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.
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.
I always hoped Daniel Miller would turn up at Guerilla and so it happened when he booked in to mix some live Depeche Mode tapes with producer Gareth Jones.
Like Ivo from 4AD, I knew Daniel from the old post punk trenches of the late 70s-early-80s. The Lines drummer Nick Cash also played with founding Mute Records act Fad Gadget. We got on well and Daniel entrusted some of the mixes to me, and obviously liked them well enough, because my next assignment was to do a remix of this mighty track.
By this time Depeche were massive in Europe, their big push into the US would come the following year. Their album Black Celebration was a big leap forward in production and songwriting, and the title song in particular seemed designed to propel them into the stadium-cramming entity they would soon become.
This wasn’t mixed at Guerilla, it was done at a big fancy studio in the West End of London, on the graveyard shift. Imagine some red-shirted yeoman from Scotty’s engine room having to take over control of the Starship Enterprise in the middle of the night and you might understand how I felt sitting before the 30 foot wide SSL desk with two 24-track machines chasing each other back and forth.
Luckily I’d already built up a method of remixing at Guerilla which could be applied in any situation, because it involved running the desk manually, taking numerous sections “on the fly” and snipping them together as I went along. Thus a mix would only roughly be planned, it would rely very little and often not at all on automation, and there was plenty of scope for following strange side roads spontaneously. A good example of this is the hilarious section where I “scratch” the vocal by disengaging the sync between the multitracks.
This mix was the beginning of an interesting couple of years working on Mute and related projects, of which more will be written anon.