Here’s my audio and visual reinterpretation of Erasure’s “why can’t we all just get along” opus. For this clip I have mangled the song’s original rather excellent video, with hopes that my liberties will be excused by those involved.
The remix was done almost exactly 30 years ago at the dawn of 1987, around the same time as Daniel Miller’s legendary lost Laibach mix, which would account for the presence of his EMS Vocoder 2000 in the studio.
The edit of this mix is unusual in that there is no edit at all for the first couple of minutes. Having looped a few bars of backing vocal over the rhythm section I enjoyed the resulting chord inversions so much I just let it run, even though the results were a tad dissonant for an Erasure track. In fact I got a phone call from Flood after delivering the mix, to warn me that this one “might not fly”, as he could imagine Vince Clarke gagging somewhat on the jazzy chord shapes. But it did fly, Vince didn’t gag…and here it is, pop pickers!
Back in the late 50s to early 60s, when I was a bairn, comedy records were all the rage in the UK. Opuses like Tommy Cooper’s spooky Don’t Jump Off The Roof, Dad (You’ll Make A Hole In The Yard) and the early George Martin masterpiece Auntie Rotter by Peter Sellers burned images of grotesque violence into my unformed brain that have never been erased.
I suppose Gary Asquith, being about the same vintage, was similarly traumatized. His way of dealing with it was to meet the beast head on, to channel his inner Bernard Cribbins and bring the world Probably A Robbery. I’m sure the I’m Too Sexy chaps were taking notes.
Thus my last mix with Daniel Miller was a minor hit, and I was able to end my innings with head held high. Silly as it is I love it, not least for the classic Asquith couplet:
The funniest thing…I just wanted to sing, but the notes wouldn’t come my way.
Cloudland was the second album released by the mighty Pere Ubu during their “pop phase”; in fact this one is much poppier than the previous year’s The Tenement Year, they really went for it. The roster of producers includes Stephen Hague (Pet Shop Boys, Erasure) who did five tracks including the superb Waiting For Mary. Daniel Miller was asked to mix two tracks and he brought me in to help him.
So we set up Daniel’s jaw-dropping synth rig at Konk Studios in Muswell Hill, a studio much used for Mute sessions. Formerly a working men’s club, it had been bought and converted by The Kinks for their own use. It had the perfect mixture of homely comfort and high-tech desirability.
Daniel got a producer’s credit for Love Love Love and quite right too, this mix is full on Pere Ubu vs The Normal, with Dan’s ARP 2600 sequence running through the whole thing. The other mix we did was Why Go Alone?, which must be one of their prettiest songs, and most definitely makes the grade as a Rico personal fave.
I’d forgotten how great this album is. I’m gonna dig it out and blast it in my car.
It had been a while since I’d done much for Mute but in the second half of ’88 Daniel rolled out some big guns for me. The first assignment was 3 tracks with Wire.
Wire…holy shit! No pressure, right? Their first 3 albums had been a huge influence in the late 70s, in particular the amazing 154. I never worked with too many “real” bands, and never with one such as Wire; four gifted individuals collaborating in a free ranging creative landscape, they were a band to the power of ten. If they were a chemical reaction they’d be one of those mad fizzing things that expand all over the place and make a weird sculpture.
Graham Lewis and Bruce Gilbert…what a pair of geniuses. A bass player and a guitar player who can create any sound that could be imagined. In 1980 I became so obsessed with their Dome and Cupol projects that I sought out their recording engineer (Eric Radcliffe) and picked his brains.
Colin Newman…I have to admit I was somewhat intimidated by Colin, not the kind of guy to “suffer fools gladly” as they say. Always a challenge for a fool such as I. On the whole I felt we got on fine though, my enormous respect must have won the day. Colin has a certain finesse as a songwriter and player that is truly unique.
Robert Gotobed…well, he’s a drummer. The tightest drummer I ever recorded. This guy could phase out the click track. I once saw him send a Linn Drum rushing out the studio to weep uncontrollably in the corridor. May have dreamed that last bit.
So we had three great songs to record: two A sides in Eardrum Buzz and In Vivo, and one of the most gorgeous B sides ever in The Offer. We also managed to throw down a quick Dome track during a lunch break. The whole recording session was a dream, all I had to do was set up the mics and sit back while this amazing creative machine did its thing.
They then left me alone to mix, which I really appreciated, especially as the new Mute Studio was having some teething problems and progress was sometimes tortuous. I really badly wanted to give Daniel Miller a hit single and went all out on Eardrum Buzz. The arrangement is as detailed as a Vermeer painting and I wanted to make every sound as clear as possible. I’m still proud of the mix I did, one of my most polished. It wasn’t a hit single though.
I did rather run out of time on In Vivo and they decided to mix that one themselves. It was OK, but Paul Kendall and Flood later did a fantastic mix that was closer to what I had envisioned.
I’ll have to admit I wasn’t too keen on the original version of Strangelove, the arrangement seemed too busy for the song, so I was happy to get together with Daniel to try a different approach. It was done fairly quickly at Guerilla, with the drum and bass part completely reprogrammed by me on the Emu SP12 and Daniel’s sequencers filling out the groove.
An edit of this mix was subsequently used as the official US single release, and pretty much broke them over there. So there you go: with an SP12 and The Normal on your session, history can be made.
This was also the last time I ever worked on a Depeche Mode track.
Imagine you could book The Normal to come and play a gig at your house. At the appointed hour Dan would turn up in a black London cab packed to the gills with all of the more portable items from his enormous synth collection, still enough to make the average analogue enthusiast weep tears of joy.
He’d get to work and before long a drum beat made of purely customized synth sounds would start up. The ARP Odyssey would spit out a bass sequence. The impossibly exotic Synton Syrinx would weave some strange mercurial sounds through the groove. Then he’d break out the EMS Suitcase Synthi and things would really start to take off.
That, dear reader, is what it was like doing a remix with Daniel Miller…plus I would get to join in and record the whole thing. The mixes I did with Daniel were the first truly radical remixes I worked on, in that we’d jettison major elements of the track and make new ones, as opposed to working with the existing track elements as I had previously. Making new backing track elements was something I hadn’t really felt the authority to do up to that point, but if Daniel Miller said it was OK, then fuck yeah it was OK.
The first remix we did together was Laibach’s Life is Life, soon after the Opus Dei album was completed. It was fantastic, it was brilliant, it was pure electronic beauty, pure The Normal. I wish I could play it to you but it has disappeared from history due to the fact that, as if to underline their perversity, the band rejected it.
The second remix I did with Daniel was this thumping version of Erasure’s steamy hit. The most radical thing about this mix was the enormous speed bump we gave it, from a grinding 110 BPM to an almost hi-energy 124. I wasn’t sure she could take it, Cap’n, and we nearly careened into twin planets Pinky and Perky, but she held steady, the dilithium crystals in my Akai S900 having been put through their paces as never before.
Another dream assignment, to do an alternative remix of Depeche’s rockingest (at that time) track, a personal fave of mine. I thought that Martin Gore’s song captured the claustrophobia of small town life particularly well with its motorik beat and cynical lyrics.
I determined to rough it up as much as I could, and I was immeasurably aided by a rack mounted ring modulator, a highly unusual item to come across. This was down at Britannia Row Studios in Islington; no doubt it was the plaything of one of the Pink Floyds or their crew.
Anyway I stuck it across a cue send and was soon happily turning synth leads into death rays and making Martin Gore sound like a dalek. Daniel Miller came down for an earful and I’ve always treasured his comment: “…it ain’t Hi Fi, but I like it”. Got me sussed there Dan.