1. I first came in contact with Oppenheimer Analysis when I heard their track “The Devil’s Dancers”. I could not resist playing it on repeat for days whilst dancing across my living room. I thought of it as a perfect minimal synth pop masterpiece which I instantly fell in love with. Of course I had to investigate further, and heard the whole “New Mexico” album.
Can you bring us back to those days when “New Mexico” was created?
That’s very kind of you to say so. I wish I had a pound, Euro or dollar in the bank for every time The Devil’s Dancers has been played and posted. The collection of songs which came to be called New Mexico was never released on any label after its creation in 1982. We just put songs together in Martin’s home studio, on tapes. The Devil’s Dancers was actually based on quotes by some of the Manhattan Project scientists (dancing with the devil = making atomic bombs). If it had been released I could still be living off the royalties from that song, which is almost the ‘80s hit that never was…
It’s so long ago I can’t remember much other than Martin inviting me to write some songs and record them in his home studio, at a time when home recording was taking off and some amateur producers chose electronic as their medium to do music – as a new pioneering sound and method at the time. I had met Martin at a science fiction convention as the magazine I worked for used to send me to these events. Electro pop music was being played in the clubs from about 1979, where I used to hang out – Studio 21, the famous Blitz, and before them, the Sombrero gay club, in London. There was incomparable excitement walking into the clubs, having raided the dressing up box, and hearing that sound. It was fresh and new and original.
2. As there is a clear suggestion in the title of the album, can you reflect upon the album lyrically?
As this was the early ‘80s, the second Cold War was well under way and we decided to hang many of the songs on that theme with the Oppenheimer name – the atomic bomb story – as the flagship image and ‘concept’ for the band.
3. What drew you towards this minimalistic electronic sound as a choice for your musical expression?
I didn’t choose it, it chose me! Martin was working with a number of fellow musicians and other singers and he chose to work with synthesizer music (although he was also an accomplished guitarist and pianist). I would have been happy to write in any genre, having grown up in the ‘60s with the beat groups, rhythm & blues, the Mod bands, rock, Motown, soul and west coast pop, soft rock, Irish music, ballads, Bowie, Roxy and just about anything else I happened to like. My tastes are reflected in the Time Machine playlist show I do on Mixcloud every month courtesy of my good friend in the US, Michael Textbeak.
The synthesizer sound allowed for all sorts of themes for song-writing, and it was great to dance (and pose) to. Electro became popular, with several very famous bands charting through the ‘80s. It also went well with the image I adopted as a suited, hatted science/war icon that was recognisable in the Cold War era. Now we are in a very different century, that’s all changed. But the possibilities seemed endless then – and I wanted to be a pop star – with a difference. And still do, in my advancing years…
4. What were your musical influences back in those days and do you still listen to these influences with equal passion as you did back then?
From the rising electro bands of the time and every kind of pop, classical, and rock music that I had heard since childhood. Much of my music and club background in the late ‘70s was also rooted in gay clubs and discos. I didn’t know who recorded what – I just heard music down the clubs or on the radio and telly and just liked it, or not.
I can’t say any one act or artist influenced the song writing but as for style, a bit of Bowie here and there in terms of visual image and as for the music, Martin was more into Kraftwerk than me and more obscure music but my personal favourites then and now in this genre are the Human League. Nowadays with my current collaborators my influences are all over the place; from just personal experiences, 50 years of listening to all sorts of music, or just some current pop tune I’ve heard while having my hair cut at the barber’s. Walking with the Ipod is when I hear music and think up lyrics.
I love big production values that provide a vast visual image of the song as well and I like songs to tell a story. Although the genre is called ‘minimal’ I think big, and I think the instruments can create just about anything, even though I don’t play them. I’m in awe of the people I work with and their technical skills. Much of what they produce would have charted had it been out in the ‘80s.
5. “New Mexico” is a really ‘poppy’ and danceable album. When listening to it today it may sound a bit “underground”, but at that point in time, can you say your intention was to make a pop album?
I had every intention to make a pop album, both then and now. Martin hated the term ‘catchy’ but it was, nevertheless. While I seem to be cast as ‘underground’ and ‘alternative’ since the electro genre has, in the Internet age, become a niche subculture, I can only say that I’m the alternative to the alternative… But even though some of the ‘80s acts were seen as a bit weird and wonderful (the extravagant clothes and overblown videos) – if you listen to Soft Cell, Yazoo, Bronski Beat, Erasure etc, their songs were well composed, arranged, and in most cases, beautifully sung. And they were commercially successful. And catchy.
It never fails to amaze me. I am stunned by how many there are – and how many would have not even been alive when OA were first operating. I have a story about this. After our Oppenheimer MkII gig at the Wroclaw Festival a young Polish girl who bought the MkII album asked if I was re-releasing the OA New Mexico album. I told her about the Minimal Wave release but she didn’t mean records or MP3s, she wanted the original cassette! There she was, born in the age of the MP3, the mobile and the tablet, and wanting one of those things that used to get snarled up in a tangle of tape in your Walkman back in the day…
7. Your “partner in crime” at that time was producer Martin Lloyd, who is sadly no longer with us. How was the work of composing and writing lyrics divided between the two of you? Tell us something about the workflow and how ‘New Mexico’ was released.
It started with me writing the words, and often the tunes, to the songs and then he produced the whole bang shoot, whereas with my current partners I work to an initial backing track. I would suggest certain musical additions and changes but I have no knowledge or interest in production techniques and processes so you may as well ask the cat.
8. Since we know you are a defence and counter-terrorism expert particularly in the field of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and explosives, how much of your personal occupation can be found in your musical work?
A fair bit. But I try not to make the work too literally connected to the lyrics. The title of the first Oppenheimer MkII album, The Presence of the Abnormal is a phrase used by one of my colleagues to describe something out of place that could be a bomb or other terrorist threat. On Brighton Pier is influenced by the memoir of a soldier, who goes on a trip to Brighton as a boy then later walks ‘on mine-laden sands’.
9. In 2005 you released a 4 track EP of the early material for the Minimal Wave label. How did this come about?
The first OA vinyl EP release by Minimal Wave, run by Veronica Vasicka, came out after she contacted me out of the blue in 2005. I think it’s in its third or fourth re-pressing. In 2015 she released another OA vinyl compilation, titled New Mexico, which has sold out, and includes most of the old songs from that time. The subsequent MP3 release includes three of the songs from Der Wissenschaftler – Science, Under Surveillance, and my and Martin’s favourite, Fellow Traveller.
10. I really liked the “Der Wissenschaftler” EP that was self-released and I was wondering where we can get our hands on that piece of material?
They were printed off by Martin at home as he wanted the album to be a very limited edition mainly to sell at gigs. I have two copies left. Want to make me an offer I can’t refuse?? But it’s nice to know someone has come across it – as OA tends to be known only for the ‘80s material. And as it came out after we re-formed in 2005 after a 20-year gap.
11. Can you share some of the experiences from your live gigs? How was it back in the 80s and how was playing live after such a long pause of 22 years? Has anything changed?
It’s ages since the 80s but at the first OA gig after re-forming, we had no idea how much of a following we had, especially in Germany and mainland Europe. As for the gigs I’ve done with Oppenheimer MkII since, performing live is as important as it ever was. And YouTube is a great vehicle for gig footage. But the Internet has music and other creative efforts divided into categories and sub-categories: it’s like peering out at endless galaxies in a boundless Universe.
The main difference in audiences may be that this type of music now seems to be hugely followed by Goths, who back in the 80s were a mere twinkling in some vampire’s bloodshot eye. The Oppenheimer MkII gig at that Leipzig festival was the apogee of this. I may have been the only one there who didn’t turn up in black! And they don’t dance as much. Back then the early ‘80s clothing and imagery was also more posy and camp, with bits of 1930s glitz, Hollywood and science fiction/fantasy all wrapped up together. And everyone wanted to be famous.
12. How was Oppenheimer Mk II created and how would you describe the project?
Walter Robotka, who runs the Klanggalerie label, suggested I come to Vienna to meet Mahk Rumbae, who had expressed an interest in working with me. During my visit we composed several songs and I did a kind of solo gig at the Rhiz club with him playing synth on stage. We went from there to create the first album and then played at the Vanity Vague club at Fluc, Vienna and at the Wave Gotik Treffen festival in Leipzig, the Wroclaw Industrial Festival in Poland, an impromptu gig at Fabriken in Stockholm, and the Augsburg Young & Cold festival.
Yes I agree that Oppenheimer MkII is classic synth pop and Mahk has been a real star as my collaborator in this, as the first time he had worked on my kind of more poppy material. I know the music is regarded as minimal, but I push to go as ‘maximal’ as he can stand!
13. This time you have teamed up with musician and producer Mahk Rumbae so can you tell us a little bit more about this collaboration?
I write lyrics and a basic tune to an initial backing track by Mahk then he will build on that and produce it. The first album, The Presence of the Abnormal, came out in 2013. I’m really proud of it as I think Mahk is – and as he did wonderful work, for the first time, in producing so many pop tunes… It’s mainly a dance album but the second half of it is darker, but they are all still danceable. On Brighton Pier is different to all the rest, as a kind of lilting ballad with overlaid strings, a bit OMD. I love all that.
Since then we have released the EP Line of Sight on the French label Falco Invernale Records (FIR)
And a double-AA single is due out from UK-based label, Peripheral Minimal, in the early spring (to be announced on Facebook). We are now working on some more songs for a new EP as well and I hope to visit Vienna in the New Year to do more on that.
14. In 2013 Oppenheimer Mk II released “The Presence of The Abnormal” on the Klanggalerie label. The album can be characterized as a danceable and uplifting synth-pop with dark twists and a retro vibe. Was that your idea when creating it?
Yes, the dance synth pop format was in mind.
And the dark twists are there, yes – in Mahk’s arrangements and in the words.
15. Can we also consider this album to be lyrically connected to your profession Andy, and if so, which songs must we pay attention to?
The work can provide great scenarios. Some songs are just classic electro love songs in the mode of Soft Cell or similar, and were greatly influenced by someone in my field I had a man crush at the time, such as ‘I Wish I Never Said I Love You’ and ‘You Will Never Know’ – in what could be called ‘homoromantic’. And in other songs I step into the boots of my heroes, and role-play: the Presence of the Abnormal is me going out as one man against a bomb, and Another Nightmare is about PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
Both these tracks are being released in the New Year as special even darker mixes by Mahk on a double-AA vinyl single from Peripheral Minimal.
16. What are the lyrics on this album mostly focused on?
Some of the themes could be a modern version of war poetry but in the electro genre, not the hairy ‘60s protest and folksy stuff. And sundry other obsessions – ‘Nobody Ever Says Thank You’ is about something I know Mahk and other electro folks hate: football!
17. I can’t put my finger on my favourite track here, as this album is really what I consider to be a true minimal synth masterpiece, varying from more ‘dancy’ songs like “Be A Star” or “Adrenaline Rush” to some more slow tempo tracks such as my favourite “The Devil’s Work”. I can truly say Oppenheimer Mk II should be on every synth music lovers play list. What do you expect from this project in future?
That’s very kind of you to say so and thanks again. Be a Star – another of my ‘hero’ songs – is a real dance favourite of mine and I’d love it to be played in the clubs. And funny you should mention The Devil’s Work as I hoped it would appeal to people who like The Devil’s Dancers. And Adrenaline Rush is another PTSD song, both dark and danceable. We hope to keep selling the album from our Bandcamp page and at gigs, and Mahk is the one who does all the hard graft in pushing it as he is on the scene and performing with his other bands as well.
I hope that first album will still work after years after being released. I would like it to get recognised like the OA collection is – and I hope I don’t have to wait another 20 years for that as I can’t guarantee I will be here or know what day it is!
18. You have made several music videos. How important do you think video making is?
Mahk has done those, and brilliantly too I think – for The Presence of the Abnormal track – a gritty set of war scenes – and for On Brighton Pier, he filmed me at the sea with some super photography of the Pier and the bright lights of Brighton. Action Man (Plastic Fantasy remix) is a cartoon pastiche of the Action Man dolls, great fun. And I Wish I Never Said I Love You is of me singing which is simple but works well.
Video is as important as it always was. People want to see something – whether it’s the artist or just abstract images – but again it’s quite a challenge putting your own ideas into a video and not overwhelming the viewer with those ideas. Sometimes just concert footage works OK but most people film gigs on their smartphones, and the sound is rarely good enough. I’m looking forward to doing more video since I lost 30 lbs in weight on a diet this summer.
19. Oppenheimer Mk II have just released the “Line of Sight” EP. What can we find there? Is there perhaps a new album on its way?
Two tracks on the EP are very much in a similar vein to the MkII album. The title track Line of Sight sees me as a sniper stalking his prey. You Won’t Disarm Me is the most risqué track I’ve released to date. You Will Never Know (Mahk’s Secrets and Lies mix) is back on the unrequited love theme, and his mix of Action Man is a souped-up version of the album track and is pure dance. It may be the nearest we got to pastiche – both a send-up of macho culture, the James Bond thing, and as electro as it gets. I think if that one had come out in the 80s it would have gone down well in the clubs.
We are making new songs for another EP in 2016. One of our new tracks is a right belter called Out in the Field, which is about spies – and may become the EP title. I wrote it after watching Homeland… Mahk has enough initial backing tracks for a shedload of albums! So I must dream up some more song lyrics – the year just gone was very busy on the work front so hoping I will get inspired in 2016 hopefully with more time and space for creative work.
20. The artwork for the ‘Line of Sight’ EP is really interesting. Can you tell us something more about it?
I was totally knocked out by it – took my breath away. It is so super I thought the artist had climbed inside my head when I wasn’t looking. He is Nils-Petter Ekwall http://www.nilspetter.se/
I used to paint and exhibit work in London many years ago in a similar poster style and Nils-Petter’s cover is almost Art Deco (my chosen period for interiors) and the pink and lilac colours are pure genius (you usually get butch colours! – black, red and orange – in war scenes and explosions..)
The cover also does something I really like – it tells a story about at least some of the songs.
21. Can we hope for some live dates maybe?
From my side it depends on work deadlines, time and money, and where the events are and travel involved. I still love to perform – health and work permitting – and while I had this year off from traveling I hope to be back on the gig trail with Oppenheimer MkII and possibly Touching the Void as well in the coming year.
22. You are involved in some other projects as well. Can you introduce us to some of these projects?
Yes. Touching the Void is my project with another Mark – Mark Warner in the UK, formerly of Sudeten Creche – and now producing a whole host of artists including his own project, Rossetti’s Compass, and his own label now.
Our first album, Love, Longing and Loss, came out last year and is now available on Bandcamp and via our Facebook page. It is different from anything I’ve done in several ways – they are all love songs, and the album is more modern and mainstream although still electronic in its values and production, and there are several super remixes on the album that are electro in style. But the main songs include more acoustic sound – Mark found some excellent session musicians to play piano, drum, and he played some guitar as well.
Our Facebook link is
Many of the songs are emotional ballads, exemplified by the first Touching the Void single, Parallel Lives. Much of what I’ve been trying is to write and sing songs from the heart. So this was the first tribute I wrote to a war hero I know in my trade. The words and basic tune were written inside of two hours to a beautiful haunting piano track Mark sent me, which he and Paul Carlin (Mark’s partner in Sudeten Creche) had written ages back. Mark has just had two beautiful videos made of this song, by John Gallagher, which are truly stunning – the first was launched on YouTube just this week. https://youtu.be/qjp5iiAbE8I
We have also released an EP, Obsession, which features that title song by Mark, with an amazing remix by Angst Pop/Technomancer, which has film soundtrack qualities I think, and a very moving ballad which also appears on the album, In This Together, a hit song written by Stephan Groth for Apoptygma Berzerk, which we decided to dedicate to Martin as the words were very apt.
My third project, with Mickey Clarke in northern England, is Major Impact. We recorded two songs in a weekend, with remixes of each by Mick and another two by renowned producer Clive Pierce, around two years ago. At last they are to be released in the New Year on vinyl by Goldmin Music of Paris – more news to come on my Facebook page.
These are full-on electro tracks and I think Catch Up With Me is potential film soundtrack material and was written after I finished writing my book on the IRA – so nothing controversial there …