Tag: Soft Cell (Page 2 of 11)

Vintage Synth Trumps with DAVE BALL

Although he began with a Fender Telecaster, twin stylus Stylophone and second hand Akai reel-to-reel tape recorder to compose primitive ambient experiments, when a young Dave Ball bought a MiniKorg 800DV duophonic synthesizer, he never looked back.

On his first day as a fresher on the Fine Art degree at Leeds Polytechnic, he asked for directions from a second year student wearing a leopard skin printed shirt and gold lame jeans; that student was Marc Almond and the pair were make history as SOFT CELL…

Over four decades on, SOFT CELL have proved to be one of the most influential electronic pop acts ever with BRONSKI BEAT, PET SHOP BOYS, FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD, PSYCHE, NINE INCH NAILS and even DEPECHE MODE owing more than a debt of gratitude to Messrs Almond and Ball for the doors they opened. During their imperial Some Bizzare phase between 1981-1982, SOFT CELL scored no less than five Top4 UK hit singles with ‘Tainted Love’, ‘Bedsitter’, ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’, ‘Torch’ and ‘What’ in little more than 12 months.

After SOFT CELL first disbanded in 1984, Marc Almond would go onto long and varied solo career while Dave Ball found success as a member of the dance duo THE GRID with Richard Norris. Almond and Ball would reunite to co-write three songs for the former’s ‘Tenement Symphony’ album, but a full SOFT CELL reunion would not take place until 2001. A comeback album ‘Cruelty Without Beauty’ was released in 2002 supported by extensive touring but behind the scenes, tensions were lingering. Following Marc Almond’s near-fatal motorcycle accident in 2003, the pair did not speak for many years.

But in 2018, SOFT CELL surprised the world by announcing what was intended to be a final concert at London’s O2 Arena. Having also recorded an excellent new single ‘Northern Lights’ b/w ‘Guilty Cos I Say You Are’, the special magic between Almond and Ball could not be denied. In 2022, their fifth SOFT CELL studio album ‘*Happiness not included’ was released with a number of its songs having been previewed during the duo’s 2021 live celebration of their debut album, now released as the concert film ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret… And Other Stories: Live’.

However, Dave Ball was to have his own brush with mortality, spending part of 2022 in intensive care in a London hospital after seriously damaging his lower vertebrae. Placed in an induced coma, he had to miss SOFT CELL’s North American concert dates. Steadily regaining his health and fitness, Dave Ball is vowing to be on top form again for SOFT CELL’s series of outdoor live shows in 2023.

And it was a chipper Dave Ball who accepted ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s invitation to chat over a round of Vintage Synth Trumps and talk about SOFT CELL’s past, present and future…

So the first Vintage Synth Trumps card is an EMS VCS3…

The first time I saw one of those was Brian Eno using one with ROXY MUSIC and Dave Brock from HAWKWIND had one as well. So there’s a few legendary rock stars that have had them but I’ve never actually owned one. I had a quick play with one once at Guildford University, they have a big music college there so had a Moog System 55 and a VCS3. I was messing around with all the little pins and making weird echoey noises. I’ve always wanted to have one, they look like a lot of fun!

The next card by coincidence is the EMS Synthi AKS which is the compact suitcase version of the VCS3…

These EMS synths are the sort of synths I dream about, I’ve seen them but had no experience recording with them. I always get these two mixed up though, they were based in Putney weren’t they? I think there’s someone still making them but the originals cost a fortune and go for thousands now.

How do you feel about these remake synths, like the Korg ARP Odyssey which you have used live?

I think they’re alright y’know, I’ve got a Behringer 2600, that sounds pretty good… the one that I’m interested in at the moment is a rack mounted Wasp remake which they’ve done. There’s a connection to EMS isn’t there?

Yeah, Chris Huggett who did the original EDP Wasp worked on the Akai S1000 alongside David Cockerell who was at EMS…

…so I’ve bought one, they look like a lot of fun and I really like the sound of them as well. It actually sounded like a wasp, really thin and nasty! *laughs*

You were using the new Korg ARP Odyssey for basslines like on the live version of ‘The Art Of Falling Apart’ that is featured on the ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret…And Other Stories: Live’ film, how you find it compared to the Korg Synthe-Bass SB100 or other synths like the Minimoog?

A lot of the stuff live is programmed to computer and I’m just beefing things up and adding to them. I do like the Korg ARP Odyssey, it’s got a very distinct sound. When I hear one of those, I always think of Billy Currie, especially the early ULTRAVOX stuff, he got that machine sounding fantastic. Also, a lot of early KRAFTWERK videos, you see one as well. That famous ‘Tomorrow’s World’ clip, they had a Minimoog and an Odyssey. I’ve never actually played an original authentic Odyssey so I wouldn’t be able to compare although the keys are smaller… I just take it as what it is. It IS a Korg version.

How do you find those small keys cos you’re a big fella? *laughs*

Yeah, I’ve got big fingers but I’m quite nifty with them. At home when I’m just messing about, I sometimes use one of those Akai MPK things and they have little keys on them. You get used to them and I’m quite nimble with my big fingers! *laughs*

So with the ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret…And Other Stories: Live’ film, what are your memories of those shows and revisiting material like ‘Entertain Me’, ‘Chips On My Shoulder’, ‘Seedy Films’ and ‘Secret Life’ which hadn’t been aired in concert since 1982?

It was great because I’m not in the habit of listening to my old material at all, but as I knew the shows were coming up, I had to check the first album again. It was really refreshing to hear it and listen to how much we’ve changed and stuff. But what was really good about doing the shows was for a lot of people who have great memories of that album, it was the first time they’d ever heard us live, so I think it was great for them to hear the whole album being done live. It was actually the first time we’d done it, we’d never performed the album in its entirety in sequence before.

When we first made it, we used some of the tracks off it but not all of them. It was good to hear it as a whole peace. We are thinking of maybe doing the same thing with ‘The Art Of Falling Apart’, cos that could be quite a good show because a lot of people really love that album as well…

I think that would be a brilliant idea Dave…

We’ve got quite a few possibilities and options after these upcoming outdoor shows and ‘Let it Rock’… is it called ‘Let It Rock’?

It’s called ‘Let’s Rock’ but I do think is the weirdest possible name for a heritage pop festival brand… *laughs*

‘Let’s Rock’, it sounds it could be SHOWADDYWADDY on the bill! *laughs*

Yes! EXACTLY! That’s my point! It’s easy to understand the brand concepts of ‘Rewind’, ‘Here & Now’ and ‘Forever Young’, but ‘Let’s Rock’ when there’s no rock? It is head scratching but they are doing the business…

I’d never heard of them until we were approached… my only problem at the moment with playing gigs is my mobility; I’ll probably have to use a wheelchair to get on stage! It doesn’t really matter because I sit down when I play anyway. So getting on and off stage is my only primary concern at the moment, never mind the 10,000 people that are going to be watching us! Once I’m on stage and I’m locked in, so long as I don’t start wheeling backwards, I’ll be fine! *chuckles*

Here’s another card, and it’s an Oberheim OBXa…

There were two schools, those who went for the OBX and people like me who went for the Prophet 5, it was a very similar sort of synth in terms of the way it worked and the polyphony of it but I was always a Prophet 5 man. But I did buy an Oberheim DMX drum machine which was part of that kit series that included the DSX sequencer and OBX.

Was the DMX more cost effective than the LinnDrum?

When we recorded ‘The Art Of Falling Apart’, we used the Linn 1, the Linn 2 and the DMX so it wasn’t to do with cost, it was just sonics. The Linn was a better machine in terms of it being easier to trigger with a click track, whereas the DMX wasn’t quite as simple, but it was being used on a lot of early hip-hop and electro records so I liked the sound of it more, it was a bit more punchy I thought.

Here’s something I’ve always wanted to ask you Dave, you used the Synclavier on the first two albums but bought a PPG Wave 2.2 for ‘This Last Night In Sodom’, so why did you pick that over the Synclavier or Fairlight?

This was to do with price! I never bought the sequencer for the PPG though because I always used to play everything by hand. I liked the sound of it, it was a big machine and I wanted something that sounded quite modern and metallic. The Fairlight and Synclavier had dated by then and everybody had used them on everything, so it was nice to break away from that really.

So no Fairlight, no Synclavier, that album was PPG and the DMX although my favourite drum machine would probably be the Roland TR808 out of all of them. That’s the one we used on the first album, I think we got one of the first ones off the production line. Mike Thorne also had it when we got to New York, he had a Synclavier and TR808 set-up ready to go so that was great, so we didn’t do it totally fresh *laughs*

The next card I’ve pulled out is a Roland Juno 60 and I know you used this at the O2 show in 2018…

I had one for a short while, a friend had one second-hand so I got it off him. The thing about all Roland synths is they all have a fantastic sound, you can’t really beat them. Gary Barnacle who plays sax for SOFT CELL, he has a Roland Jupiter 8 in mint condition and he said the asking price for them now is £30,000 which is crazy! I wouldn’t pay that even though it’s a wonderful synth, I might give you three and a half grand! *laughs*

How do you feel about the software emulations of these classic synths?

They’re not bad, because it’s electronic sound, it’s easier to emulate that than it is a natural sound. The drum sounds, they’ve got nailed. The thing about the original synths is the oscillators, sometimes they drift a bit and you get that lovely fadey thing, but they’ve probably got that built into some of these reproduction VST plug-ins so that they drift in amongst themselves.

‘Monoculture’ was the launch single off the first comeback album ‘Cruelty Without Beauty’ in 2002, so had your approaches to making music for SOFT CELL changed by then?

‘Monoculture’ was sort of conceived for live and mixing purposes, I made it so that it was the same tempo as ‘Memorabilia’ and it’s in the same key. So when we used to start the show with ‘Memorabilia’, it would segue straight into ‘Monoculture’, it was almost like a DJ mix to get everybody dancing with the same groove on a familiar and new track. It was a looking backwards and facing forwards kind of thing, looking back at what we’d done before and projecting what we were going to do next, recreating our own past in a way, future retro, whatever you want to call it *chuckles*

The show saw the premiere of songs from ‘*Happiness Not Included’, one of them was ‘Purple Zone’ and at Hammersmith Apollo, PET SHOP BOYS were in attendance…

On the second night at Hammersmith, we knew that PET SHOP BOYS were on the guest list so I told Marc, he was like “oh great” and pretended to be nervous as they had front row seats. Funnily enough, they were sitting next to Richard Norris, my other half in THE GRID… he said they were taking loads of photographs which is quite flattering *laughs*

After the show, my manager Chris Smith came to say that Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe were backstage and did I want to say hello? I did of course, but Marc doesn’t stay around at gigs and he’d already gone, so they came into my dressing room and we had a few beers. We chatted for about an hour and they asked about ‘Purple Zone’; Chris Smith then enthusiastically suggested to them about doing a remix and they were like “Yeah! We’d love to do it”.

Neil then asked if he could sing on it and I thought that would be fantastic so we let them do what they do best. They came back with the PET SHOP BOYS version of SOFT CELL. Neil and Marc’s voices work so well together and it was a really good record for both PET SHOP BOYS and SOFT CELL, the profile we got, I think it was the most played record on radio at the time and it No1 in various dance charts and No7 in the Music Sales chart, whatever that means. It did us all a lot of favours and a lot of good.

But then…

The weird thing was that while that was all going on, I was in hospital. Normally if I got this kind of news, I’d be out with my mates celebrating with champagne… but not in hospital I’m afraid! Chris Lowe had been chatting to me after the gig about how it was going to be a weird year in pop in 2022! I thought “what does he mean?”, but it turned out to be a weird year for me! So it was like having a third year of lockdown! But I’m out and on the loose again, not quite on the streets yet but I’m raring to go! I’ve not quite got my dancing shoes on yet! *laughs*

Another card and it’s an OSCar, I don’t know if you’ve ever used one?

No, a friend of mine had one of those, it had a great cutting sound but the designed was quite weird wasn’t it, it looked like a bit of Lego! They’re very sought after those, I don’t know much about them, most of the synths you’ve picked out, I’ve never actually owned! That’s quite remarkable really *laughs*

So there’s an extended version of ‘*Happiness not included’ coming out later this year entitled ‘*Happiness now extended’?

Yes, this was done in my absence, so I can’t take any responsibility for the artistic input for it. In the past, we used to do the longer version first and then edit it down; so this is kind of the other way round. For the early SOFT CELL stuff, we’d put a longer arrangement down for a 12” version.

Marc would do the vocal and ad-lib sections and then we’d get it down until we got the single. That was when we had to use razor blades and tape, we didn’t have digital editing which is so much easier. People who have grown up with digital and can just splice tracks together and move vocals around, they don’t know they’re born! *laughs*

I’m sounding like an old bloke cos I am, but it’s so much easier to do stuff now with computers. Back in the olden days, you had to do it physically. You could sort of fly things in but it was a lot more tricky.

I’m looking forward to hearing the extended version of ‘Nighthawks’ which was a stand-out on ‘*Happiness not included’… but that started as a solo track?

I put that together in my kitchen initially, I used just one Roland synth and a couple of little Korg sequencers to have these two patterns going. I then went to Warner Brothers Studio, I just recorded the MIDI off the two sequencers and tidied it all up on the Mac and re-ran it to the Roland and did various overdubs of that with different filter settings and stuff, decays, delays and what have you. There a bit of real piano reversed and I did the original voice on it.

It was just a bonus instrumental on a CD compilation for the deluxe box of my book ‘Electronic Boy’ but then Marc heard it and loved it. It was quite different to everything else, it was very sequencey. He did a vocal and got this New York drag performance artist Christeene to do this weird mad voice on it that sounds fantastic, it was very scary sounding. We kept the music and the original title ‘Nighthawks’ after the famous Edward Hopper painting that reminds you of loneliness and isolation, it’s what the original track was inspired by.

Was the stylisation of the sequencers on ‘Nighthawks’ influenced by any of your work with CABARET VOLTAIRE on ‘The Crackdown’ in 1983?

I never thought of that until you said it but I suppose it does have that CABARET VOLTAIRE static funky sequence about it, but you’re right, it is!

I don’t if you’ve heard it but there’s a remix of ‘Nighthawks’ by Chris & Cosey, I love that. When they asked for the brief, I just said “dirty disco”, I think it’s one of my favourite SOFT CELL remixes of the last period of work we’ve done, it doesn’t bear much resemblance to the original but it still sounds fantastic.

There is also going to be a ‘*Happiness now completed’ companion album featuring unreleased mixes, remixes and B-sides as well as covers of Giorgio Moroder, X-Ray Spex and Fad Gadget?

‘Back To Nature’ by Fad Gadget we did a while ago but Marc’s done a new vocal. X-Ray Spex ‘The Day The World Turned Day Glo’ was recorded with my friend Dave Chambers who has a Pro-Tools set-up at his home and we took the music over to Marc who did his vocals at Dean Street studios.

And the Giorgio Moroder thing ‘First Hand Experience Of Second Hand Love’ was recorded with Rick Mulhall, we sequenced that up at his place in Richmond; that’s the track that Marc and I always wanted to do because we’d bought the album ‘From Here To Eternity’ when it came out in 1977. We both had vinyl copies of that, with Giorgio and his wonderful bristling moustache, the dark sunglasses and curly perm on the front cover, it was a classic look for a synth wizard at the time. We’d recorded it once before with Ingo Vauk but that recording got lost, it had disappeared into the electronic ether so to speak! It’s probably on a hard drive in a skip! Who knows? *laughs*

Marc suggested we should do it again, it’s such a great song and a perfect one for SOFT CELL. Marc did the lead vocals and Philip Larsen did the vocoder bit as I was not able to attend. I think it sounds great, my manager Chris Smith said they’d sent a copy to Giorgio Moroder’s office in Los Angeles so we’re just waiting to see if we get a thumbs up from Da Maestro. Hopefully, he’ll be pleased that we’ve covered one of his songs.

OK, we’ve got your final Vintage Synth Trumps card and it’s a Powertran Transcendent 2000…

I know that JOY DIVISION had one which Bernard Sumner built from a kit, the synth sounds they had were fantastic, very haunting and I really liked that. My only experience of this was a guy at my art college bought one, but he made it into an art piece! He built it but had taken off the original control panel and drilled out a new one that was made of Perspex. He put all the knobs back on so there was no way you knew what any of them did! Then he had it wall-mounted with two speakers and set up a basic sinewave tone and it was up to the person looking at it to twiddle a knob and see what it did, it was like Dada synth and totally random, it was brilliant!

Was there ever a synth you bought that didn’t meet expectations?

I bought a lot of synths in my time but all of them made at least one good sound. Even if I buy a synth and only use sound, it always pays for itself. Every synth I’ve ever bought has been used on a record. I don’t think I’ve ever really wasted money on a synth. But there was this Akai sequencer which I could never get working properly. I’ve actually had trouble with Akai sequencers before to be honest. I used to love the Akai samplers, I still have an S1100 which was a great machine but I never got on with Akai sequencers, I’ve never really liked those MPC things… I can’t get my head around the architecture, that’s probably the only time I’ve spent money and regretted it. They’re my only “bête noire” I suppose, Akai sequencers! *laughs*

What are your future plans?

I‘m working with Richard Norris on new tracks for THE GRID, we’ve put a new spin on the way we’re doing THE GRID which is sounding fantastic so very pleased about that. We’ve got no guaranteed release yet, but we’re talking to a number of record companies and things are looking positive in all that respect. We’re very excited.

In my home studio, I’ve been getting some new rough ideas for backing tracks for SOFT CELL, should there be another album. Marc seems to want to do another one and I do. I hope there may be another SOFT CELL album but you’re going to have to wait a while, it probably won’t surface until the back end of next year so it will be 2025 when it actually comes out… 2025, its sounds so futuristic that doesn’t it? *laughs*


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Dave Ball

Special thanks to Debbie Ball at Create Spark

‘*Happiness now extended’ is released on 28 July 2023 as a double vinyl LP, for tracklisting and pre-order, please visit https://www.softcell.co.uk/product/happiness-now-extended-double-black-vinyl

The companion CD edition ‘*Happiness now completed’ is also out on the same day, for tracklisting and pre-order, please visit https://www.softcell.co.uk/product/happiness-now-completed-cd

The concert film ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret… And Other Stories: Live’ is available now as a bluray or DVD with separate accompanying live soundtrack as 4LP + 2CD sets from LiveHereNow at https://liveherenow.co.uk/pages/soft-cell

SOFT CELL perform in the UK and Europe throughout Summer 2023, dates include:

Rochester Castle (7 July)**, Let’s Rock Southampton (8 July), Let’s Rock Shrewsbury (15 July), Barcelona Poble Espanyol (23 July), Saffron Walden Audley End (11 August )*, Steyning Wiston House (9 September)***

* with special guests OMD + HEAVEN 17
** with special guests PETER HOOK & THE LIGHT
*** with special guests HEAVEN 17 + ABC

Vintage Synth Trumps is a card game by GForce that features 52 classic synthesizers, available direct from
https://www.juno.co.uk/products/gforce-software-vintage-synth-trumps-2-playing/637937-01/

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https://www.instagram.com/softcellhq/

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Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Live Photos by Roger Kamp
20 May 2023, 6 July 2023

A Beginner’s Guide To MIKE THORNE

Photo by JR Host

Born in Sunderland, Mike Thorne began learning to play piano at the age of 11.  

The lessons sparked a passion for music that led to him buying a tape recorder so that he could record songs off the radio. He then studied composition at The Guildhall School of Music & Drama. But despite later graduating with a physics degree from Oxford University, the music industry was where he wanted to be. His first jobs included tape op, journalist and then A&R at EMI looking after THE SEX PISTOLS during their short tenure at the label in 1976.

This led to becoming a house record producer at EMI and his first assignment involved recording 120 saxophones playing ‘The White Cliffs Of Dover’. After recording several live albums including ‘Live at The Roxy’, Thorne got his break producing French rock band TÉLÉPHONE whose eponymous debut album went gold.

New Yorkers THE SHIRTS and the Peter Godwin fronted METRO were among those followed, but it was his work on the first three albums by WIRE – a band he spotted and signed to PINK FLOYD’s label Harvest – that drew the most critical acclaim. The records demonstrated Thorne’s willingness to experiment in the studio, stripping down structures while adding electronic elements where appropriate.

Recognising that electronics and computers were the future of pop music and that a reinvention was likely by responding to new possibilities, Thorne had the foresight to purchase the first version of the NED Synclavier in 1979. A polyphonic digital sampling system and music workstation which used FM synthesis, it was to become his production mainstay and arrived in time for Colin Newman of WIRE’s first solo release and Scottish new wave quartet BERLIN BLONDES’ only long player.

Thorne moved to New York to become a freelance producer, working mostly at Media Sound Studio. But it was while in London working on the soundtrack to a Julie Christie film ‘Memoirs Of A Survivor’ that Thorne was commissioned by Phonogram Records to produce their new signing B-MOVIE. The deal had been brokered by Some Bizzare, an umbrella organisation that was more stable than label and part of the 2-for-1 arrangement was for him to work with a Northern synth duo called SOFT CELL. The rest, as they say, is history…

‘Tainted Love’, a cover of a song written by Ed Cobb and recorded by Gloria Jones, went to No1 and was the biggest selling UK single of 1981. It also spent a staggering 43 weeks on the US Billboard Hot 100. During the recording of ‘Tainted Love’, Thorne conceived a new way of producing an extended dance mix… the 12” single would be arranged and recorded first, with the 7” single version edited from sections of the longer track. Phonogram boss Roger Ames felt the track was a little slow so it was varispeeded up slightly for release!

Meanwhile, SOFT CELL were to enter an imperial phase of five successive Top4 UK hit singles with Thorne at the production helm including ‘Bedsitter’, ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’, ‘Torch’ and ‘What’. However, with the overwhelming success of their debut long player ‘Non Stop Erotic Cabaret’, tensions brewed during the recording of SOFT CELL’s appropriately titled second album ‘The Art Of Falling Apart’ leading to Thorne parting ways with the duo.

In 1984, Thorne was to produce one of the most important albums of his career when he was teamed up with BRONSKI BEAT for ‘The Age Of Consent’. The trio soon fragmented after its release, but Thorne followed their lead singer Jimmy Somerville to his new project THE COMMUNARDS with Richard Coles to achieve yet another No1 in a HI-NRG cover of ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’; it was also the best-selling UK single of 1986.

Thorne’s ethos was always “to make music I liked with people I liked”. As well as working with more esoteric clients such as Marianne Faithful, Nina Hagen and Laurie Anderson, he was appreciated for his crossover potential in the mainstream with Daryl Hall & John Oates commissioning him to construct an Extended Club Mix of ‘Maneater’ in 1984 which included a breakdown clearly influenced by the middle section of the ‘Tainted Love’/ Where Did Our Love Go’ 12” segue.

Although Thorne ceased working as a hired hand from 1995, he continued as a producer for artists signed to his label imprint The Stereo Society while he issued his first his solo record ‘The Contessa’s Party’ in 2005 featuring special guests Kit Hain, Lene Lovich and Sarah Jane Morris.

Despite achieving two best-selling UK singles of the year, Mike Thorne has often slipped under the radar in discussions about notable record producers who led the start of the digital era. Documenting a significant and trailblazing career, here are 20 tracks selected by ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK which act a Beginner’s Guide to Mike Thorne, listed in yearly and then alphabetical order by artist moniker with a restriction of one track per album project.


WIRE I Am The Fly (1978)

Although WIRE’s debut ‘Pink Flag’ was minimalist post-punk rock, their sophomore offering, ‘Chairs Missing,’ adopted more song structure, art rock approaches and synthesizer textures brought in by Thorne. One of WIRE’s signature tracks, ‘I Am The Fly’ had menace and provocation, prompting audiences at gigs to start lying down, waving their limbs in the air like dying flies! Musically, its influence can be heard from TUBEWAY ARMY’s ‘My Shadow In Vain’ to ELASTICA’s ‘Lined Up’.

Available on the WIRE album ‘Chairs Missing’ via Pink Flag

http://www.pinkflag.com/


BERLIN BLONDES Framework (1980)

A meeting of synthesizers, art rock and obscure vocals, Glasgow’s BERLIN BLONDES exuded the detached European cool of David Bowie during his Mauerstadt exile and were unusual at the time for using a drum machine. The quartet only made one album produced by Thorne which was recorded at Gary Numan’s Rock City Studios, ‘Framework’ was syncopated futurist disco featuring crashing electronic beats and icy flashes of synth under the influence of SPARKS and MAGAZINE.

Available on the BERLIN BLONDES album ’The Complete Recordings 1980-81’ via Cherry Red Records

https://www.discogs.com/artist/512473-Berlin-Blondes


COLIN NEWMAN Order For Order (1980)

After three albums, WIRE split for the first time. Their lead vocalist Colin Newman released his first solo album, ‘A-Z’ in 1980, featuring songs created for the anticipated fourth WIRE album. It was produced by Thorne and could be considered a sonic companion to BERLIN BLONDES. ‘Order for Order’, explored the possibilities of new wave mainstream numbers and while some compared it to Gary Numan, it had more in common with MAGAZINE.

Available on the COLIN NEWMAN album ‘A–Z’ via Sentient Sonics

http://www.coldwarnightlife.com/features/shine-on-colin-newman/


B-MOVIE Remembrance Day (1981)

Despite being alongside DEPECHE MODE, SOFT CELL, BLANCMANGE and THE THE on the now iconic ‘Some Bizarre Album’, B-MOVIE were unable to secure a hit with the poignant magnificence of the Thorne produced ‘Remembrance Day’. The struggle for success and internal tensions led to the band fragmenting by 1983. But the song gained cult status and in 2004, American band THE FAINT presented a fine interpolation in ‘Southern Belles In London Sing’ .

Available on the compilation album ‘Dawn Of Electronica’ (V/A) via Demon Music Group

http://www.b-movie.co.uk/


KIT HAIN Spirits Walking Out (1981)

Kit Hain had an international hit ‘Dancing In The City’ with Julian Marshall in 1978 but after the duo split, Hain issued her debut solo album ‘Spirits Walking Out’ produced by Thorne. While ‘Danny’ was to be a minor single success, one of the album highlights was the synthesized cabaret noir of the dramatic title song. Hain was to have a role in the SOFT CELL story as it was her Roland CR78 Compurhythm which Thorne borrowed and used as the rhythmic backbone to ‘Tainted Love’.

Available on the KIT HAIN album ‘Spirits Walking Out’ via Renaissance Records

https://kittusmusic.com/


SOFT CELL Bedsitter – Early Morning Dance Side (1981)

With direction from Thorne, SOFT CELL often incorporated extra vocal sections into their 12” extended formats as on ‘Torch’, ‘Facility Girls’ and ‘Insecure Me’. So instead of purely instrumental breakdown extensions, ‘Bedsitter’ added a marvellous rap from Marc Almond where he asked “do you look a mess, do have a hangover?” before taking a little blusher. The literal kitchen sink drama to song concept saw tea leaves pushed down the drain as the night life started all over again.

Available on the SOFT CELL album ‘The Twelve Inch Singles’ via UMC

https://www.softcell.co.uk/


NINA HAGEN Tiatschi Tarot (1982)

Record in New York with Thorne, ‘NunSexMonkRock’ was the debut solo adventure by eccentric German singer Nina Hagen, as well as her first record with all her songs performed in English after disbanding her band after two acclaimed albums. While it was primarily a dissonant mix of punk, funk and reggae, ‘Taitschi-Tarot’ was a delightful oddball avant opera piece using piano and synths that covered the topics of Buddhism, reincarnation and yoga.

Available on the NINA HAGEN album ‘Nunsexmonkrock’ via Sony Music

https://ninahagendas.beepworld.de/


SOFT CELL Torch – 12” version (1982)

Thorne and Marc Almond agreed that ‘Torch’ was their finest moment of recording together. Punctuated by John Gatchell’s flugelhorn, ‘Torch’ came in the middle of SOFT CELL’s imperial pop phase and the 12” version was a pièce de résistance, fuelled by Almond and Dave Ball partying on the New York club scene where they met Cindy Ecstasy. In an amusing spoken middle section, her nonchalant off-key vocal counterpointed Almond’s fabulously forlorn romanticism.

Available on the SOFT CELL boxed set ‘Keychains & Snowstorms’ via UMC

https://www.facebook.com/softcell


THE THE Uncertain Smile (1982)

Still Matt Johnson’s finest five minutes as THE THE, ‘Uncertain Smile’ on its single release featured a wonderfully rigid TR808 pattern, lovely layers of synths and a variety of woodwinds including flute and sax. Produced by Mike Thorne, this fuller sounding and more emotive take far outstripped the bland and overly-long ‘Soul Mining’ album cut, which had been re-recorded by Thorne associate Paul Hardiman and included the extended boogie-woogie piano of Jools Holland…

Available on the THE THE album ’45 RPM – The Singles’ via Epic Records

https://www.thethe.com/


SEONA DANCING More To Lose (1983)

SEONA DANCING were the synthpop duo comprising of a young Ricky Gervais and his friend Bill McRae formed while they were students at University College London. With Gervais adopting a melodramatic Bowie-like persona as a doomed romantic, their first single ‘More To Lose’ produced by Mike Thorne was of its time. However, its incessant rhythms and tuneful keyboard inflections had appeal and the song became a surprise radio hit in The Philippines.

Available on the SEONA DANCING single ‘More To Lose’ via London Records

http://www.rickygervais.com/


SOFT CELL The Art Of Falling Apart (1983)

Whereas Mike Thorne had been a happy collaborator on their debut album ‘Non Stop Erotic Cabaret’, during the making of the follow-up, he was viewed as a controller and spy for Phonogram. As former art school students, pop stardom did not suit SOFT CELL so there was no option but for Marc Almond and Dave Ball to self-destruct. The imploding disposition of ‘The Art Of Falling Apart’ title song couldn’t have soundtracked a mental breakdown any better.

Available on the album ‘The Art Of Falling Apart’ via Mercury Records

https://www.instagram.com/softcellhq/


BRONSKI BEAT Smalltown Boy (1984)

When BRONSKI BEAT made their first ever TV appearance performing on BBC2’s ‘ORS’,  they were nothing short of startling, thanks to their look, their minimal synth sound and Somerville’s lonely earth shattering falsetto. The trio had sought to be more outspoken and political in their position as openly gay performers and the tale of the Mike Thorne produced ‘Smalltown Boy’ about a gay teenager fleeing his hometown made an important statement.

Available on the BRONSKI BEAT album ‘The Age Of Consent’ via London Records

https://www.jimmysomerville.co.uk/


THE COMMUNARDS Disenchanted (1986)

After leaving BRONSKI BEAT, Jimmy Somerville formed THE COMMUNARDS with future TV vicar Richard Coles and took Thorne with him to produce their self-titled debut. While more organic elements such as piano, brass and strings featured, there remained a HI-NRG electronic element. The brilliant ‘Disenchanted’ heavily recalled the sound of his previous band. Somerville never stuck around for long and his relationship with Coles was dissolved in 1987.

Available on THE COMMUNARDS album ‘Communards’ via London Records

https://www.facebook.com/officialjimmysomerville


HOLLYWOOD BEYOND Save Me (1987)

HOLLYWOOD BEYOND was the vehicle of flamboyant singer-songwriter Mark Rogers and he went Top10 with the Stephen Hague produced ‘What’s The Colour Of Money?’ in 1986. Mike Thorne was brought in to produce one track, ‘Save Me’, for the parent album ‘If’. Released as a single, it was an attempt to make a funkier version of BRONSKI BEAT and THE COMMUNARDS but Rogers lacked the vocal richness of Jimmy Somerville to pull it off.

Available on the HOLLYWOOD BEYOND album ‘If’ via Warner Music

https://www.discogs.com/artist/134514-Hollywood-Beyond


LAURIE ANDERSON The Day The Devil (1989)

Laurie Anderson’s fourth studio album ‘Strange Angels’ saw her attempt to move away from performance art into a more musical territory. Taking singing lessons and developing into a soprano, there was less of the spoken word that characterised her surprise No2 UK hit ‘O Superman’ and its parent album ‘Big Science’. Thorne produced four tracks on the album including ‘The Day the Devil’, a gothic art mini-opera with sinister diabolic overtones.

Available on the LAURIE ANDERSON album ‘Strange Angels’ via Warner Music

https://laurieanderson.com/


CHINA CRISIS Red Letter Day (1989)

While CHINA CRISIS had recorded their fifth album ‘Diary Of A Hollow Horse’ with STEELY DAN’s Walter Becker, Virgin Records had felt there were no potential hit singles. So the band were despatched to re-record three songs including ‘Red Letter Day’. Using a sharp piano figure reminiscent of Rupert Holmes’ one hit wonder ‘Escape (The Pina Colada Song)’ with more counterpoints, synths and vocal harmonies, the track was issued as the album’s second single but no hit was forthcoming.

Available on the CHINA CRISIS album ‘Diary Of A Hollow Horse’ via Virgin Records

https://www.facebook.com/chinacrisisofficial


BRONSKI BEAT I’m Gonna Run Away From You (1990)

Mike Thorne reunited with Steve Bronski and Larry Steinbachek when BRONSKI BEAT were rebooted in a new deal with Zomba Records subsidiary Zed Beat featuring a new vocalist Jonathan Hellyer who possessed a falsetto similar to Jimmy Somerville. The first track released was a frantic dance cover of ‘I’m Gonna Run Away From You’, a Northern Soul song made famous by Tami Lynn. Sadly, Larry Steinbachek passed away in 2017 and Steve Bronski in 2022.

Originally released as a single by Zed Beat, currently unavailable.

http://www.bronskibeat.co.uk/


INFORMATION SOCIETY Peace & Love, Inc (1992)

From Minneapolis, INFORMATION SOCIETY had their breakthrough ‘What’s On Your Mind (Pure Energy)’ in 1988. From the album of the same name on which Thorne produced 4 tracks, ‘Peace & Love, Inc’ was spikey and energetic social commentary with heavy rave influences with 808 STATE samples thrown in. Incidentally another album track ‘To Be Free’ was produced by Karl Bartos under his post-KRAFTWERK guise as ELEKTRIC MUSIC.

Available on the INFORMATION SOCIETY album ‘Peace & Love, Inc’ via Tommy Boy Records

https://www.facebook.com/informationsociety


PETER MURPHY Our Secret Garden (1992)

BAUHAUS front man Peter Murphy sought to capture the live feel of a band, having sampled musicians on his two previous works. But recording had not been straightforward and it was the longest time Thorne had worked on an album. the spacious and exotic ‘Our Secret Garden’ saw keyboards played by Murphy himself alongside the producer’s Synclavier. The ‘Holy Smoke’ album also reunited Thorne with B-MOVIE’s Paul Statham who was now acting as Murphy’s wingman.

Available on the PETER MURPHY album ‘Holy Smoke’ via Beggars Banquet Records

https://www.petermurphy.info/


MARC ALMOND We Need Jealousy (1996)

During Thorne’s reunion with Marc Almond in 1993, the singer was dismayed that the producer was still using his Synclavier. A change in record labels led to Thorne’s productions being remixed by THE BEATMASTERS and BIZARRE INC. Mixed by Gregg Jackman, ‘We Need Jealousy’ featured some great bassline programming augmented by ‘Motorbiking’ guitar by Chris Spedding. The experience drained Thorne, who withdrew from working as a hired hand.

Available on the MARC ALMOND album ‘Fantastic Star’ via Mercury Records

http://www.marcalmond.co.uk/


For personal commentary by Mike Thorne, archive articles and information on releases by The Stereo Society, please visit https://stereosociety.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Simon Helm
20th February 2023

MUSIK MUSIC MUSIQUE 3.0 1982 | Synth Pop On The Air

Cherry Red’s ‘Musik Music Musique’ series now reaches its third volume and 1982 when there was “Synth Pop On The Air”.

From the team behind the ’Close To The Noise Floor’ compendiums, the excellent ‘Electrical Language’ set but also the rather confused ‘Music For New Romantics’ box, this 3CD collection documents the year after SOFT CELL hit No1 with ‘Tainted Love’ in the summer of 1981 while THE HUMAN LEAGUE did likewise with ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ to bag that year’s Christmas topspot. 1982 began with KRAFTWERK belatedly reaching a No1 too with ‘The Model’, a track from 1978’s ‘The Man Machine’.

It was as if the world had caught up with the sound of the synth. The period was also notable for affordable silicon chip based polysynths such as the Roland Juno 6 and Korg Poly 6 entering the market. In tandem with the improvement in quality of cassette-based 4-track Portastudios, electronic music became more accessible with basic home studios now a hive of musical creativity.

While the big hitters such as SOFT CELL, OMD, BLANCMANGE, THE HUMAN LEAGUE and ULTRAVOX are represented by album tracks and B-sides alongside breakthrough singles by NEW ORDER, FASHIØN and HEAVEN 17, the curiosity value of ‘Musik Music Musique 3.0’ is boosted by a greater proportion of lesser known tracks and acts compared with the first two compendiums.

Often dismissed as a MOR act thanks to the Giorgio Moroder produced ‘Take My Breath Away, BERLIN are provided a platform for the provocative and more classically Moroder-esque ‘Sex (I’m A….)’. Meanwhile with a not dissimilar throbbing template, DEAD OR ALIVE’s ‘What I Want’ in previously unreleased demo form captures the band in transition from proto-goth to HI-NRG disco and sounding like both simultaneously.

Wonderful lost synthpop jewels include the melodramatic ‘Juliet’ from PASSION POLKA and the bouncy SPANDAU BALLET inspired instrumental ‘Profile Dance’ by SERGEANT FROG, an early alias of PWL mixmaster Phil Harding. Echoing the slightly overblown vocal styles of the period, ‘Future Shock’ by COMMUNICATION falls under the spell of ASSOCIATES while both ‘Climb Down’ from THIRTEEN AT MIDNIGHT and ‘Instant Feeling’ by AERIAL FX are percussively anxious.

The two best rare highlights both come with links to Glasgow; fronted by David Rudden, ENDGAMES played with a brand polished synthpop funk of which ‘First Last For Everything’ is a good example. Meanwhile, LEISURE PROCESS were the duo comprising of Ross Middleton and Gary Barnacle whose small portfolio of singles were all produced by Martin Rushent; although the vocals were virtually unintelligible over the clattering Linn Drum, pulsing synths, squawky guitar and sax, ‘Love Cascade’ remains a cool dancefloor friendly number reflecting the decadent spirit of the times.

The underrated COLOURBOX are represented by the 1982 single version of ‘Breakdown’ while DRINKING ELECTRICITY’s ‘Good Times’ explores a synth art funk hybrid that threatens to turn into ‘The Locomotion’. An actual cover version, JULIE & THE JEMS take on ‘1-2-3’ is a reflection of how commercial pop had become synthed up, especially when it is learnt that front woman Julie Harris was part of the line-up of TIGHT FIT that got to No1 later in 1982 with ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’; incidentally that rework was produced by Tim Friese-Greene who later became Mark Hollis’s writing partner in TALK TALK who themselves are represented on ‘Musik Music Musique 3.0’ by their slightly underwhelming debut single ‘Mirror Man’.

There is a surprise in that Arthur Brown of ‘Fire’ fame with his synth experiment ‘Conversations’ and it is suitably crazy and enjoyable in the manner of early FALCO. The late Austrian himself is represented by ‘Maschine Brennt’ while German neighbours DIE KRUPPS’ ‘Goldfinger’ is a welcome inclusion that exposes their more DAF-like origins.

Adding a less confrontational continental tone, ‘Par Hasard’ by MIKADO is a slice of delightful electro-lounge, while Belgium’s TELEX bring swing into the mix with ‘Sigmund Freud’s Party’ and Switzerland’s YELLO exude their quirky playfulness on ‘Heavy Whispers’, albeit with a darker disposition.

It is interesting to look back at the lesser remembered Kim Wilde single ‘Child Come Away’ and Toyah’s 1982 re-recording of ‘Ieya’ which were both synth dominated but failed to crack the Top 40 despite the sound being ubiquitous on the airwaves. There was the beginning of a notable synth backlash after the triumph of 1981 and DEXY’S MIDNIGHT RUNNERS fiddly ‘Come On Eileen’ becoming the best-selling UK single of 1982 was a surefire sign. And that was without the Musicians Union motion to ban synths from recording and live performance.

Cult acts of the period FAD GADGET, THE PASSAGE, FIAT LUX, SECTION 25 and POEME ELECTRONIQUE along with the two Thomases, Dolby and Lang don’t miss out on the party, but notably absent are bands who had been part of earlier sets such as NEW MUSIK and VISAGE whose 1982 albums have worthy material to mine.

Closing with OMEGA THEATRE and the quite bizarre but entertaining ‘Robots, Machines & Silicon Dreams’, its classic pop theatrics are not entirely surprising as its creator John Carter co-wrote the 1970 Eurovision runner-up ‘Knock, Knock Who’s There?’ for Mary Hopkin, ‘Let’s Go to San Francisco’ for THE FLOWER POT MEN and ‘Beach Baby’ for THE FIRST CLASS.

However, as before, there are minor quibbles; while the correct 1982 versions of NEW ORDER’s ‘Temptation’, TEARS FOR FEARS ‘Pale Shelter’ and Paul Haig’s ‘Justice’ feature, ‘European Son’ by JAPAN comes in the earlier John Punter B-side version rather the snappier 1982 Steve Nye single remix. And then having mentioned in the booklet that OMD’s ‘She’s Leaving’ was released as a slightly remixed 1982 single in Benelux territories, the compilation goes with the familiar 1981 ‘Architecture & Morality’ album cut. Meanwhile the inclusion of ‘Sex Dwarf’ from 1981’s ‘Non Stop Erotic Cabaret’ is a head scratcher when the 1982 SOFT CELL B-sides ‘Insecure Me’, ‘….So’ or ‘It’s A Mug’s Game’ would have been more interesting.

Lessons have still not been learnt from previous booklets with photos of OMD from 1984 and DEAD OR ALIVE from 1985 appearing. Again, the booklet notes are a mixed bag; why bother to bang on about the John Foxx-era of ULTRAVOX with the limited word count when by 1982, the Midge Ure-led version were an established hit machine? Also, why does the story of JOY DIVISION need to be repeated ad nauseam  in the context of NEW ORDER?

Meanwhile, DRAMATIS (who are represented by their best single ‘The Shame’) returned to being Gary Numan’s live backing band in 1983, not 1982! Then with the biggest gaff in the TEARS FOR FEARS section, Curt Smith played bass NOT guitar and vice versa for Roland Jaime Orzabal de la Quintana to give his full name!

So full marks for the amount of lesser known material gathered on ‘Musik Music Musique 3.0’, but please get the accompanying booklet sorted out for ‘Musik Music Musique 4.0’ as there have been enough opportunities now to get that side of the operation right. Roll on 1983…


‘Musik Music Musique 3.0: 1982 – Synth Pop On The Air’ is released by Cherry Red on 17th February 2023 as a 3CD boxed set

https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/musik-music-musique-3-0-1982-synthpop-on-the-air-3cd-box-set/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
13tn February 2023

THE ELECTRONIC LEGACY OF 1983

In addition to albums, several standalone singles were to be key to 1983 for those with a preference for the synthesized form.

NEW ORDER’s ‘Blue Monday’ and KRAFTWERK’s ‘Tour De France’ became iconic works while the David Sylvian and Ryuichi Sakamoto collaboration ‘Forbidden Colours’ not only bravely tackled a topic during a period when gay pop stars and media personalities still felt unable to openly come out, but also reinforced the value of a movie tie-in.

Sampling was no longer the preserve of wealthy musicians and their Fairlights as the cheaper but still expensive Emulator became more widely available. Meanwhile the Roland Jupiter-6, Prophet 600, the Roland TR-909 and Roland MSQ-700 became the first instruments available with MIDI. Digital synthesis became affordable via the astonishingly affordable Yamaha DX7, although it proved to be a nightmare to programme. As a result, the music world fell into a preset trap overnight with the sound of simulated slap bass, flute and harmonica appearing on almost every pop record for the next few years…

But synthesizers and electronic sounds ceased being a desired texture as the huge success of David Bowie with his ‘Let’s Dance’ album meant every band would soon add a brass section to their line-up. SPANDAU BALLET, who perhaps may have triggered pop’s brass aspirations back in 1981 with ‘Chant No1’, went all smaltzy with ‘True’ and this coincided with the rise of pseudo-soul pop such as WHAM! and CULTURE CLUB. Meanwhile, in alternative circles, bands like THE SMITHS were spearheading the backlash with their frontman Morrissey declaring “there was nothing more repellent than the synthesizer…”

However, the old guard from Synth Britannia soldiered on and continued to experiment while acts who perhaps were not electronically-minded at their heart could see the benefits of embracing the developing technology, such as having more streamlined line-ups and dispensing with drummers.

However, a sign of the confusing artistic mindsets of the period came with Gary Numan’s ‘Warriors’ album and its dreadful artwork with our hero looking like Mad Max after a visit to the hair salon, but annoyed that his mulleted mane had been dyed the wrong colour. Things had looked promising for his return to the UK live stage after retiring in 1981, but he fell out with producer Bill Nelson during the recording sessions.

With the embracement of jazz funk influences and sax solos appearing whether they were really needed or not, the result was a well-played if confused record that was the beginning of a creative confidence crisis that would afflict Numan for at least another decade.

So here are 20 albums selected by ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK as contributing to the electronic legacy of 1983. Listed in alphabetical order, there is a restriction of one album per artist moniker where beyond this place, the rains are falling hard…


CABARET VOLTAIRE The Crackdown

Richard H Kirk and Stephen Mallinder became seduced by the sequenced adventures of NEW ORDER and electronic dance music emerging from New York. Signing to Some Bizzare and licensed to Virgin Records, ‘The Crackdown’ was produced by Flood and featured contributions from Dave Ball of SOFT CELL on the title song and ‘Animation’. Meanwhile the stark single ‘Just Fascination’ helped the album become CABARET VOLTAIRE’s highest ever UK chart entry at No31.

‘The Crackdown’ is still available via Mute Artists

https://mute.com/artists/cabaret-voltaire


CHINA CRISIS Working With Fire & Steel – Possible Pop Songs Volume 2

Produced by Mike Howlett, ‘Working With Fire & Steel’ allowed CHINA CRISIS to deliver a more cohesive album following the four producers who steered their debut ‘Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms’! Best known for the brilliant ‘Wishful Thinking’, the album is much more with melancholic synth melodies and woodwind counterpoints, from feistier numbers such as ‘Animals In Jungles’ to more atmospheric set pieces like ‘Here Comes A Raincloud’ and ‘The Soul Awakening’.

‘Working With Fire & Steel – Possible Pop Songs Volume 2’ is still available via Caroline International

https://www.facebook.com/chinacrisisofficial


DEPECHE MODE Construction Time Again

The first album featuring Alan Wilder as a full member as well as Gareth Jones as Tonmeister, ‘Construction Time Again’ saw DEPECHE MODE experimenting with found object sampling. Mixed at Hansa Studios in West Berlin, it was a socially conscious record featuring Cold War paranoia on ‘Two Minute Warning’, environmental concerns on ’The Landscape Is Changing’ and the now ironic anti-capitalist statements ‘More Than A Party’, ‘Pipeline’ and ‘Everything Counts’!

‘Construction Time Again’ is still available via Sony Music

https://www.depechemode.com/


DURAN DURAN Seven & The Ragged Tiger

DURAN DURAN may have yielded a 1984 No1 single in a Nile Rodgers remix of ‘The Reflex’ but overall, ‘Seven & The Ragged Tiger’ was an over produced disappointment. Recorded in France and Australia, tensions between the band and producer Ian Little led to the ubiquitous Alex Sadkin to be brought in. Despite this, highlights included the punchy ‘Shadows On Your Side’, the JAPAN inspired instrumental ‘Tiger Tiger’ and the forgotten single ‘New Moon On Monday’.

‘Seven & The Ragged Tiger’ is still available via EMI Music

https://duranduran.com/


ENDGAMES Building Beauty

The success of ABC and HEAVEN 17 heralded a new age of technologically enhanced blue-eyed soul. One band with aspirations in that field were Glasgow’s ENDGAMES. ‘Universe Won’t Mind’, ‘Desire’ and ‘Waiting For Another Chance’ were among the standouts. Meanwhile ‘Love Cares’ was like a funky CHINA CRISIS walking into the recording sessions of ‘The Lexicon Of Love’ and by coincidence, singer David Rudden had a passing resemblance to Gary Daly!

‘Building Beauty’ was originally released on Virgin Records, currently unavailable

https://www.discogs.com/artist/50709-Endgames


BRIAN ENO Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks

Recorded as a soundtrack to a documentary about the Apollo moon missions, Brian Eno wanted to convey the feelings of space travel and weightlessness as a reaction to the uptempo, manner of space travel presented by news reels of the day with their fast cuts and speeded up images. Although based around a Yamaha DX7, it was instrumentally varied featuring Daniel Lanois’ countrified guitar on its best known track ‘Deep Blue Day’, as well as ‘Silver Morning’ and ‘Weightless’.

‘Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks’ is still available via Virgin / EMI Records

http://www.brian-eno.net


EURYTHMICS Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)

The first of two EURYTHMICS albums in 1983, after their German-inspired debut ‘In The Garden’, Annie Lennox and David A Stewart explored the synthesizer and acquired a Movement Drum Computer. Recorded in their newly equipped 8 track home studio, ‘Love Is A Stranger’ was the breakthrough. Despite its hopeless nihilism, the title song went global but there were other notable songs such as ‘I Could Give You (A Mirror)’, ‘I’ve Got An Angel’ and the brilliant forgotten single ‘The Walk’.

‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)’ is still available via RCA

https://www.eurythmics.com/


JOHN FOXX The Golden Section

John Foxx had envisioned ‘The Golden Section’ as “a roots check” with a psychedelic electronic rock flavour. This came to a head on a revised ‘Endlessy’ which captured an accessible uptempo euphoria. With folk laden overtones, ‘Ghosts On Water’ was a highlight along with the powerful opener ‘My Wild Love’. But away from these influences, ‘Twilight’s Last Gleaming’ was a glorious haunting closer. Foxx later remarked the album was a mistake as he tried to “fit too many favourite things together”.

‘The Golden Section’ is still available via Edsel Records

http://www.metamatic.com/


PAUL HAIG Rhythm Of Life

Produced by Alex Sadkin, ‘Rhythm Of Life’ was the one and only attempt by Paul Haig to crack the pop mainstream away from the frantic guitar driven angst of his previous band JOSEF K. Highly percussive and lifted by some sub-ASSOCIATES rhythm guitar and big layered synth riffs, ‘Never Give Up (Party Party)’ showed great promise while ‘Heaven Sent’ was a superb reimagination of SIMPLE MINDS’ ‘I Travel’ for the New York dancefloor. A lack of hits failed to ignite wider interest in the album.

‘Rhythm Of Life’ is still available via Les Disques Du Crépuscule

http://www.paulhaig.com/


HEAVEN 17 The Luxury Gap

After the success of ‘Penthouse & Pavement’, the second album ‘The Luxury Gap’ was HEAVEN 17 aiming to be incredibly popular. With a Roland MC4 Micro-composer and Linn Drum driving their System 100s and Jupiter 4, there were Top 5 hits in ‘Temptation’ and ‘Come Live With Me’. Still experimenting, ‘Lady Ice & Mr Hex’ was a surreal marriage of synthesizers with jazz while with the use of a Roland TB303 Bassline prominently on ‘Let Me Go’ pre-dated acid house.

Available on the album ‘The Luxury Gap’ via Virgin Records

https://www.heaven17.com/


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Fascination!

Trying to follow-up ‘Dare’ proved to be a fractious experience with producer Martin Rushent leaving the sessions after creative conflicts with various members of THE HUMAN LEAGUE. The few completed tracks were issued on a North American mini-album. While included were the ‘Love Action’ B-side ‘Hard Times’, the catchy title single and the electro-Tamla of ‘Mirror Man’, they were topped by ‘You Remind Me Of Gold’ and Rushent’s mix of ‘I Love You too Much’.

‘Fascination!’ is still available as part of the boxed set ‘The Virgin Years’ via Virgin Records

https://www.thehumanleague.co.uk/


NAKED EYES Burning Bridges

Pete Byrne and Rob Fisher were NAKED EYES and while their Simmons heavy Bacharach & David cover of ‘Always Something There To Remind Me’ didn’t trouble the UK Top 40, it reached No8 in the US. Produced by Tony Mansfield of NEW MUSIK, the eponymous debut album used a Fairlight, Synclavier 2, PPG Wave 2.2, Emulator, OBX-a and Prophet 5. Not another Bacharach & David cover, a further US hit came with ‘Promises Promises’.

‘Burning Bridges’ is still available as ‘Naked Eyes’ via Chrysalis Records

https://www.nakedeyesmusic.com/


NEW ORDER Power, Corruption & Lies

Using sequencer-like effects on interim singles ‘Everything’s Gone Green’ and ‘Temptation’ had set NEW ORDER on a new path and while there were still guitar driven songs such as ‘Age Of Consent’ and ‘Leave Me Alone’, hybrids such as ‘The Village’ and ‘Ultraviolence’ utilised a pulsing electronic backbone. ‘Your Silent Face’, dubbed the “KRAFTWERK one”, was the ultimate romantic homage to Kling Klang but strangely, the track that seeded it all ‘586’ lost its menace in its album incarnation.

‘Power, Corruption & Lies’ is still available via Warner Music

http://www.neworder.com/


OMD Dazzle Ships

A brave sonic exploration of Cold War tensions and economic corruption, ‘Dazzle Ships’ was not what Virgin Records expected from OMD after three Top5 hits. Of its two singles, the jangly ‘Genetic Engineering’ was only a minor hit while the scathing attack on TV evangelism ‘Telegraph’ failed to get into the Top40. Although it featured some of the band’s best songs like ‘The Romance Of The Telescope’, ‘International’ and ‘Radio Waves’, ‘Dazzle Ships’ sold poorly on release but it has since been re-evaluated.

‘Dazzle Ships’ is still available via Virgin Records

http://www.omd.uk.com


SOFT CELL The Art Of Falling Apart

Pop stardom did not suit SOFT CELL so there was no option but for Marc Almond and Dave Ball to self-destruct. The imploding disposition of ‘The Art Of Falling Apart’ title song couldn’t have soundtracked a mental breakdown any better. Despite the sinister romp of ‘Baby Doll’ and the explicit ode to promiscuity ‘Numbers’, ‘Forever The Same’ and ‘Loving You Hating Me’ could have been a singles, while ‘Where The Heart Is’ and ‘Kitchen Sink Drama’ featured highly relatable domestic narratives.

‘The Art Of Falling Apart’ is still available via Mercury Records

http://www.softcell.co.uk


TEARS FOR FEARS The Hurting

With a magnificent combination of synth, preset rhythms and conventional instruments, ‘Mad World’ had set the scene for TEARS FOR FEARS’ debut album ‘The Hurting’. But it disappointed some, as it not only had all four singles to date been included but also two B-sides. But the majority had been reworked while the fraught tensions of the title song and ‘Memories Fade’ found favour amongst the new material. The re-recorded ‘Pale Shelter’ became a hit on second time of asking too.

‘The Hurting’ is still available via Mercury Records

https://tearsforfears.com/


THOMPSON TWINS Quick Step & Side Kick

Now down to a trio, the Alex Sadkin produced ‘Quick Step & Side Kick’ was the third THOMPSON TWINS album. Although ‘Love On Your Side’ was to be the breakthrough hit with the catchy but potentially annoying ‘We Are Detective’ following, the exotic funky non-hit ‘Lies’ deserved greater recognition while ‘Judy Do’ gloriously borrowed from Lou Reed’s ‘Satellite Of Love’. This was without the Grace Jones cameo on the bonkers ‘Watching’ and the rousing ‘If You Were There’.

‘Quick Step & Side Kick’ is still available via Edsel Records

http://www.thompsontwinstombailey.co.uk/


WHITE DOOR Windows

WHITE DOOR formed from the ashes of prog rock combo GRACE. Led by the sensitive vocal presence of Mac Austin, he backed by the Davies brothers Harry and John on synths. Produced by a young Andy Richards, ‘Windows’ saw its title song get BBC Radio1 airplay. The beautiful choir boy synthpop of ‘Jerusalem’ was later covered by Swedish synthesist Johan Baeckström, along with another album track ‘School Days’. Baeckström wolud join the trio for their 2020 comeback.

‘Windows’ is still available as a CD from Cherry Red Records

https://www.facebook.com/whitedoorband/


YAZOO You & Me Both

Despite the success of ‘Upstairs At Eric’s’, all was not well in the YAZOO camp so by the time of ‘You & Me Both’, Vince Clarke and Alison Moyet were working in the studio separately. ‘Ode To Boy’ was rescued from B-side obscurity while ‘Nobody’s Diary’ was the mighty swansong single. The album contained Moyet’s poignant anti-war statement ‘Mr Blue’ but in the Vince Clarke voiced ‘Happy People’, he came up with his most polarising composition since ‘What’s Your Name?’.

‘You & Me Both’ is still available via Mute Records

https://yazooinfo.com/


YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA Naughty Boys

As a reaction to the over-seriousness of their previous two albums, YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA lightened up considerably for ‘Naughty Boys’. The most commercial record of their career, this was highlighted by the joyous lead single ‘Kimi Ni Mune Kyun’. But while ‘Opened My Eyes’ could have been any Western synthpop act, ‘Lotus Love’ revealed some unexpected psychedelic overtones and ‘Kai-Koh’ showed that the trio had not lost their ear for exotic timbres.

‘Naughty Boys’ is still available via Sony Music

http://www.ymo.org/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
19th January 2023

CONFORM TO DEFORM: THE WEIRD & WONDERFUL WORLD OF SOME BIZZARE Interview

“There is no musical barrier of peoples acceptance, the only musical barrier is the media. (music press, radio & television.) Remember what people cannot see or hear, they cannot think about.”: Some Bizzare ‘?’

Along with Factory and Mute, Some Bizzare was one of the focal points of independently minded music and culture. It can be credited with launching the careers of SOFT CELL and THE THE while DEPECHE MODE, BLANCMANGE, B-MOVIE, CABARET VOLTAIRE, EINSTURZENDE NEUBAUTEN, FOETUS and PSYCHIC TV have also been part of its story.

At the centre of it all was Stevo Pierce, a Dagenham lad who ran club nights playing electronic music and was bolshy enough to approach rock paper Sounds about publishing his Futurist chart.

Having helped get his charges SOFT CELL to No1 with ‘Tainted Love’ in the summer of 1981, Stevo caught an unsuspecting music industry on the hop. “I’ve got you by the boll*cks” he once declared and he could name his price as he shopped his roster to the major labels. His methods could be unconventional and there were legendary stories about teddy bears being sent to meetings with cassettes stating his demands including supplies of sweets for a year.

Stevo’s ace was often to get the major labels to underwrite recordings while still keeping ownership of them himself. And the majors loved dealing with him… for a while at least. But next to the million-selling singles, there were raids by the Vice Squad, sex dwarves, death threats, ecstasy parties and meltdowns with one notable incident when Stevo and Marc Almond trashed the offices of Phonogram Records in Spring 1983.

Wesley Doyle traces the weird and wonderful world of Some Bizzare in his new book ‘Conform To Deform’. It features new contributions from many of the major players in the story including Marc Almond, Dave Ball, Matt Johnson, Daniel Miller, Steve Hovington, Neil Arthur, JG Thirlwell aka Clint Ruin / Jim Foetus, Stephen Mallinder, Anni Hogan, Michael Gira and long suffering personal assistant Jane Rolink, as well as Stevo himself.

Documenting the rise and fall of Some Bizzare, Wesley Doyle chatted to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about how his excellent book came together as well as answering some hypothetical questions of interest…

What inspired you to document the story of Some Bizzare?

I’ve been a fan of the label since my early teens, and it was a really important part of my growing up and development. I’d been waiting for years for somebody to write a book, because I wanted to see all those stories collected in one place, but it seemed no writer or publisher wanted to take it on. So I thought I’d do it myself. I wrote a feature for Record Collector, a kind of top 20 Some Bizzare releases, which in the back of my mind I thought I could use as part of a book pitch. Which I did, and Jawbone picked it up.

With ‘Conform To Deform’, you’ve opted for a chronological quotes narrative?

I like oral histories – everyone has their own truth, and I think juxtaposing people’s recollections in their own words is a really interesting way of finding out what actually went on. But initially I started writing the book as a third person narrative, mainly because I didn’t think some of the key players would be willing to talk. It soon became apparent most people were happy to share their recollections, so I shifted it to the oral history format.

I think it works well, and it captures the personality of the characters involved. Some of the characters were so larger-than-life and their voices so strong, and there was a lot of humour that may have been lost otherwise. Stevo’s way of communication is famously unique, and people like Marc Almond, Dave Ball, Anni Hogan and Jane Rolink are all Northerners, so they have this innate sense of humour that wouldn’t have come across if I’d had been pontificating in some kind of flowery prose. Matt Johnson as well is a very funny man, which might surprise some people.

Compared with Mute and Factory, Some Bizzare was more stable than label… see what I did there! *laughs*

That’s good, I wish I’d thought of that!

I guess it’s in the book’s title, ‘Conform To Deform’; Stevo wanted to get in bed with the major labels so that he had their clout. He worked closely with Daniel Miller at the beginning but Mute were a small operation and at the time Daniel wanted to keep it that way. Stevo always thought big – from the very beginning Some Bizzare wasn’t aiming for a minority audience. There were no little independent releases, the first album came out on Phonogram, as did the first run of singles from SOFT CELL and B-MOVIE. Stevo really wanted to hit a big audience, although I don’t think it did him any favours in the long run. As Daniel says in the book, knowing what Stevo’s taste in music was, it was only going to end in tears.

But you can’t deny the success of ‘Tainted Love’. It’s hard to make a comparison now, what with success being measured in billions of streams. In 1981 over a million people in the UK left their homes, walked into their local record shop and handed over money to own that song. And that gave Stevo carte blanche to go to the major labels with bands like THE THE, EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN and PSYCHIC TV and they would take a punt on them.

I don’t know if you remember a quote from Marc Almond and I think it was in NME; he said that an artist can only truly be subversive if they have access to the mainstream…

I think it’s true – again, ‘Conform to Deform’. I found out about FOETUS because Marc brought him on TV when SOFT CELL covered SUICIDE’s ‘Ghost Rider’ on Channel 4’s ‘Switch’ show – which was on a teatime on a Friday! I was speaking to Karl O’Connor aka Regis and we both had the same response to that appearance, it totally changed us. So in that respect, getting music like that on mainstream television was a truly subversive act. It was all well and good when CABARET VOLTAIRE were on Rough Trade or Crépuscule and their music reached a few thousand people in trench coats, but it’s only when they were on Some Bizzare and had access to Virgin’s money that people paid real attention. If you want reach people, you’ve got to go though the most popular channels, you’re just in an echo chamber otherwise. Which is fine, but you’ll never change anything.

It’s amazing to think that a lot of the stuff that we were into around that time was being featured in a so-called teen pop magazine like Smash Hits. But talking about the serious music press, it’s interesting that Sounds, at the time known for being more of a rock and heavy metal music paper, published Stevo’s Futurist chart and employed Beverley Glick aka Betty Page to interview these new acts using synths, rather than say the NME?

I remember Sounds being the most open minded of the big four papers generally. They were always seen as the lesser of NME, Melody Maker and Record Mirror, so they really had to fight for their place at the table. Editor Alan Lewis wanted to reach as many people as possible, so you had Garry Bushell writing about the Oi! movement, Geoff Barton writing about heavy metal, Jon Savage writing about post-punk, and Beverley Glick writing about what became the New Romantics. In retrospect it was far more open minded than the other papers.

Your book discusses the Futurist / Blitz Kid divide when New Romantic was not actually a thing yet, which is something the media, fans and record labels have forgotten…

In 1981 I was 12 years old and buying Smash Hits, so New Romantics and Futurists were the same thing to me, I wasn’t aware that there was a perceived difference. But Beverley and Stevo in particular were quite clear that New Romantics DID NOT exist in 1980, it was a retrospective thing.

Rusty Egan was on the Blitz Kid side and Stevo was on the Futurist side, and what surprised me was how visible both were when it came to the press. Stevo was so embedded in Sounds, he was a big character in that paper.

Having spoken to the people that were there, no-one said anything about New Romantics, it was Futurists and Blitz Kids. Blitz Kids were ULTRAVOX, SPANDAU BALLET, DURAN DURAN and VISAGE while Futurists were slightly edgier stuff like SOFT CELL, BLANCMANGE, FAD GADGET and CLOCK DVA. And never the twain would meet!

The whole thing got put on a pedestal when the ‘Some Bizzare Album’ came out in early 1981, it’s now become iconic and prescient but how do you think it stands up today?

What I found interesting was that Stevo did ask lot of established bands to be on it, like CABARET VOLTAIRE, THROBBING GRISTLE and CLOCK DVA. He wanted it to reflect what he was playing out as a DJ rather than a showcase for new acts. But those bands didn’t want to do it, so by default it became a compilation of new artists. It’s a weird one, when you listen to the ‘Some Bizzare Album’ now, there’s a lot of very strange stuff on there. You’d be hard pushed to listen to even the BLANCMANGE or THE THE tracks and think “Ooh, they’re going places!” *laughs*

ILLUSTRATION’s ‘Tidal Flow’ is one of the most commercial things on it but they didn’t do anything else. B-MOVIE’s ‘Moles’ is pretty strong, but even SOFT CELL’s ‘The Girl With The Patent Leather Face’, although a highlight, you still wouldn’t think, “This is a multi-million selling act we have here”.

But the ‘Some Bizzare Album’ does have DEPECHE MODE on it, one of the biggest bands in the world and ‘Photographic’ is one of their best songs, and I think a lot of the album’s reputation rests with that. So it’s a real curio, if you listen to the other label compilations around the time like Virgin’s ‘Methods Of Dance’ and stuff like that, they were probably a bigger indicator of what people were actually listening to.

On the ‘Some Bizzare Album’, what do you think are the best tracks outside of the “BIG 5” of DEPECHE MODE, SOFT CELL, THE THE, BLANCMANGE and B-MOVIE, I nominate ILLUSTRATION and THE FAST SET?

The ILLUSTRATION one is good and THE FAST SET’s cover of ‘King Of The Rumbling Spires’ is OK, but the single ‘Junction 1’ which they put out on Axis / 4AD is a better song I think. I really like the BLAH BLAH BLAH one, I’m a big fan of Tom Waits so when I think back to my own musical development, something like ‘Central Park’ would have teed me up for stuff like that.

A purely hypothetical question, what would have happened if DEPECHE MODE had been on Some Bizzare and SOFT CELL had been on Mute?

That’s a great question. Well for a start I think Dave Gahan would have had to go into rehab sooner! *laughs*

Seriously though, I don’t think either band would’ve been as successful, either creatively or commercially. You only have to listen to the demos SOFT CELL did with Daniel to hear that the regimented, sequenced production that worked so well for DEPECHE MODE didn’t for them, the exception being ‘Memorabilia’ of course. Plus SOFT CELL wouldn’t have gone to New York and had the experiences they did, which changed not only their creative direction but so many of their label mates too.

And with his more leftfield musical tastes, Stevo would’ve grown tired of Depeche’s early poppier stuff pretty quickly. And I don’t think he would’ve been emotionally mature enough to support them through Vince leaving and encouraging them to carry on. I think they would’ve have gone the way of B-MOVIE had they signed Some Bizzare.

Although Paul Statham from B-MOVIE could be considered Some Bizzare’s silent success story with his later co-writes for Peter Murphy, Dido and Kylie, why do you think out of the “BIG 5” that the band did not break into the mainstream?

Like lot of people, the first time I heard B-MOVIE was on the Flexipop flexidisc when ‘Remembrance Day’ was paired with SOFT CELL ‘Metro MRX’. If you follow the threads, then there were the singles ‘Marilyn Dreams’ and ‘Nowhere Girl’ plus there were two EPs before that, which positioned them as a perfect post-punk band. Personally, I always thought B-MOVIE had more in common with THE TEARDROP EXPLODES, THE SOUND and ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN. And Rick Holliday’s keyboard playing was very accomplished, much more musical and didn’t really fit in with that one-fingered synth thing. B-MOVIE’s singer Steve Hovington speaks very openly in the book about how at the time B-MOVIE thought they were geniuses and felt they should have been given a lot more respect than they got. And people at Phonogram genuinely thought they had a rival to DURAN DURAN on their hands. But it soon became apparent they weren’t that kind of band.

Rick Holliday was the last to join B-MOVIE and the first to leave when he went off with Cindy Ecstasy so I think the chemistry and group mentality of the band got really altered…

With most bands the chemistry is unique, and once you start to tamper with it, you lose something. As soon as Rick left, they changed the line-up and got session players in to re-record and re-re-record those early songs. By the time they finally released an album, they really weren’t the same band and they’d kind of lost what made them great. They were signed to Sire by that point and maybe weren’t really in control. Sometimes limitations are better and working within those parameters becomes part of the end result. Other times, you can give musicians access to big studios and big money, but they just lose what was good about them. I actually think B–MOVIE are a much better band now than they were during that mid-80s period.

Which version of THE THE ‘Uncertain Smile’ is your favourite, ‘Cold Spell Ahead’, the single version produced by Mike Thorne or the ‘Soul Mining’ one?

I’m going to be pedantic and say it’s actually none of those, it’s the 10 minute 12 inch version with the flute and sax produced by Mike Thorne. Outside of his work on ‘Untitled’, that was the first thing I heard by Matt Johnson. And taken with the two B-sides – ‘Three Orange Kisses From Kazan’ and ‘Waitin’ For The Upturn’ – it’s simply some of the best music ever recorded in my opinion.

I always thought it was a shame Matt Johnson didn’t stay working with Mike Thorne…

Yeah, that was a Stevo thing…

Some Bizzare’s union with CABARET VOLTAIRE’s club-oriented era now seems obvious but at the time, it wasn’t because they were known to be uncompromising and independent on their own?

I didn’t really know anything about CABARET VOLTAIRE before their Some Bizzare period, ‘Just Fascination’ was the first thing I heard by them. As far as I was concerned, they were like a new band who had just signed to Some Bizzare. Mal (Stephen Mallinder) told me they felt they had gone as far as they could go with Rough Trade and wanted to move onto bigger budgets and bigger studios. I was astounded to find they had nothing prepared when they made ‘The Crackdown’, they went into Trident Studios for a week, having never worked with a producer before, and just made it from scratch. Flood was engineering, Dave Ball played some keyboards and Stevo shopped the end result to the major labels.

What do you think was the seed of it going wrong for Some Bizzare?

That’s a tough one… I think Stevo wasn’t able to find another SOFT CELL, a big-selling pop act which could balance out his more left-field artists. So he didn’t have a contingency when bands wanted to leave. Also, this amazing idea of getting leftfield bands to be treated as bona-fide unit shifting pop stars, soon fell apart when the amount of money that the majors were spending on the records wasn’t being reflected in the amount of money being made. It was the cold hard facts of business that bit them on the arse in the end. I agree with Jim Thirwell aka FOETUS that the A&R decisions went out of the window. Maybe if Stevo had signed YELLO, who he was after at one point, things may have been different. But he signed TEST DEPARTMENT instead… which kind of sums it up! *laughs*

Some Bizzare had a great visual identity, so what was your favourite artwork?

The childish part of me wants to say, “the w*nking devil” on the cover of the ‘Infected’ 12”. I have the design on a T-shirt which I’ve only wore out once and even then kept it covered up! *laughs*

I love Andy Dog Johnson’s stuff for THE THE; I interviewed Matt a couple of times for the book and he was super generous. The second time I went to see him, he let me look at some of his brother’s sketchbooks… the guy was astounding, the colour palettes he used were incredible. I love Val Dehnam’s stuff although I know that’s not to everyone’s taste, but the cover of ‘Torment & Toreros’ is amazing. And I love the cover to the second compilation album too.

I’ve always loved SOFT CELL ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’ by Huw Feather…

Of Huw Feather’s work it would be ‘Torch’ for me, such an incredible, confusing, vibrant image. There was a lot of one-off bits of artwork produced for the label, and over the years I’ve tried to track down all the fan club stuff and merch flyers that were produced. There were some brilliant single-use magazine adverts, too. In particular one for ‘Bedsitter’ from Sounds – a line drawing of what a bedsit would look like looking up from a bed. It didn’t appear on anything else, it was unique piece of artwork for the music press. I had far too much visual material to include in the book so a lot of it got left out. I’m aiming to get some of it up on my Instagram feed around the time of publication so people can see it.

What is the ultimate Some Bizzare record?

I think THE THE’s ‘Infected’ project is the ultimate crystallisation of what Stevo was trying to do. It’s a challenging piece of work – both musically and lyrically – and visually very strong. And there was an accompanying film which was incredibly expensive and again very cutting edge for the time. And of course Stevo got it bankrolled by a major label who lost their shirt on it – there was no way it was going to recoup. Yet it still stands up to this day – you can watch the film now and still be impressed by its production values, and the music is still incredible. The Some Bizzare ethos runs all the way through ‘Infected’.

What about the legacy of Stevo and Some Bizzare?

Stevo would disagree, but I think there are still people doing what he tried to do. DJ Food in the book mentions James Lavelle which I thought was a good example. Also Wiley too, who uses mainstream channels when they suit him, and goes underground when they don’t. A lot of legacy artists who now own their own means of production make their albums and then shop them to whichever label that gives them the best deal. People like Damon Albarn, Paul Weller and Nick Cave who retain artistic control but use the clout of a major, that’s definitely a Stevo thing.

As far as trying to push boundaries and change people’s minds about artistic expression, I don’t know. Things like the ‘Sex Dwarf’ video would be seen as relatively tame and facile now, I don’t think it would shock anybody…

…it’s not RAMMSTEIN’s ‘Pussy’ is it? *laughs*

No, it’s not, thank god! *laughs*

I don’t really know what sort of boundaries stuff like that is pushing to be honest, it doesn’t seem to have a point. The thing about Some Bizzare and what Stevo was trying to do, whether he knew it or not, was he allowed people who would not have access to that kind of platform to be heard. For a while, you could find out about bands like EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN or SWANS, read about what they were trying to do, and then decide for yourself if you wanted to pursue their music further.

Your website is testament that the early-to-mid 80s period was a golden age for leftfield artists moving into the mainstream, which was great for the most part. But a lot of those acts adjusted their music to make it more palatable. THE FUTURE changed to THE HUMAN LEAGUE who signed to Virgin, and then split into THE HUMAN LEAGUE MKII and HEAVEN 17, and both made concessions to ongoing commercial success, for better or worse. But Neubauten always sounded like Neubauten, and Stevo’s attitude was, “Why shouldn’t they be on Virgin too? Get the music out there, and let people make up their own minds.”


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Wesley Doyle

‘Conform To Deform: The Weird & Wonderful World Of Some Bizzare’ is published by Jawbone Press on 14th February 2023 as a 392 page softback book with 16 page of photos, signed copies available from https://www.roughtrade.com/gb/product/wesley-doyle/conform-to-deform-the-weird-and-wonderful-world-of-some-bizzare

A live event celebrating the release of the book takes place on Tuesday 28th February 2023 at Rough Trade East, The Old Truman Brewery, 150 Brick Lane, London E1 6QL, tickets available from https://dice.fm/event/ygl6p-conform-to-deform-the-weird-wonderful-world-of-some-bizzare-live-28th-feb-rough-trade-east-london-tickets

http://jawbonepress.com/conform-to-deform/

https://twitter.com/WesleyDoyleUK

https://www.instagram.com/wesleydoylewrites/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
12th January 2023

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