Tag: OneTwo (Page 2 of 2)


Photo by Hege Saebjornsen

Claudia Brücken’s ‘This Time’ career celebration at The Scala in London was without doubt, one of the best live presentations of 2011.

On this wonderful evening, the first lady of cinematic electronic pop was joined by some very special guests in Erasure’s Andy Bell, Heaven 17’s Glenn Gregory and Martyn Ware, Ralf Dörper and Susanne Freytag from Propaganda and one time ZTT label mate Andrew Poppy for an unforgettable and almost certainly unrepeatable concert. The superb event has been captured as a DVD film and accompanying CD soundtrack entitled ‘This Happened’.

This is the perfect souvenir for those who were there (and those who wished they were there). It captures all the warmth of appreciation from that evening when Claudia performed a selection of songs from her career accompanied by a superb backing band led by ONETWO partner and musical director Paul Humphreys.

Featuring Philip Larsen, James Watson, Dawne Adams, Sam Sallon, Melissa D’Arcy and Dave Watson, the company delightfully tackled a catalogue songs made famous by Claudia as a member of Propaganda, Act, Onetwo and as a solo artist. There are many highlights to savour including a exceptionally groovy ‘Absolut(E)’, playful duets with Glenn Gregory and Andy Bell, the Bond theme meets Massive Attack chic of new song ‘Thank You’, the three quarters reunion of PROPAGANDA and the surprise inclusion of ‘Dream Within A Dream’ from their highly regarded album ‘A Secret Wish’.

But that’s not all. To celebrate the release of ‘This Happened’, Claudia Brücken will also be playing a new version of the show, ‘This Time Too’ at London’s Bush Hall on Thursday 19th July 2012 featuring OMD’s Andy McCluskey as one of the special guests.

Taking a break from preparing for this upcoming performance, Claudia Brücken and Paul Humphreys kindly invited ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK to their London studio to talk about the live DVD and reminisce about that wonderful evening at The Scala last March.

It was an amazing night at The Scala, how do you look back on it?

Claudia: It was a complete success, it was great to have all the people, who I have collaborated with, agree to perform with me. It was quite a difficult task to get all of the musicians together and to organise it all.

Paul: Getting everyone to rehearse on the same day was a nightmare.

Claudia: Everybody was individually rehearsed. We told everyone what parts they were doing so they were all well prepared and then we did two days rehearsal…

Paul: …that was mainly for the band really as we were playing a whole load of songs we had never played before. *laughs*

Which songs were the most challenging to reproduce in a live situation?

Paul: ‘Dream Within A Dream’ was probably the toughest because it’s such a complex piece, there’s all these solos and Dawne our percussionist had all these things to do, there were different cues and all the bar counts are changing all the time! To be honest, we never got ‘Dream Within A Dream’ right in rehearsals; the only time we got it right was live on stage at the Scala. On stage, we were all just secretly nodding at each other!

I remember all the gasps of excitement from the audience when Susanne uttered those first few words…

Paul: Yes, you can hear it on the mikes when I mixed it!

Claudia: That was a little personal challenge; it’s such a great Propaganda piece. As Susanne was there as a guest, I really wanted to put that song out there in a live context.

Paul: All the chords are very complex and we had to get in our mate Sam who hadn’t played flugelhorn since he was a kid. So he bought one and he spent two weeks rehearsing…but he did really well *laughs*

The setlist was very well paced and as good as perfect. How did you decide what to perform?

Paul: We played the obvious ones from the ‘ComBined’ album as it was a celebration based around that.

Claudia: Also through Onetwo, we had so many songs already rehearsed. It was just a matter of organising everyone. So it became obvious when we had Glenn as a guest that we do ‘Snobbery & Decay’ and ‘When Your Heart Runs Out Of Time’. ‘When Your Heart Runs Out Of Time’ was pure self-indulgence because we’d never done it before. We thought we might as well do it.

Paul: We completely reworked it, it’s nothing like the original; we did a very electro version.

Claudia: Then Glenn and Martyn remembered they had done an electro version of ‘Temptation’ which was a demo…

Paul: …apparently that was the demo which got HEAVEN 17 their deal. And they had a German singer actually talk it before they reworked it with all the high vocals and the strings.

Claudia: I had this demo as a template and I really like that almost detached attitude so I thought that’s a good way to go with the idea.

Paul: But the biggest challenge for Claudia was ‘Running Up That Hill’ and ‘In Dreams’ with Andrew Poppy because you’re so exposed and any slight mistake, it really stands out.

Claudia: It was quite daring because most people attending the show, their background is electronic music so for me to just come out and bring it right down to just piano and voice…I really liked it for a change of scene. I did a show with Andrew Poppy the other day for his new album ‘Shiny Floor, Shiny Ceiling’. We did a couple of performances at the Chelsea Arts Centre. He’s very clever and such an artist, he’s got his own ideas and he sees it through.

Paul: It was an amazing show.

Were there any songs that you considered, but discounted for various reasons?

Claudia: I would have liked to have played more from ‘Love: And A Million Other Things’ like ‘Baby Sign’ or ‘Love: In Another World’ but there was just so much to choose from.

The crowd particularly enjoyed the three quarters reunion of PROPAGANDA…

Claudia: It was great, I’ve always wanted to do it. I’ve been working towards the possibility of trying to get PROPGANDA on the road again and there’s always been hurdles, it’s never been easy! Everything else with ONETWO and the band has always been very easy and pleasurable.

So when Susanne and Ralf agreed to join me, it was the closest at that point of getting those Propaganda songs back up live. I’m someone who doesn’t give up easily and I try different ways to make something happen. I’ve known them for such a long time and it just kind of fell into place.

Is it true Ralf never played live with PROPGANDA first time round when you were on ZTT?

Claudia: That’s right, he was working as a banker and couldn’t get time off. The first time was the Trevor Horn Wembley concert in 2004. Wow! That was a bit of a band wasn’t it? *laughs*

Yes, I’ve seen the video clip of that! Stephen Lipson, Lol Creme, Anne Dudley, Geoff Downes, David Palmer AND an orchestra!

Paul: Now that’s what I call a band! *laughs*

Claudia: A band, Trevor Horn style! *laughs*

There’s an obvious onstage chemistry between you and Glenn Gregory, what do you put that down to?

Claudia and Paul: Mates! *laughter*

Claudia: But we genuinely love each other as well, I’ve known him since the ‘Dr Mabuse’ video shoot which his first wife Sarah did the make-up for. One of my earliest memories about England was going to Glenn’s old house in Notting Hill…I was discussing make-up and stuff with Sarah and there were Heaven 17 sitting on a couch in a darkly lit room. We just became really good friends and went through a lot of things together on ZTT as Trevor Horn used to use him as a session singer a lot on recordings by Grace Jones and stuff.

We’ve already mentioned Andrew Poppy but you couldn’t have had a more polar opposite guest than the other Andrew, Mr Bell?

Claudia: I did some gigs with Andy Bell back in 2005 at Madame Jo-Jo’s and Koko, it was just so natural.

Paul: Again, we’re mates with Andy, we’ve been on holiday with Andy too. He’s a sweetheart. We adore him.

Susanne almost didn’t make it on stage in time for ‘Light The Way’. How did you make sure the evening ran like clockwork while still being able to vibe off the special occasion?

Paul: It was funny while mixing the sound for the DVD and album, all the way through the intro of ‘Light The Way’, Claudia’s going: “Where’s Susanne? Where’s Susanne?”…we didn’t have a stage manager! *laughs*

Claudia: We forgot actually about that didn’t we!! *laughs*

Paul: We relied on everyone to remember their cue, I posted a sheet up in the dressing room! There’s only one dressing room at The Scala and it’s tiny…there were fifteen of us!!

Claudia: All these men dressed in black standing there, it was like a Magritte painting *laughs*

Paul: There were three chairs, all for the girls of course.

Claudia: It was very funny!

How was it trying to fix situations like when Susanne’s microphone cut out during ‘Dr Mabuse’ in the final audio mix? Is it a matter of retrieving sections of the recording or overdubbing?

Paul: It was actually there. It went to record, but our soundman Chicky had it muted on the desk! He had so many cues to remember that he forgot that one! *laughs*

Claudia: It was a bit “let’s see what happens” as well. There was so much information for him there.

With so many people involved, was it a matter of tying it all together during the soundcheck? Martyn Ware mentioned to me it had been a long day.

Claudia: We did have a soundcheck but there were a few technical hiccups which no-one could foresee. At 6.45pm, I said to Paul: “Shouldn’t we be hearing a sound of some sort by now?”

Paul: I was trying to keep Claudia calm and saying “Don’t worry, everything is fine” but knowing that it really wasn’t! What happened was James from the band’s laptop blew up and he didn’t have a back-up….all his virtual instruments were on there. So he was programming all these different sounds on another keyboard that he had using his headphones! But also at The Scala, we had so many lines, mikes and inputs that the stage box wasn’t good enough. You have to split it to monitor desk and front of house but with their box, you could have one or the other, but not both! So I had to hire one really quickly and get it delivered. But I didn’t tell Claudia this! *laughs*

How does the finished DVD look and will it satisfy those fans who there, and also those were unable to make it to the gig?

Paul: It’s fantastic!

Claudia: It’s been a real labour of love, it’s taken us so long to make. We get asked to play Canada, Russia, Finland and the USA but we can’t tour everywhere, it’s not so simple.

So I wanted there to be a documentation of what I’m like live so I hope they like it. We put a lot of love into it… it’s 100% and more to make this an entertaining piece of work.

Is it in 5.1 surround sound?

Paul: It’s not actually, so many people I know don’t have 5.1, so I didn’t think it was necessary. Plus it would have made it far more expensive to make because I mixed it in my own studio, and I don’t have a 5.1 system in here. I’m happy with stereo and most people will enjoy it stereo. In 5.1 you’ve got mix everything twice as you have to do a stereo mix anyway, those balances are completely different. It took a long time to just to mix 98 minutes of music in stereo.

You have ‘This Time Too’ at Bush Hall coming up on 19th July as a follow on event. This time you have another Andrew, ie Mr McCluskey as a guest. What song will he be performing with you?

Claudia: He’s doing ‘Absolutely Immune’ in place of Andy Bell…

Paul: …but instead of ‘Delicious’, we’ll be doing something else which Claudia and Andy will sing as a duet.

Would it ever be a possibility for you to go out with a touring version of this show in Europe, albeit maybe without all the wonderful guests?

Claudia: If I did it, it would make sense for everyone else to join us…anything is possible.

But if they did come on tour with me, I would want them to show more of themselves. I couldn’t ask them to sing just one song…

Paul: Hopefully, Claudia will be touring to promote her new solo album and she will playing some of these songs in the show so it will kind of be happening…

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to Claudia Brücken and Paul Humphreys

The DVD+CD set ‘This Happened’ is released on 23rd July 2012 via There(there).

The tracklisting is:

1   Kiss Like Ether
2   Sequentia
3   Dr. Mabuse  – with Susanne Freytag and Ralf Dörper
4   Absolut[e]
5   Cloud 9
6   Snobbery & Decay – with Glenn Gregory
7   Temptation – with Glenn Gregory and Martyn Ware
8   When Your Heart Runs Out of Time – with Glenn Gregory and Martyn Ware
9   Running Up That Hill – with Andrew Poppy
10 In Dreams – with Andrew Poppy
11 Dream Within A Dream – with Susanne Freytag and Ralf Dörper
12 p:Machinery – with Susanne Freytag and Ralf Dörper
13 Night School
14 Light The Way
15 Home (Tonight)
16 Delicious – with Andy Bell
17 Absolutely Immune – with Andy Bell
18 Duel – with Susanne Freytag
19 Thank You



Text and Interviewby Chi Ming Lai
Photos from the Claudia Brücken, Propaganda and Onetwo Facebook pages
4th July 2012


The plush confines of London’s Royal Festival Hall was the venue for the wonderful ‘Electronic Phuture Revue’ curated by Back To The Phuture’s Mark Jones and HEAVEN 17’s Martyn Ware.

Forming part of the three day Vintage Festival, despite the nostalgia vibe of the weekend’s proceedings celebrating five decades of British cool, this showcase was certainly no cheesy nostalgia ride.

Instead it promised a show with classic and new interpretations of synthpop NOT 80s, in a distinct move away from the dreaded ‘Remember The Here & Now’ type associations! Opening the Revue, Alan Wilder’s RECOIL orchestrated a moody cinematic presentation that included forays into his side of the DEPECHE MODE story.

A terrific ‘Jezebel’ mashed-up with ‘Walking My Shoes’ and TUBEWAY ARMY’s ‘Are Friends Electric?’ was the first musical highlight of the evening while despite the early start, a powerful Aggro mix variation of ‘Never Let Me Down Again’ third track in managed to encourage a few of the devotional to get up and do the cornfield wave. With Paul Kendall as his willing conspirator, Wilder’s carefully selected cinematic segue also included elements of ‘Personal Jesus’ to help people to “reach out”. 

These various segments of familiarity provided accessible counterpoints to RECOIL’s more organic, sample based productions like ‘Prey’ and ‘Faith Healer’.

Speaking of DEPECHE MODE, New York based MOTOR were next and their new glam stomper ‘Man Made Machine’ features vocals by Martin Gore in a collaboration that sounds not unlike a camp Iggy Pop being backed by an angry GOLDFRAPP.

Tonight, it is voiced by MOTOR themselves although Gore himself lurked in the video projections as the duo delivered their brand of harder edged techno electro. Their long awaited song based album is out later this year and will feature vocals by GARY NUMAN, ELECTRIBE 101’s Billie Ray Martin and NITZER EBB’s Douglas J McCarthy.

The DJ interval with Mark Jones allowed a breather before the arrival of MIRRORS. Despite the obvious comparisons with a certain synth act from the Wirral Peninsula, MIRRORS live are actually more like a young KRAFTWERK meeting DEPECHE MODE.

With recent appearances at fashion shows for the likes of Michalsky and Glastonbury under their belt plus their album ‘Lights & Offerings’ gaining the praise of many plaudits, 2011 has been very good for the sartorially chic quartet.

Their sharp but moody aura, combined with an artful sensibility shone through as they exhibited their development of the classic Synth Britannia sound.

Unfortunately though, tonight they were limited to just ‘Fear Of Drowning’, ‘Into The Heart’, ‘Hide And Seek’ and ‘Ways To An End’ for their sojourn. However, MIRRORS impressed again and much of the aftershow chat was about their potential. Avoiding worries, the future of synthpop is bright and in eight very good hands.

ONETWO gave a highly polished recital that delved into a variety of songs from Claudia Brücken and Paul Humphreys’ corresponding histories as well as their more recent compositions.

Synthpop standards ‘P-Machinery’, ‘Messages’, ‘Electricity’ and ‘Duel’ got the audience dancing and sat nicely side-by-side with the atmospheric dramas of ‘Sequentia’, ‘Thank You’, and the Martin Gore co-write ‘Cloud Nine’.

Even if the DEPECHE MODE songwriter wasn’t there physically, his presence was certainly felt in spirit throughout the event, such has been his influence on electronic pop music. Ms Brücken herself was in tremendous voice as usual, her chanteuse demeanour perfectly at ease with the sophisticated surroundings of the Royal Festival Hall.

Afterwards, Paul Humphreys and Alan Wilder were spotted chatting in the foyer before the start of THOMAS DOLBY’s set.

The two keyboardists hadn’t seen each other in ages; had it really been 23 years since DEPECHE MODE beat OMD in that infamous cricket match, as documented in Steve Malins’ excellent DM biography ‘Black Celebration’, during the ‘Music For The Masses’ US tour?

Meanwhile in a very impressive performance, THOMAS DOLBY teamed up with his tribute act THE PIRATE TWINS in a most touching musical union. What a moment it must have been for Darren Goldsmith and Andrew Down to be playing with their hero, almost mirroring the occasion when Dolby himself and his band backed DAVID BOWIE at Live Aid.

Opening with the terrific ‘One Of Our Submarines’, Dolby journeyed back first with ‘Europa And The Pirate Twins’ and later ‘Hyperactive!’. On the latter, drummer Mat Hector did a brilliant job tightening his trousers to reprise Adele Bertei’s backing vocal!! Of course, there was also the madness of ‘She Blinded Me With Science’, with Dolby affectionately reminiscing about his recording sessions with the late Dr Magnus Pyke in his introduction and demonstrating the various samples used.

But then Dolby looked to the future with a superb exotically flavoured dance number entitled ‘Spice Train’. Guest singer Nicki Wells joined in and provided some alluring ethnic stylings for a great live preview of THOMAS DOLBY’s new album ‘The Map Of The Floating City’.

This symbolised one important aspect of all the classic acts in tonight’s line-up who had played up to this point; much as they have dozens of highly popular, memorable hit songs between them, they all performed material that was either new or from the last decade ie the 21st Century. Rewind Festival this evening was most certainly not!

To climax this special ‘Electronic Phuture Revue’ were HEAVEN 17 who truly delivered in their position as headliners. Although they were the only classic act not to play new or recent material, they made up for it instead by making a statement “to change people’s perceptions through the medium of reinterpretation” as Martyn Ware himself so eloquently put it to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK last May.

With a stark soundscape opening, the detuned tones of THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s take on ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’ clanked in. So here was the sight of Glenn Gregory and Martyn Ware duetting as The Right-on Brothers.

With this surprise still causing aftershocks, ‘Fascist Groove Thang’ and ‘Crushed By The Wheels Of Industry’ quickly got everyone on their feet by way of a Friday night disco atmosphere.

But what followed was an even more unexpected moment in a magnificent updating of THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘The Black Hit Of Space’ from ‘Travelogue’, providing the highlight of the evening. Futuristic sounds warbled off and on – and yes, they weighed more than Saturn! Gregory was clearly enjoying his “Tonight Matthew, I will be Phil Oakey” moment and even Mark Jones left his DJ pulpit to mingle with the punters at the front for an impromptu singalong.

With ‘The Luxury Gap’ being played live in full at The Roundhouse in the Autumn, it made sense that ‘Come Live With Me’ and ‘Let Me Go’ got renditions to ease stunning new keyboard player Berenice Scott into the live band. But then the much heralded special guest took to the stage. Giving her spirited interpretation of ‘Ball Of Confusion which first brought TINA TURNER back into the limelight on the BEF Music Of Quality Of Distinction LP was THE COMMUNARDS’ Sarah-Jane Morris.

It was JANIS JOPLIN doing electro Motown and with the state of upheaval in the world at this present moment in time, the song’s forthright message was wholly relevant. As an entertaining experiment, it boded well for The Roundhouse shows later this year.

With the inevitable ‘Temptation’ following and backing singer Billie Godfrey doing her usual star turn, to close it was another ‘Stars In Their Eyes’ moment for Glenn Gregory as HEAVEN 17 ended with their powerful take on ‘Being Boiled’.

Despite being an absolute treat musically, a few grumbles about the occasion have to be highlighted. At no time was the auditorium ever full, even for the later performing acts. The fault with this probably has to lie with the ticket distribution. Top price tickets were anything from £85 to £100, which priced most music fans out despite the impressive line-up assembled. Ticket sales were slow but following a 2-for-1 offer in The Guardian, the online seating plan appeared to show that the ‘Electronic Phuture Revue’ was gaining momentum.

However, judging by the number of people who took their seats for only ten minutes at a time and then promptly left, never to return, it would seem that tickets had been given to various people associated with the Vintage Festival like stall holders and VIPs who clearly had no interest in synthpop. Surely it would have been better to have had an affordable ticket price in the first place to fill the venue with music fans? This was disappointing for all the acts playing to say the least.

But the ridiculous curfew of 10.30pm meant that RECOIL were ushered in at 6.30pm and the following acts had to be so tightly packed into the schedule that there was minimal time for any of the audience to take a comfort break without missing at least one song by the next band!

With the various Vintage themed club happenings such as Northern Soul and Rockabilly happily banging away in the complex until 1.00am, surely some kind of licensing compromise could have been negotiated by the Vintage Festival organisers, South Bank Centre and local authority to make things a lot more practical and workable for such a unique gathering? There are lessons to be learnt by all.

But these issues should not dampen what a tremendously memorable evening this actually was. Like ‘Back To The Phuture -Tomorrow Is Today’ and ‘Short Circuit Presents Mute’ earlier in the year, the ‘Electronic Phuture Revue’ was yet another great event that reinforced electronic music’s credibility as the groundbreaking and vital cultural force it thoroughly deserves to be. Roll on the HEAVEN 17 / BEF weekender in October then…








Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Richard Price, Steve Gray and 7und70
2nd August 2011


The release of CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN ‘ComBined’ in association with ZTT/Salvo presents the first career retrospective of the German chanteuse’s marvellous collection of work.

Before LADYTRON or GOLDFRAPP, it was CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN who reigned as the original first lady of icy, feminine led Eurocentric avant-pop.

As a keen collaborative artist, this compilation gathers together her various ComBinations with producers and musicians who included Trevor Horn, Stephen J Lipson, David Sylvian and the late John Uriel among many others.

Her classic PROPAGANDA tracks ‘Dr. Mabuse’, ‘Duel’ and ‘P.Machinery’ need no introduction. They still retain their Teutonic magnificence and cinematic surrealism. Together with Susanne Freytag, Michael Mertens and Ralf Dörper, the quartet are still remembered as ‘ABBA in hell’.

However, when Claudia formed ACT with Thomas Leer in 1987, there came a more playful, decadent glamour with political flirtations. ‘Snobbery & Decay’ was a warning about the effects of the Thatcher government while ‘Absolutely Immune’ was a commentary on the apathy of the nation at large with its “I’m alright Jack” selfishness.

Unfortunately, with the sentiment lost on a British public still drowned in blue emotion, the technological and theatrical marvels on the parent album ‘Laughter, Tears and Rage’ in 1988 were sadly unable to gain a foothold in a landscape dominated by the bland mid-Atlantic blue eyed soul and FM AOR that had become the requisites for the then brand new CD format!

Alas, ACT did not continue and Claudia signed a deal with Island Records for her 1991 album ‘Love: And A Million Other Things’. The wonderful ‘Kiss Like Ether’ recalls the rhythmical template of JON & VANGELIS’ ‘State Of Independence’ while her debut solo single ‘Absolut(E)’ is very Pascal Gabriel, the production dominated by his electronic dancefloor vibes.

The reaction to the album was strangely muted and Claudia took a career break to bring up her daughter Maddy, emerging only occasionally to record the odd guest vocal.

One of those included on ‘ComBined’ is ‘Light The Way’ with CHROME SEDUCTION, a percussively frantic club number that also saw the return of one of her former partners-in-crime Susanne Freytag. After an aborted reunion of PROPAGANDA in the latter half of the 90s, she accepted an invitation in 2000 to join OMD’s Paul Humphreys’ tour of the USA; one of the first recorded fruits of their partnership was a cover of ‘This Is Not America’ featuring FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD’s Paul Rutherford. A beautifully crafted synthesized tribute to DAVID BOWIE & THE PAT METHENY GROUP, although recorded in 2001 and shelved, it finally sees the light of day on ‘ComBined’.

Claudia formalised her musical partnership with Paul Humphreys and together they named themselves ONETWO. Open to collaboration with others, the song ‘Cloud 9ine’, co-written and featuring DEPECHE MODE’s Martin Gore, was the stand-out on their debut EP ‘Item’ released in 2004. But it was a few years before their first album was completed.

The crisp and moody ‘Instead’ finally emerged in 2007 and is represented on ‘ComBined’ by ‘Sequentia’, a toughened up remix by Paul Humphreys of the chilling East European flavoured highlight from that album. Finding herself in demand again, Claudia also joined ERASURE’s Andy Bell to sing on two tracks for his debut solo album ‘Electric Blue’. The pair became good friends and their chemistry is particularly evident on the energetic interplay of ‘Delicious’ which sees her in full and rare poptastic glory.

‘ComBined’ also features two brand new tracks produced by Stephen Hague whose credits include OMD, PET SHOP BOYS, NEW ORDER, ERASURE, JIMMY SOMMERVILLE, DUBSTAR and A-HA. ‘Thank You’ is a fantastically moody epic driven by a trip-hop drum loop and swathed in Cold War atmospherics. Closer ‘Night School’ is a more uptempo, but is still classic Claudia with smooth layered textures and rich, minimal guitar melodics.

But for the bonus track encore, Claudia rejoins ZTT’s musical minimalist ANDREW POPPY with whom she recorded the fascinating ‘Another Language’ covers album. The new piano accompanied rework of ROY ORBISON’s ‘In Dreams’ retains the heartfelt drama of the original, but adds a slice of Weimar edginess to what has now become a rock’n’roll standard.

Yes, there are several notable absentees on the CD such as her BLANK & JONES collaborations ‘Unknown Treasure’ and ‘Don’t Stop’. But the former though has been included on the iTunes version of the album in addition to PROPAGANDA’s cover of ‘Femme Fatale’ and a new ‘Geek Boy remix’ of her OCEANHEAD track ‘Eyemotion’ under the title of ‘Augenblick’.

There may be a case argued for her collaboration with HEAVEN 17’s Glenn Gregory ‘When Your Heart Runs Out of Time’, although this is now available in its full glory on ZTT’s ‘The Art Of The 12 Inch’ compilation.

Overall, this is a superlative snapshot of one of Europe’s finest talents and a perfect introduction to her varied and influential musical catalogue.

‘ComBined’ is released on DC and downalod by ZTT/Salvo on 7th February 2011

On Wednesday 2nd March 2011 at London’s Scala, CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN & Friends will play a special concert to celebrate her career. Very special guests include HEAVEN 17’s Glenn Gregory and Martyn Ware, ERASURE’s Andy Bell, PROPAGANDA’s Susanne Freytag, ANDREW POPPY and OMD’s Paul Humphreys




Text by Chi Ming Lai
5th February 2011


Photo by Hege Saebjornsen

Claudia Brücken is the undoubted queen of electronic avant-pop.

Her distinctive ice maiden cool vocal delivery with hints of classic Marlene Dietrich and wispy Nico more than suited the glorious European film noir sound of PROPAGANDA, the Düsseldorf quartet with Susanne Freytag, Michael Mertens and Ralf Dörper in which she first came to prominence.

Together, their songs such as ‘Dr. Mabuse’, ‘Duel’ and ‘P.Machinery’ were fine examples of how new digital technology could be utilised to produce accessible neo-industrial pop music with a chilling edge. Their 1985 ZTT album ‘A Secret Wish’ gained a legion of prominent fans including DEPECHE MODE’s Martin Gore and Michael Jackson’s producer QuincyJones who borrowed their influential sound for the ‘Bad’ album.

Despite the acclaim, PROPAGANDA split. Remaining with ZTT, Claudia formed ACT with early electro pioneer Thomas Leer and released an album ‘Laughter, Tears and Rage’ in 1988 which featured an array of lush synthetic dynamics glossed with a touch of starlet glamour. Not one to rest on her laurels, she released her only solo album so far ‘Love: And A Million Other Things’ in 1991 on Island Records before taking a career break to bring up Maddy, her daughter with then husband Paul Morley.

Photo by Stuart Mentiply

During this period, she only recorded occasionally with guest contributions for acts including SPIRITFEEL, THE BRAIN and OCEANHEAD. In the latter half of the 90s, PROPAGANDA reformed and although material was written and demoed, no album was released.

Around this time, a friend at German label Logic Records suggested Claudia should work with Paul Humphreys of OMD. First touring the US together in 2000 before eventually becoming ONETWO, they released an EP ‘Item’ in 2004 and then the excellent album ‘Instead’ in 2007 via their own There (there) label.

Simultaneously, Claudia also worked with BLANK + JONES, APOPTYGMA BERZERK and Andy Bell as well as releasing ‘Another Language’, an album of stripped down cover versions with her former ZTT label mate Andrew Poppy.

With new deluxe 2CD reissues of ‘A Secret Wish’ and ‘Love: And A Million Other Things’ hitting a variety of retail outlets, Claudia Brücken invited ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK down to ONETWO’s London studio to chat about her career and her upcoming musical retrospective which is expected to feature the mouth watering prospect of some unreleased tracks and new remixes.

Who were your original influences?

There were people like THE VELVET UNDERGROUND and PATTI SMITH, I thought she was wonderful. I was completely mesmerised by David Bowie and I also liked Klaus Nomi. And then KRAFTWERK came along. It just questioned everything that came before because with ‘Autobahn’, you were wondering “what kind of sound is that?”. It was just so revolutionary at the time!

Of the electro stuff I was into, there was early HUMAN LEAGUE, CLUSTER, MALARIA! and NEU! I loved LA DUSSELDORF, DAF and also DER PLAN, they were completely arty and had these tiny electronic keyboards and they dressed up in these really weird costumes.

And I was also very much into the very first Nina Hagen album amongst other things. I’ve never been into one specific musical direction only; I was like a sponge soaking everything in from when I was 15. I drew from so many other sources. This would have been the time I was in a band with Susanne. There came a point where it seemed that everyone wanted to be in a band.

The Düsseldorf scene was very small. There is a street in Düsseldorf called Die Ratinger Strasse and there was a club called Ratinger Hof where a lot of bands and students from the University of Art would mingle. All the bands and people from the art school or university would all meet around there. There was this interaction between art and music happening and everyone kind of knew one another.

With ‘A Secret Wish’ now receiving the deluxe remaster treatment, what are your immediate memories of that period on ZTT and the recording of that album?

Working with Stephen Lipson really. There were four studios in Sarm West, ZTT was upstairs at that time and there was also a flat where PROPAGANDA were staying at the very top. It was this place of creativity so there were these rooms where PROPANGANDA were programming in, FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD were in Studio1 and THE ART OF NOISE in another.

We were in a little studio for recording which we called ‘The Spaceship’, a tiny little room with lots and lots of lights and electronic equipment. And for me, it was one of the most creative times in my life. I don’t really dwell on the bad bits.

Photo by Peter Brown

Stephen J Lipson’s production on ‘A Secret Wish’ proved to be highly influential on variety of people; DEPECHE MODE, SIMPLE MINDS and QUINCY JONES to name but three. What sort of technology were you using on the album?

We had the PPG in Düsseldorf so we worked with that. I had moved to London but I was flying back and forth so we would be doing lots of writing on the PPG.

We also worked with a Linn Drum and our data was recorded onto floppy disks as far as I can remember, which we then would give to Stephen… but I’m not really the one to talk technical here, that would be a question for Michael.

Most of the PROPAGANDA sounds were actually from the PPG. It had a really great identity that PPG, I could identify it immediately like “oh, that’s a PPG sound”… it just had something that was different and distinct about it.

The Fairlight we only used on ‘Dr. Mabuse’ as far as I remember because JJ Jeczalik who operated it was part of Trevor Horn’s team and Trevor produced the song. When it was decided that Stephen would produce the album, it was mostly the Synclavier that was being used. I think at the time there were only three Synclaviers in the world and Trevor had one of them. Stephen did all the Frankie songs using the Synclavier, he was one of the few engineers who knew how to use it! *laughs*

How did you find working with Trevor Horn?

Trevor has his own way of working because when we worked with Stephen, Trevor was the executive producer and he’d go “ok, play me what you’ve done” and go “ok, I think that’s not working yet”. So he would check in every night to give us his comments and walk out again. We’d meet the next day again, that’s the way he worked.

And Trevor, he can take a lot of time for one thing only to come back to the very beginning to say this is what he wanted! But he goes through all these alternative ways to realise this was the best idea. Extremely time consuming and costly but that’s what you get when you work with Trevor, that’s his way. Someone told me the other day that Robbie Williams gave Trevor his entire album and said “Trevor, see you in six months, do with it as you wish!” and came back six months later and just absolutely loved what he did.

Photo by Peter Brown

Was it quite interesting for you to hear the PROPAGANDA sound on say, a Michael Jackson record like Bad? Or did it not register at the time?

It really didn’t… Trevor mentions this on the new sleeve notes and I was very flattered, that’s just brilliant. I remember hearing QUINCY JONES wanting to licence ‘A Secret Wish’ but I didn’t realise that it had captured his imagination so much. So that’s validation isn’t it? It’s wonderful!

PROPAGANDA could be considered a forerunner to the modern female fronted electronic acts like LADYTRON, GOLDFRAPP or CLIENT. Were PROPAGANDA ahead of their time?

Yes, I think what was interesting for us was we fitted into Paul Morley’s avant-garde vision of ZTT. There was the pop act he wanted which was FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD but he also wanted something which was edgy and different, and we kind of fitted in with that picture. Susanne, Ralf, Michael, Andreas Thein and I, because we were five at the time, we had that essence. What was magical about it was that we were given this opportunity.

It is interesting what happens when you put five industrial bashing experimentalists like us into this playground where we can work with the best musicians, the most amazing equipment and an absolute stunning producer… what happens if? You couldn’t have predicted what it was and this came out of it. I think you can hear that in the music. People were saying “have a listen to this” and “why not try that?” and it all just came together. And it then created this very special album. But PROPAGANDA wasn’t so easily digestible at the time, we confused the hell out of people who just thought “who are they?”… we didn’t fit in really!

Photo by John Stoddart

How do you look back on being part of that whole remixing, multi-formatting marketing machine of ZTT? As a non-native English speaker, how did you find trying to understand Paul Morley’s sleeve notes?

Well, I did have to get the dictionary out at times! Obviously the Nietzsche quotes I could understand as a German so I had no troubles there.

But some stuff was like “Hmmmm! Where’s this coming from?”. The thing with Paul, and that’s what attracted me to him, was we had a very similar way of thinking and approaching things so we were talking the same language although I did have difficulties with the English language at the time.

Paul would have an idea like “let’s remix this song”… there would be a house engineer available, a downtime studio free so let’s use it rather than have it standing empty, let’s do something and be creative. That was Paul’s energetic spirit, we were all kind of rebellious and driven. We weren’t really questioning things too much, we were just doing. I was 19-20, you don’t question everything you do at that time… you do it when you’re older… sadly. *laughs*

When was the first time you actually dreamed in English?

I don’t know. I cannot answer that question because I can’t remember that moment. Now I think and I find it much easier to write in English. I find it really hard sitting there and construing a sentence in German because the grammar is probably completely the opposite to the English language. So I find it much easier and I think now after 25 years, I feel more Anglified and I feel really kind of English.

Photo by Patrick Lichfield

What caused the eventual PROPAGANDA split and to you forming ACT with Thomas Leer?

Well, it was the deal that we signed. I always say we had a management which wasn’t really management in a sense that it was divisive towards the band! I wouldn’t class them as good managers, a good manger knows how to pull things together and make them happen. In this case, yes, we did have a bad deal. But I remember Jill Sinclair, ZTT’s label manager didn’t want to lose PROPAGANDA, she already had lost Frankie. She loved what we did, she was very proud of this album and what it had achieved at the time. And she did not want to see another band of hers go. So she said “come to me and negotiate” which I later did.

But I was in a tricky position because I wanted to work with Paul, I loved working with Trevor and I loved working with Stephen. Obviously, my loyalties were with my husband also and I knew what he had done for PROPAGANDA. He would have done so much more for us, but it was the others who wanted to leave. I know how the album was made so I knew you couldn’t put that kind of team together on another record company. I very much knew that.

It was a magical team, I do always believe it’s all in the team that you’re working with. When you have that, why give up something that works? It was the decision that the others took. I really didn’t want to leave them but I just didn’t want to go to a different major company either.

What would a second PROPANGANDA album on ZTT have sounded like if the team has stayed together to follow-up ‘A Secret Wish’?

Much like ‘A Secret Wish’, very much so… I think it would have been a very natural progression of what we had written and recorded before.

Do you think you’d have got artier and avant, or do you think you could have gone the way ‘1234’ sounds, dreamy but almost with a mid-Atlantic pop accessibility?

I personally would have liked to have explored a similar direction to ‘A Secret Wish’. For me it was a perfect marriage of pop accessibility and the arty avant side of us. There was a rebellious side to Susanne and me and although we love pop music, there was a dark and a bit disturbing side to us as well and we wanted to combine these two sides. We were a band full of contrast, light and dark, dreamy and nightmarish. The combination of the two was what intrigued me.

Also musically, Stephen picked up on that. The voices would be very soft and the backing would be very hard. And then if I’d go really really hard, the music would sometimes become very soft so it was just this interplay. Yes I think we could have made a great second album on ZTT.

Photo by Patrick Lichfield

Do you think it could have turned out how the ACT album sounded?

No, that was a different vision altogether. For ACT it was all decadence and glamour. And we wanted the drama of it all and we moved kind of politically further. We’re now in ’87 and it was the decline of Thatcher’s Britain and we just had a completely different message altogether. It was a lot more theatrical and spielerisch, which is kind of more playful in a sense. It left aside the dark side, the Teutonic-ness. But also musically, Thomas was such a different kettle of fish altogether.

Do you think the UK didn’t get ‘Snobbery & Decay’ then?

No, sadly they didn’t *laughs*

Unfortunately they didn’t, or perhaps it was just not the right moment for this song… I do think it’s such a great song. Thomas wrote me an email the other day and he does think that perhaps we were ahead of our time. But also what happened was ZTT at the time changed companies to work with so they went from Island to Warners. And when that always happens, and we were just right in the middle of all that, the MD who takes over is often not that interested to take on what he’s been given, he has a complete different vision about what should be. So it’s sad because it happened to me again with my 1991 album ‘Love: And A Million Other Things’. The MD and the team you work with change and the artist is no longer a priority. The artist gets caught in record company politics.

When I was doing ‘Love: And A Million Other Things’ with Pascal Gabriel, we were working in the studio on the last two songs of the album and the MD from Island suddenly left and all the people who worked on my album left as well. A new guy came in and already I could sense what would happen so Pascal and I decided to get really experimental and we did so on the song ‘Surprise’ with THE BOW GAMELAN ORCHESTRA who were using fire and huge pipes to create sound. We realised we’d have trouble selling this album now. It had nothing to do with the artist or the content of the album.

‘Love: And A Million Other Things’ is being reissued by Cherry Red. You must be very pleased that this is fully available again and able to be re-evaluated because it’s very under rated?

Yes, maybe this time people can get the feel of it. At the time, I didn’t get much promotion.

I understand there may be a Claudia Brücken compilation in the offing with some unreleased songs and remixes as well as collecting together material in all your various guises?

Yes, it’s going to be called ‘Combined’. I’m hoping that it will be released on Union Square as well, because it’s a licensing nightmare *laughs*

There’s so many other record companies involved and I don’t necessarily have the knowledge of how to do this. In this particular instance, I went to Union Square and said it would be great if they could get that together for me because they do this all the time. And it will make things easier.

Photo by Patrick Lichfield

Will this include stuff like the BLANK + JONES, OCEANHEAD, THE BRAIN and APOPTYGMA BERZERK collaborations?

None of those, but there’s going to be all the singles that I’ve made. So it’s going to be three PROPAGANDA tracks, two ACT tracks, two from my Island days. There’s going to be a new electro version of ‘Sequential’ on it, Paul Humphreys has done a really good version of that. ‘Delicious’ with Andy Bell of ERASURE is going to be on it and so is ‘Cloud 9’. All in all there will be 14 songs on  ‘Combined’. There’s two tracks that I’ve done with Stephen Hague called ‘Thank You’ and ‘Night School’, they’re completely new and I wanted to find a home for them.

Also I want those two songs to promote the album so I’m hoping to make videos etc. We haven’t decided which one we should put out as a single so we may make two.

Will any of the unreleased PROPAGANDA material from the late 90s reunion be included?

No, we’re not going to put that on. I didn’t want to go there.

Is there any possibility of the four of you working together again?

Actually I’ve been working with Michael, Susanne and Ralf again, we’ve written one song and I like it a lot. I’m really happy with the song. Now we just have to find the best way of releasing it. I think it’s a song that’s very suitable for the Olympics actually! Maybe we’ll get it out by 2012, hopefully before, we just have to see. But it’s written, it’s recorded and almost produced… in my view it sounds really fresh and very much like PROPAGANDA.

But a few years ago when we tried this, Ralf was absent. What was really essentially missing for me was Ralf because he has a way of saying things with words and he also formed PROPAGANDA with Andreas and Susanne. And he had a good vision about the band, what it stood for intellectually and so on. It felt more right when we wrote together again about a year ago; I’m comfortable with that format. That is PROPAGANDA, the four of us.

Photo by Hege Saebjornsen

How did you come to work with Paul Humphreys?

For a few years I was a bit lost, unsure of what to do next musically… I’ve always been reliant on working with other people, I don’t really work that well on my own. I do like to have other people’s input. So Paul and I started working together when he asked me to do this 2000 tour in America *laughs*

That’s when Paul and I discovered that we work well on stage together. Again, with Paul, it’s brilliant because we are very playful, we are not too precious.It doesn’t have to sound like OMD or PROPAGANDA. We can take elements if we wish but we’re not labouring over it.

How are plans coming together for the next ONETWO album?

We are writing and we’ve started. I’m hoping we can put something out by April 2011. That’s what I would like to do, that’s my plan! But you know, sometimes things take a little longer but we’ve made a good start.

‘Instead’ was very well received, but what are your reflections on the album now?

I think we did really well. The other thing that I now think about the album is I wish we’d have gone out with it live before because we’ve got Philip Larsen who adds a lot of electronic blips and also James Watson who’s such a great musician. So because we did all the gigs with ERASURE and THE HUMAN LEAGUE and we added things on, I would have liked to have gone in the studio now and recorded it because it would have got another bite to it and a bit more aggression behind it.

It’s a little bit like making a wine, the sediment has to go down and settle… it’s the same kind of thing with music. We’ve grown into a really good live band now that we know what we’re doing and now we can play around with all the parts as well. So I would have liked to have gone back and now recorded the album and I think it would have sounded more electro and energetic. But that’s something we’re now aware of and we’re thinking with the next songs that we’re writing, with the next ONETWO gigs that we have, to take them out and rehearse them live, then record them later.

Photo by Hege Saebjornsen

Who do you think makes up the ONETWO audience? Are they mostly your fans or OMD fans? Or are they new fans who are not necessarily aware of you and Paul Humphreys’ history?

I think all of those. To be honest, when we did THE HUMAN LEAGUE and ERASURE gigs, I think people had no idea who we were and then they realised when we were playing ‘Messages’ and ‘Duel’… “Oh, it’s them!”

We were something new and how do you get to know a band like ONETWO if you don’t have any radio or TV and only a few people who write about you?

We had to start at the beginning and I’m just really pleased that THE HUMAN LEAGUE and ERASURE gave us a platform for more people to discover us.

Before ONETWO, you were not really known as a live performer but it’s like you tour like mad now. You recently appeared live with HEAVEN 17 too performing ‘These Boots Are Made For Walking’. It was on TV, how do you think it went?

I haven’t seen it because I never watch my own performances. I got the live bug I guess, I just really like singing. In a studio environment, it’s all so controlled… but I’ve just become this live singer! Teaming up with Paul Humphreys, he made me discover that when I was doing a tour with him in 2000 and I thought “this is good fun”. And then I realised singing PROPAGANDA songs, how well people responded when they got a chance to hear them. Now I just want to spread the word because they are great songs, they are part of my past and I’d like people to hear them.

Is a solo concert ever going to be a possibility?

My plan for ‘Combined’ is to make a special evening with special friends, so I’m trying to pull as many people who are on this album to appear with me. I’m trying to get Susanne, Michael and Ralf in, I’ve invited Thomas and I hope he’ll be able to join me.

I’m hoping Andy Bell can do it. I’m sure I couldn’t get Martin Gore… but Glenn Gregory I think I could get; we keep on helping each other out. If he’s around, he probably will do it.

I will ask everyone who’s been involved to join me, it could be great night….let’s see!

You do seem to have worked with quite a few legends from the ‘Synth Britannia’ era.

One special thing about ‘A Secret Wish’ was that it has opened a lot of doors for me. I’ve got so much respect from fellow musicians, people just kind of go “Claudia, I want to work with you, can you do this?”. That’s pretty much how all of my collaborations came about.

Is there a stand-out memory from any of these collaborations?

It was amazing when David Sylvian came in. On ‘P-Machinery’, there is this line he wrote on a little keyboard that he brought in, it’s that theme which is also ‘Thought II’ from the bonus CD.

Photo by Anton Corbijn

Is that David Sylvian I can hear on the middle eight of P-Machinery?

That’s just the girls. The “calm but steady flow, our strength is running low” bit, that’s me! But I tell you who does the backing vocals in ‘Duel’… it’s Trevor!

What did parts did Glenn Gregory do on ‘A Secret Wish’?

Glenn did the shouting on ‘Jewel’. It was me, Paul Morley and Glenn!

‘Don’t Stop’ was your most recent recording in collaboration with German dance duo BLANK + JONES. You also recorded a marvellous song with them called ‘Unknown Treasure’ in 2003. How did those songs come together and how much input were you able to contribute to the final results?

With ‘Unknown Treasure’, that was quite magical really because Piet Blank and Jaspa Jones sent me a basic groove.

And onto this groove, I wrote the melody and all the words. Paul Humphreys was brilliant, he helped me to record the voice and edit it. He’s so patient with editing vocals and putting it all together. It’s a very time consuming process. So we sent them the entire vocal track and two weeks later, they sent me a CD back and to my delight they had turned it into this beautiful song, it was just this lovely journey. And I think they did such a great job, a real collaboration. Don’t Stop was in reverse, they gave me all the music and then I did the words and sent it back to them. And this is how these two songs came together.

Is there any reason why ‘Unknown Treasure’ is not on ‘Combined’?

It’s not on ‘Combined’ because ‘Kiss Like Ether’ is on, and ‘Kiss Like Ether’ is very much in same the vein as ‘Unknown Treasure’. Before, ‘Combined’ was a double CD and pretty much everything I ever did was on it *laughs*

And then it was like, we’re only doing one CD. And then I had to put some songs aside. So with ‘Unknown Treasure’, I really wanted it on but I wanted ‘Kiss Like Ether’ instead. Tempo wise, it’s very similar so it had to go… it was a tough decision!

You’ve done quite a few cover versions in all your guises as well as doing the ‘Another Language’ covers album with Andrew Poppy. Are there any other songs you’d like to do?

There’s so many great songs, I’m a singer and I like good tunes. ‘Duel’ for example is one of my favourite songs because it’s a singer’s song, composed for my voice. I love Motown stuff but at the moment, I’m singing ‘Plastic Palace People’ by Scott Walker. I’m pretty random with my choices that I like to sing. I love electro and I love heavy industrial stuff. I love Chanson and drama. When I grew up, my grandma listened to Lotte Lenya and Bertholt Brecht. I think you can put me in any kind of musical outfit really and I can make it work in my own style.

What did you think of Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s and Mandy Smith’s covers of ‘Duel’?

I like Sophie’s and Mandy’s versions of ‘Duel’ and I’m glad that they’ve picked our song as they make other people aware of PROPAGANDA’s music.

Personally, when I do covers I like to put the songs I chose in a very different light to the original. In that way they become my own interpretations. My approach is more similar to SUSANNA & THE MAGIC ORCHESTRA or the way Martin Gore works on his ‘Counterfeit’ albums.

Photo by Peter Brown

The Mandy Smith one was done by Stock Aitken & Waterman so they obviously are secret PROPAGANDA fans!!

It’s very funny but on the sleeve notes of ‘A Secret Wish’, Paul Morley was saying that when Trevor Horn was not available to be producer anymore because of FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD, he wanted David Sylvian.

Meanwhile Jill Sinclair wanted Stock Aitken & Waterman!! That would have been a wrong choice, nothing against them! *laughs*

Have you heard that track by HURTS called ‘Wonderful Life’ which sounds a lot like PROPAGANDA?

I think that track is really beautiful; I can really hear how PROPAGANDA influenced it musically, especially from the middle bit onwards because it goes into that dreamy motion until the end and the choice of instruments used remind me a bit of ‘A Dream Within a Dream’.

Who are you listening to at the moment?

My daughter gives me songs to listen to, so I don’t lose connection. I’ve been listening to BEACH HOUSE, NITE JEWEL, THE RAINCOATS, SUSANNA & THE MAGIC ORCHESTRA and the new ARCADE FIRE album. You have to discover acts yourself now, I preferred the old-fashioned way of listening to the radio.

Another truth installed by the machine…

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Claudia Brücken

Special thanks also to Paul Humphreys

CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN ‘Love: And A Million Other Things’ is reissued as a 2CD package by Cherry Red on 30th August 2010

PROPAGANDA ‘A Secret Wish’ is available now and released by Salvo/Union Square

CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN ‘Combined’ will be released in 2011




Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
29th August 2010, updated 5th February 2018


Paul Humphreys is one half of the legendary synthesizer duo ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK whose 1979 debut single ‘Electricity’ has inspired the name of this website.

Together with Andy McCluskey, they set a high standard of romantic retro-futurism with lyrical gists ranging from technology and war, to deceased religious figures and long distance relationships.

Not only did his KRAFTWERK, ENO and LA DÜSSELDORF inspired keyboard textures give OMD a distinctive melodic interface within an exciting era of electronic pop as featured on classic songs like ‘Messages’, ‘Joan Of Arc’ and ‘Maid Of Orleans’, Paul Humphreys was also the voice on two of the band’s biggest hits ‘Souvenir’ and ‘(Forever) Live And Die’.

Following his departure from OMD in 1989, Paul Humphreys continued making music. First there was THE LISTENING POOL with fellow OMD refugees Malcolm Holmes and Martin Cooper who released an album ‘Still Life’ in 1994 before working with PROPAGANDA’s Claudia Brücken, initially as producer on their aborted reunion album and then in 2004 together as ONETWO. The duo received critical acclaim for their excellent debut album ‘Instead’ and played prestigious support slots with ERASURE and THE HUMAN LEAGUE in 2007.

Simultaneously rejoining Andy McCluskey, Malcolm Holmes and Martin Cooper for the live relaunch of OMD, Paul Humphreys has been a very busy man over the last three years. Not only is there now a new OMD album ‘History Of Modern’ on the horizon but he has also added DJ-ing to his repertoire of talents. In a special interview, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK was invited down to Paul Humphreys’ brand new studio in London to talk about the past, the present and the future:

You had a very busy time the last couple of years touring with both OMD and ONETWO. With ONETWO, you toured with ERASURE and THE HUMAN LEAGUE and with OMD as support to SIMPLE MINDS? How did you find being a support act and how do you think you went down with the fans of those artists?

I’ve never minded being support, we did a lot of support tours in the 80s as well. We supported DEPECHE MODE, THOMPSON TWINS, THE POWER STATION, all kinds of people in America. It gives you a chance to expand your audience. And we chose to tour with SIMPLE MINDS because we did Night Of The Proms with them a couple of years ago and it was sort of a drunken night at the bar really, their guitarist Charlie Burchill went “Hey, why don’t ya come on tour with us?” so we said “oh alright, we’ll think about it”. And we got the call and we thought, it’ll be an arena tour playing bigger venues than OMD would normally play in.

But also, it gave us a chance to expand our audience because I think there’s still a whole lot of people of our age who think “OMD, it’s going to be boring electronic stuff and they’re probably not very good live” and all of these kind of prejudices. So it gave us an opportunity to play to people who may think twice about coming to see us to kind of win them over really so that next time we go round, their word will hopefully spread. And we went down really well on that tour.

Did you and Phil Oakey have a few laughs in the bar afterwards about the old ‘OMD versus HUMAN LEAGUE’ rivalry on their 2007 Dare tour?

We had some nights actually! We had some great chats, Phil is just a lovely man, I really like Phil a lot. It was fantastic to be on the ‘Dare’ tour as well. Claudia and I would just go out and watch them every night because I love that album and they’re fantastic live.

We spent a few nights in the bar till late, just talking about the early days when we started out and what it was like. He was just as surprised to discover OMD’s existence as we were with THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s. We all thought we’d discovered this new sound ourselves and we were the only ones doing it! It turned out there was quite a few bands who latched onto the electronic synthesizer route in the late 70s.

What about that time when OMD and THE HUMAN LEAGUE made their first appearances on the same edition of Top Of The Pops in May 1980? Was there any tension there?

No more tension than with the other bands. There was terrific rivalry in the 80s between the bands and I think that was a healthy thing in a way because every band was trying to outdo the other, out-write them songwise! It upped the ante with the songwriting. Everyone was trying to write the best possible songs that they could. And I think the quality of songwriting in that period was fantastic.

The 30th Anniversary OMD tour in 2008 had an interesting set list featuring songs from ‘Organisation’ and ‘Dazzle Ships’ while the 2007 tour featured ‘Architecture and Morality’ in its entirety. What has it been like personally for you to revisit these classic albums?

The tour where we played ‘Architecture and Morality’ in full was particularly great for us. We just loved playing those songs and we played a few songs that we’d never played live before so it was really fantastic.

It was a real challenge on that tour because we really wanted to do that album justice but we didn’t have any of the synths or anything we used to make those records. But we wanted to be true to the album.

So we had to buy synths off eBay to get those sounds back, and we then just re-sampled them. We even went back to the multi-track tapes. Anything that was a monophonic sound, I could slice up into notes, loop them and put them on each key so I could play the sound exactly how it was. It was great, great fun. I loved doing that and it was a really lovely moment.

I think ‘Architecture and Morality’ was a complete album, it was just so whole. The sound of it was unique, every song… it wasn’t a bitty album. A few of our albums are bitty but that was where we finally found a sound that was OMD. I think the first two albums were leading to ‘Architecture and Morality’. We were refining our sound and then we found it.

Was the selection of songs from ‘Organisation’ and ‘Dazzle Ships’ for the 2008 tour quite natural?

We just played our favourites really! Because when you’re playing these songs every night, you have to enjoy it. You have to want to play these songs so you pick the songs you want to play.

But you must be keen to get stuck into some new material now. How is it all coming along for the new OMD album The History Of Modern?

It’s coming along really well actually. I spent a few weeks up at Andy’s studio in Liverpool and I’ve been bringing stuff down here and working on it. We’re sending files using YouSendIt to each other. I have a play on it, he has a play on it! We just go back and forth but the album will be slightly more weighted with some of Andy’s songs because he did a lot of writing while I did the ONETWO album.

And last year for various reasons, I couldn’t do much writing. My mum died and I had a few things going on that kept me from writing. So Andy’s a bit further ahead with the songwriting but he’s done some really good things. And I’ve been taking some of his things that he’s already written and styling them.

How would you describe the sound of the album, if you can?

Electronic! Very electronic!

How have you been dividing your time between working with OMD and Claudia Brücken as ONETWO? Are there any other new projects on the horizon?

I’ve been working with the best selling author Douglas Coupland who wrote ‘Generation X’. We’ve written a couple of things together for use in film, television and advertising stuff. One piece we’ve written together is entitled ‘Math is Hard’, and wouldn’t sound at all out of place on ‘Dazzle Ships’!

I’ve been working with Claudia but she’s been rather busy working with several other artists/producers.

She’s been working with Stephen Hague on a project, two songs from which will be featured on a forthcoming Claudia Brücken ‘Best of’ album scheduled for release in September. I’ve been doing some remixes for it as well. Claudia has done so many projects over the years and worked with such a variety of artists/producers that it’ll be great to have her best works all on one record. And, we’ve made a start on the new ONETWO album also. So yes, very busy!

Philip Larsen from production duo THE MANHATTAN CLIQUE is a member of the ONETWO live band. You once mentioned how important he was in helping to shape the ONETWO sound. How did he influence this?

Philip gives this edge and energy that we’d like to capture with the new stuff. We wished we’d re-recorded the album with Phil and James Watson, our live guitarist because they brought an energy to our live thing that wasn’t quite on the record. They’re really going to be involved in the next record.

I do really like MANHATTAN CLIQUE remixes, especially ‘Home (Tonight)’ and MOBY’s ‘Slipping Away/Crier La Vie’. They get the beat right and make it danceable but they don’t lose the song which is often the problem with a lot of modern dance remixes.

Philip loves songs so he tries to get as much of the song in there as he can. I really love the remix that he did for ‘Home (Tonight)’ because he took the song to a different place.

Are there any other musicians/producers you’d like to work with?

I’m always interested in collaborating with other writers, not necessarily producers anymore. After 30 years, I kind of know what I’m doing!

How surprised have you been by the number of young ladies who have embraced the synthesizer recently like LA ROUX, LITTLE BOOTS, LADYHAWKE and LADY GAGA and the whole electronic pop ‘revival’? Are there any of the new acts that you like, or don’t like?

It’s not that I don’t like them. I think some are more genuine than others.

Andy told me he doesn’t get LA ROUX!

LA ROUX do have some songs that I like, but I’m a bit suspicious that it’s just more marketing than substance, but I do hope I’m proved wrong. I’m concerned that a portion of the electronic music made these days is more electronic music by numbers. Theoretical, rather than from the heart. It’s great that she’s quite flamboyant and it’s good to have flamboyant pop stars out there because there’s very few these days, everyone is so safe, so I do like that aspect of her.

Any opinions on the others?

They’re not on my iPod any of them! *laughs*

What did you think of GOLDFRAPP’s new single ‘Rocket’?

I’ve always liked quite a number of GOLDFRAPP’s songs, but I don’t get the new album to be honest. It’s like an exercise in how to make an 80s song. What’s exactly is the point? It’s obvious that it was a conscious decision to make an 80’s album, and smacks of jumping onto the 80’s revival bandwagon a little too enthusiastically. The thing I find about GOLDFRAPP is, she/they are musical genre chameleons. I mean what/who is the real GOLDFRAPP? it’s hard to tell if you jump around stylistically so much.

BBC6 Music arranged for LITTLE BOOTS to do a live session with GARY NUMAN and LA ROUX with HEAVEN 17. Which new act you would like to collaborate with, either as ONETWO or OMD?

There are a few new acts I’d love to do things with. I’m a huge fan of ARCADE FIRE, I think they’re fantastic. And I like THE POSTAL SERVICE, they’re a great band. I also recently discovered HANNAH PEEL. I heard a COCTEAU TWINS cover ‘Sugar Hiccup’ on the radio on my way home in the car from my studio recently and loved it, I got home and bought it straight away from iTunes only to discover the second song on the EP was none other than a cover version of ‘Electricity’!!

You recently contributed to BBC4’s Synth Britannia documentary. How did you think the programme turned out and what do you think has been OMD’s long lasting contribution to modern electronic music?

I thought Synth Britannia was great and I’ve had so much positive feedback on it. It was a really well put together documentary. And I think it really captured the essence of what IT was all about and there’s been very few documentaries that have done that. So it’s great that it’s actually out there now someone’s actually done it. And it was flattering to be involved in it.

As regards contribution to popular music? I don’t know if it’s for us to say. I think we’ve definitely made a contribution, there’s no doubt about it. I think we were involved in a movement that changed pop music.

Well, ‘Enola Gay’ gets played at French wedding receptions!

YES! RESULT! *laughs*

A lot of kids seem to know ‘If You Leave’ because of ‘Pretty In Pink’ being on TV and DVD but don’t know it’s OMD.

The song’s been covered to death by American bands and ended up in all kinds of TV series. We get requests for it all the time to be redone for TV shows…

… it keeps the bailiffs away!

Exactly!! *laughs*

Quite a number of the acts in the Synth Britannia documentary are playing live again like ULTRAVOX or have been revisiting their classic albums as OMD did like GARY NUMAN, THE HUMAN LEAGUE and HEAVEN 17. How do you think everyone shapes up with their live shows?

I think the bands that have gone out have been worthy. I think there are a few that shouldn’t be going out… I don’t think I should name them but there’s some who really shouldn’t be doing it!

Bands of our generation like HEAVEN 17 and THE HUMAN LEAGUE are playing to big audiences. THE HUMAN LEAGUE are fantastic! ERASURE are still doing it and doing good. So the criteria is, can you still deliver? A lot of these artists; they haven’t forgotten how to sing, they haven’t lost their voices. In fact, some sing better now than they ever did.

But after 30 years, you learn how to play as well. When we started out, we weren’t such great musicians but we’ve all become better musicians. And I think OMD play better now than we ever used to, there’s less mistakes in our set because we’re far more confident in what we’re doing!

But one thing I notice HEAVEN 17’s Glenn Gregory still does after all this time though is he still misses his cues!!

Oh he does, yeah! That gig in Sheffield, he missed a couple!! But he was moaning to me because ‘Penthouse and Pavement’ is so wordy. That’s the one thing that we all suffer from, Andy suffers from it too and so many singers do… you just forget your words!! It’s an age thing! It can become a head thing as well!

We’ve all got our cheat sheets to remind us on stage now. Claudia’s developed this technique where she’s got a book on the floor with all the lyrics printed bold in plastic and she flips the page with her foot and she looks like she’s dancing! *laughs*

But so many people have autocues, it’s just what happens. Trying to remember the lyrics for a one hour 45 minute show is a lot of lyrics to remember.

You had concerns about how music was being distributed over the internet in 2000. How do you see the future for musicians now in being able to make a living from their music? Is the physical format really on its last legs and therefore the future is in live performance, or soundtracks in computer games and films?

Yes, I think sadly the latter because the music industry has totally imploded! Some of it was its own fault in the corporate industry because it’s like a slow moving dinosaur. They should have latched onto the internet a lot earlier to sell music before this culture started of music for free. If they’d had done that and had reduced the prices, they would have created the culture of people just switching from buying music in shops to buying online.

But there was this whole limbo period that bred a generation of people downloading for free because some of the stuff just wasn’t even available. And kids grow up with that. They grow up thinking their entertainment should largely be free, particularly music. It’s been hugely frustrating because the internet is a fantastic place but it’s contributed to taking billions out of the industry which has brought it to its knees.

Your daughter must be of that generation?

Well, she’s been educated by me! So she’s knows and spreads the word with all her friends and frowns upon those who are downloading like mad!

Do you think with the internet that the word-of-mouth thing might work more now and we can by-pass the middle men in the record companies?

Yeah, that’s happening now. It’s not all negative at all but the whole culture of music’s completely changed. In the 80s you would tour, ticket prices were low and you would probably lose money but you would be promoting your record because that’s where the money was. But now bands put out a record, knowing they’re not going to make much money, as an excuse to go out on the road and they’ve put the ticket prices through the roof and make the money that way.

For bands like us that have made a name, the internet is an easy place because you’re a searchable commodity for a better phrase. There are people searching for OMD and there will be links to see what we’re doing individually. We’re all over the net because we were known. But for interesting artists starting out who need a kick start to make people search for what they’re doing, it’s a really difficult thing now. It takes money to do that.

So the worry is, artists in the future will be just stifled. You take the funding away from the arts, quality drops because people can’t do it full-time. Musicians have mortgages too and they’ve got kids that need new shoes and you’ve got to find that money from somewhere. If you can’t make it from music, then music is a hobby and you need that funding from somewhere to do it full-time.

But it’s really frustrating that people don’t see free download as stealing. I’d love to walk into Waitrose and help myself to some of the stuff on the shelves and walk out but I’d get arrested! But for some reason, music is not viewed that way. At some point, people are going to turn round and say “where’s all the good music?” but they’ve contributed to it. Fortunately, there are still good bands around and there’s still some great songs to be found but it’s getting really hard to find them.

There’s no money in the labels because there’s no money in selling records; so there’s no investment in new artists. There are some artists now that are really successful who wouldn’t have existed in this climate because they needed investment to develop them like being put together with interesting producers who helped develop their sound. We learnt so much from the early producers we worked with like Mike Howlett.

Photo by Eric Watson

So who’s your favourite producer that’s worked with OMD?

Mike Howlett, he really taught us how to refine our sound cos it was quite raw. The edginess was good but we needed tweaking to make us palatable to the masses.

Stephen Hague taught us how to arrange songs, we learnt so much about arrangement from him.

Tom Lord-Alge; we learnt so much from him.

Stephen Hague is one of my favourite producers but I often thought OMD worked with him too early. What I mean by that is he was only just starting out as a producer in his own right when he worked on ‘Crush’. It was almost like he was learning his craft working with OMD and then he had it sorted out when he worked with PET SHOP BOYS, ERASURE, JIMMY SOMMERVILLE and NEW ORDER. I don’t know if you’ve ever felt that?

We heard that Malcolm McLaren track ‘Madam Butterfly’ which he worked on and we just adored that. I don’t want to knock him because we did some really good things with him.

But he fundamentally changed our sound at perhaps the wrong time. I think you’re right. It happened at a time when… it helped us in a way to break America cos that’s what we’d tried to do for years and Steve was instrumental in that. He refined our sound and in some ways made us less electronic.

Although the irony of course is he’s now best known for being an electropop producer…

Yeah, that’s right, it is the irony! He did make us less electronic which made us more palatable to America.

And then PET SHOP BOYS go and have an American No1 with ‘West End Girls’ produced by him and it’s quite electronic!!

I KNOW!! It’s weird!

You recently performed your first DJ set at HEAVEN 17’s aftershow party in Sheffield. How did it come about?

I think it might be my first and last!! *laughs*

It went really well actually, it was really good fun. It was Glenn Gregory’s idea. I know Glenn really well and see him socially from time to time. Claudia and Glenn have been best mates for years so Glenn said “how d’ya fancy DJ-ing?” cos I told him I was to going to come up to see the Penthouse and Pavement show anyway as Claudia was singing with them. And he said “whilst you’re up here, why don’t you DJ in the VIP room” and I was like “I’ve never DJ-ed in my life so forget it”! BUT, he announces it on the HEAVEN 17 website and I’m thinking “YOU ****!” *laughs*!!

So I’m doing it now! And I couldn’t get out of it. So do you want to know what I played?

Yes please…

ANDAIN Beautiful Things
KRAFTWERK Aero Dynamik [Hot Chip remix]
DEPECHE MODE vs BOOKA SHADE Enjoy The Silence In White Rooms
OMD vs LORRAINE I Feel Messages
SAM TAYLOR-WOOD & PET SHOP BOYS German Film Star [Gui Boratto remix]
GOLDFRAPP Strict Machine [Ewan Pearson remix]
ONETWO Home (Tonight) [MHC remix]


Was DJ-ing as difficult as you thought? Or was it quite easy, literally switching songs on and off?

I found a great piece of software so I cheated in a way cos this software is brilliant. You can play a song, bring in the next one and if you hit synch, it just locks it up! I just kept dropping things in and it’s got great effects on it as well to make fills etc. It’s kinda fun to do, I did enjoy it.

Which is your favourite synth, the one that you have the fondest memories of?

Synths have been my love so pretty much every synth I’ve owned has got something good about it.

I have fond memories of the Korg Micro-Preset because that was our first synth we ever got and we got two really great albums out of that one synth. What’s great about it is that it’s really limited, so your options are really narrow. And sometimes that’s really good in songwriting because you can have synths with a billion sounds and you spend your day going “I wonder if there’s a better sound”.

You lose sight of what you’re doing. Whereas the limited synths are great because they may only have a few sounds so you end up concentrating on the part rather than the sound. With this synth we just bathed it in reverb because it sounds sh*t on its own.

I just re-bought the Roland Jupiter8 as a virtual synth. The original was a staple synth for OMD that got us through ‘Junk Culture’ and ‘Crush’. It was a brilliant synth and even though it’s quite complicated, I learnt how to programme it completely. So it’s one of those synths where if I think of a sound, I can programme it. There’s very few synths I can do that.

The Prophet5 is the other one where I can imagine a sound and build it myself. I can programme it inside out. Those two synths are still my favourites.

Photo by Brian Griffin

Is there a synth you actually never owned but wish you did?

I’ve never owned a Minimoog which is funny isn’t it? I got this Minimoog module here, it’s the guts of one but it’s not quite the same. It is a Moog, all the electronics are the same but it’s not the Moog with the keyboard. There was something really sexy about the Moog with the keyboard and the back tilted up.

What about a synth you bought and didn’t use because it sounded rubbish!

A Wasp! It looks fabulous but I could never get it to work in a song. It had this touch keyboard which was a bit annoying, not very pleasant to play really. I just never really liked it!

How do you feel about the concept of deluxe edition albums with extra packaging and tracks? Is it the best way to go to market to fans?

There’s pluses and minuses to this. I think you have to use some of these tricks to get people to buy CDs because I still believe in the CD format. It sounds a hell of a lot better than MP3 and people are buying the whole album. It’s good to do tricks with iTunes to make people buy the whole album. People are doing certain tracks now that you can only get if you buy the whole album. The one thing that iTunes is doing is killing the album. People are cherry picking based on a 30 second snippet.

Call me a traditionalist, I used to love buying an album and I’d put it on. I’ve always found when you listen to an album all the way through, the band selected these songs to take you on a journey. And you are belittling their vision by just cherry picking songs. I always found, even with people like DAVID BOWIE that sometimes I’d put an album on and you’d go “that song’s s***, I hate that song” but you just leave it on anyway. And by the third listen, it becomes your favourite song! It’s the obscure track on the album you wouldn’t cherry pick. And I think people are missing out on that experience.

So what are your favourite albums of all time?

Bugger me, that’s a tough one! I can definitely tell you some of my favourite albums:

KRAFTWERK ‘Radio-Activity’
BRIAN ENO ‘Before and After Science’
LA DÜSSELDORF ‘La Düsseldorf’
NEU! 75
ROXY MUSIC ‘Roxy Music’
TALK TALK ‘It’s My Life’

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to Paul Humphreys

‘History Of Modern’ is due for release in 2010



Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
24th April 2010

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