Interviews: Crimson Boy
- Dark Electronic Post Industrial Cold Wave

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In this episode we chat with Vince Valentini from Crimson Boy - a project from Perth that has existed in several forms since the mid 80s. His main solo project is Fate Razor and he's started up a record label called Lightarmour Editions. I first heard Crimson Boy in the mid-90s and was immediately impressed by the intense and multi-layered robotic electro-industrial EBM - played CB tracks a lot on radio shows over the years. The 2017 album comes from a reunion of members and ventures fully in to dreamier sonic pastures - warm soothing vocals, bubbling ebm-inspired electronic basslines, gentle electro-percussions and rich sonic textures remind of some early '80s darkwave/coldwave with contemporary production. This in-depth discussion explores what it was like to make & perform dark electronic music in the 80s & 90s, reforming, the process of creation, the projects' histories and influences, their future plans and more! To hear the sounds while you read here's the link on bandcamp for Crimson Boy's 2017 album Street Gods and Neon Dogs ... More links to music are included below.

Interview by DJ Robot Citizen:

If a rogue interviewer were to pounce upon you in a dark corner of the internet and ask you to describe the sounds of Crimson Boy in around 50 words or less, what would those words be?

Vince of Crimson Boy:
The sound of two idealistic, agitated, rebellious souls stumbling across the enthralling power of drum machines, synthesisers etc, and their unlimited scope as a vehicle for the imagination. The sound is diverse and perpetually morphing but for those who notice, the underlying spirit is the constant.

DJ Robot: How and when did Crimson Boy come in to being? How it has journeyed over the years?

Vince:
Crimson Boy came into being in 1983 following an encounter between Vince Valentini and Andy Brown at the legendary post-punk ‘Underground’ nightclub in Perth. Andy and Petar Zadraznik (the third member of the initial line-up of Crimson Boy) were at that stage involved in another outfit. This line-up would encompass Petar on sequencer and synths & drum machine, Vince on synths and backing tapes, and Andy on Vocals and stringmachine/synth.

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Initially writing and performing as "Childhood’s End" - adequately described as a mixture of The Cure meets Cabaret Voltaire meets Soft Cell - the trio became duo "Crimson Boy" upon Petar’s departure soon after. Although there was an inspired endeavour to make avant-garde noise, it became apparent that the natural strength of the original line-up was melodic songs such as "Spirits" and "Open Air". "Spirits" and "I Will Sacrifice" are considered the defining songs of early Crimson Boy, and could be described as the soul of Joy Division carried in the body of a more-primal Depeche Mode or Orchestral Manouevres in The Dark. As far as the band was concerned, that was a great place to be.

By the time the 80’s came to a close, Crimson Boy was a far darker and moodier entity, and noise had dethroned melody ("House of Steel", "Neon Boot Black", "Armoured Scum", "Neon Dog" etc). The first formal release was in 1987; the 3-track 12" EP "Hearts In Armour". In 1990, shortly before the band called it quits a retrospective cassette was released titled "Street Gods and Neon Dogs". The song “Crimson Boy” from the release reached number one on the Perth Indie Charts The release/album itself reached number 4 on those same charts. The cassette tracklist exemplified the diverse breadth and morphing trajectory of the band, from its postpunk roots ("Crimson Boy" and "I Will Sacrifice") to where it was headed ("House of Steel", "Neon Dog" and "Neon Boot Black"). In ’87 a film clip was also shot for Neon Dog and aired on Rage. This was Version One of Crimson Boy.

DJ Robot: Here's a recent clip for Crimson Boy's "Neon Boot Black" - recorded live in 1990.

DJ Robot: I love that live recording. The sound certainly moved in to a very new-beat electro-punk industrial style... So what happened to Crimson Boy then?

Vince of Crimson Boy
: Towards the end of 1990 Andy and Vince separated. Vince went solo, kept the Crimson Boy moniker and headed towards a heavier, more complex, nihilistic treatment - the eyeliner and futurist romanticism of the New Wave had resolutely smeared to a blackness; the first fruits of this new chapter appeared in 1991 as the 12" double A-side "Desolation Angel" / "Neon Dog". Pressed on red vinyl, and incorporating a lot of the then new-and-exciting sampling technology, the songs were delivered in a barking pseudo-rap vocal style and managed unexpectedly (given the heaviness of the songs) to garner some JJJ airplay.

This version of CB really took flight in the mid 90’s, during a stint in Melbourne. The CB of this period sounded like the malevolent lovechild of Clock DVA, Skinny Puppy, German Electronica, and Dub greats Tackhead. Or, as was once suitably put "like Daleks screaming at each other in a pinball parlour".

Crimson Boy Perth Australia Australian Electronic Industrial Music Band Group Musicians Photo Images Photos Pictures

DJ Robot: That's certainly an apt description for the first Crimson Boy material I heard & am still a great fan of.

Vince of Crimson Boy
: Tracks from this era were released on national and international compilations, a letter of interest was forwarded by Wax Trax records Chicago, and an album was mastered and prepared for release, but personal crisis intervened and the brakes were on.
Tracks included "ColdComfort Logic", "BlackGuard WolfPack", "Dead Dreams Bloom", "Angelignite", and "Love Gone Wrong Song". Currently this version of CB, and the later songs that stretched into the next decade under the name Fate Razor ("Cold Star", "King Circuit") has been re-animated (as Fate Razor) and a new album is in the works.
This was Version Two of Crimson Boy.

DJ Robot: Darn that thing called life has a way of getting in the way of plans! I'm looking forward to hearing the reanimated Fate Razor music also... So from that point I gather there was a roughly decade-long gap in the space-time-continuum to bring us to recent time - How did the reformation of the Crimson Boy duo come about?

Vince
: The current version of Crimson Boy stirred into life around 2012. After deviations into various musical fields and finally a long pause from music altogether, I came across old recordings of Crimson Boy V1 and the original starry-eyed inspiration for the music and ideas was reborn anew. Andy at this stage was writing material under the name Box With God. As a pilot in reviving the spirit of the initial undertaking, a cover of The Cure’s "All Cats Are Grey" was written and mixed. Shortly afterwards, a meeting between Andy and I (we had not seen each other for over 15 years) resulted in the reformation of the original Crimson Boy and the inception of a new release - the first full album "Street Gods and Neon Dogs", titled after the 1990 cassette

DJ Robot: So in all what have you released and where are they available from?

Vince:
1987 - “Hearts In Armour” 3-track 12”. A few copies of this vinyl are still trading online. The band is in possession of a dozen remaining new copies. There are plans to re-release an (extended tracklist) version on vinyl early in the new year, including original recordings dating back to the early 80’s.

1990 - “Street Gods and Neon Dogs” 5-track Cassette. Most of these songs are currently being reworked for future Crimson Boy releases. The second instalment of well-known track “Neon Dog”, “System of Lights (Neon Dog Reprise)” will be included on the forthcoming 2nd album “Planetary Radio”.

1991 - “Desolation Angel / Neon Dog” 2-track 12”. Copies of this release are still trading online. Desolation Angel is been reworked for incorporation into future Fate Razor releases.

1994-2000 - Various compilation albums, including “Circuit Noir” / “Re-Evolution” / “Blatant Propaganda Volume 1” / “Vulgar Tongue” etc

2017 - March 7th “Street Gods and Neon Dogs” 10-track digital album on Lightarmour Editions. The album is in a process of remixing and remastering for planned vinyl release. First full album, and first release by the classic line-up and version of Crimson Boy since 1990. Includes new material, reworked and re-recorded versions of “I Will Sacrifice”, plus a cover of The Cure’s “All Cats Are Grey”.



2017 - March 4th “Always Alana (Nightstar Remix)” extended remix digital single on Lightarmour Editions.



2017 - Sept 20th “Neon Boot Black - Live 04/06/90” live retrospective digital single on Lightarmour Editions. From a gig at The Old Melbourne Hotel in 1990.



Forthcoming:

Late 2017 - “Me I Disconnect From You” (Gary Numan cover) digital single on Lightarmour Editions.

Late 2017 - Untitled 4-track Digital EP on Lightarmour Editions.

Early 2018 - “Planetary Radio” 9-track Digital and Vinyl album on Lightarmour Editions, currently in production.

Digital releases all available via the usual digital stores. Vintage and new vinyl will be made available in the near future - see Lightarmour Editions for notification: http://lightarmour.com.au

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DJ Robot: Regards the most recent release, the "Street Gods and Neon Dogs" album, please share about how that came together... And did it end up being like how you envisaged it might at the start? If not how did it transform through the production process?

Vince of Crimson Boy:
Once the reformation of the band (and the cover of “All Cats Are Grey”) was confirmed, there were then discussions about re-capturing the spirit and tone of the youthful Crimson Boy and its philosophical and musical aspirations. This was quite easy really, as that feeling has never left us - if anything, its been amplified. There was an immersion in the first songs, recordings of jam sessions, unreleased demos, artwork, lyric books etc. There was so much of Crimson Boy that never reached manifestation in the early tumultuous period, and we were determined to give it its day in the sun.

The excitement fuelled a clutch of new songs, written/recorded/mixed and produced over the space of about a year - Here Are The Young Men, Love Song, Love Song Sequence, and the Hearts in Armour trilogy. The Hearts in Armour songs, although new compositions, were based on ideas from one of the early 80’s jam sessions and a freeform instrumental titled “The Machine Breathes” which was never released. “Always Alana” was conceived from a rough cassette demo Andy played to me that he had started sometime 86 or 87 - I loved the atmosphere of it, the warbling bass guitar and clattering drum machine reminded me of early Sisters of Mercy. It was taken into the studio and programmed into the album version. Finally, we decided to rework one of the early released tracks - settled on “I Will Sacrifice” - and rebuilt a version of it as we had wanted it to sound back then, as well as an extended remix.

An album is a transformative process, definitely - its a narrative. The narrative that formed in this instance was a soundscape for the characters that populated the themes and images of the original project; the neon dogs and the street gods, street glamour, romance and squalor, the blood of the human heart entangled in the uncaring mechanical wheel of life, and ultimately the rebellious perseverance of will and imagination. The broad picture had been painted at the outset of the album, but as it developed it naturally settled into its own identity - and that is always one of the most intriguing and mysterious parts of creating a work. Individually and together, we also went through a fascinating process of closing a loop, a cycle of time.

Aficionados of Crimson Boy know very well that there are many faces to the sound - but it seems that “Street Gods and Neon Dogs” worked its way towards the more melodic, atmospheric, and crystalline end of the spectrum rather than the noisier, dissonant end. Its the album we had in our minds when we started out, and we’re very happy with the outcome. If Kraftwerk had spent more time on the streets and in nightclubs (rather than laboratories), and if they’d grown up in the spirited flash of Punk and Post-punk (rather than progressive rock), it may have sounded vaguely like “Street Gods…”

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DJ Robot: Are there any particular themes/philosophies/ideas and/or sets of aesthetics that guide or provide a frame for the music you make as Crimson Boy? If so please feel welcome to share about that.

Vince of Crimson Boy:
Yes definitely; some of it was described in the previous answer. Essentially two idealistic teenagers woke up to the depraved cruelty of this world, its societies of mass hallucination, and its levels and levels of lies. We wrote about it mainly on a personal level at the beginning - issues of the heart and mind, freedom and rebellion - and then gradually the scope extended further and further. At the time of the formation of Crimson Boy I seriously regarded myself as a Dadaist, and later a Situationist. The motif we used on stage and on our artwork/slides at the time was a foetus crucified on a cross - not in a Jim Thirwell way, but rather to symbolise what happens to human aspiration/innocence in a world that must surely be the work of a madman.

We don’t sit around glum and morbid, we have always lived/loved life intensely and that, together with the disgust that comes with having a sense of the rot been pulled over our eyes, has always fuelled our music. We have always written about love, and heartbreak of course - they are archetypal experiences of been human. I recall that David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust album had a huge impact on me - the feeling of being alien in this world, and the way the album played itself out through a host of characters; this was an approach taken on the “Street Gods and Neon Dogs” album.

In the years that Andy and I were apart, it seems we went through our own respective delvings into finding some answers, our own immersions into “spirituality” for want of a better word. Having both come out the other side after a long process, and having gone very deep into the rabbithole - I can state without any reservation that almost every system of knowledge/religion/esotericism/philosophy perpetrated on this poor plant is utter bullshit; dangerous bullshit. It seems the “real stuff’ is very very simple, and nothing to do with our accepted reference points.

DJ Robot: I concur with that experience and eventual assessment! Are there plans for CB to perform live again?

Vince of Crimson Boy:
We hadn’t thought about the live thing at the outset of our reformation, but strangely we were being offered gigs immediately after the release of the album. I imagine that in the not-too-distant future there will be a live show again. For now, the focus is on the new songs.

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DJ Robot: And regards the early years what are some fond memories (of gigs) that you recall? What was it like being a synth-based live band back in the 80s?

Vince of Crimson Boy:
Thanks for the opportunity to describe what it was like performing synth-based music in the 80s: For the first series of gigs at the Perth Underground - which was a brilliant postpunk/new wave nightclub we spent a lot of time in - we had our synths propped up on plastic milk crates sourced from the backlot of the club, because we considered that only ‘commercial wankers’ used proper stands, ha.

Andy handled two analog synths on his stack and a microphone as well, I also would handle two synths and additionally a backing tape machine and backing cassettes. None of the instruments were synchronised, the synth sounds had to be programmed from memory during the disquieting static and stillness between each song.

DJ Robot: OMG!! How difficult things were originally and how much easier it all has become these days!

Vince:
In this pause also a backing cassette would have to be loaded and cued - on the tapes were the recorded drum machine and sequencer parts for each song, as well as ‘found sound’, noise, and extra instrumentation. Once the synths were ready, the tape would be cued, hiss would fill the PA system, and finally the song would get moving. Many of the difficult basslines and melodies were played manually. In the meantime, smart-arse comments would be wryly received from the drunk goths at the front.

DJ Robot: lol

Vince: This was done almost in darkness, as we favoured moody and minimal lighting, and I recall been stressed out as I couldn’t clearly see which song tape I was loading into the machine. Andy would leave the keyboards and venture out for a vigorous flail, and for the beatier songs some of the audience would invade the stage and jump around in exuberant unhinged mode while I nervously watched their floor-stomping shaking the tape machine slowly off its perch.

Andy used to spike his hair with soap, and I favoured almost full-geisha make-up at the time, so when the heat of the stage-lights reached peak we both had issues; I think at times there was enough eyeliner and sweat in my eyes to blind me. We were usually also quite drunk, and that didn’t help the non-technical technical nightmare. But, it sounded great - big analogue synth sounds, bright whacking analogue drum machines, and Andy always put in 150% in the performances. For some shows we had a friend/unofficial member of the band, John McKee, directing visuals projected across the band and on the backdrop. In a cultural context where pub rock still ruled, this was quite a spectacle.

DJ Citizen: It certainly sounds like one. From your description I can vividly imagine and almost feel the tension in the air; ingredients that can make for a great concert! ... What other art/music projects are the members of CB involved with? ... I know of Fate Razor and the record label Lightarmour Editions... Anything you would like to say regards them eg. their scope and plans for world domination?

Vince of Crimson Boy:
Currently Andy is solely occupied with Crimson Boy and that has always been where we meet. On my part there are a spectrum of projects, new and long-running, although Crimson Boy is the main one.

There’s Fate Razor - that started in the mid 90’s and has recently been revived; an album is in the works “Fallen Machines Ascending, into Hell” and there will be a double single soon “Invisible Enemies Acting Through Visible Means”/“Cry Robot Cry”.

DJ Robot: here's a youtube link for a brand new visual clip for "Cold Star" by Fate Razor

Vince: There’s Salvarosa, an EP out soon “Song for Evangelon” - somewhere between shoegaze and soundtrack, wall of atmospheric guitars and textures. There’s The Noise of Ghosts, the most recent music project, based on the book that has been in process for over 5 years. The Noise of Ghosts is quite a departure from everything I’ve done before; for starters its predominantly acoustic - accordion, piano, organ, percussion and found sound. If you imagine a mixture of Scott Walker and the mystical end of 60’s music, Coil, This Mortal Coil, and Folk Music, that would give you a broad idea. There’s also the soundtrack and sound design for an independent film been produced here in Perth, and there are other music projects but I’ll keep that under the hat for now.

Finally, in January Lightarmour Editions was founded as a record label and multimedia studio, to initially serve as a container for Crimson Boy and my own projects but also increasingly for other artists that fit into its general aspirations. Melbourne-based Lake Lustre, the music of visual artist Joe Scerri, has a single out currently “Cocoons” and an EP is in the works. There’s also the compilation album of Bowie covers by Australian bands “The Man in The Rainbow Mask” being put together at the moment, although I may broaden it to international invitations. Currently all the releases are digital but vinyl releases are planned for the near future. And yes, world domination for the label would be great, and the capacity to support and release music by some of the incredible bands I hear all the time.

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DJ Robot: Goodness! I am theorising from that you must have a team of clones &/or are a very productive insomniac! ;) Looking forward to seeing all projects reach fruition and hearing them! ... Regards inspiration: 1) who/what initially played a big part in inspiring you to create music; 2) who/what else has done so (in a very significant way) during the years; and 3) most recently?

Crimson Boy:
Part One: Andy and I were immersed in the awe-inspiring storm of brilliant new music in the early postpunk period. There were so many amazing flavours to get excited about, generally almost everything that came out on Mute Records, 4AD Records, Factory Records, as well as D.A.F, Echo and the Bunnymen, Simple Minds, Orchestral Manoeuvres in The Dark, The Human League, The Cure, Bauhaus, Cabaret Voltaire, John Foxx, and many incredible Australian obscurities like Whirlywirld. Petar Zadraznik and I used to go into the city to a great record shop called DADA’s and buy any vinyl that had the Mute stamp on it - Depeche Mode, Fad Gadget, Yazoo etc. There was a legendary Perth band at the time called And An A which was an inspiration for anyone who was fortunate enough to see them; way ahead of their time and incredibly powerful both musically and lyrically/vocally. We have discussed doing a cover of their “Haloes and Wings” single sometime, if we can honour it. The underground music scene in Australia at the time was amazing (especially in the east), but in all truth Andy and I and the circle we hung out with spent a great deal of time importing vinyl from the UK and Europe, especially Germany. There were very obscure bands too numerous to mention, bands like Eyeless in Gaza, Modern Eon etc, and I remember a gig of The USA’s brilliant The Residents in Perth having a huge (and disturbing) impact on all of us. The Wolfgang Press was a big influence on me (still one of my favourites) - one of the most underrated and misunderstood bands of the era.

If I could put it in a microcosm - we would both agree that Visage’s “Fade to Grey” is an all-time classic, one of Andy’s favourite tracks is “Leave in Silence” by Depeche Mode, one of our favourite common albums is Joy Division’s “Closer”, my favourite album from 1980 is OMD’s “Organisation”, and two of my favourite non-electronic tracks from the early postpunk era are “Flight” by A Certain Ratio and “Marble Station” by Sort Sol, tracks that I still listen to.

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Part Two: In the middle period, it was Front 242 and Skinny Puppy, Test Department and Coil, Laibach and all the heady stuff that came to be called “Industrial” and “EBM”. Andy still listens to a lot of EBM. One of the main bands I loved at the time, along with Skinny Puppy and Clock DVA, was 4AD’s The Wolfgang Press - especially their Standing Up Straight album, a soul-rending excursion to be sure. Canada’s Nettwerk Records, Belgium’s Play It Again Sam, and Chicago’s Wax Trax Records were significant inspirations at the time, and for me it was the start of incorporating bastardised elements of Hip-Hop and the left-field Dub of the On U Sound label and in particular Tackhead.

Part Three: I know Andy still loves the EBM stuff, but he has a wide taste in music like myself. I think Germany still produces great electronic artists, and for many years I listened to everything that came out on France’s Ultimae Records. In the last 15 years I’ve absorbed and fallen in love with so many musical forms I would have previously not given a hearing, an extension of the spectrum I have always listened to. From Progressive House, to the amazing adventurous pop of the 60’s, progressive metal, to folk music from various cultures. I have travelled a fair bit, seen classical guitar performances in Barcelona, a Jordi Savall concert in Istanbul, a travelling German musician playing a custom-built sitar-type instrument on a hill in Tuscany etc etc. One of the best gigs I’ve ever been to was The John Spencer Blues Explosion - that taught me some things about using minimal elements powerfully. Love all of it, but if I hear jazz music I feel like vomiting, along with that bullshit chest-beating thug rap that dominates the psyche of the western puppet theatre and the ironic politically-correct hypnosis that swallows it. A brilliant obscure band from the 80’s “And Also The Trees” (Robert Smith’s favourite band for some time apparently) has been on rotation for me again recently, their recent material is still unique and beautiful. I humbly suggest that you do your ears and soul a favour and listen to their classic “The Street Organ”.

DJ Robot: Awesome - thank-you for sharing that. I'm a huge fan of most you've listed and keen to hear the others!... From the perspective of an underground independent artist how do you feel about how the music scene/industry/world has changed over the decades since you commenced? What are some pros and cons of: i) current times and ii) ye olden times?

Vince of Crimson Boy:
I think many musicians have already summed it up pretty well. Yes, the capacity to manifest/produce and release your own material is easier than ever before. But millions upon millions of artists are all doing the same thing - its a shit-storm of mediocrity, generally badly-produced and haphazardly conceived. Getting the attention of the world becomes the main issue; promotion, advertising, radio play, social media, youtube etc etc. So in the end its the same game its always been - those who have big money behind them and insider contact get the iTunes spotlight and radio play.

There are a handful of online blogs/magazines that have far too much of a monopoly on what makes it into the light and what doesn’t, which is a precarious situation. In Australia it seems that if you’re not either politically-correct/strangled quirky indipop or blahblah suck-my-dick hiphop, you’re up against it.

Playing live has become the only way through again, just as it has been forever. On a positive note - vinyl is returning with a vengeance; a great medium.

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DJ Robot: Again I concur with those assessments. What are your plans for CB and the record label for the forthcoming year?

Vince of Crimson Boy:
The next CB album is in the works - “Planetary Radio” - some rough/guide vocals have been recorded and a great deal of the music has already been written and tracked. There’s also an EP in progress and more. Both for CB and the other artists/releases on the label, the main thing at this stage is to promote and air it and get the ball rolling. For the label, as well as developing the website, there’s a handful of interesting artists I’d like to get involved with and that’s in the works presently.

I hope its understood that Lightarmour Editions is not a retro label - the zeitgeist, the essential spirit, of that heady technicolour early postpunk period is a guiding inspiration - but the form of that spirit could be anything, I’m not bound to any particular one. I’d noticed over recent years that the particular feeling I’m referring to has been bubbling up through the current generation. Fortunately they are fed up with the hedonistic, feeble and vacuous musical crap thats been shoved down their throat by the globalist programmers manipulating ‘yoof’ culture. The 60s underground had a similar zeitgeist.

Electronic music, I think, will always be an enthralling and mysterious thing that gets me deeply, but if I hear a folk band for example that soars in imagination, movement, power, and heartache then I’d be interested in it for the label. My wish is to be in a position to release beautifully produced vinyl artefacts, containing memorable music, words and ideas.

DJ Robot: In closing, what are your website addresses?

Vince of Crimson Boy:

+ The Label - Lightarmour Editions: http://lightarmour.com.au
+ Crimson Boy on Bandcamp: https://crimsonboyofficial.bandcamp.com
+ Crimson Boy on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CrimsonBoyOfficial/
+ Crimson Boy on Youtube
+ Crimson Boy on JJJ Unearthed (2 Tracks available for download)

DJ Robot: Thank-you Vince for the deep and insightful comments. Best wishes for the current and future projects!

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