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Humphreys performing with OMD in 2008
|Birth name||Paul David Humphreys|
|Born||27 February 1960|
|Genres||New wave, synthpop, electronic, experimental|
|Instruments||Synthesizers, keyboards, 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 David Humphreys (born 27 February 1960, in London) is a British musician and songwriter who is best known for his contributions to Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD), a new wave band which he founded alongside Andy McCluskey in 1978. 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 provided synthesizer/keyboard work and vocals from the band's inception in 1978 until his 1989 departure, seven years before their dissolution, and returned for their 2006 reformation. Despite this period of absence, his songwriting contribution features on all of the group's studio albums, save for 1991's Sugar Tax. Humphreys sang lead vocals on several OMD tracks, including the singles "Electricity", "Souvenir", "Never Turn Away", "Secret" and "(Forever) Live and Die". He fronted spin-off band The Listening Pool from 1989 to 1996, and recorded with former Propaganda singer Claudia Brücken as the duo Onetwo from 2000 to 2013.
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 others such as The Human League. OMD enjoyed considerable commercial success internationally during the 1980s.
Although McCluskey was the lead singer for OMD, Humphreys did sing on several singles during the 1980s, and provided lead or prominent vocals on the album tracks "Promise", "Georgia" and "ABC Auto Industry", as well as on the B-sides "4-Neu" and "Gravity Never Failed". Humphreys was a more reserved individual than McCluskey; of their partnership, the latter said: "We always had this joke that two Pauls wouldn't get anything done and two Andys would kill each other". Humphreys left OMD in 1989, but continued to pen songs for the band. He co-wrote the 1993 single "Everyday" (from Liberator), and was the main writer of two tracks from Universal (1996): "Very Close to Far Away" and "If You're Still in Love with Me". Sugar Tax (1991) is the only album in the OMD catalogue not to feature the songwriting contribution of Humphreys.
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. Next album English Electric (2013) featured a lead vocal from Humphreys on the track "Stay With Me".
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.
"Paul Humphreys from OMD"
By the late 1990s, Humphreys was performing OMD setlists once more. "Paul Humphreys from OMD", in which Humphreys performed McCluskey-sung material as well as his own songs, was still active as of 2001.
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 lived together in London, recording and performing live under the name Onetwo from 2004 (the duo was nameless when they began performing in 2000) until their personal and professional separation in March 2013.
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 Jaguar, 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 Udin (who can be heard on "Tesla Girls" as the female background voice) in the early 1980s. From the mid-nineties, Humphreys lived with German musician Claudia Brücken, with whom he performed in Onetwo until they separated in March 2013.
- Doran, John (25 September 2008). "Messages - Greatest Hits". The Quietus. Retrieved 3 July 2013.
- Bray, Elisa (5 April 2013). "Our friends electric: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark". The Independent. Independent Print Limited. Retrieved 8 November 2016.
- Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 9 April 2017.
- "Electropop (no. 5: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark)". Top Ten. 7 April 2001. Channel 4.