English are true archivists of the post 1950s U.K. pop music scene.
So its no surprise that the period of post-Beatles, U.K. pop
of the late 1970s, and early 1980s still holds certain elements of
interest and even fascination among English record lable curators.
High on the list of artists chronicling and revisiting that period
include Paul Simon, owner of Stratotester Records and founding
member of The Fallout Club, who are further memorialized with
the 2017 CD release of Dangerous Friends. A kind of supergroup
that formed in the wake of the U.K. punk-rock scene that took hold
at the end of the 1970s, The Fallout Club featured drummer / keyboardist
Paul Simon, Thomas Dolby (keyboards), Matthew Seligman (bass)
and the late, great singer Trevor Herion. With the late 2017
CD release of the eleven cut Fallout Club album, Dangerous Friends,
producer / label head Paul Simon recaptures a lot of the magic,
not only of that period in music, but also chemistry of these group
of musicians, who proved quite capable at paving new and intriguing
musical ground. In addition to the various tracks cut by The Fallout
Club, the Dangerous Friends CD also adds in several remix tracks
that feature original Fallout Club tracks with new overdubs by Paul
and his AjantaMusic band mates, brother Robin Simon and vocalist
Gina Watson. Speaking about the origins of The Fallout Club,
Paul Simon tells mwe3.com, After signing Thomas Dolby to
my label Happy Birthday Records in 1980, I brought Trevor in to form
the four-piece lineup, which recorded Dream Soldiers and
Pedestrian Walkway. The lineup was Trevor Herion (vocals),
Paul Simon (drums), Thomas Dolby (synthesizer) and Matthew Seligman
(bass). The title Dangerous Friends is a reference firstly to the
story of my relationship with my original partners in the record label.
Secondly, in some ways Trevor was also a dangerous friend. Some
music fans may consider The Fallout Club a kind of visionary supergroup
from the heyday of post punk pop, although Paul Simon also adds, The
Fallout Club is more of a forgotten group than a supergroup. However,
the four members of The "Dream Soldiers" lineup went on
to have very interesting careers. In 1980/81 the band was at the cutting
edge of an arty type of synthetic pop. Throughout the eleven-track
Dangerous Friends album, theres plenty of evidence of
vintage classic post-punk pop that continues to impress, nearly forty
years later. Paul Simons career as recording artist, drummer
/ D.J. and label owner provides an interesting backdrop for the vintage
1980 synth-pop sound of The Fallout Club.
mwe3.com presents an interview with
PAUL SIMON of The Fallout Club
Hows things in London?
Paul Simon: Things are good in London. It's such a lively
place to live and has such a great diverse mix of peoples and cultures,
which I love. I live on the west side of town and I can walk to the
world famous Kew Gardens in 15 minutes or so, crossing the River Thames
on the way.
Just north of my home is Ealing, home in the '60s of The Ealing Club
where the Rolling Stones were formed by Brian Jones. The Who, from
Acton, were another local band, as were Queen.
mwe3: London was always music city.
Paul Simon: London has a lot of musical history for
me. My brother Robin Simon (Ultravox, Magazine, Visage) and I moved
to London just as punk began and played the Roxy Club, the Vortex,
the Man in the Moon (Chelsea) and the Speakeasy as members of Neo,
alongside Ian North, a songwriter/vocalist from the CBGB's punk scene
in New York. We knew many of the original players in punk and I later
formed a band with Glen Matlock of The Sex Pistols.
mwe3: Are you still doing a lot of DJing in various clubs
and production work too and does London still have the magic for you
and the music?
Paul Simon: I have been gigging nonstop for 20 years as a DJ.
My DJ earnings help fund the costs of the music I produce. I play
mainly private parties and the cultural diversity I mentioned plays
into my parties as I work for all types of communities and ages. This
keeps me in constant touch with new music across many genres, from
way back up to prerelease and to the urban sounds of London. I have
always listened to a wide range of music and that knowledge is invaluable.
I'm not nostalgic musically.
mwe3: Whats new musically for you as we approach Spring
2018? Are you still excited by music these days and if so, what artists
are you listening to these days?
Paul Simon: Yes I'm still excited by new music across many
genres. I recently heard some amazing Radio Babylon DJs on Ibiza,
at the Chirincana beach bar. They were playing an African/Latin fusion
sound. The last album I bought was by Damian Marley. Before that,
hip-hop and grime, Drake, Giggs, Mabel. The Rusty Egan album Welcome
To The Dancefloor is also a new favorite. Robin and I were lucky
enough to work on the album. I recorded Robin on several tracks, including
a track called Evermore. This song dates back to the days
when Rusty was still involved in the final line up of Visage, and
when Robin and I were working on two albums with them. I also began
playing drums again recently in preparation for live work with Robin
in support of our forthcoming EP release.
mwe3: Your label, Stratotester Records has just released an
11-track, 2017 compilation album by The Fallout Club called Dangerous
Friends. How did you come up with the name Fallout Club in the
first place and why the name Dangerous Friends for the new
compilation? Would you consider the music of Fallout Club to be dangerous
or is it more fair to say there is a cutting edge sound of excitement
running through the grooves in these Fallout Club songs?
Paul Simon: Trevor came up with the name Fallout Club for the
first single, Beat Boys/The Falling Years, which was basically
a solo vehicle for Trevor at that point. In hindsight, he chose an
The Fallout Club albums contain all the tracks recorded by the band
in the early 1980s, apart from the 12" Mix of Wonderlust,
which will form part of a future Fallout Club release.
After signing Thomas Dolby to my label Happy Birthday Records in 1980,
I brought Trevor in to form the four-piece lineup, which recorded
Dream Soldiers and Pedestrian Walkway. The
lineup was Trevor Herion (vocals), Paul Simon (drums), Thomas Dolby
(synthesizer) and Matthew Seligman (bass).
Happy Birthday Records was my idea and I left my then band, Cowboys
International, part way through recording the band's second album
to found it. Eventually my partners and I disagreed over certain aspects
of the label. I left the company before it was sold out in its entirety.
For the final Fallout Club single the lineup was down to Trevor and
The title Dangerous Friends is a reference firstly to the story
of my relationship with my original partners in the record label.
Secondly, in some ways Trevor was also a dangerous friend. After I
had brought him in to my previous band, The Civilians, and he broke
the group up, things went relatively smoothly for the Dream Soldiers
lineup, although he proved to be a difficult musical partner for the
rest of his life.
mwe3: How is your brother Robin doing these days? I was expecting
a new AjantaMusic album but you keep finding out new and exciting
ways to present the Fallout Club music. How many Fallout Club CD releases
have you done so far and is Dangerous Friends the completion
of the chapter in the Fallout Club story as far as releases go or
is there more to come?
My previous Fallout Club releases were the Dream Soldiers EP
and the Pedestrian Walkway EP. Both releases feature the original
mixes by Thomas Dolby and my new remixes, adding Robin and, from AjantaMusic,
vocalist Gina Watson. Dream Soldiers also adds Trevor's
original solo demo of that song. I do plan a further Fallout Club
release with a re-mastered version of Tom's 12" remix of Wonderlust,
the original Thomas Dolby Pedestrian Walkway demo, and
a new song dedicated to Trevor. Robin is well and living in the countryside
in North Yorkshire.
mwe3: Would you describe the Fallout Club as being a kind of
supergroup? The band with you, Matthew Seligman and Thomas Dolby and
the late Trevor Herion. Was the Fallout Club ahead of its time? How
would you compare the Fallout Club to other music being made around
the same time?
Paul Simon: Lost classics I can see
The Fallout Club
is more of a forgotten group than a supergroup. However, the four
members of The Dream Soldiers lineup went on to have very interesting
careers. In 1980/81 the band was at the cutting edge of an arty type
of synthetic pop. Yes, ahead of its time. Amongst our contemporaries
in the early 80s common influences, I would say, were Kraftwerk,
The Human League, Joy Division, David Bowie, Bruce Woolley and the
Camera Club, The Associates and the John Foxx lineup of Ultravox.
As far as the direction of the Fallout Club goes, it was driven by
Trevor's song writing. Matthew Seligman and I have been working together
again for several years now and Matthew is helping out on the new
electronic rock album that Robin and I are working on. We have co-written
one of the tracks.
mwe3: You spoke about cleaning up the original mixes of the
Fallout Club tracks and then doing some remixes to bring it more into
the now. Is that the way to describe the music on Dangerous Friends?
Can you provide an example of where the Dangerous Friends tracks
benefit from remixing and are all the tracks remixed or were some
kept as is?
Paul Simon: The actual process of producing Dangerous Friends
began with copying from vinyl or from the best digital copies available
of original early 80s mixes. The original masters of all the
tracks are lost. Not long after I left Happy Birthday Records it was
sold to an old established music group, which soon went bust. I suspect
the original multitrack and analogue mix-down tapes were thrown into
a rubbish skip outside the label's offices on Eaton Square in Belgravia.
I recall driving past at the time and seeing the offices being gutted.
After de-clicking and restoring the files, I used various techniques
and plug-ins to enhance and improve each track, giving the songs a
consistently identifiable sound. This involved a lot of trial and
error. I then re-mastered them using Isotope software. I work with
Genelec monitors and a pair of vintage Yamaha NS10s given to me by
John Foxx. On the re-mix tracks I overdubbed, edited and arranged
guitar parts played by Robin and similarly arranged and edited backing
vocals sung by the opera-trained Gina Watson. I also added a snare
sample on the Dream Soldiers re-mix tracks to bring the
back beat forward and added a little sub-bass to beef up the overall
sound. The guitar overdubs were worked and reworked by Robin until
we found the right parts.
mwe3: What can you add about the track Dream Soldiers
which is presented in three different mixes on Dangerous Friends.
What was Trevor Herions frame of mind in writing that track?
Simon: I didn't know what his frame of mind was; he could be very
reticent. We just got on with making the track. Thomas Dolby as producer
created the sound of the track. Tom's arrangement and synth work are
amongst his finest.
Dream Soldiers is my favorite of Trevor's songs. I had
originally suggested Robin play on the track in 1981, but that didn't
happen. I recorded and arranged Robin's guitar work over a re-edit
I did of the original Thomas Dolby mix. Robin's work added atmosphere
and melody and Gina provides vocal color behind Trevor's voice. I
had a bass player friend, Jimmy Bain (Phil Lynott, Rainbow), who early
in his career played in a hard rock band called The Dream Police.
I remember telling Trevor about this band; perhaps that influenced
his song title.
mwe3: What is the story behind two tracks here The Beat
Boys and The Falling Years? They sound like early
Paul Simon: The single "Beat Boys/Falling Years"
was the first Fallout Club release. Trevor's precedent for the style
of these tracks seems to be the Daniel Miller single Warm Leatherette/TVOD
released under the name The Normal. I would have preferred a more
developed result but that wasn't to be until the lineup expanded for
Dream Soldiers / Pedestrian Walkway, the second
single release. We had been listening to early hip hop by this time.
Trevor's lyrics are self-analytical and somewhat confessional, although
they seem to throw up as many questions as answers.
To quote: "Grey landscapes into grey machines you fantasize
from where it comes, the beat of life from rhythm drums". An
Irish friend of mine, Patrick McGahern, recently transcribed several
of Trevor's lyrics for me. Patrick has researched Trevor's life exhaustively.
Perhaps he'll write a book on Trevor one day. From reading those transcripts,
the only other lyricist I can recall trying to communicate a sense
of impending doom so effectively is Ian Curtis of Joy Division. The
Falling Years is a slightly more melodic track. To quote: "But
how was I to change my life, how was I to be somebody?"
Theres a wealth of excellent, rare music on the Dangerous
Friends CD. What about the track Desert Song, which
is presented here in two different mixes including a 12 mix.
Can you describe the differences between the two versions? What is
the message behind Desert Song?
Paul Simon: Thank you for the compliments. Desert
Song is certainly one of the firm favorites, although in my
opinion Dream Soldiers, alongside his earlier recordings
with The Civilians, was the peak of Trevor's career. All the keyboards
on Wonderlust and Desert Song are played by
Again, from the transcripts: "But give me just this moment,
Wonderlust. And if we must return to dust, then let it be. Give me
just this moment." The lyric seems to portray a man on the
edge of life. The enigma of Trevor Herion.
Desert Song was the flipside of the Wonderlust
single, the final Fallout Club release of the 1980s. I don't know
what Trevor's message was on Desert Song. After the more
organic feel of Dream Soldiers, it was back to drum machine
only. By this time, not Tom's Roland DR55 but the next generation
drum machine containing samples.
Extended mixes were made of both these tracks, adding longer intro/outros
and some changes in balance. Only the 12" mix of Wonderlust
added real variations. As mentioned, I will be working on and re-mastering
this for a further Fallout Club release.
mwe3: On Dangerous Friends, theres three different
mixes on Pedestrian Walkway. How are they different and
which one do you prefer? How challenging is it to remix tracks that
are over 35 years old? What is the state of the art for remixing vintage
music and what computer programs work best? I remember you speaking
about the Steinberg Cubase 9.5 software. It all sounds so complex
but the results sound great.
Paul Simon: The three mixes of Pedestrian Walkway
on Dangerous Friends differ as follows:
Track 2 on the album is the original Thomas Dolby mix. The first of
my remixes, track 8, is Robin guitar solo 1. The second re-mix, track
11, begins with an added section I wrote, featuring Gina Watson on
vocals and guitar with solo 3 from Robin. Of the two remix tracks,
track 8 is my favorite.
reengineered and re-mastered the tracks, and I arranged, looped and
edited Robin's guitar parts on all the re-mix tracks on the album,
assisted by engineer Tony Bywaters.
As far as software goes, I work in Cubase Pro 9.5. I also use vintage
emulations of early outboard gear, notably the Pultec compressor.
The tracks are cleaned sonically with filters. I EQ with the Voxengo
Melodic EQ plug-in and master using Isotope Ozone 5.
Nowadays I refer to urban sounds. Dr Dre is my favorite producer,
so I'm listening for more bass in the mix than we had back in the
day. Also a little more backbeat.
mwe3: I also wanted to ask you something about the great Japanese
inspired artwork on the Dangerous Friends done by Rolling Stone
magazine writer John Mendelssohn, who I read religiously as a youth
growing up on Long Island. How did you meet John?
met John Mendelssohn via his wife Claire who was vocalist in Wild
Side, the first band Robin and I worked with when we moved to London
in 1976. The Kabuki thing was my suggestion. It reminds me of Trevor.
Any news to report from Matthew Seligman and is Thomas Dolby still
a professor at John Hopkins University? I was impressed by the music
Matthew recorded with Jan Linton. Have you heard that Jan Linton album
and is Matthew back in the U.K. these days? Any other new Fallout
Club / Civilians alumni related news to report?
Paul Simon: As mentioned, Matthew is playing bass on the new
electronic rock project I am working on with Robin. Matthew and I
have co-written one of the tracks. These recordings are taking place
in Ibiza, London and North Yorkshire. I have listened to some of Jan
Linton's work. My favorite track by him is "I Actually Come Back".
Thomas Dolby is still a professor at John Hopkins University and is
still doing the occasional solo show. He played in the UK in December
2017. I have been working on a new Fallout Club track to add to a
forthcoming release of the original Wonderlust 12" mix. The new
song is inevitably about Trevor. I hope my release of the album brings
people to hear his music. He's the last unknown UK 1980's vocalist
of any relevance. His peers were Ian Curtis and Billy McKenzie and
it is tragic he ended his life as they did. For many years I neglected
the work I had done with Trevor. The enthusiasm of my Irish friend
Patrick McGahern is responsible for Trevor's music seeing the light
of day again.
next release, still with Trevor Herion, will be The Civilians Live
Album, I See My Friends, Live in Camden 1979. This is from
a December 1979 gig in Camden in London and was the last ever performance
by the original band. The Civilians were myself with Trevor Herion,
Michael French and Mark Scholfield.
Also on my desk are a new AjantaMusic EP, which is ready for mixing,
and a forthcoming EP from the new electronic rock project involving
Robin and me, with contributions from Jurgen Graff, Matthew Seligman
and Mauno Pajaanaen. Once again, thank you for your interest in my
music. There's lots more to come.