John Fryer is the man behind many contemporary projects, which include the wonderfully ethereal MURICIDAE and the eccentric, shiny and glittering SILVER GHOST SHIMMER.
Having previously been living-in part of London’s Blackwing Studios, working with FAD GADGET, DEPECHE MODE, YAZOO, COCTEAU TWINS, THIS MORTAL COIL and NINE INCH NAILS, with such a wealth of experience, John Fryer cannot do anything else but dirty his hands in the music of “old, new and future”.
Last year saw the rise of his latest enterprise, BLACK NEEDLE NOISE, which caused a stir amongst the fans of the quirky persona with an impeccable musical eloquence.
With the release of a new song ‘Swimming Through Dreams’ featuring the vocals of Mimi Page whose voice was heard on ‘Open Page’ from the most recent DELERIUM long player ‘Mythologie’, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK is chatting to the master himself about the story of BLACK NEEDLE NOISE, its future and Fryer’s plans for world domination.
You’re globally known for working with acts spanning from DEPECHE MODE to NINE INCH NAILS, what made you decide to present your own projects to the world?
It’s been amazing working for so many talented artists and I’m very proud of all the records I’ve made over the years, but at the end of the day, you are working on their music, even though I take it very personally and treat their records as if they were my own, but nothing beats making your own art.
MURICIDAE and SILVER GHOST SHIMMER were both successful projects with in-house vocalists. BNN is different in that respect…
When I was writing for those bands and DARKDRIVECLINIC, I wrote lots of other music that didn’t really fit into their sound, so I was left with lots of songs. So I decided to go down another route and this time not have the boundaries that bands put upon you. So with BLACK NEEDLE NOISE anything goes.
The name of the project came from the sound of a stylus on a vinyl record, that certainly has a vintage reference?
Well, that is one visual point. The other one came from watching the series ‘Black Mirror’. Picture this, you take your vinyl records and melt them down into a liquid form, then you inject them into your body. Then you have the music you love to totally take over your body. To feel from the inside.
The use of various vocalists paints different soundscapes. Is that what you were planning to achieve?
Yes, each song has its own life, its own story to tell and is its own movie. Just close your eyes, drift away and let yourself get taken on many journeys.
The journey started with ‘Wild Stone’. Why did you decide to kick off with that one?
Well, the BLACK NEEDLE NOISE story started with ‘Bang Bang’, a Nancy Sinatra cover.
‘Wild Stone’ was the first song release as a collaboration and was a good jumping off point as it sounded completely different from my other three bands, DARKDRIVECLINIC, MURICIDAE and SILVER GHOST SHIMMER.
‘Before The Tears Came’ became an unusual project with songs released monthly and finally put together on an album. Is that what the master plan was?
Yes, and I’m continuing in that way so you don’t have to wait a year or two for the next album to be finished. Whenever a song is finished, it gets released. Why sit on something for a year or two before you release it. Why not just put it out?? We live in a digital age so why not use it??
Your choice of vocalists on the outing is rather eclectic. What prompted using specific artists for specific songs?
I admire all the singers I have worked with and am working with on the new songs. The only reason they have been released in that order is, I send out the music and whatever song comes back with vocals first gets mixed and released. Then, when there are enough songs, I put them together to make the album and adding a track just for the album. I will do the same for the second album too.
‘Mourning Morning’ could have been a lost Bowie piece, is that your tribute to the man?
JF: Well, no, it’s just that Andreas Elvenes has a very Bowie-esque voice and it really suited that track. ‘Dead Star’ is more of a tribute to the amazing talent of Mr David Bowie.
Some artists return more than once, what’s the reason for that?
It really depends on the songs and if the artist has time to fit another song in. BLACK NEEDLE NOISE should not become a burden to them, it should be fun. Anyway I’m really grateful and honoured for them just to sing on my music once let alone twice.
‘Bang Bang’ featured your voice and ‘I Face The Wall’ continues the trend. Did you feel like those two suited you to sing on?
Yes, I think they worked out pretty well and there will be another one on the new album in the near future.
Your shimmery touch of anything vintage adds to the songs on the production, are we to expect more of BNN in those realms?
You can expect more BLACK NEEDLE NOISE in that realm and many other realms of shimmery shiny noise pop.
Your self-confessed use of softsynths does not take away that vintage feel of the music. How is that achieved?
That is the magic of the audio alchemy and sound sculpting that goes on in my studio.
Are MURICIDAE and SILVER GHOST now retired with BNN thriving?
I would have to say probably yes, well SILVER GHOST SHIMMER for sure as Pinky no longer wants to do anything else. She made a classic album with me and now she is totally happy doing other things with her life.
Any plans to produce other acts again?
Yes of course, I’m writing with and producing someone right now and I’m always mixing songs for other artists + fitting in some new BLACK NEEDLE NOISE songs. I never stop working.
As hard as it would be to tour BNN, any DJ sets you’re planning to perform?
I would love to do more DJing but I never get asked, so if anyone one out there wants me to come and DJ. Let me know.
I want to play live with BLACK NEEDLE NOISE, it’s just figuring out how to do it and with whom. Maybe later in the year something will happen.
What’s next for BLACK NEEDLE NOISE?
The next song features Ana Breton from DEAD LEAF ECHO.
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to John Fryer
Having started his career at London’s Blackwing Studios in 1980 as an assistant engineer, JOHN FRYER had a very basic knowledge of recording technology.
Employed by Eric Radcliffe, he promptly progressed from engineering into production and became the very reason for the first two COCTEAU TWINS albums sounding as sui generis as they did.
FAD GADGET and DEPECHE MODE; freshly discovered by Daniel Miller, were two of the first acts Fryer co-engineered on a rather limited studio equipment with the pressures of time. Technology started to progress fast and Daniel Miller would often bring the newly released toys into the studio.
The second DM album, ‘A Broken Frame’, written by the newly appointed chief songwriter Martin Gore, used the likes of PPG Wave 2 and Roland TR808 amongst others. The freshly formed YAZOO, with Alison Moyet and ex-Depeche member Vince Clarke, decided to record simultaneously.
To avoid any friction between the acts, John continued at Blackwing, while Eric looked after YAZOO from his home. Fryer did work on ‘Only You’ for them however. Soon enough Fryer’s growing sound manipulation would lend itself to his side project THIS MORTAL COIL with 4AD kingpin Ivo Watts-Russell, named after Monty Python’s ‘Dead Parrot Sketch’. The idea behind the venture was to create music as collaborations with artists signed to or associated with 4AD.
Fryer continued his career in Blackwing, producing MODERN ENGLISH, DEAD CAN DANCE, THE WOLFGANG PRESS, CLAN OF XYMOX and notably HE SAID, whose track ‘Pump’ Fryer still reminisces with fondness.
He has described his time as “a blur”, having worked on multiple projects simultaneously and producing one artist after another. In ten years, he only had five days off sick and worked incredibly long hours, an example being a 36 hour session with Alison Moyet, followed by “the next band”. Outsiders thought Fryer was indeed the owner of the studio, having spent all his time there!
Nine years after the start of his love affair with Blackwing, Fryer decided to go freelance. Truth being, if an artist wanted to work with him, they would approach him anyway. And that was certainly the case with NINE INCH NAILS, Trent Reznor having admired what Fryer had done for HE SAID. Fryer proudly recalls the feeling after finishing the album’s production, upon re-playing it to NIN’s record company boss, who had thought the record was ruined.
For Fryer, the desired effect had been achieved. The production work rolled in and notable clients included HIS NAME IS ALIVE, PARADISE LOST, LUSH and THE GO-BETWEENS.
Having not been in a band as such before, in 2011 Fryer decided to head his own project DARKDRIVECLINIC. 2014 brought the hungry listener SILVER GHOST SHIMMER while in the recent months, Fryer has indulged in the softer, ethereal offerings of two MURICIDAE EPs accompanied by the LA based Louise Fraser.
With such wealth of experience, Fryer surely deserves a break. Living in Oslo, the master does not rest on his laurels however; hungry to produce, in his stripped down studio, he will no doubt work with some amazing acts again.
In the meantime, let’s imagine what a John Fryer retrospective would look like, made up from a choice of his best work as an engineer, co-producer and producer. The list is not comprehensive and the tracks are not necessarily the best songs on their respective albums, but they certainly showcase Fryer’s production and engineering skills, which evolved over the years, giving him a signature sound of his own.
With a restriction of one track per album project, here are eighteen songs choices in a Beginner’s Guide to the studio legend that is John Fryer, with additional choice commentary from the man himself.
FAD GADGET The Box (1980)
‘The Box’ was the B-side to ‘Back To Nature’, the second ever single on Daniel Miller’s Mute Records. Later appearing in re-recorded form on the magnificent ‘Fireside Favourites’ album released in 1980, interestingly enough, the vocals were recorded with Frank Tovey being uncomfortably locked up in a flight case. This was to signify the “boxed” feel of the vocals. John fondly remembers the collaboration: “Yes, Frank wanted to get a claustrophobic close sound and we just happened to have a big flight case sitting there in the live room, big enough to fit him inside. So we decided to record the vocals in the flight case to get the authentic box sound”
Available on the FAD GADGET album ‘Fireside Favourites’ via Mute Records
Not having the digital luxuries of the world we know today, ‘Speak And Spell’ was solely recorded on a 8 track tape machine, but Fryer made do with anything which came to hand, as long as it could make some sort of noise. ‘Tora! Tora! Tora!’ was one of two songs written by Martin Gore on the Vince Clarke dominated ‘Speak And Spell’. A clever love song about a decaying relationship, crying out for help, hidden within highly political lyrical content, it was fabulously intertwined in a steady beat to which Dave Gahan has performed some of his best early dances live.
Available on the DEPECHE MODE album ‘Speak & Spell’ via Mute Records
‘Leave In Silence’ was DEPECHE MODE’s sixth single. Taken from ‘A Broken Frame’, it was written by Martin Gore, who suddenly got elevated into being the band’s chief songwriter, upon Vince Clarke’s departure. After the previous pop slanted singles ‘See You’ and ‘The Meaning Of Love’, it introduced the darker, more melancholic tones of what was to be in store for DEPECHE MODE – John: “Martin took to writing like a duck to water, he always had in it him, it just had to be coaxed out of him. Once Vince had left, the new DM was born”
Available on the DEPECHE MODE album ‘A Broken Frame’ via Mute Records
From COCTEAU TWINS’ third EP ‘Sunburst & Snowblind’, the Fryer produced ‘From The Flagstones’ was recorded by Elizabeth Fraser and Robin Guthrie as a duo, after Will Heggie left the band. There was a feeling of improvisation, including Fraser’s distinctive, yet “wordless” vocals and Guthrie’s effected guitar riffs. Those two elements intertwined and went on to become the band’s signature sound on the eventual ‘Head Over Heels’ album – John: “We recorded up in Scotland where the band felt more at home. The album wasn’t improvised, it was written and we just played around with sounds and over dubs. Why do people think Liz never sang words? She sat for hours with a dictionary writing lyrics for the album, she just has a unique way of singing and phrasing, that’s all”
Available on the COCTEAU TWINS album ‘Lullabies To Violaine – Volume 1’ via 4AD Records
Originally released by TIM BUCKLEY on his 1970 album ‘Starsailor’, the song has become his most famous, mainly due to the numerous cover versions, THIS MORTAL COIL’s take being one of the most prominent. The single featuring Elizabeth Fraser and Robin Guthrie was released in 1983, peaking at No66 on the UK singles charts. Due to its cult popularity, it also spent 101 weeks on the UK Indie Charts. ‘Song To The Siren’ was included on the 1984 debut album ‘It’ll End In Tears’. None other than David Lynch appreciated the version to such an extent, he featured it on his 1997 ‘Lost Highway’ film and the first two JULEE CRUISE albums are said to be inspired by the production – John: “‘Song To The Siren’ was originally recorded as a B-side to the tracks ’16 Day’ and ‘Gathering Dust’; that was the start of the epic journey THIS MORTAL COIL went on”
Available on the THIS MORTAL COIL album ‘It’ll End In Tears’ via 4AD Records
M/A/R/R/S could be considered the ‘dance’ version of THIS MORTAL COIL, with Watts-Russell suggesting a union of COLOURBOX and AR KANE, two 4AD acts who had each suggested to him independently about making records inspired by the emerging American House scene. Engineering the sessions, Fryer found himself an unwilling referee between the conflicting factions. So the two parties worked separately with the COLOURBOX led ‘Pump Up The Volume’ coming out on top in white label club trials. With Fryer utilising an Akai MPC / S900 combination for the programming plus scratch effects by DJs CJ Macintosh and Dave Dorrell, the rest became history…
Available on the compilation album ‘Pump Up The Volume’ (V/A) via Universal Music
With THIS MORTAL COIL, the likes of Elizabeth Fraser, Gordon Sharp, Tanya Donelly, Heidi Berry and Lisa Gerrard were recruited amongst others, to perform either cover versions or original material. However, much of the latter comprised of enigmatic instrumentals steered by Fryer and Watts-Russell. A good example was ‘Acid, Bitter & Sad’ which featured the abstract vocals of Alison Limerick and turned up on the ‘Lonely Is An Eyesore’ compendium. The three studio albums that surfaced from the project ‘It’ll End In Tears’, ‘Filigree & Shadow’ and ‘Blood’ were all highly acclaimed. The idea continued as THE HOPE BLISTER with Louise Rutkowski on vocals for two albums before Watts-Russell retired from the music industry in 1999.
Available on the compilation album ‘Lonely Is An Eyesore’ (V/A) via 4AD Records
‘Sin’ was the third single from the critically acclaimed NINE INCH NAILS’ debut LP ‘Pretty Hate Machine’ which achieved triple platinum certification in 2003, having sold three million copies in the US alone. Still a live favourite, ‘Sin’ peaked at number 35 in the UK Singles Chart in 1990. The song’s sexual connotations are clearly portrayed in its video, which features the “Short” remix of the track. Fryer engineered, mixed and produced the song and fondly remembers working on the album, which went to become a huge commercial success – John: “‘PHM’ was a slow burner, it took a while for it to catch on but once it did, there was no stopping it or the band…”
Available on the NINE INCH NAILS album ‘Pretty Hate Machine’ via Island Records
Led by Mike Edwards, JESUS JONES’ ‘Right Here, Right Now’ was released in September 1990 and peaked at No31 in the UK Charts at the height of the indie dance ‘baggy’ craze. However in the US, it went to No2 in the Billboard Hot 100. Inspired by the Russian Perestroika changes, as well as other events in Eastern Europe, the tune is still used in adverts and video games alike – John: “Mike had a unique approach to writing pop music, it was great to work with him on that album. Great poptastic record”
Available on the JESUS JONES album ‘Doubt’ via Food Records
Remixed by Stephen Hague, ‘Falling Down’ appeared on the band’s EP ‘Freefall’ and Fryer-produced LP ‘Whirlpool’. The band was placed into “Shoegazing” genre, a name invented by NME and Melody Maker describing the performance style based on being not engaged with the audience and simply “staring downwards at their shoes”. Of course, this could have been the outcome of constantly looking downwards while using the effects pedals! John: “The NME has been great at making up labels for types of music. CHAPTERHOUSE was, and still is a live awesome band. The first thing the band did on starting the recordings, was take off their shoes…”
Available on the CHAPTERHOUSE album ‘Whirlpool’ via Cherry Red Records
From their album ‘Blow’, it was the only record SWALLOW put out on 4AD. Sometimes described as part of the Shoegazing genre, the Camberwell based band came together in 1990. ‘Blow’ was later remixed by the band itself, breaking down the Fryer production and releasing it under the name of ‘Blowback’. Louise Trehy and Mike Mason joined forces with Rough Trade Records afterwards to release ‘Hush’ EP before disbanding – John: “I don’t really know why they were called shoegaze, they should be called more art-gaze, more of an arty CURVE”
Available on the SWALLOW album ‘Blow’ via 4AD Records
‘Join Me In Death’ was from the band’s second album out in 1999 ‘Razorblade Romance’. It was also released as ‘Join Me’ in the US, as they were not able to use the word “death” in the title. Although the song’s title provoked widespread controversy, it has become the fifteenth best-selling song in Finland and was used in the European version of the soundtrack for ‘The Thirteenth Floor’. There are four versions of the song’s video and a vague ‘Romeo & Juliet’ theme was also associated to the song – John: “Yes, they had a lot of trouble in the US with the lyrical content for this album. The Americans thought it was a lawsuit waiting to happen with all the teenage suicides and shootings at school, but it was just a romantic love album”
Available on the HIM album ‘Razorblade Romance’ via BMG Finland
‘10,000 Watts’ was positively received by critics and audiences alike, mainly thanks to aggressive vocals by Victor Love. The parent ‘Neuromance’ album was backed up with numerous festival appearances and sold out in no time. Victor Love has always praised John Fryer’s style of production, admitting his technical knowledge had improved drastically upon working with the magic maker – John: “Pop music comes in various forms and this was another one of them. Victor knows how to write a great pop song and give it a provocative edge”
Available on the DOPE STARS INC album ‘Neuromance’ via Trisol Music Group
‘Methods Of Chaos’ was from the 2006 album of the same title in Spanish ‘Metodos Del Caos’. RABIA SORDA has been described as a gentler version of Erk Aicrag’s other project, Mexican Hardfloor legends HOCICO. The word “gentler” needs to be used with care, however, as to a standard listener, it is aggressive, loud and violent. RABIA SORDA’s style is characterised by a very industrial goth sound that has been hugely popular in his native Mexico and Europe – John: “I liked working with Erk and it’s a shame we aren’t working together any longer. He makes interesting kinda industrial pop music and is a very nice guy , I would love to work with him again”
Available on the RABIA SORDA album ‘Metodos Del Caos’ via Out Of Line Records
ASHBURY HEIGHTS Derrick Is A Strange Machine (2007)
From the critically acclaimed ‘Three Cheers For The Newlydeads’ in 2007, the Swedish duo has come through many changes, including disbanding and returning; this record remains one of their best however. ASHBURY HEIGHTS were hailed around 2006 as the hottest newcomers onto the electronic music scene, having played the big German and Swedish festivals. They have remixed endless amounts of artists including RABIA SORDA, AESTHETIC PERFECTION, GOD MODULE, and SPACEBUOY as well as many others – John: “ASHBURY HEIGHTS should have gone on to be one of the biggest electronic bands around with their super slick pop sound. It was a joy to work with them”
Available on the ASHBURY HEIGHTS album ‘Three Cheers For The Newlydeads’ via Out Of Line Records
‘Silhouettes’ was released a year after Fryer started collaborating with STRIPMALL ARCHITECTURE vocalist Rebecca Coseboom. Ethereal and textured, yet a catchy pop tune, it stands out on the ‘Noise In My Head’ album production. On this record, Fryer decided to be personally involved in a band member’s capacity, giving it celestial and sublime endorsement, and that certainly comes across – John: “‘Noise In My Head’ is the culmination of 25 years of work. It had been worked on over that time in-between producing other people’s records, but it was something I really wanted and needed to do for myself”
Available on the DARKDRIVECLINIC album ‘Noise In My Head’ via Metropolis Music
‘Soft Landing’ was released on 30th October 2014 to launch his “over the pond” collaboration with über talented LA based vocalist Pinky Turzo. This twinkling gem, which opens the album of the same title, is hints at the 1962 hit by JAY & THE AMERICANS ‘She Cried’. The songs on ‘Soft Landing’ can be easily described as a marriage of Dave Gahan’s solo projects and Alison Goldfrapp’s vocals, with the song itself being a masterpiece and a proud moment for Fryer. September 2015 will see gigs from Fryer and Turzo showcasing ‘Soft Landing’ to the hungry audiences – John: “The ‘Soft Landing’ album is more of a homage to the girl groups of the sixties. We wanted to marry that vocal sound of the girl groups to my electronic noise pop and I think we succeeded, in my opinion anyway”
Available on the SILVER GHOST SHIMMER download album ‘Soft Landing’ via Silver Ghost Shimmer
‘Strange’ comes from Fryer’s latest EP with Louise Fraser, an LA based vocalist. An exquisite continuation from the first EP entitled ‘Tales From A Silent Ocean’, the production on ‘Strange’ cunningly resembles Alan Wilder’s (did he learn from the best?) on his RECOIL gems, yet it’s even softer and powerful, which proves why John Fryer is THE PRODUCER of now. The droplets of synth perfection are skilfully intertwined with airy vocals of Fraser, sounding almost JULEE CRUISE-like – John: “MURICIDAE is a project that I’m proud of. It compares to my roots of a 4AD sound, capturing the ambient, ethereal soundscapes and bringing them up to date with my own twists and noise”
Available on the MURICIDAE download EP ‘Tears Are Stronger Than Waves’ via Muricidae Music
It truly is amazing when one producer can cut his teeth into so many projects at the same time and turn out superb gems at the highest level.
John Fryer has gone and done just that.
If it wasn’t enough that earlier this year we were treated to his first EP under the MURICIDAE umbrella with LA based Louise Fraser, floatingly titled ‘Tales From A Silent Ocean’, which has been highly critically acclaimed upon its release in April; Fryer comes back and provides the hungry listener with a production easily knocking anything else back from the pedestal.
Having treated his audiences to the ‘Soft Landing’ LP with Pinky Turzo as SILVER GHOST SHIMMER not that long ago and which has easily topped any recent release, the genius plates up ‘Tears Are Stronger Than Waves’ only three months after its predecessor.
Well known for having worked with the likes of COCTEAU TWINS, FAD GADGET, DEPECHE MODE and NINE INCH NAILS, Fryer isn’t a stranger to great sounding tunes, his own projects however, are as proficient as they get. His production techniques are right up with the Alan Wilders of this world, and paired with a competent vocalist, he brings the listener measured gifts of “oceanic auralgasms” in abundance.
Track one, ‘Strange’ opens with scarce synth elements providing the perfect canvas for the most angelic voice of Fraser, evolving into a glass-like shimmering sunshine reflection on the ocean waves. With Fryer’s production mirroring RECOIL’s ‘Drifting’, it gives the impression of an unknown threat and mystery, something Wilder used to excel in on DEPECHE MODE creations.
The mood is sharply changed with the harsh guitar riffs announcing the introduction of ‘Morphine’, like pure grunge meets glam electro. Sweet, yet menacing and in your face, drugging up the receiver into begging for a shot of some more! Oh how soothing the addiction is!
‘Home’ brings back the soft, synth droplets of perfection. With OMD inspired elements eloquently performed with JULEE CRUISE-like vocals, it is the kind of tune which Badalamenti would beg for. With a further dose of uncertain melody, it is chillingly calming and fearfully relaxing. Fryer is a self-confessed ‘Twin Peaks’ fan and that fact truly shows in this magnificent tune.
The familiar notes of ‘Should I Stay’ form the fourth number. Having appeared in a slightly different format on the first EP, this superb production shows off the sweetly haunting vocal intertwined within the remarkable concoction of orchestral sounds skilfully assembled by Fryer. ‘Going Under’ concludes the production with its unusually irregular structure. An admirably gentle start with scarce strings and gentle vocal elements, bursting into an immense case of serious guitar, synth and drum mixture, twinkling over the waves of the ocean, which is “calling to me”.
John Fryer has to stop this… the overload of the good stuff is surely not healthy, or is it just what the doctor ordered? Another slinky, über elegant, yet atomic piece, bursting out at the seams of greatness, a must have for all top drawer music lovers, irrespective of the genre. John, a well-deserved holiday for you perhaps?
‘Tears Are Stronger Than Waves’ is available now as a download EP
Having produced, engineered and worked with the likes of FAD GADGET, YAZOO, COCTEAU TWINS, NINE INCH NAILS, and of course, DEPECHE MODE, the renowned John Fryer is back with another exciting project SILVER GHOST SHIMMER.
John Fryer was previously involved with THIS MORTAL COIL and DARKDRIVECLINIC, and this time he embarks on another musical journey, accompanied by Pinky Turzo, an American executive producer and co-owner of Noiselab Music.
Pinky lends her vocals on this eclectic collection with a perfect dose of filmic glamour and class.
Fryer, who recently appeared at ‘A Secret Wish’, hosted by Cold War Night Life in London, is rather proud of his latest production “inspired by the vocal groups of the 60s”. The ten tracks on ‘Soft Landing’ form a rather eccentric album, which is bound to find popularity in various musical circles, as well as Fryer’s electronica background.
The title track, which opens the album, is a homage to the 1962 hit by JAY & THE AMERICANS ‘She Cried’. The sound resembles a mixture between Dave Gahan’s solo projects and GOLDFRAPP’s ‘Head First’, with added excellent synthesis and irregular beat patterns. It is glam electronica gathered in one sexy tune and an excellent opening to this fantastic album.
‘Suffocated’ follows with the continuation of the GOLDFRAPP sounding vocals, reminiscent of the classic 1960s tunes, when a song was an actual work of art. A gentle melody, emotional weightlessness and sorrowful tonality round the track perfectly. ‘Inside My Loneliness’ continues with similar qualities, but introduces metallic sounds and trembling synth over the ethereal and cinematic vocal.
‘Happy In Your Tears’ in its singing style resembles GWEN STEFANI or early MADONNA, the dainty synth line is interspersed with a heavier sounding guitar, the production is superior and reminiscent of Alan Wilder’s.
The song is so unique, it could easily appeal to the grunge fans of SONIC YOUTH, HOLE or BABES IN TOYLAND. The feeling of unlikeness continues with ‘Not Even Fire’, with its engaging modulation and captivating resonance. Elements of vintage DEPECHE MODE can be established in the excellent sounds of this gem, prompting the question whether this album may just be the most splendid concoction of tunes we will hear this year.
‘Scattered Pearls’ musically resembles an amalgamation of poignant synthpop and classic song orchestrations, while ‘Questions That Cry’ sounds fresher and contemporary at first, just for it to emerge into a guitar dominated track which SHAKESPEARS SISTER wouldn’t be ashamed of. The vocals soft and calming are almost SHERYL CROW-like.
‘She Keeps Me Hoping’ opens with a catchy guitar riff over a super synth line and brazen lyrical content. Glistening with a shine of thousand diamonds, this glamorous track shimmers in the glitzy sparkle of those enchanting vocals by Pinky. The glamour beats of ‘Glittering Eyes & Apple Rays’ are astounding. The lustrous voices and sophisticated melody unite to form this intensive track are as original, as they are resonant of the glitzy tunes crafted by DUSTY SPRINGFIELD, SANDIE SHAW and the like.
The album closes with ‘This Mortal Shimmer’, and its title clearly with reference to John Fryer’s THIS MORTAL COIL. Floating water sounds add to the buoyant texture of this track at the onset, which swiftly continues into a heavier, elaborately “shimmer”-coated extravaganza of synth.
A baby-like voice hovers over the production with unique mixture of shyness and powerfulness alike. Tropical forest noises and church choirs may be the strangest mixture known to be used in one track, but Fryer closes the production with exactly those, which add to the eclectic nature of this record and prove his production abilities are second to none.
Could this be the album of 2015? It may possibly be. The vocals by Pinky Turzo, resembling many acclaimed songstresses, are sublime; full of soul and evoke an array of emotions. As for John Fryer himself, there is a palpable feeling that himself and the Alan Wilders of this world, are magic-makers, when it comes to the production and finishing of an album. The eloquent use of synths adds to the project, making it very desirable to any fan of electronica, yet a gem like that will have a much wider appeal. Any pop, glamour rock or even soft grunge fanatic will positively respond to this album. Hardly surprising, when we are dealing with the genius that produced such an array of artists, including ASHBURY HEIGHTS, LUSH, CLAN OF XYMOX, HE SAID or WIRE.
If you missed John Fryer at his London DJ set in April, owning this album is a must, satisfaction is fully guaranteed with this one.
‘Soft Landing’ is self-released and available now via the usual digital outlets
JOHN FRYER is the renowned producer, engineer and musician who was also a member of THIS MORTAL COIL.
He cut his teeth with Daniel Miller and Eric Radcliffe at the legendary Blackwing Studios co-engineering the first recordings of FAD GADGET. Fryer achieved mainstream success when he was asked to co-engineer a fledgling synthesizer band who had just signed to Mute Records. That band was of course DEPECHE MODE and he was involved in their run of Top 40 singles between ‘New Life’ and ‘Leave In Silence’.
Fryer also co-engineered YAZOO’s debut long player ‘Upstairs At Eric’s’. He soon used his engineering experience to become a producer in his own right, working with COCTEAU TWINS, MODERN ENGLISH, SWANS and NINE INCH NAILS. Simultaneously, he was also the only constant along with 4AD founder Ivo Watts-Russell in the musical art collective THIS MORTAL COIL who featured Elizabeth Fraser, Lisa Gerrard and Alison Limerick among its highly regarded cast of guest vocalists.
He also recorded with STRIPMALL ARCHITECTURE singer Rebecca Coseboomas as DARKDRIVECLINIC, releasing an album ‘Noise In My Head’ in 2011.
His latest project is SILVER GHOST SHIMMER with vocalist Pinky Turzo, the sound of which is described as “inspired from the vocal groups of the 60s like THE SHANGRI-LAS with a twist of Glamour and Decay to their Sugar Coated Noise Pop Couture”.
Fryer will be making appearance at ‘A Secret Wish’ on SUNDAY 19TH APRIL 2015 in London with a special DJ set that will cover the range of his work for 4AD and Mute.
JOHN FRYER kindly chatted to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about his varied career and what he may have in store for his DJ set at ‘A Secret Wish’…
How did you first become acquainted with recording synthesizers?
Well, that’s an easy question, as soon as I walked through door of the studio for my 1st recording sessions, as it was Daniel Miller making a SILICON TEENS song.
You first become known co-engineering FAD GADGET with Eric Radcliffe. What are your memories of being in the studio with Frank Tovey and do you have any particular favourite tracks of his?
It was great working with Fad (Frank) even though he was making electronic music; he had a punk ethos, so anything goes. One of my best memories of Fad was, he was doing a song called ‘The Box’ and he wanted to have a claustrophobic vocal sound, so we recorded him in a box (well, a flight case) to get the boxy close sound.
What did you think when you were first presented with DEPECHE MODE by Daniel Miller?
They were four very shy guys and Daniel thought they were the future of synth pop, and he was right.
The sounds on the ‘Speak & Spell’ album sit neatly within the mix. Did they require much treatment or did you get the opportunity to give feedback and suggestions to Daniel or Vince as they programmed?
‘Speak & Spell’ was made on a 8 track tape machine, so lot of tracks had to be recorded together onto one track, or bounced together once they had been recorded, we didn’t have the luxury of what you had today in the digital world. So a lot of time and careful planning had to go into the recordings.
What was your own preferred or most flexible synthesizer during your time at Blackwing Studios?
That’s a hard question, but one of my favourite things was the sampler when it came out, as it opened up so many new doors of how to record and anything that made a noise became a new instrument.
By ‘A Broken Frame’, the equipment became more sophisticated with things like the PPG Wave 2, Simmons drums and Roland TR808. What were those like to work with?
Technology was moving so fast in the 80s and it was great to be working with Daniel Miller, because as soon as there was a new synth or drum machine out, Daniel would bring it into the studio.
I remember Daniel driving out to Roger Linn’s place to pick up one of the first Linn Drum Machines so we could use it on the album.
You also co-engineered YAZOO’s ‘Upstairs at Eric’s’ at around the same time, how different was this compared to working with DEPECHE MODE? Did you get embroiled in any of the tensions at the time?
It was so different working with Vince and Depeche. Vince wanted to go super pop, he wanted to be the new ABBA and Depeche now with Martin writing wanted to go darker. They both wanted to record at the same time and it was best they were kept apart, so Eric decided to make a new studio in his house for Vince, hence ‘Upstairs at Eric’s’. Why it was called upstairs I don’t know, as the studio was on the ground floor?? I stayed working at Blackwing with the other three.
You went on to produce COCTEAU TWINS, as a well being a member of THIS MORTAL COIL. How were you achieving those ethereal textures that were predominantly sourced from using guitars rather than synths?
By the time 4AD started using the studio on a regular basis, the AMS RMX16 Digital Reverb had been made and it became my trade mark sound on the 4AD records. As for guitar sounds, a lot of the sounds come from Boss Pedals, so everything was saturated with FXs so you couldn’t really hear the source sound and had no idea if it was keyboards or guitar. Still doing the same today…
Did Elizabeth Fraser have any vocal techniques that presented an interesting challenge for you as a producer?
No, Elizabeth is a great singer, no problem with her voice… it’s just that she was so shy, it was painful to see her struggling with her shyness at times, but once she started singing everything was fine.
You co-produced on NINE INCH NAILS’ debut long player ‘Pretty Hate Machine’. What was Trent Reznor like to work with and was that focus and single minded determination that he is known for now, present in him even then?
It was great working with Trent, we had fun pushing the envelope. We tried to make the album as hard as possible at the time of recording.
We were very proud of the sound of the record and couldn’t wait to play it to the head of the label (Steve Gottlieb) when he came by the studio.
After listening to the play back of the album, his face was full of horror and his mouth was wide open and all he could say was, “you have ruined this record” so we were super happy with that… job well done.
Which recordings that you have worked on, are you most proud and why?
Well of course, my album by DARKDRIVECLINIC and my soon-to-be released album by SILVER GHOST SHIMMER, you can check out our new video of ‘Soft Landing’ on Youtube….
What can people expect from your DJ set at ‘A Secret Wish’?
It will be a pimped up set of 4AD and Mute tracks like you’ve never heard them before, and the only way you can hear the tracks like this is when I DJ them.
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives it grateful thanks to JOHN FRYER
With additional thanks to Simon Helm at Cold War Night Life
JOHN FRYER will be appearing at ‘A Secret Wish’ hosted by Cold War Night Life on SUNDAY 19TH APRIL 2015 at The Lexington, 96-98 Pentonville Road, London N1 9JB. Playing live will be SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN and VILE ELECTRODES.