With masterclasses, performances and talks including Q&A, the electronic music conference in Birmingham had interesting and influential musicians to offer.
While organiser Chris Wave said very little and showed a 26 minute 1980’s film called ‘Knights electric’ with a great soundtrack and a crappy storyline during his 30 minutes set the event really became meaningful when the various conveyors of electronic music gave their talks and allowed plenty of time for audience members to ask questions.
First up was synthesist Richard Barbieri whose band ‘Japan’ enjoyed success in the mid 1970s into the early 1980’s and especially their album ‘Tin Drum’ is seen as ground-breaking. Not as big in their home country as they should have been, Japan still had a large following in the UK. Barbieri was a down to earth guy who openly talked about the trappings of working on projects alone and the joys of collaborating and recalled some Japan related anecdotes.
Classically trained musician Chris Payne was next and he talked about how confining it often was during the making of Gary Numan’s highly praised album ‘The pleasure principle’ where he was asked just to play certain chords and didn’t always get a chance to express himself artistically.
He spoke fondly of his time with Gary Numan both as a touring musician as well as being in the studio. Payne also co-wrote the global smash hit ‘Fade to grey’ by Visage.
He was a fun guy to listen to and even asked questions inquiring how, for song writing musicians in the audience, the collaborative process worked and shaped their music and shared his experiences as a film music composer, classically trained violinist and had interesting things to say about the music industry.
World renowned DJ Rusty Egan was next and he has a highly entertaining personality. He used his hour more or less entirely to rant about the misdeeds of musicians he had once helped out and there wasn’t anything to learn or to take home particularly from his 60-minute talk.
The highlight of this exciting afternoon was clearly the presentation and talk from Heaven 17’s Martyn Ware (also of The Human League fame). He talked about ‘his life in 20 synths’ and talked about his career as a musician as well as a producer (Erasure & Terence Trent D’arby were some artists he worked with) and the second part of his talk was about his audio-visual installations that are globally successful and exciting.
He candidly answered the ever-occurring question about performing The Human League’s first two albums with the original line up and his relationship to Philip Oakey and was fascinating to listen to.
All speakers were easily approachable and there were no big egos in the room – just very nice people and influential musician who helped shape the history of electronic music.