Synthpop pioneers Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) are traveling across the US right now for their Souvenir Greatest Hits Tour. Celebrating their 40th anniversary began in 2019, but has been extended, allowing the US leg to begin last week and then wrap up in Los Angeles on May 26th.
Andy McCluskey (bass guitar, keyboards, vocals) and Paul Humphreys (keyboards, vocals) have graced us with so many incredible hit singles over the past 40 years: “Enola Gay,” “Electricity,” “Dreaming,” “Tesla Girls,” “So In Love,” “Secret,” ”Locomotion,” “Pandora’s Box,” “Telegraph,” and “If You Leave.”
Joined by Martin Cooper (keyboards, saxophone) and Stuart Kershaw (drums), they are reminding us why they are such an iconic band and have stood the test of time. Not many bands can say they are pretty much intact from their beginnings and still have new music to share.
Paul Humphreys took time out to chat with us about the tour and what has been happening over the past few years.
Traci: Your long-awaited Souvenir has kicked off! How has it been?
Paul: It has been wonderful! The response has been great and it is good to be back in the US.
Traci: How long has it been since you have toured here?
Paul: That would be with The B-52s tour, 2019? This will be the first time US audiences see our show with our full production though. Now you will see the show the way European audiences have!
Traci: When COVID shut down touring, I was impressed by how much you guys did for your crews. You did benefit livestreams and multiple events.
Paul: Yes, our crew is like family and we’ve been together a long time. Obviously they could not just hop on another tour because no one was touring. Some were doing deliveries for DHL and we wanted to support them as much as we could.
Traci: We are finally back at shows and back at work, thankfully. I did see you have a new crew member that I am in love with; someone named Maggie.
Paul: (laughing) Yes, Maggie the dog! She is on tour with us, which I love because I am a dog person.
Traci: As you travel across the US in your bus, what do you do to pass the time?
Paul: Well, after a performance, you have adrenaline, so you can’t go right to sleep. So, we stay up for a bit and then maybe around 2 a.m. we head out. The busses travel at night, so we sleep, then wake up in a new city.
Traci: When you arrive and have free time, what do you like to do? I know Andy likes art and museums.
Paul: Yes, Andy is into art and is very involved in the art world. We have seen so much throughout our 40 years of traveling, but sometimes there are new museums or exhibits to see. He is the artistic one, and I am the electronics one.
Traci: What about food on tour? Any favorites?
Paul: My daughter, who lives in New York now, but used to live in California, we would always stop off at In-N-Out Burger first.
Traci: That’s my first “I’m back home in California!” stop too! I spoke with Andy in 2020 and he described the lockdown as forced into boredom and forced into creativity. Were you able to create new music during the pandemic?
Paul: I was a bit busier than Andy because my wife and I had a baby. (laughing) But yes, eventually we did. I was in France and Andy was in England, and we could not travel. We did swap files electronically and we do have new material. Andy would say we have 12 new songs, but I would say eight. (laughing) But we are in a place in our career that we can put out new music that is up to our standards when we feel it is right.
Traci: Isn’t it crazy how technology has changed since you guys began?
Paul: Very much so. Andy and I have known each other since we were seven, and then we saw Kraftwerk, we wanted to be like them and make music like them. Of course, we did not have the money like them to do so! But we did what we could, found what we could. I would cannibalize old radios from my aunties’ homes. But it is good we did not try to become Kraftwerk, because we became OMD and we sound like ourselves.
Traci: Yes, and you have been doing for 40 years! There are so many 40s right now too: the band, “Enola Gay” and “Architecture & Morality” turn 40, plus you’ve sold 40 million albums!
Paul: Yes. When we decided to create “Souvenir,” we found we had 39 singles, so we had to create something, “Don’t Go,” to make it 40 (laughing).
Traci: When thinking about music technology, I can’t even fathom having unlimited sounds like you do with electronics. How do you work with limitless sounds?
Paul: We do try to narrow down a sound we are after, otherwise I would have a hundred bass drum sounds and Andy would have a hundred snare drum sounds. It would be easy to get overwhelmed and have too much going on. We do know what we want to sound like, our OMD sound, so that does help.
Traci: Another thing Andy told me in 2020 is this tour is going to have a lot of drugs on the bus… but not the crazy drugs. (laughing)
Paul: (laughing) Yes, we have thyroid medicine or heart medicine and all on the bus! But we want to stay healthy, I mean, we are in our 60s, and we want to put on a fantastic show. We take care of ourselves so that we can perform as we should.
Traci: So far, the show reviews have said you guys look energetic, very active, great banter, so it is working.
Paul: Oh good, I am glad the critics can see that. I hope the fans will enjoy it as well!
I feel confident in saying yes, we will enjoy celebrating OMD’s 40th anniversary and the Souvenir Greatest Hits Tour. The anniversary greatest hits collection “Souvenir” contains five CDs and two DVDs in a 10-inch box set, with a hardcover book, poster, and 10-inch prints. From “Electricity” to “Don’t Go,” unreleased songs, and live shows, the audio discs have everything you need. Then, check for shows in your area and if you are in SoCal, we will see you at the Greek on May 26th.