FORMERLY REMEMBER THE EIGHTIES.COM
OMD (PAUL HUMPHREYS) INTERVIEW [2010]

I DON'T THINK I'VE EVER INTERVIEWED SOMEONE ON THE DAY OF RELEASE OF THEIR NEW ALBUM BEFORE...

I know, it's funny; we seem to have a day off on the day of release. I think it's probably because we've done all the work beforehand really.

HOW DOES IT FEEL? WHAT SORT OF A DAY IS IT FOR YOU, THE DAY OF RELEASE?

Well it's a sort of day of apprehension really. But you know, the thing is that Andy and I have kind of gone back to the original reason why we made records, which was that just do it for ourselves you know? So every sale is a bonus really. So it's not like we had to get back together and tour and release records for the money. We're just doing it for the fun of it really, which is very liberating.

HAS THERE BEEN A LOT OF PRESSURE ON YOU? YOU SORT OF EASED YOUR WAY BACK IN WITH THE LIVE STUFF BUT HAVE YOU FELT PRESSURED TO MAKE NEW MUSIC?

Well there was a certain amount of pressure which we kind of put on ourselves really. I mean when we decided to get back together in – well we decided in 2005 and finally got out on stage in 2007 – we just thought we'd take baby steps with the band and see what would happen.

I mean we didn't know if there would be any real interest in the band to be honest, so we thought 'Yes we'll just book nine shows.' I mean we thought that the venues were a bit too big really seeing as we hadn't toured for 15 years. But you know they sold out really quickly and those nine dates turned into more, and then we decided to do another tour and went out with Simple Minds and we've just been taking more and more steps. But we thought, we realised early on, that we could only do that for a while, we didn't want to be seen as this sort of retro band trading on our former glories.

Most importantly I think, we didn't want to also make an album if we didn't have anything left to say in the voice of OMD, but we kind of realised that we did, although we kind of kept it quiet at the beginning that we were making a record, to see what we'd kind of come up with really...

WAS THERE KIND OF A PIVOTAL MOMENT AT WHICH YOU REALISED THAT THERE WAS AN ALBUM PROJECT IN YOU? DID SOMETHING HAPPEN THAT MADE YOU THINK 'YES WE CAN DO THIS'?

Well I think so. I think – I mean the thing with Andy and I was that we never stopped writing, we just stopped writing together. So it wasn't like we had to sort of restart the band and go 'So, how do we write songs again?'. It was kind of interesting and fun to get back in the studio, and to bring with us all our recent baggage from all our other projects and our new experiences. And because we were making 'modern' records we've kind of brought all that with us you know? All that experience that we didn't use to have.

So we thought it would be interesting to see how it would change if we got back together to write again. Really we went back to our roots in a way. We talked for ages about how should OMD sound in 2010 and in the end I think we decided that the best sound, the best voice of OMD, was the first four albums. I think we – for various reasons - kind of lost the plot along the way and went down lots of different cul-de-sacs after that. I mean I think we still made some good records but our records became patchy after 'Dazzle Ships'. So we thought we should go back to the sounds of the first four albums really and – but try to do it in 2010 with all our new technology and new experiences.

AND YOU ACTUALLY TOOK BITS AND PIECES FROM OLD RECORDINGS DIDN'T YOU? THERE ARE THINGS SORT OF CROPPING UP ON THE ALBUM FROM THE PAST, ALTHOUGH IN NEW WAYS, AS I UNDERSTAND IT?

Yes, Andy and I have always been very sort of green with our material. If it's a good idea we'll always recycle it at some point! We always sort of catalogued everything but the reason why they were never finished was that we didn't have that final spark or that final idea that made it work, but we've always catalogued good ideas. I would say there are probably three tracks on the new album that are from various periods in the past. I mean the oldest is 'Sister Marie Says' which was an idea in 1981 which I didn't want to use because I thought it was far too close to 'Enola Gay', it's kind of like the sort of lost brother of 'Enola Gay'!

'Green' was an idea that Andy had in the early 90s I think, but he couldn't ever get it to work and so I took that vocal - which was recorded 20 years ago or whenever - and I just kind of took it and I sort of erased everything apart from the vocals and did a new backing track for it. So that's been recycled as well. Everything else has pretty much been done in the last couple of years.

DID YOU START OFF WITH THOSE BITS AND PIECES, THE OLD THINGS; WAS THAT LIKE AN EASY WAY TO START WORKING TOGETHER AGAIN?

Yes, we started off with those but we also were generating new ideas. Very early on we started generating new ideas but we've got a geographical problem in the sense that I live in London and he's in Liverpool so we thought we'd be very modern and send huge Pro-Tools files to each other filled with ideas for each to kind of work on and then send back. But we found that to be really slow. It wasn't in the spirit of how we used to write really. So I started going up to Liverpool and spending a week there, and coming home with stuff and working that way. And it tended to work better because we'd sit in a room and we'd feed off each other. You'd go 'I've got an idea there' which led to 'Oh that makes me have this idea' which you can't do over the internet.

A FEW WEEKS AGO I INTERVIEWED CLAUDIA (BRÜCKEN) AND SHE WAS SAYING ONE OF THE REMARKABLE THINGS ABOUT OMD FROM HER POINT OF VIEW WAS THE WAY YOU GUYS COULD ALL JUST COME TOGETHER, AND IT WOULD ALMOST BE LIKE YOU'D JUST PICK UP FROM THE MOMENT YOU'D LAST LEFT EACH OTHER. LIKE A MACHINE, IT JUST SORT OF SWITCHES BACK ON AGAIN.

Well it really was a bit like that. I mean we had to sort of brush the rust off a little bit but once we got that off it was like we hadn't stopped really because – and I think that's certainly true in the sort of live performance thing – it was like we did so many gigs together over a 12 year period that it's kind of a bit like riding a bike. You wobble a bit because you haven't been on it for a while and then all of a sudden you've not forgotten at all.

TO MY EARS 'HISTORY OF MODERN' IS A VERY DIVERSE ALBUM, WITH LOTS OF DIFFERENT SOUNDS AND LOTS OF DIFFERENT THINGS INTEGRATED INTO IT BUT IT'S ALSO A VERY HOMOGENOUS ALBUM. IS THAT A FAIR READING FROM YOUR POINT OF VIEW?

Yes. But we're so close to it now that it's really tough to analyse. You can ask me again in two years' time. But I do think it is – I mean stylistically it jumps around a little bit and we're kind of referencing a lot of OMD but some of it is from different periods of OMD but we tried to do it not in a sort of derivative way. We tried to do it just in the sound of OMD. You see the thing is that when we discussed how we should sound, we found that at the moment it's really cool to sound like OMD, and all these young bands are citing us as an influence so we thought if anyone has a licence to sound like OMD it's OMD!

I HAVE TO SAY WHEN I FIRST LISTENED TO 'HISTORY OF MODERN' IT WASN'T THE ALBUM I WAS EXPECTING IT TO BE. AND I DON'T MEAN THAT TO BE A CRITICISM IN ANY WAY. IT JUST WASN'T QUITE AS OMD AS I EXPECTED. BUT THERE'S ENOUGH OF IN THERE TO SORT OF TAKE ME INTO THE NEW BITS IF YOU SEE WHAT I MEAN?

Yes. I mean Andy and I, we're in a way re-learning how to be in OMD again, how to work together and I think we're already thinking about the next one. We've even got the title for the next album...

AND YOU'RE NOT GOING TO TELL ME ARE YOU?

I'm not going to tell you! Not yet...

FAIR ENOUGH. SO NOW YOU'RE BACK IN THE RECORDING PROCESS, RATHER THAN JUST SORT OF DOING THE LIVE SIDE OF THINGS, HOW HAS IT BEEN FOR YOU? COMING BACK TO THE WHOLE PROMOTIONAL PROCESS AND THE LAUNCHES AND ALL THE BUSINESS THINGS? IS THAT NICE FOR YOU?

In one sense it's fun and in one sense it's exhausting. I'd forgotten how exhausting it is because I've not done it for so long. It was a lot easier in my 20s to do this kind of schedule. Now I've hit 50 it's like 'Oh my God, where are we going now? Can't I have a little nap?'!

OBVIOUSLY TOURING THE OLDER MATERIAL IS SOMETHING THAT OMD HAVE BEEN DOING QUITE A LOT OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS. IS IT GOING TO BE NICE TO TAKE SOME NEW SONGS ON THE ROAD AT LAST?

It'll be nice and it'll be fun for us. I mean we're not going to go onstage and play the whole album because I don't think our fans would really like that. You have to strike a balance. Because I mean we're fortunate that we have had many hit singles, and people want to hear those hits, there's no doubt about it. I'd say sort of 90% of the audience that come to us would be devastated if we didn't play our hits so we have to do that. So we're thinking of maybe playing five, perhaps six, from the new album. We'll play a few odd things to keep the diehard fans happy – we're going to play a song from our first album that we've not played in 30 years - and mix in some of the new tracks from the new album. So it will be a cross-section of things.

AND WILL THE SET CHANGE THROUGH THE TOUR AT ALL, TO KEEP IT INTERESTING FOR YOU?

We'll probably vary it. I mean we usually vary it when we go through Europe because different songs were hits in different territories so we'll sort of vary the set to accommodate what we know were hits in those territories. And when we go to America we change it completely because a lot of our hits in America weren't hits in Europe.

YES IT MUST BE VERY ODD BEING IN OMD IN LOTS OF WAYS. IT'S LIKE YOU'RE FUNDAMENTALLY – AND I HOPE THIS SOUNDS AS FLATTERING AS IT'S INTENDED TO BE – YOU'RE FUNDAMENTALLY A VERY COOL BAND...

Really? Well, great!

...BUT YOU'VE ALSO HAD THIS PHENOMENAL POP SUCCESS. YOU SORT OF HAVE THIS PRESENCE IN DIFFERENT CAMPS. AND THEN THAT SORT OF SUBDIVIDES EVEN FURTHER WITH THE SORT OF ALMOST ALTERNATE CAREERS YOU'VE HAD ON EITHER SIDE OF THE ATLANTIC.

Yes I know it's kind of funny really. We've had a kind of a strange career but I wouldn't change any of it for a minute really. There have always been two sides of OMD. There's always been the pop side which has brought us all the commercial success, but there's always been the other side of OMD which is the more experimental, mad side of OMD. If I perhaps have one criticism of this album there isn't quite enough of that on it but I think we're going to address that in the next one!

WHAT'S SORT OF THE STATUS OF THE BAND? ARE YOU BACK FOR GOOD NOW OR ARE YOU STILL TAKING THOSE BABY STEPS YOU MENTIONED EARLIER? YOU'VE OBVIOUSLY BEEN TALKING ABOUT A NEW RECORD AFTER THE CURRENT RECORD SO FEELS A LOT LIKE YOU'RE BACK BUT IS THERE A SORT OF CAREER PATH - IF THAT'S THE RIGHT WORD - OR IS IT JUST UNTIL IT STOPS FEELING GOOD?

Well what Andy and I have decided to do – with Martin as well – is that we thought we'd continue doing OMD for as long as it's fun. As soon as it ceases to be fun then we'll stop again. At the moment we're having lots of fun, and we're planning things for the next couple of years and that's as far as we're going to go really for the time being.

We're going to make one more record. Whether that will be our last I don't know, but we're definitely going to make one more record and tour various other places that we haven't toured since we got back together. I mean we've not been back to America so we've got a big American tour planned in March of next year and we're going to try to play some festivals this time because we haven't played many festivals, so next summer I hope we'll be on the festival circuits, I mean we've never played Glastonbury so I would just love to do that. Also we're hopefully playing a big festival, probably the biggest festival in America, which is the Coachella Festival…

YOU MENTIONED THE NEW WAVE OF ELECTRONIC ACTS THAT ARE COMING THROUGH AT THE MOMENT, DO YOU NOW CONSIDER THEM YOUR PEERS OR DO THEY NEED ANOTHER TWENTY YEARS BEFORE THEY'LL FEEL LIKE THAT?

That's an interesting question. Yes I mean we're sort of... we're in the mix now with a lot of new bands who are doing electro. We feel a bit like the grandfathers of it all!

GODFATHERS MIGHT BE A BETTER WORD!

Yes that is a better word! But it's great in a way that electro is back in vogue again. I mean when we hit the 90s it was there was nothing more out of fashion than being in an electro band. I mean that's one of the reasons Andy stopped because he was banging his head against the wall really.

But there's some great new bands around but with the new bands I think they divide into two camps. There's bands like The Mirrors and several others – Robyn as well, she's great – they're taking electronic music but making it their own and doing new things with it, but there's also another camp of people who are going 'Let's just take that sort of early 80s – late 70s, early 80s electro sound.' And they're buying up all the synths on eBay and getting really nerdy about the sounds but they're not… they haven't really got anything to say… if that happened to us then we'd stop immediately but it hasn't, and I don't think it's going to any time soon!

SEPTEMBER 2010

© RememberTheEighties.com / ThisIsNotRetro.com – Not to be reproduced in any form without written permission. Link to the site but please don't steal our content – thank you for your understanding and support!

WOULD YOU LIKE TO COMMENT?

You will need to log-in (on the right hand side of the page) to post a comment.

© 2002 - 2017. THIS IS NOT RETRO / REMEMBER THE EIGHTIES. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.