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Nu men Nu women. Futuristic, post-human ’70s electronics turned into the synthpop of the early 80s.
(…in this post I conclude what I began in the first. Find part one here).
Radio hits like “Mad World” (Tears for Fears), “Love is a Stranger” (Eurythmics), “Don’t Go” (Yazoo), “Enola Gay” (OMD) had me yearning for strong melodies underpinned by electronics. Who else has a wonderful memory of those years?
I replaced my new wave rock band with a Korg Polysix synth with warm analogue string pads and fat bass arpeggios. Add a robust Roland Dr Rhythm DR55 with programmable beats, and voila!
Together with Glaswegian song writing partner & vocal dynamo, Stephen Beckett, we became Strange Silence. Everything was hand played in those days and recorded onto a bedroom 4 track Tascam cassette recorder.
The Human League was the very first electronic live show I saw, meeting Phil Oakey afterwards. It was certainly a watershed experience I vividly remember.
This was 1982.
Weeks later, I found myself at an Icehouse gig with support synth act called Real Life – who blew me away. A stage full of sequenced synths and blow-me-away-synthpop songs and sartorial cool.
I groupie followed Real Life around Melbourne for the next 10 months by which time their debut single “Send Me An Angel” hit number one across the world. They then disappeared to Europe and America. “Send Me An Angel” has become a much loved 80s synthpop classic and covered by countless artists of many genres.
Learning from Real Life at close hand and from recordings by Depeche Mode – oceans away – helped me shape the music of my own band, Strange Silence. We didn’t get far in Melbourne, the music climate was not right, perhaps we were not right.
A number of songs we were performing live circa early 80s are now featured on my 2020 Alien Skin album New Romance: 1984.
‘New Romance: 1984’ is an album I’m currently featuring online as it brings me back to my synth-pop ’80s roots more than any of my previous Alien Skin releases. ‘She Looks A Lot Like Martin Gore from 1984’ became an early fan favourite.
Anyhow, let’s finish….
One connection lead to another. Years later I became Real Life’s keyboardist and co-songwriter. This brought me to Europe and America many times. In 2000 we were flown to the US to perform with Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Berlin, Propaganda and other 80s synthpopers at Synthstock 2000.
Nowadays few would raise an eyebrow at synthpop as being something unusual, quirky, unnatural or even ‘wrong’. Ubiquitous, it’s now a part of the commercial music establishment. RIP Florian Schneider…
But in its formative years which I lived and worked in, it was freshly creative, unprecedented, a creature from another world, it polarized people.
It was often brave and at times you had to be brave and thick skinned to want to play it live, or even be associated with it. Personally I’m glad I never flinched, and I’ve been ‘at it’ for about 40 years now.
Real Life called it a day in 2005. In 2008 I began Alien Skin with the release of “Don’t Open Till Doomsday” on US synth label, A Different Drum.
The enthusiastic interest it gained during the MySpace years gave me the green light confidence to continue releasing dark electronic pop ever since, and here I am today. You may check out more of what I’ve recorded as Alien Skin since 2008 on my website.
As a THANK YOU for being my Alien Skin subscriber I wish to offer you an additional free track from my fan loved 2019 album, “P.O.P. POP”. It’s a goodie, believe me:)
The song “Isn’t It Cliche?” is a good example of my love of old school, early 80s electronic pop. Comes complete with big analogue synth strings ala Gary Numan and John Foxx.
If you’ve been with me in spirit as you read these 2 blogs you might kindly consider checking out my featured album New Romance: 1984 here.
Speak to you soon,
(‘Real Life’ photo at top, from left to right is myself, David Sterry, Alan Johnson, Danny Simcic)
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