PH – Apart from the fact that we first met in Rotterdam in the early eighties when we shared the same stage together playing a gig for Greenpeace (it was OMD / INXS / Propaganda on the bill) Claudia and I actually met properly after we were re-introduced to one another in the mid-nineties by a record label who wanted to sign Claudia and who wanted me to co-write a few songs with her.
CB – The deal never ended up happening ’cause soon after, I decided to try working with Propaganda members Michael and Susanne, again instead. Paul and I hit it off right away though and we kept writing songs for whatever really. During that time also, in 2000, Paul got offered an American tour and because his former partner Andy McCluskey didn’t want to do it, Paul asked me if I’d join him as a special guest for the tour. It was at this point, singing on stage together, that we first realised that we could actually become a band together. We used this opportunity to try out some of our new compositions that we had written, as well as playing lots of OMD and a couple of Propaganda songs too.
CB – We didn’t record these shows and there are no bootlegs around that I’m aware of.
PH – Finding appropriate names for bands is such a difficult thing to do. Having been in a band with such an extravagant and pretentious name as Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, I personally wanted something really simple!
CB – Yes, to follow on from names such as Propaganda, also a great band name in my view, was such a difficult thing. We wanted something incredibly simple, and we thought numbers were a good route for simplicity. I think in the end, I think that we kind of thought two bands in one, Onetwo!
PH – Yes we found out about their existence not too long ago. It seems that they released a few records in Denmark early on in the 90’s. It seems that they were quite frankly (no offence to them) not known in all the main territories (UK, USA and Germany etc.) where Claudia and I have an audience already, which are also the places where we kind of made our names, so I think that’s OK. Anyway, our record is out now and there is nothing we can do about it anymore!
CB – Maybe we could get them out of retirement now though. Imagine, One Two remix Onetwo! It’s becoming increasingly harder to come up with original names for bands or even song titles that have never been used before. You just have to jump on the net and search for any name, word or phrase and you’ll find huge lists of their usages. You just have to go to this link to know what I’m talking about Obviously NOT the same Paul Humphreys, but he has a new album out!
If you come up with a new idea, you really don’t want to then spend the next day trawling the net to see who has used it before, because the chances are that you’ll find someone who has, and it’s quite likely to be the same name as a new song by a Country & Western bar band who have never ever played outside of Boise, Idaho! That’s the good and bad thing about the internet. If you’re not careful you could quite easily become totally obsessed with making absolutely sure you’re being totally original but would of course remove any kind of spontaneity from the creative process.
PH – I have been asked this many times over the years and have always found this question difficult to answer. I think as Onetwo we have both gone a few steps back towards our musical roots. I personally feel that I’ve taken a lot of steps back towards electronic music again. I think towards the end of the eighties and into the nineties I became far more influenced by more organic things, which was probably important for me to develop as a writer. Perhaps I’d become a little bored with electronics and I sort of broadened myself imposed blinkers out a bit and let other forms of music inspire me instead.
Claudia and I have recently been working a lot with the talented writer / programmer Jon Russell who has inadvertently and also consciously helped me to re-discover my roots again. He is a massive fan of electronic music and it isn’t possible to find a bigger Kraftwerk fan than him – although I think I come close! As a result of working with Jon, I’m thoroughly enjoying experimenting with all things electronic again! My renewed enjoyment of electronic sounds has definitely been enhanced by advances in technology also. There are some fantastic new computer ‘toys’ on the market now that are totally inspiring , as a songwriter there is nothing better than to have a brand new pallet of sounds to explore!
CB – Yes so I think to generalise about our music together – which I don’t like doing either! – it’s OMD meets Propaganda with lots of electronic textures and moods. I think Paul and I come from the more old school of songwriting too, the school of ‘get your song right, make sure it has a hum-able tune, make sure that the lyric actually means something (If only to yourself) and try to present it in a musically well-crafted package’ . That’s the theory anyway!! It’s up to the listener to decide if we have achieved that or not! We do believe that it’s important to set your songwriting standards as high as possible ’cause even if you can’t always achieve what you set out to achieve, it can only serve to improve your songwriting skills.
PH – I believe that everyone you collaborate with approaches songwriting in a different way, and I think that writers feed off each other. I have learned so much from everyone I’ve ever worked with. I also think that having worked with quite a lot of other writers, working with Claudia is the closest I’ve come to the way Andy and I worked in OMD. Claudia, like Andy, is a natural melody writer, in the sense that if you give her a chord sequence she will find with relative ease, the ‘natural’ melody that fits into the chord sequence and as a music writer, and this is a godsend! She is also a good lyricist which helps!
CB – In the 80’s working with Propaganda, was basically a team of 7 people (band plus Stephen Lipson, Trevor Horn & Paul Morley) all being in their own way responsible for the noise we created. Every member of that team had their own defined roles, and without that we wouldn’t have made that particular sound. What I find most intriguing about Onetwo, is how we merge our roots and song writing experiences to create our particular sound. I particularly like Paul’s sense of melody and chord progressions, also his soundscaping skills and I’m learning a new approach to song writing which I find very rewarding as my point of view is that it’s important to keep progressing as a writer. I also like the fact that Paul and I often write and hone the lyrics together.
PH – I think that as to whether or not we are breaking creative barriers is for our fans and for the critics to decide. All I know is that I’m enjoying our collaboration immensely and I am full of ideas for the remaining tracks of our Album which we are currently trying to finish. I certainly feel that in working with Claudia, I have hit new burst of creativity which I haven’t felt in years which is a barrier that I feel that I’ve broken. I’m enjoying songwriting again which is fulfilling enough for me. Working as a songwriter is an extremely time demanding thing, so to enjoy all those sessions that run into the early hours of the morning, can only be personally rewarding.
CB – No I believe that we are just beginning, I think. We are heavily into the album now, with only a few remaining tracks to be finished. We are at this very moment getting a few of our album tracks ready to play at our debut gig at the Islington Academy here in London on 30th September. We hope to have the album out by the end of the year.
Paul and I are definitely thinking longer term though. We formed our label There(there) together to be our platform, our outlet for future releases of Onetwo and/or any other project we want to release, together or separately. We have to look at it as a long term thing as we want to build our label over a number of years. As a self-funding Indie label you really have to take the slowly,slowly approach as the running costs of a label are high.
PH – We can also use to our advantage, the mistakes I made in the 90’s when Mal Holmes (OMD drummer) and I formed an Indie label called Telegraph Records. In some ways we tried to run before we could walk. We had some great artists signed to us; China Crisis, Thomas Lang, Pete Coyle from the Lotus Eaters alongside some brand new talent, but ultimately too many bands signed too early which really proved too costly. Having said that we do have other releases already planned and some are completed already.
CB – Yes, We’ve have just finished an album with a former ZTT label mate of mine, Andrew Poppy. It’s a 12-track album of cover versions and was produced by Paul with us. It’s one of the most radical records that I’ve ever done as each track is just one instrument and one voice. Two performances merging. The song choices are from artists as diverse as Radiohead, Franz Schubert, Kate Bush and Elvis Presley! We will be releasing it on our There(there) label and it will be found in a variety of outlets, also from our website. It’s finished and has gone into manufacture which is always a good sign! We will be making an announcement on its release shortly from our website; hopefully it’ll be ready in time to be sold at the forthcoming London show on September 30th!
PH – Yes, there will definitely be more gigs, but next year, in order to help promote Onetwo’s Album. We hope to do more dates in the UK as well as some European dates and American dates too. We love to get up on stage and play and sing. It’s actually one of the most satisfying, as well as challenging things, you can do as an artist.
Speaking personally, I kind of grew up on the stage really, many people may think of OMD as a bunch of guys sitting in a studio twiddling their knobs (If you’ll pardon the expression) but OMD actually started out as a live performing band/ duo. Andy and I just kept travelling up and down the UK playing everywhere we could and continued this after we had success. It was actually one of the main contributing factors in the downfall of the original OMD line-up really. We just toured and toured until we had no more energy left for making records. Also 9 month world tours can also kill band relationships (as well as personal ones!) when your living in each other’s pockets day and night.
CB – To stand up and sing a new song (or even old songs) is the ultimate test for your songwriting and for your performance skills as a singer or musician. It’s just you and the audience who have paid good hard earned money for you to entertain them so you HAVE to deliver. This, I can tell you, keeps you on your toes with your adrenalin pumping! That is definitely the thrill of performing.
PH – Well I think we’ll be leaving the dancing nun’s in miniskirts, Bagpipers and fire eaters etc. to Madonna! I think we’ll just go for a full band of good musicians standing up and playing and singing our songs to the best of our abilities. We’ll definitely be showcasing our new Onetwo songs, but we will of course be drawing from a huge repertoire of songs that we each have written over the years and still find valid today so we’ll be playing some of our favourite selections from OMD, Propaganda, Act and Claudia’s solo album too!
CB – Cloud Nine was originally written for my solo album in the mid to late 90’s. Martin Gore and I had a mutual friend who used to invite me to Depeche gigs and after show parties. This is how I got to know Martin. One day I was writing a song on guitar, and I thought , I need a little bit of help as I’m not the best guitarist in the world! Martin at that time was living around the corner from me so I just dropped around and asked if he’d help me. He liked what I had started and consequently co-wrote the song with me.
I then put my solo album on hold as I had been in touch with Michael and Suzanne and we hatched this idea to try Propaganda one more time. I ‘loaned’ Cloud Nine to Propaganda but then withdrew it when Propaganda ground to halt for the second time. So, it’s been through many different versions, it’s only now though, with the Onetwo version, that I’m completely happy with it.
PH – I think it’s as we stated earlier really, regarding what we have learned about each other in working together. I think we have brought to it our definite signatures which I think pretty much all writers have. Over the years you develop and define a way of working that is uniquely yours and is recognisable as such. I think my way of building chord structures and the way I add simple keyboard melodies to it is kind of recognisable but I think also Claudia has a totally unique voice, as soon as she opens her mouth, this sound comes out that can only be her, I think anyway. So we bring together and join these things.
CB – I think both. We have, to a degree, an audience already out there as we have built a fan base over the years who will sometimes search for us to find out what we’re up to and some will buy our first record at least, to decide if they like it or not. The problem lies in the fact that because of our past songs and achievements, there can be an ‘over expectation’ of what it will be like which can either be a set up for disappointment or at least influence their judgement before actually listening to it rather than hearing it for what it actually is.
PH – Also I think one of the problems can be that there are some Propaganda fans who just didn’t get OMD, that we have to win over, and vice versa. On the positive side, you can look at it as introducing the other set of fans to the others work so as to make our earlier work viewed in a different light, maybe.
PH – Yes it was deliberate. It was kind of an anti–corporate thing. The one advantage of being independent is that you don’t have to follow many of the Industry set conventions of having to have your faces on the front cover with the name of the band in such a position that in the HMV racks, you can be easily seen, found and identified. If we were signed to a major label they would definitely say, ‘So let me get this straight, no picture on the front cover, you just want to use a picture of one eye of each of you on the inside? You’ve got to be kidding me, right?!’
CB – No I’m afraid not. It’s definitely not in the current plans anyway. Being a small Indie label, we just don’t have those kinds of budgets. We could make an extremely arty video for about £5,000 or so, but quite frankly we’d rather spend that money on a remixer or two to try out interesting things with our music. I think Paul and I agree that it can be fun to make videos, but they are ultimately a luxury item, and we are also of the school that would rather listen to music than watch it on TV anyway.
PH – I don’t want to sound old or anything, but I was making music a little while before the medium of music videos was actually invented! Perhaps I’ve been a little tainted by the fact that I was making videos when people were experimenting to find out what actually worked and what didn’t. We as OMD got many of the directors who thought that a) they were actually Fredrico Felini b) we as musicians would be able to act equally as good as Robert DeNiro and c) you really should try to compact a 3 hour story with a hugely intricate plot line into a 4 minute pop song! All recipies for disaster.
I still think to this day that there are too few videos made that actually enhance the song. Too many of them in my view, actually detract from the music whereby you get so over stimulated by the visuals and heavy and fast editing that you completely ignore the song that you’re supposed to fall in love with and go out and buy. Some of which are also designed to hide the fact that they actually forgot to write a decent song in the first place.
CB – When our second album option with ZTT came up, Michael, Susanne, Ralf plus the manager, all decided not to continue the relationship with ZTT. I really wanted to stay there though and work with the team that we used to work with, so I was forced by the situation to make a choice and Propaganda and I decided to go our separate ways. They got a deal with Virgin and recruited a new singer. In the meantime I stayed with ZTT and recorded ‘Laughter, Tears and Rage’.
CB – I’d really like it to see the light of day, so much time, work and passion has gone into writing it. The problem was that I got impatient, what didn’t help it was the fact that Michael lives in Dusseldorf and I in London and things just went too slow. I had invested probably 3 to 4 years in this project and I felt it was time to move on. If it was to ever be finished though, the one thing I really think it would need is a good production team.
CB – Well, first of all I became a mum in 1992 and that kept me very busy for a great while. But I never actually stopped writing songs and I did a lot of one – off projects over the years. Eyemotion / Oceanhead, Halleluwah / Spiritfeel, I’ll find a way/ Brain, Light the way / Chrome Seduction (a personal favourite) and so on and I also worked on what was to be my second solo album with various artists which was when I met Paul and also worked with Martin. So over the years I was actually quite busy.
CB – As I mentioned, I had gathered enough material together for my second solo album but I got sidetracked again with the chance to record another Propaganda album, so I shelved my solo album for a while. I do want these songs to see the light of day and that’s why our label There (there) is the right outlet for it. Sooner or later I shall revisit these songs and make them available through our website. There are a couple of songs I wrote with Barry Adamson and one in particular I’d like to release. Now that Paul and I have our own record company we can make all sort of things happen.
CB – I don’t know about this remix CD. If it exists, it’s not an official release but yet another bootleg.
CB – Yes, very likely. If you come to our London debut Gig (30th September/ Islington Academy, you get a chance to hear a new Onetwo song that’s sung only in German. Also, Another Language (Andrew Poppy & I) features an entire song in German (Die Nebensonnen by Franz Schubert) and another song that has some German Snippets.
CB – To do a duet with Billie Ray Martin is a great idea. I think she has a brilliant voice. Speaking of duets, whilst working with Paul on the Onetwo album I’ve also been working with Andy Bell (Erasure) on his first solo album which has been great fun. We have recorded one song together and are working on another. This will be out next year after the next Erasure album has been released.
CB – Absolutely. Best thing to do is to write to us at Sonic Seduction Ltd, Suite 191, 176 Finchley Road, London, NW3 6BT. Please include a stamped and self-addressed envelope.
PH – Well I’ve always taken the ‘never say never’ line on this. Andy and I are good friends again. He lives in the Liverpool area still and as I live in London now, so we only get to see each other when either he is in London or when I visit the North West. However we did have dinner together here in London a few months which was lovely.
When mine & Andy’s OMD came to an end, which was in part due to some divisive elements in our entourage prizing us apart, we inevitably ended in a lawyer fuelled acrimonious divorce which left a bitter taste for both of us which was a shame. We had some great times together and I have the greatest respect for him and care for him a lot. On the Onetwo album we have a song called Anonymous which was actually written by Claudia, Andy and me which is a beautifully atmospheric song with a positive message which sounds a bit like OMD meets Brian Eno which I guess is a form of Onetwothree!
I think if we were to take to the stage again together as OMD it would have to be sooner rather than later. Andy was talking about doing the ‘Here & Now’ tour but wisely turned it down. I think if Andy were to take to the stage again, it should be the original line up as we all played so many shows together, we developed a fantastic chemistry and an energy to the point where when it was on, it was really on, so much so actually that it was a total trip for me to just to play my part in it.
PH – No it was really a one-off record to document the songs that ex-OMD members Mal Holmes, Martin Cooper and I had written during a period post OMD. It was also in truth, designed as a launching album to attract attention to our new label, Telegraph Records. There are some nice moments on that album which I’m really proud of. However, music is a time capsule really. When you listen to some songs, they can instantly transport you back to certain times and events in your life. Unfortunately now when I listen to this record, it just reminds me of a difficult period in my life when my marriage broke down, which ultimately ended up in divorce! Bummer.
PH – Towards the end of my time in OMD, Andy and I often discussed this idea of manufacturing bands and writing songs for them together. Andy went off and did that with Atomic Kitten, and is still doing that now. No disrespect to Andy as I think he does it very well, but I’m afraid in end I just didn’t fancy doing it, nor will I ever consider it. Whatever project I do, I have to put my heart and soul into it or it not worthwhile for me. It is actually quite hard to do as well ’cause in order to be good at it, you have to live and breathe it, and although money can be tempting sometimes, I have follow my creative instincts and pass on manufactured pop…
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