Hello Nostalgia Deathstar and welcome to Brutal Resonance! Let’s start off with a fun question. Give us three of your favorite songs of all time and tell us why you enjoy them.
Sean: My favourite single of all time is New Order’s ‘Procession’ – loved it since the moment I bought it, and I think it’s the combination of melancholy and energy surrounded by a cloud of swirling synthesis. Beyond that my favourites change all the time. After Bowie died his track ‘Dead Against It’ from the Buddha of Suburbia album kept coming back to me. Also Gary Numan’s ‘Prayer for the Unborn (Andy Gray remix)’ is something I never get bored of.
Martin: There are so many to choose from and my favourites change daily so today I’m in love with ‘Teenage Dream’ by Marc Bolan and T Rex… it’s just the ultimate post-youth comedown song. David Bowie’s music has been a constant source of joy throughout my life and my favourite song of his is probably the doo wop sci fi pop classic ‘Drive in Saturday’, but today it’s ‘Ashes to Ashes’ that’s really got my attention. After all of these yeas it still sounds incredible. My third choice would probably be ‘Supernature’ by Cerrone… along with Moroder’s ‘I Feel Love’ - it laid out the future with the heartbreaking sexual energy of those juggernaut sequencers and unrelenting disco beats. For a second ‘Supernature’ felt more futuristic than Kraftwerk with a vitality that made punk seem quite old – and it was only 1977!
Now, your Bandcamp page states that you two live one-hundred and fifty miles apart. How did you guys initially meet then?
Sean: I was doing some research on the history of French electronic music in the early 2000s and came across Martin’s book French Connection: from Discotheque to Discovery. I contacted him and we started a conversation about music that hasn’t really stopped since then. We eventually worked together on popular music courses at Solent University and did our first performance there in 2016. After this we discussed recording music together even though I’d moved institutions by 2017. We had regular chats and a catch up or two before settling into the serious business of music making in late 2019.
Martin: We chatted on the phone for what I thought was only ten minutes, but it turned out to be an hour and a half. We just got on immediately. And we had very similar interest in music. I started working with Sean a couple of years later and we’ve been good friends since. The music stuff was on the cards for years but we finally forced each other to do something about it… Which we did but it took seven years!
When did you get the idea to start the project? Where does the name come from and what does it mean?
Sean: Directly as a result of playing Hallo Spaceboy live together in 2016 we carried on from there with the idea of making electronic music that referenced all the music we loved. The name comes from a phenomenon of the last couple of decades. Indiscriminate taste-free nostalgia means some of the worst aspects of earlier pop culture are celebrated in areas of electronic music making such as hauntology and synthwave. Though I like a lot of the music made in these genres, I feel the iconography surrounding them is often cliched and represents things I had no interest in at the time. Underlying all this is the loss of a sense of history, no understanding of the contexts of the past and how these images and ideas fitted in the wider culture of the 60s-early 2000s. So this discomfort fed into the band name.
Martin: Star Wars is one of the most overbearingly indulgent sources of youth nostalgia and the Deathstar seems to be able to place people in a particular space and time when they first saw the films. But that space and time is imaginary, an illusion. The reality was that the films were / are pretty boring but the toys were magnificent. So a lot of Deathstar nostalgia is wrapped up in collecting toys that are representations of the best bits of quite dull films. To me Nostalgia Deathstar is about the redundancy of the real in favour of the illusion.
You decided to release a song a month throughout 2020. Where did this inspiration come from? And why did you choose to release it in this manner?
Martin: Because we’re suckers for punishment! No, I really like the idea of placing limitations on projects so you don’t spend too much time looking for perfection. Doing it this way was quite a punk way of working. Throwing down ideas, messing around with things with the knowledge that imperfection is a virtue. People worry too much about smoothing off the edges, we like the sharp and jagged mistakes. Working this way forced us to shut the doors on the project when the deadline arrived. A ticking clock is an important source of creative focus.
Sean: I think it was a way of kick starting the project – giving ourselves achievable goals in a year that turned out not as we or anybody else expected. We were developing a way to work together at a distance. By knowing we had to release a track a month it gave us a schedule and sense of discipline in developing a body of work and a sound or style that we felt comfortable with. As the tracks were released we hit a critical mass with enough material to constitute an album – at this point I think we felt we had established ourselves, and importantly began to get positive responses from online radio stations and via various streaming platforms.
All of these songs led up to the release of your debut album, “Charged Attachment”. However, before that you released a remix EP also titled “Charged Attachment”. Do you think that this will be confusing for people who are starting to listen to the band?
Sean: I don’t think so – things are clearly labelled on the various platforms out there, it’s up to us to make things clear to anybody interested in our music really.
Martin: I think people are intelligent enough to work it out. Bowie’s first two albums were both called “David Bowie” and no one gets them confused. I really like the idea of “Charged Attachment” being the title of any future albums too… like a comment on mass production, homogenisation and cultural repetition. We’ve got a remix album coming out later this year called “Recharged Attachment”… it’s a part of a cultural production conveyer belt.
Though the songs on the album released on a month-to-month basis, do they all connect to one another in a unifying theme? Or do they all have separate ideas?
Sean: I think there are a number of personal, political and cultural themes – Martin can tell you more, but some lyrics were initiated by Martin, some via discussions we had about the songs.
Martin: The overall theme is about politics and power. This ranges from identity politics to cultural politics and how power is obtained, used and abused. And there are moments of powerlessness at the hands of those who have power in there. ‘The Better’ is about my anger at Trump and the rise of the populist politics of the right wing. ‘Bauhaus Mystery’ is about women being written out of mainstream histories by powerful men. ‘Europa Dystopia’ is about our anger at Brexit and how the campaign employed a nostalgic image of Britishness that never existed. That kind of use of nostalgia as a political weapon of power is a concern to me.
I guess the theme of nostalgia is a constant throughout the album. A part of that was inevitable as the pandemic shut off future possibilities. Inspiration for the lyrics came from different sources but often they’d come from conversations Sean and I were having. Sean would send me a first draft of a song and give it a title that echoed these conversations and then I’d work from that. For example ‘Dead 80s’ was, well, dead 1980s sounding. But that followed conversations about how much we dislike the recreation of the 1980s as a blend of neon light, high gloss and Miami Vice. The 80s we lived through was a hateful era of mass unemployment, poverty, high taxes, homelessness, overt racism, homophobia, sexism, and so on. It was an awful era that produced some great music. So ‘Dead 80s’ literally means that the nostalgic neon idea of the 80s is dead to us. I think there’s a strong outsider theme in the album too. It’s quite contemplative but angry at times. On the track ‘December Won’t Be Magic Again’ I’m literally watching the world through a window. I liked the metaphor of being outside of daily life but safe on the inside. I had this recurrent thought about how I’d always felt like an outsider all of my life but in recent political times I was being told that I’d been at the center of things all along. My identity doesn’t allow me to be an outsider anymore… that’s just something for me to deal with because it’s not such a bad thing. But I think that sense of identity confusion creeps into the songs too. If I’m not who I thought I was who am I now?
Curiosity peaked me when I saw the song ‘Gary Numan’ named after the famed electronic musician. Tell me a little bit about this song and why you chose to sing about Gary Numan.
Sean: About 10 years ago there was a Gary Numan remix competition that I created a totally original track for before layering in his vocal track. When looking at material to develop further I went back to the project file and developed the instrumental track into a new song, with Martin coming up with all the vocal and lyric ideas. In terms of Gary Numan himself, I’ve been a big fan of his music since 1979, and though my interest lapsed in the late 80s, I heard the Pure album in 2000 and it blew me away. On my studio wall I have the cover of Telekon in a frame. Since then I’ve been really impressed by most of his releases, and the new album Intruder is amazing.
Martin: I was friends with Keith Flint of The Prodigy and when he died I wanted to write some kind of eulogy for him. I imagined him partying through the backstreets with the ghosts of musicians past and started thinking about the energy. I had this picture in my head of dead musicians leaving an electrical charge when they die. The final section is just a roll call of dead musicians who I kind of pictured rampaging through the streets like a gang of pure electricity. Ghostly friends electric. Not at all about Gary Numan then! But Numan’s new album is ridiculously good.
I read that Charged Attachment will be followed by an album of remakes, remodels, remixes, and reworkings. Is there any information we can have about this album? Any remixers you can mention?
Martin: Well, it’s a monster that just keeps growing! We’ve already put out remixes of the song ‘Charged Attachment’. They included techno producer Matt Aquila who produced one of the best Prodigy remixes I’ve ever heard, another by Swedish synth pop sophisticates Video L’Eclipse and another by LorD and Master who creates 1980s synth pop flavoured EDM. The Charged Attachment EP also has a beautifully spacious and moody mix by Sean in his Ghost Elektron guise. I’m sure that some of these will be on the final ‘Recharged Attachment’ album. The other remixes are kind of divided between the light and the dark – which kind of echoes the original Charged Attachment album. The light includes a fantastic version of ‘Mind Bombing’ by Montage Collective, a hi NRG mix of Dead 80s by nON sTOP eROTIC cABARET and an utterly bonkers chip tone mix of ‘HolyMoses!’ by Ned Rush. ‘Bauhaus Mystery’ has been overhauled by Ditsea Yella and ‘Gary Numan’ repurposed by Pulses.
On the darkside – to go back to Star Wars – there’s Melodywhore’s incredible total re-imaginings of ‘Europa Dystopia’ and ‘The Better’, and Thermonuclearity’s deep, dark and brilliant recreations of ‘December Won’t Be Magic Again’ and ‘Gary Numan’. Sean has done an awesome ghost elektron mix of a non-album track The Colour Vertical. His mix is called ‘TCV21’ – which is a small nod to Bowie. And I’ve done a Victorian nursery rhyme gothic-trap mix of ‘So It Went’ under the name Mothloop.
We’re still waiting on a few mixes by people like Wavewulf and Neorev and if anyone reading this fancies doing something give us a shout.
And what else do you have in store for 2021? Any other singles, EPs, remixes, etc coming our way? Any live shows planned?
Sean: We are planning an ep release of Hallo Spaceboy during the summer with remixes and 1 or 2 additional new tracks. Though we have both been reticent about doing cover versions in the past, the Hallo Spaceboy cover has given us the confidence to approach some more songs and Nostalgia Deathstarise them. As far as playing live is concerned … perhaps, but logistically speaking, and with the current Covid climate, this is difficult and isn’t going to happen in the near future. Personally I’ve always been more interested in creating and producing music in a studio than live performance, but if we can figure out a way to play live, we will have a go at some point.
Martin: I think we’ll play live when the time is right but I’m happy for this project to work at its own pace and its own way, although I am a bit of a workaholic so I get impatient sometimes! I’d like to get a couple of new tracks together before the end of the year or maybe some of a new album. I think it would be great to finish an album before we release anything from it next time round… the antithesis to Charged Attachment’s single a month approach… the anti-Spotify old fashioned way. Maybe a couple of standalone songs in between like how New Order put out ‘Procession’ and ‘Everything’s Gone Green’ between Movement and Power Corruption and Lies. Songs where they were feeling their way forward. I’m a bit obsessed with short, sharp, stripped down 808 drum machine driven stuff and brash sequencers at the moment. Charged Attachment is all about ‘epic synths for a desperate age’, now I’d like to do ‘desperate synths for an epic age’.
Lastly, I would like to thank you for your time. I wish you the best of luck and leave the space below for you to mention anything else!
Martin: Apart from Nostalgia Deathstar we also set up the State of Bass record label to release our music but now we’re looking to putting out other artists. We’ve curated a compilation of artists inspired by the 1979 – 1981 electronic post punk and synth pop era. It’s called Generation Blitz and should be out at the end of July as a double CD and cassette.
This interview was commissioned through our Ko-fi page.
I've been writing for Brutal Resonance since November of 2012 and now serve as the editor-in-chief. I love the dark electronic underground and usually have too much to listen to at once but I love it. I am also an editor at Aggressive Deprivation, a digital/physical magazine since March of 2016. I support the scene as much as I can from my humble laptop.
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