An Interview with Those Attractive Magnets

A few weeks back I released the Electromagnetic Pulse LP by Those Attractive Magnets, which contains 7 unreleased gems from 1980-83 plus the two songs from the Nightlife 7″.  If you haven’t picked up a copy GRAB ONE HERE and enjoy this interview with the earliest Magnets I could find, Rikk Quay and Andy Baldwin!

1. You hail from Tamworth, “Heartland of the English Midlands” what was it like growing up there and what music inspired your teenage years?

ANDY BALDWIN: I grew up in a small village just outside the town. I was into Bowie and stuff like that, but my brother was into soul and funk. When I was 15/16 i started to listen to King Crimson and Bebop Deluxe and then punk came along and by 17 I became a night owl, Going to Barbarellas in Birmingham 2 or 3 times a week until at least 3am. I saw The Clash, early Ultravox and Talking Heads amongst others at that time.
RIKK QUAY: Tamworth equals boring!!!! – well it was in the late 60’s and early 70’s when I was a teenager. I was never really interested in chart music, as such until I left school, didn’t give a toss about the Beatles and the Stones etc in the 60’s, but when the 70’s came in, I was hooked. However, there was a certain type of  ” music”  I was into and that was incidental film music from sci-fi and horror films, (especially sound effects).   I later found out these amazing sounds were from a Theramin and was even more amazed to discover that Leon Theramin patented this in St Petersburg, Russia, way back in 1928  .If I had to say I was a fan of any band in the 60’s, it would be the Tornados, who had a number of hits, the most memorable, being “Telstar”, which was the first ever UK single that got to Number One in the U.S. Billboard charts.  Musically, the most important date to me in the 60’s was Saturday 23rd November, 1963 at 5.15pm when the first ever episode of Dr Who was screened.  The theme music, originally produced by Delia Derbyshire and the BBC Radio Phonic Workshop, still fills me with awe, even to this day (Ron Grainier later took the credit for this).   It is such an iconic tune, that has been covered many times, my personal favourite being by The Orb. As for the 70’s, as nothing was happening in Tamworth, I decided to start up my own mobile disco and was known as Rikky Patrick of Unit 2 Disco with playlists such as T Rex. David Bowie, Roxy Music, New York Dolls, Alice Cooper, Sparks, Kraftwerk (Autobahn , 1974)  plus all the other usual suspects.

2. How did you form the band and choose the name, Those Attractive Magnets?

AB: Well Rikk was working in a pub call the Marmion as DJ and I frequented it because he was playing some good tunes at the same time I was going to gigs in Birmingham. I don’t remember how but we must have got talking, Rikk and I started hanging around. Rikk bought the first synthesizer, and we found a bass player called Steve who I knew from college, me on guitar and Rikk’s synthesizer. We jammed around for a few weeks but Steve was a musician so he quit as we were not really very good in a traditional format. I then bought a synth and we found a vocalist called Graham who got stage fright at our first gig, swore a lot and walked off. Me and Rikk just played on, got a good reception considering and just rolled on from there with me taking the lead vocal.
RQ: I’d just left The Department of Happiness and Self Satisfaction (The D.H.S.S.) and was D J ing at the Marmion Pub  and the Tavern in the Town, both in Tamworth, playing obscure sounds for obscure people, which the mainstream punters, weren’t too chuffed about!  My weekly  gig  at the Marmion, I  called “Thursday Night Diptheria”,a parody of “Saturday Night Fever”, which was always packed out. Here, I met Andy, found out we had a lot in common, musically.   Andy played guitar then and I had my Synth,a Jen SX 2000, we also had a mutual friend Steve, who played bass and lived over the road from the pub, which was handy!   This band line up came to an abrupt end after a couple of weeks as Steves missus got fed up of us practising in her flat and issued  Steve with an ultimatum, her or the band! ….but love conquers all…..   Then there were 2, me and Andy!   We then decided to work as a duo (well it worked for O.M.D and Soft Cell!) and starting thinking about a name .  Many names were thought of and many names were cast adrift in this process.   I always wanted something scientific and I remembered my fascination of magnets at school, the way they defied gravity, I mentioned this to Andy and we agreed Magnets was good,   We didn’t want to be THE Magnets it sounded too 60’s , I thought of THOSE instead of THE, but Those Magnets didn’t sound right.  The word ATTRACTIVE came about because magnets attract and we thought is was kind of New Romantic sounding in a futuristic kind of way!.  The main reasons I decided to even pick up a Synth, was after seeing Clockwork Orange in 1973 in the cinema (about 6 times!) and buying the soundtrack for the film, by Walter/Wendy Carlos.   Then in 1978 I went to see The Clash at the Top Rank in Birmingham, but it wasn’t so much them, or the fact that Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols came on to do an encore with them.   It was one of the support bands, called Suicide, that completely blew me away – I can still feel the throbbing bass now!   Within a week, I had sold my D J equipment and bought my first (of many) Synths.

3. Two songs from your first cassette, “Pictures On The Wall” appear on the “Electromagnetic Pulse” compilation LP, were these your earliest songs?

AB: “1500” was reworked from an earlier version before I took vocals, but we ditched most of our first set. I really cant remember those early songs at all, but there were 5 or 6 that never saw the light of day again.
RQ: As T.A.M, go, most probably, we did have others, they got lost in the anus of time! Obviously they weren’t much good anyway.

4. Why and when did you switch from live drummer to drum machine?

AB: We had a young school kid called John Higgins join the band for say 6 months. That was when we started to write good tunes. 1500 was a difficult beat for a drummer so we used a few synth stabs in the studio. John left the band cause he wanted to earn some money playing in covers bands, and his Dad was the driver so couldn’t always get to practice. That was the catalyst to get a drum machine, the Roland CR78 with programmer. It was a fantastic tool as it had some very strange presets we modified and toyed with, such as a waltz.
RQ: It was 1980, the first year we were together and apart from my Jen SX 2000, I had a really naff electronic home organ with a drum nachine unit on it, but I knew a drummer, John Higgins who had been in a punk band, the Reliants, who featured Edward Ian Armchair on vocals.  John was with us for roughly 6 months, till Daddy bought him a new drumkit and wouldnt let him play in another band that made no money, so he went off to join a covers band..   Last time I saw him, was in the 90s and he was doing really well with some rock band, the name evades me just now.  Andy decided to buy a Roland CR 78 programmable drum machine, which we nicknamed E.D.W.A.R.D. – Electronic Drum Wizard and Rhythm Determinator!   Many hours of fun was had by all!

5. What did the New Romantic movement mean to you?

AB: It was an image thing, didn’t mean a lot to me, but Rikk and Paul were into the fashion of the time. We did meet some interesting people though, and it seemed a good vehicle for our music at the time.
RQ:  The New Romantic Era was connected with the Synth/Electro vibe at the time and was a natural progression from the punk movement and was basically a good excuse to wear make up, strange clothes, have strange hair and drink copious amounts of alcohol!   Me and Paul were well up for it, but Andy wasnt so keen(Except for the alcohol, that is!)   I have always worn predominantly  black and with the Goth movement being a natural progression from New Romantic, still do    .My eyeliner pencil is still sharp!   My black nail varnish has yet to dry!

6. How did the evolution of the synthesizer in the early 1980s have an effect on your sound?

AB: We bought Yamaha to start because they were cheaper than the Roland and Arps of the time. The sound was a little thinner but more variable. These were the first affordable synths of the day and I doubt we would have created the same songs with other makes. We did use Roland SH01 and Juno 6 for Nightlife Change and Falling from view. And moved on TR 606 and TB 303 at that time ditching the CR 78 and getting some dance beats on the go.
RQ: Dont think it needs explaining, we were a Synth band that used Synths!

7. Can you describe your most memorable/favorite live gig?

AB: The most memorable was stripes nightclub, the place was heaving and we were set up on the dance floor. I was singing in the middle of packed floor and mingling with the crowd.
We were very good that night, the crowd was packed. There were other gigs such as the first rock festival when we released the single and signed 20-30 autographs, and a 15 song set that I though would never end as my voice was giving up.
RQ: Personally, my favourite gig was at Faces Nightclub in Birmingham in early 1981.    Barbarellas, one of the best clubs in Birmingham, had just been knocked down, so Faces was one of the main venues for this type of music..  This was the first time we ever had a decent sound system to play through, a great venue and at the time, the most popular place to be seen in Birmingham.  We got the gig through DJ Alan Gibson, who heard our Pictures on the Wall cassette and loved our music.   We were asked back a few times for follow up gigs.

8. Many of the lyrics on “Electromagnetic Pulse” revolve around themes of “outer space” and “time;” were you always interested in these themes as a kid?

AB: Sci-fi was always my favourite and Rikk’s, I used to watch the old US shows like Time Tunnel, The Invaders, Star Trek, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea etc. As well as UK shows such as Dr Who.
RQ: YES!…. and I still am!    Big shout out to Gerry Anderson from Supercar to Thunderbirds and beyond, All 40s, 50s and 60s sci-fi B movies, The Invaders, Star Trek, and anything in between.  One of the strangest, most surreal series was The Prisoner, starring Patrick McGoohan – fantastic stuff!

9. The Magnets sound is unique and strayed away from mimicking other New Wave bands. How did you maintain your style amongst the clones?

AB: When we started the band I more or less stopped listening to music by other bands. Just did my own thing with the band. I don’t think I bought an album for 2 or 3 years. If I wanted to listen to music I’d just play. We used to practice up to 4 nights a week at that time, so didn’t have time get into other stuff. Of course I listened to music but not that intensity.
RQ:  Thats very nice of you to say!   We were just likeminded and it just happened, that was our sound, and that was it!   No magic involved!

10. All of your material from 1980-1983 was recorded in Steve Adams studio, who is this man and why did you only record with him?

AB: Steve Adams, a teacher and a very talented folk singer. He won a national competition and put the proceeds into building a studio. The first one in the Tamworth area, so he was the natural choice. Very committed to long 16 hour days at the weekend, and helping us produce Pictures on the wall when we knew nothing about the process. I met him a couple of years ago over a couple of pints, hasn’t changed a bit.
Steve Adams had the ONLY studio in Tamworth at the time, so as a matter of logistics, we recorded there!   It was 4 track studio when we recorded Pictures on the Wall, then he upgraded to an 8 track studio – WOW cutting edge technology!

11. Those Attractive Magnets appeared on the Futurist compilation “Synthetic Romance” in 1982. What is Futurist music and why does “We Fade Into (Secret Silence) different than what appears on  “Electromagnetic Pulse”?

AB: It seemed at the time to be a money making scheme for the studio. The production was awful, technician seemed disinterested, I was glad to be outta there. The original on Electromagnetic pulse is far better. The studio had some good equipment, if they knew how to use it, it could have been good.
RQ: From what I believe, Futurist describes a projection of an art-form now, which has validity in the future.(or another excuse for copious amounts of alcohol!)   As far as Synthetic Romance is concerned, we fell into the “tourist trap” of musicians , where we were offered something for nothing, which we ended up paying for, along with every other band on the album.   It was done in a 24 track studio, the guy advertised for Electronic Bands and like mugs, we went for it.  After being charged the equivalent of 2 months wages, having no say in the execution or production of the sound, we ended up with an  vastly inferior sounding track, compared to the vastly superior earlier version recorded in Steve’s 4 track studio!   Lesson Learned!!

12. In 1983 you went from Tamworth’s “Band Of The Year” to breakup. What happened?

AB: We were getting very popular. Rikk was being torn by working with other bands, one of the other band members wanted to be a sound-like, so the intensity of the previous years was lost. Rikk decided to move on, and the Magnets continued. We stayed good mates for all these years, then we got together in the mid 90’s and wrote a bundle of songs 3 of which we simply recorded.
RQ: We didn’t break up as such.    I left, due to personal reasons, work and relationship problems, nothing to do with the band, who continued to carry, albeit in a slightly different direction.  We all remained good mates, even to this day.

13. Can you tell us about Sam Holliday who wrote many articles about Those Attractive Magnets in the Tamworth Herald back in the day as well as the liner notes for “Electromagnetic Pulse”?

AB: I think musical editor was Sam’s first real job, following on from Rob Sly who was really into us. Our base pub “the tavern in the town” became a mecca for local music journalists, and Sam followed the tradition. But Sam was more than a reporter, he quickly got involved in the local music scene, and became a figurehead of the Tamworth Rock Festival, which subsequently ran for many successful years. He was passionate about music and this passion had a big influence on those around him, so Sam had a key role in promoting Tamworth bands at that time.
RQ: He did our first ever review of our gig at St Johns Youth Club, Tamworth in 1980 for some fanzine he was doing, the name of which I forget.  He later went on to become Editor of the Tamworth Herald, a well respected local paper, which won many awards.  He is now Editor of the Bath Chronicle, an equally respected publication.  His passion for music, stemmed from punk music, one band in particular, “The Stranglers” has seen him at almost every gig they’ve ever done, regardless of which country they are playing in , during which, he has met the band many times and become good friends with them.   Also, since being the Editor of the Bath Chronicle, he has had the pleasure of drinking the  British Tax Payers wine at no 10 Downing Street, on not one, but three occasions!   His contribution to the 80’s Tamworth music scene was legendary and I am proud to call him one of my closest friends.

14. I first heard your single “Nightlife” on a dark dancefloor in New York City and I was immediately addicted to your fresh sounds! How did you create the perfect balance of delicious dance beats and clever lyrics?

AB: Most of the music came from a beat to start with and just jammin around it. Although we played synths, we started with traditional roles. Rikk did bass, Paul did rhythmic stuff such as arpeggios and, Gary melodies, and I filled in the gaps. Rikk did most of the beats.
RQ: First of all, Josh, if you were on the dancefloor, I’m glad it was dark!!!!!   At that time, me and Andy were very fluid creatively, it just came together, what more can I say?

15. How do you feel about the renewed interest in your music and newer bands that look to the Magnets for inspiration?

AB: Well I never used to listen to our music much, but this renewed interest has made me compare our music to others. It sounds very different to any other band I know. Perhaps we resisted the “soundlike” temptation because we all came from different musical tastes.

16. Do you have any current musical projects or future plans for Those Attractive Magnets?

AB: I’m working on some new stuff, also trying to record some of the old practice tapes from our old TEAC144 , which hopefully I will start making available on Facebook. It’s great to talk with Rikk again and I’m sure we will do something together soon, probably by the power of the interweb.

RQ: We have talked about a re-union, logistics make this difficult, but not impossible. We are scattered all across Britain.   I never say never, we’re always open to offers and we’ve already been offered a gig at a very popular European Festival.     That’s the questions done, I would now like to thank the FANS, Dark Entries Posse, George Horn, Fantasy Studios, for listening to our wailing synths of doom and making it palatable for the human ears consumption! Eloise Leigh, for her dedication and patience to her art for her design prowess .Pieter Schoolwerth, for starting the ball rolling, by playing “Nightlife” on his VERY dark dancefloor.  And last, but not least, you Josh, for suffering my inane ramblings at all times of the day and night. It took a while, but we got there my man!  You’re a thoroughly decent chap and never unplug your Moog!.

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