Futurisk Interview (with Jeremy Kolosine)
Futurisk Interview (with Jeremy Kolosine)
“I was born in Hackney, London in 1960 and my family moved to South Florida in late 1973, a couple of years before the British punk movement started, so the punk I was most affected by was the original well of inspiration , American punk. In the UK I saw my first concert with my older brother Ron, which was Bowie’s last tour with the Spiders for the “Alladin Sane” album. We saw the first show on that tour at Earl’s Court in 1973 when I was 12. It blew my mind as did all the albums my brother would bring home, like the first two Roxy Music albums. Prior to that I had gotten into synth music pretty young. My parents were always very supportive of my interest in the arts…”
1. How old were you when you decided to form Futurisk and what inspired the name?
When I was 17 I started recording more seriously at home, that was when I wrote and recorded a solo version of “Army Now” with just guitar and a drum machine. Me and my Deerfield Beach High School friend Frank Lardino formed a mostly punk-covers band called “Art Decadence”, kinda named after the first track on side 2 of Bowie’s “Low” album. That band broke up and when I was 18 and I started doing solo synth-guitar/drum machine shows (a sort of poor man’s Frippertronics) as “Clark Humphrey and Futurisk”. Clark Humphrey represented the human masculine emotional element (name taken from Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart) and Futurisk representing the unpredictable yet emotionless mechanical element of the music. Though I had the name Futurisk floating around in my head for a while it was an also an homage to the Futurist Manifestos which I had discovered because it was the only title you could read on the bookshelf on the cover of Fripp & Eno’s “No Pussyfooting” original gatefold album sleeve. After I won some money in an original music performance competition in 1979, I used it to go in the studio with Frank and Jack Howard to record the 1st vinyl 45 of “Army Now” and just went with the name Futurisk for the band.
2. Tell us a bit about your childhood. How did your move from London to South Florida affect your late teen aspirations?
I was born in Hackney, London in 1960 and my family moved to South Florida in late 1973, a couple of years before the British punk movement started, so the punk I was most affected by was the original well of inspiration , American punk. In the UK I saw my first concert with my older brother Ron, which was Bowie’s last tour with the Spiders for the “Alladin Sane” album. We saw the first show on that tour at Earl’s Court in 1973 when I was 12. It blew my mind as did all the albums my brother would bring home, like the first two Roxy Music albums. Prior to that I had gotten into synth music pretty young. My parents were always very supportive of my interest in the arts, and my mom brought me to the store to get a Stylphone which I saw on the Rolf Harris show, but the salesmen talked us out of it and into a Phillips portable cassette player that I brought with me everywhere to show off cos no-one else I knew had one yet.The 1st cassettes I ever bought was when I was 11 and I got Rick Wakeman’s “Six Wives of Henry The VIII” and Emerson,Lake and Palmer’s “Tarkus”.But once I heard Bowie, the glam thing took over except I still liked King Crimson and Peter Gabriel’s Genesis, anything remotely related to Eno, Roxy and Bowie.At that time being able to get ahold of a synth seemed far-fetched for a teenager so I just wrote songs on guitar and wasn’t that great a player. I was a pretty good artist and illustrator for my age so I had thoughts I might pursue that avenue as far as aspirations.My brother was a hair stylist so I was always the youngest kid with new haircuts, first a Rod Stewart cut , but then the classic Bowie cut. When we moved to the US I was beyond weird to almost everyone, seeing as I was wearing girl’s clothes and odd hair while everyone else was into southern rock, long hair and jeans. For the 1st few years I got into a few fist-fights because people would always be asking me if I was a boy or a girl.When I was 16 I got a job in a record store and picked up a lot of US punk right when it came out, which was a couple of years before you could get UK punk. Talking Heads “77” and Devo’s “Are We Not Men”, Ramone’s “Rocket To Russia” were the 1st I picked up then Pere Ubu’s 1st 2 albums. Me and Frank Lardino were the only kids we knew into this stuff. When I got Ultravoxx’s 1st album, which was actually one of the 1st UK punk albums easily available in the US that really hit home for me with it’s blend of Roxy Music stylizations and punk sensibilities.The outsider and deliberately amateurish yet artistic arrangements allowed me to envision myself being successful at creating something original and personal and it helped spark the approach that I would pretty much pursue the rest of my life, producing and composing original music veering in any artistic direction I chose. Looking back at those teen years in S. Fla I think it forced me to be completely ambivalent to any outside criticism and praise alike. Doing this kinf of music in such an unfitting place(at the time) you had to literally not give a damn what anyone thought of it or your artistic soul would perish.
3. How did you find your band mates, and what was the song writing process like?
The original line-up of Futurisk included Frank Lardino, my friend from high school, but I found Jack Howard hanging out in a musical instrument store, he and I were both posting on the bulletin board looking for musicians and he ended up calling me. A year or so later after Frank left, I called a guy Vince Serencko who had a flyer up somewhere as a synthesist and he actually introduced me to Richard Hess, who would be the synthesist for Futurisk from then on. Vince also played a couple of live shows with us at first, but the trio of me, Jack and Ritchie was how it would end up. The writing and recording process would vary depending on the song, and in many ways the recording affected the song-writing. On the tracks that have been released it would usually start with me writing a riff or sequence and then I’d write a song around it. On the co-written songs it might be a chord progression & bass line from Ritchie and me writing a vocal and synth lead to fit.If it was written by all three of us it might be a drum pattern by Ritch that we would trigger my sequence with, or a drum part from Jack starting things off. The 4-track stuff, recorded on the 1st Tascam PortaStudio, was all recorded in my brother Ron’s house in 1981 using the bathroom for a natural gate-reverb on the drums and the large terazzo-floor living room for the rest. It was all pre-midi so in a professional studio we would lay down a hard-sync pulse track and a SMPTE track to sync stuff as we chose. We would also filtrate elements using the mini-Moog filter. A lot of the experimental stuff has not been released since it’s not really songs per se.
4. What synths did you use and who played what? Were their other South Florida bands with similar style?
It was me playing the Sequential Circuits Pro-One and Casios, Ritchie playing Mini-moog and Roland string machine (before synth polyphony was available we put it, or a Casio through the Moog filter for Trans-Europe Express-like strings trying to get that Orchestron sound, which can be heard on the first version of “Lonely Streets”) Jack played Syndrums along with the real drum kit. The drum machines used were the TR-606 and BOSS DR RYTHM DR-55.In the later live shows we used the Roland Microcomposer, and TB-303 and the 808. Once midi became available Ritchie used the Prophet 600 too. In the early days of Futurisk I used the Electro-Harmonix Guitar Micro-Synth and the EH Rythm 12 beatbox and Frank used the Korg MS-10 and before Ritchie had a Moog he used a couple of KAT’s (KAT’s were famous for being used to communicate with dolphins.) We also used a Roland SVC-350 Vocoder, usually through the minimoog.
As far as Florida bands, there were a couple using synths but more in the experimental noise realm like Happiness Boys, who were nice guys too, and also Richard Bone played around Miami here and there but I guess he was from New York and went back, plus not really part of punk or the new wave, they played those Lazerium shows (lazer light shows that usually feature Pink Floyd and Rick Wakeman soundtracks) down in Florida. His band Bone did record a pretty good EP I think while down there, it was recorded in the same studio Futurisk recorded the 1st 45 “Army Now” actually. The only other synth-wave band would have to be Radio Berlin (no relation to the Vancouver act), but that band was just the remnants of the 1st pre-1981 Futurisk live members that I split with after we got on eachothers nerves, haha. They were good but I felt their music was trying too hard to be derivative of the new-romantic pretensions that were prevalent at the time.Other than that South Florida at the time was just a hodge-podge of late-wave generic Brit-punk imitator bands I’d have to say, although The Eat’s first record had a good honest American punk sound though.
5. Who were your influences? (individually and collectively)
Luckily we were all pretty much into the same stuff, mostly innovative music from 1972-1982. We were influenced by anything Bowie and Eno had anything to do with, like ealy Ultravoxx and Iggy Pop’s “The Idiot” album. Of course Roxy Music’s 1st 3 albums and Sex Pistols “Bollocks” and Wire. In the prog-rock realm I was still into King crimson, especially the “Red” album and early Genesis, especially the “Lamb Lies Down” album, then the first 3 Peter Gabriel albums and Steve Hillage’s Gong, Robert Calvert and Hawkwind and 1970’s electronics like Kraftwerk and The Residents and anything Conny Plank touched. From the punk and new wave it was Pere Ubu, Devo, Talking Heads, Pil, XTC, early Psychedelic Furs, early Blondie and the No-Wave artists like James Chance & Contortions/James White & The Blacks and DNA. After The Normal/Daniel Miller’s “TVOD” & “Warm Leatherette” came out, along with Depeche Mode’s “Speak & Spell” and the first Human League albums and especially John Foxx’s “Metamatic”, it changed everything. Those albums showed how ex-punks could do music like Kraftwerk without being embarrassed of the naivety of the wonderment of amateurish discovery. Kraftwerk’s “Computer World” was such sheer perfection it seemed unattainable at the time to compete with anything like that, but “Metamatic” was so raw and sparce yet so riveting. It was somewhere between those two albums that we strived to land musically and production-wise. In Futurisk you can hear all those influences somehow, whereas most of the electronic music at the time projected a cold human automaton image and sound. We had that too, BUT the emotive human elements were unfiltered and the gut-feelings were left in, I guess more like Suicide did. In this way I suppose we were more electro-punk but the Bryan Ferry and Foxx romanticism and fashion sense also remained but not to the extent of the new-romantics overboarding of it. Jack who was a bit older than us and was into some late 60’s/earlier 70’s stuff like Alice Cooper and Syd Barrett thru “Dark Side” Pink Floyd who I also liked. He also got into the stuff we we were into and we played him stuff like Sparks “Number One In Heaven” to influence his drumming, which it did. We were also heavily influenced by Fad Gadget, Our Daughters Wedding and DAF a lot too, we played covers by a lot of these bands I mentioned.
6. How did you get your music out the public? Tell us about your approach to releasing it. Did you play live? Who were your fans?
My first Clark Humphrey & Futurisk solo shows started in early 1979. It was me running a drum machine thru Elecrto-Harmonix Micro-Synth then adding guitar through it also eventually. The first show ever was at my brother Ron’s fashion/hair show “Imagery in the Round” and my piece was called “A Complex Of Rythms”, I still have the flyer. I performed “Complex” several times thoughout the year at various venues to befuddled reception, since I would also sit in the audience as it played. But the the piece with the guitar added is what won the original music at the “Florida Arts Gazette” competition. I was up against a slew of composers, including a twelve-piece orchestra, but I won due to ‘originality’.
After the “Army Now” single came out in 1980, the band got lots of gigs and press due to the fact that there was only one other local vinyl released at the time that was considered punk or new wave other than The Eat’s “Communist Radio” 45. So releasing the vinyl ourselves was a key decision in cementing our place in the footnote of Florida musical history. When “Army Now” sold out within months (I pressed 500 copies), I decided we should do an EP and press 1000 copies, and that was the Player Piano EP which also sold out and also brought with it a slew of press, shows and video offers. Both vinyls sold out entirely through consignment at local record stores like Peaches and Open Records, which was a bit of a music hub at the time. I just drove from Miami to Palm Beach and hit all the major stores and left them handfuls of each of the records. Some of them even let me use their shrink-wrap machines which was nice. We were also super-serious about flyer campaigns. We read the Futurist Manifestos and tried to copy their approach tongue-in-cheek, such as their manifestos of “The Art Of Buffoonery” and “The Pleasure Of Being Booed” , just trying to create general mayhem by posting thousands of flyers in odd places. I had access to free printing so we went nuts.If you lived in Fort Lauderdale at that time, you saw Futurisk flyers stapled to every lamp-post for miles. Jack even yelled a maniacal ‘Futurisk scream’ at the top of his lungs everytime we’d post them so people thought we we just insane I guess.
1980 is when we started playing as the ‘band’ Futurisk, which was me, Jack, Frank and a guy Jeff Marcus on bass. By 1981 it was just me, Richard Hess and Jack Howard though, we were much more electronic and we even used some the pre-midi trigger and sync methods live, since there was now sequences and drum machines being used and not just manually played synth. It was also before we had pre-programmable memory, so you would see us manually changing the patch for the next song. While the current song was still playing, I would be singing and setting up the sequence or sound patch for the upcoming track on one synth and Ritchie might be fiddling with the other synth, real seat-of-your-pants stuff.
7. Futurisk received quite a bit of local press, and you were even featured on the Ed Rich Rock show. How did you guys handle all this at the time? How did the public describe your music?
At the time the main frame of reference the general public had was Gary Numan’s “Cars” and other songs that maybe had a syndrum crack on it or some songs by The Cars. When the Human League “Dare” album got popular, Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” and Devo’s “Whip It” too, things got less one dimensional in the descriptions given. We encouraged writers just to use the the word ‘electrpop’ since that’s what it was, but sometimes other silly names were used to describe it like ‘Bleep’ and such. The term ‘electro-punk’was used by one reviewer at the time and we used the term on a couple of flyers for show we knew we playing that were less dance oriented and there would be a punk crowd. And the term ‘minimalist’ was used often. As always, lazier critics would just use comparisons to other songs by bands that were popular at the time for 5 minutes, but the more initiated knew to at least compare it to Kraftwerk and Depeche Mode or Devo, or Eno’s Roxy. It’s funny looking back how new it all seemed to most people, and many were ambivalent towards drum-machines and synths, especially, it seems in most US markets at the time. The West Coast was really the only region that seemed to embrace it slightly, with bands like The Units and The Screamers and Chrome, and ODW, I think due to the Residents’ presence out there, and some pockets of groups in places like Akron, and Suicide in NYC. But even NYC was so totally immersed in the guitar wave that I think the synth support was negligible.The overtly macho stance of most punk music left most of those supporters feeling out of place at an electronic show, except for the more intelligent and explorative fans, in my opinion. Everyone wanted to be part of some rock gang again, and electronic had none, so only the most individually minded,like Devo fans, would get it that the gang ideal was all part of the scam and uniform.
8. Did you ever imagine that artists would be remixing your material in 2011? When did the initial resurgence of interest begin and how has it affected you?
Pretty much blows my mind really. I hid this light under the proverbial bushell for so long thinking it had had it’s run, and at the same time a little embarrassed of the naivety inherent in the words and some of the music. It was fulfilling to realize that we were on to something longer lasting after all. I’ve never stopped making music and it’s always incorporated a lot of electronics. In my mind I’m still using the same approach and artistic ideals I did back then, in some ways a form of arrested development I guess. It’s a joy to contact the old bandmates and inform them of new development regarding work we buried 30 years ago, and I know for a fact it has helped all of us psychologically to know that people that weren’t even born til the 90’s in many cases, are getting into what we were doing and even citing us as an influence. In many ways it’s due to the internet and it’s eternal bank of knowledge, so I feel that it might not have happened without the internet and discophiles on Ebay paying ridiculous prices for so-called lost gems. It’s in this way that think the term ‘minimal wave’ as a genre developed too. It’s like certain pockets of formerly ignored self-released rythm & blues being termed ‘Northern Soul’ in the 70’s by DJ’s who discovered those tracks, or the original blues guys that no one heard of being touted by early-mid 60’s UK rock bands. But in this case it was driven by thousands of individuals searching for lost vinyl that none of their online peers had discovered yet, As far as well established artists like James Murphy and Chris Carter showing Futurisk respect like they have, well that is just mind-boggling to me and instills even further the sentiment that one should never give up and especially never be anything but yourself.
©2011 Minimal Wave