In Conversation: Andy Oppenheimer

Andy Oppenheimer is a UK based explosives expert, author, artist and musician. In our music world most of you might remember him as the co-founder, singer and songwriter of  the electronic duo Oppenheimer Analysis which he formed with Martin Lloyd in the early 80's. Thanks to the internet, their seminal album 'New Mexico' has been rediscovered several times and ever since then and it has been an influential album for the new DIY generation of  artists growing in the electronic field. 
Andy never really gave up on music and especially in the recent years he has been quite busy with it. His recent projects include the work with Mark Warner on Touching The Void, Mickey Clarke on Major Impact. The main focus of this interview though is his collaboration with Mahk Rumbae and the new world of Oppenheimer MkII. Enjoy the interview! 

 1.Can you tell us about your latest band project, when did you start it and who is Oppenheimer Mk II?
 Oppenheimer Mk II is Mahk Rumbae of Konstruktivists, based in Vienna, Austria and myself, Andy Oppenheimer, formerly of Oppenheimer Analysis. I was introduced to Mahk by Walter Robotka, who runs the Klanggalerie label, when I visited Vienna in April of last year. Mahk was interested in doing some new work and is a fantastic producer. I started writing songs and we played live together at the famous Rhiz club, when we tried out some of the new songs before they were finally produced. After a second visit to Vienna in July, and Mahk’s amazing work producing all 12 songs, we now have our first album out.

 2. What inspired you to make music together?
I had finished working with Oppenheimer Analysis and wanted to continue making electro-pop music for the present day, with memorable songs that could be even more catchy, danceable and enduring, with lyrics and tunes inspired by what is happening to me now. I write and sing songs but can’t produce them, so looked for musicians and producers who could bear to work with me. I think Mahk wanted to do his first electro pop work as well, and I think he may have surprised himself by proving his fantastic ability to create wonderful melodic synth-pop! And as I only do songs you can hum in the bath, we worked very well together on this first album.

3.Is the music of Oppenheimer Analysis in any way related to your new project or can we expect something completely new? 
This is completely new – using up to date production techniques, and with songs that are relevant to my life and things going on now. The only similarity is that we are making synth pop which we hope OA fans will enjoy - but there is no other similarity. We are trying to get our fans and many others out there to listen to electro-pop with modern influences and sophisticated, mass appeal production values. So much of the scene is still harking back in the 80's with folks only wanting to hear music made then, with so-and-so analogue thingy synthesizers and whatever - and often the more obscure examples, and that anything sounding ‘commercial’ and current is somehow taboo. I am all for mass appeal, but appreciate that nowadays in the Internet era, this form of music - ironically unlike in the 80's - has a more exclusive, alternative minority following. Back in the 80's electro pop songs topped the charts. But now it has become something of a ‘sub-genre’. So I am delighted Mahk wanted to produce totally new songs for as many people as can hear them, dance to them, and enjoy them. And maybe they will become collector’s items in the future!

 4.What can you tell us about the upcoming album, song topics and the release date? The album is called The Presence of the Abnormal. It is released on Klanggalerie on CD, and on multiple MP3 outlets in early March, on iTunes/Spotify etc early March distributed by Dig Music. The CDs are on their way to me as we speak – and please watch Facebook for further exact dates and distributors. The album is a combination of classic dance songs and much darker but equally memorable songs, often about war – but these are more as allegory and role-play than literal experiences, and very much based on my work in counterterrorism. The title itself, 'The Presence of the Abnormal', is a term which means something odd which arouses suspicion that a terrorist or insurgent act like blowing up a bomb is about to take place. The songs on the first ‘lighter’ side are Soft-Cell inspired love-dance-electro numbers. You Will Never Know, I Wish I Never Said I Loved You, and Be a Star are pure danceable pop about emotional unrequited love and sheer, unadulterated hero worship and could each be singles in their own right. Nobody Ever Says Thank You is dedicated to a famous football manager but could just be about folks letting you down after you’ve struggled to get somewhere. The Devil’s Work is a slightly spooky little number about the Faustian bargain – the only track which ’harks back’ to earlier Oppenheimer material but much sharper. On Brighton Pier is a total departure from the rest of the collection – it’s a lilting ballad dedicated to a war hero who described a boyhood trip to Brighton in his book, and which inspired me to write the song - with Mahk’s evocative, haunting, lifting soundtrack making me think of days here at the seaside where I live. Then it gets darker on Side 2 – here on several of the tracks I have stepped into the boots of the heroes I work with and admire. The Presence of the Abnormal, the title track, which has a short video on YouTube and Facebook, is a frenzied breathless journey of a bomb squad guy about to dismantle a device. Or it could just be about a race against time… and has a grinding, thumping, compelling sound. Mahk decided to keep the original vocal I recorded at home on my laptop as it sounds like a soldier on a ‘walkie-talkie’ radio. Adrenaline Rush is purely and simply about a guy with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and addiction to danger. On this pounding, almost hypnotic track I was joined on vocals by Corina Cinkl of Collapsing New People, which gives it the ‘echo’ of the soldier’s wife left at home… Then we get a bit of light relief with Action Man, a pure pastiche of war, danger, James Bond and all the rest of it – and almost a pastiche of electro music itself, with a catchy beat and robotic, slightly explicit lyrics... and if it doesn’t fill the dancefloor I’ll eat my shemagh! It is also released on a tape cassette compilation on a new label, Vocoder Tapes. My Girl Friday is a kind of partner track to Action Man which has Corina doing a second round of lovely vocals with me. It’s another send-up of the macho world which I inhabit, a nice Bondesque fantasy which I enjoy but which is only sometimes true! We go to war again with Being a Target – in which Mahk has made a kind of trance-like sound appropriate for the pace and paranoia of the song. And the album finishes on the darkest track of all, Another Nightmare, which is a desperate cry for help from a veteran drowning in terrible memories, with a pounding beat evoking the speeded-up heartbeat and panic of the insomniac.

 5.What music are you listening to when you are not recording or producing your own?
I had a phase on Adele’s album which has wonderful emotional songs, but otherwise I listen to a mixture of old and new, or near-new, very commercial music, which I hear on the radio at the barber’s! Could be anything from Madonna’s electronic stuff to Sheryl Crow and Sarah McLachlan country rock and just about anything from the 60's, 70's – Bowie and Roxy Music - and the electro hits from the 80's. I just like what I hear without knowing who dunnit. I don’t follow current music as it’s virtually impossible for someone of my years without the institutional guide we used to have here from Top of the Pops on the telly every week! I don’t really like alternative, obscure music with no melody or discernible theme and lyrics. I’m an oldfashioned songwriter brought up on the Beatles and Mersey Beat, film soundtrack and Irish music, with a love of traditional pop tune and rhythm structures. I like trance and some techno, but it depends on where I am – some of that is great in a club but no good on your own with the Ipod on unless you’re at the gym. Most of my listening is done walking on the seafront here and my songwriting and rehearsing as well – singing my head off to the Ipod with all the assorted dogs being taken for a walk joining in!

 6.What other musical projects are you currently working on?
I have just released a double-AA single as Touching the Void, my very exciting project with Mark Warner, formerly of Sudeten Creche. It is now available on vinyl from No Em Blanc and on MP3 multiple outlets from Dig Music. It features the songs Parallel Lives and Highbury Fields. Mark and I began working together back in 2010 when we met in Berlin where I was playing my last gig with Oppenheimer Analysis. The music with Touching the Void is totally different to anything I have done before, and totally different to my other work with Oppenheimer MkII - intense ballads with haunting piano and live musicians. Mark has produced two wonderful songs, and I wrote the words and tunes straight from the heart. Parallel Lives, is a tribute to heroism which evolved from a piano piece first composed by Mark with Paul Carlin of Sudeten Creche a while ago, and has great personal significance to me. The rock ballad Highbury Fields is a rock ballad evoking a memory of London life which also features session musicians Andy Hickey, Grady Johnson and Don Weilogroch. Highbury Fields was played on the Cruisin Show on CNEU, a US radio station, last week and will be played on ten other US stations in the coming days. See Touching the Void’s FB page for more details. The two songs will be part of a forthcoming album we are working on called Love, Longing and Loss. My third project is Major Impact with Mickey Clarke, formerly of Naked Lunch. We are about to release our first EP in March, Love and War, with Genetic Music, on vinyl and MP3. This features two beautifully produced, very modern electro dance tracks, Until the Next Time and Catch Up With Me - again with unrequited love and insurgency at the heart of the lyrics, and with enough impact to be, I think, used for film or TV soundtracks. There are two stunning remixes of each song as well, by Mickey himself and by Clive Pierce. They can be heard as samples for now until they are released on Mickey’s bandcamp site 

 7.Which artist would you like to work with in the future? Well, it depends – I would have to say UK only, as I am very busy with my work and current music projects. My work takes me overseas a lot as well, and is very unpredictable as I am self-employed. I don’t do a ‘regular’ job at all - so it really limits the amount of time I could do any further work. But I’m always open to offers – especially to try new forms of music.

 8.Oppenheimer Mk II will premiere their new album in Vienna on March 26th. Can we expect more live shows and venues around Europe/World?
See previous answer – and it depends on whether they can pay us for travel, hotel and a fee. As much as we want to gig, and know how important it is to play live, we have to consider the terms and also be able to plan ahead within our schedules. Although I am very busy I am not earning the same as a few years ago, but am working just as hard - so can’t always travel without it being covered. And my music partners all do jobs and other music projects as well. I especially want to play in London – I lived there for 32 years and have played there a lot. I am often invited to play as OA and have to tell people about my new work and some don’t reply, but others do and want to hear the new work. So I hope once they hear the new album, single, and EP and more they will enjoy the music and start to invite us. To be honest I’d love to gig all the time – especially as I live alone and work from home and truly enjoy getting out there and performing on stage!

9.Will there be more music videos and single releases?
Yes. I will start to do more work in all three projects once we see how the current releases get on and once I can get some time in my schedule. Videos are expensive, though – but my three partners are so good at IT etc that they are able to do a lot themselves, again depending on time etc. We are very interested in working with video makers and also film makers who may see the songs as good soundtrack material.

10.Where can fans gain access to your music and find regular updates?
 Facebook is the best place. On any of these pages: My own page Oppenheimer MkII Touching the Void 
My ‘band’ page

Big Thanks goes out to Andy Oppenheimer!