We’ve been Twitter friends with synth-pop legends WeirdGear for a number of years now and with their third album ‘Cosmonautes Discotheque’ on the way we thought it was about time we interviewed them. Cat On The Wall’s Jo Whitby caught up with the band via email and here is what they had to say…
Cat On The Wall: For those of our readers who have yet to discover WeirdGear can you introduce yourselves? How did the band come together?
WeirdGear: WeirdGear are Paul Wolfe, Lee Maher and Paul Barlow. They’re based in Essex along the Thames Estuary Delta, mainly rehearsing and producing at studios around Southend on Sea.
WeirdGear have been going since about 1994.
Paul Wolfe and Lee started buying up some inexpensive (now very expensive) analogue electronic equipment with a view to performing electronic music completely live.
Paul W and Lee were local DJs who shared a love for Bowie, Prince, Velvet Underground and the sounds of Detroit Techno, Indie Dance and Ambient House and many many other musical genres and they wanted to bring these elements together into the WeirdGear sound.
The ethos was to make music to drive around or to dance to. That hasn’t changed in near 20 years.
In 1998-99 both Dave Panter and Paul Barlow joined the band and the quartet became a close knit musical unit. Until 2006; WeirdGear were solely a band playing for their own pleasure and therapy rehearsing weekly and recording everything.
There was an evolution from 1999-2005 during which we all needed to learn how to perform fluidly and to learn each others natural timing. Then finally in 2006 we started to perform to audiences.
In late 2009; Dave Panter sadly retired from band activities which meant those songs could no longer be played – all band members contributed equally to the tracks and to lose a member meant key elements would always be lost from the song never to be recreated. The collections of these tracks can be found on the Aurora and Aurora Bonus albums which are available to download.
The remaining 3 members – Paul W, Lee & Paul B then embarked upon a journey to write brand new material, to take a change in direction and to learn to produce their own sound, this has been a project which has taken them outside their comfort zone into new areas of exploration but has now almost concluded into the Cosmonautes Discotheque album (currently due out 4th November 2013 on MM Recordings).
3 singles were planned for release from this album: –
1) Black7 – with remixes / covers by Radio Phone-In (Ed – Cat on the Wall Zines’ Jo Whitby), Kostoglotov, Free Market Economy and Phonic Voyeurs – released 26 November 2012 MM Recordings
2) Daytona 87 – with remixes by NEON, Ben Glass, Stuart Russell, red collective, The NKR and USRNM – released 25 Feb 2013 – MM Recordings
3) Points EP – with remixes by USRNM, Paul Alty, Olley Gillespie, Cloud & Owl, Sean Woolf, Wolfephunken and Gagarin – released on 5th August 2013 – MM Recordings
COTW: You try to perform as ‘live’ as possible without using backing tracks, midi or sequencers. Why did you decide to do that and has this decision resulted in any interesting challenges for the band?
WeirdGear: Back in the day Paul W and Lee both had ‘an’ experience working with MIDI music in the early 90s which felt slow, unsatisfying and complicated. They both shared the vision of being able to make good electronic music simply by playing the repetitions. They experimented with live performance on 4 track cassette recorders and eventually evolved into a quartet with Dave Panter and Paul Barlow in 1999 after a few personnel additions in the run up to this time.
Through the personnel expansion; all multitrack recording techniques were abandoned and all elements had to be played live. This was a successful but complicated method of working and prone to everyone being attuned to each other.
The main reason work working in this way was the instantaneous nature of making electronic music. All of the equipment could be plugged in and was ready to record and work. It sits with their desire to perform like a real band.
Since working as a trio; the band members have assumed functions within the group dynamic which has enabled us to find a good method of working.
For the Cosmonautes Discotheque ‘project’ Paul W caters for Sound EFX, modulations and counter melodies (aka the ENO workstation). Lee manhandles the main melodies and drum machines (though pre-programmed, are manipulated and arranged live) and Paul B is responsible for keeping everyone in check with his metronomic bass synth playing.
It is certainly not the easiest way, but it the WeirdGear way.
COTW: ‘Cosmonautes Discotheque’ is your 3rd album and is due out this summer. What can fans expect with this record?
WeirdGear: There will be a relative departure and evolution from the synthpop sounds WeirdGear created back around 2006 which you can hear on the Aurora and Aurora Bonus albums.
For Cosmonautes Discotheque; WeirdGear have experimented with Soundtrack music (Koln and Cosmonautes Discotheque), Trip-Hop (Points and Down the Line), Electro (Daytona 87 and Snakecharmer), Dub (Halloween Dancehall) and even toyed with Detroit Techno (ROTH – Return of the Hammer and Wolfegroove).
It’s a journey of a 10 track album. The band hope it’s well received by listeners.
COTW: Will you be touring the new album? What do you enjoy most about the live experience?
WeirdGear: Ah… Well… So far as live shows are concerned WeirdGear had been semi-retired while they devoted our time to the album.
The band planned to perform 3 official shows in 2013 – one was the Bas 2013 Festival, then on 22nd June they play an intimate show in their local area (Essex) and finally a headline show for the last ever No Fiction show in London, NW5 on 13th July.
After this… WeirdGear have decided to hang up their performing hats until they’ve written some new material. Alongside their other activities as a band, producers, remixers, radio DJs and label owners doesn’t leave too much time for much else.
The trio are very busy chaps outside the band and there is only ever a finite amount of time which can be given to WeirdGear activities.
COTW: In 2006 you set up Magico Meccannisimo Recordings which I hear you are expanding! Do tell us more!
WeirdGear: It was decided by the band in 2013 that they were to expand their label activities as the WeirdGear operation wound down for a couple of years while writing some new material.
Magico Meccannisimo Recordings (MM Recordings) was set up in 2006 for all outbound releases produced by the band. Every detail was realised and is registered with PPL in the UK. There is a plan to expand into Publishing in the very near future too.
With this in mind; WeirdGear spoke with some local electronic chums and discussed helping them to put their material out using the label.
Fortunately they agreed and currently Shinzou and Go Yoko are now within the MM Recordings portfolio.
Hope to announce more into the family very soon too!
MM Recordings started this new phase from June 2013.
The current plan is to release a new track from the MM Recordings family every month and there are some current and upcoming releases. At present they are all digi releases via most reputable and disreputable download and streaming sites: –
1) Shinzou – NEON NIGHTS EP – released 5.6.13
2) Go Yoko – Animus Maximus – released 17.6.13 – FREE DOWNLOAD
3) Go Yoko – WHITE NOISE RIOT LP – release 1.7.13
4) WeirdGear – POINTS EP – release 5.8.13
5) WeirdGear – Cosmonautes Discotheque – release 4.11.13
There will be others in September and October; by Shinzou and Go Yoko – but they are being organised at time of going to press.
COTW: Who do you cite as being your biggest influence as a band (I expect there is more than one)?
WeirdGear: Wow. Where do we start with WeirdGear musical influences… not limited to, but they also divert away from these bands into other roads but common interests include: –
Jimi Hendrix, The Beach Boys, David Bowie, Kraftwerk, The Kinks, Velvet Underground, David Bowie, Primal Scream, BBC Radiophonics Workshop, Andy Weatherall, Spacemen 3 / Spiritualized, AIR, Cluster, My Bloody Valentine, 808State, Brian Eno & Roxy Music, Joe Meek, Stereolab…. we could go on!
Quite surprisingly the typical synth band faves like Depeche Mode, Gary Numan, Ultravox etc don’t really do it for the band.
COTW: Finally, what are your plans for the near future?
WeirdGear: WeirdGear are really enjoying writing, producing, remixing, recording film and game soundtracks, expanding their label and djing on the radio (Currently they have a monthly show on Thames Delta Radio Station Ship Full of Bombs www.sfob.co.uk). Where they end up next, well the roads are open to them.