OMD: "We get no inspiration from a series of boring old chords following each other"

Jeudi 16 Mai 2013

Interview. Orchestral Manœuvres in the Dark (OMD) is back with a new album entitled English Electric. The British band will play in Paris at the Trianon on 18 May 2013. Andy McCluskey has been kind enough to answer to my questions.

OMD: "We get no inspiration from a series of boring old chords following each other"
What were your musical influences? The influence of Kraftwerk seems obvious, but there are also these very pop and catchy melodies...

Kraftwerk had very catchy melodies too. Perhaps there was an unconscious distilation of the early 70s British Glam pop that we absorbed when we were 13 years old?

In a number of your songs there is a contrast between the lyrics that refer to a past time and the music which is very contemporary or even futuristic. Is it a contrast you like to play with?

It has become a completely natural mixture. We certainly always tried to make the sound based on interesting new ideas and possibilities, but there has indeed always been a strange nostagic melancholy in the music and the lyrics. I think that the tension sometimes between the music and the lyrics often heightens the melancholy.

You have sing your songs accompanied by the Royal Liverpool Philarmonic Orchestra. How did you feel when you hear the music you have created played by classical music instruments?

Playing with the Royal Liverpool Philarmonic Orchestra was a wonderful experience though we were very nervous standing in front of 75 people who had spent years learning to play beautifully, whilst we never had a lesson in our lives and can't read manuscript music. The songs had to be greatly expanded for a large orchestra and we were greatly in the debt of the arrangers who created so many extra parts for the songs. We hope to play again with the Orchestra.

This experience proves that the OMD music really can work very well without electronic instruments. Have you ever thought of working in a more acoustic way?

It proved that the songs are good enough to adapt to any style. We have never excluded non synth instruments but it is just important to use them in a way that creates interesting music not cliche.

I was particularly impressed by “New Holy Ground” in the History of Modern album. Could you tell me more about this song and what was the meaning of the footstep sound in it ?

The song began with the footsteps. We are always looking for new 'musique concrete' ideas to inspire us. The footstaeps are very haunting and evocative. immediately suggesting movement. Paul and I created a haunting cello riff across the top and the lyrics grew naturally out the feel of the soundscape that we had created.

English Electric has this traditonal OMD sound compared to History of Modern which seems to be more complex in term of eletronic instrumentation and less homogenous. Were you diappointed by the sound of History of Modern?

The music on History of Modern is very strong but we recognised that the overall sound was a little disparate and eclectic.. which was understandable as it was a collection of songs spread over many years. Withh English Electric we wanted to strip the sound back to much greater simplicity and keep the feel of something written in a shorter space of time.

Your albums are often built on a theme. What is the theme of English Electric?

English Electric was the name of a manufacturing company that made Locomotives, jet aeroplanes and computers. They used to make the future: then they stopped. It seemed like a good metaphor in many many ways for ourselves, our music and the post WWII vision of Utopian society that never quite arrived.

How did you write the songs of English Electric? Did you write the songs acoustically?

Seriously? Of course not! We always start with a concept and weld it to a sound that we make or discover that inspires our thinking further. In this way we create our own music full of ideas. This gives us the energy to write. We get no inspiration from a series of boring old chords following each other.

As I wrote before, English Modern has this traditonal OMD sound but it not old fashioned. What is the secret to sound contemporary without losing its own sonor identity?

We are very fortunate that we have a distinctive sound and we don't want to lose that. However, the hard part is keeping the OMD sound whilst searching for new ideas and utilising new production and recording techniques that must be employed to prevent us just become some sonic pastiche of our former selves. Also, we recognised that in the last 30 years we had become a little more comnventional in our songwriting and we were determioned to go back to the non traditional ways of songwriting that we had invented for ourselves when we were teenagers. Perhaps this is actually why English Electric sounds so much like OMD... because we abandoned methods that others use to write songs.

Is there a little unknown OMD song you are particularly proud of? A song on which you would like to draw the attention?

Both Paul Humphreys and I agree on our favourite piece that we wrote. “The Romance of The Telescope”.

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