The four men who got together to play electronic music (after some suitably punky cred), back in Wirral, Merseyside, England, in 1978, still wince how they settled on Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark for a name. (But really they wanted the world to know they weren’t punk.) Sensibly snipped to OMD, the band rolls on since its 2006 re-launch. They bring their original four-man lineup to the Moore Theatre on May 21st. Andy McCluskey the band’s only constant, obligingly took some questions over email.
Seattle Star: What are your most vivid memories of playing Seattle over the years–which tours, years, etc.?
Andy McCluskey: We loved our US tour with Depeche Mode in 1988. Waking up in the tour bus right under the Space Needle and an amazingly loud crowd that night on May 2nd at the Coliseum. We have always loved playing right downtown at the Showbox. We are such tourists and it’s great to be so close to the Pike Place Fish Market. We always make a point of stopping at one of the restaurants.
Seattle Star: What are you best, worst, and oddest memories of playing the world over, over the years–which tours, cities, venues, other bands on the bill, etc.?
Andy McCluskey: The largest gig we ever played was in Barcelona, Spain, to 250,000 people on June 23rd 1984 for their city festival of San Juan. It was the night before my 25th birthday. The audience was as far as the eye could see from the Piazza and stage was all the way down the longest avenue in the city.
They were in a drunken party mode which meant fireworks being thrown and bottles. Sadly, one hit Paul right on his forehead. We briefly left the stage but decided that it was important to continue…even if Paul now had a lump on his head the size of a golf ball.
Seattle Star: Which songs in the set have changed most in your mind over the years, and why?
Andy McCluskey: To be honest, our sense of the songs has never really changed. We know our audience and how they will respond so our impression of the songs has never really changed. The improvement in stage technology has helped us sound better when we play some of the more complex songs.
Seattle Star: Which songs seem to get the headiest reactions, and why?
Andy McCluskey: Can you imagine how good it feels when touring the USA and knowing the the next song to play is “If You Leave”? It’s like holding a poker hand of three aces and two kings. You know that as soon as the first notes ring out that the crowd will go crazy. You are going to win!
Seattle Star: The band grew up influenced by krautrock. Which krautrock bands meant the most to you, and how? Which bands were you able to meet, and how did that go?
Andy McCluskey: The two biggest German influences on us musically were Kraftwerk and Neu!. Both bands were from Düsseldorf but sounded so different. I think that unconsciously we adopted Kraftwerk’s sense of simplicity and melody but also Neu!’s emotion and passion.
I have always been such a fanboy whenever meeting any of the members of these bands. I remember the first time that we met Kraftwerk, the entire band came to see us play in a club in Bochum. I have never been so nervous on stage in my entire life. It was like the Gods have to come to visit you. And then when we met after the show I was so nervous that I couldn’t think of anything more interesting to ask than “What type of speakers do you use in your studio?” Duh…haha.
Seattle Star: How has your gear setup changed over the years? Any wistful thoughts for the old analog synths?
Andy McCluskey: Everything is digital now. All the synths that we use now for recording and writing are “in the box” in the Mac computer. It makes life so much easier. They always come up exactly as you left them.. no note taking and waiting for the valves to warm up. Also not carrying heavy keyboards and a mad spaghetti of wires!
I know that many artists are purist about using the old synths, but we have done several comparison tests and the soft synth replicas sound exactly like the old analogue ones.
Seattle Star: English Electric [from 2013] unfolds like a concept album: The singer loses his flesh-and-blood amour, and settles for machine love. Was that deliberate, accidental, or somewhere in between?
Andy McCluskey: Haha. I have to say that if that is how you perceived it then it’s great.. but totally unintentional. Though we certainly touched upon these issues.
There has been a dominant theme in many of our recent recordings. The dystopia of failed or hijacked technology that has disappointed our earlier aspirations and hopes of the bright technological future we all believed could improve our lives.
I certainly never could have imagined that I would still be in OMD and still playing live. We grew up in the era of linear fashions. One style replaced another. However, we now live in an atomised post-modern era where all popular culture is consuming its own history. But that has allowed us to still have an audience and also for younger people to accept and enjoy what we do. It has also been important for us to make recent albums that have contemporised us so we are not just a tribute band to our own back catalogue.
Seattle Star: What’s in the future for the band, touring- and recording-wise?
Andy McCluskey: We are delighted that we are finally returning to the USA for the first headlining tour in four years. And we can belatedly celebrate the band’s 40th anniversary with a set list that reflects our successful past but also incorporates some of the more recent most popular songs.
Covid has allowed me to rediscover the creative power of total boredom…so there will be a new OMD album in 2023.
STG Presents OMD Souvenir OMD 40 Years – Greatest Hits at The Moore Theatre on Saturday, May 21, 2022. Doors at 7. Show at 8. Tickets $32.00 – $36.50 (not including fees)