Biologist Richard Dawkins turned down a guest spot on the new Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark album.
The duo – starring Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys – return this month with their 14th album ‘Bauhaus Staircase’, which sees them dabble with AI on tracks like Anthropocene and Evolution Of Species, both of which use Google’s Text-To-Speak function
“I don’t actually sing on Evolution Of Species – quite frankly, it was hard enough to sing on Anthropocene,” Andy tells RETROPOP’s November issue. However, he didn’t always plan for the latter to be entirely AI-generated vocals: “We did approach Richard Dawkins, who I thought would have sounded great on there rather than the English computer voice. I sent him an email but never got a reply…”
For a band that set out to “slay the rock and roll dragon”, tapping into new technologies is a given and Paul says younger musicians are flummoxed to learn they’ve ditched their analogue synths.
“Some of the younger bands who love that kind of purist electronic sound are horrified when they realise we’re using all the modern technology and virtual synths,” he laughs. “They’re like, ‘What, you’re not using your old analogue synths?’ and it’s like, ‘No! They’re crap, they don’t work properly, they never stay in tune…’
“What’s brilliant about modern technology is that we all have all the same plugins, so we can send massive files between each other and continue to work on them – which you couldn’t do with analogue. But with AI, it’s the future and we can’t shy away from it – it’s a question of how we deal with it. Unlike most things, there’s a positive and a negative and I think you have to focus on the positives of AI, but it’s advancing at such a speed whereby we’re going to need some kind of regulation for it, before it gets completely out of hand.”
Although AI-created music will be eligible at the Grammys next year and it’s even been used to complete unfinished Beatles recordings, Andy isn’t worried that it’ll take their jobs. “I have listened to AI-created songs in the style of Oasis; you are filling in all kinds of algorithms and information, like, ‘This is the chord, this is the sound of the guitar and the drums, this is Liam Gallagher’s voice’, but in the end, it’s still a pastiche,” he insists. “You could programme and programme and programme – analyse every Oasis song ever written – but in the end, it’s only an Oasis song because Noel wrote it and Liam is singing it.
“It’s got whatever is the human twist that makes it different and makes it a new song; they’re not copying their own algorithms, they’re trying to come up with new words and new chords. So I don’t fear for the music industry at the moment. I could make a joke about how an awful lot of current popular music does sound like it’s made by AI, because it does, and if record companies actually had a proper AI hit single generator, they would be mining it. But at the moment, they can’t.”
Read the full interview in the November 2023 edition of RETROPOP, out now. Order yours or subscribe via our Online Store, use our Store Finder to locate your nearest stockist, or get Digital Copies delivered direct to your devices.