Although on the surface, things have appeared to be relatively quiet in the NINE INCH NAILS camp, the core duo of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have over the last few years been busy working on soundtrack material.
This included providing a superb score for the Boston marathon bombing film ‘Patriots Day’ and the pair are currently working on music for the upcoming Ken Burns documentary ‘The Vietnam War’. Since providing the Oscar winning soundtrack to the ‘The Social Network’, this sidestep into film music composition has been a lucrative and creative outlet for the band.
But all this has been at the expense of releasing material for their day job with NINE INCH NAILS. So now following the release of the ‘Not The Actual Events’ EP back at the cusp of 2017, Trent Reznor has followed through with his promise to deliver a trilogy of EP releases this year with the announcement of the second one ‘Add Violence’ and its lead-off track ‘Less Than’. Whereas the previous release was certainly dark and musically satisfying, it lacked a definitive stand-out track with the sort of killer chorus that Reznor had previously delivered with tracks such ‘The Hand That Feeds’ and ‘Only’.
Track number one of five, ‘Less Than’ is certainly one of the most commercial tracks that NIN has released in a while, accompanied by a hypnotic retro video game-inspired video, the song is a satisfying combination of analogue sequencers, a SISTERS OF MERCY inspired programmed drum pattern (see ‘Dominion’) and most importantly, a BIG hooky chorus.
Worthy of a mention is the urban legend surrounding the video game ‘Polybius’; featured in the NIN promo; in 1981 an arcade version of the game was supposedly produced by the US government as a tool to test reaction times for the potential recruitment of military personnel. More sinister are the accusations that the game itself could induce seizures and brain aneurysms after multiple plays, a backstory which neatly lends itself to the lyrical content of the NIN song.
‘Less Than’ comes across as a super-charged version of the kind of material found on 2013’s ‘Hesitation Marks’, to the point where there are lyrical and structural similarities with ‘Copy of A’ from that album. Long-term fans of the band will undoubtedly welcome ‘Less Than’ like a long lost friend and it certainly showcases Reznor’s continuing ability to still be able to construct more single-like material.
After the opening gambit of ‘Less Than’, second EP track ‘The Lovers’ throws in a considerable curveball by stripping things back with a glitchy rhythm track and an underpinning hypnotic analogue sequencer part. A slow burning piece, the song gradually bleeds into the consciousness after a radio EQ’d Reznor vocal acts as an unconventional verse segment. The soaring “take me into the arms of the lovers…” chorus provides a great hook for the track which could be best described musically as an ambient MASSIVE ATTACK.
‘This Isn’t The Place’ centres around a waltz-time analogue drum pattern, piano figure and synthetic drones; its opening two minutes or so fools you into thinking it’s going to be an experimental instrumental before an upfront Reznor vocal intones “And if you see, my friend. I thought I would again. A single thin straight line. I thought we had more time”. In some quarters this song has been interpreted as a eulogy to DAVID BOWIE (who Reznor worked with) and it showcases one of his most emotional and intimate vocal deliveries.
After the soft-ish verse part of fourth track ‘Not Anymore’, the chorus hits the listener with an abrasive wall of sound; akin to being caught in an audio firestorm, this is NIN at their most aggressive and will satisfy fans of their earlier work on confrontational albums such ‘The Downward Spiral’.
‘The Background World’ takes the listener on a trip over its eleven minutes, and is the most sequencer-driven and electronic track on the EP. The first five minutes are darkly melodic but the final six is built around a progressively degrading and deliberately out of time looped song section.
The climax of this EP could be seen as a metaphor for human existence, repeating certain things daily until the individual becomes worn down and ultimately broken. The outro to ‘The Background World’ is arguably one of the most extreme and post-apocalyptic endings to a piece of music; by the end of the eleven minute mark, there are barely tiny shards of the original loop audible and when it finishes there is an incredible sense of release.
There is a bit of everything in ‘Add Violence’ to satisfy most long-term NINE INCH NAILS fans, it back-references eras of their previous work, but at the same time still remains a fresh and challenging experience. Listeners seeking a melodic fix may find it hard to skip past opener ‘Less Than’, but those who wish to be taken out of their comfort zone should experience the EP as a whole.
Although not a household name, Neil Davidge was a pivotal part of Bristol’s MASSIVE ATTACK for nearly 15 years.
DAVIDGE effectively became one half of the group alongside 3D following the departure of original member Mushroom and a temporary hiatus by Daddy G. He is also well-respected in the film and computer game music industry, notably composing the music for ‘Halo 4’.
His unique, unparalleled depth and clarity of production creates the enigma of tension, darkness and beauty, the musical equivalent of a siren, calling sailors to their sweet doom.
This year has seen the release of his debut solo album ‘Slo Light’ which features CLAIRE TCHAIKOWSKI, CATE LE BON and the legendary SANDIE SHAW. Having appeared on collaborations with BEF and THE SMITHS, Shaw flexes her vocal chords over a sub bass growl and a Barry-like string arrangement on the new single ‘Riot Pictures’.
DAVIDGE kindly spoke to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about his stellar musical CV and shared some fascinating ‘behind the scenes’ stories of his musical production work.
How did the collaboration with SANDIE SHAW come about and what was it like working with such a legend in the studio environment?
My management company, after years of frustration sending me links and CDs of different singers and me turning them down, asked me to give them a list of people I’d like to work with. I put together a mixture of artists both current, not current and dead who I’d be inspired to work with.
One of the first names on the list was Sandie. I told her this a couple of weeks ago when we were shooting the video for ‘Riot Pictures’ and she said she did the exact same thing, sent a list to her management saying who she’d like to work with. She had only two names on her list however, Nigel Godrich and me. Her managers emailed mine asking if I’d be interested in working with her on the very same day I sent my list. It’s exhilarating working with Sandie, she has a huge store of positive energy. It’s like she’s fully tapped into a power that most of us only get to experience a trickle of.
‘Riot Pictures’, your collaboration with Sandie is very cinematic and orchestral and a lot less electronic than your previous single ‘Gallant Foxes’ which had an almost motorik / early KRAFTWERK feel to it in places…
Yeah. music is how I choose to communicate. Is it naff to say that notes and sonics are my words? I couldn’t care less about what form or style that music takes, that’s not the crux of it. I need to say what I’m feeling as honestly as I can, be authentic and run with my instincts. So to keep to a particular set of words stifles me, it’s too self conscious and careful, too business-like. I’ve gotta be able to grab the sharpest tools for the job to make my point.
What motivated you to put out ‘Slo Light’ earlier this year?
I guess it was time for it. I’ve never made a solo record, I’ve hidden behind others, particularly MASSIVE ATTACK. I’ve always said that being an artist and being a celebrity are two very different skills. I’ve been an artist for many years but you’ve heard my music through listening to other people’s albums and watching movies. I’ve avoided having to stand in front of that music until now. When I decided to leave MASSIVE ATTACK following the album ‘Heligoland’, I’d had enough (at least for a while) of producing but I still wrote songs that I wanted people to hear. I’ve still managed to engineer it so that someone else has the spotlight of course, whether that’s Sandie or Cate or Claire.
Do you have a favourite track off of the album?
Right now it’s ‘Riot Pictures’, tomorrow it’ll be a different one.
I’d like to talk about some of your work with MASSIVE ATTACK. When you were working on ‘Angel’, did you ever imagine that the track would end up for years to come as the “go to” piece of music that TV directors would reach for when they needed to evoke a REALLY dark and angst-ridden atmosphere (eg typical ‘Crimewatch’ scenario run-down housing estate with major drug problems and gang violence)?
Ha! No, you can’t predict that kind of thing, many have tried. That’s one of the best and most frustrating things about music. It’s not a science. However one sees it, as divine, as chance, as persistence, once in a while, maybe only once in a career do you hit on something really special. We knew the track was good, we knew we were onto something with that album in general but we were told by many that there wasn’t a single on ‘Mezzanine’. It turns out we didn’t really need a single. ‘Angel’ was on every other movie or TV show.
The stunning Liz Fraser vocalled ‘Teardrop’ is probably the most iconic song you are associated with and have worked on. Is it true that it was conceived while you were hanging around waiting for the band to turn up at the studio?
The music was. Those days I did shifts separately with each of the guys, Mushroom would come by first.
I was fiddling around on the keyboard, playing this harpsichord sound and came up with the riff. Mush walked in as I was playing it and wanted us to work round that idea. He and I put together a groove and added some piano. It sat on the shelf for a while until Liz said she’d be up for doing something. I made a tape of four ideas and that was the one she went for first.
There is also a story floating around that MADONNA nearly ended up with the song, can you shed some light on that?
Yes, not the song but the music. We’d already recorded a first pass with Liz to the version Mush and I had pieced together but he didn’t like what Liz had done… so, without telling anyone else he sent the backing to MADONNA who loved the track. That was the beginning of the split with him. He wanted to take the track and produce it himself (with my help) for her. I refused to get involved. He and Dee had a huge row about it. So I reworked the track, only keeping the harpsichord part and Liz, losing all the stuff Mush and I had done together. It’s a shame it finished up having to be like that but the song just got better.
How would a typical MASSIVE ATTACK song come together in the studio?
Is there such a thing as a typical MASSIVE ATTACK song? It changed over the years. For ‘Mezzanine’, we’d often find a loop to begin with, a sample from one of Dee or Grants collections. From there we’d build, generally losing the loop once we had an idea. On ‘100th Window’ and ‘Heligoland’, however we decided not to use samples and instead jam ideas until we found something cool as a starting point.
It’s always been a fairly random process. We’d often spend more time pulling things apart than we would building, trial and error, often with me doing the building up when I was on my own. Dee and I would talk a lot about the tracks too, fairly abstractly. He’s not a musician, so his language is based more on the visual interpretation of music and that would give me enough of an idea to then present him concrete musical ideas, which he and I would then edit and distort.
On another Liz Fraser voiced track ‘Black Milk’, there was the controversy over the use of the MANFRED MANN EARTH BAND sample from the song ‘Tribute’. Were the band not fully aware of the issues from using such a significant element of the original track? Or was it very much part of the mindset of the times to “take your chances”?
I suppose to some degree there was that underlying mindset, but I think the main problem was a lack of communication. When we were in the finishing stages, their manager asked me if there were any samples he should clear. I mentioned the ones I knew of, including that one but I didn’t know the name of the track, and it turned out that Gee had also mislaid the vinyl.
I wasn’t officially producing the album when we were working on it (that was something that became recognised at the end), so I wasn’t keeping detailed notes of samples used and relying on them to keep a track of the titles. And in the rush to get the album released (we’d already blown one deadline and one tour), I think it just got forgotten about. Until a fan spotted the sample and told Manfred Mann, it was the furthest thing from everyone’s minds. That was a harsh lesson. We almost had to recall the album. In the end they settled amicably. It was because of ‘Black Milk’ that I pushed the guys to not to use samples and instead create our own.
Aside from your work with MASSIVE ATTACK, you are probably best known as a composer of the soundtrack to ‘Halo 4’. Has this resulted in you generating a following of gamer fanboy / fangirls?
I think I’m better known for scoring that game than I am for my work with MASSIVE ATTACK…
Did you have any inkling of what you were letting yourself in for when you took on the ‘Halo 4’ project?
I did, I’d been playing it myself since it first came out and you’d have to live in a cave not to know see just how huge the gaming industry had become. It’s overtaken the music and film industry certainly in terms of sales, creatively it may still be lagging behind but it’s still a very new industry with plenty of ambition and passion.
When writing music for a computer game, at what stage do you tend to get involved and what tends to trigger inspiration for you during the composition process?
It’s fairly normal to be involved way before they have the graphics in place, which is the opposite of a movie where you’ll normally see a rough cut at least before writing. For Halo 4 mostly I had to work from a short description of a scene / character and art stills. As we progressed some early build game capture footage was sent over but after a while I gave up trying to work to that. Eager to find an emotional connection, I read as many of the Halo books and played the previous games in order to immerse myself in that world and then filled in the gaps with my imagination.
You have recently been working as soundtrack composer on the film ‘Monsters [Dark Continent]’, how did that particular job come about?
My agent (COOL music) had been tracking the film’s progress and in particular the career of the director Tom Green. My agent made the connection with Lol Hammond who’s the music supervisor for Vertigo films.
Lol was very aware of my past with MASSIVE ATTACK and knows Grant (Daddy G) from the band. He put my name forward and I went to see a preview of the movie in their offices in London. Tom met me after along with Allan Niblo the producer.
We had a brief chat about life and things and Allan asked me if I had any questions for Tom, I said… “can I please score your film?”. It’s good to be polite!
After TRENT REZNOR’s ‘The Social Network’ and now with both JUNKIE XL and M83 working on ‘Divergent’ and ‘Oblivion’ respectively, there seems to be a shift towards film companies using contemporary musicians to help score major motion pictures. Do you think there is a particular reason for this?
There’s actually a lot of ex-band musicians who are very successful film composers, HANS ZIMMER, DANNY ELFMAN, VANGELIS and CRAIG ARMSTRONG amongst many others all started in bands. There’s quite a tradition for engaging people from the ‘music for music’ sake side of the entertainment industry. But yes, we’re seeing more high profile bands being asked who are still very active as artists. I guess one reason could be the influential people in the movie industry are getting younger and are less likely to get excited by a ‘traditional’ orchestral score. I suspect the opportunity for marketing to capitalise on a bands profile to further add credibility to the movie is the clincher though. Like with ‘Tron Legacy’; the DAFT PUNK score gave that movie a coolness it otherwise would have lacked.
To be able to mainly work on music that is seen as ‘credible’ and ‘uncompromising’ is a rarity these days, how grateful are you that you seem to be in this position?
Very grateful, even though I work stupid hours and miss out on many of the things people take for granted like weekends and holidays, and well, generally sleep. I can’t get excited unless there’s a real creative challenge and a purpose to the music beyond making as much cash as possible. I wanna be moved when I listen to music, especially my own.
What sort of equipment do you use in the studio and how do you go about your composing?
I’ve got several computers, stacked with software, I do an awful lot with that stuff. Sometimes the whole track is conceived and finished in the virtual domain. I also have a bunch of guitars and several old school keyboards, drum machines, some drums and percussion, an old trash can, metal sheets plus a Kantele (bit like a dulcimer) which I play with e-bows.
I’ve never been one to simply ‘play’ an instrument, I’m always looking to find personality and something unique in the instrument whether real or virtual and often that will get the creative process going. That might mean me using drum beaters on the guitar or mangling a keyboard through effects till it’s unrecognisable.
But there’s still room for traditional composition, sitting and bashing out chords on the keyboard, me singing along to find the top line melody. I’ll start with something simple and then layer it up, pull it apart just leaving the good stuff then layer that up, maybe doing that 100 times before I settle on something I’m happy with. From there I might invite a singer, musician, arranger or combination of to jump off from where I left off and see what they can bring to the table, which I then further arrange and / or put through the ringer. It sounds chaotic but actually it can be quite natural a process, following your instincts and curiosity until you arrive at a place that feels right.
You strike me as a real workaholic, do you ever get any downtime to do any non-music based things?
I do work hard, I always have, and that’s ultimately my choice but as an industry we’re expected to work all hours and deadlines for movies in particular are often quite insane … so it’s expected too.
The few hours a day I have free I spend playing with my 20 month old son, going to the cinema with my daughter or Skyping my eldest daughter who’s now working in London. If there’s anything left over I’ll veg out with a good TV series. I just recently did ‘True Detective’, often in 20 min chunks, loved the score on that.
Finally, is there any advice you could give to up and coming producers who would like to make headway in either music / film / game soundtrack production?
Get involved in everything that’s even remotely connected with music, work with as many people as you can. Don’t just sit in your bedroom making tunes that no-one will ever hear and expect to get noticed. You’ve got to get out there when you’re starting out, make those connections, be useful, be generous, be easy to work with. From there, you’ll get a ton of useful experience and if you don’t get that big break land in your lap, maybe someone you’ve built up a good working relationship will and that can be your way in.
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its grateful thanks to Neil Davidge
Special thanks to Sacha Taylor-Cox at Impressive PR
The parent album ‘Slo Light’ is available as a CD, vinyl LP and download via 7Hz Recordings
Although the label is now owned by the Universal Music Group, its colourful history is forever associated with the championing of new and unconventional music forms during its fledgling years. Virgin founder Richard Branson started his empire in 1970 with nothing more than a mail order outlet, selling discounted records.
The name Virgin came from the fact that Branson and his team of directors were all new to business. There then came a small record shop in London’s Oxford Street a year later and not long after, a residential recording complex in an Oxfordshire mansion which became the now-famous Manor Studios. Further shops opened so with the success of the retail arm and studio, a record label was launched in 1973.
Recognising he had no real working knowledge of music, Branson appointed his second cousin Simon Draper (who had been Virgin’s buyer) as Managing Director to seek out new talent for the new A&R led company. Beginning with Mike Oldfield’s ‘Tubular Bells’ and the catalogue number V2001, progressive acts such as GONG along with cosmic Germans FAUST and TANGERINE DREAM soon followed, all with degrees of varying success.
But with the advent of punk and keen to shake off its hippy image, Virgin gained notoriety by signing THE SEX PISTOLS in 1977 and releasing ‘God Save The Queen’ in the process. The label courted further controversy when they issued the album ‘Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols’ to great fanfare. Virgin ended up in the dock under the 1899 Indecent Advertising Act over a poster in their Nottingham record shop.
But Branson and defending QC John Mortimer had an ace up their sleeve; Reverend James Kingsley, a professor of English Studies at Nottingham University was called as a witness. Under questioning, Kingsley was asked for the derivation of the word “bollocks”. Apparently, it was used in the 19th century as a nickname for clergymen who were known to talk rubbish and the word later developed into meaning “of nonsense”.
Wearing his clerical collar in court, Kingsley confirmed: “They became known for talking a great deal of bollocks, just as old balls or baloney also come to mean testicles, so it has twin uses in the dictionary”. The case was thrown out by the judge… after that, the label reinvented itself as a centre of post-punk and new wave creativity, signing bands such as THE RUTS, XTC, PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED, MAGAZINE, THE SKIDS, DEVO and PENETRATION.
When David Bowie declared THE HUMAN LEAGUE as “the future of pop music” after seeing them at the Nashville in 1978, Virgin Records were quick to snap them up. Meanwhile, OMD were initially signed to Virgin’s Factory styled subsidiary Dindisc Records under the directorship of Carol Wilson; but their success had been an embarrassment to Richard Branson, particularly in 1980 when following the international success of ‘Enola Gay’, OMD had outsold every act in the parent group!
Despite massive sales of ‘Architecture & Morality’ in 1981, the Dindisc ran into difficulties and was closed by Branson with OMD gleefully absorbed into the Virgin fold. The label threw in its lot with the synthesizer revolution and gave homes to SPARKS, JAPAN, SIMPLE MINDS, JOHN FOXX, HEAVEN 17 and CHINA CRISIS as well as more conventional acts of the period such as PHIL COLLINS, BRYAN FERRY and CULTURE CLUB.
In 1982, on the back of ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ having been a No 1 in the UK and USA, Virgin had made a profit of £2 million but by 1983, this had leaped to £11 million! Virgin Records was sold by Branson to Thorn EMI in 1992 reportedly for around £560 million to fund Virgin Atlantic Airways.
Under new management, the label became less visionary and more corporate with SPICE GIRLS, LENNY KRAVITZ, THE ROLLING STONES, MEAT LOAF and JANET JACKSON being examples of the brand’s continued global success, while many of the innovative acts who had helped build the label were surplus to requirements. Despite this, Virgin Records still maintains a tremendous back catalogue.
Over the years, Virgin Records have been in the fortunate position of having a critically acclaimed act on its roster at each key stage of electronic music’s development and its electronic legacy continues today with the recent signing of Glaswegian synth trio CHVRCHES.
So here are twenty albums from the iconic label which ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK considers significant in the development of electronic music. Restricted to one album per artist moniker and featuring only UK releases initially issued on or licensed to the Virgin label, they are presented in chronological order…
TANGERINE DREAM Rubycon (1975)
‘Phaedra’ may have been the breakthrough album but the much under rated ‘Rubycon’ consolidated TANGERINE DREAM’s position as leaders in the field of meditative electronic music with a wider palette and more focussed direction. Featuring the classic line-up of Edgar Froese, Peter Baumann and Chris Franke, the hypnotic noodles of VCS3 and Moogs dominated proceedings while Mellotrons and organic lines added to the trancey impressionism.
Guitarist Manuel Göttsching had been a member of ASH RA TEMPEL but looking to explore more progressive voxless territory on ‘New Age Of Earth’, he armed himself with an Eko Rhythm Computer, ARP Odyssey and his signature keyboard, a Farfisa Synthorchestra. An exponent of a more transient soloing style, he used the guitar for texture as much as for melody. The wonderful 20 minute ‘Nightdust’ and the gently percussive ‘Sunrain’ were just two of the jewels in this beautiful treasure trove of an album.
Already an established member of the Virgin family as a member of GONG, solo artist and in-house producer, Hillage had a love of German experimental music and ventured into ambient with long standing partner Miquette Giraudy. Recorded for the Rainbow Dome at the ‘Festival for Mind-Body-Spirit’ at Olympia, these two lengthy Moog and ARP assisted tracks each had a beautifully spacey vibe to induce total relaxation with a colourful sound spectrum.
Following the inspirational success of ‘I Feel Love’, SPARKS were put in contact with its producer Giorgio Moroder who had aspirations to work with a band. The resultant album saw Russell Mael’s flamboyant falsetto fitting well with the electronic disco template. ‘The No1 Song In Heaven’ hit the UK charts a few months before TUBEWAY ARMY’s seminal ‘Are Friends Electric?’ while the follow-up ‘Beat The Clock’ actually got into the Top 10. However ‘No1 in Heaven’ overshadowed by the success of GARY NUMAN.
“I want to be a machine” snarled JOHN FOXX on ULTRAVOX’s eponymous debut and after he left the band in 1979, he virtually went the full hog with this JG Ballard inspired seminal recording. ‘Underpass’ and ‘No-One Driving’ were surprising hit singles that underlined the dystopian nature of Foxx’s mindset at the time while the fabulous ‘A New Kind Of Man’ and the deviant ‘He’s A Liquid’ were pure unadulterated Sci-Fi driven by the cold mechanics of a Roland CR78 Compurhythm.
Dropped in 1980 by Ariola Hansa despite the Roxy-ish sound on their third album ‘Quiet Life’ being palatable with the emerging New Romantic scene, JAPAN found a refuge at Virgin. As one of the best numbers, ‘Swing’ succeeded in out Roxy-ing ROXY MUSIC while the haunting ‘Nightporter’ was the ultimate Erik Satie tribute. A new found interest in Japanese technopop saw Sylvian collaborate with YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA’s Ryuichi Sakamoto on the splendid closer ‘Taking Islands In Africa’.
BRITISH ELECTRIC FOUNDATION Music For Stowaways (1981)
When they left THE HUMAN LEAGUE in Autumn 1980, Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh formed BEF, releasing ‘Music For Stowaways’, an instrumental album only available on cassette to accessorise Sony’s brand new Stowaway portable tape player. However, the name of the new device was changed to Walkman! With economic recession decimating the industrial heartland of Sheffield, the futurist horror of ‘Music To Kill Your Parents By’ and the doom laden ‘Uptown Apocalypse’ connected with the album’s concept of a walking soundtrack to life.
After two albums ‘Reproduction’ and ‘Travelogue’ containing “synthesizers and vocals only” failed to set the world alight, manager Bob Last played a game of divide and rule on the original line-up. Vocalist Philip Oakey and Director of Visuals Adrian Wright would recruit Ian Burden, Jo Callis, Susanne Sulley and Joanne Catherall to record the now classic ‘Dare’ album under the auspices of producer Martin Rushent. Like KRAFTWERK with the heart of ABBA, it was a dreamboat collection of worldwide hits.
HEAVEN 17’s debut ‘Penthouse & Pavement’ was a landmark achievement, combining electronics with pop hooks and disco sounds while adding witty social and political commentary about yuppie aspiration and mutually assured destruction. The ‘Pavement’ side was a showcase of hybrid funk driven by the then new Linn Drum Computer and embellished by the guitar and bass skills of youngster John Wilson while the ‘Penthouse’ side was more like an extension of THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Travelogue’.
“You want to be with Virgin so bad that you’ll sign anyway” said Richard Branson to SIMPLE MINDS when they wanted to defect from Arista Records. And sign they did after the promise of US tour support. SIMPLE MINDS lost their intensity and recorded a great album filled with pretty synthesized melodies, textural guitar and driving lead bass runs. The titles like ‘Someone Somewhere In Summertime’, ‘Colours Fly & Catherine Wheel’ and ‘Hunter & The Hunted’ made investigation essential.
By 1982, DEVO had become much more of a synth based act with programmed percussion to boot. Under the helm of producer Roy Thomas Baker who had worked with both QUEEN and THE CARS, their sound moved away from the guitar dominated art rock of their Eno produced debut ‘Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!’ As quirky as ever, the album’s concept was a response to criticism from the press about their imagery… thus they asked “what would an album by fascist clowns sound like?”
For OMD’s first album for Virgin, Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys delivered ‘Dazzle Ships’, a brave sonic exploration of Cold War tensions and economic corruption. Although it featured some of the band’s best work like ‘The Romance Of The Telescope’, ‘International’ and ‘Radio Waves’, ‘Dazzle Ships’ sold poorly on release. The band were strictly A&R’ed after that and never the same again, but this fractured nautical journey has since been vindicated as an experimental landmark.
RYUICHI SAKAMOTO Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence (1983)
Being the best looking member of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA, it was almost inevitable that Sakamoto San would turn to acting. His first role was alongside none other than David Bowie in ‘Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence’ and with it came his soundtrack. The main title theme tune resonated with emotion and traditional melody, even without the voice of David Sylvian whose dulcet tones featured on the single version retitled ‘Forbidden Colours’ while ‘The Seed & the Sower’ was also a highlight.
CHINA CRISIS Working With Fire & Steel – Possible Pop Songs Volume 2 (1983)
Produced by Mike Howlett, ‘Working With Fire & Steel – Possible Pop Songs Volume 2’ allowed CHINA CRISIS to deliver a more cohesive album following the four producers who steered their debut ‘Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms – Some People Think It’s Fun To Entertain’! Best known for the brilliant Emulator laced hit single ‘Wishful Thinking’, the album is much more than that with melancholic synth melodies and woodwind counterpoints over a combination of real and programmed rhythm sections.
By 1984, Sylvian had a lucrative solo deal that gave him total artistic control. Side one of his debut solo offering adopted more of a laid back jazz feel as on ‘The Ink in the Well’ and ‘Red Guitar’. Meanwhile the second side had synthetic Fourth World overtones with avant garde trumpetist Jon Hassell and sound painter Holger Czukay as willing conspirators, with echoes of Sylvian’s previous work with JAPAN in the funky ‘Pulling Punches’ and the emotive ‘Weathered Wall’.
When CD was launched, BRIAN ENO’s inquisitivity asked: “what can be done now that could not be done before? What kinds of music does that suggest?”. ‘Thursday Afternoon’ was a 61 minute ambient journey that could be listened to uninterrupted on CD and the lack of surface noise meant it could also be very quiet. Using a Yamaha DX7 and minimal sustained piano, it soundtracked video paintings of the model Christine Alicino in vertical portrait format, so the TV had to be turned on its side to view it!
PHILIP OAKEY & GIORGIO MORODER Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder (1985)
‘Together in Electric Dreams’ did better than any singles from THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s lukewarm ‘Hysteria’ album. So Virgin swiftly dispatched Oakey to record an album with Moroder and it remains one of the most under rated pieces of work that either party has been involved in. The segued first side was a total delight featuring the rousing ‘Why Must The Show Go On?’ while the Donna Summer aping ‘Brand New Love (Take A Chance)’ was another highlight, along with the stupendous ‘Now’ on side two.
Whenever THE BLUE NILE are mentioned, it’s their 1983 album ‘A Walk Across The Rooftops’ that is always discussed in breathless awe. But actually, the follow-up ‘Hats’ is the trio’s crowning glory. Both albums were licensed to Virgin Records through a deal with Linn, the high quality Hi-Fi manufacturer. ‘Hats’ featured more synthesizers and drum machines. With hopeless romanticism and rainy drama, the glorious centrepieces were ‘Headlights On The Parade’ and ‘The Downtown Lights’.
THE FUTURE SOUND OF LONDON became flag bearers of avant garde electronic music and seen as successors to TANGERINE DREAM and BRIAN ENO. Signing to Virgin in 1992, the duo invested in some Akai S9000 samplers and given free rein to experiment, resulting in the complex sweeps and rhythmical collages of ‘Lifeforms’. A double opus of downtempo electronic soundscapes, the influence of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop loomed heavy in the sonic playground.
Despite band relations being at an all-time low, MASSIVE ATTACK produced some of their finest work on ‘Mezzanine’. With dark undercurrents and eerie atmospherics, the album’s highpoints featured the vocals of COCTEAU TWINS’ Elizabeth Fraser on the hit single ‘Teardrop’ and the spy drama magnificence of ‘Black Milk’… Heavy on samples, the collective were sued for the unauthorised use of MANFRED MANN’S EARTH BAND’s 1972 song ‘Tribute’ on ‘Black Milk’!
After a year’s delay, it is finally here – the comeback album of Swedish trio DAYBEHAVIOR, ‘Follow That Car!’.
The trio have not been exactly prolific even by today’s standards; their first long player ‘:Adored’ came out in 1996 while there were delays for its follow-up ‘Have You Ever Touched A Dream?’ which was finally released in 2003.
However after nearly 9 years, Paulinda Crescentini, Carl Hammar and Tommy Arell have made a full return. The three singles released last year were all very promising, but how did the rest of the record turn out? The answer is: simply brilliant. This is grown-up synthpop, with tons of atmosphere, incredibly stylish, yet sometimes a bit rough with arrangements that fit remarkably well with Paulinda Crecentini’s stunningly beautiful vocals.
Despite the intricate soundscapes, the overall sound is still both restrained and effective. Calm and faster songs succeed each other and even if the variation in sounds and rhythms is vast between the different songs, there is still a cohesive auditory theme through the album. All twelve songs are of high class and overall, this is certainly one of this year’s best albums – well produced, varied and beautiful top of the line music.
Carl Hammar and Paulinda Crecentini from DAYBEHAVIOR talked about the present and the future in Carl’s cozy home studio in Stockholm which actually has a genuine Jupiter 8…
Can you tell me about the band’s background for your new fans?
Carl: It started with me and third member, Tommy Arell. Each time we met, we only talked about synths and synth music. We also had a strong common interest in the early 80s synthpop. We were both a little sick of what we were doing at that point so we decided that we should do something together instead. We started to create a prototype of something and in our mind this was not something synthpop really. It was more like another type of music from the early 90s. But when we started sending out stuff to record companies, we soon became aware that it was still synthpop! *laughs*
It could not be avoided – it was always there in our subconscious, the kind of melodies and sounds we liked to use. Then we got hold of Paulinda, we were looking quite a while before we found her. Before that, we were a bit on the wrong track. But then when we heard Paulinda’s voice and felt that this was the piece that was missing from the music, her beautiful, beautiful, soft voice to the rather heavy music with lots of bass and a lot of beats.
Where did the name come from?
Carl: Yes, actually! That is stolen! *laughs*
One of our early songs was called ‘Daybehavior’. In the song, we have stolen a little thing BJÖRK did in ‘Human Behavior’; the chorus just goes up a semitone in one turn and then it goes down again. It’s a pretty weird chorus – quite unusual. Then there was something on MASSIVE ATTACK’s ‘Daydreaming’ which also inspired us so it was like: ‘Daybehavior’ – ‘Human Behavior’ – ‘Daydreaming’. But then we did an interview with the Swedish journalist Linda Skugge in ‘Expressen’ (a well known Swedish tabloid newspaper) before we were really a band…we were kind of forced to come up with a band name … “Let’s say we are called DAYBEHAVIOR – for now anyway” …
Paulinda: Yeah, right! *laughs*
Carl: Then we realized it was a bit too late to change it…
Had you been singing in any band before you joined this band?
Paulinda: Sort of, I had always wanted to sing. I actually did my own songs on a small synthesizer when I was about eight years old. I had been nagging and nagging at my parents to get me a synth for Christmas and finally I got one. I actually wrote English lyrics then as well, which I barely understood myself… I used the dictionary where I found words and sentences I liked, “that sounds good” *laughs*
Unfortunately, I deleted all that stuff, because I was ashamed of it when I became a teenager. “God, how embarrassing – let’s throw this stuff away”. It would have been a blast to have that material now! I did about ten songs with that little synth that I had plugged into a tape recorder. It was great! *laughs*.
But I always wanted to sing in a band. In those days there was no internet, so I bought the Yellow Pages and there was a small ad: “seeking vocalist, influenced by…” and it was a little list of different influences. I remember that it was BJÖRK, MASSIVE ATTACK and maybe something a little more synthpop-esque. So I thought: “Oh, what the heck – I’ll go to that audition!” I was really nervous and I was awful! But I got given a little tape of songs and then we met a week later … I had sung some lyrics on it and then I was in!
What made you reunite?
Paulinda: It started with Tommy who had moved to Thailand by then. He began to email and it was very nostalgic; “My God, wasn’t it nice it was back then … shouldn’t we try to do some songs together again?” We had gone our separate ways, but when he wrote about things like that, you felt that; “God – yeah, it would be quite nice to do it again”. It also just happened that he would be moving back to Sweden for a period so we thought “great – we’ll do some songs”. So we started up DAYBEHAVIOR again.
Is there any long-term plan with this or is it just for one album and seeing what happens?
Paulinda: Nah, we want to make yet another album – absolutely. We feel that we want to continue with this. It has gone really well. We’ve had our internal battles, I can’t deny that and it’s a bit hard to work when Tommy is living sometimes here in Sweden and sometimes in Thailand. It has been a bit difficult logistically to get it all together, but it worked out fine in the end anyway .
The difference in the music business must be pretty big now compared to when you made your last album ‘Have You Ever Touched A Dream?’?
Paulinda: Oh, yes! Enormously; many things have happened.
What are the advantages and disadvantages?
Paulinda: The first question you get from people when you say you make music is: are you on Spotify? Spotify is big and will only get bigger.
Hopefully they will change the deal so that you get a little more money for it, but I do not think they will do that. So it’s a downside, the economy – there is no money in music anymore. You make music because it’s fun and hopefully don’t lose any money at least. The advantage is that the internet makes it easier to spread the music and have fans all over the world, which you may not have had otherwise …
Carl: Because it is easier to spread music, there is also the increase in competition. It is not as exclusive to receive an email with a song or some links to get a physical record in a package. So that is one drawback – anyone can do quite a large mass mailing.
In other words, there’s a risk of drowning in a large variety of garbage then?
Carl: Yeah … or maybe you are garbage yourself? *laughs*
No, but it is quite true. It’s not only good music that is so easy to distribute over the internet and what you said is a good point … then of course, you have the illegal download spread of course and very low paid listening services such as Spotify, LastFM and similar streams. It’s very good for users but for musicians, it’s not.
What have the reactions to the new songs been like?
Carl: Good! Very good…
Carl: Yeah, especially internationally. I do not even know if we had any feedback in Sweden …yes, we have!
But Sweden is small. It feels good that we have an international market and that we can reach really far. It’s great to get feedback from Argentina, Brazil, Italy, Japan etc. It’s sometimes odd places that you did not expect … it’s like you do not have a clue: how did they found out about it? But there is always a unique group of people who are true music lovers and they find things. Through them, you often get help to distribute it further too via their connections.
There is a lot of melancholy in your music – but of course beautiful melancholy … why is that?
Paulinda: Good question! All three of us are probably pretty nostalgic and like this melancholic feeling …
Carl: Yeah … and there is a lot of influence from movie scores as well. Both me and Tommy like film music and to make things atmospheric. People often say that our music feels like a movie and they see pictures in front of them while listening. It may have to do with the melancholy and harmonies you work with and the sound as well.
But even in the lyrics, for example ‘Silent Dawn’…
Paulinda: Yes, I write pretty much sad lyrics – it’s almost as if there are only two modes – either/or. You often end up in that melancholy vibe when writing. It’s the emotions which are strongest – sadness or things you long for – it touches you. And then when Carl and Tommy send over a basic song sketch for me, then the feel of it influences the lyrics.
So you make music before lyrics, then?
Paulinda: Yes, that’s it.
Never vice versa?
Paulinda: No. It works fine like this. We are happy with it. Then I usually send over a sketch back to get feedback and then we send it back and forth. When we feel we have a good lyric, we usually start working on the sound.
What are your inspirations?
Paulinda: It can be anything. Tommy wrote a while back, “Oh my God, I just saw the movie ‘The Orphanage’ and sat there weeping to the theme song”…
Carl: …is that Morricone?
Paulinda: Yes, Tommy said: “I could not let go of the feeling from the movie, so I sat at the computer” and then he made a basic sketch of a song that he sent over. It was really beautiful! It had a lot of ENNIO MORRICONE … bombastic … it will definitely be on the next album, I think! But otherwise, it is often both new and old music that inspires.
And there are all sorts of genres…
Carl: I just listen to one genre! Do you listen to something else?
Paulinda: Than what? Synthpop?
Carl: Yeah … made in 1981 … *laughter*
Paulinda: No, that’s what I don’t do … I mostly listen to new music.
Carl: Tommy doesn’t like music made after 1982! *laughs*
What about software versus hardware? Do you work mostly with the computer or do you use real instruments as well?
Carl: Shall we admit it? We are also lazy actually, unfortunately. We sometimes use recorded sounds from real analogue synthesizers. But it is so much easier and quicker to work with digital, so it’s of course what you do.
Are there plans for live gigs?
Paulinda: No, unfortunately. It seems unlikely. There is no time to practise.
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives is sincerest thanks to DAYBEHAVIOR
‘Follow That Car!’ is released on the Graplur label and available on CD from DAYBEHAVIOR’s website