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2.28.2006

Notes On My Favorite Album

David Michael Cross's Cold War

David Michael Cross is a Canadian who was producing electronic music in the early 80s in Montreal with his Quebecois partner Philippe "Funky" Tremblay. After some early experiments with tape loops and home-built synthesizer kits they built a studio containing a variety of analog synthesizers and 4 track recording gear (including an unusually large percentage of Japanese equipment for a North American facility).

David: "about the middle of 1982 we met Mike [Blumenfield] who was building analog sequencers in his garage and we bought a couple off him. He was a real electronics wiz. Later when we were bored of the sounds on the "Oberheim DMX" so we asked him if he knew how to replace the chips, and he did this for us so we had custom sounds in there from pretty early on". These innovations helped David to develop his original and groundbreaking sound.

At the same time David was becoming involved in the free-love religious cult of Raelianism, which is a sect with the belief that mankind was created by an intelligent alien race who will soon return to Earth. Raelians wanted to build an "Embassy" to welcome the aliens, and today they are involved in controversial human cloning experiments which have been reported in the mainstream media.

David is now a committed Christian and happily married with 2 daughters and looks back on his experiences with the Raelians with some embarrassment: "it seems so obviously cranky now and from the outside, if you've never been involved in that kind of set-up, it looks silly or whatever... but at the time I was also reading a lot about the early Gnostic Christians who believed in the idea of an imperfect God, and a lot of science fiction like

Philip K Dick and so on and that was really influencing my thought and also my song writing. I mean it's not a time in my life I like to look back on too much, I was misguided... but I mean at least we wrote some good songs in that time, I like to think we weren't totally wasting our time. I hope listeners won't take the subject matter to heart too much, although the songs about nuclear war... I mean war is still with us more than ever and it's still something I am very strongly against. Nuclear weapons are no longer restricted to two superpowers, they are all around the world and that's something that should concern everyone."

The first songs to be recorded by the duo were "Future Man" and "Nuclear Winter". David sent out demo tapes to local radio DJs and labels. The Canadian disco giants Unidisc were looking around for a tax-break to sink a few thousand excess dollars into and somehow they got to hear "Future Man" and thought something could be done. "they gave me some money to start [his label] Next Phase so we got a 16 track set-up in the studio, and they asked us to do something a little more dancefloor friendly so we came up with Cold War which was a dance track but with a strong message to it. They were impressed by that I guess, so that was released as a single at the end of '82 and we kept working on the album which gradually developed into a kind of story about Future Man and everything."

"Cold War" sold a couple of thousand copies and influenced the fortunate few musicians around the world who got to hear it, among them the techno pioneers across the border in Detroit, and the British pop sensation Frankie Goes To Hollywood who were inspired to write their smash hit "Two Tribes"after listening to David Michael Cross warning of the dangers of escalation.

The album was completed towards the end of 1983 but at the same time disco was dying and Unidisc didn't want to put the cash into what was perceived by them as "minority music" and not a money-maker. The albums had already been pressed up but they never made it to the shops. Only a few promo copies were sent out and a hundred or so records made it to specialist dance stores in the US and Canada. "They really pulled the rug out from under us, we were so disappointed. I mean after all that work to not release the album properly was like an insult and of course we had signed over all the rights to them so we couldn't even look for another deal, it was extremely frustrating".

"A few years later they put out Future Man as a single which they had remixed by someone, I don't know who did it, I actually kinda liked it. But of course we never saw a penny, they didn't even send me a copy and there was nothing I could do about it really. I guess we got our advance and they probably never made that money back so I'm not too bitter about it, but I wish they would've asked me before changing the song around…"

These frustrations contributed to David's "retirement" from the music industry, he has been working in the computer industry since the mid 80s and spends his spare time with his family or pursuing his hobby of racing remote-controlled boats (really!) Philippe Tremblay has been working successfully as a session guitarist with various artists both famous and obscure and composing for film and television projects.

White Leather boss Tiga discovered a copy of the album in a Montreal used-record store in 2001 and bought it on the strength of the track titles and equipment listed on the back cover. When he got home he realised he had unearthed a rare gem - a real lost classic of groundbreaking electronic music, and he set about tracking down the artists and the copyright owners to secure a long-deserved proper release on his label. ...so finally here it is after 20 years, a full commercial release of David Michael Cross's "Cold War".

We hope you'll agree it was worth the wait.

1 Comments:

At 11:47 PM, Blogger Trevor said...

Thanks for the post. I've been wondering about this record's history since I found the repress a few years ago. I can definitely see the influence David had on everything from early Detroit up to modern stuff on Rephlex. It seems like some guys are doing the exact same thing, even with the same instruments, over 20 years later. (Justus Kohncke, Matias Aguayo, DMX Krew, to name a few.)

Here is one of the songs mentioned in the write-up: Future Man

 

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