THE FALLOUT CLUB
Dangerous Friends
(Stratotester Records)

 

The English are true archivists of the post 1950s U.K. pop music scene. So it’s no surprise that the period of post-Beatles, U.K. pop of the late 1970s, and early 1980s still holds certain elements of interest and even fascination among English record lable curators. High on the list of artists chronicling and revisiting that period include Paul Simon, owner of Stratotester Records and founding member of The Fallout Club, who are further memorialized with the 2017 CD release of Dangerous Friends. A kind of supergroup that formed in the wake of the U.K. punk-rock scene that took hold at the end of the 1970s, The Fallout Club featured drummer / keyboardist Paul Simon, Thomas Dolby (keyboards), Matthew Seligman (bass) and the late, great singer Trevor Herion. With the late 2017 CD release of the eleven cut Fallout Club album, Dangerous Friends, producer / label head Paul Simon recaptures a lot of the magic, not only of that period in music, but also chemistry of these group of musicians, who proved quite capable at paving new and intriguing musical ground. In addition to the various tracks cut by The Fallout Club, the Dangerous Friends CD also adds in several remix tracks that feature original Fallout Club tracks with new overdubs by Paul and his AjantaMusic band mates, brother Robin Simon and vocalist Gina Watson. Speaking about the origins of The Fallout Club, Paul Simon tells mwe3.com, “After signing Thomas Dolby to my label Happy Birthday Records in 1980, I brought Trevor in to form the four-piece lineup, which recorded “Dream Soldiers” and “Pedestrian Walkway”. The lineup was Trevor Herion (vocals), Paul Simon (drums), Thomas Dolby (synthesizer) and Matthew Seligman (bass). The title Dangerous Friends is a reference firstly to the story of my relationship with my original partners in the record label. Secondly, in some ways Trevor was also a dangerous friend.” Some music fans may consider The Fallout Club a kind of visionary supergroup from the heyday of post punk pop, although Paul Simon also adds, “The Fallout Club is more of a forgotten group than a supergroup. However, the four members of The "Dream Soldiers" lineup went on to have very interesting careers. In 1980/81 the band was at the cutting edge of an arty type of synthetic pop.” Throughout the eleven-track Dangerous Friends album, there’s plenty of evidence of vintage classic post-punk pop that continues to impress, nearly forty years later. Paul Simon’s career as recording artist, drummer / D.J. and label owner provides an interesting backdrop for the vintage 1980 synth-pop sound of The Fallout Club.

 




mwe3.com presents an interview with
PAUL SIMON of The Fallout Club

mwe3
: How’s things in London?

Paul Simon: Things are good in London. It's such a lively place to live and has such a great diverse mix of peoples and cultures, which I love. I live on the west side of town and I can walk to the world famous Kew Gardens in 15 minutes or so, crossing the River Thames on the way.

Just north of my home is Ealing, home in the '60s of The Ealing Club where the Rolling Stones were formed by Brian Jones. The Who, from Acton, were another local band, as were Queen.

mwe3: London was always music city.

Paul Simon: London has a lot of musical history for me. My brother Robin Simon (Ultravox, Magazine, Visage) and I moved to London just as punk began and played the Roxy Club, the Vortex, the Man in the Moon (Chelsea) and the Speakeasy as members of Neo, alongside Ian North, a songwriter/vocalist from the CBGB's punk scene in New York. We knew many of the original players in punk and I later formed a band with Glen Matlock of The Sex Pistols.

mwe3: Are you still doing a lot of DJ’ing in various clubs and production work too and does London still have the magic for you and the music?

Paul Simon: I have been gigging nonstop for 20 years as a DJ. My DJ earnings help fund the costs of the music I produce. I play mainly private parties and the cultural diversity I mentioned plays into my parties as I work for all types of communities and ages. This keeps me in constant touch with new music across many genres, from way back up to prerelease and to the urban sounds of London. I have always listened to a wide range of music and that knowledge is invaluable. I'm not nostalgic musically.

mwe3: What’s new musically for you as we approach Spring 2018? Are you still excited by music these days and if so, what artists are you listening to these days?

Paul Simon: Yes I'm still excited by new music across many genres. I recently heard some amazing Radio Babylon DJs on Ibiza, at the Chirincana beach bar. They were playing an African/Latin fusion sound. The last album I bought was by Damian Marley. Before that, hip-hop and grime, Drake, Giggs, Mabel. The Rusty Egan album Welcome To The Dancefloor is also a new favorite. Robin and I were lucky enough to work on the album. I recorded Robin on several tracks, including a track called “Evermore”. This song dates back to the days when Rusty was still involved in the final line up of Visage, and when Robin and I were working on two albums with them. I also began playing drums again recently in preparation for live work with Robin in support of our forthcoming EP release.

mwe3: Your label, Stratotester Records has just released an 11-track, 2017 compilation album by The Fallout Club called Dangerous Friends. How did you come up with the name Fallout Club in the first place and why the name Dangerous Friends for the new compilation? Would you consider the music of Fallout Club to be dangerous or is it more fair to say there is a cutting edge sound of excitement running through the grooves in these Fallout Club songs?

Paul Simon: Trevor came up with the name Fallout Club for the first single, “Beat Boys/The Falling Years”, which was basically a solo vehicle for Trevor at that point. In hindsight, he chose an apt name.

The Fallout Club albums contain all the tracks recorded by the band in the early 1980s, apart from the 12" Mix of “Wonderlust”, which will form part of a future Fallout Club release.

After signing Thomas Dolby to my label Happy Birthday Records in 1980, I brought Trevor in to form the four-piece lineup, which recorded “Dream Soldiers” and “Pedestrian Walkway”. The lineup was Trevor Herion (vocals), Paul Simon (drums), Thomas Dolby (synthesizer) and Matthew Seligman (bass).

Happy Birthday Records was my idea and I left my then band, Cowboys International, part way through recording the band's second album to found it. Eventually my partners and I disagreed over certain aspects of the label. I left the company before it was sold out in its entirety. For the final Fallout Club single the lineup was down to Trevor and Tom.

The title Dangerous Friends is a reference firstly to the story of my relationship with my original partners in the record label. Secondly, in some ways Trevor was also a dangerous friend. After I had brought him in to my previous band, The Civilians, and he broke the group up, things went relatively smoothly for the Dream Soldiers lineup, although he proved to be a difficult musical partner for the rest of his life.

mwe3: How is your brother Robin doing these days? I was expecting a new AjantaMusic album but you keep finding out new and exciting ways to present the Fallout Club music. How many Fallout Club CD releases have you done so far and is Dangerous Friends the completion of the chapter in the Fallout Club story as far as releases go or is there more to come?

Paul Simon: My previous Fallout Club releases were the Dream Soldiers EP and the Pedestrian Walkway EP. Both releases feature the original mixes by Thomas Dolby and my new remixes, adding Robin and, from AjantaMusic, vocalist Gina Watson. “Dream Soldiers” also adds Trevor's original solo demo of that song. I do plan a further Fallout Club release with a re-mastered version of Tom's 12" remix of “Wonderlust”, the original Thomas Dolby “Pedestrian Walkway” demo, and a new song dedicated to Trevor. Robin is well and living in the countryside in North Yorkshire.

mwe3: Would you describe the Fallout Club as being a kind of supergroup? The band with you, Matthew Seligman and Thomas Dolby and the late Trevor Herion. Was the Fallout Club ahead of its time? How would you compare the Fallout Club to other music being made around the same time?

Paul Simon: Lost classics I can see… The Fallout Club is more of a forgotten group than a supergroup. However, the four members of The Dream Soldiers lineup went on to have very interesting careers. In 1980/81 the band was at the cutting edge of an arty type of synthetic pop. Yes, ahead of its time. Amongst our contemporaries in the early ‘80s common influences, I would say, were Kraftwerk, The Human League, Joy Division, David Bowie, Bruce Woolley and the Camera Club, The Associates and the John Foxx lineup of Ultravox. As far as the direction of the Fallout Club goes, it was driven by Trevor's song writing. Matthew Seligman and I have been working together again for several years now and Matthew is helping out on the new electronic rock album that Robin and I are working on. We have co-written one of the tracks.

mwe3: You spoke about cleaning up the original mixes of the Fallout Club tracks and then doing some remixes to bring it more into the now. Is that the way to describe the music on Dangerous Friends? Can you provide an example of where the Dangerous Friends tracks benefit from remixing and are all the tracks remixed or were some kept as is?

Paul Simon: The actual process of producing Dangerous Friends began with copying from vinyl or from the best digital copies available of original early ‘80s mixes. The original masters of all the tracks are lost. Not long after I left Happy Birthday Records it was sold to an old established music group, which soon went bust. I suspect the original multitrack and analogue mix-down tapes were thrown into a rubbish skip outside the label's offices on Eaton Square in Belgravia. I recall driving past at the time and seeing the offices being gutted.

After de-clicking and restoring the files, I used various techniques and plug-ins to enhance and improve each track, giving the songs a consistently identifiable sound. This involved a lot of trial and error. I then re-mastered them using Isotope software. I work with Genelec monitors and a pair of vintage Yamaha NS10s given to me by John Foxx. On the re-mix tracks I overdubbed, edited and arranged guitar parts played by Robin and similarly arranged and edited backing vocals sung by the opera-trained Gina Watson. I also added a snare sample on the “Dream Soldiers” re-mix tracks to bring the back beat forward and added a little sub-bass to beef up the overall sound. The guitar overdubs were worked and reworked by Robin until we found the right parts.

mwe3: What can you add about the track “Dream Soldiers” which is presented in three different mixes on Dangerous Friends. What was Trevor Herion’s frame of mind in writing that track?

Paul Simon: I didn't know what his frame of mind was; he could be very reticent. We just got on with making the track. Thomas Dolby as producer created the sound of the track. Tom's arrangement and synth work are amongst his finest.

“Dream Soldiers” is my favorite of Trevor's songs. I had originally suggested Robin play on the track in 1981, but that didn't happen. I recorded and arranged Robin's guitar work over a re-edit I did of the original Thomas Dolby mix. Robin's work added atmosphere and melody and Gina provides vocal color behind Trevor's voice. I had a bass player friend, Jimmy Bain (Phil Lynott, Rainbow), who early in his career played in a hard rock band called The Dream Police. I remember telling Trevor about this band; perhaps that influenced his song title.

mwe3: What is the story behind two tracks here “The Beat Boys” and “The Falling Years”? They sound like early rap styles.

Paul Simon: The single "Beat Boys/Falling Years" was the first Fallout Club release. Trevor's precedent for the style of these tracks seems to be the Daniel Miller single “Warm Leatherette/TVOD” released under the name The Normal. I would have preferred a more developed result but that wasn't to be until the lineup expanded for “Dream Soldiers” / “Pedestrian Walkway”, the second single release. We had been listening to early hip hop by this time. Trevor's lyrics are self-analytical and somewhat confessional, although they seem to throw up as many questions as answers.

To quote: "Grey landscapes into grey machines you fantasize from where it comes, the beat of life from rhythm drums". An Irish friend of mine, Patrick McGahern, recently transcribed several of Trevor's lyrics for me. Patrick has researched Trevor's life exhaustively. Perhaps he'll write a book on Trevor one day. From reading those transcripts, the only other lyricist I can recall trying to communicate a sense of impending doom so effectively is Ian Curtis of Joy Division. “The Falling Years” is a slightly more melodic track. To quote: "But how was I to change my life, how was I to be somebody?"

mwe3: There’s a wealth of excellent, rare music on the Dangerous Friends CD. What about the track “Desert Song”, which is presented here in two different mixes including a 12” mix. Can you describe the differences between the two versions? What is the message behind “Desert Song”?

Paul Simon: Thank you for the compliments.Desert Song” is certainly one of the firm favorites, although in my opinion “Dream Soldiers”, alongside his earlier recordings with The Civilians, was the peak of Trevor's career. All the keyboards on “Wonderlust” and “Desert Song” are played by Thomas Dolby.

Again, from the transcripts: "But give me just this moment, Wonderlust. And if we must return to dust, then let it be. Give me just this moment." The lyric seems to portray a man on the edge of life. The enigma of Trevor Herion.

“Desert Song” was the flipside of the “Wonderlust” single, the final Fallout Club release of the 1980s. I don't know what Trevor's message was on “Desert Song”. After the more organic feel of “Dream Soldiers”, it was back to drum machine only. By this time, not Tom's Roland DR55 but the next generation drum machine containing samples.

Extended mixes were made of both these tracks, adding longer intro/outros and some changes in balance. Only the 12" mix of “Wonderlust” added real variations. As mentioned, I will be working on and re-mastering this for a further Fallout Club release.

mwe3: On Dangerous Friends, there’s three different mixes on “Pedestrian Walkway”. How are they different and which one do you prefer? How challenging is it to remix tracks that are over 35 years old? What is the state of the art for remixing vintage music and what computer programs work best? I remember you speaking about the Steinberg Cubase 9.5 software. It all sounds so complex but the results sound great.

Paul Simon: The three mixes of “Pedestrian Walkway” on Dangerous Friends differ as follows:

Track 2 on the album is the original Thomas Dolby mix. The first of my remixes, track 8, is Robin guitar solo 1. The second re-mix, track 11, begins with an added section I wrote, featuring Gina Watson on vocals and guitar with solo 3 from Robin. Of the two remix tracks, track 8 is my favorite.

I reengineered and re-mastered the tracks, and I arranged, looped and edited Robin's guitar parts on all the re-mix tracks on the album, assisted by engineer Tony Bywaters.

As far as software goes, I work in Cubase Pro 9.5. I also use vintage emulations of early outboard gear, notably the Pultec compressor. The tracks are cleaned sonically with filters. I EQ with the Voxengo Melodic EQ plug-in and master using Isotope Ozone 5.

Nowadays I refer to urban sounds. Dr Dre is my favorite producer, so I'm listening for more bass in the mix than we had back in the day. Also a little more backbeat.

mwe3: I also wanted to ask you something about the great Japanese inspired artwork on the Dangerous Friends done by Rolling Stone magazine writer John Mendelssohn, who I read religiously as a youth growing up on Long Island. How did you meet John?

Paul Simon: I met John Mendelssohn via his wife Claire who was vocalist in Wild Side, the first band Robin and I worked with when we moved to London in 1976. The Kabuki thing was my suggestion. It reminds me of Trevor.

mwe3: Any news to report from Matthew Seligman and is Thomas Dolby still a professor at John Hopkins University? I was impressed by the music Matthew recorded with Jan Linton. Have you heard that Jan Linton album and is Matthew back in the U.K. these days? Any other new Fallout Club / Civilians alumni related news to report?

Paul Simon: As mentioned, Matthew is playing bass on the new electronic rock project I am working on with Robin. Matthew and I have co-written one of the tracks. These recordings are taking place in Ibiza, London and North Yorkshire. I have listened to some of Jan Linton's work. My favorite track by him is "I Actually Come Back".

Thomas Dolby is still a professor at John Hopkins University and is still doing the occasional solo show. He played in the UK in December 2017. I have been working on a new Fallout Club track to add to a forthcoming release of the original Wonderlust 12" mix. The new song is inevitably about Trevor. I hope my release of the album brings people to hear his music. He's the last unknown UK 1980's vocalist of any relevance. His peers were Ian Curtis and Billy McKenzie and it is tragic he ended his life as they did. For many years I neglected the work I had done with Trevor. The enthusiasm of my Irish friend Patrick McGahern is responsible for Trevor's music seeing the light of day again.

My next release, still with Trevor Herion, will be The Civilians Live Album, I See My Friends, Live in Camden 1979. This is from a December 1979 gig in Camden in London and was the last ever performance by the original band. The Civilians were myself with Trevor Herion, Michael French and Mark Scholfield.

Also on my desk are a new AjantaMusic EP, which is ready for mixing, and a forthcoming EP from the new electronic rock project involving Robin and me, with contributions from Jurgen Graff, Matthew Seligman and Mauno Pajaanaen. Once again, thank you for your interest in my music. There's lots more to come.



 

 
   
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