Category Archives: Music

Basically, Depeche Mode Is My Spirit Animal

Back in the day I used to be the ultimate Depeche Mode fan. I spent most of my teenage years hunting down numerous rare vinyl remixes, paying extortionate amounts of money for obscure bootleg recordings and generally annoying mates by playing tracks  that didn’t fit in with our previously established repertoire of Guns and Roses and Ozzy Osbourne. I was basically THAT kid in the corner listening to the same track on repeat and not talking to anyone. And it was great.

Then it all went a bit pear-shaped.

One day, I met one of the band members at a Nitzer Ebb gig and they got a bit peeved when asked for an autograph. No big deal, we all need our space. But shortly after, I had another ‘Never Meet Your Heroes’ moment at one of their album launch listening parties and, let’s just say, it was a complete disaster as one of them was completely wasted.  Again, no big deal, but after that I sort of walked away and never listened to them again.

Well, almost. After a brief spat and after listening to their new album ‘Spirit’ I’m glad say we’re BFFs again. Their new political focus suites them with my top tracks being ‘Scum’ and ‘So Much Love’. A timely release.

To celebrate I thought I’d dig up some of my favourite Mode moments. Enjoy the self-indulgence.

Observe the dance moves:

Observe the hair:

Observe one of the best acid basslines in alt-pop history:
;

Observe one of the best producers of all-time talking about one of the best acid basslines in alt-pop history:

Observe this photo:

Observe this collection of vinyl. Observe their smooth, plastic sleeves. OBSERVE!

 

Observe the use of light and smoke in this video whilst also observing one of the best synth melodies in synth melody history:

This

Also, THIS:

And this. Always this.

and, lastly: this, this, this:

A Fan Wrote A Tribute To Bowie And It’s The Most Beautiful Thing You’ll Read All Year.

David Bowie

I hope I haven’t over sold this post. It’s taken me 365 days to write it because every time I’ve sat down to write some thoughts on what Bowie meant to me, I’ve eventually reached for the delete key. Just where do you start?

Well, maybe with some of my favourite Bowie moments that have stayed with me over the years. Here goes…

That Trent Reznor Duet

Exceptional song, exceptional voice, exceptional duet. Just one of my favourite Bowie collaborations, but you could also pick Satellite of Love or Tonight. He always seemed to find that perfect harmony.

The Lyrics

I’m closer to the Golden Dawn
Immersed in Crowley’s uniform 
Of imagery 
I’m living in a silent film 
Portraying Himmler’s sacred realm
Of dream reality

Now, I have no idea what these lyrics from Quicksand actually mean, the fun has been inventing that meaning over the years. When I was 20 I thought: ‘Oh, this is a nice song about love’. Now, at 40, I think: ‘This is a man trying to grabble with reason to work out the meaning of life’. Either that’s down to the multiplicity of the song here, or I’m currently having a mid-life crisis. You decide!

Peppers and Milk
Just Google it. Along with his initial clash with Kraftwerk. Or the time he hooked up with Iggy in Berlin when they weren’t doing drugs. Or the inspiration for ‘Heroes’.

Even if you erased all memory of Bowie’s music, we’d still be captivated by the stories. You just couldn’t make them up. Or could you?

Hang On To Yourself
When times are dark, that’s good advice. Trust me.

That Interview

You can find quite a few awkward interviews with Bowie online. These always make me cringe because I’ve been there as a music journalist, interviewing your heroes and then, for whatever reason, it just doesn’t go to plan. Still, that doesn’t make these clips less hilarious.

That Glastonbury Moment

I’ll always remember seeing Bowie for the first time at Glastonbury. He was due to perform at around 7.30pm, the sun was beginning to set, we were all hovering around our tents chatting. Down in the valley you could hear the band sound-checking at the Pyramid stage. Then about five minutes later the band kicked off well before their scheduled time with ‘Wild Is The Wind’. When Bowie began to sing the crowd went nuts and rushed over. It could have been carnage I suppose but it all worked out. A true wow-ie moment.

Abbey Road
One day an email popped into my inbox promoting a remastered version of Aladdin Sane. I was about to delete it until I spotted that the label was offering a special playback of the album at Abbey Road studios. Naturally, I signed up immediately. When I got to the studios there were only a couple of rock magazine journalists and about three staff from the label. We sat on some comfy chairs in one of the studios where, no doubt, some of the best albums in the world had been recorded and listened to the remastered album through the mixing desk.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been invited to a listening ‘party’ but they’re always slightly awkward. You don’t really talk, you sort of sit in silence and then have a chat afterwards. The guy I happened to site next to turned out to be one of Bowie’s previous managers Alan Edwards. He made a great comment: ‘For someone famous for being so against the romantic notion of the artist, a lot of his songs are very romantic and, to me at least, so very personal.’

I could go on, but that pretty much says it all for me. In the weeks following Bowie’s death I revisited his albums again, especially those that I’d rejected previously. On ‘The Next Day’ there’s a beautiful track ‘Where Are We Now?’ and I’d like to think this is the real Bowie, David Jones, reflecting on his past. There is something about the recording that sounds so vulnerable and honest compared to tracks from Blackstar.

Of course, I have no idea if I’m right or wrong and I guess that’s the reason why I find the man and his music so fascinating. Who the hell was he?  I guess I’ll still be trying to figure that out in years to come.

Bye Bye for now.

Remembering Frankie Knuckles

There’s been so many heart-felt tributes today to the ‘Godfather of House’ that I thought I’d add my own.

It begins in 1987 at my secondary school assembly. A kid has just blown everyone away with his mean Fender Stratocaster skills – I look around and practically every girl in my year is swooning. The penny drops: I must learn to play a musical instrument or die trying.

Problem is, learning to play an instrument can be pretty hard and not easily mastered in a weekend. I tried the guitar but after a week got frustrated and dumped it in the attic so I went with what seemed to be a better option at the time – pretending to be a drummer.

This tactic got me pretty far. I joined a band, wrote some songs, but after a couple of rehearsals it was pretty obvious to everyone in the room that I was, indeed, crap. I quietly nipped out half way through one of the sessions and never looked back.

However, I didn’t have to wait long to have my first musical ‘moment’. I’d been watching our local village disco DJ for weeks and finally plucked up courage to ask him if  I could help him out  if he could teach me how to mix. He agreed.

Things seemed to go well at first until I realised after a couple of weeks I hadn’t mixed a beat. I was spending most of my time lugging around his vinyl whilst he smoked cigarettes and copped off with the girls in my school. I should mention this guy looked suspiciously close to thirty.

Anyway, I was about to jack it all in when he let me take over one night and passed me a 12″ he’d been raving about. I just put the record on and fiddled with the box that controlled the lighting – at least it looked a bit like mixing.

Everyone stopped dancing and wondered why we weren’t playing Jason Donovan tracks any more.  I just kept fiddling and pretending to DJ. Eventually, a few people started to nod their heads and get into the groove but it was all a bit confusing.  We got about halfway through the track when the DJ took over and restored the night to its usual rhythm of Stock Aitken Waterman-tinged reverie.

Anyway, the track was ‘Your Love’ and I absolutely fell in love with it. It started a long love affair with House music leading to several poorly-named electronic bands and a four year stint at Ministry of Sound. The track even inspired me to learn a musical instrument – well anything that could be triggered rather than played.

Frankie, can’t thank you enough – I owe a lot to you and and you’ll be sorely missed.

Why ‘Violator’ is the best album in the world, ever

Lots of people can remember that one track or album that really signified their teenage years, for me it’s ‘Violator.’ Let me tell you why.

Firstly, let me set the scene. I’m 15 and everyone in my local village is wearing leather jackets listening to Motley Crue, Poison and Skid Row. Don’t get me wrong, I loved those early glam rock bands but when my older brother started to play me 80’s tracks with an electronic pulse I thought: ‘Hmm, I think there’s more to music than just ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ right?’

For the uninitiated, this is what I mean:

Fast forward a couple of years and Depeche Mode release ‘Violator’ a week before my 17th birthday. It gets to No.2 in the UK charts and all the stars align. Friends start getting into the band asking me for mixtapes and I get to wear my own leather jacket à la Dave Gahan lead singer of DM. ‘Personal Jesus’, ‘Enjoy The Silence’, ‘Policy of Truth’ and ‘World in My Eyes’ – four great hits from a sensational album.

Take ‘Enjoy the Silence’ for example – surely the greatest pop track of all time? Romantic lyrics forged upon 303 acid loops and delivered through a cracking Anton Corbijn video. Of all their tracks, this one really influenced me – it kickstarted my love affair with dance music, made me join a number of electronic music  bands and pushed me to work for Ministry of Sound.

Nowadays, you can spend hours on YouTube unearthing all these documentaries about your favourite bands. As I recently learnt, ‘Enjoy the Silence’ was originally recorded as a ballad that almost didn’t make it on the album. In a last ditch attempt to revive the track, producer Flood and Alan Wilder remixed it for the dancefloor overnight and played it to the rest of the band in the morning. The rest is history. Those kind of stories amaze me.

I haven’t spoken about the other tracks on the album but they are equally fantastic, equally bizarre. You have to love the attention to sonic detail on this album and here’s why. Want to test your brand new sound system, car amp or stadium PA? Put this album on and press ‘play’ – it will sound #mazeballs.

Ok I’d better wrap up now as I’m sounding too much like an hysterical DM fan. My interest in Depeche Mode sort of faded shortly after Alan Wilder left – I never really felt they were firing on all cylinders after ‘Songs of Faith and Devotion’. Still, I did  have the good fortune of interviewing Alan a couple of years back but I never did summon the courage to thank him for album and explain how important it was to me.

Well, Alan, if you’re listening. This one’s for you…

Stay Positive Feat. Cooly G: You Hate Me

I think this one slipped under the radar when it was released earlier this year but I absolutely love it. The track is more of a loop than a radio edit so you can see why some people might lose interest. Still, Cooly G is absolutely massive at the moment so, you never know, the track could get a rework next year.

I also love the lo-fi video setting and shots of acid-house ravers – really gives the track an epic, nostalgic feel. Top one, nice, sorted.

Here’s a recent Cooly G mix on Boiler Room: