Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Rockies

Paul Humphreys & Andy McCluskey – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

In a year of seemingly unending ups and downs, 2016 held one of my personal and professional high points. I was granted an in-person interview with two of my all-time musical heroes, Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. Best of all, I met them at Red Rocks, one of the most beautiful and iconic music venues in the world.

They were there with Howard Jones and headliners Barenaked Ladies, so it was going to be a “greatest hits” set. I was fine with that because OMD is one of the bands I’ll see no matter what the circumstances. OMD – along with New Order and Depeche Mode – drove my interest in the synth music of the 80s. Whereas the other two groups were always more song-based, OMD’s experimental spirit initially led them along alleys closer to Kraftwerk than the discotheque.

Where casual listeners mostly know Orchestral Manoeuvres from the hits they played that night (“If You Leave,” “Secret,” “So In Love”), more avid fans know and appreciate their more experimental side, showcased on their early records and occasionally on deeper tracks on their more commercial albums. The resurgent popularity of Architecture & Morality and Dazzle Ships (albums #3 & 4) led to recent concerts where they played the albums in full for the hardcore fans.

The band’s most popular work poignantly touches matters of the heart, but they have also been outspoken on political issues: Their first UK top-ten hit “Enola Gay” tackled the subject of nuclear war head-on; “International” from Dazzle Ships began with an audio clip discussing the Anti-Imperialist Tribune and the atrocities perpetrated by the Somoza family, former dictators of Nicaragua; “88 Seconds In Greensboro” marks the massacre in North Carolina where members of the Communist Workers Party were killed during a protest against the KKK in 1979; “Southern” contains audio from the last speech of Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s not a stretch for me to say that my own early political views were informed by the music I listened to in the 80s. (Billy Bragg, OMD, and Depeche Mode, among others)

There was a lot going on in my life during the lead-up to the show, specifically that my late father’s “celebration of life” gathering was the day before their appearance at Red Rocks. While the band didn’t know anything about it, meeting them gave me something to look forward to and keep my spirits up.

Getting dressed for the interview, I wore the “Autobahn” shirt I bought when I saw Kraftwerk in September 2015. It was a small way for me to show that my love of electronic music went beyond my interest in OMD’s music. As we met and shook hands, Paul pointed out with glee that he was also wearing a Kraftwerk shirt, and I knew that this meeting was going to go well.


Your Older Brother: First of all, I want to ask – How’s Malcom doing? (The band’s original drummer, Malcom Holmes, suffered a cardiac arrest while onstage with the band in Toronto July 2013)

Paul Humphreys: Malcom’s doing okay. His health is good. Fortunately he survived the cardiac arrest but the downside is he can’t play live anymore. But he’s well, he lives in Germany, he lives in a small little town between Hanover and Hamburg. He’s happy and he’s writing songs for different things, for TV and things like that.

YOB: Do you still collaborate with him? Or is it mostly just the two of you still?

Andy McCluskey: He’s done some programming for us, actually. There’s something we want to send him for some programming we’d like to do on the new album. But other than that, we’ve generally written the drum parts ourselves ’cause we write mostly on ProTools on the computer. But yeah, as Paul said, he’s well but it’s frustrating for him. He would love to be playing for us. And we’d love him to still be able to play for us, but he just can’t.

Paul: It must be very difficult for him because he played in all our school bands as well. We go back a long way. So it must be very difficult for him to see us going on the road and he’s not part of it.

Andy: Yeah, he was like 15 when we first played with him or something like that?

Paul: Yeah…

YOB: Was that back in The Id days?

Andy: Even before The Id…

Paul: A band called Equinox.

YOB: Wow, lots of bands between everybody.

Paul: Yeah, but it was all kind of the same group of people, just different names.

YOB: I read on Twitter that you’re working on a new album, and it’s slated for next year (2017)?

Paul: Yes.

YOB: Does it have a title yet or are you still just kind of working on getting the songs together?

Andy: No, I think we’ve started telling people that we’re probably going to call it The Punishment of Luxury

YOB: Ooo, that’s nice. (laughter)

Paul: I think we’re kind of sold on that.

Andy: We seem to be sold on that as a title. We have a song called that so…. Actually, the original title comes from a painting in the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, actually. We’ve taken that idea and extrapolated it into sort of…it’s a metaphor for modern life, really. First world problems. All of the shit we have to deal with is only a problem that’s created for you by some suggestion that came from a marketing man or a PR job that’s been done on you. Everything you think you know was placed there by a marketing man. (laughter) Everything you think you want, you don’t.

YOB: Very OMD sort of topic.

Paul: It is. The typical OMD topic, yeah.

Andy: No, it’s the usual lyric for most pop music isn’t it? (laughter)

Paul: Maybe not, but for us it is. (smiles)

YOB: Going back, the early days was the early synthesizers and then there were pop elements obviously on those, and then after Dazzle Ships it crossed over, maybe a little more pop, still some experimental stuff. The two most recent albums I find are kind of the same way. History of Modern felt a little more hook-y, and English Electric felt a little more playing around with some stuff. What’s the direction with the new music?

Paul: We’ve kind of kicked on from English Electric, really. We’ve gone…we’re still trying to maintain our connection with our roots, but we’ve tried to go a bit more, even more stripped-down than English Electric.

Andy: Yeah, there’s a little bit more sort of crunchy industrial sound in a few things, a bit glitchy-er. But you know, the bottom line is that we have a sense of melody that we just can’t throw off. And actually, you know, we’re not great fans of experiment for the sake of experiment. It’s experiment that also has to walk a tightrope between being musical and bearing repeated listening, and that is *really* hard to do. So that’s why it’s taken us four years to do this record. (laughs)

Paul: You’re right, we got kind of a bit safe after Dazzle Ships, the albums that came after. ‘Cause I think we got a little bit scared, I think we kind of fell off sort of an experimental cliff after Dazzle Ships. Certainly in terms of…I mean, it’s a great…we’re still very proud of that record. But commercially speaking, we fell off a cliff. I think we got a little scared and so we went a little safe.

Andy: And we combined that with the fact that the deal we’d signed meant we that didn’t make much money even when we sold millions, so, you know, we’d find ourselves on tour for six or eight months and we’d get back home and the management would be like “Well, you need a new record ’cause you’re skint.” And so we’d rush in and the first 10 things we wrote were the album…

Paul: That was the album…

Andy: …whether they were good bad or indifferent. There were various pressures on us. It wasn’t just that we decided…

Paul: …to be safe…

Andy: …to be safe, there were the pressures. You know, it was our job. He was married and we had mortgages, and for all the millions of records we sold, we didn’t make much money.

Paul: ‘Cause we were on a crap deal on Virgin Records, basically. (laughs)

YOB: I’m familiar with that side of the industry and all that sort of thing. But thinking about songs like “Crush” were off in that experimental vein.

Paul: We still continued to experiment. But not as much as the Dazzle Ships era.

YOB: What kind of…I was going to ask what kind of hardware do you write with, but I also had the question down of what’s your go-to when you start working on new material? Is it just a piano, or do you fire up a sampler and start toying with stuff?

Paul: It’s still sounds, very much. We’ll find an interesting sound or we’ll have an interesting idea off an interesting sample and we’ll go from there. We very rarely start on a piano writing chords. It’s usually…

Andy: I think “never,” in fact, is the word you’re looking for… (laughter)

Paul: I think the only time we did was “If You Leave.”

Andy: …was “If You Leave,” ’cause we had no alternative.

Paul: We had to write a song in 24 hours. I remember sitting me on the piano and you writing words and we just hashed it out, but that’s one of the very few times.

YOB: Wow, that’s amazing!

Paul: We just start with sounds and ideas, don’t we?

Andy: We’re looking for a palette that inspires us, actually. Because to be honest if we sat down with some chords or a guitar, you know, you just go back to the same patterns, you go to the same…

Paul: …the same chords…

Andy: …the same chord sequences and things. So, to start with some sound you’ve just discovered or just invented, it’s like “Ooo…that’s inspiring, that’s something new.”

Paul: It sort of takes you down a path.

Andy: Yeah. Gives you an opportunity to start adding to it and go in a different direction. Theoretically.

YOB: In some of the material on the new record, I hear little callbacks to sounds from some the earlier records, from Junk Culture maybe or kind of in that era.

Andy: Which ones?

YOB: There was one song… (I had actually been thinking of how “Decimal” is similar to “Time Zones” and “ABC Auto-Industry” in construction and subject matter.)

Paul: Maybe in the melody sounds or something?

YOB: There was one song that felt like it started off with a choral sort of sound that reminded me of “Junk Culture”

Paul: Oh, possibly.

YOB: And then there was…was it “Save Me” does that one start with…?

Andy: Well, “Save Me” was just a mashup of “Messages” and Aretha Franklin, so yes, it does sound like an old one ’cause it’s “Messages” and Aretha Franklin. (laughter)

YOB: But do you look to the past in your own work for inspiration, or even for some sounds to tie the present to the past? What comes to mind is how Sting would put a line of a previous song in some of his later albums.

Paul: …to make that connection. Yeah, I mean, I think…we’re proud of our history and you can’t get away from it. And I think when you play it, you play songs from your past all the time and when you play live, you have a constant reminder of where you’ve come from. And I think it may enter your songwriting. I’m not quite sure, really. But just recently we played Dazzle Ships and Architecture & Morality, and all those B-sides. And I think it was so lovely to play those songs. And I loved how simple some of these songs were. It was kind of a reminder of how simple our writing was in those days. And I think we’ll take some of that into our new album.

Andy: There’s something we’re trying to apply from the past is actually the simplicity. Because, you know, more is not always better. Just because you’ve got 128 stereo channels doesn’t mean you should put something on every one of them. (laughter)

Paul: And also with modern technology now, you’ve got *so* much choice. When we first started out, we had a couple of synths, a Mellotron, an organ, a bass, and that was kind of it. And the synths were limited, they didn’t come with, like, thousands of patches, because they didn’t have patches yet to make them up! So now with all the synths, you’ve got – Andy calls it “the tyranny of choice” – and it really is because you’ve got *so* much choice, you can get so lost in finding sounds you forget what you’re trying to do, which is write a song. So with the technology now you have to try to kind of minimize your palette and minimize your palette. ‘Cause that was what was so great about the early days, we didn’t have that huge amount of choice of sounds so we concentrated on trying to get the most out of those instruments but write an interesting song.

YOB: It sounds like the Dazzle Ships and Architecture & Morality shows went off fantastic, I saw that you did the Dazzle Ships show at the Museum of Liverpool and then in Berlin.

Paul: We did the Royal Albert Hall, we played both Dazzle Ships and Architecture & Morality.

Andy: The Museum of Liverpool was kind of the inspiration. We dared to do some of the weird stuff because we know there’d be a small group of people who, if we told them we were going to do some Dazzle Ships, they’d want to hear it. We didn’t realize quite the demand, did we? And then the internet was lit up with pissed off people who couldn’t get tickets! So we decided to do an even bigger venue, do the whole of the Dazzle Ships album and Architecture & Morality, and then we sold out that in an hour. And then we got an offer to go to Germany so we took it to Germany. In fact we were hoping to play it in America, but it was a contractual requirement, and understandably so, with Barenaked Ladies, that we couldn’t put a show on sale in either Los Angeles, San Francisco, or New York where we would do it, until their tickets had sold out. And none of those venues are completely sold out, so we couldn’t put something on sale, unfortunately. We were hoping we could perhaps do something on the East coast or the West coast because we think there would be an interest.

Paul: So something for the future, anyway.

Andy: Hopefully something we can come and do in the future.

YOB: Yeah, I went to this Kraftwerk show (gestured to my t-shirt) in 3-D last fall here in Denver and I’d never seen them before.

Paul: It was fantastic, wasn’t it?

YOB: Blew me away. Totally blew me away. And the crowd was amazing. It was in the Ellie Caulkins Opera House which is in downtown Denver, and people were out of their seats, dancing – as much as you can with the 3D effects – but it was a pretty wild crowd. And I understand that in L.A. and Chicago and New York there would be a lot of demand, but I think there’d be a lot of demand for a Dazzle Ships show or Architecture & Morality/Dazzle Ships here as well. I’m not trying to sell you on it or anything….

Andy: Yeah, well, you’re doing a good job. (laughter) We don’t know. We were pleasantly surprised we sold as many tickets as we did in Germany. We figured maybe New York or Los Angeles. You know, we would love to do these more esoteric concerts regularly. I mean, this evening would be a good example. We’ve got 45 minutes, we’re playing 11 songs, every one is a single. It’s the path of least resistance. There may be a few people in the crowd who are OMD fans who want to hear some B-sides or some weird album tracks (laughter), but the other 99%, we’ll be lucky if they’re sitting in their seat and not going to get some beer or something whilst we’re onstage.

Paul: The thing is, this isn’t our tour. The reason why we’re doing it is we’re playing a lot of cities that promoters don’t normally ask us to go to. We can do great shows on the east and west coast, you know, our own headline tours…

Andy: What was the little theater we played in Denver?

Paul: Yes! Um…

YOB: Four/five years ago? I think it was the Bluebird?

Both: Yeah…

Paul: Yeah, I had “blue” on my mind”

Andy: You didn’t see us there?

YOB: I didn’t. So…I’m gonna geek out just for a second. When I first started to get into you guys, was I was in a record shop in Denver (Rocky Mountain Records & Tapes in the Tabor Center – ed.), I was walking around, I had ten bucks burning a hole in my pocket, was trying to find something to buy, walking around, looking for stuff, finding some things, “oh, maybe I can get this, maybe I can get that.” And I heard the music that was playing in the store, I was like, “I like this, what is this?” So I went up to the person behind the counter and asked “What’s playing?” They said “This is new from OMD. It’s Junk Culture.” And I was like “Give me that!” and that started it so it was great because from there I could go back and then I could go forward.

Andy: So that was your introduction.

YOB: Yes! So I went back to Dazzle Ships, and found “Telegraph”… there’s a rock station here called KBPI, which was mostly rock in the 80s and I remembered hearing “Telegraph” from one night they had a “make it or break it” sort of thing. So far off their normal playlist, but I remembered that song, and by the time I got back to hearing “Enola Gay,” I remembered seeing that in Urgh! A Music War and then going forward was Crush and Pacific Age. So talking about shows I’ve seen, I missed you guys here before (at Red Rocks) when you opened for Power Station, but I went to see you with Thompson Twins in Boulder, then at the Paramount for Pacific Age, and then in ’88 when you opened for Depeche Mode at McNichols Arena. So I’ve seen those. (laughter) And then I was *extremely* jealous, I was actually down registering for college in San Diego when you guys were playing the Depeche Mode show, the 101 show with Wire and Thomas Dolby I think were also on the bill that day?

Andy: That was the Pasadena Rose Bowl.

YOB: I was listening to it on the radio going “I’m so close!” So what keeps you in OMD now? What keeps you creating and working on this music? Is it your partnership or…

Andy: Debt. (laughter) No, it’s not.

YOB: Debt, ok. I was gonna say “Fair enough, I understand that! Ok!” (more laughter)

Paul: That was funny though! ‘Cause that’s what kept us going for a while, debt, but it’s not anymore. We love being in OMD, we love playing live, we all get along great, we’re all good friends, and it’s fun being in OMD. And we still have plenty to say, musically.

Andy: Yeah, it’s important, I think, that we want to do new music. It’s very difficult, you know, there’s a lot of people who are our age, our generation, who make records and they’ve not really got a lot to say for themselves anymore and perhaps shouldn’t, but their management tells them they need a new name for the next tour or something. (laughs) But we’re conceited enough to still think that we actually are hungry enough and interesting enough to be worthy of writing new material. I guess everybody goes through that cognitive distortion. We’re probably deluding ourselves. (laughter) ‘Cause when we re-formed in 2007 after a couple of years it was like, ok, are we a tribute band to ourselves?

YOB: Yeah, right.

Andy: And we didn’t want to be that. ‘Cause the whole point of being in Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark originally was that we wanted to do something interesting. Different. You know, kind of walk the tightrope between something that was musical but something that was an interesting idea that maybe challenged people’s conceptions. Or it was a conversation with ourselves. Pulling an idea out of your head and examining it externally.

Paul: And we’ve still got lots to say, so as long as we still feel that way, we’ll just keep saying it.

Andy: So we’ll still keep touring. We might even be able to come back to America ’cause neither of us are Mexican or Muslim, are we? (laughter)

YOB: Another project I’m working on is a podcast where we take someone on a musical journey of a band that we’re passionate about. I’m obviously passionate about OMD. One of the ideas is, on that musical journey – if you met someone who had never heard of OMD and wanted to hear the band, what would you play for them?

Andy: Just one record?

Paul: One album or…?

YOB: Just to start.

Andy: The first thing would probably be the first single “Electricity” ’cause I think it shows a pair of kids who could barely play who were doing a sort of punk rendition of Kraftwerk’s “Radioactivity.” And then maybe “Enola Gay” because it was the first big international hit. Then “Souvenir” because it was the more ambient, melancholy sound.

Paul: But then the other side to us, things like “Sealand” and “Stanlow” and “Of All The Things We Made” and “Romance of the Telescope.” They’re a side to the band that we *really* feel attached to as well, and love. As well as the pop stuff.

Andy: And I think there’s elements of the things that actually attract a certain type of listener – perhaps yourself – who likes a band who, okay, they’re writing tunes, but they’re also doing things that are still melodic, but not following the rules, the formats of verse/chorus/verse/chorus middle 8, you know, “ooo ooo, I love you,” blah blah blah. I think it limits our audience because I don’t think we’ll ever be – and we never were going to be – a band who headlined arenas ourselves. Because we just don’t conform enough to the norm. So that’s the reality you choose to plot your own course.

YOB: I think that’s what’s endearing. The hooks of “Tesla Girls,” “Telegraph,” “Enola Gay,” and all through, they’re completely undeniable. But there’s still that area of experimentation, like on English Electric, using the text-to-speech from a computer to read something and having more odd sounds and blips and stuff here and there. I actually had in college, I took…’cause I was always interested in synthesizers and I started taking piano lessons because I wanted to be able to play what I heard, but being from a little mountain town, I’m actually from a town called Evergreen which is just up the hill. Red Rocks was my home venue, growing up. It was the closest to us…

Paul: Great venue to be your home venue!

YOB: Exactly. All-ages shows. So in college I had a Beginning of Electronic Music class and one of the things we were tasked with was Musique Concrète. And in listening to them explain it, I was like “Oh, that’s what OMD does.” What you did with “Time Zones” and other songs like that. So it was fun for me to attach that project to “I’m going to be doing it like these guys were.” Kind of that thread and that’s what’s endearing to a certain type of musical customer who loves the hooks but still likes…I mean even with your contemporaries like Depeche Mode or New Order who I love as well, they never quite got as weird as as OMD did at times.

Paul: Yes.

YOB: And that’s what I love, like for “Crush,” the little samples were from Japanese adverts, right?

Andy: Yeah, Japanese TV adverts.

Paul: Sitting around in the hotel room recording the TV and when we got home we chopped them up.

YOB: And it’s so cool to read about that’s how you created something and it’s like “That’s brilliant!” Brilliant, not, like, Einstein brilliant but like so much fun to play around with.

Paul: The playfulness is important.

Andy: Yeah, but that’s essentially the raison d’etre, is to always be looking for something that’s stimulating, that is potentially musical. So yes, musique concrete has always been giving us somewhere to start with. And it’s just…We specialize in trying to follow crazy ideas. But the reality is that 9 out of 10 of them you’ll try, and you’ll go “Nah, that doesn’t work, that’s not musical, I don’t want to listen to that again.” You leave a trail of rejects behind you. (laughter)

Paul: We’re constantly editing them as well, even the ones that end up on the records. Chopping bits out until you distill it into something that the idea comes across but it’s also palatable to the ears.

YOB: Do you still record stuff in the field or do you take stuff you find and do that or is it still mostly working with synths, working in ProTools, that sort of thing?

Paul: We’ll always be looking for anything that makes a sound wherever we find it, really. If it’s something mad on the internet or…

Andy: The internet of course has opened up a Pandora’s Box. You used to have to go and either buy a vinyl BBC sampler record or record it yourself. Now there’s sound effects libraries that you can join and you just think of something and type it in and they’ve got a thousand files!

Paul: You’ll find it, whatever you think of. There’s an audio file of it somewhere.

Andy: “Humpback whale farting…” Yep! Got 300 of those. (laughter)

Paul: Just pick the one you like the best!

YOB: How has the technology of the past 15 years influenced your collaboration and how you write songs?

Paul: What I do like about the technology now is if you look back to the analog days with multitrack tapes, it was a ballache to use. Trying to get things to sync to the tape, trying to work on sections of the song and you had all the rewind times and the tapes would stretch. It did sound lovely, the analog tape, but to have everything on the computer now, I couldn’t imagine going back, could you?

Andy: No. We have always used tape machines, because we started as the two of us. So we used to put down drums or basslines onto the tape for 5 minutes and then we’d just play it and then rewind it. But that meant that our songwriting was quite linear.

Paul: We were locked into that then.

Andy: We would be locked into the same drum pattern or the same chord sequence or something. And later days when we decided to try to not be linear, we would, if we wanted to change something, literally we’d have to edit the tape.

YOB: That’s what we had to do.

Paul: We’d end up cutting massive tape.

Andy: “Ok, this bit here is going to be the chorus, but we’re going to cut that bit out and bring it over here.” Which, of course now, on computer programming, you just cut and paste it. “Ok, repeat that twelve times, right, move that over here, no actually that’s too long (makes a zip sound effect), oh, love it, it’s great!” The computers are good. Paul and I, we do work separately, but we have a fairly mirrored ProTools computer system. But the one thing we discovered about technology is when it comes to writing, we are best to be in the same room together.

Paul: Yeah.

Andy: So we try to have…

Paul: …a period, don’t we, of when we’re together. Then we can go away separately and work on them.

Andy: We start with a kernel of an idea one of us brings in. There’s no point in sitting in a room going “Got any ideas?” “No. Have you?” “No.” “Uhhhh…cuppa tea, then?” (laughter)

Paul: “Let’s see if the football’s on.” (more laughter)

Andy: So we try to bring some ideas that are not completely formed so hopefully the other one will go “Ooh! That inspires me!”

Paul: Yeah, “Love that.”

Andy: “Can I work on that? Can I throw this idea on?” And then work together. ‘Cause if you send things up and down the internet there’s that time delay, you’re not in the same room together. ‘Cause what you want is for someone to go “Hey, what about this?!” and you go “Yeah! Yeah! Tellyouwhat, not that note…that note? Yeah!” and just get buzzing. And then when we’ve got something happening, then we can go our separate ways and work on them. We tried the internet and it didn’t work. Sending files up and down to each other didn’t work, we need to be together.

Paul: ‘Cause we live 200 miles apart. I live in London, Andy lives near Liverpool in the Wirral. I normally go up to Andy’s ’cause it’s nice and quiet at his place, he’s got this beautiful house in the middle of…

Andy: And also he has a one bedroom apartment so I end up sleeping with him. (laughter)

YOB: As far as recent bands, recent music, what of the last 5 or 10 years, is there anything that’s caught your ear, inspired you? I think I’ve seen your playlist (Andy) of some of the stuff you’ve been listening to. Anything that stands out?

Andy: Well there’s things that we like, I know Paul got me into Arcade Fire, and he’s a fan of Hot Chip, I like Robyn, we both like Future Islands…Atom TM…

Paul: Atom TM, yeah, we both like Atom TM.

Andy: …Uwe Schmidt. Check out the last album from 2013 called “HD.” Very glitchy but melodic as well. Uh…yeah, bits and pieces. I mean, I think we’re not dissimilar to how we were when we were very young, which is we’re quite picky. Not a lot really excites us, you know, but we’ll hear something and just go “Ooh, wow.” And then you might listen to the album and go “No, that was the only song that really resonated.”

Paul: But at least something resonated and something will be inspiring to us.

Andy: I tell you what I did like recently, actually, I liked Eno’s “The Ship.”

Paul: Oh, it’s great, actually!

Andy: Particularly the title track.

Paul: That’s really good.

YOB: Have you ever worked with any of those folks or…?

Andy: No.

Paul: I’d love to have worked with Eno. Eno has been a massive inspiration on us over the years. I mean we loved him in Roxy but when he set out by himself we kind of followed pretty much everything he did. And I think his sort of melancholia, this melancholic side to him, definitely had an influence on us.

(I wound down our conversation at this point, but when I pulled out my copy of Dazzle Ships on vinyl to ask them to sign, Paul mentioned that he had a turntable and was listening to vinyl recently.)

Paul: I’m still listening to vinyl. I’ve got a deck at home.

Andy: You had to get a deck because we kept releasing limited editions and you had to check the test pressing.

Paul: (laughing) …I had to check the test pressing. So I had to buy a deck and since I got the deck I use it all the time ’cause I got all my vinyl out of storage.

After that we went outside to take a couple of photos of them in front of the titular red rocks of the amphitheater (see below). They were incredibly gracious to grant me that request, and we shook hands and parted ways. The interview had gone well and I was so grateful, just buzzing from the experience.

I returned later that night with my wife to watch the show. Howard Jones started the night with a solid six-song set of favorites that got the crowd primed for OMD.

Howard Jones

Andy, Paul, Martin Cooper, and Stuart Kershaw started their set with “Enola Gay” and the crowd was on their side from the first notes. I admit that even I was surprised to see pretty much the entire audience on their feet and dancing.

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark at Red Rocks Amphitheatre
OMD (clockwise from top left: Stuart Kershaw, Paul Humphreys, Andy McCluskey)

Unfortunately I’ve had some health issues that have prevented me from transcribing and posting this until now, but I wanted to put this up before year’s end to remind myself and others that 2016 wasn’t one huge downer. I never thought I’d get to meet and talk with Andy and Paul, and having them be as friendly and engaging and generous as I hoped was uplifting in a year that needed it.

I look forward to hearing their new music and hopefully seeing them on tour in 2017. It doesn’t happen often that a group that has relevance in one’s teens returns to form after 30 years, but that’s what they’ve done. I caught their Coachella performance on the live stream a few years back and they have as much energy and enthusiasm as ever.

From URGH! to English Electric, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark has been one of my favorite bands. I’d like to thank Andy, Paul, Martin, Malcom, and the rest of the band for providing me with the soundtrack to much of my life over the years. Wistful, energizing, inspiring, empowering – their music and words have been all of these things to me and more, which is why musicians write and release their compositions. Thanks again, lads. See you soon.

I’d also like to thank their management who helped me set up the interview, and Simon their tour manager for being available and accommodating. Easily as nice and helpful as the band themselves. Sorry it’s taken so long to post this.

OMD music and merchandise is available from their PledgeMusic site, their official shop on Firebrand stores, and the Museum of Liverpool.


More Pictures of OMD & the show (Stylized filters from the Prisma iPhone app):

Andy McCluskey
Paul Humphreys
Paul Humphreys
OMD – Paul & Andy
Denver Skyline from Red Rocks

OMD – Paul & Andy
OMD – Paul & Andy

OMD – Paul & Andy

OMD – Paul & Andy

OMD – Paul & Andy

OMD – Paul & Andy

OMD – Paul & Andy

3 thoughts on “Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Rockies

  1. Fantastic interview Sam, congrats on a job very well done!I've interviewed the boys a few times as well and they are just great people, so happy for you that you got to experience talking to them.All the best, Pat (www.omdweb.com)


  2. Wow, thanks for the kind words, Pat!! I've been a longtime fan of OMDWeb. 🙂 It's one of the first places I found for OMD info on the web!I'm so glad you like it, hopefully there's a tidbit or two that was new even to you. :)They are so great to talk with in person. It's heartening to meet such talented, well-known people who are so grounded and still living their lives with eyes wide open. Thanks again for stopping by & reading!-S


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