Playing live with your brother in 2008; you have a kind of digital percussion pad you use your hands and fingers on (much as some weird tam tam); what exactly is it? and where are the samples stored that it is triggering? By the sound of them, they unmistakably sound a lot like your own drums; are they?

I think you’re referring to the Roland Handsonic (not on used on the ‘08 tour but on earlier tours). The samples are in the Mac which is running Digital Performer  containing the sampler engine MachFive as well as running multitrack audio.

steve? i was reminded today, of a road trip my son and i took a few years ago…. his favourite album on that trip was ‘A Secret Wish” by Propaganda. I was reminded too, that in reading the sleeve notes on that album, that you were involved?? You can be seen on youtube playing live with the band etc….. i was also reminded of the green Tama concert tom kit you used to play in those days!! ( what ever happened to that kit?) Do you have memories of that project or can you summerize that time??

I only worked with Propaganda on live projects (although with Claudia for her solo album). I think it might have been the first time I’d performed live in the UK with a band other than my own….(maybe?) Michael Mertens was the musical talent in the band and a very nice guy to spend time with. The other chap wasn’t even a musician and 95% of the music was on tape. Derek Forbes and I were the ‘live’ element. Their sound (the Trevor Horn school of production) was important to their success so no risks were taken. Anyway, it was techno-pop .. computers performed the music on the recordings so it’s of little significance if those computer recordings are used live (Kraftwerk broke that ground long before) as long as everyone was busy on stage … although in this case not everyone was busy. When vocals and the rhythm section are live there isn’t much else to distinguish as live if all else is on synths. It still makes me smile to remember when Mick (K) used to wind-up Richard (B) with the comment: “we play instruments, you play equipment”.

Hi Steve, Just curious as to what you were up to — fills-wise — on the track ‘Bestial Cluster’ starting at the 1:16 mark. Used to debate with a couple of friends over whether you’re utilising two bass drums, rapid-fire, or a single bass drum. I wonder about it every time I listen to that track, if I’m honest. Could you enlighten us on it? All the best from Alec

When I was invited over to record on the track it already contained programmed drums by David Torn with the rapid bass drum. I added my performance to that …single bass drum only.

Hi Steve, as a drummer my favourite japan tracks are art of parties and vision of china. could you explain where the influence for those rhythms came from. Also i read that each drum part was laid down individually rather than as a “whole take” as a drummer from the 80’s i remember that studio approach although with hindsight i wish i had played it “live” do you?

I can’t explain where the influence came from but I wanted to design rhythms that didn’t use hi-hat or ride cymbals, without losing momentum. Those particular tracks were not recorded in part, they were played as whole takes and in those days you had to get through the entire track without any mistakes … unless there was an obvious drop-in point (such as the pauses in ‘Visions Of China’). Speaking of which, for the drum break in that song I overdubbed separate synth percussion parts on the Prophet 5 to augment the basic pattern and give the impression of multiple drummers. I did also overdub additional snares on those two tracks. The only drum track recorded piecemeal on that album was ‘Still Life In Mobile Homes’.

Given the success of “Lumen” on vinyl, which other album of yours do you think deserves a vinyl re-release? I’m hoping for “_ism”, because the artwork is superb, and there were a lot of other visuals produced at the time for the album’s website that could be used (which I saved by the way).

I think any album is worthy if there is a demand for vinyl. This decision rests with whoever owns the recording and the artists have no say in it (as we recently saw with Universal releasing ‘Tin Drum’ on vinyl). In the case of ‘_ism’ that is (was) Polydor, Japan therefore the decision to reissue isn’t ours.

We own the ‘Lumen’ live recording, but not the studio recordings, (apart from ‘Beginning To Melt’) and was therefore able to license it to Kscope for a vinyl release as well as the upcoming double CD release (c/w ‘Stone To Flesh’ also artist-owned), including a bonus track that Richard and I have recently recorded.

Hi Steve, another drum question. Were you involved in any electronic drum development and did you play Simmons. Also what are your views on electronic kits as they are now vs acoustic drums. I still have a Rhythm magazine interview with you and Richard B , think you were talking a lot about electronics then but this was back in the late 80s. Thanks.

I wasn’t involved in any electronic drum development and yes, I did have a Simmons kit which I toured the UK with in ’81. They were very limited sonically and had no memory function so every sound alteration had to be dialled in. The pad surface was made from riot shield plastic giving no buoyancy or shock absorption thereby transferring the impact back into the hand which caused joints to swell. One tour preceded by a few weeks rehearsals was more than enough. Electronic kits have come a long way and are quite comfortable to play. They have a practical use in many situations but I’ve more commonly incorporated sampler pads (triggers) into a live rig rather rather than electronic kits with generic sounds (sometimes a bit of both) but of course they can’t replace the real thing when it comes to expressive playing.

Hi Steve, I grew up in the same area as you in South East London. I feel privileged to have been born and raised here. Are you a proud Londoner?

My personal experience of South East London in the 70′s being a racist, homophobic war zone was pretty unpleasant so I was unable to nurture any sense of being privileged, however it did go a long way towards pushing me in the direction I went. I appreciate the diversity here, and how it never fails to provide an interesting set of challenges (not always good). I don’t yearn for peaceful countryside as city life is in my blood and London, with all it’s faults, can be an entertainment in itself, so it does deliver in that respect. Unfortunately, many parts of London have been neglected and are shamefully dilapidated which, considering the wealth this city generates, seems somewhat unjustifiable. The movers and shakers are busy generating wealth and not so keen to reinvest. If London competed better as an example of modernity with greater value for money, better public services and general living conditions, then I might start to feel privileged, otherwise it doesn’t do us any favours, we have to work hard to survive here and the privileges are few.

Hi Steve, can you describe how you created the percussion track and breath-like sounds on your song Mission ? (Worlds in a Small Room ) was an Emulator involved ? cheers & thanx -martin

I believe it was an Emulator and the sequencer of choice was the Roland MC-4 which was a favourite of mine pre my first Apple Mac (SE) in around ‘86. I think I’m correct in saying the breaths belonged to a certain Mr. Barbieri, and the heavy downbeat was the slamming of a studio door.