STEREO :: Interview with Bernie Adam and Thierry Noritop

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(02.22.09) THERE are some sounds that have a timeless quality. Electronic music is interesting in this way. The advent of computers revolutionized the creation of electronic music, but today’s record stores are still brimming over with synthesizer sounds of the 1970s and 1980s. In one way it is a blessing that DJ’s and producers are looking back into the history of electronic music, on the other hand the deluge of butchered edits falling from the shelves of record shops doing the past no favors. Yet, there is thankfully some who are getting it right.

The New York based Minimal Wave are centered around repressing lost electronic classics, giving them back to fans across the globe. From house to new wave, Minimal Wave are bringing back, in undiluted form, true electronic classics. The East Coast imprint is keeping to its remit with its latest album release, Somewhere in the Night by Stereo. In 1982 the synth pop duo of Bernie Adam and Thierry Noritop, aka Stereo, first brought out Somewhere in the Night on the legendary Carrere. One year later, the pair would release No More on CBS. Yet, in 1985 Stereo receded into the dark after their Assembly Line LP. Despite being in audio silence for almost 25 years, Stereo find themselves with a firm following. Now, with Minimal Wave’s help, the best of Stereo’s recordings from 1982-85 have been brought back to speakers and headphones. Igloo met up with Stereo to find out what it’s like to be back and where things are at the moment.

Igloo :: What have Stereo been up to since their last release in 1985? After more than 20 years away, why is now the time to return to releasing?

Thierry :: The LP Assembly line was a flop in 1985 with no real success so we decided to put aside Stereo and work on another project. In 1986, the problem was to find money to go again to the recording studio, pay the musicians, without being sure to find a new record company and get a release. It was hard to find financial partners after the LP flop. The Stereo return is due to Internet fans who have surfaced Somewhere in the night after all those years of sleeping. It will be too long to tell the story about how we discover the Internet buzz. I’m gonna write a book maybe someday… LOL! To be serious, we want to deeply thank Veronica from Minimal Wave for the 2008 release for her support and kindness.

Bernie :: Nothing to add to that, I completely agree.

Igloo :: So how did the group form in the first place?

Thierry :: We were friends with Bernie (we still are after all those years), working together as composers and producers on Bernie’s own albums or singles. We wanted to be more involved into the music we listened as a “mélomane,” to work with synthesisers and try to forget our sixties and seventies backgrounds and influences. We didn’t want to make a hit (even if we hoped, to be honest,) but write music and produce sounds we loved.

Bernie :: It was a way for us to perform music that we loved to listen to, pushing the doors of new music areas.

Igloo :: Do you think electronic music today is different to when Stereo were first releasing? If so, how has it changed?

Bernie :: Not really, the music target is the same : trying to be original and outstanding.

Thierry :: The most important difference is now we can record at home with computers and expanders inside or outside the hard disc, to take our time, to make mistakes or try different musical ways, to go right or wrong. From the eighties to the present, nothing important has changed except the use of samples which was unavailable in 1982! It is the same process, write a song, arrange it, play it, then adding voices, then adding effects and mix. The same way except we now have the home studio in my Paris flat.

Igloo :: Why do you think the tracks and sound of 1980s electronics still draw a following?

Bernie :: Because, to my sense, lots of new sounds and possibilities were created at the time, which opened new fields of invention and creativity.

Thierry :: I don’t know but I think it’s a kind of circle that comes back every 20 or 30 years, surely because new generations discover their past. It’s like fashion or to go to the museum again and again.

Igloo :: Since your last release there has been a bit of a computer revolution, what do you think of laptop electronics? Does the sound fair up well in comparison to the analogue synthesizers of old?

Thierry :: It’s an evolution; there are really good sounds in new synthesisers and some awful ones like old ones. I don’t have any nostalgia about the old sounds. Every time has its own evolution.

Bernie :: There will always be a huge variety in songs and tracks, good ones, bad ones, original ones, common ones. It’s an everlasting story.

Igloo :: What are your influences, past and present?

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Bernie :: For me, as far as Stereo is concerned, definitively Kraftwerk and the German move of new music, Ultravox when it comes to England. But in fact, I started music in a beat band in the late 60’s.

Thierry :: From the past The Rolling Stones as a guitar player and Bowie, Peter Gabriel as a composer. Present I can say I’ve fond of Joni
Mitchell and my all time favourite band The Blue Nile. Yesterday I went back to the past and played my own records; the Beatles White album, Genesis Foxtrot. Just said to myself it’s impossible to choose one or two artists from my whole life.

Igloo :: “Somewhere in the Night” recently found itself bootlegged, what are your feelings on this?

Bernie :: To my surprise, when we were first bootlegged; our label manager said that it was fine by her. She simply considered that it was good publicity. After all…

Thierry :: I remember when I was young I bought Rolling Stones, Dylan or Bowie bootlegs. So now to be bootlegged ourselves is unbelievable but if it’s done by a fan, why not? But if it’s only to make money, I don’t agree with that. In fact, if with the bootleg some people can discover our past work.

Igloo :: Will there be more music to look forward to from Stereo or will this be the only release?

Thierry :: We are working on a couple of songs, brand new material, it’s in progress and it completely works! We’re not in a hurry because we want to keep the same quality that our old eighties material. The past ten years I worked alone on instrumental New Age and relaxing CD’s so I was afraid to go back to songs with voices and words, but my stupid ear has quickly disappeared with Bernie. We really have a lot of fun to work together again. In fact, we are open, maybe to work with a DJ or a producer, I’m gonna call Brian Eno a
propose him to work with us (LOL).

Bernie :: When we first started working on new material, I was not too sure. Now, after a few sessions, I’m much more confident: the spark is still there!

Igloo :: Is there a chance of touring?

Bernie :: Maybe someday!

Igloo :: And perhaps the most important question, what was the last record you bought?

Bernie :: Superbus, the new album. A French pop group with a touch of electro, catchy tracks, lovely voice, and a lovely singer Jennifer Ayache (not vital for music, but a + for sure!)

Thierry :: Impossible to say only one. I recently bought Get Well Soon and Loney Dear… and the Genesis 1970/1975 CD box set. Past and present always!

Bernie :: Thanks for your interest.

For more information about Stereo and Minimal Wave Records, visit their websites at stereo-web.biz and minimalwave.org respectively.

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