The grandiose and evocative name of Orchestral Maneuovres In The Dark has lingered on the sidelines for years, but hopefully with a reunion and full re-issue project in the works the band will now receive their due.
From their roots as an art-rock band on the legendary Factory records, to their superstar peak and eventual decline, the OMD story is much more than a simple pop success story. Clashmusic.com caught up with OMD lynchpin Andy McCluskey to discuss the band’s glorious past, and their plans for the future.
Are you conscious of getting your music more exposure to younger fans?
One of the issues for us was that we were frustrated because we felt we were getting forgotten. If someone knew about the band they just assumed we were one of the eighties synth bands that had some hits around the time of Ultravox, The Human League and The Pet Shop Boys etc. I think it’s understandable we were not in the press anymore, or recording, getting reviews and you get forgotten and I think the opportunity with ‘Architecture & Morality’ and ‘Dazzle Ships’ is people are looking at it and thinking its quite strong ‘I didn’t think OMD were that weird’ or did that sort of stuff.
I was amazed when I discovered the Human League then Depeche Mode
Are you a big fan of the other bands from the era and do you keep in touch?
There was a lot of electronic bands so it must have been a movement – we were all listening to each other. Were they all friends? We weren’t surprisingly, we came about individually – with the electronic sounds – independently of each other, and we were on little cultural islands and we were really surprised at the end of the 70s and into the eighties people in Sheffield and London had been going to import stores and listening to electronic and German music.
I was amazed when I discovered the Human League then Depeche Mode, quite weird and it became the big thing in the early eighties but when we were listening to it, it was never going to be a pop domination.
What does your family think of your music and are they big fans?
Yes they are, I was pleasantly surprised that my kids all liked the concerts. None of them had ever seen the band play live before; my eldest is into indie bands and is like “oh yeah dad apparently you’re cool!” And the two younger ones are not old enough to realise.
If and when are you going back to the States?
I think we are trying to play in the summer of 2009
We have got plans this summer to play Live in April and will be heading to Europe too.
What about festivals?
Yeah that’s something we want to do.
OMD how did you come up with it’s a great name?
Its quite evocative, the primary reason we choose it was because we didn’t want to a sound like anything else. We wanted to let people know we wanted an unusual name for a band, we weren’t Rock, Pop, Punk, or Disco, we consciously thought of the most bizarre name.
Is there a favourite Saville sleeve?
I think Saville did some fantastic New Order sleeves you could pick any of them and I would have been more than happy with them, and in hindsight I wish we had never moved away. I am not really happy on the “Crush” or “Pacific Age” albums but Peter himself increasing didn’t want to do artwork for albums and wanted to spread out. He drove record companies insane! You’ve seen ‘24 Hour Party People’ where he keeps on turning up late with the design after the event – there is an awful lot of truth in that. He was like getting blood out of a stone, and I have Peter’s word on it that he will be designing our new sleeve.
We were a provincial band and didn’t have any rules
Do you reflect on what you have achieved in your life musically?
Yeah you do when you reach a certain age and when you come back releasing and re-mastering and people are talking about their relevance you look back and reflect on it. Enola gay was 27 years ago almost half my life and the I never in a million years never thought I’d be in the music industry at my age – a 21 year old Andy McCluskey would have been horrified that he would be still doing this at 48 years old!
You were nominated for an Ivor Novello award for Whole Again ‘Atomic Kitten’ were you nominated for anything with OMD?
Yeah we had one nomination in the eighties for international sales. The interesting thing about awards is that some are based on voting and judging decisions, simple number crunching! We actually were nominated for two awards with ‘Whole Again’. Kylie’s ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’ racked up more number ones around the world than whole again so we never won that one.
It was the same with ‘If You Leave’, it was a huge international hit in the eighties so yeah it was a bit weird for me you know all the success with OMD and the first number 1 you are ever associated with was actually Atomic Kitten with ‘Whole Again.
White Noise your own label what direction did you take that?
Well after I parted company with Atomic Kitten I decided to start a small label and publishing company and after a few years at that I rather soured at trying to develop other acts. The problem was I suppose I have grown accustomed over the years to doing things on a fairly substantial scale and I didn’t want to do something that was a little indie that was minimal budget with small numbers of release. The problem of course was that we just weren’t big enough to do it on the scale that I wanted to, so it was a development rather than a release and we invariably had to shop it to majors in London.
Do you still read the music press?
To be perfectly honest with you I am in a strange position now because I still love music I still get excited about things that I like but I am not sixteen anymore. I have a family, I’ve got kids I run a recording studio – I don’t have the time or desire to go out of my way to go looking online. When you’re a teenager you’re creating your own identity and you go out to look for things, that’s what we did when we discovered German electronic music, Brian Eno, Roxy Music and the Velvet Underground. We forged our cultural identity and Cultural Revolution 30 years ago. I still have a finger on the pulse but I am not searching for the pulse quite as hard as I used to…..
A blank canvass is sometimes a good thing?
We were a provincial band and didn’t have any rules we did what we did what we wanted to do perhaps that’s why Clash has done so well. If you are interested in us playing any bills your playing then get in touch!
It’s great to see the ‘Dazzleships’ album re-released and know that there is more music to come from OMD, I have a feeling that they are ready to write a brilliant new chapter that’s more about keeping a dream alive than trying to change the world and in Andy’s own words “cementing a refurbishment of our reputation” but maybe they will surprise us again and tap into the electronic genius that they still have!
For Part One of this fascinating insight into the career of British electronic legends OMD, just click here.