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  Communards Jimmy Somerville

It wasn't easy for us to get hold of you.  We've heard you've been living in Bangkok.  What has taken you there?

I have made my home in Bangkok for over five years now. I came for a two month vacation to Koh Samui in 2000 and fell in love with the island. After two months on Samui I got a bit bored on the small island  so I decided to check out Bangkok, as I am, at heart, a city lover. I really enjoyed the lifestyle so I stayed! Made some friends  and I like the people, the food, the weather etc.
etc. etc. It had always been a dream of mine to get to know Thailand. My previous visits were only 3 day short stop-overs en-route from Australia to London so I never got a real feel for the place.

You have worked as producer for other artists such as Europeanboys, Karel, Restless and Lori Madison ņ have there been any other cooperations with artists not already mentioned?

I have also produced Jill Dreski from Belgium, and a group called Exhibition from LA, and had a collaboration on a song with with Kevin Ayers ( my teenage hero) , a collaboration with Alex Ewing (former boyfriend of Caroline Buckley from the Communards) in a project called "Weeds", a tribute to "Soft Cell" project with my old friend  Elias Lopez , Long Beach CA, called Hard Sell, and a project here in Thailand called "Soup Soup".  Another collaboration was with Sound Engineer Eric Thompson and  famous tranny punk-rock singer Jayne County added some vocals to one of the songs. Another recording was with Daryll Pandy in Chicago in the early '90s. There has been some others ... Lotta an actress from Sweden, co-produced with Larry ... Jill and Rose from Strawberry Switchblade (separately) ... Nick from Southend  and Scotty the bass player ... and Scotty the scottish DJ ... and then there was a peculiar bass voiced singer in Amsterdam, name forgotten,  who did cover versions of Brigitte Bardot songs! Restless wasn't anything to do with me.

How did "Madison Bronski Initiative (MBI)" come about and how did you and Lori get together in the first place?


I met Lorie as a result of the  "Rainbow Nation" album singer, Jonathan Hellyer, not arriving for some Gay Pride shows we had in California in 1995.  Lead-singerless, I decided to sing lead for these shows in place of him and I wanted some backing vocalists. Sean from Exhibition volunteered and brought Lorie along to rehearsals. I liked Lorie very much. 1996 Lorie came over to Europe to sing at some gigs we had in Germany and afterwards she stayed on at my apartment in Amsterdam where I had my home studio.   We only worked one song called "I Spend My Nights", a slow acoustic R and B number. MBI was a project we did on a return visit Lorie made to Amsterdam when I had my studio on a canal houseboat, "Nuance, in Amsterdam and we wrote the five or six MBI songs there over the water.

"Smalltown boy featuring Lori Madison" was released in 2005.  When was this song and the others recorded?


These recordings happened on a visit to Malibu, California at Nicki Jack's home studio in February/ March 2003. I was to hang out a Lories home in Fontana to do some writing with her but her girlfriend wasn't well at the time so I stayed with Nicki at her  Malibu studio. Lorie and Nick persuaded me to do a remake version of "Smalltown Boy" so I thought I would be fun to do a version similar to the great 1984 original version . For more fun, we did a new version of "It aint Necessarily So". We also recorded "Dime -a- Dozen", which ended being called "Heartbreaks" on the Saifam release, and "Needing you", which is a scaled down version of the very first song Lorie and I wrote together in Amsterdam, but in a vastly different pop style. We sent all  the tracks to the Saifam label  in Italy but they were only interested in "Smalltown Boy" and "Heartbreaks". Saifam made three different re-mixes of "Smalltown Boy" for the CD single /vinyl 12".

Will there be any other stuff coming out from Steve Bronski & Lori Madison?

Yes. Maybe later this year or next year. We have some great songs for a very nice album. I have just been too lazy to get them to labels for release. Perhaps we will release them ourselves online. Seems the way to go these days.

The successful Album "Truthdare Doubledare" came out after Jimmy Somerville's  leaving  the band. However there was a split nevertheless between Bronski Beat and London Records after the release. Why was this?


London Records decided to drop the act during a tour we were doing in the UK in 1987. They had the great "Communards" and "Fine Young Cannibals"  at the time all having success and thought in best Bronski Beat were no longer on the same label. John Foster had left the band by this time and they didn't want to have to work yet another new line-up.

Had you anything planned at that time with London Records?

Larry and I had made a demo for a new Bronski Beat album at the that time. We recorded the songs at Berry Street Studio in east London with engineer Brian Pugsley. We had also recorded a single at Livingstone Studio in North London, "the Final Spin" which was never released. Various record companies were interested but we decided to do some touring, so we toured all around Europe, UK and the USA as we hadn't done many concerts since Jimmy had left two years before. Then Jonathan Hellyer joined as lead singer and we spent a few years more, touring. There was a lot of interest but every time we were set to do a deal something happened and we didn't sign. We ended up releasing three singles for Zomba Records but there was virtually no promotion done so we left.

There have been various singers with Bronski Beat with whom of them do you still have contact?

None. People move on, do there own things. Also I like to work with new singers as I enjoy having a new perspective for writing songs.

Do you still follow up on what Jimmy and Larry are doing today?

No contact with Jimmy, however, I occasionally visit websites to see what he is doing. I'm still in contact and friendly with Larry Steinbachek. Larry is musical director with theater group "Remote Control" based in the Netherlands.

Have you ever heard any solo-albums of Jimmy. If yes?, what do you think of them?

I'm afraid I haven't heard any of Jimmys solo albums since "Read My Lips" which I enjoyed very much.

You yourself have sung some Bronski Beat songs ņ for example "You" and "Smalltown boy 94".  Why didn't you just take over the singing part yourself from the very beginning?


I did sing as lead for a couple of years when we toured as a duo in the late eighties, just Larry and myself. Never got around to releasing anything during that period as per the rigors of gigging.

Did Larry still have any part in the making of "Rainbow Nation"?

Larrys part was in the writing and demos. Those songs were co-written with Jonathan Hellyer in Larrys home studio in 1989/90 and archived  for several years before the release of  "Rainbow Nation". I had re-formed the act with Jon Foster in 1993 as I had had been requested to do some touring and the promoter was asking for Johns presence. He dropped out after the acoustic recording of "Smalltown Boy 94". Then the project got underway when ZYX Music in Germany gave the go ahead to record an album for them. Ian Donaldson and myself spent a few weeks re-programming the older songs at my home studio in  Scotland. The songs that ZYX gave the initial go ahead for were different songs from what I had demoed and had previously sent to them. But I had been in contact with Jonathan Hellyer and he agreed to sing on the project. Jonathan and I accidently arrived in Verona for the sessions a few days early so we had a chance to relax and see the city.
I had many laughing fits in the studio and at the hotel to the comedy of Mr. Hellyer. Apart from being a singer he is a fine comedian he is also an excellent mimic.

Does "Bronski Beat" still exist as a band or is it being continued as a kind of project?
  No. Not really.......only in my head!
What kind of music or which artist has caught your own attention lately?

I like  "The Scissor Sisters" and "Fischerspooner". I quite like "Futon" from Bangkok; they are a euro-asian group. Great live act and their album "Never Mind The Botox" is fab.

We read in a newspaper article once that you guys wanted to or did record a song in German ņ does this song exist?

  No, unfortunately we never recorded a song in the German language.

You composed the song "Ultraclone" however it wasn't released anywhere. We've an old radio-recording of it.  Was this song not supposed to be released at all anywhere?


"Ultraclone" was overlooked when we recorded "The Age of Consent". Originally and essentially a Larry track. In fact, it was the first piece of music he ever played to me.  We used it as a backing track for the first version of the song "Run From Love" when we did our first concerts, and it was always very popular. Incidentally, the chorus from "Smalltown Boy" ( Runaway, Turnaway) is originally from another later version of "Run From Love". 

How many unreleased Bronski Beat Songs are there lying in an archive somewhere waiting to be released for the first time?

  Well, there isn't many.  Maybe three. There is a song called "Walking" which never released but was very popular at our concerts. We did record it for a BBC session before signing to London Records. Other songs from radio sessions were "Each Man Kills The Thing He Loves" and "Crazy Maraquita".

How did the reunion for the Aids-Day-Concert 1987 come about and how was the atmosphere in the band that day?


The atmosphere was fantastic. Larry and I hadn't played live with Jimmy for a couple of years so that was exciting in itself for us as well as the audience. Bronski Beat got the request of this concert at our little office in Denmark Street, London and I believe Colin Bell, then product promotions manager at London Records, contacted Jimmy to see if he would consider doing it. He did, so Larry and I had a meeting with Jimmy and it was ok, so we had some rehearsals then did the show sharing the bill with New Order. The big hair singer from "Dead or Alive", Pete Burns, joined us onstage for a rendition of "I Feel Love", and  afterwards Jimmy and Richard Coles also did a set in which the legendary Sandy Shaw joined them onstage.  

Is it true that Marc Almond  was considered for taking over the singer role after Jimmy left the band back then?


Actually no, Marc was never considered for taking over the lead-singer role after Jimmy left the band. Really, we (Larry and I) never gave it a thought and it was only a rumor. Besides, he was too famous already and his manager Stevo was crazy. Marc is a really nice guy and I would have been thrilled to have worked with him some more. He first sang "I Feel Love" with us at the "Hammersmith Palais" on our first main UK Tour. Larry and I asked for it to be a secret surprise to be kept from Jimmy until Marc came onstage as he was such a huge fan of all Marcs projects.
Ironically, it was at the Montreax Festival in Switzerland  that we did our farewell promotion for "I Feel Love" with Jimmy as lead singer of Bronski Beat featuring Marc Almond.

If yes, why didn't it happen then?

Too demanding, darling! Not serious. If he had been considered I reckon we could never have come to terms contractually. He had his own staff and his own scene and his own thing going on.

What projects are you working on at the moment and/or what projects are planned for the future?

At the moment I am simply enjoying strumming my acoustic guitar and singing along . I love doing renditions of such classics as "The Look of Love", " Holding Back The Years"     "Killing Me Softly", "Things Just Aint The Same", "True Colors, "A Little Help From my Friends" and "Substitute". Old Bronski Beat songs I like to do acoustically are "Hard Rain", "WHY", "Run From Love", "Smalltown Boy" and "In My Dreams". Perhaps for the future it would be nice to tour solo and do some of these 80's songs live. But no plans at the moment. I would like to make some concert dates with Lorie, of course.

What do you think of the music-business today and how have things changed over the past 20 years in your opinion?


Honestly, I don't even  think about the music-business these days but I reckon it is probably the same as it always was. I reckon it is super for new and independent acts to be using the internet as a means of aiding self promotion and  even being able to sell their music without having to compromise anything and that's a good thing. I particularly like that now I don't need a huge studio with loads of hardware, synths and drum machines and samplers, and that I can do mostly everything I need to do in my computer including burning my own CDs. To compose I use "Reason" software. It's Great!!!

thanks steve, for this interview



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