Steelberry Clones had the great opportunity to talk to Steve Jansen during his recent visit to Sweden. Steve Jansen was former percussionist in the legendary 1980’s new romantic act Japan (also featuring David Sylvian, Richard Barbieri and Mick Karn). After the band decided to quit in 1982 Steve has embarked on a long and successful journey, some times in collaboration with his brother David Sylvian on his solo albums, sometimes in more unknown appearances together with Japanese artists like Yukohiro Takahashi (YMO), but also driving more pop orientated endeavors with the Dolphin Brothers, which he started together with Richard Barbieri. Steve Jansen has at many occasions been dubbed as one of the most important percussionist of his time, and the characteristic sound that gave way for their all time selling album Tin Drum, has provided him with the opportunity to play with most of the leading artists since then. I wanted to know more on what has happened since then, his views on today’s music scene and the evolution of electronic music, as well as discovering his more recent works in the border lands between pop, ambient, arts and experimental music.
Today’s music scene
Steve Jansen is a highly productive musician, if it is not something on his own doing you will certainly find Steve in collaborations with David Sylvian, John Foxx, or as part of the band on tour with Ryuichi Sakamoto in Japan. So I asked Steve to give me an update on what he is up to right now and his collaboration with Sugizo.
Most recently Steve has been involved in finalizing Mick Karn’s new Dalis Car album, partly to keep his spirit alive, but also as a fund raising initiative for his relatives. Steve has therefore been active both as a mixer and performer of the new album and engaged in the process of reworking some of the new tracks. The yet untitled album is due out in the October – November time frame. As most of you know Mick Karn died recently and one of things that Mick Karn was doing at the time was to produce a new Dalis Car album. Dalis Car’s first album “The Walking Hour” released in 1984 was an interesting album where the borders between various musical styles were mixed to create a very unique album at the time. With Sugizo Steve recently contributed a rhythm track to a new recording, a track also featuring Mick Karn on bass.
With some thirty years as a musician, working across most prominent genres – as a new romantic pop star as part of Japan, to exploring the fields of ambient electronics and jazz fusion, to bridging the gap between modern art visuals and experimental music, it is highly relevant to ask Steve’s view on today’s music scene. Steve says that today’s scene is of course in many ways very different from back when he started his career. The power of the record companies put a lot of constraints and pressure on the bands to deliver on time, but also to make music in line with what they and the fans were requesting – “pleasing the record label almost became a means to an end”, Steve says. Today you have much more freedom to explore and the artists does not work under the same pressure. So although it is harder to make a living you are the one in control. With modern music technology you almost have endless possibilities to manipulate sounds and craft your own ideas – inside your head.
Back to Japan
You really cannot write about Steve without touching on the subject of Japan, both as a band and as the country where both David and Steve over the years has continued to find inspiration, collaborations and a solid fan base. When Japan ended as a band in 1982, (doing their last tour in Japan, followed by a live album), the band members ended up doing several projects on their own or in collaborations with each other.
I wanted to know how this fascination with Japan as a country came to shape their music going forward. Steve tells me that it has probably been more that they have all individually made their own subjective interpretations of the music. And although it was a strong influence on the Tin Drum album, Steve says that more recently it has been more important for him to embrace modern rhythms and electronic sounds, although that he has in his collaboration with Sugizo been working to incorporate the sounds of traditional Japanese Taiko drums.
Steve and David Sylvian have over the years done several highly acclaimed albums where they have been exploring the boundaries of ambient, electronic and jazz. As a listener you can easily picture late night improvisations where Steve and David together with other musicians like Harold Budd and Robert Fripp, would jam together beautiful ambient landscapes. I wanted to know if this was an accurate image of the music production process and how the songs took their shape.
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.”
An analog electronic music treat from Steelberry Clones, enjoy
Artist: Steelberry Clones
Song: Analog waves
Year: 2011 July
Label: Stereoklang Produktion
Gear: KORG, Casio, Reason, Voyager
Here are some snapshots from Reason 5 and the units used to make this song. Wanted to show in pictures an overview of how many tracks, effects, synths and stuff that goes into making an ambient track, like this one. Of course you wont see everything in these screenshots but hopefully it will provide a pretty good idea on how to set your own electronic track. On this track I have not used blocks, which of course could be a good complement in the music making process.
Loading the rack:
Adding FX for the intro:
Creating the bass:
Adding the punch:
Perfecting the lead synths:
Wrapping it up with mastering and compressions:
Make sure to let us know if you would like to have more details on any of these steps
Sunday synth morning focusing on the KONG drum machine in Reason 5. Using MIDI and an AKAI MPK I tried to see how you could experiment around with the KONG as a means of generating more experimental sounds. All in all 5 different KONGs are used in this song, paired with additional Combinators and one Dr OctoRex for adding more punch. The video is merely a live shoot in order for you to get a feel for the basic set up in creating this type song and which filters and effects are used.
The song is called “Sisters”, I might do a more robotic version of it at a later stage, we’ll see
More Steelberry Clones tunes can be found here:
Saturday morning synth music with robotic voices – original tune from SBC, enjoy
Some time back I was asked by Eddie from swedish synthpop act Page to make a remix/redux of there new hit song “Ett SOS” (reads basically “An SOS”), now finally the song that we made has been officially published on Page´s homepage and of course you can listen to it here as well:
Below is the original version as heard on swedish TV a couple of months ago:
Read all about what Page is up to here >>
Listen and download the new album from Steelberry Clones
Chopping up and being brutal on those old classic 50’s songs this is a new take on electrofying
So if you enjoy synthpop, bit tunes, 8bit, and electro you will love these up tempo songs
Not since Silicon Teens in the mid 80’s any serious attempts has been made to electrify the old classics. Telex made a Rock around the clock version as well, but the 1950’s library is far larger than that. The foundations of rock music are in rock and roll, which originated in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s, and quickly spread to much of the rest of the world. Its immediate origins lay in a mixing together of various popular musical genres of the time, including rhythm and blues, gospel music, and country and western. In 1951, Cleveland, Ohio disc jockey Alan Freed began playing rhythm and blues music for a multi-racial audience, and is credited with first using the phrase “rock and roll” to describe the music.
There is much debate as to what should be considered the first rock and roll record. One leading contender is “Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats, recorded by Sam Phillips for Sun Records in 1951. Four years later, Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock” (1955) became the first rock and roll song to top Billboard magazine’s main sales and airplay charts, and opened the door worldwide for this new wave of popular culture.
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