Thursday, September 20, 2007

2006 - Interview Paul Humphreys



An Interview with Paul Humphreys (Ex-and again OMD)
Interview about his ONETWO project

TJ:
So you have this new project album coming up, the OneTwo album

Paul Humphreys:
That´s correct

TJ:
When is this about to be released?

Paul:
We´re just finishing off the album now. We just have to record the last two tracks, really. We started out working independently and releasing the songs independently. In fact, we just started by releasing on the Internet to begin with. We started all that as an experiment by selling on Ebay only and quite quickly we sold a few thousand units.

TJ:
Yes, I had to order your CD there, at Ebay.

Paul:
That’s right. It just started as an experiment. Claudi* (* Claudia Brücken) and I had a few songs kicking around and then we thought “well, why don’t we just try to sell them on Ebay and see what happens” and slowly it sort of formulated into a band and now we´ve got our label, we´ve got other distribution outlets now but with the OneTwo album we´re now expanding a bit more, speaking with labels about proper distribution because rather than just the Internet although it is a very powerful tool we would also like to get it into regular shops.

TJ:
Yes, it is a bit difficult. I actually went to the extreme because I am 39 now and kind of grew up with all the music that was around in the early 1980s and OMD was one of my heroes and being from Germany I know Claudias work with Propaganda quite well, so I naturally pursuit other peoples carreers so it was a natural kind of thing to order the CD but maybe, and we have seen this in the case of Prince, he didn’t sell much after having no outlet really.

Paul:
Yes, that’s right. I mean, I was actually quite surprised by how many we could actually sell by just selling on the Internet and I think there is more of a culture now just sort of in the last year or so people are getting used to buying online. I thnk the Apple ™ I-Tunes probably helped with that to change peoples´way of thining really about buying music. My generation, you know, we used to go looking for things in obscure record shops but obscure record shops are not really around anymore so you are forced to look for obscure things on the Internet. And I do think the I-Tunes thing has breed a new sort of culture of buying music online.

TJ:
The 21st century has finally arrived. The Item Album is essentially a 6-track album

Paul:
It is an EP really, really only a sample of OneTwo.

TJ: It is basically five tracks and then you have “Sister repeated in a different version. There is one song on the album, I think it is the third song, which is co-written by Martin Gore* (*of Depeche Mode).

Paul:
It is actually the second one: “Cloud Nine”

TJ:
Alright, so this is co-written by Martin.

Paul:
That’s right. It was actually co-written by Martin and Claudia. It is a song that Claudia and Martin wrote in the mid 90s really because Claudi was doing a solo album that never saw the light of day and she was collabrating with lots of different people and Martin was one of them because she lived sort of around the corner from Martin and was sort of friends with Martin anyway. She got stuck writing a song and knocked on the door saying: “Martin, help!” …

TJ:
(Laughs) … and then this song ended up on your CD a few years later.

Paul:
Exactly.

TJ:
Did you not tour with Depeche Mode at some point in time?

Paul:
I toured with Depeche Mode in, gosh, 87 propbably it was.

TJ:
Yes, because on the “101”* Film there is a poster which says OMD as well. (*”101” is a concert/tour movie released by Depeche Mode)

Paul:
That’s right, yes, we did one of those big stadium tours of America with them and we toured for like four months. Great fun, actually. Another time we had a song called “If you leave” which was in a big movie* and was really successful in America (* the movie was called: “Pretty in pink”) and Depeche was huge there too so between the two bands we drew this enourmous crowds in big football stadiums and it was really quite strange.

TJ:
With OMD reuniting soon … when I read about that I found that to be quite interesting but with regards to your OneTwo page, I really like the approach …

Paul:
Do you?

TJ:
Yes, because when people click on your page they read: “If you are interested in music and if you are interested in the year 2001,2013 ant the 1980s – that’s your place”

Paul:
That’s right.

TJ:
And you talk about Kraftwerk and all those bands that you found interesting and that is a very “musician kind of approach”.

Paul:
Yeah, it is for like minded people to meet in a way, you know, that’s the sort of theme and it is more re-visiting OMD rather than a reunion to be honest. So far I have only just agreed doing some concerts with OMD.

TJ:
O.K., but you´d reckon, I mean, OMD is a big influence or has a big part to play when it comes to the 1980s and there is nowhere where you don’t find your name rather than what you siad when you did the Interviw in Germany last week and you said that you´ve never had a number one and people like the BBC or so are only playing number one songs and you said that you´re kind of forgotten, I read that somewhere.

Paul:
I think that’s a quote from me, actually. It is kind of true. In the UK particularly OMD seems to have been forgotten. But not in America. I have a daughter who lives in Los Angeles and I obviously go and visit her regularly and every time I am there I hear OMD on the radio but in the UK you could scan the channel everyday for a month and never here an OMD track (laughs)

TJ:
Is that something that bothers you?

Paul:
No, not really. What is annoying is when they do this historical shows and they do this historical context of electronic music and they pick a lot of electronic bands that were influential, who were influential, but will kind of leave us out because we had our little place there and we definitley influenced some bands.

TJ:
Certainly, yes. Is that the strategy behing it? I mean, I also read on the interview that you would reckon that a new OMD album would not do as well as the older ones did although you never know. I mean in the case of Duran Duran for instance, their reunion tour was … they really made it big again.

Paul:
They did

TJ:
While Tears for fears played rather smaller venues in and around the UK and Ireland so it is very hard to predict,isn´t it?





Paul:
It is really, really hard to predict. That’s why I am just sort of dipping my toe in the water and see what happens with that one because you don’t really quite know how you´re gonne be perceived.

TJ:
Yes, but you must have some kind of feeling. Is it easier, I am only guessing now but I would reckon it is a bit easier when you mention OMD as apposed to OneTwo.

Paul:
Yes, yes, I mean it can open doors for you definitely (laughs)

TJ:
Let´s assume you would do an album with OMD and maybe your are going to do an album with Andy* again (* Andy McCluskey) and Claudia is keeping herself busy doing other things with this guy,ehm, Poppy?!

Paul:
Andrew Poppy

TJ:
She keeps herself busy

Paul:
She does, she is here actually …

TJ:
Yeah, I know and I will be talking to her in a few minutes. What I am trying to say is: Does that create tension every now and then? Is there an underlined fear that OneTwo does not come into being after the, whatever you call it the OMD thingy?

Paul:
Well, I hope that’s not the case. OneTwo is my main band, you know, it is an ongoing band and it is not just a project with Claudia. It is something that we are developing and we´ve got, what we think is a really great album that we´re just finishing off. We are so happy with our record, we´re so proud of it that we want to get it out there and we want to give it as much exposure as we can.

TJ:
Will this one be available in regular shops, you´d reckon?

Paul:
That’s what we´re hoping to. We are speaking with various industry people at the moment. Like I said, we just started small with it just on the Internet and I mean we will be using the modern outlets like I-Tunes and downloads but yes we really would like to see it in conventional shops as well.





TJ:
For a regular listener, music listener, who doesn’t work in the music business, I find it very difficult sometimes to understand, I mean, when you have new musicians that aren´t aware of the business and don’t know what to do and where to go and nobody knows them, and then you have Paul Humphreys and you are still saying that you´re struggling to get a deal for your album.

Paul:
The industry has really undergone an enormous change over the last few years but definitely over the last ten years, it is unrecognisable that’s how much the industry has changed. There is really not very much money in our business anymore. The record companies have tightened their belts so much that’s why we´ve gone through a phase of a lot of manufactured music. Manufactured artists are in some ways disposable to record companies, they can easily sign a once off and manufacture their songs, market them and if it doesn’t work then they can easily discard them. A signed artist to a record label over a long period of time like a big album deal is a whole different prospect for a label and a far more expensive prospect.

They´re happen to take the cheap routes. All the routes unfortunately go down to, you know, if you trace them all back to illegal downloads really. It has really taken billions out of our business and that has to have an effect after a while.

Record companies are not going to be brave and sign unusual artists. They can´t risk half a million on an artist anymore because they don’t have that kind of disposable income so they have to do more, what they consider “sure-fire” things. But that unfortunately is usually very mainstream.

TJ:
It is really a downward spiral, isn´t it, because then we only get to hear what we get to hear. I had a recent conversation with my son who turns 14 this year and I told him that I sometimes had to wait two years for my favourite artist to bring out a new album because that’s sometimes how long it took them to make a great record.

Paul:
Yes, that’s right.

TJ:
He kind of smiled about it, you know, (laughing) I don’t actually think that he can understand the anticipation. And that’s what it is about, I mean, I am a musician as well on amuch smaller scale. I did nine CDs over the last 15 years and haven´t achieved anything significant really. For me it is always about melody. I am 39 now so it is not really realistic to think that tomorrow someone is going to knock on my door and saying: “You´re just what we needed” but on a whole it is all about melody and I think somewhere down the line that has been lost.

Paul:
I think celebriteesm has taken over. People just want to be celebrities and they don’t care how they do it. And a lot of singers in the charts they´re not that interested in being singers and writing great songs, they just want to be on the TV and be celebrities. The celbrity lifestyle, you know. Which is why a lot of singers as well as being stabbed by the industry are only doing cover versions so that they don’t have to go to the process of writing.

TJ:
Yes, and most of the time they´re just horrible. Once you know the original most of the time it is not it because the orignal very likely was produced by someone who is a musician.

Paul:
Yes, I mean, we´re talking about the mainstream and the major labels and that’s the corporate music industry. There is an independent side to our industry where people basically, artists like you and ourselves, and even younger artists they´re doing it themselves. They do some great music …

TJ:
Yes and then you have places like myspace and you swap.

Paul:
Exactly, I mean, the Internet has become … everybody is becoming their own sort of independent label and all the rules are sort of changing. Because the corprate music world is so zipped up and not open anymore for whatever the reason usually monitary reasons that the internet is now thriving with independent artists making interesting music. It is just kind of hard to find sometimes but the one advantage that Claudia and I do have is that we have names from our previous bands and people will be looking for OMD and Propaganda.

TJ:
Yes, and I am not only saying this because I am on air here, last year when I got your “Item”EP we played the “latest and the greatest” and we played “Talking loud and clear” because it si just one of my favourites …

Paul:
I always liked “Talking loud and clear”

TJ:
… the guys in the studio said: “Oh no, you have to play their biggest hit like “Joan of Arc” “ but we played “Talking loud and clear” and then “Sister” and the other presenter said to me:
“Wow, that’s great music, why is it not out there??” It was difficult to answer the question so I guessed that the industry just wants to play safe and doesn’t release it because it is perhaps a bit too 80s.

Paul:
Well, it is not necessarily that we are too 80s it is just, you know, the corporate industry now are just focusing on the younger market and they´re not taking any risks at all.

TJ:
Do you think it is getting better somewhen?

Paul:
No, it is definitely getting worse

TJ:
Aaah, I thought you´d gonna say that (both laugh)




Paul:
But the thing is, you know, things like myspace and all these kind of internet places to go to look for music are all springing up now. I just think all the rules are changing. And I think that the problem with the major labels is that they are just sort of slow moving dinosaurs they really should have seen this filesharing thing coming but they just chose not to.

TJ:
They are too protective of their own things

Paul:
Exactly

TJ:
How difficult would it be for you to ring all your old mates and do a major… maybe a mini-tour with all the so called big names because, I mean, you must have made friends over the years with megastars. Is that not something that crossed your mind to say: “Let´s try to give OneTwo a bigger platform”?

Paul:
Well, yeah, there is that option. We´ve been speaking to our agent, we do have an agent now and we will be doing a few gigs later in the year with OneTwo.

TJ:
I read about the gig in Leicester Cathedral in August

Paul:
Yes, the only date that he have confiremd up is the Leicester Cathedral one, we´re playing Leicester Cathedral on the 28th of August but we´re putting a tour together and we´d love to come to Ireland.

TJ:
That’s my hope. Over the last number of years all bands that reunited or whatever you want to call it, ehm, they all played Dublin and I think the reason is that we were really deprived of Music down here, you know, and people love them. Just a few weeks ago The Human League played at Vicar Street, a smaller venue in Dublin, and they were very, very cautious when they announced it and within a week they had to add a second date and it’s the same thing with Tears for Fears. I really think there would be a market.

Paul:
Yes, there is a good demand for the live circuit.

TJ:
The music is timeless because it is handmade, you know. You have your own style.

Paul:
That’s right, I think there is some truth in that.

TJ:
I was asking Russell from The Sparks if it bothers him that people think because they play electronic music they´re just knob-twisters.
Paul: (Laughs)

TJ:
Does it bother you?

Paul:
I mean, we were always up against that. Because it was electronic music it wasn’t considered real music and we didn’t have any guitars.

TJ:
Maybe that’s why Martin Gore plays guitar any chance he gets (laughs)

Paul:
(laughs), How do I keep those questions from coming?

TJ:
Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. So, basically, I wish you all the best with the OneTwo album and just, off the record, I am a huge fan. Is there any chance that I can get an autograph?

Paul:
Of course

As a matter of fact OneTwo not only sent me an autograph they also visited my www.tj-music.com page and left a message on the guestbook and I feel very proud and I am very happy.

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