Paul Boddy, freelance producer, musician and writer looks back on ten years of ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK.
I had known Chi Ming Lai previously via another now defunct website which I used to contribute a variety of bootleg remixes of THE HUMAN LEAGUE and DEPECHE MODE. Once we were on each other’s radars and had moved on, I was very flattered when Chi asked me to start contributing to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK.
One of the first pieces I did was an interview with ADAMSKI in 2012. Looking back, this was one of the most nerve-wracking things I’d done and completely out of my comfort zone at the time. This was primarily because a) he was a bit of a musical hero of mine as a previous band I was in had covered ‘Killer’ and b) I was faced with the proposition of trying to interview the guy over the phone and then record it using a mobile digital recorder (untried technology for me).
Despite his mobile signal dipping in and out (as he was ambling around London at the time I interviewing him) and the batteries running out on my recorder half-way through, the interview went well and I got a huge sense of achievement once the piece had been transcribed and eventually published.
The main enjoyment I get from occasionally contributing to the site is the ability to interview bands and people within the scene, Chi has kindly put some interviews my way including WANG CHUNG, SHRIEKBACK, KOSHEEN, CHICANE, WRANGLER and CREEP SHOW as well as two of my own personal favourites John Foxx and Ulrich Schnauss. Having the platform to interact with these kind of artists is mind-blowing for me, especially the ones who I have admired and in some places influenced my own musical development. My other approach and contribution to the site is tracking down (some may call this stalking!) artists via social media and approaching them with a view to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK featuring them in its ‘Missing in Action’ series.
Although a bit hit and miss as some artists don’t always respond when messaged, it has borne fruit with many artists accepting and using the opportunity to reflect and look back on their tenure in the music industry.
In terms of the people I’m most proud of ‘snagging’ in this manner are Scott Simon (OUR DAUGHTER’S WEDDING), Dave ‘Dee’ Harris (FASHIØN), Jerome Froese (TANGERINE DREAM) and Rob Dean (JAPAN). Because of the big interviews already done on the site by Chi, I find that this gives a lot of traction when cold approaching these kind of artists.
However, the icing on the cake was when Chi and myself spent a glorious few hours in a Liverpool Street pub with Stephen Singleton and Mark White from ABC and VICE VERSA. Getting this interview was a long process which started when Stephen contacted me in 2015 with regards to reviewing the VICE VERSA box set; this led to linking up with Mark and after a long period of negotiation and Facebook messenger chats, a face to face interview in 2019 with lots of laughter.
For me this has definitely been my highlight of ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK and although the transcribing of the interview was one of the longest processes I’ve done (the guys LOVED to chat!), the sense of achievement upon completion was huge.
Moving away from the artists themselves and onto electronic synth music itself, Chi and myself have quite differing tastes in music, but with enough crossover that we can still happily work together. The material I favour tends to be male-fronted, often dance-inflected and also with elements of guitars thrown into the mix (see BATTLE TAPES, MAPS, MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY and SPLEEN UNITED).
If you are a reader of the site, you won’t be surprised to hear that along with the other ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK contributors, I continue to be disappointed with the lack of decent UK based synth acts and the exposure that so many second-rate bands continue to get. For a country that has such an amazing heritage of electronic music (like DEPECHE MODE, YAZOO, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, EURYTHMICS, OMD… I can go on), why is it that there are so few acts of quality which are continuing the tradition of these incredible acts?
What grinds my gears the most is the complete lack of emphasis on quality vocals that some UK synth bands have; for many it appears that once a synth backing track has been made, the process of adding vocals is treated as an afterthought. Very little attention is paid to crucial things like tuning / character / lyrics, all traits which have made vocalists such as Alison Moyet and Annie Lennox titans in their field. Whether this will improve and we will get another CHVRCHES or MIRRORS is doubtful, but I live in hope!
Although the original music that I write and produce (J-Pop / K-Pop) isn’t the kind of thing that ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK would champion, it still features a lot of electronics and I have been fortunate to have had success with some major Japanese artists including ARASHI and E-GIRLS (who covered YMO’s ‘Rydeen’).
I continue to write and produce for this market which is great fun. I continue to enjoy performing live as well in various cover bands.
Signing off, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK has been a wonderful platform for me and has enabled me to interact with many of my musical heroes and also review some of their work too, long may it continue…
2019 was a year of 40th Anniversaries, celebrating the synth becoming the sound of pop when ‘Are Friends Electric?’ reached No1 in the UK chart in 1979.
While GARY NUMAN opted for ‘(R)evolution’ and two of his former sidemen RRussell Bell and Chris Payne ventured solo for the first time, OMD offered a 7 disc ‘Souvenir’ featuring a whole album of quality unreleased material to accompany a concert tour to celebrate four decades in the business. That was contrary to DEPECHE MODE who merely plonked 14 albums into a boxed set in a move where the ‘Everything Counts’ lyric “the grabbing hands grab all they can” became more and more ironic… MIDGE URE partied like it was 1980 with the music of VISAGE and ULTRAVOX, while SIMPLE MINDS announced an arena tour for 2020 so that their audience could show Jim Kerr their hands again.
HEAVEN 17 announced some special showcases of the early material of THE HUMAN LEAGUE and got a particularly warm reception opening on tour for SQUEEZE as a trailer ahead of their own ‘Greatest Hits’ jaunt next year.
Celebrating 20 years in music, there was the welcome return of LADYTRON with a self-titled comeback album, while Swedish evergreens LUSTANS LAKEJER performed the ‘Åkersberga’ album for its 20th Anniversary and similarly GOLDFRAPP announced a series of shows in honour of their magnificent cinematic debut ‘Felt Mountain’.
Cult favourites FIAT LUX made their intimate live comeback in a church in Bradford and released their debut album ‘Saved Symmetry’ 37 years after their first single ‘Feels Like Winter Again’.
As a result, their fans were also treated to ‘Ark Of Embers’, the long player that Polydor Records shelved in 1985 when the band were on the cusp of a breakthrough but ended with a commercial breakdown.
Modern prog exponents Tim Bowness and Steven Wilson got back together as NO-MAN for their dual suite electronic concept record ‘Love You To Bits’, but an even more ambitious undertaking came from UNDERWORLD with their boxed set ‘Drift Series 1’.
After a short hiatus, the mighty KITE sold-out three gigs at Stockholm Slaktkyrkan and ended the year performing at an opera house, while GIORGIO MORODER embarked on his first ever concert tour where his songs were the stars.
Despite the fall of The Berlin Wall 30 years ago, there were more evident swipes to the right than there had been for a long time, with the concept of Brexit Electro becoming a rather unpleasant reality. So in these more sinister times, the need for classic uplifting electronic pop was higher than ever.
To that end, three superb debut albums fitted the bill. While KNIGHT$ offered quality Britalo on ‘Dollars & Cents’, the suave presence of OLLIE WRIDE took a more MTV friendly direction with ‘Thanks In Advance’.
But for those wanting something more home produced, the eccentric Northern electronic pop of the brilliantly named INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP continued the artistic lineage of THE HUMAN LEAGUE.
QUIETER THAN SPIDERS finally released their wonderful debut album ‘Signs Of Life’ which was naturally more understated and Denmark had some worthy synthpop representation with SOFTWAVE producing an enjoyably catchy debut long player in ‘Game On’.
On the shadier side of electronic pop, BOY HARSHER achieved a wider breakthrough with their impressive ‘Careful’ long player but as a result, the duo acquired a contemporary hipster element to their fanbase who seemed to lack manners and self-awareness as they romped around gigs without a care for anyone around them. But with tongues-in-cheeks, SPRAY continued to amuse with their witty prankelectro on ‘Failure Is Inevitable’.
Photo by Johnny Jewel
Italians Do It Better kept things in house as CHROMATICS unexpectedly unleashed their first album for six years in ‘Closer To Grey’ and embarked on a world tour. Main support was DESIRE and accompanied on keyboards by HEAVEN singer Aja, the pair took things literally during their cover version of ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ with a girl-on-girl kiss in front of head honcho Johnny Jewel.
Other ITIB acts on the tour dependent on territory included DOUBLE MIXTE, IN MIRRORS and KRAKÓW LOVES ADANA. But the best work to appear from the stable came from JORJA CHALMERS who became ‘Human Again’.
Touring in Europe with OMD and MIDGE URE, TINY MAGNETIC PETS unleashed two EPs ‘The Politburo Disko’ and ‘Girl In A White Dress’ as fellow Dubliner CIRCUIT3 got political and discussed ‘The Price Of Nothing & The Value Of Everything’.
The King of Glum Rock LLOYD COLE surprised all with an electronic pop album called ‘Guesswork’ just as PET SHOP BOYS set an ‘Agenda’. HOWARD JONES released his most synthy work for years in ‘Transform’ and while CHINA CRISIS acted as his well-received support on the UK leg of his 35th Anniversary tour, their front man GARY DALY ventured solo with ‘Gone From Here’.
Sweden continued to produce quality electronic pop with enjoyable releases from the likes of MACHINISTA, PAGE, COVENANT, OBSESSION OF TIME and LIZETTE LIZETTE. One of the most interesting acts to emerge from the region was US featuring the now Stockholm-domiciled Andrew Montgomery from GENEVA and Leo Josefsson of LOWE, with the catalyst of this unlikely union coming from a shared love of the late country legend Glen Campbell. Meanwhile, veteran trio DAYBEHAVIOR made the best album of their career ‘Based On A True Story’.
However, Canada again gave the Swedes a good run for their money as ELECTRIC YOUTH and FM ATTACK released new material while with more of a post-punk slant, ACTORS impressed audiences who preferred a post-post-punk edge alongside their synths.
DANA JEAN PHOENIX though showed herself to be one of the best solo synth performers on the live circuit, but artistically the best of the lot was MECHA MAIKO who had two major releases ‘Okiya’ and ‘Let’s!’.
Despite making some good music in 2019 with their ‘Destroyer’ two-parter, the “too cool for school” demeanour of TR/ST might have impressed hipsters, but left a lot to be desired. A diva-ish attitude of entitlement was also noticed by ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK to be disappointingly prevalent in several fledgling acts.
However, several of the sub-genre’s artists needed to rethink their live presentations which notably underwhelmed with their static motions and lack of engagement.
While promoters such as Outland developed on their solid foundations, others attempted to get too big too soon like the musical equivalent of a penis extension, leaving fans disappointed and artists unpaid. Attempting to turnover more than 10 acts during in a day with a quarter of an hour changeover has always been an odious task at best, but to try 15?!? One hopes the headliners were well paid despite having to go on at midnight when most of their supporters went home so as not to miss the last train…
Now at times, it was as if a major collective midlife crisis had hit independent electronic music in the UK during 2019. It was not unlike how “born again bikers” have become a major road safety risk, thanks to 40somethings who only managed Cycling Proficiency in Junior School suddenly jumping onto 500cc Honda CMX500 Rebel motorcycles, thinking they were Valentino Rossi.
Something similar was occurring in music as a variety of posturing delusional synth owners indulged in a remix frenzy and visions of grandeur, forgetting that ability and talent were paramount. This attitude led to a number of poorly attended events where attendees were able to be counted on one hand, thanks to clueless fans of said combos unwisely panning their video footage around the venue.
Playing at 3:15pm in an empty venue is NOT performing at a ‘major’ electronic festival… “I’ll be more selective with the gigs I agree to in the UK” one of these acts haplessly bemoaned, “I’ve played to too many empty rooms!” – well, could that have been because they are not very good?
Bands who had blown their chance by not showing willingness to open for name acts during holiday periods, while making unwise comments on their national TV debut about their lack of interest in registering for PRS, said they were going to split a year in advance, but not before releasing an EP and playing a farewell show in an attempt to finally get validation for their art. Was this a shining example of Schrodinger’s Band?
Of course, the worst culprits were those who had an internet radio show or put on gigs themselves so that they could actually perform, because otherwise external promotors were only interested in them opening at 6.15pm after a ticket deal buy on for a five band bill. Humility wouldn’t have gone amiss in all these cases.
It’s a funny old world, but as ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK comes up to concluding its tenth year as an influential platform that has written extensively about not one or two or three or four BUT five acts prior to them being selected to open on tour for OMD, luckily the gulf between good and bad music is more distinct than ever. It will be interesting to see if the high standard of electronic pop will be maintained or whether the influx of poor quality artists will contaminate the bloodline.
So ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK ends the decade with a complimentary comment by a punter after attending two of its live events: “You don’t put on sh*t do you…”
May the supreme talent rise and shine… you know who you are 😉
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK Contributor Listings of 2019
MAPS gigs are as rare as hen’s teeth (especially in the capital) and tonight’s gig at The Southbank Centre attracted a bit of a Mute Records “who’s who” with DEPECHE MODE producer / engineer Gareth Jones and Polly Scattergood both in the audience.
The man behind MAPS, James Chapman recently released his fourth album ‘Colours. Reflect. Time. Loss’ which saw a massive direction change from the electronics-based ‘Vicissitude’; the new work seeing the synths and drum machines being mainly replaced by live drums, strings and brass.
There was an expectation that tonight’s sound would be dictated by the new MAPS aesthetic.
But from the off, it was apparent that this was going to be a ‘rock’ gig with the orchestral instrumentation being absent, Chapman’s live synth / Korg Electribe / guitar set-up was augmented by drums, bass and ably flanked by Cecilia Fage (vocals + percussion) and Rachel Kenedy (vocals + synth).
The Southbank set spanned three of MAPS’ four albums with ‘Turning the Mind’ being the only work to be overlooked.
Kicking off with ‘Surveil’ and ‘Both Sides’ from ‘Colours. Reflect. Time. Loss.’, Chapman created a carefully controlled wall of sound with the newer tracks arguably sounding even stronger than their recorded versions.
The show’s psychedelic visuals were worthy of a mention with microphone stand mounted mini-camera feeds being warped in real-time and projected onto the screen behind. MAPS debut Mercury Prize nominated album was well represented with ‘So Low, So High’ getting an early airing; listening to this track now, it still sounds like a Glastonbury anthem waiting to happen and it would be a criminal shame if Chapman doesn’t get some festival appearances as a result of his performance here.
Midway through the main set saw two tracks back-to-back from ‘Vicissitude’, ‘I Heard Them Say’ and ‘You Will Find a Way’.
Both tracks translated incredibly well to the live stage with Fage and Kenedy’s providing some quite beautiful harmonies to back up Chapman’s lead vocals which at times evoked those of THE STONE ROSES’ Ian Brown.
The looping shuffle of ‘It Will Find You’ climaxed what felt like an all-too short set and the band disappeared literally for a couple of minutes before returning for a two song encore.
‘Liquid Sugar’ and ‘In Chemistry’ drew the evening to a close and the Purcell Room crowd were left wanting more. Chapman appeared visibly moved by the reception and spent time after the show mingling with the audience and signing albums.
Even after thirteen years, MAPS still remain Mute Records best kept secret; criminally overlooked and deserving of a much wider audience.
Hopefully the success of this show will see Chapman and his band taking to the stage far more frequently as he now has a band that is tailor-made to interpret his tracks live.
If you get a chance to catch MAPS in future, don’t pass up the opportunity to catch this consistently innovative and brilliant musician / performer.
Special thanks to Sarah Pearson at Wasted Youth PR
MAPS aka James Chapman releases his fourth album ‘Colours. Reflect. Time. Loss.’ through Mute in May.
Following the collaboration with Polly Scattergood as ON DEAD WAVES, ‘Colours. Reflect. Time. Loss.’ sees Chapman hooking up with the string / brass players of ECHO COLLECTIVE, who had previously worked on ERASURE’s ‘World Beyond’ album, for a far more organic-sounding work.
James Chapman kindly spoke about the new MAPS album and also his fruitful ongoing relationship with Mute…
For listeners of the last MAPS record ‘Vicissitude’, the new album is going to be a huge contrast, were you nervous to committing to making such a different sounding record?
The whole idea of this album was to try new things and I think “being bold” was one of the themes of the record, so I just went for it. I think it’s the same with every album, you tend to second guess yourself, you’re not quite sure sometimes. In the end, if I like it, I hope other people do as well! *laughs*
How important was the making of the ON DEAD WAVES album on ‘Colours. Reflect. Time. Loss.’, it’s a kind of a stepping stone between the two isn’t it?
I think it was in a lot of ways, that was obviously a collaboration. I think it took me out of my comfort zone in a way because I was so used to working on my own for so many years. Working with Polly Scattergood was a new experience and because it went so well, I guess it opened me up to the idea of working with other people. With the new album I took that a step further. It got me back into playing my guitar a lot more because I’d kind of sidelined that with some of the albums and plunged straight into electronic stuff.
What were the challenges of going from a one man band MAPS to the involvement of a multitude of live musicians on ‘Colours. Reflect. Time. Loss.’?
I still worked a lot on the songs before I got to that point, so I still managed to have a lot of control. I’m still a bit of control freak! *laughs*
I got the songs to a certain point and then I really just thought I could take it further and so that’s when I got ECHO COLLECTIVE involved. Because it was that way of doing it, there was less anxiety about involving other people, so it was another step really.
So you knew in your head what you wanted it to sound like?
The big challenge for me was doing the arrangements, I’d never really done that before. So when they all sat down and played the scores, there was a part of me that was very relieved that the notes they were playing were what I’d written!
That was great, the whole process was a big learning experience for me, I feel like I’ve progressed a bit with what I know I can do.
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK recently interviewed Mark White and Stephen Singleton from ABC and we were discussing the ‘Lexicon of Love’ album. Mark said that it was a “profoundly moving experience” hearing the strings recorded for his songs. How was the overall experience for you?
There was a sense of relief! You’re never totally sure that things are going to work out, so when things slot into place and things are going well, you get a feeling of “wow”, it’s actually worked. I can understand what they’re saying, it’s a whole different experience, a different way of doing music when the notes are on the page. It’s all there but you never quite know what the sound that comes out will be like, so it was an interesting way of working.
Did you commit wholeheartedly saying “oh right, we’re going to have strings on all of these tracks” or did you do a couple and see how it worked?
I committed a bit more because we did six tracks in the first session and originally that was what was planned. I hadn’t planned to do the whole album with arrangements. But it worked out so well that I decided to just go for it in the end, just do the whole album. So when I got home after the first session, I thought, ah, I should have done them all! There were two sessions in the end, we did six tracks in the first and four in the second one. It was never the complete plan to do them all in one go.
Is it true you blew the record company advance on involving live musicians for the projects?
Yeah it is true! *laughs*
Because I’d worked on the album on my own, there was not a lot of expense in the way I would do it and I wouldn’t involve other people until the end stage. But yes, I spent the advance on the first session and then I actually applied for PRS funding for the second session and I actually got that…
I didn’t realise they did that kind of thing?
I didn’t either! So that was amazing, because that meant I could go back and finish the album; it was just a lot of things nicely slotted into place in that process which was really nice.
At what point did you make the decision to ditch the electronic drums on the new album as ‘Vicissitude’ was 100% programmed percussion?
The idea with this album was to have more of a human sound, so the answer to that was get more humans involved in the making of it! *laughs*
All the drums were already there programmed, I asked Matt to do his thing on the tracks. There’s still a lot of programming weaved in as well, so it’s not entirely all live, there’s a lot of electronic elements that were left in. He played on all of the songs, again it just really worked for me because I think that it does add a human element when there’s live playing involved.
The promo video for ‘Just Reflecting’ (with its stop motion footage) is reminiscent of the Philip Glass soundtracked ‘Koyaanisqatsi’, was that film an influence?
It wasn’t consciously, I know the music to that rather than the film itself. The visuals worked out really well; I had a lot of visual ideas in my head and a lot of it was sweeping cityscapes and was drawn from memories from childhood. That sense of wonder when you’re seeing huge cityscapes for the first time. There were a lot of memories I was drawing on, Jonathan Irwin who did the visuals did a great job!
‘Both Sides’ has a real Krautrock motorik feel to it, are you a fan of the genre?
Yes, totally, it’s really cool that you said that! That song especially, it was a bit of a tribute to that sound. A lot of those songs are very rhythm based, the drums will just stay almost quite hypnotic…
Jaki Liebezeit, he pioneered that kind of consistent drum rhythm…
The music weaves around the drums and that was what I was going for with ‘Both Sides’.
I think you succeeded! You are very open about ‘Pet Sounds’ being an important landmark for you, are there any other albums that you hold in equally high esteem?
Oh yeah, totally, that was an obvious reference for me, ‘Pet Sounds’; but I was listening to a lot of Sixties and Seventies soundtracks as well, like Morricone. I love horror soundtracks as well like the Giallo stuff….
Like GOBLIN, the Dario Argento stuff?
Yes, I love the way the instrumentation is all played for real and sometimes things go slightly out of time. There’s a very human feel to those soundtracks.
Although ‘Colours. Reflect. Time. Loss.’ is a far more organic album than ‘Vicissitude’, there are still some electronics and sequencers on it, did you invest in any new synth tech for it?
Yes I did, I got a new crazy guitar FX pedal which I love, one of the Helix multi-FX things which is insane which I’ve used quite a bit. I used the Moog which Polly Scattergood left here…
That’s very kind of her!
I gave it back eventually! I think it was a Moog Little Phatty which I used quite a bit…..
Was there any vintage kit used on the project?
There is, some of the sequencers I don’t realise they’re vintage but they are! *laughs*
I still use my Yamaha RM1X, the Korg Electribe quite a bit and there’s a bit of Korg Volca Beats drum machine on there. Mainly just things which are around, I tend to just have a fiddle and see what happens. I’ve also got a little dulcimer which I used quite a bit which has a strange tuning. I played it on the opening to ‘You Exist In Everything’ and it sounds great drenched in reverb and stuff. So there was quite a bit of experimenting and the usual fiddling!
I was on Spotify recently and came across the MAPS remix playlist, I had no idea you’d done so many! There’s 35 on there… what do you enjoy most about remixing other artists?
I do enjoy it, firstly you are seeing “behind the curtain” a bit when you get the parts for the songs; I enjoy seeing how it was made and that it’s a different take. I think that I like the freedom of it the most, the way that you can do what you want.
You can take an outsider’s perspective, there’s less pressure in having to write because the song is there…
Yes, the recording’s done, but it’s what you add to that. But I have done a lot, I think I’ve done 64?! But they’re not all on Spotify, I’ve done fair few!
You’re signed to Mute and have remixed a lot of their roster including DEPECHE MODE, MOBY, ERASURE and GOLDFRAPP… do you have a favourite?
I’m not sure if I do, I suppose the DEPECHE MODE one was amazing, the honour of doing things like that is amazing to me and obviously like MOBY as well. There’s been a few when I’m blown away that I’ve been even asked! It’s great to have that link with Mute because you get things passed your way that would never happen.
Is there anyone on the Mute roster that you would still like to remix? NEW ORDER?
That would be amazing! When they signed to Mute I was hoping…their roster is so amazing, that anyone on Mute would be an honour…
You have some live dates coming up, what can people expect from those? Have you started rehearsing for them?
It’ll be a five piece band. I was really happy because a lot of the people that played on the album are the band now. We’ve got Cecilia who does a lot of those choral type vocals on the album, she’s singing in the band and Matt is going to play drums, plus Rachel who was also on the album is going to play keys and sing.
We’ve been rehearsing quite a bit, there’ll be a mixture of the new album with songs from the previous albums as well, it’ll be a bit of a MAPS celebration!
I guess it helps having people who have played on the album doing the live work as you don’t have to teach them the parts?
Yes and also the fact they’re into it. It’s great when people are enjoying the music and are up for being involved and that’s a big part of it, it should be good man!
With the earlier material, have you had to adapt that to suit the new line-up?
A little bit, I guess there were certain songs that suit the new sound better, but then there’s ones that I wanted to play that I’ve adapted slightly. But there’s still going to be electronic stuff as well, it’ll just be in a slightly different set-up to how it was formed, I’ll still have stuff to twiddle on stage!
Will the Southbank show be different to the previous two which are advertised as ‘Colours. Reflect. Time. Loss.’ album ones?
It’ll be a longer set probably, we’ve got the run of the venue that evening and have rehearsed a lot of songs, a lot of it’ll depend how long people will want us to play! *laughs*
Have you had any thoughts about the next MAPS project or is there any possibility of another ON DEAD WAVES album?
I haven’t thought too much to be honest, when you do an album, it becomes so much a part of your life that I’m still in the middle of it at the moment.
I feel like I’d like to try something different again and push a bit further. I think I’ve learned a lot from making this album, like doing arrangements and things like that, now that I know I can do it, that’s something I’d like to explore more. So maybe that could be involved in the next part of the journey.
The music industry is a now an extremely challenging one to try and make a living in, what drives you and keeps you going?
I still enjoy doing it, which I’ve always thought is a big part of what keeps people going. It sounds a bit of a cliché, but I still feel like I’d be doing this if I wasn’t signed and stuff like that. It’s like an outlet, I still enjoy making music. But it has got more challenging because of the internet and all that stuff. I sometimes feel for new bands that are starting out, because there’s so much out there, so much choice and it’s hard to get noticed. I guess that there are pros and cons to everything.
Your relationship with Mute seems fairly secure and it must be good to have that?
Totally, I’ve been really lucky. I’ve been doing it for a fair few years now, I never take it for granted that relationship. They’ve stood by me through thick and thin, so to have a relationship with such an amazing label like that is something that means the world to me.
It’s almost like an old school approach as to how it was back in the day where labels were prepared to take the rough with the smooth.
It might take two or three albums before an artist can develop to a point where they are successful. It’s really good to hear that there’s still a label around that is still doing that which is quite encouraging.
I do think that’s the way Mute has always worked, that they sign things that they truly like. I think that’s why I love the label so much, it’s very much about the music rather than the current trends or whatever.
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to James Chapman
Special thanks to Sarah Pearson at Wasted Youth PR
While best known as a solo artist signed to Mute, Essex songstress POLLY SCATTERGOOD recently won acclaim for her hauntingly spacey vocal in a new epic arrangement of ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’.
Subtitled ‘Dark Star’, it was recorded with one of the song’s co-writers Bruce Woolley.
Never one for convention, for Record Store Day 2017, she not only released a physical edition ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ exclusively in CD format, but it was also only available online.
Scattergood’s self-titled debut came out on Mute in 2009 on which revealed herself to be a promising talent unafraid to express emotion and vulnerability. One of the album’s highlights ‘Other Too Endless’ was remixed by Vince Clarke and showed how her music could work within a synthesized environment.
And it was on second album ‘Arrows’ in 2013 featuring the electro-COCTEAU TWINS twist of ‘Wanderlust’ that she was able to indulge in some of her more technological aspirations, while ‘Cocoon’ exposed her enticing vulnerability over an eerie soundscape.
But in 2015, Scattergood headed in the opposite direction in collaboration with Mute label mate James Chapman of MAPS; their ON DEAD WAVES project featured a more guitar oriented and retro-based aesthetic than any of their individual works. But in acknowledgement of their Mute roots, the pair recorded an Americana flavoured cover of YAZOO’s ‘Only You’.
With ‘Video Killed The Radio Star (Dark Star)’ riding high on the airwaves, POLLY SCATTERGOOD had a quick chat about her future plans…
How did your ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ collaboration with Bruce Woolley come about?
Bruce contacted Mute a while ago asking if I would be interested in working with him on ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’. I am a fan of his work so we got together in his studio and played with some ideas.
You got to dress up like Barbarella in the video and handle a VCS3, where did that come from and have you had a go on a working one?
Bruce and I met for drinks in London and he pulled out all of these sketches of space scenes and other worldly beings that he had in his head and it just kind of flowed from there… we then discussed wires and electronics as we both love synths and couldn’t resist having the beautiful VCS3 in the video.
Bruce has some amazing instruments in his studio. My synth obsession began very early as my mum’s sister (Elizabeth Parker) worked at the Radiophonic Workshop for years. I watched her on some wild videos playing these incredible machines growing up, I always wanted to play them myself, but they aren’t the kind of thing you get your hands on easily!
When I signed to Mute, Daniel Miller showed me the Mute studio which had a pretty amazing collection of equipment which I was lucky enough to have access to. I think that’s partly why my first album took so many years to make, I had too many toys to play with!
You’re no stranger to cover versions with standards like ‘The Look Of Love’, ‘New York New York’, ‘Comfortably Numb’ and ‘Only You’ among the songs you have performed. Are there any others you’d like to try out?
Lots, but it’s a case of feeling inspired to add something new or different to a track, rather than regurgitating something for the sake of it.
The Vince Clarke remix of ‘Other Too Endless’ from your debut album will be appearing on a compilation out soon. What was the inspiration behind the song, both lyrically and musically?
Musically it was all about keeping the vibe quite linear and numb, but with these big swells and lot and lots of layers that build. The siren you hear was picked up on a mic as we recorded the vocal in the Mute studio on the Harrow Road. It was just all capturing a kind of bitter sweet bleakness and then processing it through the music. Lyrically, it’s a very long story… involving black zambuca…
The resultant remix from Vince Clarke was very different from your original. What were your thoughts when you first heard it? What did you particularly like about it?
Vince Clarke really went straight to the heart of this song with his remix. He kind of stripped away all the layers I had buried myself in and left my vocal naked in parts.
When I write and work on producing these songs, I often leave these little secrets in them, especially in the production. Like clues to where they came from. Sometimes people hear them and sometimes they don’t, but what Vince did was brave. He took away the safety net of layers and added a starkness and a strength to the song which I would never have been able to achieve on my own.
It didn’t stop there because you did ‘Ghostgirl Lovesick’ with Vince Clarke too, what was the collaboration process for that?
I was living in a tiny studio flat in an attic opposite the Forum in Kentish Town at the time and recording all my ideas onto mini disk. These ridiculously beautiful books, created by Tonya Hurley, arrived on my door step and they really inspired the song. I worked on the track closely with both Tonya and Vince, then I recorded some ideas onto mini disk… wow that makes me feel so old but it wasn’t that long ago, right?!
I sent them over to Vince who then worked his magic. You can hear bits of the room of the recording but I kind of love that, it all just made it much more intimate.
Has a full collaborative with Vince Clarke ever been discussed? What do you think it would sound like?
It’s never been discussed, and I never know what anything will sound like until it’s finished so I couldn’t hazard a guess at how a collaboration would sound…but Vince is awesome, I’m a big fan of his work, and always open to interesting collaborations, so never say never!
You’ve always been quite open to the remix process with THE GOLDEN FILTER, ANALOG SUICIDE, FORT ROMEAU and MAPS being among those who have given reinterpretations of your work. Do you have any favourites?
I only release remixes I really love so they are all quite special to me in different ways and for different reasons. The Vince remixes will always be very close to my heart. I also love the ANALOG SUICIDE (Tara Busch) remix of ‘Bunny Club’. I released it on limited edition cassette tape I loved it so much. Also MAPS (my label mate and ON DEAD WAVES collaborator) has a way of making everything sound epic and dreamy!
So how do you look back on your most recent album project ON DEAD WAVES with James Chapman of MAPS?
ON DEAD WAVES is a real joy to be part of. It’s a project I feel incredibly proud of. James is an incredible musician and has a very calm studio vibe. Our creative process was pure and there was no outside pressure or interference.
We both share the same manager, he was very supportive of the whole process and keen that we stay focused and don’t worry about anything other than the music, so that’s what we did.
It was just me and James in the studio where we would work late and get up strangely early. We were doing what we love so the studio bubble is a good place to be in.
When Mute heard the album, they really took it in the spirit it was intended and spent a long time working with us on the artwork and creative side of things, making it really reflect the empty expansiveness of the sound. We had a lot of fun, played some amazing gigs, from the beautiful Roundhouse in Camden to supporting M83. So yeah, ON DEAD WAVES is a project which I have a lot of love for and continue to do so!
‘Blackbird’ allowed you and James to pursue your Nancy and Lee fantasies?
We didn’t talk about musical references when writing, we shared a lot of art and film references though.
It’s almost time for solo album number three. What direction are you heading in for that following the first two, quite varied offerings and ON DEAD WAVES?
Yeah the first two had many different influences and styles. I was experimenting and learning as I went along… I don’t make albums fast…
I have hundreds of songs on my hard drive, but none of them are ready to be put into an album yet. I’m working on a little EP idea with Jim Sclavunos at the moment. Don’t want to give too much away though as it’s very early days but it’s all exciting.
People are still discovering your work. For anyone reading here about you for the first time, which five tracks would you suggest they check out to understand you as an artist in your various guises and collaborations?
Hmmm that’s hard I guess in order to go on the same journey I have, maybe listen in chronological order…