Personality Clash: Coco Electrik vs Soft Cell

Electro upstarts talk to Dave Ball

This issue brings you a rather special personality Clash takeover in conjunction with TT remastered – a genre busting initiative where iconic tracks have been reworked by cutting edge artists for your pleasure.

There are 15 tracks in the series guaranteed to blow your mind – Clash caught up with electro upstarts COCO ELECTRIK to pose a few questions to Dave Ball from SOFT CELL. Their reworking of ‘Tainted Love’ kicks off the Remastered campaign which is brought to you by Audi.

COCO ELEKTRIK: Had you been a long time fan of ‘Tainted Love’ when you recorded it?

DAVE BALL: Yes I’d been a Northern Soul fan from 1975. I first heard it at a club in Blackpool.

CE: Rumours are that the vocals were done in one take?

DB: Quite possibly, I know we always worked very fast, it took about 16 hours over two days to record.

CE: Was the instrumentation done in a
similarly spontaneous way?

DB: Yeah, the drum machine and bass synth are very four on the floor, the syndrums were just Marc and I bashing around until we got something exciting that worked, the stabs and pads were done on Mike Thorne’s (the producer) synclavier.

CE: Have you ever met Gloria Jones?

DB: I met her once backstage at gig at The Venue in London in the 80s .

CE: Was it true your label were about to drop you when you recorded this?

DB: We had some club success with the previous track ‘Memorabilia’ but no real chart action and our manager Stevo had to convince Phonogram to give us another chance as we didn’t even have an album deal.

CE: Out of the numerous versions recorded over the years do you have a definitive version?

DB: I love Gloria Jones’s version but I guess our version is the most famous, I mean, even Marilyn Manson liked it so much he copied our version!

CE: In an interview Gloria Jones said that she considers the Soft Cell version to be the best one: “I loved the emotion in his voice. Their version was far better than mine.” I imagine you must have been rather flattered!

DB: Totally.

CE: ‘Tainted Love’ was released in 1981, at the dawn of HIV. I was pretty small but I remember being terrified by these grim reaper style adverts they were running on TV in Australia late at night. In retrospect the song kind of gets tied up in the mayhem of the times, though it was actually released prior to the discovery of the virus, it went on to be embraced by the gay community as it took on this other meaning. How do you feel now looking back at this unintentional relationship that was formed?

DB: I think lots of songs are ambiguous and open to reinterpretation, the song was written in the 60s by the late Ed Cobb and he told me it was about a broken down relationship he’d had, I think the woman was possibly Jackie Kennedy!

CE: Statement: Soft Cell and your subsequent incarnations were one of the first groups to join the dots in club culture, from the northern soul scene, through to punk, New Romantics and then the acid house. Is that a fair assumption?

DB: I think that is down to a lifelong obsession with dance music.

CE: We did a cover of the Princepenned ‘Apollonia 6 – Sex Shooter’ last year, and some friends initially deemed Prince as untouchable. Are there any songs / artists out there that you felt you couldn’t touch?

DB: No, I think some tracks have been done to perfection by the original artist. I think if you do a cover of a classic you have to reinterpret it and make it your own in some way. just don’t do a karaoke version!

CE: Do you approach writing music in any particular way?

DB: I usually just plonk around in my studio with a few rough ideas until something starts to take shape if I’m lucky. I like working to picture because you get ideas about mood from the imagery so you have an immediate starting point.

CE: Do you think it is easier for musicians to make their mark in the digital age?

DB: Yes and no. I think it is more direct as in MysSace, You Tube etc but I think the competition is greater than ever because computers make it easier for anyone to make something half decent sounding.

CE: Equipment-wise do you prefer analogue or digital?

DB: Both, I love a lot of old synths like Prophet Fives and MiniMoogs for their sounds and hands on feel and not forgetting their wooden side panels, but I love working on my Mac with Logic7.

CE: How did you feel the reformed Soft Cell shows went?

DB: Some of the best shows ever because we are much more professional nowadays and not off our heads on chemicals during the gig. We played a lot of festivals all over Europe for the first time and that was great because you play to much bigger audiences.

CE: You met Andy Warhol during the early Soft Cell days. What was he like?

DB: A bit like a cat – quiet and observant.

CE: Is it true you were you among the first people in the UK to try MDMA?

DB: In the early 80s in New York it had just hit the club scene although I think people had used it back in the 60s

CE: And is ‘Memorabilia’ the first Ecstasy song ever?

DB: Apparently.

CE: You can choose three songs from your back catalogue to take on a desert island – what ones would you take?

DB: ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’, ‘Baby Doll’, ‘Torch’.

CE: Where do you fit into the pantheon of electronic music pioneers?

DB: File under B.

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