Sometime late in ’89 Laibach asked me to join them in Paris, where they were working on new material with French songsmith Bertrand Burgalat. This was too intriguing to pass up and I hopped over La Manche without further ado.
What I heard there was a most interesting hybrid of the Laibach vibe and French chanson. That may sound like a complete contradiction, but I happened to know about this propensity of theirs from a francophile mix tape they had given me a few years earlier while preparing the Opus Dei album. For their new work, to be titled Kapital, they wanted this French influence to help underline the album’s theme of the seductive language of capitalism.
Unfortunately the proximity and intensity of their work in Paris caused some tensions to arise between Bertrand and the lads from Ljubljana, and by the time we convened at Mute headquarters to mix the album they were having severe problems working together. Although I thought the mixes were sounding good, these tensions worsened to the point that the work was abandoned. I was gutted, although after my earlier experience with their rejection of the fabulous The Normal remix of Life is Life it wasn’t the biggest surprise.
I thought all of the work lost forever. The CD of Kapital I eventually heard didn’t include any of it; I recently discovered that this one song was included on the vinyl version, which makes that edition something of an industrial Smiley Smile in my book.
After that I stopped paying any attention to Laibach until earlier this year when I began this blog, and I found a heartening and inspiring performance they did just a few months ago in Sweden. Just like me, maybe their “silver fox” years will be their best!
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 It 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.
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.