When he wants to do something – when he has an idea, a dream – he acts on it, jumps over every barrier that faces him, overcomes the impossible and in the end comes up with a finished product that is polished and admired by pop music fans worldwide.
His first project, “Drink a Toast to Innocence: A Tribute to Lite Rock,” was funded through Kickstarter and brought indie pop artists together to perform covers of those AM radio hits that helped shape my love of pop music – Andrew Gold’s “Thank You for Being a Friend,” Robbie Dupree’s “Steal Away” and 10cc’s “The Things We Do for Love.” That project finished, he had enough time to father a child and before starting on a new Kickstarter project – this one focusing on British New Wave. The result, “Here Comes the Reign Again: The Second British Invasion,” has even more pop artists covering your favorite 80s artists from Britain such as Duran Duran, Culture Club, OMD and Wham!
Andrew talked to me via email about the new record. Here’s the transcript of our interview:
H&H: 80s music is a double-edged sword – it seems that there is still a certain nostalgia for it, but people still make fun of the leg warmers, big hair and Wham! But like 70s AM radio music, New Wave featured some beautiful melodic music. Why is that?
AC: Fashion choices from decades past will always be ripe for eye-rolling and parody. But nostalgia about the earliest days of MTV plays a big role in why people remain affectionate towards a lot of that music. If you think about it, the songs from that era weren’t *just* songs. They were little four-minute films as well. Even if you didn’t love, say, Duran Duran, you certainly remember the videos that accompanied their biggest hits. And in that unique way, the songs have a leg up in burrowing their way into our brains. And after that, simple nostalgia does the rest of the heavy lifting.
H&H: It seems that this time artists stayed more true to the original songs and didn’t try to “make the song their own,” but even their voice was enough to make it sound fresh. That being said, there were some beautiful re-imaginings of some classics – Corin Ashley’s use of the ukelele on “If You Leave” was charming. How hard is it to take a huge smash and totally redo it?
AC: In addition to Corin’s track (which is a Kickstarter-only bonus cut), I think there are some notable examples of artists throwing curveballs. Ken Stringfellow’s “Digging Your Scene” is a wild departure from the original. Eytan Mirsky and Alyson Greenfield took Howard Jones’ “No One Is To Blame” and turned it into a lilting reggae duet. Graham Alexander masterfully changed the entire meaning of “They Don’t Know” simply by altering the vantage point of the person singing. Rachael Yamagata, Kelly Jones, People On Vacation, Big-Box Store…they all chose songs originally performed by people of the opposite gender.
So there are versions that you can see as more straightforward than others. But I think there’s a good mix available here. And I genuinely believe that people will follow you where you want them to go with a cover song, as long as they can still detect elements from the songs they remember. Corin kept the great OMD melody, but turned the accompanying production and performance into something far less glossy and polished. And it’s amazing.
H&H: I’m a child of the 80s. Describe the differences and similarities between the 70s and 80s.
AC: I turned 10 in 1980, so I consider myself an ’80s child as well. The songs from my last compilation were near and dear to me, mostly because they were the first songs I have a legitimate memory of hearing on the radio. But the songs of the ’80s – and these British New Wave hits, specifically – are the songs I was using my own allowance money to buy for myself.
Their styles couldn’t be much further apart. Lite Rock songs were lush and soothing. The songs of the Second British Invasion had those weird rhythms and jagged edges that Lite Rock completely lacked. But both genres were reliably successful on the charts. And the similarity that probably attracted me the most: neither genre garners much in the way of critical respect.
H&H: You chose a lot of my all time favorites, and I’m sure you get a lot of “What about_______?”
AC: I’ve been running a feature at the “Here Comes The Reign Again” Facebook page
called “That song isn’t on the record?” And it spotlights all those great tracks that, for whatever reason, weren’t chosen by the participating musicians. Now, I have a strict “one song per original artist” rule in effect. So when Rachael Yamagata selected “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me,” it meant that “Karma Chameleon” was off the table moving forward.
But even considering that aspect of things, there were a bunch of iconic songs that I was surprised didn’t make the final record. “Come On Eileen” is a biggie. “I Ran” by A Flock Of Seagulls. “Too Shy” by Kajagoogoo. There’s no ABC, no Depeche Mode, no Wang Chung. Probably my biggest regret was not getting a Thompson Twins song on the compilation. They were so representative of the era, so to not get them on there bummed me out.
H&H: Were there more challenges in making this record than there were for “Drink a Toast to Innocence”?
AC: In some ways, this record was easier to do than “Drink A Toast,” where I literally had no idea what I was doing when I started contacting musicians. Coming into this project, I knew all the stuff I didn’t know last time. How to license songs, where to get records manufactured, how to run a Kickstarter campaign. Nuts and bolts stuff that isn’t all that glamorous, but which makes up fully 50-60% of a project like this.
But this project presented its own set of hurdles. On “Drink A Toast,” I became Facebook friends with all the musicians. I could reach them with relative ease, even if it had nothing to do with the record we were making together. I’m using a few more “big names” this time around, and as a result, getting quick responses from them hasn’t always been as easy as it was last time. Everyone, including the most recognized musicians on the comp, has been unfailingly pleasant to deal with. But the kind of responsiveness I was used to on “Drink A Toast” wasn’t always as easy to come by.
H&H: Given the success of “Drink a Toast,” was it easier to get artists on board for this?
AC: I’d like to think so. I mean, Chris Collingwood knows Mike Viola very well. So when I was able to drop Mike’s name to Chris, I think it gave me a little more legitimacy. And when Chris comes on board, I can drop his name to Freedy Johnston. And so on. I’ve been lucky to work with Darren Paltrowitz, who served as sort of a consigliere on both records. Mike Viola put me in touch with Darren before Drink A Toast, and he’s been invaluable to the whole process. He has a great Rolodex, and he’s helped me reach out to artists that I might otherwise never have thought to contact, for fear they’d laugh at a small potato like me!
H&H: I wanted to get your take on my personal favorites: Linus of Hollywood’s “Everytime You Go Away,” which seemed to strip the soul feeling from it and made it a pure pop song. The Davenports’ “Freedom”, which took the bubblegum out and made it straight pop (Their second great remake after “Just When I Needed You Most”)
AC: Like the proud parent, I really do love all the songs on the comp. The ones you specifically mention definitely tap into that part of my brain that just wallows in a pure, guitar-based, melody-driven pop song. I don’t think it’s any surprise that I invited both the Davenports and Linus to return for this project after the tracks they contributed to the Lite Rock record. And their original output is so terrific, as well, just filled with hooks and melodies.
H&H: I was pleasantly surprised by the inclusion of Talk Talk’s “Life’s What You Make It” – most people would have chosen “It’s My Life.” But it’s an unknown jewel in their catalog.
AC: This is the one song on the record that wasn’t on any of the lists I circulated among the musicians as tracks were being chosen. Steve Eggers of The Nines had originally chosen a different song, but he later came to me asking if he might switch to this one. And while many of the tracks on the compilation are far better known than “Life’s What You Make It,” I wasn’t at all reluctant to have The Nines take a crack at it. Talk Talk had bigger hits (“LWYMI” only reached #90 on the Billboard Hot 100). But the original was so evocative of the era and Talk Talk was such a great band, so I was delighted to hear what they came up with.
H&H: Was British heavy metal ever in consideration?
AC: Well, I considered Def Leppard for about 45 seconds. But, yeah, I guess heavy metal didn’t really fit the general vibe.
H&H: The obvious question: Is there a 90s compilation in the works? a U.S. 80s version?
AC: Nothing in the works at the moment. But I suppose if I were to consider doing something, it would likely be another tour of the music of my youth. That appears to be my wheelhouse at this point. I have a good friend who is angling for a particular genre. I won’t reveal what it is, but it could be fun to take a crack at it. Stay tuned!
H&H: Where can people buy it, starting when?
Pre-ordering the record there gets you five tracks right away, and the rest of the songs will be released digitally on September 30. The CD version of the compilation will come out in early October, and it will be available at all the usual spots: Bandcamp, CD Baby, Amazon, etc.