Tag: Louis Gordon

A Beginner’s Guide To JOHN FOXX

The recent release of the ULTRAVOX! 4 CD box set ‘The Island Years’ was a timely reminder that their one-time leader John Foxx has had a music career that has spanned over four decades.

Born Dennis Leigh, his first recorded work was a ROXY MUSIC styled cover of ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’ for an arthouse adult film of the same name, as a member of TIGER LILY. The quintet comprising of Foxx, Warren Cann, Chris Cross, Billy Currie and Stevie Shears renamed themselves ULTRAVOX! and signed a deal with Island Records.

Reinforcing their art rock aspirations seeded by THE VELVET UNDERGROUND and Bowie, ULTRAVOX! secured the production input of synth pioneer and label mate Brian Eno for their self-titled debut in 1977. “It was good to hear his stories and enact his strategies” Foxx remembered of the experience, “He wasn’t greatly experienced in studio craft but he was a good co-conspirator, someone with a useful overview, who understood where we wanted to go”. Two albums later, they began to make headway with a template inspired by the emergent electronic bands from Germany such as KRAFTWERK, CLUSTER and NEU!

However, Foxx became disillusioned with the restrictions of a band format and departed ULTRAVOX! in 1979 for a solo career; “I want to be a machine” Foxx had sung on the ‘Ultravox!’ debut and he virtually went the full hog with the JG Ballard inspired ‘Metamatic’ released in 1980 on Virgin Records.

Recorded at Pathway, an eight-track studio in Islington using an ARP Odyssey, Minimoog, Elka Rhapsody 610 and Roland CR78 Compurhythm, the seminal long player yielded two unexpected hit singles in ‘Underpass’ and ‘No-One Driving’. Foxx said of that period: “You felt like some Film Noir scientist inventing a new life-form in the basement. I also think it was the beginning of Electro-Art-Punk or something like that. A strange wee animal. Seems to have bred copiously with everything available and still survived – right to this day.”

Photo by Adrian Boot

But featuring acoustic guitar and piano, by his second solo outing ‘The Garden’, Foxx had achieved his system of romance. In the years since, John Foxx has continued to innovate within electronic, experimental and ambient spheres, such are his diverse artistic interests.. Despite this, he is still very much under rated, especially compared with artists who benefited from his influence.

Gary Numan has always acknowledged his debt to the synth rock overtures of ULTRAVOX! while DEPECHE MODE’s admiration of ‘Metamatic’ led to its incumbent engineer Gareth Jones working with the band on their own Berlin Trilogy of ‘Construction Time Again’, ‘Some Great Reward’ and ‘Black Celebration’.

So with a vast repertoire to his name, what tracks in his various guises would act as a Beginner’s Guide to the man referred to affectionately as Lord Foxx Of Chorley? This is not intended to be a best of chronology, more a reflection of highly divergent career. With a restriction of one recording per album project, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK lists its #Foxx20.

ULTRAVOX! My Sex (1977)

Ultravox_ultravoxUsing Brian Eno’s Minimoog with a knob marked with a sheep sticker to indicate that it made woolly sounds, Billy Currie’s classical sensibilities combined with Foxx’s detached dissatisfaction for the wonderful ‘My Sex’. Of Eno, Foxx said “He was just what we wanted, really. A sort of art approach to recording”

Available on the ULTRAVOX! album ‘Ultravox!’ via Island Records

ULTRAVOX! Hiroshima Mon Amour (1977)

ULTRAVOX-ha-ha-haUtilising Warren Cann’s modified Roland TR77 rhythm machine, this was Foxx moving into the moody ambience pioneered by CLUSTER, away from the art rock of the first album and the aggressive attack of interim 45 ‘Young Savage’. ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ had been premiered as a spikier uptempo number for the B-side of ‘ROckWrok’.

Available on the ULTRAVOX! album ‘Ha! Ha! Ha!’ via Island Records

ULTRAVOX! Quiet Men – 12 inch version (1978)

ULTRAVOXquietmen12inchRelocating to Cologne to work with the legendary Conny Plank for their third album ‘Systems Of Romance’, ULTRAVOX! became more texturally powerful thanks to Billy Currie’s ARP Odyssey, the EMS Synthi AKS of Chris Cross and the recruitment of guitarist in Robin Simon. ‘Quiet Men’ was a perfect integration of all those elements attached to a rhythm machine backbone.

Available on the ULTRAVOX! box set ‘The Island Years’ via Caroline International

JOHN FOXX He’s A Liquid (1980)

With ‘Metamatic, Foxx’x mission was to “Make a language for the synth and the drum machine”. The deviant ‘He’s A Liquid’ was pure unadulterated Sci-Fi: “I think it was a bit of punk electronica at the right time – just before everyone else raided the shed. Historically, perhaps it defines an impulse – something that wasn’t possible before – one man and some cheap machines making music independently”.

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ‘Metamatic’ via Edsel Records

JOHN FOXX Europe After The Rain (1981)

JOHN FOXX The GardenFoxx admitted he had been “reading too much JG Ballard” and had thawed considerably following ‘Metamatic’. Now exploring beautiful Italian gardens and taking on a more foppish appearance, his new mood was reflected in his music. Moving to a disused factory site in Shoreditch, Foxx set up ‘The Garden’ recording complex and the first song to emerge was the Linn Drum driven ‘Europe After The Rain’.

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ‘The Garden’ via Edsel Records

ANTENA The Boy From Ipanema (1982)

ANTENA The Boy From IpanemaBefore NOUVELLE VAGUE, French-Belgian combo ANTENA hit upon the idea of merging electronic forms with a samba cocktail style. Foxx produced their cover of ‘The Boy From Ipanema’, adding robotic textures via The Human Host. Much lighter that any of his own work, it was also quite sinister, making this a unqiue curio in the John Foxx portfolio.

Available on the ANTENA album ‘Camino Del Sol’ via Les Disques du Crépuscule

JOHN FOXX Ghosts On Water (1983)

JOHN FOXX The Golden SectionFoxx had envisioned ‘The Golden Section’ as “a roots check: Beatles, Church music, Psychedelia, The Shadows, The Floyd, The Velvets, Roy Orbison, Kraftwerk, and cheap pre-electro Europop”. Working with Zeus B Held, the album had a psychedelic electronic rock flavour, liberally seasoned with vocoder effects and samplers. With folk laden overtones, ‘Ghosts On Water’ was one of the album’s highlights.

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ‘The Golden Section’ via Edsel Records

JOHN FOXX Shine On (1985)

JOHN FOXX In Mysterious WaysWith its sax sample lead line, ‘Shine On’ showed Foxx could deliver a fine pop tune but he had lost his way and wasn’t happy: “I simply didn’t like the mid to late 80s scene – all perfect pop and white soul. I suddenly felt isolated. I remember one day finding myself half-heartedly toying with some sort of sh*tty pop music while longing to be out of the studio and working on something visual. So I thought right that’s it – time for a change”.

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ‘In Mysterious Ways’ via Edsel Records

NATION 12 Remember (1990)

NATION 12 RememberFoxx made an unexpected return to music with an acid house inspired number produced by Tim Simenon of BOMB THE BASS fame: “It was a great experience – a new underground evolving from post-industrial Detroit, using analogue instruments rescued from skips and pawn shops… Tim Simenon turned up wanting me to do some music… so Foxx was out the freezer and into the microwave…”

Available on the NATION 12 album ‘Electrofear’ via Tape Modern

JOHN FOXX Sunset Rising (1995)

JOHN FOXX Cathedral OceansHaving been a choir boy, ‘Cathedral Oceans’ saw Foxxblending ambient forms with Gregorian chants, as exemplified by ‘Sunset Rising’. But the project had an extremely long genesis . Asked what this material gave him that songs couldn’t, he answered: “Well, they cover a different emotional and sonic spectrum – more concerned with tranquility and contemplation. Music with beats can’t address this at all”.

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ‘The Complete Cathedral Oceans’ via Demon Records

JOHN FOXX & LOUIS GORDON Dust & Light (1999)

john foxx louis gordon crash&burnWeaned on ‘Metamatic’, Louis Gordon was a natural collaborator for Foxx’s song based comeback. Their partnership confirmed that Foxx still had that inventive spark. Noisy and percussive, ‘Dust & Light’ recalled the unsettling Dystopian standpoint with which Foxx had made his pioneering impact, although he sustained his interest in more psychedelic forms via songs like ‘An Ocean We Can Breathe’.

Available on the JOHN FOXX & LOUIS GORDON album ‘Crash & Burn’ via Metamatic Records

HAROLD BUDD & JOHN FOXX Subtext (2003)

foxx budd Translucence + Drift MusicWith beautiful piano and processed electronics, the sparse ‘Subtext’ was very reminiscent of Harold Budd’s 1984 Eno collaboration ‘The Pearl’. From the ‘Translucence’ album which was twinned with the more discreet, sleepier textures of ‘Drift Music’, it was smothered in echoes and reverberations galore as slow atmospherics and glistening melodies esoterically blended into the ether.

Available on the HAROLD BUDD & JOHN FOXX album ‘Translucence + Drift Music’ via Metamatic Records

JOHN FOXX & ROBIN GUTHRIE My Life As An Echo (2009)

guthrie foxx mirrorballThe ‘Mirrorball’ album with COCTEAU TWINS’ Robin Guthrie took textural guitars and echoing piano into a dreamworld that Foxx could now enter. ‘My Life As An Echo’ was a beautiful instrumental which stopped short of being fully ambient thanks to its live drum loop. Other tracks such as ‘Estrellita’ and ‘The Perfect Line’ saw Foxx adding Glossolalia to the soundscape.

Available on the JOHN FOXX & ROBIN GUTHRIE album ‘Mirrorball’ via Metamatic Records

JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS featuring MIRA AROYO Watching A Building On Fire (2011)

john foxx maths_interplayJoining forces with synth collector extraordinaire Benge, Foxx found the perfect foil for his earlier analogue ambitions. The best track on their debut album ‘Interplay’ was a co-written duet with Mira Aroyo of LADYTRON entitled ‘Watching A Building On Fire’. With its chattering drum machine and accessible Trans-European melodies, it was an obvious spiritual successor to ‘Burning Car’.

Available on the JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS album ‘Interplay’ via Metamatic Records

GAZELLE TWIN Changelings – JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS remix (2012)

JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS became extremely prolific and a number of remixes appeared, the best of which was for GAZELLE TWIN aka Elizabeth Bernholz. She said: “John and Benge’s remix of ‘Changelings’ was really delicate and elegant. It’s one of my favourites of all the remixes because it doesn’t alter the song much at all. I love the addition of John’s vocal in there too. It was perfectly suited. It’s really special for me”.

Available on the JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS album ‘Evidence’ via Metamatic Records

JOHN FOXX & JORI HULKKONEN Evangeline (2013)

Foxx and Jori Hulkkonen had worked together previously on the songs ‘Dislocated’ and ‘Never Been Here Before’ for the Finnish producer’s solo albums, but never before on a body of work with a conceptual theme. Their eventual ‘European Splendour’ EP took on a grainier downtempo template and the lead track ‘Evangeline’ possessed a glorious pastoral elegance coupled with an otherworldly anthemic chorus.

Available on the JOHN FOXX & JORI HULKKONEN EP ‘European Splendour’ via Sugarcane Records

JOHN FOXX & STEVE D’AGOSTINO The Forbidden Experiment (2014)

With a Dystopian backdrop, Foxx returned to the more mechanical approach with Steve D’Agostino for the soundtrack of Karborn’s experimental short film. The music was “a sinister sonic architecture of drum-machine-music and analogue synthesizers”. The rumbling rush of ‘The Forbidden Experiment’ became a favourite forthose who preferred his instrumental work to have more rhythmic tension.

Available on the JOHN FOXX & STEVE D’AGOSTINO album ‘Evidence Of Time Travel’ via Metamatic Records


GHOST HARMONIC was a project comprising of Foxx and Benge alongside Japanese violinist Diana Yukawa. Foxx said: “the underlying intention was we all wanted to see what might happen when a classically trained musician engaged with some of the possibilities a modern recording studio can offer…” – with a startling dynamic , the album title track was a looming string and synth opus of soothing bliss.

Available on the GHOST HARMONIC ‘Codex’ via Metamatic Records

JOHN FOXX The Beautiful Ghost (2015)

An accessible chill-out record, ‘London Overgrown’ was Foxx’s first wholly solo ambient release since the ‘Cathedral Oceans’ trilogy. With the visual narrative of a derelict London where vines and shrubbery are allowed to grow unhindered throughout the city, ‘The Beautiful Ghost’ was like Beethoven reimagined for the 23rd Century with beautiful string synths placed in a cavernous reverb.

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ‘London Overgrown’ via Metamatic Records

JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS A Man & A Woman (2016)

‘A Man & A Woman’ was less rigid than previous JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS recordings featuring the enchanting voice of Hannah Peel and even some acoustic guitar flourishes. Despite this, vintage synths were still a key element to his mathematical theories: “Analogue is a bit more complex – still mysterious and rebellious. Digital is more controllable. Use where necessary. Avoid anything with a multi-function menu!”

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ’21st Century: A Man, A Woman & A City’ via Metamatic Records

A selection of the John Foxx back catalogue is available from http://johnfoxx.tmstor.es/




Text by Chi Ming Lai
27th June 2016

JOHN FOXX 21st Century: A Man, A Woman & A City

“I always seem to write about a man, a woman and a city. It’s because I am an urban creature most of the time”: John Foxx

’21st Century: A Man, A Woman And A City’ is a new compilation that gathers John Foxx’s song based work from since the turn of the millennium. After a hiatus between 1986 to 1995, Foxx has since been extremely prolific, dividing his time between a number of pop-oriented, ambient and soundtrack projects. The first section of this collection is laid out chronologically, beginning with Foxx’s material recorded with Louis Gordon, his main collaborator on his comeback.

‘A Funny Thing’ from 2001’s ‘The Pleasures Of Electricity’ sounds particularly interesting in today’s context, with the jazzier, deep house inflections being quite different from how Foxx is now. But songs like 2005’s beautifully treated ‘Never Let Me Go’ confirmed that Foxx still had that inventive spark.

But it was when Foxx teamed up with synth collector extraordinaire Benge to form JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS that he became fully re-engaged in the electronic pop realm which he helped to pioneer. Using an array of vintage synthesizers, the feisty growl of ‘Catwalk’, the serenity of ‘Interplay’ and the electro-folk of ‘Evergreen’ all possessed a mechanised charm while simultaneously providing some vital correlative warmth. The parent album ‘Interplay’ was possibly Foxx’s most complete and accessible body of work since ‘Metamatic’.

Continuing with the mathematical solution, from the swift follow-up ‘The Shape Of Things’, the fantastically motorik ‘Tides’ came over like an electronic NEU! Meanwhile from the third Maths album ‘Evidence’, the title track in collaboration with THE SOFT MOON was a surreal slice of post-punk psychedelia, like Numan meeting Syd Barrett! But the most complete track Foxx produced in this period turned out to be the grainy, pastoral elegance of ‘Evangeline’ with Finnish producer Jori Hulkkonen.

The main act of ‘21st Century: A Man, A Woman And A City’ concludes with two previously unreleased songs by JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS; both are highly worthy inclusions. ‘A Many Splendoured Thing’ features pristine pulsing sonics with crisp percussive taps a la ‘The Man Machine’; it’s Foxx goes to Kling Klang.

But ‘A Man And A Woman’ throws in a less rigid formula with some loose, hand played electronic percussion and the enchanting voice of Hannah Peel. It’s an interesting departure that even features some subtle acoustic guitar flourishes by Isobel Malins. Continuing on the six string theme, ‘Estrellita’ from the ‘Mirrorball’ album with COCTEAU TWINS’ Robin Guthrie appropriately provides an esoteric musical interlude, before the compilation’s appendix of assorted collaborations and remixes.

Although not a song written by Foxx, his and Benge’s serene reinterpretation of GAZELLE TWIN’s ‘Changelings’ highlighted not only the synthesized magic of the partnership, but also how the influence of Foxx was interwoven seamlessly into the Brighton-based songstress’ art.

Following JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS’ rework of ‘Dresden’, the reciprocal arrangement delivers a previously unreleased OMD remix of ‘The Good Shadow’. Working around its shimmering arpeggio, Paul Humphreys adds more of the beautiful Synth-Werk that made OMD’s last album ‘English Electric’ such a return to form. Meanwhile, the ADULT. Remix of ‘The Shadow Of His Former Self’ naturally takes on a more punky, techno stance.

Originally a solo track from ‘The Shape Of Things’, ‘Talk’ has now become a collaborative platform for Foxx to explore different approaches from a singular idea with other kindred spirits; on ‘21st Century: A Man, A Woman And A City’, two of these are included.

The first is the previously released ‘Talk (Beneath My Dreams)’ version with Matthew Dear; Foxx provides the cascading bass laden intro before Dear adds a steadfast four-to-the floor beat and a deep sinister voiceover, which could be mistaken for a pitch-shifted Foxx.

But the second version is a brand new, long-awaited collaboration with Gary Numan. Numan’s take on the track is meaty. Retitled ‘Talk (Are You Listening To Me?)’, it predictably screams alienation and fully exploits his haunting trademark overtures, courtesy of some blistering Polymoog from Benge.

The end result is like a wonderful audio mutual appreciation society: “John Foxx has been a hero of mine for my entire adult life” said Numan, “It was a real honour to finally have the chance to contribute to one of his tracks… it was every bit as creative, unusual, demanding, and rewarding, as I always expected it to be”.

Foxx is currently in the studio working on new music. Like SPARKS, John Foxx has been so prolific over the years that it can be challenging to keep up with all his releases. But as much as some of his hardcore following have expressed dismay at countless reissues and compilations, Foxx’s work is still under-appreciated, even within the more general circles of electronic pop music.

So for many, ‘21st Century: A Man, A Woman & A City’ will be an opportunity to catch up with the more accessible side of his work from the last 16 years. For those still not entirely convinced of Foxx’s contribution to the synthesized music world, it acts an ideal entry point into some of his best electronically focused work since ‘Metamatic’.

’21st Century: A Man, A Woman & A City’ is released by Metamatic Records as a CD and download on 27th May 2016. A limited deluxe CD+DVD edition is also available and features 11 videos filmed in Tokyo by Macoto Tezka, featuring music by JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS




Text by Chi Ming Lai
4th May 2016

JOHN FOXX Live at The Roundhouse

Coinciding with the release of his latest 3CD collection ‘Metatronic’ and as part of Short Circuit 2010; an evening celebrating the best of British electronic music, JOHN FOXX headlined a special analogue synthesizer show to mark his 30th anniversary as a solo artist.

His solo debut ‘Metamatic’ was released in early 1980 and this mechanised electro classic has been acknowledged by artists such as APHEX TWIN, TIM SIMENON and THE KLAXONS as an inspiration. JOHN FOXX recently said himself: “There’s a great surge of interest in electronic music. I don’t know why that’s happened, but it’s fortunate for me because I did it a long time ago”

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK happened to be present for his first solo show at Hitchin Regal during October 1983. But on that occasion, JOHN FOXX appeared to have gone back to guitars, so much so that the entire ‘Metamatic’ album was omitted in a near Stalinist rewrite of history! He did however play songs from his ULTRAVOX repertoire, a body of work that influenced the young GARY NUMAN, contributing to his major success in 1979 with ‘Replicas’ and ‘The Pleasure Principle’.

But tonight couldn’t have been more different as Foxx and an ensemble of special guests: Benge (synthesizers, percussion and bass), Steve D’Agostino (synths); Serafina Steer (synths); Jean-Gabriel Becker (synths and bass); and Liam Hutton (drums and percussion) took to the stage to perform material from the ‘Metamatic’ era AND a selection of ULTRAVOX material.

Also featured in themed episodes were songs with LOUIS GORDON and new material under the moniker of JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS.

Prior to the main event, there was DJ sets by JORI HULKKONEN who finished his selection with his proteges VILLA NAH’s own ‘Ways To Be’ and Back to The Phuture’s Mark Jones who played a very electronic set ranging from THE NORMAL, CABARET VOLTAIRE and FAD GADGET to TUBEWAY ARMY, OMD and SOFT CELL. One pleasant surprise was the massive roar of approval that greeted the bleepy pulses of cult classic ‘Lawnchairs’ by OUR DAUGHTERS WEDDING, a sign that the crowd knew their synthesizer history.

To start the show, there was an overture consisting of ‘Parallel Lives’, a cut-up film of Alex Proyas’ ‘Groping’ soundtracked by a 21st Century take on ‘Underpass’ B-side ‘Film One’.

Using the machines that created the sound of the future such as the Minimoog, ARP Odyssey, Roland CR-78, Korg 700 and Roland System 100, the band took their positions but there was a lengthy silence before Foxx arrived on stage to open with ‘Plaza’. Sounding magnificent and full of body, its JG Ballard inspired line “I remember your face from some shattered windscreen” still resonates in this man machine love affair.

Accompanied by VJs Jonathan Barnbrook and Karborn stark filmic visuals throughout the show, B-side ‘This City’ comes next before an outstanding ‘Burning Car’. Taking on a hauntingly eerie significance, it recalls the autobiographical tale of an accident where everyone except the young Dennis Leigh was killed.

The analogue goodness continued with excellent run throughs of ‘No-One Driving’ and ‘He’s a Liquid’ before ending the first episode with ‘Underpass’. Unfortunately, this classic is ruined by heavy speaker distortion and is something that would intermittently ruin several tracks played this evening.

The band then vacated the stage for Foxx’s regular musical partner LOUIS GORDON to join him for three songs. Arriving to a big cheer, Gordon has to be the most enthusiastically intense synth player since Billy Currie. Bouncing around behind his keyboards, he was the total antithesis of FOXX’s largely static and cool stage persona. What they play is noisy and percussive; ‘Shadow Man’ is almost mutant EBM while ‘An Ocean We Can Breathe’ can only be described as metadelic, like an electronic version of The Fab Four’s ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’.

The band returned to play THE MATHS set for what became a very hit ‘n’ miss section of the show. The best track was a song co-written with Mira Aroyo of LADYTRON called ‘Watching A Building On Fire’. Sung with Mira on the record but voiced totally by Foxx tonight, its chattering drum machine and accessible melodies make it stand out among the variable quality of new material that is showcased. Playing anything brand new live is difficult at the best of times but the crowd were beginning to get agitated, polite applause only greeting most of the finales. So when former ULTRAVOX guitarist Robin Simon took to the stage, everyone knew it was time for some more classic material and many who had slowly disappeared for a comfort break mid-show made a surge to the front.

The seminal songs from the ‘Systems Of Romance’ album ‘Dislocation’, ‘Quiet Men’ and a superb ‘Slow Motion’ got the gig back on track to provide the end to the evening and probably got the biggest receptions of the night. Two encores followed which included a tremendous GIORGIO MORODER-esque re-working of ‘The Man Who Dies Everyday’ and the wonderfully beautiful ‘Just For A Moment’.

The evening was concluded with a DJ set from GARY NUMAN and ADE FENTON. The pull of a celebrity DJ is for all to see as half the audience remain in The Roundhouse to see Numan on his iPad with Fenton rather than leaving to beat the rush! Mixing in sections of KRAFTWERK and DEPECHE MODE to a set that included NEW ORDER’s ‘Blue Monday’ and BASEMENT JAXX’s ‘M.E.’ sampling ‘Where’s Your Head At?’, this is a sideline that provokes interest and attention from the plethora of Numanoids that have gathered.

In all, an evening of mixed emotions but all due credit to JOHN FOXX for being willing to celebrate his history while still having the motivation and aptitude to produce new material that is still both innovative and challenging.

‘Metatronic’ is released by Edsel Records



Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Richard Price
7th June 2010