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The Wolfgang Press was unlike any contemporary music group. They utilized multiple influences to create a magnificently unique sound that transcended categorization. Signed to 4AD, the band's early albums ('Standing Up Straight' & 'The Burden Of Mules') were insanely bleak. Lead singer, Michael Allen sounded as if he was literally being dragged to hell. Allen's deep baritone voice was an unlikely driver for any pop group. The wisdom that resonated thru the songs helped to create their exquisite music. Similar to Mark E. Smith, Allen's performance was respected regardless if his voice. Eventually, the lyrics, the intelligence, the passion, and the music made listeners appreciate his inimitable vocal tone. His vocals became more tuned and soulful with every changing album. Influences of soul music slid into the 'BirdWoodCage' LP. When their very successful 'Queer' LP was released, the soul music was intertwined with electronic rhythms and Manchester rave culture. Their classic cover of 'Mama Told Me Not Come' displayed their ironic, intelligent wit over thick grooves. Their clever topics and lyrics led to multiple interpretations and their music set them apart from the throwaway bands of that time period. Their final LP, 'Funky Little Demons' was an overlooked masterpiece that displayed the Press honing their sound to an English Soul / Blues style. Excellent tracks like 'People Say', 'Chains', and 'She's So Soft' varied in styles, but were linked by the group's cool passion. Years later, every album by The Wolfgang Press is completely unique and magnificently timeless. Like fine wines, Michael Allen's music gets better with age.
After The Wolfgang Press disbanded, many years passed before fans heard new music from any of the members. Andrew Grey released his solo album 'Homegrown' under the moniker Limehouse Outlaw. Lead singer / songwriter, Michael Allen did contribute vocals / lyrics on Limehouse Outlaw's album, but their cult-like fan base yearned for more music. The use of Johnny Cash's vocal sample did excite fans with glimpse of a possible new direction. Unfortunately, years after the album was released, Grey and Allen were missing in action within the music world.
After more than a decade, Michael Allen returned in 2005 with another unique musical contribution named GENIUSER. As always, Allen's new project a complete separate entity from his past work. Geniuser consists of Giuseppe De Bellis and Michael Allen. Hailing from Italy and known for his collaborations with The Orb, Giuseppe De Bellis has released a myriad of music under various names. Drug maestros, The Orb lent them their studio and the magic was ignited. Released on Phisteria Records, 'Mud Black' by Geniuser possessed a moody darkness, esoteric lyricism, and an emotional intensity. Allen has not created music this dark since the days of 'Standing Up Straight'. Actual songs exist within the darkness. The opening track, 'Untie My Hands' introduces the complicated emotions which lay deep within this album. Tapping into his deep emotional core, Allen sings, ''¦Untie my hands / Untie my heart / So I can hold again'¦' The mixture of beauty and sadness become the perfect introduction to this expressively complicated album. In the 'You Can Lose It', the pounding of the thick electronic bass becomes essential like a pumping heart. Allen's thick vocal styles are accentuated by his imaginative lyrics. ''¦You can lose it / You can fall'¦', Allen sings with a sharply blunt style. 'This Is What I Know' and 'These Times' also have Allen using his deep vocal tone to create a unique sound and dark atmosphere within the loose pop structure. The final track, 'Utero' uses a rich, electronic rhythm for Michael to show us the door to leave the album. ''¦Inside is warm'¦', Allen repeatedly sings, providing multi-interpretations. The 'Mud Black' LP by GENIUSER may go unnoticed, but the few who find this gem will be musically rich.
Art is usually not fully appreciated until the artist is gone. Even though Rema Rema and The Wolfgang Press have been relegated to the past, Michael Allen's creativity is shining within the darkness. A new appreciation for Allen's work has grown too. 4AD released the 'Everything Is Beautiful' compilation and just released The Wolfgang Press's debut album, 'The Burden Of Mules' for the first time on CD. Fans can look to the past and finally appreciate The Wolfgang Press. Others are beginning to appreciate Allen's current collaboration with Giuseppe De Bellis. 'Mud Black' by GENIUSER satisfies fans of Allen's past work, but continues his exciting musical evolution. Allen has settled down with his wife and family, but the creativity still flows through his veins. Strange and intelligent, Michael Allen will continue to surprise us within the mud black of darkness.
T.JONES: 'What goes on?' MICHAEL ALLEN: 'Too much to mention and little of interest.'
T.JONES: 'Tell us about the debut Geniuser album, 'Mud Black' released on Phisteria Records.'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'It is an album of songs that myself and Giuseppe started work on as far back as 1999. They were ideas for songs that were meant to give a flavor of what we were up to, at that moment in time. We thought that by offering these sketches to the outside world, somebody of taste and position would be interested enough to offer us unlimited resources, so that we could complete the project. That didn't happen.'
T.JONES: 'What is the meaning behind the title, 'Mud Black'?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'There isn't any meaning. It was more that I liked the sound of those two words when they were put together. Having said that, I suppose I was looking for something that suggested what we felt the album was about, which is dark, certainly naÃ¯ve, and deliberately lo-fi. 'Mud Black' might suggest something primal and guttural.'
T.JONES: 'Phisteria Records released 'Mud Black'. Why did you choose them?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'They chose us. After Giuseppe and I had finished recording the ideas, Giuseppe went back to Copenhagen to live. I think he had spoken to a couple of people and friends. He told them that he had worked on some pieces of music with myself. People got to hear it and Karsten from Phisteria must have caught wind of this and expressed an interested in wanting to put the material out.'
T.JONES: 'How is this GENIUSER LP different from the previous music you have created?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'It's different simply because I was working with Giuseppe for the first time. The process, I suppose, was different in that Giuseppe initiated most, if not all, of the tracks. Then, I came along and would maybe introduce the more conventional sounds, bass, piano, and strings. I would then, add a rough vocal idea. We then arranged the track, and I recorded the final vocal.'
T.JONES: 'What inspired you to write 'You Can Lose It'?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'Giuseppe started most of the tracks. What I remember about this, is that I added the bass part. What I liked about it, was that it reminded me of Can, a group to measure things by, 'Monster Movie' in particular. I had the hypnotic nature and the rhythm of that album in the back of my mind.'
T.JONES: 'Favorite song on the 'Mud Black' LP?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'I generally like the ideas more than I like the results. But, I would say that applies to most things I do. If pressed, I would say 'Am I Salt?''
T.JONES: 'Which song took you the longest to do from conception to completion? Why?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'I think it was 'These Times', which went through several personality changes. The idea was a good one, but we couldn't ever seem to get the mood right and I fear that shows.'
T.JONES: 'Do you do many overdubs while recording? Do you use many first takes, or do you do multiple?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'I'm not sure whether the term overdubs applies. We put a load of stuff on and then, took it off. Vocally, I sometimes use the first take. I have also been known to spend many fruitless hours trying to recreate the feel of a first badly recorded vocal or badly recorded song.'
T.JONES: 'What is the meaning behind the name Geniuser? The Wolfgang Press?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'They are meaningless and open to interpretation. That is why they were chosen. Naming a project is hard and ultimately, pointless.'
T.JONES: 'When creating a track, do you have a set theme or idea, or is the music created first?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'My mind is blank. Music always comes first. From that, everything springs.'
T.JONES: 'How did you meet Giuseppe De Bellis and decide to form Geniuser? Was there a philosophy behind it?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'We met through a mutual friend in Copenhagen in 1991 and kept in touch. Giuseppe came over to live in London for a while and was working in The Orb studio. He asked me if I would be interested in doing some vocals on some music he had been working on. The philosophy is not to lie and not to repeat.'
T.JONES: 'Musically, what have you been working on? What is the next release for Geniuser, or both of you as solo artists?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'Giuseppe sends me pieces of music or beats to try and entice me to do something. We have a three songs completed as of Nov 2005 and hundreds with nothing on.'
T.JONES: 'What are some of your favorite instruments?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'Every instrument has potential. Nothing is blacklisted in my mind, apart from maybe the saxophone.'
T.JONES: 'Why did The Wolfgang Press split up? What happened?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'We had run our course and I think we had lost our way. I'm not sure which came first.'
T.JONES: 'What are some of the main differences between The Wolfgang Press and Geniuser?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'Giuseppe is the driving force in Geniuser.'
T.JONES: 'How are you creatively different from Giuseppe? The same?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'Giuseppe is very positive, open, and clear. I am negative and changeable. I like to play the game at convincing myself that I am open minded.'
T.JONES: 'What song / album are you most proud of?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'The most successful album for me is 'BirdWoodCage'. I like that one especially, because I feel we grew up on that album. It feels like a good mixture between dark and personal. Working with Flood was a great experience too.'
T.JONES: ''Birmingham' is one of my favorite songs by The Wolfgang Press. Could you expand on the meaning?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'With most of what I write, the subject matter is not obvious. There are several reference points and deliberate contradictions. But, this song does draw from one source, the true story of the Birmingham Six. They were six Irishmen falsely accused and imprisoned for the bombing of 2 pubs in Birmingham in 1974, which killed 21 people. They were each imprisoned for, I think, 16 years before they had their sentence squashed. I'm not sure if they ever received an official apology.'
T.JONES: 'What artists or musicians would you like to collaborate with in the future?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'Giuseppe would like to work with Brian Eno.'
T.JONES: 'Andrew Gray released a solo album titled 'Homegrown' under the name, Limehouse Outlaw. You co-wrote some of the tracks (which were excellent). What do you think of the Limehouse Outlaw album?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'I think it has some great moments. It is a very difficult thing to do, to write on your own. Maintaining the drive and the focus is, I imagine, the hardest part.'
T.JONES: 'Andrew Gray worked on the Geniuser album too. Was working with Andrew this time different from the past because of the involvement of De Bellis?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'Not really. Andrew and I have a very good relationship. We understand and know each other's abilities and strengths. We are able to tell each other when we think something is a load of bollocks.'
T.JONES: 'How did The Wolfgang Press get involved with 4AD?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'Rema Rema was one of the first signings to 4AD, I think in 1980. It was an odd as Rema Rema had split by the time we signed the contract. I have been involved with them from then on up until 1995.'
T.JONES: 'How did 4AD treat you? Would you work with them again?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'They were very patient with us and gave us room to blossom. They also allowed us complete artistic control, which was something we felt was very important. It is very unlikely, but if the terms were right, if I felt that they believed in what we are doing, and I liked what they had to say, then maybe.'
T.JONES: 'How do you feel about 4AD as a label?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'As a label, I think there are few to rival it. Ivo was very clear and resolute in his beliefs. His desire and passion to create something special and unique with every release, was remarkable.'
T.JONES: 'Would you ever sign to a major label?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'I've never been asked, so I couldn't say.'
T.JONES: 'The album 'Queer' by The Wolfgang Press has several drug references. Were there many drugs around during the recording of this album? What were they? Do you still dabble in drugs these days?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'The only drugs I do are Nurofen. I was never much of a drug user, more an alcohol abuser.'
T.JONES: 'The song 'Louis XIV' is an intelligent and clever track about The Sun King. What was it about Louis that inspired you to write this song? Who is the narrator? Is it Louis?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'I had recently read a book by Nancy Mitford entitled, The Sun King. I think I was also reading about the Holy Crusades. A lot of the facts and images got mixed up. I do remember that we were in a rehearsal room, playing the song, and the words came out almost word for word as they appear on the record on the first run through. Very curious. The narration shifts between Napoleon, Louis, and an undisclosed third party.'
T.JONES: 'Annie Anxiety appeared on 'The Birdie Song' and 'Dreams & Light' (from 'Queer'). How did this collaboration happen?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'Annie was married to Dave Curtis from Dif Juz. Myself, Dave, and Alan, who is Dave's brother, used to go drinking together. So, when Dave met Annie, I was introduced. I, in fact, ended up being a witness at their wedding. So, we got to know one another very well. Annie is one of the most fantastic people I have met.'
T.JONES: 'Now that the dust has settled, do you ever speak to the other members of The Wolfgang Press? What do you think of them now? Will you ever reunite?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'I speak to Andrew, probably once a week, and see him when I can. There was talk of reuniting for the 4AD 25th anniversary. But, we were never asked and I must say, I would not have done it.'
T.JONES: 'Where will your next album be released?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'When and if it gets completed.'
T.JONES: 'What is your favorite part of your live show?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'We have never played live. I wouldn't want to play live unless there was a demand for us to do that. The idea of playing to 10 people in some shit hole doesn't appeal to me anymore.'
T.JONES: 'What do you think about conflict between the United States and the Middle East?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'I shall allow my silence to speak for me.'
T.JONES: 'Abortion. Pro-choice or pro-life?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'Pro-choice.'
T.JONES: 'Euthanasia. For or against?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'Pro-choice.'
T.JONES: 'Elizabeth Fraizer (of The Cocteau Twins) appeared on 'Respect' and 'I Am The Crime' by The Wolfgang Press. How is Elizabeth Fraizer's creative process different than yours?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'She can sing. I can write words. Together, we could be unstoppable.'
T.JONES: 'Where were you during September 11th, the terrorist attack on the United States? How has Europe's view of America changed? What do you think?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'I was working. I see the pro-war contingents' support of America and the anti-war factions demonizing of America becoming more militant and subsequently polarized, which can't be healthy. My thoughts are mixed. But I do really object to America thinking they have some God given right to pile in to any country to do whatever they like, under the banner of 'Keeping the Peace'.'
T.JONES: 'Word association. When I say a name, you say the first word that pops into your head. So, if I said, 'The Beatles', you may say 'Revolution' or 'John Lennon'. Okay?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'Okay.'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'Kim.'
T.JONES: 'Psychic T.V.'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'Cage.'
T.JONES: 'Dead Can Dance.'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'Lost.'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'Nosedive.'
T.JONES: 'The Telescopes.'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'Staring at the sun.'
T.JONES: 'Public Enemy.'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'Truth rant.'
T.JONES: 'The Dandy Warhols.'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'The Andy Darhols.'
T.JONES: 'Television Personalities.'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'Nothing.'
T.JONES: 'Momus.' MICHAEL ALLEN: 'Susanne.'
T.JONES: 'The Jesus And Mary Chain.'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'Big hair.'
T.JONES: 'Primal Scream.'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'Summer.'
T.JONES: 'The Stone Roses.'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'Fools.'
T.JONES: 'Spacemen 3.'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'Basement Jaxx.'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'Denim.'
T.JONES: 'The Fall.'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'Genius.'
T.JONES: 'The Brian Jonestown Massacre.'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'Church temple.'
T.JONES: 'George Bush.' MICHAEL ALLEN: 'Ass.'
T.JONES: 'Who have been the biggest influences?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'My brother's record collection, my mother's take on life, my father's beliefs, and my sister's social life when I was 13 to 16 years of age.'
T.JONES: 'When did you first begin making music? How old were you? How did it all begin?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'I first picked up a bass guitar when I was at college with Marco Pirroni. In 1975, I was 16. Myself, Cliff, who was my best friend from school, and Marco used to go back to Marco's house and listen to records and fuck around. Marco was friendly with the likes of Malcolm Maclaren, who told Marco about a group he was managing. He invited him down to take a look them. Marco asked me along. We turned up at the 100 Club in Oxford Street and watched a group called The Sex Pistols.'
T.JONES: ''A Question Of Time' by The Wolfgang Press is an amazing song. Throughout the years, has time been your friend or enemy?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'Time is neither. Time gets blamed for all manner of things. People are in denial about their lives and how they live them. Time comes too easily to hand as an excuse as to why they did or didn't do what they should or shouldn't have done.'
T.JONES: 'Who is Derek The Confessor?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'Me, of course.'
T.JONES: 'In The Wolfgang Press song 'She's So Soft', you have a line that states, 'She's a man'. Is 'She's So Soft' about a transvestite?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'No, it is about my first-born and her mother.'
T.JONES: 'Jah Wobble played bass on the remix for 'Chains'. How did this collaboration happen? What was it like working with him?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'We had met a few years previous. I have been a fan of Wobble for a long time and we talked to him about producing, what was eventually to be our album 'Queer'. That never happened, but we kept in touch. So, when we were looking on our final album for people to remix tracks of their choice, Wobble's name came up. He chose to remix 'Chains'.'
T.JONES: 'How have you evolved as an artist? As a musician?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'I have learnt to listen. I have learnt not to play an instrument and not to write songs.'
T.JONES: 'Do you have any regrets?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'Of course. I would not believe anyone who told me any different.'
T.JONES: 'The sound of The Wolfgang Press has evolved in many ways. Was this intentional or spontaneous?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'The intention was never to repeat ourselves, which is something I think we achieved.'
T.JONES: 'How did the cover of 'A Girl Like You' by Tom Jones happen?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'By complete accident. Our publisher, at the time, was asked to send some songs to Tom Jones for listening to. He had a CD sampler of various artists he had on his roster. I think he pointed Tom Jones in the direction of a Love & Rockets track. Ours was the track before or after. Tom heard our track, liked it, and got in touch. The publisher, however, took full credit for this and dined out on the story for months, as is his way.'
T.JONES: 'The Beatles or The Stones?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'The Kinks.'
T.JONES: 'Spectrum or Spiritualized?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'I don't know of Spectrum.'
T.JONES: 'What are some of your favorite films?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: ''Fitzcaraldo', 'Casablanca', and 'The Loudest Whisper'.'
T.JONES: 'These days, what is a typical day like for you?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'I get up at 6:30 am and try not to wake the children. I go to work, come home, and try not to shout at the children. Go to bed.'
T.JONES: 'What are some major misconceptions do you think people have of you or Geniuser?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'I don't believe anyone gives us a second thought.'
T.JONES: 'Are you in a romantic relationship these days? How has touring, recording, and the rock and roll lifestyle affected relationships?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'I am with the mother of my four children. It's the other way round for me. Relationships affect everything I do, thankfully.'
T.JONES: 'What do they think about your music?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'Both my parents have passed away many years ago. One sadness that I have is that my mother never got to meet Tom Jones, as she was a big fan.'
T.JONES: 'What is the best thing about living in Europe?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'Living in London. Knowing you are surrounded by so much history is very moving. I also love the dirt and noise.'
T.JONES: 'The song 'Christianity' is a powerful track about not accepting religion. Were you raised Catholic? Do you believe in God? Would you consider yourself a spiritual person? Please expand on the inspiration for the song.'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'I was brought up by a father who was a socialist and held no religious beliefs. One of the most important lessons I learnt from him was that I am as relevant as anybody else, no matter what their station. At the same time, I was told to treat everyone with respect until they gave you reason to withdraw that. Respect does not have to be earned. I believe Jesus, fact or fiction, was a good man. Sadly, religion has very little to do with anything he did or said. The motivation for the song comes from my thoughts on religions intolerance of anything different, which is one step away from hate. Religion is a very closed cult.'
T.JONES: 'Are there any unreleased Wolfgang Press tracks that you think should have been released?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'No.'
T.JONES: 'What was the biggest mistake you have made in your career?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'Not working harder.'
T.JONES: 'When you pass away, would you like to be buried or cremated?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'I haven't decided. Both my parents were cremated and that's what I thought I wanted. But recently, my sister died and she was buried. I like the idea that we all know where she is and we can visit her.'
T.JONES: 'What would you want on your epitaph (your gravestone)?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'Bollocks.'
T.JONES: 'What are some future releases that fans should look out for?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'If we are fortunate enough to complete the required number of decent songs and someone is willing to put those songs out. Then, that would be a future release to look out for.'
T.JONES: 'What is next for you?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'To work with The Breeders.'
T.JONES: 'Any final words?'
MICHAEL ALLEN: 'I'm searching for the words that haven't been spoken.'
Thank you Michael Allen!!!
Interview by Todd E. Jones
NOTICE: This interview is property of Todd E. Jones and cannot be duplicated or posted without written permission.