My mantra has always been, “music is my lifeblood.” So, it’s always great fun to discover new music to keep that feeling alive. What’s even more fun is sharing these musical gems with others. Not everyone has the same taste in music, but every once in a while, a recommendation turns into a found treasure.
That said, my latest find is a track called “Gratification” composed by Paul Manchin and David Bottrill. Paul handles the vocals, while David wears many hats: track master, producer, mixer, and player of all instruments. As if that isn’t enough, David has worked with Peter Gabriel, The Smashing Pumpkins, and Rush.
This song seduces the listener from the opening bars. The intro to “Gratification” sounds very much like a faster-paced intro to David Bowie’s “Lazarus.” That alone got my attention and kept me glued to the audio. Then, once the curious sound of Paul’s digitized voice, along with the opening lyrics kicked in, there was no going back for me.
Several years ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ricky Humphrey, accomplished and successful musician in his own right. Presently, I’m delighted to have been given the opportunity to meet up with Ricky once again, along with his musical partner Luke “Skyscraper” James, as the duo known as “This Twisted Wreckage.”
Their current album, The Way Ahead Is Clear, is a fabulous production heavily rooted in Goth, post-punk, and darkwave. Overall, it’s brooding and moody; yet some tracks are driven by a manic beat, with even some synths thrown into the mix, offering various points of aural interest for a wide audience. Personally, I hear the influence of Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy, Type O Negative, 69 Eyes, The Cure, and The Chameleons in the melodies, and Peter Murphy meets Andrew Eldritch meets Jyrki69 meets Peter Steele meets Robert Smith meets Mark Burgess in the vocals. It’s an amazing outcome.
I recommend you fire up some candles and incense and turn off the lights before listening. The ambiance will definitely enhance the experience.
Once you become more acquainted with them through their insightful, frank, and unfiltered answers offered below, be sure to check out “This Twisted Wreckage” music on https://thistwistedwreckage.bandcamp.com/
Missparker: The burning question for me is, where did the moniker “This Twisted Wreckage” come from?
Ricky: I can remember hearing Luke singing the line and This Twisted Wreckage just stood out! It sounded so right for what we were doing; it sounded like nothing I had heard before and in this broken and fragile world that we live in, not to mention the fragility of the human mind and people living with disabilities, body dysmorphia etc… it just seems to encompass all those things and is a powerful statement.
Luke: Ricky and I had this almost mystical musical connection right from our first collaboration. To be honest, we were so busy and blown away by what was happening that I don’t recall us even discussing a band name for a while. One of our early songs was called BACK UP AGAIN–an anthem to getting back on your feet no matter how many times you get knocked down–and there was a line in it that ran: “Down in this twisted wreckage where nothing is clear.” Ricky immediately jumped on This Twisted Wreckage as a possibility for the band name. As we try to be brutally honest about the state of the world, while tempering it wherever possible with positive messages, re-building from This Twisted Wreckage made immediate sense. Coming up with a band name can be one of the most frustrating, time consuming, and disagreement-sparking parts of starting a band (in my experience, at least), so the fact that the name arrived organically seemed to perfectly reflect the way we create the music.
MissParker: You both come from fairly diverse musical backgrounds—so, how did you guys meet and hook up to form the band This Twisted Wreckage?
Ricky: It was via the internet–Facebook, in fact. I had contacted Luke and to my surprise, he responded. We spoke of his early days in Fàshiön and bands that he had toured with. I then purchased his book, which is an absolute delight entitled, Stairway to Nowhere. We went back and fourth with our communication, Luke doing his thing, me doing mine; then on the 23rd December 2019, a young lady below us (we live in a two storey apartment block, a converted barrack) committed suicide and blew us up. She had filled her apartment with gas canisters then ignited them. This left my wife and I homeless for four months. During that period we stayed with our neighbours who had very kindly put us up. All I had to my name were the clothes I was wearing and my MacBook. I happened to have a few unfinished Nature Kills tracks that I had been working on and contacted Luke to see if he would be interested in collaborating. To my delight he said YES! To date, we have still not met in person, but we have a great relationship and I really do consider him as one of my best friends.
Luke: A friend of mine, Dave Harris, who was the frontman of a later version of the band I was in in the early 80’s – Fàshiön – suggested I check out Ricky’s music. Ricky was in a band called Ishkah, a kind of chill/trance band. I was heavily into bands like Thievery Corporation and Dreadzone at the time and I immediately loved Ishkah’s music. At some point I contacted Ricky and asked him if he would be interested in collaborating on a piece of music. Little did we know that it would lead to This Twisted Wreckage and an ongoing journey that has produced over 90 recorded pieces of music in the last two-and-a-half years.
MissParker: Is this collection your first album together?
Ricky:EI8HT was our debut. It just happened to be Luke’s lucky number, but the title came about as there were eight songs on the album. I then remixed and reimagined those songs and CULTIV8 was born. Not really a follow up, more of an exercise to see how far we could take things.
Luke: Our first album came out last year and is called EI8HT. The Way Ahead Is Clear is our second album
MissParker: The vocals are so emotive and dark. Who is the main voice?
Ricky: That is Luke. For some reason I have the chorus on the title track The Way Ahead Is Clear. I do a few backing vocals here and there, but otherwise it is all Luke. I have never worked with anyone with such depth to their lyrics. In TTW we have songs that will make you laugh, songs that will make you cry–there is no subject that he won’t tackle.
Luke: I am the main vocalist. I’m very emotional and prone to dark thoughts, but sparks of hope fire in my darkness as well–they’re like beacons. I try to focus on the positive in my life, but feel quite merciless about expressing my fear, horror, and disgust about many aspects of life today. We do have happy songs though, as well … honest!
MissParker: In the intro to this interview, I mention some of the influences I hear in your music and vocals: Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy, Type O Negative, 69 Eyes, The Cure, and The Chameleons. How close am I, and did I leave anyone out?
Ricky: I, for sure, wear my influences on my sleeve. I do not try to hide them and want people who have a history with music to feel reassured that something new and familiar is happening.
The title track is a definite nod to Gary Numan, “Don’t Look Back” is a nod towards Fleetwood Mac; then, there are the more electronic influences of Depeche Mode, and towards the end of the album a bit of Chic. Of course, there will always be a bit of Bowie in there. They are subtle, but they are definitely there, and not intentionally either, it’s just in my DNA. I have a cauldron of mixed genre soup that I stir up to taste.
Then, Luke does what Luke does, and takes them to another level, adding soul, emotion, and power to the tracks, plus a bit of paprika and chilli.
Luke: I have been told over the course of many years that my voice is everything from lousy to brilliant. I guess I’m an acquired taste. But I‘ve always sung from the emotions that the music inspires or dredges up. That’s exactly how I sing to the powerful, emotive music that Ricky’s compositions inspire. Also, I’m 6’ 9” and I have a long throat so strange noises are likely to occur anyway! But I’d say my main influence has always been David Bowie. I never set out to sound like any particular singer. Between 1978-80, I toured the UK/USA with my band Fashion, opening for a lot of different bands (Name Drop Alert): The Police, U2, Duran Duran, The Ramones, Patti Smith, The Stranglers, The Cramps, Squeeze, B52s, The Tubes–a good deal of whom told me I was a weird singer. To which I said (and say), thank you very much! When Lux Interior tells you you sound like a “g-ddamn weird maniac” onstage I at least took that as high praise. The highest praise I get now is when Ricky is happy with one of my vocal performances.
MissParker: What would you say drives the creative process behind the duo “This Twisted Wreckage?” In other words, what motivates you two to write music?
Ricky: We drive each other–we constantly push and raise the bar. I will present Luke with an idea, he will add vocals, then I will rework it if required or rewrite the track around the vocal. Ultimately, whatever serves the song. There are no egos here; we bounce ideas around constantly, we are both up for the challenge, and enjoy our creative process very much. There is nothing that we won’t try–try and fail maybe–but we will always attempt to improve or enhance on what we have done before.
Luke: The pure joy of creation. Ricky and I have both been through the “being in a band” ego mill, and suffered the horrors of the music business in the past. With This Twisted Wreckage, we have both managed to sublimate our egos such that what serves a particular song in the best way is the most important thing. No preciousness here! But, we are both keenly aware that we, as a species, are throwing everything away, and we want to point out alternatives–but also pull no punches, as far as consequences are concerned.
MissParker: Are the lyrics at any time collaborative?
Ricky: Luke takes care of the lyrics. To date, I have never felt the need to intervene or even suggest a rewrite. Luke’s lyrics just work. And when sung, you can tell that they are from the heart or the darkest recesses of his mind. I do, however, just purely out of finding a great vocal melody or hook impact upon the arrangement, a bit of Bowie-like cut ‘n’ paste, but that is once I have the vocal.
Luke: Ricky writes these amazing compositions that, often on first listen, have lyric and melody ideas bursting out of nowhere. It’s a totally 2-way street; but basically, Ricky writes the music that inspires me to write and sing the lyrics.
MissParker: What about the music/melody—do you ever team up to create it?
Ricky: On the whole, I put together the backing tracks, so the structure is in place, albeit temporary. Once I get a vocal, the arrangement may change. I may find a particular part in the song which is catchy vocally, and extend that or add completely new sections, so as not to interfere with the lyrical journey, but to give space for instrumentation. Luke does embellish with guitar here and there as he is an excellent guitarist and he plays a lush solo on “Safe For Us.”
Depending on what style we are aiming for depends on Luke’s input musically. He is such a gifted guitarist and therefore makes sense for him to play acoustic or flamenco guitar, and any of the more picked styles that he is so capable of. I am totally reliant on effects where guitar is concerned.
Luke: Ricky will often cut and paste vocals when rearranging and mixing the final version of the song. He has an uncanny ability to stop me running off at the mouth and get to the heart of the meaning and narrative of the song. It’s just another blessing about this collaboration–there are many!
MissParker: How did online distance meeting tools that evolved during the pandemic help or hurt the making of this album?
Ricky: Luke and I have only ever collaborated via the net, so lockdown, etc. didn’t impact us in the slightest. I am very comfortable in my own skin and space, and don’t crave to be around people, so lockdown changed very little for me. All I noticed was, the sky and sea were clearer and the air was fresher when I went outside.
Luke and I use Messenger a lot for communication and WeTransfer for file sharing. We do have the occasional catch-up on FaceTime; this usually includes Pete King, who is responsible for breaking us in the UK.
With regards to working together, this is it–this is how we operate and it works absolutely fine. Thankfully, we don’t have to deal with dial-up anymore–what a nightmare that would have been!
Luke: Other than FaceTime, Ricky and I have never met in person, and yet I consider him to be one of my closest and best friends. There is a lot said about how the Internet separates and isolates and it can–BUT, in this case, it has provided me with a kindred spirit, a musical soul brother, and a bloody good bloke as a friend. As with any system, it all depends on how it’s used as to the outcome. Also Ricky has a very sophisticated production studio, Bomb Proof Studios, and the ear and musical sensibility to match the gear he uses. We do hope to meet one day and play music together in a studio or onstage. But for now, with Ricky in the south of England and me in Northern California, it’s something to look forward to.
MissParker: What does a typical music session between you guys look like? Do you meet at certain times/days and for a set amount of time, or is it more a spur-of-the-moment, got a creative itch I’ve got to scratch meet-up?
Ricky: You can’t put a time on creativity. Somedays, there is just nothing there!
Luke and I have always taken an organic approach to what we do. I/we don’t want songs to sound forced or contrived. Some songs almost write themselves, others can be quite taxing, containing great moments, but seem very difficult to develop. That’s fine–we have so much material that a track can be revisited at a later point. But the process nearly always consists of a backing track being created, forwarding that to Luke, where he works his magic, then it is back to me for mixing or reworking, whatever the song requires.
Luke: There is no schedule. It’s either like an avalanche or a waterfall or a sonic bombardment–we’ve sometimes completed songs in the space of two days. I don’t think we’ve spent more than a few days completing any particular song. Ricky has an incredible work ethic–never known anything like it–and that totally inspires me to get off my arse and step up whenever needed.
MissParker: Who handles the all-important production duties?
Ricky: I tend to deal with that side of things. Logic Pro X on my iMac is where it begins and ends, but we have had some positive feedback on the production, for which I am grateful.
Luke: I totally trust Ricky to handle the final mixes and mastering and am constantly amazed at what he achieves. Having been in bands for what sometimes feels like hundreds of years, I can honestly say that this is the best band I’ve ever been in. How lucky am I!
MissParker: So, about that body in the trunk we talked about earlier offline (laughs)….no, seriously, what’s next?
Ricky: I am a huge admirer of John Carpenter (film director/musician)–his influence creeps into all our darkest compositions–so film, gaming, TV, advertising would be great; this is an area that we are relying on Pete King for, to get us that introduction.
We do have another album awaiting release. We put it back several times, as we had interest from a record label, and the negotiations are still ongoing. If not resolved soon, we will probably release that ourselves at some point in 2023. In the true tradition of punk, it is 10 x 3-minute uptempo songs that are somewhat political and are questioning our impact on this beautiful planet.
And… We have two new projects. One is a kind of industrial in-ya-face affair, and the other an ambient jazzy vibe, complete with double bass. There is nowhere we won’t go, as long as it is honest!
Luke and I have the most fun doing what we do. We have both been blighted by the industry and the BS that comes from being in a band with multiple members. We have a real kinship, joining of spirits, if you like, and I consider myself to be very lucky to have this opportunity with This Twisted Wreckage.
And thank you for giving us this opportunity to talk with you MissParker–it has been a real honour.
Luke: We’d really like to get the body out of the trunk and into movie or TV soundtracks. Ricky’s epic sweeping compositions often sound like movie music to me–I think that’s why the lyrical imagery comes to me so easily and powerfully. But the main thing is that the creative process we have now is such an integral part of our lives that wherever it may or may not go, the fact that it is going and continues to go is one of the great joys of my life.
Thank you for talking with us, it was a real pleasure. Now if you’ll excuse me, a new piece of music just arrived from Ricky…
Nearly 18 months ago, I had the sublime pleasure of interviewing Tim Cain from the band Boys’ Entrance. I had gotten to know Tim’s music through David Marsden’s internet stream, NYTheSpirit.com. The interview led to a fast friendship between Tim, his husband Bill, and me. Taking advantage of living just three hours apart in the fabulous state of Florida, we met up in Mt. Dora a month after the initial interview to view the Bowie/Sottsass Exhibit at the Modernism Museum in Mt. Dora FL and enjoyed each other’s company and the breathtaking exhibit to the max.
Recently, I had a nice phone chat with Tim and he filled me in on his latest efforts, including revisiting the Boys’ Entrance first album Exit or Entrance. Because the album turns 30 years old this year, Tim felt it was a time for a bit of a facelift. He carefully re-mastered the tracks, breathing new life into them. The result: He took something that was a stunning freshman effort to begin with and made it even more outstanding.
Tim Cain (1991)
Listening to Exit or Entrance, it’s impossible to discern that these timeless tracks are three decades old. The lyrics are relevant, the arrangements are gorgeous, and the music is just as fresh and engaging as if it was recorded last week. Tim’s voice is a lush alto that draws the listener in and captivates the soul. It’s no wonder that Boys’ Entrance has earned the accolades of the music industry, and very confusing (for me and for many others) as to why they haven’t earned the public recognition they deserve. But, that seems to be an all-too-common and sad theme for the artists I promote here on Rave and Roll.
In the meantime, here’s a chance to become either acquainted for the first time or perhaps reacquainted with Tim Cain and Boys’ Entrance. Definitely take the time to experience Exit or Entrance because I guarantee you’ll find this classic collection of tracks to be satisfying, riveting, and deftly ageless. Bravo and well done, Tim!
Missparker: The very beginning of this journey started with an AIDS benefit in San Francisco circa 1991. What happened next?
Tim Cain: It did. My dearly departed friend Casey Alexander was creating an AIDS benefit in City Hall in San Francisco and he needed help. I had worked with him as a display artist in 1987 at Silvestri Importers. I was based in Chicago and flew to Merchandise Marts around the country to do display work and I met him in the San Francisco showroom. The moment we met, we looked at each other and KNEW we had known each other in earlier lifetimes. It happened twice to me while I was working at Silvestri—which is just bizarre—but Casey looked at me, and I at him, and we both thought, “Oh, it’s YOU!” We picked up our conversation where it had left off in another time. I left Silvestri, but when Casey called, I came running.
While I was in SF, I looked up my old friend from college, Jon Ginoli. We had a complicated friendship. He first met me when I was dating another DJ at the college radio station, WPGU in Urbana, IL. I was the first Out Gay musician he knew of. Jon was the Program Director at WPGU, and they featured some of my songs on the station.
At one point I fell out with my boyfriend, and Jon and I went to see Ultravox in concert. Afterward, he came back to my place. We saw each other for a short time. But it didn’t end there. Jon and I both worked at record stores. Eventually we both worked at Discount Records as managers. He started spinning New Wave dance music at The Bar, a local gay bar, and I was the DJ and music programmer at the Moonlighter. Jon moved to SF, and I thought it would be nice to reconnect.
Jon had been in a notable band called the Outnumbered. But he had just recorded demos for a new band that he called Pansy Division. He played me the demos and sang songs, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. I howled with laughter—which he took very well. The songs were in fact funny. He intended that. But it was the utter shock I experienced at hearing baldly QUEER lyrics, not shielded behind neutral pronouns. He wrote odes to cocks, sucking, f*cking! He had opened new territory. I came back to Chicago with a new mission.
Original inspiration for Boys’ Entrance
Then, one day I drove down Belmont in Chicago and passed a school. Back in the day, they carved in stone, “Girls Entrance” and “BOYS ENTRANCE.” I almost wrecked my car. I knew that should be the name of my own Queer band.
Missparker: You were a music major in college, giving you an excellent and solid background. You also had a major set-back that would have discouraged anyone else from pursuing music. Can you talk a bit about that?
Tim Cain: In 1977, I had a car accident. I was driving my sister to school, and was T-boned by a semi, smashing my side of the car into the middle of the car. I sustained broken ribs and collar bone, and a concussion. I had amnesia for a year and a half. I was at the time a music major, and returned to piano class with no knowledge of what sheet music was. I dropped out. Forty years later, I was experiencing neuropathy and an MRI showed I have two areas of scarring in my brain. This I can only assume was from the car accident.
Missparker: What prompted you to buy your first synth and who were your influences?
Tim Cain: Well, Art Rock, and New Wave were my thing: Beatles, Bowie, Stones, Devo, Cars, Eurythmics, Depeche Mode, Ramones—and now it was Nirvana and the Pixies that were in my sights. All of these are in the mix of the first Boys’ Entrance album. As for the synth, I was in a music store, and found the Ensoniq VFX—at the time, a sequencer with the most powerful computer in a synth available. It had onboard samples of other venerable synths, as well as acoustic instruments. It was not only the analog synth sounds, but the natural piano and bass that sold me on it.
Missparker: Tell us about the studio where the original recording and mixing took place.
Tom Mohbat (recent)
Tim Cain: I came upon Bad Dog Recording Studio in Chicago by accident. I don’t recall how. I was thrilled by the LIVE sound of the main room that was 30 feet tall, with plaster walls. The echo in that room was astounding, and I instantly saw the possibilities. Tom Mohbat was the studio owner and engineer. He was very handsome, which didn’t hurt either. Sadly, he was married at the time and unavailable. He was straight, but very welcoming. He made me feel at ease. He understood somehow that I was doing something very personal and he nurtured it/me.
MissParker: Who were some of the key players on the tracks back then?
Tim Cain: It’s mostly me. I recorded the synth tracks at home and brought finished pieces to the studio to download. I added vocals, and piles of backing vocals—exploring the range of expression I had only dreamt of in earlier bands. I played rhythm guitar, and even a lead guitar part on one song. But I needed help on a few tracks. Tom brought in a fellow, whose name I don’t recall, to play a “blues” solo on “Light In The Darkness.” I met a guitarist named Glass, who loved the same bands as me, and who played using an Ebow to imitate Robert Fripp’s sound. And he played on “Yellow Sun,” and “Your Secret Fear.” A well-known jazz saxophonist, Pat Mallinger also played on “Yellow Sun.” And, a woman named Miriam played Gospel piano on “Your Secret Fear.” I don’t have a detailed list of credits, as they were lost over these 30 years. My apologies to the musicians.
Tim Cain recording (circa 1991)
Missparker: What was first and foremost in your mind as your goal while you were originally putting this great collection together?
Tim Cain: I had never played keyboard in my bands. I couldn’t recall how to play due to the accident. I somehow channeled the music through my subconscious. I recall once being in a music store in my college years and standing at a Yamaha synth. I raised my hands and went into a trance, letting the music pour through me. It was as though the synth was playing me. When I finished, I looked up and everyone in the store was looking at me, and one woman yelled, “Don’t Stop!” The Ensoniq spoke through me, too. The songs played me. I recorded them on the sequencer-freed from my inability to replicate them. I layered sound as a painter layers pigment. The synth captured it all. I was only at the beginning of finding my Queer voice. The songs capture glimpses of my gay life at the time.
Original cassette artwork (1991)
Missparker: You shared with me what the actual first release of Exit or Entrance was like. Can you describe that experience for us?
Tim Cain: It was an art project, top to bottom. I had 100 cassettes duplicated. I then handmade each cover using photographs of me dressed in a black bag, à la Martha Graham. I then lifted the image using a decoupage technique which allowed me to stretch the image and distort the image to my liking. I applied the transparency to crinkling tin foil, and then applied a clear colored plastic to the image to preserve it. I don’t own any of these covers today. I know one is with Tom Mohbat in his studio to this day, though.
Missparker: Did you promote Exit or Entrance with live shows? If so, what types of venues did you play and were you as glam then as you are now?
Tim and Tom recording (1991)
Tim Cain: I did not. There was no band for three years. The cassettes were distributed and then I moved forward recording with Tom at Bad Dog. We recorded an EP called the “Ballad of Freddie Mercury” after Freddie passed. Then we started in on the second album, “In Through The Out Door,” during which time I started to solidify the first LIVE version of Boys’ Entrance with Cie Fletcher on lead guitar and Mike Ferro on Rhythm guitar. Our first live show was in Lincoln Park, 1993 I think, for Gay Pride. I wore a polyester floral sundress, à la Kurt Cobain.
Missparker: Fast-forward 30 years later. How has technology changed the way you record and release your music?
Tim Cain: Oh my goodness! First of all, this record release would not have been possible were it not for the Internet. It allowed me to send the music to Tom Mohbat, who now lives in Hawaii and it also allows me to place it on Bandcamp, and other digital services to be heard the world over.
Missparker: Did COVID play a part in your decision to re-master and rerelease Exit or Entrance? Or was it strictly because of its anniversary?
Tim Cain: As you know, I got Covid at a Boys’ Entrance show on November 14th. I literally got a fever after I left the stage. It was very scary. I thought I was going to die because I had been having premonitions before the event. I was convinced something bad was going to happen and I would never record again. I posted an email to fans on Reverbnation.com/boysentrance that sounded pretty dire. It alarmed Mike Ferro, and Tom Mohbat, whom I was unaware was a fan on Reverbnation. They both reached out to me to support me. I started chatting with Tom, reminiscing about recording together. We talked about me getting better and finding a way to record together again. Then I realized we were coming up on the 30th anniversary of our first record and asked him to re-master it. The result is amazing. It’s also the beginning of our work re-mastering all the early Boys’ Entrance recordings. More music will follow.
Tim Cain recording (circa 1991)
Missparker: Prior to Boys’ Entrance, you shared with me that you were in a group called Talltrees. You also told a hair-raising story about a studio and an exorcism. Please dish the details!
Tim Cain: I asked Tom what he remembered most about recording the first album and he said it was my having an exorcist come into the studio to smudge the space with incense and bar “negative influence.” All true. I had a dear friend who was a priest, and he was in the last class of priests to be trained as exorcists. I felt this extraordinary step was necessary due to the last experience I had prior to the Bad Dog sessions.
Original cassette artwork (1991)
I was recording a song called, “Read My Heart” under the band name Talltrees in Urbana, IL. I don’t recall the studio name. This would be about 1984. I had a guitarist named Keith Harden in to play, and he was recording an ostinato passage in the studio. I was in the control room with the engineer, Adam. Adam’s back was to me. Keith played his part which was beautiful. We also heard a demonic choir—very operatic bass voices. Keith ended his part and there was silence. Keith asked, “Did you get that?” I said, “Yes, hang on a second.” I said, “Adam, what did you hear?” Adam turned around slowly and was white as a sheet. “Voices.” I said to Keith, “Please come in and listen with us.” Keith came in the control room, and the tape was played back and the voices were on the tape. The three of us were freaked out. I then “heard” a voice that let me know that this was the deal…this was the “crossroads” moment for me. It was even more ironic given that the song is a plea to God for protection. I began praying to God for protection. I had to make a decision.
We discussed what could be causing the voices—harmonics? Vibrations? We had no explanation except the obvious one. I asked if Adam thought the voices would remain if we recorded it again? He had no idea. We only had the one track available to record on, so we didn’t have the luxury of keeping the first track. I made my decision while praying, “God, if this is of you, let the voices stay. If it is not, make them go away.” Keith re-recorded his part, and the voices left. This is why I began my Boys’ Entrance career with an exorcist.
Tim Cain (circa 1991)
Missparker: Since our last interview a year and a half ago, you’ve released a collection of David Bowie covers. We’ve talked about this, and I’m going to say it publicly—I was a little apprehensive about hearing your versions of Bowie songs because I’m a bit of a “Bowie covers snob,” to put it mildly. However, and you witnessed my sincere and spontaneous reaction firsthand, when you cued up the first cover, I was literally blown away, and remained so for the entire collection. How much courage did that take and how have your Bowie covers been received?
Tim Cain: Well, Boys’ Entrance was always a band that performed originals. As such, you are always facing audiences who are unfamiliar with your music. That is very difficult. I sang “Rebel, Rebel” and “Fashion” back in the 80’s in Talltrees. It was always a positive experience because people always told me I sounded like Bowie.
Tim Cain and Billy Ramsey in front of the Boys’ Entrance inspiration
After I met my husband Billy Ramsey, he would take me to a local restaurant that had karaoke. I would sing China Girl and it always got an ovation. So that was the beginning of me feeling like I could do it. Billy is the bassist in Boys’ Entrance, as well. So, we started talking about incorporating more Bowie in our shows. I had a realization that “Boys” sounded similar to “Bowie’s.” So we created an alter-ego for the band called Bowie’s Entrance to perform Glam Rock classics.
These songs are songs that were influenced by Bowie’s world-view. I created synth treatments for the songs, and the band did the rest. Keith Otten is an amazing guitarist. He convinced me that I didn’t have to play guitar now. He would be able to handle the guitar, which allowed me to perform and entertain. So the Glam factor of our shows went way up. Billy plays acoustic guitar and bass and our drummer is nationally known and loved—John Spinelli. John has four patents on drums and owns his own drum company called Spinelli Drums. He makes drums for national acts and they are amazing. I am essentially fronting a power trio. Their sound is very powerful.
We recorded “Boys’ Entrance Presents Bowie’s Entrance Vol. 1 & 2,” 12 songs in 5 hours, LIVE in Blacktoe Studio. Nobody does that, but we did, and the record captures the energy of our stage shows and the sound of the band.
Missparker: COVID has forced musicians to be flexible and creative when delivering music to their fans. On that note, you’ve got something truly exciting and magical planned for the month of May. What can you share with us?
Tim Cain: We will be headlining at our home base, the VFW Post 39 in St. Petersburg, HOPEFEST—an outdoor COVID concert with 6 punk bands. It’s being put together by Jim Pacifico of the band Fear the Spider. We played our last show with them at the Post, and I love their “Iggy energy.”
Missparker: As always, it was such a pleasure to talk with you and get the inside scoop on what’s happening with you and Boys’ Entrance. I look forward to visiting with you and Bill up close and personal once restrictions have ended and there’s some semblance of “normal” life again.
Be sure to check out Boys’ Entrance and support their music:
What happens when you combine the masterful electronic creativity of two incredibly gifted musicians? An explosion of sound that rivals the force of a detonated H-bomb. Don’t believe me? Keep reading…
Last year (2020) brought out the innovative acuity of many as a sheer survival mechanism when confronted by COVID. People like me became the ultimate benefactors of music, visual art, and the written word that flowed forth freely like the Mississippi River as an endless balm for our collective suffering. COVID may have halted live mass performances, but it did NOT stifle the imagination, artistry, and ingenuity that continued to give birth to innovative expressionism beyond our wildest dreams.
One such venture that has yielded a wealth of fantastic digital music that defies adequate description is the pairing of musical geniuses Rob Stuart (Electronic Dream Factory and SLAVE to the SQUAREwave) and Brian Dickson (Colony Three). The result is a brilliant collection of electronica titled Boӧtes Void that’s a computer-generated music fan’s dream. Put me at the very top of that list.
Boӧtes Void consists of twelve tracks of moody, ecstatic, in-your-face music. Each track weaves a riveting story without words. It’s such a compelling collection that once the last song fades, it leaves one’s soul thirsting for more.
But enough of my humble opinion. It’s best to get insight on the thoughts and creative process that went into Boӧtes Void directly from the masterminds’ own mouths. I had the honor of posing a few questions to Rob and Brian to better understand how such a classic collection came to life and am happy to share the results with you.
MissParker:First, I’ve got to say that you two creating music together is an incredible confluence of electronic mastery. I’ve interviewed you both in the past regarding your own musical accomplishments, but never dreamed you’d combine your efforts to produce such a wonderful album. What prompted you two to get together?
Rob Stuart: I honestly can’t remember how this project came about. I defer to Brian for this one.
Brian Dickson: I defer to Rob on this…oh never mind…(laughs).
When Rob and I met it was pretty clear we had a lot in common musically, and we often shared hilarious stories about our past attempts at collaborations. Born from that was this concept we both agreed to, which was a “no rules” approach, which has worked out really well for the both of us and I think for the music, as well.
MissParker: The burning question that has to be asked—where did the album title originate from and what does it mean?
Rob Stuart: The album title was very last minute. So much so, that Brian and I did not have time to actually discuss it. I had read something or seen a video discussing something about The Boötes Void (or the Great Nothing) which is an enormous, approximately spherical region of space at nearly 330 million light years in diameter, containing very few galaxies. It is located in the vicinity of the constellation Boötes, hence its name. I thought it was something that fit our music perfectly.
Brian Dickson: Rob clearly put a lot of thought into the title, and I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I thought the title was about a lack of footwear (laughs). As it turns out, it was a very “fitting” title given our “style.”
MissParker: I have to admit—I was drawn in from the opening notes of Monolith, the first track on Boӧtes Void. I think I even smiled. It starts out so mellow and builds to an intoxicating crescendo. What inspired that track? Did it have anything to do with the monolith recently discovered in Utah?
Rob Stuart: I would love to say yes because that would be so cool but unfortunately not. The twelve tracks of the album were written month by month beginning in January 2020. Our only “rules” for this project were to compose, record, and produce a track with accompanying video each month resulting with a final album release at the end of the year.
Brian Dickson: Like Rob, I’d love to tell you that it was that thought out. This track started with a very short 8-second 4 track seed and grew into the final version after being passed back-and-forth a few times. As it was our first track, we were still working out the “how are we going to work together” on the songs and accompanying videos. I think my best memory of this song was that after it was completed, we both agreed that we were on to something.
MissParker: The overall mood of the album rises and falls from ecstatic highs to depressing lows. What sort of consideration goes into deciding the order of the tracks?
Rob Stuart: That’s an interesting question as that is something I usually agonize over when I release a SLAVE album. However, since this album was evolving from month to month we chose to sequence the songs in the order they were written.
Brian Dickson: Once the 12 tracks were completed, we did a few experimental changes on the track ordering, but we always ended-up back at the original. It wasn’t purposeful at the time, but now when I listen through the whole album, I’m glad we landed on keeping the order as it was created.
MissParker: I’ve maintained that lyrics are important to me. Obviously, lyrics don’t factor in at all with Boӧtes Void, yet it paints such vivid mental imagery. When writing electronic tracks, do you have a particular vision in mind that you’re transforming aurally?
Rob Stuart: I’ve always equated music with painting. The instruments are my choice of brush, the sounds are my colors, the canvas my bass and drums. When I write this type of music, the voice and words are replaced by color and tone. Even without someone singing lyrics I think the consideration for a human element is always there.
Brian Dickson: Like Rob I have also visualized music, but more so as a soundtrack to some imagery or a movie scene. A scene can be full of action, or sad, or contemplative, and that really helps drive a given sound and structure to a track.
MissParker: I’m so curious about the track “Ateoate’s Revenge.” I take it to be a play on “808.” If that’s so, and it’s not a trade secret, can you share what that means?
Rob Stuart: Bang on! That’s a track that Brian initially wrote and titled. It took me a while to figure out what the title meant. Duh!! In fact, I love the name so much I have convinced Brian and a couple of other synth friends to use this as the name of a new synth collaboration project we have started for this year. Stay tuned as there will be an “Ateoate’s Revenge” album release hopefully by the fall of 2021. BTW, it should be noted that Brian also put together the amazing video for this tune.
Brian Dickson: Yeah, I was trying to be clever with that name. The original track was something I created back in the mid-90s with an actual TR-808 (that I regretfully sold to pay the bills….sigh!)
I was so amazed with how Rob literally turned the original version inside-out and created this much better final track.
MissParker:It seems the overarching theme is space. Electronica naturally fits in with otherworldly motifs, and rightfully so. Do you see this genre of music defining more grounded concerns like love, life, loss, or even the political landscape?
Rob Stuart: Over time electronica has become more associated with space and otherworldly motifs but when I think back to the early days of Tangerine Dream, Vangelis, and many others, they were tackling politics with electronic soundtracks like The Sorcerer and Thief. Vangelis handled love, life, and loss masterfully in Bladerunner. I am still inspired by these great works today.
Brian Dickson: I’ve always viewed electronica as something that transcends history, race, and politics. I remember that when I was much younger, places like China, France, or Germany were so foreign to me. All of that changed when I listened to the fans cheering to the music of Jean-Michel Jarre’s Concerts in China or Tangerine Dream in Berlin and realized there were people all over the world with not only the same musical tastes, but also that deep-down we are all the same.
MissParker:The track “Machine Language” takes us through what sounds like a spirited conversation between members of non-human intelligence. Do your machines sometimes appear to have minds of their own?
Rob Stuart: Sometimes, yes! That’s usually because I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m a self-taught studio engineer and the way I’ve learned is by trial and error. So it’s no surprise I’ve hit the wrong button and the machine appeared to take on a mind of its own. On the brighter side, sometimes it can turn into a pleasant surprise and something cool will come of it. That’s always a bonus!
Brian Dickson: As a huge fan of sci-fi, I’ve always been intrigued by the concept of AI, but more on the cautionary side. When my gear does something unexpected, I try and turn it into a “happy accident.” Most of the time though, as HAL famously said it best…“It has always been due to human error.”
MissParker:Did you collaborate on all of the tracks, or was it more of a merging of the minds—Rob wrote some and Brian wrote the others?
Rob Stuart: Even though we were never in the same room at the same time due to COVID-19, this was a collaboration in the truest sense. Both of us shared old music riffs, partial songs ideas, 8 bar loops, or came up with something new and if anything inspired one of us, we would get to work on it. Then we would ping pong the track back and forth until we felt that it was finished while having constant discussions. The process was always very respectful and free of ego.
Brian Dickson: Rob’s response captures it perfectly! I’ll add that we both remain pleasantly surprised at how it all went so smoothly, only because we are so used to having full autonomy and control over our own tracks. I think what really helped was that Rob and I decided early on that honesty was key. If that fails, we just default to blatant sarcasm.
MissParker: In a traditional group, some members play guitars, others play keyboards, still others may play brass, and of course, there’s a drummer or two. When you put two electronic masterminds together, how do you split up the music duties?
Rob Stuart: There was never really any discussion about those duties. The relationship between Brian and I was so respectful that we kind of knew what to do and what not to do with each track. It may sound corny but usually the music would dictate what was needed and we both respected that need intuitively.
Brian Dickson: Rob and I wear all the hats in our other music, so we didn’t really land on playing specific instruments. Instead, we’d just add what we thought a track needed, either in the addition of new instruments or the composure of the song.
MissParker:Is Boӧtes Void considered a soundtrack, in that when taken together, all of the tracks combine to tell a single, complex story? Or is it more of a short story collection?
Rob Stuart: I’d love to say that it’s some super, clever, complex story but I’m just not that well thought out.
Brian Dickson: It’s a super, clever, complex story.
MissParker: I’ve asked each of you separately at one time or another about your musical influences. This time, just focusing on making Boӧtes Void, who or what can you cite as your influences for this project?
Rob Stuart: My usual favorites such as Tangerine Dream, Jean Michel Jarre, Vangelis, Brian Eno, Underworld, Global Communication, The Future Sound of London, Carbon Based Lifeforms, Harold Budd (RIP), John Foxx, Biosphere, Synergy, etc.
Brian Dickson: Ditto on Rob’s list. I also watched a lot of Jean-Michel Jarre’s Electronica-related videos about his more recent collaborations with John Carpenter, Vincent Clarke, Yello, and others.
MissParker: We have the privilege of hearing Kim Stuart’s angelic voice on Slow Motion. It’s a beautiful, moving experience. Was the song made with her contribution in mind, or did you decide another layer was needed while in production and Kim provided it? Either way, it’s brilliant.
Rob Stuart: Brian had written this beautiful piece of music but didn’t know how to finish it. He sent it over to me and I instantly knew what to do with it as soon as I heard it. As I was working on it I was messing around with some voice samples when Kim came into the studio and said, “let me try something on it,” which I thought was a great idea. She did two or three improvised takes and I picked the bits that I thought fit best. It did turn out rather lovely!
Brian Dickson: I am totally amazed with Kim’s vocals on this track. I’ll never forget when I first heard the new version with Kim’s vocals, I exclaimed “It’s Perfect!” out loud; It reminded me of hearing Clare Torry on “The Great Gig in the Sky.” With Rob’s brilliant engineering of the vocals and final track it was the perfect match-up, and I’d say this track turned out to be one of my favorites.
MissParker: I hope to hear more from Kim in future releases. In fact, I hope to hear more from you both, Rob and Brian, whether individually, or collectively. Any plans in the works for upcoming collaborative or singular projects?
Rob Stuart: Since Kim is in the house while I’m working in the studio, she ends up being on a ton of different songs by default, sometimes not getting credit for her contribution; however, with the success of the “Feels Like Heaven” cover with E.D.F, we’ve decided to pair up and try doing a full album of similar songs. We are currently working on our next song and will hopefully have something to release by the end of the year.
Brian Dickson: Rob and I have talked about continuing with our collaboration, and we’re looking to feature other artists in upcoming tracks. As with what Rob is doing with E.D.F., I’m also continuing my journey with Colony Three, with this year being focused on the release of several singles that will culminate to an end-of-year album…not sure where I got that idea from (laughs).
MissParker: Thank you both for agreeing to talk with me and sharing your thoughts about working together to make Boӧtes Void.
Rob Stuart: Thank you so much for being a voice for independent music and for asking such intelligent and thoughtful questions about our music and process.
Brian Dickson: This interview was an amazing experience, Sandy. Thank you for everything that you do in supporting us and our music; it means so much and encourages us all to keep at it!
Anyone who has followed this blog over the years knows that I have a huge soft spot for 80s alternative music, synthesizers, musicians who think outside of the box, and sultry British voices. When Marilyn Roxie (founder/creator of net music label Vulpiano Records) asked me to review Neurotic Wreck’s latest compilation, I must say I hit the lottery on all counts.
Neurotic Wreck is the wildly successful cumulative and solo efforts of musician Dan Wreck. He is a one-man battering ram of musical and lyrical genius. The variety of styles ranging from electric-folk to synthesized electro could be a holy train wreck (pun intended) in the wrong hands—but it works flawlessly on his superb album called “Glow Ghosts.”
This wonderful collection of tracks transported me back to such tremendous musician favorites as Underworld, Jesus & Mary Chain, Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk, and a short-lived but fantastic group called Ashengrace. There’s even a covert reference to a well-known Gary Numan song, but I am not going to spoil the experience by disclosing which one. The tracks are relatively short, extremely captivating, and arranged in such a brilliant way that the segue from one to another keeps the listener glued to the playlist. And, the fun part is, the artists I’ve named here are by no means the complete list of influences that the listener will identify.
The best way to introduce you to the up-and-coming artist Dan Wreck (a.k.a. Neurotic Wreck), along with Marilyn Roxie, the backbone of his label Vulpiano Records, is to share some questions that I asked both of them. As this post goes to press, the intended release date for “Glow Ghosts” is July 14. This is a must-have for any 80s or even contemporary alternative enthusiast, and may be purchased via pay-what-you-want here: http://neuroticwreck.bandcamp.com/album/glow-ghosts
Sandy Missparker (SM): I’m going to show my hand up front and admit I was blown away from my first listen. You had me at “The Wakeup Call” which was, indeed, a wake-up call for me. Typically, I’m a bit skeptical when first asked to listen to a new (to me) artist’s work, but that all went out the window pretty quickly, once the playlist got rolling. So, I’m curious: how long has Neurotic Wreck been making music?
DAN WRECK: As Neurotic Wreck, I’ve been doing this since 2011; steadily putting out collections of songs compulsively to a deafening silence, a name known to literally fives of people. I’ve been in bands from an early age, though (as most artists worth anything have been, I know). There’re other projects I’m involved with, but it’s not fair to elaborate on those, (because) if I do that people’ll go “Oh Dan obviously came up with this bit” if they like what I’ve done here, and quite often the things people pick out as me having contributed–I haven’t!
SM: I clearly hear some of my favorite 80s artists influencing your music. I’d love to hear from you specifically who it is that influences the direction of your music, and what attracts you to theirs?
DAN WRECK: Here’s where I get to be tedious and nerdy!
You already picked out the Numan thing, and like recognizes like there: one autistic monomaniac has to recognize another. I first heard Numan as a teenager and went on about how great he was to very disinterested friends. Prince is another big influence on me, another case of like recognizing like; not that I’m as technically gifted as him, but like me he was an androgynous, sexually ambiguous weirdo and artistic control freak. Also from the 80’s there’s New Order, as you’ve likely picked up from the tracks where I’ve shamelessly stolen Peter Hook’s style of playing bass. On the subject of bass, there’s also Barry Adamson: stuff like Speak In My Voice and After The Quiet sort of bear his imprint. As well as having played with many of my favorites at some point, his solo stuff manages to be soul and jazz influenced while still being very North West English; and let’s not forget the North Will Rise Again.
Then outside of all the obvious synth-pop stuff, loads of 60’s girl group records like I Never Dreamed by The Cookies, immortal solid gold pop; the drama and the melody in them is what sticks with me. Scott Walker for similar reasons. Rowland S Howard, undoubtedly, lingers over everything I do, but I could drone on about him forever (and in an article on Dennis Cooper’s excellent blog which Google have in their infinite wisdom taken down for no reason, I do). Coil is another one; I’m not sure it’s apparent from Glow Ghosts, but Jhonn Balance is a similar spectre pacing through things I’ve written. Maybe it’s apparent from Rune Cloud and some of the more esoteric lyrics.
MARILYN ROXIE: Here’s where I have to chime in, because it is Dan’s influences that I shared as favorite artists, both literary and musical, that caused me to pay more attention to his music submission, which was from an email he’d sent to my old music blog A Future in Noise back in December of 2012 with his Leave Tonight – Mixtape Side 2. Not only that, but the way that he is able to integrate it all together with his own personal style instead of the hopelessly derivative way that some artists do–that’s what really impresses me. Our mutual love of Coil and Dennis Cooper were initial conversation topics and I immediately invited him to also release material on my netlabel Vulpiano Records, which I don’t ask everyone. Vulpiano is really my own little curated paradise of independent and unsigned artists who I really love; and now Dan and I are together actually as a couple, as well, so it is very exciting to be able to work together more closely on what is happening musically.
SM: I have a deep fascination for single artist “bands” (and even duo-artist such as Underworld) who create such intricate orchestrated melodies. What does your studio look like and what types of instruments/devices do you use to develop your music?
DAN WRECK: My studio is basically wherever I’ve plugged in my digital 8 track recorder: it’s a Boss BR-600, and basically all I do is record on that, then export the tracks onto an old Window XP desktop with the Reaper Workstation installed on it. There I mix, add effects, and sometimes add software synths into it; but most of the sounds come from an electric guitar with 4 strings, a bass with 3 strings, a Novation synth with a key missing, and an old drum machine. Most of my equipment is at least cosmetically broken. Being able to afford more expensive equipment would be great personally, but wasted on me because I’d just dither around with it trying to make cool sounds rather than writing songs. I have to work within limits.
SM: In order to take your music out on the road, would you be willing to train other musicians to play various parts, or is it something that you could reproduce live as a solo act? Is live performance even something that you would consider doing?
DAN WRECK: Live performance is something I’ve done with other projects and will continue to do so because I love doing it. But as Neurotic Wreck, it’s quite unlikely, frankly, for the time being. Never say never, but for now it’s not on the menu. I don’t see the point of getting other talented people in and then getting them to just play what I ask them to when they may well have better ideas than me. So, if it does happen, then it’ll most likely be me doing it solo. That said, who knows? It’s under the name “Neurotic Wreck” not “Dan Shea:” it could, down the line, become more of a band. It has been, briefly, in the past.
SM: What got you started making music initially? Did you wake up one day and say, “I’m going to be a musician,” or did a specific person or event set you on that path?
DAN WRECK: Well, I’ve been around music from a very early age: my dad is a very talented songwriter, so it’s probably in my blood. I didn’t set out to be a musician or a songwriter; in fact, sometimes, to be quite honest, I wish I wasn’t. I wish I could be one of these people who’s happy just to be a consumer, rather than a producer. Ignorance is bliss, after all, but that’s not the way it worked out. In fact, for quite a long time I thought everyone could do what I do: being autistic, as I’ve mentioned, I just assume everyone can write songs or play an instrument, because if I can do it, it must be easy! Then I’ve spoke to people about it and they’ve looked back at me like a dog being taught a card trick, so it’s only recently sunk in that I may actually be quite good at all this.
SM: How would you classify your music? In other words, does it fit neatly into one genre, or does it span several different types?
DAN WRECK: I’ll give you a short and a long answer
Short answer: Just call it post-punk; no one knows what it actually means, but it’s an accepted bit of terminology. And if you say “post-punk,” people just nod and assume you know what you’re talking about.
Long answer: I don’t think it fits neatly into one genre, but I don’t think a lot of music does. There’re so many genres out there and they exist more as a marketing thing than as any remotely helpful guide to what you’re actually getting from the music. I’d say genre is more the domain of the gate-keepers, if you will: journalists (who I like) and publicists (spits over shoulder and crosses self). It spills over a bit but I’d say mood is a more useful way of categorizing music than genre tags. It is for me, anyway. To each their own.
MARILYN ROXIE: Post-punk makes a lot of sense as a descriptor…also, experimental synth, a dash of neo-folk that goes counter to people’s expectations around that genre as it can be overly anti-fascist. I do agree that it isn’t necessary to think of genre when he can do so many different styles with ease.
SM: It’s not unusual for artists to evolve their musical direction over time, but there is an evolution of sorts that happens in the span of the 13 tracks of this one dynamic compilation, a la David Bowie. Was that intentional?
DAN WRECK: It may have been intentional, but it wasn’t my intention. I got Marilyn to order the tracks because I think if you’re looking at something as an album rather than purely a collection of songs (important distinction even if it is an irrelevant one for many people these days), then the order is incredibly important. You’ve just mentioned Bowie, so a case in point would be 1.Outside: at the end of what is a fairly heavy-going album, especially from a multi-platinum megastar, there’s “Strangers When We Meet,” which is one of his most moving songs and even more effective because of what it’s come after. If it had been in the middle, as an individual song it’d still be wonderful; but the right sequence of tracks, as someone who still believes in the album as a viable format, is utterly crucial.
MARILYN ROXIE: I’m obsessive about playlists so I spent a lot of time working with Dan’s tracks to get the order just right. I always knew that I wanted “The Wakeup Call” to be the first track and “Tell Me What to Swallow” to be last, but finding the right ebb and flow of the softer and punchier songs was a challenge and I’m glad the flow came through in the end. Many of these tracks are from totally different recording periods.
SM: What is the hierarchy of lyrics and music—for example, do you write lyrics and then formulate the music to enhance them, or is it the music that gives birth to the lyrics?
DAN WRECK: It changes from song to song, really. If the song has a definite purpose, then it’s usually the lyrics come first: “One Skin Too Few” is something very personal about my feelings on gender and also the treatment of the mentally ill, and “Speak In My Voice” is about these same themes. They both started from lyrics. “After The Quiet” became something very personal, but that started from the descending melody line after the lyrics are sung in the choruses and expanded outwards.
SM: The label behind the promotion of “Glow Ghosts” is Vulpiano Records. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing its founder, Marilyn Roxie, for about 7 years now, thanks to the magic of the Interwebs. Marilyn, you are an extremely gifted keyboard artist in your own rights, but you seem to get a lot of satisfaction promoting others. Can you give us a little background on what makes Vulpiano Records (and Marilyn Roxie) tick?
MARILYN ROXIE: Vulpiano started off just as my idea of having a place to host exclusive content from independent and unsigned artists that had submitted to my old music blog (A Future in Noise, now on a bit of a hiatus). It isn’t always easy promoting yourself and throwing your content out there and hoping for the best; in the past few years, a lot of blogs have ceased to exist and only the super-popular remain, so the whole landscape is really different than it was in the late 2000s as well. Creative Commons and places to host free and legal music like Internet Archive and Free Music Archive have persisted, however, and there are a lot of exciting online radio and podcast platforms. I’m always searching for ways to share all of the great music I have gathered up.
Vulpiano is really representative my personal taste and artists I have become friends with that I think are really interesting across genres and want to show to other people, though experimental, electronic, and folk tend to predominate a bit. I do have plans to do another album of my own, which I’ve not put out since 2009 with New Limerent Object, but it’s taken me awhile to really figure out where I want to go with my own music. I am gravitating towards drone and shoegaze a lot lately, but I don’t want to just copy my favorites. I am a little too hard on myself, like many musicians. I enjoy seeking out new and exciting material so much sometimes it is hard to stop and actually go back to doing my own music! I am also involved in video art now and thinking about ways to combine that with my own music. I’ve been making videos for other people, including Dan, so I may want to make an album that has a music video for every song, or something like that. I am really interested in doing something multimedia, at any rate, but I’m not entirely sure of the final form just yet. I hope to do this late this year or early next.
SM: What can we expect in the future from Neurotic Wreck (and please don’t say it was a one-off—that would be SO disappointing!).
DAN WRECK: Well, after the huge stream of free releases over the last five years, I’m finally charging for something: Sandalphon, which will be out on Small Bear Records on the 22nd of September, the Autumn Equinox. Sandalphon is something of a genre exercise; two years ago when I recorded the bulk of those songs, I started investigating the genre of neofolk. Again, as I said earlier, this genre tag is just a convenient way of linking things with a similar ethos together; but that influenced Sandalphon an awful lot. Although, not to worry, there’re no banjos on it, the guitars are still plugged in, there’s still lots of synth, and the drums are still as mechanized as God intended. So that’s what’s coming up next. After that, who knows?
So, there you have it. I can’t emphasize enough the brilliance of this album, “Glow Ghosts,”, and urge you to add it to your music collection. The beauty of creative genius is that it keeps our lives interesting, gives us a positive outlet as listeners, and promises us always something exciting to look forward to.
After a long hiatus full of whispered rumors hinting at disbanding, retirement, everything Slave to the SQUAREwave fans absolutely did NOT want to hear, something very exciting has happened—a new album release and a hot party at the Hard Rock in Toronto on February 28, 2014 hosted by David Marsden. That sound you hear is the collective thud of gob-smacked jaws hitting the floor—hallelujah and praise the music gods!
The album—Asphalt, Sex and Rock ‘n’Roll—where to start? These Slave-starved ears were ecstatic with the long-awaited product of a flawless, long-standing, and highly successful collaboration between Rob Stuart and Colin Troy. If ever a duo were destined to create beautiful music together, this is it, folks. The result of long hours in the studio is a perfect, fun-filled collection of music that will both kick your ass and caress your soul.
What should you expect? Here’s my humble attempt to describe the pleasure trip this album delivers to its listeners. Strap yourself in, slide your headset on, and prepare to rumble—this is way better than the best road trip you’ve ever had in the mightiest muscle car.
If asked to describe the opening track Middle Finger in one word, “funkalicious” is the closest adjective that does it any justice. It’s a combination of Max Headroom (without the stutter) meets the Funkateers that is the perfect warm-up for what’s in store along this welcome journey. Alive and Electric (Dedicated to Jodi) presents swelling synths and superb harmonies; it’s a truly pleasing blend of keys and strings that picks up speed and takes on a life of its own.
Next up is Texan Thugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll, a play on words rife with fast cars, a thrumming beat, and tough-guy lyrics. Who could ask for anything more? Then, wafting through the headset is a slightly off-kilter intro to The Big South that lures the listener into a poetic bop-fest of beat-driven goodness.
Not for the faint of heart, Zombie charges off the starting line in a sheer frenzy. Anyone who can sit still while listening to the exceptional synths and snarling vocals of this party-in-your-ear track needs to check for a pulse because they just may well be a zombie. Then, when you think you have a handle on what’s feeding into your brain, the Dr. Who-esque intro of Poor Man’s Fight draws you smack-dab into the middle of the fray, while trippy, fun lyrics bind you up and hold you captive.
Who wouldn’t wish for a Seven Day Saturday Night? Here it is handed to you on a silver platter—the penultimate weekend escape, complete with kick-ass strings that transport you straight into the party-hearty environment that you crave. From there, the bass-heavy opening of Bump promises—and delivers—heart-stopping percussive goodness.
Early Stone Roses anyone? Montreal is another foray into trippy melodies, sexy organ, and seductive piano. After the shameless seduction has left you breathless, you are thrown in front of a revving engine like a beast out of control. Amazing Grace threatens to spin out wildly; miraculously, traction holds you firmly to the road and catapults you along the autobahn of life and love.
The next track begs for Peace of Mind, but the direct and driven message is that it’s truly an elusive goal. To emphasize that point, Time is Running Out presents a frantic and breathless illustration that time for us is, indeed, running out. Perhaps we should stop and smell the roses?
Casino is a perfectly crafted analogy of love won and lost the hard way. Better luck the next time, baby. You see, everybody gets a little lucky sometimes. Destined to be a favorite, Alive and Electric (Rob’s Analog Electromix) would be ideally at home on any Ultravox collection. The vocals form a faultless partnership with synths that reach down into the soul and infuse a shot of divine life-sustaining energy.
Zombie (Sonix Mix) is a less-frenetic reprise of the un-dead anthem; a different spin on a great, rollicking song. Likewise, Texan Thugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll (Mad Flowers Mix) gives one last and different listen to what makes this collection a no-holds-barred masterpiece.
Slave to the SQUAREwave delivers raw, unbridled musical joy with each and every collaborative piece that they create. Don’t miss out on a chance to experience truly artistic genius at its very best, while Rob and Colin still have the passion to make it happen. And, if you are lucky enough to be in the greater Toronto area whenever the sun, moon and stars align in perfect combination, be sure to see the dynamic duo Rob Stuart and Colin Troy, along with supporting band members Doug Lea and Craig Moffitt, for a live performance. It’s definitely on my bucket list.
A very limited supply of 200 Asphalt, Sex and Rock ‘n’Roll CDs will be available at the release gig at the Hard Rock Café (279 Yonge St, Toronto ON) gig on Feb 28, 2014. After that, an “Expanded Edition” will be added, which includes these outstanding bonus tracks: “India”, “Stereo Orthophonic High Fidelity Victrolis (SOHFV),” and “Alive & Electric (Kernel Chiptune Mix).” Also, for the first time, S2TSW are making The Money Shot (another absolute personal fave) available with all bonus tracks. Both albums are for sale starting Feb. 28, 2014 at the locations shown below.
If you’re lucky, you’ll remember this short-lived electronic band from North London. If you’re like me, you haven’t a clue who they were, but after listening to them, you’ll know you missed out on something really good. Fortunately, a dear rare 80s blogging buddy featured them on his blog Mine for Life a few years ago, otherwise I may never have had the pleasure of experiencing them
Electronic, poppy, somewhat dark, somewhat trippy….all the major ingredients for 80s music success, right? Once again and in this case, something was definitely missing in the equation; like so many other talented artists, this band went totally under the radar.
I Start Counting was actually a duo made up of college friends David Baker and Simon Leonard, who, according to Wikipedia, shared a love of pop music. The Wikipedia article goes on to report:
Baker and Leonard had met at Middlesex University; both had affection for pop music. In 1982 they began to DJ together which led to them to form the I Start Counting project. Leonard specialised in the technology side and Baker was biased toward the musical side of the project. They approached Daniel Miller with some demos of their recorded material. These demos led to Mute Records signing the duo in 1984.
In 1986, I Start Counting recorded and released their debut album, My Translucent Hands. This accomplishment led to them becoming a support act for Erasure the following year. They released a second album in 1989, Fused, whichincluded a new version of “Lose Him” comprised entirely of sampled voices.
The duo would morph into two more groups, Fortran 5 and Komputer, migrating to a different sound and experimenting with the dance/techno genre. Needless to stay, the enduring success they deserved eluded them, and they faded into 80s rarity oblivion.
I can hardly contain my excitement. There have been rumblings over the past couple of years of a re-release of Abecedarians music. The moment has finally come!
Bassist John Blake contacted me a couple of months ago to let me know this long-awaited treat was on the verge of becoming a reality. It was hard to keep quiet about this news, but I didn’t want to spoil the delicious anticipation that fans all over the world have been experiencing.
I received my copies of both Eureka on vinyl and CD and the Eureka “Bonus” CD this past week. Also available from the Pylon Records site are Eureka color vinyl, an Abecedarians leather iPad cover, and T-shirts in both tan and dark blue.
Track listings are as follows:
Eureka double vinyl or single CD
Beneath the City of the Hedonistic Bohemians
Mice & Coconut Tree
Misery of Cities
Other Side of the Fence
They Said Tomorrow
Bonus CD (included in select packages only)
Beneath the City of the Hedonistic Bohemians
Get yourselves over to Pylon Records and order your Abecedarians merchandise and music now. Or, if someone you know is struggling with what to get you for a gift this holiday season (or for any occasion whatsoever), drop a big hint that they should indulge your Abecedarians music cravings.
Abecedarians ~ I Glide ~ via YouTube user missparker0106
Not included in the re-release, but one of my favorites.
Abecedarians ~ Dinner ~ via YouTube user missparker0106
Short-lived, yet talented–that’s what we’re all about here at Rave and Roll. Frozen Ghost, a Canadian 80s new wave band founded by Arnold Lanni (vocals, guitars, keyboards) and Wolf Hassel (bass, vocals), is no exception, with one slight twist. Lanni and Hassel were also previously members of another short-lived and talented band called Sheriff. The 80s was a decade of band-hopping and “six degrees of separation,” and Frozen Ghost fits right in with that scenario.
To make matters more interesting, Frozen Ghost and Sheriff became rock chart competitors. Lanni, who owned the rights to Sheriff’s name, benefited from both bands’ royalties, so it turned out to be a successful business venture for him. Unfortunately, this somehow watered down the drive to make Frozen Ghost a musical force, and they ended up disbanding in 1993 after a long-awaited and mediocre album release.
Check out the band’s first two album releases: Frozen Ghost (1987) and Nice Place to Visit (1988) to experience the essence of what Lanni and Hassel had to offer before the musical waters were muddied. This is Canadian 80s at its finest, and another example of how regional music was criminally underrated and under-promoted here in the states.
Frozen Ghost ~ Round and Round ~ via YouTube user frozenghostsongs:
Frozen Ghost ~ Should I See ~ via YouTube user kurdtss:
Frozen Ghost ~ End of the Line ~ via YouTube user frozenghostsongs: