It is… we’ve had the idea for enough time now, and we’ve done some work on it already so some of the strangeness has worn off. We’re accustomed to it now and the band has been rehearsing on and off for the last eight months… yes, the first time all four of us got into a room together for the first time in eighteen years and actually played some of the old songs, that WAS quite strange! There has been a lot of deja vu and there’s been an enormous amount of – and this is hilarious – sitting in the rehearsal room and going ‘So what is the next chord? Stick the CD on will you!’… Listening to our own records to work out how to play them again!
The circumstances surrounding the re-release of the digitally remastered ‘Architecture & Morality’ and the DVD are slightly odd…. you have been approached by Virgin who want to promote this product but we had already approached Virgin to release some product to try and support what we were doing which is a much bigger picture.
We wanted to reform and tour again and it was the twenty-fifth anniversary of ‘Architecture & Morality’ which we thought was useful… it was a good anniversary and the Virgin catalogue department are always pestering us to reissue more catalogue, and we know that ‘Architecture & Morality’ is perceived as being our ‘seminal’ album so we thought that with everything we wanted to do – a reunion, touring, new material – we’d put a toe back into the water and remind people of… I suppose of our credibility, of where we came from as an experimental band who just happened to write hit singles that sold several million copies!
‘Architecture & Morality’ was the perfect way to do this because there’s nine tracks on there; three of them were multi-million selling hit singles, three of them are nice but fairly conventional electro-rock songs, and three of them are completely fucking weird and abstract wild stuff, so it represents the complete spread of what we were all about; from the experimental to the catchy pop songs.
Doing ‘Architecture & Morality’ is for us a way of introducing ourselves back to the public who may have forgotten us, the public who need to be reminded and the public who didn’t even know us in the first place… and it’s been great fun so far!
And that’s without breaking America! The album did bugger all in America… the problem we had in the early days with America was all down to record company politics, we weren’t signed to a label that wanted to do anything with us, so it took us until 1984 until we started having hits in America.
We didn’t feel it or sense it. We’d been amazed at what had happened to us in the previous few years, we had gone from being a pair of kids in a fairly remote suburb of Liverpool who’d got into German music like Kraftwerk, La Dusseldorf and people like that and we perceived ourselves as being very experimental. We’d finally managed to get up on stage and one thing led to another and we ended up getting a contract with Factory and then releasing records and actually having hits…
By the time we got to 1981 we just couldn’t believe our good fortune, we just sensed that somehow – unconsciously – we were on a roll, we had a Midas touch going… so we proceeded to do exactly what we had done with the previous two albums which was exactly what we bloody well felt like doing, with this blind assumption that people would buy it as they had the previous ones!
It was a lovely position to be in, the first album was very much garage-synth-punk – the sort of thing we’d been writing since we were sixteen, recorded in a studio that we built in two weeks with a bunch of equipment which was pretty much all crappy cheap, second-hand or both – the second one we went a bit more gothic and had an actual budget and the third one… we just decided to go off and do whatever we were interested in which at that time was military tattoo drumming and religious choral sounds! We just threw it all together and that was ‘Architecture & Morality’…
Paul and I had started to play electronic music from around 1975 onwards, so not only had we not been influenced by punk but we were quite disappointed when what we perceived as a bunch of johnny-come-lately southern softies started being very obviously influenced by the same things we’d been listening to but were dressing up in all these poncey clothes!
We were very serious po-faced northern boys who took what we were doing musically as terribly serious, we were very precious… we were really bloody painful actually, well I was anyway! So the Blitz and the New Romantics was complete anathema to us, just people in poncey clothes just watering down all the good work that had been done prior to them arriving on the scene.
Having said that, we did like the new freedom that you referred to… the one thing the punk clubs did do was that for a few precious years there they decentralised the music industry and A&R men from London HAD to go and leave the capital to try to find the next new thing for a couple of years. It is no coincidence that most of the bands of my era that were really successful come from the provinces, from Simple Minds to Human League to Joy Division to UB40 to U2, all from cities outside London.
We just wanted to do what we felt like doing, we were just kind of doing it as a hobby, we never thought we were going to get careers out of it but we had a place to play, the local punk club or whatever, and we just got on and did it!
Well… how long do you think the gigs are going to be if we just did that!
Effectively I think what you’ll see is all nine tracks from ‘Architecture & Morality’ but not in the order in which they appear on the LP, and then those followed by about eleven hit singles… I think that if people are prepared to sit through eleven minutes of the title track of ‘Architecture & Morality’ followed by ‘Georgia’ then I think they deserve some hit singles!
To being with at least you have got to come back with your best shot and we have a large catalogue of hit singles and so let’s give the people what they want…
That’s right, I retired… Paul, Malcolm and Martin stopped being OMD at the end of the eighties, in fact OMD stopped at the end of the eighties and then about six months later I was persuaded to do it again and then I stopped again at the end of ’96 and went off to do a whole bunch of other things. Then about two years ago, for various reasons, we got back in contact with each other and did a TV show in Germany and thought ‘shall we do this again?’…
At the end of ’96 it was the height of Brit-Pop and there was nothing perceived as being more out of date than eighties synth bands and I was banging my head against a brick wall – which was frustrating because I had written some very good songs for an album called ‘Universal’ including a song called ‘Waling On The Milky Way’ which I felt was as good as anything I had ever written and it only got to number seventeen because no-one would play it on the radio and Woolworths wouldn’t stock it. I just felt that I was fighting with my arms tied behind my back really and instead I went on to do all sorts of even more ridiculous things instead, which I was doing until very recently when I decided that I’d had anough of doing those other things and I’d do OMD again!
The complete and honest truth is that it is all the fault of Karl Bartos from Kraftwerk – he invented Atomic Kitten… and that’s the truth!
I was talking to Karl and I was telling him that I was jacking it all in, that I felt I was wasting my time and was getting nowhere, and he said my songs were great – and I’m conceited enough to think my songs are great – the message was right but the messenger is just not being received… and Karl said ‘if you want to write songs then don’t just give them to your publisher and keep your fingers crossed that they’ll get used because you’ll just be at the mercy of the publishers, what you should do is create a vehicle for your songs’.
And I thought about that, and I’d mellowed with age to the extent that I didn’t hate manufactured pop any more, as long as it was good… and I looked at it and I realised that The Supremes were manufactured and The Monkees were manufactured and even Bananarama were kind of manufactured and I quite liked all of them. I decided I wanted to work with girls because we’d already seen the Take That’s and the boy-bands and I didn’t want to do that, and no-one would take a rock band seriously if someone else wrote for them so it had to be a pop group!
In my mind three was the magic number because Bananarama, The Supremes, The Ronettes… all the best girl groups had three members. So I created Atomic Kitten and I have to say that personally I am extraordinarily proud of the first album that I did for Atomic Kitten. I’m sure it’s not in your collection but it’s a great, great collection of pop songs; both disposable junk culture pop songs and beautiful, well-crafted great pop songs and a couple of real heart tearing, proper ballads… I mean no boy band would ever have been given a song like ‘Whole Again’… it sounds conceited but ‘Whole Again’ is a real song.
Well…. unfortunately we ‘went our separate ways’ and for legal reasons I can’t discuss it, but I was very unhappy about it.
But because I didn’t work with them after the first album I cannot be held guilty for the pastiche of themselves which they then became!
I wouldn’t have even thought of the songs for OMD and that was the fun of it… I spent three years doing the last OMD album, the ‘Universal’ album – and most of those three years was me sighing and asking myself what I should sound like – and then it came out and didn’t go down very well or sell very well…
When it came to writing for Atomic Kitten it was just fun; a bit of this, a Q-Tips sample, just mixing it all up… it was just absolute fun and for me the great thing was that it took this old dog and taught him a load of new tricks, so it was a really constructive experience really! It was a really fun couple of years and I adored the girls, and a couple of them were just absolutely wonderful and we stay in touch. It ended up sad and disappointing legally but it was very exciting.
I was involved… essentially, on the cover of the CD there’s the original album here and then a line and all the other stuff is down here, so visually you can make that distinction… but I was involved and we have a pretty active official OMD website and we had a very busy forum for several months with people talking about what we could put on the album as bonus material… basically fans who are very excited about the opportunity to get digital recordings on CD of things that have previously only been available on b-sides and 12″ singles and limited editions and freebies and suchlike, so we basically took all of these tracks that weren’t available on CD and we put them on CD.
I can understand from a purist point of view – you have those nine tracks that you carefully created in a running order and then you have all these other ones just stuck on the end – but to me the album is one to nine and then the rest is an interesting potluck of historical documents…
To be perfectly honest, some of our b-sides I’m inordinately proud of because we would always struggle to get enough songs for an album. We’d finish an album and then realise that we needed b-sides and we’d just go ‘great… the album is finished so we can really have fun with these’ and we’d write them off the top of our heads… in fact some of the b-sides from ‘Architecture & Morality’ we liked so much that we put them on the next album and the favourite song we ever did, mine and Paul’s favourite, is ‘Romance Of The Telescope’ which was a b-side from ‘Joan Of Arc’… so I think there’s some very interesting tracks there.
And this is the first OMD DVD ever… all our stuff previously has only ever been on VHS, so this is quite exciting. It is strange to see what we looked like back in 1981… oddly the concert itself was usually a lot darker and more colourful but when we brought the cameras in the directors just brought in more and more lights and in the end we felt like we were in some kind of operating theatre, but it is a very interesting historical document…
Well the Top Of The Pops footage is there because we didn’t make a video of ‘Joan Of Arc’…. what happened was ‘Souvenir’ was released in the Summer of 1981 and was a really big hit here and in other places in Europe but the European markets move much more slowly than in the UK and by the Autumn the UK market needed another single but the rest of Europe were still working ‘Souvenir’, so the UK decided to go with ‘Joan Of Arc’ before the next single ‘Maid Of Orleans’ which everyone would go with in 1982… so ‘Joan Of Arc’ was just for the UK so they wouldn’t make a video for it!
At this point it was right at the beginning of videos being used at all… in fact ‘Enola Gay’ from the second album, they wouldn’t make a video until it was in the top forty and they knew it was going to be a hit! It went into the top forty and the next thing we know we’re filming a video in the ITV News studios… it took three hours and cost two and a half thousand pounds, and it was basically ‘just stand in front of the blue screen and we’ll throw on some clouds later’! ‘Enola Gay’ sold five million and the video cost two and a half grand and was utterly shit!
Well after the tour we will be working on a new album… normally when you’re from our generation and you mention new product everyone goes ‘great, so you’re going on tour, will you be playing all the old hits?’ and they are much less enthusiastic about a new album because let’s face it, nine out of ten of them are absolute crap. But I am completely conceited – I wrote a song five years ago which sold three million copies – and I still think that I can write good songs and the new OMD album is going to be stunning… whether it will sell many I have absolutely no idea!
Sales… well they always help! Most people are in bands because they are terribly insecure and fucked up people who need external gratification in copious amounts – if they were well-balanced and normal people then they’d just go out and get a normal job – so we’re all terribly insecure and so we all need lots of external gratification.
So when we expose ourselves by releasing a record it’s like standing in the middle of Trafalgar Square and taking your clothes off! It’s bad enough if people laugh at you but if everybody ignores you then that is pretty soul destroying, you know? You want people to say ‘hey that’s really good, we like that’ but you have to be realistic… I have been playing some of the tracks to people though – and you give them the opportunity to say ‘yeah, yeah thanks very much’ – and they have actually been going ‘wow, have you got any more like that?’.
Ultimately it’s just nice to be doing my own thing again and not to be constantly surrounded by attractive eighteen year old girls…
It was absolute hell… it’s so much nicer to be working with fat middle-aged balding people!
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