Christopher Braide is an internationally renowned producer and musician/songwriter. He also has a passion for the music of Tony Mansfield and has overtly expressed that passion in many of his musical projects. This is explored in the Braide Musik article. Here Chris kindly agreed to an interview to explore this passion for Tony's work in further detail.
Where and when did you first hear New Musik and what was your reaction?
"I was about 7 years old in Cheshire and heard Living By Numbers on the radio, the B side Sad Films and then This World Of Water. Bought the album from a record shop in Blackpool on a family holiday because I was obsessed with World Of Water and was hooked completely from then on."
How would you describe 'The Tony Mansfield Sound' and what attracts you to it?
"Warm, emotional, rich, ominous, pretty, glistening, shimmering, stereo. I just found it all so melodic and often gorgeous sounding. I love his chords, the vocals being very high register in an almost Jon Anderson way appeal to me greatly."
...The two chords and one note piano line he goes to on the word ‘mind’ never ceases to thrill me...
What are your favourite 3 New Musik tracks and can you give an insight into why you chose them?
"World Of Water - because its sublime, weird, gorgeous, nice chords, bonkers production, eerie, ominous lyrics about no exits and drowning. Fascinated me as a kid. Sanctuary - lovely melody, great lyrics and lines such as “believing is seeing and doubting is blind”. I wish they’d made a video for it. Weird opening chord that adds such suspense. She’s a Magazine - thought it was fab. Love the chords in the chorus, love the riff, love the descending piano line through out the chorus. To pick 3 is difficult, because I can think of three more I love just as much as these. Sad Films is actually one of my favorites believe it or not. The two chords and one note piano line he goes to on the word ‘mind’ never ceases to thrill me. It’s utterly gorgeous."
How do you feel the 3 albums compare in terms of style and progression?
"The first two albums sounded like they were the same band at slightly different points in time, but Warp doesn’t sound like the same band as From A To B, although there are glimpses such as the original composition All You Need Is Love, the riff in Here Come The People and the acoustic strumming on New Evolutionist. Warp sounds more like acts such as Visage than New Musik to my ears. The second album was slightly more abstract and less ‘band playing radio friendly pop songs’. Warp Sounded more like Tony experimenting in the studio. The only New Musik track I don’t like at all is The Beatles cover. To me it is the odd one out with the daft green sleeves outro. I skip it every time I listen to the album. I prefer his songs."
From a production point of view which aspects do you think have the most influence on the sound?
"12 string guitars double tracked and panned in stereo. PPG Wave bell sound playing wistful counter melodies, reversed synths."
What's your take on the gloomy undertones of the music, especially in terms of the lyrics?
"Tony was obviously not a love song type of guy, and perhaps was a bit of an existentialist. It was the height of Cold War paranoia also I guess. Protect and Survive manual, Z for Zacharia book and Patrick Allen on Panorama showing us how to white wash windows and not look at the blast. New Musik reflected that darkness, but with achingly gorgeous melodies and chords. That juxtaposition in songwriting, between pretty melody and unsettling words is something I love."
...I spent the day with Tony at his house in Sussex around 1999. We chatted for hours...
Have you ever been in contact with Tony M or other members of the band directly - even by email/phone?
"I spent the day with Tony at his house in Sussex around 1999. We chatted for hours, his lovely wife made us lunch and we messed around with chords in his studio. We emailed for some time after that but sadly lost touch through the avenues of time."
If you could ask Tony M one question directly what would it be?
"Do you miss making records?"
New Musik was of course very much a band, what particular elements from other band members do you think most influenced the sound?
"I loved Clive's keyboard textures and sounds and the straight and solid rhythm section."
Of Tony M's work after New Musik which is the most notable for you?
"Glad It’s All Over, There are More Snakes Than Ladders, Bouncing Off The Satellites album, Thunderclap 2 - Something In The Air. Records I adore."
Can you tell us about the Hello Leo project - why you did it, its aims, and where the name came from?
"I just felt like doing an 80’s record with all the gear from the period. I wouldn’t do it now, but at the time it was good fun. No plan, no expectation at all. No idea why the name was chosen, probably something to do with big 1980s telephones."
'Pure' is possibly my favourite track on the album, and during the chorus that string synth is just Tony. Which elements of the album were you most pleased with?
"The sound you’re referring to worked great on that track and is very New Musik, especially with the particular notes I’m playing. I love Theophilus London rapping on the opening track. He and I were working together so I wrote him a retro track using a DMX drum machine (widely used on early Hip Hop records) to rap over and he totally got into the spirit of it. I wish id used him on more."
...I don’t think of New Musik as synth band exactly, but more a studio creation with an emphasis on synth aesthetics...
Theophilus London also did a cover of 'They All Ran After The Carving Knife'. Was he already a fan of Tony's work?
"Theophilus had no idea who NM were but I kept playing him their songs to get him into the spirit of what i was doing with my weird 80s backing tracks. It must obviously have influenced him because he did the cover version. He loved the song You Control Me and In hindsight I wish I’d asked him to do something on it."
On the album cover sticker you also list Pets Shop Boys, OMD and Soft Cell as influences. Why these bands in particular, and do you consider New Musik as a “synthpop” band?
"Soft Cell in particular were a big influence on me and I’m a big fan of keyboards such as The Fairlight and the Sinclavier. Those synths feature heavily on the Tony Mansfield productions. The Fairlight, Emulator and the Sinclavier were wonderful, rich sounding keyboards. PSB and OMD also used beautiful synth textures. I don’t think of New Musik as synth band exactly, but more a studio creation with an emphasis on synth aesthetics."
Do you plan any more Hello Leo albums?
"No It was just a one off."
From what I can tell the Hello Leo album has only been released digitally as MP3, which suggests your focus was always on the vinyl. Can you expand on this?
"We did the vinyl just as a kind of collectible memento because the 80s were full of colored and picture discs that I would avidly collect. It was a yummy kind of bubble gum period for record collecting. The Hello Leo project was meant to be an 80s pastiche so hence the reason for vinyl as apposed to CD. Think of Dukes Of Stratosphere and you get the picture of what it was meant to be, ie a lost 80s synth album that may have existed in the 1980s and been rediscovered."
...for me, DBA got really good from Skyscraper Souls onwards...
The DBA project with Geoff Downes seems to be going from strength to strength. It still contains references to New Musik (particularly on the first album) - what is Geoff’s view on your affection for New Musik?
"The first DBA album was really just Geoff and I experimenting with working together and messing with keyboards and drum machines etc so maybe the NM influence spilled over. Geoff never made any comment about the New Musik influence."
Superfortress from 'Pictures Of You' refers to "the heart of Burtonwood" - can you give us some background to the lyrics?
"I grew up close to the airbase at BW and it obviously came out in the nostalgia of that lyric. For me, DBA got really good from Skyscraper Souls onwards. Halcyon Hymns was the last record Geoff and I did together which Is very nostalgic. Any DBA albums that have the Roger Dean artwork are the ones I’d recommend. Having said that, I quite like the song Super Fortress."
What DBA projects are in the pipeline?
"We are currently very close to finishing the new studio album."
Finally, if Tony M and/or other members of New Musik happen to read this what would your message be to them?
"Thanks for giving me great inspiration as a writer/musician/producer over the years. I wish Tony and his family well."
Many thanks Chris for taking time to answer the questions. (Interview conducted April 2022).