80s Music Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/Bands ~ Glamatron (Rude van Steenes and Kurt LaPorte)

Timeless music doesn’t fade away. Fueled by the passion of its creators, sometimes it rises from the ashes to feed ears that are tired of listless, formulaic tunes and hungry for solid, genuine, and soul-thumping Music-with-a-capital-M.

Glamatron! was originally formed in 1981 by Canadian musicians Rude van Steenes and Kurt LaPorte.  Together they produced one Glamatron! album called Only the Heart Beats … Inside the Silence. There was one other album to follow that never, unfortunately, saw the light of day: Chrome Horizons. After Glamatron! was dissolved, van Steenes and LaPorte then formed Vis-A-Vis in 1984, which was nominated for two awards and won the 1987 CASBY Award for Best Independent Artist.

Prior to Glamatron!, Rude van Steenes was the front man for Canadian punk band ARSON, formed with guitarist Marcel La Fleur and highly visible in the Canadian and American punk scenes during the late 70s and into the 80s. Fast forward to 2013 when Van Steenes and guitarist Marcel La Fleur resurrected ARSON and released a blistering, well-received album called not always about you.

Now, it’s time for van Steenes and LaPorte to reintroduce Glamatron!. And what makes the reemergence of this album doubly exciting is, well, that it’s a double album. Not only is Only the Heart Beats … Inside the Silence back, the previously unreleased Chrome Horizons is now available as part of the package.  Add to this the influences that its creators point to: Bowie, Roxy Music, Lou Reed, Marc Bolan & T-Rex, as well as early Ultravox, Wire, and Magazine, and you’ve got a collection of music that will absolutely wow fans of early New Wave. DJ David Marsden has been giving solid airplay to various tracks from Glamatron! on his Internet streaming radio station NYTheSpirit.com, and they have been met with keen interest.

Rude has graciously agreed to be interviewed, and I am proud and pleased to re-introduce you to this wildly gifted musician and his music. I have enjoyed…and will continue to enjoy…Glamatron!’s recently reissued Only the Heart Beats and Chrome Horizons. I know New Wave/post punk fans will, too.

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Missparker: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us about Glamatron!. I think an obvious first question is, what inspired you to reissue Only the Heart Beats … Inside the Silence and Chrome Horizons? And, who were your partners in crime (other band members)?

Rude van Steenes: Thank you for the opportunity and for all the great work you’ve done in supporting and bringing new life to one of the most creative eras in music! It truly is a pleasure to see this music thriving so many years later while continuing to garner new interest through the great articles you’ve written on the bands and artists and your ongoing support.

So, the question was, ‘What inspired me to reissue these albums and who else was involved?’ Well, the reissue was something I had been dabbling with in my mind for some time. I always thought the initial recording, Inside The Silence, was a diamond in the rough in that it was recorded on an 8 track reel-to-reel deck in a basement studio with little-to -none of the studio enhancements available today. The songs were roughly fleshed out by Kurt (Laporte) on guitar and myself on synthesizers and drums; then, Rick (Krausminc) came in on additional keyboards.

We worked with several players including Max Hutchison on drums and Marky Haughton on bass. Although Max and Marky played together on the same tracks, both left together before the recording was complete. This led to Kurt playing both guitars and bass, Rick on keyboards, and myself on vocals, synthesizers, and percussion while Max played drums on 3 tracks, Ben Elfassey on one, and I played on 2 tracks for the finished product. I think we recorded it over two weekends, mixed it, and borrowed the money for a pressing of 950 copies and that was it!

The cover was designed by Anne Marie Carlson and the striking woman featured is a portrait of her mother. The layout was bold for the time; most akin to the European releases of that era which had appealed to us.

Although critically acclaimed, North American labels in general were not interested as it lacked, in their opinion, “commercial appeal” and was considered “ahead of its time” for their audiences. Remember, the Canadian industry was tethered to their American parent companies and, at the time of release, the popular markets played Eye of The Tiger by Survivor, Physical by Olivia Newton John and Ebony and Ivory by McCartney and Jackson, as well as artists John Cougar, Chicago, Foreigner, and Toto topping the charts in North America, so no one here could or would do anything for us. Although the European scene was much more in tune with our sound, we lacked the management and resources to market ourselves over there.

And that brings us to Chrome Horizons, the previously unreleased, three-quarters completed, follow-up to Inside The Silence. At this time, Kurt, Rick, and I were working on some ideas and were joined by Scott Matthews on bass and Rob Greenway (a.k.a. Brilliant Fish) on drums. At some point, Kurt dropped out, leaving the project guitar-less. This was, of course, a challenge I wasn’t anticipating, and it took a while to adjust ,too as Kurt, for the most part, was my song-writing partner; however, as I had the bulk of the lyrics and part of the music written, it was then up to all of us to complete the pieces in the studio.

We took on the song Call written by Rob and, after a few runs, it started taking shape. Scott’s fluid bass lines combined with the keyboard melodies and stylized vocals, gave the finished song its character. The rest (Intrigue, Photographs, Death In September, Art of Seduction, And We Who Dare) followed suit; however, this was another self-produced indie project and we were again in a financial crunch unable to continue. In fact, one track didn’t make it on the studio version (And We Who Dare), as it wasn’t ready. It is, however, included on the live version of the CD and Bandcamp download. What was salvaged from those sessions remained on master cassette tapes for better than 30 years before being re-mastered by Scott in his studio this year.

Finally, what brought this all to light this year was a message I received from my friend Jacek who has a label called Artoffact/Storming The Base. He was interested in Glamatron! and asked if he could do a re-issue of the original first record. I then told him about the unreleased 2nd album and live tracks and a deal was struck to put the whole package together. They did a wonderful job, packaged the vinyl in optional pink along with a great poster, and the CD has a beautiful little booklet and bonus live tracks, as does the download. Really impressive—their label also has an incredible roster of artists that I’m proud to be amongst—such great influences and talents. (Please see the links at the bottom of this article for more information).

Missparker: To me, it’s quite a shift from ARSON’s pure punk to Glamatron!’s New Wave. What was the reason for switching genres, and did you find it to be a natural progression?

Rude van Steenes: Well, for starters, I think musician, author, publisher Jaimie Vernon probably nailed it best in his description of ARSON:

“Though ARSON was shuffled into the First Generation Toronto Punk deck of cards, one listen to tunes like “Love On A Leash,” “Art School Fool,” “Social Eyes,” “Not Always About You,” and “Motor City Suicide” and 20/20 hindsight reveals that ARSON were/are actually a true-blue American Rock ‘n Roll band owing nothing to The Ramones and everything to Iggy & The Stooges, The MC5, and The New York Dolls” –  Jaimie Vernon, Musician, author, publisher (Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia Vol 1 & 2, etc.).

So, ARSON was always kind of on the outskirts of the scene. For example, our third show was opening for The Dead Boys at the height of their initial popularity and that pissed off a lot of local bands who had wanted to do that show; however, it was the promoters’ decision, and although it worked out well for us, the resentment from other bands was never completely resolved.

Our shows were also more rock ’n’ roll than punk; being fairly agile performers, we would utilize stage lights, fog machines and experiment with different outfits and even characters. I took on every show as an adventure; however, towards the end of 1979, while playing some dates in New York City including Max’s Kansas City, I began to feel restless—restless to do something more creative, a different trip that would incorporate more diverse influences and, I think, we all saw that coming. Things were becoming strained between all of us, the road had taken its toll, the original scene was dying, and we were still broke and in debt. I needed to move on; ‘transition, transmission’ was my state of mind.

We came back home, recorded The Animals’ We Gotta Get Out Of This Place for the No Pedestrians compilation album, and all went our separate ways. Marcel and I were obligated to play a couple of gigs in 1980, so we picked up a few former players for those shows, and after two years of working closely together, we took a break for some 30 years!

At first, I began experimenting with different ideas under the ARSON banner. I found a guitarist I had known, recruited a bassist from another band, advertised for a keyboard/synth player and a drummer and put it all together. We did some of the old material, but focused on new songs and ideas; and at first, things went well. We played a few shows and started recording some demos. I brought guitarist Kurt Laporte into the band, but tensions began regarding direction and I began to sense potential problems that I didn’t want to deal with. So, I walked away from my creation, Kurt followed, and the remains went on to become Boys Brigade.

Immediately after, I started writing new material with Kurt and I came up with the name GLAMATRON!, which was the complete antithesis of ARSON. We wrote all new material and never once referenced the recent past. We were going to be new and different using our musical influences inspired by the UK and European music scenes. Transformation came quite easily, as I had already introduced characters into the previous band; however, this time everything changed dramatically from the music to the staging to the overall presentation. It was going to be more ‘theatrical,’ if you will, more along the lines of a hybrid Roxy/Bowie/Reed/’77 Ultravox-come-Stranglers affair. I wanted to change back from the stripped-down punky stage setting to creating a more engaging environment that rocked; and, the transition was so complete, that only close friends knew what was happening.

Having always written lyrics and vocals driven by a rhythmic feel from my drumming days and being influenced by a wide variety of jazz, blues, rock, and soul pioneers like Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, the Walker Brothers, not forgetting  Bob Dylan, Van Morrison,  Joe Cocker, Jim Morrison & The Doors, Todd Rundgren, Peter Murphy, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, etc., etc., at the time, I felt the limitations of the genre that ARSON had become was somehow preventing me from exploring other areas. As much as I loved doing what I did, I wanted to do more.

Writing was always important to me; it was an outlet to express myself whilst defining the moments of my interactions with life and all of its trappings. I grew up with books; I’m still an avid reader with a couple of books-in-progress left throughout the house. Great writers and poets have always fascinated me, particularly when their stories have the power to hold you as if a spell had been cast and you can’t leave until that spell is broken or the story ends.

Writers such as Thomas Pynchon, Edgar Allen Poe, Philip K. Dick, Kurt Vonnegut, Harlan Ellison, Anthony Burgess, Christopher Isherwood, Rod Serling, and Martin Amis, amongst others, could transport you right into their scenes with such vivid descriptors that if you closed your eyes, you could almost feel your senses open to the experience you just read about. So many other wonderful writers—each one has its influences while the best ones leave their mark.

When I came into the music scene, the last of the Beat poets were rolling up their influences in the old coffee houses of Montreal. Allen Ginsberg, Tuli Kupferberg and The Fugs, Jack Kerouac, Lou Reed and The Velvets, etc., had all drifted through and left their mark. It was all good and hung over with hints of old-world/Beat romanticism lingering in the air, giving it a sense of creative freedom. Switching genres was not really difficult, but more of a natural progression.

Missparker: You mention some fabulous influences in the release notes. Can you expand a bit on the elements of some of these artists that gave helped life to Glamatron!? Was it appearance, musical style, a bit of both?

Rude van Steenes: Well, I’ve been musically inclined for as long as I’ve known; my first instrument was drums and I was self-taught. Within two years of practicing, I was playing high schools, parties, and special events. Life at home wasn’t great, and in 1967, I left home and went to the west coast, finding myself in San Francisco for part of the summer of love. That experience opened up so many different avenues in music, poetry, art, and film that it easily became the creative extension of the Beat generation.

While many of my then contemporary influences included The Beach Boys, Jan & Dean, Dylan, and Frank Zappa to Paul Butterfield to John Coltrane, the Velvet Underground to Motown to Miles Davis and on the British side, John Mayall, the Stones, Animals, Who, Troggs, Them, etc., they were now joined by The Doors, Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Pink Floyd, Traffic, Small Faces, Moody Blues, Cream, etc., and styles from American garage to psychedelia to glam incorporating Bowie, Bolan, Roxy, Todd Rundgren, et al. All of these influences impacted throughout the seventies and into the eighties, constantly regenerating and further exploiting the boundaries of creativity, which at that point, showed no limits. Rock and Punk had bred New Wave, Goth, Hair Metal, Nu-Metal, Industrial, and Grunge—all variations on a theme!

My personal tastes have always leaned more to the other side of the pond with exceptions, of course; but in general, there appears to be a greater appreciation for music and the varieties and styles seem to co-habit in more of a non-competitive environment in comparison to the North American artists. I’d love to go over there and play some dates—we’ll have to look into that!

So as a direct answer to “was it appearance, musical style, or a bit of both?” The answer would have to be a lot of both!

Missparker: I have to say, when I put the CD in my player, you had me at Passport. I love the marriage of guitar and synths. What made you include an instrumental, and particularly as the opening track? Were you making a statement?

Rude van Steenes: Passport represented a number of things to us as it starts the adventure. First, the sound—a joyous, up-tempo instrumental that signals a new direction. It starts with the synth drone and church bell that opens into a bass sequence before the guitar and drums kick in. The song evolves around Kurt’s guitar lead and builds with momentum as it progresses; timbales kick in, the tempo remains strong, focused as the guitar counter plays against itself until the final stanza when the drums double up to punch out the last notes followed by the synth drone from the opening coming back and leading into Facial Saviour. Second, as the title implies, this is your ‘passport’ to the rest of the record. And, you’ll notice that just as in the beginning of Passport, the pealing bell is repeated at the end of the closing track Porcelain Doll, after the shattering sound of the doll breaking, to signify the end of your adventure.

The record was planned that way in my mind, albeit subconsciously. It emulates the cycle of birth, life, death, and reincarnation while incorporating all the trials and tribulations, joys and sorrows that we encounter on our journey. In the end, we’re reborn; hopefully wiser, stronger, and better individuals as a result of our experiences and encounters. A passport is always a beginning to something, it never ends.

Missparker: Even though “a little birdie” had given me a heads up that Glamatron! was coming to David Marsden’s live stream, I sat straight up in my chair when I first heard Porcelain Doll on his show. My initial reaction was, “Wow—who’s this?” Is this the reaction that you were hoping for from other New Wave fans?

Rude van Steenes: Of course, but it always comes as a surprise that the song still has that kind of impact. Porcelain Doll was a song that was very carefully arranged from the opening strains of the toy piano to the ‘Gregorian-style’ chorus and the off-kilter guitar that drunkenly wanders throughout the song right down to the child’s voice in the song’s midst. The fact that we were able to incorporate all these tracks with multiple bounces and not lose too much clarity on an 8-track reel-to-reel deck was a bit of a miracle onto itself! As it was also the last track we recorded, there were glitches to overcome. For example, we were going to have a drummer for the session, but he cancelled at the last minute. So, I ended up playing drums. Time was also tight, so we had to scramble to lay down all the tracks and, of course, things never go as planned when you’re jammed. We had to level the toy piano samples as they recorded too “hot,” the guitar parts had tracking issues, finding the right “shattering” sound for the ending, etc., etc.; but, in the final hour, it came together. The first time I heard it 35 years ago, it took my breath away and I hoped it would do that for everyone who heard it.

Missparker: Death in September has such wonderful overtones of Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy days. Is that era of his music something that you found valuable to your own work? The reason I ask is because he took a trouncing in the press for his music during that period, but Glamatron! seems to embrace it fearlessly, without regard for critical backlash.

Rude van Steenes: Well, in all honesty, I’ve never written to appease critics and I’ve always admired and respected artistic individuality and integrity as part of the creative process. Lyrics, poetry, prose etc., are an extension of your soul, a diary, if you will, of experiences, encounters, and interpretations that you have witnessed and composed creatively into words. Every artist has their own ‘vision’ and license to explore and interpret in their own way, as to how they perceive the intricacies of life.

David, as we know, was a master of that process not only during the Berlin trilogy but before and long after as well. His poetry and lyrics from early on and throughout his career are, for the most part, shining examples of life experiences woven into a variety of musical fabrics representing every era, so many of which he himself helped create.

The song Death In September was originally titled The Word from the first record and yes, the dark influence was definitely intoned throughout that first album; however, I felt the original version could be improved upon, so we re-recorded it focusing on contrasting the lyrics with a pronounced dance rhythm and a heavier synthesizer track and it pumps so much better now!

Missparker: Personally, I’m drawn to the 80s for the very style that Glamatron! emotes. I think it’s safe to say this collection is very appealing to that generation of listeners. Do you think you have a market with the current generation of music consumers?

Rude van Steenes: I’ve always believed that markets are created and not necessarily by the talent alone, but by a number of factors that include radio airplay, video play, label support, a strong promotional team, and motivated management. With those initiatives in place, I firmly believe that audiences can be created for any genre of music.

Unfortunately, the North American industry has always been “trend” focused in that they would hold back and follow trends rather than set them. Once a trend was established, everything else was put on hold and that’s where the indie labels had some clout. With savvy marketing campaigns, smaller labels could pick up acts, record and distribute them accordingly, and achieve success.

Of course, the majors didn’t like that and started buying out a lot of the smaller labels and either taking them over or gutting them depending on the individual success of each. This totally backfired as the smaller labels had a better understanding of their unique artists and often had chosen talent over profit, something the majors couldn’t understand.

In the early nineties, the industry began suffering major setbacks affecting artists, labels, and consumers and their markets continued to shrink throughout the next two decades. Once upon a time, there was a thriving industry that was able to invest and nurture and grow talent and although it wasn’t perfect, it certainly helped a lot of artists throughout the sixties, seventies, and eighties. Money for investing and promoting, recording and support for musicians was available, and it was, for some, a great community to be a part of.

By the mid-2000s, we saw the decline of the rock star and the rise of the reality TV star, which implies it is basically only about the image. Music took a back seat. When people don’t buy music anymore, the record industry responds by promoting stars with a marketable image. That created image has to then fulfill an objective with commercial potential, thereby stripping out any artistic quality for the sake of sales revenue. In essence, many of today’s songs are not reflective of the artist, but rather carefully written lyrics and hooks assembled by multiple writers with the subject matter designed to appeal to the reality show culture. In other words, today’s pop hits are usually manufactured.

The industry today is almost non-existent, and why bother? With shows like American Idol, hundreds of people can “sing” and they all want to be stars. Why would an industry develop an artist when they have access to clones of today’s stars for nothing?

Do I think that there’s a market for the 80s sound with the current generation of music consumers?  Yes, because good music withstands the test of time and because audiences still seek out good dance music and the 80s had that in droves! We just have to have a solid fan base that can help sustain us in order to continue producing and recording our music.

Missparker: I love, love, love (did I say, “love?”) Call and Art of Seduction from the Chrome Horizons collection. The fretless Mick Karn-ish bass riffs and the Sylvian-esque off-kilter singing absolutely slay me. Was that a nod to the group Japan, or just a coincidental and fabulous collision of incredible sounds?

Rude van Steenes: Well, I would have to say both in this case! We’re all fans of Japan and I would be remiss in denying that there was some influence; however, Call was written by Rob (Greenway) and when we were laying out the track before recording it. Scott (Matthews) was experimenting with his fretless bass while Rob and I experimented with vocal stylings as a progression of the overall “GLAMATRON! sound.” The rest fell into place and we recorded it.

When it came to Art of Seduction, this was a little trickier as the song flowed around the vocal, which had actually started out as a poem I was writing influenced by a series of books I had been reading by Christopher Isherwood called “The Berlin Diaries.” Once we started playing around with some ideas, the lyric developed a flow. Scott again incorporated the fretless bass and the nucleus started taking form. I wanted to keep the background somewhat dark to contrast the bass and vocals and that’s where the notorious Prophet 5 synthesizer came in. I was able to layer several ghostly ‘creeper’ tracks that wove in, out, and between the vocal, bass, and percussion layers. There were other pads that I wanted to add to flesh it out a bit more, but time was a factor.

Missparker: There seems to be a distinct difference in sound between Heart and Chrome. The tracks on Heart are a bit more upbeat, where those on Chrome are a bit darker (and actually appeal to the Goth tendencies in me). What type of evolution had the band gone through to bring about that difference in style? Did that have something to do with not releasing Chrome when it was first made?

Rude van Steenes: Yes, there definitely is a distinct difference in sound between the two which was brought about by a number of mitigating factors. Following the recording and release of Heart, Scott came on board and we did our first live show at a place called The Domino Klub. It was a well promoted showcase; however, nobody, save a few close friends, knew who we were. There were no clues to the past (i.e. ARSON, etc.), and we decided that the less we say, the more intrigue got to play and it worked! The ‘intrigue’ portion played out on national television as a segment of The New Music show where reporters were filmed chasing the band to the dressing room without getting an interview—all in good fun!

It was shortly after that show, when drummer/percussionist Rob came into the picture joining Kurt, Rick, Scott, and I and we started thinking about recording a follow-up record. In addition, we were offered a television taping for a future broadcast. Once the taping was done, it was time to get back to writing.

I think that one of the primary differences in our evolution was that with the first album, Kurt and I wrote the songs and parts and the guitar was always there. Now, with two new fulltime members also contributing, somewhere in the process, Kurt seemed to sense a directional change that he may not have been comfortable with and took a break from the project. As some of the tracks had been written with Kurt’s parts, we had to change those with alternate parts and that was tricky at times. Everything was revamped and all told, Rick, Scott, and Rob did an incredible job breathing new life into the songs.

Other factors include the variety of influences we were affected by in the process of developing the GLAMATRON! sound. As an avid reader and observer, I’m always armed with pens and paper and usually end up with all sorts of scraps of paper with partial lyrics, ideas, etc., in my pockets. At home, I have at least 5 scratch books in different rooms for the same purpose. Scott, Rob and Rick would also gather ideas and throw them on the table; some worked and some didn’t, all parts of the puzzle.

As for not releasing Chrome sooner, there were still tracks to be recorded and mixed, final touches that we weren’t able to finish and like most indie bands, the money is always an issue. Although we were in a slightly better studio with a bit more money, it really wasn’t nearly enough to finish the album. As such, the project was shelved for almost 35 years. What you’re hearing was culled from cassette masters and carefully re-mastered by Scott in his studio.

Of note, one of the incomplete tracks, And We Who Dare was never fully finished although there is a live version on the CD and Bandcamp versions.

Missparker: Only the Heart Beats … Inside the Silence and Chrome Horizons is such a nostalgic trip for me. I just want to put on my dancing shoes, spray my hair up high, and go clubbing. Will there be more—in other words, would you be open to creating more music in the traditional New Wave style?

Rude van Steenes: Well, with the support I’ve been getting from fans, old and new, and of course from David Marsden and his nythespirit.com radio programs, as well as opportunities such as this wonderful interview with you, I’m encouraged and delighted that after all these years, the music and the sounds of that era are still very much alive.

Personally, I’ve never really stopped writing and I do have at least two albums worth of lyrics that easily would fit into that, shall we say, timeless style. Also, let’s not forget, GLAMATRON!’s “successor,” thrice nominated CASBY Award nominees and 1986 winners for Best Independent Artist, Vis-A-Vis!

Vis-A-Vis was actually the continuation of where GLAMATRON!’s founding members, Kurt LaPorte and I, were reunited. Bolstered by our mutual friend and current nythespirit.com host Rob Stuart on synths, along with Gene Burda on keyboards, Gord Baker on drums and Gene D’Onofrio on bass, you had the first version of that band! More on that for another occasion as there may be a CD release in the future.

So, back to your original question, I would have to say yes, there is material there and I’m working on it as well as scripting a video for Porcelain Doll. The hard part is finding like-minded people to collaborate with as many people involved with these projects have moved on and had families, careers, and other projects and pursuits. For example, on my end, I got together with Marcel and some old friends and reignited the band that preceded GLAMATRON!, ARSON. I’ve known these guys since the late 70s and we decided to have some fun and get together, do some shows, and release a CD.

Former GLAMATRON! bassist Scott Matthews works in theatre now in Stratford while former drummer Rob Greenway records under the name Brilliant Fish and plays in various bands. As for Kurt LaPorte, I understand that he gave up playing professionally years ago to focus on career and family. Rob Stuart went on to create EDF following Vis-A-Vis and I was quite honored to be part of his band as a vocalist and percussionist and a contributing writer to tracks on their first CD. Rick Krausminc survived both versions of GLAMATRON! and was a significant contributor to the GLAMATRON! sound. A very talented piano and keyboard player with a great sense of humour, Rick could easily defuse any tense moments. When GLAMATRON! left the room with Elvis, Rick went back to his DJing at clubs and built a successful career.

I should also like to thank Greg Baker, who in the beginning stages of the band, was there and really believed in the project and helped out with all the managing chores and contributed his energy and experience. Also a special thanks to Brian Masters for his contributions to the second album, Chrome Horizons. Playing with all these amazing musicians has been a privilege and something I would love to do again, as so much good has come out of those collaborations, so many creative ideas spilling over and birthing other ideas that flow like paint on blank canvases breathing life into a cascade of colorful notes and leaving something that spurs memories and good times, tears and laughter, love and loss, but always a time that sparks would fly and live dangerously in love with the creative muse.

Be sure to check out Glamatron!’s music and legacy music on the following sites:
https://www.facebook.com/Glamatron/
https://www.facebook.com/VisAVismusic/
http://www.facebook.com/arson.music
https://twitter.com/ARSONBAND
http://www.reverbnation.com/arsonmusic

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80s Music Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/ Bands ~ Rob Stuart is Back with Electronic Dream Factory (EDF)

Excellent music never dies; sometimes it just goes away for a while. And, like a treasured loved one, its return evokes strong emotions of joy, relief, and a reconnection with the universe. That’s what’s happening here, folks. And, I am delighted to be the bearer of the fantastic news.

Rob Stuart first graced Rave and Roll’s pages exclusively as a featured artist back in November 2009. Earlier that year, I had published an article about his Toronto-based band SLAVE to the SQUAREwave, followed by a review of their then-latest smashing release, The Money Shot. Earlier this year (Feb. 2014, to be exact), I was privileged to announce Slave’s return with a jaw-dropping, in-your-face collection of tunes called Asphalt, Sex & Rock ‘N’ Roll. Now, I am thrilled to deliver the trifecta: Rob Stuart’s long-awaited re-emergence featuring an entire catalog of synthesizer-driven musical goodness from his band, Electronic Dream Factory (E.D.F).

Rob agreed to be interviewed so that I can share with you all a little bit about the beginnings of E.D.F., its evolution, the inspiration for the music, and the reason for the decision to re-release the catalog.

When did E.D.F. make its debut in the world?

EDF studios circa 1983

EDF studios circa 1983

Originally E.D.F was and still is the name of my home recording studio. I stole the name from a small British synthesizer company called Electronic Dream Plant which built a very cool monophonic synthesizer called “The Wasp.” My earliest recollection of my first home studio was back in 1981. I decided very early on in my “music career” that rather than pay other people to record in their studios, that I would just build my own and teach myself how to record, engineer and mix.

I was only sixteen back then and gear was incredibly expensive, so my first studio was nothing fancy. I would work three summer jobs to save up enough money to buy studio gear. I still remember purchasing the first real synth I ever owned, a Korg MS-20 for $595.00 at Steve’s Music Store in Toronto. I was so proud walking home with that synth tucked under my arm that day. It was once I started writing original music when I decided Electronic Dream Factory would also serve as a good band name.

Who were the original band members?

Greg Fraser, Rob Stuart, Rob Tennant (1992)

Greg Fraser, Rob Stuart, Rob Tennant (1992)

There have been many incarnations of the “band”version of E.D.F. Version 1.0 is me alone as a solo artist . Long time friend/musician/ artist, Greg Fraser was the first person to become an official member. Our first full-length self-titled album was just Greg and myself. Version 2.0 included Rob Tennant, who was the live drummer.

We soon added Maxx on guitar. Version 3.0 included Emerich Donath on stick bass and Rude Van Steenes on electronic percussion and vocals. I knew Rude back from the Vis-A-Vis days as I was an original member of that band .

EDF Version 3.0

EDF Version 3.0

Why synthesizers and electronica vs. guitars and…?

I’ve always been a synthesizer nut. Ever since I first heard early synth-based music like Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Pink Floyd, Jean Michel Jarre, Vangelis, Throbbing Gristle, David Bowie, Brian Eno, Gary Numan, John Foxx, and early Human League, I knew I wanted to get into synthesizers.

First of all, they looked so cool and they could make sounds that you’d never heard before. That was really the appeal to me. I would spend hours messing around with my MS-20, plugging in cables, twiddling all the knobs, to come up with unique and different sounds. I’ve never been a person who is comfortable jamming in a rehearsal studio or in a band situation, which is why I don’t really consider myself a musician. I still don’t play that well, but writing, recording, and producing came fairly naturally to me. Writing music always was and still is a personal journey for me, so when MIDI came along it allowed me to create all parts of the music by myself, which I thrived on.

Having said that, I’ve always been a guitar fan, so when I couldn’t fake a guitar part by myself or find the right guitar sample I’d have to bring in a guitar player. Of course nothing can replace the thundering sound and look of a live guitar player on stage. That’s where Maxx came in. He was a cool-looking dude with a great head of hair and a killer guitar sound which added to the live element and gave the studio recordings a little extra grit.

Was E.D.F. mainly a studio band, stage band, or both?

I’ve always been a studio guy, but you have no choice but to play live if you want to promote your product seriously. It’s a great feeling playing your own music live with 3 or 4 other people on stage with the lights, smoke, and (hopefully) crowds of people in the audience grooving to your tunes; however, I also derive immense pleasure spending hours in my studio just writing or playing music by myself.

That’s were the “other” side of E.D.F comes from, as I also record and release ambient, chill out, new age music which I never intend to play live. Our finest moment was playing at Pine Knob in Detroit, Michigan in front of 10, 000 people for a big end-of-summer music festival.

What or who inspired the music?

The “who” is endless. See all the bands named earlier. Inspiration can come from anything, really. It could be a unique industrial sample, synth patch, drum and bass groove or simply a nice chord progression. It’s piecing all of those elements together that makes it fun and challenging.

Did E.D.F. originally get the airplay it deserved, and if so, by whom?

The first E.D.F release was actually a cassette-only; but, believe it or not, we used to get airplay on the radio. CFNY 102.1 in Toronto was the first station to play our music. That station was a huge supporter of local independent music, led of course by the one and only David Marsden who still plays my music to this day on his new station http://www.nythespirit.com. With open-minded people like David and the good folk at CFNY, the song “So, What of Tomorrow” ended up being a winner on a CFNY talent search contest and was released on a compilation CD, which to us at the time was unbelievable.

Other places that would play our music would be University radio stations like CIUT (University of Toronto), CKMS-FM in Waterloo, and CKLN (Ryerson University) who were always great supporters of ours. Local DJs like Ronno Box and Craig Beesack would play us at clubs like Catch 22 and local promoter Billy X was also an early supporter of E.D.F

What’s it like to translate a concept in your head into music that you share with the rest of the world?

It’s fun at first, but it can quickly become frustrating when the business aspect kicks in. I won’t even talk about the music business these days as no one has a clue what’s going on; but back in the early 90s there were still labels you could shop your product around to. For our first album we had some interest from TVT Records which had just signed Nine Inch Nails. For the second album, “Drama Dream” we signed a deal with a label in Montreal, which went bad. For the album “Number 3” I had a distribution deal with Toronto’s The Record Peddler. Financially that was probably the most success I had with an EDF album as they managed to get distribution deals in quite a few different territories worldwide.

What made you decide to resurrect EDF?

One word: “Tunecore.”

Tunecore is a great service that distributes your music around the world to digital music stores and streaming stations. It’s really cheap and allows you to keep 100% of the earnings. They really do get the music out all over the world! E.D.F had a pretty strong following in its heyday, especially in Europe.

As I mentioned above, the album “Number 3” was released and distributed internationally by The Record Peddler. I used to get royalty cheques from airplay I received from places like Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Norway and many other countries. Over the past few years I decided to post some old E.D.F videos on YouTube and found that people were actually looking for the old releases. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to re-master and re-release the whole collection in a new package.

Hence “Industrial Catalogue:” All four E.D.F albums in one, 64 songs in total, reasonably priced at $8.99. I did the same with my ambient/chillout/down-tempo E.D.F music, as well. Four albums in one package under the title ˜Noise Control” with 60 Songs in total.

Are there plans for live shows, and if so, where?

At this point, definitely not. SLAVE to the SQUAREwave takes up all of my spare time with live performances and recording. The last time E.D.F played live was at a rave in the middle of a farmer’s field in Oakville, a suburb of Toronto. This was actually where I met Colin Troy from S2TSW, as we were both playing at the rave that night. I was performing my more “techno” E.D.F material while Colin was doing his Smokin’ Jehovah project, which was a mix of middle eastern music and house. Really cool stuff. We chatted through the night about our love for Bowie, Roxy Music, and electronic dance music. We became instant friends and SLAVE to the SQUAREwave was born.

Do you have any examples of E.D.F. music online that people can preview?

Here’s some of my ambient/chill-out music taken from “Noise Control”:

Will the entire catalog be available for purchase? Where?

“Industrial Catalogue” is available via Amazonmp3.

Picture-#-4.-EDF-Industrial

 

 

 

 

 

“Noise Control (Vols 1 to 4)” is available via Amazonmp3.

Picture-#-5.-EDF-Noise-Cont

 

 

 

 

 

Both albums are also on Spotify, Rdio, Shazam, iTunes, Google play, Wimp, Deezer, beats music and many, many more on-line stores.

Can folks buy single tracks?

Yup! Single tracks are the standard 99 cents.

Will this inspire you to go back into the studio and create new E.D.F. tracks?

E.D.F has never really stopped. It’s just come in many different shapes and forms over the past 32 years and will continue to evolve. I’m getting more and more into the chill-out/ambient stuff as I get older, so you can most likely expect some more music in that vein.

What’s next?

I’m considering releasing some music by a duo group I was in back in the mid 80s called “silent GREEN.” It was an ambient project where the music was ad-libbed and recorded live. I played synthesizer while Bruce Bentley played “ambient” guitar. Bruce and I also had a synthpop band called “Ear Candy,” which was another CFNY-supported band. Tragically, Bruce passed away last year, so I’m thinking of releasing it in his memory. Some of that music is pretty magical.

Thanks so much!

Thanks for your support. I love what you do. You don’t know how important things like this are to a band/artist. You’re really doing a great thing here and it is most appreciated. XOXO

80’s (and sometimes 70’s) Music Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/ Bands ~ ARSON

Photo by Santiago

 Over the past few months here on Rave and Roll, you have read about the criminally underrated group Vis-A-Vis, and lead singer Rude van Steenes (“Angelic Voices Part II”). Today, it’s my pleasure to bring you an additional piece of related history: ARSON. Deep gratitude to Rude van Steenes who graciously allowed me to use the biographical information that he provided, much of it in his own words.   

ARSON began its foray into the Toronto (and beyond) punk scene in the summer of 1977. Drummer/vocalist/composer Rude van Steenes morphed into Rudi Tuesdai and, along with an eclectic mix of acquaintances, recorded an original french punk song he wrote called “je tenais” (I’m fed up). Recorded live onto a TEAC 4-track reel-to-reel, the song was a spare mix of guitar, drums, bass, and vocals reminiscent of one of Tuesdai’s early influences, the MC5. Unfortunately, a self-proclaimed“manager,” claiming to have contacts, took the master tape presumably to make dubs to shop around, and promptly vanished.   

Shortly after, Tuesdai had the good fortune to meet up with Marcel La Fleur. The match produced lyrics by Tuesdai, music by LaFleur, and a friendship that would last more than 30 years. They picked up bassist Crazy Alex and a drummer named Gary and began rehearsing in the back of a junk shop/former theatre (The Rose) on Queen and Bathurst, Toronto that had burned out long ago. It was dirty and dark with two light bulbs hanging on frayed wires from the ceiling, but it provided then with the necessary and vital place to hone their craft.   

Late Spring of ‘78 saw their first live show guesting at the local start-up for most bands called The Turning Point. That was followed by opening stints for The Ugly and later, The Viletones. At that particular show, ARSON played with such intensity, the capacity crowd gave them 3 rousing encores. Two weeks later, the Garys offered them The Dead Boys shows at The Horseshoe along with friends, The Demics, from London.   

During that period, ARSON shows consisted of 12 original songs and a few select covers, with their opening signature being The Stooges’ Raw Power. ARSON material was socially motivated and influenced by the likes of American forerunners The MC5, The Stooges, Velvet Underground/Lou Reed, New York Dolls, Television, Richard Hell, etc., and from overseas, early versions of The Animals, Rolling Stones, The Clash, The Vibrators, John Cooper-Clarke, The Stranglers, The Cure, and Chris Spedding. Other covers ARSON performed live were The Animals’ We Gotta Get Out of This Place, The Kingsmen’s Louie, Louie, and The Dolls’ Vietnamese Babies.   

 The band toured successfully and encountered a few personnel changes over the next couple of years. Van Steenes recounts the following:   

 The Chicago dates were another turning point for ARSON where the inspiration for the song ‘COHO COHO’ was born. In the words of ‘Shades’ writer, John Hamilton;   

 ‘It was at Mother’s in Chicago that the band took the stage to cries of what they thought were “GO HOME, GO HOME”. What didn’t fit was the cheering and applause after every song. Later on they discovered it wasn’t “GO HOME” but, “COHO” the crowd of rabid maniacs was screaming.    

 COHO, for the uninitiated, is a group of anti-disco fanatics in the mid-west. Led by head loon D.J. Steve Dahl of WLUP radio in Chicago, they’ve begun an all out war on Disco. ARSON was so affected by the meeting, they’ve produced a single, ‘COHO, COHO’, which would become the anthem for the emerging army.’    

 ARSON was gaining serious traction in America, actually breaking even or better, and promoting/booking themselves at sold-out venues as they went along.This was amazing for a band with no financial backing or a recording contract.   

 ARSON recorded their first single Livin’ With The White Folks B/W Coho COHO at Cottingham Sound in Toronto, in the Fall of ’79. They self-produced and financed approximately 1,000 copies which promptly sold out. A mini-tour followed with dates in Toronto (Rock Palace) and a 10 day promotional jaunt to New York City where the band played dates at Max’s Kansas City, Stickball, and Club 88, as well as being guests of The Plasmatics at a Long Island gig on Halloween. Return dates in Toronto at ‘The Horseshoe’, ‘Hotel Isabella’ and ‘Larry’s Hideaway’ to promote the single’s release followed before the band decided to take a well-deserved break.   

 In 1980, ARSON continued to make the rounds at various local clubs before going back into the studio to record a cover of The Animals song, We Gotta Get Out of This Place for the No Pedestrians compilation on Chameleon Records. The album was released in July and was critically acclaimed as one of the best compilation albums highlighting the ‘new’ music. Unfortunately for this version of ARSON, undoubtedly the best, this would be the end of a successful run.   

Over the years that followed, both Rude and Marcel pursued different projects. Their paths crossed sporadically which would include some creative collaboration and putting ideas on tape. Recently, they have been writing and arranging the old and the new for both recording and performing projects. The result: be sure to watch for a return of ARSON, better than ever. Rude van Steenes reports:   

 We’ve been working on arrangements and new material for a while now. Everything is moving nicely through the planning stages and everything sounds fresh and alive. The best part of our writing and friendship is that we’re like two kids getting excited and having fun being creative!    

 ARSON was a special project for me as it was my first foray into lead vocals and being stage front as opposed to hiding behind a drum kit, my first instrument. For Marcel, it was his very first real band.   

Lucky for fans of the original punk and post-punk scenes, ARSON is rising from the embers that never stopped glowing. For more information, and to listen to some great tracks, check them out here.  Also, contact Rude van Steenes via Facebook here.   

  

80’s (and sometimes 90’s and 00’s) Music Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/ Bands ~ Rob Stuart

EDF2Yes, that’s Rob with a “b,” Stuart with a “u.” Let’s get that straight before we embark on a journey that spans three decades and blows the lid off of the electro/synth/industrial music powder keg.

Not long ago, I featured an article on the Toronto-based band Slave To The SQUAREwave, followed by a review of their latest smashing release, The Money Shot. I also ran a Criminally Underrated piece on another Canadian 80’s band I felt had not received their well-deserved share of the spotlight called Vis-à-Vis. At the time, I had no earthly clue that there was a vital connection between these two amazingly talented bands. That connection is Rob Stuart.

Rob forwarded me a list of his musical stats and an audio collection of his music from the past nearly 30 years. After listening to the music throughout much of this week while toiling away at work, I have two words to describe what I heard – “blown away.” Let me put it this way: If you are as big a fan of synthesizer-fueled music as I am, there is no better aural pleasure than I have been treated to this past week. Rob Stuart is a master at what he does, whether it is writing, performing, or collaborating on music. I had thought my synthesizer idol Gary Numan had provided me with all the electronic music I needed to keep me happy the rest of my days. I could not have been more wrong. In fact, there was a cover version of Numan’s Films included with Rob’s audio collection that is every bit as good, if not better than, the original.EDF4

Rob began his serious foray into electronica in 1980 as part of a band called The Plastic Omniums. The band’s line-up looked like this: Rob Stuart (string machine, vocals), Joseph Podlovics, (synthesizer [Roland SH-09], CompuRhythm), John Parry, (synthesizer [Arp Odyssey Model 2800]), and Clifford Podlovics (Teac reel-to-reel tape deck, effects). The band enjoyed a couple of live performances and some unreleased studio recordings before calling it quits.

Next, Rob was a part of Vis-à-Vis from 1982-1984. At that time, the band’s line-up included Rob Stuart (synthesizers, bass guitar), Rude Van Steenes (Vocals), and Kurt LaPorte (guitar, vocals). The band produced many unreleased studio recordings and had several live performances. Vis-à-Vis went on to re-form minus Rob, and ended up releasing two LPs in 1986-87.

EDP5Ear Candy was the next musical project up. It consisted of Rob Stuart (synthesizers, production), Eric Kofler (synthesizers, programming, engineering), Andrew McNeil (synthesizers), and Bruce Bentley (guitars, vocals). Strictly a studio band, they enjoyed one EP release titled Self Defence (1986). Eric Kopfler and Andrew McNeil were replaced with Tom Bentley (drums) and James (vocals) for the remainder of Ear Candy’s lifetime, 1987-88. A double-sided 45 rpm vinyl record, “Don’t Let My Heart Slip Away/Don’t Push Me,” was released.

Rob was involved in a simultaneous project while with Ear Candy. Described as “improvisational ambient,” the group was named Silent Green and produced a 60-minute cassette entitled Euphoria. For more information, check them out on MySpace.

Besides Slave To The SQUAREwave, Rob’s most longstanding and ambitious project to date is a group known as Electronic Dream Factory (E.D.F.). Started in 1986, E.D.F. is still going strong today. Using the information provided, here is a breakdown of E.D.F. personnel over the years:

Rob Stuart – Synthesizers, Programming, Production, Vocals
Greg Fraser – Synthesizers, Sequencing, Engineering (1989 to 1991)
Rob Tenant – Drums (Live band 1991 to 1993)
Max – Guitar (Live Band 1991 to 1993)
Emerich Donath – Bass Guitar (Live Band 1991 to 1992)
Rudi Van Steenes – Guest Vocal, Simmons SDS-V Percussion (Live Band 1991 to 1992)

E.D.F. Discography:

1989 – “E.D.F – Self titled cassette” (Since been re-mastered to CD)
1992 – “Drama Dream” 16 song CD (Indiscreet Sounds)
1994 – “Number 3” 16 song CD (Indiscreet Sounds) Distributed by The Record Peddlar
2005 – “Patient Number 152” Double CD (Indiscreet Sounds)
2006 – “Remix-Remaster-Remake” Best of E.D.F compilation including re-mastered material plus new tracks (Indiscreet Sounds)      
2009 – “The Haas Effect” New full length CD release featuring a unique blend of ambient, space, chill and electronica (Indiscreet Sounds)EDF3

As if this wasn’t enough, Rob Stuart has also assisted Rude Van Steenes, Terence Gowan, and a duo called The Cynix in the capacities of producer, engineer, songwriter, and synth-player extraordinaire in numerous studio projects. All of these projects, including recordings for E.D.F. and Ear Candy, have produced songs used in movie and TV soundtracks, advertisements, and international airplay.

Criminally underrated? Absolutely. Rob Stuart has got to be one of the hardest-working, consistently productive, multi-talented musicians that the world has hardly ever heard of. Between E.D.F. and Slave To The SQUAREwave, concurrent groups of diverse, yet outstanding music, odds are in favor of the elusive break that will catapult him and his solid compositions into the limelight. Better sooner than later.

Check out Electronic Dream Factory’s MySpace page.  For more information on obtaining copies of the music mentioned in this article, feel free to leave a comment using your current email address and I will gladly forward your requests on to Rob Stuart.

“Are You Not Ashamed?” by E.D.F. via YouTube user slavetothesquarewave:

“Films (Gary Numan Cover)” by E.D.F. via YouTube user Akito01:

80’s Music Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/ Bands ~ Vis-A-Vis

vis-a-vis2Not all of the music from the 80’s was great. For example, I have a personal revulsion for all things Madonna, Cher, and heavy (big hair) metal (with the exception of Cult). Sorry if this offends, but that’s just the way it is.

 Within the realm of all that was extraordinary about 80’s New Wave and Post-punk music, are diamonds in the rough; gems that hovered beneath exteriors that were cast aside or overlooked in favor of the flavor of the moment. Particularly in the US, corporate suits met in stuffy, smoke-filled boardrooms and decided what we would listen to, when we would listen to it, and how it would be broadcast. Lucky for us that we had the nanny-suits watching out for our own oh-so-precious musical well-being – not. Who knows, we might have actually all grown up to be serial killers, or worse: individuals with top-notch and unique musical tastes.

 And so, the legions of the clueless grew up, had families, and eventually discovered all of the riches that were hidden from the airwaves via a wonderful vehicle called the Internet. That’s the whole raison d’etre for this blog; it’s my way of sharing some of the best New Wave and Post-punk music that was deliberately swept under the rug, ignored, or just plain euthanized, all because some corporate bean-counters thought that was best for our tender ears and impressionable sensibilities.

Today’s entry features a fabulous band from Toronto called Vis-A-Vis. Most of the information is taken from the band’s MySpace page because precious little else is available on the Internet. From the Vis-A-Vis MySpace page:vis-a-vis1

 The core line up included Rude van Steenes, Vocals/Lyrics, Synth’s, Percussion; Kurt LaPorte, Guitars, Backing Vocals; Gene Donofrio, Bass Guitars; Norm Brown, Keyboards, Synth’s; Frank March, Drums; and the late Jeff ‘Jet’ Persad, Coordinator. 

Vis-A-Vis is another prime example of a band of gifted musicians that had everything going for it, but ran up against impenetrable obstacles that caused its unfortunate, premature demise. They did, however, release three very vital singles: “Heart and Soul” and “I Am the Night (Colour Me Black)” from the Heart and Soul LP released in 1986, and “Shadowplay” from the Shadowplay LP released in 1987.

Rather than for me to paraphrase their history, it’s best to just visit the Vis-A-Vis MySpace page that Rude van Steenes has lovingly populated, listen to their music, and bask in the elements that made 80’s New Wave and Post-punk music so lush, unique, and vital. Meanwhile, watch this space for more criminally underrated 80’s artists and bands, kept alive in our hearts and minds, and brought to you via such renegade DJs as David Marsden and Ed-FM.

Shadowplay” (audio only) via YouTube user tadeuz30:

I Am The Night (Colour Me Black)” (audio only) via YouTube user JAMR1977:

 Discography

As far as I know, Vis-A-Vis music is no longer available for purchase. Please correct me if I am wrong. More reason to check it out over at the Vis-A-Vis MySpace page.

Heart and Soul (1986)
Shadowplay (1987)