“We’re Not as Good as When We Go for an Adventure”: An Exclusive Interview with Andy McCluskey of OMD on the “Souvenir” Greatest Hits and Deluxe Boxset (Part 3) by Mary L. Chang

The second of the two European-coded DVDs is an impressive trinity of material.  The first two parts are live shows that Andy McCluskey says demonstrate how time and experience changed the band for the better.  The 1981 show filmed at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane was during the “Architecture and Morality” era, “when we were at the peak of our powers, but it just shows how very minimal the stage lighting was.  We were trying absolutely not to be a [conventional] rock and roll show, with crash bang wallop full of pyrotechnics and big flashing lights.  It was [about] trying to be more theatrical and moody and quite often, it was dark.”  He further notes, “When you listen to the Theatre Royal Drury Lane show, this was our third album, but we were still only 20, 21.  It’s crazy.  We were kids.  We still had all of our anxieties and nerves.”

 

In contrast, a 1985 show at Sheffield City Hall (“the most beautiful oval building”) filmed for the BBC’s Oxford Road Show series “shows a band much more confident, much more middle of the road, because we had brass with us.  We’d grown into being a bit more capable and relaxed onstage.  You can see that we’ve grown and mellowed a little bit by the mid-eighties.  It’s nice to see those two shows back to back.”  OMD will be returning to Sheffield on the 3rd of November, to that very same venue, on their European and UK 40th anniversary tour.

 

Also included on the second DVD is Crush the Movie, previously only available on VHS cassette in the eighties.  I ask Andy if the original intention of the film was to promote the album, or vice versa.  “It’s hard to know, really.  Someone persuaded us to make this complete film.  It was available as a video to purchase, so the fans could buy it, and it obviously contains the promo videos for the single releases.  But it was one of those things you do and you look back and think, I wonder how much that cost us?

 

“People say, ‘you look so serious in your photographs, and your music is dead serious.’  And we’re like, ‘we are serious about our music.  But we ourselves are ordinary guys who have a laugh.’  So you can see us goofing off in the studio and when we’re filming in Spain.  I think that was quite nice, to see a different side of OMD.  It hasn’t been available since it was available on VHS video, so we thought we’d make it available digitally because a lot of people haven’t seen it in decades.”

 

Included in the film is Andy and Paul Humphreys’ parody of an ABBA-themed sketch from Not the Nine O’Clock News, a tv programme that made Rowan Atkinson a star.  They are in the studio with headphones on, gaily singing something called ‘One of Us is Ugly, One of Us is Cute’.  “Again, that was us, messing around in the studio, copying a comedy routine from a popular tv series at the time.  I look back at it and actually cringe because, god, what were we doing?  But it’s probably quite funny now.”  It is.

 

Arguably, the most accessible parts of the “Souvenir” deluxe boxset are the 40 singles that span OMD’s career because many, if not all, are old friends to OMD fans.  He and Paul decided to be “completely inclusive”, though Andy concedes that “some of them, maybe we could have done better [with], or we didn’t realize at the time it wasn’t as good as we thought it was.”  With the ever-present desire to try a different direction on each successive album, the singles lined up chronologically reflect this spirit of experimentation.

 

‘Don’t Go’ is their special 40th single, and it turns out it was conceived around the time they considered B-sides for 2017’s “The Punishment of Luxury”.  As Andy explains, things were promising from the start, but it took Paul’s intervention to finish the job.  “When I put the lyric on this sequencer, we thought, ‘hang on a minute, this is really good, this actually could become quite a strong song.  Let’s hold on to it.’  So we kept it, and earlier this year, when we were looking to finish the [greatest hits part of the] album, we went back to it.  It was a bit of a struggle, actually, because we knew there was something good in there [the earlier version], but we knew something was missing.  Finally, when Paul put the melody in the middle that reprises at the end, that was when we had a real clincher.

 

“The funny thing is, I started out singing it in the lower key.  Then, as it grew, I just thought, this needs to go up the octave to give it the proper McCluskey howl.  And that’s what really then elevated it to have a huge, intense, emotional kind of melancholy.  It’s a really good song.  We’re very proud of it, we thought for our 40th single in our 40th year, it stands up.  It’s good.  We know it won’t be a hit.  It’s not going to get played enough on the radio.  But we know it’s a good song.

 

“It’s one of the few songs where I’m not trading in poetry or metaphor.  It’s a pretty straight lyric about how much you can hurt when someone leaves your life.”  The tear-jerking video by Sprankenstein Studio was also just released last week.  “The video is a choker, isn’t it?” Andy jokes.  “It’s such simple line drawings.  The particular bit where the main character is sitting on the bench, aging, really shows how touching you can be with a few brushstrokes, you know?”

 

Naturally, having the singles arranged in chronological order allows Andy to reflect on the individual singles and what their success meant to him at the time.  “‘Electricity’ was never a hit, until this week when the 7” re-release was number 1 in the [UK] vinyl [singles] chart.  ‘Messages’ was our first hit, that was amazing.”

 

Sometimes, there was simply astonishment.  “‘Enola Gay’ was massive.  I remember we went to Italy and the record company asked us, ‘would you mind doing some press before we go to the tv station?’  We walked into this room and there’s 50 people and we’re like, this is a press conference!  Normally we do one-on-ones.  What the fuck?  And the first question was, ‘how does it feel to be number one in Italy?’  And we were like, ‘is this Candid Camera, is this a joke?  What?’  The record company goes, ‘yeah, it’s a surprise!  We didn’t want to tell you!’

 

“‘Maid of Orleans’ is a weird song to have been the biggest-selling song in Germany in 1982.  I mean, it starts with 40 seconds of distortion.  ‘Sailing on the Seven Seas’ was a huge release that I had as a hit on my own.  I was terrified because all I’d ever done was work with Paul and the other guys in the band.  Then ‘Walking on the Milky Way’ is one of the best songs I’ve ever written in my life, and that struggled to get to number 17 because [BBC] Radio 1 wouldn’t play it in the UK.”

 

OMD are in an enviable position where they have not one, but two fantastic primary songwriters and lead vocalists.  I ask Andy which of the songs he’s penned are his personal favourites.  “I have a soft spot for ‘Electricity’ because it was the first piece of music, an object of a song I had written.  That was the most amazing feeling, ever.  A song that Paul and I had written when we were 16, and I was now holding in my hand at age 19.  ‘Enola Gay’ because it kicked the doors open [for us] internationally.

 

“‘If You Leave’ [from the Pretty in Pink soundtrack], we’re proud of [it] because it was a remarkable piece of craftsmanship: under extreme duress, we write a song off the top of our heads in 1 day, and then it turned out to be the biggest hit.  I am very proud of ‘Sailing on the Seven Seas’ because I think I went back to the kind of ethos of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, which was ‘don’t write a hit, just write something and see what happens.  And one of them will be a hit if you’ve actually written a good song’.  ‘Sailing on the Seven Seas’ was an utterly bonkers song, but it was a massive hit in northern Europe.”

 

Andy also wants to take the time to reflect back on the two most recent OMD albums ‘English Electric’ and ‘The Punishment of Luxury’ and through the eyes of the version of him holding that original 1979 ‘Electricity’ single.  “There’s some tracks on there, because we’re looking back, because we’re reflecting, because we’re looking at 40 years, [so] I know how the 20-year old Andy McCluskey would have felt about the fact that the 60-year old McCluskey was still in the music industry.  He would have been horrified.

 

“He would have said, ‘if this is for young people, only young people make good music.  Old people make boring, conventional crap.  You need to retire before you’re 30.  Get out of the way, and let the young train come ploughing down the track.’  All I would say to him was, ‘son, totally understand where you’re coming from.  That gave you your energy and your angst, your naivete and enthusiasm.  But just have a listen to this album.  Have a listen to “The Punishment of Luxury”.’  I suspect the 20-year old Andy McCluskey would have gone, ‘wow! You guys can still do it!  Okay, carry on!’”

 

In the year of their 40th anniversary, Andy and OMD have incredible music behind them that they can be pleased with because they made it largely under their own terms.  “The one thing we’re most proud of is that for the most part, we have ploughed our own course through the music industry.  We have done what we have wanted to do.  There were times when we were under pressure.  It was only because of money – because we didn’t get into this to be rich and famous – but once it becomes what you do, you have to pay the bills to keep on creating.  If you don’t sell enough records, you get dropped, so no-one’s going to hear the next one.

 

“We sometimes had to err on the side of caution.  And the one thing that we have realised, when we err on the side of caution, we’re not as good as when we go for an adventure.”  It’s that sense of adventure, along with their healthy desire to be different, that has led OMD to write some of the greatest songs in popular music.  The “Souvenir” deluxe boxset, then, affords the music fan the chance to join them on a unique ride.  And what a ride it is.

 

Mary L. Chang is an American freelance music journalist.  She was the Editor-in-Chief of the UK/U.S./Irish music website There Goes the Fear from 2010 to 2019 and has contributed to international music outlets including DIY, Click Music and PopWreckoning.

“Oh My God, We’ve Arrived”: An Exclusive Interview with Andy McCluskey of OMD on the “Souvenir” Greatest Hits and Deluxe Boxset (Part 2) – By Mary L. Chang

Two of the five audio discs are live show recordings, and from virtually opposite sides of OMD’s long career.  The earlier recorded of the two discs comprises tracks recorded live in 1983, at London Hammersmith Odeon and at the end of their tour campaign for the then-critically-maligned “Dazzle Ships”.  While we can now enjoy the audio mixed by Paul Humphreys, Andy McCluskey reports that sadly, the accompanying film footage that was shot that night has unfortunately been lost.  For anyone lucky enough to have been in the audience for this show, you may notice there is a track missing from the set.

 

It’s only human nature to remember, with often great and excruciating detail, the moments where we have failed.  Despite the event occurring over 30 years ago, both Andy and Paul remembered that ‘Genetic Engineering’ went off that night in an utter shambles, so they chose to omit it from this release.  “What happened was we came in out of time with the click track.  Throughout the whole song, we knew we were out of time, and each of us kept trying to stop and come back in, instead of all stopping and starting the track again.  Nowadays, [if] we screw something up, we just start again.  We tried to get to the end of the song, and it sounded like World War III!”

 

Since its release in 1983, “Dazzle Ships” has enjoyed retrospective positive appraisals from music critics, as well as gained enthusiastic fans.  Says Andy, “The rest of it [the concert] is as we played it, and it’s an interesting and unusual show for a band who was at the top of its game but had just released an album that caused us problems commercially but which is now considered a kind of masterpiece.”  Given the background, you can’t help but muse over what concerns and anxiety might have been burbling in their early 20-something heads before and during the gig.

 

Andy’s comment also drives home the fact that they have always taken great pride in their live performances, even from the very early days.  “Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark were a live band.  Paul and I were experimenting in his mother’s back room.  But we took those experiments and went to play [them] live.  We were always a band who played live.  It was always part of the ethos.  So it’s important for us to demonstrate the energy, the emotion and the feel of a live show.  I love live shows because you can’t actually change anything about it, you know?  It’s done, it’s gone into the ether.”

 

While he concedes studio recordings are polished and “perfectly presented” these days and live recordings are not, “[a live recording] has much more energy and humanity, specifically for that reason.  It’s something that you did that one night, in that one room, to those people and those people only.  You may have played the same set the night before in a different city.  But every, every concert has a different feel because it’s a different venue and it’s different people.  It’s very much a document of a specific moment, and that’s what gives a live recording its charm.”

 

Those reading this who have seen OMD live will agree with me that Andy, and the whole band, clearly have a great time performing for their fans.  The ability to interface with the people who love their music is absolutely priceless to him.  “I think it’s the human and emotional connection with the audience in the hall.  It’s a special event to go and see people presenting their art to you.  The interaction you get between the band and the audience is visceral.  When an audience is enjoying themselves, when they’re applauding, they’re cheering, clapping and dancing, there’s a buzz.  You get something back.

 

“We’ve sold millions of records, but I wasn’t in the shop where every record was sold, you know?  I wasn’t sitting in the car when somebody heard it on the radio and turned to their friend and said, ‘hey, I really like this song!’  I can’t share that with people.  But when we stand onstage and play it that one time, in that city, to that group of people, then we see what they feel.  Then we see how they respond.  And they get us to play it to them personally, [it’s] not just the recording that everyone else got when they bought the CD or the record or listened to the download.  They get the one performance we’re doing that night in their town, and it’s individual.  It’s special.  That’s what gives it a frisson, an energy.”

 

The other live audio recording is a BBC Radio 2 In Concert special from 2011, hosted by Jo Whiley. “It’s a more recent live recording.  It was broadcast and went out into the ether live, but no-one’s ever heard it since.  So we just thought it would be a nice opportunity for people to have a different document of the same band, the same four people, playing whatever it was 27 years later.”  It is, indeed, a nice closing of the loop, a lovely reminder that four people who played music together as young men and shared so many stages could reunite after some time of estrangement, then return and perform together as a cohesive unit, as if little or no time had passed at all.  The music industry is littered with stories of band members falling out with each other, never to speak again.  OMD’s story is a rare one where outside forces may have conspired against them, but friendships and musical bonds have endured.

 

One of the two European-coded DVDs in the “Souvenir” deluxe boxset are a blistering array of the band’s live performances from 1980 to 2013.  The majority of the performances are taken from the BBC’s Top of the Pops, whose influence on British life Andy was keen to impress on this Yank.  “Top of the Pops, for British kids, is iconic.  It’s our American Bandstand.  We grew up watching it, it’s often where we heard a track for the first time before it became a hit or while it was climbing the charts.  To do Top of the Pops, for British bands, it was really a stamp of, ‘oh my god, we’ve arrived. This is really incredible.’  It was exciting.  It was terrifying!”

 

OMD’s first performance for the BBC series was a bit of a baptism by fire.  “Actually, the first time we did Top of the Pops with ‘Messages’, it was the first time I’d ever flown in an aeroplane.  We were in Belgium, and we were supposed to get the ferry back after a European tour.  We get a phone call, ‘quick, get back to the UK, you got Top of the Pops!’  It was quite weird because I had just been on this plane…then, of course, our equipment was still coming back on the ferry, so we were playing rented equipment, which weren’t our own instruments, so we all felt rather uncomfortable.”  With a chuckle and I’m sure a smile on the other end of the line, he adds, “Sometimes it’s not as glamorous as you think it is!”

 

Still, despite the nerve-inducing events before they even got in front of a camera, he has overwhelmingly fond memories of going to the BBC Television Centre in Shepherd’s Bush to record their live appearances.  “It was a great, big circular building.  Every studio was divided [into two] and so had pairs, so when you came out of the dressing room, the two studios would share this cafe and tea shop.  And the great thing about recording and rehearsing for Top of the Pops, because you were there all day, there was a very large likelihood that the adjacent twin studio could be doing anything from a period drama to Doctor Who.  You could be sitting down, having a cup of tea with someone who looked like they were Jane Austen or [with] Doctor Who and the Daleks, or god knows what!”

 

Further, for its time, the BBC tv programme had incredible reach and influence on music listeners and the music-buying public, unlikely to be rivalled in Britain again.  “There were only three tv channels, and so everybody watched [Top of the Pops].  It was the one concession parents would make to their children, ‘okay, it’s Thursday night, it’s 7 o’clock.  You all can watch Top of the Pops.’  Twenty million people would watch it, of a population of 50 [million].  That’s how big it was.  If you were on Top of the Pops, it was the biggest advertisement you could ever get for your song.  That was really amazing, and I think it made it hugely important and exciting to do.”

 

During my research for this interview, I considered that the “Sugar Tax” single ‘Pandora’s Box’, appearing twice on the tv programme appearances DVD, might have a more personal angle to Andy and OMD than might have been initially apparent.  He considers my suggestion.  “I don’t think I ever saw [American twenties silent film actress] Louise Brooks and her career trajectory as a metaphor for OMD…certainly, she was precocious, she was young and talented, she was a teenager when she first came to people’s attention as being successful, so there are some similarities with OMD.  I think she refused to play the game.  We refused to play the game, but we were fortunate that we managed to sell records by creating our own set of rules, whereas Louise Brooks ultimately was cast out of the film industry because she was not abiding by their rules and doing what she was told.  So there were huge differences.”

 

In any event, Louise Brooks must have been a major influence on Andy at the time, as her memory stayed on his mind.  He reveals to me something that I had missed upon my audio inspection of the unreleased tracks.  “I don’t know if you’ve made the connection there, but the ‘American Venus’ that’s on the unreleased CD was my first attempt to write a song about Louise Brooks because ‘American Venus’ is another one of her film titles [like ‘Pandora’s Box’].  When I later went back and listened to ‘American Venus’ after our conversation, I realised why it hadn’t registered: Andy’s voice is so processed on it that I wouldn’t have made out the word “Kansas” if Andy had not brought it to my attention.  “‘American Venus’, when I heard it, the lyrics, ‘born in Kansas, from the tender prairie, to New York City’, that’s me trying to write a song about Louise Brooks, and it didn’t work.  And then I went away to write ’Pandora’s Box’ instead!  Basically, I kept a couple of the lyrics but utterly abandoned all the music.”

 

Such deconstructing, then rebuilding, has been a successful approach for him in some cases.  He relates a story to me about how the second Joan of Arc-themed OMD song ‘Maid of Orleans (The Waltz Joan of Arc)’ came about, and from a previously discarded idea.  “Paul and Malcolm [then-drummer Holmes], they came into the studio when we were packing up to go to the Manor [Studio in Oxfordshire], and they both said, ‘whatever happened to that waltzy one?’  And I said, ‘it doesn’t work.’  Mal said, “if you let me play drums on it, it might.’  And it did!”

 

Hearing more about the OMD modus operandi to songcraft, I was struck by the elements of hard work, experimentation and fate that have played a part in creating the songs we hold so dear in our hearts.  Despite the numerous detractors of electronic music who hounded OMD and their eighties contemporaries for not being real songwriters, the truth of the matter is that they are an act whose magic moments in the studio may have been hard-fought, and the proof is in the memorable end product.

 

 

Mary L. Chang is an American freelance music journalist.  She was the Editor-in-Chief of the UK/U.S./Irish music website There Goes the Fear from 2010 to 2019 and has contributed to international music outlets including DIY, Click Music and PopWreckoning.

“Different Colours, Different Shades”: An Exclusive Interview with Andy McCluskey of OMD on the “Souvenir” Greatest Hits and Deluxe Boxset (Part 1) – By Mary L. Chang

2019 will be remembered for a great many notable anniversaries.  In British music history, the greatest will be the 40th anniversary of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD).  The pioneering electronic act from a humble, working-class beginning in the Wirral, England, went on to become a successful, multimillion album-selling group who, except for the few times they “had to err on the side of caution”, were uncompromising in their artistic vision.

 

Days before their band were due to begin the anniversary-related European and UK OMD tour in Portugal, I was given the wonderful opportunity to speak with cofounder Andy McCluskey about the gravity of releasing the new greatest hits and deluxe boxset “Souvenir”, available now from Universal Music.  As Andy and I discussed what he and Paul Humphreys decided to include in the boxset, it became clear very quickly how important it was to the two of them to be able to present a big picture view of their career through this boxset.  It is designed for the fans, with scores of memorable tunes, live performance tracks and video clips, unreleased songs and fragments and more to dive into.  As a whole, it is a massive reminder of everything OMD have achieved and over such a long period of time, so much so that today’s up-and-coming acts should be envious.

 

Andy is matter-of-fact when looking back at their storied career.  “We’ve had some good moments.  There were other times when we were working and we didn’t get it quite right.  But not every Picasso is a masterpiece.”  He calls the big hit singles in the two greatest hits discs “the cherry and the icing on top” that music fans will clamour for, but he sees “Souvenir” as a metaphor for Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.  That is, if you dig deeper through their oeuvre, their career is revealed as an “often dark and complicated, richer cake underneath [that includes] the unreleased tracks that show how we used to work” and the live performances they have chosen to include here.

 

I definitely was not expecting to hear a comparison of OMD’s career to a layered pudding.  However, upon further reflection, the metaphor totally makes sense.  (We will get to another cooking allusion later.)  While music fans know OMD for the single or singles that were successful in their respective territories, those who invest time exploring the band’s output beyond the hits and indeed, beyond the static studio recordings, shall be rewarded.  “It’s [“Souvenir”] about all the hidden depths of OMD, the different colours, different shades”, Andy explains.  “We’re not a band who just strives to write a hit single, and the rest of the album are songs that aren’t good enough be hit singles.  We accidentally write hit singles while we’re on our journey, experimenting and trying different kinds of music.”  This is just one example of why OMD are so beloved by their fans: the word “contrived” just does not exist in their vocabulary.

 

To the sonic geeks and synth addicts, both groups I consider myself a card-carrying member of, the most intriguing disc of the boxset has to be “Unreleased Archive Vol I.”  The songs and song fragments you hear on this disc were discovered in storage by cofounder Paul Humphreys, having been put away and abandoned following the completion of various albums.  Andy explains that in OMD’s early days, “we would write to tape, and it was a linear writing process.  We would just throw crazy ideas on the tape, then hope to actually make the song out of these component parts…[but] what tended to happen was if there was another song on the tape that had been used as part of a master in recording, then the tapes would go from the final mixing place and then into the storage, and we never saw them again.  So if we forgot to take the tapes home and keep them for working on again, they just went into storage, and so we hadn’t seen these tapes for, literally, decades.  So there was a real voyage of discovery to find what there was.”

 

However, before any reviewing of the material from storage could begin, they first had to overcome an unusual physical problem with the tapes, which Andy explained to me in much detail.  “Most of the tapes were from the late seventies to the early eighties, and the technology used on tape [around] then had changed.  The glue that was used to adhere the ferric oxide onto the tape was synthetic.  Prior to that, in the forties, fifties and sixties, they used glue made from whale product.  So the synthetic glue was obviously much more humane and moral.  The trouble was that it wasn’t as good as the whale product glue.

 

“Over the years, it tends to absorb moisture.  So what happens with these tapes is, if you try to lace these tapes on a machine and play them, they actually shed the oxide onto the playback head.  In the process of listening to your tapes, you’re actually stripping the magnetic oxide off the recording!  What you have to do is send them off to be baked, slowly, in an oven at a certain temperature for about 24 hours, and it dries the moisture out slowly.  And then you put the tape on the machine and transfer it to digital [recording] so you have saved the tape, but you’ve also got a digital copy.

 

“It was several weeks before we could actually get to hear these tracks.  And it was really exciting, because some of them we did recall, and it was like, ‘great, we’re just going to mix those, and we’ll have them.’  Others, we had no recollection whatsoever.”  For the long-time OMD fan, the disc is a nostalgic look back at their previous album eras, and you can practically picture yourself there in the studio with them.  If we use the metaphor of a slick muscle car to describe OMD and their unique musical output over these last 4 decades, then listening to “Unreleased Archive Vol I.” is like being afforded the chance to look under the bonnet and see how they worked back then.

 

“A lot of them [the tracks] are kind of like rough canvases”, Andy says, “where an artist was sketching in the background, but they never got to finally put the details on, the trees and the houses and the people.  It never got worked up to become a complete image, and that’s what some of these pieces of music are.  But there’s also quite a few complete songs that never made it out in public.”  More importantly, it reminded him and Paul of a completely different technical process of recording and writing, a process that worked for them creatively and artistically when they were younger.  “We’re rather proud of it.  It’s a really good snapshot of the way we used to think, the way we used to write, the way we used to experiment.  I love the fact that it starts with the cutest track we ever wrote, which is all of four or five channels of ‘Brand New Science’, which is just so sweet.”

 

OMD’s biggest hits have benefitted from his or Paul’s clever or emotional lyric content, so I asked him about two instrumental pieces on the disc that I found particularly intriguing.  “We are cool if something works as an instrumental.  We’re quite happy to leave it without a lyric.  That’s not a problem.  ’Guitar Thrash’ was just us trying to sound like one of the thrashiest songs by NEU!, like ‘Hero’, but we didn’t have a good lyric on it.”  So off to OMD storage it went.

 

“‘Radio Swiss International’ comes from the “Dazzle Ships” era.  We sampled a bunch of the radio call signs from various political radio stations.  Swiss [Radio] International wouldn’t let us use their call sign because they said the album was weighted too heavily towards communist propaganda.  And then we said, ‘if we use your call sign, we’re balancing it, aren’t we?’  They still wouldn’t let us use their call sign.  I hadn’t realized [until now that] we had tried to use it and make it into a broader piece of music, that we’d added extra instruments, so that was another surprise we’d found.”  When I mention that I think it sounds like a futuristic music box, he replies, “To English people, it [probably] sounds like an ice cream van, the ones that used to drive around and belt out distorted versions of ‘Greensleeves’.”

 

Using one of their international hits, Andy gives me a concrete example of his writing process in the eighties, along with a brief singing lesson.  “To give you an idea of how it worked [then], if you think of the song ‘Joan of Arc’, that started with me laying down 5 minutes of myself singing the note A and putting in an echo.  Then another 5 minutes of me singing random harmonies around it.  Then I played glockenspiel randomly in A major, and then I put down a click [track].  Then I started to write a song over that [instrumental] bed track.

 

“I put down the bass and chords, and then I finally got a vocal and drums.  And that’s how ‘Joan of Arc’ was created.  ‘Joan of Arc’ would not have that same texture or atmosphere if I had not started from those completely abstract elements.  That’s how we used to write: we would experiment, throw sounds onto a tape and then see if we could conjure a melody or a vocal out of it, from the feeling we created.  Sometimes it works.  Sometimes it didn’t.”

 

About the author:

Mary L. Chang is an American freelance music journalist.  She was the Editor-in-Chief of the UK/U.S./Irish music website There Goes the Fear from 2010 to 2019 and has contributed to international music outlets including DIY, Click Music and PopWreckoning.

Souvenir – New Greatest Hits & Deluxe Boxset Announced

We’re excited to announce a brand new 40th anniversary career-spanning boxset and comprehensive singles collections. These are available for pre-order now.

 

“Souvenir – The Singles 1979-2019” will be released on October 4th on 2CD and 3LP formats. It is a comprehensive collection of all 39 of our singles from Electricity to What Have We Done, plus a brand new 40th single, Don’t Go (released today on all digital stores).

 

A limited edition 5CD+2DVD career spanning boxset will also be released. Discs 1 and 2 are the same as the 2CD format – the 40 singles in chronological order.

 

Disc 3 is a collection of 22 unheard and unreleased tracks from the OMD archive, newly mixed by Paul Humphreys. Some of these are unfinished ideas, others are full unreleased songs.

 

Disc 4 is a full live recording from the Mermaid Theatre in London, February 2011. The show was for BBC Radio 2 in support of the History of Modern album.

 

Disc 5 is a newly discovered full live recording from the Hammersmith Odeon in May 1983 in support of the Dazzle Ships album.

 

Disc 6 is a DVD featuring 23 OMD performances on the BBC spanning from The Old Grey Whistle Test in April 1980 to Later With Jools Holland in May 2013

 

Disc 7 is a DVD featuring a live recording from the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in December 1981 in support of the Architecture & Morality album. It also includes a live recording from Sheffield City Hall, June 1985 in support of the Crush album and the long-awaited DVD debut of Crush – The Movie.

 

The boxset also contains a book and artwork prints. The book contains unseen photos, single sleeve artwork, an introduction by Paul Morley and sleeve notes to accompany the archive material by Andy McCluskey.

 

The products are all available for pre-order now.

 

Tracklisting –

 

Disc 1 – The Singles 1979 – 1987

  1. Electricity
  2. Red Frame/White Light
  3. Messages
  4. Enola Gay
  5. Souvenir
  6. Joan of Arc
  7. Maid of Orleans
  8. Genetic Engineering
  9. Telegraph
  10. Locomotion
  11. Talking Loud and Clear
  12. Tesla Girls
  13. Never Turn Away
  14. So in Love
  15. Secret
  16. La Femme Accident
  17. If You Leave
  18. (Forever) Live and Die
  19. We Love You
  20. Shame

 

Disc 2 – The Singles 1988 – 2019

  1. Dreaming
  2. Sailing on the Seven Seas
  3. Pandora’s Box (It’s a Long, Long Way)
  4. Then You Turn Away
  5. Call My Name
  6. Stand Above Me
  7. Dream of Me
  8. Everyday
  9. Walking on the Milky Way
  10. Universal
  11. If You Want It
  12. Sister Marie Says
  13. History of Modern (part 1)
  14. Metroland
  15. Dresden
  16. Night Café
  17. Isotype
  18. The Punishment Of Luxury
  19. What Have We Done
  20. Don’t Go

 

Disc 3 – Unreleased Archive Vol I.

  1. Brand New Science (06.1981)
  2. Dumbomb (01.1986)
  3. Violin Piece (09.1982)
  4. Untitled 2 (06.1981)
  5. Cut Me Down (03.1986)
  6. Radio Swiss International (09.1982)
  7. Untitled 3 (09.1982)
  8. Weekend (04.1985)
  9. Organ Ditty (05.1980)
  10. Unreleased Idea (06.1981)
  11. Cajun Moon (05.1986)
  12. Guitar Thrash (09.1982)
  13. SMPTE (12.1982)
  14. American Venus (04.1990)
  15. Liberator (02.1985)
  16. Ambient 1 (04.1980)
  17. Unused 1 (12.1980)
  18. Flamenco (04.1990)
  19. Andy’s Song (04.1985)
  20. Dynamo Children (01.1985)
  21. Flutey (03.1984)
  22. Nice Ending (06.1981)

 

Disc 4 – Live at the Mermaid Theatre, London (03/02/2011)

  1. Messages
  2. Tesla Girls
  3. New Babies New Toys
  4. History of Modern (Part 1)
  5. (Forever) Live and Die
  6. Souvenir
  7. Joan of Arc
  8. Maid of Orleans
  9. New Holy Ground
  10. Green
  11. Walking on the Milky Way
  12. Sister Marie Says
  13. Locomotion
  14. Sailing on the Seven Seas
  15. Enola Gay
  16. Electricity

 

Disc 5 – Live at the Hammersmith Odeon (10/05/1983)

  1. Dazzle Ships – Parts II,III & VII
  2. ABC Auto Industry
  3. Messages
  4. She’s Leaving
  5. Georgia
  6. Almost
  7. Julia’s Song
  8. Joan of Arc
  9. Maid of Orleans
  10. Statues
  11. The Romance of the Telescope
  12. Souvenir
  13. Telegraph
  14. Radio Waves
  15. Bunker Soldiers
  16. Enola Gay
  17. Silent Running
  18. Electricity
  19. Pretending to See the Future
  20. Stanlow

 

DVD1 – BBC TV Performances

  1. Messages (The Old Grey Whistle Test 15/04/1980)
  2. Messages (Top Of The Pops 08/05/1980)
  3. Messages (Top Of The Pops 29/05/1980)
  4. Enola Gay (Top Of The Pops 09/10/1980)
  5. Souvenir (Top Of The Pops 03/09/1981)
  6. Joan of Arc (Top Of The Pops 29/10/1981)
  7. Maid Of Orleans (Top Of The Pops 14/01/1982)
  8. Genetic Engineering (Top Of The Pops 03/03/1983)
  9. Locomotion (Top Of The Pops 19/04/1984)
  10. Locomotion (Top Of The Pops 03/05/1984)
  11. Talking Loud and Clear (Top Of The Pops 05/07/1984)
  12. Tesla Girls (Top Of The Pops 13/09/1984)
  13. So in Love (Top Of The Pops 30/05/1985)
  14. La Femme Accident (The Old Grey Whistle Test 22/10/1985)
  15. (Forever) Live and Die (Top Of The Pops 18/09/1986)
  16. Dreaming (Wogan 27/06/1988)
  17. Sailing on the Seven Seas (Top Of The Pops 02/05/1991)
  18. Pandora’s Box (It’s a Long, Long Way) (Top Of The Pops 11/07/1991)
  19. Pandora’s Box (It’s a Long, Long Way) (Top Of The Pops 25/07/1991)
  20. Call My Name (Pebble Mill 11/12/1991)
  21. Stand Above Me (Top Of The Pops 13/05/1993)
  22. Walking on the Milky Way (Top Of The Pops 16/08/1996)
  23. Enola Gay (Later With Jools Holland 31/05/2013)

 

DVD2 – Live at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane (04/12/1981), Live at Sheffield City Hall (14/06/1985) and Crush – The Movie

Live at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane (04/12/1981)

  1. Almost
  2. Mystereality
  3. Joan Of Arc
  4. Motion and Heart
  5. Maid Of Orleans
  6. Statues
  7. Souvenir
  8. New Stone Age
  9. Enola Gay
  10. Bunker Soldiers
  11. Electricity
  12. She’s Leaving
  13. Julia’s Song
  14. Stanlow

Live at Sheffield City Hall (14/06/1985)

  1. The Romance Of The Telescope (intro)
  2. Crush
  3. Messages
  4. Secret
  5. Tesla Girls
  6. White Trash
  7. Talking Loud and Clear
  8. Maid Of Orleans
  9. Telegraph
  10. Enola Gay
  11. Electricity
  12. The Romance Of The Telescope

Crush – The Movie

  1. Bloc Bloc Bloc
  2. The Native Daughters Of The Golden West
  3. So In Love
  4. 88 Seconds In Greensboro
  5. Hold You
  6. Women III
  7. Crush
  8. La Femme Accident
  9. Secret
  10. The Lights Are Going Out

Andrew Weatherall’s 30 greatest remixes

weatherall best remixes

It’s quite some going for a DJ to have an entire two-day annual festival named after them.

Sure, several curate their own events – Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide, say – but could anyone else out there get away with the equivalent of the Andrew Weatherall Festival in the south of France this weekend? But then who else has achieved so much in so many fields as the man formerly known as Audrey Witherspoon, Lord Sabre, Rude Solo, The Chairman and The Major?

He was the rockist grit in the oyster of Shoom and the Boy’s Own Organisation (as you can see from his brilliantly punky sneer in this vintage Boy’s Own interview). He stormed the studio with zero training and immediately hit paydirt with his remixes for the Mondays and Primal Scream (smashing up the latter’s cheery-sad Stones ripoff ‘I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have’ and building ‘Loaded’ from the pieces), and has never looked back since.

As a member of the original acid house mafia and a startling talent on both the ones and the twos, he could easily have taken the superstar DJ route, but instead focused on running several mythical underground club nights – Sabresonic, Blood Sugar, Haywire Sessions and most recently A Love From Outer Space.

He’s produced plenty of great records, whether for bands (from The Scream and One Dove through to Fuck Buttons) or under his own steam (as Sabres of Paradise with Jagz Kooner and Gary Burns, Lords Of Afford with David Hedger, Blood Sugar with David Harrow, Two Lone Swordsmen with Keith Tenniswood, Asphodells with Timothy J. Fairplay, or solo).

And he’s no slouch as a writer, turning in scabrous, funny and weird journalism and creative writing of his own over the years, as well as collaborating with author Michael Smith to soundtrack his book Unreal City and eventually becoming artist in residence for publishers Faber & Faber.

But it’s as a radical remixer that he really catapulted into the public consciousness, and his desire to turn other people’s songs inside out has remained strong right up to the present. Dub, punk, techno, rockabilly, ambient, psych-rock, disco, the experimentation of Joe Meek and Phil Spector, and quite likely several kitchen sinks, have all been thrown into a remix oeuvre that belongs to him at least as much as it does to any of the acts who provided the source material.

So as The Chairman, now 51, celebrates a quarter of a century ripping the guts out of other people’s music and his fellow misfits pay tribute to him in an actual castle, we present 30 glorious examples of his ornery art.