Rusty Egan (2015)
'Beat Boy: The Rusty Egan Story'
Rusty Egan is the former drummer for the British new wave band Rich Kids (1977-78) who were founded by former Sex Pistol Glen Matlock (bass guitarist), with Steve New (guitarist) and fronted by Midge Ure (guitarist and keyboards player). He continued working with Ure, and later collaborated with The Misfits, Skids, Shock, and Visage. However, Egan did not return to Visage when they reformed with a new line-up in 2004.
Egan was the DJ at Blitz, the influential New Romantic nightclub in London where he worked with Steve Strange (Visage) from 1979 until 1981. Whilst there, he introduced German (Kraftwerk), Japanese (Yellow Magic Orchestra) and British (Eno, Ultravox, Landscape) electronic/synthpop to the British club scene. This soon became the soundtrack for the New Romantic movement.
Egan was later brought back into his career as a disc jockey by the allure of the internet as a medium for sharing music. He has worked as a DJ at the Boujis nightclub in London, playing and promoting 1980's style synthpop and electronic music. He has his 'Rusty Egan Presents The Electricity Club Radio Show,' and in 2009 Egan won the category for lifetime achievement at the London Club and Bar Awards. [Previous winners have included Richard Branson, Mark Fuller and Nick House.].
Still hard at work creating new music, DJing to the masses today, but with the sudden death of his friend and fellow Visage band member Steve Strange still looming large in all our lives, I first asked Rusty how he had first came to meet Steve? "Rich Kids tours and gigs and then finally on the Kings Road he asked to borrow my sofa!"
With regard Visage, the story goes that both you and Steve were actually looking for new music to play and instead decided to create your own music! Is that truly how Visage came about? "No. I was responsible for ALL the music and as Midge and I had demo time and ideas I suggested Steve as a singer. So we could make club music with a club person, like Grace Jones, Amanda Lear. I felt nightlife music was just strings and disco lyrics and we wanted to dance to 'Nighclubbing' or 'Heroes,' but that there was not enough music. I loved Ultravox and Magazine and contacted them inviting them to hear me DJ. We all decided to try to write together and use Steve as the face of Visage. We could all then continue with our bands."
For a time, you actually switched to producing records for many of the bands you used to DJ for, such as Spear Of Destiny, Shock, Visage and The Senate. A big step, but a mighty successful one, but what made you think you could do it - and so well? "I am a drummer. I knew that the bands or tracks I was producing were going to be played in small clubs and that once I had an amazing engineer who would sort the technical stuff I would get the performances."
In those early days between 1979 and 1981 when you used to DJ at Blitz, the nightclub where you worked with Steve, what is still today one of the stand out memories of that time that involves you both? "Seeing people create a dance to the electro beats of Kraftwerk and Georgio Moroder."
After Blitz, both you and Steve opened up the Camden Palace nightclub in London, where you continued to influence the patrons with the development of electronica. What was it about this music that had you hooked early on? "SMPT Codes that could trigger electro sequencers and drums. Click Tracks to make sure the tracks could be in perfect time to Sync the beats or beatmatch. In this amazing massive soundsystem it was very difficult to mix the tracks and keep the beats running simple, unlike these days."
It's been said that you yourself almost single-handedly put together the soundtrack for the New Romantic Movement when you introduced bands such as Kraftwerk, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Ultravox and more to the British club scene. Is that how you also see it, perhaps? "I played music I liked in a small club to people who liked the same music. Then I introduced ambient tracks early and late in my sets, and used them as bridges between tracks. I used voices and or spoken word excerpts from movies like The Man Who Fell To Earth and mixed effects to create a lull, then drop the beat. That created an atmosphere."
Visage released their first single, 'Tar' on Radar in September of 1979, but the single failed to chart. At that time, was that a truly disappointing moment for you guys, or just something to use to propel you forward? "We wanted to get 'Frequency 7' out. We felt it was experimental and pioneering. 'Tar' was a song Steve had and we just recorded it first, but we were working on the album at Martin Rushent's who we met via Radar. We were very happy to have met Martin and had his support."
A year later, the self-titled debut album came out and 'Fade To Grey' was released - and became a HUGE hit! Vindication for 'Tar,' for sure, but how had life then changed for you at that very same time? "'FTG' was released before the album and it was also in the charts lower end for five months, but never quite made it. Peter Powell championed the Spandau build up and via that he searched for other interesting people from this sect. Boy George was trying to form a band, but Visage was out there and he started bigging it up."
Subsequent albums were released, more songs charted, but I assume you were also doing other projects around that time? "Once 'FTG' hit doors opened and I also signed Soft Cell, bought Trident Studios, formed Metropolis Records and music, and worked with Space in Paris. I also met Ronny and played or produced a few others including Shock and then I started promoting shows for Depeche Mode, Soft Cell and others."
In 1984, and after a continual shift throughout of band members, Visage broke up. Being that you there throughout the entire run, what are your own personal thoughts on why the band broke up at that time? "Chris Morrison, Midge and Ultravox's manager had a conflict of interest. He pushed for Midge not me or Steve so my partner took over, but we lost Midge and Billy and the pressure for another hit was on. 'Pleasure Boys' was not a hit, the 'Love Glove' video cost too much, and Steve's trips to Egypt and the other videos, etc all cost a fortune."
Visage, via Steve came back twice thereafter (2004-2010 and 2012-2015), but it was only after the release of the brand new Visage album, Hearts And Knives that they suddenly "came out of the shadows" again. I know you were asked to be part of it, but I also know it couldn't be done on your terms so you backed away from it. Listening to it today, what are your thoughts on the album, as a whole? "I lost my royalties! John McGeoch and Dave Formula also. Steve had been getting them all the while and lied to me. I was so upset that he could have lied to me for all those years and then to top it off he said he had no intention of ever trying to even pay me back! He said Dave Formula hates me and thinks it's OK. It was a mistake and that he had worked so hard promoting Visage I should be happy with what I had earned."
"I was introduced to John Pitcher by the manager of Space my ex-partner who said he would find a way to resolve this problem and get me my royalties - and to Emily McGeoch make a new album. Through grated teeth I presented 'Dreamer' saying it's half written by Arno and he has agreed to a rewrite. Midge offered 'Become', which I thought needed a rewrite. I have 'Evermore' and a few tracks with Chris Payne. John Pitcher said he had 'Never Enough' and five more songs already recorded for the Visage album with Steve and some blokes."
"I said no Way would I allow anybody to write or perform on a record called Visage. John said, 'Well, Steve has agreed so we have registered the name Visage and Blitz Club and we are doing it WITHOUT YOU.' My opinion of H&N is it sounds like Visage and looks like Visage, but its not."
As you say, Midge Ure gave a song to the original idea of the new Visage album, 'Become,' but due to the company who were funding the production, the production values and quality you wanted to bring to the table were obviously not going to be met so it couldn't be used, correct? "When they said WITHOUT YOU, Midge wrote and said you can not use my song. I said you can't use 'Dreamer,' but they said it's a cover as it being released. And they tried to take 'Evermore,' but agreed not to."
So why did the track 'Dreamer I Know' seem to personally upset you the most? 'Because they added the words 'I KNOW' and then claim it's a new song - and then added a load of writers. Check out Rusty Egan Presents Dreamer ft Arno Carstens then you hear the real song. Plus they have about 20 mixes of every song. Not one song cover or mix is any good. I wish I could say they did an amazing job, but as far as I am concerned it's all fake imitation rubbish. I would never even play one track on my radio show."
OK, please tell us more about the 'Rusty Egan Presents The Electricity Club Radio Show' "It started as that, but Chi Ming Lai likes 100% synth and I like some deep electronica. I also like artists who Chi also is not a fan of so we called it that for a while at like 25 shows. I now take top tips from the Electricity Club as they really are great at finding Syth."
In reflection, is there still one classic Visage single/album track that stands out to you today to be the pinnacle of what the band was always trying to successfully represent? "It was an experimental project and all the ideas and recording techniques and the clubs and the videos everything we were part of we were the first. We opened doors, even my DJ set lists were changing. DJ tastes was what club music was about. The Anvil, Pleasure boys breaks used in Hip-Hop. 'Fade to Grey' cinematic mix I did in 2009 and the ambient tracks 'Whispers' and 'Yesterdays Shadow' stand out for me. It lead the way for Moby and Daft Punk."
Back in 2011, both yourself and Steve Strange reopened the Blitz club for one night, had some live performances and you even DJ'd again there. Please tell us more about that night and your memories of it? "I hated it! I did it as part of the deal to be back together and make the album. But we had not agreed and it was John Pitcher trying to get the project off, up and running. I did Blitz Parties that were all about Steve and I was happy just to smile and go along with it. I thought I was going to write an album and produce some great new music. Steve would sing and repay the debts. It soon transpired it was the Pitcher and Strange story unfolding and it was going to go ahead without me."
Today, do you still DJ in various nightclubs and if so, where and when? "I have spent years DJing. I had everything stolen from me and ended up penniless in 1993. I remarried and by 1995 I had my second child so I stayed away from the limelight and avoided drugs, clubs and fame as long as I could. I worked and took care of my wife and my kids."
And yet, even two years after Hearts & Knives came out, you just still couldn't patch things up with Steve? "All that time, Steve was getting my royalties. I tried a few times to sort out my affairs, Pitcher said he would help, but instead he STOLE even all my recordings I made with RERB and Nona Hendrix! All are available without any agreements. He has been asked many times to STOP selling my music. He ignores anything. He even stole 'Fade to Grey' and put an orchestra on top. It took Universal Music to stop him. As far as I am concerned he paid Steve to Ignore me. He stole Visage and The Blitz and just gave Steve some cash. If Steve had sided with me we could have made a great record, made some club nights and had fun. Instead we had social networking arguments and left it unresolved."
Flirting back a few years to your time as a member of Rich Kids, in reflection now it truly was a supergroup. Featuring you, Midge Ure, Glen Matlock and Steve New, sadly they only released the one album. Have there ever been times that you've actively considered rebanding - perhaps for a good charitable cause? "We did in 2010 for Steve New who had terminal cancer. We performed one gig for his family. It's on Youtube."
Rich Kids performing 'The Rich Kids' @ O2 Academy Islington, London 7th January 2010!
As we're not called Exclusive Magazine for nothing, can you please reveal something about yourself, or something that you recordings, or your life, that you have not revealed thus far in any interview to date" "'Evermore,' the demo, is on my radio shows and we will finish it. 'Dreamer' radio mix is done and sounds perfect. 'Hero' and 'Lonely Highway' and 'Glorious' are ready for mixing and 'Welcome to the Dancefloor' is on my SoundCloud. 'Fade to Magic' the mash-up we did is on youtube from Tuesday and 'Become' by Midge is becoming a new song altogether. I am working with great writers and musicians and all without a label. Making great music is the bottom line for me. All these songs would have been a Visage album and Steve would have been the singer. Everyone would have made their money back and Steve and I would never have fallen out. Midge Ure is my best mate and I have a female friend who has been an angel to me. I lost my wife, my money, my possessions, but I have never lost my talents and my love of music. My radio shows and my own music make me no money, but give me more joy and fulfilment than anything other than my children. I am very rich in them all."
Coming full circle, and from the moment you began DJing at the Blitz, and even before, it just doesn't seem like you have slowed down for even a second. Are you always busy of mind, so to speak, and if so, is there still a project out there not yet undertaken that you would simply love to dive into? "I think EDM and dance music SUCKS! I hate 90% of DJ's! I DJ all styles and go to as many things as I can. I listen to and am in contact with as much as I can. I am open minded yet I feel I know best. I am often wrong, but I have something I hope will happen. If they do I will be helping musicians and music. What else is there, but to move with the times. I'll say this loud, 'CRAP DJ'S are murdering music!" And along the way my own music has been truly murdered!"
Will there be a new Rusty Egan CD released here in 2015 "Not really as I will just make my music and upload it. Everyone rips and nobody pays you anyway. The music biz is just corrupt. I don't care if they rip it, I do care if they sell it and not pay."
We are here in Detroit, Michigan, the "Home of Motown," so I was wondering if you had ever been here through the years - or have plans to come play for us soon? "Detroit is home of Derrick May who played 'Frequency 7' and all that weird music from London and Chicago. Warehouse Club played it as well and the people asked for that music they play at the warehouse all the time, but in the end they just asked for that 'HOUSE MUSIC.' I would love to be invited to come play my old school sets that I call Back to the Future as they are all remade for the dancefloor."
Well, if you do decide to venture our way it would be my pleasure to show you around our fair city and take you to the infamous, and actual Home of Motown, Hitsville USA (the Motown Museum) - which was founded by Berry Gordy Jr. and is the house he grew up in! But does the sound of Motown do anything for you musically? "Berry Gordy did NOT pay his musicians well and a lot of the writers and session musicians made nothing from world wide hits that are still making money today! I am not a fan, sorry. I was also sickened by the Sly Stone case. I have something, as I said before, that will help musicians. If I get it off the ground it's going to change all that."
Are you active on Twitter, and all other modes of Social Media, perhaps? "VERY!"
Finally, we here at Exclusive Magazine LOVE penguins. So, I was wondering if you did also? "I did NOT enjoy HAPPY FEET!"
Interviewed by: Russell A. Trunk
Rusty Egan @ Facebook!
Rusty Egan @ Twitter!