There is a new VISAGE album but the majority of its founder members have not been involved. John McGeoch passed away in 2004 and although Barry Adamson played on the first two albums, he gave up his equity in the collective after the first single ‘Tar’. Whilst Dave Formula has contributed one song ‘Dairies Of A Madman’, Midge Ure and Billy Currie did not participate.
The collective’s original catalyst Rusty Egan did take part in the initial stages as musical director of the project but withdrew due to artistic differences and disagreements over production values. Then in November 2012, Steve Strange announced on German TV that he was writing songs with Midge Ure which proved to be incorrect and noted blog Shapers Of The 80s later reported on the fallout to confirm that all was not well. Then a piece in April entitled ‘Out Of The 80s Frying Pan Into The 21st Century Fire’ highlighted some of the issues that had contributed to the situation.
Thus Steve Strange is the only ingredient from the original Blitz Club days who appears throughout the resultant album entitled ‘Hearts & Knives’. Although there are guest appearances by notable players from the scene such as ex-ULTRAVOX guitarist Robin Simon and ex-SIMPLE MINDS keyboardist Mick MacNeil, this album to many ears is not a real VISAGE album.
I was consulted about the possibility of a new VISAGE album on the basis that royalties due to me, the estate of John McGeoch and to Dave Formula had been misappropriated by Steve Strange over a period of eight years. The proposition was that the only way to recover the misappropriated royalties was to produce a fourth VISAGE album and pay Steve Strange a reduced royalty share until the misappropriated funds were restored. I was only willing to be involved in the production of an album that would do credit to the heritage of VISAGE. I spoke with all the members to establish their willingness to reform which was a tough call, and one by one they all declined.
So what did you do then?
I then thought “If I was going to form VISAGE today, who would I invite?” I talked with Chris Payne who co-wrote ‘Fade To Grey’ for writing and keyboards, SPANDAU BALLET’s Steve Norman for sax and percussion, ex-ULTRAVOX guiarist Robin Simon, Didier Marouani of SPACE and as producer, Brian Tench who had worked with KATE BUSH and OMD as well as VISAGE.
Of course, a VISAGE album without a contribution from Midge would be crazy. When the team started to come together, Midge kindly offered a song called ‘Become’.
But early in the production cycle, it became clear to me that the company who were funding the production had no intention of meeting my production values nor matching the quality of the team that I had pulled together with an album that would show them or the VISAGE heritage in a good light.
So why is ‘Hearts & Knives’ not a VISAGE album then in your opinion?
Midge Ure and I alone came up with the concept for VISAGE. That is a matter of historical fact. VISAGE was and is our intellectual and emotional property. The album has been produced and released without the consent of Midge or myself. ‘Hearts & Knives’ I presume alludes to love and death. Well I loved VISAGE, but this album is the death of everything that VISAGE represented. This collection of songs/music does not represent the heritage and musical values of VISAGE. It is a Steve Strange album. I believe that no-one would be interested in a Steve Strange album so using the name VISAGE is the only way to market the album.
Given this background, I have really struggled to be impartial about this album. ‘Lost In Static’ is the only track on the album that actually works, just because it’s simple. It has a decent drum and bass track. There’s one song ‘Never Enough’ which was very SIMPLE MINDS; but it could be good if we worked on the lyrics, got some great guitar and pumped that bass…
The final version sounds like a home recording that was submitted as a demo. The production company has only added some guitars.
‘Shameless Fashion’ is OK but does not sound like VISAGE. ‘She’s Electric’ is also OK but nothing special; the ‘Fade To Grey’ CR78 drum track has been copied as an intro. The thin drums once again sound like a demo as if the producer has said “We’ll do the drums later” but never got around to it. I hate the vocal delays. ‘Diaries Of A Madman’ is the only song written by Steve and he had recorded it a few years ago with Dave Formula.
‘Dreamer I Know’ appears to have some potential…
That song is the one that I am most upset about. I met Arno Carstens at the Isle Of Wight Music Festival after I saw his performance. I just had to ask him about this song, he said it had been released but without any great take up. “I love it” I said, “It is like DEPECHE MODE, can I use it for VISAGE but make some changes?” Arno said “Sure, just do it and let me hear it”. I hope he does NOT EVER hear this VISAGE version… I had nothing to do with it. I have done this song the justice it deserves.
I have continued to write with Chris Payne and an amazing writer Gerard O’ Connell who co-wrote ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’. We have done an amazing job on ‘Dreamer’; Youth co-wrote that with Arno, I have to say the mixes are simply wonderful.
I have six more amazing songs co-written with Chris Payne and other songwriters. Didier plays his style keys, Steve Norman plays some nice sax which is very ROXY MUSIC.
Now I must say I am so much more content now to just do ‘Rusty Egan Presents…’ and release some tracks AFTER this album has gone away.
You’ve previewed ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’ which is a collaboration with TENEK. It’s like GIORGIO MORODER meets DAFT PUNK…
Well, collaboration is really the way forward. TENEK, Robin, Gerard , Didier, Brian Tench… there are many talented people I come across. If you listen to the radio show there are some amazing new bands that I would love to work with; SIN COS TAN really do it for me, METROLAND and KARIN PARK too.
‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’ is an example of how I have always worked. TENEK had an amazing bassline with synth stabs that grabbed me, but what I could hear was an electro style uplifting track and I wrote this on the roof of the villa in Ibiza… I just looked and thought “Welcome To The Dancefloor of THE WORLD”. It’s here and as a DJ, I am and always was inspired in Ibiza and will head there again this summer and write some more… we wrote that track and recorded it very simply and then sent it to Robin Skouteris who did the final mixes.
I first came across Robin when I heard his amazing ‘Wonderful’ mix featuring HURTS. We just clicked and he did exactly what I wanted with the finished mixes… we are working on every track together first, then some friends want to remix. We are speaking with Paul Oakenfold, Richard Grey, Michael Gray and Tim Overdijk. And I’m excited to be in contact with METROLAND.
Although you did the deep backing vocals on VISAGE songs like ‘Fade to Grey’ and ‘Night Train’, you’re not known for singing. So will all the songs be vocodered like ‘Welcome To The Dancefloor’ or do you have other plans?
I always did backing vocals on everything and I sung ‘Dancefloor’ then got Gerard to do it pre-vocoder. On ‘Night Train’, I do the whole answer verses and on all my current stuff, I just sing it badly and then Gerard does it better.
I could sing it but it would be in the Bowie/ Iggy low baritone and I love that style but I am not a frontman. I would love VIKTORIA MODESTA rather than me.
Once I have the songs recorded… well, all I can do is make some calls and hope people like them. I would just love KARIN PARK to sing on them, I have two songs that I know would suit her and also Theo from HURTS or the guys in MIRRORS. There are so many perfect singers out there. So now I just want to get the songs and the music right, the only good sign I have is that when I ask people to work with me, they hear the simple music and say “YES I love it, let’s do it” … that is the way I know I am doing something right.
Are there any other plans for the project?
I have Robin Simon playing on one song and it’s perfect, he just sounds like the Robin of the ‘Systems Of Romance’ era.
How are you finding doing the ‘Rusty Egan Presents The Electricity Club’ radio shows?
I say “Less Talk, More Music” as I really think The Electricity Club is about the NEW MUSIC and the inspired classics. I am just the link… people love the tracks I select and that’s always been the case. I find bands/songs/music and say “I love this”… success! It may take a year or four albums like with SIMPLE MINDS and ULTRAVOX but I can hear it, first time… and my track listings will show that we have found great talent; it may take time… but it’s QUALITY!
The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Rusty Egan
Additional thanks to Art Bennett
‘RUSTY EGAN presents The Electricity Club’ broadcasts every Friday midnight from 00:00 to 02:00 GMT on Mi-Soul Radio or listen to the repeat on Mixcloud at http://www.mixcloud.com/tag/rusty-egan/
Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
29th May 2013, updated 18th June 2013