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Brian Higgins interview (Literally magazine, July 2009)
Posted at 11:41 PM, 30 August 2009 - 3 Comments

The current edition of Literally magazine (#34, July 2009) features a 15-page interview with Xenomania's Brian Higgins. Literally is published three times a year and is only available to members of the Pet Shop Boys Club. The interview was conducted by Chris Heath, on May 13, 2009. Some selected quotes from the interview, organized by topics:


Brian Higgins' first steps in the music business

«I came to it late... I think most people in the music business probably have their first successes or get heavily involved with it in their early 20s - that never happened for me. I had a record deal when I was 19 and then got dropped, and so I had to work in business and write songs at night.

«By the time I got to 28, 29, we were starting to have hits in the daytime and I was still working - it was only when I had a number 1 hit in America ["Believe" by Cher] that I actually left work, full time employment. That was ten years ago, when I was 32. So to come to it at 32, I cherish every day. Because I'd got to the point at about 29 where I never believed I'd ever leave work. I'd started to have hits, but I thought this is the way it's going to be: I'm going to work in the day and I'm going to have a hit a year, and I'm going to have more money than anyone else I know, but generally speaking this is my life, and I'd accepted that that's what it was.

«And then suddenly it changed. And so as a result of that I cherish every moment and every single day, and that's the truth of it. This is my life. I don't have a life outside of it, I don't want a life outside of it. That's it. I'm obsessed to this degree. And very lucky to be able to be obsessed to this degree. But it has to be driven by success. If there's no success then there are no people - that's a fact. Otherwise it's just a weird guy in a house who buys in all these young friends - it has to be successful.»


Obsession with synthesizers and electronic music

«I was obsessed with synthesisers, and I guess my obsession with synthesisers had been based around Duran Duran and the way they utilised synths, which I thought was amazingly clever, and Japan, and Depeche Mode. They were my three groups that I probably obsessed about and aspired to be. But back then, especially where I was from in Cumbria, you'd never see a Jupiter 8 in the flesh, let alone be able to afford one. Because why would one of those ever find its way up there? It never would.

«I had a Casio MT-40 keyboard.
It was the most repulsive thing going»
«So I was just obsessed with electronic music, and its inaccessibility to me made me more obsessed. Particularly as I was a keyboard player. I had what they called a Casio MT-40 keyboard, which was a white tiny thing that introduced a range of home keyboards. It was the most repulsive thing going - it wasn't remotely analogue, it wasn't remotely like a synthesiser, so I used to get effects pedals and do anything I could to change it and make it swirl about with these pre-set sounds.

«For me the Pet Shop Boys were the first group that I felt pushed electronic music forward beyond where Japan, Depeche Mode and Duran Duran had taken it. And in many ways the songwriting was superior to those three groups. Undoubtedly - melodically, lyrically, in every single facet. And so I felt that they progressed a genre that I was obsessed with. So I admired them and wanted to know about them because of that.»


Xenomania: character, attitude and application determine things

«It's very difficult to get in. Everyone's hand-picked. Your talent just gets you an interview - it's character and attitude and application that determines things, it's not talent. Talent just gets you on the pitch. Nobody knows who or what they're joining when they come here but it's been thought through exactly how they'll get on with people, so as a result it's a house full of enormous ambition but with people who are very, very quietly determined as opposed to showy people. (...)

«I guess it's full of people who want to be coached, who want to know stuff. That sort of mirrors me and Miranda - we're obsessed by knowledge. We want to know more about ourselves, we want to know more about how to do things better, we want to know stuff. And so I guess that's the culture there, and so we look for people who are probably a bit like that. (...) "How can we improve, how can we get better, how can we make it more exciting? How can we not go stale? How can we stay exciting? How can we stay relevant?". It's all of those questions. Puzzles. Non-stop puzzles. So I suppose this house is full of people who are up for puzzling that out with me, but letting me be the person that actually fills the crossword in, because only one person can do it. »


What people want from Xenomania

«People are coming to me already with a quality idea in mind, because they've heard it. They want that. They want whatever it is they've heard applied to their project. But people need to understand that when they hear something that we've done on the radio, a process has been followed to achieve that. It isn't just something that I pull out of a hat. A very particular, precise procedure has been followed which is supposed by a philosophy which is supported by a mentality which is supported by a lifestyle - the whole thing goes back back back back back. It's a puzzle to me and I've puzzled it all my life (...)

«And we're just not interested in the way other people do things. And we're not interested in celebrating in the way other people celebrate. We're just not interested in anything other than the way we want to do things, I suppose. And it's a mentality that you can't break, because it makes us unhappy and then you won't get what you want anyway. (...) But obviously that sort of mentality, to be able to cope with information on that level, I've trained not just me but myself, Miranda, Tim, we've trained our minds to think that way for many many many many years. That's why you couldn't really copy our way of working - because you'd be overwhelmed with it.»

«(...) It's really difficult because we're so awkward - we only know what we know, and we know it better than anybody else. So as long as that continues to be successful then we'll continue to be awkward with it. And not wanting to dilute things or play a game or do a project so that you can wear a badge saying "we did that". Because that doesn't mean anything. We're Xenomania, so fuck you! Seriously. That's how we generally view it. Is that arrogant? I don't know. I think all successful music entities have their own very strong thing.»


Bad experiences with big artists

«Everything about us is about enormous enthusiasm for something. And therefore big artists can come in and they think "they're the flavour of the whatever, let's take their thing and then we'll do what we want with it..." Well, no, that's not acceptable anyway. I've had that experience happen where the big artists were fine until they got into the mix room and then they basically pulled the record to pieces. So I took my name off the record and the writing credits off the record. Because they're assholes. And they sold about 20.000 copies, and they've never been seen since. So big artists are often jerks of the biggest order. And often people say don't meet your heroes because you'll be let down, and I sort of understand why people would say that.»


The Xenomania system

  • Melody is the raw material
«Through understanding and watching other people write, and observing how they write, I tried to come up with a way that ensured that people didn't get stuck in melodic cul-de-sacs, where they would spend time polishing ideas that basically weren't any good. Melody is the raw material of all songs. It's not lyric, it's a melody. It's a tune. That's what people latch into first (...)»

«Don't back your first idea because it might be the third one that's the winner. But songwriters generally are arrogant, and I would include myself in that - the first thing you do that you like, you think that's the one and you follow it. And I've seen us write too many bad songs, or average songs, that followed that. So our system defuses songwriter arrogance and puts a much more labour intensive melodic aspect to it. You work for the melody a bit harder.» (...)

  • The taste test
«I encourage true melodic expression whereby you're confident enough in the surroundings that you're in to basically pour into a Dictaphone every melodic idea your brain can give that piece of music within a six, seven or nine minute period of time. I then comp those melodies down and then select the ones that I really like. And then I'll make a gut decision as to whether or not I think there's enough melodic content with which to make up a song. And then once that's decided that yes there is, therefore you go about the process of lyricing all of those things. You lyric everything, you sing everything, and then it's based upon the best vocal performances. (...)

«It's all based on the taste test, I suppose. The vocal has then got to deliver the whole thing, so basically you line up the top six, seven, eight vocal performances and then you have the intellectual challenge of knitting it together, which I love, and which is fascinating. And very challenging. (...)»

«I wanted to do things that are original and different but still very very commercial»
  • Knitting things together
«The challenge built within it is overwhelming sometimes. It's very hard. And we've trained our minds to work this way over many many many many many years. (...)

«But let's talk of a track that clearly uses that system. "Under Pressure", David Bowie and Queen, there's virtually no repetitive parts in that song. Now, I didn't listen to that as a young guy and think, "oh, that's the way to write songs". It's just the way I fell into it, wanting to do things that are original and different but still very very commercial. I found that I was becoming obsessive about knitting things together. A chorus is obviously constant, but I didn't understand why everything around the chorus had to be constant too. (...)»


Where pop and avant garde collide

«I want people to be listening to things hundreds of times and finding nuance that they didn't hear previously. (...) That's how I hear music - looking for the originality and the rememberbility. It's the hardest thing, to get the balance between those two things. I'm interested in where avant garde and pop collide. But the "pop" word is critical within that. (...)

«I think the path to true originality is that at some stage the originators must be confused. They have to be. If you are to achieve something with true originality. And I know people could read this and say, "well he did that, and that's not particularly original". I can only say I aspire to it. Whilst, at the same time, I'm obsessed with hit records. I don't want anything that isn't a hit. So you have to understand how the things merge together (...)

«A cool record that's not known by anyone, it's a waste of time. It's about trying to get your music played to as wide an audience as you possibly can and trying to fulfil as much of an original aspect within that as you possibly can. So it's a very challenging burden that you place on yourself. But I think it's at the core of why we've had such a long, long run of hits, and why so many of those hits have got really particular highlights within them that don't necessarily relate specifically to anything else around them at the time they're released. And I think that's a good body of working.»


The (new) sound of Girls Aloud

«"The Promise" was the sound of a big group, a group about to be huge»
«I'm a very aggressive person and I like music to attack. To shoot you in the arm a bit. I want that from it. There's a driving aspect to the music we've made over the years. Girls Aloud are different because Girls Aloud have become such a big group that it's up to us to deliver what they need to fuel the Big Group-ness. So Girls Aloud's records were more driving and pumping and innovative then than they are now because that's not what's required. They need to be fulfilled as the big stars they've become, so "The Promise" was the sound of a big group, a group about to be huge. They needed the theme tune to that. They didn't need "The Show". They didn't need "Biology". They needed the theme tune to the biggest girl group on the planet, and that's what we felt "The Promise" said to us. That's where I'm doing the right job for the girls. But generally speaking my own default position in music is to have something aggressive.»


Pet Shop Boys - Chris Lowe & Neil Tennant

«Chris Lowe is an electronic pioneer. He's one of the greatest.»
«They're fantastic people. It makes total sense why they've had their career. (...) It's very difficult to survive in the music business for however many years. (...) And I think to do it there needs to be some sort of outstanding qualities in the people, and it was nice to be able to identify outstanding qualities in Neil and Chris. (...)

«Chris lives his life in a euphoric state of mind or a doomsday state of mind - it's one or the other. I don't think it's anything like bipolar, he's just like that. He's capable of enormous euphoria, and that's what comes out in his music, and he's exceptionally bright, and he's got a very good heart, Chris Lowe. And he's an electronic pioneer. He's one of the greatest. So you're working with one of the greatest modern musicians of all time with Chris Lowe.

«And so to have such a personality that's capable of reaching such scales of happiness sort of makes sense. That it would have to be a person like that that could have done some of the musical things he's pulled off over the years. That's how I sort of summed up Chris Lowe. A real lover of life. But also this doomsday aspect as well, which is hilarious. He really makes me laugh when he's like that. (...) But seeing how happy he is in music, and seeing music come together, he has incredible enthusiasm - a super-human level of enthusiasm. And that's great to see. I love it.

«Neil's an intellectual - very, very, very clever, incredibly charming, very bright, very quick-witted, but probably believes everything he says is right. Everything. So therefore he probably needs someone to catch him a little, but just to make him question himself a little bit, because he's fearsomely clever, but he's not always right. But what a fascinating guy. He's amazing.»


Pet Shop Boys influence

«I thought "West End Girls" was just an incredible record»
«I was struck by how they looked completely different from anything else that was around. I thought "West End girls" was just an incredible record. Incredible record. (...) [Neil Tennant] wasn't an obvious front man, I suppose, in the way that people have been projected for years and years and years before then. I think he was more enigmatic. But the music was the thing that I was blown away by. (...)

«I thought the second album was amazing. I was making the album that got me my first record deal when that album came out. And the music I was making was incredibly hip - the house music thing was just exploding in this country on an underground level and I was doing those sort of records and was starting to get a lot of interest because of that. I can't remember what we eventually called the record, to be honest - it didn't do anything. But I remember coming back from the studio and listening to their new album on a cassette in the car and feeling very relevant because everything I was doing was very electronically based. It was a continuation of what they'd done on the first album. They've always been so strong, chordally, the Pet Shop Boys, as well as melodically.»


Where the Pet Shop Boys went wrong

«I felt - and Neil knows this - that they became less and less broad, lyrically, and they ceased to speak to me. And I just felt that what I was getting, rightly or wrongly, was Neil's personal life. And I wasn't interested in Neil's personal life. I was interested when I felt they were talking to me, and when I felt they were talking about broad subjects, and the amazing soundscapes that Neil and Chris would paint. It was a world in which I felt a part of, and welcomed into by them. (...)»

«I think they ceased to be relevant to a wide audience. (...) I think Neil and Chris became more introverted in the way they were looking at it, and that's probably where they lost it slightly. I think their problem is that they didn't work with enough producers that were songwriters in their own right, because I think, had they done that, more pressure would have been put on the songs. I think as they got older they tended to work with people who were getting older as well. (...) I think the Pet Shop Boys became about a wry eyebrow. That there had to be something witty in it. Had to be. (...) I think they became more about how clever they could be.»


Working with the Pet Shop Boys: first meeting

«I didn't want to do it. Because I'd just had a difficult experience with another big group, in Franz Ferdinand, and I thought, "Well, these lot will be worse". But I respected them so much, and respected the request so much, that I felt it was better to let them know that face to face, as opposed to a dismissive "No, we're not doing it" through their manager. (...)

«I told them about why I felt I would be bad for them, because I know what I like and I don't understand what I don't like, therefore I dismiss what I don't like. I don't dilute, I don't have a committee. I have no interest in what I don't like. End of story. (...) I said that and they said, well, we really want to work with you now, because we think you'll push our standards far higher. And I thought, well, that's good. That made me more interested. Because I wasn't trying to put them off, I was telling them the truth. I felt that they would be very difficult because they have a clear vision, and so do I... and so what happens in that situation? (...) If you get involved with this I really am involved with it and you have to be prepared to go through that with me, and it's not always an incredibly pleasant experience. (...)»

[The Pet Shop Boys had no idea that Brian Higgins had originally planned to say no to them on their first visit. «It's funny,» Neil said, when told, «Because when we went down there I thought we wouldn't want to work with him, I think». Chris said: «I didn't think for a moment he wouldn't want to work with us. It didn't occur to me».]


How Pet Shop Boys work together

«I'm obsessed by long term relationships in music -
it's the key motivating factor that bonds us together here»
«They dovetail perfectly, because Neil is an extrovert in some ways, and I think Chris is, but he's more reserved with it. You only see Chris when he wants you to see it, whereas Neil's a natural performer, I suppose. And that to me is where it's at - there's so much power in Chris, but it sort of comes out through Neil to a certain degree.

«You can see the fact that they both still really admire each other. I see that very clearly - I love it. I love things like that. I love longevity in relationships, because it requires flexibility and a lot of love and a lot of care for the other person, and altering yourself to fit. And I'm obsessed by long term relationships in music - it's the key motivating factor that bonds us together here. I've been with Miranda every working day for 13 years, and it's more fun today than it was a year ago, and than it was two years ago. I'm obsessed with that. It's the binding force that keeps us altogether here.»


"Love etc."

«It's very difficult to release a record these days and be successful with it if it doesn't sound like anything else around it»
«I didn't want to give it to them. (...) Chris kept on about it, and he could see that I didn't want to play it. I don't think Neil got it initially. Chris got it. I think Chris got Neil onto it. (...) Then I was lying in bed one night, and thinking "for fuck's sake...", and then sort of thought, "No, I can see it. This is a move that they could and probably should make". So I sort of relented. (...) It was very different for them. It was much more aggressive, which is not a word you would apply to the Pet Shop Boys particularly. It was aggressive which I really liked.» (...)

«I said this to Neil last Thursday: "The fact you released 'Love etc.' to me stands you in incredible stead for the next three to four years". Because it's very difficult to release a record these days and put it out and be successful with it if it doesn't sound like anything else around it. Because obviously everyone's worried about the recession, independent radio's worried about advertising revenue, all those different things, and so therefore it makes it far easier for media in general to be more herd-like than they normally would be anyway.» (...)

  • The disagreement over "Love etc.":
«It was hilarious. (...) Obviously Neil's a very very very intelligent man, and he's self-confident in his own ideas and that sort of stuff. And I think he told me how something was going to be before I'd finished my own experimentation process of it, and I just... I won't be told in that sense. You can ask. Or whatever. But generally speaking it was that. I need to cross all the "t"s and dot every "i", particularly in a system that's as strange as ours. (...) I think his convictions were generated by his own excitement of how things were going. (...) I have great moments with all of the records that we make but they're very small and very quick. And after that I start looking at the problem and faults. (...)

«The debate was whether it was better to repeat something that worked or change to something that didn't work - the change on paper looked good, but didn't sound good. So it's better to repeat something that sounds great as opposed to change something and sonically lose that standard. It ticks an artistic box, it doesn't tick the listener's box, and I will always be on the side of the listener, not the artists, whether I'm the artist, Miranda is, Neil, or whoever. (...) And this went on for weeks - not the argument but the need to find better-sounding words. Eventually we got it. It was a completely valid discussion. At the end of it Neil said something like, "The South Bank Show should have filmed that".»


Working with the Pet Shop Boys again

«I really love spending time with them. (...) I'd love to get Chris down here to do some music, and for me, Neil and Miranda to sit and write against it because I think that would be good for everybody. I think we can continue on in that perspective. If they wanted to make another record with us and stuff like that then... yeah. (...)

«I don't do too much of that sort of thing - I have to really believe that there's going to be an enormous commercial point to it. Only because of what we're prepared to invest in it, emotionally and time-wise and at the expense of other things we'll let go because of it. But I would probably make an exception for them, because I do think that they're fantastic people. (...) I think our lives are better here and more enriched because of our work with the Pet Shop Boys. I totally believe that.»

[Neil Tennant:«I think it would be a shame if we didn't work together. Because I think there's a thing there that he does that we probably wouldn't do with someone else, and also I think at its best we do something with them that doesn't sound like their records. I think a unique thing happens that is almost separate from the rest of their ouevre.»]


What Xenomania learned from the Pet Shop Boys

«I thought it was fantastic how they are with each other. We're about longevity now at Xenomania. You can't get away from it - we've been around a long time. Because we have such a youth development policy here and are very very very free and open with our experiences, so therefore you're merging very experienced people with very young people and it's all meeting and colliding in the middle together [the youngest person at Xenomania is 15 and the oldest is 55], that in itself gives us the fuel. Because we're only going to win if we write better songs than everybody else and our records sound more interesting and more original than everybody else, and the only way that's going to happen is for us to have a very open mind as we go forward.

«And so seeing how they are and how flexible they were able to be with me, that explains their 25 year career. (...) And I think it was fantastic to see how considerate they were to each other, because that holds the key to our own longevity, that the key people within the organisation here, the chief writers, look after each other and take care of each other and then willingly pass that knowledge on to younger people who give us their fearlessness and allow the whole thing to collide. So Pet Shop Boys and Xenomania was a bit like Xenomania within itself. The age gap between the Pet Shop Boys and the key Xenomania people they worked with, myself, Miranda and Tim - is mirrored identically internally within Xenomania. It's a generational thing. It was confirmation of lots of things.»

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Mini Viva interviewed and reviewed
Posted at 3:39 PM, 28 August 2009 - 0 Comments

Mini Viva have been putting the finishing touches to their debut album, which will hit the shops in November. The girls have co-written about half the songs with Xenomania. Frankee Connolly (Viva) told Digital Spy: «Every song on the album is quite different to 'Tokyo' because we want to pull in a different audience on every song. We want to keep surprising people.»

Their "funky fresh" debut single will be released on September 7th (iTunes pre-order). In case you haven't figured out what "Left My Heart Is Tokyo" is about, Frankee explains: «It's about how nobody can live up to that guy you had in Tokyo. All other guys can get lost really!».

Britt Love (Mini) says that in Xenomania HQ «there's such a good, positive vibe». Frankee says: «We're so privileged to work with them because they really know what they're doing. They're like a modern-day Motown and I can't really imagine working with anyone else.»

While working on their album, Mini Viva bumped into Cheryl Cole (Viva: «She said she'd heard our song on the radio on the way to Xenomania and loved it, which was amazing to hear»), Alexandra Burke (Mini: «We saw Alexandra Burke there too and said a quick hello. She's a nice girl») and Alesha Dixon (Viva: «She cracks me up. I love her cackle!»).

Britt and Frankee have a busy time ahead of them. Frankee talked about it in an interview by her local paper The Citizen: «We’ve been told we’re not allowed a holiday for two years and everyone is like, you’re travelling the world anyway, but we’re working so it’s not going to be so easy, we won't get the free time.»

«We’ve been working on all this for two years, for our first single. But it seems to have gone so fast and I can’t believe that soon people will be recognising me in the street». Frankee admits that she is secretly very shy: «When I was little I always dreamed of being a pop star, I think every girl does, but I never thought it was going to happen because I was always quite shy. I was never confident to sing in front of people. I even hated improvisations and reading out in front of the class. I think everyone from school is going to be really shocked that the shy girl they knew is a pop star!»

Mini Viva are giving away a free mp3 of a new song titled "Bedroom Viber", which is already receiving positive blog reviews - the king of pop blogs, Popjustice, has even picked it as "Song Of The Day". Head over to the Mini Viva widget to download the song and see Mini & Viva dancing.
  • Today's Song Of The Day was going to be something else but then we realised that even a track Mini Viva are giving away free was better, so here's a Mini Viva song called 'Bedroom Viber'. It's not, to our knowledge, slated as a single ('I Wish' and 'Hooked' are the closest contenders from what we've heard) but 'Bedroom Viber' is a jolly little number and 'no mistaking' (...). Popjustice
  • Bedroom Viber is another (curiously titled) song from the girls and, although it's not quite as frenetic, it's just as catchy. It reminds me in many ways of something Girls Aloud would perform, which is a high compliment in the pop universe. The rocky beat coupled with the explosive chorus and hook combine to create a standout electro-pop track that bodes well for the album. Awesome. #1 Hits From Another Planet
  • OK this one is quite good and worth your email address in exchange. I hate it when bands give you their crappiest track for free download for your email, but if this is Mini Viva's crappiest track, then something tells me the album is gonna be a stomper. Electroqueer

"Left My Heart In Tokyo" also continues to receive a whole lotta love:
  • You've got to hand it to new duo MINI VIVA. Their debut single I Left My Heart In Tokyo is the best bit of pop I've heard in a while. I reckon it's in with a good shout for No1 when it comes out in September. The girls, big-haired FRANKEE and BRITT, are in the tradition of DAPHNE AND CELESTE or SALT 'N' PEPA. The Sun
  • When it comes to Xenomania songs, it's more about the song than the vessel. You open the box and you get late 90's dance beats, sassy girls singing nonsensical lyrics, and while it should be a mess, it all comes together. Rhymes With Bag
  • (...) Their debut single sounds like a chart invader. With its swooning chorus, inventive, disco-tinged production and lyrics that sound great even when they don't quite make sense, 'Left My Heart In Tokyo' is vintage Xenomania. As for Mini Viva themselves - Britt and Frankee, in case you were wondering - they show enough girlish sass to suggest they're more than just faces for a group of pop tunesmiths. A group of really good pop tunesmiths, to be precise. 4/5 Digital Spy

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Jessie Malakouti: "The songs I am writing with Xenomania are the future of pop"
Posted at 8:36 PM, 27 August 2009 - 0 Comments

Jessie Malakouti updated fans on her MySpace blog, talking about what happened to the song "Trash Me".

The song received attention after Britney Spears released "If You Seek Amy", which sounded suspiciously like "Trash Me". More recently, the song was covered by Heidi Montag. "Trash Me" was written by Jessie Malakouti over two years ago, while she was still in her old band Shut Up Stella. Jessie writes:

«"Trash Me" was circulating around the industry and getting lots of buzz. So much buzz, that I was flown to Sweden to write and record with some other unmentionables for a week. A couple of okay songs came out of the trip, but I didn't have the same connection with the unmentionables that I did with Xenomania. So I signed to Xenomania and began working on my debut album.

Fast forward a few months, and a little tune called Trash Me "If U Seek Amy" comes out by Britney Spears, which was funny enough stolen written by these same Swedish unmentionables I had thought were my friends. To add even more salt to the wound, Heidi Montag decides to murder cover my song, and gets more recognition than I ever did for my own art.»

Now Jessie is moving on and is focused on the songs she's written with Xenomania. She says: «I've always prided myself on being ahead of the sound, and really feel like the songs I am writing with Xenomania are the future of pop!».

Her first official single, "Standing Up For The Lonely", will be out soon. A 4-track album sampler/megamix is available to download on her website.

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Pet Shop Boys discuss "Yes" track-by-track
Posted at 7:31 PM, 26 August 2009 - 8 Comments

The latest issue of Literally magazine (available to members of the Pet Shop Boys Club) also includes a track-by-track feature about the songs and b-sides from the album Yes. Here are a few excerpts about the songs produced by Xenomania:


LOVE ETC.

Chris Lowe: This is an example of what Brian [Higgins] and Miranda [Cooper] were doing with their own project. When we heard it I thought it sounded really fresh. I liked the almost trance broken chord, done with a shuffle rhythm, which I thought sounded really unusual - it had the uplifting element of trance without being trance. Also, when the drums kicked in it sounded really heavy. Everything was already there apart from the bit after the first chorus.
Neil Tennant: I was dispatched to to say to Brian Higgins, "can we get that bouncy track?" which, I've got to be honest, I couldn't even particularly remember. I liked all the songs that sounded a bit like New Order, one of which I think turned out to be "The loving kind".


ALL OVER THE WORLD

Neil: This was the last song to be written on the whole album. It started off as a song called "I'm not crying, I'm laughing".
Chris: The verse music was the same, but with a different melody. And what wasn't there was the chorus. It was also all a bit swingbeat. What we were trying to do was this rhythm from this record we'd heard in Mexico.
Neil: Xenomania were quite happy with this other song. In fact, after "All over the world" was finished, one day when we were summoned to see Brian he was sitting there and humming "I'm not crying, I'm laughing" to himself. But after we took a month off in August (...) we decided "I'm not crying, I'm laughing" was utter rubbish. So we went into the studio with Tim from Xenomania and - influenced by the way Xenomania work - took all the lyrics off and all the vocals off.
Chris: And I thought, "Why not carry on the Tchaikovsky chord progression from the Nutcracker?". And then it really took off. (...)
Neil: It was a really good session this - it all happened in about two or three hours."
Chris: It was really, really great. We just thought, "My God, this is good". What was Brian's famous quote about this?
Neil: "You've just made the album 10% better"

Neil: Then I came up with the Bowie-like verse melody: "There's something... that look in your eyes tonight..." I was suddenly channelling David Bowie. (...) Chris and Tim [Powell] also spent a long time working on the rhythm track.
Chris: Tim really beefed the rhythm up, made it four on the floor.


BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE

Neil: Brian Higgins, when we first played him songs we'd written, really liked this song a lot.
Chris: It was fully formed.
Neil: I always think of our demo as being a bit more folky.
Chris: It didn't sound folky to me. The original aim was to be r'n'b. They're quite soulful chords. The exact arrangement was already there.
Neil: Anyway, folk and soul do meet in the Mamas and Papas and, even at this stage, the backing vocals were supposed to be like the Mamas and Papas. When we wrote this song I loved it to pieces. On the demo I do a guitar solo - we didn't keep that, unfortunately.


DID YOU SEE ME COMING?

"Did you see me coming?" was primarily chosen as the second single due to the enthusiasm of Parlophone record's radio promotion staff, who felt that it would get a lot of airplay. Before Yes was released, Neil and Chris considered it unlikely to be a single, thinking that songs such as "All over the world" and "Pandemonium" were more obvious choices.

Neil: I was worried the title sounded obscene. It wasn't meant to. My mother used to say "they must have seen you coming" if you'd been overcharged for something. It came from that. (...) The song is about someone walking into a bar and seeing someone and thinking, "God, I really fancy them, I could spend the rest of my life with them." (...)
Chris: Wasn't this the one Brian Higgins said...?
Neil: ... yeah, that it was "80% there". He always liked the bit where the Gregorian choir solo comes, because it's rather unexpected. He said, "Oh, that's beautiful". We brought Johnny Marr in, put the guitar on, and they beefed up the rhythm track. But it's one of those that's most similar to the original. It's the same vocal as the demo.
Chris: Great ad libs at the end.
Neil: I'm giving 110% on the ad libs. That's me thinking "What would Dusty do?".


VULNERABLE

Chris: It's another one that we played to Brian on our first visit - audition, I mean.
Neil: The demo was actually in a different key. We took it down because I couldn't sing it. They just sort of beefed it up. (...) Nick Gatfield [global president of A&R for EMI] wanted it to be a duet, and there was talk of us approaching Carla Bruni, which was Dave Dorrell's idea. I could imagine her singing it. The song itself is sung from the point of view of a woman we know.

Neil: The guitar is actually a sample played by Chris. I liked this song because I always felt it sounded very French, a bit like "Voyage Voyage" or something. I think it's got a particularly beautiful melody. The sort of melody that we write that is just taken for granted, really. But I sometimes wonder if the whole idea of melody is old-fashioned now.


MORE THAN A DREAM

Neil: This was originally called "Where the wild things are", which was a bad title, and it went through a lot of different changes. It was going to be scrapped at one point. Though Brian also had announced that it had a hit introduction. I think it probably does - if this was Girls Aloud it probably would be one. I worried that it was too not us to be on one of our albums. But at one point, just when we were on the verge of scrapping it, Chris went upstairs and wrote the melody for "coming soon, something good", and I love that melody.

(...) And Brian loved that melody coming after the intro, because the intro is very chirpy. Again it's very French. It reminds me of some French record in the Eighties like "Etienne Etienne".
Chris had also written this other bit - where it goes "Driving through the night, just you and me..." which Miranda and I had "lyriced" when the song was still "Where the wild things are". We always used to refer to it as the Belinda Carlisle bit. (...) I think for the chorus Miranda wrote the medley and I wrote the lyrics. In the verses, I had the idea of "coming soon, something good", and then the second verse Miranda and I wrote together. So it's a genuine collaboration. Brian got involved a lot in the structure of it.


BUILDING A WALL

Neil: The person who liked this track was Brian Higgins. Even when it was finished, Chris and I suddenly had a move to scrap it.
Chris: The backing track went through a major transformation. It went through trance - the verse melody actually came from the trance melody that we then legated into that - and then it went rock.
Neil: Johnny Marr played weird guitar - we told him to play like Robert Fripp on "Heroes". It's Stuart Price's favourite track on the album.

Chris: My voice is on it because Neil asked me. It wasn't my idea.
Neil: I thought "protection, prevention..." would be good with two voices.
Chris: I'm happy to oblige.


KING OF ROME

Neil: I had an idea of writing about the King of Rome, who was Napoleon's son. (...) he had no family, and he was lonely, and he didn't know his father. He just seemed like an incredible symbol of loneliness and exile.(...)
I was writing the words for "The King of Rome", having written pretty much the whole lyrics, I suddenly thought it could be "The King of pop" instead. (...) I was just thinking what a tragic figure Michael Jackson is, endlessly roaming the world. (...) Brian Higgins wasn't keen on it being about Michael Jackson, and when I told him what it had been originally called he said, "Yeah, we'll go back to 'The King of Rome'." Actually he used to call this song "Baby come back to me".
Chris: Or "It couldn't be more tragic" - that was his other title for it. The music never really changed. I was expecting a bit more production on it, but Brian liked it as it was. It was just a drum loop.


PANDEMONIUM

Neil: Unlike the rest of the album, "Pandemonium" was written in the previous year, in 2007, when we were writing songs for Kylie Minogue.
Chris: I think it's a really good drunken having-a-laugh-with-your-mates type of record. It's got that kind of Seventies glam rock feel to it.
Neil: Johnny Marr liked that about it.
Chris: Johnny plays harmonica, which we didn't know he could play. He went to the boot of his car and whipped out his harmonica.
Neil: We got a load of people from Xenomania to do the "ooh"s and "it's pandemonium", including Bob Stanley from St Etienne.


THE WAY IT USED TO BE

Neil: It's probably never going to be a single, because the song is very long, and it's a very difficult song to edit, because the story is the story.
Chris: This was a Xenomania backing track. I absolutely loved this the first time I heard it, and I got dispatched upstairs with it.
Neil: It was going to be a duet all the way through. We were thinking of asking Tina Turner. But we didn't. Miranda and I had the idea that it was like a film. It's the story of a relationship - at the beginning it's two people meeting again after a long gap, and then you have a long flashback to the start of their relationship when they're first in love. Miranda and I sat down and wrote the story. They've been on holiday to Rome and then they've moved to Manchester (...) and then they move to New York, a fatal mistake, and the relationship falls apart, and one of them moves to Los Angeles. In the end, they've met again, and they're getting back together.
Chris: A happy ending?
Neil: To denote that, at the end of the song I wanted to change the key, but it sounded a bit naff. It didn't work.
Chris: Tierce de Picardie.
Neil: What's that?
Chris: It's when you suddenly end on the major chord.


LEGACY

The Chinese government (department of General Admission of Press and Publication) didn't approve the distribution of "Legacy" within China. The Pet Shop Boys suggested that rather than remove it completely, it should instead be included as an instrumental.

Neil: It's quite interesting to be confronted with the reality of that. I think that having the instrumental track makes the point. It reminds you that China is a totalitarian country. It's interesting because China is quite free in artistic expression, as long as it's not political.

Neil: Returning to the book The Rest Is Noise I read about a chord called the tritone which used to be, in the Middle Ages, regarded as devilish. It's a particular combination of notes, a major triad with a a flattened fifth so that it has a note that does not belong in the key, and it has an amazing quality. (...) I was also listening to Johnny Greenwood's music for There Must Be Blood. But Chris started writing the music to "Legacy".
Chris: This is a bit more tonal, but it was inspired by interesting chords that weren't pop chords. (...) The fun bit of this song is the waltz. It's such a release. Waltzes are pretty exciting, I think. Waltzes are just so exuberant (...). And it was great fun to record - there are timps and cymbals. When we do a waltz it's a Viennese waltz. It was Neil's idea.
Neil: I was thinking Roxy Music would have had a waltz. There's a Roxy Music track ["Bitter-Sweet"] on their fourth album. I just thought it was a fantastically pretentious thing to do - go into a waltz and then sing it in French.


THIS USED TO BE THE FUTURE

When the Pet Shop Boys decided that their album sounded a bit long, after playing it back to the record company at Abbey Road studios, they decided to remove the song "This used to be the future". (It originally came between "King of Rome" and "Pandemonium".)

Neil: I'd had the title "This used to be the future" lying around in my notebook for quite a while. And also the idea of writing a song about the way the future was meant to be, and how it hasn't turned out. When I was a child in the Sixties there was going to be this glorious future of Le Corbusier town planning and space travel, and everything would be rational and liberal. (...)
It occurred to me one day that that we have this combination in Iran, say, of fundamentalist religion and nuclear technology. You also have that potential in Pakistan. And there's a dialect happening where something that's come out of an utter process of rationalism has joined forces with fundamentalism. And that was never meant to be the future. In fact the past has become the future. I didn't want to go on and on about fundamentalism in it, but I just wanted to make that point right at the end - that's why it ends with "amen".

Neil: We also thought that that we'd get Bernard [Summer] to sing the melody which sounded a bit like Bernard, though in the end we didn't ask Bernard because we thought maybe it would seem a bit Eighties to have Bernard Summer, Neil Tennant and Phil Oakey singing the song. So Bernard was replaced with Chris Lowe.

Chris: [Phil Oakey] did a few different [vocal] styles. He said, "Do you want me to try my Iggy Pop vocal?" Which is the one that's on the finished record.

Once they had decided to create the album that would become Yes etc., Neil and Chris asked Xenomania to work on the new mixes. The Pet Shop Boys chose six of the album songs to be remixed. «We went down for two days», says Neil. (The Pet Shop Boys couldn't be there for the mixing of the last two tracks and this is why they are not credited as co-remixers of those.)

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Pet Shop Boys diary @ Xenomania
Posted at 9:05 AM, 25 August 2009 - 0 Comments

The latest issue of Literally magazine (exclusive to members of the Pet Shop Boys Club) includes a diary written by Neil Tennant (with occasional comments by him and Chris Lowe). The diary follows the release of their latest album Yes, with details covering the period in which the album was written and recorded. A few excerpts from the time they spent at Xenomania (pictures taken by the Pet Shop Boys):


2008
April 22
Neil, Chris and Dave Dorrell go down to Westerham to meet Brian Higgins. Afterwards, get a lift to Oxted station and take train back.

May 13
Lunch in the garden at Westerham with whole Xenomania team. Then Neil and Chris work with Brian Higgins and Miranda Cooper on melody and lyric ideas for songs based on Xenomania backing-tracks: "The loving kind", "The next big thing", "Random", "Where the wild things are".

Neil: There's a few Xenomania songs that weren't finished, or it was decided weren't good enough. I think "Random" was finished. The chorus goes: "I have nothing to say / but what I'm saying today / is just random". I imagine nothing will happen to it. The song I think is actually quite good is "The next big thing": "Something tells me baby you're the next big thing..."

May 14
While Brian Higgins collates previous day's ideas, Chris and Neil drive to Sevenoaks, walk in Knole Park. Back at studio, work with Brian and Miranda going through melody ideas from previous day.

May 15
Neil writes downstairs with Miranda for "Where the wild things are". Chris writes new melodies upstairs for "The way it used to be".

May 27
Back at Westerham. Work with Brian and Miranda on new songs. Miranda and Neil finish lyrics for "The loving kind" and "Random". Neil records vocals. Chris upstairs.

May 28
Miranda and Neil finish more lyrics for "Random". Neil records vocals on "The loving kind". Chris upstairs.

May 29
Miranda and Neil finish lyrics for "Where the wild things are". Neil records vocals for "Random" and "Where the wild things are". Chris upstairs.

May 30
Miranda and Neil write lyrics for "The way it used to be" and "The next big thing". Chris upstairs.

June 3
Neil sings vocals on "The way it used to be" and "The next big thing". Chris upstairs.

June 4
Miranda and Neil work on lyrics for new track, "Love etc.". Chris upstairs.
Chris: I went upstairs and wrote melodies on Xenomania's backing tracks, some of which haven't been used by anyone so they must still be lurking around. I was in the red room, I think. Actually sometimes I was in Nick Coler's room, which might be the green room.

June 5
Chris and Neil visit Chartwell. Listen to comp of "Love etc.".

June 17
Back at Westerham. Work on "Love etc.". Miranda and Neil write new lyric for new song, "Revelation", based on "Where the wild things are" music. Neil sings vocals.
Neil: "Revelation" is what eventually becomes "More than a dream".

June 18
Work on structure and lyrics of "Love etc."

June 19
Work more on structure and lyrics of "Love etc.". Neil sings some alternative lyrics. Listened to work that's been done on "Did you see me coming?"

July 1
Spent the day with Brian deciding which songs would go on the album: "Did you see me coming?", "Pandemonium", "Beautiful people", "Crying, not laughing", "Legacy", "The way it used to be", "Vulnerable", "King of Rome" (renamed from "King of pop"), "This used to be the future".
Chris: There were a couple of songs we didn't like, that weren't that great. But these discussions were always entertaining.

July 2
Work with Brian on structure of "Love etc.". In afternoon decide "Building a wall" should go on album. Work on structure of "More than a dream". Neil writes extra chorus lyrics for "Love etc.".

July 3
Neil sings chorus lyrics on "Love etc.". Chris works with Tim [Powell] on new version of "Building a wall". Neil writes new lyrics for it. Finalise structure and lyrics for "Love etc.".

July 15
Back at Westerham. Girls Aloud there. Record Carla [Marie Williams], an in-house singer, doing duet with Neil on "The way it used to be". Chris and Neil work with Tim on "Building a wall".

July 16
Back at Westerham. Brian plays through tracks that had been worked on; Neil and Chris make comments etc. Neil and Chris work with Nick on "Building a wall". Neil puts down new vocal melody.

July 28
Phil Oakey arrives at Westerham, sings vocals on "This used to be the future". Chris and Neil work with Tim on "The way it used to be".

July 29
Finish working with Tim on "The way it used to be". Chris starts working with Tim on "This used to be the future". Neil sings full vocal for "King of Rome".

July 30
Work more with Tim on "This used to be the future". Record some new lyrics for "The loving kind". Listen to "The way it used to be" for Brian's comments.

July 31
Work with Tim on "The way it used to be". After lunch, Neil, Chris, Brian and Tim travel, via Oxted station and Clapham Junction, to Matrix complex at Parson's Green, where Jeremy Wheatley (mixer) has his studio

September 15
Back at Westerham. Talk to Brian. Neil writes "More than a dream" lyrics with Miranda while Chris works on music with Tim. Put down guide vocals. Start working on "I'm not crying, I'm laughing". It becomes new song, "All over the world".

September 16
Work with Tim all day on "All over the world".

September 17
Work with Tim on "All over the world". Neil adds middle vocals. Then work on "King of Rome" and "Legacy".

September 25
Abbey Road. Orchestral session conducted by Andy Brown.

September 30
Back at Westerham. Johnny Marr plays guitar, harmonica and tambourine on "Beautiful people", and guitar on "All over the world" and "Legacy".

October 1
Johnny plays guitar on "Building a wall", "Did you see me coming?", "More than a dream" and "Pandemonium".

October 2
Johnny plays acoustic guitar and harmonica on a Girls Aloud track. Start finalising mix of "Love etc." to be played at Parlophone 2009 presentation. Neil re-sings all vocals on "Legacy".

October 7
Chris works with Tim on "Building a wall". Neil does vocals with Matt [Tait] on "Building a wall" and "All over the world". Backing vocals recorded on "Beautiful people" with Jason [Resch] and Jessie [Malakouti].

October 8
Spent most of the day going through songs on the album determining what else needs to be done with Brian and Tim.

October 15
Work on "The way it used to be" structure, then "More than a dream".

October 16
Work on "Building a wall" and "This used to be the future".

October 22
Work on "Pandemonium". Record backing vocals with girls, then boys. Go upstairs to work with Tim on the track.

October 23
Work with Tim on "Pandemonium" track for most of the day. Neil changes some vocals on "King of Rome".

October 27
Nick records brass on "Pandemonium". Neil and Chris work with Tim on "King of Rome". Brian arrives and they finish structure of song. Chris and Tim work on "Pandemonium".

October 31
Back at Westerham. Worked with Tim on "Pandemonium" for most of the day, then on "King of Rome".

November 26
Visit Jeremy Wheatley finishing mixes for album at Matrix studios. Make changes to mixes of all tracks except "Love etc.".

November 27
Matrix. Finish mixes of "Love etc." and "King of Rome", then make a running order.

Chris: We all had our running orders - me, Neil and Brian Higgins - and Angela had a point of view as well. I'd shoved all the mega-pop ones at the beginning. In the end it was a compromise. Neil wanted to start the album with "Legacy". It's bizarre that anyone would want to start the album with that...

December 3
Mastering of album.

December 8
Album playback at Abbey Road for record company etc.

December 10
Neil speaks to Brian on the phone about bonus "Dub" album.


2009

February 5

Back at Westerham. Work with Tim and Matt on dub mixes for bonus album.

February 9
Hear first play of "Love etc." on Radio 2.

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Download Mini Viva's "Bedroom Viber"
Posted at 11:04 PM, 24 August 2009 - 0 Comments


You can now download "Bedroom Viber" by Mini Viva for free and legally. Sign up to the official Mini Viva mailing list to receive all the latest news, videos, tour dates and more, and you'll receive a link to download "Bedroom Viber". Click here to submit your details.

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Xenomania chart watch (week 35)
Posted at 9:46 PM, - 0 Comments

UK SINGLES:

Position

Last week

Artist

Title

76

79

VAGABOND

Don't Wanna Run No More


UK ALBUMS:



Position

Last week

Artist



Title

27

--

VAGABOND



You Don't Know The Half Of It

59

61

GIRLS ALOUD



Out of Control

87

--

SUGABABES



Overloaded – The Singles Collection

99

126

GIRLS ALOUD



The Sound Of – The Greatest Hits

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Mini Viva: "We bring a realness to the pop world"
Posted at 2:56 PM, 23 August 2009 - 0 Comments

Mini Viva's debut single "Left My Heart In Tokyo" is just a few weeks away from being released. The duo met two years ago when auditioning for a new group. Britt Love (a.k.a. Mini) talked about it in an interview:

«It was all by accident really. I had been doing a performance arts course at Newcastle College and went to a breakdancing convention at DanceCity to see some friends. There was a leaflet about these auditions and I never really thought it was for me. I was more interested in dance, but I went along anyway. I thought it might be a nice day out down south. I didn’t actually want to do it. I hadn’t prepared anything and mumbled through Nina Simone’s Feeling Good, even forgetting the words, but they seemed to like something and asked me back.»

Various band formats were tried out, but Britt and Frankee hit it off immediately and the management team decided the two as a duo was most appropriate. For the past 19 months Mini Viva have been working with the Xenomania production team. «I didn’t realise who they were when I first went,» says Britt. «Then I realised what a big deal it was, as they are the team behind Girls Aloud and have worked with Kylie.»

«We like to call it a modern day Motown», says Frankee Connolly (a.k.a. Viva). «Every month, they host a showcase of all their artists and everyone performs, so it's a nice family vibe all of the time. It's not a boot camp, but everyone's got to be hard-working. No-one's allowed to come in with hangovers, there's no drink allowed in the building, you've got to be here on time to work.»

"Left My Heart In Tokyo" was initially released as a remix by French producer Fred Falke. It was put out last October on World's Finest Records, a fake label set up by Xenomania. «It was good to have that underground release because it meant people listened to the music rather than writing us off as another girlband», said Frankee.

Mini Viva are being hailed as the 21st century Mel & Kim. «Well, it's nice to be compared to them, but we're totally different,» points out Frankee. «We're a lot edgier than them, and we rap as well, which they didn't do. We bring a realness to the pop world. You know, like the Fast Food Rockers from the '90s? We're nothing like that.»

«We don't want to be too styled,» adds Frankee. «We want other girls to look at us and say, 'We want to be in their gang'. We don't want them spending loads on designer outfits.»

Record company interest is apparently bubbling in America: «We flew over to do a couple of showcases in LA and while over there, we went to this private DJ party. And I could not believe it but Will.i.am played our single....», says Frankee.

The girls recently performed at Sweden's NRJ Festival, in front of 20.000 people. Here's a live video of "Left My Heart In Tokyo":

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Pet Shop Boys' "Beautiful People" out on 25th September
Posted at 2:43 PM, - 0 Comments

On September 25th, "Beautiful people" will be released as the third single from Yes in Germany only, at the request of EMI Germany.

The digital and physical release will include the "Beautiful people" album and demo versions, and Richard X's previously unreleased seven-inch mix of "Fugitive". Complete format details will follow soon.

Pet Shop Boys' official website announces that a different worldwide Pet Shop Boys EP release is planned for later this year.

The latest issue of the Pet Shop Boys Club magazine Literally features a 15-page (fifteen!) interview with Xenomania's Brian Higgins. The Literally magazine is only available to members of the Pet Shop Boys club. You can subscribe here.

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Vagabond interviews: Brian Higgins, Motown influence, playing live
Posted at 1:35 PM, 22 August 2009 - 0 Comments

Vagabond's debut album You Don't Know The Half Of It was released this week and went straight into the iTunes top 10.

Sam Odiwe, Vagabond's bass player, said in an interview: «We couldn't have asked for a better start, and we hope that by Sunday we will have broken into the top 20 in the album charts. So much has happened this year that we are really proud of but one of our best qualities is performing live.»

The band is playing today (3:15pm) at V Festival, on the Virgin Media Union Stage. Vagabond have been consistently praised for their live shows. A recent review from their Bush Hall concert said: «A great gig from a band who tick all the boxes - they're everything pop music is supposed to be about. They're doing something a bit different, injecting life into tried and tested formulas and proving that music can be interesting and still make girls scream.»

Here's a few excerpts from recent Vagabond interviews:

Meeting Brian Higgins:
Alex Vargas – When I first met him he told me that he wanted to become successful and be the best until his dying day I suppose. He wanted to be at the top and never stop working. It’s someone like that who you want on your team. You really can’t know what you’re in for until it’s done with Brian. It can be a roller coaster ride. I guess making an album can be like that who ever you’re working with. I didn’t really know what to expect, but the outcome is definitely something to be proud of.

Working with Brian Higgins
Luke Fitton – He limits you to a certain amount of time to get the freshest ideas. We came back with a recording and loads of ideas. I said to him ‘I don’t know what you had in mind. We’ve got loads of ideas’. He was like ‘I don’t care what it is as long as it’s fantastic. As long as it’s amazing’ (...) And so that’s intense but you end up learning a lot more and you get an idea of what his thoughts are. Then you start growing and judging yourself a lot better and being a bit more hard on yourself and choosing the best ideas rather than thinking that everything that comes out of your head is fantastic.

Alex Vargas – Brian never sort of sat down and said right this is what you have to be. Brian finds your talent and brings out the best in whoever he’s working with. So there was no way we were ever going to end up being a disco/electro band. There’s one song that was very disco but we’ve taken it off [the album] because it doesn’t match our sound.

Xenomania's new direction
Luke Fitton: We are kind of a new direction for Xenomania. I think anyone will learn a lot from working with Brian. He is capable of most things.
Steve Carter: He still is having success with Girls Aloud. I could imagine if you have had so much success with something like that, you would be interested in a new direction, a new path. It shows that he can work in a different way.

Luke Fitton – It’s more other people presuming that when you work with a pop producer like that, you work with Girls Aloud’s producer. He’s worked with loads of other people. Everyone assumes you’re going to have songs like that. But if you’ve met the guy… You could talk to him about an old Blues record and he’d pull out the best Blues record and give you a reason why and what it would be nothing like Girls Aloud. They’re moving away from that as well and trying to be more interesting and diverse with what they’re working with. We’re definitely not a Boys Aloud or anything.

The Motown influence:
Steve Carter: We can find a lot of similarities in the way we formed, not just in the actual sound, but in the way the music was put together, the way the quality was looked at, and not really sneered at. There is a strong connection there, more of a relationship with Motown than, say, Factory Records. We can relate to it more.
Alex: I do find a lot of inspiration in soul music.
Luke Fitton: We all do. Much in the same way the Stones and the Yardbirds were indebted to American soul in the 60s - they were these white English guys listening to American soul music.

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[Beyond Xenomania]
Carla-Marie Williams, Fred Falke, Sacha Collisson

Posted at 6:14 PM, 20 August 2009 - 0 Comments

Carla Marie Williams appears on Crookers' new single "Put Your Hands On Me". Carla-Marie is a Xenomania songwriter - she has co-written songs for Girls Aloud and Alesha Dixon and sings on Pet Shop Boys' "The Way It Used To Be".

She contributes with guest vocals on Crookers' "Put Your Hands On Me", along with rapper Kardinal Offishall. The single will be released on October 5th, on Southern Fried Records - you can listen to a clip of the song here.

"Put Your Hands On Me" is the first single to be taken from Crookers' debut album Tons Of Friends, out in January 2010. Other collaborators on the album include Kelis, Soulwax, Major Lazer, RadioClit, Spank Rock, Pitbull, Tim Burgess and Róisín Murphy.


Xenomania collaborator Fred Falke has been putting out another series of highly-acclaimed remixes. Falke's remixes are being praised for being breezy, soaring and dancefloor-ready, sounding a whole lot better than their original form.

Falke has recently remixed songs from Mike Snow, La Roux, Example and Miami Horror. He has also released a solo EP titled Chicago - you can buy it on Beatport.

Listen to some of his recent work:

Miami Horror - Make You Mine (Fred Falke Remix)
Example - Watch The Sun Come Up (Fred Falke Remix)
La Roux - Bulletproof (Fred Falke Remix)
Fred Falke - Chicago (Feat. Teff Balmert)
Fred Falke - Back To Stay


Sacha Collison's latest project is out now. The Unclubbed album is a collection of stripped back, acoustic covers of classic house tracks.

The album features covers of hits like Moloko's "Sing It Back", Deee-Lite’s "Groove Is In The Heart", "Missing" by Everything But The Girl, "You Don't Know Me" by Armand Van Helden, iiO's "Rapture", and many more. The songs are re-sung, rearranged and reinvented, performed by vocalists such as Katherine Ellis, Abigail Bailey, Rosie Gaines, Roachford, Sam Obernik, Sweet Female Attitude and more.

Unclubbed includes 14 covers, a few original interludes and a version of Sacha Collisson's own track "Mezmerized". You can stream the album here.

Buy: iTunes / Amazon.co.uk / Recordstore.co.uk

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