It was a lot slower to begin
with, but it eventually ended up as “Axis”. That was the title from the
beginning. When you write a song in
the program Logic, in order to save it you have to come up with a name, so
you end up with all
sorts of silly names. They
normally get dumped when the song comes along, but in this case the “save
as” name stuck.
Neil: I don’t
remember who thought of “Axis”.
Chris: I’ve got no
idea. It makes it hard to sometimes ?nd songs because they’ve started off as
something else, but now I’ve started
differently so that I always update to the latest song title, because in the
past we used to spend hours with Pete Gleadall
through stuff trying to and / something that used to be called something
else. Sometimes a title
can change two or three times
during its life.
Originally it was a song,
and it had not very good
lyrics. Just formulaic relationship lyrics. Personally I didn’t think they
were very inspiring. So we decided
to dump them. When
we started working on it for the album, Stuart decreed that we would work on
the tracks in alphabetical order, so we started with “Axis”. After we dumped
the singing, we decided it would be good to have some speaking stuff, and as
we’d already decided that the album would be called Electric we decided that
this opening track itself would be called “Electric”. Hence the lyrics: “tum
it on... feel the power... electric energy”. But then when it was finished
we decided that “Axis” was a better title.
Chris: We’ve never had a song title that was also
the name of the album, so by that rule alone we couldn’t call it “Electric”.
Neil: My inspiration for
the spoken bits was sounding a bit like Madonna saying “erotica...
pomance...” All of the lyrics have a sort of vague double entendre.
Chris: Stuart didn’t change it too much, but he
Stuart Price’d it. He made it harder. He has these old synths that he makes
interesting noises out of.
Neil: He did the sound effect at the beginning.
Chris: We had an idea that we wanted to have the
sounds of electric power stations coming on.
Neil: Also, one important thing about this album is
that when we were working on the album we knew we were working on a show
called Electric as well, and we assumed that the show would begin with this
Chris: He’d already
done a bit of work on it before he was working on the album. He toughened up
the drum sounds and everything.
Back then he was
going to play it in his DJ set but then Angela — our manager, his wife —
stopped him. Actually, we were a bit
Neil: Stuart liking this track so much was
important, because sometimes when something is written very quickly you
really appreciate it enough.
Chris: It’s a very rare occasion of us writing a
song after we’ve been out to dinner and to a club, because we normally work
daytime, and this was a night-time writing experience. Perhaps we’ll do more
Neil: The bell line at
the end, by the way, is the only surviving bit of the vocal melody: “One way
Neil: During most of the making of this record, this
was the last track that had been written, until “Fluorescent” came along
when the album was actually ?nished pretty much. We wrote “Bolshy” in Berlin
last year (2012) when we were working on the Alan Turing piece. We went over
to write what we thought was the ?nal long section of the Alan Turing piece
and the first
thing we did
was suddenly write this instead. I can’t even remember why we did.
Chris: No idea.
Neil: We just started writing it. It’s a bit of a
mystery to me, this song. I’ve no idea where “bolshy bolshy bolshy oh” came
from — I
just started singing it. The demo
particularly I don’t think sounded like anything we’d ever done. It sounded
like a different group.
Chris: I ’d read about this recording technique where you record maybe
half-a-dozen instruments all playing the same line and then you just cut in
between them so that you get this mad effect — it’s one line but the sounds
keep changing all over the place. I thought, oh, I’ll have a go at that. So
the demo was just an experiment to see how that worked, and then it
developed into this. It’s
quite an unusual-sounding
Neil: “Bolshy” of
course means “dif?cult” or “awkward” or “rude” but also is short for
“Bolshevik” so we decided to put Russian samples
it. We simply translated some of the lines of the song using a computer
translation program. The voice sounds great in Russian.
Chris: We also started each show of the Electric
tour like that: “Good evening, Moscow, welcome to Electric...”
‘Neil: By the way, some people who are native
Russian speakers have criticised the translation in the song, but that isn’t
our fault — that’s the translation program. And it sounds good. It’s meant
to be audio excitement. The lyric has nothing personal in it — it’s just
making sense of the “bolshy” chorus. It’s a pathetic man who’s in love with
a very dif?cult woman. One of my heterosexual lyrics. I really like the bit
that goes, “I don’t believe you don’t know you could own me.” It’s a very
“up” song but it still has a favour of the anger. Because of course, as
Johnny Rotten said, “anger is an energy”.
Chris: Another bell line. Does every track have a
Neil: There are
Chris: It’s the album
of bell lines.
funny, because in the Eighties we used to struggle, with every producer we
worked with really, to get a good bell sound.
good bell sound we depned as being the bell sound at the beginning of the
single mix of “Open Your Heart” by Madonna.
you get that bell?” No one could ever get it. It’s chunky. Now you can just
Chris: It’s a very,
very cool- sounding track to me, “Bolshy”.
Neil: I always thought it even has something very
slightly jazzy about it. After the instrumental it gets the
album going with a real “wey—hey”.
Chris: Stuart’s really good at
using the technology to create really interesting cut-up effects. Then, at
the very last minute, we added an
“ooh-woah-woh—oh” sing-along bit as the
?nal icing on the cake. We were having a meeting for the Electric tour and
so we used Andy Crookston and Pete Gleadall for the
Neil: At one point I went away somewhere leaving Chris
and Stuart in the studio and said, “Don’t work on ‘. . .Bourgeois’ because I
want to be there when we work on that.”
And Stuart worked on it anyway.
Chris: We had to — we were working in alphabetical order.
He refused to break the concept just because I’d gone away somewhere.
Chris: That’s one of the things about Stuart: he ignores instructions
Neil: Edicts are ignored.
Chris: Neil said, “I’m
not working with the television on.” Totally ignored. Not many people would
actually ignore Neil like that.
Neil: Not many people, in my opinion,
would have the television on all day long, but that’s a separate
Chris: But it was great, watching Escape To The Country everyday. We
were all trying to work out how much the house was going to be.
Oh, it was an education into daytime television, which I’ve never known
anything about. I loved Escape To The Country. It’s a great programme.
What’s interesting about
daytime television is the presenters ~ suddenly
you -discover that Nicki Chapman who was one of the judges of the original
Pop Idol is striding
round a house in Lincolnshire on Escape To The
Chris: Oh, she’s never off.
Neil: The next track we worked on, in the alphabetical order days, was
“Dream” — “Inside a dream”. But after we’d ?nished what was an eight-track
I was making something to eat at home and I had music
playing from my computer and suddenly this track came on, and I didn’t know
what it was. I thought, “Why don’t we
do stuff like this?” I thought it
was something from a Kompakt record compilation but then I walked over to my
computer and saw that it was
a Chris demo that I had forgotten about. So
I re-sent it to Chris and Stuart saying, “Why isn’t this on the album?”
Chris: I did that demo in my house on a laptop and a mini—keyboard one
night. Sometimes when I’m a bit bored and there’s absolutely nothing on
television — and there
has to be literally nothing on television, even
Newsnighfs not on — I might go down to the basement and knock something up
if I feel like it.
Neil: Yes, one morning I woke up and on my email
there were three new instrumentals.
Chris: The trouble is that once
you start you can suddenly ?nd that it’s two o’clock in the morning. The
time goes so quick once you start messing around with music.
Neil: The demo was titled “Fluorescence”.
Chris: We had already
decided we were calling the album Electric, so I would have been thinking
“Oh yes, electric. .. ?uorescent light. . .” I would just have been in that
zone of words.
Neil: Then we went to Berlin very soon afterwards.
Chris: It was that very modern thing where Stuart was in LA and we were
Neil: We took Chris’s demo to Berlin and turned it into a
song. Originally it had loads more lyrics. I began by working with the
“Fluorescence” idea but then I said, “Do you mind if it’s ‘Fluorescent’?”
and based the words around that. This is another heterosexual song. It’s
about a model like Kate Moss, a very glamorous person.
Chris: When I
bumped into Kate Moss at the Olympics closing ceremony I said, “What are you
doing here?” — not as in “Why are
you here?” but “What are you doing
here?” — and she said, “Walking.”
Neil: The person singing the song
is someone like Bryan Ferry and he’s in a club, surrounded by beautiful
women, and there’s this particular woman dancing who’s a bit dangerous, with
a scandalous reputation, and he’s thinking about her. He’s just thinking
she’s gone right, where she’s gone Wrong, what it would be
like to be her. Whether he’s going to chat her up. He’s kind of weighing her
up. I also wanted to get in the phrase “the occasional oligarch” which I’ve
had lying around for ages. We did this all in one day in Berlin and we were
very excited and we were going to send it to Stuart but then Chris said,
“No, let’s just wait and see what we think of it in the morning.” It’s
amazing when you play something in the morning because it was immediately
crystal clear that it had too many words. Sometimes I shoehom in words that
I’ve had for a while. So we edited it down in a very Brian Higgins’ “What is
the concept of this song?” way, so that it became very clear what it was,
taking out all of the unnecessary scene-setting
Then we sent it to Stuart and he did some work on it. It’s a great way of
working, being in different continents, because the time
in your favour. You send something over when you go to bed, they’ve got all
day to work on it, and then when they go to bed they send it over to you and
it’s the start of your day again. So actually it’s a brilliant way of
working. Our demo was a bit more minimal glitch. Stuart made it more like
Visage. Then when he sent it back we worked on the chorus — we didn’t have
“brighter and brighter” at that point. Because I came up with “higher and
higher”, and Neil went “you can’t have ‘higher and higher’ — we’ll have
‘brighter and brighter’ .”
Neil: It ?ts in with the concept.
Chris: It’s always “higher and higher” with me. The old rave clichés always
get trotted out. “Can’t it be more like ‘higher and higher’,
your body’?” “No, it can’t.”
Neil: I love this song. Fluorescence is
a glamorous concept to me and I always thought this song sounded glamorous.