|Genres||Rock, Alternative rock, Synth Pop|
|Labels||Les Disques Du Crepuscule, Operation Twilight, Circa, Rhythm Of Life, LTM|
|Associated acts||Josef K|
Paul Haig (born 1960) is a Scottish indie composer, musician and singer. He was originally a member of 1980s post-punk band Josef K who were signed to the Postcard record label. Other bands with Postcard at the same time were Orange Juice, Aztec Camera and the Go-Betweens.
Josef K recorded five singles and an album (The Only Fun in Town) with Haig on lead vocals, before splitting after touring in July and August 1981; their final Scottish date was in Glasgow. The exact reasons behind the split remain obscure, but Haig said in an interview by Johnny Waller in Sounds a year after the split:
- I was pretty depressed for a week because it was the end of an era, but after that I was really happy that we'd split, because I could get on with everything I wanted to do. I don't listen to any of those records now. It's all gone. Nothing from that period interests me, except maybe Sorry for Laughing. We didn't really get on all that well towards the end. We didn't have anything in common, so there were no jokes, no happy feeling. It was just down to doing a job. Josef K weren't that famous anyway. We've split up, so what? Everybody changes.
- I've lost a lot of the ideals I had in Josef K. About not wanting to be commercially successful, suffering for your art and all that. Not that I wasn't sincere about it at the time... But I got sick of it. I want to be signed to a major and make a great record that will get radio airplay and be a big hit, then make my own money from that. I don't mind being manipulated to a certain extent in order to get what I want, but in time I want to control everything.
- 1 Solo career
- 2 Les Disques Du Crepuscule
- 3 Island Records
- 4 The Warp Of Pure Fun
- 5 Post Crépuscule
- 6 Chain
- 7 Right on Line
- 8 Coincidence vs Fate and Cinematique
- 9 Back catalogue reissues
- 10 2007 onwards
- 11 Discography
- 12 Projects
- 13 References
- 14 External links
Haig released two interim singles on Edinburgh independent Rational, run by manager Allan Campbell. The first of these, Soon, was a collaboration with fellow Edinburgh musician Stephen Harrison (formerly of Metropak), while the second, Uncle Sam, saw Haig guesting on a record by artist Sebastian Horsley. Exploring territory first charted by Heaven 17 in their BEF guise, both singles appeared under the generic name Rhythm Of Life Organisation (RoL), an imprimatur Haig has retained ever since for everything from albums, labels and backing bands. Such anonymity also suited his avowed loathing of publicity. Indeed Haig has never once released a record with his own face on the front cover.
Also via Rational, Haig released a 700 copies limited edition cassette-only set of home-recorded electronica in 1982 titled Drama, featuring Kafka texts set to music, as well as a deconstruction of Josef K's Forever Drone.
Les Disques Du Crepuscule
Haig subsequently teamed up with a Belgian independent record label Les Disques du Crépuscule, and in January 1982 made solo live debuts in Edinburgh and London. At this stage his solo material was not so very different from late-period Josef K classics such as "Heaven Sent", "Adoration" and "Heart of Song", albeit with a greater emphasis on stripped-down funk rhythms. According to the NME's Dave Hill, for the latter show at The Venue:
Rhythm of Life remained a mystery... Initially they seem like an artful re-arrangement of the Iggy-Oakey ice-box delivery, and the Bogart mail order catalogue, into a perfect cliché of the same. But how straight are their faces? I don't know, but Haig projects with the efficiency of a sly android, blonde, doleful and besuited, spooning each painstaking tune with an immaculate croon. All is calm and self-contained... Since Josef K split Haig has pursued several lines, yet the cool execution of this show is undeniable, elegant and curvaceous.
The following month Rhythm of Life took part in Crépuscule's first European tour, Dialogue North-South, which also included Durutti Column, The Names, Marine, Richard Jobson, Isabelle Antena and Tuxedomoon. Eschewing a live drummer in favour of a rhythm box, RoL gained plaudits for their versatile, snappy brand of funk minimalism, and five excerpts from these shows can be found on Crepuscule's souvenir compilation, Some Interesting Things You'll See On A Long Distance Flight.
Haig elected to relocate to Brussels in March, and there embarked on an intensive recording schedule at Little Big One studio. This yielded two self-produced singles, "Running Away" and "Justice", although the latter was destined to be shelved. However, after just four months Haig tired of continental living and returned home to Edinburgh. "Running Away", a cover of the Sly Stone classic, appeared in May on Crépuscule subsidiary Operation Twilight and reached number 19 on the UK Independent Chart, its success unhampered by the simultaneous release of another version by The Raincoats.
The follow-up single, "Justice", was later cancelled after Les Disques Du Crépuscule signed a licensing deal with Island Records. 7-inch test pressings (TWI 100) survive, as does a separate 12" release on Les Disques Du Crépuscule/Interference featuring two mixes of the song "Blue For You", although this was intended as a DJ record rather than a full release. While in Brussels Haig also recorded the Swing in '82 set, partly at the instigation of Crépuscule's Michel Duval. Originally intended for release as a 10-inch EP, Swing in '82 saw Haig tackling six big band numbers Sinatra-style. In 1982 Haig said to Masterbag magazine:
After listening to lots of Frank Sinatra records I became aware of these fantastic old songs. I think the music and the lyrics are absolutely incredible - especially the lyrics. You just don't hear lyrics like that nowadays. They're just so emotional. It was a big challenge to try and sing them. The swing side starts with The Song is You, then All of You and Let's Face the Music and Dance. The dream side is Love Me Tender, The Way You Look Tonight and Send in the Clowns. I think the first side is around 1938, with songs by Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, people like that. The second side is slightly more modern.
The basic instrumentation on side one is just drums, double bass and piano, with the addition of string synthesiser on side two. We had to try about three sets of musicians before we found these old session musicians that had been playing jazz all their lives. The piano player must have been 70 years old! The drummer was quite young, in his mid twenties, so it was quite a challenge for him to keep pace with these brilliant jazz musicians, as it was for me too. I'm sure they thought it was a joke. I remember I turned up at the studio the morning they arrived. They said, 'Are you the singer? The producer?' They looked at each other in disbelief.
It could either be slammed or it could be looked upon as something brilliant. I tend to think that in England it's going to be laughed at, but I don't think that's justified because the musicianship is really, really good on it. If anyone slags it off then it must be for some other reason, but they can't fault the playing.
In July, almost a year after Josef K had split, yet with just one proper solo record to his name in "Running Away", Haig was labelled "the face and sound of 1982" by Paul Morley in a lead feature for the NME. Accordingly to Morley, Haig was the "enigmatic fourth man" in a New Pop quartet which also included Billy Mackenzie, Jim Kerr and Martin Fry, all of them potential pop saviours in a parallel universe where Morley deemed Dollar "the most avant-garde group in the world". Even by Morley's standards the statement was ludicrous, although he would validate it partially two years later by instructing ZTT signing Propaganda to cover "Sorry for Laughing" on their album A Secret Wish.
The media hype around Haig paved the way for a licensing deal with Island Records, and a substantial injection of cash. The deal saw Haig record his first album in New York at the end of 1982, with the late Alex Sadkin producing. Featuring a host of crack sessioneers (including Bernie Worrell, Anton Fier, and Jack Waldman), his new direction - a brand of polished dance/electro - seemed a million miles away from the abrasive edge of Josef K. Indeed Haig was already disowning his past with a vengeance, informing the NME that Josef K was a 'cockroach' he wanted squashed, although two songs - "Adoration" and "Heaven Sent" - had begun life with that band. Yet fine though songs such as "Justice", "Adoration" and "Stolen Love" were, Haig's solo debut played very much as a producer's record, and in surrendering a measure of artistic control Haig lost something of his identity. And it hardly helped that Sadkin was then heavily involved with the Thompson Twins, whose Tom Bailey also guested on the album.
The first Island single, "Heaven Sent", was a drastic club refit of the earlier Josef K number. Despite their best marketing efforts, however, it stalled at number 74 in the UK, and failed to provide Haig with the hit many had confidently predicted. The Rhythm Of Life album appeared in October 1983 and was accompanied by a short seven date UK tour. Haig's touring group included Malcolm Ross on guitar, together with bassist David McClymont (also fresh from Orange Juice), drummer James Locke and former Associate Alan Rankine. Yet although the album sold respectably, Haig found himself caught between two commercial stools. Plainly some way ahead of his time, Haig had perhaps moved too far too fast, his polished dance pop alienating many Josef K fans not yet ready to trade their raincoats for a sharp Italian two-piece and a place in line outside Studio 54. Reviewing the album in the NME, Chris Bohn lamented the fate of an artist:
...dropped somewhere mid-Atlantic and left to drown in liquid demi-disco. Though four percussionists are credited the record has no forward momentum. It sort of slithers across the dancefloor. Worse, Haig has tailored his songwriting to serve a form he only imagines is there. Cutesy couplets are left in mid air, grappling after non-existent rhythm hooks... More than a name producer and an NY studio he needs sympathetic musicians to bring out the character of his songs.
Simple bad luck seems to have prevented all three singles providing solid hits which might have allowed Haig to cross over to a new, wider audience. Inexplicably Island failed even to release the album - or the singles - in the US, the very market to which they had been tailored. Although the slick New York Remix mini album was belatedly issued in America in 1984, it provided a textbook example of too little too late. In 1990 Haig recalled of this difficult period:
The main thing was that I didn't want to be the centre of it all. The initial idea was just to keep working with different people under the name Rhythm of Life. It was more of a big joke. It all went a bit funny when I signed to Island, but before there were quite a few things in the pipeline. But Island wanted a pop image to sell... and they didn't get one.
True, one music paper awarded Haig the accolade of 'Rock Haircut of the Year', but relations with Island were fast becoming strained. Incoming MD Dave Robinson showed little enthusiasm for Haig's music, while an overly candid Sounds interview and an abortive appearance on a children's television show (Hold Tight) to promote "Never Give Up (Party Party)" soured relations further. When Haig recorded a new single, "Big Blue World", in December, Island pulled it just a fortnight before its scheduled release. Fortunately, Crépuscule continued to release Haig product in Europe, so that the delayed record - with a cover of Suicide's "Ghost Rider" on the flipside - arrived in the UK on import.
In 1984 Haig joined forces with several celebrated peers, recording the seminal electro cut "The Only Truth" with Bernard Sumner and Donald Johnson (of New Order and A Certain Ratio respectively), and "The Executioner" with Cabaret Voltaire. November saw the completion of a new album, this time recorded in London with Alan Rankine co-producing. Unfortunately the failure of "The Only Truth" as a single led to Island severing the Crépuscule connection, and so the untitled second album was shelved.
The Warp Of Pure Fun
Rather than release the cancelled set on Les Disques Du Crépuscule, it was decided to combine half the album with new songs recorded throughout 1985. Haig launched his fightback later in the year with a powerful single, "Heaven Help You Now", and the album The Warp Of Pure Fun. Produced with Rankine, it was a more involving, honest set than its predecessor, offering warmer songs and arrangements (and live drums) in place of programmed rhythm tracks, though without entirely abandoning club appeal. In the UK The Warp Of Pure Fun appeared on another short-lived Crépuscule offshoot, Operation Afterglow, but while the album fared well as an independent release, Afterglow failed to propel it into the national chart.
Unhappy with limited sales, Haig left Crépuscule to seek another major deal. After demos recorded for EMI came to nothing, Haig spent most of 1986 writing new material, surviving on PRS royalties from his back catalogue. He also found time to embark on a fruitful partnership with another Associate, Billy Mackenzie, the result being low key dates in Glasgow and Edinburgh, which mixed their own greatest hits with covers such as "Running Away" and Yoko Ono's "Walking On Thin Ice". Later the pair united to perform "Amazing Grace" on a Scots Hogmanay television programme, and each donated a song to the other's forthcoming album. "Chained" proved a highlight on the next Haig album, although Mackenzie's version of "Reach The Top" remained unreleased after the Associates' patchy Glamour Chase set was shelved by WEA. Following Mackenzie's untimely death in 1997 an entire album of Haig/Mackenzie material, Memory Palace, appeared on RoL in 2000.
Haig briefly returned to Crepuscule in September 1987 to record several tracks, though the only new record to emerge was the "Torchomatic" single, complete with spy theme and a home-recorded instrumental cycle on the flipside. The European Sun compilation album followed, including most of the shelved Island album not included on Warp plus several rare b-sides, and the previously-unreleased Cabaret Voltaire collaboration.
Early in 1988 Haig financed the recording of a new album himself, once more produced with Alan Rankine and cut in just 18 days. Virgin offshoot Circa Records purchased the tapes in August, but chose not to release the album, titled Chain, until May the following year. Neither Chain nor the lead single, "Something Good", broke commercially, and to some the album came as a slight disappointment, with strong material in places undermined by weaker arrangements. Sales were scarcely assisted by Haig's refusal to undertake a lengthy tour, and with much of his following in Europe and Japan, many fans were not even aware that a new record was available. Nevertheless, a showcase at the ICA in London on May 18 saw Haig and his band in fine, powerful form.
Following Drama, Swing In '82 and the Billy Mackenzie pairing, 1988's off the wall project came in the form of the "Dub Organiser" single, a club cut recorded in collaboration with Allan Campbell and released as a one-off on Manchester indie label Play Hard.
Right on Line
Unperturbed by Chain's modest commercial showing, Circa financed the recording of a new album, produced in New York by dance gurus Curtis Mantronik and Lil Louis, and also by The Chimes, whose drummer James Locke had been a periodic Haig collaborator since 1981. The expansive, sensurround album marked a timely return to the dance orientation of Rhythm of Life five years earlier, as suggested by its title, Right on Line. As Haig explained to Melody Maker:
This is essentially a dance album, but it has a lot of different elements in there that you don't normally hear on dance albums. There's a lot of hooks and pop influences, but no rock influences - thank God! The whole idea was to work with different producers and let them get on with it, which was a departure since I'd produced myself for so long.
We recorded the stuff with Mantronik at his Sound Factory studio. He works very quickly, rattling stuff off in a couple of hours. He replaced all my beats with a combination of programming and breakbeats, mostly '70s funk stuff. Lil Louis took a completely different approach. He replaced the rhythm tracks on two of the songs and one we left as was He works with much more basic equipment - he's not as computerised as Mantronik. There was absolutely no sampling with Lil Louis, he's much more into the real musician school of thing.
However, after the Chimes-produced single "I Believe in You" failed to build on a measure of club success, and some excellent press, Circa delayed releasing the album until a reworked "Flight X" (featuring rapper The Voice Of Reason) broke. When two versions of this track stalled early in 1991 the album was shelved.
Coincidence vs Fate and Cinematique
With the RoL album in limbo, Haig released an instrumental set of imaginary film themes through LTM, who had previously issued the Josef K back catalogue on CD. Cinematique appeared in September 1991 to glowing reviews, and comprised three distinct suites, being City of Fun (accomplished noir jazz), Lagondola (new age, almost) and Flashback (electronica). In 1993 the Right On Line album finally emerged as Coincidence Vs Fate on the Les Disques Du Crépuscule label, with two new tracks added.
Despite warm reviews, neither Cinematique nor Coincidence Vs Fate sold in great numbers, due in part to low-key press and distribution, and to Haig's ongoing reluctance to submit to self-promotion. By his own admission:
I just don't like playing live much. Maybe once every two years. It's a situation I can't handle. Up on stage it's very strange. It just seems an awkward situation to be in. You're on stage and there's all these people looking up at you. I can't help laughing at the thought of it. I just want to do it as little as possible. Other people love it. It only depends on what kind of person you are, if your ego can cope with it. Weird, eh?(Deadbeat, 1984)
With me it's quite simple. I just do my own thing and don't compromise for anybody. If you can do this and still succeed, that's perfect. New Order manage it - perverse and breaking all the rules - they just make records that sell. I hope I can fit in in my own way. There might be a place for people who have some sort of background, who have substance as opposed to being just another manufactured act. But apart from that I don't see where I would fit. I couldn't really define the sound. I don't think it's like anybody else. (Melody Maker, 1989)
It's just music and records. That's the main thing for me. I find the rest of it completely alien and uncomfortable. I'll just have to retire quite soon. Not retire from making music, just from all this promo kind of stuff. I just find it more and more ridiculous. Ideally I'd like to be involved in the background, and still make music but not to have to be seen or anything like that. I guess film music is the obvious area for that kind of thing. Or weird experimental records. (The Scotsman, 1990)
Since 1993 Haig has released two further volumes of Cinematique on his own RoL imprint, as well as several archive releases by the late Billy Mackenzie. Memory Palace (1999) compiled a number of tracks recorded as joint demos by the pair, as well as the tribute "Listen to Me", while RoL also released albums by Skyline and Subterraneans. By the end of 2001 pretty much all of Paul Haig's back catalogue was commercially unavailable - with the exception of his work with Josef K.
Back catalogue reissues
In 2003 this state of affairs was corrected by enhanced LTM CD reissues of The Warp Of Pure Fun and Coincidence Vs Fate' LTM also released Then Again in 2004, a compilation of rare and previously unheard material.
In 2007, Haig's first single for 14 years, "Reason" (a BBC Radio 2 single of the week), was released and made available via download and on 7-inch vinyl. This was followed soon after by Haig's first new, non-Cinematique release since 1993's Coincidence Vs Fate, Electronik Audience. This album showcased Haig's influences from Kraftwerk and New Order to Cabaret Voltaire.
2007 also saw the first live appearance from Haig in many years when he joined Subterraneans onstage at the Billy Mackenzie tribute concert in London.
Yet another new album, Go Out Tonight, a more organic album than Electronik Audience, was released in April 2008. Go Out Tonight saw Haig return to his guitar-roots and tracks such as "Trouble Maker" are very reminiscent of early solo recordings such as "Chance".
Haig also embarked on his first tour since 1989 when he promoted both old and new tracks in Scotland and selected dates in Nottingham and London in April 2008.
December 2009 saw the release of the critically acclaimed album, Relive, a new studio collection that featured the song Trip Out The Rider, later remixed for a 7" single release by Lemon Jelly founder Fred Deakin. The track 'Ambition' also appeared on the 2011 compilation, After Twilight, issued on LTM Records.
- "Running Away" (1982), Operation Twilight - UK Indie #19
- "Chance" (1982), Les Disques du Crépuscule
- "Blue For You" (1982), Operation Twilight
- "Heaven Sent" (1983), Les Disques du Crépuscule - UK #74
- "Never Give Up (Party Party)" (1983), Les Disques du Crépuscule - UK #96
- "Justice" (1983), Les Disques du Crépuscule
- "Big Blue World" (1984), Operation Twilight - UK Indie #19
- Heaven Sent (remixes) EP (1984), Operation Twilight
- "The Only Truth" (1984), Les Disques du Crépuscule
- Swing '82 EP (1985), Operation Twilight
- "Heaven Help You Now" (1985), Operation Twilight - UK Indie #18
- "Love Eternal" (1986), Operation Twilight - UK Indie #35
- "Scottish Christmas"
- "Torchomatic" (1988), Les Disques du Crépuscule
- "Something Good" (1989), Circa
- "I Believe in You" (1990), Circa
- "Flight X" (1991), Circa
- "Surrender" (1993), Les Disques du Crépuscule
- "Listen To Me"
- "Hippy Dippy (Pharmaceutically Trippy)" [Download only]
- Drama (1982) - cassette sold at early solo performances
- Rhythm Of Life (1983), Les Disques Du Crepuscule/Island Records - UK #82
- The Warp Of Pure Fun (1985), Operation Twilight/Les Disques Du Crepuscule
- Chain (1989), Circa
- Cinematique (1992), LTM
- Coincidence vs Fate (1993), Les Disques du Crépuscule
- Cinematique 2 (2001), Rhythm of Life
- Cinematique 3 (2003), Rhythm of Life
- Electronik Audience (2007), Rhythm of Life
- Go Out Tonight (2008), Rhythm of Life
- Relive (2009), Rhythm of Life
- Kube (2013).
Haig/MacKenzie - album
- Memory Palace (2000), Rhythm of Life - reissued (2005), One Little Indian
- Track 1: "Thunderstorm"
- Track 2: "Stone The Memory Palace"
- Track 3: "Beyond Love"
- Track 4: "Transobsession"
- Track 5: "Trash 3"
- Track 6: "Listen To Me"
- Track 7: "Listen Again"
- Track 8: "Take A Chance"
- Track 9: "Give Me Time"
- Track 10: "Give Me Time" (Dennis Wheatley mix)
- Track 11: "Beyond Love" (remix)
- Track 12: "Stone The Memory Palace" (remix)
- Track 13: "Thunderstorm" (Instrumental mix)
- Dub Organiser was a one-off project featuring Allan Campbell with Paul Haig. The record was released as a 12" only single on Manchester label, Play Hard in 1988. Samples from the Dub Organiser tracks were used on Haig's 1989 album, Chain.
- In 2001, Haig performed vocals on an album by Justin Robertson entitled 'Justin Robertson presents Revtone' - Haig's contribution is on a track called 'Crawling To You'.
- Haig biography at Allmusic website
- My Crush on Paul Haig (a mini fansite)
- Paul Haig Official Site
- Paul Haig biography at LTM