DJ Food ‘Influences ’57-’92’ mix liner notes

If you’ve arrived here via the Dust & Grooves site feature on my collecting then the following is an in depth explanation of the mix made especially for that article. There will be some duplication with the D&G piece along the way, hopefully there will be plenty more to hold your attention though.

If you’ve not yet seen the feature and the beautiful photos by Eilon Paz then get yourself over there and check out the wonderful site when you have a spare couple of days.

How to make a mix of the favourites from your record collection? Impossible at best for as soon as you start combing the racks for ‘the essentials’ you quickly realise that half of it is worthy and you’re going to have a 10 hour set on your hands. For my Dust & Grooves mix I set myself a brief of picking tracks that had made a huge impact on me on first listen, shivers down the spine excitement, the shock of the new. Mind blowing sounds that somehow influenced me and fed into the mess of musical connections and contradictions that make me who I am today.

I also wanted to present them in the order in which they were released as far as possible thus making a chronological timeline as my listening habits progressed. This was a ridiculous idea and made the whole thing so much harder but sometimes interesting things happen from constraints and that probably says as much about me as any of the records here. Keeping this down to under an hour was also a tough call and sacrifices had to be made, not just losing artists but also in editing down songs – the essence of the essentials if you like. None of these records or songs are rare (with one exception…) and you will most likely be able to pick any of them up cheaply and easily. This isn’t some showboating ‘look at my rarest items that you’ll never have’ kind of mix, it’s about the songs and sounds that have signposted my early musical input and led to later collaborations both musical and artistic.

DJ Food – Influences 57-92 for Dust & Grooves by Dust & Grooves on Mixcloud

We start with an intro from Ken Nordine, presenting ‘Sound Paintings’ and he’ll be returning throughout as a guide, touring the record bins and opening doors to different parts of the psyche. He has a connection to several people in the selection, Mixmaster Morris (who features later under his Irresistible Force guise) first turned me on to him when we first met and I later went on to work with Ken in 2000 on a version of his ‘The Ageing Young Rebel’. When Eilon from Dust & Grooves came to my studio and I started pulling records he immediately recognised the Word Jazz LPs as Dom Servini had shown him the same when he’d visited his home earlier in the trip. So, even though I didn’t hear Ken until 1993, we start with him for Eilon and already the chronological timeline idea is knackered although it is technically the oldest record in the selection, having been released in 1957.

OK, to the real beginning: Kraftwerk‘s ‘Autobahn’, I probably heard songs before this but I don’t remember a piece of music affecting me in the same way this did. Heard from a tape my dad made of the single in the mid 70’s (I would have been about 5) and it stuck with me because it scared me and signals a love of electronic music. Even more so because the band would go on to become so influential not just to me but for so many.

It’s well known that the band took inspiration from The Beach Boys for the ‘fun, fun, fun on the autobahn’ refrain so I paired the two up with a slice of my favourite Beach Boys song (and there are many), ‘Surf’s Up’. I’m not ashamed to admit that this track has reduced me to tears on a few occasions and I was obsessed with the whole ‘Smile’ saga from whence it sprung as the nineties came to a close. Here I have each band dueting, trading lines in the tradition of all the best mixes, two elements that shouldn’t work together but in doing so create a third. Gary Numan was another electronic pop musician who instantly appealed when ‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric?’ climbed to the no.1 spot in the charts in 1979 and I followed his career for a good few years afterwards.

The Queen soundtrack to the 1980 remake of Flash Gordon was the first cassette album I ever bought (I didn’t actually have a record player until I was 13) and I played the shit out of that little tape. In the tradition of listening to one collection again and again I got to appreciate the album as a whole rather than cherry pick my favourites. It was paced the same as the film and included dialogue to push the story along and spoken word has always been a favourite component of ‘music’ for me. The same thing propels the intro to ‘Blush Response’ from the score to Blade Runner, the tense meeting of Deckard, Rachel and Tyrell before the release of Vangelis‘ icy, fluctuating keyboard work. Both of these soundtracks signpost an early love of sci-fi film with synthesiser-led scores (the orchestral bombast of Star Wars never really did it for me).

The Human League, although starting out around the same time as Numan in the post punk landscape were beaten to the punch chart-wise by Gary and the cash-in re-release of their first single, ‘Being Boiled’, post-‘Don’t You Want Me’ success was the track that resonated most. That eerie build up with Phil Oakey‘s, ‘OK, ready, let’s do it’ casually left in before Martin Ware‘s gothic Korg 700 bass line comes in. Listen to the voice of Buddha indeed, so great we included it near the start of mine and DK‘s ‘Now, Listen Again’ Solid Steel mix CD.

Eno & Byrne‘s world music collage collaboration has never been equaled to my mind and although I didn’t hear it until the early 90’s it’s tucked in here as it was released in 1981 and dovetails nicely with another world music smash and grab by the white man.

Malcolm McLaren‘s ‘Duck Rock’ album had all sorts of ramifications in my musical landscape, not least because it bought a bastardised version of Hip Hop to Europe with graffiti, scratching, rapping and breaking alongside the Westwood fashion and Keith Haring artwork.

I vividly remember first hearing ‘Buffalo Gals’ on the top 40 countdown and almost being disgusted by the mess of it. As a song structure it just didn’t make any sense at all, seemingly random elements all thrown together periodically stopping to be primitively scratched. My 13 year old brain couldn’t comprehend it at all, I still don’t think it’s a great song but the album it comes from is a giant flagpole for things to come, mainly for the production team of Trevor Horn and the early incarnation of the Art of Noise.
Which brings us to a little Zang Tuum Tumb megamix section, full of synths and samplers, sex and slaves, drum machines and ‘Dr Mabuse’. Art of Noise’s ‘Beatbox’ was the first release from the label in late ’83, closely followed by Frankie Goes To Hollywood‘s ‘Relax’ (which only gets a tiny look in here unfortunately). Propaganda‘s debut, ‘Dr. Mabuse’ was the third release and appears in extended form before the title track of Frankie’s debut album gets a truncated turn.

Rounded off by a little gem of an unreleased mix of Grace Jones‘Slave To The Rhythm’ by Bruce Forest of Better Days fame. This is where I show off my digging credentials for a minute, this percussion-less mix for voice and orchestra was done on spec in the early 90’s by Bruce and remains unreleased as yet (although I’m trying). For the full story know that this is an edit of the full version and another exists that reinstates a lot more of the EU GoGo percussion. Both were done from master tapes at the Sarm West studios in London and hopefully one day they will see a proper release.

We’re now in the mid 80’s – a turning point for pop music and also for me as I dove headlong into Hip Hop with a passion for the rest of the decade. Without a pause we jump from ‘the Rhythm’ to ‘the Rebel’ (see what I did there?) and Public Enemy‘s classic squealing sax ‘n’ funky drummer smash. I remember the hairs on my neck standing on end when I first heard that transformer scratch after Chuck D roared, “Terminator X!” (even though it was probably Johnny ‘Juice’ Rosado who made the cuts).

I originally had four PE tracks in the mix, starting with ‘Son of Public Enemy’, the B side of their debut under that name and the first I heard played on the radio. The JB’s ‘Blow Your Head’ moog solo was so alien in Hip Hop and with the formless Flavor Flav freestyle over the top it just sounded even more extraterrestrial. This was excised from the mix along with the Terminator X Getaway Dub of ‘Your Gonna Get Yours’ from the A side of ‘Rebel…’s first release but I did also include ‘Countdown To Armageddon’. The opener from ‘Fear Of A Black Planet’ is in there because I was actually at the gig it was recorded from at the Hammersmith Odeon in London and even briefly met Chuck and Flav outside beforehand. Everyone has a few ‘I was there’ gigs and this is one of mine.

Around the same time a couple of self-appointed dance floor hooligans were showing the yanks that they could play the same game and after the Double Dee & Steinski homage of ‘Say Kids What Time Is It?’ Coldcut kicked the doors in with ‘Beats n Pieces’. One of the heaviest sample-led dance floor demolishers to emerge from the UK up until Depth Charge waded into the fray (sadly missing from the line up here) and, unbeknownst to me at the time, set to play a huge part in my musical journey (into sound) during the next decade.

Rewinding a couple of years to 1985 when I had a revelation the first time I tuned into Mike Allen’s Capital Radio weekend Hip Hop show and amongst the unaffordable US imports I would come to covet was Word of Mouth‘s ‘King Kut’. Featuring DJ Cheese who would go on to win the DMC Championship a year later on the cuts, it was everything I wanted to hear at 15 – beats, rhymes and scratches. Cheese’s cuts were hugely influential for me but he never got a chance to shine much after his DMC win although he guested on many tracks, he received little or no credit and fell foul of bad management.

The Beastie Boys‘Shake Your Rump’ needs no introduction or explanation except to say that most tracks in this mix are just one extract from albums that are cornerstones of my collection and musical education. Several have had to be left out such as De La Soul, Tackhead, Double Dee & Steinski and Foetus because of time constraints and musical shoe-horning for the sake of it isn’t my style. The The had to be in the mix though and I’ve not picked an obvious track for this one, more something that suited the mood and tempo of this particular part of the timeline. ‘Twilight of a Champion’ is from side 2 of ‘Infected’ but I could have picked anything from that or Matt Johnson‘s ‘Soul Mining’ debut. Interestingly the orchestral arrangements on this track were by ZTT artist at the time Andrew Poppy and Art of Noise member Gary Langan mixed a couple of the tracks on the LP.

From here we jump back into Hip Hop with more UK rap from Hijack, giving Public Enemy a run for their money and influencing DJs like Q-Bert in the process with the amazing cuts from DJs Undercover and Supreme. This group were so good they were one of the first UK acts to land a US record label deal, with Ice T‘s short-lived Rhyme Syndicate, whilst they were nurtured by Simon Harris in Britain on his Music of Life label. Note how only a year on from Coldcut‘s game-changing remix of ‘Paid in Full’ they reference it at the start of the track and then rip the needle off the record. So many people started copying the ‘This Is A Journey’ spoken word back then that it got old real fast. Another Brit copping an ear to what the Americans were doing before he moved to the West Coast was Jack Dangers and Meat Beat Manifesto, an early adopter of sampling after starting with more industrial roots. ‘I Got The Fear Pt.1’ from the amazing ‘Storm The Studio’ LP is cut from the same cloth as ‘Hold No Hostage’ being that they both sample from the same source except Hijack beat MBM by a year.

There’s a quick Jungle Brothers a cappella from their criminally undervalued ‘Done By the Forces of Nature’ LP before we hit Acid House territory with Stakker‘s ‘Humanoid’. This is the track were I finally ‘got’ what Acid was about after hearing various bits and pieces and not being too impressed (I was heavily into Hip Hop’s golden age at the time). Also the fact that Brian Dougans – later to become one half of the Future Sound of London – was responsible for this tells you something and I had their ‘Expander’ lined up to go into the mix later but couldn’t make it work.
William Orbit‘s stunning Spatial Expansion remix of S’Xpress‘Hey Music Lover’ follows, search out the full length version as it’s one of the best mixes he’s ever done and a pinnacle of the UK dance music scene of the late ’80s. The Orb had to feature and, were I keeping to the progressive timeline, I would have included ‘Little Fluffy Clouds’ or ‘A Huge Evergrowing Brain…’ at this point. Instead I’ve jumped forward a year to ‘Close Encounters’ from their second album as it suits the wind down into the ambience that follows better.

By 1990 I had moved to London to study graphic design and left most Hip Hop behind for electronic ‘dance’ music, the copycat gangsta-isms of Rap beginning to bore me. Madchester and baggy were in full swing but I was more interested in ‘intelligent techno’ as it became known and the emerging ambient scene. The Orb, were central to this along with the loosely affiliated KLF who soon made the jump into the pop charts. The latter’s ‘Chill Out’ LP knocked me out as I’d never heard anything like it spread over a whole album before. It’s pretty difficult to choose a single track from so I’ve just included some moments that stuck in my mind – “rock radio, into the 90’s and beyond” seeming apt at this point.

Another huge champion of ambient music both then and now is Mixmaster Morris aka The Irresistible Force who I met at some point around 1992 and was a huge influence on my musical education for a few years. He played so many artists who are now considered the foundations of the genre to me for the first time. He also gave advice and info including a contact for Matt Black of Coldcut which set me off on the path I would follow for the next two decades. I have much to thank him for and include a section of ‘Mountain High (Live)’ from his unfairly overlooked debut ‘Flying High’ here in tribute. Find a copy, it’s beautiful and this track alone is 20 minutes long.

Since I’d moved to the capital I had access to the newly launched KISS FM station with Colin Favor and Colin Dale‘s techno shows on a Monday and Tuesday night which I religiously tuned in to. This was where I first heard Aphex Twin‘s ‘Digeridoo’ which was like being run over by a steamroller at the time as it was a good 10 bpm faster than everything else. That started a love of his music which continues to this day and nearly rounds out the mix as I’ve chosen to stop at 1992 – a particular turning point in my life as well (a story for another time).

For the final track (the encore if you like) I’ve chosen a song from an artist I’ve held in high esteem for decades and one which most would have assumed should have kicked off the mix rather than ended it. Adam & The Antz’ ‘Zerox’ was the first record I ever bought – four years after it was released it has to be said – and the band were the first I would hold up as being crazy about. From the moment I heard their first chart entry, ‘Dog Eat Dog’, on the radio I was in love with this group as an impressionable 10 year old and as soon as I got a turntable their back catalogue was the first one I collected. For me their early post punk period that this hails from stands the test of time the best and I finally saw Adam live only last year. Ending where I began seemed to be the best option for a 140 bpm punk single rather than try to sandwich it between Kraftwerk and Queen, it’s rightly home on the timeline.

So, that’s a little trip back in time through the tracks that impacted upon my impressionable mind for the first 20 years or so of my life, maybe one day I’ll do an ‘Influences Pt.2’, kick off from 1992 and see what surfaces. It’s funny reading all this and the D&G article back (originally done about 18 months ago) – this is where I’ve been and although I still hold many of these records dear there’s still a long way to go until we arrive at where my head’s at today.
The new edition of the Dust & Grooves book is about to ship out as of writing – you can buy it here.

‘Inside The Pleasuredome’ – released this week

At long last, after 8 months of work (off and on) the Frankie Goes To Hollywood box set ‘Inside The Pleasuredome’ was released on Wednesday 29th – 30 years to the day from its original debut. Back in November 2013 I was asked if I’d be part of the team that would put together the 30th anniversary set of Frankie’s ‘Welcome To The Pleasuredome’ album, for release in Autumn 2014 and this is what writer Ian Peel, designer Philip Marshall and myself came up with.

To put this is context, this was a big deal, a very big deal indeed. Frankie and by extension Zang Tuum Tumb records were a massive formative influence on me in my early to mid teens. The band and label created a phenomena in 1984 which I’ve still not seen the likes of again and, alongside Trevor Horn and his team, the group made some of my favourite pop songs ever.

The album was the most eagerly anticipated of the year and, while being uneven, contains possibly the greatest side A of music ever issued in the 17 minute long title track. The design of the label greatly influenced my own aesthetic for record sleeve graphics although I didn’t realise this until years later and I started the Art of ZTT website as an online archive of the old material which I feel has been neglected in the history of music design.

This set is officially sold out now as it was a Pledgemusic production but I’m told a quantity have been kept back of the 2000 made (never to be repressed) and will be available from some distributors to those who couldn’t pledge due to the restrictions of licensing territories.

Unboxing the Pleasuredome

Here’s the unboxing of the Frankie Goes To Hollywood ‘Inside The Pleasuredome’ set I co-designed with Philip Marshall for Universal Music / ZTT. The 30th anniversary of its release is next week and these will ship out to pledgers on the 28th.
There is still time to pre-order one but they’re down to the last 30 of 2000 now it seems. A series of full, in-depth blog posts will follow soon detailing the various aspects of the designs which have been on-going since January this year.

Inside The Pleasuredome – the Sarm Studio visit

On Thursday night I was lucky enough to squeeze into Sarm Studios alongside 60 other Frankie Goes To Hollywood fans and assorted industry people for a playback of ‘Welcome To The Pleasuredome’. Ably hosted by Classic Album SundaysColleen Murphy it was a final farewell to the studio were the album and thousands of other songs were originally recorded before it closes to be refurbished into flats at the end of the year.

The evening started with a swift drink around the corner with designer Philip Marshall alongside Steve and Paul from Union Square Music who I’d worked with on the Frankie box set, now at the printers and awaiting release in a month’s time. We were treating this as our ‘wrap’ party even though Paul and Steve still have the logistics of consolidating the set elements and shipping all the boxes out (over 1,100 have been sold so far). Walking past Sarm earlier, a gaggle of fans had mistaken me for alternately, Steve Lipson and Holly Johnson as everyone who ventured near was scrutinised by the gathering crowd.

Once we returned to the studio there were many more outside, although nearly all midde-aged men, a far cry from the teenage girls who used to gather to try and catch a glimpse of Frankie as they came and went 30 years ago. Once inside I was finally introduced to Paul Sinclair from Super Deluxe Edition (also see his review here) whose blog is a must for all things that fall into this category, and we settled in the back row next to a Sarm patch bay to listen to the evening’s events.

First up was Colleen quizzing Trevor Horn about his career and some of the difficulties in recording the album with the fledgling band, some of who were still learning their instruments. The thing I realised about Horn that evening is that whether working with the best or the most incompetent he’s always managed to get something extraordinary out of the people he works with. Take his two projects before starting ZTT and recording ‘…Pleasuredome’:

Yes ‘90210’ – a group able to play and sing virtually any other band under the table but suffering from a lack of relevance in the pop market. He managed to make ‘Owner of a Lonely Heart’ into a worldwide smash hit for them, including an experimental extended 12″ mix, and bring them to a whole new audience. Contrast this with Malcolm McLaren‘s ‘Duck Rock’ LP, a mish mash culture clash of World Music before the term was even invented fronted by a band manager who couldn’t even keep time let alone sing. That record produced several top 40 hits and can be credited with bringing Hip Hop culture as a package (rapping, scratching, graffiti, fashion and breaking / double dutch) to the world, certainly to Europe.

Colleen was an excellent hostess who certainly knew her ZTT / Frankie / Horn history and various nuggets of info concerning recording shenanigans were revealed before we broke for sandwiches and drink. On returning we were confronted with an often hilarious piece to camera by Paul Morley who couldn’t be present but had sent a recorded message instead. He regaled us with lists of adjectives to describe the album, painted a picture of both the musical and journalistic landscape at the time and quoted the David Frost line from the TV ad: “hello, good evening and welcome… to the pleasure dome”.

At which point Colleen dropped the needle on her custom built sound system and we settled back to listen to side F of the album in the same room that much of it was made. Even though everyone in the room probably knew every note and nuance of the record it was still a new experience. Few would have access to a system as good as this and the acoustics of the room gave it a different shade. The bass at times was extraordinarily deep and full, the stereo separation very apparent too and the first side – IMO one of the greatest pieces of pop music ever recorded – flew past way too quickly. On to side G and the trinity of pre LP pop classics that are ‘Relax’, ‘War’ and ‘Two Tribes’, songs we’ve all heard a million times in multiple versions that still sounded fresh as the day they were mixed down.

Another break for refreshments, toilet breaks and the like and people were starting to loosen up and really enjoy the evening. It was on to side T – generally thought to be the weakest of the bunch because more than half of it consists of three cover versions including the almost universally reviled ‘(Do You Know The Way To) San Jose’. On reflection if you took this song away the side would stand up way better. The brief version of ‘Ferry ‘Cross The Mersey‘ giving way to the powerful cover of Springsteen‘s ‘Born To Run’ coupled with two new band compositions not being as winsome as it currently stands. Would the inclusion of the full ‘The World Is My Oyster’ or ‘Disneyland’ have helped? Almost certainly but perhaps there wasn’t the time to finish these before the album had to be out hence their inclusion on later releases?

Side H, with three slices of Frankie’s finest non-single material and ‘The Power of Love’ to end before the coda of ‘Bang’ left everyone clapping their appreciation for a work now, rightly, considered a classic. Cue Trevor Horn returning alongside engineer and guitarist Steve Lipson and Fairlight operator and former Art of Noise member JJ Jeczalik. All three were in good spirits and another ex-Art of Noise-er, Gary Langan, was also lurking in the wings. There were brief introductions and reminisces before the room was opened up for questions for the super-dry Lipson, jovial JJ and laid-back Horn.

At the end a virtual scrum descended on the three as record sleeves were whipped out to be signed and further questions asked whilst posing for photos. We crept off to the control room, somewhere that was generally out of bounds to the rest of the party but that we had access to via the USM connection. I sat at the huge mixing desk overlooking the live room and, for a second, imagined I was Trevor or Steve all those years ago. It was a great end to a unique evening and I think most people went away satisfied that they had been part of something special, something that was soon going to be permanently laid to rest when the studio closes.

For Philip and I it felt as though we had finished the project and this was a little send off, of course there will be something else cropping up, there always is, but it was a nice end to nine months’ work. I left content that I’d had the opportunity to visit the place where some of my favourite records were created (not only Frankie but Propaganda, Art of Noise and Grace Jones to name just three on ZTT alone). We were Inside The Pleasuredome for what seemed like most of the year but last week, as we left the Blue Building, we went out in style… with a Bang!

The Ultra Deluxe Frankie Goes To Hollywood ‘Inside The Pleasuredome’ box set by is available to pre-order via Pledge Music and is released at the end of October, 30 years after the original opened its doors.

More archival work on the Pleasuredome box set

Another look behind the scenes at some work I’ve been doing on the Frankie Goes To Hollywood box set for the 30th anniversary edition of their ‘Welcome To The Pleasuredome’ album. Earlier this year I visited photographer Steve Rumney who took a set of photos backstage at the London launch party of ‘Relax’ at the Camden Palace (now Koko) back in November 1983, one of which ended up on a promo poster, cassette and sheet music.

FGTH backstage AOZTT restoration © Steve Rumney

We looked through boxes of negatives and found very little aside from some prints and one badly damaged negative strip. Nevertheless, on that strip was an image that I recognised from the inside sleeve of the original album and he graciously let me take it away. After having it scanned at a professional lab I took the digital files and proceeded to repair all the dust and scratches it had incurred over the years. See above the 5-step cleaning and cropping process, this will then be used on the inner sleeve of the new version of the album. Quite a bit of work for one small 4 x 5.5cm image.

Frankie’s ‘Two Tribes’ 30 years old today

Frankie Goes To Hollywood‘s ‘Two Tribes’ – one of the greatest pop singles of the 80’s and certainly one of the greatest 12″ mixes of all time – was released 30 years ago today. June 4th saw a 7″ and 12″ finally burst the bubble of expectation that ‘Relax’ had inflated after its 5 week run at the no.1 spot despite a BBC ban.

Six days later on June 10th ‘Two Tribes’ was also sitting at no.1 and would remain bedded in for another nine weeks with ‘Relax’ returning to the no.2 spot for a couple of those too. The 7″ and 12″ would be joined by three further 12″s, all sporting remixes of the title track or its B side, a cover of Edwin Starr‘s ‘War’, as well as 7″ and 12″ picture discs and a cassette compiling excerpts from all.

Add to that the phenomenon of the ‘Frankie Say’ T-shirts that swept the nation that summer and you had a roller coaster of pop product that no one could have predicted. Over on my ArtofZTT blog I’ve been adding sleeves, posters, adverts and picture discs daily to celebrate along with various quotes and info about the releases.

The ‘Inside The Pleasuredome’ box set I helped design is looking good at 83% funded over on Pledge Music and I’m waiting on the go ahead to post more photos from it. Over on his Failed Muso blog Rob Puricelli has written a great piece about the anniversary of ‘Two Tribes‘ and how it impacted on him as a teen in the 80’s, so much of it rings true to my experience too but he puts it so much better.

FGTH ‘Inside The Pleasuredome’ deluxe box set

This is what the last post was all about, a project I’ve been working on for the last few months but feels like I’ve been working towards for over a decade. 10 years ago I actively started contacting and interviewing the people involved in the creation of the ZTT label’s artwork, starting with Paul Morley who I collaborated with on ‘Raiding the 20th Century’. Through the years after I met designers, illustrators and photographers who had all had hands in the late 80’s output of the label whilst collecting promo posters, magazine ads and in some cases original artwork and photos.

After starting my ArtofZTT site early last year and having been in contact with Ian Peel, responsible for the ongoing reissue series at the label, I was asked to collaborate with resident designer Philip Marshall on what would become the 30th anniversary of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ‘Welcome To The Pleasuredome’.

Now re-titled ‘Inside The Pleasuredome’ this deluxe box set is available to pre-order via Pledge Music and will be released on the anniversary later this year at the end of October. The set will contain:
Re-mastered and redesigned original LP,
3 x 10″s of remixes, demos and alt. takes
a hardback Art of FGTH book with sleeve art, adverts, ultra rare promo posters, LP prelims and making of interviews
a cassette of multiple ‘Relax’ remixes with new artwork inside a card slipcase
a DVD with videos plus 5.1 audio from various singles and album tracks
3 x Prints of the original Lo Cole album artwork (with uncensored back cover image)
a digital only EP of instrumentals
a Pleasuredome TV ad flick book
a Tumbometer (fans will know what this is)
6 x cards with download codes for the remastered LP, the 3 10″s, the cassette and the digital EP

I’ll be sharing photos here during the pledge period of 65 days, I’d love to post it all now but there will be a slow roll out as items are unveiled to people who pre-order . Once the order / pledge period is up no more orders will be taken and once /if the target it reached that will be the extent of the number of sets made. Of the 10 ‘elements’ contained inside the box, half of them will be exclusive including the art book and 10″ featuring ‘Slave…’ It has already made a quarter of the target less than a day after going online but there’s still a way to go. You can pre-order here but once that window is closed that will be your only chance, the box set won’t be sold in shops.

‘E is for Eighties Edits’ new mix for Solid Steel

E Is For Eighties cover webImagine an alternate version of the 80’s pop chart, not the one already there in the form of the extended 12″ remix that came to prominence in that decade, but a secret, subtly twisted one with different producers at the controls. Imagine Depeche Mode and Gary Numan remixed by a Hip Hop engineer, Tears For Fears cut to ribbons by a tape edit king, Bow Wow Wow and The Human League streamlined into a slow disco groove. Grace Jones and Heaven 17 pumped up for a House club, Japan remixed by Giorgio Morodor or Grace Jones covering Tubeway Army – no actually, those last two really happened.
My latest Solid Steel mix compiles an hour of mostly unofficial remixes, re-edits and versions of classic pop songs from the 80’s, remodeled by fans or studio engineers with access to the separate track stems. What emerges is a collection of pop classics seen through a distorted looking glass, culled from the darkest corners of Soundcloud or the hard drives of those with access to audio they shouldn’t have and time on their hands. See below for track listing and more info.

‘E Is For Eighties’ – An Alternate 80’s (Re)mix
Gary Numan – Films (DJ Butcher Instrumental) (soundcloud mp3) – Found on Soundcloud, this toughened up Hip Hop take on the Numan classic, beloved by break fiends from back in the day, is minimally tweaked for the dance floor. Check more of DJ Butcher‘s wares here.
Tears For FearsShout (Remix di Marco De Luca) (soundcloud mp3) – a crazed edit-fest of cuts and splices of one of TFF’s best known songs, I actually had to edit this down a little as the machine gun edits got so relentless that it was a difficult listen – the full 8 minutes is here.
Grace JonesSlave To the Rhythm (Better Days’ Rough Slave version) (mp3) – The first of three versions of Grace’s finest moment – this one takes the multitracks and strips away the percussion and bass to leave a gorgeous string and acappella version that’s billed as a ‘Rough Slave’ version on YouTube.. Info suggests that this was done by DJ Bruce Forest circa 1990, who got the chance to do a quick mix when working at SARM Studios on a different project. It has since been taken off of the web.
Grace Jones
Slave To the Disco (Tribute To Trevor Horn mix) (We Mean Disco mp3) – upping the bpm to a steady 110 this new cheeky re-edit turns a mid 80’s hyper-polished pop masterpiece into a dirty disco groove to brilliant effect. I’ve added a fair amount of the Better Days acappella and strings version over the top of this as the original is mainly instrumental.
Bow Wow Wow – I Want Candy (Deep Sound Design Balearic Dub) (soundcloud mp3) – Taking the original’s drum and bass groove and stretching it out, the mix just feels so dirty. Again I edited this down as the sugar-sweet singing of Annabella sounded a little too cheesy in the mix but check out Deep Sound Design‘s Soundcloud pages for tons of excellent mixes both past and present, he even makes ZZ Top sound good.
Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Relax (Hibakusha ‘Don’t Crack’ mix) (CDR) – One of my favourite 80’s songs tackled by my good friend Jeff Knowler aka Hibakusha. This is a few years old now and was largely achieved through EQing the various mixes of the song and re-sampling parts to achieve a mix. This is actually only half of Jeff’s version and he’s done many more Frankie and ZTT mixes in his own time, all sounding like they could have existed 30 years ago and among the best fan mixes I’ve ever come across.
Talking Heads – Once In A Lifetime (Hibakusha remix) (CDR) – Another one of Jeff’s, originally done for a friend’s birthday present and now presented here for the first time in public.
The Human League – Seconds (Antony Toga Unlimited Orchestra Mix) (soundcloud mp3) – The ‘Don’t You Want Me’ B-side taken and stretched into a menacing 8 minute groove with the help of the ‘Love & Dancing’ version by Anthony Toga. I added the news bulletin dialogue as JFK’s assassination took place and edited it again for length.
Japan – Life In Tokyo (Extended Disco mix) (Virgin) – A bonafide original, this actually saw a release in 1979 with Giorgio Morodor at the controls, one of the turning points in Japan’s history which saw them at a crossroads between outdated glam rockers and early adopters of synthesisers who were put in the same bracket as the Futurists.
Grace Jones Slave to the Rhythm (Steve Anderson & Chad Jackson remix) (soundcloud mp3) – A third outing but justified by this killer mix for DMC from the late 90’s, unreleased but one that successfully ups the bpm by 20 or so to make this go-go pop classic into an 11 minute house club banger. Check out Steve Anderson’s Soundcloud for tons of interesting mixes in this vein.
Tears For Fears – Mad World (ABH Remix) (soundcloud mp3) – Another Soundcloud find, TFF’s breakthrough hit given a crunching big beat undercarriage by ABH from London.
Depeche Mode – Big Muff (K Master bootleg demo) (soundcloud mp3) – This is actually an unfinished demo but I liked it so much I featured it anyway. A slowed down, Plastikman-esque remake of one of my favourite tracks from DM’s debut album, ‘Speak & Spell’ – hopefully one day he’ll finish it. K_Master hails for Minnesota, USA, not to be confused with the K Master from the UK.
Heaven 17 – Penthouse and Pavement (Eggman Remix) (soundcloud mp3) – The mysterious Eggman Productions from London, filters the Heaven 17 classic into House territory – the original is nearly 10 minutes long but I edited it a lot to fit it in, hear the full version here.
The Clash – Rock The Casbah (Dubrobots 12″) (mp3) – One of Jeff’s engineer friends who goes by the name of Dubrobots takes on The Clash. ‘…Casbah’ has been versioned a few times over the years but this sympathetic, dubbed out mix using the original stems to break it down caught my ear for the open piano passages. Also check out his Dubrobots HQ blog for a great mix of Adam & The Antz – Cartrouble Pt.1 (Dubrobots ‘Who’s The Slave & Who’s the Master’ mix). It’s a rarity to find any remixes of Adam Ant material, even more so to find one of the original, pre-fame Antz tracks. His is a fantastic re-imagining of ‘Cartrouble Pt.1’ which really exists in its own little world, I’m not sure how you’d place this with any other music successfully and it just didn’t make the final cut because of this.
Grace Jones – Me, I Disconnect From You (Island) Another track that’s legit but has only just seen the light of day. Originally recorded in 1981 for inclusion on the ‘Night Clubbing’ album, Grace covered Tubeway Army but it sadly never made the cut. Finally released on the new 2 CD deluxe edition we get to hear it and I mixed a little of the original into the ending so that Numan bookends the whole mix.

Along the way, whilst making this mix and auditioning a lot of other mixes in a similar vein, I stumbled upon Paul Dakeyne‘s site where he has a number of interesting posts including one on tape edits with an unreleased Omar Santana ‘Bullet edit’ version of the same Tears For Fears track I used. It’s pretty full on and comes from a cassette Paul had, his Soundcloud page is also worth a look with unreleased megamixes of Paul Hardcastle material.

‘Relax’ – and suddenly there came a ban!

On January 11st, 1984, Radio 1 DJ, Mike Read took Frankie Goes To Hollywood‘s debut single, ‘Relax’, off the deck, mid-song whilst live on air, reportedly calling it ‘obscene’ and stating that he wasn’t going to play it anymore. Despite the BBC having played it over 100 times, the band appearing in two sessions, having played Top Of The Pops the previous week and the single then residing at no.6 in the charts, the corporation officially ‘banned’ it from their playlist two days later.

This had the effect of generating enough publicity to push it up to the No.1 spot less than two weeks later on 22nd January and the band and their record company, Zang Tuum Tumb, claimed their first hit single. With a video that was already not deemed fit for TV broadcast, promo photos of the group in S&M gear and two of the band being were openly gay, it was all the press needed to have a field day.

In a stroke of good luck, the band’s producer, Trevor Horn, had remixed the song for a 3rd 12″ that was released just before it hit the No.1 spot. Multiple mixes being a novelty at the time, this version replaced the original ‘Sex Mix’ with a more club-friendly ‘New York Night Mix’, inspiration for which was taken when Horn visited the Paradise Garage club the previous Autumn. ZTT were quick to fan the flames of the ‘ban’ (it was only banned on BBC channels but freely played by other commercial stations) and adverts and posters appeared, flaunting the band’s outlaw status. I vividly remember seeing a huge fly poster proclaiming ‘Big, Banned & Beautiful!’ pasted up in the little town of Reigate where I grew up. In fact, I tried several times, unsuccessfully, to steal it but posters being what they are I just ended up ripping it.

I was fortunate enough to track down the original photographer of the poster’s image – Steve Rumney – for my Art of ZTT blog last year and he’s promised me access to a whole raft of exclusive, unseen/unpublished images that he took back stage at the band’s Camden Palace performance the previous November.

Stephen Rumney: “I used to take photos at the Camden Palace in the mid 80s and I was there the night that Frankie did their first ever performance of ‘Relax’… I think it was the actual release party and as far as I remember I was the only photographer to have back stage and dressing room access. …the pics are pretty wild as they were all drinking champagne and very high spirited as you can imagine… I was right in the thick of it and clicking away madly… there was something in the air that night and you could really tell this was the start of something big…

The photo was not posed … I just caught them before they went on stage… or just after… I may have asked them for a group shot but it was not ‘staged’ as in ‘let’s do a photo shoot’… its why it has that edgy spontaneity… Holly already the gun as he was carrying it around for his performance.

The story is that shortly after the gig I dropped a print off with the Island press office thinking they may like to use it for press… They had commissioned me to do a couple of photo shoots when I was still at college as they had seen my portfolio featured in ‘Blitz’ magazine so I dropped the Frankie photo off with them when I delivered prints for the other photo shoot they commissioned… a week or so later I saw my photo being used all round town on the giant street posters!!!”

‘Relax’ was a pretty big deal for me personally, one of those records that connected on first listen and had to have repeat plays, much to my parents’ annoyance. A song I never tire of and that, with the follow-up, ‘Two Tribes’, probably ranks as one of my top 10 singles of all time. I didn’t hear the ban as we rarely listened to Radio 1 in our house, instead hearing it on Capital Radio who didn’t hold quite such draconian ideals as the BBC. I taped it and would have to play it at least four times in succession after school for weeks on end.

In fact, some of my first pause button tape ‘remixes’ were of the song, made from the various different mixes floating around. It was this too that was one my first exposures to ‘the Remix’ on multiple formats and, coupled with the cryptic sleeve notes and images, it made for a very exciting package to a 13 year old. It was the beginning of a love affair with both the band’s music and their label, ZTT, that has stayed with me to this day. Nothing was more exciting to me in 1984 that Frankie and the other artists on ZTT’s roster – Art of Noise and Propaganda.

‘Big, Banned & Beautiful’ poster design: XLZTT photography: © Stephen Rumney 1983 The photo was taken 24th November ’83 by Steve Romney backstage at a promo gig for the single at the Camden Palace in London. The ‘girls’ in the photo were Ange and Juicy Lucy (the latter actually a man in drag), friends of the band who featured in the original video for ‘Relax’.

You can also read my interview with Anne Yvonne Gilbert – the illustrator of the iconic image on the cover of ‘Relax’ – on

February 14th sees the release of yet another 12″ of the single for the 30th anniversary, this time with a recently discovered remix from ’84 which was lost in the vaults. More info HERE.

2013 – End of year round up

2013 has been an odd year – I wouldn’t go as far as to highlight the ’13’ as one to be wary of but it was full of ups and downs for me personally. 2012 was always going to be a hard year to beat but this one has been like a yo-yo, full of more uncertainty, doubt, procrastination and frustration than ever before.

There have been plenty of highs, not least with my family, of which my children are a constant source of wonder and pride. I do feel as if something has been holding me back but haven’t been able to pin down any one reason, more a general series of events that just didn’t let me get on with the things I need to do.

The proportion of great music being released has definitely gone up this year on previous ones, I read more comics than ever before, didn’t see half the films I wanted to and had more memorable nights out than I have in a long while. Experiences playing in clubs and with promoters seriously challenged me as to whether I actually wanted to continue DJing at times though. I’ve written more than ever before this year, having several articles published and conducted several interviews under my own steam with subjects whom I wanted to quiz on specific subjects. There are things bubbling for 2014 already, some of them very exciting for me but I need to make some more music and art as that’s been pretty barren this year.

Highs of 2014 (in no particular order)

• Moments:
Editing the Coldcut meets the Orb 2 sessions and then fine-tuning them with Matt Black
Seeing Kraftwerk in Dusseldorf then making a pilgrimage to their old studio.
Taking part in the Image Duplicator show at Orbital Comics and selling my piece on the opening night.
Being featured in a Judge Dredd strip as part of a Mega City One cult called ‘Strictly Kevs’.
Meeting and interviewing photographers Tony Barratt and  John Stoddart and chatting about their time photographing bands for the ZTT label.
Being photographed for the Dust & Grooves book and then conducting an interview with Kieran Hebden aka Four Tet for it.
Releasing the quadruple ‘Search Engine’ package for Record Store Day with 10 random inserts.
Being asked to remix The Amorphous Androgynous
More large-scale art pieces in my local neighborhood than ever
Remixing, rehearsing and performing with Cheeba and Moneyshot as part of the ‘3-Way Mix’ show – also signing on as part of the Elastic Artists agency with Ben Coghill.
Interviewing Gary Langan about the making of ‘Duck Rock’

• Music:
Boards of Canada ‘Tomorrow’s Harvest’ (Warp)
Spacedog & Belbury Poly – ‘Study Series 10’ (Ghost Box)
Melt Yourself Down – S/T LP (Leaf)
Lone – ‘Airglow Fires’ (R&S)
Mark Pritchard ‘Lock Off’ EP (Warp)
David Bowie ‘The Next Day’ LP
Sinoia Caves ‘The Enchanter Persuaded’
Black Moth Super Rainbow – ‘Dandelion Gum’ LP
John Carpenter & Alan Howarth – ‘Halloween 3’ (Death Waltz)
David Bowie ‘Love Is Lost’ (James Murphy Hello Steve Reich remix)
Boy George – ‘Coming Home’ (Psychemagik remix)
Chop – ‘Illuminate’ LP (Now Again)
Black Swan – ‘Alone Again With the Dawn Coming Up’
Tame Impala – ‘Be Above It’ (Erol Alkan remix)
rediscovering my love of Gary Numan and The Human League

• Books / Comics:
John Higgs – The KLF: Chaos, Magic & the Band Who Burned a Million Pounds
Julian Cope – Copendium
Moebius – Chaos & Chroniques Metalliques
Mike Mignola – Hellboy in Hell
The Judge Dredd Megazine
Brandon Graham – Prophet
B.P.R.D Hell On Earth
Brandon Graham – Multiple Warheads
The Best of Milligan & McCarthy
Jim Mahfood – Visual Funk
Ed Piskor – Hip Hop Family Tree
Batman Black & White no.3
The Wake
Robbie Morrison & Jim Murray – Drowntown
Brandon Graham – King City
Sledgehammer 44

• Films:
Pacific Rim
Despicable Me 2
Bonobo’s ‘Cirrus’ video
Melt Yourself Down’s ‘Fix My Life’ video

• Gigs:
Solid Steel 25th party at Fire, London,
19: Eighties concert at the QEH, London
playing my first gig with my kids in the audience at Big Fish Little Fish, London
DJing between Coldcut and DJ Shadow in Bristol at the In:Motion night
Kosmic Krash at the Herstmonceux Observatory
A Few Old Tunes, London
Adam Ant at the Roundhouse, London

• Firsts:
Finally reading Jodorowsky and Moebius‘The Incal’ and Milligan and McCarthy‘s ‘The Electric Hoax’ in full.
Making my first solo video mix for Solid Steel
Giving my first talk on graphic design in Madrid
Giving blood
Designing a zoetrope 12″ picture disc for Bonobo from Cyriak image sequences.
Having a piece published on The Quietus about Solid Steel and another about Kraftwerk for Clash Magazine
Launching my Art of ZTT website and having a feature on it published in Classic Pop magazine

• Artists / Designers:
Ian McQue / Augustine Kofie / Luke Insect / Giorgio Comolo / Peeta / Khomatech / Julian House / Jonathan Edwards / Andy Votel

• Mixes:
United States of Audio – How High’s The Water Mama?
Doug Shipton – All Will Be Set Right
Hexstatic – Clink Mix
DJ Moneyshot – Solid Steel & The Hour of Chaos
Coldcut meets The Orb – The Return Trip

• Exhibitions:
David Bowie  (The V&A)
Mark Bodé (London West Bank Gallery)
Ralph Steadman @77 (The Cartoon Museum)
Pop Art (The Barbican)

• Labels:
Deathwaltz (undisputed label of the year), Trunk, Ghost Box, Themes For Great Cities, Civil Music

• Sleeve / Packaging design:
Dark Seed ‘Nocturnes’ 12″ (Ohmega)
Various ‘A Psyche For Sore Eyes’ 7″ comp (Sonic Cathedral)
The Simonsound – ‘The Beam’ 10″ (Pilot Pack) (Project Blue Book)
Broadcast – ‘Berberian Sound Studio’ (Warp)
Clone – ‘Hallowe’en 1976’ cassette (Finders Keepers)
Machinedrum ‘Vapor City’ LP (Ninja Tune)
Christine ‘Death On Wheels’ 12″
DJ Format & Phill Most Chill ‘The Foremost’ LP (Project Blue Book)
Various ‘Classroom Projects’ (Trunk)
Various ‘Cosmic Machine’ comp
Kid Acne ‘Council Pop’ 10th anniversary edition
The Focus Group ‘Elektrik Karousel’ (Ghost Box)
Madlib ‘Pill Jar’ LP (Rappcats)
John Carpenter – ‘Assault On Precinct 13’ (Death Waltz)
Drums of Death ‘Waves Series Remixes’ (Civil Music)
Serato ‘Thre3style’ 10″ controller series

• Lows:
Being taken for a ride over payment by the promoter who booked me to give my first talk on graphic design in Madrid
More cancelled gigs and promoters messing me about than ever before
My laptop failing the night before a gig, necessitating a repair session until 3am
More people expecting me to do something for nothing than ever before, time to make a stand against this culture of people expecting people to work for ‘promotion’ in 2014.
‘The Persistence of Vision’ – a great documentary marred by sound and vision quality so bad it was virtually unwatchable.

• RIP:
Martin Sharp, Nelson Mandela, George Duke, Storm Thorgerson, Carmine Infantino, Claude Nobs, Dome Club Mk.1, Equinox Records.

• Things to look forward to in 2014:
Ghost Box night at the ICA in Jan
3-Way mix tour in Australia in Feb
Dirk Wears White Sox at the Apollo in April
The Dust & Grooves book released in April
A Very special Record Store Day release I can’t talk about yet in April
another big graphic project that I should be involved with for Autumn 2014 that I also can’t talk about yet


Posted in Event. | 3 Comments » |

Frankie Goes To Hollywood ‘Relax’ 30th Anniversary 12″

Out on Feb 14th, 2014 – 30 years after the record was banned by the BBC and still sitting at No.1 in the charts – yet another version of Frankie Goes To Hollywood‘s notorious ‘Relax’.

This time it’s ‘The Sex Mix’ (Edition 3) – formerly known as ‘Sex Mix Edit’, a hitherto undiscovered mix that first surfaced on a Japanese compilation called ‘Return To The Pleasuredome’ a few years ago. The original ‘Sex Mix Edit’ (or Edition 2) is a little known 8 minute odd edit of the  original 16 minute ‘Sex Mix’ that came and went (pun intended) in late ’83 before being replaced by a 7.20 minute ‘US Remix / New York Night mix’ which many consider as the definitive 12″ of ‘Relax’.

This new mix (Edition 3) had been created by Trevor Horn session man and renown percussionist Luis Jardim in December ’84 – who knows what for? It was then filed away, forgotten, later mislabeled and then extracted over 25 years later to end up on a compilation on the other side of the world. Hardcore fans from The Alternate ZTT Board soon spotted the difference and this sent the reissue curator, Ian Peel, back into the ZTT archives to search for more info and tapes that would lead to this previously unheard remix being given a proper vinyl release nearly 30 years after it was created.

Confused? This isn’t even half the ‘Relax’ mix story but I’ll save that for another time. Here, the original XLZTT artwork and Anne Yvonne Gilbert illustration have been tweaked by Element Series designer Philip Marshall to mirror the colour scheme for the 2012 Frankie rarities compilation, ‘Sex Mix’. The tracklist is: A. Relax ‘Sex Mix’ (Edition 3) B1. Ferry Cross the Mersey B2. Relax ‘The Instrumental’. You can pre-order it from Amazon here

Posted in Design, Music, Records. | 1 Comment » |

19 Eighties concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall

Last night was quite something. I headed to the Southbank to meet up with Mark Nicholson aka Osymyso for the 19 Eighties gig that was part of The Rest Is Noise festival. Mark is my usual companion in most things electronic and 80’s-related, the last time we were here it was to see Alan Howarth perform selections of his scores for the films of John Carpenter and we have a similar appreciation of all things synthesized.

So, a free talk by Martyn Ware (The Human League / B.E.F. / Heaven 17) and Peter Howell (Radiophonic Workshop) beforehand in the foyer was right up our street. They talked about vintage synths, drum machines, samplers and the like for an hour and the highlight was when Martin got up to recreate the intro to ‘Being Boiled’ on the original mini Korg 700 and Roland System 100 machines that they made it on – (see video clip at the bottom). We were in hog heaven and even had a little play with it afterwards before heading into the concert hall for the main event – passing Trevor Horn on the way in (as you do).

The main event was something quite unique: two pieces by composer Andrew Poppy, one by Michael Nyman, a new piece by Anne Dudley and Paul Morley centered on the music of the 80’s and the thing we had most come to hear – the world premier of Art of Noise‘s ‘Into Battle’ scored for orchestra! How this last piece was going to work we had no idea but the chance to hear a full orchestra playing ‘Moments In Love’ or ‘Beatbox’ was too good an opportunity to miss.

Andrew Poppy – resplendent with long white hair these days – was first up as the orchestra started with a version of his ’32 Frames for Orchestra’ piece from his ‘The Beating of Wings’ LP on ZTT and it was damned near a perfect reproduction. Next, Poppy – who had been sitting center stage behind the mixing desk for this – then took to the stage and played piano in an incredible composition called ‘Almost The Same Shame’ which was new to me but became one of the highlights of the night.

Next was a John Tavener piece called ‘The Lamb’ which was short but beautiful and then we were into battle. Except it wasn’t exactly ‘Into Battle’, it was more ‘Who’s Afraid’ as the orchestra opened with ‘Bright Noise’ and then segued into ‘A Time For Fear (Who’s Afraid)’ which was more than a pleasant surprise as it opens their debut LP rather than the EP advertised. Pushing through elements of ‘Beatbox’ and ‘Moments In Love’ the medley made you realise that this was a sort of logical conclusion seeing as Art of Noise had originally sampled so many orchestral sounds on their records. The transition to the concert hall environment was almost invisible with the horns, harps and strings of the originals deftly recreated, the only slight failing being the somewhat stilted drum beats. This is something that I find happens a lot when orchestras are trying to approximate contemporary beat-based music, they seem stiff, almost too regimented because you can’t approximate the subtleties of a groove on the written page. Even a drum machine can be made to swing and next to the power of a gated, over compressed Oberheim DMX very few rhythm sections are going to cut it.

‘Rhythm’ was the recurring element of Paul Morley‘s narrative during his and Anne Dudley‘s ode to the 80’s which was a fun hit and miss jaunt through the much derided decade, flitting between classics of the age of opportunism interspersed with a ‘Losing My Edge’-esque stream of conscious from Paul. At one point I expected him to break into the ‘Rhythm is the song’s manacle…’ speech from Grace Jones‘Slave To The Rhythm’ and this was about the only glaring omission in the piece as he proceeded to cram as many people, events, lyrics and memes from the eighties into the ’19 minutes and 80 seconds’ allotted. Sometimes his voice was lost in the sonic landscape but it didn’t matter as your attention was constantly being diverted elsewhere as snatches of recognisable pop hits came into focus.

With Anne Dudley on stage behind the piano, starting out with the intro to ‘Two Tribes’ was a no-brainer but surprises came in the form of John Foxx‘s ‘Underpass’, Soul II Soul‘s ‘Keep On Moving’ and 808 State‘s ‘Pacific State’, beautifully transposed for orchestra. Some were less successful as, again, the drum machine rhythm of ‘Blue Monday’ was a pale imitation and parts of it came off as a little bit ‘mega-mixy’ next to the subtleties of the Art of Noise performance. Morley, his usual playful self during the concert interludes, was obviously nervous during the last performance, his continual agitated movement back and forth from his notes a dead giveaway. But he added the much needed humour and context to the event, without which is may have ended a little po-faced and dry, as in the Art of Noise, his presence actually added another dimension.

But make up your own mind as, if you’re in the UK, you can hear the concert on the BBC iPlayer for the next week. Overall I felt the whole concept and execution was excellent, daring and an unqualified success with everyone playing incredibly. But the night didn’t end there, repairing to the bar we were surprised to see the missing two Art of Noise members, Gary Langan and JJ Jeczalik joining Anne Dudley for a chat and seemingly in good spirits. So all five original members had been in the same building that night? For the first time in how long we wondered? Meeting up with ZTT reissue curator Ian Peel and designer Philip Marshall we decided to follow the pack to a nearby bar where Paul Morley joined the AON table with only Trevor Horn sadly absent (he’d gone for dinner shortly after the concert). There where photos taken with all four in attendance with Morley in high spirits, mugging for the camera much to Dudley’s delight. Meanwhile Philip and Mark were bonding over obscure Pet Shop Boys remixes to the exclusion of all others, and Ian revealed plans for a ZTT release next year which I may have a part to play in the creation of. It was some night, roll on Xmas and 2014 …

Posted in Event, Music. | 1 Comment » |

A Case of mistaken identity with AJ Barratt Pt.1

Below is a post from my ‘other’ blog – – where I post artwork relating to the ZTT label and interview the people who made it.
I arrive early, at a pub just outside Hither Green station in deepest South East London, to meet Tony ‘AJ’ Barratt, renown music magazine photographer and key ingredient in the early days of ZTT image-making. His photos of spanners, statues, masks and landscapes gave an identity to (the) Art of Noise as well as gracing the first release from the label, ‘Into Battle’. He also did many live shots, promo and video stills for Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Andrew Poppy.

It’s Friday evening and the place is filling up, the only photo of Tony I’ve got for reference is 30 years old and he’s told me to look out for ‘a hairless Glenn Gregory, ex of Heaven 17 lookalike’. After about 10 minutes a guy comes in who might fit the bill and I catch his eye, ‘Tony?’, ‘Yes’, he says, shaking my hand but with a very puzzled expression on his face. ‘Tony Barratt?’ I enquire, ‘ah, no, you’ve got the wrong person, he says, ‘but my name IS Tony though’. With perfect timing, the right Tony walks through the door holding a copy of the Ambassadors Theatre program for ‘The Value of Entertainment’.

He does indeed look like Glen Gregory, albeit without hair, and is instantly warm, engaging and candid about his early experiences in the music business. We’re joined by his partner, Jan, and after a couple of pints we repair to his house nearby where I notice the 12″ picture discs for both ‘Relax’ and ‘Two Tribes’ amongst the many pictures hanging on their walls.

FGTH War Hidden 12" Pic Disc AFGTH Relax 12" Pic Disc AHow did you get it touch with ZTT? Presumably you knew Paul from working at the NME or was that later?
No, it’s much more personal than that, I moved down to London with Paul’s sister, Jayne (they were an item). I knew Paul in Stockport, vaguely…
Is that where you’re from?
Yeah, and he bought out a fanzine – ‘Out There’ – sent it down to the NME and they said, ‘you’ve gotta come down and speak to us as soon as you can’. He went down and started off his career, this must have been early eighties so that kind of fits in. I moved down to London with Jayne in ’83 and I was a photography student at Harrow. In my second year there, obviously Paul Morley was (at) the NME and he was doing all this great stuff, (so) I took my stuff to the NME. This was before the Art of Noise or whatever. I was shown the door.
I went to the Melody Maker and started doing work there, concert stuff and photos and things, and then as time went by, Paul suddenly started to get involved with… I’ve no idea how that whole thing came to be – that he met with Trevor Horn, you might know a bit more about it or it might be mythologised by Paul or whatever.

The accepted story is that he interviewed Trevor when he was in the Buggles…
Yeah I remember that.
…he slated them, but when Trevor got the opportunity from Chris Blackwell (head of Island records) to start a label, he remembered Paul and got in touch. That would have been at some point in ’82 or ’83 presumably so you would have done those Art of Noise photos in the summer?
(Laughs) It’s awful to say but I have no memory of when or how, you have to remember that I was coming to the end of my photography course, I don’t think I’d actually left and there was this vague idea of some vague photos that might be needed for this vague idea of a group. And it was never something that was kind of like, ‘here’s a brief, we would like you to go out and do this’. The record label started and there’re all very exciting PAs at the Camden Palace with the Frankies, all sorts of bands were signing and people were interested and it was going to be the artist event of the… which it turned out, in some ways, to actually be.

AJ, PM +friends 1AJ (with cable release), Paul Morley (with phone) and friends circa ’83 – AJ: “I took this from across the room with the cable release, if I remember, Paul was on the phone to Trevor sorting out the ZTT thing.”

But I can’t actually remember. I remember it being a great time, I’d moved down to London, I was on the guest list of these great parties and it was free drinks and I thought, ‘oh my god I can’t believe this’. And then there was this record label and there was the Frankies and this vague idea of this thing called The Art of Noise and it was never like a… Because the members were so busy all the time, it was never like, ‘the group are going on tour now, etc.’ So there was no real sense of urgency.

They weren’t a group in the classic sense were they? They were producers, studio engineers and arrangers, which is commonplace today, but back then… They were ‘the music’ and Paul was ‘the image and the words’ and he knew how to present them.
Yeah, I’m not sure how you’d describe it, and he would chuck things in, he really did chuck things into the mix there, but there was never any sense there of… a plan. I got the impression that the music they made was at the end of a hard day producing whoever the hell it was.

The initial ideas for the Art of Noise apparently came from producing Yes, they stole a drum track which was going to be wiped, which then became the basis for ‘Beatbox’.
Well, if you listen to ‘Owner Of A Lonely Heart’ by Yes, there’s a bit in the middle where it kind of flips up and I remember that being crucial to the Art of Noise. I think that’s when Morley kind of went, ‘that’s what the Art of Noise should be’.

AON Spanner 2

When you took all the images like the hand with the rose and the spanner, that was just you on your own or did Paul come with you, did he give you those props?
My memory of that is that, at that time, I would just go out and take photos. When Paul was talking about the Art of Noise, what kind of came into my head was like Russian Constructivism, FuturismThe Human League did an EP called, ‘The Dignity of Labour’ and I always thought of this idea of labour being a fantastic idea to get into, you know, the ‘strength through joy’ kind of thing.
I know what you mean, like SPK, imagery of spanners and hammers, almost acting out Russian Constructivist posters.
So, I would just go out on a Saturday afternoon, go down to parts of London that I didn’t know and I’d just wander about, climb into things and take photos of things and mess about. Where those photos were taken, where that crane was that I climbed into, the same place as the van (from the ‘Close Up’ sleeve). It has obviously been a scrap metal yard at some point but you can see Tower Bridge in the background and when you think about London 30 years ago, there’s a piece of scrap land that you can see Tower Bridge from, that’s unbelievable.

It’s fascinating for me to see the contacts for the original Art Of Noise spanners etc., just seeing the outtakes or different shots. (AJ had provided me with original contact sheets for some of these shots).AON232 Spanner 1
The spanner photo (above) is my favourite of all time because it’s my arms, I set the shot up and I judged how high up I should put the spanner and I did the cable release with my foot. Strange but true, when I saw it, I just thought, ‘wow’. It’s very rare that, you know yourself as a graphic designer, that you do something and…‘bosh’, it works. I was fairly pissed off when Morley didn’t put it on the cover. The one with the van is at a completely different time when I took my mate Phil down.

AON Close Up 12" front
I’d figured that, I was going to ask, who was that in the mask?
(Laughs) In those shots it’s a friend of mine from college called Phil Priestman, where is he now?
Because you’d assume it was Paul.
Really? Do you think so?
Well, if there’s an image of the group, he was presenting that so you’d assume (that). It doesn’t matter who’s behind it though. Was that the same with the figure on the beach?
No, that was Jayne (laughs)
I’m not sure I want to explode any of these myths (laughs). This is the thing, I’m very aware that by explaining all this stuff it could just sort of pop the bubble. I don’t necessarily want to do that.
Well, I think it’s all well and good actually, the shots on the beach were at a place called Birling Gap, up between Brighton and Newhaven, very nice because of all those rocks and things. Me and Jayne went for a nice day out and…
“Put this cloak and mask on love…’ (laughs)
It was a cape actually, Jayne used to work at the National Theatre as a dresser and she borrowed it (laughs). If memory serves I was given the mask at ZTT and we took it down with us, or Paul dropped it around to where we lived back then. It had never crossed my mind that people would take for granted that that was Morley.
Well, who could it be? No one knew who it was… it was The Art Of Noise in some respects.
(raucous laughter from Tony) Trevor Horn?

AON seaside 1AON208
You would assume he’s the guy in the cloak, you know? ‘Don’t look behind the screen’, kind of thing. So there’s me thinking it’s Paul and it’s actually his sister!
That’s great.
I didn’t know who it was, there’s one on the back of ‘Close Up’ and there’s someone holding the mask and you can see some slicked back hair…
Yeah, that’s Phil Priestman (laughs). Who happened to have the same kind of haircut but that’s really interesting, I’d never thought of that.
In all the Art of Noise sleeves – their greatest visual asset (to my mind) was the masks and they dropped that completely once they’d moved to China records.

AON Close Up 12" back

‘Close Up’ is my favourite Art Of Noise 12″ bar none. For everything about it – the music, the cover, the photos, the colours – that epitomizes them for me.
I’d say you’re right actually.
I would stare at that record, like many other ZTT sleeves, and just try and find clues because that was what ZTT was about, it never gave you the answers it just posed the questions and that was half the fun of it.
Well that was part of Morley’s…mystic.
Because he got so much stick over other things, he hasn’t really gotten the credit for the art direction.
Having known him since… when I first met Paul he had hair parted down to here. Tangerine Dream, Nick Drake, reggae, he loved all that. I have the utmost admiration for him, but having said that, I have watched him chance it and throw it out there so much, actually to the detriment of his health. Like all his heroes, he believed that if he kept that up, he could keep throwing out those great ideas, ‘their fourth number one’, let’s put sperm on the cover, this’ll go. And it got to the point where actually, Jill Sinclair and Trevor were saying, ‘well look, we need to make some money here’.
You can kind of see that in the sleeves and such, that playfulness, ridiculously indulgent whilst the coffers are filling up from Frankie’s success. He had a couple of years of ‘the dream’, the honeymoon period, if you like, and then he was reeled back to reality.
AON240 statue mask

The cemetery pictures for ‘Who’s Afraid of the Art Of Noise’, was that Highgate with all the statues?
I don’t know which one because there are a few, I think the cover is Anton‘s (Corbijn), that’s nothing to do with me. I used to get really pissed off at it actually because I’d be ‘Art of Noise photography: AJ Barratt’ and then there’d be this image that wasn’t mine – Anton Corbijn. Because there was no real brief… there’s a photo of a statue holding up a mask, I can’t remember what it’s on? (Moments In Love 12″ sleeve). That’s in a Paris cemetery, I thought, ‘mask, statue, that’ll do for me’ and off you go. There’s another one in Paris from the same time where there’s a wall and a bit of graffiti and a statue behind, that’s at the Eiffel Tower, it was the same time. But the whole thing with the Art Of Noise was, if you see a little image like that, from my point of view, ‘take it’ and take it to Paul who would say, ‘I like that, we’ll see what we can do with it’. And the next week it’d be on a sleeve and you’d go, ‘er, alright Paul, should I chuck an invoice in?’, ‘yeah’, ‘alright, thanks’.
So, what would happen with this? Would you ever meet the designers or would you give the stuff to Paul and he would sort it?
I didn’t have much contact with designers – I was a photography student at the time. I remember going to a design studio in Soho in, maybe, Carnaby St. and I’d take stuff in and talk to them about it. They were really nice actually.
That would have been XL
It was XL, it wasn’t Tom though (Watkins) because he was the manager. I remember taking some stuff in and them saying, ‘what was the brief with this?’, and I said, ‘hey, this is ZTT, Paul Morley’..., you know? See if you like it and work around that.
He was famous for coming in with little things like beer mats with scribbles on and then working from that.
He directed the ‘Moments In Love’ video and I remember doing the stills on that and getting a picture of JJ (Jeczalik) who had the make up on, holding a rose. And then going round to Paul’s house once when he was sick to get permission to use it and him shouting, ‘AJ, what were you thinking?’.
You did the shot of the three of them and they’re made up as, almost clown / marionettes? It looks like it’s in a hairdressing salon.

Art+of+Noise+ARTOFTUBE2No, no, that’s backstage at The Tube (80’s TV music show) when they were on it, I did take those, yeah. We flew up to Newcastle, it was a horrible flight, bumpy all the way.
I love that photo, that’s the nearest they came (whilst on ZTT) to ‘being the group’, Anne and Gary have face paint and JJ has a mask. It’s interesting that when the Art O Noise signed to China records they made lots of records with guests – Tom Jones, Max Headroom, Duane Eddy – and they needed a front man because Paul had previously provided that.
I think they suffered from that, there was no guiding voice.

Who has these negatives then? ZTT?
Um, you see, when we moved abroad a lot of stuff got destroyed and lost but I would love to say that everything was filed up beautifully from A to B, but it isn’t. But yes, they did go to ZTT and they might well have disappeared.

At this point we have to disappear too so we’ll end part 1 here having sampled AJ’s memories of the Art Of Noise. Part 2 will be along shortly where we conclude with tales of Frankie tours and frustrating videos shoots.

All photos except the backstage of the Tube scanned from AJ’s negatives, © AJ Barratt. All sleeve and picture disc art scanned from my personal collection, © ZTT. All text © ArtOfZTT 2013.

Postscript:Trevor Horn once told me, every studio in the land has a cupboard, where they’ve nicked all his samples” (laughs).

Into Battle with…

Posts are slowly but meticulously being added over at

AJ Barratt: “I remember going into the NME offices one day and I saw this poster on their wall, and someone had added a third line to the bottom of it. ‘Noise Is Golden, Silence is a Dead Giveaway… and Bullshit stinks’, that’s what it was! (Laughs) That’s what somebody had written.”

‘Into Battle’ promo poster from the archive of AJ Barratt, digitally restored by Also included is the original photo for this design, scanned from the negative. The quote above is from a forthcoming interview with AJ which contains more exclusive images from his collection.

artist: Art Of Noise title: Into Battle With Art Of Noise format: A2 promo poster design: XLZTT photography: AJ Barratt cat. no: ZTIS100 date: 09/83 art of notes: The red crosses are identical to the ones on the ‘You Can’t Suck The Same Piece of Sugar…’ poster and continue the trend for ephemeral symbols hovering in the top right corner.

Calendar for 1970/71 and personal 2012 highlights

Fabulous Hallmark calendar from 1970-71, designed by Push Pin Studios and containing 16 months. Seen via the ever-excellent Voices of East Anglia website who, themselves cribbed it from the Flickr of Mewdeep who has the full thing.

2012 was a busy year for me, probably one of the best yet in terms of new things achieved and unique experiences. I’m always striving to do something different and at the end of each year I remember the line from The The‘s ‘I’ve Been Waiting For Tomrrow (All of My Life)’, “another year over and what have I done?”.

Thankfully 2012 has been a golden year in terms of ‘getting things done’:

Finally getting ‘The Search Engine’ out there was a good start as were the Greenwich Planetarium launch shows and exhibition with Henry Flint at the Pure Evil Gallery, all in January.

Featuring on a Cineola podcast, being interviewed by Matt Johnson alongside an exclusive remix of ‘GIANT’.

The Kraftwerk month and mixes I did on my blog going a bit viral in March.

Having The Amorphous Androgynous remix one of my tracks for a release on Record Store Day was a massive thrill. Hearing it played on 6 Music was great too.

Going to Montreal to learn about and present The Search Engine show in their SATosphere was one of the proudest points of my gigging career to date.

Having J.G. Thirlwell pop round for tea and a chat one afternoon.

The Food & Flint exhibition, hosted at the Factory Road Gallery in Hinckley by Sarah & Leigh was amazing fun.

The Sacrum Profanum concert in Krakow I took part in after an invitation from Skalpel was one of the most fantastic concerts I’ve ever seen and gig of the year for 2012.

The Beastie Boys’ ‘Paul’s Boutique’ mix I did with Cheeba and Moneyshot making waves on the web.

Playing a small part in some of ZTT‘s Element reissue series and getting to edit one particular master recording for a future issue.

Providing images, sleeve notes and audio for a reissue compilation of John Rydgren‘s work on the Australian Omni Recording Corporation label.

Instigating and then editing the results of a new meeting of Coldcut and The Orb for the 25 years of Solid Steel mixes in 2013.

With so much out there it was inevitable that some got missed.

Things that came out in 2012 that I still didn’t get to see or hear:

Berberian Sound Studio

Cabin In The Woods

Lone’s – Galaxy Garden album

The Amazing Spiderman

The B.P.R.D. hardback editions

Butcher Baker comic

Can : The Lost Tapes compilation

The last few issues of Godland comic

GOAT’s ‘World Music’ album

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Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Sex Mix vol.1

Very much looking forward to this, available August 6th from ZTT

CD1: Frankie Goes To Hollywood in The Pleasuredome, a Zang Tuum Tumb singlette in five parts: Happy Hi! (All in the Body), The Soundtrack from Bernard Rose’s Video of the Welcome to the Pleasuredome single, Get It On, Welcome to the Pleasure Dome (How to Remake the World), Happy Hi! (All in the Mind); Relax (International); The Power of Love (I’ll Protect You From The Holocaust) can be read in various ways but, for the sake of CD indexing, has six distinct sections: The Power of Love (extended, singlette – as opposed to 12” – version), The World is My Oyster (Trapped), Holier Than Thou (FGTH’s Christmas message), The World is My Oyster (Scrapped), Holier Than Thou (further festive messaging), The Power of Love (instrumental, singlette version); The World is My Oyster (at its full length); Don’t Lose What’s Left, Rage Hard + ++ *.

CD2: Extracts from Relax, From Soft to Hard, Dry to Moist: Relax (Sex Mix), Later On (from One September Monday), Ferry Cross The Mersey (…and here I’ll stay); Music from and inspired by Two Tribes (Keep The Peace): Two Tribes (singlette extracts), One February Friday (singlette extracts), War (somewhere between Hidden and Hiding); Further elements from The Liverpool Look: Warriors of the Wasteland (Compacted), Do You Think I’m Sexy?, Watching the Wildlife (Voiceless).

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Spotted in Kid Koala’s studio

I visited Eric San yesterday (aka Kid Koala) and got co-opted into drawing a piece of artwork for his new album (I didn’t mind a bit). While I was there I took these shots around his ridiculously packed studio.

Eric loves anything odd or kooky that makes a noise, he owns a cutting lathe to cut his own tour records, a vintage rhythm machine that plays drum beats on 8-track cartridges and a customised jukebox that plays cassettes!