An interview with Scarlet Soho

So, if you’ve been at all an ElectroPop or Indie-Electro fan in London, or the UK, or Europe in the past ten years you’ll know the name of Scarlet Soho, and probably seen them live a few times. Like troopers they have held the line for ElectroPop and Indie-electro through some of the genre’s dark times. Scarlet, Jim  and Stu are that rare breed, a British ElectroPop band that gigs, a lot. With some pretty high profile tour supports under their belt, including Zoot Woman, Razorlight, IAMX and A Flock Of Seagulls, these guys have honed their skills in the live arena, and that translates to energy in their records.

Take their new release. ‘When The Lights Go Out’ is one of the catchiest, slickest ElectroPop tracks you’ll hear all year and sees Scarlet Soho right at the top of their game and making their comeback in a Pop climate that could be really welcoming. So after years as one of the top underground ElectroPop acts in Europe, it looks like 2012 could be the year Scarlet Soho  gain that wider recognition they so deserve.

The lovely Scarlet, keyboard player and bassist extraordinaire, took some time out of their busy promotional schedule  to chat with us about the past, present and futures of Scarlet Soho.

ER: We were quite surprised (in a good way) when ‘When The Lights Go Out’ hit the electronic rumors inbox. We weren’t sure whether you were still going. So what have you been up to since ‘Warpaint’ and what makes now the perfect time to return to people’s consciousnesses?

SS: It feels like we’ve not been away! Despite the lengthy gap between ‘Warpaint’ and ‘When The Lights Go Out’ we’ve been gigging sporadically, breaking new ground and working hard on the new material. Lots of stuff has been written, rewritten, reworked, scrapped and revived in the last couple of years. We probably have enough tracks for some kind of triple album, but decided to bite the bullet and drip-feed the new tracks to the world in a series of EPs. And get back on the road where we belong!

ER: How does it feel to be back promoting a record again? As an ElectroPop webzine we’ve definitely seen a change in the musical landscape in the past three years, HURTS’ success has suddenly made ElectroPop with a shot of melancholy, and a bit more intelligence, more of a commercially viable option. This must make it a pretty exciting time for you guys to be releasing a new record?

SS: Yes, we’ve been chomping at the bit for so long now it’s a huge relief to be pushing something new. In the meantime I’ve grown to love ‘Warpaint’ again and the new songs fit nicely into the set and are being received well. Having not toured for a little while you have a slight concern that maybe you’ve forgotten how to do it. But the recent tour to promote the EP has been our best to date!

HURTS look distinctly like Bros to me… Which I find slightly (very) off-putting. When I first saw their video I thought they were a joke band… But a gazillion Germans can’t be wrong. Can they?

I’m a huge fan of Robyn and Ronika and the more out-and-out Pop acts that are about at the moment. HURTS have always seemed a little smug and po-faced.

But yes, exciting times for music at the moment I think.

When The Lights Go Out (2012)

ER: So, tell us about the new EP. It seems polished compared to the ‘Warpaint’, which now seems quite raw and gritty in comparison. How, and why, would you say your sound has evolved?

SS: As I mentioned we have been working and reworking the tracks for a long time. And came to realise that less is more. It’s the Ramones effect I think – the less going on, the more it hits home. The same can be said for AC/DC, the more simple you go, the louder it allows you to be. I like loud.

ER: For us, listening to the ‘When The Lights Go Out’ EP, we felt like this was the point ‘Divisions Of Decency‘ and ‘Warpaint’ were leading to? Do you feel like this is the ultimate incarnation of Scarlet Soho?

SS: I believe we are now the band we always wanted to be. In the beginning we were a little cautious of being “too Pop” and often whilst writing the songs would wonder if we could actually get away with some of the stuff we were coming out with. Being a little older and wiser now you just do what you want to do. People go to watch bands to have a good time. They don’t want to be stood around gazing at the floor being miserable. There’s a time and a place for that – at home. We love touring and like to see people drinking and dancing.

I’ve always been in awe of comedians, because making people laugh is an incredibly difficult task, but so is getting people to dance.

It feels good to know that you’ve contributed to people having an amazing night.

ER: What’s been your influences writing the new material? And what are you guys listening to these days?

SS: When we toured with Zoot Woman it was the first time we had toured with a band that were that mainstream. And around that time we also started listening to a lot more commercial music. James loves his Italo. I think that has figured in the studio more this time round. When writing he has a in-depth vision of exactly how he wants the songs to sound (which often is miles away from the original demo he comes up with). I’d love to tell you the inner workings of that man’s brain but thankfully I’m not privy to that.

ER: How’s The promotion of the EP going? It looks like you’ve been pretty busy hopping back and forth from Europe for shows.

SS: It’s going well thank you! We’ve had some amazing reviews and great support from the Electro scene. We were a little worried that we’d be starting from scratch, but the EP and shows have been well-received from fans old and new.

Speak Your Mind (2009)

ER: So, what’s in Scarlet Soho’s studio? Any favourite or go-to bits of kit?

SS: We’re not really a ‘gear’ band. We used to own a lot of old synths, I had a couple of CZ5000s and a CZ1000 but we ditched them when we started playing abroad more often. I worry enough flying with the guitars, let alone a big old synthesizer rattling around in the hold! I love the vintage kit, but it’s so unreliable. I had shows where I had 2 synths and had to program sounds mid-set because the memory was faulty.

We’ve streamlined everything down to make travelling easier, and in the writing process the less options the quicker things get finished. I watched an amazing recent interview with Giorgio Moroder and he remarked that making all of those classic songs was easy due to the lack of variables. You had a kick. A snare. A bass sound. A string sound. Boom. Done.

For years James has preferred to manually program drums on a shitty drum-machine rather than using Logic or anything fancy. We’re luddites where that is concerned.

ER: And how does the writing and recording process work?

SS: We try to mix things up a bit. If you rehearse or write in the same place all of the time I think it’s very easy to get stuck in a rut.

James writes whilst walking. He has a Dictaphone and puts ideas directly into that. Writes snippets of lyrics on his phone. He knows how he wants things to sound so the rest is relatively easy. We use a variety of studios to keep it interesting. We’ve done bits recently in Hamburg, London, Southampton and Winchester. The studio isn’t that important in terms of getting things done. The wonder of the internet means you can achieve whatever you want wherever you are. The real work happens in the writing and mixing.

ER: If money was no object, what synth (or bit of studio kit) would you love to own?

SS: Ha! Well… It’s more about space than money! I’d love to have my CZs back. I love Vince Clarke’s Cabin. He has this amazing Cabin with all of his gear in. It’s like an Aladdin’s cave of nerdiness.

I fucking hate my Korg. It’s a piece of shit. The sooner that bites the dust the better. Every time I see a band with a fucking microKorg I want to kill myself. Sadly I think they are probably indestructible. I may put that to the test in the not too distant future.

City Behaviour (2004)

ER: When can we expect a new Scarlet Soho full length album? And what can we expect from it?

SS: We’re in the midst of doing EP2 at the moment. Vague release date for Sept/Oct 2012. It’s a little moodier than WTLGO. People that have heard the lead track have said it’s the best thing we’ve ever written. So, happy with that!

After that we’re going to do a full length album that completes the series of releases. My lips are sealed on what it’s going to sound like.

EP: Are you a cereal for full English breakfast kinda’ band? Would that change the night after a big show?

SS: I can happily speak for James and Stu in saying that “they like meat”.

We work hard on stage so probably sweat out a lot of calories.

I’m not particularly fussy, a like a bit of porridge. But often a beer will suffice 🙂

ER: Thanks for taking to time to share with out readers Scarlet.

SS: Thank you! This interview was brought to you by Scarlet from Scarlet Soho and a pot of Chai tea.

Go check out their new EP, ‘When The Lights Go Out’, and it’s awesome reMixes.

‘When The Lights Go Out’ is released 21st May, you can pre-order here.

Buy Scarlet Soho’s music from:

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Heaven 17’s Glenn Gregory speaks to electronic rumors

Heaven 17 invented ElectroPop.

Well obviously, not all on their own, but they are one of a small handful of bands that, in the early 80’s, propelled electronic music (in a Pop format) into the UK charts and from there, throughout the world. Sure, there were pioneering electronic musicians who came before, the likes of Wendy Carlos then Giorgio Moroder followed by Daniel Miller’s lot and Kraftwerk, but they were viewed as experimental or avant-garde. Gary Numan’s happy accident aside, it took Heaven 17, The Human League and OMD to capture the nation’s hearts, minds, ears and feet and forever put the synthesizer at the centre of British Pop music.

The day that Martyn Ware and Ian Marsh parted company with (the then art-house) The Human League, Martyn was on the phone to Glenn Gregory, frontman in-waiting, and the rest is SynthPop history. Now, three decades years later, the band are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the release of their seminal, influential and highly critically acclaimed début album ‘Penthouse And Pavement’. Having already performed (for the first time) the whole album and produced an accompanying documentary detailing their history and the making of the album, both broadcast by the BBC, the guys are gearing up to take their ‘Penthouse And Pavement’ show on the road and release a special edition of the album.

Heaven 17 are busy right now, with radio, TV and live appearances almost weekly, so we are lucky that Glenn Gregory, the face of Heaven 17, took some time to fill the readers of electronic rumors in on all things ‘Penthouse And Pavement’:

ER: As you are celebrating the 30th anniversary of ‘Penthouse And Pavement’, how do you feel about those songs now? Could you ever have conceived of how acclaimed and, indeed, influential that album would turn out to be three decades later?

GG: I think ‘Penthouse And Pavement’ is the definitive Heaven 17 Album even though The Luxury Gap had more ‘hits’ P&P is the soul of Heaven 17. It was such an exciting album to make, the whole process of writing and recording at the same time and in the same studio as The Human League added a magical dimension to both albums. There was a lot to prove from both bands and I’m pleased to say 30 years later it seems we all did it. We produced a new exciting record that has stood the test of time. I honestly believe it sounds as fresh and new as it did the day it was made.

ER: When you went into the studio to begin with did you have a vision for Heaven 17? Did Martyn have things he wanted to do that he couldn’t have done in The Human League? Or did the Heaven 17 ‘sound’ just evolve

GG: We knew we wanted to be different from The Human League, even the new The Human League knew they needed to sound different… but it wasn’t something that was forced, we just started to write. There was so much energy around us at that moment in time, the whole split thing had electrified everyone involved and ideas were just flooding out. ‘Fascist Groove Thang’ was completed in about ten days and the direction of the album was pretty much sealed after that track. Martyn had the idea to have a bass guitar solo in the middle of the song (heaven knows why he thought of that) it was inspired… it led us to finding John Wilson which in turn led us to the key that unlocked the door to the new direction that we would take to finish the rest of the album. It was a really exciting period and I think you can get feeling that from the tracks on ‘P&P’.

ER: The BBC’s ban on ‘(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang’ seems odd as it is an anti-fascist anthem? Did they have a blanket ban on political songs at the time or did you feel singled out (or that they didn’t understand the meaning of the song)?

GG: It was a such a knock back for us to have the BBC refuse to play the track… the song meant a lot to us lyrically and to have had such success in the press and with fans we thought everyone had got the plot… but no, for a reason I still don’t really understand the BBC radio stations refused to play it… I believe there are still some BBC local stations that won’t play the track!

ER: Do you regret not touring with ‘Penthouse And Pavement’ first time around? What was the reasons for not really gigging these songs?

GG: I have no regrets . We didn’t play live for a few reasons… The League had toured for the previous 2 years and lost money. Martyn and Ian wanted to concentrate on B.E.F. and MTV had just started and we decided that that was a much more modern way of reaching an audience. Also we now have the added bonus of really enjoying playing live now and not feeling like it’s something we have to do… it’s new, exciting and we love it.

ER: How did the BBC television performance of ‘Penthouse And Pavement’ in Sheffield, and it’s sister documentary on the making of the album (amazing TV, by the way!) come about? Were you going to make the documentary anyway or did the BBC ask you to do it?

GG: It was our idea to make the documentary the BBC only became involved at the very end, they had heard that we were almost finished and asked if they could show both the doc and the gig. It worked out very well.

James Strong the director have done a lot of work together and had talked about telling the story of the beginning of Heaven 17 for some time and when we decided to play ‘P&P’ live for the very first time it was the perfect time to do it.

ER: We can’t really mention the documentary without speaking about Phil Oakey’s appearance and both his and Martyn’s acceptance that it was record label and Bob Last’s involvement that led to their split. Did you ask Phil to talk about this or did he just open up about it and had they both come to the same conclusions separately?

GG: It was something that kind of evolved as the film was being made… Martyn talked about the split and voiced his opinions and when Phil agreed to chat to us we just had to ask him the question (it wasn’t staged) Phil gave the same answer… so then we just had to contact Bob Last and get him in the film, which we did (without telling him the reason) and eventually he did finally admit that he did pretty much engineer the split of the band. It was the first time in 30 years this question had been asked and indeed answered.

ER: From your point of view, had Martyn never parted company with The Human League, what would Glenn Gregory be doing now?

GG: Don’t know really. I suppose I might still be taking pictures. Or running a small café in Cornwall on a surfing beach, or accepting my 3rd Oscar for best actor… or a….. blah blah blah

ER: You were recoding in the same studio as The Human League, I’ve heard you both heard snippets of the other’s work, were you trying to hide your ‘trade secrets’ from Phil and the gang at the time?

GG: It was fun really, Martyn and Phil were not really speaking but it didn’t stop a bit of industrial espionage from both parties… we did get to hear what they were doing and I’m sure they were getting a sneaky listen to how we were getting on.

ER: Speaking of studios, what’s in Heaven 17’s studio these days? Are you using many soft synths or is it still all about the big analog synths?

GG: I’m all soft synths but Martyn is both. He has lots of the original synths and still uses them. I don’t have the space and I like my studio to be sparse.

ER: Do you prefer the raw, hands on nature of analogy synths and tape based recording or the convenience and quality of a modern digital studio?

GG: We have always been at the forefront of recording techniques we have always been modernists… that wont change.

ER: ElectroPop has made something of a resurgence in recent years, is there any of the new crop of electronic Pop artists you rate?

GG: La Roux, MGMT, The Faint, Chromeo and electrono

ER: Earlier in the year you performed with La Roux at Maida Vale for BBC 6 Music. How did that come about? Did you pick them or did they pick you?

GG: It was put together by the BBC 6 team really and didn’t they do well…

ER: It was awesome!

GG: It was a great success I loved performing with Elly and Ben Langmaid is a really great guy and a great producer. She is a star and she’s the real deal, I along with my 7 year old boy am a fan.

ER: It seemed fun, both you and Elly were grinning the whole way through and she did really well on ‘Temptation’, which must be hard. Were you pleased with the end result?

GG: She did really well with Temptation… it’s not easy. She pulled out all the stops for the performance it was an honour to sing with her.

ER: Going back a couple of years, you and Martyn released ‘Naked As Advertised (Versions ’08)’, what made you want to rework those older songs? Was it unhappiness with the older recordings or just an experiment?

GG: We just wanted to put down some of the versions of tracks that we had been playing live. It was never a case of wanting to improve on old tracks we just thought it would be a nice idea to let people hear how we had changed some tracks for our live work… it was going to be the first in a kind of oddities and rarities edition… we may do more.

ER: What can we expect from the special edition anniversary edition of Penthouse And Pavement?

GG: Lots of good stuff…

ER: Is there and current artists you’d like to see remixing your songs?

GG: Not really

ER: And beyond that, is there a new studio album in the pipeline?

GG: We are starting to have a tinker and talk about it …. But do people really want a new album?

ER: Are Heaven 17 more of cereal or full English breakfast kinda’ guys? Would you answer change the morning after a show?

GG: Well on the German tour a couple of months ago I only made it down to breakfast once… but I think the rest of the band ate well. A slice of toast and a cup of tea will do for me ta.

ER: Cheers Glenn! Many thanks for speaking with us!

♫ Heaven 17 – Play To Win

The ‘30th anniversary ‘Penthouse And Pavement’ tour’ takes in the following cities:

22nd Nov – Edinburgh @ Edinburgh Picture House
23rd Nov – Glasgow @ Glasgow ABC
25th Nov – Manchester @ Manchester Ritz
26th Nov – Birmingham @ Birmingham Institute
28th Nov – London @ London Forum
29th Nov – Oxford – Oxford Academy
30th Nov – Brighton @ Brighton Corn Exchange
01st Dec  – Bristol @ Bristol Academy

Tickets available from www.seetickets.com (Ticket Hotline: 08700 603 777), check www.heaven17.com for more details and keep an eye out for news of the special 30th anniversary reissue of ‘Penthouse And Pavement’, full of extras!

Heaven 17 @ Beatport

Heaven 17 @ Juno

Heaven 17 @ 7Digital

Heaven 17 @ Amazon

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Interview with a DEVO

DEVO02

New Wave legends DEVO are back! Over three decades ago, influenced by the concept of ‘de-evolution’ (a school of thought that suggests that instead of evolving, mankind has, and is, actually regressing), Kent State University art students Gerald Casale and Bob Lewis (soon joined by Mark Mothersbaugh) created various art and musical projects with satirical intentions, but witnessing the regression of humanity firsthand during the Kent State Shootings of 1970 was impetus enough for them to form the strange mixture of social commentary, surrealist comedy, and experimental Post-Punk music that is the band DEVO.

Taking an eclectic approach to their output, both musically and visually, DEVO always played fast and loose with the rules of music and as a result have become a hugely influential on everything from SynthPop to Industrial to House to Alternative Rock. In the early 80’s American musical landscape, where synthesizers were even less accepted in Pop music than they were here in the UK, DEVO’s hits ‘Jocko Homo’ and particularly the classic ‘Whip It!’ paved the way for the New Wave bands who followed.

Twenty years since their last studio album, and more than thirty since their highly influential début record ‘Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are DEVO!’, the band that sold New Wave to the American youth are gearing up to release twelve brand new tracks on an unsuspecting public. But as with all things DEVO, it’s not quite so simple. Teaming up with ad agency Mother LA the band focus-grouped everything from the colour of their new energy domes to the track listing of the album itself in the DEVO Song Study, the end result being an album guarantees to satisfy.

And satisfy it does, ‘Something For Everybody’, manages to perfectly blend a modern Indie-Electro sound with the signature DEVO groove, sounding unmistakably DEVO, but surprisingly contemporary. Tracks like the synth bass heavy ‘What We Do’ and the Electro-Punky ‘Cameo’ could easily find their place on today’s Indie-Dance dancefloors while ‘Human Rocket’ and ‘Later Is Now’ are as close to ElectroPop as DEVO have ever been, particularly the latter which is borderline Nu-Disco! It’s an album that is defiantly recommended to readers of electronic rumors.

DEVO founder Gerald Casale took the time to let electronic rumors pick his brains:

ER: You’ve toured pretty consistently throughout your career, and released the odd single here and there in the past decade but this is your first studio album in 20 years. Why now? What prompted this?

GC: It was now or never. De-evolution is real and DEVO is therefore in step with the times, no longer pioneers who got scalped. Speaking for myself, I have as much creative energy as I ever did and plenty to get off my chest. DEVO was always the most important vehicle for self-expression. We had a voice in the marketplace that I took seriously. After being de-branded for 20 years against my personal wishes it was a real challenge to get back on the horse so to speak.

ER: Do you feel like now, after 20 years of music, media and arts experiments and status quos, the world is ready for DEVO again?

GC: Yes. We are now the house band on the Titanic, soothing fellow passengers as we all go down together.

ER: How did the decision to open up the track listing for the new album to public consultation, in your Song Study, come about?

GC: We worked with Mother, the adbusters of advertising, and we agreed with them to use all the techniques that corporate culture uses today to introduce new content and new products. Music has been devalued in its cultural importance. No one even thinks they should pay for it. Every aspiring band makes a record in their bedroom and releases it via social networking. More than 10 thousand CD’s are released per month. The old business model is imploded. No viable model has taken its place. Record Labels will no longer exist as we know them in 5 years or so. Marketing is everything in such a world. The beginning and the end. Why do you know there’s a new DEVO record? Why should you care? Mother tells you why.

ER: Were you surprised by the end result or did it gel with what you would have picked anyway?

GC: Our version of the CD is 88% focus group approved. On June 15th the 100% focus group approved version will be released on iTunes. The 12 tracks will be sequenced in the order of votes they received.

ER: Do you think democratizing your album in this way is the ultimate expression of the internet’s democratization of music (in the sense that not only do the music fans have more methods of discovering and aiding to the success of new bands, free of record labels deciding what should be popular, but now with projects like this they even have a say over what course their favourite established bands take) or do you think it can be pushed further? Do you have more idea for ‘musical 4th wall’ breaking you’d like to do in the future?

GC: We of course wanted to push it much further, a much deeper, wider public involvement in the whole process. But the process costs money to conduct. The creation of assets on line and the management of those assets require professional maintenance and quality and assurance policing. We needed Warner Brothers money for the marketing plan. So, with them as our finance and publicity partner we had to play ball inside their more traditional, old school bullpen.

ER: Are you still as advocate of the de-evolution theory and the book The Beginning Was The End as when you started? Do you see your prophecy (as it were) coming to pass?

GC: Devolution is indeed a prophecy fulfilled. It’s a bit ironic and not something we wanted to see happen. But now we can move forward based on this fact, more or less like we can all go forward knowing that Global Warming is real.

ER: Do you think de-evolution applies to music too? Have DEVO evolved or de-evolved?

GC: We are in substance that of which we speak. We always tried to make that clear. None of us can fit into our silver suits from the cover of the Freedom of Choice LP.

ER: Whatever happened to the DEVO movie about your early years I head you were going to make?

GC: Unfortunately I have not been able to secure financing for the script. So, it is in suspended animation like so many big ideas we had.

ER: I’d imagine that you guys have amassed a pretty exiting amount of studio gear throughout your career; do you have any favourite bits of kit?

GC: we still have the original analogue synths we used starting in 1975 such as the mini moog, the Arp Odyssey and so many more. We used them all on the new songs.

ER: What was your go to gear in he production of new album?, Are you using soft synths now or do the analogue synths still play a big part?

GC: I have half answered this above. We combined the use of analogue synths with soft synths and digital samples and real drums used to trigger drum sound samples, etc. Guitars and basses were of course mutated through outboard gear such as frequency divides and vintage distortion pedals.

ER: I’ve heard you’re a big fan of musical toys and circuit bending, how did you get into this stuff and do you still use it?, Do you have a favourite new toy you’re dying to try out live?

GC: That’s really a question for Mark [Mark Mothersbaugh – ER]. Not that I’m not a fan but he spends the time it takes (and it takes mucho time) to get custom, usable circuit bending devices. Still they never do the same thing twice.

ER: Devo must be the subject of a few musical myths and snap judgements from the uninitiated, any misconceptions from you’re nearly forty years going you’d like to clear up?

GC: Mark and I were not advertising creatives. We did not get other musicians to play our parts for us. We did not ask Johnny Rotten to join DEVO. We were not robots or nerds; we just looked like nerds which let us get away with all the sex and drugs that all creative people do. In our case there was no scrutiny by the press.

ER: OK…Devo 2.0, what was that all about? Was it your idea or Disney’s?

GC: Disney’s Hollywood Records division initiated the idea. We found it to be Dadaist and subversive on the face of it. They chose the songs. It took me 3 months of casting to find 5 kids who could sing and play. Then, when I was shooting the videos, the executives at Disney asked to see copies of all the lyrics to the songs they selected. That’s when everything turned truly DEVO. They really schooled me with their “insights” into our lyrics as they demanded changes and censored lyrics. My favorite was “you can’t say it’s a beautiful world for you, but not for me!” I asked what I could say. They replied “it’s a beautiful for you and me too!”

ER: Would you say DEVO was more of a cereal or big pile of pancakes kinda’ band?

GC: I think we’ll avoid any comparison to a ”big pile” of anything. We’re more like Cheerios or Menthos.

Many thanks to Gerald for dropping his science on us.

Give DEVO’s forthcoming single and the lead track from the new album, ‘Fresh’ a listen, it sounds amazingly like it says on the tin.

♫ DEVO – Fresh

The single ‘Fresh’ is released the same day as the album, and in breaking news DEVO have just announced that can be seen, campaigning for Mutant Rights in the 100th episode of the awesome (and resurrected) Futurama!

DEVO’s new album ‘Something For Everybody’ is released 14th July on Warner Bros. Records. Further info at www.clubdevo.com.

DEVO @ Beatport

DEVO @ Juno

DEVO @ 7Digital

DEVO @ Amazon

The Good Natured interview

TheGoodNatured03

When Sarah McIntosh A.K.A. The Good Natured first came to our attention last year we could tell something special was going on. Not flash-in-the-pan, overhyped, special, but something of substance. The kind of special that grows and lasts.

The young singer/songwriter creates something that appeals, not only to a love of electronic dance music, but also to the intimate and atmospheric. Her introspective and heartfelt presentation on record is complimented with a live show that sees Sarah commanding the stage with eclectic outfits and a passionate performance that is only increasing as her confidence grows. Set apart from her contemporary left-field popsetresses, such as Marina or Ellie, by a uniqueness and individuality that can only come from an honesty in everything she does, The Good Natured sprinkles a hint of darkness over female fronted ElectroPop and makes the genre a more interesting place.

The lead track on her début EP of last year, ‘Your Body Is A Machine’, gets a full single release next month with the backing of the mighty Kitsuné Music .With a beautifully shot video and reMixes that are already setting the blogs on fire it’s sure to be a summer hit. Sarah took some time out of her busy schedule promoting the single to drop a little knowledge on us:

ER: We’ve featured you on our website a few times but although there are many electronic elements to your music, I wouldn’t strictly call you an Electro or ElectroPop artist. How would you *like* your music described and (gun to the head) what genre do you feel most comfortable being associated with?

SM: That’s quite a hard question, I don’t really think about what genre I am, I just consider my music a form of self expression and art. I guess it is electronic pop, but I like to think its got a darker side.

ER: Who, musically, has been an inspiration on you and who inspires you out of your contemporaries?

SM: David Slyvian, Robert Smith, Siouxsie Soux.

ER: You must be exited about the re-release of Your Body Is A Machine on Kitsuné, having one of the world hippest labels champion you must be flattering?

SM: Yes, it is very flattering!

ER: How did you approach the re-recording of the track, was there stuff you weren’t happy with on the EP recording?

SM: It wasn’t that I wasn’t happy with the EP recording, it was great, but I felt it could be better, and we have made it sound bigger and more epic, so I am really pleased.

ER: You’ve done quite a bit of solid gigging in the past few months, have you found anywhere you really enjoy playing? (Kudos points for saying Bristol!)

SM: Well Start the Bus in Bristol was really fun actually! There was free cake so that was a mega plus. We all really enjoyed playing the great escape in Brighton, there was a great atmosphere there and it was packed.

ER: Do you prefer songwriting/recording or playing live?

SM: I don’t think you can compare the two. I love them both in different ways, performing is so much fun, but songwriting more emotional, depends what you are in the mood for!

ER: Any crazy rock ‘n’ roll tour stories?

SM: Yes actually! One time we got chucked out of our own gig in Reading because we were too young! Another time in Brighton the soundman bottled the promoter. Nice.

ER: You’ve been known to wear some pretty eye-catching outfits and put on some pretty crazy performances, is that the real Sarah or is The Good Natured a persona?

SM: Its me!

ER: From the backcombed black hair to the atmospheric videos there’s quite a bit of Goth going on ’round your way, are you a secret Goth?

SM: Yes I think so. My skins pale enough isn’t it?

ER: Now for the gear geek question! What’s in Sarah’s studio? Do you have a favourite bit of kit. I’ve heard there is a particular Yamaha keyboard you’re very fond of?

SM: Yes, my beloved Yamaha my Grandma gave me, a few of the keys have stopped working it’s so old but I love it dearly. Apart from that there’s a couple of synths and many fairy lights.

ER: How does the average The Good Natured song take shape, lyrics or music first?

SM: Depends,sometimes words sometimes music! What generally happens is I get a musical idea, then I open my lyric book and chose some words to go over the top!

ER: Cereal or Full English Breakfast? Would your answer change the day after a gig?

SM: Coco-Pops or Crunchy Nut. Deffo a Full English after a gig!

ER: Cheers Sarah!

While you’re waiting for the single release check out the mega talented Baby Monster’s new reMix of ‘Your Body Is A Machine’ which drags Sarah squarely into the middle of the dancefloor!

The Good Natured – Your Body Is A Machine (Baby Monster reMix)

‘Your Body Is A Machine’ is released 21st June on Kitsuné Music

The Good Natured @ Beatport

The Good Natured @ Amazon

StuffHappeningNow article on 80’s inspired Electro

Stuffhappeningnow

London based zeitgeist ‘zine Stuffhappeningnow recently got in touch asking for our opinion on a few issues relating to 80’s inspired Electro-House/Dreamwave.

You can read the full article online here, it’s a good primer on the scene and features thoughts from Electric Youth, College and myself.

Read ‘Dreamwave: inside the nostalgia cult’ @ Stuffhappeningnow

Empire State Human speak about new album

EmpireStateHuman

During the nineties SynthPop was having a rough time. As R&B, Indie and Manufactured Pop dominated the airwaves, SynthPop artists and their fans were marginalized to the outskirts of musical society. Ironically for a genre with the word ‘pop’ in it’s name, SynthPop became unknown, underground, surviving through small groups keeping in touch on the Internet, at first on Usenet and mp3.com and later dedicated forums and a handful of small labels. Being so small the ‘Modern SynthPop’ scene, as it became known, became a little too insular, a little too satisfied with it’s lot, and eventually, unfortunately,  became stale.

However, a few of these bands stood out from the pack, disregarding what their peers were doing by drawing from outside influences or just being plain better songwriters than the rest.

One of these bands was Dublin’s Empire State Human.

Aidan Casserly Seán Barron & Lar Kiernan formed ESH almost ten years ago and since then have hit the top spot in the US iTunes dance chart, scored for film and commercials and chalked up a huge 130 tracks available on iTunes.

April 14th sees the release of their latest studio album, entitled ‘Audio Gothic’, 10 expertly crafted slices of electronic pop where regimented dance drums and synth arpeggios seem to naturally interweave with funk bass and Aidan’s impassioned vocals. Don’t get me wrong, this is a very electronic sounding album, but somehow it seems to come off sounding more fluid, more organic, than you might expect. I think that might be down to the quality of songwriting here, there are some artists who are fantastic producers but would never pen an all-time-classic song away from the computer, with ESH there is that songwriting ability that sometimes needs to come before the synths.

From the haunting, soundtrack-esq opening of ‘Audio Gothic’ that seems to breeze right into the album proper’s catchy poppiness there’s a variety of different styles at play from introspective mid-tempo tunes to dancefloor killers. Easily up there with Mesh or (the once great) Iris in terms of quality but with maybe more to appeal to listeners outside of those bands audiences.

There’s even an extremely rare guest appearance by Wolfgang Flür, founder member of the legendary Kraftwerk!

This is Pure SynthPop (or, indeed, ‘Modern SynthPop’) at the top of it’s game.

Also, as I look out my window on this sunny day, I can’t help feeling this is quite a summery album too!

Take a listen to two hand picked tracks from ‘Audio Gothic’:

Empire State Human – Camera (zShare) (MediaFire)

Empire State Human – Leap Of Faith (zShare) (MediaFire)

electronic rumors managed to catch up with Aidan to pick his brains about ElectroPop, the new album and working with ‘a robot’:

ER: How do you feel about the resurgence of interest in ElectroPop in the fast few years? Do you see it as having any relevance to ESH? And how does this interest feel after the last decade or so of SynthPop being one of the smallest or under appreciated music scenes worldwide? Do you feel like you’ve “weathered the storm”?

AC: With the increase in popularity and the chart success of electro music the last few years, it is somewhat pleasing for a band like us to see this happen, as it shows a certain amount of foreseeing on our behalf with regard to what the future trend of pop music would be. But having said all that, we were always in it for the long run and not for just the moment, or indeed to be part of a trend or fad.

We signed with Ninthwave Records in the US, on the back of the ElectroClash scene in 2002 for our debut album “Pop Robot”. FisherSpooner came and went and so did ElectroClash, yet our synth battle against the mainstream stayed the same. With the same battles to get the releases out and the reviews in.

Electro today is fronted mostly by female singers, yet ESH are still on the periphery with male pop vocals, but there’s certainly more of a chance that this time around we could cross over, and show our real potential.

ER: Would you say Audio Gothic is the ESH album you’re most proud of?

AC: Most definitely, yes. When we announced news of a new album last year, it was greeted as a rebirth of the band, after a 3 year break without a new album. The last studio album was “Cycles” in 2005. We released a number of digital album (two in 2008) but a CD release carry’s more weight. It’s the real deal for us. We reviewed all our releases, and decided we wanted more quality control and to be completely self produced, whilst completing this process. We picked 10 tracks for “Audio Gothic” but included a hidden blue grass cover for spice.

This outlook made for a hybrid album of electro with some acoustic touches under pinning things. We are so very proud of this release, as the creative force of myself and Seán Barron has made a giant leap forward for us. The effort and time was certainly worth it. But we’ve decided that the wait for another new studio album won’t be as long the next time (4 years). With this in mind, we’ve begun writing and recording a follow up album. This year we’re 10 years as Empire State Human. When we started in 1999, it was like music suicide to be in a synth band at that time. Now we’ve 130+ tracks up on iTunes, a film score completed, some advert music, a #1 in the iTunes dance charts in the US with a cover of “Theme To Halloween” and loads of remixes for other bands. We’ve even executive produced a successful tribute album to 80s band Dead or Alive along the way. Not bad for a band from Dublin, signed to a label in North America is it?

ER: I know you’ve spent a couple of years working on your The Garland Cult project, why did now seem like the time to return to ESH? What do you think separates ESH from TGC?

AC: With small breaks and gaps in the recording and writing processes, actually both ESH and TGC were running side by side for a while and are still running as we speak, with recording on going on both fronts. ESH are totally self contained, self produced and self written and the songs do sound like a different beast altogether. The dynamics of Seán and I make a band like ESH very special and clearly unique from our point of view. Whilst my voice sits on top of both acts, there’s a different spark to each one clearly.

We just knew the time was right to get ‘back into business’ and focus fully on the completion of a new ESH album.

We hold our synth love right on our chests, always against the grain of what seems popular and we are always willing to throw in a curve ball to mess up peoples heads along the way.

I think a band like The Garland Cult survives and thrives on working with a number of outside producers and co-writers. It’s centers on glam and certainly does have a camp side too it. It’s colourful, it’s fun and it’s totally poptastic!

ER: How did things come about with Wolfgang Flür?

AC: Seán was asked by the promoter make a DVD of Wolfgang’s DJ set, and appearance with Dave Ball (from Soft Cell) here in Dublin last year at The Tivoli Theatre. In doing so, he got on really well with Wolfgang and they clicked, as both are very relaxed and easy going people, who talked music on the same level, it was clear that a bond had formed firstly, as we are the more pop than he’s ever worked with. He expressed interest in hearing our music firstly, and was very positive when after he heard it and when we asked him to join us on a track.

We choose a song that was certainly not associated musically with either ESH or Yamo or indeed Kraftwerk in sound or style with “Melancholic Afro” as a song. Wolfgang responded so well as it was different and not expected. His contribution is so good. Also, he’s one of the nicest people we’ve ever met in the business. He’s a class gentleman and true artist. I can’t pay him a higher compliment, other than he’s just SO COOL!!!

ER: Are there any of the current crop of ElectroPop artists that have particularly interested you? Do you find any of them, or their success, an inspiration to keep at it?

AC: I love The Preset’s “This Boy’s In Love”, Maggie and Martin’s “Mon Amour” (which we are currently remixing), Aube Records full roster which is really fantastic. La Roux and some of Lady GaGa but not all and an artist called Annie.

Good songs inspire us, not only artists. These sounds and songs could be from the 1940, 50s or 60s. We’re magpies with a pure musical lust.

ER: Seeing as how there is renewed interest in SynthPop, and SynthPop live (especially in London), do you have any plans to take ESH on the road?

AC: We’d love to take ESH to London. We did try to arrange that last year but things fell through in the end. In August 2008 we did play Retrofest in Scotland which had Boy George headlining, and some great 80s electro bands. Videos of our appearance are on YouTube and they’re a good representation of what to expect. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdoEvJbDevE

Some fans travelled up North to see us, which was a great surprise to us.

If any club reading this would like to invite us over, we’re certainly open to offers. I’ll be in London end of April, so I may pay a visit to a synth night to test the water.

Email ESH – empirestatehuman@mail.com
ESH MySpace – http://www.myspace.com/empirestatehumanmusic

ER: Cheers Aidan!

‘Audio gothic’ is released on Ninthwave Records on April 14th and can be pre-ordered here:

Pre-Order ‘Audio Gothic’ @ Amazon

Empire State Human’s back catalogue is still available:

Empire State Human @ Amazon