Berlin-based musician and DJ Luca Venezia, better known as CURSES, presents ‘Next Wave Acid Punx DEUX’, his second curated compilation exploring the darker side of club music though the decades. The first volume had been a lockdown inspired exploration of his own record collection.
Released by Eskimo Recordings and featuring 49 tracks, the music is split into three distinct chapters with more than half being previously unreleased; “Many of these songs come from friends close of mine, or artists I perform with and tour with a lot, whose music and craft I admire and champion.” Luca Venezia told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about the set, “We are all making a very niche style of music, and everyone is approaching it in their own unique way, it is only natural we migrate to be friends and share the stage together… like a primal instinct.”
Conceived with his ideal night out in mind, compiling such an compilation was not without its headaches; “Fortunately with the help of Eskimo and N.E.W.S., the licensing team are an absolute powerhouse” recalled Venezia, “It wasn’t easy, especially the older material, like Malcolm McLaren’s ‘Madame Butterfly’… and yes, there was SO much music I wanted but couldn’t get the rights to. Not because the artists said no, but because it was impossible to find WHO owned the rights now. Members in bands split up, some pass away, some vanish… it’s a puzzle at times to license the 80s underground electronic gems”.
Chapter 1 contains the pioneering acts of the past that were occasionally signed to major labels and even flirted with the mainstream pop charts. The set opens with ‘Distant Dreams Pt 2’, a wonderful suitably obscure 1980 B-side from THROBBING GRISTLE, while another lesser known gem comes from BIG AUDIO DYNAMITE with ‘The Big V’, the instrumental variant of the 1986 single ‘V. Thirteen’.
The first name likely to be recalled when dark club music comes to mind, especially to Taylor Swift fans, are CABARET VOLTAIRE and they fit like a glove on this compendium with ‘Blue Heat’ from ‘Micro-Phonies’, as do Dutch band CLAN OF XYMOX with ‘Obsession’, an excellent example of classic electro-goth disco.
Of course, NITZER EBB are present and correct with ‘Hearts & Minds’ while DAF stand firm with their declaration as ‘Brothers’ in their appealing but less heralded English language disco phase.
Collecting superb tracks from various acclaimed cult acts, ‘The Murder Of Love’ by PROPAGANDA and the I Dream Of Jeanne Mix of ‘Modigliani (Lost In Your Eyes)’ by BOOK OF LOVE demonstrate how the developing digital technology enabled powerful sampled sounds effectively at the flick of a switch. However, best of all are former SOFT CELL backing singers VICIOUS PINK who really should have had a huge worldwide hit with the brilliant Tony Mansfield produced ‘Cccan’t You See’
Chapter 2 moves the night on starting with ‘Voloczny’, an unreleased song from back in day by BOYTRONIC towards the present with modern day electronic producers such as Jennifer Touch and Kris Baha. In a new 2023 version, THE KVB come over like THE JESUS & MARY CHAIN with synths on ‘Still Warm’ while YEARS OF DENIAL capture plenty of stark menace on ‘It Sucks.
Canadian wife-and-husband duo ESSAIE PAS provide enigmatic prose en Français over a cascade of pulsing synths on ‘Retox’ while Berlin-based trio DINA SUMMER update the gothic disco template on ‘Darkness’. Affirming the international cast of ‘Next Wave Acid Punx DEUX’, Spain’s DAME AREA go on a heavier industrial club excursion via ‘Buon Cittadino’ but on the opposite side of the coin and Atlantic, DESIRE offer enigmatic coyness on ‘Love Races On’ outside of their Italians Do It Better stable.
Chapter 3 is the part of the night you probably should go home but don’t… a wilder, harder and more aggressive energy is here if you so desire. There is naturally a Dark Remix of ‘Machina’ from BOY HARSHER with guest vocals by Mariana Saldaña. But utilising tense triplets and brassy melodramatic stabs, CURSES revamps J.W.B. HITS THE BEAT’s ‘Body On Body’. CURSES returns to remix NUOVO TESTAMENTO’s ‘Heartbeat’ and there is an enjoyable instrumental in ‘Non Fiction’ by SILENT SERVANT.
Two of the best tracks come via Australia; ‘Burning Eyes’ is a Hi-NRG romp with wispy voice ad-libs courtesy of NEU-ROMANCER and ZANIAS’ ‘Tryptamine Palace’ is a tremendous textural dance track. ANDI VS RANDOLPH & MORTIMER make their presence felt with big beats on ‘Formidable Truths’ while Michel Amato aka THE HACKER does not disappoint with the previously unreleased ‘Monopoly’. To end, Greek synth duo PARADOX OBSCUR make a beefy contribution in ‘Evo-Devo’ that recalls French art pop duo LES RITA MISOUKO.
On the spiritual and musical thread that helped make this cohesive collection, Luca Venezia surmised: “Every artist involved has their own personal and unique take on the timeless love affair between human and machine. All the music on ‘DEUX’ also embraces the punk and DIY raw energy of live music into electronic music; artists LIKE YEARS OF DENIAL, BOY HARSHER, NUOVO TESTAMENTO, NITZER EBB, BOYTRONIC and DINA SUMMER are all good examples of how the music is very personal, verse chorus verse song-based concert music, yet can also be DJ’d in a club at 4am in a dusty thriving warehouse rave.”
Music from the past and present can sit comfortably together in the same place and ‘Next Wave Acid Punx DEUX’ proves it.
With thanks to Luca Venezia and Mirren Thomson at Eclectica
Wikipedia says “The lead vocalist in popular music is typically the member of a group or band whose voice is the most prominent melody in a performance where multiple voices may be heard”.
It also adds “The lead vocalist may also be called the main vocalist or lead singer. Especially in rock music, the lead singer or solo singer is often the front man or front woman”. A BBC Radio 4 parody series ‘Radio Active’ first made the joke in 1981 that “Ringo Starr isn’t the best drummer in THE BEATLES” and in a similar way, it could be said that Bernard Sumner is not the best singer in NEW ORDER.
However, the lead vocalist is considered the figurehead and often the character of a band so regardless of what is said publicly about democracy, a hierarchy inevitably ensues.
But what happens when another member of the band takes their turn at the front? In most cases, it is just a one-off although sometimes it becomes recurring feature over successive albums. These tracks can meet with varying degrees of success, but there have even been occasions where the second vocalist eventually becomes lead singer! However, there have been strange situations where a less vocally competent instrumentalist is unhappy about the attention that a singer is getting and insists on switching roles, thus ensuring that the band does not play to any of its strengths!
So taking things back to front and with a limit of one track per act, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK presents a list of 25 songs not sung by the lead vocalist in chronological, then alpnabetical order…
ULTRAVOX Mr X (1980)
Having been an idea that dated back to the John Foxx-era of ULTRAVOX just before his departure, the KRAFTWERK influenced robotic spy story of ‘Mr X’ was voiced by Warren Cann while Midge Ure was settling in as the band’s new lead vocalist. The track had begun as ‘Touch & Go’ and been premiered live. In a gentlemen’s agreement, keyboardist Billy Currie gave his melody of ‘He’s A Liquid’ in return for Foxx’s melody to ‘Touch & Go’, hence the structural similarity to ‘Mr X’.
Available on the album ‘Vienna’ via Chrysalis Records
Although now known as a songwriter, Martin Gore had contributed an instrumental ‘Big Muff’ and one song with lyrics ‘Tora! Tora! Tora!’ on DEPECHE MODE’s debut album. Written by Vince Clarke like most of ‘Speak & Spell’, ‘Any Second Now’ was a beautiful minimalist set piece that stood out amongst the dance friendly synthpop tunes and suited an understated tone of expression. And so began a tradition of Gore taking on DM’s ballads instead of front man Dave Gahan.
DRAMATIS were the former Gary Numan live band and while their only album to date ‘For Future Reference’ was musically virtuoso, the band’s Achilles’ heel was vocals. RRussell Bell and Denis Haines were the quartet’s main singers and Numan himself guested on DRAMATIS’ biggest hit ‘Love Needs No Disguise’, but the classically trained multi-instrumentalist Chris Payne found himself a reluctant vocalist on a song he had written called ‘Turn’; “I have never felt comfortable about my own voice” he clarified.
After the end of JOY DIVISION, Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris reconvened as NEW ORDER as a symbol of their fresh start while recruiting Gillian Gilbert on keyboards and guitar. Synths and drum machines were taking greater prominence but not entirely. While Sumner did the majority of the vocals on their debut album ‘Movement’, it was Hooky’s fraught delivery on ‘Doubts Even Here’ and words from The Bible spoken by Gilbert that provided the album’s most glorious moment.
Best known for the profound anti-war statement ‘The Last Film’ which entered the Top20 in 1983, KISSING THE PINK had Nick Whitecross as their lead singer. Produced by Colin Thurston, the baroque opera tinged ‘Watching Their Eyes’ saw saxophonist Josephine Wells provide a haunting impassioned vocal. Wells went on to play live with TEARS FOR FEARS but sadly, she was to later battle her own traumas as a survivor of the Marchioness boat disaster in 1989 which led to the deaths of 51 people.
Available on the album ‘Naked’ via Cherry Red Records
With his OMD success, Mike Howlett produced what turned out to be the most synth based CHINA CRISIS long player. Utilising Emulator strings and a pizzicato sample derived from plucking an acoustic guitar string close to the bridge, ‘Wishful Thinking’ was written and thus sung by guitarist Eddie Lundon. A sweetly textured, melodic pop single that deserved its hit status, lead singer Gary Daly responded with ‘Never Too Late’ but that song was shelved to eventual B-side status for sounding too similar.
Available on the album ‘Working With Fire & Steel – Possible Pop Songs Volume 2’ via Caroline Records
While Roland Orzabal is more or less seen as TEARS FOR FEARS lead singer these days, that’s not how it was perceived at the start even though he sang their debut single ‘Suffer The Children’. Following three Top10 hit singles in a row prior to the release of their debut album ‘The Hurting’, Curt Smith was considered the face and the voice of the band. Orzabal was main songwriter and sang lead on the title track with a more angst-ridden take than was heard on the Smith-fronted singles; this was to become the band’s future dynamic.
Of Vince Clarke’s most polarising song since ‘What’s Your Name?’ for DEPECHE MODE, Alison Moyet said “That could have been the beginning of the end for us… in fact, no it wasn’t because Vince had already decided to leave. ‘Happy People’, I just tried singing it a couple of ways and I just hit him with ‘I can’t do this, you want it sung, you sing it yourself mate!’… so he sang it himself, fair play to him”. The song itself was an ironic send-up of middle aged political activists.
Multi-instrumentalist John Crawford had proved himself a capable if almost anonymous singer when duetting with BERLIN front woman Terri Nunn on their 1982 breakthrough track ‘Sex (I’m A…)’. But for the B-side of the 1984 Giorgio Moroder produced single ‘No More Words’, Crawford did a lead vocal turn on the Mike Howlett-helmed ‘Rumor Of Love’ which echoed Scott Walker and ended up as a bonus track on the original edition of the ‘Love Life’ album
Available on the album ‘Love Life’ via Rubellan Records
While Andy McCluskey was the lead singer of OMD, Paul Humphreys would see his less frequent vocalled tracks released as singles with ‘Souvenir’, ‘Secret’ and ‘Forever Live & Die’ becoming international hits. While their fifth ‘Junk Culture’ saw forays into brass sections, calypso and reggae, ‘Never Turn Away’ was a more traditional OMD ballad with Autumnal atmospheres but while it was a fine album track, it made little impression as a single release.
While Susanne Freytag was the original PROPAGANDA vocalist with her stark narrative style, she soon stepped back in favour of her friend and TOPOLINOS bandmate Claudia Brücken. While Freytag’s Germanic prose remained vital on songs such as ‘Doctor Mabuse’ and ‘P-Machinery’, her vocal style suited the lead role on ‘Dream With A Dream’, a 9 minute epic which put a mighty soundtrack to accompany an Edgar Allan Poe poem which was first published in 1849.
On the disappointing ‘Techno Pop’ née ‘Electric Café’ album, Karl Bartos gave assured performance in his only lead vocal for KRAFTWERK on ‘The Telephone Call’. While the assertive automated phone messages were a sharpened metaphor for female empowerment, band politics were at play when Ralf Hütter refused to let Bartos lip-synch his part on the accompanying monochromatic video although Wolfgang Flür got to mime a single phrase while cast in shadow.
“Passion and love and sex and money – Violence, religion, injustice and death” went the opening phrases of Chris Lowe’s debut lead vocal for PET SHOP BOYS. Dryly spoken rather than sung, the track was a celebration of an Italian fashion cult who were the anti-hipsters of the period and openly loved pop like DURAN DURAN. The middle eight featuring an ‘Entertainment Tonight’ interview saw Lowe deadpan: “I don’t like Country & Western. I don’t like rock music. I don’t like Rockabilly. I don’t like much, really, do I? But what I do like, I love passionately!”
With Douglas J McCarthy fronting NITZER EBB, the singing abilities of instrumentalist Bon Harris only came to the fore with his ‘Songs From the Lemon Tree’ lockdown live streams of solo covers often tinged with falsetto. But on the ‘That Total Age’ album, he had shouted his way through ‘Let Beauty Loose’, a typical slice of frantically paced EBM. Acting as a supersub in late 2021, Harris stood in for a hospitalised McCarthy at two NITZER EBB shows in Palm Beach and Toronto.
Originally from Philadelphia, BOOK OF LOVE were started by school friends Susan Ottaviano and Ted Ottaviano who were not actually related. Jade Lee and Lauren Roselli Johnson joined later on and the quartet were invited to support DEPECHE MODE on two US tours while their single ‘I Touch Roses’ was reissued in a Daniel Miller remix. Although Susan Ottaviano was lead vocalist, Ted Ottaviano impressed on ‘With A Little Love’ from their second album ‘Lullaby’ which was co-produced by Flood.
German trio CAMOUFLAGE named themselves after a YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA track and threw their love of DEPECHE MODE into the mix. While Marcus Meyn was lead singer and the voice of hits like ‘The Great Commandment’, on their second album ‘Methods Of Silence’, both instrumentalists Heiko Maile and Oliver Kreyssig did a vocal turn, with the latter’s ‘Sooner Than We Think’ considered worthy enough to merit inclusion on their first two Best Of compilations ‘We Stroke The Flames’ and ‘Rewind – The Best Of 95-87’.
Despite Kevin Wynne being the voice on KON KAN’s sample heavy NEW ORDER inspired international hit ‘I Beg Your Pardon’, he was a hired hand as the mastermind behind the project was Canadian producer Barry Harris. The surprise success led to interest in an album for which Wynne did most of the vocals for, while also being involved in its promotion. However, Harris took the lead on the album’s title track which came out as a 12″ club mix. For the next two KON KAN albums ‘Syntonic’ and ‘Vida!’, Wynne was not recalled.
Although the front man and sole remaining founder member, Phil Oakey has often cited Susanne Sulley as the best singer in THE HUMAN LEAGUE. While she famously did a verse on the UK and US No1 ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ as well as various solo phrases on ‘(Keep Feeling) Fascination’ and ‘Heart Like A Wheel’, she didn’t get a lead vocal turn until ‘One Man In My Heart’. The format of the song fitted right in with the rise of female fronted trios like DUBSTAR, SAINT ETIENNE and PEACH.
Having been slated for their 1995 covers album ‘Thank You’, DURAN DURAN were in a state of turmoil by 1997; Simon Le Bon was experiencing writer’s block while John Taylor was suffering from depression. This state of affairs led to Nick Rhodes working more closely with guitarist Warren Cuccurullo and the keyboardist taking a spoken word lead on the title track of the ‘Medazzaland’ album. Taylor left halfway through recording the parent long player while the end product was only released in the US, resulting in the end of the band’s tenure with EMI.
With a template similar to PROPAGANDA, LADYTRON had a singing vocalist in Helen Marnie while Mira Aroyo provided stark spoken prose in her native Bulgarian. While the latter had been an enticing subplot to ‘Discotraxx’ on the debut album ‘604’, Aroyo took the deadpan lead on the fierce ‘True Mathematics’ which opened their next album ‘Light & Magic’. Owing a debt to THE NORMAL’s ‘Warm Leatherette’, it premiered a much harder LADYTRON sound.
KID MOXIE Medium Pleasure – Marsheaux remix (2009)
KID MOXIE actually began as a duo comprising of Elena Charbila and Erica Zabowski, recording an EP ‘Human Stereo’ and album ‘Selector’. Although Charbila took the majority of the lead vocals in her airy continental style, Zabowski adopted more of a snarl on ‘Medium Pleasure’ with a lyric attacking cultural and artistic mediocrity. By the time ‘Selector’ was released, the pair had already parted but thanks to a physical CD release on Undo Records, the track was boosted by a remix from MARSHEAUX
Available on the album ‘Selector’ via Undo Records
Forming in 1988 and releasing their debut long player ‘World Without End’ in 1994, German duo DE/VISION have been a mainstay in Europe for enthusiasts of darker electronic climes. Comprising of Steffen Keth on vocals and Thomas Adam on synths, their vast majority of their songs have been sung in English. For their 2012 album ‘Rockets & Swords’, there was a surprise in the penultimate song ‘Kamikaze’ which was not only voiced by Adam but also in Deutsch.
The Anglo-German ensemble TWINS NATALIA comprised of Marc Schaffer, Steve Lippert, synth wizard Dave Hewson and singers Sharon Abbott and Julie Ruler, with the latter three from cult combo POEME ELECTRONIQUE. Touchingly melancholic with classic Weimar Cabaret melodies and vibrant Kling Klang interplay, their music conjured memories of holiday romances. But the uptempo ‘I Avoid Strangers’ featured Hewson on vocals, possessing a paranoia that suited the song perfectly.
Available on the album ‘The Destiny Room’ via Anna Logue Records
The two Martin Doherty vocalled tracks on ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’ polarised opinion and his voice made an appearance again on the synth driven funk of ‘High Enough To Carry You Over’ for CHVRCHES second album ‘Every Open Eye’. While nowhere near as accomplished as main vocalist Lauren Mayberry, by taking on a more Americanised drawl in the vein of MISTER MISTER, this was a big improvement on the stoner vibe of his two singing attempts on the debut long player.
The project of Norwegian Stephan Groth, APOPTYGMA BERZERK went Deutsch on the ‘Nein Danke!’ EP while displaying a prominent “NEWWAVESYNTHPOP” legend on its artwork. ‘Nearest’ saw Stephan’s live bandmate and brother Jonas step into the limelight on a chilled electronic ballad ‘Nearest’ that possessed the same ethereal qualities as the best known APOP track ‘Kathy’s Song’. Jonas Groth has since stepped fully up to the front in his own synthpop duo PISTON DAMP.
From his home in Los Angeles, Bon Harris of NITZER EBB has presented a series of streamed live performances under the title of ‘Songs From The Lemon Tree’.
Accompanied by his system comprising of an Octatrack MK2, Roland MC101 and two rows of 104 HP modular plus a vibraphone, Harris impressed all with his wonderfully compelling upper vocal range and unusual esoteric electronic covers.
He told Reflections Of Darkness: “I wanted to sing songs that were light-hearted and optimistic – outdoors among the trees in the sunshine…” – while predictably, much of the alternative music media focussed on ‘Compulsion’ by Brummie post-punk musician Joe Crow (which Martin Gore recorded for the 1989 ‘Counterfeit’ covers EP) in Episode 01 and the laid back jazz-tinged rework of DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Ice Machine’ in Episode 02, it was the Episode 03 featuring an eclectic quartet of classic songs that was the most captivating.
Beginning with an emotive rendition of ‘Love & Affection’, the breakthrough hit of Joan Armatrading, the biggest surprise came with the eerie carousel ride of ‘My Happiness’; written in 1933 by Borney Bergantine, although the version with lyrics by Betty Peterson Blasco as performed by Harris was first published in 1947, it was made famous by Connie Francis in 1958 but was also notable as one of the two songs that Elvis Presley recorded at Sun Studios in Memphis as a gift to his mother.
Meanwhile, the introduction to Paul Weller’s ‘That’s Entertainment’ sounded as if it might drift into ‘But Not Tonight’, but the set ended with a marvellous thumping dance take on the 1970 Diana Ross hit ‘Remember Me’ which was one of several world famous songs including ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’, ‘Reach Out & Touch (Somebody’s Hand)’ and ‘I’m Every Woman’ from the portfolio of husband and wife songwriting team Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson.
Reinterpretation is an artform and ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK always prefers a thoughtfully crafted genre crossing cover version any day of the week, over a tedious remix by the man on the street with a DAW. In his autobiography ‘Fast Forward: Confessions Of A Post-Punk Percussionist – Volume II’, Stephen Morris of NEW ORDER hit the nail on the head when he said “The worst of it for me was all the remixes. A VERY big thing in the 90s; I have never got to the end of most of them. I don’t think any of us have, to be honest.”
“Each of the songs from the three episodes have had a special place in my life and experience since I first heard them” said Harris. This love and affection has been quite obviously apparent in his arrangements and vocal delivery for ‘Songs From The Lemon Tree’, demonstrating his sympathetic understanding of the music and the quality of the songs.
This history of Mute Records and its esteemed founder Daniel Miller is more than well documented.
The lavish book ‘Mute: A Visual Document From 1978 – Tomorrow’ published in 2017 captured the iconic label’s visual aesthetic. Already a fan of German kosmische scene, Daniel Miller began taking an interest in synthesizers for making pop music after hearing KRAFTWERK’s ‘Autobahn’.
The advent of affordable synthesizers from Japan manufactured by the likes of Korg and Roland made it possible for him to adopt punk’s DIY ethic by buying a Korg 700s for the price of a guitar. That enabled him to make music using just one finger, instead of having to learn three chords.
Conceiving a punk single with electronics, he wrote and recorded ‘Warm Leatherette’ b/w ‘TVOD’ for a one-off independent single release in 1978. Miller’s sense of experimentation within a structured albeit avant pop context led to kindred spirits sending him tapes, thanks to him including his mother’s address “16 Decoy Avenue London NW 11 England” on the back of the MUTE 001 sleeve.
Mute Records’ first signing was a former art student Frank Tovey who released the macabre ‘Back To Nature’ as FAD GADGET in 1979 as MUTE 002 with Miller co-producing. It began establishing a good reputation for experimental electronic pop music. As well as running the label and working in the studio with his own roster of acts, Miller also produced and remixed other artists, although this became less frequent as Mute Records achieved more and more success.
If Daniel Miller had a characteristic sound during the pioneering years of Synth Britannia, then it was his use of the ARP 2600 driven by an ARP 1601 analogue sequencer, particularly for unique rhythmic templates obtained from the percussive capabilities of this versatile American synth.
Always keen to keep up-to-date with the latest technology, Miller’s later acquisitions included a Synclavier, PPG Wave 2, Emulator, Roland System 100M and Roland MC4 Micro-Composer. Many years later, Miller even bought the customised vocoder used on ‘Autobahn’ from the late Florian Schneider even though it was not in fully working order.
While Miller’s production work with DEPECHE MODE over five albums naturally led American new wave acts like BOOK OF LOVE to seek his knowhow, indie band THE HOUSE OF LOVE were surprisingly curious enough to secure his services on their track ‘Safe’. Meanwhile, post-punk art rock combo WIRE saw him as a kindred spirit keen to explore new interesting ways of recording and worked with Miller in various guises.
While Daniel Miller stepped back from producing DEPECHE MODE in 1987 to concentrate on Mute Records, it was his mix with Phil Legg of the Flood produced ‘Enjoy The Silence’ that became the international hit single; Miller had felt the version that François Kevorkian had presented was too electronic.
While work had been going well with the French-born DJ’s mixes for the ‘Violator’ album, Miller’s instincts told him ‘Enjoy The Silence’ needed to be brought back slightly with a more organic vision. The song had already been transformed in the studio from a funereal ballad to an electronic disco number with house influences!
Although Mute Records was bought by EMI in 2002, Miller reached an agreement in 2010 to establish a second independently run record label under the name Mute Artists while the Mute Records name and rights to the label’s archive recordings remained under the control of EMI’s present owners Universal. More recently, Daniel Miller has been happily DJ-ing around the world playing largely techno sets for Berghain in Berlin, Sónar in Barcelona and IMS in Ibiza among others.
Meanwhile he has also occasionally given talks at events such as MoogFest. Red Bull Music Academy, LEAF and the Electri_City_Conference.
With a vast and varied portfolio to investigate, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK looks back at the creative career of Daniel Miller in music via eighteen of his productions and remixes, with a restriction of one track per artist moniker, presented in yearly, then alphabetical order.
THE NORMAL Warm Leatherette (1978)
Daniel Miller’s sense of experimentation and vision of the synth being the ultimate punk instrument requiring the use of just one finger led to him making his first record. Lyrically inspired by JG Ballard’s ‘Crash’ with its story around car collision symphorophilia, the dystopian ‘Warm Leatherette’ was based around two noisy notes and a twitchy rhythmic backbone that was menacing yet enthralling at the same time. It turned out to be something of a game changer.
Following the success of singles ‘Back To Nature’ and ‘Ricky’s Hand’, a FAD GADGET album was eagerly anticipated and it came with ‘Fireside Favourites’ which brought in a Korg Rhythm 55 drum machine, conventional instruments and various found objects alongside the synths. A four way production effort between Frank Tovey, Daniel Miller, Eric Radcliffe and John Fryer, the superb ‘Coitus Interruptus’ was a deeply cynical commentary on casual relationships.
Larry Least was a production pseudonym inspired by the producer, Rak Records mogul and ‘New Faces’ judge Mickey Most. This infectious solo single by Alex Fergusson featured Daniel Miller’s distinctive electronic footprint and his involvement helped the ALTERNATIVE TV guitarist transform from post-punk to more synthesized song experiments. With Fergusson forming PSYCHIC TV with Genesis P-Orridge, it wasn’t until 1992 that a white label only self-titled solo album was released.
Following THE NORMAL, Daniel Miller decided to undertake a new project where rock ’n’ roll standards like ‘Just Like Eddie’ and ‘Memphis Tennessee’ were reinterpreted in a synthpop style, using a fictitious group called SILICON TEENS as a front. While Miller sang like he had a clothes peg attached to his nose and produced the recordings as Larry Least, several actors hired to appear in videos and do press interviews, although lead vocalist ‘Darryl’ was played by Frank Tovey.
For a one-off single on Cherry Red Records, the dystopian minimal synth of ‘Music To Save The World By’ from the little known and somewhat reclusive Alan Burnham was produced by Daniel Miller at Blackwing Studios. He also worked on its B-side ‘Science Fiction’ which was just as haunting as the main act. Perhaps more organic thanks to the use of live drums by Cam Findlay, it took a leaf out of the quirky cult Wirral duo DALEK I LOVE YOU and their song ‘The World’ in particular.
The original ‘Metro MRX’ came from the SOFT CELL debut EP ‘Mutant Moments’ released in October 1980, but the sub-two minute Daniel Miller take of ‘Metro MRX’ for ‘Flexipop’ magazine borrowed the same synthetic rhythm track as DEPECHE MODE’s ‘New Life’ to accompany Almond’s snarls of “he’s a mutant!”. Miller also produced ‘A Man Can Get Lost’, ‘Persuasion’ and perhaps most significantly, the proto-house of ‘Memorabilia’ at those same Stage One recording sessions.
While Eric Radcliffe was holed up working with Vince Clarke and Alison Moyet on the first YAZOO album at Blackwing Studios on the night shift, during the day Daniel Miller was working with DEPECHE MODE on their second. With punchy Simmons Drum modules and a catchy melodic theme, ‘Nothing To Fear’ was a glorious instrumental statement from an important long player that made the most of Miller’s programming expertise to ensure an optimistic future for Messrs Gahan, Gore and Fletcher.
When recording ‘Radio Silence’ for singular consumption, Thomas Morgan Dolby Robertson sought the assistance of Daniel Miller thanks to his track record with DEPECHE MODE. Bringing in his PPG Wave 2 and helping with the final mix, it was released as a single in early 1982 with an alternative rockier guitar driven version on the B-side which was favoured in the US. Both takes also featured the voice of Akiko Yano, who was married to Ryuichi Sakamoto at the time.
WIRE refugees, Bruce Gilbert and Graham Lewis had been working under the name DOME, so when a collaborative adventure with Miller was suggested, an anagram of that moniker and Mute resulted in DUET EMMO. Recorded at Blackwing Studios, ‘Or So It Seems’ was their debut offering, a slice of experimental pop shaped with grumbling synthesized bass, captivating electronics and textural harmonic guitar while Lewis’ haunting vocals provided the emotional centre, spooked by sombre bursts of brass.
Originally the B-side to ‘Only You’, ‘Situation’ was one of only three writing collaborations between Alison Moyet and Vince Clarke, as well as only being one of five YAZOO tracks that Daniel Miller co-produced with Eric Radcliffe. Clocking in at barely two minutes in its original form, it made its impact with some rousing blues based sequenced dance pop; it became a US club favourite when it was remixed by Francois Kevorkian who later worked with KRAFTWERK and DEPECHE MODE.
Following DAF’s Virgin album trilogy produced by Conny Plank, the duo broke up in a haze of sex, drugs and sequencer. Drummer and synthesist Robert Görl signed to Mute as a solo artist and began his account with the standalone single ‘Mit Dir’. Dark, brooding and magnificent, the song was co-produced by Daniel Miller and went on to become a favourite among the cognoscenti, reinterpreted for Prada commercials and covered by DJ HELL with STEREO MCs.
Polydor A&R man Malcolm Dunbar managed to gain Daniel Miller’s interest to help out on a HARD CORPS track that Martin Rushent had started. “It was an offer we could not refuse and ‘Respirer’ duly ended up being completed with Daniel producing” said the band’s Clive Pierce, “So now we had two of the best ‘electronic’ music producers in the UK both helping on our track”. Exquisitely Gallic, Polydor however released ‘Respirer’ in English as ‘To Breathe’ but it was not the hit that they were seeking.
Available as ‘Respirer’ on the HARD CORPS album ‘Metal & Flesh’ via Sub Culture Records
Chelmsford’s NITZER EBB were founded by school friends Douglas McCarthy, Bon Harris and Bon Harris. Originally produced by Pete Waterman associate Phil Harding, the ambiguous chants of “muscle and late, lies, lies, gold, gold” in ‘Join In The Chant’ encouraged exactly as the title suggested in the manner of a DAF body sculpture. Daniel Miller and Flood’s Gold! restructure took out the Balearic beats and pushed forward a more Teutonic industrial thrust complete with metallic tools to boot.
ERASURE Supernature – Daniel Miller & Phil Legg Remix (1990)
ERASURE were not shy about doing cover versions with ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!’ and ‘River Deep Mountain High’ having already been reinterpreted by this point. Andy Bell and Vince Clarke’s take on Marc Cerrone’s electronic disco landmark saw Daniel Miller and Phil Legg present this tight electro-dance remix extended to over seven minutes. Miller and Legg got together again for DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Enjoy The Silence’ and it was their mix that became the ‘Violator’ album version and single release.
Available on the ERASURE deluxe album ‘Wild!’ via Mute Records
CHRIS & COSEY Synaesthesia – Daniel Miller Mix (1991)
After leaving industrial pioneers THROBBING GRISTLE, Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti became a popular cult duo with their experimental pop utilising electronics, sampling, rhythms and even cornet alongside Cosey’s distinctive nonchalant vocals. Superbly sinister but beautiful metallic synthpop, ‘Synaesthesia’ exuded hints of PET SHOP BOYS ‘Euroboy’ but a good year before it. Meanwhile Daniel Miller’s brilliant rework took on a different groove to the harder bleepy house laden original.
Available on the CHRIS & COSEY single ‘Synaesthesia’ via Conspiracy International
SUNROOF! was Daniel Miller’s occasional project with Gareth Jones who he first worked with on DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Construction Time Again’ album. Exploring their love of Kosmische, it was perhaps no surprise that they covered the symbolic NEU! track ‘Hero’. Given more of a pulsing electronic treatment, the alluringly detached vocals came from Alison Conway who has part of the Mute family having been part of AC MARIAS, a project which also featured Bruce Gilbert of WIRE and Barry Adamson of MAGAZINE.
POPPY & THE JEZEBELS Sign In, Dream On, Drop Out! – Richard X Meets Larry Least Mix (2012)
POPPY & THE JEZEBELS were a school band based in Birmingham signed to Mute Song. ‘Sign In, Dream On, Drop Out!’ was superbly playful girly synthpop with the ‘Isolation’ bassline borrowed from JOY DIVISION bouncing around in electronic form while sinister Maggie Thatcher voice samples echoed. Originally produced by Richard X, Larry Least came out of retirement when the girls persuaded Miller to remix the track using his trusty Korg 700s synth.
WRANGLER Theme From Wrangler – Daniel Miller rework (2016)
The brief from WRANGLER to remixers of tracks from their album ‘LA Spark’ was simple: “We provide some basic stems from a track selected by you from our debut album ‘LA Spark’ and you add whatever sounds you like – the only rule being that you use just one analogue modular synthesiser system of your choice.” Sweetened by flanged string machine, Daniel Miller provided a gliding rumbling bassline over a metronomic kick on his rework of ‘Theme from Wrangler’.
Deep into his love of EBM, the Toronto based Gord Clement, known as NTTX, has made a comeback to follow up his first EP, ‘Objective’.
Known to the die-hard fans of DEPECHE MODE for his infamous cover of ‘New Dress’, with its beefed up, stomp beats and a politically charged change of lyrics (this time it’s Princess Kate, with an adequate video for good measure), the Canadian, formerly the singer and songwriter of ATOMZERO, ushers in some more heavy sounds on newly released ‘Of Beauty & Chaos’.
Since his departure from ATOMZERO, Clement has been utilising his strong vocal over some FRONT 242 inspired tunes, and the present offering is a good example of his harsher ear teasers.
The opening ‘Move Dark’ brings out the Doc Martens and isn’t at all suitable for the gentle synth lover. ‘Prey’ continues with a further dose of the “to be used responsibly” on the dance floor; it has some interesting elements to it, similar to the following ‘True’, which bears more refined concepts, along with almost vintage electronica in the choruses.
The EP’s gem however, is the slower tempo ‘Earth’. A synth ballad of sorts, not shying from a gentle guitar, it’s almost like AND ONE on ‘Virgin Superstar’. It’s as if Clement spent a month at a German retreat with Steve Naghavi, the latter playing the role of the master.
Enter ROTERSAND on the rework of ‘Falls Beautiful’. Clement’s voice on this one feels more redirected and manly, and it raises in line with the upward feel of the track. NITZER EBB-y in places, PRODIGY-like in others, this truly is a fascinating mix of what can be achieved when working outside of the otherwise laborious EBM genre.
Clearly loving his covers, the closing rework of the FM rock biggie ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ begs the question as to “why?”
Not the classiest of renditions, because the SURVIVOR’s version can’t be beaten, certainly not when bumped up to the industrial status, but clearly Clement had some fun there.
If you love your EBM, you’ll love this, but the feeling persists that NTTX may be a little more than an industrial monkey; the clear examples being ‘Earth’ and ‘Falls Beautiful’.
A very strong vocal presence and some interesting ideas place the man from Toronto well above many, and perhaps on the next outing, the audiences will hear something spectacular. After all, the Canadians have a long history with the good old synth…