||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (October 2012)|
30th Anniversary "Messages" Tour
(Newcastle City Hall, 2008)
|Birth name||Paul David Humphreys|
|Born||27 February 1960|
|Genres||New wave, synthpop, electronic, experimental|
|Instruments||Keyboards, synthesizers, mellotron, electronic organ, piano, vocals, percussion, melodica, programming|
|Labels||Dindisc, Virgin, Telegraph, There(There)|
|Associated acts||Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
The Listening Pool
Paul Humphreys (born Paul David Humphreys, 27 February 1960, in London) is a British musician and songwriter who serves as the keyboardist, backing vocalist and occasional lead vocalist of synthpop band Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD). The pairing of Humphreys and co-founder Andy McCluskey remains the group's most recognized visual identifier, with both being regarded as pioneers of electronic music in the United Kingdom. John Doran in The Quietus remarked: "If, roughly speaking, McCluskey is the intellect and inquisitive nature in the group, then Humphreys is the heart."
Humphreys fulfilled his role from the group's inception in 1978 to his 1989 departure, seven years before their disbandment, and returned for their 2006 reformation. His songwriting contribution features on all of OMD's studio albums, save for 1991's Sugar Tax. He performed lead vocals on several of the band's singles, including "Electricity" (in unison with McCluskey), "Souvenir", "Never Turn Away", "Secret" and "(Forever) Live and Die". A number of album tracks and B-sides were also sung by Humphreys. He became the frontman of now-defunct spin-off group The Listening Pool in 1989, and has been keyboardist for the band Onetwo since 2000.
Humphreys grew up on the Wirral Peninsula in North West England, during which time he developed an interest in German electronic music such as Kraftwerk, Neu!, Can and La Düsseldorf. He was also influenced by the work of Brian Eno and early ambient styles of music. Humphreys joined a variety of bands in the mid-1970s but this was mostly defined by progrock and it wasn't until he met Andy McCluskey that they began their own musical experiments which culminated in a one-off gig as Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark at Eric's Club in Liverpool.
OMD became one of the leading bands in the synthpop movement, though they developed largely independently of other such as the Human League. OMD enjoyed considerable commercial success in Britain and Europe during the 1980s.
During his tenure in OMD, he was known for his skill at composing strong melodies, for instance in songs such as the UK hit single, "Souvenir" and "Stanlow". Although McCluskey was the lead singer for OMD, Humphreys did sing on a few tracks, most notably on "Promise", "Souvenir", "Secret" and "(Forever) Live and Die", some of which became hit singles. Humphreys was not a strong singer however and it took some time for his voice to develop. Humphreys was a quieter and more restrained individual than McCluskey and it was McCluskey who was the driving force in the band. The partnership worked effectively for some ten years. Humphreys once implied that they worked well together but that two Andys would kill each other and two Pauls wouldn't get much done.
In 1989, bored with the treadmill approach of trying to break America, and desiring to develop a more organic sound for OMD, Humphreys split from McCluskey along with fellow bandmembers Mal Holmes and Martin Cooper.
In 2005 McCluskey and Humphreys reunited OMD for a gig on German TV. They decided to reform OMD which McCluskey had continued with from 1989 until winding up the band in 1996 disillusioned by the prevalence of Britpop. 2007 finally saw the return of OMD in their classic line-up on stage and they have toured extensively since having received an enthusiastic and warm welcome. 2010 saw the release of Humphreys' first album with OMD for 24 years, titled History of Modern. Humphreys writes and records in London.
The Listening Pool
Humphreys continued to write and record with Holmes and Cooper under the name The Listening Pool. However this project did not meet with any commercial success, though an album, Still Life, was released. The sound was less directly electronic than even later OMD and is in marked contrast to the later sound of Onetwo and the reformed OMD.
In 1996 Humphreys began a songwriting collaboration with German musician Claudia Brücken, who was formerly the singer in the moderately successful 1980s band Propaganda. The pair live together in London and have begun recording and performing live under the name Onetwo.
Humphreys' main instruments are electronic keyboards. With OMD, he made use of a wide range of these including the Korg m500 Micro Preset monophonic analog synthesizer, polyphonic analogue synthesizers such as the Sequential Circuits Prophet-5 and the Korg Trident, the electromechanical tape-sampling instrument known as the mellotron, electronic organs such as the Vox Continental, and digital sampling keyboards such as the E-mu Emulator and Fairlight CMI. Due to the restrictive nature of the equipment available to Humphreys and McCluskey they resorted to invention and innovation, which often defined their early sound. On the track 'Souvenir' (1981) Humphreys used recordings of a choir tuning up to create the ethereal and fluttery choral effects which gave the song its original sound
More recently he predominantly uses ProTools software and a series of soft-synths for recording and writing, and a Roland Fantom keyboard for live work, largely using it as a sampling keyboard to reproduce faithfully the original sounds. When recreating the original OMD sounds of the 1980s he had to resort to buying synthesisers off eBay.
Humphreys is a self-taught musician and in the first years of OMD he built his own electronic sound making equipment. The group's first synthesiser, the Korg M-500 Micro Preset was purchased through a catalogue belonging to Andy McCluskey's mother.
He married Maureen in the early 1980s and they had a daughter named Madeline Humphreys who lives in Los Angeles and is an aspiring movie producer. It is believed that the Humphreys divorced in the 1990s. From the mid nineties, Humphreys lived with German musician Claudia Brücken, with whom he performed in Onetwo until they separated in March 2013.
- Whitburn, Joel (30 May 2009). Joel Whitburn Presents Rock Tracks 1981-2008. Hal Leonard Corporation. pp. 183–. ISBN 9780898201741. Retrieved 22 October 2012.
- See Legacy and influence of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.
- Doran, John (25 September 2008). "Messages - Greatest Hits". The Quietus. Retrieved 3 July 2013.