Kissing The Machine
Presenting the show from her base in Virginia Beach is Gina Achord whose combination of down-to-earth charm and enthusiasm has already attracted a cult following. Her recent interview guests have included HEAVEN 17’s Martyn Ware, REPUBLICA’s Saffron, VILE ELECTRODES, ANALOG ANGEL and SINESTAR. But this week’s episode features the major coup of an interview with OMD’s Andy McCluskey.
Gina’s knowledge of any number of New Wave acts (as they are referred to in the US) is impressive, so much so that on one recent show, she played one of HEAVEN 17’s lesser known tracks ‘Freedom From Love’, a track that even The Electricity Club had forgotten about! This puts her in good stead when preparing her themed connections specials. Meanwhile, her championing of tunes by new electronic acts alongside the inspired classics and lost songs of the ‘Pretty In Pink’ generation has made her a natural kindred spirit of TEC too.
Gina Achord kindly spoke to The Electricity Club just prior to setting off to see OMD in Washington DC…
How did the TNNWS show come about?
About three months ago I was listening to the HEAVEN 17 podcasts on Radio Ditto. I enjoyed listening to them, and the humour they had as well as the music they played. I grew up on radio, and although I was always interested in it, I just never pursued it as it started at minimum wage etc. When I lived in Austin, Texas, I briefly interned at a station there. I learned, but I didn’t see any opportunities there, so I left.
I think podcasting or live FM radio are the best way to be able to express yourself and help expose people to great new music.
The UK and US have quite different definitions of what New Wave is. An American acquaintance once described New Wave as “music with keyboards”! How would you describe TNNWS’ musical manifesto?
Well, I would describe New Wave as starting out with the New Romantic movement. Starting with bands like DURAN DURAN, but bands that were definitely dance plus synths. I’ve always thought of New Wave as bands that usually weren’t played on normal radio, but would be played on college radio in the States.
Oh yes! They were the first UK band I liked when I was 12! I’ve always loved them for their music, and of course it didn’t hurt that they were good looking as well!
My favourite band member was always Nick Rhodes, closely followed by John Taylor. They definitely got me through some rough times in my teenage years, and inspired me to try to be a musician at a very young age.
I used to sing DURAN DURAN very loudly out my bedroom window when my parents would leave the house. When they would come back, they would say they heard me singing all the way down the street. I’d ask “Well, did I sound good?”, and they’d say yes, and I’d laugh, and say that is all that matters then!
I went to performing arts school for high school. My original major was singing, but then I switched over to percussion, much to my parents dismay. When I got my own drum set, I used to play it in my bedroom, right above the living room. And if I had a particularly bad day, I would play even louder! I also used to play guitar (I won a Steinberger guitar in a radio contest), and used to play stuff like THE CURE on it! At school, it was mandatory to take piano lab, music theory, and a new elective each semester. So I’ve tried violin which I was completely horrible at, and trumpet, which I was good at! I also took an audio/visual class. Of course I was a complete idiot and passed on a full scholarship at Carnegie Mellon University for percussion, as I didn’t want to be only one of four people in percussion department. Boy, that was a stupid choice! Have no idea what I was thinking!
What other acts from back in the day shaped your outlook?
As far as bands I grew up with that had an impact on me, I’d say DURAN DURAN, DAVID BOWIE, OMD, INXS, THE CURE, NEW ORDER, YAZOO, DEPECHE MODE, ADAM ANT, CONCRETE BLONDE, THE CULT, CYNDI LAUPER, THOMPSON TWINS, TEARS FOR FEARS, PSYCHEDELIC FURS, THE FIXX, HEAVEN 17, HUMAN LEAGUE, ABC, THE BANGLES, B-52’s, REM, etc. I had the great fortune of seeing most of these bands live, and meeting a few of them.
What is your own music industry background?
As far as music industry background, I’ve managed record stores. I was also product marketing manager at Surgeland Records. For a while I ran a webpage for unsigned bands called ‘Bands On The Run’ where I would do reviews of new acts’ CDs. At the same time I designed and ran the official webpage for my friend’s band DANGEROUS TOYS.
In 1999 I released a MARILLION Tribute CD called ‘Hope For The Future’ which I was executive producer of. I think I was one of the early people that started the pre-order CD craze, as that’s how I funded putting out the project to begin with. It was my idea to have CD Baby charge everyone for the orders in advance (which MARILLION now do with almost all their album releases). Derek Sivers was just starting CD Baby at the time, and I’ve seen it grow to a huge success now. I’m really proud of him!
I had no idea what went into putting out a CD, and I learned as I went along. I was doing it all myself, with the help of a few people. We had Bernie Grundman master the CD for free which was awesome. I released 1,000 copies! In the end I raised over $5,000 for the Interplast charity, and I am still proud of this project.
I am thinking about writing a New Wave book in the near future, but my husband keeps telling me that will be a two year project at least. I would still like to though.
I tend to like the more obscure 80s songs as opposed to the mainstream New Wave songs that got heavy play on the radio or MTV. Or if I do like some of those old songs, I will look for a remix of it to get a fresh spin on it.
The significant majority of the acts you play are British. Are you a bit of an Anglophile at heart? What fascinates you about the UK?
Oh I am definitely an Anglophile, no doubt about that! Growing up, all the bands I liked just happened to be British. I used to listen to ‘Rock Over London’ every Sunday night on the radio to hear all the new British bands and interviews and watch all the British bands on MTV. I used to read Star Hits and most of those bands were British. I used to follow British fashion in fashion magazines.
I used to go to a record store and buy all the DURAN DURAN UK 12” singles when they would come out. And then I also listened to college radio, where I was exposed to OMD who were more obscure over here than they are in the UK. I’ve always been fascinated with British accents, and British boys as most of the people where I lived, I felt were SO boring growing up as a teenager! So it was only natural that I wanted to one day visit or live in London. I finally did in 2003, and I can’t explain it, but I felt like that was where I was supposed to be. I still feel that way, and need to get back for a visit soon. So many of my favourite bands such as HEAVEN 17, ABC, MARILLION etc do shows in the UK all the time, and not over here, so it pains me to say I need to save up money for a trip in the next year or so. 😉
To be honest, up until I started my podcast, I didn’t realize there were so many great new bands out there that are inspired by 80s New Wave / retro / synthpop. So I started finding them, and adding them into my show. So I like to mix half old, and half new.
Which new electronic acts have particularly captured your attention and why?
There’s VILE ELECTRODES, LOW TIDE THEORY, ANALOG ANGEL, SPACEBUOY, AUTOMATIC WRITING, SINESTAR, MODOVAR, JONTEKNIK and NO LONGER NEON to name a few. Most of these bands are relevant and cutting edge and I predict big things for them.
Interviews are a major part of TNNWS… how do you prepare and decide who to ask to interview?
Who to ask to interview… well I only ask people I want to interview first and foremost! As Martyn Ware says “All anyone can say is no” when we spoke of him asking artists to be on the BEF CDs. I have the same thought process now, and I am not scared to ask for what I want!
As far as preparing for an interview, I actually set aside time to research who I am interviewing. I do my homework!
Nick Rhodes and / or John Taylor of DURAN DURAN, Glenn Gregory of HEAVEN 17 (come on Glenn, you know you want to, unless you are scared! 🙂), ADAM ANT, DAVID BOWIE, RUSTY EGAN, Robert Smith of THE CURE, Richard Butler of PSYCHEDELIC FURS, Johnette Napolitano of CONCRETE BLONDE, Martin Fry of ABC, INXS, BLANCMANGE, Tom Bailey of THOMPSON TWINS and more that I can’t think of right now!
These themed shows and connections series give a nice twist to the standard podcast?
I think it makes it more fun, and I like to involve the listeners to pick songs for these themed shows. It just makes it more fun for me and the listeners I think.
Who’s your favourite New Wave personality that you’ve met over the last 30+ years
The most fun I’ve had meeting any of the above bands was OMD on their ‘Crush’ tour in 1985. I called a college radio station up that Andy McCluskey was being interviewed at, and started having the DJ ask questions from the magazine Star Hits, as I wanted to see “if they actually answered these questions or if they made up answers for the band”. After the interview I asked the DJ if I could talk to Andy, and he put him on the phone with me, and the first thing that came out of Andy’s mouth was “Gina, were you asking me questions from Star Hits?”. I started to laugh and told him why I asked ones from it. He asked if I had tickets to the show the next night, and I told him yes. Then he asked if I wanted to be on the guest list to meet them, and I said yes of course, but thought he was joking, and half didn’t expect them to be there.
But sure enough, the next night, backstage passes were left for me in my name. So after the show, I went back to meet them, and I told Andy who I was, and he gave me a big hug, and took some pictures with him and Paul Humphreys. Some girls asked how I knew him, and I told them I was his American cousin, and he played along with it. Anyhow, it was all great fun, and I’ve been to see them open for THOMPSON TWINS, DEPECHE MODE, and twice on the ‘History of Modern’ tour but have not met them since then.
Hopefully I will try to meet them in Washington DC in July again. Would be great to see them again after all these years!
Is there an act who aren’t around now that you wished you’d have been able to see live?
I have never had a chance to see DAVID BOWIE live, which makes me sad. He never came to where I lived when I was younger, and now he doesn’t tour since his heart problems. He’s the one I really still kick myself about not being able to see!
What are your hopes for the future with TNNWS?
I never started out with any sort of agenda for the show. I am still learning as I go along. I’ve only been doing the show about three months now, and my goal is always to have as many listeners as possible. To be honest, I had no idea the show would be as popular as it is in such little time!
I’ve had an offer to do my show on FM radio, which I may do in the future. I also have someone that wants me to put together a demo so he can shop it around to FM stations in UK to see if there is any interest. I’d love to one day be on Sirius XM. I’m always thinking and exploring my options!
The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Gina Achord
THE NOTORIOUS NEW WAVE SHOW’s OMD special featuring an interview with Andy McCluskey can now be heard via Mixcloud
Catch up with the previous podcasts of TNNWS at: http://www.mixcloud.com/ginaachord/
Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
11th July 2013