Metamatic : The Official John Foxx Website...
Interview with Erik Stein of Cult With No Name
Erik Stein

In an exclusive interview, Erik Stein talks to Metamatic about a unique collaboration between Cult With No Name, Tuxedomoon and John Foxx for a forthcoming film by Peter Braatz entitled Blue Velvet Revisited...
Metamatic : How did Cult With No Name get involved with the Blue Velvet Revisited project?

Erik : I've actually known the Director, Peter Braatz, for some time, although this is through him founding and fronting the criminally unknown German avant garde punk / new wave band S.Y.P.H., which is one of my very favourite bands. I was a pretend music journalist for a while and interviewed him and we stayed in touch, usually through me bombarding him with copies of successive Cult With No Name albums, which he always said he really liked. I knew a bit about his work as a film maker, but not much. I did know, however, that he had worked with David Lynch on 'Blue Velvet', documenting the making of it for his own film ('No Frank In Lumberton') which came out in 1988.

According to Peter, he was listening to the track 'As Below' from our 'Above As Below' album sometime in 2013 and he was immediately inspired to edit a new trailer
[LINK] of unreleased footage from the set of 'Blue Velvet'. With this trailer, he then decided to apply for funding to edit an all new film to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the making of the film. Only about 70% of the footage shot was used in 'No Frank In Lumberton', plus lots of unreleased interviews with Dennis Hopper, etc., so there was plenty to dive into.

Peter actually waited about four months to get the confirmation of funding, and by that time we were both convinced that we'd not been successful, so it was a really nice surprise. At that point, Peter asked us to produce the entire soundtrack.


Metamatic : How did
Tuxedomoon get involved?

Erik : That was my idea. CWNN have worked with various Tuxedomoon members for years, with them graciously adding magic to our albums. The track that originally inspired Peter ('As Below') features the amazing Luc van Lieshout from Tuxedomoon playing flugelhorn, of all things. When Peter asked us to produce 80-100 minutes of music for the soundtrack it was obvious we would need some extra musicians. A purely electronic soundtrack would have been a bit one dimensional, and it was obvious that Tuxedomoon's sound both collectively and individually was a perfect fit for a project related to 'Blue Velvet' and David Lynch. The final deal was clinched in Berlin at a gig both bands played at and Peter came along to. I remember arriving at the hotel before the gig and Steven Brown from Tuxedomoon and Peter Braatz were both sitting there on adjacent tables a metre apart, staring into space. Neither of them had a clue who the other one was.

Metamatic : Where and how did the writing and recording take place for this project? I presume that a certain amount would have to have happened remotely / independently.

Erik : To be honest, at no point were all six musicians in one room together, but then that's how collaborations often work these days. Basically, we developed some pieces and sent them to Tuxedomoon for them to perform on and play around with, and they did the same to us. In Tuxedomoon's case, the way they work is very interesting. Effectively, they jam for hours and hours, recording everything they do. They then listen back, mine out the good stuff and develop the pieces from there. In the case of 'Blue Velvet Revisited' the process was the same, except the jams (which they recorded in Athens) were sent to me to pick bits out, with a bit of pre-selection from bassist Peter Principle. They then developed and recorded their parts in Brussels. These tracks still underwent a serious amount of transformation as CWNN added bits and I edited various parts and effectively produced it. In fact, in the case of one track, 'A Candy Colored Clown', it's actually parts from two completely separate pieces put together! Luckily, Tuxedomoon loved what we did and we always knew they'd produce some really amazing music.

Metamatic : Were rushes from
Peter Braatz's film made available to help with the composition, or did that come from knowledge of the original film and the work of David Lynch? I noticed that one review observed that parts of the soundtrack were "equally suggestive of Twin Peaks."

Erik : We had absolutely no rushes at all. The only thing we had was the original trailer that Peter edited. This was completely deliberate on Peter's part as he wanted the music to be produced before the film and totally independent of it. He basically said, "the track 'As Below' is perfect, can I have 100 minutes worth of stuff like that?" Having that amount of creative freedom and trust (especially for a soundtrack) was absolutely amazing and rare, especially when you consider it was three-ways. Four-ways even, when you include John Foxx.

Sure, we were all very familiar with the work of David Lynch, Angelo Badalamenti and 'Blue Velvet' (Steven Brown is a particularly big fan of Lynch), but we wanted to steer clear of any direct references. This was because 'Blue Velvet Revisited' is not a David Lynch film, it's a Peter Braatz film. It's a time capsule, a hazy reflection of a special time and place. That much we did know. Trying to steer it in the direction of a specific reference point wouldn't have worked. Of course, a lot of the reviews have described the album as 'Lynchean' anyway (whatever that means), which is great and very flattering. Ultimately though, I think we were all confident from the start that a Tuxedomoon / Cult With No Name collaboration would produce something suitably 'noir-ish' (again, whatever that means).

Blue Velvet Revisited

Metamatic : How much input did Peter Braatz have to the soundtrack?

Erik : Almost none. I sent him some very rough working tracks, which was nerve-wracking as they were seriously rough. He loved them and told us that it was exactly what he wanted.
Metamatic : Seeing as how this soundtrack had become a joint project between Tuxedomoon and Cult With No Name, how and why did John Foxx become involved?

Erik : As well as being an admirer of both, I knew of the historical connection between Tuxedomoon and John Foxx through the album 'Desire' (and for those Foxx fans that don't know Tuxedomoon, check out the track 'Incubus' from it). I also knew that Peter Braatz was an enormous fan of John Foxx, Ha! Ha! Ha! being a personal favourite. I told him that I could approach John Foxx about contributing a track and of course he loved the idea. John was very happy to be involved and it was another perfect fit really in terms of the feel of the soundtrack overall, which I guessed it would be.

Metamatic : In the sleeve notes to
Blue Velvet Revisited, there's a section after the credit for John's track Lincoln Street which reads "Edited by Erik Stein" - does this refer to the album as a whole, or just the track?

Erik : A bit of both, really. The original version of 'Lincoln Street' was longer. I managed to get it down to a cosy nine minutes. It's such a great track, perfectly poised between drifting ambience and a repetitive structure with a hook. For the rest of the album, I edited the various individual parts but not finished tracks, except for 'Alligator Briefcase' and 'Dorothy' which we had to shorten.

Metamatic : How difficult was it to adjust the track-listings for the various formats?
Frank is omitted from the vinyl version, while Sandy only appears on the Digital Download.

Erik : It wasn't easy. It was important to keep the John Foxx track in there across all formats, but everything else was up for grabs. When you're so close to an album it's hard to be objective and some of the favourite track choices that have since been cited in reviews have really surprised me. Crammed Discs, who've released the album, made some suggestions, which helped. The decision to drop 2 tracks from the vinyl was very last minute and due to concerns raised by the pressing plant that the sound quality would suffer due to the lengths per side. As the vinyl comes with a download code which give you access to all 14 tracks, dropping tracks wasn't as painful as it could have been. It's strange really, 99% soundtracks are simply ordered by when the music appears in the film. In our case, as the film hadn't been made, we had to treat it like a 'proper', standalone album.

Metamatic : Do you know when the film
Blue Velvet Revisited is planned for release?

Erik : Good question. The film is not finished yet. There were a number of unforeseen delays with Director Peter Braatz having to complete another commissioned project first, which went on for much longer than he had hoped. About half of it is edited as a rough cut but there is an awful lot still to be added; e.g. titles, narration text, etc. What I can tell you is that the music is absolutely central to the film as there will be no narration as such. In terms of the first screening, it really depends which film festival bites first. We've had a few offers for festivals we could't make in time, but luckily there are always others. Once it's been in a few festivals we will also try for a limited cinema release. I doubt the finished film will be screened publicly this side of Christmas, but who knows? It will definitely be worth waiting for. A DVD release is planned but that is months and months away, as is a photo book.

Metamatic : Will the film contain any music not available on any of the other formats?

Erik : We produced around 80 minutes of music for the film, including an actual song that I sing and a track that Cult With No Name produced with the lovely Kelli Ali (ex-Sneaker Pimps) who's a good friend and someone we have worked extensively with. I don't know yet if they will be used, I certainly hope so. We rarely let anything go to waste, so both of those tracks are likely to appear on the next CWNN album regardless of whether they're in the film or not. The tracks 'Dorothy' and 'Alligator Briefcase' are also edited versions of longer tracks and Peter may still use the longer versions, or parts of them. In the case of 'Dorothy', it goes in a completely different direction. So, we'll see. On a related note, it would also be nice to use some of Tuxedomoon's unreleased raw material for the project for more music at some point. We're always up for another commission.

Metamatic : Back in 2009
Cult With No Name wrote a score to accompany the classic German expressionist film The Cabinet Of Doctor Caligari? Are there plans for any more soundtrack work?

Erik : We've not got any specific plans for soundtrack work, but that's simply because we've not been asked yet. We'd happily tackle most things.

Metamatic : On the
Cult With No Name website [LINK], it says that you have "acted in several short films made by electronic music pioneer John Foxx". How did that come about, and which films have you acted in?

Erik : Back when I pretended to be a music journalist I basically used it as an excuse to interview anyone I admired. So, as well as Peter Braatz I also had the opportunity to interview John (and Gary Numan and many others). I think this was 2007 and I remember the interview very well as it was at the foot of Battersea Power Station. Anyway, I dragged out the interview as long as I possibly could, which was quite a while, and thought nothing more of it. A few weeks later, once the interview was published, I was invited to a private view of an exhibition of John's photographs where I met him again. Shortly after that his very excellent manager contacted me and said that John is looking for someone to play 'The Quiet Man' in his new set of films and that he thought I had the right 'look'. He also asked if I had a grey suit. I lied and told him I had and then went out and bought one.

I went up to Bath where John was living at the time 3-4 times for days of filming, and also did a couple of days in East London at a studio space that I sourced. This was spread over a couple of years. It was a great experience, and fascinating to see John at work. Some of the techniques were remarkable. For example, projecting my face against a wall covered in sheets of newspaper while a fan blew them to create a rippling effect. John was very interested in filming in Super 8, but extending this by projecting the Super 8 footage against a wall or surface and then re-filming it. This gave everything such a distinctive look, a kind of 'analogue warmth'.

As far as I'm aware the footage has still largely not been used as no new films have been released, so it's a little disingenuous to say I've acted in his films. However, I'm told that this is just due to him not having the time to work on it and that there are some major things happening on the 'Quite Man' front next year, so I imagine the footage will finally see the light of day then. I may even end up shooting more beforehand. An interesting addendum to this story is John's manager asking me whether I play keyboards as he was thinking of putting a band together for Foxx. A few months later "And The Maths" appeared although sadly I didn't make it in.
Erik Stein

Metamatic : What led to your donning the grey suit in the Quiet Man photographs which appeared in among the artwork for London Overgrown?

Erik : This is a still or photo from the same sessions. I only found out I was in it when people mentioned me on twitter, saying "who the hell is this bloke?"
Metamatic : The artwork for the 2012 Cult With No Name album Above As Below was designed by Jonathan Barnbrook, who's also worked with John Foxx, Damien Hirst and David Bowie. How did that connection come about?

Erik : I've known Jonathan for over ten years now and he's a good friend (despite forgetting to tell me I was in the artwork for 'London Overgrown', which he designed). He even designed my wedding invites. I met him while I was helping to promote a Tuxedomoon concert in London 2004, an incredibly stressful and eventful experience for a variety of reasons I won't go into now. Jonathan very graciously designed some amazing promotional posters for that gig and I helped secure him the job of designing the cover for Tuxedomoon's 'Vapour Trails' album and accompanying 30th anniversary box set.

For several years leading up to the 'Above As Below' album I'd say things like, "CWNN have got a new album coming out, if only I had some ideas for a cover... [awkward silence]". Anyway, we were incredibly fortunate to have him design the 'Above As Below' cover in between far more important jobs. I think what attracted him to this particular cover was that our label at the time wanted to manufacture it using a letterpress. It's a really beautiful package and funny to think this was only shortly before his cover for Bowie's 'The Next Day'.


Metamatic : What's next for
Cult With No Name?

Erik : We always try to keep moving. We have about 8 songs half-recorded for our next album. Some gigs in Europe would also be nice. But first... to the kitchen.
For more information on Cult With No Name - point your browser at their website [LINK]
To watch two new teaser trailers for Blue Velvet Revisited - point your browser at YouTube [LINK] and [LINK]
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