When David Savage and Paul Southern decided to team up again musically they had one rule - throw away the job descriptions. The duo had previously gone under the name Sexus (of which some of you may recall were the only Manchester band to be lumped in with the infamous Romo Scene) and were signed to ZTT Records. During their time with the label they actually recorded a full album with legendary producer Trevor Horn which to this date is unmixed and unreleased.
After living in the producer's Portobello Road flat with Nick Cave in the flat below and All Saints in the flat above they found themselves plunged back into Manchester in desperate poverty. During their time back in Manchester, Paul is on his way to becoming a Doctor of Literature and David has started script writing again (a career which has seen him write for the Sooty TV series as well as comics for Disney and Marvel).
It was during this time that they decided to start a fresh with the name Psychodelicates and just last month they released their debut album "Go Adventuring". As the title suggests it's an album which isn't afraid to experiment and dips into glam rock, sunshine pop and full on electro pop. Financially independent of the music industry the Psychodelicates are Manchester's most interesting band since the Smiths.
Q: Both looking to the past and at the same time keeping it bang up to date. Psychodelicates are musically a lot more diverse and eclectic than Sexus ever were. Is that the thinking behind the name change?
A: We'd had a lot of bad experiences in the music industry really. So it was an idea to start again and start a fresh I think. As you know we were signed to ZTT for a bit and the sort of things that happened were partly our own own fault really. We'd been doing stuff that was quite leftfield under the name Sanity Plexus and we decided to do some stuff that would be more mainstream. The point being that no matter how good the stuff you do in the margins is, it doesn't really have any effect whatsoever on the broad sweep of popular culture in anyway.
When you're in a group you have this arrogant attitude that if you just get in there you can regenerate the medium. We started writing some pop and radio friendly material with the idea that we would do stuff in the mainstream...but that it would still be quiet progressive, forward thinking and intelligent. And hopefully made some sort of impact.
We did get a major signing, but what you don't realize is that when they take you on they try and change everything about you. From the way you look to the way you dress to the lyrics you write to the kind of music they do and give it to other people to mix behind your back. We went through two years of that and at the end of it we all had very low nausea fresh holds.
Coming back we just wanted to ditch all that and start with a new name. Also, because we weren't doing it with any market forces influencing us, we were just doing it partly out of enjoyment. We thought we'd do that sort of thing where you just throw away job descriptions and pigeon holes as to what you do. So we had the attitude that if we wanted to write a fun bubblegum Monkees song we'd do that...and if we wanted to write a Deep Purple rocker we'd do that and just enjoy it really!!!
Q: With Sexus was there actually an album recorded or was it just the three singles which we had to hunt for in specialist record shops?
A: We did record one, but it was never properly mixed. There were all sort of problems really. We had Trevor Horn producing us at one point and he cornered me in the corridors of ZTT. He wanted to produce us and he was going to totally change his methods of production for us. He was going to get back to a more old fashioned style...because he's famous for not having a group in the studio and just doing it himself.
The next I heard from him was about three months later when he said he'd finished it now, do we want to come in and hear it!!! It didn't work out at all. What he'd done was a mix of "Edenites", our first single, and it sounded like the seven minute weird mid 80s remix. And yet this was what we were up against all the time.
Then they'd put you with somebody else who would take 5 days to record one track...and then they'd go and do it behind your back so you didn't like it. So we'd refuse to go out and promote it. And this went on for about a year. So there is actually a skeleton of an album there, but it was never finally mixed.
Q: You had such a bad experience with the majors and I guess to a certain extent that is why you've chosen to do it 100% independently this time. Were there actually any memorable moments or positive points about you time with the majors?
A: The only real benefits of those sort of people are the anecdotes they can give you. When I mentioned to Trevor Horn I was from Manchester, he told me the last time he was in Manchester was about 1977 when he was playing bass for Gary Glitter who'd encouraged him to drink for about 24hrs on the run. They ended up in a massive fight in the club they were playing and ended up in prison for the night. He said since then he'd never got drunk or visited Manchester again!!!
But I think the whole corporate major label system doesn't work at all really. I think the sin at the moment is its a healthy music scene for 1961, which is what we've found ourselves coming back to. If you actually look at the British music scene for about 1961 they had all these management teams like Larry Parnes, which had all these artists like Tommy Steele and Marty Wilde, that had like their own stables of clean cut quite attractive young lad singers who are told what to say and told what to wear. And given the songs to sing and don't have any say in their own career.
Then the Beatles came along and wrote their own songs...and lately it seems like the last 38 years have just been wiped out and were back to Larry Parnes in 1961 with stables of your Gareth Gates and your Will Young's who are told what to say and are perfectly groomed. Its like we never ever had the Beatles!!!
Q: From Sexus through to the Psychodelicates you've always tried to deliver intelligence wrapped around a pop sensibility. And in that sense you've always been out of step with the current musical climate?
A: We always try to deliver really strong hooks and melodies, so in that way it is. I've always liked those groups that are kind of aloof and insular and have got their own thing going. We were notorious for this when we started with Sanity Plexus because Manchester had this whole baggy loved up thing going on and we were the absolute opposite. We used to do really intense live shows...we had a drum kit made out of vegetable oil tins and dustbin lids and there was a vacuum cleaner in there somewhere. We used to do these really confrontational shows which was so anti what was going on at the time.
I think people should define themselves, not as part of a movement, but define yourself as much by what you don't like.
Q: So how did you feel being lumped in with the whole Romo movement then?
A: Initially I think, as we say on the website, the Manchester groups we did fit in with were the Smiths and Magazine - they were our kind of influences. What happened with that Romo thing is that we were offered a Melody Maker front cover and we were told that the headline was going to be "The New Wave Of Synth Pop" which we thought was kind of silly. But they'd done "The New Wave Of Mod" a few weeks ago and all those bands had got away from it. We were a bit suspicious though as all these groups that were going to be on the front cover were all guitar groups.
And it was only when we'd done it we found out they were going to be using the Romo thing. And they put an old interview in there we'd done with Simon Price about 8 month ago. ZTT were actually livid about it because everyone started writing that "ZTT have cashed in on this Romo trend by signing Sexus" and we'd been signed to them about 9 months before it ever started.
When people were interviewing us there we so many people who said that "after reading all this I thought I'd hate you, then listening it, it's nothing like Spandau Ballet or Duran Duran". I think it was well intentioned and probably was the most interesting issue of the Melody Maker for about a year, but like any stubborn Northerners we wouldn't fall in with any London Journalistic or Club Scene. If you go back to the start of it all in the late 50s where there were the Larry Parnes of the world that were churning out these awful Elvis clones and Adam Faith types. All the people in Liverpool rejected that, even rejected the original Elvis, to listen to the original Black Artists who came from the Wigan Pier Northern Soul Scene. So I don't think any Northern people would align themselves with that sort of thing!!!
Q: I guess Orlando were one of the acts that stood out on their own and to a certain respect managed to raise themselves above the Romo tag. Did you feel any affinity with those bands?
A: Orlando were the ones you could take seriously as a group really. I think they had good songs and good lyrics, but I thought they were always let down a little by the production. They always seemed to have really namby pamby production....we always thought we should produce them. They should have had really raw soul production with proper musicians.
With "The Official End Of It All" that's what we thought, we thought it was a real Philly Soul track. We wanted to have real funk players playing it, but you get into this corporate thing and they get production teams to add light-weight synths and all that.
Q: Have you seen the This Is Romo website, which basically tracks what all the old Romo's are doing now?
A: You tend to find that 5 years on these people are still doing the same thing. We did a video for "Edenites " the year before and we were quite interested in some of the clubs in Manchester like the Flesh club that the Hacienda used to do with all these outrages drag queens. And we dragged them all along one afternoon to do a video shoot and that is really where all that was coming from.
We did some interviews where we were saying that we thought in a way you should use glamour as an act of defiance. Because the state would have you be grey and covered in drizzle. And we were told a year later that we'd started all this, but we'd actually moved on from all that in 1996. The album we were working on was a lot more harder and guitar based.
Q: You've been in the industry over 10 years now. In that respect it must have been a rollercoaster ride of ecstatic highs to the lowest low. Tell us about that journey?
A: Before we got signed we were living in a house fit to be condemned just by Maine Road in Rusholme. The landlord was trying to sell it for £1000 after we moved out and couldn't sell it because it was over-run by mice and slugs and the kitchen ceiling had fallen in the sink one day...and we went from that to living one of Trevor Horns flats in Portobello Road with Nick Cave in the flat below and All Saints in the flat above with personal stylists and all that.
And then suddenly we found ourselves plunged right back in Manchester without a penny and unable to pay any bills. We needed about a year to actually clamber back out of that abyss really.
Q: The debut Psychodelicates album "Go Adventuring" really does veer from the more keyboard based tracks to full on glam rock through to sensitive ballads. Without wanting to use that eclectic tag it really is a diverse collection of songs on display.
A: It is probably because it was done over the space of year and we have such grasshopper mentality's - leaping from one enthusiasm to the next. The original influence on it was I was getting into the idea that people are using technology for spiritual aims. There's an idea that all the old lay lines, stone circles and holy grounds are being covered up by motorways concrete and people are actually finding mystical forces in new technology. And it only really comes out in a couple of tracks but the original idea was based around getting involved in Psychedelic states through totally new ways.
The one thing I've always liked about British Pop is that I don't think were great originators, but were great magpies and plunderers. We try to do what the American's are doing and we get it wrong because we put our own take on it which is very Arch. And unlike the Americans we tend to celebrate deficiencies - if an English singer's got big feet, he'll wear big shoes. Just look at Morrissey or Jarvis or whatever!!!
What we do in the way we try an interpret and do what the Americans do and screw it up along the way - we actually produce something that is a lot more interesting. It is that Arch thing we add to it that I really like. And its always been that way from when the Beatles were trying to imitate their favourite Black Soul singers and what comes across is actually much more arty and quirky and interesting.
Q: I guess the fact that you're financially independent of the music allows that freedom. We were talking last week about your script writing for Kids TV that is your bread and butter essentially. What publications and programs have you written for over the years?
A: Recently I've mostly been involved with a series called Ripley and Scruff which is quite a sweet thing for pre-school kids (Ed: TV Writer Tim Firth is involved in it Neville's Island and Our Friends In The North). Its a spin off from the Rotten Trolls and they're visiting all these kids schools and there are all sort of stories and sketches in it.
Like I said last week I started writing for comics when I was a school boy. I was an avid fan of them really and at least then if you were English and working class there were comics everywhere. I probably learnt to read with them. And I started sending scripts off to them when I was 13 or 14 and getting them accepted...and writing an awful lot for those weeklies that just don't exist anymore. But they used to bulge from the news stands.
The editors would invite me down to London for lunch in a restaurant and a schoolboy would walk in. It sort of progressed from there really and I started writing for Disney and Marvel. You know, the official comics for TV Characters like the Looney Tunes, Tiny Tunes and Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles. I've written a couple of the Sooty shows as well. Its great fun working with Sweep!!!
Its a fun way to make a living. Its just about the most obscure job in the world because people think that these things make themselves. People do think that they just self create. I grew up in an age where there was a lot of red-hot children's television and you tend to make your way bit by bit picking up contacts along the way.
"Go Adventuring" is out now
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For more info on the Romo generation check out
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