Q&A With Steven Jones & Logan Sky
Q. You both met through the late and sadly missed Steve Strange, what prompted you to write music together?
SJ..Steve introduced me to Logan and we had been in contact with each other regarding a song I had been working on with Steve. During this time, I'd recorded an electro-pop track called Strange Magic as part of my solo project. Logan really liked it and expressed an interest in remixing it. So he brought his special Sky magic to this occult song. I loved the vibe of his mix and so we decided to release it on CD through Chop Chop records along with some other remixes. plus a Pagan video paying homage to the work of Kenneth Anger. As a bonus we recorded a totally new song, Falcon Of The Dunes, to include on the CD. This signalled the beginning of our collaboration and revealed a shared sensibility in terms of aesthetic and sonic landscape. After the release of Strange Magic, Logan and I discussed the possibility of working on some other songs. At that stage we were planning to offer these new songs to Steve (Strange) to record. But the machinery of fate took things in a different direction.
Q. Logan.. You were the keyboard player for Visage for 5 years, that must have been a dream come true for you?
LS..In my youth Visage presented to me a sonic world of opportunity, optimism, style, travel and adventure. I’ve always preferred Visage and Ultravox to other bands singing about love, strife or the mundane. I met Steve Strange in 2009, mentioned that I was friends with Princess Julia and passed him my EP. When I returned home there were a stream of answerphone messages, each increasingly more enthused from him! We met, recorded new tracks and only a few weeks later had performed at Zigfrids in Hoxton Square and at the CO Pop festival in Cologne, supporting Patrick Wolf! I quickly realised that Steve was just as dramatic and adventurous as those early songs. I was very lucky to perform alongside Visage members, Robin Simon (ex Ultravox), Steve Barnacle and Lauren Duvall, in exotic and perverse locations, from Japan to Dubai, Sweden, Germany and even at the bottom of a freezing ski-slope at the Harrachov Ski-Flying World Championships in the Czech republic!
Sadly, since Steve Strange’s death, I’ve also played a part at his funeral and memorial performances. I have ploughed my passion for Visage into my new work with Steven Jones, so the adventure continues..
Q. Same for you Steven, you must have been honoured to be lead singer of the Visage line up at the New Romantic Festival last year?
I was joined on stage by other singers including Lauren Duvall, so I'd be reluctant to call myself the 'lead' singer! But it really was a honour to be given an opportunity to sing the songs of Visage in celebration of Steve in his home town. It also felt very right to me as I felt in rapport with Steve's creative vision and the emotional tone he created with his performances. I felt that this was a very fitting way to say our goodbyes. By inhabiting his music I felt we could somehow transcend some of the sadness find catharsis through the music.
Q. Any plans to continue Visage with the current line up?
SJ..I think everyone agrees that Visage was Steve Strange. There can be no true Visage without Steve. There is, however, scope for future collaborations with former members of the band so, in that sense, the flame continues to burn brightly.
Q. If you had to share one special moment you'll remember Steve Strange for, what would it be?
SJ..Steve was a unique and creative dynamo and all contact with him was imbued with feeling of energy and possibility. So many of out conversations felt special, whether we were talking generally about music or make-up, or specifically about shared projects like Burning Desire or Anyone Who Had A Heart. Or our plans to perform in New York. But I'd say the moment that seems most special to me is when he first appeared in my life. I had been recording sci-fi inspired music with actress Margi Clarke. We'd recorded several tracks and had shot some video to support them. Steve watched some of these online and messaged me suggesting I call him. He was planning a gig locally and was keen to get Margi on stage with him to perform Fade To Grey and another song, Burning Desire. I called him and we set the wheels in motion! I rehearsed the tracks with Margi for two days and we turned up at the venue on the night of gig. This coming together of creative people is significant to me as it represents a new source of inspiration for me and it opened new doors in my musical life. We chose the to film the entire event and its available to watch HERE on youtube!
Q. Your debut EP 'Desire Lines' was released a month after Steve's passing was that your mark of respect to him?
SJ..Logan and I had begun recording tracks for Desire Lines some time before Steve's sudden death. The immediate shock, sadness and confusion resolved into a determination to be inspired by Steve and his creativity. We found the strength to perform at his funeral and then to continue working on our songs. So in a very real sense, Desire Lines can be seen as a mark of respect to him and it exists as a lasting reminder of the impact he had on us, both creatively and personally.
Q. What is your process behind the writing of lyrics and music?
SJ..My starting point is usually the emotional tone of a demo Logan sends me. I'll listen to it and begin to get a feel for its ambience. I might jot down a images in my note book, some phrases or individual words. Then, when I've found a theme I'll will record improvised vocal lines based on the jottings in my note book. During this process of improvisation, I'll find a melody and begin to create a loose structure. I might record 5 or 6 takes and from these, I'll begin to see a song forming. Then I might choose the most interesting parts and edit them together to form a new vocal line. Sometimes, Logan will suggest a theme. For example, in the case of Desire Lines, Logan suggested a theme of travel, borders, maps, frontiers. So these ideas were my starting points when writing the lyric.
Q. The second EP 'Polaroids' was released on Nov 15 and the title track has a video to accompany it, do you feel it is important to have a video for your tracks and who is your production team?
SJ..Video can really enhance and embellish the experience of listening to a song. Imagery extends the emotional lexicon of the music. So, yeah, I'm very into making videos to accompany our songs. The videos we shot for 'Desire Lines' explore the themes of travel that are the underpinning metaphors of the tracks. 'Polaroids' was shot in London's Soho (by Logan) and expresses the seedy urban glamour of lyrics. One of our most evolved video productions is 'Strange Magic' which draws heavily from Kenneth Anger's occult masterpiece, 'Scorpio Rising'.
Rest In Peace Steve x
Q. Have you ever thought of creating a name for yourselves or you happy to keep it as it is?
SJ..We've occasionally toyed with idea of of coming up a with 'band' name for our collaboration and have even thrown around a few suggestions. But I like the use of our two names. It's not something anyone else is doing and it signifies the creative equality we've been lucky have found in our musical collaboration. When we record with other former members of Visage, it's possible that we'll choose a name to specifically define the identity of those collaborations.
Q. Will you both continue with your solo projects?
SJ..Collaboration is an important aspect of the creative process and I've connected musically with all kinds of intriguing people. I'm often invited to contribute vocals for tracks targeted at the mainstream club world. These can be fun to do, quick to record and it's amusing to imagine my voice heard in clubs in Ibiza, Rio and Miami. But my main focus is the work I'm doing with Logan as we share a similar musical vision and our collaboration offers tremendous scope for the expression of our ideas.
Q. Looking at your photos, I can see you still like to keep the image of the New Romantics. Is image important to you both?
SJ..Image is a big part of what we do. It's a dominant aspect of pop music in general. And of course, I've been greatly inspired by the imagery and aesthetic of New Romanticism. Chic artifice has always been appealing to me. As a singer, it's important to create a potent visual focus for the audience, an implied glamour or otherworldliness, to seek to create a world away from the mundane. And, of course, the creation of an on-stage persona opens a space in which to more freely perform in the live context. New Romantic imagery can be specifically freeing for men, who conventionally are more restricted than women in terms of fashion. The key is to make these images seem vital and not simply retro. I've always been playing with make-up and clothes in a way that subtly extends my mode of expression without becoming cartoonish. Its exciting to bring some of this fashion play into the visuals that accompany our music.
Q. I hear you have a new release in the pipeline?
SJ..We'll soon be releasing an new six track EP called 'Maria'!
Q. What will make 'Maria' different from the previous two?
SJ..On this release we're stepping away from the cinematic. The tracks on Maria seems to come from a more obviously 'pop' sensibility. So you'll hear a greater emphasis on hooks and recognisable pop structures. The title track is almost pure pop in spite of its analogue synth stylings. We've re-imagined 'Strangelove' by Depeche Mode as a deranged seduction. The EP also includes 'Infinite Hearts', a duet with former Visage vocalist Lauren Duvall, a song that feels like a moody hybrid of early 80s pop and Depeche Mode at their most existential . We've fused lyrics taken from The Tibetan Book Of The Dead with propulsive electronica on a track called 'The Bardo Of Becoming'. I think thats got to be a first!
Q. Will 'Maria' be released on a cassette on the chopchop records label like the previous two, and why cassette?
SJ..The cassettes are in production and we currently don’t know which label will actually be printed on the sleeves! But it’s looking like there will be a bigger distribution platform than previous releases.
Q. Have you any plans to tour together in the future?
SJ..We're planning some live dates in support of Some Bizarre and we'll be heading to Estonia in the Autumn to play at the Depeche Mode Fan Convention in Tallin. We've got more live dates in the pipeline too!
Q. If you had to name one artist/band that inspired you to become a musician, who would you choose and why?
SJ..I've been inspire by so many artists over the years. Bowie, Roxy Music, Billie MacKensie, Human League. But I suppose the pioneering music and imagery of Visage may have been instrumental in firing my imagination in my early years and making the impossible seem possible
Q. What music are you both listening to at the moment?
SJ..Im listening to some early Roxy Music, some French chanson courtesy of Francoise Hardy, Christine And The Queens for that French/English sexual ambiguity and to Teenage Daydream Conspiracy by Vandal Moon.
Q. How would you describe the current electronic/synth scene?
Vibrant and vigorous!
Q. Thanks again guys and best of luck with the new release, Is there anything further you would like to add?
Later on in the year we're planning a more complex release which is beginning to feel like an album….
LINKS AND PICS ON THEIR PROFILE PAGE HERE ON REVIVAL SYNTH