Tag: Mad World Book

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

MAD WORLD BOOK

The book ‘Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s’ is to be formally made available in the UK.

In the book’s foreword by DURAN DURAN’s Nick Rhodes, the flamboyant synth player says: “It was a culture where the predilection was standing out from the crowd rather than fitting in. Artists were musically adventurous, less driven by commerce… While those in their teens and early 20s have a limited musical vocabulary, they remain the key source for change in music”. Concluding in the afterword, MOBY states: “New Wave was its own world. With its own influences, its own codes, its own bailiwick(s), its own aesthetics, its own sonic landscape…”

Launched in North America to great acclaim last April, it discusses many of the artists who formed the British Invasion of the US with the advent of MTV; the Americans referred to these types of acts as New Wave.

While not definitive, ‘Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s’ delves into the spirit, the politics and the heartache behind some of the best songs ever recorded, regardless of genre. The book does bias towards a Stateside viewpoint courtesy of self-confessed Anglophile and Duranie Lori Majewski, but the content is balanced by the critical input of LA based Glaswegian Jonathan Bernstein.

The two met at Spin Magazine during the height of Grunge and found themselves to be kindred spirits as they quietly bonded over Synth Britannia and New Romantics, much to the chagrin of their scruffy, plaid shirted colleagues.

Photo by Paul Natkin

The dynamic between the “sour by nature” and “staunch supporter of the sheer oddball” Scotsman and the “obsessed past the point of sanity” American ensures that ‘Mad World’ celebrates the triumph and innovation of the era while simultaneously pulling no punches.

For example, while accepting their places in the book, Bernstein lobs a few hand grenades in the direction of KAJAGOOGOO and THOMPSON TWINS! The pair’s differing viewpoints on the two phases of OMD are another enjoyable discussion point.

‘Mad World’ is ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s kind of book… it is affectionate and respectful, but also objective and discerning; this more than makes up for previously feeble attempts by other writers to capture the era by combining acts as disparate as SIMPLE MINDS and JASON DONOVAN into a single volume!

While the Adam ‘n’ Moz laden front cover might indicate otherwise, many of the artists who impacted on the Post-Punk synthesizer boom figure prominently in ‘Mad World’. As well as GARY NUMAN, OMD, DEPECHE MODE, SOFT CELL, ULTRAVOX, NEW ORDER, JOY DIVISION, YAZOO, HEAVEN 17, HOWARD JONES, TEARS FOR FEARS, DURAN DURAN, A-HA, A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS, SIMPLE MINDS and THOMAS DOLBY, there’s also THE NORMAL and the early HUMAN LEAGUE to represent the trailblazers from 1978 who helped define the era.

Daniel Miller describes electronic music like ‘Warm Leatherette’ as “pure punk music” as opposed to “punk rock”, due to it adopting that true punk ideal of do-it-yourself. Meanwhile, Martyn Ware waxes lyrical about the realisation of ‘Being Boiled’… the chapter was to have been about ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ but with Phil Oakey’s continued refusal to give interviews about the past has ensured its omission. At the end of the day, Oakey misses an opportunity to reflect and give his story of the era.

However, Oakey’s contemporaries don’t disappoint; as usual, Andy McCluskey gives great copy and his interview nicely sums up the rise and fall and rise and fall and rise of OMD to highlight the pressures of achieving and maintaining success. And while ‘If You Leave’ from the film ‘Pretty In Pink’ may not be the greatest song he and Paul Humphreys have ever written, it is certainly not their worst and its success in America is a handy pension pot for the duo.

The joy of this book is that even if an act is of no interest musically, the back stories are fascinating and a number have not been widely known. Like did you know that the true origin of the name SPANDAU BALLET is even more unpleasant than JOY DIVISION? Or that ‘True’ was inspired by Gary Kemp’s unrequited relationship with ALTERED IMAGES’ Clare Grogan? Or that DEXY’S MIDNIGHT RUNNERS’ Kevin Rowland is a right miserable sod, but he always has been and always will be!

Meanwhile, the entertaining KAJAGOOGOO chapter proves that like in much of today’s music scene, ego can often exceed inherent talent and actual artistic success. The diva-ish spats between Limahl and Nick Beggs in ‘Mad World’ are almost worth the purchase price alone.

While ‘Mad World’ is full of tales of excess and hedonism, one very interesting chapter is about the clean living and philosophical Howard Jones. While quietly making his fortune in the US, the happily married vegetarian readily admitted to having a wandering eye that inspired his biggest American hit ‘No-One Is To Blame’: “It’s about being attracted to other people and admitting that. You are attracted to maybe half the people you meet, and that isn’t a bad thing. You shouldn’t blame yourself for that… but if you want to consummate that attraction to other people, then you have to be prepared to take what comes with it”.

‘Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s’ is a terrific read, but there are the odd date errors and what some might consider irritating translations of distinctly British terms for the primarily American audience.

And while the book covers most bases, one important song that is missing is VISAGE’s ‘Fade To Grey’. A complex story in itself, that probably would have made up a book on its own! But overall, these minor aberrations do not spoil what ‘Mad World’ is… the best book so far capturing that MTV era which many like to refer to as ‘The 8*s’ 😉

Following her highly informative interview earlier in the year, co-author Lori Majewski reflected on the Americanisation of New Wave and why certain UK acts came to become more highly regarded in the US than back home…

Why did it seem the only US acts that seemed to ride on that UK synth wave were BERLIN and ANIMOTION?

LA had a very big New Wave scene with MISSING PERSONS, THE GO GOS, THE MOTELS, BERLIN and ANIMOTION but what you have to remember is that it kinda got watered down by the time it got to America. As we say in the book, you had Brits trying to be Germans wanting to be robots, and then Americans who wanted to be British!

So the Americans were already two steps removed from the conception of New Wave. You look at something like BERLIN, so they’re named after the city that inspired New Wave and 6,000 miles away singing about ‘The Metro’ in Paris where they had never even been!

But I think what LA New Wave brought was glamour. First of all, there weren’t a lot of women in New Wave full stop although in the UK, you had Annie Lennox, Alison Moyet and BANANARAMA. So in LA, we had BERLIN’s Terri Nunn who was a model and tried out to be Princess Leia in ‘Star Wars’, there was THE MOTELS’ Martha Davis who was very old school Hollywood glam and THE GO GOS; plus you had MISSING PERSONS’ Dale Bozzio, who was the first woman I ever saw and thought “oh, that’s what a breast implant is” *laughs*

I think in general, Americans put their own spin on New Wave but as Jonathan likes to point out in the book several times, it wasn’t something we exported back to Britain; it was something that we kept here that Brits didn’t really go for.

What did you think about bands like TEARS FOR FEARS, SIMPLE MINDS and THE PSYCHEDLIC FURS tailoring their sound for the American market when their initial charm was sounding British in the first place?

It’s something we talk about in the TEARS FOR FEARS chapter. We forget that TEARS FOR FEARS had the biggest album of the era in ‘Songs From The Big Chair’. Curt Smith talks in the book about how they did consciously move to appeal to a wider audience but also to make a different record to ‘The Hurting’.

They were listening to more American things like FRANK ZAPPA. So they didn’t make a conscious decision to be American, they made a conscious decision NOT to make the first record again… and as you point out, that record was very British. I don’t know if ‘Songs From The Big Chair’ is American sounding, it just not as New Wave sounding.

The Americans really loved THOMPSON TWINS and HOWARD JONES? What was it about them that appealed Stateside?

HOWARD JONES did well here but I think he would have made it no matter what decade it was because he wrote classic songs… but he happened to use synthesizers and he had the haircut! When you look at a song like ‘No-One Is To Blame’, it’s a good pop song, period!

As for THOMPSON TWINS, Jonathan knew of their previous incarnation while I did not, so he was suspicious of how they were this art conglomerate that suddenly wanted to be pop stars and on the cover of Smash Hits!

I have to say, they were visually arresting and those songs are built to last. You hear ‘Hold Me Now’ today and what an incredible song!

And I always remember that was the first time I thought about couples fighting because the idea that a man will placate a woman and say “you ask if I love you, well what can I say? You know that I do and if this is just one of those games that we play”, and I thought “Oh my God, that’s right… that’s what women do!” *laughs*

So I felt Tom Bailey was a pop star with a romantic side that really appealed to me, especially with the song ‘If You Were Here’ at the end of the John Hughes film ‘Sixteen Candles’, that’s one of my favourite songs from the entire era.

Why do you think acts like A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS, THOMAS DOLBY, WANG CHUNG and NAKED EYES were perhaps more popular in America than Britain?

I think this IS the advent of MTV, you guys in the UK didn’t have it and we did. ‘I Ran’ by A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS was a huge MTV hit, but it only started going up the US charts and being played on radio after people were requesting it because they saw the video on MTV. So they rode a wave that was not available in their own country.

It was the same with NAKED EYES and I love their version of ‘Always Something There To Remind Me’. MTV helped a lot of bands that were using the medium of video to get to an audience.


MAD WORLDELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Lori Majewski

‘Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s’ is available in the UK from all good bookshops and online retailers

Meanwhile in Brooklyn at Rough Trade NYC on Saturday 14th September 2014, ‘A Mad World Conversation with MIDGE URE’ takes place at 5.00pm – details can be found at the Mad World website

http://madworldbook.com

https://www.facebook.com/madworldthebook


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
2nd September 2014

MAD WORLD: An Interview with co-author LORI MAJEWSKI

‘Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s’ is a brand new book that covers the music of the MTV Generation.

Written by New Jersey born Duranie Lori Majewski and LA based Glaswegian Jonathan Bernstein, ‘Mad World’ includes many of the bands that formed part of the post-punk British Invasion of the US which the Americans later referred to as New Wave. Very different from the British definition of New Wave which included acts such as BLONDIE, THE PRETENDERS, X-RAY SPEX and THE POLICE, the Stateside classification threw in Synth Britannia, New Romantics, Young Soul Rebels, Goths, Antipodean funk rockers and refugees from The Bromley Contingent!

Regardless of the seemingly incongruous acts being lumped together, what New Wave in the US did was enlighten a whole group of impressionable teenagers about a musical world that artistically and stylistically had more to offer than the turgid home grown rock of bands like BOSTON, REO SPEEDWAGON, STYX, TOTO and JOURNEY.

‘Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s’ features a foreword by DURAN DURAN’s Nick Rhodes and while not definitive, ‘Mad World’ delves into the spirit, the politics and the heartache behind some of the greatest songs in popular culture, regardless of genre.

With the publication of the book in North America and a UK edition scheduled for Autumn 2014, co-author Lori Majewski kindly spoke to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK to give a fascinating American viewpoint on Synth Britannia and much more…

I understand that this book was partly inspired by the advent of Grunge?

Jonathan Bernstein and I met during Grunge when we both worked at Spin Magazine which in the US, used to be a real competitor to Rolling Stone, although how it’s evolved now as Rolling Stone is more of a veteran magazine while Spin is more indie.

But back then, it was neck-and-neck, a bit like how NME and Melody Maker were in the UK. I was just starting out in the business and wanted to work on a music magazine.

Unfortunately for me who grew up an Anglophile and liked electronic music, by the early 90s, electronic music was no longer in vogue and even a dirty word; it was really gauche to use synthesizers! Grunge with its guitars and feedback, it was dirty compared with the pretty electronic sound that we loved in New Wave.

I kept it to myself because I was at Spin, but then I heard Jonathan talking about ‘The Lexicon Of Love’ by ABC being his favourite record… it was like I could hear angels singing because I thought “OH MY GOD! Somebody understands that time in music!” because nobody wanted to talk about it anymore. We were kinda nerdy for even liking it, we weren’t cool at Spin. So we became best friends.

So how long has ‘Mad World’ been in the making and what has the journey been like?

It wasn’t until 18 months ago when we read an article with Gary Kemp from SPANDAU BALLET. He was talking about the song ‘True’, the story behind it, all the different influences and what the lyrics meant.

We called each other and thought “Wow! Imagine if we could do this kind of article with all of our favourite songs?” That’s how ‘Mad World’ really evolved.

We were going to do the stories behind the songs but as we interviewed the artists, it turned into so much more… it was about the songs, the journeys to making those seminal tracks, how those tracks changed their lives and how sometimes the success strangled artists. Take A-HA; when I interviewed Mags, he said “everyone knows ‘Take On Me’ but I’m like a dad with lots of kids, don’t just like one of my kids, you have to like all of them!”

We also had a cultural conversation with these artists because they talked about The Cold War and Thatcherism. There were some bands like DURAN DURAN who said they “wanted to be the band that you danced to when the bomb drops”. Others like TEARS FOR FEARS wanted to explore that darker side and the psychological melancholy, which is why our book is called ‘Mad World’.

We wanted to do it decades ago, but we could only have done ‘Mad World’ now when these artists were ready to tell their stories of their careers. Plus we had to wait until a time when this kind of music was back in vogue, because no-one would have bought it even five years ago.

How would describe the way you and Jonathan’s very different dynamics combined to produce ‘Mad World’?

Jonathan is 10 years older… he’s 52, I’m 43; he’s Scottish so he was raised on the critical British music press so he’s much more curmudgeonly while during New Wave, I was a wide-eyed American teen who couldn’t get enough of MTV. So I was a fan and he was a critic… but where we meet is we both LOVE this stuff! He loves it from a critical view and he was like “Gosh, it took me a long time to realise it but this stuff is good and influential!” whereas I just bathe in it; I love DURAN DURAN and DEPECHE MODE and built my entire life around that *laughs*

I’m particularly fascinated about how Americans regarded the synthesizer as an instrument and this frequent reference to it being a keyboard, as if there was some kind of denial about it being a real instrument?

From where I sit, I think the synthesizer is essential to my favourite records. The first big record that used the synthesizer I ever heard was GARY NUMAN’s ‘Cars’.

At that time during the turn of the decade, ’79 going into ’80 here in America, I was listening to AIR SUPPLY, OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN and the ‘Grease’ soundtrack! My father was into WARREN ZEVON. The thing is, Americans really hated disco after a while so when I first heard ‘Cars’, it was unlike anything I’d ever heard. It sounded like the future, it sounded like the space age. You have to remember not everyone was that open and a lot of people I went to school with went “that’s not music”. And just the fact that it was called a synthesizer… it’s synthesized, it’s not real!

They thought it had no skill whereas the stuff we came up on like JOURNEY and FOREIGNER, they were bands that played guitars and it was real masculine stuff! So someone like GARY NUMAN comes along, he’s a one-man band thanks to a synthesizer and he’s wearing make-up!

You see, DAVID BOWIE was not as big in the US as he was in the UK at the time. So you put all that together and no-one here really knew Numan was pretty much born of the rib of Bowie. So people thought it was sissy stuff and uncool… and he’s wearing make-up and making synthesized sounds! So Americans were very suspicious of it.

How would you describe the impact of GARY NUMAN and THE HUMAN LEAGUE in the US during the first wave of UK synth artists?

In the Europe, you also had ULTRAVOX, OMD plus of course KRAFTWERK. GARY NUMAN was the first to really make it big and mainstream so in the US, he opened the door for all that.

But when THE HUMAN LEAGUE and EURYTHMICS came on the scene with ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ and ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)’, I just felt “WOW! THINGS ARE CHANGING!”.

The reason we cover ‘Being Boiled’ in the book is an inconvenience of the fact that Phil Oakey didn’t want to talk to us, that was really disappointing. I was thinking “Do we even have a book without ‘Don’t You Want Me?’…?”; but then talking to Martyn Ware, he chatted about his beginnings with THE HUMAN LEAGUE. I realised ‘Being Boiled’ was the boiler plate for so many of the records that came afterwards; DURAN DURAN, OMD and Vince Clarke all talk about ‘Being Boiled’. So we may not have the story you expect with ‘Don’t You Want Me?’, but we have one of the beginning stories of the entire era.

There was still a very macho rockist attitude at the time… I recall John Cougar making some quite homophobic comments about SOFT CELL in Smash Hits!

Really? It’s interesting, as a young girl I didn’t think straight or gay, I was just thinking love. Music has such an emotional impact on you anyway but especially if you are a young person.

I just felt that music opened up my eyes and heart to things that I hadn’t previously been exposed to. And that’s why I fell in love with DURAN DURAN… yes, it helped that they were good looking but they dressed so well and they were so interesting.

But you compare that to the guy at school who may be the equivalent of a John Cougar in the jeans and T-shirt. That may work on some girls but that’s your average guy to me, whereas you had DURAN DURAN on these exotic beaches, wearing these fantastic clothes and having these great accents. And BOY GEORGE, I didn’t think if he was straight or gay, I just thought he was beautiful. At the time, boys looked like girls and girls looked like boys but it didn’t necessarily mean they were gay. SPANDAU BALLET dressed up and sometime wore as much make-up as LIMAHL did. But he said at that time, you just didn’t talk about… but he was not in the closet either.

I think we were so much more progressive back then we are now. During the Grammys this year, we had MACKLEMORE standing up for gay rights. But back in the 80s, you didn’t need a straight white rapper to do that because you had gay pop stars in the charts.

OMD are an interesting conundrum as they were part of that first wave yet didn’t make it at the time, but they then made progress later when they supported THOMPSON TWINS and THE POWER STATION before ‘If You Leave’ was a hit?

OMD are a good example of where the difference between me and Jonathan is vast. Jonathan loved them right from the beginning and really understood their KRAFTWERK pedigree.

Me? I happened by accident to get into OMD because I had tickets to see THE POWER STATION.

SPANDAU BALLET who were due to support had to pull out of the tour as Steve Norman had broken his leg! So I saw OMD with them instead and they played this song from a new movie called ‘Pretty In Pink’. I was thinking “who is this guy with the crazy dance moves?”, but I could see he was really into it and I loved the music.

So I went backwards from ‘If You Leave’ and discovered ‘Architecture & Morality’; I fell in love with the pair of love songs about Joan Of Arc and I was like “THIS IS JUST INCREDIBLE!”. To this day, OMD are definitely in my top three favourite bands. I saw them in concert this past summer and they were my favourite of the year. I still think record after record, they make fantastic music and I say in the book, if no other band existed in the genre of New Wave, I’d be happy to hang my hat entirely on just OMD and say they are a genre unto themselves because I think they are that spectacular a group!

Now, with OMD’s early stuff compared with the later stuff, I think it’s apples and oranges because with ‘If You Leave’, it’s from ‘Pretty In Pink’ which is my favourite of the John Hughes films. I have a soft spot for Ducky… which girl who grew up in the 80s didn’t? I grew up with freckles so I really loved the fact that Molly Ringwald was considered a really beautiful girl.

Until her, there were no pretty teenage girls I could look up to, so all of that is wrapped up in ‘If You Leave’. It’s definitely a part of the whole John Hughes nostalgia thing. But when I think of early OMD, I think of ground breaking seminal electronic music.

It’s interesting you feature THE NORMAL in the book, but not KRAFTWERK. KRAFTWERK seem to have made more of a cultural impact on the US urban dance scene rather than New Wave pop?

We look at KRAFTWERK as being a parent figure to this era rather then being a part of it itself. So when I think about who inspired all of these artists, it’s KRAFTWERK, DAVID BOWIE, ROXY MUSIC, T-REX and CHIC. Then you put it through the punk blender because none of these New Wave artists would have picked up an instrument if it wasn’t for punk. Bowie, Roxy and Bolan were too much on a pedestal, you could never imagine emulating them because they were true rock stars.

But when punk and KRAFTWERK came around, two things happened; punk made you feel you could do it with just three chords while KRAFTWERK taught you that you didn’t even need a band, just one piece of equipment which was the synthesizer. So that’s why there isn’t a chapter on KRAFTWERK, but they are mentioned many times throughout the book.

The chat with Peter Hook must have been quite revealing considering his Joyless Division with NEW ORDER?

Peter Hook was one of my first interviews for the book actually and he is one of my favourites, I probably talked to him about five times. He was very generous with his time, his memories and he was very candid. Some people think he’s overly angry about the situation but as he says in the book, he gave 30 years of his life to the band and he feels really burnt by it. He said it’s a divorce and as someone who’s been through one, I wasn’t married for over 30 years but I can’t imagine what it must feel like; he calls the new version of NEW ORDER “New Odour”. I really liked talking to Peter and one of the reasons is because he is proud of his legacy and loves his own music, both as JOY DIVISION and NEW ORDER.

Now, when I talked to like Vince Clarke, it was really hard to get him to talk about his own music. But once I started asking him about his heroes, he completely opened up about people like SIMON & GARFUNKEL and THE CURE. So he had no problem talking about that, but had a problem talking about his own music because it’s too close to him. Peter Hook is not like that, he is enjoying preserving his legacy and you can see that; he’s written two books on his career so far and has another on the way about NEW ORDER. I think he’s a great storyteller.

Photo by Donald Christie

Did you talk to Bernard Sumner as well?

Yes, I also interviewed Bernard but he really avoided as much as possible talking about Peter Hook and the problems they had. He said NEW ORDER’s music, particularly ‘Blue Monday’ has been passed down through the family like a gold watch, meaning people who are in their 40s and 50s have passed the music down to their teenage kids who now find it cool. The JOY DIVISION and NEW ORDER chapters are two of my favourites.

My heart hurts for Peter because I’m a very sensitive person too and I can tell that this whole situation with Bernard has broken his heart. However, this is not something that happened recently, this has been a slow boil for many years. Peter said they only shared one phone call over 35 years and that was because Bernard’s car had a flat battery and he need a lift to a gig!

This first wave paved the way for prettier bands like DURAN DURAN and DEPECHE MODE plus electro-soul hybrids like HEAVEN 17, EURYTHMICS and YAZOO in the US. Was there a big difference in these acts that made them more appealing to Americans? Was it really just down to videos and MTV?

A good video is a good video, but a great video can’t rescue a crappy song! So it was much more than that… the truth of the matter is, DURAN DURAN became as big as they are in the United States because they spent many months touring here. In 1984 on their biggest tour, they spent half the year here. So America got used to these bands whereas HEAVEN 17 never set foot here.

Martyn Ware talks about HEAVEN 17 never coming to the US and thinks that hurt them. HEAVEN 17, YAZOO and a few of the others, they appeared on video and it was so new, it got them all around the world at once. So they thought “MTV in America play videos, why do they have to see us live? We don’t need to go to Australia, we’ll send them the video!”

If HEAVEN 17 had toured and put in the time, they had the songs that would have made them big here… ‘Temptation’ had a lot of potential in the US. YAZOO were sizeable here and not just with ‘Only You’. When I was in High School, everyone loved ‘Upstairs at Eric’s’ and they played ‘Situation’ to death.

Photo by Deb Danahay

What about DEPECHE MODE?

DEPECHE MODE are interesting in that they’re really two bands… in this book, we talk about the early Vince Clarke Depeche that was really, a different group to the one that came over towards the end of the decade and sold out the Rose Bowl.

And when Vince Clarke left, they really didn’t know what was going to happen because he wrote all the songs and produced.

It took Martin Gore a few albums to step up; ‘People Are People’ was a slight hit here but it wasn’t until they really put the time in to breaking in America that they made it. In fact, their first huge hit here wasn’t until ‘Enjoy The Silence’ in 1990. To me, DEPECHE MODE and THE CURE are the Holy pair of New Wave graduates who then went into the alternative music scene and started playing stadiums. I believe if THE SMITHS has stuck it out, they would have been doing so too.

With DURAN DURAN and their sound particularly, were their disco and rock elements also a factor in their American appeal in that they were not a pure synthesizer group?

I think you’re right. I’m the world’s biggest Duranie and I have to say, I think the magic is that the five members made incredible music and were the best at what they did. Nick Rhodes was a great synthesizer player and a producer behind the scenes in putting these records together; Simon Le Bon has an interesting and unique voice;  John Taylor is a hell of a bassist who many contemporary artists look up to; you had Roger Taylor who Mark Ronson and Nile Rodgers both talk about what a strong drummer he is; and then there’s Andy Taylor who Mark Ronson says gave “a Steve Jones element” to the band. So you have this confluence of disco and synth sound with the crazy rock guitar element, it was a unique combination. With DURAN DURAN, you had the best of all worlds. You didn’t have that in SPANDAU BALLET!

Photo by Virginia Turbett

It’s interesting you say that, I briefly spoke to John Taylor once and asked him when he realised DURAN DURAN were going to trump SPANDAU BALLET and he replied “To Cut A Long Story Short”…

…he said to me that he ran out and bought that record, listened to it and was like “alright, nothing to worry about”. A thing that come across in the book is how competitive all of these groups were. Duran were super competitive with Spandau and that gets a lot of ink.

But also, DURAN DURAN were worried about ABC and John Taylor says in the book how nervous he was when ‘The Lexicon Of Love’ came out. And ABC were looking over their shoulder at THE HUMAN LEAGUE. And GARY NUMAN was competing with OMD. Back then, there was a race and ABC’s Martin Fry talks a lot about that race to put out the freshest, coolest, newest sounding record. And they were all competing in it.

They were all very much trying to come up with the next sound. So it’s interesting with ‘To Cut A Long Story Short’; SPANDAU BALLET started as a New Romantic band, then they come out with this funk dancefloor hit ‘Chant No1’, AND THEN became much more of a ballads band with ‘True’.

Look at today’s music scene… no bands are blowing up the formula between records like they did then! That’s what made it so exciting and so interesting. John Taylor went rushing out to buy ‘To Cut A Long Story Short’ because he had no idea what it was going to sound like; whereas today, when KATY PERRY puts out a record, you kinda know how it’s going to sound! And so many of today’s artists use the same producer so they do sound the same! *laughs*

ULTRAVOX who are in the book never made it in America despite their cinematic videos. Were they just too European and too old for the MTV Generation?

It’s funny, with ULTRAVOX, I think Americans had no idea where Vienna even was, so they couldn’t get into it! *laughs*

But for us Anglophiles who understood and liked DURAN DURAN and SPANDAU BALLET, it opened up Europe to us. The first time I ever went to England was to see a DURAN DURAN concert.

Nick Rhodes said the same thing about Bowie, he had never even left the country but through Bowie, he felt he could understand what it could be like to go to Berlin or Paris. In general, only 2 out of 10 Americans even had a passport and that’s true to this day. Andrew Farriss of INXS said that people in America were getting them confused and thinking they were Austrian instead of Australian! The accents couldn’t be more different! *laughs*

But Midge Ure is one of those really important driving forces of the entire movement because not only was he in ULTRAVOX, but he was a big part of VISAGE and co-wrote ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ so he had to be in this book 🙂

How do you subscribe to the thought that a number of these British acts that made it huge in America were effectively softened versions of acts that came before eg DURAN DURAN with JAPAN, and PET SHOP BOYS with SOFT CELL?

I’ve never thought of PET SHOP BOYS ever as a softened version of SOFT CELL, but I can see where you’re coming from.

The first time I heard ‘West End Girls’, it blew my mind, I’d never heard anything like it before and I still haven’t. SOFT CELL’s ‘Tainted Love’ was a tremendous hit here, it’s up there with ‘Sweet Dreams’, ‘Cars’ and ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ but SOFT CELL never really followed it up here.

As far as DURAN DURAN and JAPAN went, it’s like GARY NUMAN and DAVID BOWIE. I didn’t know until years later about JAPAN because they weren’t big here. But I remember listening to them and thinking “Wow! I can really hear DURAN DURAN in this”.

Now Duran may have started out with that influence but let’s not forget about SPANDAU BALLET. DURAN DURAN may have blown them out of the water eventually, but they have Spandau to thank. If there wasn’t a Blitz Club, there wouldn’t have been a Rum Runner so if there wasn’t a SPANDAU BALLET, there wouldn’t have been a DURAN DURAN. But Duran kept it going and they’re the elder statesmen of the entire era.

I loved JAPAN but they were too bloody minded and David Sylvian was too arty to want to become pop stars…

DURAN DURAN never minded and wanted to embrace the mainstream. They were huge and maximised every opportunity whether it was videos or their good looks or the fact that they were good songwriters and musicians. They were a team and shared songwriting credits on every song.

SPANDAU BALLET broke in two because Gary Kemp was being sued by three members of the band for royalties.

DURAN DURAN never had to worry about that kind of thing. I’m really proud to be a Duranie because they’re survivors. Have you seen DURAN DURAN live?

Oh yes, several times. I didn’t see them until 1988 unfortunately, but I went to one of the 2004 shows at Wembley Arena and it is still one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to!

I was at every single one, I loved those Wembley shows! OH MY GOD! They blew me away!

This will make you laugh, one of the things about being a male DURAN DURAN fan, you didn’t admit it when you were younger. But you don’t have a problem with it when you’re older. So when me and my mate got to the Wembley gig, we thought “where shall we stand? Oh, let’s stand towards the left” because of course, that was where all the girls were… waiting for John Taylor! 😉

You’re right, guys did not admit to liking them when they were younger but now you go to a Duran concert and there tons of guys there… and they’re not just there to hold the wife’s handbag! *laughs*

Who’d have thought the majority of the acts that feature in ‘Mad World’ are still active as brands and live performers. So should these artists keep touring and how do you feel about them recording new material?

When we interviewed Andy McCluskey, he feels that a lot of bands from this era shouldn’t be doing new music because they have nothing new to say. He felt that when OMD made the last two albums, they had to dig deep to really challenge themselves to say it was not to make a quick buck off the audience. That’s why Tom Bailey has to this day not done an acoustic album of THOMPSON TWINS hits or a reunion tour because he feels he doesn’t have it in him… although for the first time, he’s going to be touring solo in the US with Midge Ure and Howard Jones.

But I look at a band like DURAN DURAN; Simon Le Bon said to me that they are “career musicians”, they would not know what to do with themselves if they did not have a tour to do or a studio to go into… they are driven to make new music.

Some people think the record ‘Red Carpet Massacre’ with Timbaland was a mistake, but it’s one of my favourites… I’m really look up to Duran because they take chances. I always say hats off to acts like them and U2 for trying new things.

Of course, I see why Duranies were so excited about the Mark Ronson produced ‘All You Need Is Now’ album because it brought them back to ‘Rio’ and that sound. As long as bands are inspired to keep going and can, they should. INXS cannot keep going; they called it a day last year and Andrew Farriss said he has a hard time writing with someone who isn’t Michael Hutchence. Imagine working with someone for so long and suddenly they’re not there anymore?

So the bands that do continue, by and large, none of them disappoint me. I like some records better than others but even if I don’t like what they produce, I love the spirit with which they produce it.

I guess the end result of this New Wave legacy in America is that there’s great cinema like ‘Donnie Darko’, but also terrible new bands like FUTURE ISLANDS…

…I’m not a huge fan of FUTURE ISLANDS either… I was on my way to do a radio interview and I could not remember what they were called, I was thinking “Fantasy Islands? No, that’s not right!” *laughs*

The thing is, when I saw FUTURE ISLANDS on ‘The David Letterman Show’, I thought it was a comedian doing a skit on what they thought an 80s New Wave band was like…

…really? That’s so funny, I can see that! *laughs*

So how do you view the long term cultural significance of New Wave?

What I do like is that the sound continues… I like CHVRCHES, I think they’re good. On ‘American Idol’ the other evening, it was ‘80s Night’ and they had DURAN DURAN on there. Even a lot of this EDM is really a direct descendant of New Wave and electronica. Daniel Miller of Mute said that he can’t stand that term EDM aka Electronic Dance Music, but it’s what New Wave sort of was.

So it continues and it’s cool that the artists we love are finally getting recognition for really paving the way 30 years ago. I mean, there was the 90s when nobody would give OMD or GARY NUMAN a record deal because people thought no-one wanted to hear that music. John Taylor said he would have crawled into a hole in the ground if it wasn’t for Nick Rhodes keeping DURAN DURAN together, because they felt so shunned by popular culture.

What’s nice, whether or not you like EDM, FUTURE ISLANDS or CHVRCHES, is they’re continuing the tradition of the artists we love and allowing them to get their proper due finally. I really hope that in the next few years, DEPECHE MODE get inducted into The Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall Of Fame. It’s about time one of these bands gets properly recognised for ushering in an entire era of amazing electronic music.

MOBY, who does the afterword in ‘Mad World’, said to you he’d have liked to have been in DURAN DURAN. I always wanted to be in OMD and still dress like Paul Humphreys circa 1981! Which New Wave band would you have liked to have been in?

This is a hard question… to me DURAN DURAN are so good at what they do, I can’t even imagine being a part of it. Do you know what I mean?

Whereas I look at a band like BOW WOW WOW, they had a female singer Annabella Lwin and I talk a lot in the book about how she was my first girl crush.

She had a Mohican and she was so freaking cool! It seems like it was a party to be part of BOW WOW WOW although you learn from the book that it was nowhere near a party and that she barely hung out with the guys! But from a distance, it looked really fun to be in BOW WOW WOW ?


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Lori Majewski

‘Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s’ by Lori Majewski and Jonathan Bernstein is published by Abrams Books

http://madworldbook.com

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Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
19th April 2014, updated 3rd February 2019