Alien Skin - 1980 Redux: The Interview - Stereo Stickman

Alien Skin 1980 Redux: The Interview


1980 REDUX is a celebration of all things electronic & analogue – an exciting voltage controlled circuitry that gave birth to a new way. From Kraftwerk & the Berlin Trilogy of Bowie-Eno in the 1970s to 1980 Metamatic of John Foxx & the handful of pioneering synthesizer adventurers in between & briefly afterwards. And to the unswerving passion of fans that fell in love with the new music – myself included. – Alien Skin.

Read our in-depth review of the new album here, and in the meantime – we caught an interview with the man behind the music – George Pappas, AKA Alien Skin – to find out a little more about how it all came to be. Enjoy…

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What inspired you to create this album at this time? Did you plan it, or find yourself creating in the aftermath of nostalgia?

It may be virtually impossible for an artist, of any discipline, to expect an audience to connect with his/her work in the same intimate way as themselves, because it IS very intimate and personal to the artist. Works are the result of the dynamic mix of present day experiences, ideas, moods and feelings together with the hitherto, unique to the said artist, life lived by that person, no two individuals can arrive at the same point at the same time.

In saying this I always feel a certain frustration that no matter what and how passionately I feel about a piece of music, or the inspiration behind a body of work I have created and seen through to completion that no one else in the world may agree with me as to its worth, or at least no one can feel it through my senses, my personal perspective. It therefore becomes private, very private by its very nature. What carries a lot of weight within me maybe interpreted in a less significant light by an audience, they may not ‘get it’. But that’s OK.

1980 REDUX is my return to what excited me as a younger fan, musician and songwriter back in the late 1970s leading up to 1980 and a little beyond; I didn’t care much for what came after the early 80s, electronically, save for a few innovative, exciting artists I obsessed over like Depeche Mode and New Order; my alter egos. As I write in the album’s liner notes (PDF booklet) the initial spark came from listening and re-listening 1000 times (maybe not so many) to favourite later 1970’s David Bowie albums known as the ‘Berlin Trilogy’: Low, Heroes & Lodger. In their day, these, rather experimental albums helped usher in different sounds and ways of writing and constructing songs, synthesizers and innovative ideas. And the spirit of those ideas married to Kraftwerk helped lead to a synthesizer prevalence in the next few years.

This then was my plan of sorts, the personal nostalgia which only I reveled in, to my own impassioned degree. I know it is perhaps difficult for anyone else to share my fascination, passion and obsession quite to the same level, if any, so I am at a loss to know if anyone else may really connect with the inspiration for the album or the overall theme and the songs themselves. One song, Walk on Water was actually written in 1985 and performed live extensively at the time.

Art, I guess, whether we choose it or not, is created for the artist first and foremost, then hopefully a larger audience may hopefully discover themselves caught up in the similar maelstrom of passion and want to love and ‘own’ it in their own way, especially if they lived the period or wish they had.

What does the album mean to you, in comparison perhaps with your previous releases?

For me, 1980 REDUX is a prodigious body of work, as I spoke about earlier. It perhaps returns me full circle to my youth, excited beyond expression with the new revolutionary movements of the late 1970s early 1980s in music, culture; bright young things, new ideas. It was an electric era pregnant with possibility. It was science fiction in the here and now for me. I embraced it in a primitive way back then, many of us did as with anything new. We made it up as we went along. But it was fun, it was exhilarating beyond belief.

1980 REDUX is my way to return in spirit, in memory, to that excitement. Approaching 40 years since 1980, the album doesn’t sound like an authentic ‘trainspotting’ 40 year retro piece, I didn’t plan it to be as it would have failed. The world, technology, ideas, society, people, myself have all changed and it would be foolhardy to push back titanic walls of change and believe I could succeed to make it credible. No, the album simply represents myself, Alien Skin, doing what I do now but a part of my grey matter and heart playing childlike in the playground of those wonderful years.

Which of the songs came first, which was last, and were there any that didn’t make the cut?

I wrote Walk on Water in 1985, with a very different arrangement. For 1980 REDUX I added another verse and reshaped the song to fit in more comfortably with the remainder of the album. There were also a number of other songs, some written in the early 1980s which I am still very fond of and may still be released at some point when they are re-imagined to my satisfaction. I hate burying old songs which I continue to have faith in, I just need to nail good new arrangements without taking away too much of their 1980 birthrights. Ironically 1980 You Were a Boy was the final song written and accepted to appear on the album.

How long have you spent putting this together, and were there any challenges for you along the way – whether audio related or conceptually?

I began writing the album, without being consciously aware there was a beginning, in August 2016 (just before the release of my previous album European Electronic Cinema, September 2016).

The combination of rotation listening to David Bowie’s ‘Berlin Trilogy’ albums, John Foxx’s Metamatic album and early 80’s Legendary Pink Dots albums, placed me in that era’s mind frame; together with acquiring a suite of early to late 1970s synthesizers and drum boxes that gave me that authentic sound of the period.

My challenge then was to stick to the theme and not be swayed although I do admit that was not difficult as I was so immersed mentally and emotionally in the historic period as discussed in my first answer. I lived the era for the entire duration of writing, arranging, mixing and evaluating the work, time and time again, till completion. I also fell in love with the music of Fad Gadget (first Mute Records signing in 1979) buying everything I could on the late Frank Tovey, DVDs et al.

Then there’s the artwork I must add. Now that was a logistic challenge which didn’t turn out the way I wished. I eventually decided to produce a 17 page PDF digital booklet that comes with the album download from Bandcamp (only). I was to have it printed as part of a home made CD-R offer to hardcore fans but the costs eventually were too prohibitive so I abandoned the idea though the PDF is available.

Which song would you say you feel the most proud of, and which do you think is the most adventurous or feels the furthest from what you’d usually create?

Virtually impossible to answer this one. Maybe in years to come I can be more objective and there will be some song or songs that I get drawn to listen to more often. Ask me again in 5 years:)

Having said that, I Am Adam (ft Mary Shelley) is one I put a lot of effort into. I had just finished reading Shelley’s iconic novel, Frankenstein. I wrote the electronic spoken word using the type of language and phrasing she wrote in. I wanted to make it feel as if the words came out of her lips. My mostly imaginary tale is based on her book and her creature. At times it coincides with her novel at times it meanders into my own imagination. The only line of hers I used, the line Mary wrote and came from her creature’s mouth is I am Adam of your labours which the creature desperately, frustratingly and with childlike pain, throws at his maker, Victor Frankenstein. This line really began the song idea for me. I am proud of the track and I haven’t written anything like it before.

But as I wrote above, I luv’ em all !

Is there anything else you’d like to say about this particular album or your thoughts for the future?

1980 REDUX, for me, is the album I will always love, no matter what I create in the future because, as I wrote earlier, it anchors me to my youth. No one else may quite get it, but then again I don’t expect anyone to get it in the same way. I am proud of the result, the songs, the spirit. I love the analogue sounds which I held and hold dear to me and which I first heard coming from some brilliant creators of yesteryear, mostly from Britain and Germany.

I wish as many people to hear it, share it, buy it! And finally, fans who REALLY wish to support Alien Skin and my continuing work, enabling me to produce music for public release, to subscribe to Alien Skin at Bandcamp. I have to say this is THE most sustainable and meaningful way to help independent artists these days, myself included. Music revenue continues to dry up for most indie artists, so direct loyal fan support through subscription is, I believe, the most effective and appreciated way to ensure the independent artist a fan claims he/she loves, is given invaluable help and support to produce music and release it.

Thank you so much Rebecca and Stereo Stickman for allowing me the opportunity to be heard and thank you for the recent warm review of 1980 REDUX.

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Thank you to George Pappas of Alien Skin for being so open about his creative process & the journey that led to the making of the album. Read our review of 1980 Redux & download it via Bandcamp. Find & follow Alien Skin on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram. Visit his Website for more information. 

Rebecca Cullen

Founder & Editor

Founder, Editor, Musician & MA Songwriter

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