Saturday, 21 September 2013

Thomas Leer - Private Plane

Thomas Leer (born Thomas Wishart, 1953, Port Glasgow, Scotland) is a British musician who as well as releasing a number of albums and singles in his own right, was also one half (the other being Claudia Brücken) of the 1980s electropop band Act. His single "Private Plane", which he recorded in his home, is considered a seminal example of DIY indie techno.

Perhaps it has been the starting point of the genre but, with its minimal rhythmics, the tape loops added to distorted guitars, the cold layered singing and the forced lo-fi attitude, it's far more out there and psychedelic than what you expect reading "synth-pop" written sideways. This single has a life on its own.

Private Plane/International were recorded in Tom's small Finsbury Park flat in 3 days using a TEAC A3440 4-track recorder and an ALICE mixing board. "The only FX used were a Watkins Copicat tape echo unit, Electo Harmonix DrQ filter, an old Roland drum machine and a Stylophone 350S. The process was simply a case of laying the tracks down one at a time, applying FX as I went along, and then mixing them all down onto a REVOX A77 mastering machine" They then moved everything across the Thames to Robert's Battersea flat to record ACC/Paralysis.

Tom's single made a big impact - being made NME single of the week by Tony Parsons (now social commentator and author of Man & Boy), which normally assured fame and fortune in those days. The two 45s have a special feel that I believe have stood the test of time partly ‘because’ of the way they were recorded – at home on 4-track, in the same room where Liz was sleeping (hence Tom's vocals are delivered so softly), guitar, rhythm from a cheap drum machine and a bubbling bass that sounds too fast (in the style of Neu on Fur Immer or Hallo Gallo) and finally, Rolf Harris stylophone lead melodies! Without doubt, this 45 would be on my desert Island disc selection. 
Professor Keith R Laws

25 years on, one of the most collectable and influential UK indie singles remains 1979’s Private Plane by Thomas Leer.  It appeared on his own Oblique label and was a groundbreaking mixture DIY electronics, tape loops and hushed vocals.  Cut-and-paste music in a cut-and-paste sleeve.  It was, as remembers, “compelling pop with a dark heart, swooping between the pretty and the pretty disturbing.”

It sent out ripples across the music scene.  “
Thomas was a huge influence on me,” Matt Johnson told Johnny Marr in 2002, “particularly his single, Private Plane.  The fact it was just one guy in his bedroom doing the entire thing made a massive, massive impact on me.  He was years ahead of his time and actually inspired me to create The The really.  He later told me that the reason his vocals were so whispered on that song is because his girlfriend was asleep in their bedsit while he did it!”
mark e 


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