New wave pop and its underground counterparts from the 1970s and 80s have attained vintage status by now, but their influence remains, decades later, in today’s indie cutting edge. The UK’s China Crisis is of this original vintage period, infusing the mood and effect of the new wave aesthetic with a post-punk lyrical sensibility.
The two founding members, Eddie Lundon and Gary Daly, recently corresponded with CITY to talk about their US tour, their Liverpool roots, and their work with Steely Dan’s Walter Becker in the producer seat. The following is a transcript of the email exchange, edited for punctuation:
CITY: How about a brief history of China Crisis?
Gary: Eddie and myself met at school, aged about 14. We took an instant dislike to each other, mainly because we quickly realized we we’re a lot alike, always keen to show off our love of music – Ed being a big Bowie fan and myself ELP and other dubious prog-rock outfits. So it was inevitable that we would join forces and our curiosity would lead us to try and actually make music, which we did after a little stint in a covers band. We found it very frustrating trying to learn and play other people’s songs, so we began to write our own and found (unlike Bono) exactly what we were looking for. And the rest … (see Wikipedia) is historical.
What was the Liverpool music scene like in the late 70s and early 80s?
G: Liverpool was and still is a very noisy vibrant town...well...it is a city of world renown, but there’s something about Liverpool. It has a small city center feel to it, and, growing up there just on the outskirts (Kirkby our hometown, was about 8 miles outside the city center), we got to hear some amazing bands in the late 70s. It would be everything from bluesy rockers – bands like NUTZ, soul band The Real Thing, Liverpool Express – and then a little later bands like DEAF SCHOOL, and, of course the Bunnymen, OMD, and A Flock of Seagulls - which I actually auditioned to play bass but didn’t manage to get in. I obviously didn’t have the right haircut.
So yes, Liverpool was/is and I should imagine will always be a capital of pop. It’s in our DNA.
Was there camaraderie between bands, a tight local scene?
Well, for Ed and myself it was a little different, what with us being from out of town. We didn’t actually grow up with the other local Liverpool bands, so when we did eventually start playing live gigs and releasing records, we were a little unknown. And I think [it’s also] because our sound was so different from the local hipsters Bunnymen, Teardrops, etc. etc., whom all seemed to be under the influence of The Doors, The Velvets, whereas Ed and myself were busy emulating our heroes, The Talking Heads, Magazine, Eno, Bowie.
I don’t think people knew what to make of us, and I think this has served us well. We had very little image to speak of, so we let the songs do the talking.
Was there a spectre of Beatles in Liverpool at the time, and in what way?
Yes. We grew up in Liverpool, and the Beatles, well, they were and are as familiar as our uncles and aunts – everything about them really. But Ed and myself personally didn’t pay them any heed whatsoever. We just didn’t; they were of another time. In fact it wasn’t until I was in Hawaii with Walter Becker producing "Diary of a Hollow Horse" that I bought my first Beatles Album – "Rubber Soul" – and yeah it was a surreal experience for sure. Palm treess, the sound of breaking waves, and The Beatles. So yeah, Ed and myself would have grown up with Beatles albums in our homes, but we were all about sounding of the future, as most of the credible bands of the 80s were.
Your work with Steely Dan's Walter Becker on "Flaunt the Imperfection" blew some genre preconceptions wide open. Did you have a sound in mind ahead of time, or did that sound develop through collaboration?
Very much through collaboration. We wrote exactly as we had done on our previous two albums, a mixture of home demos and jams. And then the real big difference was Walter’s work ethic: very focused, zooming in on each of the songs, working on the arrangements – an absolute revelation to us. Walter was so generous, considering he’d worked with such esteemed and world-class musicians – and then there he was with this little band from the pool, working his magic and taking very little credit considering his huge contribution. That in itself taught us a huge amount.
You have so many great singles, B-sides and versions of songs that do not appear on any albums - any chance of collections or re-issues in the future?
Yes. Ed and myself have so many of our original recordings, right back to the very first things we recorded in our parents’ homes on the classic 244 Porta Studio. I should imagine at some point we’ll get them up online for people to hear for sure.
Any current projects?
Ed and myself are just about to begin a new China record.
China Crisis performs Tuesday, April 30, 6:30 p.m. at the Memorial Art Gallery, 500 University Ave. This show kicks off the anticipated alternative-music film series curated by Lakeshore Record Exchange. While tickets are free, they are required. Call 276-8950 or visit mag.rochester.edu for details.