by Albert Rodriguez -
SGN A&E Writer
The word 'original' can be used literally in regards to Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, more commonly recognized by their abbreviated name, OMD. The Liverpool band, which formed in 1978, is back in action with all four of its original members - Andy McCluskey, Paul Humphreys, Malcolm Holmes, and Martin Cooper. The synth-pop act hit the jackpot when 'If You Leave,' a song written for the John Hughes classic Pretty in Pink, was featured in the film and soundtrack. 'Secret,' 'Souvenir,' 'Pandora's Box (It's a Long, Long Way),' 'Enola Gay,' and 'Talking Loud and Clear' are just a few of their biggest singles. Their newest release is the 2010 album History of Modern.
OMD plays The Showbox SoDo on September 29, as part of a fall U.S. tour - visit www.showboxonline.com for ticket information. I phoned Humphreys at his London home before OMD headed out on the road, and here's what he had to say when I invited him to The Music Lounge.
Albert Rodriguez: How long has it been since OMD played Seattle?
Paul Humphreys: It must've been some time in the '80s when we played Seattle - the late '80s. So it's been a long time.
Rodriguez: It was a different Seattle than now. The grunge movement hadn't taken off yet.
Humphreys: I know. I really loved Seattle when we went through there. It's such a great town. I've eaten down on the bay [waterfront]. There are some great fish restaurants down there.
Rodriguez: OMD exploded on the music scene with 'If You Leave,' featured on Pretty in Pink. How did this song find its way to a John Hughes film?
Humphreys: John was a big fan of OMD. He loved all that British electro. He used a song called 'Tesla Girls' that we did on the Junk Culture album very briefly in Weird Science. When he was making Pretty in Pink, he phoned us and said, 'Listen guys, I really want you to write a song for this new film I'm making,' so we said, 'OK, send us the script.' We wrote the song to the script, and we're just about to start an American tour and went out there to mix it. We meet with John and he says, 'We just did a test screening for the movie and everybody hates the ending, so I'm going to re-shoot the ending and your song doesn't work anymore'. And then he said, 'Go into the studio to write another song.' So Andy [McCluskey] and I stayed up all day and all night, 24 hours, and wrote 'If You Leave.'
Rodriguez: It was written in a hotel room in L.A.?
Humphreys: It was written in Larrabee Studios in L.A., and we just booked a studio for our period. I had a piano and Andy's scrawled lyrics for 24 hours and we had this song at the end of it. Fortunately, it was a good song.
Rodriguez: Had you met any of the cast members at the time of the writing, or before?
Humphreys: We sent it to John and then went to bed after writing it. He got it and phoned us - we'd only gotten two hours of sleep. He said, 'All right, guys, it's a go and you've got to record it today.' So we somehow got up, went to the studio, and spent the day recording it. John came down and he brought Molly [Ringwald] and Jon Cryer to the studio, so we got to meet the stars.
Rodriguez: A lot of British bands, including OMD, broke through in the '80s. Did you meet any other groups, like Eurythmics, Culture Club, or Thompson Twins, or still keep in touch with them?
Humphreys: We toured with the Thompson Twins in the '80s, but I'm not really in touch with them anymore. But I'm friends with Andy and Vince from Erasure. I see the Depeche Mode guys a lot, I went to Martin Gore's 50th birthday party the other night. I'm still in touch with quite a lot of the bands, but mainly Human League, Heaven 17, Depeche Mode, and Erasure.
Rodriguez: I'm wondering what you think of American pop music right now?
Humphreys: Pop music for me is dead. It's a genre that's dead, but that doesn't mean there isn't some great music around. I'm looking forward to coming to America and switching on the radio and hearing what's being played now.
Rodriguez: Are there any current artists you follow or like?
Humphreys: I'm a big fan of Arcade Fire, I think they're a brilliant band. I've seen them live a lot. I think they're great songwriters. Hurts are quite good. I like The Postal Service, an American band.
Rodriguez: They're from Seattle, The Postal Service.
Humphreys: Right, exactly. I really like The Postal Service. There's some hip-hop I like. There are some good electronic bands coming out of the U.K. at the moment. There's a band called Mirrors to look out for, they're an underground electronic band but they're brilliant - they're like Kraftwerk meets The Beatles.
Rodriguez: From the new album, how many songs might you include on the set list for this tour?
Humphreys: I think we'll probably play about five from the album, or maybe six. We're going to change the set as we go on the tour, so whatever we feel like playing we'll play. We don't want to be so self-indulgent and go out and play only new songs - people want to hear all these old hits and we really appreciate that. We love to just go out and play these songs like people remember them on the record. Songs are like little time capsules, they're like hooks that you hang memories on and people want to relive that, so we have an obligation as a band to allow them to enjoy that process.
Rodriguez: If my notes are correct, you have a daughter that lives in America.
Humphreys: I have a stepdaughter that lives with me in London and I have a daughter who lives in L.A. She's currently in film school at USC. I'm really looking forward to getting back on tour to see my daughter as well.
Rodriguez: What's the future for OMD? After this tour, will there be another album or tour?
Humphreys: After this tour we're going to take a bit of a break because we've been doing gigs all year. We've all got families and children. I think in November or December we're going to get down to writing new material, we've already got four, kind of five, songs for the next album. The good thing about being in OMD now is we don't have to be in OMD. We're not one of these bands that had to get back together because we've all run out of money. We're doing it for the fun of it. As long as we're having fun, we're going to keep on going.
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