Stephen Mallinder: Records that changed my life

Jessica Lone Summers

We chat to the electronic melody-maker, Stephen Mallinder, about the three albums that shaped his love for music 

Wrangler's new album, A Situation, is available February 28 via Bella Union 

 

Forbidden Planet, Louis & Bebe Barron

I was fascinated by all that stuff when I was a kid; growing up with The BBC Radiophonic Workshop, the early Doctor Who and things like that. Forbidden Planet was an American film, it was mad technicolour and the soundtrack was pure electronics it was quite mind-blowing and left an impression. There’s such a wonderful story to it as well—they built their own studio in New York, which caused a lot of issues in Hollywood because it was counter-establishment in a sense; the whole film industry was based around orchestral soundtracks with musicians in big recording studios and they created quite a fuss at the time by creating this pure electronic soundtrack. I think at the time it was disputed whether it was actually a soundtrack because it wasn’t “music”, it was pure sound effects, pure electronic. It was significant for what it was but it also has a great story to it. They were a married couple but Bebe Barron was very much the lead in this and it’s a great example of the role of women in the story of electronic music, which has been massive with Daphne Oram and Delia Derbyshire and people like that.

I fascinated by this sort of [creativity] when I was little, listening to Sparky's Magic Piano and all these weird vocoded voices. It wasn’t until I was about 16/17 that I started messing around with tape recorders, and then started making electronic music with Richard and Chris in Cabaret Voltaire when I was 18. I was drawn to this weirder kind of music. I grew up in the Sixties when things felt slightly more futuristic so I wasn’t really interested in Rock ‘n’ Roll because I was a child of pop culture and TV like Tomorrow’s World.

 

Keep On Dancin’, Hamilton Bohannon

keep on dancing

I especially love “South African Man”, he’s an amazing drummer. He was one of the drummers from Motown, Detroit, where they made a lot of records—he was one of the session drummers and I was a soul boy when I was younger. Richard and I particularly grew up listening to Motown and Ska and went to clubs when we were really really young. So they were the first bands I ever saw. When I was 14-years-old I went to see Stevie Wonder and Martha reeves, I didn’t know Hamilton at the time because he was in the background, but he was one of the drummers who played a lot of this stuff.

It’s really cool record, I’m really into rhythm and even wrote my PHD on it—I don’t know if I’m a frustrated drummer, but I’m fascinated by rhythm and music that has a rhythmic base. I play the drums badly and can do percussion but my hands and feet don’t coordinate! I’ve played electronic drums but it’s not quite the same thing. Keep On Dancin’  is such a great groove, very minimal—I love minimal music—it’s very simple and based around this metronomic, early prototype disco beat, before disco. It’s great because it’s got a suggested political agenda which he didn’t really say much about, it but “South African Man” was done at the height of Apartheid. 

 

For Your Pleasure, Roxy Music

They were so pivotal in the history of Cabaret Voltaire, Chris, Richard and myself were big Roxy Music fans, we used to go and see them in the early days, particularly because of Brian Eno and what he did with electronic music. Eno was the heart of Roxy for us, when we were teenagers Roxy were a significant band along with Bowie, they changed the whole landscape in terms of popular music. When they first appeared it was like they were from outer space; playing on top of pubs and playing on The Old Grey Whistle Test, they were this band that appeared and seemed to come from Mars.

On the electronic side we were [trying to be like them], we weren’t into being a pop band but we were into popular music and we were young, it was the fact that they had this weirder electronic edge to them. Eno represented that and they were playing tape recorders and VCS3 synthesisers so that early period of Roxy were great. They were really cool and wore brilliant clothes, we were northern people and when we were kids we loved dressing up. It was us growing up into that teenage thing of looking for exotic glamourous appeal. The second album it’s slightly more complete than the first album, and the sleeve is amazing with some incredible tacks like “Do The Strand”, I especially love “Bogus Man” because it’s got this dark groove to it. It’s great because it’s nine minutes long—I love the idea of long tracks but people tend not to do them anymore.

WRANGLER How To Start A RevolutionListen to the new track from Stephen Mallinder, Benge and Phil Winter's new album on Bella Union, out 28 Feb 2020

WRANGLER How To Start A Revolution

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