FORMERLY REMEMBER THE EIGHTIES.COM
RUSTY EGAN (VISAGE) INTERVIEW [2010]

ALTHOUGH YOU WERE A DRUMMER WITH RICH KIDS FIRST, YOU'RE PROBABLY BETTER KNOWN NOW AS A DJ, IN FACT YOU'RE PROBABLY ONE OF THE FIRST PEOPLE TO BECOME REALLY WELL KNOWN AS A CLUB DJ… WHERE DOES YOUR HEART LIE? DJ OR MUSICIAN, OR DO THEY BOTH COME FROM THE SAME PLACE?

Playing drums was my born gift and my parents, brothers and sisters all had some talent for music. I played from the age of fourteen and my first kit was a Christmas present from my brother.

YOU FOUNDED A LOAD OF VERY INFLUENTIAL CLUBS - BLITZ, HELL, CLUB FOR HEROES ETC - IN THE LATE SEVENTIES AND EARLY EIGHTIES THAT WERE AT THE HEART OF WHAT BECAME KNOWN AS THE NEW ROMANTIC SCENE, AND YOU FOUNDED VISAGE WHO BECAME PERHAPS THE ULTIMATE NEW ROMANTIC BAND… DID YOU ALWAYS INTEND TO FORM THE BAND OR DID THE CLUBS GIVE YOU THAT INSPIRATION AND OPPORTUNITY?

I always knew that Midge Ure, Billy Currie, John McGeoch, Barry Adamson and Dave Formula were amazing talents, and that one day everyone else would know it too. I also thought Steve Strange was a kind of Pied Piper front man, not really a great singer but that was not as important as his presence. I knew the music I loved was better than any crap I was being sold on the radio or by record labels, so I put it all together using my street savvy. People thought I was a bit of an East End kid, but they will all tell you that I inspired them all, told them that they were talented and that they should not give up, that this music would be successful. I went to Berlin to tell Kraftwerk them same, I went to Zurich to tell Yello the same, I told Soft Cell, Spandau Ballet, Depeche Mode… everyone needed to be told as the entire music business is always a couple of steps behind what's really happening on the street, look at the UK urban scene, all the acts are now being given a chance. It's not my musical choice but Dizzee Rascal, Professor Green, Plan B, so many are breaking out. The talent was here all the time, but we were being sold some other shit...

HOW DID VISAGE WORK AS A BAND? WERE THERE SET ROLES OR DID EVERYONE KIND OF CHIP IN WITH DIFFERENT BITS?

We set up as a band and jammed, and then we added lyrics, but I would direct in a fan type way, you know? We would just create loops and atmosphere then Barry Adamson and I would play the rhythms. I had some lyrics I wrote in Berlin by the wall, that become 'Blocks On Blocks', or I had an idea for some intense introduction music for our future live gigs, 'The Steps', and the band would just do it... amazing really! Then we would record it on tape and go home. Once we had an idea we would start to get it down at Martin Rushent's studio. He was a man who believed in Visage way way before anyone else. We would record with a sync code to run the sequences or the Drum click track and at that time Martin was unaware of the synth and recording styles we were using but he came into the studio and picked it up in a week! He was building Genetic Studios using his Buzzcocks and Stranglers royalties, but he knew what he wanted. His next production was 'Dare' for the Human League... I wish he had been able to finance the Visage Album, we would have created so much more great music...

I imposed the rule that you have to be able to dance to it, it's either ambient or you can dance to it. It was amazing how fast the tracks were in the late 70s, disco was 'pea soup' - that's a Hi-Hat that is hit on the 4/4 or 2/4 beat, add a bass drum and it's 'pea soup, pea soup, pea soup, pea soup'! Add the bass drum, and then the snare and my girlfriend's voice and you have 'Fade To Grey'. I proposed that all the music, arrangements and production would be by Visage. Everyone agreed.

Midge is an amazing talent, and took the project on with gusto, he was so good I convinced Billy that he would be perfect to replace the sombre and serious John Foxx. After months of deliberation, working with Midge, and hanging out at The Blitz, Ultravox reformed and headed off to LA with me as their pimp. 'Hi Valley Girls ,yes we are a band from London, England'… happy days!

WHAT SORT OF RELATIONSHIP DO YOU HAVE WITH THE VISAGE GUYS THESE DAYS? STEVE STRANGE ESPECIALLY AS HE AND YOU WERE SUCH A TEAM, BUT ALSO WITH MIDGE URE, BILLY CURRIE AND THE OTHERS…

Midge has a craft and it has served him well, he works hard and is a family man. He has been an amazing father, husband and breadwinner - doing some crap stuff, you know, or some charity bash - but with the belief that he just has to get on with it. He does it all, and he does it with a smile. But the return of Ultravox, that has surprised everyone... They like each-other. HA HA HA, excuse the pun!

Steve is active in promoting Steve Strange and runs around clubs and parties and TV shows and that is better than sitting at home, but I think he should be doing something more substantial. I would be happy to put a band around him, put the songs and graphics together and write and record new music. I am a family man and I DJ a lot so I don't have the time I had to see Steve or be in his life. But he has some good people around him now, especially in his club, and it shows potential.

If Steve and I were to try to work together I would love for Midge and Billy to write the music, but they're too busy with Ultravox at the moment as that really that is number one for them for them. I agree with that, but it would be nice! Barry Adamson and Dave Formula recently reformed Magazine with Howard Devoto, but unfortunately without the amazing John McGeoch on guitar, R.I.P. what a sound... I know Steve just needs to believe that he was a very, very important part in building the soundtrack of the 80s and that a lot of people would like to see him at his best. With me he could be his best, and with musicians of this calibre - I would love to work with Mick MacNeil from Simple Minds or Karl Bartos from Kraftwerk that would be great - and if Midge and Billy gave me some melodies from their archive then we could build the music from them.... who knows we could make an amazing record together I love Hurts, La Roux, Villa Nah and I am sure they all know Visage, Ultravox and Gary Numan. You can hear it in the music!

LOOKING AT THE PLAYLISTS OF MUSIC YOU USED TO PLAY BACK THEN IT SEEMS LIKE VISAGE WAS A MELTING POT OF ALL OF THEM; SOME CHIC, SOME KRAFTWERK, SOME BOWIE AND ROXY MUSIC, A BIT OF EVERYTHING ALL WRAPPED UP IN THIS VERY STYLISH, GLAMOROUS EUROPEAN STYLE PACKAGE… WAS THAT INTENTIONAL? WERE YOU DELIBERATELY CREATING MUSIC FOR THE SCENE?

Obviously this was the best playlist you could hear in London for the first 5 years, 1979 to 1984 up to the playground. By '86 I was done and had moved on to working for U2, the band I believed would be the biggest in the world, them and Simple Minds. They both were so nice to me, more so than Soft Cell or Depeche Mode or even Duran Duran, they were all nice to me. But U2, they were - and still are - the best band in the world. They know how to treat people... they gave me hope for the cut-throat music business I am happy is gone and old bastards are no longer robbing young talent.

FAMOUSLY DAVID BOWIE VISITED BLITZ AND USED SOME OF THE CLUBBERS AS EXTRAS IN HIS 'ASHES TO ASHES', AND THEN HE RELEASED 'SCARY MONSTERS' JUST BEFORE YOU RELEASED THE FIRST VISAGE ALBUM. 'SCARY MONSTERS' SEEMED TO HAVE PICKED UP A LOT OF THE SPIRIT, IMAGERY AND INFLUENCES OF THE NEW ROMANTICS… DID IT FEEL TO YOU LIKE HE'D COME IN AND TAKEN SOMETHING AWAY FROM YOU AT ALL?

What! Vice Versa! He was the inspiration and it was his right to do that, he is and has always been the god. Bowie's a Bromley Boy who went on to be Aladdin Sane, and Ziggy Stardust and back to David Jones from Bromley... no way. It was his right!

IT SEEMS TO ME LIKE THE EARLY 80S WAVE OF BANDS LIKE VISAGE, DEPECHE MODE, DURAN DURAN, HUMAN LEAGUE AND SO ON DON'T GET ENOUGH RECOGNITION FOR THE WAY THEY SHAPED MUSIC, EVEN THOUGH THOSE BANDS ALL MADE RECORDS THAT ARE STILL PLAYED AND PLAYED AND PLAYED TODAY. IT'S LIKE THE 80S ARE JUDGED AS THIS TERRIBLE TIME THAT ONLY DESERVES TO BE LOOKED BACK ON AND LAUGHED AT. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT?

No-one ever gets recognition, and why? No-one really wants to say what I just said about Bowie. Why would George Michael tell you he was a nobody from Bushey who listened to soul music in his bedroom and wanted to be a star? He wrote 'Careless Whisper' at 16 years old, he was a star! Same with Boy George, but who gave them the first break? Who believed in them? No-one. It's a sad time, Madonna had to shag the DJ, leave her mum's and go to New York and shag the DJ to try to get a studio. Does anyone know I mixed her first single 'Everybody' for the UK and brought her to Camden Palace? No-one cares. Madonna does not give a fuck, I never had another word from her, as a matter of fact I think she hated my mix and never wanted to see me again but I must have opened about 25 people's doors for her…

YOU'VE JUST SET UP YOUR OWN LABEL, BLITZ CLUB RECORDS, WHAT MADE YOU DO THAT NOW? HAVE YOU ALWAYS HAD AMBITIONS TO HAVE YOUR OWN LABEL?

No, I just wanted to release 'R.E.R.B' and I wanted to do it right without interference. It's perfect. The label has found some old classics from The Blitz playlist… I wanted to do Blitz Club and Club For Heroes compilations, but the majors only want to release rubbish hits from the 80s. I want to release the misses from the 80s, the tracks that made the sound. Can you believe that they let La Roux compile an 80s album but not me? I have the album and I love La Roux but I just think it shows you the head-space, let's get her, not that DJ from the 80s, no, no one will want that shit...

THE FIRST RELEASE IS 'RERB' AN OLD COLLABORATION FROM, I THINK, 1980, WITH RICHARD JAMES BURGESS… I BELIEVE IT WAS ORIGINALLY RELEASED AS A B-SIDE TO A SINGLE FROM SHOCK, AND IT'S FANTASTIC… I CAN'T BELIEVE IT WAS ONLY EVER USED AS A B-SIDE UNTIL NOW. HOW DID THAT COLLABORATION COME ABOUT ORIGINALLY?

Richard was a friend since I was fourteen and an amazing drummer, I used to watch him play. Richard was a session drummer when Mark Wallis got me a tea boy job at DJM Studios and I used to watch him doing 'pea-soup'! Mark Wallis went on to be a big name producer and was dating my sister Tina at the time. Tina was a powerful rock singer and the opposite to me in musical taste, she loved to rock and was well known on the rock circuit. She died over 10 years ago but her friends are amazing and have kept memories and her music alive online.

Anyway I inspired him to drop jazz and to get into electronics and he then went for it big time. He did all the links to the Visage album at his studio then we took it back to Martin and linked the tracks. We also talked about new equipment, drum sounds etc and I talked Spandau in to working with him, that was a break for him as a producer and he then went on to produce 'Trapped' by Colonel Abrams, and Landscape... Shock was the perfect project for us both as they were dancers and singers, we could just do the music!

THE SINGLE INCLUDES TWO VERSIONS, THE ORIGINAL VERSION FROM 1980 AND A BRAND NEW EXTENDED VERSION… THE ORIGINAL VERSIONS STILL SOUNDS VERY FRESH AND RELEVANT TODAY, WAS IT TRICKY GOING BACK TO IT AND UPDATING IT?

It was tricky as all, or most of, the masters are lost so we had to rebuild the sounds, and all the equipment is also obsolete so we had to sample it but it's true to the original and I love it. I would love a vocal on it now, someone like Robyn, she's great, she's like Gina X...

YOU ALSO REMIXED 'FADE TO GREY' FOR THE LAST VISAGE COMPILATION, AS WELL AS DOING REMIXES FOR MOBY AND A COUPLE OF OTHER PEOPLE… I'M SURPRISED YOU DON'T SEEM TO HAVE DONE MORE REMIX WORK (UNLESS I'M MISSING SOMETHING), IS THAT SOMETHING YOU'D LIKE TO DO MORE OF?

Filthy Dukes' 'Messages', that's a brilliant mix, and Boy Crisis' 'Dress to Digress', I would like to do more but I don't have an agent or even try to get the work, I just get offered them every now and then...

YOU'RE RELEASING ON 12" VINYL AND VIA DOWNLOAD, NO CD FORMAT, IS THAT THE WAY IT'S GOING TO BE? THE CLASSIC OLD-SCHOOL FORMAT AND THE CURRENT TECHNOLOGICAL FORMAT?

Well CDs are burnt from MP3 now, so if someone buys a download they can burn it onto CD and play out if they are not a digital DJ, and if they want it at home it's the same thing, just copy your downloads to CD.

WHAT PLANS DO YOU HAVE FOR THE LABEL? WILL THERE BE MORE LOST GEMS LIKE 'RERB' OR WILL YOU BE LOOKING TO RELEASE NEW MATERIAL THROUGH IT TOO?

'Thrash' by Cowboys International maybe, and 'Today', both released on Virgin in 1979. Ken Lockie lives in America but we stayed in touch, he is a great talent. Maybe we will get that out...

WHAT SORT OF THINGS DO YOU LISTEN TO TODAY? I KNOW YOU STILL PLAY LOTS OF THE OLD FAVOURITES FROM THE 80S WHEN YOU DJ, BUT DO YOU KEEP UP WITH WHAT IS HAPPENING ELSEWHERE?

Villa Nah are great, Mark Jones at Wall of Sound is right up to date, I like Hurts, La Roux, Digitalism, Leftfield… I play out a lot and I love electro, but I also play every style. I love great dance records as a DJ and I love great music like Florence and the Machine, she is amazing, and some new bands are showing promise... like Fenech-Soler…

WHAT'S NEXT FOR YOU? ANY INTERESTING PLANS OR AMBITIONS?

Well I would love to DJ an electro set, 4/4 banging in the house clubs as house music has after 20 odd years become one hit in 100; you wait for a great track but you have to listen to 10 rubbish tracks before you hear something great like Kyau & Albert's 'I Love You'. There is still amazing music out there and I still put it together for a great night!

NOVEMBER 2010

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