With some foreboding the birth of Alien Skin remains associated with the ‘death by a thousand cuts’ to me. Ling-chi torture as it was known and practiced in imperial China. So before I can move forward with electronic music and my relationship to it, I need to explain.
My world that rose out of 70s & 80s electronic music and its subculture, international tours with Real Life, radio play and TV, numerous albums – came to a standstill in the winter of 2003. And it was at that moment Alien Skin came to be.
I have Crohns, an auto immune chronic illness. I underwent three major surgeries that year. The disease spared me no mercy in inflicting pain that was akin to a long shard of glass driven into my groin and twisted around for a couple of unhappy hours. It may as well have been ling-chi. At other times forced prostrate and paralyzed with violent shaking as if the body was about to dismember itself.
For months I procrastinated having surgery, which meant cutting half a metre section of diseased intestine. Research taught me it didn’t always stop there, necessitating a further ileostomy in which I’d end up losing more valuable intestine and ending up with a permanent colostomy bag.
Body piercings and adornments are one thing but this was grossly something else! Imagine jumping up and down on stage with a full colostomy bag!
The day before my hapless first surgery, July 2003, was rainy and bleak – an appropriate setting. All that was lacking was thunder, lightning and a cobwebbed electric chair to complete the theatrical ensemble!
Fully realizing the futility of starting any new music as I was to be unwell for quite some time after hospitalization, I nonetheless began composing a gloomy structure of music to occupy the hours. It had no title so I used the name of the main synthesizer preset I employed. It was called Alien Fur.
I still have that original skeleton of recording and it encapsulated the feeling of apprehension and doomed anxiety I felt on that day.
I revisited and completed the song in 2007. Its menacing mood earned its way onto my debut album, Don’t Open Till Doomsday, and re titled Alien Skin. I thought the name fitting for the music project I had been contemplating after leaving Real Life, so it also became my moniker.
It was not extra-terrestrial connotation I inferred but rather feeling alien within one’s own skin; whether inside looking out or the world looking in.
It was now the heady days of MySpace and the album seemed to please an encouraging amount of people who loved Depeche Mode; who loved dark-wave and atmospheric melancholia; who loved synth-pop and all things electronically dark.
Death by a thousand cuts was now receding to the background though paranoia never left me that this may repeat. Anyhow, the opportunity afforded by the internet and the new phenomenon of social media to reach an international audience, helped me recover my foothold on life after this trying period. This was now the mid 2000’s.
Everyone has their own pain and struggles and we all need a life rope to help pull us back into the world of the living. Alien Skin and electronic music became my life rope. I’m certain you can identify adversities in your own life that, to degrees, parallel mine.
Backtracking a little – I had been keyboardist and co-writer in the band Real Life. Send Me An Angel topped charts in some countries. We released 3 albums together and toured the US extensively, Europe and Australia.
This exposure to the world as a touring and recording musician was a life lesson to me – dealing with record labels, fickle media and promoters of Dickensian dubious character. But to balance it, also being received so warmly by fans from various cultures and languages across the world’s borders.
I’m in my early 60s now, performing electronic music for nigh on 40 years. I have too many albums and songs to remember, perhaps it’s just old age. Supporters of my music from the early Alien Skin years may know me best for atmospheric, dark, sometimes gothic, melancholic albums.
Over the past few I have returned to my early love of uptempo, post punk, analogue synthpop and darkwave. I hate categories but I find them necessary sometimes to help guide people who are constantly bombarded by tags and labels. It’s all electronic pop to me.
In 2020 I released ‘New Romance: 1984’ which is a newly recorded album of songs I wrote and was performing live in Melbourne in the early 1980s. This was an exciting project for me and became my best received album to date.
I guess I have come a full circle and I now continue to mine the period of the late 70s early 80s with my new release Cold War Pop.
I appreciate new electronic music but leave it to those who came after me. They can do it better, and they produce it for people that came well after my generation. What I do love is song based music. For me, songs are of paramount, non negotiable import. Much of the music from that earlier era respected that focus.
This is what you will continue to hear in Alien Skin – song based electronic music that shows reverence to the spirit of that 80s heyday period. Without attempting to mathematically sound like or to play with your mind, pretending it was recorded then. I simply celebrate an era that will never die for me.
If you’ve read this far I thank you for your time and interest and offer you a further download from my back catalogue Razors In My Eyes.
Please feel free to leave a comment, about the music, about your preferences about your experiences or just to exclaim, hi !