(Photos from the personal archives of Jean-Marc Lederman) This article draws from various updates posted by Jean-Marc Lederman (The Weathermen, Kid Montana, Jules et Jim, Ghost & Writer, Lederman / De Meyer, Rohn-Lederman…) on his Facebook profile, which we’ve consolidated into a comprehensive piece. This compilation offers a profound understanding of the workings of the indie music industry during its ‘golden era’. Additionally, it provides specific insights into Mute Records, as numerous individuals mentioned in this article have significant associations with the iconic UK label.
Digital Dance (1978-1979)
The year was 1979 and I had just quit, well I was sacked tbh, from Digital Dance , the first band I was in.
We were doing post punk/cold wave/new wave stuff and it was really exciting. I started doing bass with them on a..ARP 2600 whci I had bought working on building sites, yeah, far too much of an overkill I agree. We were rehearsing here and there but did a time at the famous Plan K where we supported Joy Division. Actually, that day I went to pick up Ian and Bernard Summers at the very seedy hotel they were in and I drove them to the gig. They were laughing like kids, you know, young musicians being happy to play abroad. It was such a cold day, everyone was freezing and Ian even came close to Stefan Barbery (Digital Dance guitar player) who was close to an electric heater to tell him “Well, I guess this is why they call it Cold Wave…”
We also opened to Magazine and Fisher-Z and it was becoming too much of a routine for me: the Brussels band that does all the new wave support slots but hasn’t even got a decent recording contract…
Oh, we had one, and they made us record our very fast cover version of Kraftwerk’s “RadioActivity”. At the end of the session, they made me do some terrible sound effects, hoping to catch on the fad of the moment, and it just ruined the whole song. Tells you that if a thing sounds bad and contrived and cheesy on monday, still sounds the same the day after and 40 years later. Sorry Stefan, my fault.
Then Phil Wauquaire (whom I had met from Streets, the punk band he was in and I actually played with them live on a couple of songs with a…AKS, another overkill) joined us and I played synth with a Korg MS20 then with a Yamaha CS50M who weighted like half an olifant after a drinking binge.
Anyway, after a couple of gigs with Digital Dance at the Gibus in Paris, i was let go (which was fine, really). Two days later, I call Daniel Miller whom I had met in London a few months ago. Digital Dance had been foolish and crazy enough to believe that if you go to London you can pretty much be sure you’ll find a gig. All we did was rehearsing (below Beggar’s Banquet where I met Peter Kent from the future 4AD label) and waiting in our hotel off Kings Road. Anyway, we were trying to get Geoff Travis from Rough Trade to listen to our demo and he stopped it 20 seconds in and tell us: if you go to “Better Badges” now, you’ll see a man called Daniel Miller (from label MUTE RECORDS) and maybe he’ll like your stuff….
So, off we went to Better Badges and there we met Daniel, with a green basket full of The Normal badges.
Daniel and I hit directly like if it was an “International Conference Of Synths Fanatics”. I mean: synths weren’t as known or popular then as they were then. It was still a relatively rare sight on stage or in gigs or in bands that weren’t poppy or progrock. No, we’re talking new industrial scene in the UK: noisy and determined, not minimoogs played by long haired musos…
So, Daniel and I exchanged phone numbers and we traded letters and phone calls here and there. So, remember, I’m sacked from Digital Dance and I then realize that if I wanted to really go anywhere in music, Brussels isn’t the place to be and I must move to where things are happening. At that time, London was THE center of music in Europe and I decide that I want to try my luck and the two major chords I know there. I pick up the phone and call Daniel, asking him if he knew any musician that would be interested in moi ?
Yeah, I know someone, he’s on my label now, he’s looking for musicians, call him… His name is Frank Tovey….
Frank Tovey/Fad Gadget #1 (part 1)
The audition was simple: we didn’t even play a note or try to do a song, we just sat and drank coffee and laughed a lot. But there was no try-out, no keyboard or synths tickering… And that’s how Philippe Wauquaire and I became members of Fad Gadget #1 for a few months in 1980: a simple coffee cup meeting and an unmistakable good chemical feeling between us. Frank had played a few gigs on his own but wanted musicians around him so he could concentrate a bit more on being a little bit less concentrated if you know what I mean.
There was Frank: clever, astute, open, funny, with a lot of wit doubled with a good dose of sarcasm: totally my alley. But he knew what he wanted musically, there was no doubt about what he wanted to sound like. The plan was: rehearse at my place in Brussels, a first gig here, then play a few gigs as support for Deutsche Amerikanische Freundschaft in Germany and going to tour the UK as support for The Monochrome Set.
So, we start rehearsing in my attic: Frank on vocals, Pearl Syncussion and distorted electric piano, Phil on Fender bass and Korg MS 20 and myself on handling the cassette player (each song had its drums/rhythmic parts on a single cassette and I would feed the machine with a new cassette every song) and my 4 notes polyphonic, Yamaha CS 50M. Again, an overkill.
After a few hours of rehearsals, we have our first gig: support-act for Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark. We are all extremely nervous but the gig goes well: Frank doesn’t go into the mad behaviours he’s known for yet but you can see he’s holding up something big inside, something is boiling there. After the gig, we proceed to the German border and sleep in a motel there. In the morning, I’m being handed an envelope with my per diem (every day allowance a musician gets when on tour): it is the first time someone hands me money for doing something I love doing: playing music. I couldn’t believe it and I took a second piece of bacon and refilled my coffee cup. We are about to go to Dusseldorf to play The Ratinger Off as support for Deutsche Amerikanische Freundschaft.
Something started to happen at the Ratinger Hof: maybe it was the roughness of the place, the German lager (naaaaah) or the history of the place but this thing Frank had inside him but it slightly came out at that gig. See, there was an animal inside Frank, and that animal was as extrovert as Frank was introvert: Frank was then frontal and loud and, yes, obnoxious but in a gentle and friendly way but he wasn’t the shy Frank. In response to Frank’s changing live attitudes, Phil and I started to play loser and noisier and wilder (and there were far more bump notes on my part) but the band started to make sense. The crowd wasn’t there for us, they were there for what would later become DAF, but the reaction was good and people liked us. I recall Frank and I going out in front of the place and that guy comes out dressed as a mod, full parka mode with a patch “Remember
Brighton” which made Frank laughed a lot, people were out there with their beer and… Omg what am I saying: IT JUST FELT GREAT.
Deutsche Amerikanische Freundschaft at the time was a five piece band and they were fun and chaotic. You couldn’t miss Chris Haas, the synth guy, who was classy and special. He had a very specific body language when playing live: he would stand back, have a smile and just come here and there to play a few notes…He is the real grandfather of EBM as he introduced the famous 1/16th bass line (Korg MS 20 and SQ 10 sequencer) that will be the bone of so many records later on.
The morning after, we went out to the next gig. Daniel, Phil, Chris and myself embarked in my mum’s yellow Civic and we went down the motorway, singing loudly “Fahn Fahn Fahn Auf Der Autobahn” laughing and laughing… I guess Chris must have done that thousand of times before but, for Daniel, Phil and I it meant something different: we were doing it. We were travelling in Kraftwerk’s motherland and going to play electronic music there: it was immense.
We only played one more gig in Germany and then the whole tour was somehow cancelled… Roland Beelen: I saw the animal in Frank I guess a few months later at the Paasfestival in Koninfshooikt (organized by my friend Guy Vanwoensel) I was a stagehand there. Frank smashed a crucifix that was hanging above stage in the hall (parochiezaal)with his magic stick. The whole village was in shock when the news spread the next morning. The vicar organized a special service the next day to please the smashed fallen Christ ! they say he resurrected a few weeks later! All end, good end !
Frank Tovey/Fad Gadget 1980 (part 2)
Something had clicked in Frank after a few gigs: it’s like he had been showed by practice that it could work, that the songs were good, the voice was good but even more than that his FG personnae and ideas had an impact on the crowd. He would go out, do his thing, see people respond to his songs, lyrics and theatrics and then he would retrieve after the gig in the gentle and shy Frank Tovey. Phil and I were providing a background that wasn’t perfect but for Frank it was a great practice for FG future.
When we toured as support for The Monochrome Set, we were sometimes in fire and I could really feel people’s amazement at that born-to-be showman. He would play with the crowd and slowly take them into the show. Our sound might not have been very sophisticated but with Frank’s distorted piano, the CS50 brutal in and out sounds, Phil’s impeccable swirling bass, we were like The Stooges with synths and Frank was a perfect bionic Iggy Pop….I began to be very proud of us, we were quite something indeed and I was going on stage with a mission: to show people the songs and to let them fall in Frank’s performance.
I also remember that after the last show of the tour, possibly at the YMCA gig, one of the roadie came at the CS 50 and started to play some Bach’s prelude. I was stunned and shameful of the snobiness i may have shown the roadies on that tour, or before tbh. I learned a lesson that night and never again would I be feeling above anyone on a stage, or in studio, be them multiple charts success artists or simple roadie.
Something wild happened after our gig at the 100 club. Jock Mac Donalds (from the future Bollock Brothers) was very drunk and he started to look for a fight with us and being extremely aggressive, a bottle in his hand, waving it at us. Phil, FG’s bass player, was a karate black belt and he was looking very calm, coming closer to Jock inch by inch. Suddenly he jumped at Jock, put two fingers on his Adam’s apple and said with a slow voice: “OK, let’s kill”, his eyes deep into Mac Donald’s eyes.
The bottle instantly fell on the ground and the guy just ran out the club swearing loud and clear… Phil and I were sleeping at Daniel’s mom place for a few days and we were making music late at night. One of these nights, Daniel was on Phil’s MS 20, I was trying Daniel’s infamous Korg 700S (the one that was on TVOD and Warm Leatherette) and Phil was on the CS 50M but it was visibly too loud and too late as Daniel’s mum came down and asked us to PLEASE STOP !
Next gig to come was going to be the Clarendon, but we were told this would be our last gig with Frank as he wanted a full band behind him to totally free him from any other duties but vocals. I was devastated…
Frank Tovey/Fad Gadget #1 (part 3)
So, we were invited to headline Stevo’s kinda festival at the Clarendon, on June 27 1980. Stevo was a very colourful character who will make himself known later when managing bands like Soft Cell and The The. The bill was very symptomatic of the time: DAF, Naked Lunch, B.Movie, Vice Versa, Clock DVA,…
So, Fad Gadget #1 had started touring as a relative unknown a few months ago and we were by now talk of the town and headline this festival. It felt good and it felt also important and I was nervous. Everybody was. Frank had a song by Georges Folmby playing before we would go on. Folmby was a Lancarshire working class comedian and he was famous for playing double entendre ukulélé songs. It was a known and safe thing for British people and Frank used it as contrast as chaos would start when we would cut Folmby and go straight into “State Of The Nation” and follow that with most of what is on the album Fireside Favourites.
- State Of The Nation
- Back To Nature
- The Box
- Fireside Favourite
- Coitus Interruptus
- Ricky’s Hand
- Back To Nature
Yes, Frank wanted shock and chaos, and he got that except that at the Clarendon it went a bit further than expected. During one of the early songs, Fad had already taken over Frank, he smashed up his face with one of the two Syncussion drums and it started pouring blood. Phil and I looked at him and he made us understand it was fine and let’s continue…So we continued until someone took Frank off stage as it was just like a fountain of blood by now. The gig was stopped.
We went backstage and Frank was adamant he was fine but Babra (his wife) disinfected the wound and placed a cloth on it. We went back on stage.
The crowd went MAD. Frank was standing there, his white clothes with red blood all over it, singing to the public that was all won. It was an incredible sight, and being on stage, playing the songs with a singer that went beyond the call of duty was something unexplainable. After the gig, we had to take the 5 am ferry. I was sitting on the stairs of the Clarendon and, yes, I was crying, letting all the tension, the fears of the gig off my system but also the sadness I felt after having lived some incredible times with
Frank, as synth player in Fad Gadget. I saw Frank playing with Fad Gadget #2 a few months later and he invited me to play in the encore: we were cool.
Still, I wasn’t done with London and would come back later…
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