Time for yet another synth-pop pioneer to enter the front stage, here at Stereoklang. I had the pleasure to talk to none other then Andy McCluskey, 50% of the legendary act Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, OMD for short. Few other acts have had such an influential role in the development of the electronic pop music scene, with classic hits like Maid of Orleans, Enola Gay, Messages to name but a few. I wanted to ask Andy all about OMDs re-emergence on the music scene, their work in the studio, past and present, and of course their most recent album “History of Modern”.
For those growing up in the late 70’s and 80’s, OMD was as well-known to “synthpoppers” as any of the other leading acts at that time, i.e. Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode, Tears for Fears, Gary Numan, Yazoo to name but a few. I asked Andy how it all started. He lets us know that he and Paul started composing music when they were about 16, basically making music with what they had at hand (consider this was mid 1970s really primitive in other words). Andy was asked to join the band that Paul was involved in, but pretty quickly realized that they had much more in common and decided to go on their own. So in the very early days, what was later to become OMD, it all started as a pure hobby. Back in Liverpool it is easy to picture two young guys at home listening to Kraftwerk and dreaming of success. It was also in Liverpool that their first real gig came about, at a club called Eric’s. It was also at Eric’s that they saw other bands that were thinking along the same lines, like The Normal (featuring Daniel Miller) that made Andy and Paul realize that what they were doing had relevance on the music scene.
Steelberry Clones – “where did the band name come from?” Andy – “we were assigned to do a one off event and we really wanted to come up with the most preposterous name they could ever think of – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – having absolutely know meaning whatsoever”. “There were no master plan!”.
With a career covering decades I certainly thought that Andy would think of any of their great concerts or when any of their now legendary albums like the poetic “Architecture and Morality”, ecstatic “Junk Culture” or “Dazzle Ships” hit the shelves, selling millions of copies, being the obvious choice. But no, Andy tells me that the biggest milestone for him was when he, in his own hands, was holding their first ever 7” vinyl single “Electricity”. “This was a record by Paul and I!”, Andy says. This must truly have been a magic moment, as a any teenager at that time with a passion for music would browse through the import boxes in your local record shop as a weaken treat, finding rare issues of cool acts, imagine then to find your own piece of work.
With the single in hand, gigs started to come and OMD played as warm up act to Joy Division. Then Gary Numan, who had just bought their single Electricity asked if they would like to perform with him. The following year OMD themselves were the main attraction. Andy also remembers that this was also the first time, when performing with Joy Division, that they saw a real Pollard Syndrum in live action. The Pollard Syndrum was one of the first electronic drums and was capable of many different sounds. The sound favored by most recording artists was a sine wave that pitch-bends down, most famously heard at the beginning of “Good Times Roll”, the opening track of the Cars’ 1978 debut album.
History of Modern
“History of Modern” represents a highly anticipated come back from one of the most influential electronic pop acts to date. Skeptics were questioning if they could re-invent themselves and why are they doing a retro-flirt. I kindly asked Andy about the retro-flirt and although Andy was not so keen on the term retro in relation to the new album he admits that if going back to your roots and re-discover that unique and distinctive OMD sound, ”then yes let us call it retro”. For Paul and Andy it was really important to get that “voice” of OMD back, that sound they left behind. “We spoke with our own authentic sound”, Andy says.
Starting to work on the new album it was important to OMD that it shouldn’t be a copy; they needed to have new and fresh ideas. According to Andy “there are too many bands of our generation that do not have anything more to say.”
OMD will release a live album (and book) recorded at The Tempodrome, Berlin on November 18th 2010. This limited edition collectors CD and hardback (silver embossed) book includes exclusive images from the OMD tour, never seen before hand written notes by the band, recent letters from the band to the fans and a selection of lyrics.
The CD/Book will be released on August 8th 2011 and is available exclusively from the OMD Store and on tour. If you pre-order now via the band’s website you will receive a digital e-booklet of the book to view on your computer and portable devices on the day of release.
Here’s a preview of “History of Modern (part I)”, taken from the live album:
History of Modern (part I) – Taken from ‘OMD Live in Berlin’ by 100% Records
Electropop act Zynic will release its debut album “Fire Walk With Me” at the end of the month. On the 29th to be precise.
The album will be released as a limited edition of 500 copies through German label Conzoom Records. This edition will feature 4 exclusive bonustracks, remixed by famous artists like Assemblage 23, Iris, People Theatre and Parralox.
Zynic wants to carry the spirit of the 80′s into tomorrow’s sound. Classic acts like Yazoo, Japan, Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk and OMD were always a big influence on Zynics way of creating his own tunes. And so there is one special highlight on the cd edition of “Fire Walk With Me”. It is a cover version of the classic Depeche Mode hit “Any Second Now”. According to the label, Zynic has covered the song very emotional and with a cool electronic bassline – so it might be one of the best Depeche Mode cover versions that were ever done so far.
Moby has joined OMD (the duo Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys) on stage last Friday afternoon at the Spin’s SXSW day party. “Our new bass player is going to take over for us,” McCluskey said inviting Moby to the stage. Moby played bass on “Souvenir”, not a surprise as he remixed the song back in 1998, and on “Enola Gay”, a single from OMD’s 1980 album “Organisation”.
“This is the first time we’ve ever had more bass guitars on stage than synthesizers,” said McCluskey, who usually plays the four-string in addition to singing lead.
Simple Minds Feat. Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark
Heineken Music Hall
Well I must say that 2011 seems to be a very promising year from a synthpop and electronic music perspective, I almost feel tempted to opening my wallet
Here are a couple of must haves:
Covenant – Modern Ruin
Mirrors – Lights and Offerings
OMD – History of Modern
System – Circle of Infinite Radius
Daft Punk – Tron Legacy
And there’s more coming your way; Mr Jones Machine, Depeche Mode remix album…..so stay tuned
Out 28th February is the next single by OMD, “History of Modern (part I)”. It will be released as a limited edition collectors digipack CD and 10″ vinyl. The CD includes all the “History of Modern” b-sides plus three remixes of “History of Modern (part I)”, an OMD extended remix and the newly mixed radio version. The 10″ includes the b-side “The Grand Deception”, OMD’s Extended mix and “VCR (xx cover)”. The full bundle will be available online as download as well.
We got an exclusive interview with the probably most hyped synthpop act in Europe right now – Mirrors. Mirrors has recently finished their European tour together with OMD and Stereoklang caught up with the frontman in the band in their studio chatting about their music, gear, influences and their work on the new album. Below is one of their latest video releases.
You have been touring with OMD during the fall, how was it?
It was of course a very special thing for us, we have always been big fans of OMD and it was even more fun to discover that they were also fans of us. The fact that we now come to play in front of an audience made up entirely of people devoted to electronic music is a tremendous experience.
Mirrors lets me know that they also felt that the two bands really complemented each other on stage, rather then just that Mirrors were there to warm up the crowd. Mirrors adding perhaps a more saturated, heavy and modern sound to the equation.
You have received very positive reviews, what is the secret behind the success?
Apart from being happy by this for me obvious fact they gave me this explanation: For Mirrors it is all about combining great and cold electronic sounds, with a heart. If your soul is not present there will not be any great songs, a cliché perhaps, but you need to follow your heart. A lot of bands are “just” making futuristic music, Mirrors wants it to be warm as well – just like Kraftwerk. Of course the songs need to be well structured. Almost everything we do emanates from a traditional piano exercise, then you can get carried away when you do remixes
Your stage line up resembles another quartet based out of Germany, is that a coincidence?
– Not really ☺, although I need to say that the dress code is a coincidence. Kraftwerk is certainly a massive influence. However, in a sense Mirrors is more kind of a revolt to the massive indie-scene we have in the UK – and we are the anti-thesis of that.
Can you tell me what synths you are using on stage, are you a pure hardware band or are there software synths hidden in your studio?
To begin with James is writing most of the material and what is being used differs, but in general you will always find a Juno 60, Moog Phatty (although they are dreaming of a Moog Voyager) and a Prophet in the mix. The Juno is used for pads and chords, the Moog for basses, and then we have some samplers like the MPC in there as well.
We asked them if the Linn drum sounds were genuine or samples, and although they could have lied to us, they said that they were samples. In general Mirrors rely very little on backing tracks. – If we can´t play it we loop it. We want to do everything live on stage. So if you spot an Apple on stage it will only be used for the visuals.
Side-Line Music Awards are now ready, each year Side-Line nominates the best songs, bands and acts in the electro, synth, EBM etc space and now the final results are here, as voted by the Side-Line readers. And it seems Recoil got a fair share of the prices
The results of the Side-Line Music Awards 2010 are in. Yes, it did take us a few days more than we had originally planned. But then again, we never imagined getting stuck in London and Brussels the past week due to the unexpected harsh winter conditions circling over Europe. We spent the last two days counting the votes and deleting the invalid ones. But before we give the results, we really want to thank all those readers who have cast their votes in the past two election rounds. You were among the 39,203 people (!!) to have cast a valid vote. That is an all-time record for Side-Line.
- Combichrist (5,391)
- Unter Null (4,985)
- Front Line Assembly (3,818)
- Front 242 (3,803)
- Mesh (2,756)
- Recoil (2,542)
- Suicide Commando (2,459)
- Hocico (2,327)
- Depeche Mode (2,314)
- Leaether Strip (2,201)
- A-ha (2,227)
- Kant Kino (1,837)
- De/Vision (1,571)
- Edge Of Dawn (589)
- Diorama (383)
- Recoil – “Selected” (10,442)
- Front Line Assembly – “IED” (8,252)
- Unter Null – “Moving On” (7,898)
- OMD – “History Of Modern” (6,908)
- Angelspit – “Larva Pupa Tank Coffin” (5,811)
- Covenant – “Lightbringer” (10,330)
- Combichrist – “Scarred” (8,983)
- Rotersand – “Waiting To Be Born” (7,038)
- In Strict Confidence – “Silver Bullets” (6,825)
- I:Scintilla – “Prey On You” (6,027)
- Mute (13,072)
- Alfa Matrix (10,736)
- Metropolis/Dependent (10,479)
- Trisol (4,916)
Best Live Band:
- Recoil (14,545)
- Combichrist (9,107)
- Depeche Mode (6,032)
- Front Line Assembly (4,851)
- Leaether Strip (4,668)
Out on November 15th is OMD’s newest single “Sister Marie Says” taken from the album “History of Modern”. But the band has now released the video for said single. The single will also be released as a limited edition 7″ coloured vinyl. This limited edition 7″ coloured vinyl includes “Sister Marie Says (Radio Edit)” and the exclusive B-side “History of Modern (part III & IV)”.
A free download demo of the track was released on 25 November 2009. Elements of the song were originally composed in 1981 and a reworked version of the track was due to appear on the 1996 album “Universal” but got shelved because it sounded too much like early OMD and was out of step with the more reflective tone of Universal.
OMD’s 11th studio album, “History of Modern, was released on 20th September 2010”. It is their first album since 1996, and the first album featuring the classic 4-piece line-up since 1986’s “The Pacific Age”. A tour to promote the album will follow in November 2010.