Interview with Richard & Geoff - February 2021
What was the first record you brought?
RS: ‘Hit me with your rhythm stick’ by Ian Dury and the Blockheads. Never heard a record like that before or since. Beautifully unique.
GP: ‘Green Onions’ by Booker T and the MG’s.
What is your favourite album of all time?
GP: Tough one, my original thought was Jeff Wayne’s ‘War of the Worlds’ - a totally epic production and I love the use of real strings alongside the synths. I always feel emotional whenever I listen to it, but ultimately, I’d have to say, ‘Computer World’ by Kraftwerk. It’s everything I love about electronic music, the sounds, its mechanical nature, the sequences and its dark undertones. It still sounds bloody amazing today! I remember when I first heard ‘Pocket Calculator’ on the radio when it came out, I connected with it straight away and wanted to know how those sounds were made and how they put the tracks together. It excites me even just writing about it now!
RS: Good choices. I’ve played both albums a lot in my time.
For me, without hesitation, it’s the ‘Vienna’ album by Ultravox. I remember the excitement of waiting for it to be released after I heard the first single from it, Sleepwalk’, on the radio, and the first time I saw them play live at the Crystal Palace Bowl on 13th June 1981. I think it’s such a timeless album that sounds so strong even today. The blend of classic instruments and synths works beautifully for me. I was brought the 40th anniversary deluxe ‘Vienna’ album last year which gave me a perfect reason to revisit the album again and I still love every track on it.
Who is your most influential artist of all time?
GP: My tastes have changed over the years. Gary Numan was a big influence in the early years, but I don’t have one particular artist that has influenced me over the years. I get something from lots of different artists.
But, if you were to ask me who has been the most influential producer it would undoubtedly be Trevor Horn. I would love to have been working with him in the studio back in the 80’s. There’s a long lasting quality to his work which I always strive to achieve.
RS: I think we all pick up a lot of influences from everything we hear, but for me, it’s John Foxx. From the sublime ‘Systems of Romance’ album, through ‘Metamatic’ and ‘The Garden’.
I formed Murmurs of Earth in 1986 as I was feeling dissatisfied with what I was doing musically at the time, but it didn’t come to anything as my day job and life got in the way. I was chatting to John Foxx before one of his concerts with The Maths in 2015 (as you do) and he was talking about why he left Ultravox and the musical flexibility he wanted to have with his songwriting and that gave me such a kick up the backside to focus on my music so I started up Murmurs of Earth again.
What was the first gig you attended?
GP: Gary Numan - Exhibition tour in ‘87 at the Hammersmith Odeon, London. I was a late starter!
RS: Madness - Hammersmith Odeon, 24th Dec 1980. It was a big thing travelling up to Hammersmith for a gig. That venue always has a special place in my affections. I’m so envious you got to play there Geoff.
What song by another artist do you wish you had written?
RS: ‘I feel love’ by Georgia Moroder. So simple, but amazingly effective and timeless and so astounding for the time. This sparked off the whole synth revolution for me.
GP: ‘Hide and Seek’ by Howard Jones. There’s so much emotion in this track. I have a real connection to it and it never fails to send shivers down my spine.
When did you know you wanted to be a musician?
GP: I was fascinated with sound and music at a very early age. I got my first reel to reel recorder when I was about 8 or 9 and I used to record anything and everything. I’d even create songs using a cheap harmonica and a recorder.
I wanted to be able to create the sounds from the records that I was listening to at the time - Jean Michel Jarre and Jeff Wayne’s ‘War of the Worlds’, Kraftwerk.
Later I was bought the Casio VL-1 and used to create songs using the sound on sound technique utilising two tape recorders building up layers of sounds in a very crude way!
RS: 24th May 1979. Can I be any more specific? Tubeway Army’s first appearance on Top of the Pops performing ‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric?’ It changed everything for me. It was a way to lift me, at least in my imagination, off of the limited prospects of our council estate I was living on and giving me something to aim for.
1979 to 1981 was such a fertile time for my young musical imagination. I brought my first synth in 1980 and was fascinated by the sounds it could produce. I’ve been writing songs on and off ever since.
What inspires you when writing a song?
RS: It’s always an emotion for me. Either from a lyric or a sound. I start with the feeling and work from there.
GP: Sometimes it’s a mood or a sound. Sometimes it’s a life situation. I could be inspired to write a track by a certain mood and that in turn would inspire the lyrics. It’s very rarely I’d have an actual melody or lyric to start with.
RS: That’s really interesting as I always start with the melody and a lyrical idea. It may change and shift as the song evolves, but it always starts there for me.
How did Murmurs of Earth get started?
RS: When I reignited Murmurs of Earth in 2015, the plan was to work with a number of different singers and musicians on the songs I was writing. I had already started working with an amazing singer, Carly M, and was looking for a producer to help me make the songs sound as strong as they could be. I was in a band in the ’80s called Coffee in Zürich and the younger brother of my former band mate lived next door to Geoff and Geoff and I met at a BBQ at his house. We chatted for a while and I saw we had so many musical points of reference that were the same, and it turns out I was in the audience for the concerts Geoff played as support to Gary Numan in 1991. Geoff started producing the early Murmurs of Earth singles and I really wanted him to be more closely involved, but was nervous about asking him as he was nose down working on the Tenek ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ album at the time. When Carly stopped singing for us to focus on her family life, Geoff stepped in and offered to be more involved. I was delighted, that was what I had wanted all along! Now we are working on our second album, the ‘Murmurs of Earth’ sound is really starting to develop and I think Geoff’s voice is stronger than ever.