Interview / 4AM / Emotional Rescue

The latest 45 to be Emotional-ly Rescue-d features two tracks by 4AM.  Music taken from a super scarce LP, privately-pressed back in 1990 by the duo, Steve Kirby and Kevin Finch. 

Combining their interests in synth-pop and polished 80s r&b, the results are predictably a bit The Blitz meets The Lacey Lady – New Romantic Soul. Kind of like one of Paul Hardcastle`s projects, or a blue-eyed I-Level. With the sounds of The Second Summer Of Love also making their presence felt. The vocal samples on Passion are ringer for those on L.U.P.O.`s Hell Or Heaven.  The “ecstatic” cries on The Man I Feel ride a definite house b-line. 

Below is an edited extract of a conversation that took place between Emotional Rescue, Kev, and Steve. 

Where are you from?

Steve: I lived in Slough, in the UK, for most of my life, but work has taken me to London, Bristol and various other locations around the world. I retired almost three years ago now, and live on the edge of the beautiful New Forest, and pretty close to the sea.

Kev: I was born and raised in Uxbridge, west of London. The third child in a family of four kids. 

How did you get into making music?

Steve: I had classical piano lessons from the age of five until I was around fourteen. From there taught myself to play electric bass guitar then six-string electric guitar. As a teenager I played keyboards in a prog-rock / jazz-fusion four-piece. Then in my twenties I was in a power-pop band. In the mid-80s MIDI came along and I started to accumulate kit and build a studio – based around a BBC home computer – with the aim of working on solo material. 

Kev: I`ve had no formal musical training. My earliest memory though, at probably only three or four, is of sitting with my ear against the speaker of our radiogram, listening to Michelle and Eleanor Rigby by the Beatles. Mum had quite a few 45s including many Beatles and Elvis singles. I remember being obsessed with how mysterious those two songs in particular sounded. Mum used to turn over Eleanor Rigby saying something like “play the nice side” which was Yellow Submarine, which I detested and still do. I think my family found me a little odd as I`d be singing along to everything or bashing boxes and tins with pencils in time with the drums. I drove my parents mad with frequent requests for a guitar which I was desperate for, but they couldn’t afford. 

At around nine or ten I began inflicting my record collection upon other kids. With my neighbour, Stevie, who was also obsessed with music. We`d hold discos in his garage. My older sister had good taste in music and when she went out I`d sneak into her room and play her records – which were mostly 12” disco and reggae singles. My older brother’s taste in music was generally crap – apart from his Stranglers and Bowie albums.

My main musical obsessions from fourteen onward were Gary Numan, OMD, Cabaret Voltaire, Human League, Heaven 17, The Associates, Japan and The The. I was particularly fond of the early OMD singles. By the time I was sixteen, seventeen I wanted to be in a band but had no idea  how to be in one. Then once I started working I started buying my own kit. The first thing I bought was a Roland SH101 – which I still have. With that I learned the one and two finger prodding necessary to play Numan and OMD melody lines. In late ’83 came the Tascam Porta One 4-Track. The Roland TR-505 drum machine came next. The sounds from which, inspired by Cabaret Voltaire and OMD, I always subverted.

In around 1984 I started hanging out with some ex-school friends who were in a band. I was never officially a member, but we rented rehearsal spaces and banged out cover versions of Numan, Talking Heads, Bowie, Japan and Elvis Costello.

How you two meet and form 4AM?

Steve: Kev and I met while working in the same office in the City of London. We were both part of a mammoth IT project for one of the big UK banks. We hit it off through a mutual love of music, film, girls and The Face. I mentioned that I had my own ‘one-man-band’ and he mentioned that he sang so I gave him some of my demo songs to work on. 

Kev: Steve joined the IT department in 1988. He played a solo gig at The Swan in Aylesbury and a few of us from work went to see him. I was hugely impressed. He had a rack of synths and effects, a couple of keyboards and a guitar. He was singing and playing melody lines over sequenced tracks. Steve asked me to join him, because one of our colleagues had told him that I could sing and had been in a band. We performed one gig as a trio, with another friend, Pete, on bass. Pete dropped out immediately after that gig but Steve was writing new material so the two of us just carried on. 

How did the album come about?

Steve: I think we did the 4AM LP purely because we could. The technology was starting to get affordable and we were optimistic enough to believe that we had enough knowledge and experience to overcome any obstacles we might hit – both live and in the studio. We were probably wrong on both counts!

Kev: It was really all Steve’s idea. Going to a studio and making an album was one of the single most joyous and memorable things I have ever done. I have Steve to thank for that.

Did house music influence the recording?

Steve: At the time I was a huge fan of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and I was smitten with the sound of the TR-808, which features in their productions and a whole host of other 80s musical landmarks – Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing, Africa Bambaataa`s Planet Rock…. I think I paid around £120 for my TR-808. I recently sold it for over £2,000. 

We were listening to a lot of the house and techno coming out of Detroit and Chicago. In 88 / 89 it was inevitable that random squelchy acid sounds would creep into our arrangements. I need to mention that we didn’t actually have a TB-303, and had to find other ways to get acidic.  

What`s the song Passion about?

Kev: It`s Steve`s song, so he will obviously fill you in on this one, but from the lyrics and what I believe he may once have told me when he’d had a few drinks, I think it`s about a dachshund he owned when he was thirteen.

Steve: The lyrics are pretty personal and refer to a L’Amour Fou – a crazy love – an overwhelming passion – and lust. Behavior to the detriment of your self-esteem, ignoring both common sense and the advice of your best friends…but what can a man do?

How about The Man I Feel?

Kev: I recently played the remastered versions of the songs to some colleagues and one of the girls overall critique was “I really enjoyed most of the tracks, I can’t believe that’s you singing – but I didn’t really like the porno one”. 

The title is Steve’s but I wrote the song. The title is ambiguous I suppose. I`ve just been downstairs to find my lyric box, and I`ve been sitting here laughing at all the thinly-veiled – none-ly-veiled – sexual metaphors and single-entendres. It’s always tempting to describe a song in abstract terms, to leave it open and retain some mystery, but I’m not sure that’s possible with this song. Given all the orgasm samples in the track. It is fundamentally a song about how much I enjoyed a physical relationship I had with a particular girl in 1985. 

How would you describe this music?

Steve: At the most simple level it`s electronic pop. There are reference points and motifs from UK house, soul and ECM jazz. But fundamentally I’d describe the 4AM LP as a quirky late 80s pop record.

Kev: Hmm. Some have described it “unlistenable”, or my favourite –  would be a half-decent house album if stripped of the vocals”. My one-liner is that it’s melodic, dance-influenced synth-pop with lyrics that you’d struggle to chant on a dance floor.

How was the album received?

Steve: The LP was only ever intended as an artifact to give to our friends and family. We did no promotion or marketing and we didn’t support the LP release with any live shows. For us the fact that we`d actually completed the process of arranging and producing a set of songs, getting through a highly fraught mastering/pressing process and ending up with a pretty good album was nothing short of a miracle.

The really funny thing is that since your (Emotional Rescue`s) intervention at the end of 2018 we`ve had nothing but great vibes from just about everywhere – which to us is just amazing considering that almost thirty years have passed since the 4AM LP was conceived, made and released.

Kev: Back in 1990 most people were mostly polite. More recently we’ve had some lovely and surprising feedback.

4AM art back

You can order a copy of 4AM`s Passion / The Man I Feel directly from Emotional Rescue. 

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