Interview – ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK (OMD) making art is making politics


Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark (OMD) return with their brand new studio album entitled “Bauhaus Staircase”, out today October 27th.

The iconic band’s most explicitly political record and the fulfillment of their desire to be both Stockhausen and Abba, born from the impulse to start new explorations.

Mainly written, recorded and mixed by both McCluskey and Paul Humphreys (who recently became a father for the second time), the other main outside influence for “Bauhaus Staircase” was David Watts, primarily known as a rock producer who led Sheffield band The Reytons’ latest number one album and mixed two tracks on OMD’s new album.

OMD have sold an incredible 25 million singles and 15 million albums, establishing themselves as pioneers of synthetic music and one of Britain’s best-loved pop groups.
Their 13 albums include reissues of “Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark” (1980), “Organisation” (1980), “Architecture & Morality” (1981) and “Dazzle Ships” (1983).

On the occasion of the release we met Andy McCluskey, here is the story of the chat!

You return six years after the release of your last album “The Punishment Of Luxury”. A period of time during which everything happened: a pandemic, war in Europe, the climate emergency, social dissent. Is the new album affected by all this?

The genesis of this album was troubled. We were on tour with our latest album and brought it to the stage until February 2020.
Then everything happened: the pandemic, the isolation, everything changed.

The absurd thing is that, if it hadn’t been for this stop, perhaps there would never have been “Bauhaus Staircase”.
During lockdown I rediscovered the creative power of total boredom.

I didn’t know what to do so I sat down in this room (the one from which we did the interview via zoom), I opened the computer and I said to myself: Ok let’s do something! I started working on this new album. And here we are, three and a half years later, and it’s ready and out.

Do you know what? We are lucky in Italy and the UK. We have lived a pretty good and absolutely free life for a long time. Then when everything has stopped, you realize that, when it’s no longer there, you realize what you’re missing. And of course no one was allowed to go to concerts, to cinema, to art galleries, to museums, and suddenly you realize how much you need and miss art.

The title refers to a great artistic and cultural movement, the Bauhaus. You describe and criticize the tendency for governments to look at cutting funding for creativity, at precisely the time when the arts are most needed to nourish our souls. In your opinion, is it essential for an artist to side with his own thoughts?

And yes, in difficult times governments tend to say: we will not spend money on creative art. It’s not essential. But in reality, yes, you need food for your stomach, but in the most difficult times, you need food for your soul and your mind. And if you don’t have that, the world is not a very nice place.

I am a great lover of visual arts, especially 20th century movements. The album is a metaphor for strength and artistic passion in the face of criticism and adversity.

Obviously I am inspired by the German Bauhaus art school. This current was closed by the Nazis in 1933. Typical of totalitarian regimes. They don’t like art. They are afraid of it because they don’t understand it.

If you make art, any kind of art, you automatically make politics.

That’s why the Nazis took control of art in Germany. Mussolini probably did the same in Italy, Stalin did the same in Russia and Mao in China.

And you’re only allowed to do what they want you to say.
But art must speak to everyone. Art must be open, it must challenge, it must explore and ask questions.

It’s amazing the power of art is the most important thing.
I think that if there wasn’t art, everything would fall apart. Art is the most important thing! But if we were to live without art, we would live in a very empty world.

How could you describe it in five key words?

I like to think that in this album there is: energy, ideas, passion, melody and a lot of inspiration.

After 45 years we are still an esteemed band and for many we are points of reference. We sell a lot of concert tickets and people like our music. So the last thing we want to do is make a shitty album. If we didn’t have a good record it would have been better to do nothing. It’s dangerous to make a new album especially if you have a historical and iconic past like ours.

But we had some good songs and it was the right time to put this record out. The album sounds like OMD, even if it’s full of new sounds, new ideas!

We have a pact between us, which is that we would never publish something that didn’t convince us. We made a record because we were ready to say something.

In “Veruschka” you tell that life sometimes means taking risks. We couldn’t keep saying, ‘It’s not going to work.’ You have to keep trying, to see where you end up. Has this been your philosophy in life? And does it work in music too?

OMDs started out as a crazy idea. We were just supposed to do one concert. Paul and I had written the songs together and went to a club in Liverpool where, on Thursday nights, new bands could come up and play.

The place was called Eric’s Club, it was a wonderful place and we took the opportunity to go and play. We called ourselves Crazy Name. It didn’t matter, but we wanted everyone to know our new sound. He was different. It wasn’t punk, it wasn’t rock, it wasn’t disco or reggae. We tried to always take risks. Our first four albums were all different, all innovative.

We did what we wanted, not what the record company told us to do. And now that we have reformed we promised ourselves to continue taking risks, to always do something new, something that excites us and to never do something just because it was our job or we wanted the money. It is important to make quality, good quality. So yes, I think taking risks is important.

What music are you listening to these days? Is there any artist or band that you find particularly interesting?

Well, when you’re young the music you listen to on your journey from childhood to adulthood becomes the soundtrack to the most important journey of your life and stays with you.
So I still listen to La Düsseldor and all my heroes from the past: David Bowie, Roxy Music, Velvet Underground, Kraftwerk, Neu and Laduseldorf but I’m always looking for new music, especially electronic; so, I’m a fan of new artists.

I love The xx, Glasvegas, Hot Chip but also Nation of Language, Catherine Moan and Tiny Magnetic Pets.





Written by

Christopher Johnson

Christopher Johnson is a dedicated writer and key contributor to the WECB website, Emerson College's student-run radio station. Passionate about music, radio communication, and journalism, Christopher pursues his craft with a blend of meticulous research and creative flair. His writings on the site cover an array of subjects, from music reviews and artist interviews to event updates and industry news. As an active member of the Emerson College community, Christopher is not only a writer but also an advocate for student involvement, using his work to foster increased engagement and enthusiasm within the school's radio and broadcasting culture. Through his consistent and high-quality outputs, Christopher Johnson helps shape the voice and identity of WECB, truly embodying its motto of being an inclusive, diverse, and enthusiastic music community.