorn’ was an intriguing, enjoyable debut that pointed to a promising future. But the album was not without its faults. Clocking in at just over 30 minutes, the tracklisting lacked immediacy and the exclusion of ‘Rising Tide’ from the main feature was a real oversight. A trick was possibly missed by not including the two Kitsune singles as well.

Unicorn_(Chew_Lips)Whereas the intent was probably to give fans value for money and make the album more of an artistic statement, to not have two of the strongest and ‘best known’ songs on the debut long player might well have put off curious but casual newcomers. These listeners could have grown into some of the less immediate material had they initially bought the album for ‘So’ or ‘Salt Air’.

Sometimes, there is only one chance to make a good impression. But although the band did not hit the commercial heights of say LA ROUX, the strategy worked and in 2012, CHEW LIPS were signed by Sony Music.

The first single as a duo ‘Do You Chew?’ showcased a more R ‘n’ B focussed direction influenced by RIHANNA, while the vibrant, punchy pop of ‘Hurricane’ was issued in September 2012. In interviews at the time, Tigs and Watkins declared they had more commercial ambitions compared with when they were recording their debut.

Chew-Lips-duo2012However, the long awaited second album has yet to appear. In April 2013, the URL of CHEW LIPS website appeared to have expired and turned into a mysterious travel blog. Their most recent Facebook page update was in Summer 2014, although the last music related message was November 2013.

But in April 2015, Tigs returned to the public spotlight to run in the London Marathon in her role as a Cancer Research ambassador.

She had been diagnosed with cervical cancer several years previously, but continued to work after having undergone treatment. She was given the all clear in November 2010 and had since run a number of races in aid of the charity.

With Tigs’ tireless fund raising work, music has understandably taken a back seat. But in a domestic electronic pop market today that is perhaps lacking feistiness and sparkle, CHEW LIPS are greatly missed. Whether a second album will ever see the light of day remains to be seen…


CHEW LIPS debut album ‘Unicorn’ was released by Family Records

https://www.facebook.com/CHEWLiPS


Text by Chi Ming Lai
4th August 2015

2014 End Of Year Review

Integrated Circuits
Photo by Jack Robinson / Getty Images

Photo by Jack Robinson / Getty Images

With 2013 having been one of the strongest years in electronic pop since its post-punk heyday, 2014 was always going to struggle to compete,

This was despite it being the 50th Anniversary of the Moog synthesizer’s first prototype demonstration at the Audio Engineering Society convention in October 1964.

While 2014 was nowhere near in terms of the high profile releases of 2013 or even 2011, it certainly surpassed the comparatively quiet year of 2012.

But there were still a lot of live shows as momentum continued in support of the previous year’s releases with NINE INCH NAILS, GARY NUMAN, DEPECHE MODE, CHVRCHES, FEATHERS, GOLDFRAPP, COVENANT and SOFT METALS among those doing the rounds.

Electronic pioneer KARL BARTOS began the year with his first concert tour since 2003 in Germany. His ‘Off the Record’ live presentation highlighted the best of his KRAFTWERK co-compositions alongside excellent new material.

Coincidentally, on the same night Herr Bartos opened in Cologne, Ralf Hütter picked up a Lifetime Achievement Grammy on behalf of KRAFTWERK, thus finally validating electronic music in the traditionally synthphobic territory of the USA. And by the end of the year, there was even a belated nomination for The Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall Of Fame.

Staying in Germany, cult trio CAMOUFLAGE celebrated over 30 years in the business with a lavish package ‘The Box 1983-2013’ and a best of CD ‘The Singles’.

CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN though surprised everyone by strapping on an acoustic guitar for her third solo album ‘Where Else?’, but its mix of electronics and six string proved to be well received by her fans.

And on the subject of Germanic influences, Belgian duo METROLAND returned with their Kling Klang flavoured technopop courtesy of the multi-formatted single ‘Thalys’, a tie-in with the European high speed train operator and a rather original cover of ‘Close To Me’ for ‘A Strange Play – An Alfa Matrix Tribute To THE CURE’. Meanwhile, iEUROPEAN teamed up with Wolfgang Flür for some ‘Activity Of Sound’. Flür himself delighted KRAFTWERK fans by announcing he would be playing London gigs in the New Year.

MemeTune Studio in London’s trendy Shoreditch proved to be a hotbed of electronic activity throughout 2014.

Already the location for the largest array of vintage synthesizers in the UK, from the complex emerged fabulous music from the likes of HANNAH PEEL, GAZELLE TWIN and WRANGLER featuring ex-CABARET VOLTAIRE frontman Stephen Mallinder.

MemeTune even found time to curate its own live event ‘MUS_IIC.01’.

Well known for his connections with that stable, JOHN FOXX came back from a break (by his recent prolific standards) with the audio / visual collaboration ‘Evidence Of Time Travel’ in partnership with STEVE D’AGOSTINO.

Other Synth Britannia stalwarts were in action too. OMD celebrated their ‘Dazzle Ships’ era with a pair of concerts at the Museum Of Liverpool and SIMPLE MINDS continued their grandiose demeanour with ‘Big Music’. Meanwhile, MIDGE URE released a fine collection of songs entitled ‘Fragile’, his first of original solo material in 12 years; it also featured a great collaboration with MOBY entitled ‘Dark Dark Night’. As well as that, he worked on a track with Dutch composer Stephen Emmer for an orchestral laden crooner album called ‘International Blue’ which additionally featured his pal Glenn Gregory.

Mr Gregory wasn’t idle either, recording ‘Pray’ b/w ‘Illumination’, HEAVEN 17’s first new material since 2005’s Before After’.

He even found time to impersonate DAVID BOWIE for some special live shows performing ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ with Tony Visconti and Woody Woodmansey as HOLY HOLY.

And to cap it all, HEAVEN 17 presented ‘The Tour Of Synthetic Delights’ with BLANCMANGE, proving that heritage events could be both nostalgic and credible if the line-up was right.

After last year’s seasonal offering ‘Snow Globe’, ERASURE made a full return in 2014 with ‘The Violet Flame’, the marriage of Andy Bell and Vince Clarke showcasing their best work since 2005’s ‘Nightbird’. Interestingly, ‘The Violet Flame’ was launched via the crowdfunding platform Pledge Music, although this appeared to be more as a promotional tool and fan networking opportunity.

CHINA CRISIS went the Pledge Music route too, announcing their first album in 20 years entitled ‘Autumn In the Neighbourhood’ while also crowdfunded, YELLO’s Boris Blank delivered ‘Electrified’, a solo box set of unreleased material.

Not to be outdone, his YELLO bandmate Dieter Meier responded with his grouchy solo offering ‘Out Of Chaos’ which appeared to be a tribute to Tom Waits. And unexpectedly on the back of ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ becoming a terrace chant for Aberdeen FC’s Scottish League Cup victory, ex-HUMAN LEAGUE member Jo Callis launched a new project called FINGER HALO.

The enduring legacy of many of these veterans was celebrated in ‘Mad World: An Oral History of the New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s’, possibly the best book of its kind about that musical era which the Americans like to refer to as New Wave. Featuring brand new interviews with key protagonists like GARY NUMAN, OMD, NEW ORDER, DURAN DURAN, YAZOO, ULTRAVOX, A-HA and HEAVEN 17, it was a high quality publication that made up for some previously clumsy attempts by others at documenting the period.

Also a good read was Bernard Sumner’s memoirs ‘Chapter and Verse’ which covered his career to date with JOY DIVISION and NEW ORDER.

Coincidentally, Mark Reeder, the man often credited with introducing electronic dance music to Sumner, had a career spanning compendium called ‘Collaborator’ issued containing his earlier work as a member SHARK VEGAS, right up to his more recent remixes of DURAN DURAN’s John Taylor and Sumner’s various projects with BLANK & JONES and WESTBAM.

It was a particularly active year for the industrial scene; AESTHETIC PERFECTION toured Europe with their more accessible but still aggressive ‘Til Death’ opus while ASSEMBLAGE 23 frontman Tom Shear continued developing his SURVEILLANCE side project with ‘Oceania Remixed’. Swedish trio LEGEND gained acclaim for their live performances in support of their debut album ‘Fearless’, Texan duo IRIS released a new album ‘Radiant’ and DIE KRUPPS blasted their way into the South East of England for their first UK dates since 2008.

In more contemporary circles, LA ROUX finally released a second album, appropriately named ‘Trouble In Paradise’. Singer Elly Jackson had split with silent partner Ben Langmaid due to good old fashioned musical differences and as expected, the songs were less synthpoppy than the self-titled debut. Reaching for more disco orientated leanings such as CHIC, GRACE JONES and TOM TOM CLUB, this was if nothing, a more superior offering to either what LITTLE BOOTS or LADYHAWKE managed with their sophomore albums. North of the border, MARNIE did her bit for the Scottish Independence Campaign with the rousingly anthemic ‘Wolves’.

imogen + taylorThe delightfully eccentric IMOGEN HEAP showcased her innovative collaborative developments in music technology via her new album ‘Sparks’ and even squeezed in a collaboration with pop princess TAYLOR SWIFT for the latter’s million selling album ‘1989’.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK commented in 2012 about how CHVRCHES‘ ‘The Mother We Share’ sounded like “Taylor Swift gone electro”, so in a give some, take some back move, the young songstress came up with ‘Out Of The Woods’, a ditty quite obviously influenced by the Glaswegian trio and a synth laden tune entitled ‘New Romantics’ on the bonus edition.

By coincidence with her slight passing resemblance to Miss Swift, QUEEN OF HEARTS launched her debut musical charter ‘Cocoon’ after several years in the making to confirm that pop was indeed not a dirty word.

In the leftfield electronica arena, Warp Records issued ‘High Life’, a collaboration by KARL HYDE and BRIAN ENO while there was also the long awaited new album from APHEX TWIN entitled ‘Syro’. And former MASSIVE ATTACK producer DAVIDGE released an impressive debut collection of songs ‘Slo Light’ that featured SANDIE SHAW, CATE LE BON and EMI GREEN among its vocalists.

One act establishing themselves as major players in the modern electronic scene were Canada’s TR/ST. Led by the polarising “Eeyore gone goth” moodiness of Robert Alfons, the ironically titled ‘Joyland’ was an excellent second album that captured the sleazy nature of a 21st Century SOFT CELL and attached it to the grumpiness of Leonard Cohen.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn minimal duo XENO & OAKLANDER gave the world ‘Par Avion’, possibly their most accessible and colourful work yet. Also from the area came the shadowy huskiness of AZAR SWAN and the alternative mystique of REXXY. Over in LA, NIGHT CLUB showed further promise with their best offering yet in their third EP ‘Black Leather Heart’ while in San Antonio, HYPERBUBBLE launched an ‘Attack Of The Titans’.

Baltimore’s FUTURE ISLANDS however divided opinion; their fans included Andy McCluskey, Vince Clarke, Martyn Ware, Rusty Egan and Jori Hulkkonen, but their unintentionally amusing live appearance on ‘The David Letterman Show’ performing ‘Seasons’ came over to some observers like a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit on the 80s. However, with two sold out dates at London’s Roundhouse in March 2015, Samuel T. Herring and Co are the ones having the last laugh.

The Nordic region proved itself again to be the centre of electronic creativity. The dream partnership of ROBYN and RÖYKSOPP reconvened after the success of 2010’s ‘The Girl & The Robot’ to ‘Do It Again’ while RÖYKSOPP themselves released what they announced to be their last album, appropriately titled ‘The Inevitable End’.

Also featuring on that album was Nordic vocalist of the moment SUSANNE SUNDFØR who has her own new eagerly awaited long player ‘Ten Love Songs’ out in 2015.

KARIN PARK and MARGARET BERGER provided another united Scandinavian front when they performed together at Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix while Finnish duo SIN COS TAN delivered their third long player in as many years with a concept album called ‘Blown Away’.

From Sweden came the welcome return of KLEERUP with ‘As If We Never Won’, the first of two new EPs before an album to follow-up the brilliant self-titled debut from 2008. Meanwhile, EMMON delivered her fourth album ‘Aon’ as well as a baby. There was more glacial oddness from IAMAMIWHOAMI with her second album ‘Blue’ while the brooding Nordic Noir pop of stunning identical twins SAY LOU LOU started to gain a foothold in readiness for their first long player ‘Lucid Dreaming’.

Nordic friendly music blog Cold War Night Life curated possibly the best electronic event of the year with ‘An Evening With The Swedish Synth’ at London’s 93 Feet East. In a bill supported by the promising TRAIN TO SPAIN and synth rock duo MACHINISTA who delivered a great debut album in ‘Xenoglossy’, the event was headlined by synthpop veterans PAGE. Incidentally, Eddie Bengtsson of PAGE’s solo project SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN produced some interesting covers of OMD and DEVO, both reworked i Svenska.

And all this while ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK bore witness to a puzzled British musician who actually asked with a straight face “What’s so special about Sweden then?”!! ‘An Evening With The Swedish Synth’ was a fine example of what could be achieved when an electronic event was actually curated by electronic music enthusiasts, as this was not always the case in several instances during 2014.

Following a four year hiatus, CLIENT rebooted and released ‘Authority’ with new singer Client N doing a fine impersonation of MARNIE on the single ‘Refuge’. After a long gestation period, Anglo-German collective TWINS NATALIA released their debut long player ‘The Destiny Room’ and pleasantly wallowed in the neu romance of classic synthpop, dressing it with the vocal styles of GRACE JONES and ABBA.

TWINS NATALIA’s ‘The Destiny Room’ was released on Anna Logue Records who in 2015 will issue ‘Signs Of life’, the debut album from enigmatic South East Asian combo QUIETER THAN SPIDERS. Possibly the best new synthpop act to emerge in 2014, as befitting their name, they made their music, edited some videos and just discretely got on with it, thus proving the theory that those who shout loudest are not always necessarily the best…

kid moxie-twin peaksMARSHEAUX celebrated ten years in the business with a compilation called ‘Odyssey’ on the prestigious Les Disques Du Crépuscule label. They also announced an unusual project for 2015, an album covering DEPECHE MODE’s ‘A Broken Frame’ in its entirety. Also on Undo, KID MOXIE released her second album ‘1888’ featuring a collaboration with acclaimed film score composer Angelo Badalamenti to compliment her new cinematic pop approach. Meanwhile, one-time Undo label mates LIEBE started getting traction on MTV Europe and MIKRO maintained their position as Greece’s premier power pop band with their seventh album ‘New’ despite the departure of singer Ria Mazini following its unveiling.

From Dublin came the filmic ambience of POLYDROID while cut from a similar cloth, there was the haunting soundscapes of Trans-Belgian pairing MARI & THE GHOST. There were also several other promising female led talents ranging from the sugary pop of PAWWS and the quietly subversive electro of I AM SNOW ANGEL to the soulful moodiness of HUGH and the mysteriously smoky allure of FIFI RONG.

VILE ELECTRODES confirmed their position as the best independent electronic act in the UK currently when they snared not just one, but two Schallwelle Awards in Germany.

To celebrate the first anniversary of their brilliant debut album ‘The future through a lens’, the sparkling duo of Anais Neon and Martin Swan played alongside DEPECHE MODE tribute act SPEAK & SPELL for a wonderful evening that also featured SARAH BLACKWOOD.

Miss Blackwood gave spirited live vocal performances of several songs from her own career as part of a singing DJ set including ‘Justice’, her recent collaboration for the FOTONOVELA album ‘A Ton Of Love’. There was additionally the bonus of her duetting with SPEAK & SPELL on ‘A Question Of Time’ during their ‘101’ performance celebrating the film’s 25th anniversary.

Analog Angel-in-profilePossibly the best independently released album of 2014 came from Glasgow’s ANALOG ANGEL who freed themselves of their industrial shackles to produce a collection of sophisticated synthpop entitled ‘Trinity’.

Having been around since 2009 and with two albums already to their name, the Scottish trio put their money where their mouths were. Their decision to avoid crowdfunding and invest in their own music was an applaudable decision, especially when other bands, who were still yet to prove themselves, were out with the begging bowls.

Indeed, 2014 was a strange year in which ego appeared to overtake ability and none more so than on the live circuit, where that old adage about needing to learn to walk before running ran true. Wanabee promoters with no notable experience bit off more than they could chew by playing Fantasy Festival, as was proven by the Alt-Fest debacle.

Despite a much publicised crowdfunding exercise, the simple use of a pocket calculator would have shown that an event of such magnitude could not be underwritten by such a comparatively small amount of cash and anticipated ticket sales. When rumours abounded that Alt-Fest was to be cancelled due to a lack of funds, the organisers’ silence and lack of resolve caused much resentment. Risk is all part of the game, but live ventures require solid finance, spirited commitment and an attempt at least to get in the black.

Alt-Fest-cancelledHowever, a few promoters appeared to want to make life difficult for themselves from the off. In its investigations, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK found that with one poorly attended event back in 2013, there was no way the event could have balanced its books, even if it had sold out its ticket capacity!

Meanwhile, there was another gig in 2014 publicised so covertly with restricted social media and bizarre pricing structures, it was as if the promoters didn’t want anyone to attend! Of course, there was also that tactic of announcing an event almost a year in advance without confirming any of the acts for several months, as if the event was more important than any of the music!

As Whitby Goth Weekend’s Jo Hampshire pointed out: “Alt-Fest had put its tickets on sale while still booking acts including headliners, which is potentially disastrous”! Despite the general feeling that independently curated live initiatives should be anti-corporate, everything is about business at the end of the day.

However, a number of promoters at this end of the market failed to realise this. Any artists performing must be paid their expenses and fees as per any agreement, regardless of the final ticket sales unless terms such as door percentages or ticket sale buy-ons have been arranged.

But as one-time TECHNIQUE singer Xan Tyler pointed out: “Musicians get ripped off at every turn, online stores take a huge cut, Spotify don’t remunerate artists properly, venues expect you to play for bugger all (and in some case they expect you to pay to play). If you want to make money from the music industry, don’t be a musician!”

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK is coming into its fifth anniversary and continues to maintain a readership of discerning music fans, despite protestations in some quarters to the contrary.

The site’s manifesto has always been about celebrating the best in new and classic electronic pop music.

It has never made claims about supporting unsigned acts or any music that happens use a synthesizer.

As Client A put it franklyin the Autumn: “in the electronica age, anyone can be a musician but that also makes it a free for all with every tom, dick or curly clogging up the internet with their crap music…”

Meanwhile, NIGHT CLUB added: “People forget about things so quickly these days because the internet is so inundated with crap…”

So ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK considers what music it features very, very carefully. it may not manage to be first, like many so-called buzz blogs try to be, but it has always had longevity in mind, even if that is difficult to predict.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK Contributor Listings of 2014

PAUL BODDY

Best Album: TODD TERJE It’s Album Time
Best Song: RÖYKSOPP & ROBYN Do It Again
Best Gig: NINE INCH NAILS at Nottingham Arena
Best Video: MAPS You Will Find A Way
Most Promising New Act: TODD TERJE


DEB DANAHAY

Best Album: RÖYKSOPP The Inevitable End
Best Song: RÖYKSOPP featuring JAMIE IRREPRESSIBLE Something In My Heart
Best Gig: COVENANT + LEGEND at Gothenburg Electronic Summer Festival
Best Video: PRINCESS CENTURY Das Schlimmste
Most Promising New Act: LEGEND


IAN FERGUSON

Best Album: MIDGE URE Fragile
Best Song: MIDGE URE Dark, Dark Night
Best Gig: THE RADIOPHONIC WORKSHOP at Glasgow Quayside
Best Video: IMOGEN HEAP The Listening Chair
Most Promising New Act: WRANGLER


MONIKA IZABELA GOSS

Best Album: ERASURE The Violet Flame
Best Song: ANALOG ANGEL Drive
Best Gig: DEPECHE MODE at Strasbourg Zénith
Best Video: DIE KRUPPS Robo Sapien
Most Promising New Act: PAWWS


STEVE GRAY

Best Album: RÖYKSOPP The Inevitable End
Best Song: RÖYKSOPP featuring JAMIE IRREPRESSIBLE I Had This Thing
Best Gig: GARY NUMAN at Hammersmith Apollo
Best Video: KID MOXIE Lacuna
Most Promising New Act: TWINS NATALIA


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: MIDGE URE Fragile
Best Song: ANALOG ANGEL The Last Time
Best Gig: KARL BARTOS at Cologne Live Music Hall
Best Video: LIEBE I Believe In You
Most Promising New Act: QUIETER THAN SPIDERS


SOPHIE NILSSON

Best Album: ERASURE The Violet Flame
Best Song: SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN Stadens Alla Ljus
Best Gig: ANDY BELL in ‘Torsten The Bareback Saint’ at London St James Theatre
Best Video: ANDY BELL I Don’t Like
Most Promising New Act: PULSE


RICHARD PRICE

Best Album: ERASURE The Violet Flame
Best Song: POLLY SCATTERGOOD Subsequently Lost
Best Gig: PET SHOP BOYS at Brighton Dome
Best Video: JOHN FOXX B-Movie
Most Promising New Act: PAWWS


Text by Chi Ming Lai
9th December 2014

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