Tag: Paul Humphreys (Page 1 of 5)

OMD Souvenir

OMD have been a recording unit for 40 years; ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK has been attending their gigs for 39 of them!

A recent cartoon meme went “I like beautiful melodies telling me terrible things” and that sums up OMD in a nutshell. The subjects in Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys’ music have included the suicide of a charismatic musician, the suicide of a woman who worked as a stripper because she had no other means of supporting herself, the racially motivated massacre of five innocent demonstrators by the Ku Klux Klan, the death of over 100,000 people by nuclear attack and most notably on two hit singles, the brutal execution of a teenage girl!

It’s been a glorious achievement so to celebrate their four decade anniversary, OMD have issued their ‘Souvenir’, a lavish deluxe boxed set containing 5CDs, 2 DVDs, a hardback book, a fold-out poster and a set of quality 10 inch silver-on-black art card reproductions of sleeves such as ‘Electricity’ and ‘Telegraph’.

However, for the more cautious consumer, the set is also available as a truncated 2CD 40 track singles collection concluding with the brilliant new song ‘Don’t Go’; a great grandchild of Klingklang and cousin of ‘Metroland’ from ‘English Electric’ refined for BBC Radio2 airplay, it captures the essence of OMD’s enduring electronic appeal.

With crystalline melodies from Paul Humphreys and a spirited vocal delivery from Andy McCluskey attached to a hypnotic Synthanorma backdrop, it is a better career spanning trailer than ‘Dreaming’ was for 1988’s first greatest hits ‘The Best of OMD’.

As a definitive singles anthology, also included are the superior single mix of ‘Shame’ produced by Rhett Davies, the under rated wintery soundscape of ‘Never Turn Away’ and the pretty ‘Pachelbel’s Canon tribute ‘La Femme Accident’. However, the inclusion of everything means that although OMD released that sublime singles series of ‘Messages’, ‘Enola Gay’, ‘Souvenir’, ‘Joan Of Arc’ and ‘Maid Of Orleans’, they were also capable of total stinkers like ‘Stand Above Me’ and ‘If You Want It’!

While the singles are known by many, when assisting with the remastering of the first four OMD albums at Abbey Road, a visit by Paul Humphreys to the huge EMI tape archive near Heathrow.

While he was there to check and annotate the correct versions, he uncovered a treasure trove of shelved recordings and demos.

The reels of vintage tapes were then baked to minimise risk of breakage and after some thoughtful listening and reminiscing, he compiled and painstakingly mixed a selection of unreleased songs and ideas to become ‘Unreleased Archive Vol1’

Paul Humphreys told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK: “I found 22 tracks, some of which are full songs and some are just experiments that were never developed, but I had great fun mixing them. I mixed them only using FX and E’s that we would have used at the period, spring reverbs, crappy delays and Eventide Harmonisers. I had so much fun doing them and there are a couple of absolute gems in there! The big take away for me in this whole exercise was to see how we used to work, pre-computers.”

Although it was known that OMD had a number of unreleased songs in the vaults and several featured on the 2014 reissue of ‘Junk Culture’, the revelation that there was enough material to make up a 56 minute CD was a surprise.

“We basically used to lay down 5 minutes of one idea, then when we wanted a change of chord, we’d drop in the new section on different tracks, so on the desk we’d have to hand mute the first idea so they wouldn’t play together.” elaborated Humphreys on these memories, “But of course I can’t remember where to mute things now as I barely even remember the songs themselves, never mind what our vision was at the time, so I was left with a giant puzzle working out what tracks have to be on or off at certain points of the song…”

It all begins with the wonderful ‘Brand New Science’ recorded in 1981, a gloriously haunting and minimal slice of synthpop. The lyrics “there’s a brand new science, for a brand new world, with no moral codes and no big words…” actually appeared in the ‘Dazzle Ships’ tour programme of 1983, which begs the question as to how a recording of such quality was left off the parent album? However, a bizarre interview by McCluskey and Humphreys for BBC Radio1 with Richard Skinner from the period highlighted that other distractions may have come into play.

Although Andy McCluskey states in the accompanying notes that “it didn’t work”, ‘Dumbomb’ from 1986 with its wordplay, symphonic synthetic strings and Shakuhachi samples coupled to a rousing chorus is actually very charming, despite obviously needing more work.

Born to hand jive, the superb 1985 vintage of ‘Liberator’ sees OMD doing electro rock ‘n’ roll with a rhythmic backbone like a collaboration with BOW WOW WOW! It is certainly better than ‘Maria Gallante’ which was released from the same sessions as a B-side to ‘So In Love’ and beats hands down most of the contents on the eventual 1993 McCluskey steered long player that was actually called ‘Liberator’.

Fully formed songs from ‘The Pacific Age’ era such as ‘Cut Me Down’ and ‘Cajun Moon’ reveal their Fairlighted origins and a mish-mash of styles; the former features an oddball mix of LA DÜSSELDORF and jazz, while the latter showcases a love of PRINCE but oddly sounds like DURAN DURAN offshoot ARCADIA and their ‘Say The Word’, a song that appeared in the film ‘Playing For Keeps’ to which OMD also contributed an early version of ‘We Love You’.

From the musique concrète inspired experiments of the ‘Dazzle Ships’ period, ‘Radio Swiss International’ (affectionately referred to  by OMD drummer Mal Holmes as “the ice cream song”) is coldly eerie with drifting synth drones and signal interference alongside the station call sign. Meanwhile of the earliest recordings from 1980, ‘Organ Ditty’ is just that, while ‘Ambient 1’ has the ringing melodic bones of 2013’s ‘Our System’ and the speedy ‘Unused 1’ was probably not developed due to its inherent similarity to the theme from ‘Stanlow’.

Fairlight driven demos from the ‘Crush’ and ‘The Pacific Age’ make up the majority of the actual songs on ‘Unreleased Archive Vol1’ and ‘Weekend’ shows potential; on closer scrutiny, it is actually not that dissimilar to ‘Final Song’ from 2013’s ‘English Electric’.

Understandably, not all the material is of such high quality but most of it is at least interesting. The motorik ‘Untitled 2’ from 1981 is undoubtedly a blueprint for ‘Genetic Engineering’, a song that itself influenced by Brian Eno’s ‘China My China’. But the kosmische template is taken further on ‘Guitar Thrash’ from 1982 which sees OMD emulating NEU! in a more blatant manner.

Continuing the Brian Eno connection, ‘Violin Piece’ is a 1982 recording of yes, Andy McCluskey trying to master a violin that comes over like an audition for THE PORTSMOUTH SINFONIA.

1990’s ‘American Venus’ from when Humphreys and McCluskey were drifting apart musically sees the front man playing around with vocoder dressing, which is at least closer to what could be considered as sounding more like OMD than the Latin brass-assisted romp of ‘Dynamo Children’ which sees them amusingly mutate into MODERN ROMANCE! Then there’s also the 1990 waltz of ‘Flamenco’ laced with its Spanish and blues guitar samples.

The bones of a percussive sketch come with 1984’s ‘Flutey’ before ‘Unreleased Archive Vol1’ closes with ‘Nice Ending’ which does exactly what it says on the tin with a choral typewriter collage constructed in 1981.

The labelling indicates there will be an ‘Unreleased Archive Vol2’ but what could be included on it?

There is a Paul Humphreys song entitled ‘Suspicion’ which was discussed in the 1988 fan club newsletter, while McCluskey’s theme for the Danny Boyle directed political drama ‘For The Greater Good’ has yet to receive a formal release. Then there’s ballads such as ‘Kiss Of Death’ and Twins’ which were left off ‘Liberator’ due to their more introspective outlook.

Meanwhile from the same time as they recorded THE XX’s ‘VCR’ in 2010, there is also known to be a cover of ‘Shelter’ in the can as well. Plus there is a synthpop take on ‘If You’re Still In Love With Me’ which was mooted as a single in 1993 but then re-recorded with a string quartet for 1996’s more organic and traditional ‘Universal’ album, plus a slowed-down house number called ‘Resist The Sex Act’.

Add in a superb audio document of the 1983 ‘Dazzle Ships’ live presentation (minus ‘Genetic Engineering’ which OMD got badly wrong on that final night of the tour at Hammersmith Odeon), BBC video material like ‘Top Of the Pops’ appearances and the once only broadcasted ‘ORS’ 1985 concert special from Sheffield City Hall plus the documentary ‘Crush The Movie’, ‘Souvenir’ is a worthy manageable package with a wealth of hard-to-get and unreleased material to satisfy OMD enthusiasts.

Yes, OMD have not merely plonked 13 albums into a boxed set… 😉


The ‘Souvenir’ 5CD + 2DVD deluxe boxed set is released by Universal Music

OMD Souvenir 40th Anniversary 2019 – 2020 European + UK Tour, dates include:

Belfast Ulster Hall (23rd October), Dublin Olympia (24th October), Nottingham Royal Concert Hall (26th October), York Barbican (27th October), Hull Arena (28th October), Gateshead Sage (30th October), Glasgow Royal Concert Hall (31st October), Manchester Apollo (1st November), Sheffield City Hall (3rd November), Liverpool Empire (4th November), Birmingham Symphony Hall (5th November), Leicester De Montford Hall (7th November), Bath Pavilion (8th November), Oxford New Theatre (9th November), Guildford G Live (11th November), Portsmouth Guildhall (12th November), Watford Colosseum (13th November), Cambridge Corn Exchange (15th November), Ipswich Regent (16th November), Bexhill De La Warr Pavilion (17th November), Bournemouth Pavilion (19th November), London Hammersmith Apollo (20th November), Rostock Stadthalle (25th November), Dresden Kulturpalast (26th November), Leipzig Haus Auensee (28th November), Berlin Tempodrom (29th November), Hamburg Grosse Freiheit 36 (30th November), Saarbrücken Saarlandhalle (2nd December), Stuttgart Leiderhalle (3rd December), Düsseldorf Mitsubishi Electric-Halle (5th December), Frankfurt Jahrhunderthalle (6th December), Krakow Studio (3rd February), Warsaw Progresja (4th February), Oslo Rockefeller Musichall (7th February), Stockholm Berns (9th February), Malmo KB (10th February), Copenhagen Vega (12th February), Brussels Ancienne Belgique (14th February), Utrecht Tivoli (15th February), Paris La Cigale (16th February)

http://www.omd.uk.com/

https://www.facebook.com/omdofficial/

https://twitter.com/OfficialOMD

https://www.instagram.com/omdhq/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
20th October 2019

A Beginner’s Guide To OMD

Celebrating their 40th Anniversary, OMD are one of the acts from the Synth Britannia era whose creative powers now are as strong as their chart heyday.

Setting a high standard of romantic retro-futurism with lyrical gists ranging from technology and war to deceased religious figures and long distance relationships, OMD released their debut single ‘Electricity’ in 1979, a statement about the environment that would have made today’s young campaigner Greta Thunberg proud.

Those who complain that OMD’s music is not dark enough often forget that within their highly melodic songs, subjects have included the suicide of a charismatic musician, the suicide of a woman who worked as a stripper because she had no other means of supporting herself, the racially motivated massacre of five innocent demonstrators by the Ku Klux Klan, the death of over 140,000 people by nuclear attack and most notably on two hit singles, the brutal execution of a teenage girl!

Founder members Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys began an impressive run of acclaimed albums and hit singles, starting with the Mike Howlett produced ‘Messages’ in 1980. The huge European popularity of the follow-up ‘Enola Gay’ captured the Cold War angst of the times under the spectre of Mutually Assured Destruction, while ‘Maid Of Orleans’ became the biggest selling single of 1982 in West Germany when Der Bundesrepublik was the biggest Western music market after the USA and Japan.

Long-time drummer Mal Holmes and live keyboardist Martin Cooper joined the fray as full band members for 1983’s ‘Dazzle Ships’ album, but things went creatively awry for OMD as McCluskey and Humphreys found themselves in an existential crisis, following journalistic criticism that songs about dead saints were not going to change the world. The more politically charged and experimental album failed to sell, but has since been re-evaluated in the 21st Century as a meisterwerk.

Bruised and under commercial pressure, OMD opted to pursue more conventional ambitions and traditions to stay in the black and scored the Top5 US hit ‘If You Leave’ from the John Hughes movie ‘Pretty In Pink’ in 1986. However a North American tour opening for DEPECHE MODE in 1988 failed to sustain momentum. In the backdrop of the resultant fallout and the inevitable musical differences, Humphreys, Holmes and Cooper departed, leaving McCluskey with the OMD brand name.

However, the split precipitated a number of interesting artistic and creative diversions for McCluskey and Humphreys which despite the triumphant reunion of the classic line-up in 2007 and the success of OMD’s most recent album ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’ in 2017 , continue in varying degrees today in parallel with band activities.

In his most recent interview with ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK, Paul Humphreys said: “I still find it utterly amazing and rather fantastic that after 40 years, OMD is still alive and well, selling out big tours and making what even our harshest critics consider to be relevant new records.”

By way of a Beginner’s Guide to showcase the diverse facets of OMD, a hefty 25 tracks of interest have been selected from their career, although largely eschewing those made famous by singular consumption.

But with so many tracks available and the list already being VERY long, links to the OMD family tree like THE ID as well as contributions to the soundtracks of ‘For The Greater Good’, ‘Eddie The Eagle’ and ‘The D-Train’ (which between them saw McCluskey working with notable names such as Danny Boyle, Gary Barlow, Hugh Jackman and Jack Antonoff) have been omitted.

With a restriction of one track per album project, they highlight how two lads from The Wirral have maintained their standing as a creative and cultural force four decades on, despite their numerous ups and downs.


OMD The Messerschmitt Twins (1980)

With their passion for military aircraft and German music, Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys were nicknamed ‘The Messerschmitt Twins’; this mournful Compurhythm driven synth ballad of the same name had mournful if cryptic lyrics which could be seen as the thoughts of aircrew during wartime missions, pondering whether they would return to home. The bleak fatalistic narrative was given further resonance by Andy McCluskey’s resigned vocalisation.

Available on the OMD album ‘Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark’ via Virgin Records

http://www.omd.uk.com/


OMD 2nd Thought (1980)

The ‘Organisation’ album saw OMD purchase their first polyphonic synthesizer, a Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 which allowed Paul Humphreys to explore more haunting gothic timbres away from the cheesier chords of the Vox Jaguar organ. Shaped by eerie choir textures and a repeating two note synthbass motif set to Mal Holmes’ simple marching snare pattern, the beauty of ‘2nd Thought’ echoed the third section of KRAFTWERK’s ‘Autobahn’ and displayed a maturity in OMD’s developing sound.

Available on the OMD album ‘Organisation’ via Virgin Records

https://www.facebook.com/omdofficial/


OMD Sealand (1981)

Running at almost eight minutes, the nautical adventure of ‘Sealand’ demonstrated OMD’s mastery of the epic, mysteriously beginning with a ghostly collage of melodica and reed horns before sad synths and progressive sweeps made their presence felt. Featuring just a minute of vocals in the sparse middle section, the penultimate movement collapsed into a fit of industrial noise before a slow misty reprise of the main melodic theme, like a lost ship in the fog.

Available on the OMD album ‘Architecture & Morality’ via Virgin Records

https://twitter.com/OfficialOMD


OMD International (1983)

Like ‘Maid Of Orleans’, the harrowing ‘International’ was musically inspired by the skippy waltz of ‘Back In Judy’s Jungle’ by Brian Eno. The introductory news report about “a young girl from Nicaragua whose hands had been cut off at the wrists by the former Somoza guards…” acted as one of the fuels for Andy McCluskey to express his anger about economic corruption, political hypocrisy and torture in captivity, all topics which are still sadly relevant today.

Available on the OMD album ‘Dazzle Ships’ via Virgin Records

https://www.instagram.com/omdhq/


THE PARTNERSHIP Sampling The Blast Furnace (1984)

THE PARTNERSHIP was an unrealised side project of Peter Saville cohort and ex-SPOONS member Brett Wickens with Roger Humphreys (no relation) who recorded as CERAMIC HELLO. Produced by William Orbit,  the pulsatingly uptempo ‘Sampling The Blast Furnace’ featured guest vocals from Andy McCluskey alongside vocodered voices and chants by Martha Ladly. While this version remains unreleased, the slower McCluskey-less demo was on the reissue of CERAMIC HELLO’s only album.

Not officially released, alternate version available on the CERAMIC HELLO album ‘The Absence Of A Canary V1.1’ via Vinyl On Demand

https://www.studiobrettwickens.com/


OMD Apollo (1984)

After the critical mauling that ‘Dazzle Ships’ received, OMD were in debt to Virgin Records and realised that they would have to sell more records to survive. The commercial pressure led to a trip to the sunnier climes of AIR Studios in Monserrat and the musically diverse ‘Junk Culture’. A song about McCluskey’s intimate liaison with a local girl, the bizarre mix of carnival whistles, soca, Mellotron choir, rhythm guitar and 808 driven electro came over a bit like AZTEC CAMERA produced by Arthur Baker.

Available on the OMD album ‘Junk Culture’ via Universal Music

https://www.last.fm/music/Orchestral+Manoeuvres+in+the+Dark


OMD Stay (1986)

1985’s ‘Crush’ was Stephen Hague’s first full album production and opened the doors for OMD’s ambitions in the US. Following the success of ‘If You Leave’, ‘The Pacific Age’ continued the partnership and was intended to reinforce momentum. The opening song ‘Stay’ threw in the kitchen sink from Mal Holmes’ mighty drums to layers of synthetic strings plus the addition of soulful female backing singers, brass and heavy metal guitar. But the esoteric elements that made OMD so appealing were being wiped away.

Available on the OMD album ‘The Pacific Age’ via Virgin Records

https://www.setlist.fm/setlists/orchestral-manoeuvres-in-the-dark-73d6ba31.html


ETIENNE DAHO & OMD So In Love (1986)

The suave and sophisticated Etienne Daho was seen as France’s answer to George Michael. While OMD were in Paris recording ‘The Pacific Age’ at Studio de la Grande Armée, they took part in a ‘Les Enfants Du Rock’ French TV special also which also saw their French label mate interviewing his musical influences like Françoise Hardy and  Serge Gainsbourg. The DAHOMD duet saw Daho and McCluskey low voices blend well over the original Stephen Hague produced single from ‘Crush’.

Available on the ETIENNE DAHO deluxe album ‘Pop Satori’ via Virgin Records

https://dahofficial.com/

ARTHUR BAKER & THE BACKBEAT DISCIPLES Walkaway (1989)

Producer Arthur Baker gathered a studio collective to make a pop record tracing his love of soul, synthpop, disco, HI-NRG and Europop. His first since the fragmentation of OMD, Andy McCuskey contributed lyrics, keyboards and vocals to the electro-reggae of ‘Walkaway’ which threatened to turn into CULTURE CLUB’s ‘Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?’. The vocal cast of the ‘Merge’ album included Al Green, Martin Fry, Jimmy Somerville and Etienne Daho.

Available on the ARTHUR BAKER & THE BACKBEAT DISCIPLES album ‘Merge’ via A&M Records

https://twitter.com/arthurhbaker


OMD Walking On Air (1991)

Going it alone as OMD, Andy McCluskey became open to collaboration. Meeting Stuart Kershaw and Lloyd Massett from pop rap combo RAW UNLTD, the pair set about modernising the rhythmic elements of McCluskey’s new songs. The ghostly ‘Walking On Air’ referenced ‘Statues’ from ‘Organisation’ while the mechanical bossa nova evoked the mellow moods of Bryan Ferry. Kershaw has since taken over the drum stool from Mal Holmes who left OMD in 2014 for health reasons.

Available on the OMD album ‘Sugar Tax’ via Virgin Records

https://www.youtube.com/user/OMDenglishelectric


THE LISTENING POOL Where Do We Go From Here? (1993)

With bursts of sampled choir, electric piano and wah-wah guitar, ‘Where Do We Go From Here?’ came from THE LISTENING POOL’s only album ‘Still Life’ released in 1994. Driven by a gently percolating drum machine programmed by Mal Holmes, the understated air reminiscent of CHINA CRISIS was sweetened by Martin Cooper’s soprano sax with Paul Humphreys vocally pondering their creative situation with the threesome having now departed the OMD camp.

Available on the THE LISTENING POOL album ‘Still Life’ via Telegraph Records

https://malholmes.com/the-listening-pool/


ELEKTRIC MUSIC Kissing The Machine (1993)

Recorded for his ELEKTRIC MUSIC project after leaving KRAFTWERK, Karl Bartos’ collaboration with Andy McCluskey featured one of his best melodies synth melodies. Bartos told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK: “He suggested we do something together and I was up for it… We picked some cassettes and finally I found the opening notes of ‘Kissing The Machine’”. With fabulously surreal lyrics about a love affair with a sexy robot, the song was later resurrected with new backing from Paul Humphreys for ‘English Electric’.

Available on the ELEKTRIC MUSIC album ‘Esperanto’ via SPV Records

http://www.karlbartos.com/


OMD Best Years Of Our Lives (1993)

On a commercial roll and aiming for a younger pop market, ‘Liberator’ featured lots of busy modern dance effects but saw Andy McCluskey losing his way in the song department. Its confused schizophrenic nature was compounded by the pure genius of darker numbers like ‘King Of Stone’ and ‘Christine’. The symphonic string laden ‘Best Years Of Our Lives’ was another of the better tracks, borrowing its solemn topline from ‘Spanish Harlem’, a song made famous by Ben E King.

Available on the OMD album ‘Liberator’ via Virgin Records

https://www.youtube.com/user/OMDVEVO/videos


OMD The New Dark Age (1996)

After the muted reception for 1993’s painfully poppy ‘Liberator’, Andy McCluskey brought in a more conventional rock sound for 1996’s ‘Universal’. However, the OASIS sounding ‘Walking On The Milky Way’ failed to get major traction. One of its B-sides ‘The New Dark Age’ gave a haunting nod to ‘Statues’ using the auto-accompaniment on the Elgam Symphony organ and was the last great synth song of the solo era as the OMD vehicle was quietly retired by McCluskey… for now!

Available on the OMD single ‘Walking On The Milky Way’ via Virgin Records

https://www.discogs.com/artist/9462-Orchestral-Manoeuvres-In-The-Dark


ATOMIC KITTEN Right Now – Demo version (2000)

When Andy McCluskey joined Stuart Kershaw to make some dysfunctional pop for a girl group, most thought he had lost his marbles. The original project HONEYHEAD was stillborn, but when three girls from Liverpool were recruited to form ATOMIC KITTEN, it eventually led to a UK No1 single with ‘Whole Again’. However, the demo of the first single ‘Right Now’ sounded like disco evergreen ‘Never Can Say Goodbye’ arranged like ‘Sugar Tax’ era OMD, but with female vocals!

Available on the ATOMIC KITTEN single ‘Right Now’ via Innocent Records

https://www.atomickitten.com/


THE GENIE QUEEN What A Girl Goes Through (2005)

Having been ousted from Team AK by coup d’état, Andy McCluskey licked his wounds and recruited another three local girls to form THE GENIE QUEEN. Featuring soon-to-be WAG / top model Abbey Clancy and future TV presenter Anna Ord, ‘What A Girl Goes Through’ was an appealing pop R ’n’ B number based around samples of ‘Souvenir’. The project disbanded without being signed, but a track intended for THE GENIE QUEEN called ‘Pulse’ appeared on ‘History Of Modern’ featuring the girls.

Never officially released

https://twitter.com/anna_ord


ONETWO Anonymous (2007)

Paul Humphreys and Claudia Brücken released their only album as ONETWO in 2007 and from it was ‘Anonymous’, a song that began life as a demo from the aborted PROPAGANDA reunion and which had also been co-written with Andy McCluskey. The pretty ringing melodies and elegiac atmospheres were very reminiscent of classic OMD. But the collaboration had been unusual as at the time of the song’s conception, as Humphreys had not yet committed to rejoining McCluskey in his old band.

Available on the ONETWO album ‘Instead’ via https://theremusic.bandcamp.com/album/instead

http://www.claudiabrucken.co.uk/


BLANK & JONES featuring BERNARD SUMNER Miracle Cure – Paul Humphreys Onetwo remix (2008)

Having worked with THE CURE’s Robert Smith, trance duo Piet Blank and Jaspa Jones had Bernard Sumner of NEW ORDER high on their list of vocalists for their album ‘The Logic Of Pleasure’, which also featured Claudia Brücken. The German duo remixed ONETWO’s ‘Kein Anschluß’, so naturally the gesture was reciprocated when Paul Humphreys offered his smooth offbeat atmospheric rework of ‘Miracle Cure’ in what could be seen as the nearest thing to a NEW ORDER vs OMD collaboration.

Available on the BLANK & JONES single ‘Miracle Cure’ via Soulfood

http://www.blankandjones.com/


OMD Green (2010)

Of this ‘History Of Modern’ highlight, Paul Humphreys said: “It was a song Andy did many, many years ago with Stuart and I think it was done in the 90s. He played it to me and it sounded a bit like a rock ballad. I said ‘I think the vocal tune’s great, but everything else has to go. Give me the vocal stem and I’ll do a whole new track for it’, so I came to my studio and completely reworked it.” – the result was mesmerising and even dropped in ROXY MUSIC’s ‘If There Is Something’ at the close.

Available on the OMD album ‘History Of Modern’ via Blue Noise

https://twitter.com/stukershaw


MIRRORS Secrets – Andy McCluskey remix (2011)

Mal Holmes once said that “MIRRORS do OMD better than OMD do OMD!”… originally a ten minute epic split into three movements, ‘Secrets’ closed MIRRORS’ outstanding ‘Lights & Offerings’ long player, driven by an intense percussive tattoo and a shifting octave bass riff that was pure Klingklang. While pushing forward the synthetic claps, Andy McCluskey stripped down and the backing and shortened proceedings, making it much less claustrophobic and militaristic than the original.

Originally on the MIRRORS deluxe album ‘Lights & Offerings’ via Undo Records, currently unavailable

https://www.facebook.com/theworldofmirrors/


PAUL HUMPHREYS & DOUGLAS COUPLAND Electric Ikebana (2012)

A collaboration between ‘Generation X’ author Douglas Coupland, and Paul Humphreys, ‘Electric Ikebana’ was an audio visual installation to act as the voice of the network for French telecoms company Alcatel-Lucent. The beautiful piece had conceptual hints of KRAFTWERK’s ‘The Voice Of Energy’ while there was also a charming mathematical formula recital “x = [-b +- √(b² -4ac)] / 2a” to the tune of the nursery rhyme ‘Pop Goes The Weasel’ which recalled ‘ABC Auto-Industry’ from ‘Dazzle Ships’.

Not officially released

https://www.coupland.com/


OMD Helen Of Troy (2013)

Of ‘Helen Of Troy’, Andy McCluskey said to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK: “George Geranios and Nick Bitzenis of FOTONOVELA were our label bosses in Greece via their Undo Records and they sent me this track…the demo had Nick going “Helen Of Troy – Helen Of Troy” so I took his vocal off as you do, chopped it all up and rearranged it… it’s gorgeous! I have used some of Nick’s backing vocals… I love it to bits! And ‘Helen Of Troy’ is much more of a metaphor than either of the ‘Joan Of Arcs’ were.”

Available on the OMD album ‘English Electric’ via BMG

https://www.facebook.com/undofotonovela/


ERASURE Be The One – Paul Humphreys remix (2014)

Andy Bell’s debut solo album ‘Electric Blue’ had been produced by ONETWO’s backing band THE MANHATTAN CLIQUE and featured two duets with Claudia Brücken. ‘The Violet Flame’ album saw ERASURE express an infectious zest for the future with songs beginning as pre-recorded dance grooves from Vince Clarke. But the best number from the sessions was ‘Be The One’ remixed by Paul Humphreys who added some of the beautiful Synthwerk magic that characterised ‘English Electric’.

Available on the compilation album ‘The Electricity Club’ (V/A) via Amour Records

http://www.erasureinfo.com


VILE ELECTRODES The Vanished Past (2016)

The avant pop approach of VILE ELECTRODES is reminiscent of early OMD, with ‘Deep Red’ capturing Andy McCluskey’s interest enough to invite the duo to support the German leg of the ‘English Electric’ tour. With its potent drama, ‘The Vanished Past’ came complete with a mighty drum climax like ‘Navigation’. Bleak and wonderful, “not everything is as it seems” as a forlorn stranger joins in after five minutes. As the adventure unfolds like a lost OMD epic, that stranger reveals himself to be Mr McCluskey!

Available on the VILE ELECTRODES album ‘In the Shadows of Monuments’ via https://vileelectrodes.bandcamp.com/album/in-the-shadows-of-monuments

http://www.vileelectrodes.com/


OMD Don’t Go (2019)

OMD began their recorded career with a KRAFTWERK homage and four decades on, have come full circle. A great grandchild of Klingklang and cousin of ‘Metroland’ from ‘English Electric’ but refined for BBC Radio 2 airplay, ‘Don’t Go’ captures the essence of OMD’s enduring electronic appeal. With crystalline synth melodies from Humphreys and a spirited vocal delivery from McCluskey attached to a hypnotic Synthanorma backdrop, OMD continue to produce quality avant pop tunes.

Available on the OMD album ‘Souvenir: The Singles Collection 1979 – 2019’ via Universal Music

https://open.spotify.com/artist/7wJ9NwdRWtN92NunmXuwBk


The ‘Souvenir’ 5CD + 2DVD deluxe boxed set is released on 4th October 2019 by Universal Music

OMD Souvenir 40th Anniversary 2019 – 2020 European + UK Tour, dates include:

Lisbon Aula Magna (15th October), Porto Casa da Musica (16th October), Madrid Riviera (19th October), Barcelona Apolo (21st October), Belfast Ulster Hall (23rd October), Dublin Olympia (24th October), Nottingham Royal Concert Hall (26th October), York Barbican (27th October), Hull Arena (28th October), Gateshead Sage (30th October), Glasgow Royal Concert Hall (31st October), Manchester Apollo (1st November), Sheffield City Hall (3rd November), Liverpool Empire (4th November), Birmingham Symphony Hall (5th November), Leicester De Montford Hall (7th November), Bath Pavilion (8th November), Oxford New Theatre (9th November), Guildford G Live (11th November), Portsmouth Guildhall (12th November), Watford Colosseum (13th November), Cambridge Corn Exchange (15th November), Ipswich Regent (16th November), Bexhill De La Warr Pavilion (17th November), Bournemouth Pavilion (19th November), London Hammersmith Apollo (20th November), Rostock Stadthalle (25th November), Dresden Kulturpalast (26th November), Leipzig Haus Auensee (28th November), Berlin Tempodrom (29th November), Hamburg Grosse Freiheit 36 (30th November), Berlin Tempodrom (2nd December), Stuttgart Leiderhalle (3rd December), Düsseldorf Mitsubishi Electric-Halle (5th December), Frankfurt Jahrhunderthalle (6th December), Krakow Studio (3rd February), Warsaw Progresja (4th February), Oslo Rockefeller Musichall (7th February), Stockholm Berns (9th February), Malmo KB (10th February), Copenhagen Vega (12th February), Brussels Ancienne Belgique (14th February), Utrecht Tivoli (15th February), Paris La Cigale (16th February)


Text by Chi Ming Lai
29th August 2019, updated 19th April 2021

PAUL HUMPHREYS: The OMD 40th Anniversary Interview

Paul Humphreys and Andy McCluskey were two lads from The Wirral who creatively realised their passion for European electronic music following the purchase of a Korg M500 Micro-Preset synthesizer.

Having formed a more conventional outfit called THE ID, they grew frustrated with the band format and felt they could better pursue their more experimental leanings inspired by their love of KRAFTWERK, NEU! and LA DÜSSELDORF as a duo.

Backed by a TEAC tape recorder named Winston owned by Paul Collister who became their first producer and manager, Humphreys and McCluskey played their first gig as ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK at Liverpool’s Eric’s in Autumn 1978. Roger Eagle who ran the club liked what he heard, leading to more gigs and visits to other cities.

Eventually the single ‘Electricity’ b/w ‘Almost’ was released in June 1979 on Manchester’s Factory Records, housed in a black-on-black thermographed sleeve designed by Peter Saville illustrating the two songs as avant garde music notation. Gary Numan heard the single at his label Beggars Banquet and the rest as they say is history…

With OMD currently on a huge world tour to celebrate their 40th Anniversary, Paul Humphreys took time out to speak from California about their past, present and future…

Who’d have thought when you were recording ‘Electricity’ in Paul Collister’s garage, you’d still be doing it after 40 years!?

I still find it utterly amazing and rather fantastic that after 40 years, OMD is still alive and well, selling out big tours and making what even our harshest critics consider to be relevant new records. We’ve said this many times but we really only planned to do one concert at Eric’s club in Liverpool in 1978, as kind of a dare to each other.

So it was the series of chance meetings of important people that followed that led to an incredible series of doors opening for us that led the way to our success, probably the most important of which was Tony Wilson at Factory Records. We considered ourselves an art project, Tony saw us as pop music. Time then proved that we could actually end up being both. I remember a confused executive at Virgin Records once saying, “What exactly are you trying to be, Stockhausen or Abba?” We said, “Can’t we be both?”

When was the moment you thought OMD might have legs, was it the Gary Numan tour, signing to Dindisc or was it much further in?

It took us a long while before we realised that OMD could actually have a future. We tried not to believe some of our friends on the Wirral who thought we were a bit crap and thought we made weird and mostly unnaccessible music, and in the back of our minds we always thought “hmmm… perhaps they are right…” to the point where after we signed a 7 album record deal, we still budgeted for failure by spending nearly all of our signing on advance money, building a modern studio in the centre of Liverpool.

The deal we signed with them, gave them the right to terminate at any time, yet we couldn’t, so our rational was to at least have a recording studio as a viable business, if and when Dindisc / Virgin ripped up the contract.

I think it was when we stood on the stage at Top of the Pops for the first time, playing ‘Messages’, that we had a little inkling that maybe, just maybe, we are doing something good…

But yes you mentioned Gary Numan. We love Gary and he did give us a massive opportunity to play on big stages, frighteningly big stages for 2 kids who weren’t even 20 years old!

At that time we couldn’t have dreamed that only a few years later, we would be playing the very same stages but this time as the headline act selling them out. I saw Gary only recently when he played a fantastic concert at the Royal Albert Hall, and after we had a little reminisce about what a fantastic tour that was, don’t forget that for Gary, that was his first major tour too, which went on to define him as a fantastic live artist.

It’s not like OMD has stood still. After a tentative recorded return, ‘English Electric’ in 2013 was perhaps stylistically the album that many had been waiting for since 1984, how do you look back on it all now?

It was a scary thing making a new OMD album after so much time had passed. We hit a point where we had had several years of touring since we all got back together. The touring was very successful, and it was wonderful to be touring with Andy, Martin and Mal again (and now of course with Stuart) and we really enjoyed taking picks from our career catalogue, and playing the whole of ‘Architecture & Morality’ live was so much fun.

But, after several years of this, we thought, is this it? Do we really want to just be considered a retro band just trading on our former glories? Don’t get me wrong, for some bands that’s absolutely fine and in no way am I criticising them for doing it because songs are like little time capsules and when you play them people are transported back to the time they were released and remember the people they were at that time and they people they were with, and associated feelings, events and emotions of the time. That is essentially the power of music, and we recognise this, and we really really love playing and picking songs from our big catalogue.

So why not just give new songs a try, after all moving forward and looking to the future was the band’s original remit? So, without announcement we went back into the studio to just see if we still had something relevant to say, in the voice of OMD.

‘History Of Modern’ was the album that we look back on as getting the OMD engine running again, and I think it has some really great tracks on it. It certainly was very well received by fans and critics alike.

For me, despite the fact that I think it’s a great first offering after many years, it doesn’t quite have the sonic and stylistic cohesion that ‘English Electric’ or ‘‘The Punishment of Luxury’ has, I think largely to do with the fact that the songs were selected from the ideas we’d both had collected over several years independently and we worked them up together. We did try being very modern sending ideas to each other via the internet and working independently as I live in London and Andy lives on the Wirral.

But you had a bit of a re-think?

When we realised that it really didn’t work to our satisfaction, we changed the way we worked for the following 2 albums, kind of going back to how we used to write and create in the very beginning, being in the same room at the same time throwing ideas into it and seeing what happened…

There is no replacement for that, it sounds bloody obvious really as its most creative way to interact, so now we mainly write up in Andy’s house and finish, overdub and mix in my studio in London.

‘The Punishment Of Luxury’ album maintained the standard, audiences didn’t think you could get any more electronic but you did!

Yes, ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’ was a definite return to our original roots. In deciding to play some of ‘Dazzle Ships’ at the Museum of Liverpool and the whole of ‘Dazzle Ships’ at the Royal Albert Hall, we found the preparation for them utterly fascinating.

We needed access to, and to be able to deconstruct our original recordings to retrieve all the mad radio samples and FX that were so randomly generated at the time as they couldn’t possibly be recreated, and, in listening to these old recordings in their multi-track form, we realised just how simple and how very electronic they were. It was a real ‘eye opener’ to be honest, and therefor made the remit for ‘POL’, to try to go back to a “less is more” philosophy, the discipline to be as simple and as electronic as we could make it yet also trying to sound ‘modern’…

You made good use of the Omnisphere VST on ‘Isotype’, what are your preferred creative tools these days?

We made almost the entire last 2 albums completely in the box so to speak, inside the computer with Protools using a lot of modelled analogue synths from the early days such as the Jupiter 8, Prophet 5, Virus, ARP etc, but also using new synths that have never previously existed in the physical world that provided colours and sounds that we found new and inspirational, namely the Omnisphere (great for melody sounds such as the one in ‘Isotype’) and also Waves have a great synth / sequencer called Element which we used extensively.

The problem these days is that there are so many sound possibilities that unless you’re really careful, you can get so completely lost in your choices and exhaust yourself exploring all those possibilities, you can forget the initial goal which is to write a good song! We call this ‘the tyranny of choice’. These days we find it important to reduce the choices by deciding on a sound palate, in the same way a painter decides his colour palate for a particular painting.

For ‘POL’ for instance, we decided that we should only use small electronic sounding drums and percussion, and only drew from that palate… between us Andy and I literally have a library of thousands of kick drums and thousands of snare drums, unless you reduce that into small categories, you’re completely lost.

The live set-up has changed from Roland Fantoms X8s to Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88s, how have those been to use on tour?

Yeah, when we first got back together in 2006, Roland had a great synth / sampler out called a Fantom X8, so I sampled all of our sounds into that machine for myself and Martin to play, it took me months and months, I had to sample Mellotrons, Fairlights, organs, and sounds from all of our analogue synths we used to use.

Some of those early synths we had to find a re-buy from Ebay as we’d either lost them or they were broken beyond repair. There was a night when Andy and I were both bidding against each other on Ebay for the same synth, a Korg Micro Preset. Idiots! We could have got it for so much cheaper if we’d spoken on the phone first… DOH!

Anyway, the Fantoms got old, they started to develop problems, and Roland stopped making new ones. One day Roland called to say they had a new version of Fantom called a G8 about to come out and asked if we wanted to try it out , I said great, can you talk me through how to export all my sounds into the new machine from the old? To which they replied, oh you can’t do that, you’ll have to resample everything… yeah sure, another 3 months’ work… NOOO!

Not an option, so we kept buying Fantom X8s on Ebay to replace broken ones until THEY started to fail and finally decided to switch to a system that has built-in redundancy, the world of laptops and Native Instruments Kontakt running in MainStage. It still meant that we had to spend months importing all the sounds them into the new system, but for the last time!!! I have to confess something, we employed a tech geek to do it for us, I couldn’t face doing it again myself!! *laughs*

Have you any thoughts on these hardware synth reissues like the Korg ARP Odyssey and Korg MS20 Mini, the new Prophets or those Behringer clones? Are they something that would interest you?

I think it’s great that they are made available again, but they are not all exactly the same as the originals, most of the core engines and oscillators are different and are digitally controlled. I’m actually more interested in new hardware synths that I’ve never used. I’m gonna buy an Arturia MatrixBrute when the tour is over, it has a fascinating and versatile modulation matrix with a brilliant sequencer. I have a friend who owns one and is total love with it. I also want to buy a Moog, the Moog One Poly looks amazing but it’s like £6k I think… ouch! Amazingly, we’ve never owned a Moog. Not sure why really, we were more drawn to Roland, Korg and Sequential Circuits synths as they seemed more suited to our needs.

While there were classic styled OMD songs like the title track, ‘One More Time’ and ‘What Have We Done?’, there were more harder rigid numbers like ‘Robot Man’ and ‘Art Eats Art’?

As with all our albums, we like to remove ourselves from our comfort zone and explore new ways of writing songs, experimentation is our remit, and stylistic repetition can become boring, it’s very easy to fall into “Verse, Bridge, Chorus, repeat, then Middle 8, then Chorus to fade” arrangements of songs… sometimes that works fine, but I think we fell into that trap a little too much in the mid-80s. ‘Art Eats Art’, is basically a list of our favourite artists, designers etc. played over a tough electro track that’s bonkers and follows no standard arrangement format, as many of the songs on ‘‘The Punishment of Luxury’ and ‘English Electric’ do.

The 40th Anniversary ‘Souvenir’ tour is coming up, have you got a large pool of songs ready to perform depending on which territory OMD visits?

Yeah, there will be some surprises on the tour, it’s hard with so much to choose from, but we’re also limited by the amount of available time for all of us to programme and rehearse things that we’ve hardly ever or even never played before. There will be a few lovely surprises though! Can’t say anything else ?

And yes we do play a different show in other territories and that makes things a little more complicated for us. America didn’t properly accept OMD until ‘Junk Culture’ times and songs like ‘If You Leave’, ‘Dreaming’, ‘So in Love’, ‘Secret’ are really huge in the USA and there would be a riot if we didn’t play any of these, not so in Europe though.

The 2017 tour saw you bring in a pre-show online poll for fans to decide one song to perform out of a shortlisted three? How practical was that to implement as a band and will the system return?

We have no plans to do that on the next tour, it was kinda fun though and kept us on our toes every night, the crew didn’t like it much though as all the computers for stage and screen images, had to all be reordered at the very last minute!!

You personally got involved in the Abbey Road remasters of the first four OMD albums released in 2018, how did you find that experience? Did it prompt any interesting memories for you?

It was an amazing experience to work in Abbey Road doing the mastering, and it did bring back a lot of memories. It was a bit stressful though, as there have been so many different versions / mixes and edits of all the songs, choosing the right ones wasn’t an easy exercise!

What was more interesting to me was for the ‘Souvenir’ box set extras, I found 22 unreleased songs / ideas which I mixed and compiled into one album.

It started by me going to the EMI archive near Heathrow, it’s a temperature controlled vault, with a giant foot thick steel door with an enormous wheel that you spin to open it, like you see in movies. All THE BEATLES tapes are in there, Bowie, Stones etc. It’s absolutely massive!

Everything OMD ever recorded is in there and I pulled out all the tapes I could find that I didn’t recognise the title for.

It was difficult though as many times, we used working titles for songs that we’ve used that were changed at the last minute. I spent several days there taking tapes out and sending pictures of tape boxes to Andy for ideas and to jog each other’s memories. I ended up taking out tapes from around 1980 to 1990 period.

The problem I also had is that tapes from that era degenerate and actually you can’t actually play them now. The glue they used to put the oxide on the tapes starts to lose its stick so you have to bake the tapes in a special kiln oven to re-glue the oxide back on to the plastic tape, sounds completely mad I know, but it works!

So, I found 22 tracks, some of which are full songs and some are just experiments that were never developed, but I had great fun mixing them. I mixed them only using FX and E’s that we would have used at the period, spring reverbs, crappy delays and Eventide Harmonisers. I had so much fun doing them and there are a couple of absolute gems in there! The big take away for me in this whole exercise was to see how we used to work, pre-computers.

We basically used to lay down 5 minutes of one idea, then when we wanted a change of chord, we’d drop in the new section on different tracks, so on the desk we’d have to hand mute the first idea so they wouldn’t play together.

But of course I can’t remember where to mute things now as I barely even remember the songs themselves, never mind what our vision was at the time, so I was left with a giant puzzle working out what tracks have to be on or off at certain points of the song… it was great fun, I hope you enjoy it…

In 2015, OMD did series of gigs featuring ‘Dazzle Ships’ and ‘Architecture & Moraility’. As 2020 is the actual 40th Anniversary of the ‘Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark’ and ‘Organisation’ albums, are there any plans to do a similar type of special showcase?

I’m not so sure if we’ll play those albums in their entirely again, but we do have some future ‘specials’ planned and one is actually booked… That’s all I can say at this stage…

Would you consider trying to write a new song around the limited functions of the Korg Micro-Preset as a kind of “four decades on” experiment?

That would be an interesting experiment. Although the Micro-Preset was a totally limited synth and actually sounded pretty shit until you put the original signal through a long chain of FX processors, then it became an interesting synth. I think we may have already exhausted every possible sound that synth can ever make though!


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

The ‘Souvenir’ 5CD + 2DVD deluxe boxed set is released on 4th October 2019 by Universal Music and can be pre-ordered from the OMD official store at https://store.omd.uk.com/collections/40th-anniversary/products/souvenir-5cd-2dvd-deluxe-boxset

OMD Souvenir 40th Anniversary 2019 – 2020 European + UK Tour, dates include:

Lisbon Aula Magna (15th October), Porto Casa da Musica (16th October), Madrid Riviera (19th October), Barcelona Apolo (21st October), Belfast Ulster Hall (23rd October), Dublin Olympia (24th October), Nottingham Royal Concert Hall (26th October), York Barbican (27th October), Hull Arena (28th October), Gateshead Sage (30th October), Glasgow Royal Concert Hall (31st October), Manchester Apollo (1st November), Sheffield City Hall (3rd November), Liverpool Empire (4th November), Birmingham Symphony Hall (5th November), Leicester De Montford Hall (7th November), Bath Pavilion (8th November), Oxford New Theatre (9th November), Guildford G Live (11th November), Portsmouth Guildhall (12th November), Watford Colosseum (13th November), Cambridge Corn Exchange (15th November), Ipswich Regent (16th November), Bexhill De La Warr Pavilion (17th November), Bournemouth Pavilion (19th November), London Hammersmith Apollo (20th November), Rostock Stadthalle (25th November), Dresden Kulturpalast (26th November), Leipzig Haus Auensee (28th November), Berlin Tempodrom (29th November), Hamburg Grosse Freiheit 36 (30th November), Berlin Tempodrom (2nd December), Stuttgart Leiderhalle (3rd December), Düsseldorf Mitsubishi Electric-Halle (5th December), Frankfurt Jahrhunderthalle (6th December), Krakow Studio (3rd February), Warsaw Progresja (4th February), Oslo Rockefeller Musichall (7th February), Stockholm Berns (9th February), Malmo KB (10th February), Copenhagen Vega (12th February), Brussels Ancienne Belgique (14th February), Utrecht Tivoli (15th February), Paris La Cigale (16th February)

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Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
14th August 2019

2nd Thought: The Legacy of OMD

It all began with a KRAFTWERK-influenced ditty warning about environmental catastrophe, one that has become poignant again in the 21st Century…

“I became friends with Wolfgang Flür and Karl Bartos in the 90s, and was invited to Wolfgang’s flat for dinner” said Andy McCluskey at the Electri_City_Conference in 2015, “on the wall was a gold record for ‘Radio-Activity’ which was a hit single in France. I was telling them that ‘Radio-Activity’ was the song that most influenced OMD and told them ‘Electricity’ was just an English punk version of ‘Radio-Activity’. They replied ‘Yes, we know!’… it was that obvious!”

In an accolade already accorded to ENO, JAPAN, SIMPLE MINDS, ABBA and THE POLICE, OMD’s first four landmark long players ‘Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark’, ‘Organisation’, ‘Architecture & Morality’ and ‘Dazzle Ships’ are being reissued as Half Speed Abbey Road vinyl remasters. Packaged in reproductions of their original Peter Saville designed sleeves complete with die-cuts where appropriate, these releases from Universal Music reaffirm OMD’s often forgotten role as premier electronic pop pioneers.

Originally released in February 1980 on the Factory Records inspired Virgin subsidiary Dindisc Records, ‘Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark’ was a promising debut album from Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys, two lads from The Wirral who had finally been able realise their passion for electronic music following the purchase of a Korg M500 Micro-Preset synthesizer paid for in instalments via a mail order catalogue.

Featuring their third released version of ‘Electricity’, the album also included their chanty commentary on the mechanics of war entitled ‘Bunker Soldiers’. Away from these energetic post-punk synth numbers, on the other side of the coin were ‘Almost’ and ‘The Messerschmitt Twins’, two emotive synth ballads that were equal to KRAFTWERK’s ‘Neon Lights’. However, their naivety was exposed by the inclusion of the quirky instrumental ‘Dancing’ which OMD even dared to play live during their BBC TV debut on ‘Old Grey Whistle Test’!

Even early on in their career, OMD’s concerns about the music industry machine were looming in ‘Julia’s Song’ and ‘Pretending To See The Future’; the latter was outstripped a few months later by a John Peel session version which formed the basis of the full live band rendition when McCluskey and Humphreys retired Winston, their TEAC A3340S tape recorder which had accompanied them on their breakthrough tour opening for GARY NUMAN in Autumn 1979.

OMD’s debut now comes over like a time capsule; ‘Red Frame / White Light’, a lightweight synthpop tune celebrating the 632 3003 phone box that acted as the band’s office captured an era before mobiles and the internet, while in honour of good old fashioned love letter writing, ‘Messages’ was at this point just a song with potential as a single.

Indeed, it was only when ‘Messages’ was re-recorded, produced by Mike Howlett with Malcolm Holmes adding drums, that led to a No13 hit in June 1980 and ultimately the ‘Organisation’ album which came out in October 1980. More gothic in nature, the album began misleadingly with the melodic Motorik lattice that was ‘Enola Gay’.

With its iconic Roland CR78 Compurhythm pattern and wordplay referring to the horrific bombing of Hiroshima by the Boeing B29 Superfortress flown by Colonel Paul Tibbets named after his mother, ‘Enola Gay’ was a clever observational statement about the first ever operational use of nuclear weapons. Massively popular in France and Italy, it also reached No8 in the UK singles chart.

But alongside ‘Enola Gay’ on this much more mature long player, there was also the hypnotic beauty of the often under rated ‘2nd Thought’ and ‘Statues’, the brooding Ian Curtis tribute which was built around an Elgam Symphony organ’s auto-accompaniment. With the purchase of a Sequential Circuits Prophet 5, Humphreys began exploring. Often using brassy tones set slightly out of tune for some haunting overtones, it made its presence felt on tracks like ‘The Misunderstanding’ and ‘Stanlow’.

As with the debut, there were a few missteps like the JOY DIVISION aping cover of ‘The More I See You’ which was different if nothing else, while the SPARKS inspired ‘Motion & Heart’ would be improved as a reworked ‘Amazon Version’ for an abandoned follow-up 45 to ‘Enola Gay’.

With two albums released in nine months, their first Top 10 hit and the biggest record sales of 1980 in the Virgin Records group, a triumphant concert at Hammersmith Odeon that December which concluded with an unexpected massed stage invasion, ended a brilliant year for OMD. But McCluskey and Humphreys could not have foreseen that 1981 would see them get even bigger.

Although Mike Howlett worked on the ethereal tape choir centred ‘Souvenir’, which was co-written by live keyboardist Martin Cooper and became OMD’s first Top 3 in September 1981, scheduling issues meant Humphreys and McCluskey self-produced what would become ‘Architecture & Morality’ with engineer Richard Manwaring, released in November 1981.

Featuring two spirited songs about ‘Joan Of Arc’, these were to become another pair of UK Top 5 hits with the ‘Maid of Orleans’ variant also becoming 1982’s biggest selling single in West Germany when Der Bundesrepublik was the biggest Western music market after the USA and Japan.

The big booming ambience of the ‘Architecture & Morality’ album next to big blocks of Mellotron choir gave OMD their masterpiece, tinged more with the spectre of LA DÜSSELDORF rather than KRAFTWERK.

“People always talk to us about KRAFTWERK, and obviously, they were hugely important” said McCluskey, “But there was another element from Düsseldorf that influenced us, and that was the organic side which was firstly NEU! and then LA DÜSSELDORF and Michael Rother’s solo records.”

The ENO-esque percussive six string thrash of ‘The New Stone Age’, the bouncy but moody ‘Georgia’ and the guitar assisted choral beauty of ‘The Beginning & The End’ demonstrated OMD’s musical ambition.

Meanwhile, the ringing theme of PINK FLOYD’s ‘Time’ was borrowed for the instrumental title track and the epic overtures of the almost wordless ‘Sealand’ also confirmed Humphreys’ affinity with progressive rock.

Malcolm Holmes was in his element on ‘Architecture & Morality’, thumping stark percussive colours while syncopating off various rhythm machines.

“The majority of the drum programming would always be done by Andy or Paul” he said, “My part would be to lay down on that… My favourite period of OMD musically was ‘Architecture & Morality’ because of my involvement and how creative I was being at the time, using the kit differently.”

”I think ‘Architecture & Morality’ was a complete album, it was just so whole” said Paul Humphreys in 2010, “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 & Morality’. We were refining our sound and then we found it.”

Meanwhile in ‘She’s Leaving’, there was a big fourth hit single in-waiting from the album characterised by its sweet melodies, forlorn vocals and crunchy electronic percussion; “We got hold of some Pearl syndrums and we were all messing around in the control room with little white noises and stuff like that” Holmes remembered. But thanks to McCluskey’s belligerence in vetoing its UK single release, that hit never happened, something he would later regret as Top 5 hit singles were to become less automatic a year later as OMD hit something of an existential crisis.

One thing successful bands should never do is stray off their vision. But OMD listened to criticisms that their cryptic songs about inanimate objects and deceased historical figures had no relevance in fighting political injustices; of course this view was coming from journalists on a mission, who were rather hypocritically living off expense accounts and sipping cocktails in fancy hotels!

With their label Dindisc also folding, OMD were absorbed into the main Virgin Records group.

A little bit lost, McCluskey and Humphreys returned to the experimental bedroom ethos of their pre-fame VCL XI days and “got angry” with Emulators and a Sony short wave radio; the disillusionment led to the ambitious if flawed ‘Dazzle Ships’ released in March 1983.

A fractured statement on the state of the world with a conceptual approach not dissimilar to KRAFTWERK’s ‘Radio-Activity’, it was characterised by short abstract pieces which over time have mostly proved to have worked. Ironically, one that didn’t work was ‘Time Zones’, a snapshot of the world through telecommunications which outstayed its welcome by at least half a minute.

Although ‘ABC Auto-Industry’ was an amusing novelty piece that needed some accompanying performance art for it to really make sense, the sample heavy ‘Dazzle Ships (Parts II, III & VII)’ captured the tension of an underwater battle while ‘Radio Prague’ symbolised the spectre of The Cold War, a theme that would be explored within a Germanic pop context, crossing NEU! with KRAFTWERK on the magnificent ‘Radio Waves’.

Utilising a similar manic pace, ‘Genetic Engineering’ possessed a fistful of energy and a typewriter in a combination that was first heard on ENO’s ‘China My China’, while ‘Telegraph’ was a far more vicious if metaphoric attack on TV evangelism and religious cults than ‘Blasphemous Rumours’ by DEPECHE MODE ever was…

Salvaged from earlier B-sides, ‘The Romance Of The Telescope’ and ‘Of All The Things We Made’ highlighted the shortfall in material but their inclusion was justified by their serene quality, but they were significantly not the best tracks on ‘Dazzle Ships’.

Echoing the bassline movements of JOY DIVISION’s ‘Atmosphere’ and laced with mournful Emulator strings, the solemn but beautiful ‘Silent Running’ offered a perfect metaphor for misguided neutrality. Most harrowing though was the news report about “a young girl from Nicaragua whose hands had been cut off at the wrists by the former Somoza guards…” that began the waltz-driven ‘International’ with McCluskey’s anger about economic corruption, political hypocrisy and torture in captivity still sadly relevant today.

Although savaged by critics on its initial release and ultimately resetting the course of OMD, this nautical adventure has now been reassessed by many as a lost work of genius. It’s not quite that, but it is certainly a much better album than it was originally perceived to be.

Their Dindisc Records boss Carol Wilson said that McCluskey and Humphreys “didn’t know whether they wanted to be JOY DIVISION or ABBA!”, summing up their awkward but ultimately rewarding musical ethos. However, after the commercial failure of ‘Dazzle Ships’, OMD headed to the Caribbean and then Hollywood which brought them American singular success with ‘If You Leave’ before imploding after a US tour opening for DEPECHE MODE in 1988.

And while McCluskey maintained sporadic success with the OMD brand for a number of years, it would take a reunion with Humphreys and 2013’s ‘English Electric’ to deliver a body of work that was equal to this wonderful quartet of albums.

With regards OMD’s continuing appeal today, Mal Holmes said “The reason why we’re here is because the first three albums were f***ing great”, although he could be forgiven for not being a total fan of ‘Dazzle Ships’ having only played on three of its tracks!

Despite artists as varied as Vince Clarke, Steve Hillage, Moby, Darren Hayes and James Murphy all publically expressing their admiration for OMD over the years and synth riffs from these four classic albums being appropriated by acts as diverse as INXS, LEFTFIELD, LADYTRON and MARINA & THE DIAMONDS, some commentators have complained they could not be taken as seriously as say DEPECHE MODE, because they were not dark enough.

The death of over 100,000 people by nuclear attack and the brutal execution of a teenage girl can hardly be considered lightweight; now there are not many artists that can claim to have had worldwide hit singles about those very topics!

OMD’s ultimate legacy was to successfully combine warm catchy synth melodies and infectious technologically framed rhythms with harsh subject matter in a manner that worked on many levels. Beyond any standard pop convention, this was something that was and still is quite unique.


‘Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark’, ‘Organisation’, ‘Architecture & Morality’ and ‘Dazzle Ships’ are released as Half Speed Abbey Road vinyl remasters by Universal Music on 2nd November 2018

http://www.omd.uk.com/

https://www.facebook.com/omdofficial/

https://twitter.com/OfficialOMD

https://www.instagram.com/omdhq/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
17th September 2018

On Tour with TINY MAGNETIC PETS

Releasing their first album in 2010, it’s been a steady path of progression for TINY MAGNETIC PETS.

It was helped along by an endorsement from The Blitz Club’s legendary DJ Rusty Egan, where the Numan-eqsue ‘Control Me’ and the dreampop of ‘We Shine’ were regular staples of his Electronic Family Tree radio show. But when ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK introduced TINY MAGNETIC PETS to Andy McCluskey in Düsseldorf at the 2015 Electri_City_Conference , little did anyone realise what it would lead to.

The end result was the charming Irish trio were invited to open for OMD on the UK leg of ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’ tour. However, the sojourn actually began at home in Dublin; “we had a massive crowd and following there” remembered singer Paula Gilmer, “the reaction was incredible”. But to get to this point, months of logistical planning and rehearsal had been required.

The band’s gear was kept streamlined as they were using nothing more than a 4 door hatchback with a flux capacitor on their UK jaunt. Also, the band had just 30 minutes each night to make their impression.

“When you do a tour like this” drummer Eugene Somers says, “you have to be aware of your time slot and that you’re on / you’re off! With this tour, it was going to be electronics all the way. The kit is basically an SPD-SX, you have to compromise”. It looks like a tea tray, but cranked up through OMD’s sound system, it is mighty.

On the keyboard front, synthesist Sean Quinn has had to strip it all down to a Roland XP10 workstation and a Novation which he enthuses as being “a fantastic workhorse of a synth, it’s quick and easy and has Moog sounds, ARPs, string machines”.

This set-up makes things easier at soundchecks which can be tedious and frustrating affairs. At the Cambridge Corn Exchange, things go reasonably well but Eugene is not happy about a slapback on his bass drum.

After a quick discussion with sound engineer Chicky Reeves, a solution is offered and accepted. Luckily as the band are using an electronic kit, the adjustment is much more straightforward. Eugene could be referred to as a colours drummer, much like OMD sticksman Stuart Kershaw and the pair bond well during the tour.

A bit of a reggae fan, Eugene is heavily influenced by Stewart Copeland and his subtle style adds power when appropriate. He is a drummer that actually enhances an electronic band, unlike the numbskull antics of Christian Eigner, the polarising drumhead for DEPECHE MODE.

For Paula, things are less complicated with her not needing to set-up or clear-up equipment; “Mine’s easiest” she laughs, “just the tambourine”. But she works closely with the band’s manager Una Fagan on the business side and as the pretty face of the band, she is the first to go and meet the public after TMP’s and OMD’s performances.

While the soundcheck is in progress, Una is liaising with OMD’s tour manager about catering arrangements while also completing PRS forms.

A vital source of income for live acts, some bands don’t even bother registering and it’s a testament to TINY MAGNETIC PETS’ professionalism that they have taken this aspect seriously. At dinner, the band sit with the crew and OMD’s Martin Cooper. Sean gets distracted by an amusing conversation that Eugene and the crew are having about embarrassing albums in their collections.

Earlier, Sean and Eugene had a fierce but friendly discussion in the dressing room about whether being a fan of YES and MUSE was mutually exclusive! Paula doesn’t get involved, saving her voice and disappearing into her own space in preparation for the show after having her salad.

TINY MAGNETIC PETS are treated well by OMD and their crew. However, this is not always been the case with support acts on tours with other major acts. One artist wasn’t spoken to by the headliner, while the crew blanked them on the tour bus. They were even asked to reduce the number of items they had for sale on the merchandise stand.

Luckily, there’s no such issues for TINY MAGNETIC PETS; Una chats with the merchandise personnel about positioning their items to the right of the stand next to a lobby area where Paula, Sean and Eugene can meet and greet new fans. “It couldn’t be better. We’re really at ease and totally enjoying it” says Paula while Eugene is very happy that “They’re treating us like kings and queens”.

There is enthusiasm after TINY MAGNETIC PETS’ set at Cambridge. It has gone well and Paula’s Irish charm has won over people. “We’ve been selling a lot of CDs and vinyl” says Sean, “that’s been a surprise” while Paula adds “People have said that they’re not too into support acts but are loving us which is so lovely to hear” – even those who have chosen not to make a purchase come over to offer their positive feedback to the band.

Eugene enjoys the aftershow banter too, noting: “It’s so good to meet the fans and in turn, give it back to us. That is a key factor. There are people finding us for the first time on the day and it’s lovely compliments we’re getting”.

Between sets, a chance meeting with Paul Humphreys on the stairs backstage results in a conversation about TMP’s set. As a fan of KRAFTWERK and LA DÜSSELDORF, the OMD synth man is quite taken with ‘Semaphore’, especially its extended instrumental section which echoes ‘Europe Endless’ and ‘Rheinita’.

If SAINT ETIENNE collaborated with KRAFTWERK, TINY MAGNETIC PETS would probably be that composite end result.

But at 10 minutes long, ‘Semaphore’ takes up a third of the allotted set time but “it was always going in and it was unanimous” according to Eugene; “Apart from anything else” enthuses Sean, “it’s just a lot of fun to play live, there has to be a certain edge when you’re playing live”. ‘Semaphore’ certainly seems to be the track making the biggest impression; “People always come up to us and ask ‘what was that last song?’” says Sean, “that’s fascinating”.

Social media has picked up for TINY MAGNETIC PETS so prompt reciprocal engagement is important to build support. Twitter acts as the most straightforward live platform, while Facebook takes a bit more effort and is usually looked at after the show at the hotel. “The comments have been great on Twitter and Facebook” confirms Sean.

Throughout the tour, the all-important likes and follows come in with ease, but it’s the actual comments and feedback which make gauging reaction much easier.

TINY MAGNETIC PETS make efforts to take selfies and provide a pictorial travelogue to connect with the audience and potential media outlets. This is one aspect they have good hang of and something that other acts in the same position as them can learn from. The band usually watch OMD perform although this can be dependent on how far Una’s car has had to be parked from the venue.

A keen dancer, Paula likes to see as much of OMD performance as possible, almost as a way of unwinding; “We have watched OMD every night, it’s an amazing show. ‘The Punishment Of Luxury’ and ‘What Have We Done’ are sounding fantastic live”. Meanwhile, Sean adds: “It’s wonderful hearing these records in a live setting. I love the new album”.

It was interesting to observe that even off duty, Paula is recognised by well-wishers who come up to her during the show to compliment her on the band’s performance and her fine voice.

But she is an experienced and charismatic performer who connects well with people; “When we’re performing” she confirmed, “we like to build it up so we started with the slow, chilled back stuff and build up to the climax. We’re pushing a lot of the new stuff and it’s going down a treat”.

Their new album ‘Deluxe/Debris’ builds on the momentum of ‘The NATO Alphabet’ EP from 2016 and fittingly features ex-KRAFTWERK percussionst Wolfgang Flür on two songs ‘Radio On’ and ‘Never Alone’ with the latter, an enticing highlight of the Cambridge set.

The album has been released by Happy Robots Records, a small independent label run by Adam Cresswell.

He’d enjoyed the first album and got chatting with the band online over a shared ability to quote ‘Spinal Tap’. “They were friendly, professional and seemed to be actual music fans, which is essential in my opinion” he remembered, “so at their next London gig, I stumbled over to the lads at the bar, and asked ‘who is putting out your next album?’. And it just fell into place. I had no idea Wolfgang was going to be on the album or that they would get the OMD tour, but clearly somebody up there likes me”.

But what was been selling more, vinyl or CD?: “The plan was always to put the album out on vinyl” said the label boss, “Although expensive, it was worth it for aesthetic reasons alone. On LP it looks, sounds and feels like a classic synth pop record. It was fan pressure that talked me into pressing a CD, and on tour the CD has been selling more and that is totally understandable – you can’t stick an LP in your back pocket. But no-one anticipated the numbers we would sell and that we would be repressing before we’d hit the halfway point. The LP is still selling nicely online too”.

As the tour progresses, TINY MAGNETIC PETS continue to impress. At Southampton Guild Hall, Lorraine Brown of My Music Passion observed: “it was really special to see TMP perform on a big stage to an audience of thousands. Their set went down incredibly well and, given that I was sat on the balcony, I could see the audience were well and truly engaged and seeing so many of the audience members congratulate them on the performance afterwards was a joy”.

Meanwhile in London, their longest standing champion Rusty Egan expressed his delight: “I was very pleased to see TINY MAGNETIC PETS who proved to me and the OMD audience at the Roundhouse that their simple melodic synthpop songs with a great vocalist are winning new fans”; he was also very pleased “they also thanked me for my small part in their success”.

‘Nuntius’ star Mr Normall also reported that: “TINY MAGNETIC PETS managed to fill the floor at the Roundhouse from the start of their set and that doesn’t happen too often with support bands. I believe all the audience were not there just to see Paula on stage but the band has gained a new following with their second album ‘Deluxe/Debris’ and the gig at the Roundhouse proved that the increased popularity is rightfully earned”.

In Guildford, Chris Payne who played in GARY NUMAN’s band comes backstage to give his best wishes to TINY MAGNETIC PETS.

It is also the first time he has seen Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys since OMD opened for Numan on ‘The Touring Principle’ in 1979.

With the reunion came hearty recollections of on tour practical jokes, like when Chris sabotaged Winston The Tape Recorder on the final night at Hammersmith Odeon and how Andy still owes him a fiver!

By the time the tour reaches Glasgow and its notoriously hard-to-please crowd, it was clear the band had hit their stride. Ian Ferguson of local synthpop duo RAINLAND noted that “everyone seated around me were asking the name of the support and were impressed both by the performance and that I was on their guest list…”

As the tour reaches its end via Birmingham and Gateshead, TINY MAGNETIC PETS don’t want to go home and even have a jokey photo taken of them trying to stowaway in the back of OMD’s truck.

Undoubtedly, the last four weeks have been a success. What happens next is up to them, but whatever TINY MAGNETIC PETS do now, there are undoubtedly more people interested than there were before.

And it’s to OMD’s credit that they give new electronic acts an opportunity to play on a big stage with them.

TINY MAGNETIC PETS follow a fine tradition of acts like VILLA NAH, MIRRORS, METROLAND and VILE ELECTRODES who were all featured on ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK prior to being invited to open for OMD.

Long may that tradition continue 🙂


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to TINY MAGNETIC PETS and Una Fagan

Special thanks to Andy McCluskey, Paul Humphreys, Martin Cooper and Stuart Kershaw

‘Deluxe/Debris’ is released by Happy Robots Records as a vinyl LP, available online direct from https://www.happyrobots.co.uk/product-page/tiny-magnetic-pets-deluxe-debris-12

A selection of TINY MAGNETIC PETS’ back catalogue is available on CD and download from https://tinymagneticpets.bandcamp.com

https://www.tinymagneticpets.com

https://www.facebook.com/tinymagneticpets/

https://twitter.com/TinyMagneticPet


Text and Interviews by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Chi Ming Lai, Richard Price and Una Fagan
7th December 2017, updated 21st January 2018

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