How did you get your initial start in music?
Johnny Normal: As a boy, Gary Numan, Soft Cell, OMD and Adam and the Ants really inspired me to think differently about music. As a 17 year old I was on a government apprenticeship scheme in the broadcast and video industry and met/worked with a number of musicians and entertainers. This interaction gave me an insight behind the scenes of the video and music industry and I was inspired to have a go at recording songs I had written initially whilst at school. In my twenties I shelved the music to continue a career in live event production, returning to writing and performing in 2007 when I wrote my first album “There’s Nothing”.
Rob Green: I started off recording synth pop and techno demos in by bedroom as a young teenager with a guitar, some cheap fx boxes, a small mono analogue keyboard, a Commodore Amiga and a 4-track cassette recorder. I later went to the Gateway college of studio audio engineering at Kingston University, where I learned professional music production and recording techniques and got seriously into electronic dance music production. On the back of tracks I made then, I got a record deal with Jackpot Records, a popular dance music label of the mid to late 90’s, where I sold many thousands of records. I was also signed to a subsidiary of Virgin by Feargal Sharkey at the same time and my tunes were played on Radio 1 by Pete Tong and John Peel and by top club DJs all over the world.
What would be your ultimate aim in the industry?
Johnny: I would love to see more electronic based acts get the kind of recognition they most definitely deserve and for synth bands to break through the barrier of the national charts and be widely accepted as credible and talented artists.
Rob: To truly bring Synth Wave music to the fore of popular music culture and to leave a lasting musical legacy of great songs made with synthesizers, emotion and attitude.
How long have you been writing your own music?
Johnny: I remember scribbling early song lyrics and ideas in the back of my English book at school, and entered many of these into poetry competitions, which did quite well. In my teens these translated into actual songs and I sometimes dip into these original, if naive ideas in my current projects. I had a long break from writing music, over a decade, with family life and the day job taking over, but returned about 9 years ago ready and fired up to record.
Rob: Since 1990.
Who are your top three influences and why?
Johnny: This is an easy one. Gary Numan – As a boy I grew up in a home accustom to Abba, Saturday Night Fever, Rod Stewart, etc, and I recall one Christmas day watching Top of The Pops on TV and Gary Numan was introduced in the studio. I was transfixed by this image of what the future might be like and the strange charm of the enigmatic android character performing. Oh those synths… I had never head anything like that before.
Adam and the Ants – Not synth-based, I know, but to me Adam and his band were saying it’s ok to follow your heart and your passions, to challenge the norm and express your feelings. I will never forget channel-flicking one night and landing on BBC2 of all places, to see The Ants performing Killer in the Home and Dog Eat Dog on stage. It was quite an awakening.
Soft Cell – My favourite album of all time is Non Stop Erotic Cabaret. I absolutely love the way Soft Cell managed to give a warm, human and emotional edge to the previously cold, stark synthesiser sound. Their production was always so clever and made you feel you were in the room with them. Dark and yet soulful and great melodies.
Rob: Johnny Marr (from The Smiths) because he’s a musical maverick, Martin Gore (Depeche Mode) because he’s a genius song writer and makes stunning electronic music and Robert Smith (The Cure) for his quirky, infectious style and attitude.
Is there anything you would like people to know about your current release?
Johnny: Synth Wave Vol 1 is a reflection of an exciting underground electronic music movement that is happening in cities around the world. Bored with the current mainstream music scene, and inspired by the early electro pioneers, synth owners and song writers are forming bands and recording exciting and emotive songs in bedrooms and garages around the globe, recording at outstanding technical quality and generating fanbases in their communities, both local and virtual via social media platforms. Electro London Records has gathered 12 of the most innovative and exciting performers from around the world and present a fantastic and diverse collection of synth-based acts.
Rob: It’s an amazing vinyl compilation released on our label Electro London Records in record stores worldwide on Friday 13th May 2016. Synth pop + electro + new wave = SYNTH WAVE! It features 12 ground breaking, current electronic songs from revered artists around the globe and we’re immensely proud of it. It’s the future of popular electronic music on a record! It will be on vinyl and digital.
Where are you based and what’s your local scene like? Any favourite venues?
Johnny: The Johnny Normal band members are based in the West Midlands, around Birmingham although we perform around the UK. The electronic scene in our locality is growing and you can see more synth bands appearing on the bill at venues. My favourite local venues are The Robin 2 at Bilston ( a great earthy traditional music venue, The O2 Academy and The Institute in Birmingham, and there are plenty of quality music pubs that attract gig lovers from around the country such as The Actress and Bishop and The Flapper. Nationally there are loads of quality music venues of all kinds. I do have a soft spot for Zigfrid Von Underbelly Hoxton though.
Rob: I am based in North London and am lucky to have many cool venues nearby. We put on our yearly Electro London Festival at Zigfrid Von Underbelly in Hoxton, which is brilliant and also events at Electrowerkz in Angel which has a really punky feel to it – the sort of place your mother wouldn’t like!
Who else can you recommend from your local scene for people to have a listen to?
Johnny: Because of the internet these days we class all music on the scene as local. It’s a close knit genre and a friendly one at that. Current synth acts to watch out for? There are quite a few really, its a growing and exciting international scene… here’s a few… Mechanical Cabaret, The Department, Cosaquitos en Globo, Tiny magnetic Pets, Circuit 3, Promenade Cinema, but there are quite a few waking fantastic music.
Rob: Mechanical Cabaret are awesome, one of my favourite electronic bands.
Give our readers a round up of where they can find you online and hear more of your music.
Johnny: For Electro London Records : www.electrolondonfestival.com … Twitter: @electrolonfest
For the Synth Wave Vol 1 Album: Youtube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMTcwHzAiNg
For Johnny Normal: www.johnnynormal.net … Twitter … @jnormaltwit
Rob: For more info on Electro London Festival and Records: http://www.electrolondonfestival.com/
My band The Department (featured on Synth Wave Volume 1) website: thedepartment-official.com