It’s how I get my studio tan. Some songs need tinkering with. I’ve fiddled with Goldfrapp, reinvented Kate Bush and brushed up The Flaming Lips. Grace Jones ended up singing in an instrumental, I blew some life into Air and there’s a Bowie rumour on the horizon.
Here are some of my musical creations – listen loud and enjoy!
Back in 93, Kate Bush and Prince collaborated on a track called Why Should I Love You. The Purple One contributed such a huge amount of material that Kate was left scratching her head. The result was a bit sedate, so I beefed it up with the kind of iconic beats and guitars that Prince was famous for. This is my first attempt at sampling and almost the entire track is made from the original song, demo and a wealth of Prince singles. My challenge was to reimagine the legendary demo that Prince sent to Kate, a demo that we may never hear.
Song For Barbara Payton – The Avalanches (Devious Corporation Mix) To build a cathedral of tragedy around such a short and sparse little song was quite a challenge, but I loved the original so much that I sat down and moved the mountain. Launching the song in a rocket, we collided with choirs, The Three Degrees and Lou Reed on the way to what must have been the planet Pet Shop Boys. Powered by pure Goldfrapp. The video somehow joins the dots between space flight, kaleidoscopes and the saddest song I’ve heard in a long time.
Running Red Lights – The Avalanches My latest epic is a lyric video exploring typography and animation, astral projection, love and loss. And that’s all before I’ve had my morning coffee. As a Covid Creation, I was grabbed by the plaintive vocals and the line ‘We are all we have,’ which made this process quite an emotional one in amongst the eeriness of isolation and lockdown. My usual candy-coloured psychedelia is balanced with a darker theme set against a transcendental backdrop.
An Architect’s Dream – Kate Bush (Boogitron Bootleg Remix) A chance meeting of the minds lead to this jaunty little version of the sensual slow-burner from the wonderful Aerial album. You might know the track, but you’ve never heard it quite like this before. Commissioned by a local DJ to open his set with, I was actually listening to the original track at the exact time he phoned up… thinking how it needed a bit of a makeover. Spooky!
Thea – Goldfrapp (Totem Mix by The Devious Corporation) This is one of the stand out tracks from Goldfrapp’s Tales of Us album, which I reinvented, with a dark and tribal flavour using mostly found sounds instead of instruments. Weaving rugby haka grunts with breaking sticks and sharp, weaponised percussion made for a pounding, unconventional beat. Slap your warpaint on and grab a burning torch – it’s Thea, the Totem mix!
Don’t Cry It’s Only the Rhythm – Grace jones (Sparky’s Grace Replaced remix) This was originally an instrumental track from the Slave to the Rhythm album, and I decided to take samples from the other tracks on the LP and turn it into a vocal. I always loved the stereo effects and tried to illustrate them visually with this video.
Black Siren – Goldfrapp vs This Mortal Coil. It was an accident, finding how well these two songs go together. I was making a compilation tape and as Black Cherry ended, Song to the Siren began. Within minutes I was mixing them together using the most primitive software I could find. Elizabeth Fraser was used sparingly as a backing vocal, allowing space for the vast emptiness of Black Cherry, until they build to a crescendo which compliments the main song. It’s quite hard to take two starkly beautiful songs like this and make them work together without ending up with Ballad Soup.
It Overtakes Me – The Flaming Lips (Slow Lane Mix) I made this short clip in 2009 and it shows you just how magical the Candlelit Vigil Against Hate Crime can be. The soundtrack is a rework of a poignant Flaming Lips track, The Stars Are So Big, I Am So Small…Do I Stand a Chance? (It Overtakes Me) which I produced specially for the clip. I’m especially proud that this video was used to help secure funding and charitable status for the 17-24-30 No To Hate Crime organisation who campaign tirelessly for justice, human rights and equality. Last year the BBC requested permission to use this video in their documentary It Safe to Be Gay in the UK? about the homophobic murder of Ian Baynham in Trafalgar Square and other hate crimes. Probably my proudest achievement to date, knowing that Ian’s mother took some comfort in this film. (coming soon)
Drew – Goldfrapp (Clockwork Mix by The Devious Corporation) My remix for Goldfrapp’s Drew got some glowing reviews, so I couldn’t resist making a video to go with it. Using the vocal from the original I built a cinematic soundscape from ghostly whispers, ticking clocks and a huge orchestra. I also added an oboe and mandolin, to complete the soundscape of an empty, haunted ballroom. Happy memories and lost time are the main themes here in my short film, and I combined found footage with a visit to the Norfolk holidays of my childhood.
Air – Photograph (Sparky’s View From Space Mix) A star in the heavens, leaving a mere mortal behind on Earth with nothing more than official merchandise. On the surface, wise regard. Underneath, smouldering resentment. Love it. The original version of Photograph by Air is a great, enveloping sea of unease: bitterness rendered with astral beauty. To me, the whole song is one huge disconnect, The line ‘as if you were all sweetness and light,’ could have been written about any star, particularly the toxic Mr. Dean, so I put him on the cover. As a fourteen year-old boy I could face hell and high hormones as long as his poster was gazing down at me from my bedroom wall. I forgot how much shows in those eyes.
As usual, I added the sounds I thought were missing from the original. I started with a spectral choir, slow-burning to a crescendo, and in the middle eight, an astronaut floats in the vacuum, talking on his radio. Along the way, you can hear the distant sound of shooting stars and at the end, a Polaroid camera spits out the evidence.
Doctor Who Theme – Ron Grainer/Delia Derbyshire (Dr Devious Mix) I decided to remix Delia Derbyshire’s iconic and pioneering version of the Doctor Who theme to get me out of copyright wrangles when I posted a video on YouTube. I took three samples, a ‘seething’ sound which was a kind of slithering hiss, the Tardis wheezing and a single bass note, which sounds a bit like a drum. It turned into an epic project and I stalled halfway through. Rather than go insane, I re-recorded the complete half in reverse, and stuck it on the end, effectively doubling the length of the track and making it sound like I’d done twice the work. George Martin would love me. Delia, however would probably not join me on the dance floor as I threw shapes to the funked up version of her tune. And rightly so: her thundering realisation of Ron Grainer’s theme was one of the very first examples of electronic dance music and about 20 years ahead of it’s time. It’s definitive and unique. No other piece of music has sounded like it before or since, and like a siren it excites and unsettles. It’s interesting to note that her version has never been successfully improved upon, in 50 years of Doctor Who.