October 16th, 2000
Over the last few days, I had the rare opportunity to chat with Andy McCluskey on a wide range of topics from Paul’s recent US tour, to his new role as song writer for Atomic Kitten.
Andy was very gracious, and a true pleasure to talk to, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank Andy again for taking the time to talk with me.
Pat: So, if I understand correctly, regarding Paul’s tour, the original agreement was that Paul would only do the songs that he sang lead on. Is that correct?
Andy: The original idea of the tour as I understood it from Paul was that that they were going to use this as a vehicle to promote their new material, Paul and Claudia’s, and they would do also some Propaganda songs, because she was in Propaganda, and some OMD songs . Paul specifically mentioned to me “Secret”, “Souvenir” and “Forever Live and Die.” Understandably, I was entirely happy for him to sing them because he wrote them and sang them. And he asked me would it be OK if I could be promoted as Paul Humphreys from OMD and I said, yeah, OK, Paul Humphreys from OMD, you were in OMD and that is factually correct.
However, as soon as the promoters started getting a hold of the gigs they started to promote is as OMD, or OMD featuring Paul Humphreys. There was one place that was promoting it with a picture of me!!!
Pat: Yes, I do remember seeing that..
Andy: I mean it just got really frustrating. Unfortunately, all I could do since I couldn’t got talk to the promoters, I had to talk to Paul and his manager. It seemed to be that they were unable to stop the American promoters from perpetrating fraud! So in the end, I got so frustrated, I had to threaten them from withdrawing their license to use the name “OMD” at all! It was the only thing I could do to force them to do something about it. I was thinking that people are going to start thinking that OMD was on tour, they’re going to turn up, and they’re going to see Paul and Claudia sing 3 OMD songs. Well then of course as it turned out, (sigh) you know I’m not just imagining this, I spoke with Paul, and Paul said to me ‘I’ve got to do more OMD songs, is it all right?’ I said ‘all right, that’s a bit weird, but if you want to do more OMD songs, you can do more OMD songs’. I feel sorry in that he had to do the tour the way the promoters wanted it if he wanted to get his money.
That’s the reality, you know, that’s the way life goes, and I’m cool with that. I’m sure lots of OMD fans are quite happy that they were going to get to hear more than just 3 OMD songs , but I was just really disappointed and upset that Paul seems to think that I, you know, didn’t want him to tour and that I tried to stop him. You know, I was the man who gave him the opportunity in the first place. I was just very upset with the promoters and I just really felt that his manager was unable to control the fraud being perpetrated by these promoters. In the end, I stopped fighting it because I was getting bad publicity from it and everybody started to think that I was trying to be mean to Paul. So in the end I’ve just shut up, and let them get on and be promoted in a way that is not correct, and is not within the terms of my original agreement with Paul. I just got fed up with arguing with him and being cast as the bad guy.
Pat: I understand perfectly, and I’m glad we have the chance to talk and hopefully clear the air about things. Everything you’ve said certainly makes sense, but do you know for certain that it is Paul and his manager’s fault that the venues are falsely advertising the shows. Take Ticketmaster for example. I remember the fiasco with them some time back whereas if you went to their site and did a search for “OMD”, it would pop up that there is an “OMD” show in Anaheim and an “OMD” show at the Key Club. Based on that, couldn’t your attorney have gone after the actual venues for this?
Andy: Pat, I’m not saying that Paul and his manager have been trying to perpetrate that these are OMD gigs. What I’m saying is that I talked to my lawyer, and he said ‘you can’t do anything to these venues because they have a contract with Paul and his manager, which you don’t know what’s been agreed, and all you have an agreement with is Paul. So, if you want to stop them from promoting it fraudulently, you have to do it though Paul Humphreys so you would have to sue Paul, then Paul would have to sue the venue.’
I’m like, I’m not going to do that!
Pat: Ahh, OK, I see…
Andy: So, it was purely legal stuff. The only way that I could do it was to sue Paul, then he would have to sue the venue because I didn’t have a direct legal contract with the venue. There was no way that I could actually touch them (the venues) and that was the really frustrating part. Believe me, if I could have sent a lawyer’s note, to various venues just saying, you know, ‘desist from promoting this or you will be sued’, I would have. That would have certainly been a lot easier, and probably wouldn’t have got me into conflict with Paul.
Pat: It almost sounds like a vicious circle where if Paul were to sue the venue, it would be like biting the hand that feeds you, and obviously Paul’s your friend, and you certainly wouldn’t want to sue him.
Andy: No, I didn’t
Pat: So, are you at all interested in hearing Paul’s renditions of some of the OMD songs?
Andy: Sure I’m curious, but I don’ think I could actually attend a show, and I don’t think Paul would be comfortable knowing that I was in the audience, nor do I thin the fans would be either. I mean yeah, I am curious…
Pat: So, one of the stickier issues that has arisen amongst fans on the web was the use of the term “tribute band”. Was this a term that you used when referring to Paul’s tour?
Andy: (Sigh… Long Pause….) Yes, I did use that term, and I seriously regret doing so..
Pat: So, your agreement with Paul, is this a written agreement?
Andy: Yes, it was effectively when the band split up that in the end it was all decided by lawyers and such. Paul basically sold the name of the band to me. Which takes us back to another point in his interview which I felt was somewhat less than factually correct. I am not going to get into now, why the band split up because that has to do with personal feelings, emotions. I felt what I felt, and he felt what he felt, and we are going to have different points of view so there is no point in airing them, that’s personal.
Pat: So are you saying that your view of why the band broke up is different than what Paul told me?
Andy: My view of why the band broke up will be somewhat different than Paul’s, but I’m not going to get into that argument. There is no reason. It will always be one of things where I saw one thing happening and he saw another thing happening, so we had different feelings and different emotions about the same set of facts.
But after we decided that the band was finishing, then, as he’s relayed them to you, the facts are not exactly as I recall them being. What happened was the band stopped, we couldn’t get on, we couldn’t write songs and we couldn’t agree about very much at all. Then a few months later, Paul came back to me and said ‘listen I’ve been talking to my accountant and he tells me that OMD is a valuable trademark and that someone should carry on being OMD, and since Malcolm and Martin and I are writing together, and since there’s 3 of us and 1 of you, we’re going to be OMD. Is that OK?’
At that point, that band had actually finished, and then Paul came back and said ‘me Mally and Martin want to continue.’ So I went to Virgin and I said…
Pat: So this is exactly how I understand it, and this is how Paul explained it to me as well…
Andy: OK, well it’s not the way it came across in the interview.
Pat: Well, that could certainly be my fault as there are tiny bits and pieces from mine and Paul’s conversation that I couldn’t quite make out due to the fact that people were coming in and out and there was terrible noise in the room as well. This is why there are no exact quotes in there. Rather than try to guess what was said, I left the pieces I couldn’t understand out from the written interview.
Andy: Ahh, OK I see. That is understandable
Pat: My little digital recorder here is only so good, and in some case too good as it picks up everything. So, that is exactly how Paul explained it to me, was that he Mal and Mart had come to you and told you that they wanted to continue on as OMD, and essentially you were against the idea…
Andy: Yes, at the time I was less than enamored with the music they were writing. That’s one of the reasons why we were going in separate directions.
So, I asked Virgin if he was legally able to do this and they said, ‘well, if you agree with him, he can legally do it, but we own the recording rights to OMD records and we’ve heard what he’s written and we’re not very keen on it. So, you are the front man, and if you write some songs that we think are better, we’d rather you are OMD, if somebody’s going to be OMD.’
So, that’s what got me to thinking about the possibility of being OMD without Paul. So now this business of there being two and a half years of being unable to record anything is really due to the fact that once he had agreed that he was going to allow me to be OMD, and that I would have to buy the name off him, there was a very long period, In fact, I think it was about two and a half years, of discussions between lawyers that dragged out about the how much the value of the name OMD was.
Pat: So, even though Paul had sold rights to the name OMD to you, at that point, after the ink is dry, you are now OMD…
Andy: No, I’m not OMD at that point because nothing had actually been written on paper.
Pat: I see. So the two and a half years was hammering out the fact that you were going to retain the name OMD. So out of curiosity, what made it take two and a half years to sort out? I would think this could be hammered out in a weekend, or 6 months at the very latest.
Andy: Well, it’s usually in an attorney’s best interest to drag things out..
Pat: Because they are paid by the hour..
Andy: Damn right they are!
I mean this is the first time I’d ever really got into a big legal battle so for me it was a learning curve just to realize how long it was going to take and how much it was going to cost. The ridiculous thing is that the amount of money I ended up giving Paul for the name, my legal bill came to almost the same amount! His probably did as well.
Pat: But if Virgin thought that you were OMD, you were the front man, you were the face that everyone recognized, why wouldn’t they be the ones that would pay Paul for the name and pay your legal bills? It’s certainly in their best interests, right?
Andy: Well they certainly weren’t; going to pay my legal bills. They paid Paul in the sense that I borrowed the money from them in the form of an advance because I didn’t have any cash at the time. We were in debt over a million pounds prior to the release of the Best Of in 1988, and all that did was basically pay off our debt. So we came to the end of the band at the end of the 80’s basically quits. No gain, no loss.
I then happen to negotiate with Virgin to borrow as part of the advance for making the Sugar Tax album. So it was a huge gamble. Not only did I have to take the money to make the album, and borrow more money to pay off debts like legal bills and things, but I had to borrow money from them to pay Paul.
Pat: So the new contract you signed, was this for 3 albums or 4?
Andy: It was for 3
Pat: So that comes to another point in the interview I did with Paul where I was very surprised to hear that Virgin had made Paul pay for 50% of the costs of the remixes for the Singles album. So you were aware of this?
Andy: Yeah, and it was completely unfair!
Pat: So this has nothing to do with Andy McCluskey then. This is Virgin being stingy and cheap and they want to get someone to pay…
Andy: Yeah, the whole thing is that although Paul had left the band, we were both still earning money from the same records. In 1992, I had discovered that Virgin had been incorrectly paying OMD for years. My accountant audited them and found out…
Pat: I’m glad you mention that because I have a snippet of an interview you did in 1997 which mentions something to that fact..
Andy: They had been basically underpaying us on the recommended retail price of CD’s when in fact we were being paid the recommended retail price of vinyl.
Pat: Wow, really!!
Andy: Yeah. So every CD we released, they paid us royalties on the vinyl record. They paid us about 30% less than what they should of on every single CD we’d made.
Pat: That would be going all the way back to the first album!!
Andy: Going back to every single CD we had released, yeah… Now that amounted to a fair amount of money. Now the Sugar Tax album had just come out, and actually being the most successful OMD album ever, it out sold the Best Of and it out sold Architecture and Morality. So virgin had just had a big selling OMD album, and they got caught with their finger in the till, so they bent over backwards. They offered to give us all our money, and also, give me a new advance and a new contract.
Well, I took a big advance from them, which is still unrecouped…
Pat: Uh huh, I think I see where this is going..
Andy: So, unfortunately, the Liberator album and the Universal album didn’t sell nearly as well as the Sugar Tax album, so now I owed them money. So when it comes to the Singles album, they incur costs doing remixes and they look at my bank balance with them and go ‘he’s already unrecouped, so there’s no point putting it into that hole… The other guy (Paul), we’re paying that guy royalties let’s deduct this from his royalties.’
And so Paul told me about this and I said ‘You’re fucking joking! Surely they can’t do that!’ Well, what had transpired is that they were holding him to the original contract claiming that, you know, because the songs that are on the album are old OMD songs, that he is still liable to pay for them. I still think it is illegal, but he mentioned in your interview, they came around and said ‘we’re bigger than you, you can’t sue us so fuck off!’
Now I was so offended by Virgin’s treatment of Paul that I offered to have my lawyer have a look at this because I thought I could help. So I said, ‘Paul, send all the documents to my lawyer if you can’t fight them at least let my lawyer have a look at this…’
Pat: Well, that’s great!
Andy: Well, he never got around to sending the documents… This was earlier this year, then the shit hit the fan about the tour, and Paul ended up being angry at me and subsequently never took up the offer.
Now with regards to the Singles album. First of all, it was not an obligation that I had to Virgin. When my contract terminated with them in 1997, in order for them to terminate the contract, I said before I go I want a compilation album with all the hits from the 90’s as well as the 80’s. So it was on my insistence, and I had assumed that myself and Paul would make money from it. So I was somewhat embarrassed when I found out that Paul’s royalties had been deducted for half of the costs of the remixes. But, I’m not exactly how many it sold Pat, but I’m sure that if you add together the actual record royalties, and the mechanicals from the publishing side, that even though Virgin Records had deducted, half of the remix costs , that he actually came out ahead in the long run. Either way, I’m still convinced that Virgin were incorrect and that they shouldn’t have done that, and had they been challenged formally, they would have had to concede.
So again, it was in no way something that I was colluding with Virgin because I was just as upset as Paul.
Pat: Yeah, it’s really rather disgusting when you sit here in my seat as a fan and realize that SO many things could have been done much better by Virgin. The comparison I use is if you take a small company like Mute for instance and Depeche Mode. Depeche Mode are promoted from all 4 corners of the globe, and Mute pours so many resources and so much energy into that band, and they get huge returns. When you look at OMD back in the mid 80’s and see how hugely successful the band was, had Virgin taken the same approach both in the UK and the US, you all could be sitting in your mansions right now and not having a worry in the World.
Andy: Well, Depeche Mode are the big money earners for Mute. Mute was small enough to realize where their assets lay and they worked very hard to promote Depeche Mode. Essentially, the problem with Virgin is that they turned into this huge, International conglomerate and you’re at the mercy of whether people feel like making you a priority or not. Because of that, we have certainly suffered.
Again, Pat, I was just really upset that, the impression that I got from that section of the interview with regards to the Singles album seemed to be suggesting that somehow I was responsible for Paul being ripped off by Virgin, and that’s not the case at all. I think it was absolutely wrong of them to do what they did.
Pat: Yes, I was certainly shocked to hear about this as well, and in remembering my conversation with Paul, he never had any anger or animosity in his voice until he brought up the fact that Virgin had made him pay for 50% of the costs of the remixes. At that point, I was just shocked and couldn’t believe it.
Andy: Right. The other thing I want to say is that Paul wasn’t in the loop on all the decisions made for that album like the track listings and such…
Pat: Ahh, you can see where I was going with this..
Andy: Yeah.. He was aware that it was coming out, he participated in several interviews, TV shows and photo shoots promoting the record with me. He also re-sang the vocals on Souvenir that appeared on the Moby version. He was involved, but not completely involved. The other thing is that I think that Paul is still pissed off that “Secret” didn’t go on the Singles compilation, and he possibly feels that I did it to minimize his contribution or his royalty earning potential. I just did it because I could only get 18 tracks on and if you remember “Telegraph” and “Genetic Engineering” aren’t on there either, and they both charted higher than “Secret” did.
Pat: Yeah, I’m sure that is an argument that could be discussed until the end of time, and I’ve heard your explanation before. So, give me your take on the “Electricity” remix by the Micronauts. How could you let that go onto an OMD record?
Andy: (sigh….) Have you bought a lot of dance mixes and CD singles recently?
Pat: Recently? Hmmm, not really. I have Moby’s latest album and that’s about as close as I have come.
Andy: So what you get these days is that every single is accompanied by about 4 or 5 different remixes of the track. There are varying degrees of relation to the actual song.
The Micronauts remix, because of he way they make music, it is quite avante gard (sp?). They were given carte blanche, complete freedom to do whatever they wanted that was an interpretation or something about, or regarding electricity. They chose to take it into an extreme form of electronic, aggressive electric dance thrash, or whatever you want to call it. Now, some people love it, some people hate it…
Pat: There are actually people who love it?
Andy: Yeah. It actually got a lot of play on some of the very alternative radio stations and dance programs in England when it came out. A lot of people who are old enough to be original OMD fans from the 80’s, it’s not at all to their taste.
But, I thought it was a very interesting piece of music. I thought it as radical in 1998 as “Electricity” was in 1978. I thought it was worthwhile having on the CD because there was a Euro techno version of Enola Gay in a completely different style, and there was also a very ambient version of “Souvenir” by Moby. This was my attempt to have fun to see how different people would interpret older tracks. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Sometimes people like it, sometimes they don’t. It is always very dangerous whenever you do a remake of an old track as you will always be treading one someone’s toes.
So, I know people who hate the “Electricity” remix, and some who love it. I would also agree with Paul that “Souvenir” is the most listen able of the remixes, especially after he re-sang it because the original vocal used was dreadful.
Pat: Don’t tell anyone, but I have a CD copy that I bought from some shop in the UK. It appears that someone from Virgin were selling these things out the back door..
Pat: If memory serves, it sounded like he had just gotten out of bed…
Andy: Well Paul, especially in the very early days, was never a strong vocalist, and he would admit that himself, and the way he would get away with it is that he would triple track his vocals. The 3 of them mixed together would cancel out the inadequacies of the original single vocal. Of course, what Moby did was use just one vocal, and it was sort of naked in its lack of glory, so we re-cut it. We also re-cut “Enola Gay” as well because my original vocal on the Sash track sounded fucking awful.
Pat: (Laughs..) So was there any other track that was a back up, or considered to go onto the CD?
Andy: Yes there was. There were several version of “Joan of Arc”, there was a version on the 12” there was a version of “Apollo XI” done by Apollo 440. There were a few others, but,..
Pat: Are they finished?
Andy: Yeah, they’re finished. Basically, I don’t know whether you know, the original idea was to do a Singles A and a Singles B CD and in the end, Virgin decided that it wasn’t worth paying the extra money for the second CD. Wait, sorry about that. The original idea was to have a CD of A sides, and a CD of B sides, then the next idea was to have a CD of the A sides, and a remix CD of the A sides. Virgin again changed their mind, so they decided to release an EP with 3 remixes and the Singles CD.
There are a lot of other remixes lying around, so maybe when this B sides album is released, maybe we can throw a couple of these remixes on that album. I know that Paul and you don’t like the Micronauts version of “Electricity” but I thought it was very interesting…
Pat: Andy, I hate to tell you, but there are others besides me and Paul (laughs)
Andy: (Laughs) . I thought it was really hard core, and worth putting out there. I knew it would really piss people off.
Pat: (Laughs). Well, you have to look at it from an OMD fan’s perspective . It’s the first single that really got the band rolling, and a lot of people treat is as “sacred”, and I think a lot of people were just shocked. It’s not that it’s a bad piece of music or anything, but the fact that people see that this is OMD’s “Electricity” and then they hear it, and there is absolutely not one note from the song in there, it upset quite a few people.
Andy: And that is unfortunate that this is how a lot of remixing is done these days where there isn’t the nearest smidgen of the original in there and instead a lot of other stuff. We commissioned the Micronauts because we wanted something radical and we certainly got it.
Pat: Yes, you certainly got your money’s worth in that department. So is this B-Sides album really going to see the light of day?
Andy: It would appear so. It seems that the “Peel Sessions” has done surprisingly well so now Virgin seem to be thinking positively about it. By doing the B-Sides, Virgin can keep their costs down, and given the sales of the “Peel Session” it seems that it is in their best interests to do the B-Sides album. Last I heard, they were definitely prepared to look early into the new year for a release.
Pat: speaking of the Peel Sessions, can you give some background for those who might not know what the original “Peel Sessions” were?
Andy: There was a radio show on the BBC some time ago hosted by a man named John Peel. He had a huge following back in the early days, and he would cater to lesser known bands. What you would do is you would go into the BBC studios for a day and lay down 3 or 4 tracks to be broadcast on the show. However, you will notice that there is nothing from Architecture and Morality on the Peel Sessions CD because basically we had become too big for his show (laughs)…
Pat: (laughing) I guess that’s a good thing though. So, I thought the original idea was that this was going to be a Web only release. What happened.
Andy: That was the idea, but what had happened was that we had pretty good success selling the CD’s from the web site. Virgin then realized that there was an opportunity for them to sell them as well, and since they own the master recordings, they chose to sell them via certain retail outlets as well.
Pat: Shifting gears a bit. I’m not sure if you are aware, but the official site reports that there will be a CD of OMD cover versions to be released soon by the folks at Lexicon magazine. What are your thoughts on bands doing OMD covers?
Andy: Personally, I don’t have any problem with it at all. Sometimes it is interesting to hear other people’s interpretations of your songs, and I can say that I get requests regularly from people to either sample, or license rights to an OMD song. I am usually grant permission to most requests, unless the version contains something deeply offensive.
Pat: So do you listen to all of the songs that you grant rights to?
Andy: I try to, but sometimes it doesn’t quite work out to where I can hear everything. As part of the licensing agreement, I am supposed to approve anything before it is released, but that’s not always the case.
Pat: So if you were to venture a guess, how many requests do you get per year for licensing rights?
Andy: Hmm… I would say anywhere from 25-50 a year…
Pat: Recently, we’ve seen your name pop up in the Forum on the OMD site. Do you read things on the site often?
Andy: I try to. I am curious as to what people think and what they have to say about OMD. I do read all the e-mails I get, but I don’t respond to all of them simply because I just don’t have the time. I also try to visit other OMD sites, like yours…
Pat: Now Andy, you’re just saying that because it’s me on your talking to, aren’t you (laughs).
Andy: (Laughs) No, I was just at your site recently and saw that the “News” section on your site simply points to the official site. I would think that after interviewing both me and Paul that you would have some “News” to put there! Although, I have seen that you have advertised this fact at other sites…
Pat: Good point! Maybe I will do that. So, tell me more about the culture Club tour and how you were contacted?
Andy: Well, Graham Weir phoned me up saying that he had heard about this tour and wanted to know whether I wanted to get together again and do it. He wanted to be sure that if I did this, that he and Neil would be included. He had spoken with Mally, and knew he was interested, but he told me that Mal was too chicken to call me (laughs). At first I said no, but after thinking about it more, I knew that Paul wanted to tour, and I thought that we could do it just for laughs. But then, the crap hit the fan about Paul’s US tour, so now I’m not sure if we will end up working together…
Pat: Well, we can only hope.. So, getting on to more current subjects, it sounds like you now have the greatest job in the World. You are now writing songs for a successful group of gorgeous young ladies, and at the same time, you can just be the guy in the background who writes the songs and picks up the big paychecks. Are you happy in with this role.
Andy: At the moment, yes. Things have been going well with Atomic Kitten, and it is nice not to have to do all the traveling and such. It allows me to be more of a home body, and spend more time with the kids.
Pat: So are you involved with other aspects of the band like publicity, touring, interviews and such?
Andy: No, they have a management team that handles all of that. The one thing I don’t want to be is a manager…
Pat: So, given that you are now the guy in the background, do you miss performing live and being the front man?
Andy: Surprisingly, no. That’s not to say that the day will never come when I perform my own songs under either my own name, or in some other fashion. The one thing I told myself when I retired from OMD was that I did not want to end up playing small venues… At the moment, I am happy doing what I am doing.
Pat: OK Andy, one last question..
Andy: Go Ahead…
Pat: What are your thoughts on the Raider’s chances this year?
Andy: Well, I think they are a better team this year, and I think Ganon is a decent quarterback. I don’t know. Holmgren certainly doesn’t seem to have been able to turn things around thus far in Seattle…
Pat: I hear ya…
Andy: Kansas City and Denver aren’t the teams that they used to be, and San Diego is just plain awful, so maybe this is the Raider’s year, I don’t know?
Pat: Well Andy, I would like to thank you once again for taking the time to chat and answering my questions. Have a safe trip back home and I hope we can chat m like this more often.
Andy: No problem Pat, thanks for the offer of an interview, and best of luck to you as well.