News that Orchestral Manoeuvres in The Dark have reformed already has legions of dedicated fans rejoicing, although more significantly the hope is of new opportunity to expose a younger generation to a masterful musical odyssey.
OMD are celebrating the 25th anniversary of ‘Dazzle Ships’ - widely regarded as their most experimental work - now released with exclusive bonus tracks and extra features. OMD produced the kind of electronic music that sold millions of albums, whilst their experimentation was vintage. Revered by the purists of the genre their work has only matured with age with many other artists name-checking the band. Clashmusic.com had the chance to talk to an enthusiastic Andy McCluskey, OMD’s veritable spokesman, concerning their reunion and the re-issue of the classic ‘Dazzle Ships’ album.
‘Dazzle Ships’ - were you conscious at the time what you had created?
...we moved into a very strange sound scapes
You’ve got to remember Paul Humphreys and I started when we were 16 years old with a hobby that was to write music inspired by quite experimental influences, and it seems crazy now after all the records we sold and hits we had but there was nobody more surprised than ourselves.
The first album was garage synth punk and the second was very gothic and dark, strange and windswept - they weren’t easy listening albums but they worked.
Now we are going to do something totally different, the direction was certainly influenced by a youthful wow and the record company were like, your massive all we’ve got to do is make "Architectural Morality" number 2 and 3 you could be like the next Pink Floyd, the next Genesis and I thought “I’m not having that I don’t want to be some cop out repetitive mega rock band!”
Journalists would say you’re trying to change the world with your music why are you writing songs about saints that have been dead for five hundred years and oil refineries why don’t you do something that’s genuinely political something that effects people and moves people.
For those reasons we moved into a very strange sound scapes and very overtly political subject matter. We didn’t get the massive hit single we just didn’t get a Souvenir or Joan of Arc on the Dazzleships album, we thought that Genetic Engineering and Telegraph would be successful, they weren’t, you know if Souvenir or Maid of Honour had been on Dazzle Ships you never know it might well turned out to have been yet another strange but massive OMD album.
‘Dazzle ships’ doesn’t sound like an album that was recorded 25 years ago’ does it?
That’s one of the great things about it; it wasn’t really of its time in 1983 so it hasn’t aged into obscurity it kind of sticks out like a sore thumb. You go out of fashion people look back at the catalogue its strange people name checking like Owen Palette the Canadian violinist who did the sting arrangements for Arcade fire has been on tour playing solo electric violin through eco machine versions of ‘Dazzle Ships’!
Do you think how the record company released it had any significance?
We were in a strange situation at the time because we had been on a subsidiary of Virgin, a very small label, for our first three albums - our first release through Factory was Electricity but it was always intended by Factory to let us go. Tony Wilson had said Electricity was going to be a glorified demo; he was the first person who actually said, “What you do is the future of pop music!” We were offended, we were experimental and thought he was talking absolute bollocks. When we ended up back at Virgin they just assumed we would carry on where we left off on the previous album – I don’t think they took it for granted I don’t think they misjudged the client or anything, I just think we just did what we thought was the right thing to do as we had done on the previous three albums and apparently this time we overstepped the mark and got it wrong we lost that Midas touch and we fell off the tight rope.
Knowing the record industry now you’ll know exactly what to do this time?
I wouldn’t say you ever know exactly what to do in the music industry. Like any band we went on a long journey we had our ups and downs: we thought we were doing the right thing, we lost the plot, and we did things were we didn’t know exactly what we were doing yet hit a home run by accident. By the mid nineties there was nothing perceived as being more out of fashion than a band considered to be eighties electro - I felt I was banging my head against a brick wall and I stopped.
After a while, there was this growing feeling amongst us that the wheel of musical taste had turned around and suddenly in the new Millennium people were reassessing it and getting into this wonderful sort of post modern era. Pop music is an old art form now there is nowhere new to go, pretty much everybody is looking at the past and are asking was there something good here was it strong, did this make sense? Was it interesting? And I think that any band that can stand up for themselves and say this is what we did, we have a catalogue that stands the test of time…. there was an opportunity to actually say you know 10 years ago we were absolutely banging our heads against the wall but now people are interested again now, interested in reassessing the band within the landscape of musical history and it seems we have come out quite well.
Do you feel any pressure or expectation with reforming?
Tony Wilson had said Electricity was going to be a glorified demo
We put pressure on ourselves because we decided to get back together and play live in 2005 and unfortunately because we had to wait to have OMD get back together Paul Humphreys had other commitments with Propaganda and we had to wait for them to complete the project and it was quite embarrassing everyone was reforming and getting back together and to be honest the last thing we wanted to be perceived as is some sad bastards from history back to top up their pension fund.
We pulled out all the stops - we commissioned twenty-three different film pieces. It was a full on multimedia experience to the point were we lost money last year, it was more important that we wanted to have people say, “Wow!
Who do you listen too?
I still listen to older stuff, there’s an American band 'Shiny Toy Guns' that I am partial too and I like my electro – Hot Chip, Daft Punk, Ladytron, Groove Armada…
There was a lot of talk of some music unreleased?
We were thinking about this to release earlier work there is some unreleased stuff that we may go back to but there is lots on new stuff planned.
How are you going to approach new writing and what is the direction?
There is two projects on the go actually there’s three, one is a ‘one off’ art installation programme with Peter Saville and OMD at the Fact building at Liverpool as part of the International Year of Culture year the music is going to be like our earlier ambient stuff with orchestra and classical influences.
There are two OMD albums on the way one is brand new material and the other is the modern duet album OMD and various other people.
What producer would you like to work with?
Quite interested in working with Georgia Moroder, back in the old days I would of also would have like to work with Arthur Baker. I have worked with him before on one of his songs but it would have been interesting to explore the way New Order worked with him in the late eighties. It would have been interesting to see what take he would have had on us because in the early days we effectively produced ourselves.
Part Two of our exclusive chat with OMD founder and electro pioneer Andy McCluskey is here. Andy discusses his synth pop contemporaries, the work of Peter Saville and what the future holds for OMD.