As Savage celebrated it’s 25th Anniversary in the USA this month we caught up with
Dave Stewart in this studio in his Weapons Of Mass Entertainment office in Los Angeles.
Dave was happy to share with us some of his memories recording Savage 25 years ago.
UE: So Savage is 25 years old now Dave, and has stood the test of time and in some cases the tracks are even more relevant today than they were 25 years ago. What memories do you have from recordign the album having just completed the Revenge Tour?
DS: Savage is an interesting album to talk about, Annie and I had been touring for what seemed like forever with Revenge, and we started to record our 6th album in six years which is a huge amount of pressure to put ourselves under.
I always like to find an odd place to record, Be Yourself Tonight was mostly recorded in a Youth Club on the outskirts of Paris, we had recorded so much music in our Church Studios and I don’t like doing things in a normal way or repeating same process so we ended up renting Chateaux Dangu in Normandy which was half the price of renting a normal studio.
We had 28 acres of land in a chateaux owned by Napolean’ Political s advisor, we were about an hour and a half from Paris surrounded by these wonderful grounds and in an area near to where Monet painted his famous Waterlillies painting.
UE: In the sleeve notes for the Remastered album, Phill Savidge says that Annie wasn’t sure about some of the music initially, but then had a creative jolt in Paris and the words flowed, producing some of the darkest lyrics in the Eurythmics catalogue.
DS: Even though Annie was not around much and not really involved much in the making of the music for Savage, what was amazing was when we moved all the recordings to Paris and the Grand Armee studios, and then worked with Annie in recording the vocals, all of a sudden she was creatively on fire and the songs leapt in to life. Annie wrote lyrics furiously delivered amazing vocals all in a very short time and the album was done.
UE: It’s the most electronic influenced album of your career and you used a Synclavier for your samples, can you tell us a about how the sound for Savage developed, it was such a departure from Revenge.
DS: We bought the Synclavier from Jack Nitzsche. When we first got it, there were voices already inside it, and they were really unusual voices, not like a usual choir, then we found out it was the voice of Buffy Saint Marie. It was a beast of a machine to work with.
We ended up recording in this one little room called a fumoir, the equivalent of a smoking room, it’s a small room, about the size of somebody’s kitchen. We were shut in this tiny room, and the synclavier took so long to programme.
I would have an idea but it would take the brilliant Olle Romo 3 hours to programme it into the Synclavier so I would go off and ride my bike around the grounds, and hear the rumble of the syncalvier, I would cycle up to the window and listen ask Olle “How is it going?” and cycle off again.
DS: Some of the sample are yes, banging on wooden tree stumps and young tall Bamboo in a Japanese forest, yeah that’s true. Conny and I created this strange library of sounds over the years.
UE: Visually, the images of Annie have always been particularly memorable from the Savage era, from the down trodden Beethoven housewife to the vamp that she becomes, and through to the hope in You Have Placed A Chill and happiness in Brand New Day. You were not featured heavily in any of the single covers, album sleeves and hardly any of the video, was this a conscious decision?
DS: At the time because of the lyrical content I thought that this album visually and the accompanying videos should be Annie’s story. Annie and I made all the joint decisions together It was obvious to me this album was a great opportunity to tie all the songs together in a long form video .
DS: I’d bought Sophie Muller into Eurythmics, I’d met her and worked with her before on a little project, and realised she was the right person.
It was important to have someone else’s perspective, and someone who you could trust and she is such a brilliant film maker. I suggested we made a long form video and somehow join all of the songs all together with bits of sounds we had.
Some of those tracks are just me sampling bits of things, bits of songs we had recorded, samples from my library and making something a bit like a collage. You know the parts I’m talking about, like where Annie is bouncing of the walls in the corridor before the song Heaven.
DS: Well actually that’s because Annie didn’t actually sing anything for Heaven, it really was just me and Olle taking samples of different tracks, lyrics and recordings that we already had and making a collage.
UE: The single Shame never really got the attention it deserved, but again, the lyrics and subject are still so relevant today, 25 years on, if not even more so. The landscape has changed, celebrity culture is a huge business where you can be famous for being famous and not because you are a talented artist or a musician etc.
DS: That was a very poignant song for us, it ends with the Beatles and The Rolling Stones, but its really about us being able to foresee really what was going to happen with celebrity culture. The animated video for Shame was created by a friend of mine the late Eric Scott (and amazing painter and animator Emma Calder*) Our video was about paintings that were being created and stripped back to reveal layers of images. There was a mixture of different techniques being used with lots of the images being distressed before they are peeled away.
*Read our interview with Emma here
DS: Beethoven for example wouldn’t be too difficult, we could programme a synclavier to create the sounds.
For a lot of people they view the track Beethoven as Annie and I at our most surreal. Again the Synclavier needed programming, we had all sorts going on, clips of classical sounds.
Some of the words are sung, but some of them are actually chopped up and edited back together again. Then you get Annie doing her weird speech rant at the beginning.
UE: Was this why you chose Beethoven as the first single from the album?
DS: I think we wanted to remind people of our roots and where we came from really, Annie with her classical background, and the perception that we were odd! We get associated with all the weird stuff we’ve done, and to some extent with the video, it’s a piece of performance art.
DS: How could I be shocked by them because of what we went through Annie and I were closer as a couple or duo than most people could ever be , we had hit rock bottom and been on the ultimate high both emotionally , creatively and career wise at this point we’d seen it all and been through everything !
UE: Were there many tracks that were written for Savage that never made the final cut on the album?
DS: No, not with Savage, as we’ve talked about, the Synclavier took so much programming, we had the music all loaded onto it, we really had to get the music loaded into it first, then record the songs so there wasn’t much left over, the odd sounds snippet maybe.
DS: I think that every band or artist, they will always tell you, that their hardcore fans for some reasons pick the most obscure album in their catalogue as their favourite.
I also think its because something that is popular is embraced by a lot of people, and when its something a bit more unusual, the core fan following understand you as an artist a bit more that perhaps that passes by a listener who doesn’t really know the artist.
I think fans enjoy that.
UE: And finally Dave, what is your favourite track from Savage?
DS: I think the track I like most is the title track itself, Savage, it’s a brilliant song. I think we only performed that 2 or 3 times. It’s a dark song, Annie’s lyrics weave and melt into the music and leaves you feeling quite emotional.
UE: Thanks Dave for your time, and your support of Ultimate Eurythmics.
To end, here’s the live performance of Savage from the video launch party.