Oppenheimer Analysis Interview (with Martin Lloyd)
Oppenheimer Analysis Interview (with Martin Lloyd)
1. Are you and Andy both originally from the UK? What was the music scene like growing up there?
I was born in Nottingham, England (in the Midlands) on 7 October 1950. I seem to have spent most of my childhood listening to the radio (Uncle Mac’s Children’s Favourites, the Billy Cotton Band Show, Family Favourites from the British Forces stations in Germany, Brian Matthews’ Saturday Club). I then started listening to Radio Luxembourg (under the bedclothes as it was forbidden!), the pirate station Radio Caroline, Kenny Everett on Radio One, and, of course, John Peel’s Perfumed Garden and Top Gear. My favourite TV programmes included 6.5 Special, Juke Box Jury and Ready Steady Go with Cathy McGowan, leading to Top of the Pops and the Old Grey Whistle Test.
2. What music or bands were most inspiring to you growing up?
My first records were 78rpm shellac, played on a wind-up gramophone found in the garage (no records allowed indoors at this stage!) – Swan Lake, Sleigh Ride, Richard Tauber (My Heart and I, Dearly Beloved), and songs from Bless the Bride sung by Georges Guetary and Lizbeth Webb (Tea for Two, I was never kissed before, This is my lovely day, Ma Belle Marguerite). To this day these records are still among my favourites. When I first became interested in Cliff Richard and the Shadows, my desire to listen to music was so great I would play my prized 7” 45rpm singles on the wind-up, crouching down and holding my ear to a metal 78rpm needle gripped between my fingers. This did not help the grooves of my first few records. My parents eventually and reluctantly bought me a record player with an automatic drop-down changing mechanism, which followed me to university.
During my teenage years in Manchester I bought all the singles by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, the Searchers, the Who, the Animals, Frank Ifield, the Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix etc. Most of these I later sold unwisely and cheaply as the respective greatest hits albums were released, and wondered too late why the stereo mixes varied so much from the mono single releases! I taught myself to play the guitar at the age of 15 as it seemed to be a girl-magnet, and played in a youth club folk group called the SAYFE Set. I saw Lee Dorsey and the Spencer Davis Group with the young Stevie Winwood at the Twisted Wheel club in Manchester around this time. Whenever I saw a ‘beat group’ playing at local dances or holiday camps I would be right at the front watching the guitarist’s fingers! The first large pop concert I attended was the Beach Boys at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester in 1966.
The huge influence throughout this time was the Beatles, and each release seemed like a life-changing national event as they seemed to tear up the rule-book and create a new world with every recording. After my parents moved to Scotland in 1967 I played in several beat-soul groups in Glasgow, including the Tragic Scandal, where we frequently got blind drunk both during and after gigs. Our most memorable gig was as support act to my favourite Scottish live band, Happy Ever After.
Under the subsequent influence of baked and smoked banana skins (!) we changed our name to Acid, and listened a lot to the Pink Floyd, the United States of America and the Zodiac Cosmic Sounds, mainly in the dark by candle-light, imagining we were stoned! We duly started to freak-out, turn psychedelic and wear kaftans. Appropriately we often performed in the Scottish town of Paisley!
In my later teens my favourite musicians included the Incredible String Band, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Lou Reed and the Velvets. At university in Bristol I saw many live bands, including the acoustic Tyrannosaurus Rex, Principal Edward’s Magic Theatre, the Alan Bown Set, Timebox, Al Stewart, Roy Harper, Pentangle, John Martyn, Hawkwind, the Nice, Family, John Mayall, the Who, Jethro Tull, the Mothers of Invention, Vinegar Joe, Yes, the Idle Race, Rory Gallagher, Eclection and the Bonzo Dog Band. A trip in June 1969 from Bristol to Hyde Park for the Blind Faith concert (with Donovan, Richie Havens, the Edgar Broughton Band and Third Ear Band ) included an all-night event, the Midnight Court at the Lyceum featuring Family, Andromeda, and Gilbert and George. Although I never saw Jimi Hendrix perform, I followed his every move and the news of his death in September 1970 affected me and my friends profoundly enough to stay up all night playing his records. I attended an early Glastonbury festival (probably the second in 1971), but for various chemical reasons my recollections of this are extremely vague!
I also became interested in classical music (Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Delius, Bruckner, Mahler, Wagner, Sibelius, Shostakovich) and electronic experimental music (Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Stockhausen, Terry Riley, La Monte Young, Philip Glass, Steve Reich). My all-time favourite piece of music and desert-island disc has to be Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius as performed by Richard Lewis and Janet Baker with the Halle Orchestra under Sir John Barbirolli – I had taken part in several performances of this as a bass in the Manchester Grammar School choir. An Asian friend (Jeevan Hingorani – an expert in tabla rhythms) introduced me to Indian music and percussion, and, through him, I met Ravi Shankar (who was staying with his family) after a concert. This was the start of my interest in ethnic and world music, which has since led me to visit the USA, Australia, Bali, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Greece, Czech Republic, Hungary, Russia, Ireland, Norway, Belgium, France, Spain and Morocco.
While playing the electric guitar in university Hendrix/Clapton tribute bands, I also played the acoustic guitar, recorder and harmonium in a folk duo with my friend Kevin Howcroft, performing a mixture of our own compositions and traditional English and Irish music in folk clubs and at the Student’s Union. He later taught me to play the Melodeon (button squeeze-box), and I have always enjoyed sitting in with his traditional country dance band when I visit him in Wales. I still love Irish instrumental music. I have always felt that Early, Traditional and Electronic music have a lot in common. They don’t require a lot of theory, and are often dance-orientated, open to improvisation and experimentation, and commonly use drones.
I was smitten by Bowie as Ziggy Stardust in 1973, and saw him live about six times during the next few years, following his every utterance as closely as the Beatles in the 60’s. One Sunday afternoon in 1980 I saw him walking.towards me in Sloane Street, Knightsbridge, while I was out with Kevin and his wife. I politely refrained from asking him for his autograph! I last saw him live in 1983 on the Serious Moonlight tour, supported by Tim Blake at the Milton Keynes Bowl.
In the mid-to-late seventies, living in or near London, I saw early gigs by BeBop Deluxe, Wings, Genesis (post-Peter Gabriel), the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Dire Straits, the Average White Band, Devo, Pere Ubu, Patti Smith, Talking Heads, Blondie, Wayne County and the Electric Chairs, Split Enz, Adam Ant, the Rich Kids, the Stranglers, Eddie and the Hot Rods, the Damned, the Clash, Generation X, Wire, the Slits, the Raincoats, Chelsea, the Models, the Fabulous Poodles, the Adverts, Cherry Vanilla and the Police, Roogalator, Clayson and the Argonauts, Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Elvis Costello, Deaf School, Alberto y Lost Trios Paranoias, the Doctors of Madness, the Only Ones, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Human League, Gary Numan, Kraftwerk, Orchestral Manoeuvres, Thomas Dolby, Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle, Robert Rental, Thomas Leer, the Normal etc etc (I could go on and probably fill a book!).
At this time I was a part-time punk, complete with razor-blade ear-ring, dog collar, leather jacket and ripped T-shirt, and spent one memorable evening at the Roxy in Covent Garden, amazed at the torrents of spit that greeted every band, soaking both the musicians and their equipment! I immediately decided against forming a punk band myself, as I did not relish the idea of drowning in a hail of saliva and risking hepatitis!
As cheaper 4- and 8-track recorders and synthesizers became available I started to follow the Futurism and New Romantic scenes. I advertised for other musicians in a music paper, and met Dave Rome. We initially started writing jerky, staccato new-waveish guitar music, but moved on to synths when I bought my first keyboard and drum machine and he acquired a Mini-Moog. We recorded many 2- and 4-track demos at our home studios in Battersea and Ealing, London, including the original mono demo of Drinking Electricity’s “Shaking All Over” with Anne-Marie Heighway. This resulted in their signing to Bob Fast’s Pop Aural label. My work with Dave culminated in the Analysis 7” release, “Surface Tension/Connections”, on his Survival label (recorded at Spaceward Studios, Cambridge - another book could be written!)
3. As a child, were you surrounded by music? Can you tell us a bit about your family backrounds and how it may have affected your music?
Although they claim to like music and always joined in heartily with the hymn singing in church (owning a small collection of Mozart, Harry Belafonte, Nina and Frederick, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, Welsh Male Voice Choirs) my parents never really approved of music being played in the home. My father used to proudly play his Welsh anthem party pieces on the piano, but showed no interest in any of my original compositions. They have always given the impression that there is something rather shameful, immoral, suspect and time-wasting about music – one’s time would be much better spent playing golf or watching TV soaps. They never had any time for the piano, guitar and synthesizer compositions and recordings I used to bring home from university, and later from London. I eventually realised there was no point in trying to interest them, and so things remain, until this very day. It is hard to say whether this has led me to think of music as a mostly solitary and private pleasure.
4. How did you first meet one another?
I was at a publishing party at the 1979 World Science Fiction Convention in Brighton. I had been trying to engage a rather tipsy pre-fame Douglas Adams (author of HHGG) in conversation, as he happened to be sitting on the same sofa, when I saw Andy across the room, dressed exactly as Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth. I had to speak to him. We had masses in common, and never looked back. Andy is creative, funny, witty, well read and intelligent (also thin!) – every thing I would like to be. For several years we partied heavily at clubs (dressed mainly in black!) and science fiction conventions. Andy’s scientific and political interests coalesced into great sets of lyrics, and we started to record together after I had set up an 8-track studio of my own.
5. What was the name of your first musical project?
Since purchasing my first tape recorder in 1972 (an Akai 4000DS 1/4” reel-reel) I composed my own songs and completed a large number of guitar and synth-based demos. I recorded several cassette releases as Martin Lloyd, and had some favourable reviews in early home-recording and electronic music magazines. After meeting Dave Rome we recorded as Analysis until Survival Records became his main preoccupation. I then recorded with the singer Paul Ashley (aka Paul Jessop), and several tracks were reviewed in the Melody Maker home-taping section. The subsequent recordings with Andy were sold on cassette at gigs under the name Oppenheimer-Analysis.
6. Tell us a bit about Oppenheimer’s Analysis.
See 4 and 5.
7. How did you approach collaborating with one another? Was one of you more concept oriented and the other more production oriented? If no, what were each of your roles specifically?
My main interests have always been instrumental, melodic and harmonic. Although I have written many poems, lyrics and songs, few of these have been made public! I have been interested in recording since my late teens, and with the right support I would ideally have become a full-time record producer. My heroes include George Martin, Trevor Horn, Martin Rushent and Martin Hammet. We usually start with Andy’s lyrics, often working them into song form with the guitar before developing the final production track-by-track. Working with Andy inspires me to find unusual chord sequences and he is great at developing vocal melody lines and harmonies to my chord changes. Essentially the longer we keep working, the better a piece becomes.
8. What was your approach to lyric writing in the early 80’s? and how has it changed?
Andy must answer this, but I have always loved the science-fiction references, conceptual puns and cultural irony in his lyrics. Having a scientific background myself, I have become interested in nuclear and cold war culture through our friendship. We also share a love of bad-taste, cheap science-fiction B-movies, and kitsch 40’s, 50’s and 60’s advertising, comic book and paperback imagery.
9. “New Mexico” is a great group of tracks and still sounds exciting today. What is the story behind this release? How was it released and how many copies were made initially?
The music was written at my home studio (Feedback Studio) in London, and cassettes were sold at pub gigs, science fiction conventions and the Bowie convention in Hammersmith where we played for our largest audience (2000 we were told). In all around 200 copies were made. This was at the height of the amateur home-taping boom, when Melody Maker, Sounds and NME would offer free advertising and reviews in their home-taping columns, and home-recorded tapes were on offer for £1 to £3.
10. “Cold War” is a personal favorite. Were you aiming to write any pop hits, and did you enjoy any radio airplay?
We have never set out to be “commercial” in any sense. We have always wanted to appeal to those who share the same tastes in music and culture. While friends encouraged us to release Devil’s Dancers and Cold War as singles, this never happened as we stopped working together. I had decided to limit my involvement with the music business due to my work and relationship commitments. I am not aware of any radio play for the tapes in the 1980’s, although the cassettes were well reviewed in Melody Maker and Sounds. This was before the later boom in electronic dance music, techno, trance etc, and it was difficult to find mainstream acceptance for predominantly electronic and ‘artificial’ music. Just as Bowie was initially a cult figure, electronic and pure synth music has always been “underground” as far as mainstream culture is concerned.
11. What images do you think your music conveys?
To me, music is a stimulus to the visual and emotional imagination, creating an infinite range of possibilities, identities, scenarios and conspiracies. Until the mid-80’s when Gorbachev and Reagan signed on the dotted line, we had spent our entire lives in the shadow of the atom bomb, the four-minute warning and possible annihilation, as well as witnessing unprecedented technical “progress”. Music represented an escape from reality. To my mind, music is always about creating an alternative soundtrack to our real and fantasy lives. To me, science fiction writing, art, music and movies have always represented freedom in its most available and exciting form. Music can be deceptive in its origins (is that a band or one person, live or programmed, man or machine?) and its meaning can change with the context and environment just as dramatically as any other art form.
12. Did you ever play live shows? If so, where and what was the line-up?
Andy and I performed as Oppenheimer-Analysis at the Bell in Islington, a world science fiction convention in Brighton (in support of Hawkwind), a major Bowie convention in Hammersmith and at the Camden Palace with Spizz Energi.
13. What equipment did you use for your live shows?
Andy sang live at the microphone, while I played a single live keyboard to a taped backing track. I still have the same Akai 4000DS ¼” reel-to-reel machine, although it is overdue for retirement! The performance was preceded by a slowed-down recording of Reagan threatening to bomb Russia, a semi-live rendition of ‘Jupiter’ from the Planets suite and the theme from “Tomorrow’s World”! We usually played against a projected back-drop of images from the arms race, scientific laboratories, outer space and a wide range of science fiction sources.
14. How would you describe your stage presence? and do you like to dance by any chance?
In my case, no stage presence at all! I prefer to be anonymous, undemonstrative and neutral, allowing the music to speak for itself. Nevertheless I find performing incredibly exciting, and it always took ages to wind down after a gig. I have always enjoyed dance music from Soul and Tamla through Disco, Glam, Electro, Techno and Trance. I try to write music that I enjoy and would want to dance to, although any attempts to cut a rug would be rather laughable nowadays! In our clubbing days at Studio 21, Andy and I mainly loved Bowie, Roxy Music and Kraftwerk – the quintessential floor-filler was ‘No GDM’ by Gina X. This is still rightly considered a classic. Tracks from the early Telex and Yellow Magic Orchestra albums were also dancefloor favourites
15. Do you remember any bands you enjoyed playing with?
We were the only act at the Bell gigs. Otherwise I can only remember supporting Hawkwind and Spizz Energi – I don’t recall the other bands at the Bowie convention or the Camden Palace.
16. Do you feel that the music of Oppenheimer Analysis and Andy’s visual art are interconnected?
Andy would agree that his lyrics and our music are intimately inter-related to 20th century visual art and science-related pop culture. In my view Andy’s paintings are a visually punning and stylish equivalent to the music.
17. Do you feel an affinity with today’s generation of listeners?
The music which has influenced us throughout our lives remains just as valid and exciting today, and the techno-trance-minimal wave of the last fifteen years confirms that we were on the right track. I very much regret not having been involved in the trance explosion as it was what I had been anticipating and hoping for since the early 70’s. As a consequence of financial, professional and family matters I was obliged to be a spectator, and could only stand in awe at the way astute and dedicated individuals around the world were able to take over the clubs, dance-floors, chill-out rooms and airwaves from their home studios and turntables during the 90’s. Due to its ambivalence, ambiguity and impersonality, I find that electronic music from all periods continues to be challenging and stimulating.
18. What are your plans or ambitions for the next couple years in regards to creativity?
Andy and I have started writing and recording again, with keyboard and creative technical assistance from my daughter. We need to come to terms with digital hard-disk multi-track recording and mastering, but expect to work with mainly original analogue sources and processing in future.
19. Do tell us what your typical day consists of!
Breakfast-school run- work-lunch-work-school run-work-home-bed!!! Too few hours in the day! In my next life I will live in a music library and work in a recording studio!
20. How do you think technology has affected music creation these days and do you welcome the changes? What do you listen to these days?
I am amazed that the vast range of recent and current technology has resulted in so little musical innovation or originality. It seems that software is developing so fast that musicians do not have time to master a process before feeling obliged to move on to the next. As tomorrow’s new recording package or soft synth will be “out-of-date” in three months’ time, I feel no shame in using old equipment while keeping up with current news and trends by reading and visiting music stores when I can.
I listen to the American minimal composers (Lou Harrison, Henry Cowell, Harry Partch, John Cage), Javanese and Balinese gamelan, traditional Irish music (The Chieftains, Planxty, the Bothy Band, Patrick Street, Dervish, Solas etc), early “early music” (David Munrow, Musica Reservata), blues (Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, John Mayall), ascetic British composers (Britten, Tippett, Tavener), cool jazz (Mingus, Miles) and a lot of USA and UK comedy albums (eg Richard Pryor, Peter Cook). I have been following Bill Nelson’s work since the days of BeBop Deluxe, and can only admire the way he has remained true to the independent ideal, although his career has waxed and waned with his personal circumstances and (mis)fortunes.
21. At what point did you stop making music and why?
Andy and I ceased to work together around 1983 due to my work commitments and his desire to work with other musicians. Although I continued recording on my own for several years, my instruments and recording equipment were banished to the attic soon after my marriage in 1989, due to lack of space (and time!). I have slowly resurrected them since my daughter started her piano, cello and voice lessons, and now expect to continue writing and recording into my old age. From baby-boomer to Zimmer-jockey in a few short decades!
22. Where and when did you purchase your first synth? What kind was it?
My first synth was a second-hand Korg MS20 purchased in 1979 from Rod Argent’s in Denmark Street, London – I still love to twiddle knobs, and prefer them to software menus, as more parameters are available simultaneously. Initially, with the SQ10 sequencer, this was the only keyboard in my attic studio and was used for all the sounds on my early recordings, including percussion. This was followed by a TR808 drum machine from Macari’s in the Charing Cross Road, and a Korg Delta polysynth (used on the Analysis single but since sold).
23. Do you have any siblings? and are you close?
My brother is five years younger than me, and has just taken early retirement from the police force. He plays drums semi-professionally, also keyboards and guitar. He has his own home-recording set-up, but unfortunately he lives 200 miles away. In different circumstances I like to think we would be able to spend some time working together.
Copyright ©2006 by Minimal Wave. All Rights Reserved.