AN INTERVIEW WITH PAUL HUMPHREYS 2005

In 2005 plans were already underway to remaster and reissue OMD’s 1983 album Dazzle Ships. Meanwhile, Paul Humphreys was in the process of writing material for the then-forthcoming OneTwo album Instead. This interview captured Paul’s thoughts on the reissue of the classic OMD album as well as providing a window on the writing process for OneTwo…


What are your thoughts on the forthcoming reissue of Dazzle Ships?

I think it’s great that it’s coming out. Because the mastering on the original wasn’t so good. I think all the mastering we did in the mid 80s was done on really bad digital equipment. So a lot was lost on the analogue to digital transfer. Because we recorded all those early albums in analogue and they were all mastered in analogue and when they did the digital transfer for CD the bandwidth got smaller – the stereo image came in too far. Because a lot of the early digital stuff wasn’t as wide a stereo image as analogue. That was one of the compromises of digital audio at that time.

So to remaster it is going to be great. It’ll be much closer to how Andy and I imagined it and how we recorded it. So that would be nice. I’m glad that I’ve got the first three because it really makes a difference.

Are there any other albums in the back catalogue you’d also like to see remastered?

I’d like to see them all remastered really. Because in the mastering process it changes things. Even Pacific Age could have been mastered better I think. I’d much rather them be exactly how we heard them in the studio which you can get now.

What are your thoughts on the OneTwo concert in London last year?

Well I really enjoyed it. Actually it was great. It was a bit of an experiment to see if we could make this work, to gel Propaganda and OMD, Claudia and me, our different worlds. It was less of a challenge on the 2000 tour because we mainly did OMD songs.

But this was merging brand news songs for our new act OneTwo and Propaganda songs, Act songs, OMD Songs and one from her solo album. To make all that work as a show was a real challenge actually. We only did one gig really because it was an experiment. We weren’t sure if we could make this work to be honest. So we didn’t do masses of publicity before the show. We didn’t do the show to make any money, we just did it as an experiment for ourselves to see if we could make this work because we want to do a full tour with a proper agent later in the year, maybe early next year.

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So it was an experiment really to see if it works and I thought it worked. I thought the crowd loved it and some of the gig reviews were great. I guess Propaganda and OMD weren’t as far apart really as perhaps as I thought.

What’s in the immediate future for OneTwo?

Well we’re incredibly late on our deadline for the album. We got a bit sidetracked really over the last couple of months. We’ve done some writing for the album but we’ve hardly done any recording because our business has been expanding and we’ve been taking care of our business. We’ve been having to wear all these different hats – today we’re looking after our record company. And Claudia’s been doing a lot of interviews for Another Language release on our label as well.

So we’ve been distracted by all these things when we should have been doing the OneTwo album really. But we’re back on track. We’ve got more songs than space on the album, which is good. So we’ve decided what songs are going to be on the record now.

So I think we’re actually further ahead than we think because the songwriting, with the exception of a bit of lyric writing we still have to do, the songs are pretty much there. And we’re happy with the songs. I think we’ve got some really belting songs for this record and I like the whole sound that we’re making. We’ve kind of developed a bit from Item, gone even more electronic and experimental. The backing beds of the songs have become very electronic and experimental but the tunes are very there. So I’m really quite excited by it really.

Are there any other artists that you’re going to be working with for the album?

We’re working with Gary Lucas at the moment. He’s kind of a legendary guitarist. I looked up on the net the other day, in fact Paul Morley showed me, it was a Top Ten legendary guitarists of all time list and he was number 9! (laughs). So he’s hugely respected and he’s most famous for his work with Captain Beefheart and Jeff Buckley really. He co-wrote a lot of Jeff Buckley’s songs with him and Claudia’s particularly a huge fan of Jeff Buckley and Tim Buckley, his dad. So we’re working with him on a track.

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We’re doing a couple more with Jon Russel and Jon’s going to be doing some more programming with us as well when we get into the main meat of the recording side. Because I like his textures and he thinks in the same way as me. He really helped me to go back to my roots in a way because he’s a massive Kraftwerk fan and so everything he does is influenced by Kraftwerk. So he’s been reintroducing these flavours to me and I’m going “Oh yeah, I like that, it’s great – let’s have some of that!” and he’s made me not frightened to revisit things. In fact the first track on the album is the first song we played live. So the whole first two minutes of the album is just machines going! (laughs) Really kind of industrial and then it goes into this really beautiful track.

So I’ve gone back to experimenting a lot – and Jon’s been helpful in that. There’s a song that Claudia wrote with a duo called The Startled Insects. They’ve made a couple of obscure electronic albums and you see them quite a lot on Channel 4, weird shows they do the music for. Very kind of electronic. Claudia did a lot of writing with them and we were just sifting through some tapes and we discovered this one track called ‘Heaven’ which we both really loved. It wasn’t quite right so Jon and I, we’ve completely re-done the whole song in our way, we’ve done our completely new interpretation of it. And it’s a really beautiful song, it’s a really great song. There may be a song that Claudia started writing with Barry Adamson as well, from her solo album, might make it on. It’s one of the maybes.

We’re actually at the moment toying with a song we wrote for Tina Turner. It was such a great tune but it was just such a Motown song really. We did it in a very Motown way. But we started playing with it in more of an electronic setting and we actually quite like it so that could be on the album as well.

Oh and of course there’s a song with Andy, ‘Anonymous’ is going to be on there. Except I’ve done a different version of it – again a more electronic version. So that’s definitely going on there and that’s a co-write with Andy as well.

So you’re thinking of taking on other artists onto the label then?

We’re definitely going to be taking on artists, it’s just a question of when. We’d like to have it a home for lots of music really, music that we like. Because Paul Morley’s just done an album which we love as well which is coming out on some obscure classical label, but I’d like to be selling it on the website as well because it’s a really beautiful record. So I’d like it as a home for lots of good things that have difficulty getting exposure. Either licence them or sign them or whatever.

But that’s the future. Because I kind of learnt my lessons from Telegraph really. We tried to run before we could walk and then we kind of sank! (laughs) But I now know how to do it and how to expand the label. You just have to not do it too quickly. So I think the OneTwo album should fund lots of things actually.

So what about distribution?

I’ve just done a deal with Mute now and they’re looking to take on a much bigger role as well with There There. I really want to keep independent. There’s always a side of me that says “Well you know I’ll get a lot more exposure if I go to a label”. But then I keep hearing horror stories of artists that go to labels with the exception of Sanctuary, who are interested in us anyway. But there’s a lot of labels out there signing bands and they’re just throwing it against the wall, giving it a quick chuck and you’ve lost your rights. You’ve got to give up all your rights. For them to have it, minimum for five years.

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So I know some bands who have put their heart and soul into records, like two years making a record, the record company have just released it with the minimum amount of effort, minimum amount of expenditure, gave it two weeks of push then it’s dead in the water everywhere and they don’t have the rights to sell it from their own website or from anywhere. So I’m not going to give up those rights. So I’m trying to do it a different way by keeping everything, keeping all the rights and using as much machinery out there as I can to sell the records.

And it’s going well. I mean the eBay thing has been great and we’ve sold thousands of Items on eBay, it’s really brilliant and now our website is picking up, people are finding us. Mute have moved us into Amazon, they’re now pre-selling Item and Another Language on all the Amazons in America and throughout Europe. So Mute have been great actually and they’re getting us in all the import sections of shops around the world. So things are going really well. And there’s all these other online shops that we’ve been hitting up as well like EIL and all the specialist places. And now, apart from Another Language which isn’t electronic at all, but most of the stuff we’re going to be doing as a label is going to be electronic-based. At least have that main flavour to it anyway. So Mute is kind of the perfect label really to help us with that because they’ve got ins to all the specialist record shops.

So I’m happy to take this route. It’s slower and we don’t have the machinery so we’re not going to be on the radio very much or on Top Of The Pops very much – at all really! (laughs) But I don’t need to be. I just want to get the record out there and sell enough to justify making it and to fund what we want to do which is we want to fund the label and have the label develop and it’s doing that, it’s making money so it can’t be bad, can it.


This interview originally appeared in issue 4 of Messages and also on the Official OMD Website on 16th October 2005.

Original interview by Paul Browne
Revised text 30th January 2014

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Paul Browne

Paul spent his formative years indulging in fanzine culture before branching out to graphic and web design in later years via his Arc23 outlet. Responsible for the creation of the original Official OMD Website, Paul also spent over 10 years administrating the site as well as providing sleeve notes for many of the OMD reissues.

Publications that have featured his contributions include Electronic Sound, Metro, Japan Update Weekly, J-Pop Go, Wavegirl and The Electricity Club.
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