Tag: Zaine Griff (Page 1 of 2)


Zaine Griff and Chris Payne first met when they worked on the Gary Numan song ‘The Secret’ in 1984.

Releasing his first solo album ‘Ashes & Diamonds’ in 1980, Zaine Griff’s portfolio includes working with David Bowie, Kate Bush, Tony Visconti, Yukihiro Takahashi, Midge Ure, Warren Cann and Hans Zimmer.

Meanwhile, Chris Payne made his mark as a member of the Gary Numan band during his imperial phase and co-writing an instrumental ‘Toot City’ with Billy Currie which became the huge international hit ‘Fade To Grey’ for VISAGE after Midge Ure added lyrics and a melody line.

36 years later, Griff and Payne were brought together by Rusty Egan for what was then billed as VISAGE 1980-2020 to celebrate the legacy of the project fronted by the late Steve Strange with live shows and new material. The worldwide pandemic put paid to the original concept but the pair kept working together, resulting in a new Zaine Griff album ‘A Double Life’.

A joint collaborative effort between Griff, Payne and veteran American producer Hilary Bercovici, ‘A Double Life’ is now out there for those who appreciate songcraft and the mannered vocal style of Griff which while reminiscent of David Bowie, actually originates from the pair studying dance and mime under the late theatrical legend Lindsay Kemp.

From opposite sides of the world, Zaine Griff and Chris Payne spoke to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about the journey leading to ‘A Double Life’…

How did your creative union begin?

Zaine: I had a phone call from the VISAGE team in 2020 inviting me to perform with them at W-Fest in Belgium later that year. With the event of Covid that festival never happened. However learning the entire set, I built up an understanding of VISAGE’s song structures. When it was announced the show cancelled, it was suggested that we should put forward compositions that could be part of a new album for VISAGE. Chris sent me his musical ideas, beats and melodies and I took it from there. I took them into a studio and proceeded to lay down the vocal ideas I got from his beautiful music. Melodies just flowed, backings and counter point. It seemed to work beautifully and so easily. I had never composed with anyone else in my past, so this was different and inspiring. It is incredible that I had sung on ‘The Secret’ for Gary Numan in 1984 at Rock City Studios in Shepperton, was when I first met Chris.

Chris: Zaine and I were asked to write demos for the new VISAGE project overseen by Rusty Egan. Zaine had been chosen as the vocalist so it was an exciting positive time to get involved. Unfortunately, the songs didn’t work for Rusty and he made drastic changes to them. Zaine and I continued to work on our songs and before we knew it we were already creating a project for ourselves

Out of necessity, this was a remote writing experience so how was the creative dynamic between with you both and how did you overcome the various challenges that came along the way?

Zaine: It was amazing. There was not one hitch. If Chris didn’t like something he would tell me, and I would do likewise. Everything flowed, even tracks that were awkward at first, rediscovering them in a different light helped construct the songs. The tracks became more theatrical. They just needed more time. ‘Masquerade’, ‘It Never Stopped’ and ‘Trip Stumble & Fall’ all certainly trend toward the theatrical.

Chris: For me it was easy. Because I live in France I am used to remote working. Zaine and I just clicked from day one. I was giving him backing tracks and he would find a melody within days, sometimes hours. He would then record the ideas in a studio near his home in Auckland and we carried on from there.

How far down the line had these songs got to becoming “VISAGE” songs before it was decided that they were more suited to a Zaine Griff album?

Zaine: The songs were basically rejected by VISAGE but Chris and I continued and become a writing team. It has and always will be a Zaine Griff / Chris Payne album. Hilary Bercovici input took things to another level. It was Chris and Hilary that out voted me on the artist title of our album.

Chris: As soon as Rusty had issues with the demos… actually, Rusty to me didn’t seem happy with Zaine’s voice as this was a constant criticism when he critiqued the demos. I disagreed with Rusty but he had the ultimate say which was fair enough. So he went in his direction with the two songs he rearranged for his album and we went in our direction with them.

Hilary Bercovici is the album’s producer, what impressed you most about his track record and what ideas did he contribute which perhaps neither of you would have initially considered?

Chris: I’ve known Hil for a few years. Apart from coming from a dynasty of screenplay writers he is a brilliant musician and engineer having worked at countless studios in LA with so many different artists from Stevie Wonder to Prince, Madonna to Chaka Khan.

Zaine: It wasn’t until we were well into ‘A Double Life’ that Chris introduced me to his collaborator Hilary Bercovici. Then when I heard his contribution to what Chris and I recorded, suddenly we shifted up so many gears. So now there were three of us Chris, Hilary and me. Hilary sent me his adaption of ‘Flowers’ and I was reduced to tears, it was absolutely beautiful.

‘Flowers’ was on the ‘Figvres’ album and featured Kate Bush. It’s a song about Lindsay Kemp, so what was it like was returning to it?

Zaine: When Hilary sent me his adaption, I really was turned sideways. I mean his arrangement in the bridge section sent shivers down my spine. The feel sits in such a groove and I think this comes from Hilary’s incredible experience.

Trip Stumble & Fall’ has undergone a transformation since the video premiere in 2021, where did you see you could make improvements?

Chris: Even if I say so myself, it is a very interesting song about how relationships break down as you get older, becoming even more painful due to insecurity, lack of trust and a kind of realisation that you could be spending the rest of your days alone. The initial mix I did for the video had the vocals up far too loud. Hils version tempered that and made the whole production tie in with the rest of the album and Martyn Ware’s remix gave a totally different musical account of the song but equally emotionally powerful. I especially like the instrumental version as he’s managed to create a synch-friendly interpretation.

Martyn Ware’s remixes of ‘Trip, Stumble & Fall’ are very cinematic, how did he become involved?

Chris: I think it was through an interview he did for his Electronically Yours show with Zaine?

Zaine: Martyn Ware interviewed me and at the end of the show said he would love to do an adaptation of ‘Trip Stumble & Fall’. The song was theatrical enough as it was, what Martyn did created a different theatrical spin on it. Whilst talking to Martyn in the interview, I suddenly realized this was a direction in which Chris Hilary and I should pursue.

Who is ‘The Night Watchman’, what were the lyrical and musical catalysts?

Zaine: The idea lyrically for ‘The Night Watchman’ came from the Louise Erdich book and other articles written about how young Red Indian Native women were and still are abused by white trash. ‘The Night Watchmen’ are those men who looking out for them and dedicate their time to protecting them. Too many young women go missing from the Reservations.

Chris: I was using a lot of Arturia software. These guys create excellent analogue sounds from instruments like Minimoogs, ARP Odyssey, Prophet 5 (especially Numan’s famous preset 36 with the mod wheel up) and the OBXa . Using these instruments plus the piano were the basis for creating the backing tracks.

Was ‘A Double Life’ about anyone or anything in particular?

Zaine: ‘A Double Life’ is purely a personal documentary of one’s life and understanding the different personalities in others. It is also a mirror of what was once and what is now. A reflection of who we were and who we are. There is more to one person than meets the eye.

Recording YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA’s ‘You’ve Got To Help Yourself’ is an inspired choice… last year we sadly lost Yukihiro Takahashi and Ryuichi Sakamoto, what are your own personal memories of this pioneering Japanese band?

Chris: I know that Zaine had worked with them over the years. My recollection of Ryuichi Sakamoto was that when Gary Numan performed in Tokyo, he was introduced to us after one of the shows. I found him charming and somewhat reserved. I only wish I had engaged in conversation with him

Zaine: My personal memories of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA are backstage after they played Hammersmith Odeon and discussing music ideas with them. I was immersed in conversation with Peter Baraken who translated for them. Yukihiro said yes to playing drums on my ‘Figvres’ album and he asked me to write a song on his album ‘What Me Worry’ album. It was great timing, arranging everything and recording with Yuki whilst they were in London. Time was tight, but we pulled it off around our schedules.

‘This Strange Obsession’ was a duet with Ronny on ‘What Me Worry’, what was your vision for the 2024 version?

Zaine: Purely a tribute to Yukihiro Takahashi and to bring a more up-to -date sonic sound. Jol Mulholland’s E-bow was a one take wonder flowing Bill Nelson’s lines.

A cover of ‘Blue Jean’ is included on the album, how did the decision to do one of David Bowie’s hits rather than say, a cult favourite like ‘Fantastic Voyage’ from ‘Lodger’ or ‘Teenage Wildlife’ from ‘Scary Monsters’ come about?

Zaine: This idea came from Hilary. The way Hilary constructed the song was nailing the original feel so it became fun to sing. I have to say I feel ‘Blue Jean’ is a track that David came close to where he wanted to be rhythmically. It has that slouchy kind of hi-hat thing moving you.

Chris: ‘Blue Jean’ was Hil’s idea. He had arranged a version of it previously and thought that it would work well with Zaine’s voice.

Talking of hits, Gary Numan’s ‘Cars’ is also covered, had any thought been given to revisiting ‘The Secret’ from ‘Berserker’ which you both featured on back in 1984?

Chris: Interesting question and in retrospect we should have done another song. I think it was just laziness on my part. ‘Cars’ is a relatively easy song to knock up in a few hours and this is what happened. I guess in my dotage, I’m looking for the songs I can remember during my time with Gary!

Zaine: I was looking at ’The Secret’. Chris sent me ‘Cars’ and I had a go at it and in the end it has such a great feel. I can’t wait to do this live. Chris’s keyboards are such driving power house.

What are your own favourite tracks on the album?

Zaine: Has to be ‘Walking In The Rain’, ’Masquerade’ and ‘It Never Stopped’. ‘Walking In The Rain’ fell into place so easy. I love the chorus and Dominque Payne voice gives the track a great flavour. ‘Masquerade’ is on this list because I really had to think twice as to what Chris was expressing in music when I first started. Again, Dominque’s voice helped create the mood. Her voice is so haunting. ‘It Never Stopped’ sums up the whole album to me and thank you RRussell Bell taking my head off. What I mean is that music, art, performing has “Never Stopped” for all of us. ’Trip Stumble & Fall’ is perhaps the best song I have ever been involved in. The passion, the expression from images. And thank you again Martyn Ware for such a fine adaptation and Kate Hauxwell for the beautiful video.

Chris: I love the crazy guitar Hil put on ‘Walking In The Rain’. I also love the more eclectic pieces such as ‘Masquerade’. I can’t say I have a standout favourite. It changes each time I hear the album.

There is a real mix of styles and instrumentation on the album so who do you hope the album might appeal to?

Zaine: All age groups and nationalities. The mix of styles just fell out of the sky. This album has been a fabulous experience and fun to make. I am privileged to have been able to collaborate with such fine musicians as Chris and Hilary. Let me emphasise that from day one this was a collaboration between us all not just a Zaine Griff album.

Chris: Because it has such a diversity that’s a tough one to answer. I can’t imagine it appealing to Under 18s… but you just never know!

What is next, will you do more work together or play together live?

Zaine: Yes, Chris Hilary and I have started writing more music for another album. To me ‘A Double Life’ is the beginning, we are looking forward to bring this music to an audience live in the future.

Chris: Apparently Sony Japan are more than happy for us to record another album, so that’s the plan between the three of us. Some live shows anywhere would be welcome. The only issue is getting us together between Normandy, New Zealand and LA!

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Zaine Griff and Chris Payne

‘A Double Life’ is released by Sony Japan as a Blu-spec CD, available from https://www.cdjapan.co.jp/product/SICX-30190









Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
10 January 2024, updated 1 March 2024


Photo by Tapio Normall

It was hoped to be a year of positive electricity but with the oddball burst of negative waves, 2022 was summed up by the title of its best album.

The product of Finnish duo SIN COS TAN, ‘Living In Fear’ captured the anxieties of living with The Bear Next Door in a post-pandemic world. With billionaires taking over social media with the intent of allowing the extreme right wing an increased voice, it was as if the lessons of Trump and Bolsonaro had not been learned.

‘The Wolves Are Returning’ warned xPROPAGANDA on a track from their excellent album ‘The Heart Is Strange’, the message coming from two Germans whose grandparents’ generation “did nothing” and had made the mistake of opening up the door to the Nazis was extremely poignant.

It was as if The Cold War had never ended; the poetry of one who has escaped ethnic genocide and been separated from next of kin as a refugee has substance. So for Alanas Chosnau on his second album with Mark Reeder, this was ‘Life Everywhere’ and provided a deeper statement on life during wartime. Meanwhile China’s STOLEN presented their ‘Eroded Creation’ and explained ‘Why We Follow’.

Battles both worldwide and personal were being reflected in music everywhere with ‘War’ by I SPEAK MACHINE being another example. Things did not get much cheerier with Rodney Cromwell whose long-awaited second long player ‘Memory Box’ provided commentary on a sadly post-truth world, the so-called “alternative facts” as Donald Trump’s extremely dim advisor Kellyanne Conway liked to put it.

The decade so far has not been a barrel of laughs and the likes of UNIFY SEPARATE, BOY HARSHER, O+HER, NNHMN, VANDAL MOON and ADULT. captured the zeitgeist of the past 3 years.

Meanwhile, MECHA MAIKO maintained it was still ‘NOT OK’, I AM SNOW ANGEL felt it was now a ‘Lost World’ and Swedish duo SALLY SHAPIRO made their comeback by reflecting on ‘Sad Cities’.

As sardonic as ever, DUBSTAR presented their second collection of kitchen sink dramas since they reconfigured as a duo with ‘Two’ and reunited with producer Stephen Hague for their most acclaimed record since their 1995 debut ‘Disgraceful’.

On a more optimistic note, Italians Do It Better brought their cinematic world to London with headline shows by DESIRE and MOTHERMARY who each had new long form releases to air, while shyness was nice for the most promising breakthrough act of the year Gemma Cullingford who got all ‘Tongue Tied’ on her second long player. Meanwhile DAWN TO DAWN, ULTRAFLEX and H/P offered electronically escapist solutions to the year,

But KID MOXIE was happy to ‘Shine’ with the best video of 2022 while CZARINA got mystical with ‘Arcana’, Karin Park looked back at her ‘Private Collection’ and Patricia Wolf explored ambience on ‘See-Through’. Other female talent that shone brightly in 2022 included Norway’s SEA CHANGE, Sweden’s Hanna Rua, Alina Valentina from The Netherlands, Mexican Valentina Moretti and Anglo-French avant songstress Julia-Sophie but sister / brother duos MINIMAL SCHLAGER and SPRAY proved siblings could continue to work well together in synth.

40 years after the release of their debut album ‘Happy Families’, BLANCMANGE returned home to London Records for a ‘Private View’ while mainman Neil Arthur was keeping himself busy with FADER too. Having being shelved for 30 years, the second ELECTRIBE 101 album ‘Electribal Soul’ finally saw the light of day. And some 39 years after it was first conceived, the lost Warren Cann and Hans Zimmer opus ‘Spies’ was released in a new 21st Century recording by the HELDEN Project’s lead vocalist Zaine Griff.

Although PET SHOP BOYS celebrated their career with the magnificent ‘Dreamworld’ tour for the best live event of 2022 and joined SOFT CELL in the ‘Purple Zone’, Marc Almond and David Ball presented the disclaimer ‘*Happiness Not Included’ before announcing that they would be performing at a run of outdoor events in 2023 despite having stated their 2018 O2 extravaganza would be their last.

Also having declared a final album in 2014, RÖYKSOPP returned with the triple volumed ‘Profound Mysteries’ that featured Susanne Sundfør and Alison Goldfrapp.

Veterans Howard Jones, William Orbit, Jean-Michel Jarre and Wolfgang Flür as well as long-standing Nordic combos LUSTANS LAKEJER and A-HA released new albums but while the quality across the releases was mixed, fans were loyal and happy. After various trials and tribulations, TEARS FOR FEARS returned with ‘The Tipping Point’ and erased memories of the lacklustre 2004 comeback ‘Everybody Loves A Happy Ending’, but the duo were unable to capitalise when the majority of the UK concert tour of stately homes was cancelled due to an unfortunate accident that befell Curt Smith.

Creating a dehumanised technologically dependent Sci-Fi world, DIE KRUPPS opted for more machine than metal under their EBM pseudonym DIE ROBO SAPIENS. With NASA making its first steps back to the moon with the Artemis project, fittingly Italian producer EUGENE spent ‘Seven Years In Space’ and Ireland’s CIRCUIT3 looked back at space travel’s past on ‘Technology For The Youth’. Back on earth, THE WEEKND was still being accused of stealing from synthwave while coming up with the song of the year in ‘Less Than Zero’. In the meantime, having infuriated audiences by saying “f*ck that ‘synthwave’ stuff as u name it” in 2018, KAVINSKY was ‘Reborn’ with a second album that had much less of the wave and expanded into broader electronically generated templates with the occasional funkier overtones.

Celebrating ‘40 Years Of Hits’ on a sell-out arena tour and issuing a new album ‘Direction Of The Heart’ which featured a guest appearance by Russell Mael of SPARKS on the single ‘Traffic’ with the obligatory ‘Acoustic Mix’, as the excellent book ‘Themes For Great Cities’ by Graeme Thomson highlighted, the best years of SIMPLE MINDS are now well behind them. They are a poor facsimile of the great band they once were and as a special Summer concert in Edinburgh in honour of ‘New Gold Dream’ proved, Jim Kerr and Co can’t even play their best album properly.

Music-related books continued to be popular with Martyn Ware and Karl Bartos respectively writing their memoirs ‘Electronically Yours Vol1’ and ‘The Sound Of The Machine’. In a wider historical context, that crucial 1978-1983 period where electronic pop was more or less invented got documented in the encyclopaedic ‘Listening To The Music The Machines Make’ by Richard Evans.

2022 saw several prominent figures depart for the jukebox in the sky; Vangelis, Manuel Göttsching, Angelo Badalamenti, Julee Cruise, Dave Smith, Herb Deutsch, Terry Hall, Robert Marlow and Andy Fletcher will be sadly missed but ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK was particularly devasted by the passing of German electronic legend Klaus Schulze only 4 days after he gave a rare interview to the site.

Meanwhile Dave Gahan and Martin Gore announced yet another tour of underwhelming arena shows plonked into stadiums for an as-yet-unfinished album that at least had a title ‘Momento Mori’. Ticketscalper took advantage with so-called dynamic pricing (or legalised touting) as hapless Devotees were fleeced thousands of dollars in North America… all this just to see a continually ungrateful frontman (who didn’t even sing is own words on a DEPECHE MODE song until 2005) gesture with a microphone in the air on a catwalk rather than actually singing on it and to possibly hear a pre-1985 song performed that will inevitably ruined by The Drumhead and The Noodler!

As Juls Garat of Massachusetts goth band PILGRIMS OF YEARNING observed via social media: “If you’re spending a kidney on DEPECHE MODE tickets and not attending a local show this weekend, I don’t wanna see you complaining that there’s no scene, local venues or new music anymore”. With the lack of curiosity amongst audiences who were content with nostalgia and the like, it was a difficult year for independent acts.

There is no easy answer and as the old saying goes, you can take a horse to water but you can’t force it to drink. But one promoter that did hit on an innovative idea was Duskwaves who came up with afternoon synth gigs. Hosted at various locations in the South East of England with the aim of drumming up daytime weekend business at venues, events started at 2.00pm and ended by 6.00pm to allow for an easy journey home or possibly dinner afterwards. Artists such as YOUNG EMPRESS, INFRA VIOLET, STRIKE EAGLE and AUW joined in the family friendly fun and while the concept was unusual, with classic synth audiences not getting any younger, it has potential.

While the worldwide situation remains uncomfortable and unsettling, for The Cold War generation, it all seemed strangely familiar. As Jori Hulkkonen of SIN COS TAN said in an interview with ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK recently: “It feels kind of comfortable to be back in that same state of mind that you grew up in!! It’s like you grew up in not a nice place, but you get 20-30 years out of it and then you get drawn back into The Cold War state of mind. It’s where I come from and there’s nothing good about it, but somehow feels very familiar so you can handle it in a different way”.

The Cold War inspired songs such as ‘Enola Gay’, ‘Fireside Favourite’, ‘All Stood Still’, ‘Let’s All Make A Bomb’, ‘I Melt With You’, ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’ and ‘Five Minutes To Midnight’ which encapsulated the nuclear paranoia of the times. So if the current tensions go on any longer, how will artistic expression be affected and driven?

But as Synthesizer Patel actor Sanjeev Kohli wittily remarked of the UK’s 41 day Prime Minister aka Mad Lizzie following her successful leadership bid: “Liz Truss has now been trusted with the nuclear button. I honestly wouldn’t trust her with the bossanova button on a broken Yamaha keyboard”.

In a year which saw the bizarre scenario of a black vicar worshipping Enoch Powell on the repulsive gammon TV channel GB News and the truth about Tory PPE scandals becoming clearer, Richy Sunak, Ugly Patel, Cruella Braverman and Krazi Kwarteng continued to be the ultimate race traitors in their Westminster tribute band A FLOCK OF SIEG HEILS. Failing to look in the mirror, their role as collaborators was all as part of a wider self-serving mission to help keep the whites Reich and line the pockets of their already loaded banker mates instead of paying nurses a fair wage. Nurses are for life and not just for Covid. So what did happen to that £350 million promised for the NHS by that pompous lying posh boy Boris Johnson if Brexit happened? As Tim Burgess of THE CHARLATANS summed it all up rather succinctly on Twitter: “Worth remembering that the real enemy travels by private jet, not by dinghy” ✊😉

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 2022 playlist ‘Stay Negative To Be Positive’ playlist can be listened to at https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4Mw0Fn10yNZQcrGzod98MM

Text by Chi Ming Lai
22nd December 2022

ZAINE GRIFF: The HELDEN Project Interview

‘Spies’ is the mythical lost album by HELDEN which, despite a show to premiere the music at the London Planetarium in Spring 1983, was never released.

HELDEN was the side project of Warren Cann, best known as the drummer and electronic percussionist of ULTRAVOX. His partner in HELDEN was Hans Zimmer, then an up-and-coming musician who had worked with THE BUGGLES and THE DAMNED.

He had also been producing soundtracks, jingles and theme tunes with 1985’s ‘My Beautiful Laundrette’ and the 1987 BBC quiz show ‘Going For Gold’ being among the German composer’s earliest successes.

Despite acquiring Wendy Carlos’ Moog modular system that had been used on ‘Switched On Bach’ from Chris Franke of TANGERINE DREAM who was downsizing, Zimmer was an early adopter of the Fairlight and used four at the London Planetarium concert. He was also steadily gaining higher profile sessions and later contributed to the programming on ‘The Last Emperor’ which won an Oscar for its soundtrack composed by David Byrne and Ryuichi Sakamoto.

But in one of the most notable examples of short-sightedness within the British music industry and its inability to recognise rising talent, the theatrical conceptual opus that was ‘Spies’ confused record labels. It was sadly unable to secure a deal with the independent ‘Holding On’ single containing the only tracks from the project to be commercially released.

Another HELDEN track ‘Stranded’ belatedly appeared as a freebie with the ‘In The City’ fanzine in 1985 but by then, interest in ‘Spies’ had waned while Hollywood came calling; Zimmer’s score for ‘Rain Man’ starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise was nominated for an Oscar in 1989. He eventually won his first Oscar in 1994 for ‘The Lion King’.

However, before any of this, Hans Zimmer had been the keyboard player and producer for Zaine Griff, a New Zealander who had his own impressive portfolio including working with David Bowie, Tony Visconti, Kate Bush, Gary Numan, Warren Cann, Midge Ure and Yukihiro Takahashi. More recently, his song ‘Ashes & Diamonds’ was covered by MGMT.

Having already worked with Hans Zimmer and Warren Cann in the production of his second solo album ‘Figvres’, Griff was the natural choice as the charismatic leading man of the HELDEN project and the vocal parts of the ‘Spies’ album.

Among the other contributors were Linda Jardim, Hugo Verker, Ronny, Eddie Maelov, Brian Gulland, Brian Robertson and Graham Preskett.

With interest in ‘Spies’ having become revitalised as a result of Zimmer’s acclaim as the world’s most in-demand soundtrack composer, Zaine Griff has been working on a new recording of ‘Spies’ over the past 7 years. It will be the first time that all the songs will have been officially released with Sony Japan doing the honours.

Griff’s ambitious undertaking was co-produced by Stephen Small who also deputises for Zimmer on keyboards while Cann’s place on drums is taken by Clive Edwards whose credits include UFO as well as Zaine Griff’s most recent album ‘Mood Swings’.

Zaine Griff kindly chatted to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about his memories of The HELDEN Project, the original recordings and the process involved in realising ‘Spies’ for the 21st Century.

How did you come to be involved in HELDEN?

I had recorded my second album ‘Figvres’ with Hans Zimmer producing. We recorded the album at Snake Ranch Studios in Chelsea with Steve Rance engineering. Around this time, Hans invited me to do jingles, check out equipment at Syco Sytems, go to movies and, well, just hang out.

Hans was playing keyboards with me at all my gigs, most notably the 1979 Reading Festival with Warren Cann on drums. He mentioned to me that he and Warren had started a new project, would I do vocals? The HELDEN Project and ‘Spies’ used Steve Rance and Snake Ranch Studios… in fact everything seemed like a continuous flow with Linda Jardim on backing vocals and Warren of course from the ‘Figvres’ team. When I came to hear the songs, much of the ground work had been recorded.

What are your main memories of recording the original ‘Spies’ album with Hans and Warren?

Long day late nights… Hans was an artist with a blank canvas painting in sound, that is how I remember Hans. Experimentation always dramatising, always counterpoint. Warren was coming off ULTRAVOX touring, I loved his rhythmic machine-like drumming. Warren laid machine-like structures that help create Germanic moods. The equipment was never an issue and Hans was always ready to go, he was quite a workaholic even at that age. Steve Rance was extremely in tune with Hans’s direction.

Of the other things I remember, the three of us, Hans, Steve and I were having two cigarettes on the go at the same time, the ashtrays were full. The sound that was being produced was cinematic. A soundscape for a movie that hadn’t been filmed. It didn’t need to be filmed, you could see it been played out with Hugo Vereker’s lyrics and Hans’ soundscapes.

What was the album’s central theme, the title suggests it was The Cold War?

The Cold War, espionage, spies, Eva, trust, mistrust, beauty, betrayal, East meets West, out of the shadows.

How did you feel when the original ‘Spies’ album was unable to secure an official release?

My personal frustration when I realised HELDEN was not going to be released was the fact that I had spent a year of my life on that project. Hans and I did a promotional radio tour for the single ‘Holding On’. I treated ‘Spies’ as if it were my own when I sang the tracks, heart and soul went into every moment to support the project. Out of that I learnt so much.

Several attempts have been made over the years to release the album, but what was the catalyst for you to revisit the album yourself?

To re-release The HELDEN Project in its original form was complex on the business end due to percentage splits for the three writers Hans, Warren and Hugo and then there was no agreement for the contributors. Hans had by-then moved to LA in a new direction that had opened up for him, movie soundtracks.

Was it straightforward to get Hans and Warren’s blessing for the release?

I met Hans back stage at The Vector Arena only a few years ago whilst he was on his world tour and mentioned I was going to do some shows in London and wanted to do some HELDEN tracks such as ‘Holding On’ and ‘Borderline’ as well as maybe recording some HELDEN tracks. He thought that was great and gave me his blessing, Warren and Hugo both also gave their blessings. When I asked Warren if he would play drums, he sadly said he no longer played. I made the commitment that all drum parts, arrangements stayed true to his every beat.

The percussive palette is particularly authentic, had you set any particular restrictions in the sounds you used, like did they have to be “of the period” to represent what Warren would have considered?

As you can hear we copied Warren’s parts and sounds thanks to Clive Edwards, Dave Johnston and Stephen Small to decipher every element of Warren’s drumming.

Undoubtedly, this new recording maintains the pomp and circumstance of the original with Stephen Small contributing the keyboards and the two of you producing. What was the process of arranging and transcribing the parts from the original?

That is a question for Stephen Small. I approached him because of his magnificent career and his background in music arrangement and production. I came to know Stephen when he played live for me, it was then I realised that I could discuss The HELDEN Project with him.

We must remember when Hans wrote ‘Spies’, he was only 23 years of age. Stephen recreated the entire keyboard structure of a young Hans Zimmer.

Did you use hardware synths or did VSTs prove more practical in the production process?

We had use of synths from the 80s and computers from that period. We went for every sound that was 1982-83 and 84.

Was there any particular track that proved more of a challenge to reproduce than the others?

Every track was smooth sailing.

In terms of re-recording the album, how was it financed, did Sony Japan come aboard quite early on it the process?

I financed this project myself. Sony picked up on it when they were wanting to re-release Yukihiro Takahashi album ‘What Me Worry’ which had the song ‘This Strange Obsession’ which I wrote for him. It seemed obvious to me that they may be interested in The HELDEN Project.

You opted to take on the lead vocals of ‘Young & Scientific’ which were originally done by Eddie Maelov and Ronny?

Yes, I opted to sing the entire album, I had never met Eddie…

‘On The Borderline’ has been chosen to be “the single”, why did that track stand out to be the one to launch the project and get a Julian Mendelsohn remix?

‘On The Borderline’ seemed like a fun track to put out as a teaser. I asked Jullian Mendelsohn If he would like to do an extended version, he loved the idea and has done a great job with a great 80s vibe to it, a remarkable man.

‘Holding On’ was the only officially HELDEN single back in the day, how was it to revisit that?

I sang ‘Holding On’ live in London at The Water Rats in 2018, it went down really well. Hugo Vereker was in the audience… his lyrics, wow. This is why a lot of my focus to do the album was to allow people to hear this great piece of music.

‘Stranded’ was another track that went public as a freebie with the ‘In The City’ fanzine in 1985, but your new version manages to sound even more like ULTRAVOX if they did the ’Top Gun’ soundtrack…

Yes, I love ‘Stranded’.

Of the instrumentals, ‘Pyramids Of The Reich’ evokes some really surreal images?

Surreal imagery indeed. The listener can close their eyes and be transported to another time. Germanic music as daylight breaks.

‘2529’ with its mighty Schaffel beat is an immediate highlight with some great synth work, it really swings… how did that come together?

The rhythm of ‘2529’ is from the initial rhythms of Warren, yet taken into a Moroder or Jean-Michel Jarre world like a mental picture of a dance floor. It came together from the backbones of Warren and the presence of David Johnston adding percussion.

Do you have any favourite tracks from ‘Spies’ or are you just happy that it is now public after all these years? How do you hope your take on ‘Spies’ will be received?

I am just happy The HELDEN Project will be available to the general public after all these years. For me, personally it is sad that the original backing vocalist Linda Jardim(who had the most incredible voice) had passed away a few years ago. I was able to convince Linda’s companion from THE BUGGLES Debbi Doss to sing Linda’s vocal on the album, which she did beautifully. I do not have any favourites song on this album, I love them all. I think what people need to realise is the depth of creativity of Hans Zimmer. For me this is how he started, right here.

What’s next for you? You’ve been working with Chris Payne?

I am very proud to be collaborating with Chris Payne from the classic Gary Numan live band with what started as a writing team for a new VISAGE, but has turned into our own Zaine Griff / Chris Payne project. We have already completed an album together which will be released in 2023, with shows in Great Britain to support it.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Zaine Griff

Special thanks to Chris Payne

‘The HELDEN Project: Spies’ is released by Sony Japan as a Blu-spec CD on 30th November 2022, available via https://www.cdjapan.co.jp/product/SICX-30156





A 1983 archive interview with Hans Zimmer discussing HELDEN for E&MM can be read via mu:zines at http://www.muzines.co.uk/articles/hans-zimmer/6083


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
29th November 2022


“It’s such a strange day, in such a lonely way” sang NEW ORDER on ‘Truth’ in 1981.

The coronavirus crisis of 2020 put the entire live music industry into limbo as concerts were postponed and tours rescheduled.

The situation was affecting everyone with several musicians like Bernard Sumner, Andy McCluskey, John Taylor and Sarah Nixey publicly stating that they had contracted the virus. Even when all pupils returned to schools in the Autumn, there was a ban on indoor singing in English classrooms. It was an indication that out of all professional fields, the arts was going suffer the most.

To make up for the absence of live shows, online streamed events become popular. Two of the best live online gigs were by Swedish veterans LUSTANS LAKEJER from the KB in Malmö and Sinomatic techno-rockers STOLEN with Lockdown Live From Chengdu. Not strictly a lockdown show but available for all to view on SVT was a magnificent live presentation of KITE at the Royal Opera House in Stockholm recorded in late 2019 combining synthesizers, orchestra and choir, proving again why Nicklas Stenemo and Christian Berg are the best electronic duo in Europe.

Concluding his ‘Songs: From the Lemon Tree’ series, Bon Harris of NITZER EBB presented a wonderful set of four electonic cover versions including songs made famous by Joan Armatrading, Connie Francis and Diana Ross. Meanwhile among independent musicians, Dubliner CIRCUIT3 led the way with an innovative multi-camera effected approach to his home studio presentation and Karin My performed al fresco in a forest near Gothenburg.

Taking the initiative, ERASURE did a delightful virtual album launch party for their new album ‘The Neon’ on Facebook with Vince Clarke in New York and Andy Bell in London, talking about everything from shopping to classic synthpop tunes.

Demonstrating a possible new model for the future, Midge Ure launched his subscription based ‘Backstage Lockdown Club’ which included intimate live performances and specials guests like Glenn Gregory and Howard Jones.

Other streamed forms of entertainment came via podcasts and among the best was ‘The Album Years’ presented by Steven Wilson and Tim Bowness. Their knowledgeable and forthright views on selected years in music were both informative and amusing. It was interesting to note that at the end of the 1976 episode, the pair nominated ‘Oxygène’ by Jean-Michel Jarre as the most important album of that year while for 1979, it was ‘The Pleasure Principle’ by Gary Numan.

Many artists who had scheduled releases in 2020 went through with them, although in some cases, there were the inevitable delays to physical product. But a few notable acts couldn’t help but abuse the situation, notably a certain combo from Basildon.

There were already “quality control issues” with the lavish ‘MODE’ 18 CD boxed set, but there was uproar even among the most hardcore Devotees with the ‘Spirits In The Forest’ release. The cardboard packaging was reported to be flimsy and prone to dents, while there was continuity errors galore as Dave Gahan rather cluelessly and selfishly wore different coloured outfits over the two nights in Berlin that the live footage was filmed under the direction of Anton Corbijn.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, there was an Anton Corbijn official illustrated history of DEPECHE MODE entitled ‘DM AC’ in the form of a coffee table photo book published by Taschen which retailed at €750; even though it was signed by Messrs Gahan, Gore and Fletcher, the price tag was a mightily steep. The increasingly ironic words of “The grabbing hands grab all they can…” from ‘Everything Counts’ were not lost on people, who are people, after all!

But Andy Fletcher did provide the most amusing and spot-on quote of the year; during DEPECHE MODE’s acceptance speech into that dinosaur institution The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, when Dave Gahan remarked to his bandmates that “I dunno what the hell I would have been doing if I didn’t find music to be quite honest…”, the banana eating handclapper dryly retorted “YOU’D HAVE BEEN STILL STEALING CARS DAVE!”

There were lots of great albums released in 2020 and Berlin appeared to be at the creative centre of them.

There was ‘LP II’ from LINEA ASPERA who made a welcome return after eight years in hiatus and  the playful debut by ULTRAFLEX, a collaborative offering from Berlin-based Nordic artists SPECIAL-K and FARAO which was “an ode to exercise, loaded with sex metaphors badly disguised as sports descriptions” .

The DDR born Jennifer Touch told her story with ‘Behind The Wall’ and resident New Yorker DISCOVERY ZONE was on ‘Remote Control’, while Lithuania’s top pop singer Alanas Chosnau made ‘Children of Nature’, his first album in English with Mark Reeder, who himself has lived in the former walled city since 1978; their collected experiences from both sides of the Iron Curtain made for a great record with the political statement of ‘Heavy Rainfall’ being one of the best songs of 2020.

Synth-builder and artist Finlay Shakespeare presented the superb angst ridden long player ‘Solemnities’ with its opener ‘Occupation’ tackling the social injustice of unemployment. A most frightening future was captured in musical form by New York-resident Zachery Allan Starkey who saw his home become a ‘Fear City’, while WRANGLER got themselves into ‘A Situation’.

SPARKS discussed ‘The Existential Threat’ and ‘One For The Ages’ while pleading ‘Please Don’t F*ck Up My World’ on their eclectic 25th album ‘A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip’, just as NIGHT CLUB reflected what many were thinking on ‘Die Die Lullaby’ with ‘Miss Negativity’ looking to ‘Die In The Disco’ while riding the ‘Misery Go Round’.

ASSEMBLAGE 23 chose to ‘Mourn’ with one of its highlights ‘Confession’ illustrating what DEPECHE MODE could still be capable of, if they could still be bothered.

But it was not all doom and gloom musically in 2020. With the title ‘Pop Gossip’, INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS OF POP did not need to do much explaining about the ethos of their second album and drum ‘n’ synth girl GEORGIA was happily ‘Seeking Thrills’.

Veterans returned and 34 years after their debut ‘Windows’, WHITE DOOR teamed up with the comparative youngster Johan Baeckström for ‘The Great Awakening’, while CODE made a surprise return with their second album ‘Ghost Ship’ after an absence 25 years.

‘The Secret Lives’ of German duo Zeus B Held and Mani Neumeier illustrated that septuagenarians just want to have fun. Along with Gina Kikoine, Zeus B Held was also awarded with Der Holger Czukay Preis für Popmusik der Stadt Köln in recognition of their pioneering work as GINA X PERFORMANCE whose ‘No GDM’ was a staple at The Blitz Club in Rusty Egan’s DJ sets.

Incidentally, Rusty Egan announced that Zaine Griff would be joining him with Numan cohorts Chris Payne and David Brooks in a live presentation of VISAGE material, although the announced dates were postponed, pending rescheduling for 2021.

Swiss trailblazers YELLO were on ‘Point’ and continuing their occasional creative collaboration with Chinese songstress Fifi Rong, while one time YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA collaborator Hideki Matsutake returned as LOGIC SYSTEM and released a new long player ‘Technasma’, his project’s first for 18 years.

It was four decades since John Foxx’s ‘Metamatic’ and Gary Numan’s ‘Telekon’, with the man born Gary Webb publishing ‘(R)evolution’, a new autobiography to supersede 1997’s ‘Praying To The Aliens’. Meanwhile, the former Dennis Leigh teamed up with former ULTRAVOX guitarist Robin Simon plus his regular Maths collaborators Benge and Hannah Peel for the blistering art rock statement of ‘Howl’ as well as finally issuing his book of short stories ‘The Quiet Man’.

2020 saw a lot of 40th anniversaries for a number of key albums including ‘Vienna’ by ULTRAVOX, ‘Travelogue’ by THE HUMAN LEAGUE and ‘Closer’ by JOY DIVISION.

Back in 1980, it was not unusual for bands to release two albums in a calendar year as OMD did with their self-titled debut and ‘Organisation’, or JAPAN did with ‘Quiet Life’ and ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’.

It appeared to be a tradition that BLANCMANGE were adopting as Neil Arthur delivered the acclaimed ‘Mindset’ and an enjoyable outtakes collection ‘Waiting Room (Volume 1)’.

PET SHOP BOYS and CERRONE proved they still liked to dance to disco because they don’t like rock, but the year’s biggest surprise came with THE SMASHING PUMPKINS whose single ‘Cyr’ crossed the templates of classic DEPECHE MODE with DURAN DURAN.

Interestingly, Gary Daly of CHINA CRISIS and Michael Rother of NEU! used sketches recorded many moons ago to inspire their 2020 solo creations, proving that if something is a good idea, it will still make sense years later. Veteran Tonmeister Gareth Jones released his debut solo album ‘ELECTROGENETIC’ having first come to prominence as the studio engineer on ‘Metamatic’ back in 1980, but Jah Wobble was as prolific as ever, issuing his ninth album in four years, as well as a run of download singles over lockdown.

ANI GLASS had her debut long player ‘Mirores’ shortlisted for Welsh Music Prize and OMD remixed her song ‘Ynys Araul’ along the way, while SARAH P. was ‘Plotting Revolutions’. NINA and a returning ANNIE vied to be the Queen Of Synthwave with their respective albums ‘Synthian’ and ‘Dark Hearts’, although Canadian synth songstress DANA JEAN PHOENIX presented her most complete and consistent body of work yet in ‘Megawave’, a joint album with POWERNERD.

RADIO WOLF & PARALLELS contributed to the soundtrack of the film ‘Proximity’ released on Lakeshore Records and from the same label, KID MOXIE made her first contribution to the movie world with the score to ‘Not To Be Unpleasant, But We Need To Have A Serious Talk’ that also featured a stark cover of ALPHAVILLE’s ‘Big In Japan’. Meanwhile gothwavers VANDAL MOON made their most electronic album yet in ‘Black Kiss’ and POLYCHROME got in on the kissing act too with their new single ‘Starts With A Kiss’.

It would be fair to say in recent times that the most interesting and best realised electronic pop has come from outside of the UK; the likes of TWICE A MAN explored the darker side of life, although TRAIN TO SPAIN used the dancefloor as their mode of expression, 808 DOT POP developed on the robopop of parent band METROLAND and ZIMBRU preferred disco art pop.

In Scandinavia, there was the welcome return of UNIFY SEPARATE (formally US) and HILTIPOP aka Magnus Johansson of ALISON who finally released some music in his own right; once he started, he didn’t stop with 9 releases and counting in 2020! APOPTYGMA BERZERK released ‘Nein Danke!’, their self-proclaimed return to “New Wave Synthpop” and out of that set-up sprang the very promising PISTON DAMP.

Within the PAGE camp, Eddie Bengtsson continued his Numan fixation on the ‘Under Mitt Skinn’ EP although his musical partner Marina Schiptjenko teamed up with LUSTANS LAKEJER bassist Julian Brandt to ride the Synth Riviera for a delightful second helping of their electro crooner concept cheekily titled ‘For Beautiful People Only’.

Over in Germany, U96 teamed up Wolfgang Flür while RENARD, the solo vehicle of Markus Reinhardt from WOLFSHEIM teamed with Marian Gold of ALPHAVILLE and Sarah Blackwood of DUBSTAR. DUBSTAR themselves released a striking corona crisis statement entitled ‘Hygiene Strip’ which saw reconfigured duo reunited with producer Stephen Hague. Meanwhile another poignant song on the topic ‘Small World’ came from SNS SENSATION, the new project by Sebastian Muravchik of HEARTBREAK. In lockdown, TINY MAGNETIC PETS recorded an entire album which they called ‘Blue Wave’.

Of course, 2020 was not full of joy, even without the pandemic, as the music world sadly lost Florian Schneider, Gabi Delgado-Lopez, Chris Huggett, Andrew Weatherall, Matthew Seligman, Dave Greenfield, Rupert Hine, Tom Wolgers, Harold Budd and Ennio Morricone.

An introspective tone was reflected the music of female fronted acts such as and ZANIAS, PURITY RING, WE ARE REPLICA, KALEIDA, LASTLINGS, NEW SPELL, WITCH OF THE VALE, REIN, BLACK NAIL CABARET, GLÜME, GEISTE THE FRIXION, FEMMEPOP and SCINTII. However, countering this, the optimism of RIDER, ROXI DRIVE and NEW RO presented a much brighter, hopeful take on life and the future.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK celebrated 10 years as a platform and affirming the site’s intuition about synth talent in anticipation of them achieving greater things, SOFTWAVE opened for OMD on the Scandinavia leg of their ‘Souvenir’ tour. The Danish duo became the sixth act which the site had written about to have become part of a tradition that has included VILLA NAH, MIRRORS, VILE ELECTRODES, METROLAND and TINY MAGNETIC PETS.

On a more cheerful note, S.P.O.C.K beamed down to Slimelight in London before lockdown for their first British live performance in 17 years. Meanwhile on the same night, LAU NAU and VILE ELECTRODES did modular sets at Cecil Sharp House, the spiritual home of English traditional music.

At that event, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK took delight in curating a DJ set comprising of John Cage’s 4’33” in variations by DEPECHE MODE, GOLDFRAPP, ERASURE, NEW ORDER and THE NORMAL from Mute’s Stumm433 boxed set. This defiant act of silence even caused a curious Jonathan Barnbrook to raise an eyebrow, this from the man who designed the artwork with the white square on David Bowie’s ‘The Next Day’ 😉

The final live event that ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK attended before the March lockdown was an informative lecture at Queen Mary University in London presented by noted cultural scholar Dr Uwe Schütte, in support of his book ‘KRAFTWERK Future Music From Germany’.

Also attending was Rusty Egan who held court at the reception afterwards by having a debate with another musician about the state of UK synth music. He then loudly beckoned ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK over and mentioned how the site was only interested acts that scored “9 out of 10” before admitting that a number of acts he supported only scored “6 out of 10”, with his reasoning being that if acts aren’t supported, then there will be no synth acts existing at all. After a decade in existence, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK remains proud that it is still extremely selective.

In 2020, the notion of reviews being needed to achieve a promotional profile underwent an existential crisis among media platforms. With streaming now being the main method of music consumption, why would anyone want to read a blog for an opinion about an album when they can just hit ‘play’ and hear the thing for themselves on Spotify, Amazon, Tidal or Bandcamp?

The sound of classic synthpop does live on happily in today’s mainstream via singles by THE WEEKND, DUA LIPA and even STEPS! In that respect, the trailblazing kings and queens of Synth Britannia from four decades ago did their job rather well.

From SUGABABES mashing-up ‘Are Friends Electric?’ for ‘Freak Like Me’ in 2002 to ‘Blinding Lights’ borrowing a bit of A-HA in 2020, the sound of synth is still strong.

It is up to any potential successors to live up to that high standard of Synth Britannia, which was as much down to the quality of the songwriting, as much as it was to do with the sound of the synthesizer. It is a fact that many overlook and if aspiring musicians could pay more attention to the song, instead of making the synthesizer the excuse for the song, then classic electronic pop music may still be around for a little longer and continue to evolve.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK Contributor Listings of 2020


Best Album: LOGIC SYSTEM Technasma
Best Song: NEW ORDER Be A Rebel
Best Gig / Live Stream: NICOLAS GODIN at London Rough Trade
Best Video: POLLY SCATTERGOOD Snowburden
Most Promising New Act: RUE OBERKAMPF


Best Album: ASSEMBLAGE 23 Mourn
Best Song: DUBSTAR I Can See You Outside
Best Gig / Live Stream: WITCH OF THE VALE online Unplugged Live for SAY Women
Best Video: STEVEN WILSON Personal Shopper
Most Promising New Act: LASTLINGS


Best Song: PAGE Blutest Du?
Best Gig / Live Stream: LAU NAU + VILE ELECTRODES at Cecil Sharp House
Best Video: STRIKKLAND Dance Like A God
Most Promising New Act: INDEPENDENT STATE


Best Song: ALANAS CHOSNAU & MARK REEDER Heavy Rainfall
Best Gig / Live Stream: LUSTANS LAKEJER online at Malmö KB
Best Video: ULTRAFLEX Olympic Sweat
Most Promising New Act: LASTLINGS


Best Album: ERASURE The Neon
Best Song: DUBSTAR Hygiene Strip
Best Gig / Live Stream: IŻOL Koncert online at Ziemi Rybnickiej
Best Video: PET SHOP BOYS Monkey Business
Most Promising New Act: MENTRIX

Text by Chi Ming Lai
21st December 2020


The soundtrack of The Blitz Club was provided by its resident DJ Rusty Egan and its story is more than well documented.

This vibrant post-punk scene had a flamboyant clientele who were dubbed ‘Blitz Kids’, ‘The Cult With No Name’ and ‘New Romantics’. It became the catalyst for several bands including VISAGE, SPANDAU BALLET and CULTURE CLUB, as well as assorted fashion designers, visual artists and writers.

Rusty Egan told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK: “I just played as much as I could fit in, it was not all disco. It was a bar and opened after work. I’d arrive 8.30–9.00pm and played all my faves till it was packed, then I got them dancing and at the end, I slowed down”. The dancing style at The Blitz Club often involved the swaying of arms at a distance from the face like slow motion maraca shaking so as not to spoil any carefully hairsprayed styles. Meanwhile, feet movements were often impossible as the small dancefloor was often overcrowded!

With Steve Strange as doorman and fashion gatekeeper, the concept for what was initially a “Bowie Night” came together at Billy’s nightclub in Soho in Autumn 1978 in an effort to find something new and colourful to escape the oncoming drabness in the Winter Of Discontent. After a disagreement with the owners of Billy’s, the pair moved their venture to The Blitz Club.

Although Rusty Egan had been a soul boy and an active participant in punk through a stint rehearsing with THE CLASH and then as a member of THE RICH KIDS with Midge Ure, the two friends became fascinated with electronic dance music though the Giorgio Moroder produced ‘I Feel Love’ by Donna Summer and KRAFTWERK’s ‘Trans Europe Express’ album which had been a surprise favourite in New York discos and whose title track referenced David Bowie.

“There was a couple of years of punk which Midge Ure and myself weren’t too impressed with in terms of the clubs and the environment in Thatcherite Britain, it was horrible in Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool!” recalled Egan, “So we were just trying basically to grasp the good in life, trying to be positive in a very negative time.”

Photo by Gabor Scott

Although Egan curated an eclectic playlist of available synth works supplemented with soundtracks and relatable art rock tunes, tracks were comparatively scarce in this new innovative electronic form.

So with studio time available following the split of THE RICH KIDS, Ure and Egan hit upon the idea of making their own electronic dance music for The Blitz Club, fronted by Steve Strange. Ure came up with the name VISAGE for the project and presented the demo to his then employers at EMI Records, but it was rejected!

Undeterred, the pair recruited Billy Currie from a then-in hiatus ULTRAVOX plus MAGAZINE’s Dave Formula, John McGeoch and Barry Adamson to record the first VISAGE album at the-then newly constructed Genetic Studios of Martin Rushent.

When Billy Currie toured with Gary Numan in 1979, he and fellow keyboardist Chris Payne composed what was to become ‘Fade To Grey’; it was included on the eventual ‘Visage’ album released by Polydor Records in 1980 and the rest is history, reaching No1 in West Germany!

VISAGE was the beauty of the synthesizer played with symphonic classical overtones fused to the electronic dance beat of Neu Europa and visually styled like a cross between the Edwardian dandies and Weimar Cabaret. Midge Ure remembered “it was a major part of my life and Steve was a major part of that period”.

The meeting of Ure and Currie in VISAGE led to the diminutive Glaswegian joining a relaunched ULTRAVOX who released the iconic ‘Vienna’ album in 1980. Co-produced by Conny Plank, the German always thought in terms of sound and on the title song, he imagined an old man at a piano in a desolate theatre who had been playing the same tune for forty years.

And when Billy Currie came to record his ivory parts, that was exactly the feel which Plank had engineered. It was to become a ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ for the New Romantic movement when it was released as a single, stalling at No2 despite being one of the best selling singles of 1981, gracing the UK charts at the same time as ‘Fade To Grey’.

Having started as a “Bowie Night”, the man himself became fascinated by this emergent cult with no name that he had inspired. In 1980, Jacqueline Bucknell, an assistant from his label RCA who was also a Blitz Kid, had taken Bowie down to The Blitz Club to cast extras to appear in a video for his new single ‘Ashes To Ashes’; among the chosen ones was Steve Strange.

Utilising Roland guitar synths and an ARP string machine with a final burst of ARP Odyssey, David Bowie saw ‘Ashes To Ashes’ as an epitaph for his artistic past as he lyrically revisited the Major Tom character from ‘Space Oddity’ over a decade on.

With this, The Blitz Club had now become a mainstream phenomenon as the BBC’s ‘Nationwide’ programme sent an investigative team in, signalling a changing of the guard in popular culture with parallel scenes going on at The Rum Runner in Birmingham, The Warehouse in Leeds and Crocs in Rayleigh from which DURAN DURAN, SOFT CELL and DEPECHE MODE were to respectively gain their fledgling followings.

The perceived elitist exclusivity of The Blitz Club had partly become legend as a result of Steve Strange refusing entry to Mick Jagger for his sporting of blue jeans. Playing on this and adopting its electronic aesthetic to attract attention, five lads from Islington formed SPANDAU BALLET and initially only performed at special events which were by invitation only. Essentially becoming The Blitz Club’s house band, the quintet later scored worldwide success with a less radical sanitised pop soul sound.

Singer Tony Hadley said to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK: “Our first album The ‘Journeys To Glory’ will always be one of my favourite Spandau albums, we were just young excited lads trying to make our mark on the world. There’s a rawness and energy on that album that is impossible to recreate. I love synthpop and still one of my favourite songs is SPANDAU BALLET’s first release ‘ To Cut A Long Story Short’.”

Not all enjoyed their visits to The Blitz Club; Billy MacKenzie notably highlighted the vapid nature of the scene in ASSOCIATES’ second hit single ‘Club Country’. But buoyed by its success, Steve Strange and Rusty Egan eventually vacated The Blitz Club and took over The Music Machine in 1982 and relaunched it as The Camden Palace, making it one of the UK’s first modern superclubs.

But the spirit of The Blitz Club still lives on and recently, there came the surprise announcement that Zaine Griff was to join Rusty Egan and ‘Fade To Grey’ co-writer Chris Payne to perform the songs of VISAGE in an audio-visual presentation at a number of events across Europe including W-Festival in Belgium.

Using Dave Rimmer’s 2003 book ‘New Romantics: The Look’ as an initial reference point and calling on the memories of Rusty Egan himself to verify whether he had actually played these songs in his DJ sets, here are 25 Songs Of The Blitz Club selected by ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK to celebrate the flamboyant legacy of that Blitz Spirit.

ROXY MUSIC Both Ends Burning (1975)

Following-up the hit single ‘Love In The Drug’, ‘Both Ends Burning’ was ROXY MUSIC’s second ‘Siren’ call. With Bryan Ferry’s stylised but anguished vocals, it was a track which laid down the sophisticated art pop trail that JAPAN and DURAN DURAN would later be pursuing. Featuring a prominent coating of ARP Solina string machine sweetened by hypnotic bass and squawky sax, ‘Both Ends Burning’ is probably the most under rated single in the Roxy canon.

Available on the ROXY MUSIC album ‘The Best Of’ via Virgin Records


BRIAN ENO Kings Lead Hat (1977)

With a title that was an anagram of TALKING HEADS, the New York art school combo were the inspiration for the frantic metallic romp of ‘Kings Lead Hat’ which became a favourite at The Blitz Club. Brian Eno aped David Byrne in his vocal delivery, while he was later to produce three of the band’s albums as he moved further away from art rock as a solo artist. The song was later covered by ULTRAVOX in their live sets during the early phase their Midge Ure-fronted incarnation.

Available on the BRIAN ENO album ‘Before & After Science’ via Virgin Records


KRAFTWERK Showroom Dummies (1977)

KRAFTWERK reacted as they generally did to negative criticism by writing a song. A response to a review that said their motionless persona at live performances was like ‘Showroom Dummies’, the sparse eerie atmosphere was punctuated by a tight and rigid electronic drum sound that was completely new and alien, something Rusty Egan was looking to emulate. Incidentally, the count-in of “eins zwei drei vier” was a deadpan Germanic parody of THE RAMONES!

Available on the KRAFTWERK album ‘Trans Europe Express’ via EMI Music


IGGY POP Nightclubbing (1977)

An Iggy Pop collaboration with David Bowie, the Vampiric glam of ‘Nightclubbing’ was the former James Osterberg’s commentary on what it was like hanging out with him every night. Utilising a simple piano melody and a cold Schaffel rhythm via the mechanical precision of a Roland drum machine, legend has it that Iggy insisted on keeping it, saying “it kicks ass, it’s better than a drummer”. Alongside ‘Lust For Life’, ‘Nightclubbing’ also featured in the soundtrack of ‘Trainspotting’.

Available on the IGGY POP album ‘The Idiot’ via Virgin Records


ULTRAVOX! Hiroshima Mon Amour (1977)

Utilising Warren Cann’s modified Roland TR77 rhythm machine, this was John Foxx moving ULTRAVOX! into the moody ambience pioneered by CLUSTER, away from the art rock of the self-titled first album and the punky interim single ‘Young Savage’. ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ had initially been premiered as a far spikier uptempo number for the B-side of ‘ROckWrok’. Incidentally, the ‘CC’ credited on saxophone is not Chris Cross, but a member of the art collective GLORIA MUNDI.

Available on the ULTRAVOX! album ‘Ha! Ha! Ha!’ via Island Records



LA DÜSSELDORF’s second long player ‘Viva’ was their most successful album and the title track was a regular staple at The Blitz Club. An oddball slice of cosmic space rock sung in French and German by Klaus Dinger, proceedings were aided by the dual motorik thud of Hans Lampe and Thomas Dinger. Performed with the same group of musicians, ‘E-Musik’ by Dinger’s previous band NEU! had also been a favourite at The Blitz Club, influencing the intro of the ULTRAVOX B-side ‘Face To Face’.

Available on the LA DÜSSELDORF boxed set ‘Triple Album Collection’ via WEA Records



Commissioned by Alan Parker for the graphic prison drama ‘Midnight Express’, the noted director wanted some electronic accompaniment to the crucial chase scene of the film in the style of ‘I Feel Love’. The bassline from Giorgio Moroder’s own 1976 cover of ‘Knights In White Satin’ was reappropriated. The fruit of their labours was this Oscar winning Hi-NRG romp bursting with VANGELIS-like keyboard melodies, driven by an intense slamming and syncopated by popping pulses.

Available on the GIORGIO MORODER album ‘Midnight Express’ via Casablanca Records


THE NORMAL Warm Leatherette (1978)

Already a fan of German music and ‘Autobahn’ by KRAFTWERK in particular, Daniel Miller’s sense of experimentation and an adoption of punk’s DIY ethic led him to buying a Korg 700s synthesizer. Wanting to make a punk single with electronics, he wrote and recorded the stark JG Ballard influenced ‘Warm Leatherette’ as an independent single release on his own Mute Records. Meanwhile, The Blitz Kids came up with their own bizarre twisting and turning dance entering a human arch to accompany it…

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


RIECHMANN Wunderbar (1978)

The late Wolfgang Riechmann is the forgotten man in the Düsseldorf axis having been in SPIRITS OF SOUND with Michael Rother and Wolfgang Flür; had his life not been tragically cut short, he certainly had the potential to become a revered and respected cult musical figure. The opening title track of his only album chimed like a Cold War spy drama before the beautifully almost oriental melodic piece imagined PINK FLOYD meeting CLUSTER over a delicate Schaffel beat.

Available on RIECHMANN album ‘Wunderbar’ via Bureau B


VISAGE In The Year 2525 (1978 – released 1983)

ZAGER & EVANS’ pessimistic ditty was perfect fodder for the first VISAGE demo. Steered by Midge Ure using his freshly acquired Yamaha synths and punctuated by Rusty Egan’s incessant Roland drum machine and synthetic percussion, ‘In The Year 2525’ was perfectly resigned aural dystopia from its vocodered intro onwards. Steve Strange’s deadpan fronted the sombre tone perfectly but Ure’s vocal backing and counterpoints added that extra slice of musicality.

Available on the VISAGE album ‘The Face’ via Universal Records



One of first Japanese bands to have a Top 20 hit single in the UK was YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA in 1980. ‘Firecracker’ was a cover of a 1959 composition by Martin Denny but actually released as ‘Computer Game (Theme From The Invader)’. Recorded in 1978, the parent self-titled album was noted for its use of the then brand new Roland MC8 Micro-Composer to control the synthesizers. The result was a clean, exotic pop sound that was unusual, even in the synthpop heartland of Europe.

Available on the YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA album ‘Yellow Magic Orchestra’ via Sony Music



Produced by Zeus B Held, ‘No GDM’ was written by androgynous art history student Gina Kikoine in honour of the “great dark man” Quentin Crisp and featured an array of ARP and Moog synths to signal the birth of a new European Underground. Unsurprisingly, the song gained heavy rotation at The Blitz Club. The nonchalant, detached vocal influence of GINA X PERFORMANCE went on to be heard in the music of LADYTRON, CLIENT and MISS KITTIN.

Available on the album ‘Nice Mover’ via LTM Recordings


JAPAN Life In Tokyo (1979)

Working with Giorgio Moroder, David Sylvian submitted ‘European Son’ for the session in Los Angeles but it was rejected by the producer. Instead, the Italian offered several of his demos, of which, Sylvian picked the one he considered to be the worst so that he could stamp more of his own vision for the developing synthesized sound of JAPAN. Considered to be too avant-garde at its inception but ahead of its time, unbeknown to Moroder and Sylvian, they had just conceived DURAN DURAN!

Available on the JAPAN album ‘Assemblage’ via Sony BMG Records


THOMAS LEER & ROBERT RENTAL Day Breaks Night Heals (1979)

Originally released on THROBBING GRISTLE’s Industrial Records, ‘The Bridge’ album saw Scottish duo Thomas Leer and Robert Rental trading vocal and instrumental duties. With an air of FAD GADGET, ‘Day Breaks Night Heals’ showcased some of Leer’s pop sensibility that was later apparent in his Arista solo period and in ACT with Claudia Brücken, while Rental maintained a dark experimental presence in this slice of artful electronic blues. Robert Rental sadly passed away in 2000.

Available on the album ‘The Bridge’ via The Grey Area


SIMPLE MINDS Changeling (1979)

Manipulating their influences like SPARKS and MAGAZINE with a very European austere, Glasgow’s SIMPLE MINDS were “underground, pulsating through” thanks to the rhythmic interplay of Derek Forbes’ bass with Mick McNeil’s synths. Charlie Burchill was now thinking beyond the sound of a conventional electric guitar while the precision of under rated drummer Brian McGee locked the glue. That just left Jim Kerr to throw his bizarre shapes and pontificate over this dark avant disco.

Available on the SIMPLE MINDS album ‘Real To Real Cacophony’ via Virgin Records


SPARKS Beat The Clock (1979)

Having graced the UK Top 20 again with the tremendous ‘No1 Song In Heaven’, SPARKS continued their Giorgio Moroder produced rejuvenation and had an even bigger hit with ‘Beat The Clock’. Percussively augmented by Keith Forsey who was later to produce Billy Idol, Russell Mael’s flamboyant falsetto more than suited the electronic disco sound while the programmed backing meant that Ron Mael could stoically maintain his image of doing nothing.

Available on the SPARKS album ‘No1 In Heaven’ via Lil Beethoven Records


TELEX Moscow Diskow (1979)

Belgian trio TELEX comprised of Marc Moulin, Dan Lacksman and Michel Moers, with the intention of “making something really European, different from rock, without guitar”. Opening their debut album ‘Looking for Saint Tropez’ which also contained their funereal robotic cover of ‘Rock Around The Clock’, ‘Moscow Diskow’ took the Trans-Siberian Express to Moscow, adding a funkier groove compared with KRAFTWERK’s ‘Trans Europe Express’ excursion for what was to become a cult international club favourite.

Available on the TELEX album ‘‘Looking For San-Tropez’ via EMI Music


THROBBING GRISTLE Hot On The Heels Of Love (1979)

From their third album ’20 Jazz Funk Greats’, the uncompromising THROBBING GRISTLE led by the late Genesis P-Orridge were neither jazzy or funky! Gloriously sequenced by Chris Carter on a Roland System-100M modular, ‘Hot On The Heels Of Love’ was mutant dystopian disco lento with a hypnotic rhythm punctuated by a synthetic whip-crack for that S&M twist as Cosey Fanni Tutti’s whispered vocals competed with pentatonic melodies and electronic drill noises!

Available on the THROBBING GRISTLE album ’20 Jazz Funk Greats’ via Industrial / Mute Records


ZAINE GRIFF Ashes & Diamonds (1980)

Zaine Griff had a Bowie-esque poise was tailor made for The Blitz Club and Tony Visconti saw enough in him to produce his debut solo album ‘Ashes & Diamonds’. Featuring Hans Zimmer on synths, the title song was sitting just outside the Top 40 and earned a performance on ‘Top Of The Pops’ but the episode was pulled thanks to a Musicians Union strike. Demonstrating the song’s longevity despite it not being a major hit, it was recently covered live by American alternative rockers MGMT.

Available on the ZAINE GRIFF album ‘Ashes & Diamonds / Figvres’ via MIG Music


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Being Boiled (1980)

‘Being Boiled’ was the first song Philip Oakey wrote with Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh for THE HUMAN LEAGUE, his bizarre lyrics being the result of a confusion between Buddhism and Hinduism while highlighting the plight of silk worms. Intended to reimagine FUNKADELIC’s funky overtones as synthetic horns, this brassier re-recorded version with fatter electronic beats was included on the ‘Holiday 80’ EP and the ‘Travelogue’ album, becoming a dance staple of The Blitz Club.

Available as a bonus track on THE HUMAN LEAGUE album ‘Travelogue’ via Virgin Records


SPACE Tender Force (1980)

Didier Marouani wrote the worldwide hit ‘Magic Fly’ but having left the band, Roland Romanelli and Jannick Top continued as SPACE. The rousing thrust of ‘Tender Force’ was, like ‘Magic Fly’, produced by Jean-Philippe Iliesco who later invited Rusty Egan to contribute a timbale heavy remix of this synth disco tune; he was later to begin an ill-fated business relationship with Iliesco who was named by Midge Ure in his ‘If I Was’ autobiography as responsible for putting a wedge between him and Egan in VISAGE…

Available on the SPACE album ‘The Best Of’ via Nang Records


YELLO Bostich (1980)

Although now known as a duo, eccentric Swiss pioneers YELLO actually began as a trio of Dieter Meier, Boris Blank and Carlos Peron. Later remixed and extended, the military drum tattoo at the start of ‘Bostich’ was deceiving as an electronic throb quickly set in. This was perfect avant garde disco for The Blitz Club with a quirky range of vocal pitches from Meier while the track also included a style of speedy European rap later that was repeated on their only major UK hit ‘The Race’ in 1988.

Available on the YELLO album ‘Essential’ via Mercury Records


LANDSCAPE Einstein A Go-Go (1981)

Electronic pop music was often seen as pretentious, LANDSCAPE had their tongues firmly in their cheeks as evidenced by ‘Einstein A Go-Go’. “The song is a cautionary tale about the apocalyptic possibilities of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of theocratic dictators and religious extremists.” said the band’s Richard Burgess, “We talked about the track conceptually before we wrote it and our objective was to make a very simple, cartoon-like track with a strong hook that would belie the meaning of the lyrics!”

Available on LANDSCAPE album ‘From The Tea-Rooms Of Mars…’ via Sony Music


SHOCK R.E.R.B. (1981)

Written as a B-side instrumental for The Blitz Club’s resident dance troupe SHOCK to work a routine to, ‘R.E.R.B.’ was constructed by Rusty Egan and Richard Burgess, hence the title. Burgess had been doing the linking interludes with a Fairlight on the first VISAGE album and brought in a Roland System 700 modular driven by the Micro-composer while Egan triggered the brain of the synthesized drum system that Burgess had been working on with Dave Simmons for its punchy drum fills.

Available on the SHOCK single ‘R.E.R.B.’ via Blitz Club Records


SOFT CELL Memorabilia (1981)

Produced by Daniel Miller, one of the first SOFT CELL recordings on signing to Phonogram was the seminal ‘Memorabilia’. While not a hit, it was critically acclaimed and become a favourite at The Blitz Club. Dave Ball’s deep Roland Synthe-Bass and klanky Korg Rhythm KR55 provided a distinctive danceable backbone to accompany Marc Almond’s souvenir collecting metaphors about sexual promiscuity. After this, SOFT CELL were signed by Rusty Egan to Metropolis Music for publishing.

Available on SOFT CELL album ‘Keychains & Snowstorms: The Singles’ via Universal Music


Approved by Rusty Egan, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK presents the ‘The Blitz Spirit’ playlist capturing the era and beyond at: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0y4GXXotg4BFPZ6qMklwdx

Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Rusty Egan
13th April 2020

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