Tag: The Grid (Page 1 of 2)

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/

http://www.softcell.co.uk

https://www.facebook.com/softcellband/

https://twitter.com/softcellhq

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

https://www.facebook.com/daveballofficial

https://twitter.com/daveballelectro

https://www.instagram.com/daveballelectro/


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

DISCOVERY ZONE Remote Control

DISCOVERY ZONE is the new electronically focussed solo project of Berlin based New Yorker JJ Weihl who is also a member of psychedelic rockers FENSTER.

‘Remote Control’ as a title concept examines the wonder and terror of technology; are we in control of the machines or are the machines now controlling us?

Pointing towards a cerebral approach, there are sound collages like the dialogue laden ‘Sophia Again’ and conceptual introduction ‘Nu Moon’. In some respects, the album is laid out like ‘Dazzle Ships’ by OMD and there is even a speech collage called ‘Time Zone’.

But one of the album’s most accessible features is ‘Dance II’ which is wonderfully catchy, exuding an esoteric funk. Expressing a touch of ‘La Dolce Vita’ with its bright scaling synth hook and New York disco vibes, a mood of elation is captured that expresses optimism and hope as well as the joy of second chances.

The laid back mood of ‘Come True’ is more conventional, utilising jazzy six string in an almost AIR-like fashion, with Weihl’s delivery recalling Beth Hirsch’s vocal contributions to ‘Moon Safari’ while processed choral samples and bubbling synths sweeten proceedings even further. ‘Fall Apart’ is cut from a similar cloth but adds in a distorted guitar solo.

Held down by pulsating synths and incessant reverbed drum machine, ‘Blissful Morning Dream Interpretation Melody’ does exactly as the title suggests as the treated vocal sonics bolster the spacey avant pop to present a surreal out of mind experience for that otherworldly feeling.

Enjoyably sinister is the ‘Remote Control’ title track with its vocoder laden aesthetics competing with pentatonic melodies, subtle dub and the Doppler effect of ‘Trans Europa Express’ but from inside a Spiegelsaal to symbolise a robot takeover.

Taking a different turn with its forlorn reverbed drum machine, ‘Come Slow’ sets up a ‘Twin Peaks’ atmosphere as an interlude but as it disappointingly fades, there are no doubts that this segment could have been developed much further.

The closing instrumental ‘Tru Nature’ reflects on the late Andrew Weatherall’s rework of THE GRID’s ‘Floatation’ and chills around a conga backbone while the pitched up voice samples of THE ART OF NOISE gently immerse themselves into surrounding water.

‘Remote Control’ hits the spot on many occasions and as DISCOVERY ZONE, JJ Weihl has relished the opportunity for some solo artistic expression.

This is a good debut, the musical equivalent of a hologram, hazy and shimmering but with a clear field of depth and different listening experiences felt depending on the time of day.

But while there are plenty of accessible melodic moments, some may find the spoken word sections quite challenging to absorb and unnecessarily interrupting the flow.


‘Remote Control’ is released by Mansions & Millions, in vinyl LP and digital formats available from https://discoveryzone1.bandcamp.com/releases

http://www.a-okay-mgmt.com/discoveryzone.htm

https://www.facebook.com/discoveryzzzone/

https://www.instagram.com/discoveryz0ne/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photo by Colette Pomerleau
8th June 2020

25 ALBUM VERSIONS THAT ARE BETTER THAN THE SINGLE VERSIONS

As long as there has been a music business, artists and producers have been tinkering with their work.

While often, it’s the single version made for mass consumption through radio play that remains superior and best loved, there are occasions when the album take reigns supreme due to the freedom to work on a larger easel without commericial considerations or radio play constrictions.

Often there’s a track that is the obvious standout on the long player, but sometimes it can be of a structure that is considered too long for peak time radio where instant gratification is the key. On other occasions, the vision of the track for album consumption is reconsidered following an earlier short form release produced on a more limited budget.

So as a companion list to the earlier 25 Single Versions That Are Better Than The Album Versions listings feature and restricted to one track per artist, here are 25 Album Versions That Are Better Than The Single Versions presented in chronological and then alphabetical order…


GIORGIO From Here To Eternity (1977)

Despite being a hit single, ‘From Here To Eternity’ was actually something of a disjointed disco medley, throwing in a section of the album track ‘Utopia – Me Giorgio’ halfway through. The full six minute ‘From Here To Eternity’ from the long player of the same name was a futuristic slice of electronic dance perfection, with Giorgio Moroder steadily building on his throbbing synth backbone and layers of vocoder punctuated by the steady beats of drummer Keith Forsey.

Available on the GIORGIO album ‘From Here To Eternity’ via Repertoire Records

https://www.giorgiomoroder.com/


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Being Boiled (1980)

The original Fast Product single version of ‘Being Boiled’ from 1978 had its own charm, recorded as mono demo which was subsequently released. However, having signed to Virgin Records and with a budget behind them, Messrs Marsh, Oakey and Ware took the opportunity to update their calling card with producer John Leckie for the ‘Travelogue’ album to more fully realise its funky overtones inspired by FUNKADELIC. The end result was fuller and more dynamic.

Available on THE HUMAN LEAGUE album ‘Travelogue’ via Virgin Records

http://www.thehumanleague.co.uk/


JAPAN Nightporter (1980)

‘Ghosts’ had been an unexpected singles success for JAPAN in 1982 and Virgin Records wanted more of the same with ‘Nightporter’, despite it being already two years old and with the previously unreleased song ‘Some Kind Of Fool’ in the vaults. Trimming the solemn seven minute ivory laden Satie homage was always going to be difficult and the horrific radio edit butchered out the lengthy if vital instrumental climax of melancholic Oberheim OBX strings. Less really does mean less…

Available on the JAPAN album ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’ via Virgin Records

http://www.nightporter.co.uk/


SIMPLE MINDS I Travel (1980)

The album version of ‘I Travel’ was only four minutes in the first place, yet original label Arista Records felt the need to chop the track on both single edits it released and neuter its impact. SIMPLE MINDS never fully realised their potential until they signed to Virgin Records and ‘I Travel’ heralded a futuristic art rock phase where the band’s Germanic influences, coupled to synthesized disco aesthetics of Giorgio Moroder, found favour at clubs like The Blitz.

Available on the SIMPLE MINDS album ‘Empires & Dance’ via Virgin Records

https://www.simpleminds.com/


KRAFTWERK Computer Love (1981)

Whether ‘Autobahn’, ‘Radio-Activity’, ‘Showroom Dummies’, ‘Trans-Europe Express’, ‘Neon Lights’ or ‘The Robots’, the sheer average length of a KRAFTWERK track made them difficult to apply to the single format and ‘Computer Love’ was no different. A beautifully melodic piece that predicted internet dating and stretched to just under seven minutes with its glorious second half synth solo in its album version, it was like the reel of the film was missing in its edited form.

Available on the KRAFTWERK album ‘Computer World’ via EMI Records

http://www.kraftwerk.com/


BLANCMANGE Waves (1982)

A UK Top 20 single for BLANCMANGE in 1983, ‘Waves’ was remixed and given an orchestral treatment arranged by Linton Naiff, but it strangely detracted from the bare emotion of the song. Sounding like Scott Walker fronting OMD, with a more basic synthesized construction and a sombre detuned brass line allowed to breathe at the song’s conclusion, the album version sans orchestra was much better. However, the original cut has yet to be reinstated on reissues of the parent long player ‘Happy Families’.

Available on the BLANCMANGE album ‘The Very Best Of’ via Music Club Deluxe

http://www.blancmange.co.uk/


DAF Kebab Träume (1982)

Originally recorded for a 1980 single on Mute Records in more of a band format featuring guitar and hand-played synths, ‘Kebab Träume’ was subsequently reworked by DAF in a more superior fashion under the production supervision of the legendary Conny Plank for their third and final Virgin-era long player ‘Für Immer’. Transforming into something much heavier, the memorable if controversial line “Deutschland, Deutschland, alles ist vorbei!” had more bite on this album version also issued as a single.

Available on the DAF album ‘Für Immer’ via Grönland Records

https://www.groenland.com/en/artist/deutsch-amerikanische-freundschaft/


LUSTANS LAKEJER Läppar Tiger, Ögon Talar (1982)

Sweden’s LUSTANS LAKEJER came to international attention when their third long player ‘En Plats I Solen’ was produced by Richard Barbieri of JAPAN. With its synthesized atmospheres and art funk aspirations not that far off DURAN DURAN, ‘Läppar Tiger, Ögon Talar’ was one of the album’s highlights. But for the later single version produced by Kai Erixon, the band opted for a more laid back swing arrangement punctuated by a brass section, which frankly was not as good as the original.

Available on the LUSTANS LAKEJER album ‘En Plats I Solen’ via Universal Music

https://www.facebook.com/LustansLakejer/


GARY NUMAN We Take Mystery (1982)

The single version of ‘We Take Mystery’ which was Gary Numan’s last UK Top 10 hit was too short and the extended 12 inch version was too long, which left the album version from ‘I, Assassin’ as the best take of the song. With its crashing Linn Drum snap and fretless bass with live percussion syncopating on top, this was a dancefloor friendly excursion which concluded with a marvellous additional rhythm guitar breakdown from fretless bassist Pino Palladino.

Available on the GARY NUMAN album ‘I, Assassin’ via Beggars Banquet

https://garynuman.com/


VISAGE The Anvil (1982)

Remixed by John Luongo for single release, ‘The Anvil’ ended up as a B-side but while the sound of metal-on-metal was added, it somehow had less presence than the original album version. Possessing far Teutonic tension with some superb guitar work from Midge Ure, metronomic drumming courtesy of Rusty Egan minus his hi-hats, Dave Formula’s superb screaming ARP Odyssey complimented Steve Strange’s tale of debauchery for one of the best ever VISAGE tracks.

Available on the VISAGE album ‘The Anvil’ via Cherry Pop

https://www.discogs.com/artist/3479-Visage


JOHN FOXX Endlessy (1983)

By 1982, John Foxx has rediscovered his love of early PINK FLOYD, THE BEATLES and psychedelia which manifested itself in ‘Endlessy’. Based around a tom heavy Linn Drum programme, deep cello samples and sitars, it was an interesting if messy experimental romp. Come his third album ‘The Golden Section’ recorded under the helm of producer Zeus B Held, the new version, also released as a revisionist single, was much more focussed with an accessible uptempo electronic euphoria.

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ‘The Golden Section’ via Edsel Records

http://www.metamatic.com/


HEAVEN 17 And That’s No Lie (1984)

A sub-ten minute progressive epic was never going to work as an edited single and with ‘And That’s No Lie’, that’s exactly what happened. The original album version was HEAVEN 17’s ambitious adventure in sound and fusion that threw in everything from abstract sonic experiments, jazz piano, Fairlight samples, the gospel voices of ARFRODIZIAK and an orchestra, plus some excellent live bass and guitar work from John Wilson and Ray Russell respectively.

Available on the HEAVEN 17 album ‘How Men Are’ via Virgin Records

https://www.heaven17.com/


ARCADIA The Flame (1985)

ARCADIA was Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes and Roger Taylor’s attempt to be JAPAN during the DURAN DURAN artistic hiatus, but many of the songs from the short-lived side project were smothered in a pond of self-indulgence. One of the highlights though was ‘The Flame’, basically ‘A View To A Kill Part 2’. However for its single release, a neo-acapella intro was applied rather than the frantic percussive beginning of the album version which robbed the song of its tension and impact.

Available on the ARCADIA album ‘So Red The Rose’ via EMI Records

http://www.duranduran.com/


DEAD OR ALIVE My Heart Goes Bang (1985)

Having got DIVINE into the UK charts, Stock Aitken & Waterman gave the same treatment to DEAD OR ALIVE, scoring a No1 with ‘You Spin Me Round’. The resultant album ‘Youthquake’ had a number of excellent tracks including ‘My Heart Goes Bang’ which was ripe single material. But the single remix by regular PWL associate Phil Harding was horrible, throwing in the kitchen sink with voice cut-ups and an overdriven rhythm section which drowned out any merits the song originally had.

Available on the DEAD OR ALIVE album ‘Youthquake’ via Sony Music

https://www.discogs.com/artist/46720-Dead-Or-Alive


NEW ORDER Bizarre Love Triangle (1986)

Inspired by a News Of The World headline, ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ is one of the best loved NEW ORDER tunes. The rugged self-produced original version that appeared on the ‘Brotherhood’ album was a glorious electronic number with a slight mechanical offbeat and space for Hooky’s distinctive bass. But the version released for 45 RPM consumption was a frustrating, four-to-the-floor remix by Shep Pettibone which took all the character out of the song with a barrage of overdriven percussive samples.

Available on the NEW ORDER album ‘Brotherhood’ via Warner Music

http://www.neworder.com/


TALK TALK Living In Another World (1986)

Although ‘Living In Another World’ was the best song on ‘The Colour Of Spring’, it was always going to be a tall order to successfully cut its seven minutes in half for single consumption! A fine progressive combination of synthetic strings, piano, Hammond organ, hypnotic bass, acoustic and electric guitars, percolating percussion and harmonica, the TALK TALK sound would have been nothing however without the anguished vocals of Mark Hollis and the production skills of Tim Friese-Greene.

Available on the TALK TALK album ‘The Colour Of Spring’ via EMI Records

https://www.facebook.com/Talk-Talk-Mark-Hollis-12307963901/


CAMOUFLAGE The Great Commandment (1988)

German trio CAMOUFLAGE had a hit with ‘The Great Commandment’ all over the world including the US, with only Britain remaining ambivalent to their industrial flavoured synthpop. As with many singles of the period, it clocked in at just over three minutes but sounded rushed. Come the debut album ’Voices & Images’ and ‘The Great Commandment’ was more fully realised, allowing space to prevail in the one of the best DEPECHE MODE tracks that the Basildon boys never recorded.

Available on the CAMOUFLAGE album ‘Voices & Images’ via Metronome Music

http://www.camouflage-music.com/


THE BLUE NILE Headlights On The Parade (1989)

Enigmatic Glaswegian trio THE BLUE NILE were never an easy sell to the wider marketplace and the Bob Clearmountain single remix of ‘Headlights On The Parade’ was hopeless, with over a third of the emotively atmospheric number absent for the sake of radio play. The centrepiece of the brilliant ‘Hats’ album, its haunting piano, swaths of synths and a collage of modulated sequences needed a full six minutes to truly convey its solemn drive and rainy cinematic melodrama.

Available on THE BLUE NILE album ‘Hats’ via Epstein Records

http://www.thebluenile.org/


THE GRID Floatation (1990)

Subsonically remixed by Andrew Weatherall with a distinct chilled-out flavour and an additional vocal from Sacha Souter for single release, the brilliant album version of ‘Floatation’ had a more rigid KRAFTWERK feel echoing elements of ‘Tour De France’. And as the track drew towards the home straight, Julian Stringle’s clarinet brought to mind the aesthetics of Dave Ball’s previous residency in SOFT CELL. But while those woodwind textures were present in the single, they were less effective overall.

Available on THE GRID album ‘Electric Head’ via Cherry Red Records

https://www.discogs.com/artist/5081-The-Grid


PET SHOP BOYS Being Boring (1990)

Partly inspired by a quote about Zelda Fitzgerald, novelist and wife of author F Scott Fitzgerald which stated “she refused to be bored chiefly because she wasn’t boring”, ‘Being Boring’ is one of PET SHOP BOYS’ best songs, reflecting on Neil Tennant’s youth and the loss of a friend who died of AIDS. While the single itself was almost five minutes long, the superior album version featured a fabulous intro that steadily built with a lilting synth bassline and wah-wah guitar that made the most of the song’s elegiac aura.

Available on the PET SHOP BOYS album ‘Behaviour’ via EMI Records

http://petshopboys.co.uk/


DEPECHE MODE In Your Room (1993)

A tedious rockist statement by DEPECHE MODE when reworked by Butch Vig for single release, the lengthy original album version of ‘In Your Room’ was widescreen magnificence with a tense percussive drive courtesy of Alan Wilder who only played what was needed, adding a second simplistic drum passage in the final half for extra weight. A fine example of how feel is more important technique, current DM drumhead Christian Eigner managed to mess up his opportunity to shine on this during the ‘Global Spirit’ tour.

Available on the DEPECHE MODE album ‘Songs Of Faith & Devotion’ via Sony Music

http://www.depechemode.com/


LADYTRON Evil (2003)

The second LADYTRON album ‘Light & Magic’ is probably best known for its lead single ‘Seventeen’, but opening its second half was the brilliantly propulsive ‘Evil’. An obvious single, when remixed by noted dance producer Ewan Pearson, it was filled out with extra string synths and made more contemporary. The track lost its appealing spatial dynamics and grunt while the way in which the vocals of Helen Marnie were mixed more than muted her charm.

Available on the LADYTRON album ‘Light & Magic’ via Nettwerk productions

http://www.ladytron.com/


ARTHUR & MARTHA Autovia (2009)

ARTHUR & MARTHA were Adam Cresswell and Alice Hubley; their debut single ‘Autovia’ was the first release on Happy Robots Records in 2008 but when it came to recording the album ‘Navigation’, the incessant Doctor Rhythm drum machine was given a more hypnotic Motorik makeover which ironically gave the track more drive. Meanwhile, there was an extended end section which allowed for some cosmic Theremin and synth wig-outs between the pair not unlike STEREOLAB meeting NEU!

Available on the ARTHUR & MARTHA album ‘Navigation’ via Happy Robots Records

https://www.facebook.com/arthurandmarthaband/


MESH Adjust Your Set (2013)

From MESH’s best album ‘Automation Baby’, the wonderfully metronomic ‘Adjust Your Set’ with its personal relationship commentary in a technology dominated world was one of its many highlights. Given a more orchestrated remix by Nico Wieditz for the MaBose Radio-Edit with a much busier electronic bassline along the lines of ‘Enjoy The Silence’, while this single version had more obvious presence, it lacked the eerie cinematic Morricone-esque air of the album original.

Available on the MESH album ‘Automation Baby’ via Dependent Records

http://www.mesh.co.uk/


GOLDFRAPP Ocean (2017)

‘Ocean’ was already dramatic perfection as the best track on the seventh GOLDFRAPP album ‘Silver Eye’, but for the single version, it was felt a contribution from a former member of the Mute family was needed. While Devotees were wetting themselves over Dave Gahan appearing on a more obviously electronic sounding track again, his faux bluesy drawl was something of a mismatch next to the breathy angelic tones of Alison Goldfrapp. Gahan may be from Essex but he is certainly no Alison Moyet.

Available on the GOLDFRAPP album ‘Silver Eye’ via Mute Artists

https://www.goldfrapp.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
2nd January 2019, updated 5th December 2022

BEYOND THE WIZARDS SLEEVE Diagram Girl

BEYOND THE WIZZARD’S SLEEVE Diagram GirlIt’s only April, but could ‘Diagram Girl’ by BEYOND THE WIZARDS SLEEVE be one of the songs of 2016?

The psychedelically monikered sonic brotherhood of DJ Erol Alkan and Richard Norris, who is best known for his partnership with Dave Ball in THE GRID, BEYOND THE WIZARDS SLEEVE are set to release their debut album proper ‘The Soft Bounce’ on 1st July 2016, following establishing their reputation as remixers with their series of ‘Re-Animations’. ‘Diagram Girl’ is the gorgeously enticing lead track from the album and comes over as a blissfully sequenced electronic take on M83 or MAPS, but with the twist of unisex vocals by HANNAH PEEL.

Directed by BAFTA winner Kieran Evans, the wonderful monochromatic video for ‘Diagram Girl’ is a wonderful surreal homage to Nouvelle Vague cinema, capturing a forlorn woman surreally trapped in a derelict house stalked by a ghost and assorted crow-like beings; meanwhile the delightful Miss Peel also makes a cameo appearance.

Released as a single, the bundle also contains a Re-Animation which takes off the male lead vocal and leaves just Peel’s natural dreamily breathy tones over the extended electronic workout.

The Craigavon-born songstress and composer herself has been very busy of late. As well as  juggling projects such as THE MAGNETIC NORTH and MARY CASIO, there will also be the live debut of a collaborative work called ‘In The Shadows Of Steam’, celebrating the lost railways of Donegal at the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival on Thursday 5th May 2016.

Hannah Peel - Diagram GirlAnd this is without Peel’s own upcoming second solo album ‘Awake But Always Dreaming’, contributing her vocals to a new JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS song ‘A Man & A Woman’ which will feature on a new compilation ‘21st Century: A Man, A Woman And A City’ and a South Coast tour of eight record shops in support of her ‘Rebox 2’ mini-album release on gold vinyl for RSD2016 on Saturday 16th April.

Meanwhile, promising an album of “pleasure and pain, doubt and transcendence” with other guest such as Blaine Harrison of indie rockers MYSTERY JETS, Euros Childs from GORKY’S ZYGOTIC MYNCI, Jane Weaver and Holly Miranda, BEYOND THE WIZARDS SLEEVE launch ‘The Soft Bounce’ with a 4 hour DJ set at The Moth Club in London on the evening of its release.


‘Diagram Girl’ is available now on 12 inch turquoise vinyl with a download key via https://shop.phantasysound.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/beyondthewizardssleeve/

https://soundcloud.com/beyond-the-wizards-sleeve

http://www.hannahpeel.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
10th April 2016

DAVE BALL Interview

Photo by Paul Cox

Dave Ball is best known as the musical genius of SOFT CELL.

Together with Marc Almond, they recorded ‘Tainted Love’, a marvellous hybrid of Northern Soul and KRAFTWERK that was possibly Synth Britannia’s first true crossover song. It started a run of hit singles that ensured SOFT CELL would be Top 40 chart fixtures for the next three years. Their self-released ‘Mutant Moments’ EP in 1980 came to the attention of DJ Stevo Pearce, who had been compiling “futurist” charts for the music papers Record Mirror and Sounds.

Stevo gathered a number of fledgling acts like DEPECHE MODE, BLANCMANGE, B-MOVIE and THE THE who appeared alongside SOFT CELL on the independently produced ‘Some Bizzare Album’ compilation in 1981.

This eventually led to SOFT CELL signing to Phonogram Records. After ‘Tainted Love’, a cover of a Northern Soul favourite by Gloria Jones, became a UK No1 in September 1981, Ball and Almond became unlikely pin-ups with poster spreads in ‘Smash Hits’. The follow-up single ‘Bedsitter’ reached No 4 and proved SOFT CELL could have hit singles with their own material.

Meanwhile, a further three Top 3 hits came with ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’, ‘Torch’ and ‘What’ during what could be now considered as SOFT CELL’s imperial phase, a period which undoubtedly broke down barriers and paved the way for many of the acts who followed, like PET SHOP BOYS, ERASURE, BRONSKI BEAT and FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD.

However, as former art students who had met at Leeds Polytechnic, commercial success and pop stardom did not sit well with Ball and Almond; inevitably, the pair began to implode. SOFT CELL disbanded in 1984 but while Almond went solo, Ball eventually found solace in the burgeoning house scene.

With his new musical partner Richard Norris, he found success as THE GRID. Their debut album ‘Electric Head’ proved to be quite influential, with Canadian DJ TIGA probably one of the artists who owe a debt to its timeless musical template.

Around this time, Ball began collaborating with Marc Almond again. The results ended up on ‘Tenement Symphony’, possibly the most mainstream recording of Almond’s career.

This eventually led to a full SOFT CELL reunion in 2001 and the album ‘Cruelty Without Beauty’ in 2002.

Following an impromptu meeting at a recent Wolfgang Flür gig Under The Bridge in Chelsea, Dave Ball kindly agreed to a chat with ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about his career with SOFT CELL, THE GRID and more.

What inspired you to adopt synthesizers as your tools of expression, rather than guitars?

I first started out as a guitar player but I wasn’t good enough and after hearing ‘Autobahn’ by KRAFTWERK, I decided I was more interested in the possibilities of synthesizers, so I part-exchanged my Fender Telecaster for a second hand synth.

Which were your first couple of synth and drum machine purchases?

My first synth was a Mini Korg 800DV, followed by a Korg Synthe-Bass SB-100 and I had Rhythm Master drum machine that played presets like Bossa Nova, then I got a Boss Dr Rhythm which was programmable.

One of the key instruments in the SOFT CELL sound was the Korg Synthe-Bass SB-100, a little two octave synth which no-one else appeared to use.

The SB-100 was great because it was specifically a bass instrument, although the twangy topline on ‘Bedsitter’ is made on that instrument using the two pitchbend buttons. The B52s are the only other group I know of that also used that keyboard.

I’ve always been interested in how you connected your love of Northern Soul with your rhythm structures for SOFT CELL, particularly once you’d acquired the Roland TR808?

I would say the only similarity was to do with the tempo of Northern Soul and our faster numbers. On ‘Tainted Love’ I used a Roland Compurhythm CR78 drum machine, I first used a TR808 on ‘Bedsitter’, the follow-up single. I think that was possibly the first record in the UK Top 10 to use an 808.

SOFT CELL self-released ‘Mutant Moments’ which brought you to the attention of Some Bizzare and the inclusion of ‘The Girl With The Patent Leather Face’ on the subsequent era defining compilation. Do you have any key amusing memories of that period and those ‘Some Bizzare Evenings’ playing live alongside DEPECHE MODE, BLANCMANGE, THE THE and B-MOVIE etc?

They weren’t amusing at the time I assure you although I can laugh about them now. When we played with DEPECHE MODE, it was at a club called Crocs in Rayleigh and they were the house band so they were our support act, believe it or not. They were really tight and played really well and I was very nervous about going on after them as various members of ULTRAVOX, VISAGE, SPANDAU BALLET had come down from London to check us out. We played maybe the worst gig of our careers, the crowd were chucking pennies at us and laughing at us. That was when we realised we had to get our shit together or think about getting day jobs.

‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ is still much talked about and certainly was a better debut than say, DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Speak & Spell’. How do you yourself look back on it today in the pantheon of classic synthpop?

I think it was the result of working on loads of songs together for two years solid and we seemed to catch the zeitgeist – it was very of its time and I think the S&M references helped. It was quite dangerous imagery for a pop band. It took DEPECHE MODE a few years before they got into the black leather and druggy stuff that we were into from day one.

Photo by Peter Ashworth

By ‘The Art Of Falling Apart’, you had expanded the instrumental palette to include guitar and bass plus early samplers and digital drum machines.

I think we were trying to sound heavier and slightly rockier. In retrospect I actually prefer the TR808 drum machine on the previous album, as opposed to the Oberheim DMX and Linn Drum MkII on ‘The Art Of Falling Apart’.

The sampler we used was a Synclavier MkII that belonged to our producer, Mike Thorne. I only used the sampler for the bass guitar on the track ‘Martin’ on the bonus 12” single.

You recorded a solo album ‘In Strict Tempo’ and produced VICIOUS PINK PHENOMENA. What did you find creatively by doing these that perhaps you hadn’t done with SOFT CELL?

My solo album was really just me wanting to work with some different people and experiment with the studio. It was more like a sketchbook than a fully realised album. VICIOUS PINK were good friends and were on the first SOFT CELL album and I desperately wanted to become a producer, as I was never really into the live performance thing.

After SOFT CELL disbanded, you took an interest in acid house and met Richard Norris to form THE GRID. How did that and then the subsequent availability of the Akai samplers and other equipment become a game changer for you?

I first met him a mutual friend, Genesis P. Orridge of THROBBING GRISTLE / PSYCHIC TV fame when we were working on an album called ‘Jack The Tab’.

What was really crazy about the tech at that time was the affordability. When I first used a Synclavier, they cost £120,000. Then I used a Fairlight III, they cost £60,000! Suddenly you could buy an Atari computer and an Akai sampler and still have change out of £2,000.

It made the whole thing available to many more people and people started sampling records and creating a whole new kind of loop based music. It was a totally new thing and I found it incredibly exciting.

THE GRID’s debut album ‘Electric Head’ stills stand up and a track like ‘One Giant Step’ hasn’t dated at all. Why do you think that might be?

To be quite honest, there’s a lot of electronic music out there that hasn’t dated because a lot of it is timeless; also because we often tried to sound futuristic.

The single versions of ‘A Beat Called Love’ and ‘Floatation’ featured recognisable musical elements that could be linked back to SOFT CELL. Had that been a conscious thing or was it proof that the rave scene was a natural progression from the ecstasy fuelled recording sessions for ‘Non-Stop Cabaret’?

Regarding ‘A Beat Called Love’ and ‘Floatation’ – we were under pressure to have hit singles, so in that respect you could make a link to SOFT CELL, albeit slightly tenuously. There was a link in terms of the ecstasy / dance music progression I guess.

What inspired the move to the now infamous “cow-punk techno” sound of ‘Swamp Thing’ and ‘Texas Cowboys’?

I’ve never heard it called “cow-punk techno” before. “Swamp Thing” was inspired by a guy I saw playing sort of Bluegrass with an Irish band in a pub in Marylebone and it occurred to me that the tempo and feel would work with a 4/4 dance beat. Unfortunately it became a bit of a novelty record. We sold a million copies worldwide and it got synched on a John Waters movie, ‘Pecker’ and on Robert Altman’s film ‘Pret A Porter’ – so it’s not all bad. ‘Texas Cowboys’ was inspired by the Andy Warhol / Paul Morrisey film, ‘Lonesome Cowboys’.

THE GRID became in-demand remixers / producers for people like BILLIE RAY MARTIN, SPARKS, ERASURE, PET SHOP BOYS, DAVID SYLVIAN and ROBERT FRIPP. Do you have a particular favourite remix that you did?

I like our mix of ‘Am I Right’ by ERASURE, I was pleased they included it on their recent anthology that got to number 9 in the UK charts. I like the mixes we did for HAPPY MONDAYS, ‘Bob’s Yer Uncle’ and ‘Loose Fix’.

How did you come to be writing again with Marc again for ‘Tenement Symphony’?

I think it was after we’d done a mix of his track ‘Waifs & Strays’. We hadn’t spoken for some time and that got us working together again on a few tracks.

What was the process in composing and recording ‘Meet Me In My Dream’, a song which many regard as a SOFT CELL song in all but name?

I think anything I’ve ever done with Marc sounds like SOFT CELL really. It’s hard not to. My process is always I’ll work out a few chords and sketch out a topline then pass it to him.

This eventually led to a full SOFT CELL reunion and the ‘Cruelty Without Beauty’ album in 2002. Had SOFT CELL been unfinished business for you?

Well, as the saying goes “Never say never again”. We were originally trying to write songs for other people, there was no plan to reform SOFT CELL, but when we did the demos in my studio it just sounded like SOFT CELL… so we just said, “OK, it’s SOFT CELL”.

Photo by Piers Allardyce

Did you and Marc achieve all you had hoped for artistically in getting back together?

I’m glad we did one more album, I can’t say I had any hopes or expectations but I like the album.

You were one of the last people to work in the studio with the late Martin Rushent with your NITEWRECKAGE project?

Yes, Martin was a lovely man and a total genius in the studio. I wish I’d worked with him earlier in both our careers. He is sadly missed.

Which five tracks from all aspects of your career have you felt the most satisfaction from?

‘Baby Doll’ – SOFT CELL off ‘The Art of Falling Apart’ – it reminds me of a very special time in New York.

‘Floatation’ – THE GRID – I was pleased when it was recognised as an Ibiza chill out classic.

‘Your Loving Arms’ – BILLIE RAY MARTIN– it was our first GRID production to get in the UK Top 10 and in the Billboard 100 in the US.

‘My Hand Over My Heart’ – MARC ALMOND off ‘Tenement Symphony’- I love Trevor Horn’s epic production and Anne Dudley’s arrangement.

‘Say Hello, Wave Goodbye’ – SOFT CELL – I think it’s become an anthem.

Are there any projects you are working on at the moment?

Yes, I’m producing an album for Gavin Friday and another one for Anni Hogan with my production partner, Riccardo Mulhall.

What floats your boat musically these days?

Messing about with modular synths.


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

https://www.facebook.com/David-Ball-393529214088933/

https://twitter.com/dbelectrode

https://www.discogs.com/artist/62914-Dave-Ball

http://www.softcell.co.uk

https://www.facebook.com/softcellband/

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/apr12/articles/classic-tracks-0412.htm

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/dec02/articles/softcell.asp


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Paul Cox, Fin Costello, Peter Ashworth and Piers Allardyce
10th March 2016

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