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the human league

Top Ranking, 1981: Joanne Catherall, Phil Oakey and Susan Ann Sulley. 56 electronic

THE things THAT

DREAMS are made of

Studios with leaking roofs, trips to new romantic clubs in a little Hillman Imp, and a heavy metal single recorded between sessions. They’re all part of the behind-the-scenes story of the 1980s synthpop masterpiece that is The Human League’s Dare album. Words Neil Mason



his is quite a spot. Halfway up a hill in the picture postcard Berkshire village of Streatley, the view is spectacular. The River Thames snakes through the valley beneath us, while rolling hills stretch out as far as the eye can see, dotted with fizzing yellow fields of oil seed rape. To our right, on a tree-lined, winding country road, a huge pair of new-looking wooden gates screen what lies behind them. Peering over the top, you can see the six-bedroomed, sevenbathroomed carbuncle that occupies the plot. Apocryphal perhaps, but local legend claims it was built for Geri Halliwell. The fact that it sits empty several years after completion, too brassy even for Ginger Spice, speaks volumes. What was here before the property developers showed up had more character in its tiled lav than this entire £5.9 million pad can muster. The ramshackle collection of buildings that used to be here made up Genetic Studios, where in the summer of 1981 one of the most important records of the last three decades came to fruition. This is the exact spot where The Human League’s Dare album was recorded. The story of Dare is the story of a handful of decisions leading to the creation of a record that swept away everything before it and laid down a marker for everything that was to follow. Had any of those decisions not been made, or been made differently, Dare would not have worked out the way it did. But the story doesn’t start in Berkshire, nor as you might expect does it start in The Human League’s home town of Sheffield. The first key decision in the making of Dare came in Edinburgh in 1978, when local music entrepreneur Bob Last signed the band to his fledgling Fast Product imprint. Last was a canny operator. The label, which went on to boast releases from The Mekons, Gang Of Four and Dead Kennedys, even gets a nod alongside the independent big boys in The Clash’s DIY scene tribute, Hitsville UK: ‘When lightning hits Small Wonder/It’s Fast Rough Factory Trade.’ There’s a music world truism that good bands know good bands, so Last listened when Paul Bower – whose Sheffield electronic 57

archive interview

SETTING THE SCENE At the time of Glenn O’Brien’s article, Kraftwerk were in the midst of their five album-spanning electronic music meisterwerk. They were in America promoting their new album, Trans-Europe Express, and found themselves swept up in the New York disco explosion of that summer, delighting in the fact that their cold European electronic sounds were being played at clubs such as the newly opened Studio 54 alongside disco anthems from the likes of Donna Summer (I Feel Love was released just three 64 electronic

months after Trans-Europe Express). Enthusiastic nightclubbers back home in Düsseldorf, they were embraced by the Manhattan club scene, even appearing at the Pop Music Disco Awards during their visit. This piece was published in Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine. The influence of the disco craze is clear, both in the headline and the line of questioning, which veers between flippant and highbrow, and has all the hallmarks of a brain-swirling encounter in a booth at Studio 54. It would be another five years before

Kraftwerk’s impact on hip hop became evident, but the seeds were sown in the summer of 1977. In this context, the group’s recent Museum of Modern Art residency feels like their final occupation of the artistic psyche of New York, and this interview is a glimpse back to a time when Kraftwerk’s deity status was still a work in progress.

In im 19 sp ag 77, fro ok e f be m m e to roz for fly aga An th e, K e th in zi dy e g ne W wo raf eir sa , t e uc co arh rld. wer nig er ve ol’ Th k m s a re s is rea atic d nd ra ar di tic ly go dio le in ac , g ba tivi ld ty, .


w ie v r te n I

Words Glenn O’Brien

Express delivery: Kraftwerk in the departure lounge (l-r) Florian Schneider, Ralf Hütter, Karl Bartos, Wolfgang Flür.

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images


raftwerk are Germany’S top pop group, and that’s saying something because plenty of original sounds have been emanating from Deutschland since the psychedelic era. But Kraftwerk are also one of the most inventive musical forces in the world. Fusing classical melodies, advanced electronic music technology and Afro-Aryan rhythms, they have created a new sound that is as intellectually stimulating as it is danceable. In fact Kraftwerk’s last album, Trans-Europe Express, made an enormous impact on the world of disco in the last year by combining perfect dance beats with graceful, intelligent melodies and fully conceptualised themes. Released as a single, the album track Showroom Dummies was not only a tremendously popular disco hit, but it was also a disco editorial and created a unique side effect – thought. And even rockers, who hate disco music, like Kraftwerk because they are powerful, reflective, funny and totally exploratory. They are David Bowie’s favourite group, and Eno and Iggy are also big fans. I talked to the prime musical movers of the group, Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider, when they visited New York recently to pick up some prizes at the Disco Awards. Both spoke perfect English, wore white shirts, black trousers, and drank a lot of coffee. What does Kraftwerk mean? Ralf Hütter: It means ‘electrical power plant’. When did you start the group? RH: We started playing together in ’68 with electronic 65


viva motor

city From the faceless malls of Detroit’s suburban sprawl came a future sound that gave a troubled city hope. Here’s the true story of Detroit Techno’s first 25 years. Words Brett Callwood

© All rights reserved by Doug Coombe


ike many people, I watched Julien Temple’s 2010 documentary Requiem For Detroit? with horror. I didn’t recognise the onedimensional and inaccurate picture that Temple had painted. It’s not that he was being dishonest necessarily, but his film, which focused on the crumbling buildings and rampant drugs and prostitution, was the artistic equivalent of looking at Detroit through a drinking straw. To put it into perspective, imagine a movie called Requiem For London?, where the director spends the majority of his time in Kings Cross, filming puke-splattered hookers and, if

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he’s lucky, a crusty old skinhead sporting a Chelsea smile. He might finish with a sentiment like, “Things could get better if you all hold tight”, but people living in Kensington would be forgiven for thinking, “Things are quite nice now, thanks chief”. That’s what Temple did to Detroit. He filmed the areas that have been hit hardest by the economy and implied that the whole of Detroit is like that. In truth, metropolitan Detroit is vast, and a full range of economic diversity can be found here. Make no mistake, though, this city has been through its fair share of economic hardship and instability. But if history has

Hummer time: Juan Atkins, the general motor of Detroit techno. electronic 69

gary numan


Gary Numan: electrifying chameleon. 84

numan’s evolution in 10 appearances

Gary Numan’s role at the forefront of the 1980s UK synthpop revolution is well known. As a new DVD compilation proves, he was no slouch in the video department, either. Words John Doran Portrait Dave Guttridge


Of all the pop stars who have come along since David Bowie first sang Space Oddity at the outset of the 1970s, none have taken to heart his concept of being a chameleon as much as Gary Numan. The awkward but enigmatic post-punk-turned-synthpop pioneer quickly got into this routine after signing to Beggars Banquet in 1978, and Numan’s new DVD, Machine Music: The Best Of Gary Numan, inadvertently charts the progression of his unique look over the years. From haunted android with bleach blond hair to smartly dressed paranoiac to 1930s gangster to escapee from Mad Max 2 to blue-haired karate fighter to sleazy Las Vegas lounge singer and beyond… it’s no wonder he released a single called Music For Chameleons. Numan says that essentially his career can be divided into three main parts: early innovation and success as a synthpop star, followed by mid-period artistic and financial crisis, and latterly rebirth as an industrial rock god. He decided to leave most of his promo videos from the middle period off the Machine Music DVD. “I was dangerously close to bankruptcy for this whole period,” he says. “So I was doing all kind of deals with companies who would do videos dirt cheap. But they were shit, unfortunately.” Instead, Numan has put more effort into unearthing TV performances and rare promo material from earlier in his career. “We realised it would be more interesting if it contained stuff that people hadn’t seen before,” he says. “So now we have a best-of DVD, which isn’t just a collection of promos, but has all this rare TV and live footage which I hope is of genuine interest to the fans, instead of just trying to milk them for stuff they’ve already got.” Numan’s career-charting DVD, Machine Music: The Best Of Gary Numan, is out now


CARS (PROMO) One of the first purpose-shot music promo videos, Cars – with its neon tubes, black outfits, moody poses and banks of synthesiser gear – helped to cement Gary Numan’s otherworldly appeal as a solo star. “It cost eight grand and took two

days to film in a studio near Carnaby Street in London. It’s funny looking back at it now, the clothes and everything. I mean, I’m a 54-year-old man now. I was a 21-year-old kid then, barely out of my mum’s house. I was a totally different person then.”


WE ARE GLASS (PROMO) By 1980, Numan’s relationship with the press had begun to sour, but that didn’t stop this single reaching Number Five in the UK charts. There was also resistance from an unexpected quarter… “I do like this video. It was good fun jumping through all the windows, but I particularly liked smashing the TV sets up with hammers. That element to the video had unforeseen consequences, though… the BBC banned it. They said I was promoting violence! I’m holding a steel baton in the video, but if you look closely it’s a bit of metal tubing – it came off my mum’s vacuum cleaner. I have no idea what

was going through my mind when I did that. Literally – what was I thinking? ‘I must pick up this bit of my mum’s Hoover and have it in the video and on record sleeves…’”

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