Empire State Human formed in 1999 and have released over a dozen albums since then. I bought their Pop Robot CD back in 2002 and have been a fan ever since. While synthpop languished throughout the early naughties as an un-hip genre, ESH were one of the few bands with vision enough to embrace and push forward the electropop sound. Once you’ve heard lead vocalist Aidan Casserly sing you’ll never forget it: he makes Billy MacKenzie’s passing just a little bit more bearable. Aidan and the lads have just released their final side-project album Monster by The Garland Cult. He’s now busy working on the new ESH album (provisionally titled The Art), but took time out to tell us about his top 10 favourite songs.
There’s a T-shirt I’ve seen Boy George wear with the slogan “Blame it all on Bowie.” I agree with this whole-heartedly. Even if you don’t like Bowie, most artists you do like love him and are influenced by him. It all goes back to Bowie: the look, style and lyrical content. Ashes To Ashes is a colossal single, worthy of a #1 in any list and with a superbly eerie and moving video it’s a cut above the rest. 30 years on and the riff is still in my head. We covered it with Empire State Human and think we did a fine job of it too.
2. Kraftwerk — The Model
This started off as a b-side to their Computer Love single. It turned out the public preferred this and so do I. If anyone was to say back in ‘79/’80 that “we’re releasing a single 30 years ahead of its time,” then this would be that single. Mesmerising. I still can’t believe we worked with Kraftwerk’s original drummer Wolfgang Flür on our song Melancholic Afro. Gets me every time…
3. Yazoo — Only You
You could play this on a mouth organ and still make it sound beautiful. What a song and what a sound. Vince and Alison still influence all the synth acts today and why wouldn’t they. 18 months together as a band and they’re as timeless as ever, as we guessed they might be.
4. Dead or Alive — You Spin Me Round (like A Record)
ESH were executive producers on Rocket: a tribute to Dead or Alive. I played this song every day for 2 years when it first came out. I love it! Even to this day, I’m not tired of it; an exceptional record, with plenty to get worked up about and production and sounds that will never age. Morrissey said it will never age, so I’m with him on this too. It’s also Stock, Aiken & Waterman’s first UK #1 production. It was all downhill for both them and DOA after this though I’m afraid!
5. Marc Almond — Tears Run Rings
I’m a big Marc fan, all his records have something brilliant about them. This was a real crossover time for him. The Stars We Are is most fans’ personal favourite album, along with his Mother Fist album. My favourite Marc album is Enchanted and 2nd favourite Marc song is Gone But Not Forgotten written with Martin Watkins.
6. Boy George feat. Pet Shop Boys — The Crying Game
When I read about a possible collaboration I was excited. When I heard the song I was blown away. This song is more than the sum of its parts. I think it will go down as one of both act’s finest moments. Incredible vocal and so, so moving.
7. Frankie goes to Hollywood — Relax
The mid-eighties was a great time for music. Relax was the pinnacle of those times. A real record of the decade and to me FGTH were the band of the 80s. Even the covers they did were better than the original versions: Springsteen, Warwick etc.
8. Eurythmics — Here Comes The Rain Again
I’d love to be able to bottle the magic of this song and sprinkle it onto my own music. Eurythmics are one of my personal favourite synth bands of all time. Even when they went rock they still had their moments. Who’s That Girl would run a close 2nd to this record but I had to pick just the one, so here it is.
9. Divine — You Think You’re A Man
The production style of this record made Pete Burns from Dead or Alive sit up and take notice, and he contacted them for production duties on You Spin Me Round. Divine was an incredible entertainer. There should be a statue erected of him and I think an award named after him, which records with that Divine spark should be presented with. This is a major record and slice of electro/NRG.
10. ABBA — S.O.S.
There’s something magical about ABBA. I think the fact they were panned by every music magazine and rock band in their day made me love them even more. They were ahead of their time, even U2 had to bite the bullet and worship at their feet. Song-writing skills out of this world, songs from another planet. Vocals recorded in heaven (not the night club, the real heaven) and lyrics that really touch the soul. Considering they’re Swedish and English is their 2nd language it’s totally unbelievable!
- My Top 10 — Empire State Human, featuring 8 of Aidan’s 10 chosen tracks
- Listen to Empire State Human on Spotify
- Listen to The Garland Cult on Spotify