‘Collapsing New People’: Einstürzende Neubauten records with Fad Gadget
10:03 am

The first single from Fad Gadget’s last album, 1984’s Gag, was “Collapsing New People,” Frank Tovey’s tribute to Einstürzende Neubauten (whose name means “Collapsing New Buildings”). It seems to have been a relationship of mutual respect. Tovey also took part in that year’s famous “Concerto for Voice and Machinery,” during which Neubauten attempted to dig through the stage of London’s ICA into the tunnels rumored to exist underground.

While it is often reported that Neubauten played on “Collapsing New People,” the seven-inch sleeve only credits the band as guest musicians on the single’s B-side, “Spoil the Child.” (At least one copy of “Collapsing New People” was pressed with Lionel Richie’s “Wandering Stranger” on the flip side; it’s safe to say Neubauten didn’t play on that.) And it’s hard to tell from the ambiguous credits on the twelve-inch whether Neubauten also contributed to the “Berlin mix” of “Collapsing New People,” though Blixa Bargeld makes it sound that way in the oral history No Beauty Without Danger. He mentions the collaboration with Fad Gadget while explaining how Neubauten started recording with producer Gareth Jones, and how sounds from that session turned up on Depeche Mode’s “People Are People”:

We got together through a chain of coincidences. Fad Gadget did a record with Gareth at Hansa Studio and the lead singer Frank Tovey wrote the song “Collapsing New People” with the line: “Sat awake all night / But never see the stars / And sleep all day / On a chain link bed of nails.” That was a direct reference to the Neubauten. Now Tovey had the clever idea to ask the Neubauten whether we’d play on it, so that the whole thing wouldn’t be misinterpreted as a criticism. That’s when we did our first recordings with Gareth. At the same time, those were also the first recordings that the Neubauten did at Hansa Studio. After all, in this session Gareth was confronted with our instruments for the first time. That had sweeping consequences because directly afterwards he recorded Depeche Mode, also at Hansa, and used our overdubs from the Fad Gadget reels for “People Are People.” He once later told me about that.

More Fad Gadget after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall
10:03 am
Collapsing New People: The enchanting synth-pop brilliance of Fad Gadget

Of the late ‘70s class of synth-pop artists, Gary Numan, Soft Cell and DEVO are among the best remembered thanks to having all scored massive international hits. But there were, of course, influences and contemporaries who were every bit as innovative and exciting, but not as lucky. High on the list of lesser-known greats is Frank Tovey’s incredible Fad Gadget.

An art student like so many rock-era musical innovators, Tovey took an interest in music, but found he lacked the coordination to play an instrument. He turned his attention to performance art (he was a mime student at Leeds Polytechnic) and recording technology, and re-engaged with music making when he discovered that synths and sequencers allowed him to realize his ideas without traditional instrumental proficiency. Around the same time, Daniel Miller founded Mute Records to release the single of his minimalist synth-pop project The Normal, and Tovey sent him a demo of the song “Back To Nature.” Tovey thus became the first artist to sign to Mute and a re-recorded “Back to Nature” would become one side of his first single in September 1979. Pay attention to the lyrics—he’s singing about a post-climate change apocalypse.

”Back to Nature” demo

”Back to Nature” single

Tovey selected the name Fad Gadget for his project, likely, it seems, not just for its cool cadences, but because he embraced the idea of pointedly making a gimmick of himself. His performances were directly confrontational affairs in which he’d put his body on the line. He appeared dressed in nothing but shaving cream, as a Punch puppet, he even had himself tarred and feathered. He’d leap into the crowd Iggy Pop style, and was even known to shower “lucky” front row audience members with his own pubic hair, ripped out on the spot. Per his NYT obit:

Mr. Tovey’s performances were often highly intense and theatrical. He tore the ligaments in both of his legs diving into the audience at one show; at another concert, he swung his microphone around his neck, and it hit him in the face, cutting open his nose and blackening his eyes. After a show in 1980, he was taken to an emergency room after cutting his head open while using it to play an electronic drum.



Lyrically, Tovey’s themes of dystopian alienation put him in more or less the same camp as Gary Numan, only with a dark, wry bitterness taking the place of Numan’s sci-fi trappings. His thematic darkness combined with his haunting deployment of the squared-off coldness of that era’s synth technology made for a potent sound that crossed over to the early industrial scene (he even did a collaborative noise album with Boyd “NON” Rice), and Fad Gadget would become a major part of the blueprint for electronic music from Depeche Mode to Nine Inch Nails and beyond. Fad Gadget released four LPs: Fireside Favourites, Incontinent, Under the Flag and Gag. All are superb. If you’re the kind to get your feet wet with best-ofs, there are two in print, the 2XCD The Best Of Fad Gadget, and the more recent (and more bargainous) 2XCD/2XDVD Fad Gadget by Frank Tovey. Here’s a handful of my faves:

The Box by Fad Gadget on Grooveshark


State of the Nation by Fad Gadget on Grooveshark


Swallow It by Fad Gadget on Grooveshark


Manual Dexterity by Fad Gadget on Grooveshark


Cipher by Fad Gadget on Grooveshark


Collapsing New People by Fad Gadget on Grooveshark


One Man’s Meat by Fad Gadget on Grooveshark



Insane performance of “Collapsing New People” on TV Playback, 1984

After Fad Gadget, Tovey continued making music, moving beyond electronics and recording more straightforwardly rock and acoustic music under his own name and with his band The Pyros. He reactivated Fad Gadget in 2001 to serve as the opener for a Depeche Mode tour, and sadly, died prematurely of heart failure in 2002. He was 45.

This documentary does a fine job of introducing Fad Gadget to newbies, and has plenty of great footage to satisfy longtime fans. Enjoy.

Posted by Ron Kretsch
10:18 am