Paul Humphreys Interview
I had a chance to sit down with Paul before the
Pat: OK, so let me start off with the cheesy, autobiographical pop star stuff:
Pat: What’s your favorite OMD song?
Paul: Oh God, that’s like choosing your favorite child.
Pat: Well, you know, Andy said the same thing, so that’s kind of a cop out.
Paul: I know, but they’re all your babies. You sweat so much over them, it’s like giving birth to them. So, let me see… “Romance of the Telescope” is one of them. “Souvenir” would be one as well.
Pat: OK, so on the flip side, what’s your least favorite?
Paul: That would be “ABC Auto Industry”.
Pat: (Laughing) You and Mal both! I joked with Mal about that when we spoke, and I said ‘it couldn’t be because of those stupid tamafore flags now could it?’
Paul: (Laughing) I’m sure that’s it.
Pat: So, what’s your favorite video?
Paul: I think the best video we ever made was the “Forever Live and Die” video.
Pat: I agree
Paul: It captured us not doing stupid things like in other videos. It captured us doing what we do, which is being a band instead of trying to be actors.
When we started out, video was just in its infancy and directors wanted us to be Fredricko Fellini (sp?) cramming a bunch of random scenes into 4 minutes. Having no acting ability whatsoever, you ended up looking like a prat. Take the “Talking Loud and Clear” video, we never really lived that down. I couldn’t go to my local pub for at least a year after that video.
Pat: So is it safe to say that is your least favorite video?
Paul: Umm, yeah. I can’t think of one that is worse. In fact, I don’t think there’s a video done by ANY band that is worse.
Pat: So, there is a big questions amongst fans on the Internet as to whether there really is a copy in existence of the “Red Frame White Light” video. Have you ever seen it?
Paul: The Red Frame White Light video huh? I have a copy.
Pat: So what would it take to get a copy? There seems to be this big secret around this, and it appears you and Andy have taken some vow of secrecy to never release this video, and to the best of my knowledge, only the 2 of you have ever seen it.
Paul: Well, I just might send you a copy.
Pat: Really? You know I am recording this don’t you. I am marking the date down now.
Paul: (Laughing) No problem. Do you have my personal e-mail?
Pat: I have what’s on the website
Paul: Oh, here’s my personal address <Pat: Not posted for security reasons>…
Pat: So, out of all the places you have performed live, where was your favorite? Like a certain venue, country etc….?
Paul: I would have to
say the Rose Bowl in
Pat: Now why is that?
Paul: Just because of the atmosphere. It was great to play in front of 90,000 people, and the vibe was great. To walk out on the stage, and because it was daylight, you were taken back by the size of the venue and the crowd. The roar of the crowd was deafening.
Pat: I can believe that. I have talked to several people who were at that show, and all of them have told me that your performance was better than Depeche mode’s.
Paul: My other favorite
was when we did a show at
Pat: So given that, OMD has always had a good following on the East coast, but you haven’t booked any shows for this tour there yet. Why is that?
Paul: Yes, I know. I’m actually looking at possibly doing
something in December there.. I’m also maybe looking at booking a
Pat: So, here we are in the year 2000. What made you decide to do an OMD revival tour?
Paul: Well, that’s a
rather strange one actually. A booking
Pat: That’s ironic
Paul: Yes, there’s a huge irony in this. So the agent called me and I said no.
Pat: So what was your initial reservation?
Paul: I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it without a band and doing OMD songs without Andy. And then I started to think about it because I had put a full stop to touring after the Rose Bowl, and I didn’t really want to remove that full stop. Then I thought about it and thought to myself, yeah, maybe people do want to come see me do some OMD songs and it’s been since the 80’s that people have got a chance to hear “Souvenir”, “Forever Live and Die” and others. Then I thought, yeah, maybe I should do this and maybe people would want to come see me if I brought Claudia with me. What I really didn’t want to do is be a retro band and just go and play all the old songs. I thought well, I’m doing new things now and I would feel comfortable doing the old OMD songs if I introduced a new element. I could also use this as a way to work out some of the new songs I’ve been writing and catching that vibe. So I started thinking more and more about it, and I’m glad I made that decision because I’ve been having a ball!
Pat: So have I!!
Pat: So there was never a thought of calling Mal and Mart and saying “By the way, there’s some OMD interest in the Sates, and I’m touring, so do you guys want to come?”
Paul: Umm, no..
Pat: It seems like you guys had become sort of a team when the band broke up…
Paul: Yeah, we did become a team, but not really. Mal and I kind of fell out over the breakup of Telegraph, so we’re really not that close any more. Martin’s doing well with his art, and he now has a child, and I don’t think he would go anyway. So I thought, if I’m going to do this, I’m going to have to find a completely new band and just get out and do it, and build it around me and Claudia.
Pat: So why tour in the Sates? Why not start back home in the
Paul: Well, I had an LA booking agent that put this all together, so it’s just natural that we would do this in the States. He basically said ‘I will pay you X amount of money to play in the States’, so I said OK.
Pat: So now that you have a few shows under your
belt, are you starting to get any interest from venues in the
Paul: Well, not from the
Pat: So, you made your decision that you were going to do this tour. Sow hat comes first, the band or the setlist?
Paul: Well, I never really thought HOW I was going to do it, so I started scribbling notes down in my notebook, and I decided that I would use LA session players. I was really busy at that time doing various things so I thought I can’t just wrap everything up right now and just go to LA and rehearse, so I had to give the band the songs and work out early on what I wanted to play so that they could start learning the songs before I got there.
Pat: So you really are the musical director for everybody, including Claudia
Paul: Yeah, everyone including Claudia and I had to do all of this remotely. Lots of e-mails, tapes etc…
Pat: So how did you find the band?
Paul: Through the agent really.
Pat: So, if there is one goal that you want to accomplish from this tour, what would it be?
Paul: I’m not sure what I wanted to get out of this actually other than the experience to see whether or not I could pull this off. I think what we are getting out of this is a renowned interest in OMD, and that people are really interested in the new songs I have wrote.
Pat: So are you ore focused on you and Claudia getting a recording contract out of this, or in doing a full blown OMD revival tour down the road. It seems like you have both avenues happening here.
Paul: Yes, I certainly do have both avenues happening but I think the path will be working towards doing an album with Claudia and see where that leads me, but maybe do it on the road as well.
When I was thinking about this more and more, I think the more people wanted to stop me from doing it, the more I actually wanted to do it. I wanted to defend my right to get up on stage and play our songs. Songs that either I wrote myself, or songs that are equally my baby as they are someone else’s. Surely I have a right to do that.
Pat: Absolutely! So when we talked about irony before , Andy was approached, he said ‘no, go ask Paul’, Paul then says yes, so who was trying to stop you from doing this.
Paul: Well, Andy tried to stop me by saying I couldn’t use the name OMD. He’s right in the sense that he owns the OMD name, but he’s wrong in the sense that he can’t deny my past and the fact that I am Paul Humphreys from OMD. I am not going out saying that he is no longer OMD, and I am now OMD, rather, I am saying I am Paul Humphreys from OMD, and that is truthful.
Pat: Are there certain songs that you purposefully left out of the set due to respect, or whatever relationship you have with Andy?
Paul: Yes, of course. Andy respected me enough to not play “Souvenir” and “Forever Live and Die” when I was no longer a part of OMD. So I respected him as well by not playing “Enola Gay” and “Joan of Arc”. I respect Andy a lot, and I think he’s a great song writer and he’s still one of my favorite lyricists, in fact, I think he’s a genius lyricist. I think back in the early days is what gave us success. I would come up with these great melodies, and he would come up with these great lyrics, and I always respected him for that. We gave each other what the other didn’t have. I would come up with keyboard melodies, and he would always be able to put lyrics to it and that was what was great about us. So, I was a little sad that he tried to deny me this, and he even said ‘don’t you feel a bit weird going out as a tribute band?’. I said ‘Andy, how could I be a tribute band when these songs are my babies too?’
Pat: So Andy actually used the term “tribute band”?
Paul: Yes, he had mentioned the term, and I was very surprised by that. I’m not playing his songs, I’m playing OUR songs, along with my songs. The only person I am tributing on stage is myself.
Pat: So Andy has not heard the setlist and has no idea what is happening on the tour. The last time you spoke was before the tour started, correct?
Paul: Yeah. I told him I would do a lot of OMD songs.
Pat: But you never told him which ones…
Paul: No, I never told him which.
Pat: OK, I don’t want to keep you much longer since you have been here for a while. So, getting to the breakup. I know there are a lot of misconceptions amongst the fans as to what actually happened. A common understanding is that “Dreaming” was kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back and that the release of that song was the absolute death of OMD. Now, is that the case, or was the writing on the wall before that?
Paul: The writing on the wall was there definitely before that. The biggest problem was that we were on the road half of the year and Andy and I were chasing our tails. We had not time to sit in the studio and write songs, which is what I really enjoyed, and I thought at that point we really needed to re-invent OMD. I thought if we were going to last long term, we needed to sit down and just have a break since we hadn’t had a break in years. We needed to have a life, and get some fun out of life, because at that time we weren’t really living at all. We would take a break for a couple of years and come back and re-invent OMD. That seemed like a good idea, and it certainly worked for me, and I thought in terms of long term plans of OMD that was the best way to go. At that point Andy said to me ‘yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s a great idea’. Virgin even thought it was a great idea, but the problem was they were making shit pile so of money with us being on the road, so Virgin decided that wasn’t such a good idea. Andy and I agreed on this point but then things in the background started to happen and people started dividing.
Pat: At that point were you still under contract to Virgin for another album?
Paul: Yes we were, which is why the record company thought it was a bad idea for us to take so a long period of time off. At that point, I asked Andy to not commit to this and to take the time off. My choices were to commit to this, or to break the band up, and I decided to do the breakup.
Pat: So once the band broke up, was it always you 3 vs. Andy, and was that the case before the breakup?
Paul: Well, when people agree with each other, it just happens naturally. Mal and Martin agreed that taking time off was the best plan, so in that sense, we did end up taking sides.
Pat: So, another “rumor” I had heard was that before you actually broke up, was that you went off and wrote your album, and Andy went off and wrote his album, and the 2 were completely different and incompatible. Is that true?
Paul: Well, we kind of looked at that option as well but that was a task that was too big to get our hands around. It saddened me that people couldn’t see my view and Andy couldn’t convince the record company that this would be the best thing for OMD. I really do believe that if we could have done that, that OMD could have produced another great record.
Pat: So, if I understand this, the record company really took Andy’s side on this and really wanted some new OMD material right away.
Paul: Andy was the face of OMD and the record company did a survey of who is the most recognizable person in OMD and of course it was Andy and so they backed that poll. So at that point, I had my back up against the wall and I had to sell the name “OMD” to Andy. I didn’t have a choice there. I was paid a sum from the record company, and Andy got the OMD name.
Pat: So at that point, Andy continues on with OMD which we all know about, and you went off and started Telegraph. At what point did you start writing songs for your new band The Listening Pool?
Paul: Well, to be honest, I started the record company and had already written some songs before the breakup and was I started writing again, I got on a roll. Then, the rug was pulled underneath me again and this thing with Andy surface again since I was still under contract to Virgin, there was a period of 2.5 years that I really couldn’t work, and I had lost all interest in the music business.
Pat: But you just had to write quietly, right?
Paul: Yeah, but it zapped all my strength. I had inquiries from other record companies, but they couldn’t sign me because I was still under contract to Virgin.
Pat: So was that made you decide to start your own record label?
Paul: Well, it really didn’t happen like that. I took some time off and had a child and did that for a few years. But after some time, I started the label by sinking my own money into it then started signing bands.
Pat: So, how were you living during this period? Were you collecting royalties?
Paul: Yeah, when you have like 10 albums out, there are always royalties coming in.
Pat: So you weren’t hanging out at dumpsters and such looking for a meal?
Paul: (Laughing) No, it never got that bad. I was still able to make a living off of the album sales, or if something gets played on the radio…
Pat: So “Still Life” comes out, and it’s and independent record. What prevented it from becoming a regular, on the shelf, type of album that anyone can get their hands on?
Paul: Having started up the label, I had sunk a lot of my own money into it, so you start looking at where the money should be spent. I had BMG to distribute, so that was good, but I had a cap on what I could spend. Do I spend a lot of money marketing the Still Life album, and make the other bands suffer, or do I spread out the marketing budget across the bands?
Pat: OK, so let me jump forward a bit since I can hear that they are wrapping up out there (the opening band…)? How involved were you with the release of the “Singles” album? Did you and Andy converse on this at all?
Paul: Uhh, not enough. And that’s another issue. Andy had an obligation to Virgin to release another album, so I was never really consulted on the track listing. However, what is interesting is the remixes. Essentially, Andy had an obligation to do a release, which was an OMD release, and yet I ended up paying some of the costs for some of these remixes.
Pat: So are you telling me that you had to pay for the remixes on an OMD album, which, of course, you are no longer a member of OMD?
Paul: I had to pay 50% of the costs for the remixes.
Pat: But this wasn’t your obligation, this was Andy’s obligation, right?
Paul: Yes, this is correct.
Pat: So, I would think that you would have just said piss off, this is an OMD record, just pay me the royalties on my song(s) and deal with it yourself.
Paul: Well, that would have been the ideal scenario, but Virgin had essentially said, you are going to pay for half of these remixes, and if you have a problem, take us to court. This was a record company I spent 10 years with and made shit piles of money for and their response to me was ‘we’ll see you in court asshole.’
Pat: OK, so that leads to one of the biggest questions of all time for OMD fans. So, now we know a little bit more on how you weren’t consulted on the remixes for the Singles album, and you’ve heard all the mixes, so what is your thought on the piece of shit remix title the ‘Micronauts Electricity Remix’?
Paul: Umm, it shouldn’t be on an OMD record, it should be on a Micronauts record. The Micronauts version has no relevance to “Electricity” whatsoever.
Pat: So you never even talked to Andy about this and said “Andy, what the fuck is going on with this remix? You’re putting the OMD moniker on this remix that has nothing to do with the original song”?
Paul: Yes, I know. It has no relationship to an OMD record whatsoever. I did voice it. Also, I thought the Enola Gay remix was cheesy.
Pat: Well, it kind of brought the song into the club scene a bit.
Paul: Yeah, it did to that
Pat: What about the Souvenir remix?
Paul: I thought the Souvenir remix was fantastic! I mean I love Moby anyway.
Pat: He does make some great music
Paul: Yeah, absolutely. You know Moby is a big fan of OMD and he lists “Architecture and Morality” as one of his influences. So, I knew when Moby was going to do it, I knew he was going to do it justice.
Pat: OK, so one last question. If it were 1978 all over again, what would you do different?
Paul: Get a fucking good lawyer!!! (Laughs)