Tag: Wire

A Beginner’s Guide To DANIEL MILLER

This history of Mute Records and its esteemed founder Daniel Miller is more than well documented.

The lavish book ‘Mute: A Visual Document From 1978 – Tomorrow’ published in 2017 captured the iconic label’s visual aesthetic. Already a fan of German kosmische scene, Daniel Miller began taking an interest in synthesizers for making pop music after hearing KRAFTWERK’s ‘Autobahn’.

The advent of affordable synthesizers from Japan manufactured by the likes of Korg and Roland made it possible for him to adopt punk’s DIY ethic by buying a Korg 700s for the price of a guitar. That enabled him to make music using just one finger, instead of having to learn three chords.

Conceiving a punk single with electronics, he wrote and recorded ‘Warm Leatherette’ b/w ‘TVOD’ for a one-off independent single release in 1978. Miller’s sense of experimentation within a structured albeit avant pop context led to kindred spirits sending him tapes, thanks to him including his mother’s address “16 Decoy Avenue London NW 11 England” on the back of the MUTE 001 sleeve.

Mute Records’ first signing was a former art student Frank Tovey who released the macabre ‘Back To Nature’ as FAD GADGET in 1979 as MUTE 002 with Miller co-producing. It began establishing a good reputation for experimental electronic pop music. As well as running the label and working in the studio with his own roster of acts, Miller also produced and remixed other artists, although this became less frequent as Mute Records achieved more and more success.

If Daniel Miller had a characteristic sound during the pioneering years of Synth Britannia, then it was his use of the ARP 2600 driven by an ARP 1601 analogue sequencer, particularly for unique rhythmic templates obtained from the percussive capabilities of this versatile American synth.

Always keen to keep up-to-date with the latest technology, Miller’s later acquisitions included a Synclavier, PPG Wave 2, Emulator, Roland System 100M and Roland MC4 Micro-Composer. Many years later, Miller even bought the customised vocoder used on ‘Autobahn’ from the late Florian Schneider even though it was not in fully working order.

While Miller’s production work with DEPECHE MODE over five albums naturally led American new wave acts like BOOK OF LOVE to seek his knowhow, indie band THE HOUSE OF LOVE were surprisingly curious enough to secure his services on their track ‘Safe’. Meanwhile, post-punk art rock combo WIRE saw him as a kindred spirit keen to explore new interesting ways of recording and worked with Miller in various guises.

While Daniel Miller stepped back from producing DEPECHE MODE in 1987 to concentrate on Mute Records, it was his mix with Phil Legg of the Flood produced ‘Enjoy The Silence’ that became the international hit single; Miller had felt the version that François Kevorkian had presented was too electronic. 

While work had been going well with the French-born DJ’s mixes for the ‘Violator’ album, Miller’s instincts told him ‘Enjoy The Silence’ needed to be brought back slightly with a more organic vision. The song had already been transformed in the studio from a funereal ballad to an electronic disco number with house influences!

Although Mute Records was bought by EMI in 2002, Miller reached an agreement in 2010 to establish a second independently run record label under the name Mute Artists while the Mute Records name and rights to the label’s archive recordings remained under the control of EMI’s present owners Universal. More recently, Daniel Miller has been happily DJ-ing around the world playing largely techno sets for Berghain in Berlin, Sónar in Barcelona and IMS in Ibiza among others.

Meanwhile he has also occasionally given talks at events such as MoogFest. Red Bull Music Academy, LEAF and the Electri_City_Conference.

With a vast and varied portfolio to investigate, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK looks back at the creative career of Daniel Miller in music via eighteen of his productions and remixes, with a restriction of one track per artist moniker, presented in yearly, then alphabetical order.


THE NORMAL Warm Leatherette (1978)

Daniel Miller’s sense of experimentation and vision of the synth being the ultimate punk instrument requiring the use of just one finger led to him making his first record. Lyrically inspired by JG Ballard’s ‘Crash’ with its story around car collision symphorophilia, the dystopian ‘Warm Leatherette’ was based around two noisy notes and a twitchy rhythmic backbone that was menacing yet enthralling at the same time. It turned out to be something of a game changer.

Available on THE NORMAL single ‘ Warm Leatherette’ / ‘TVOD’ via Mute Records

http://mute.com/category/the-normal


FAD GADGET Coitus Interruptus (1980)

Following the success of singles ‘Back To Nature’ and ‘Ricky’s Hand’, a FAD GADGET album was eagerly anticipated and it came with ‘Fireside Favourites’ which brought in a Korg Rhythm 55 drum machine, conventional instruments and various found objects alongside the synths. A four way production effort between Frank Tovey, Daniel Miller, Eric Radcliffe and John Fryer, the superb ‘Coitus Interruptus’ was a deeply cynical commentary on casual relationships.

Available on the album ‘Fireside Favourites’ via Mute Records

https://fadgadget.co.uk/


ALEX FERGUSSON Stay With Me Tonight (1980)

Larry Least was a production pseudonym inspired by the producer, Rak Records mogul and ‘New Faces’ judge Mickey Most. This infectious solo single by Alex Fergusson featured Daniel Miller’s distinctive electronic footprint and his involvement helped the ALTERNATIVE TV guitarist transform from post-punk to more synthesized song experiments. With Fergusson forming PSYCHIC TV with Genesis P-Orridge, it wasn’t until 1992 that a white label only self-titled solo album was released.

Available on the boxed set ‘Electrical Language: Independent British Synth Pop 78-84’ (V/A) via Cherry Red Records

https://www.scaruffi.com/vol4/atv.html


SILICON TEENS Memphis Tennessee (1980)

Following THE NORMAL, Daniel Miller decided to undertake a new project where rock ’n’ roll standards like ‘Just Like Eddie’ and ‘Memphis Tennessee’ were reinterpreted in a synthpop style, using a fictitious group called SILICON TEENS as a front. While Miller sang like he had a clothes peg attached to his nose and produced the recordings as Larry Least, several actors hired to appear in videos and do press interviews, although lead vocalist ‘Darryl’ was played by Frank Tovey.

Available on the SILICON TEENS album ‘Music For Parties’ via Mute Records

http://mute.com/release/music-for-parties


ALAN BURNHAM Science Fiction (1981)

For a one-off single on Cherry Red Records, the dystopian minimal synth of ‘Music To Save The World By’ from the little known and somewaht reclusive Alan Burnham was produced by Daniel Miller at Blackwing Studios. He also worked on its B-side ‘Science Fiction’ which was just as haunting as the main act. Perhaps more organic thanks to the use of live drums by Cam Findlay, it took a leaf out of the quirky cult Wirral duo DALEK I LOVE YOU and their song ‘The World’ in particular.

Available on the boxed set ‘Electrical Language: Independent British Synth Pop 78-84’ (V/A) via Cherry Red Records

http://mute.com/mute/daniel-miller


SOFT CELL Metro MRX (1981)

The original ‘Metro MRX’ came from the SOFT CELL debut EP ‘Mutant Moments’ released in October 1980, but the sub-two minute Daniel Miller take of ‘Metro MRX’ for ‘Flexipop’ magazine borrowed the same synthetic rhythm track as DEPECHE MODE’s ‘New Life’ to accompany Almond’s snarls of “he’s a mutant!”. Miller also produced ‘A Man Can Get Lost’, ‘Persuasion’ and perhaps most significantly, the proto-house of ‘Memorabilia’ at those same Stage One recording sessions.

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

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


DEPECHE MODE Nothing To Fear (1982)

While Eric Radcliffe was holed up working with Vince Clarke and Alison Moyet on the first YAZOO album at Blackwing Studios on the night shift, during the day Daniel Miller was working with DEPECHE MODE on their second. With punchy Simmons Drum modules and a catchy melodic theme, ‘Nothing To Fear’ was a glorious instrumental statement from an important long player that made the most of Miller’s programming expertise to ensure an optimistic future for Messrs Gahan, Gore and Fletcher.

Available on the DEPECHE MODE album ‘A Broken Frame’ via Mute Records

http://www.depechemode.com/


THOMAS DOLBY Radio Silence (1982)

When recording ‘Radio Silence’ for singular consumption, Thomas Morgan Dolby Robertson sought the assistance of Daniel Miller thanks to his track record with DEPECHE MODE. Bringing in his PPG Wave 2 and helping with the final mix, it was released as a single in early 1982 with an alternative rockier guitar driven version on the B-side which was favoured in the US. Both takes also featured the voice of Akiko Yano, who was married to Ryuichi Sakamoto at the time.

Available on the THOMAS DOLBY album ‘The Golden Age Of Wireless’ via EMI Records

https://www.thomasdolby.com/


DUET EMMO Or So It Seems (1982)

WIRE refugees, Bruce Gilbert and Graham Lewis had been working under the name DOME, so when a collaborative adventure with Miller was suggested, an anagram of that moniker and Mute resulted in DUET EMMO. Recorded at Blackwing Studios, ‘Or So It Seems’ was their debut offering, a slice of experimental pop shaped with grumbling synthesized bass, captivating electronics and textural harmonic guitar while Lewis’ haunting vocals provided the emotional centre, spooked by sombre bursts of brass.

Available on the DUET EMMO album ‘Or So It Seems’ via Mute Records

https://mutesong.com/writers/duet-emmo/


YAZOO Situation (1982)

Originally the B-side to ‘Only You’, ‘Situation’ was one of only three writing collaborations between Alison Moyet and Vince Clarke, as well as only being one of five YAZOO tracks that Daniel Miller co-produced with Eric Radcliffe. Clocking in at barely two minutes in its original form, it made its impact with some rousing blues based sequenced dance pop; it became a US club favourite when it was remixed by Francois Kevorkian who later worked with KRAFTWERK and DEPECHE MODE.

Available on the YAZOO boxed set ‘The Collection’ via Mute Records

https://twitter.com/yazooinfo


ROBERT GÖRL Mit Dir (1983)

Following DAF’s Virgin album trilogy produced by Conny Plank, the duo borke up in a haze of sex, drugs and sequencer. Drummer and synthesist Robert Görl signed to Mute as a solo artist and began his account with the standalone single ‘Mit Dir’. Dark, brooding and magnificent, the song was co-produced by Daniel Miller and went on to become a favourite among the cognoscenti, reinterpreted for Prada commercials and covered by DJ HELL with STEREO MCs.

Available on the ROBERT GÖRL album ‘Night Full Of Tension’ via Mute Records

http://www.robert-goerl.de/


HARD CORPS To Breathe (1985)

Polydor A&R man Malcolm Dunbar managed to gain Daniel Miller’s interest to help out on a HARD CORPS track that Martin Rushent had started. “It was an offer we could not refuse and ‘Respirer’ duly ended up being completed with Daniel producing” said the band’s Clive Pierce, “So now we had two of the best ‘electronic’ music producers in the UK both helping on our track”. Exquisitely Gallic, Polydor however released ‘Respirer’ in English as ‘To Breathe’ but it was not the hit that they were seeking.

Available as ‘Respirer’ on the HARD CORPS album ‘Metal & Flesh’ via Sub Culture Records

http://www.hardcorps.co.uk/


NITZER EBB Join In The Chant – Gold! (1987)

Chelmsford’s NITZER EBB were founded by school friends Douglas McCarthy, Bon Harris and Bon Harris. Originally produced by Pete Waterman associate Phil Harding, the ambiguous chants of “muscle and late, lies, lies, gold, gold” in ‘Join In The Chant’ encouraged exactly as the title suggested in the manner of a DAF body sculpture. Daniel Miller and Flood’s Gold! restructure took out the Balearic beats and pushed forward a more Teutonic industrial thrust complete with metallic tools to boot.

Available on the NITZER EBB album ‘Body Of Work’ via Mute Records

http://www.nitzer-ebb.com/


ERASURE Supernature – Daniel Miller & Phil Legg Remix (1990)

ERASURE were not shy about doing cover versions with ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!’ and ‘River Deep Mountain High’ having already been reinterpreted by this point. Andy Bell and Vince Clarke’s take on Marc Cerrone’s electronic disco landmark saw Daniel Miller and Phil Legg present this tight electro-dance remix extended to over seven minutes. Miller and Legg got together again for DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Enjoy The Silence’ and it was their mix that became the ‘Violator’ album version and single release.

Available on the ERASURE deluxe album ‘Wild!’ via Mute Records

https://www.erasureinfo.com/


CHRIS & COSEY Synaesthesia – Daniel Miller Mix (1991)

After leaving industrial pioneers THROBBING GRISTLE, Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti became a popular cult duo with their experimental pop utilising electronics, sampling, rhythms and even cornet alongside Cosey’s distinctive nonchalant vocals. Superbly sinister but beautiful metallic synthpop, ‘Synaesthesia’ exuded hints of PET SHOP BOYS ‘Euroboy’ but a good year before it. Meanwhile Daniel Miller’s brilliant rework took on a different groove to the harder bleepy house laden original.

Available on the CHRIS & COSEY single ‘Synaesthesia’ via Conspiracy International

http://www.chrisandcosey.com/


SUNROOF! Hero (1998)

SUNROOF! was Daniel Miller’s occasional project with Gareth Jones who he first worked with on DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Construction Time Again’ album. Exploring their love of Kosmische, it was perhaps no surprise that they covered the symbolic NEU! track ‘Hero’. Given more of a pulsing electronic treatment, the alluringly detached vocals came from Alison Conway who has part of the Mute family having been part of AC MARIAS, a project which also featured Bruce Gilbert of WIRE and Barry Adamson of MAGAZINE.

Available on the album ‘A Homage to NEU!’ (V/A) via Cleopatra

http://www.garethjones.com/


POPPY & THE JEZEBELS Sign In, Dream On, Drop Out! – Richard X Meets Larry Least Mix (2012)

POPPY & THE JEZEBELS were a school band based in Birmingham signed to Mute Song. ‘Sign In, Dream On, Drop Out!’ was superbly playful girly synthpop with the ‘Isolation’ bassline borrowed from JOY DIVISION bouncing around in electronic form while sinister Maggie Thatcher voice samples echoed. Originally produced by Richard X, Larry Least came out of retirement when the girls persuaded Miller to remix the track using his trusty Korg 700s synth.

Available on the POPPY & THE JEZEBELS single ‘Sign In, Dream On, Drop Out!’ via Gunball Machine

https://mutesong.com/writers/poppy-and-the-jezebels/


WRANGLER Theme From Wrangler – Daniel Miller rework (2016)

The brief from WRANGLER to remixers of tracks from their album ‘LA Spark’ was simple: “We provide some basic stems from a track selected by you from our debut album ‘LA Spark’ and you add whatever sounds you like – the only rule being that you use just one analogue modular synthesiser system of your choice.” Sweetened by flanged string machine, Daniel Miller provided a gliding rumbling bassline over a metronomic kick on his rework of ‘Theme from Wrangler’.

Available on the WRANGLER album ‘Sparked: Modular Remix Project’ via MemeTune Records

https://www.facebook.com/mallinderbengewinter/


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Simon Helm and Volker Maass
Photos by Simon Helm
4th June 2020, updated 14th February 2021

Lost Albums: BERLIN BLONDES Berlin Blondes

BERLIN BLONDES were a post-punk band who formed in Glasgow during 1979.

The original line-up comprised of Steven Bonomi (vocals), Robert Farrell (guitar + synth), Jim Spender (keyboards + synth) and David Rudden (bass).

But as the quartet signed to EMI in 1980, Rudden left to form ENDGAMES who signed to Virgin Records and went on to have a minor German hit ‘Waiting For Another Chance’ in 1983. Rudden’s replacement on bass was Nick Clark from THE CUBAN HEELS.

THE CUBAN HEELS were an offshoot of punk band JOHNNY AND THE SELF ABUSERS whose members included Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill of SIMPLE MINDS; they famously split up on the day their debut single ‘Saints & Sinners’ was released!

BERLIN BLONDES only ever made one self-titled album, recorded at GARY NUMAN’s Rock City Studios in Shepperton and produced by Mike Thorne, best known for his work with WIRE, SOFT CELL and BRONSKI BEAT. This combination meant that not only was Numan’s Polymoog present on the record, but also the first version of the Synclavier which SOFT CELL later used to such great effect on ‘Non Stop Erotic Cabaret’ under Thorne’s direction.

As with many acts of the more artistically inclined post-punk period, ROXY MUSIC and Berlin-era DAVID BOWIE were both key influences on BERLIN BLONDES. They differed by using a drum machine, which gave them a stark rhythmic sound unusual at the time, as the acts they were often compared to like SPARKS, WIRE, MAGAZINE and SIMPLE MINDS used live drummers.

A meeting of synthesizers, art rock and obscure vocals, BERLIN BLONDES had the air of a Highland FAD GADGET, with a very European detached cool.

Beginning the album with what was their second single, ‘Framework’ was the sort of syncopated futurist disco featuring crashing electronic beats and bursts of string machine that SPANDAU BALLET and DURAN DURAN were to initially make their fortune with.

Densely produced, it failed to be a hit and could be considered one of the great lost songs of 1980.

But then in that same year, SIMPLE MINDS ‘I Travel’ and THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s reissue of ‘Empire State Human’ also failed to trouble the chart return shops, so even the best were having it hard.

BERLIN BLONDES’ debut 45 ‘Science’ was more in touch with new wave, although on the album rework, the addition of live drum beats from Danny Frankel and more prominent synths added some qualities that were absent from the original single version.

The waltzy ‘Astro’ was entertainingly SPARKS-lite, reminiscent of ‘Falling In Love With Myself Again’ from ‘Kimono My House’, but coming over like a less accomplished version of SIMPLE MINDS’ similarly influenced ‘Kaleidoscope’.

Smothered in a macabre cocoon of intensity, ‘Romance’ made the most of its horror film soundtrack synths, chilling string machine and a brilliant bassline.

Meanwhile ‘Trail To Istanbul’ with its John McGeoch-like guitar over a distorted mechanical backbeat provided a skeleton for Eno-esque guitar treatments to imitate bursts of sax.

The claustrophobia of ‘Secret Days’ recalled MAGAZINE coupled to elements of SIMPLE MINDS ‘Premonition’, while ‘Mannequin’ possessed some New Romantic swagger and swirling electronics, although things got a bit overbearing towards the end with cries of “dummy-dummy-dummy”!

The over-driven drum machine and icy synths attached to a harsh arpeggio on ‘Neon Probe’ came over like JOHN FOXX, while suitably eerie with doom laden bass guitar saw ‘Zero Song’ progressing into a steadfast easel of screeching synth.

BERLIN BLONDES had everything in place, a major label deal and a top producer directing the operation but with no hit singles, it wasn’t to be in terms of sales success. Shortly after the album’s release, Jim Spender reverted back to his real name McKinven and left the band to find fame and fortune with ALTERED IMAGES.

Meanwhile, BERLIN BLONDES left EMI and released a single ‘Marseille’ on the independent Scratch Records. But it sank without trace and the band were no more. Looking back, it’s easy to see how BERLIN BLONDES became lost among acts like WIRE, MAGAZINE and SIMPLE MINDS; while derived from the same school as Russell Mael and Howard Devoto, Steven Bonomi was less convincing vocally in an era where Bowie-esque mannerisms were almost compulsory.

It took several years for SIMPLE MINDS to make critical and commercial headway, so it would have been interesting to see how BERLIN BLONDES might have evolved. The original nine track debut album has now been reissued as a CD by Cherry Red Records as ‘The Complete Recordings 1980-1981’. The package includes eight bonus tracks to including ‘Marseille’, its B-side ‘The Poet’ plus an assortment of single mixes, extended remixes and instrumental versions.

‘Berlin Blondes’ wasn’t the greatest album of the period, but it had some cracking tracks. As a fascinating time capsule piece on how music north of Hadrian’s Wall was developing outside of the Glasgow School jangle of bands like AZTEC CAMERA, ALTERED IMAGES and ORANGE JUICE, the debut album from BERLIN BLONDES is an intriguing listen, a history lesson in the emergent synthetic sonics of the period within post-punk.


‘The Complete Recordings 1980-1981’ is released as a CD by Cherry Red Records, available from https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/berlin-blondes-the-complete-recordings-1980-81/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
13th October 2018

COLIN NEWMAN: The IMMERSION Interview

Colin Newman is best known as the front man for WIRE, the genre-crossing band that put the po in post-punk.

His solo work has been covered by THIS MORTAL COIL and was key to the soundtrack of ‘Silence of the Lambs’.

Besides WIRE projects, Newman has produced VIRGIN PRUNES, PARADE GROUND and MINIMAL COMPACT – the last of which led to a long-term relationship with bassist Malka Spigel. Together with Spigel, Newman sometimes produces material as IMMERSION, an act with strong electronic sensibilities.

After a long break, the duo have recently taken up that guise in greater earnest. They have released a new album and set up a string of performances on both sides of the Atlantic that should excite fans of their 1990s electronic work and find a wider audience. ‘Sleepless’, the follow-up to 2016’s ‘Analogue Creatures Living On An Island’, is at turns funky and futuristic.

The psychedelic patina that has characterised recent WIRE releases can be found in the dream-like airiness of the lead track, ‘Microclimate’. Deep grooves and atmospheric synth lines feature heavily, leaving supernatural impressions.

Colin Newman recently spoke about IMMERSION’s activity and WIRE’s plans.

Krautrock is a clear influence in the new material. What did that movement mean to you both, and what brought it into the foreground for the album?

Like any other musical venture, IMMERSION is at least partly a product of when it started, which was initially in the early 90s. It’s always been both electronic and instrumental, but would in those days have been viewed through the lens of techno; then later breakbeat and drum and bass – minimal, ambient or abstract.

There was a long period, during the last decade and the first half of this decade, when we didn’t work on IMMERSION. Since 2004, we made four albums and an EP as part of GITHEAD and a solo album and EP by Malka. Krautrock (a term developed by Virgin’s marketing department to sell a FAUST album) has always been there, since the early 70s. By turns hip and deeply unfashionable (depends on who) – and of course we’ve heard plenty!

During the last couple of years, IMMERSION get seen through the lens of Krautrock. It’s quite hard to define electronic music according to style anymore, so we guess it’s as valid a descriptor as any. It’s one of those terms that if you break it down is as meaningless as any other!

FAUST don’t have that much in common with NEU! and CLUSTER aren’t much like CAN or TANGERINE DREAM – or KRAFTWERK, come to that – and latter-day Kraut-rockers like TO ROCOCO ROT don’t have much in common with any of the others – apart from the fact that they are all German. Interestingly, GITHEAD have often been described as Krautrock!

However, one common thread that seems to be emerging from what people say about the new album, ‘Sleepless’, is that it is somehow fresh. Some have gone so far as to say it sounds like a debut album! We take that as a big compliment.

Music, if it is to have any relevance, must be about the present moment. We are not thinking at all about history when we are making new IMMERSION music – it’s best to not think about much at all, just do! Perhaps the fact that Immersion is now also very much a live entity has influenced our direction?

IMMERSION is a project born of your relationship with Malka. Are there compromises you have to make that you wouldn’t have entertained in WIRE?

Malka and I work very naturally and easily with each other. I’m not aware of making any compromises – quite the opposite, in fact! Don’t forget, Malka and I have been making music together since the mid-80s. We have developed our own distinct working methods.

More recently, within WIRE there has been less involvement with electronics, so has it been exciting to be using synths within IMMERSION?

Well, there are quite a lot of synths on recent WIRE records. There have been keyboard-based sounds pretty much since the beginning, distorted electric piano on some tracks of ‘Pink Flag’ for example.

However, it is important with WIRE that everyone gets included in the recording process, so taking a more obvious electronic route would leave out Rob and not really be WIRE (especially as his drumming is a defining aspect of WIRE’s sound).

When Malka and I work on music, obviously, we don’t have that limitation (if it can be seen as such) and can work in ways that come naturally.

The main difference, if you want to find one, between WIRE and the work that Malka and I do, is that Wire has always been based on songwriting (mainly mine), whereas Malka and I develop material together. They are two very different processes.

We don’t really see IMMERSION as being about synthesisers per se, with the exception of the Korg MS-10, which has been present in IMMERSION’s work since the beginning.

It’s a simple mono-synth with a very distinctive colour. Malka has had one since the early 80s, and she still manages to get interesting results from it. It’s kind of a combination of a lead vocal and a secret weapon!

Has there been any new hardware that has proved particularly inspirational?

In terms of new hardware, we aren’t analogue obsessives and haven’t thrown ourselves into the Euro-rack world. For us, it’s more about the results than how you get there. I think probably the most useful bit of hardware we got for this album was the Kenton USB to CV converter which had enabled us to sequence the MS-10 allowing Malka to perform on the filters etc. in real time without having to play the part at the same time.

Two obvious results from that are the lead part on the title track ‘Sleepless’ which starts as almost a woodwind sound and evolves into something obviously synthetic and the main synth in ‘Propulsoid’ which is actually two separate passes! Having said that we do sometimes buy synths. The last one we bought was the MS-20 re-release. I’m sure it’ll feature on the next album!

There was a point in WIRE’s development where you felt confident enough as a producer to take a bigger role in the studio. Did it change the dynamic of the band to have you on both sides of the mixing board?

There are two important points here. One is that, in WIRE, I produce the music but not the people. I’m not “in charge” in the studio. I provide a service to get a result from recordings we have made together. Also, I run the record company, so I am very aware of deadlines and things that need to be done to achieve the results the band wants – which is why I’ve spent a lot of this year so far working in the 70s re-releases.

The two roles are, from my POV, very much connected. For me, it’s about developing strategies that work in a practical sense and enable the band to be creative.

If WIRE were to go into a studio with a conventional producer to be released on some other label, I doubt whether there would be much being made out of it. It’s not about the money; but frankly, if a band isn’t really earning much from its records, then in the end there becomes less reason to do them.

The dynamic is changing all the time – it’s not always easy and there are strong personalities involved. It’s in the nature of the project!

While WIRE is a unit, there have always been collaborators from other disciplines on the scene – Russell Mills or Graham Duff, for instance. Is it fair to speak of a WIRE extended family? What role do they play?

Yes, very much. We’ve even used that term in the past. It’s actually quite a big family!

I personally like to work with people over a long period of time. Pinkflag (Wire’s label) doesn’t have any direct employees; but, like swim~ (Malka’s and my label), we take people for specific tasks.

I feel like, if I list one or two people, I should list everyone, as they are all important! I’m not sure your readers want to read a big list of everyone we work with!

WIRE played on the same bill as DEPECHE MODE at the Pasadena Rose Bowl in 1988. What are your recollections of the show? Would you play with them again?

It was a strange event. We were on tour in the USA anyway, and the invitation to be part of the event probably had more to do with the Mute / Daniel Miller connection than any other.

We were getting a fair bit of US MTV in those days (as were DEPECHE MODE, of course!) so I don’t think anyone thought the billing weird. For us, it was a somewhat surreal event.

We were, I think, the openers, so people were only just beginning to come in. It was like a big sports stadium with the stage at one end; so, although there were probably a few thousand people there, they were mainly very far away. What we could see were the guest seats right in front of the stage, in which were sitting Daniel, Jon Savage and various people who worked on our US releases at the time. So, it was a weird combination of a very distant general audience but up close people who we mainly knew!

The Rose Bowl was an afternoon show for us. That evening we played a club show of our own in LA.

Obviously, the circumstances have changed considerably since those days. We don’t really do a lot of supports. I’m sure we could somehow end up on a festival together at some point.

Can we expect more DRILL: FESTIVALs? Which artists would you like to add to the bills?

I would personally love to do more DRILL: FESTIVALs; although, to be honest, they are a lot of work.

There’s nothing in the pipeline right now; however, WIRE’s next period of serious activity will not be until early 2020, when the next album will come out. Not much has been decided yet for how that year unfolds, apart from a plan to start recording the next album later this year.

There are definitely places we have not held any DRILL: FESTIVALs in yet; and it will be, as ever, a case of finding the right partners for the events. My focus is usually on the practicalities, and my personal taste is pretty wide; so I would tend to the view that, once we have city and dates, we need to find out who is available given that we can’t afford to be in the position of having to fly anyone in for the shows.

Pinkflag and swim~ have been indie innovators. Is swim~ still going? How has the shift to streaming impacted you?

Swim ~ is still going. We don’t release stuff every year but ‘Sleepless’ is very much on swim~, as was its predecessor ‘Analogue Creatures Living On An Island’, as well as everything Malka and I have been jointly involved in since 1993!

Both Pinkflag and swim~ have always been pretty hands on, and the backbone has always been the studio / label combination. True, we do record in other studios for both labels, but everything is always finished in-house. This does reduce the costs, but it’s in allying that with the means to release that they become more singular ventures.

I’m guessing it takes a certain mindset to work like that or else everyone would be doing it! Ultimately, you have to believe in yourself enough to invest in yourself.

As creative artists, I don’t think we should allow ourselves the luxury about being snobbish about format. We are making music to be heard by other people, so we should not be somehow insisting or even hinting that anyone who streams your music on their phone is somehow lesser than someone listening to vinyl. Some people want to own items and others just want to listen to tunes. What is important to all artists is that there is an income stream from however the music comes out.

As labels, we should be making physical releases attractive…by the way, both WIRE and IMMERSION sell more on CD than vinyl, still!

With WIRE, the increased audience does allow for innovative formats (like Special Edition books). I’m still looking for a way to make a Special Edition for a swim~ release.

What’s next for IMMERSION – or anything else within the WIRE camp?

We are just about to embark upon a North American tour. This is quite a big deal for us.

Although we have been doing gigs sporadically over the past couple of years, this is the first actual tour. One month coast-to-coast!

Matt Schulz from HOLY F*CK will play with us on about half the dates. He’s someone we have played live with before. Interest in IMMERSION does seem to be increasing, so maybe we will tour more often – maybe in the UK, too.

In parallel with the gigging, we also have our own occasional Brighton-based event called Nanocluster. Apart from an opener, the evening consists of three sets: one by IMMERSION; one by our guest(s); and a third by a collaboration between Immersion and our guest(s).

Although each artist has a different working method, we try, over the days before the event, to develop a set of material that is both original and specific to the collaboration – recording in our studio as we rehearse. There will eventually be a Nanocluster album.

Previous events have been with TARWATER and Laetitia Sadier. This is something we may repeat in other places, There has been talk of London with Laetitia and Berlin with TARWATER.

For WIRE, obviously the re-releases are the big news for this year; and, as I’ve already said, we are moving towards a new album for 2020.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its grateful thanks to Colin Newman

Special thanks to Frankie Davison at Stereo Sanctity

‘Sleepless’ is released by swim~ on CD, vinyl LP and digital formats direct from https://swim.greedbag.com/buy/sleepless-76/

The ‘Sleepless’ album launch takes place at Rough Trade East in London on Saturday 16th June 2018 – free entry with IMMERSION on stage at 6.30pm

IMMERSION 2018 US tour dates include:

Los Angeles Bootleg Theatre, LA, California (23rd June), San Francisco Cafe Du Nord* (24th June), Portland Doug Fir Lounge (26th June), Seattle Barboza (27th June), Salt Lake City Kilby Court (29th June), Denver Larimer Lounge (1st July), Kansas City Record Bar (3rd July ), Minneapolis 7th St. Entry (5th July), Chicago Schubas* (6th July), Detroit Third Man Records Cass Corridor* (7th July), Toronto The Drake* (9th July) , Montreal La Vitriola* (11th July), Aliston Great Scott* (13th July), Brooklyn Rough Trade NYC (14th July)

*with Matt Schulz on drums

http://immersionhq.uk

https://www.facebook.com/immersionHQ/

http://www.swimhq.com

http://www.pinkflag.com


Text and Interview by Simon Helm
15th June 2018

GAZELLE TWIN Mammal EP

GAZELLE TWIN releases her first new material since her acclaimed album ‘The Entire City’ in the Autumn of 2011.

The moniker of Brighton based songstress Elizabeth Walling, that debut LP and its appendix of remixes have gained her a number of prominent admirers including JOHN FOXX and GARY NUMAN whose respective songs ‘A Falling Star’ and ‘We Are The Lost’ she has since been invited to remix. But her highest profile patron has been top film director Ridley Scott who used her track ‘Bell Tower’ in a promotional film for ‘Prometheus’.

The ‘Mammal’ EP combines three new recordings inspired by Ennio Morricone’s score for the John Carpenter horror flick ‘The Thing’ with a quartet of remixes. Subtle but dark dubstep experiments plus more use of her natural voice as an instrument are the significant aural developments.

Recurring metaphysical concerns are the inspiration behind ‘Mammal’ and lead track ‘I Turn My Arm’ examines the phenomenon of the phantom limb with some heavy bass drama. Its B-side ‘This Is My Hand’ recounts “the fear and awe” Walling felt when it occurred to her that she was “a physical object”. As the lyrics highlight: “blood gushes within it…”. Intensely enigmatic, it makes for an eerie sonic experience. Both are cinematically unsettling but provoke the ears with paranormal drones and mysterious choralistic stylings.

Having previously covered PRINCE and JOY DIVISION and in keeping with the ‘Mammal’ EP’s thematic gist, GAZELLE TWIN applies her hauntronica treatment to ‘Heartbeat’, a track from WIRE’s 1978 album ‘Chairs Missing’.

Elizabeth Walling told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK last September: “I prefer covering songs written or sung by men. Perhaps because it instantly allows me to create a new perspective on it”. Of WIRE she added: “…another legendary band, another iconic male vocalist…Colin Newman. This time I sought the permission and blessing from him directly. That made me feel better about it… he said nice things”. The end result is, despite the darkness, a wonderfully accessible interpretation with echoing widescreen atmospherics.

Remixes are very much part and parcel of GAZELLE TWIN and they provide an eclectic variation of the theme. Renaissance Man provides an industrialised excursion for ‘I Turn My Arm’ that is almost Numan-esque. But the highlight is soundtrack composer Clint Mansell’s  take on ‘This Is My Hand’ which manipulates Walling’s vocal to a more melodic hook and adds primitive string machines in a cavernous cacophony of sound with percussive reverb brought to the fore. Kuedo’s remix spirals and layers compared with the original minimal arrangement of ‘I Turn My Arm’ with an almost incongruous brightness. However, the housed up version of ‘I Turn My Arm’ by Alixander III is the least essential on the EP, a diversion from the core values of GAZELLE TWIN.

Art imitating life and vice versa has always played its part providing solace and psychological well-being within social history. With more to look forward to from GAZELLE TWIN, this is just a taster of the future; a future that may be bleak but probably reflects the fears of many in the world right now. Uneasy listening it might be, but potentially rewarding for those prepared to invest their spirit.


GAZELLE TWIN ‘Mammal’ EP is released as a 12″ vinyl and download by Sugarcane Records on 29th January 2013

Her first UK show of 2013 takes place at The Roundhouse Studio Theatre in London on 21st February as part of the Anti-Ghost Moon Ray audio-visual, label showcase.

http://www.gazelletwin.com

http://iamshelliambone.wordpress.com/

https://soundcloud.com/sugarcane/gazelle-twin-mammal-ep-full


Text by Chi Ming Lai
12th January 2013