Tag: Midge Ure (Page 1 of 9)

INDIA ELECTRIC CO. Interview

Cole Stacey and Joseph O’Keefe of INDIA ELECTRIC CO. will be familiar to fans of Midge Ure as members of his backing band.

The South West English duo released their debut album ‘The Girl I Left Behind Me’ in 2015 and while their music has traditional folk-derived roots, they have since added keyboards and synths to augment their sound after Midge Ure launched his BAND ELECTRONICA live format to revisit his VISAGE and ULTRAVOX work.

Together with Midge Ure’s drummer Russell Field, INDIA ELECTRIC CO. will be undertaking their first headline UK Tour in three years, while preparing their third album for release to coincide with with Midge Ure’s ‘Voice & Visions’ tour which will see Stacey and O’Keefe not only back the diminutive Glaswegian again but also be his opening act.

During a break from rehearsals, INDIA ELECTRIC CO. spoke to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about becoming part of the Midge Ure axis and how the experience has permeated into their own music.

Anyone who has ever seen the two of you backing Midge Ure in the last 7 or so years will be aware that you are very versatile musicians. How did you come to his attention?

Back in 2014, Midge was kind enough to let us do the support on a couple of intimate acoustic solo shows, so we packed the Ford Fiesta and drove from Devon to Motherwell in one day. The dressing room was so close to the stage and we were making such a noise that Midge heard our set and a plan to work together was hatched.

INDIA ELECTRIC CO. played with Midge on the ‘Breathe Again’ tour in 2015. That album is largely traditional in instrumentation. But the ‘Something From Everything’ tour in 2016 used a similar format but featured fresh takes on more electronic derived material such as ‘The Damned Don’t Cry’, ‘ I Remember (Death In The Afternoon)’, ‘Fade To Grey’, ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’ and ‘If I Was’. What was the dynamic between the three of you in terms of arrangements?

The whole concept was built around stripping the songs back to their fundamentals and letting one or two of the main melodies work around the brilliant vocal lines of what are iconic tunes. As we didn’t have drums, the rhythms and energy came from guitars and mandolins balanced by the violin and piano. Working out the arrangements and picking out individual synth lines that could be replicated on violin and mandolin was an incredible way as songwriters ourselves to get to the nuts and bolts of why certain songs were so successful. Ultimately the songs took on a different life and maybe connected with people in a different way, certainly songs like ‘Live Forever’ and ‘I Remember (Death In The Afternoon)’ felt like new incarnations and were huge fun to play everywhere we went.

Reworking a song in an acoustic manner is not always straightforward is it?

It maybe allows you to see if a song is still accessible to people without textures, layers and counter melodies, the great thing about those acoustic tours with Midge is they allowed audiences to hear his extraordinary vocals really close up and our role was accompanying that and trying to let the song speak for itself. Fortunately rehearsals were at Midge’s house and coffee and cake was on hand to keep us going strong as we tried to figure out accordion melodies and how to make the mandolin sound less twangy!

Were there any songs that didn’t work as well in this ‘Something From Everything’ set?

You’d have to ask the audiences that but no matter whether it was in Melbourne or Minehead people seemed to connect with the songs in this format. Songs that on the face of it like ‘Fade to Grey’ that maybe might not work in this format seemed to shine as guitar, violin and mandolin.

Midge Ure then presented BAND ELECTRONICA in 2017 and you were handed synthesizers, how did you find the transition? Were you like ducks to water?

Possibly more squirrels to water. It did feel like a voyage of discovery but hearing how those ULTRAVOX records were made and subsequently played live without computers was incredible. Getting the opportunity to work with Russell on drums and have bass was huge fun but ultimately we knew a lot of the songs albeit in a different format, so it felt like a natural transition…whether Midge would say the same is a different question!

Does the extra technology aspect reduce or accentuate anxiety in a live context?

Copper & Blossom Photography

Hahaha, the first time INDIA ELECTRIC CO. used a laptop and interface on stage at Glastonbury, our 10 minute soundcheck was spent turning the computer on and off because we lost sound so it’s certainly a different level of anxiety compared to tuning a mandolin!

With BAND ELECTRONICA sometimes there’s 6 different keyboard splits for one song and so requires a different level of focus perhaps. Fortunately Midge has a great team with him who are on hand should one of us be having a technological meltdown!

The ‘1980’ tour in 2019-2020 featuring VISAGE material and the whole ULTRAVOX ‘Vienna’ album proved this be one of Midge Ure’s most popular tours in recent years, why do you think these songs have stood the test of time over four decades? Is there something in the structure or melodies that you have observed from playing the songs over many nights?

The concept of playing a whole seminal album live as if you’re listening it to on the record player is brilliant and when you add in the fantastic lighting that Rick Forman did on the ‘1980’ tour, it felt like it allowed people to be transported back to when they first heard the ‘Vienna’ album. It was such a unique sound from a unique band and moving seamlessly from ‘Private Lives’ to ‘Astradyne’ to ‘Vienna’ within an album demonstrated so many skills ULTRAVOX had. Having Rusty Egan and a Blitz Club narrative within each show gave a feeling of nostalgia mixed with the songs sounding fresh and alive in 2019.

This experience has now permeated into your own material and your upcoming third album features more electronics. Is it like a new adventure for you, in what situations might you use synthesizers now that perhaps you wouldn’t done before?

Midge lent us his Moog Minatuaur four years ago and we used it on a traditional folk track and no-one seemed to notice or mind so we haven’t looked back since! We’ve always tried to fuse traditional instruments and contemporary production techniques and this feels like the logical progression. In the pandemic we got hold of a DFAM which will feature heavily on the album and days have been lost to creating sounds and beats.

What is your new album called and how would you describe it? Are there any particular songs that are likely to appeal to electronica enthusiasts?

It is being recorded this very minute and it’s tough to suggest song names as the bit that comes last normally around the time the artwork needs doing! The last track on our last album ‘Tempest II’ hinted at what was to come by using an 808 and bass synth modules. We are using bolder rhythms, taking more risks and having huge fun with the synths. So this is an album we hope will connect with more people outside a folk world and launching it in time for the Midge shows feels like it gives us the best to judge whether we’ve got that right. We want to write and record songs that are as accessible to the most amount of people and after three years of writing, we’re really looking forward to sharing them.

Do you have any defined roles when composing for INDIA ELECTRIC CO?

Since we were 19, sitting in bedrooms in Devon with a piano and guitar, we’ve always tried to write together and bring our different skills together. Always having diverse references for writing and then production helps a huge amount and in many ways the enforced break from touring has given us the space and time to get back to a more organic way of writing. The influences of beats from the DFAM has given us a new platform for writing which hopefully shines through on the album.

Hannah Peel who played with John Foxx has successfully used traditional and electronic textures together, what are the future possibilities for INDIA ELECTRIC CO?

If we’re half as successful as Hannah Peel then we’ll have done well, her late night Radio 3 programme is always full of gems that we go back to time and time again. Already by adding drums to our live set, it’s expanded our horizons and with the bass elements of synths creating a bigger sound live is a big focus. Right now we are concentrating on this third album, getting ready to tour and trying to work out which coffee shops to drag Russell to when we’re on the road.

Was this headline tour initially to keep you both stage sharp after the postponement of Midge’s ‘Voice & Visions’ tour? What can people who are thinking about coming along expect?

It felt right to play a headline set in as many towns and cities that we were in with Midge and keep momentum going, we’ve had three years off so we’re ready to play as many shows as possible!

By April we’re hoping people will be keen to get out and see live music again and rather than go back to 2019, we wanted to give people more of a show and move forward so we’ve asked Russell Field to join us for the whole tour on drums. We’re going to play old songs with new arrangements and new songs that have only been heard by us and the neighbours so it’s really exciting. We’ve always tried to play in the most diverse range of spaces on our own tours, from museums to chapels and laundrettes to campfires so that each night is different. People have been incredibly supportive that we’ve had to just add an extra night so hopefully we’ve found the right balance for the shows.

When the ‘Voice & Visions’ tour finally gets going, you will also be the opening act as well. How will you maintain the energy and enthusiasm to play two sets each night?

We’ve had two years off so we’re more energised than ever! We can’t wait to finally get going with the tour and enthusiasm is just a natural part of the experience, there would be no point in doing it if you didn’t get huge enjoyment from playing every night. To have the energy from audiences again will be incredible. We might have to have a quick costume change between sets but apart from that it’ll run like clockwork!

Will there be anything you will do differently when playing to people who come to Midge Ure’s more electronic based shows compared to your own audience.

For the support shows with Midge, we’ll be playing half an hour and as loyal and amazing as his fans are, we are aware that playing 30 mins of traditional folk tunes on mandolin and accordion would be foolish. We’ll have our full set up with drums for these shows and will combine our new album and the songs we think work best with a song they might be more familiar with to try and find some common ground. We had huge fun re-working ‘Wicked Game’ by Chris Isaak in the lockdown and many of Midge’s fans were very kind and positive in their response to how we recorded our version.

How were rehearsals for the ‘Voice & Visions’ tour coming along? Do you have any favourite songs from Midge Ure’s portfolio that you particularly enjoy playing?

The band have done days of pre-rehearsal prep by sorting out all the parts and who’s playing which part and with what sound. As always Midge has prepared meticulously and knows exactly what sound for each instrument. It’s huge fun sitting down together and talking through how the songs should work and we are about to go for a week’s long rehearsals so by September we’ll be raring to go. ‘Serenade’ is currently a bit of an IEC favourite although that may be giving too much away already! From the previous years ‘Astradyne’ and ‘Private Lives’ were always so much fun playing live.

What are your hopes and fears as you prepare to go out on the road after quite some time?

It’s a hugely exciting time preparing for the year ahead and for getting back out and sharing new songs and sounds with audiences. For us, having the opportunity to tour our headline shows with Russell is something we can’t wait to do and learning what new songs connect with people in a live format. We can’t wait for April!


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to INDIA ELECTRIC CO.

Special thanks to Richard Duncan at Shoelay Music

INDIA ELECTRIC CO. UK Tour 1st Leg:

Aldershot West End Centre (6th April), Fareham Ashcroft Arts Centre (7th April), London Kings Place (8th April), Bournemouth Folk Club  (9th April), Newcastle The Cluny (13th April), Edinburgh Voodoo Rooms (14th April), Glasgow Glad Cafe (15th April), Manchester Bury Met (16th April), Oswestry Hermon Chapel Arts Centre (20th April), Clonter Opera Theatre (21st April), Otley Courthouse (22nd April), Sheffield Greystones (23rd April), Liverpool Royal Philharmonic (24th April), Cambridge The Junction (25th April), Burton-on-Trent Brewhouse Arts Centre (26th April), Lyme Regis Marine Theatre (28th April), South Petherton The David Hall (30th April)

https://indiaelectricco.com/

https://www.facebook.com/indiaelectricco

https://twitter.com/indiaelectricco

https://www.instagram.com/indiaelectricco/

https://indiaelectricco.bandcamp.com/music

INDIA ELECTRIC CO. will be touring with Midge Ure through 2022-2023, visit http://www.midgeure.co.uk/ for further information


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
18th March 2022

WOLFGANG FLÜR Magazine 1

Wolfgang Flür is best known as one of the two electronic percussionists in the classic line-up of KRAFTWERK that gave the world ‘Radio-Activity, ‘Trans-Europe Express’, ‘The Man Machine’ and ‘Computer World’.

But despite what has been close to a five decade recording career,  Wolfgang Flür releases what is only his second full-length collection under his own name. Flür’s first album on departing Kling Klang was ‘Time Pie’ issued in 1997 under the moniker of YAMO, but ‘Magazine 1’ follows up 2015’s ‘Eloquence’ which collected a range of solo tracks and collaborations recorded since 2002.

‘Magazine 1’ also does this to a lesser extent by featuring ‘Zukunftsmusik’ with U96 which first appeared on the dance combo’s 2018 ‘Reboot’ collection and reappeared in edited form on the collaborative album ‘Transhuman’ in 2020. This is an excellent track but here it is again in its third long playing incarnation. This Teutonic “future music” with Flür’s distinctive vocal remains equal to ‘Activity Of Sound’, his 2014 collaboration with Ireland’s iEUROPEAN.

However, things are not all up to the standard of ‘Zukunftsmusik’; using an array of robotic voice treatments, the opening ‘Magazine’ song featuring Ramón Amezcua is frankly a mess as it moves between its metronomic and shuffling beat sections. Again with U96 and Flür rapping, ‘Best Buy’ distorts its robotics in a KRAFTWERK vein and promises Kling Klang aesthetics, but things are more ‘Tour De France Soundtracks’ than even the best material on ‘Electric Café’ with the middle eight speech dialogue being particularly irritating as the track morphs into another mess.

Released in 2021 by BAND ELECTRONICA, the new electronically focussed project of Midge Ure, ‘Das Beat’ was a glorious slice of robopop in collaboration with Flür with “Beats through wires, beats through walls”. Unfortunately in his own ‘Magazine 1’ version, things that were good about the song like the blisteringly catchy synth hook in the classic KRAFTWERK tradition have been watered down into a mush with a new melody that is nowhere near as appealing. Meanwhile the icy motorik bossa nova inexplicably has incongruous sections of electro beats thrown in.

With cutting Numan-esque synth riffs and the cast involved, the pulsating ‘Birmingham’ featuring Claudia Brücken on lead vocals duetting with Flür’s vocodered presence and Peter Hook on his low-slung bass should have been a highlight, but disappoints due to its lack of structure. Also using similar Numan keyboard stylings, ‘Night Drive’ features Anushka who adds a soulful tone of voice to the strident electro backdrop, recalling the dancefloors of New York like The Danceteria with an enjoyable club friendly excursion although halfway through, it adopts a darker cutting tone.

‘Electric Sheep’ with Carl Cox and U96 possesses a childlike quality that will polarise listeners but ‘Billionaire (Symphony Of Might)’ with Juan Atkins is the sort of generic techno that Flür often plays in his DJ sets which he misleadingly passes off as concerts. Closing the album with ‘Say No!’, the lengthy MAPS collaboration points to where ‘Magazine 1’ could easily have gone, utilising a Flür anti-war monologue with choral and vocoder interventions over an absorbing midtempo electronic soundscape that evolves into a wonderful Germanic crescendo.

A true mixed bag of an album, two of the best tracks have already come out while several of the collaborations do not live up to their potential. But for KRAFTWERK fans seeking new material from members of the classic line-up, ‘Magazine 1’ will be welcomed, providing flashing reminders of a pioneering era that will act as an escape from the disorientations and uncertainties of the present day.


‘Magazine 1’ is released by Cherry Red Records on 4th March 2022 in CD + vinyl LP formats

https://www.cherryred.co.uk/artist/wolfgang-flur/

https://www.facebook.com/musiksoldat

https://twitter.com/iwasarobot


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Markus Luigs
3rd March 2022

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 30 SONGS OF 2021

Despite the general appetite for nostalgia with boxed sets and coloured vinyl of classic albums hogging the pressing plants, there was a lot of excellent new music released in 2021.

The quality of individual tracks released in 2021 was extremely high but at the end of the day, only 30 songs can be selected as a snapshot of the calendar year. As Monica Geller in ‘Friends’ once said, “Rules are good, rules help control the fun” – rules, routine and structure = creativity and fun ?

So the highly commended group who did not quite make ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 30 songs of 2021 includes Tobias Bernstrup, David Cicero, Alice Hubble, Michael Oakley, Jason Priest, Nina, Eric Random and Kat Von D’s duet with Peter Murphy, along with SIN COS TAN, FIAT LUX, LONELADY, GLITBITER, KNIGHT$, PEAKES, DESIRE, SOFTWAVE, XENO & OAKLANDER, BUNNY X, PISTON DAMP, FRAGRANCE. and HANTE.

So here are ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 30 songs of 2021, presented as usual alphabetically by act with a restriction of one song per artist moniker.


ACTORS Love U More

Thanks to the recruitment of new bassist Kendall Wooding, the male-to-female ratio of ACTORS has equalled up and altered their dynamic. The vocal duality between guitarist Jason Corbett and keyboardist Shannon Hemmett aka LEATHERS takes an increased role in the band’s developing sound. With the brooding baritone counterpointed by girly soprano and male falsetto to provide an uneasy uplift to the gloomy domino dance, ‘Love U More’ was a statement of intent like a goth DURAN DURAN with metronomic rhythms and eerie synths.

Available on the album ‘Acts Of Worship’ via Artoffact Records

https://www.actorstheband.com/


BAND ELECTRONICA featuring MIDGE URE Das Beat

Midge Ure finally launched his BAND ELECTRONICA project as a recording entity with ‘Das Beat’, a glorious slice of Teutonic robopop in collaboration with Wolfgang Flür. With “Beats through wires, beats through walls”, the icy motorik bossa nova was complimented by a blisteringly catchy synth hook in the classic Kling Klang tradition and harked back the Glaswegian’s days hearing KRAFTWERK at The Blitz Club and making music with VISAGE and ULTRAVOX. Dancing is a given to the synthesizer rhythm.

Available on the single ‘Das Beat’ via BMG Rights Management

http://www.midgeure.co.uk/


JORJA CHALMERS Rhapsody

Although a seasoned musician as the sax and keyboard player for Bryan Ferry over the past 10 years, Australian multi-instrumentalist Jorja Chalmers did not release her first album until 2019. The superb take on SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES ‘Rhapsody’, an orchestrated gothic epic off their ninth album ‘Peepshow’, featured an intriguing electronic warble within its stripped down arrangement. From its claustrophobic cocoon, Chalmers sounded trapped inside an unsettling icy soundscape of synthetic strings and choirs.

Available on the album ‘Midnight Train’ via Italians Do it Better

https://www.instagram.com/jorjachalmers/


CLASS ACTRESS Saint Patrick

CLASS ACTRESS is the nom de théâtre of one-time Giorgio Moroder protégée Elizabeth Harper. Releasing a new EP ‘Sense Memory’ which initially featured three cover including THE SMITHS’ ‘Ask’ but steadily expanded with new material, the percussive ‘Saint Patrick’ featured an array of infectious synth hooks while Harper’s richly passionate vocal over some strident keyboard work combined like Nerina Pallot fronting BOY HARSHER for a brilliant slice of modern electronic pop.

Available on the EP ‘Sense Memory’ via Terrible Records

https://classactress.com/


HATTIE COOKE I Get By

Perhaps more intentionally pop than Hattie Cooke has ever been before on her previous two long playing outings, an intimate gravitas comes with the expanded electronic texturing on her third album ‘Bliss Land’ and this is undoubtedly stamped on its opening song. The hypnotic ‘I Get By’ was superb with ringing hooks, sweeping soundscapes and airy understated vocals that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on an Italians Do It Better ‘After Dark’ compilation.

Available on the album ‘Bliss Land’ via Castles In Space

https://twitter.com/hattiecooke


DANZ CM Human Existence

‘The Absurdity of Human Existence’ is the debut album by DANZ CM, the artist formally known as COMPUTER MAGIC. New York based Danz Johnson is the synth girl behind both vehicles with a passion for the development of the electronic music. Reflecting the album’s title, the total melancholic brilliance of ‘Human Existence’ sees our heroine make a sombre declaration that “you can’t save me, I can’t save you” in a manner reminiscent of CHROMATICS meeting OMD.

Available on the album ‘The Absurdity Of Human Existence’ via Channel 9 Records

https://www.zdanz.com/


DAWN TO DAWN Care

Danceable dreampop trio DAWN TO DAWN feature in its line-up Tess Roby who released her debut album ‘Beacon’ on Italians Do It Better. Also featuring Adam Ohr and Patrick Lee with their Minimoog, Roland System 100, Roland Juno 60 and Korg 700s armoury, ’Care’ was written on a cold winter’s night and unsurprisingly captures that mood. Nocturnal yet rhythmic, Roby’s alluring folk-tinged vocal offsets the various synthetic overtures for a mysterious weightless quality.

Available on the single ‘Care’ via https://dawntodawn.bandcamp.com/track/care

https://www.facebook.com/dawntodawnmusic


DEVOIR Mercer

Leeds based duo DEVOIR comprise of Imogen Holmes who released the impressive ‘Lines’ EP as IMI and Jacob Marston. A product of lockdown, although ‘Mercer’ is entirely electronic, it differs slightly from IMI in its four-to-the-floor construction. So imagine GOLDFRAPP at an Alpine rave in the Hornlihutte basecamp next to The Matterhorn. As the cinematic techno builds, the magnificent voice that graced IMI soars and shines, expressing itself at the extremes of alluring spoken word and piercing high soprano.

Available on the single ‘Mercer’

https://www.facebook.com/wearedevoir


DIAMOND FIELD feat BELINDA BRADLEY A Kiss Apart

DIAMOND FIELD is the musical vehicle of Andy Diamond, the New York based Kiwi who, looks to studio icons such as Hugh Padgham, Rupert Hine and Peter Wolf as his heroes. With a backing track like NEW ORDER’s ‘Your Silent Face’ reworked by OMD, ‘A Kiss Apart’ is superb and sees a velvet performance by Belinda Bradley of New Zealand collective SELON RECLINER; akin to the other Belinda, Ms Carlisle crossed with Marcella Detroit there is a gorgeous chorus and some great synth interventions recalling lost Mute trio PEACH.

Available on the album ‘Diamond Field’ via Sofa King

https://diamondfieldmusic.com/


DLINA VOLNY Bipolar

Inspired by the spectre of the former Soviet Union, Minsk trio DLINA VOLNY explore post-punk with a dance beat not unlike NEW ORDER. Having already had two albums already under their belt and singing in English with an inherent Eastern Bloc gloom in Masha Zinevitch’s vocals throughout their Italians Do It Better period, their fifth single for the label ‘Bipolar’ was dark disco with plenty of synth and mystery that asked “But what is it like being on the border?”.

Available on the album ‘Dazed’ via Italians Do It Better

https://www.instagram.com/dlina_volny/


LAURA DRE All Day, All Night

With her mix of modern synthpop and synthwave coupled to her deep nonchalant vocals, Laura Dre captures the rainy dystopian air of ‘Blade Runner’, but with a sexy enigmatic allure and a mischievously wired groove that wouldn’t go amiss in a West Berlin nightclub. The glorious uptempo disco number ‘All Day, All Night’ offers great crossover potential; drenched in sparkle and a delicious percussive base. It’s a number for fans of early PET SHOP BOYS, complete with a classic Tennant / Lowe styled instrumental middle eight.

Available on the album ‘Moving Spaces’ via Outland Recordings

https://lauradre.com/


DURAN DURAN Featuring CHAI More Joy!

Celebrating 40 years as recording artists, DURAN DURAN released their 15th studio album ‘Future Past’ in a “live for the moment” reference of how something today can become a cherished memory in times to come. The chiptune inspired ‘More Joy!’ was reminiscent of past glories, its syncopated disco poise capturing DURAN DURAN at what they do best and with hypnotic electronics offset by a wonderful bass guitar run and chants by Japanese rock band CHAI, its exuberant manner presented the right dose of escapism.

Available on the album ‘Future Past’ via Tape Modern / BMG

http://www.duranduran.com/


GLÜME Get Low

Like a tattooed Marilyn Monroe dropped into Twin Peaks, GLÜME is a shimmering new starlet in the Italians Do It Better stable. From her debut album ‘The Internet’, ‘Get Low’ was an intriguing slice of accessible avant pop about the high of falling for someone where brain chemistry and nervous systems are affected. Applying some rumbling electronic bass, stabbing vintage synths and simple but prominent digital drum beats, ‘Get Low’ sounded not unlike an experimental hybrid of OMD and LADYTRON!

Available on the album ‘The Internet’ via Italians Do It Better

https://www.facebook.com/babyglume


ROBIN HATCH Airplane

Made using the T.O.N.T.O. synth complex created Malcom Cecil and Robert Margouleff which was made famous by Stevie Wonder, the same titled album is the fifth solo body of work by the Toronto-based neoclassical composer and multi-instrumentalist Robin Hatch. The sinister ‘Airplane’ took shape around an avant garde soundscape. Utilising the talents of doom metal violinist Laura Bates of VOLUR alongside the synthetic strings and hypnotic generative blips, this encapsulated an unsettling gothic grandeur.

Available on the album ‘T.O.N.T.O.’ via Robin Records

https://twitter.com/robinhatch


ITALOCONNECTION featuring ETIENNE DAHO Virus X

For Italian musician veterans Fred Ventura and Paolo Gozzetti, the ethos of ITALOCONNECTION is “to sound vintage in a modern way”. The superb ‘Virus X’ featuring French veteran Etienne Daho sprung a surprise as a suave slice of Gallic synthwave. With its downbeat verse and an emotive chorus, this was as a fitting musical document of the past year and half’s tensions while using toxic personal relationships as a poignant lyrical analogy.

Available on the album ‘Midnight Confessions Vol1’ via Bordello A Parigi

https://www.facebook.com/italoconnection


JAKUZI Hiç Işık Yok

Hailing from Turkey, JAKUZI’s Italo flavoured song ‘Hiç Işık Yok’ saw the usual cowbells substituted by processed pots and pans, while the mix of classic brassy tones and chilling synth pads blended to create something rather unusual and extraordinary. Working with Maurizio Baggio who mixed the most recent albums by BOY HARSHER and THE SOFT MOON, the Italian producer turned what had been a gothic futureless mood piece with a sombre vocal intonation into a dark but catchy electronic disco number.

Available on the EP ‘Açık Bir Yara’ via City Slang

https://www.facebook.com/jakuz1/


JOON Good Times

2021 was a year craving for more ‘Good Times’ and JOON, the electronic solo project from Maltese producer Yasmin Kuymizakis did her best to remember them. Another recent signing to Italians Do It Better, she reflected on “The way you sing your songs and make me dance, the way you take a chance on a little romance” before affirming “You remind me of the good times”. It all captured a charming innocence in a dreamy Mediterranean take on Japanese City Pop.

Available on the album ‘Dream Again’ via Italians Do It Better

https://www.templeofjoon.com/


КЛЕТ Eternity

КЛЕТ is a music project of Bohemian-born composer and producer Michal Trávníček. Primarily celebrating the Soviet space programme with its impressive series of firsts, while the ‘Alconaut’ album’s pivotal track was its opener ‘Gagarin’s Start’ which honoured the handsome hero who was the first man in space as he prepared for lift-off, the spacey Sovietwave mood over 13 tracks made for an enticing listen. The sparkling sparseness of ‘Eternity’ with its stuttering vintage drum machine provided another highlight.

Available on the album ‘Alconaut’ via https://claat.bandcamp.com/album/

https://www.instagram.com/kletwave/


LEATHERS Reckless

LEATHERS is the more synth focussed solo project from ACTORS keyboardist Shannon Hemmett. The undoubted highlight of her debut ‘Reckless’ EP was the title song. Resigned and accepting, she was still alluring in her voicing despite the heartbreak of her love being so cruel and dangerous. A rather lovely slice of synthpop in that classic melancholic vein with an infectious steadfast motorik beat, it again showed that Canada again was leading the way in the modern version of the form.

Available on the EP ‘Reckless’ via Artoffact Records

https://www.leatherstheband.com/


CATHERINE MOAN Drop It!

Having treated the world with her charming cover of the Alan Wilder penned DEPECHE MODE B-side ‘Fools’, Philadelphian songstress CATHERINE MOAN launched her debut album with the self-composed ‘Drop It!’, song craving the joy of nightlife after a year of lockdown confinement. Dreamily floating over a classic four chord progression with an eerily sombre apocalyptic understatement, ‘Drop It!’ channelled her innocent sound in the manner of ELECTRIC YOUTH meeting STRAWBERRY SWITCHBLADE and MARSHEAUX via her own bedroom aesthetic.

Available on the album ‘Chain Reaction’ via https://catherinemoan.bandcamp.com/album/chain-reaction-2

https://www.facebook.com/Catherine-Moan-105421111625150


KARIN MY Loop

While Karin My has been working with TWICE A MAN and MACHINISTA over the last ten years, it was only in 2019 that she stepped out to front her own traditionally derived electronic songs. A steadfast drum machine propels ‘Loop’ while sweeping symphonic melodies in the vein of ULTRAVOX accompany the despairing resignation. The closing computer generated female speech declaring “identification – procedure – quote – hyphen – perform – display – go to – loop – full stop – execute” added to the dystopian unsettlement.

Available on the album ‘Silence Amygdala’ via Ad Inexplorata

http://www.karinmy.net/


NATION OF LANGUAGE This Fractured Mind

Using a rigid motorik backbone and capturing a danceable ethereal shudder, ‘This Fractured Mind’ breathed new life via its sprightly synth tones in a reference to the past. Although there was also some frenetic bass guitar grit to provide a hint of claustrophobia, the machines that had only been friends previously became family in the NATION OF LANGUAGE sound. Dealing with the spectre of unrealised dreams and jealousy towards more successful others, by the end of ‘This Fractured Mind’, any inferiority complex is countered with hopeful acceptance.

Available on the album ‘A Way Forward’ via Play It Again Sam

https://www.nationoflanguage.com/


NORTHERN LITE Ich Fürchte Nein

The project of Andreas Kubat and Sebastian Bohn, the 2001 NORTHERN LITE single ‘Treat Me Better’ was a cult favourite on the electroclash scene. Translating as “I don‘t think so…”, Kubat reflected on enforced isolation and staying sane. In a chorus that could be roughly interpreted: “You can‘t be happy and by liked by everyone at the same time”, ‘Ich Fürchte Nein’ was a delightfully catchy synthpop tune with a bright and jolly melodic section contrasted by a vocal of a more anxious disposition.

Available on the album ‘Ja’ via UnaMusic

https://www.northernlite.de/


GARY NUMAN The Chosen

While ‘Savage’ depicted a deserted post-apocalyptic world, clad in darkness, The Ade Fenton produced ‘Intruder’ saw Planet Earth react to human kind’s self-destructive misdemeanours by unleashing a virus! “It feels betrayed, hurt and ravaged. Disillusioned and heartbroken it is now fighting back” said Gary Numan poignantly.  ‘The Chosen’ was fast paced synth rock and filled with pleading messages embroiled in frustration and despair, asking “Do you need one more sign?” and “Can you see, or are you so blind?”

Available on the album ‘Intruder’ via BMG

https://garynuman.com/


MARK REEDER & FIFI RONG Figure Of 8

Mark Reeder first met Fifi Rong who at the Berlin Kraftwerk in 2016 when she was singing in concert with Swiss trailblazers YELLO. From his album ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ , the opening track ‘Figure of 8’ was a magical new collaboration between the two with a cinematic backdrop of sparse piano and glistening sequences over which the exquisite Chinese songstress added her distinctive air of mystery to a more metronomic rhythm construction than perhaps heard on her own work.

Available on the album ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ via MFS

https://fifirong.com/

https://mfsberlin.com/


R. MISSING Crimeless

New York City-based darklings R. MISSING are fronted by Sharon Shy, a vocalist with an elegant Jane Birkin-like presence while the studious Toppy Frost does the music. 2020’s ‘Placeholder For The Night’ signalled airier developments in their increasingly synthy sound, but the wonderful ‘Crimeless’ was R. MISSING’s most electronic pop noir statement yet. It was like CHROMATICS carefully reconfigured for the dancefloor with Sharon Shy presenting a whispery singing style that could easily be mistaken for Ruth Radelet.

Available on the single ‘Crimeless’ via Sugarcane Recordings

https://rmissing.com/


SCHÖNHEIT Danse Du Robot

Subtitled ‘Hommage à Florian’, ‘Danse Du Robot’ was a magical tribute to the late KRAFTWERK co-founder with hints of ‘Trans Europe Express’ from Swedish producer Martin Lillberg, the man behind SCHÖNHEIT. Not exactly a prolific project with singles in 2014 and 2019, Lillberg however records under various monikers including as DEOLETUS, DESTINY NATION, INESI, LAURENTIA, LOVE ON DRUGS, MY SWEETEST PUNCH and WML as well as holding down a day job as a classical percussionist.

Available on the single ‘Danse du Robot (Hommage à Florian)’

https://swedishelectroscene.bandcamp.com/track/danse-du-robot-hommage-florian


SEA FEVER De Facto

SEA FEVER are the new eclectic Manchester combo featuring second generation members of SECTION 25 and NEW ORDER, Beth Cassidy, Tom Chapman and Phil Cunningham. ‘De Facto’ was a delightful electro-disco feast with a rhythm rush that screamed strobelights and likely to fill indie club dancefloors while also crossing over to lovers of synth. With echoes of NEW ORDER and THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS, it captured a vibrant energy worthy of Manchester and its musical heritage.

Available on the album ‘Folding Lines’ via Kartel Records

https://seafeverband.com/


UNIFY SEPARATE Embrace The Fear

As the prospect of interacting with others again set off anxieties after 18 months of social distancing, for Scottish Swedish duo UNIFY SEPARATE, it was time to ‘Embrace The Fear’. While the theme was relatable to lockdown, the lyrical gist touched on the more general existential crises that afflict many as they navigate a life crossroads. But despite the air of unease and the grittier disposition, as with most of UNIFY SEPARATE’s output, there was light at the end of the tunnel.

Available on the single ‘Embrace The Fear’ via https://unifyseparate.bandcamp.com/track/embrace-the-fear

https://www.facebook.com/usmusicspace


WAVESHAPER Lost In The Cloud

Gorgeously melodic within a claustrophobic drama, ‘Lost In The Cloud’ did as the title suggested like Vangelis meeting Giorgio Moroder at the Necropolis on a dreamy dance trip. A lovely little uplifting synth instrumental, Tom Andersson the man behind WAVESHAPER suggested something darker, saying “Imagine Red Riding Hood trapped in the Digital Cloud, behind the Mainframe. How would she feel? What would she see? There is probably more to fear than a wolf in the forest…”

Available on the album ‘Mainframe’ via Waveshaper Music Production

https://www.facebook.com/Waveshaperofficial


A selection of ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s favourite music in 2021 is on its ‘Missing U’ playlist at
https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4rlJgJhiGkOw8q2JcunJfw


Text by Chi Ming Lai
11th December 2021

RUSTY EGAN: The Blitzed Interview

‘Blitzed’ is the new Sky Arts documentary about the colourful London club night attended by aspirational young people driven to escape, express and create.

It was the start of the Thatcher era and before it was infiltrated by leg warmers, deely boppers, fluffy dice, yuppies and soddin’ Pat Sharp, the clientele of The Blitz were planting the seeds that were to shape the eighth decade of the 20th Century.

With the late Steve Strange acting as its Pied Piper, these personalities who emerged from a movement that got labelled The Blitz Kids, The Cult With No Name and The New Romantics were to have a big impact on popular culture. They included  costume designers Fiona Dealey and Michele Clapton, journalists Robert Elms and Dylan Jones as well as royal hat maker Stephen Jones. They tell their stories of that flamboyant period alongside the usual suspects of Rusty Egan, Boy George, Steve Dagger, Princess Julia, Gary Kemp, Marilyn, Andy Polaris, Chris Sullivan and Midge Ure.

While those not fully immersed in the history of The Blitz Club will delight in the 90 minutes of ‘Blitzed’, aficionados of New Romantic history will be disappointed to see many of the same old faces repeating variations on anecdotes told many times before. Meanwhile others will despair that music is not the main topic of discussion, although it would be fair to say that TV specials looking at key hit songs by VISAGE, ULTRAVOX, SPANDAU BALLET and CULTURE CLUB have been a plenty on Channel 5 lately…

However, some new faces do appear and Darla Jane Gilroy’s recollections of being chosen to be an extra in David Bowie’s ‘Ashes To Ashes’ video after he graced The Blitz are delightful.

The inclusion of Elly Jackson of LA ROUX though is questionable; obviously chosen as an example of a modern day Blitz Kid because of her “Flock of Tilda Swintons” hairdo and having a No1 with the synth-driven ‘Bulletproof’ in 2009, she comes across as blissfully unaware of the long term influence of The Blitz but then she did aspire to be a folk singer as a teenager!

Another frustrating aspect of ‘Blitzed’ that could have been better researched is when David Bowie is mentioned in his position as the Godfather of The Blitz; a fair proportion of the archive footage accompanying this section is from after the club closed including his spiky-haired ‘Glass Spider’ period in 1987 and in one clip, the ‘Earthling’ period of 1997!

Reliably entertaining in ‘Blitzed’, resident DJ Rusty Egan makes some memorable and amusing observations of the time. Acting as co-consultant and providing new music for the documentary, the recently released soundtrack album additionally features period pieces by his former protégés SHOCK and RONNY as well as inspired by tracks from artists such as WE ARE BRANDO and TINY MAGNETIC PETS who he would be playing at The Blitz Club if it was still around and hadn’t closed in Spring 1981. The interconnected collection concludes with a live version of David Bowie’s ‘Where Are We Now?’ by Boy George.

Edited down from an amusing conversation that went on for nearly 4 hours, Rusty Egan chatted about the making of the ‘Blitzed’ documentary and its accompanying soundtrack.

It looks like the ‘Blitzed’ documentary has gone down well with the general public?

Yeah, it’s been very well received by the GENERAL public. But within the community of actual Blitz Kids, I put together a list of 50 or so of the most important people that went to The Blitz like John Galliano who would have been 18-19 year old students and part of the hub… I shared it online and called it “The 50 Blitz Kids Who Were Too Cool To Be In A Documentary About The Blitz”! *roars of laughter*

The quip went down well with them because they were being labelled “too cool”, it’s got a funny juxtaposition; of course, a lot of them couldn’t be squeezed into 90 minutes anyway!

So I acknowledged them by doing a video for a track called ‘Catwalk’ which is part of the ‘Blitzed’ soundtrack… I told them I wouldn’t be in the documentary unless I did the music! It was my chance to right some wrongs, the sound I was trying to get on the accompanying OST album, whether I wrote it, produced it or got someone else to do it, was not a retro album or another compilation with ‘Ashes To Ashes’ or ‘The Model’ which it easily could have been, it’s a different thing!

‘Catwalk’ appears to have the same chord progression as ‘The Model’ by KRAFTWERK?

NO! It’s the same chord progression as ‘Turn To Dust’ which Boy George sent me which I stripped down and added my sequence. So it was that music which accompanied the video footage of KRAFTWERK. But with that chord progression of ‘The Model’, you could sing 50 or so reggae or dance tunes over that…

…yeah! ‘Ride On Time’ by BLACK BOX is one!!

Well there you go!! I could probably do a mash-up of ‘The Model’ with ‘Ride On Time’! The DJ Robin Skouteris did one mixing ‘Fade To Grey’ with ‘Magic Fly’ and HURTS ‘Wonderful Life’ and even dropped PET SHOP BOYS in! He could stick the song ‘New Romantics’ by Taylor Swift with Dolly Parton and Mark Ronson in a never ending mix, unbelievable what he can do with the technology of today!

It would be fair to say people who had been more aware of The Blitz and its history have said many of the same people who were in the BBC’s ‘A Fine Romance’ 2001 documentary were in ‘Blitzed’?

When the producers said they wanted my help and said they wanted the phone numbers of Midge Ure, Boy George etc, I thought “oh, same old sh*t!” – so there was a bit of bartering, I said I’d to it if I did the music and I got paid!

Chris Payne did a piano and violin version of ‘Fade To Grey’. I thought I should put bass and drums onto that and extend it, cos you know I love an extended, and then for people like you, there’s a three and a half minute version there! *laughs*

Now, there was Chris Payne, Rusty Egan and Oscar Egan, there was no Midge Ure or Billy Currie, just us three making a version of ‘Fade To Grey’ at 105 BPM. I think it’s a good beautiful piece of music with wonderful arpeggios from Chris, low voice by me and my ex, the French speaking Belgian girl Brigitte. I am still in contact with her so I asked her to reprise it, we did as good as we could without Midge or Billy in our remake of ‘Fade To Grey’.

It’s all in my home studio, not in Abbey Road! Everybody says they’ve liked what we’ve done, that’s it! It’s not like I’ve added a rapper! I didn’t add a dance beat, I just made it clearer and louder with a middle break. It’s not like I had Abbey Road, the mixing desk of Conny Plank, Alan Parsons producing, Michael Rother on guitar and made a pile of sh*t! If I did that, you’d be right to have a go! It’s a labour of love!

Some more seasoned enthusiasts did not really find out anything new from watching ‘Blitzed’, it could have benefitted from the perspective of say, actress Eve Ferret who actually performed at The Blitz and Jacqueline Bucknell who brought David Bowie down that night…

I gave the producers a list of everyone, you know me, I’m very inclusive… Marilyn actually didn’t want to do it, I had to phone him up and told him “it’s better to be in it than not in it”… I do agree with you, but you’re discussing something I had no control over.

Overall, were you happy with how ‘Blitzed’ turned out?

NO, I LOOK FAT!

Yeah, a white shell suit is not a good look on you even if it’s Ralph Lauren!! *laughs*

They told me everyone wears black, please wear white!!!!

But yes, I’m pleased with the documentary because when was the last time fashion was intertwined with music? You don’t look at THE KILLERS and go “what are they wearing?”, they’re just a band from Las Vegas! You don’t look at NEW ORDER and go “what is Barney wearing?”, they’re not a fashionable band.

SPANDAU BALLET were very ambitious and eventually successful, but you helped them out?

Steve Strange fancied Martin Kemp so wanted to put SPANDAU BALLET on at The Blitz. But he asked me to take a look and advise them what to do, so I did!

Gary Kemp could sit there in his mansion and talk about how he knew if he jumped on that stage, he could take the scene… but he didn’t know Richard James Burgess, he didn’t know how to make a dance record, he didn’t know what a synthesizer was, he was just a young kid.

That SPANDAU BALLET comeback song ‘Once More’ in 2009, it was so bloomin’ middle of the road, it needed its own government safety film!! *laughs*

Ouch! They wanted to be pop stars, as did DURAN DURAN and DEPECHE MODE, they wanted to make pop music.

‘Blitzed’ is not a music documentary but were you surprised ‘Vienna’ only got mentioned for 15 seconds and ‘Fade To Grey’ for about 30?

I actually didn’t want them to play ‘Vienna’, I didn’t want them to play ‘Ashes To Ashes’, cos I didn’t want them playing the same songs… having that clip of Bowie doing ‘Heroes’ on ‘Top Of The Pops’ probably cost them £20,000! The labels have a chart of what songs are worth and they run it like a business, and because they go on the premise that they generally can only sell a song once, the price can be very high!

So what’s your favourite moment on ‘Blitzed’ that isn’t you?

I loved Boy George in it… y’know he could have died several times over the decades, but I saw a happy Boy George who had a whiter smile than me, happy to tell people he was a thief because he had no money and lived in a squat… thing is, Steve Strange was also a thief but lied about it! They had nothing and wanted to be wearing the latest clothes! They wanted to go clubbing every night and that cost a fortune!

Whereas although I went to borstal like in the film ‘Scum’ and I learned to survive with billiard balls in a sock to protect myself, I was always nice and said “come and stay round my house” and they would rob me sadly! Looking back at those people from 40 years ago, they are many who never made it, I could list a load of people. Y’know, it’s lovely to be an old man with my bus pass and to get my jab, having people I knew when I was 20 like Eve Ferret contacting me on a daily basis.

A lot of people don’t like me, they like Steve Strange and feel I shouldn’t be taking any of the glory on ‘Blitzed’. Even a friend of mine who I got DEPECHE MODE tickets for on the last tour wrote “it’s not all about you Rusty”… but I didn’t make the documentary, I’m just a bloke in it! I’VE GOT NO CONTROL OVER NOTHING!

Your new song ‘When We Were Young’ features prominently in ‘Blitzed’, it’s quite obviously influenced by Gina X’s ‘No GDM’ but I just wanted to say that its co-writer Zeus B Held has heard it and says he’s not going to sue you! *laughs*

Well, if he did, he wouldn’t be suing me, he’d be suing Paul Statham of B-MOVIE who came up with the music! He sent me the bassline and synthline, I put in a straight four LinnDrum beat and made it bigger. But ‘No GDM’ was a song I heard in Düsseldorf and brought in to play at The Blitz and it inspired so many people in the UK like FASHION and DEAD OR ALIVE because it was produced by Zeus B Held, ‘Nice Mover’ was another one from the album that I played.

So yes, I agree 100% that there’s a link! But the end result with the lyrics about “Tonight’s the night, we danced to Iggy, Ferry and Bolan, hey, we found love when we were young” became perfect for ‘Blitzed’.

‘When We Were Young’ manages to be retro-referencing but modern, and that’s quite a tricky thing to achieve…

You know that’s what I was trying to do, cos you kept moaning “Rusty, can you stop trying to be modern?!?” *laughs*

It’s my sound but we are in 2021 and I don’t want to be on at Rewind or Let’s Rock between Limahl and Kim Wilde! I’ll be hopefully doing Rusty Egan Presents VISAGE 1980-2021 at W-Festival in Belgium this August, performing the first two albums with Zaine Griff, Chris Payne and Dave Brookes before OMD headline on the Saturday night.

It’s is so difficult to write anything completely original! If I spoke to Ralf Hütter, he would say that to do KRAFTWERK, he had to put his blinkers on, turn everything off, turn off American Forces radio, turn off the TV with its schlager music, go into the lab at Kling Klang, be German and go into himself as to who he is!

So what was unique about the era captured in ‘Blitzed’ and why could it not really happen today?

As you know, I still go to night clubs and I went to one called The Box in Soho which I’ve been to about 20 times. It’s been going for about 7 or 8 years and is described as the “Studio 54 of today” and “The Blitz Club of today”. There are creative people in their 20s there who love Lee Bowery and Boy George, the sort of people who support LGBTQ+, would watch the Channel 4 drama series ‘It’s A Sin’ and love the music of the 80s or similar. They are creative types who can’t make a living from what they do, but might be influencers…

I met with the owners of ‘The Box’, the club started in New York and it was attended by the richest people in the city, the dot com millionaires, the “in with the in-crowd” types! They were putting on people miming to Lady Gaga songs and freak shows of people putting knitting needles through their nipples as entertainment. So it was loads of rich people throwing away money that flew in their letter box while they were asleep on their friends or so-called models on Instagram, all while the DJ is playing Kanye West!

But it sounds like a nightmare! That doesn’t interest me! So I suggested them putting on original artists and musicians, but they said they didn’t want to do it as they were making loads of money with people coming in six nights a week! Everything was about money!

The thing is, The Blitz was real, we were all broke, we were all thieves or on the dole, we were no-ones! The Box looks like The Blitz, but it’s not!


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

‘Blitzed’ is available on demand via Sky

The ‘Blitzed’ soundtrack album is released by Future Music and available now via digital outlets

Rusty Egan, Zaine Griff, Chris Payne and Dave Brooks perform the music of VISAGE 1980 x 2021 at W-Festival in Belgium on Saturday 28th August 2021 – tickets are available from https://w-festival.com/en/

https://www.facebook.com/rustyegan/

https://twitter.com/DJRustyEgan

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

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

https://open.spotify.com/album/3BXZJhaZG3Qf87umwTLM5d


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
22nd March 2021

MARILLION Interview

MARILLION have seen ‘The Light At The End Of The Tunnel’! In these long dark days of recent times, the prog veterans hope to shed some light across the stages of Britain with a 10-date tour in November 2021 culminating in 2 nights in London.

Presently, MARILLION comprise of Steve Hogarth (lead vocals, keyboards + percussion), Steve Rothery (guitars), Pete Trewavas (bass + guitar), Mark Kelly (keyboards) and Ian Mosley (drums + percussion).

For many years now, MARILLION have enjoyed a unique relationship with their fanbase and together they pioneered the concept of crowdfunding in music via the sponsorship of an American tour in 1996.

Despite a difficult 2020 for all, MARILLION united with their family of faithful fans for the online Couch Convention weekend in September which raised £31,530 for their crew who have been hard hit financially by the pandemic.

Of the weekend, Mark Kelly said: “What a weekend it was! We were totally stunned and knocked out by everyone’s involvement in everything that went on, from Steve Rothery’s late night cocktails to Pete’s Bass Masterclass. Ian’s Drum Q&A and my early morning fun run and all the music, chat and fancy dress in between. It was fun for us to be in the audience, too, reading and reacting to all your comments as the shows were streamed. The crew tip-jar was overflowing with your generosity, you raised a substantial sum for our wonderful crew. The money will go a long way to helping them survive a difficult year. Thank you!”

Mark Kelly kindly took time out from recording the new MARILLION album to talk about the use of keyboard technology in the band, being crowdfunding trailblazers and the modern day streaming business model among many other topics.

Thanks for taking time out of what I am sure is still a busy schedule to chat with us today…

No problem, I was hoping to home by now but I’m stuck in traffic on my way back from the studio.

Is that working on ‘Marathon’ (Mark’s forthcoming solo project) or MARILLION material?

‘Marathon’ is finished, this is for the next MARILLION album… Number 20! Funnily enough on the tour next year we play the Cambridge Corn Exchange almost 40 years to the day of my first gig with the band, in the same town.

I’ve been a fan all that time and it doesn’t feel like 40 years…

You’re right, it doesn’t feel like 40 years at all. You hear older people say time flies by and now I know where they are coming from.

Folk coming to this interview may wonder why we are speaking with you, but there is crossover between what you do and our usual fare, Vince Clarke for example is a GENESIS fan…

Funny you should say that, I was reading an article on one of the sites like TechRadar and they listed the Top 30 synth players and Vince Clarke was number 5 or 6 which surprised me. But thinking about it, there is a lot of crossover with the electronic stuff like TANGERINE DREAM and KRAFTWERK which is very much in the prog genre… Krautrock… the early days of synthesiser music and progressive rock were both experimental

So how are you all surviving the lockdown?

We’ve had a pretty good year by luck more than anything as we had already decided we weren’t going to tour this year. All we had in the book was ‘Cruise To The Edge’ which got cancelled back in April. So we didn’t need to change our plans much at all and for me it gave me the chance to do a solo album as we were in lockdown for 3 or 4 months.

We had just started work on the MARILLION album and had to stop. We are back in the studio now having resumed work on the album at the end of the summer. We are at that stage now where we’ve done a lot of jamming, have quite a lot of ideas and just need to get them past the arranging stage really. We are quite slow these days, we will jam then take those and jam around them again, working on the ideas we like to see what comes out and eventually they start to take shape as songs and that’s where we are at now.

We have 20 or 30 pieces, some lyrics and I’ll be optimistic and say by early next year we will have an album ready to record.

That’s great news both that you are busy and all keeping well. Moving on can you give us a recap of Mark Kelly, the early years?

I never saw being in a rock band as a viable career opportunity, it was something I did for fun playing on the local pub circuit. The guys I played with didn’t take it that seriously. I’d been an art student then switched to electronics as I wasn’t really enjoying the art stuff.

MARILLION were the opening act for the band I was playing for, Mick Pointer (the then-drummer) and Fish came up to me and asked if I fancied joining MARILLION.

I didn’t really know who they were and only watched them because our guitarist said “you should watch this lot, you’ll like them” and that was my start at becoming a professional musician.

It’s interesting as the documentary on the ‘Script For A Jester’s Tear’, MARILLION’s 1983 debut album boxset shows you as having, as a band, quite a drive and determination to succeed?

That was one of the things that attracted me to MARILLION was how serious they were about it all. Everyone back then talked about making it and back then, that meant as far as we were concerned getting a record contract with a major label.

Everyone was laser focussed on it, it wasn’t a hobby. We turned professional and that meant giving up any job you had and signing on the dole. Making a living back then as a gigging musician was hard, God it’s much harder now, and we actually did manage to feed ourselves.

We would play 5 or 6 nights a week in pubs and you would get paid 100 quid which I suppose wasn’t bad, it was a slog though we were determined.

The ‘Script…’ album… I joined at the end of ‘81 and we had signed within a year and were recording the album by Christmas 82. At the time, it didn’t seem to happen that quickly but looking back it did.

The great thing about the early days of MARILLION was wherever we went, we picked up new fans. There was a real buzz about the band at grassroots level where there wasn’t much from the mainstream press. We had a session on the Friday Rock Show and Sounds wrote about us but we weren’t cool enough for Melody Maker and NME!

So looking back it did happen pretty quickly, we were selling out Hammersmith Odeon by the time the first album came out…

I remember back in the day looking at that very prog thing of listing all the keyboards that you used on the album credits…

That’s funny cos as a kid, I remember pouring over the sleeve of ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’ by Rick Wakeman and the bird’s eye view looking down at all the keyboards that were labelled. Of course there was no internet, so you had to look things up in the library or rely on keyboard magazines. I think I was just trying to emulate my heroes, they all listed what they played so we did the same…

The equipment you used was pretty much top of the want list for the period. I have often thought, did you hire it in or how did the band feel about you blowing the entire advance on a new keyboard rig?

I was thinking about this the other day and I was lucky. The A&R guy at EMI, Hugh Stanley-Clarke, was a real keyboard fan and he also represented Thomas Dolby and he said “you’ve got to get an Emulator and you have to get a PPG 2.2” and these were really expensive.

To give you an idea, the PPG was about £6000 and the Emulator about 5, so that’s £11,000 on 2 keyboards. Around the same time, I bought my first house and that was £23,000! And those weren’t the most expensive if you think about, something like the Fairlight which was £30,000 or… what was that thing Keith Emerson played, the Yamaha GS1 that was about the same price!

You had a Jupiter 8 as well?

I loved my Jupiter 8, that was what another £3000…

So most of the advance went up on A-frames next to you on stage?

You’re not far wrong actually. We bought a drum kit and some amps, but I spent about 15 grand on keyboards so I was lucky. At the time, we got the money and bought the gear.

Advances in that technology was going leaps and bounds at the time and you were probably one of the last people to record an album before MIDI came in. I think you had the DX7 the next album, ‘Fugazi’?

I think I got that just after that. Folk were buying things like the DX7 but you couldn’t really do anything with it. It wasn’t until I bought a Juno 106 and could link that and the DX7 together with a MIDI cable to stack the sounds, it was then you could say, my God listen to this. The opening bars of ‘Misplaced Childhood’ are the sound of the DX and the Juno together. At the time it was groundbreaking.

I had a Commodore 64 computer and a guy at Hansa Studios in Berlin where we recorded ‘Misplaced Childhood’ showed me a box you plugged into the back of it. It was a Steinberg 16 track sequencer, the box had MIDI In and Out and you could record stuff and play it back. It was really basic, but at the time it was amazing to be able to do that.

With the technology, did you feel you needed to keep up with things like sampling?

I loved it, it was a great time to be getting into keyboards, at that time there was a lot of great things happening with the technology. There was a shit period in keyboard development…

The early analog stuff of the 70s and those early polyphonic synths like the Prophet 5 and the Jupiter was great through to the late 80s with iconic keyboards like the Korg M1 and the Roland D50, then in the 90s there were a lot of sampling keyboards that weren’t that good.

Then you had all the VST instruments that weren’t all that good either, but now a lot of those are really nice and you can get lots of interesting sounds. It’s all a bit too easy now I suppose, a bit like recording…

Do you not find the amount of choice you have in the libraries for these instruments can be counter-productive when you can spend hours just flipping through string sounds?

You’re probably right. I don’t use the software where you can hit a button and it writes for you, gives you chord progressions and stuff. I’ve dabbled with it but the stuff that comes out is great sounding but uninspiring. You have to differentiate between something that sounds good and the actual music you are playing.

For me, I search for sounds that are inspiring and make me be creative in what I play and I feel I am much more prolific these days than I used to be and part of that is having this amazing palette of sounds at your fingertips.

So are you more software or predominantly hardware based these days?

I’m totally VST based these days… the only bit of hardware I have been playing about with recently is I have broken the old Minimoog out for the ‘Marathon’ album and I have been using that with a ribbon controller hooked up to the gate and voltage control and that’s a bit of fun and to be honest that’s it.

I still use the Korg Karma for a few sounds but everything else is in software… if I had to choose one software synthesiser to be stranded on a desert island with, it would be Omnisphere by Spectrasonics. There’s a Bob Moog commemorative sound library that a load of well-known folk like Trent Reznor contributed to for the Moog Foundation and the sounds are lovely, I always go back to them.

There’s a huge amount of fetishism around all that old gear and the majority of people don’t care…

And I don’t think the majority of keyboard players can tell the difference either.

Steve Rothery, MARILLION’s guitarist had bought a modular system and it’s fun to play around with but that’s it…

To make car alarm sounds…

Hahaha! Yeah, I think I am with you on that. Some of the software emulations like Minimoog or Hammond organ or electric piano are great now and even things like acoustic piano which was always hard to get right for example, but the Modartt Pianoteq 6 is spot on, really responsive and nice to play which was always an issue in the past.

So do you have any formal training?

No, it’s one of the things I regret. I didn’t start playing until I was 15 which is very late and it’s always been something I am aware of and a bit embarrassed about. You watch someone like Jordan Rudess playing… I’m not saying I love every note that he plays but his technique is phenomenal. He probably started when he was 3, went to Juilliard etc and I didn’t do any of that and it shows.

I’m not trying to compete with Keith Emerson or Rick Wakeman or Jordan, what I do isn’t that technical really but I try and play to my strengths.

After 40 years, you’ll probably be OK for at least the next album anyway!

Hahaha! I hope so yes!

One of the things I wanted to ask you about that is very related to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK is your involvement with The Midge Ure All Star Band at the Mandela 70th Birthday concert at Wembley Stadium in 1988. How did that come about?

Midge Ure just called me up, I don’t know where he got my number, and asked me and I was flattered to be asked to play with all these amazing people.

At the age of 26 or whatever I was, to be asked to play in a band with Paul Carrick, Phil Collins, Mark Brzezicki, Mick Karn and Midge with all these superstars was amazing. We had a great time. We only had about 3 days rehearsal and the only stressful time was with Joan Armatrading… Paul didn’t want to sing ‘How Long’ for the umpteenth time and said can I just play keyboards so we worked out what to play between us.

The Joan Armatrading song ‘Love & Affection’ had some strings on it… I turned up at the rehearsals shitting myself as I hadn’t learnt any of the songs and neither had anyone else! We were all having fun, apart from Joan… she turned up after Paul and I had worked out the parts and stopped everything and said “just one keyboard player please” and told Paul to stop playing! So then I had to play both parts and as I say I’m not technically that good and she’s standing over me watching me do it… no pressure! It was all really good fun though, everyone else was great… THE BEE GEES were really nice chaps…

Not sure about the horns on ‘Kayleigh’ though…

Well the David Sandborn Horns were onstage so we had to use them. Phil and Mark has fun on that, they worked out little drum fills into the chorus which were different… Midge winged the guitar solo a bit but as I say, it was great fun.

You are a great advocate and early adopter of the use of the internet and you are recognised as one of the founding fathers of the whole idea of crowdfunding. Are you surprised by how the concept has taken off and developed over the years?

It developed out of necessity really. In 1997, we had a group of fans that wanted us to tour America and I said it wasn’t going to happen. We didn’t have a record deal and we would always lose money when we went to the States. One of the fans said “why don’t we create a tour fund and folk can donate money and then you can come and tour?”

It was incredible really, this wasn’t crowdfunding as we know it, it was just people putting money in a bank account, like charity almost. And when we hit the magical figure of $60,000 which is what I said we would need, I plucked the figure out of the air, as we had lost upwards of 100K in the past, they raised the money as we did the tour.

That’s what gave me the idea… if fans are will to spend that money to bring us over on tour and then still have to buy tickets, it shows there was a lot of goodwill towards MARILLION out there.

So when we wanted to do another album, we didn’t have a deal and were free. I said all we need is the money to live and record the album, why don’t we ask the fans to buy it in advance. Maybe surprisingly or maybe not, at the time it was revolutionary. Even the other band members were saying “Are you sure? Won’t the fans expect to have a say in what gets recorded and put on the record” as no one had done it before and we didn’t know if fans would actually put their hands in their pockets and pay upfront.

It was looking back such an obvious idea because of the internet and email and the fact you can reach out to people so easily and update them so readily, so it’s time had come and for us with the fans being so supportive, it wouldn’t have been something every band could have pulled off at that stage in their career.

I think it became something that some folk looked as an easy way to make money…

Yes and it wasn’t just the bands, the platforms that were set up to do it too. We went through Pledge Music for the last MARILLION album and after we had finished, they went out of business a few months owing lots of people lots of money! I think you’re right a lot of bands looked at it as a way to make easy money, but you have to do it with the right intentions. You have to show your audience appreciation for what they are doing for you, it’s not free money. It’s a collaboration, they are involved.

You are very good at that as a band and having a relationship with your fans…

We were lucky as we had had many years of doing that, being available and chatting with the fans. We used to do that right back in the early days on the first big tours, we would stay behind after shows and meet with the fans. Of course, word got round we did this and eventually the audience would stay behind in the venue and it would take hours to sign stuff, get a picture or whatever but you’d end up having 500 or so folk staying back, so we had to knock it on the head!

We used to like it as you would get to see the girls in the audience close up!

There were girls in the early MARILLION audiences, I don’t remember that!!!

Well if you have 500 folk, you might get 50 girls! So if there was a good looking one, there was a signal word where the tour manager would go and invite them to the after show party. But he got the signal word mixed up, and it was Fish that then came up with this one ‘Dodo’…

He thought that meant time to go, clear the room… the signal for stop without saying stop. So this good looking girl is there, Fish says “Dodo” and the next thing he is say “right everybody out” and we are like, what’s happening?!?

He says “Fish gave the signal” and he was like “no I didn’t you f*cking Dodo!’”

You are also to your credit heavily involved in the field of artist rights via FAC (Featured Artists Coalition) and PPL. Is this more important now that ever?

Yes, I think it’s necessary really. I don’t really do as much for FAC these days as it’s hard to find the time to do everything, though I am still on the board of PPL. I’m up for re-election soon and I have been doing it for 11 years now so maybe I will get voted off!

I think these days, people are much more aware of how artists make a living or don’t make a living and the issues around streaming services like Spotify.

I have a love / hate relationship with Spotify. I love it as a punter being able to just dive in and check stuff out if someone mentions a band. I am also aware however that it pays so little money unless you are up in the stratosphere which very few artists are there is nothing in it really, it’s just a promotion tool

Do you think there will ever be a balance struck?

It simply comes down to, unsurprisingly, that the labels are keep as much of the money as possible. They pay artists royalties based on old deal structures when they, the labels, had all those overheads, manufacturing, shipping, warehousing and all the rest of it and now they should be paying, at the very least, the artist 50% of what they get, where most are on probably 15 to 20% if that.

The labels are making decent money and many of the artists are not and I hope that at some point in the future things will be more balanced. I don’t think you can blame Spotify, they have never made a profit. They pay the labels a billion dollars a month which sounds like a lot of money, but it’s spread across the entire music industry and most of it never finds its way into the pockets of the songwriters or artists.

How big a risk or otherwise has the decision to put on a tour for next year been?

I think it’s a bit of a risk as we don’t know how things will pan out, but I do think there is a good chance the tour will happen. It is in a year’s time so…

You have a solo album coming out, what does that outlet give you that working with MARILLION doesn’t?

There are quite a few musical ideas I had over the years that never get used and I couldn’t see them ever getting used. The album has a bit more of an early MARILLION feel to it as the band has moved on from that.

I started working with a lyricist who was the person that was pushing me. Then I worked on some musical ideas with my nephew Conal and then we found Ollie who does vocals on the album and he has a great voice. Then because of lockdown, I said to everyone “let’s do this and record our parts at home” that it started taking shape

Do you think had given the album a different feel as you have done things in isolation rather than together in a studio?

The guys that mixed it says it doesn’t sound like it’s been recorded that way, it all hangs together really well, I very pleased with how it’s turned out. When we did finally did meet, some of us for the first time, we had a couple of days in Real World Studios and it sounded like we had been together for months.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Mark Kelly

Special thanks to Sharon Chevin at The Publicity Connection

Mark Kelly’s ‘Marathon’ is released on 27th November 2020 and is available in CD, vinyl and a limited edition CD with a DVD of the album being performed live plus bonus behind the scenes footage direct from http://www.marillion.com/shop/

MARILLION’s ‘The Light At The End Of The Tunnel’ tour dates for November 2021 are as follows:

Hull City Hall (14th November), Edinburgh Usher Hall (15th November), Cardiff St David’s Hall (17th November), Manchester Bridgewater Hall (18th November), Cambridge Corn Exchange (20th November), Birmingham Symphony Hall (21st November), Liverpool Philharmonic Hall (23rd November), Bath Forum (24th November), London Hammersmith Apollo – seated (26th November), London Hammersmith Apollo – standing (27th November)

Tickets available from https://myticket.co.uk/artists/marillion

http://www.marillion.com/

https://www.facebook.com/MarillionOfficial

https://twitter.com/MarillionOnline

https://www.instagram.com/marillionofficial/

https://www.facebook.com/mkmarathon

https://marathonsounds.com/


Text and Interview by Ian Ferguson
30th November 2020

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