Strange Circuits was the first band ever signed to the legendary industrial label, Wax Trax! Their single, Industrial Living, became a cult sensation and led to the group touring Europe.
Time has not lessened the group’s impact as copies of the original 7″ still sell well online and have become a collector’s item. Strange Circuits also appear on The New Wave Complex vol: 8, a compilation of 80’s underground acts.
Strange Circuits recorded and performed at the very beginning of the Industrial and Electronic movement spearheaded by Wax Trax! As time passed band members went on to play in other Wax Trax! acts, including Ministry. Singer/songwriter, producer Rodney Bakerr, used the experience he’d gained to open Rockin’ House Records, one of the longest running, single owner, dance music labels in the world. And working with the Roland Synthesizer Company he is credited as writing the first House music drum patterns for the 808 & 909 TR drum machines. His work is in print in the Roland Rhythm Guide book and Roland Users Group magazine. In the 1990s Strange Circuits reunited to release new music under the name Warm Leatherette. One of their singles, Black Hair Red Lips, appeared on the Delinquent Records sampler Industrial Baby (DR016).
Strange Circuits over time has experimented with new lineups, and new music using several creative vocalists, stretching their musical sound and landscape. Rodney Bakerr is also a well-known, and award winning, fine artist with his art being seen in several Museums including the Museum of the Art Institute of Chicago.
‘Strange Circuits’, a film about Rodney Bakerr by Bad Friday Pictures, is due for release in late 2019. Rodney Bakerr is a Fender guitar artist on the Riff Station software project. He also wrote the first published printed House music patterns for the Roland 808 and 909 drum machines, printed in the Roland Users Group magazine and the Roland Rhythm Guide Book.
IndiePulse Interviewed Rodney Bakerr about the Strange Circuits legacy, his work and all that rocks.
IPM: How would you describe who you are at this time in your life?
Well, I have collaborated with Fender Guitars for their Riffstation program with Roland Synthesizer company on their 808 and 909 drum machines for their Roland Rhythm Guide and their Roland Users Group magazine writing the first written Music patterns in print on how to program House dance rhythms on those machines. My band Strange Circuits was the first band or group released on the Industrial label Wax Trax records. I was also featured in the first manual on how to play the Chapman Stick a two handed tapping guitar like instrument where you can play the bass parts and guitar melody simultaneously. I also own Rockin’ House Records a Chicago House Music Label.
I’m also an internationally known fine artist with my artwork in the permanent collections of several art museums like the Museum of the Art Institute of Chicago. Known as Rodney Baker with one R for Baker in art and I use two R’s like Bakerr for music.
IPM: What inspired you to write music like you do?
I have always had a love of music and the fine Arts. I have always loved being creative and seeing the big picture in life. There has to be more to life than just the four walls you live and work in every day. I understand that there are very few people in this world who have a creative vision most people just copy other people that’s why there are so many cover bands making a living playing in bars it’s hard being an original. It also takes courage to be creative and original and many people just don’t want to fail in life that’s the missing part it takes courage to follow your own path and not many want to pay that price. The earth is a miracle; living is a miracle people forget that. So be creative and live the life that is your destiny.
IPM: Tell us about the artists you have worked with before and about your solo work now.
The other original members of Strange Circuits were Virginia Cram on keyboards and Stephen George on Synth they were great and easy to get along with. Virginia moved to Europe and became a business executive while Stephan left Strange Circuits to start Ministry with Al Jourgensen.
The difference in playing solo is that you have no one to bounce ideas off of, everything depends on you and your ideas have to be very strong so they can stand up on their own without extra support. The good part of Solo performance is the freedom, there are no arguments it’s all you and you have to live with your decisions right or wrong. You have to create a performance that’s complete in itself without the help of others and that requires a whole different way of thinking.
IPM: What are or were some of the challenges for you in producing or performing while keeping true to your vision of your music.
The greatest challenge is getting others to see your vision if you are not able to do that then it is very hard to succeed or make a living in the arts. The greatest challenge for creative people living in this time period of YouTube and the Internet is you have to compete with the past, present and the future. Before the internet and social media, you didn’t compete or were not compared to a hundred artist from the past or from all over the world, with the internet it’s easy to find any future or historical figure, on the internet people can live forever and that makes it very hard for an artist to say that they are the only one or the best at this or that. So, you must really believe in your Art or Music and have the courage to stick with it. Artist of the pre-1980’s didn’t have this problem. Record label A&R guys were the only people they needed to please.
IPM: Tell us about some of your 2017-2018 shows / performances- anything that stands out, or is there anything that you feel makes for an exciting highlight.
I had a great time on that tour making new friends and fans. I learned many things about myself also, in what works with an audience and what doesn’t. Playing the UK is always magic It’s foreign and familiar at the same time; I was able to try new songs and arrangements and stretched my ability as a performer. The UK audiences are great as far as trying new things they are very open to something new and creative. I learned how the people perceive Strange Circuits as a band and was able to build upon it sound wise and performance wise.
I believe that I’m a better performer now and as a solo performer that’s not easy to do.
You are limited as far as movement and control of the stage so you become very creative but, minimal at the same time, you don’t have extra people to help.
IPM: Any news on releases coming out soon or the latest tour you are looking to promote
No new releases at this time but, I’m looking forward to my Tour of the UK for 2019, which will include: Nottingham, Wolverhampton, Cardiff, Manchester and London. This is a bigger tour than last time and I can’t wait to hit the stage in these cities. I created a new set of music just for this Tour, which I believe, will show case Strange Circuits in a Bigger and more creative light than before. I happen to be in a wonderful position of having a fan base that is expanding at this time and allowing me to experiment with sound and performance, which is a rare experience for an artist. Freedom of expression is a powerful thing you have to be courageous to bare your soul to the public and hope that they will respond in a positive way to what you are trying to share. Touring will help you to learn your audience and why they came to see you in the first place.
IPM: Any “strange tales” or things that may have happened during a show past or present that seemed too weird to be true?
Nothing really happened that seemed too weird to be true. The only thing that I really noticed was that on the last tour I had a few fans follow me from one gig to another gig and I have never experienced that before and, another thing that happened to me in Sheffield was after the show I signed autographs and that was surreal it felt like I was watching a movie or a television program. I suppose that’s why people tour to have one of a kind moments. If you stop to think about it there is something strange or weird about the concept of touring in a foreign land in the first place, you probably look as weird to them as they look to you. So, I would highly recommend touring and traveling as a way to think outside your box, it will differently change your music
IPM: Where do you see your music going, where would you like to be in the near future, goals, dreams and passions?
That’s a good question. I’m in a state of mind where I haven’t been able to look into the future But, one thing I’ve thought about is expanding the band after playing solo for so long it would be interesting to have other people adding ideas and expanding the stage performance. I wonder if more people would increase or hinder the style and message of the music. I have scene other bands and performance try to add people and sometimes it doesn’t work because the original concept didn’t really need extra players and couldn’t be changed. But, it still would be nice to have less pressure on me every night. Another problem that could occur is that I might miss fine-tuning the performance every night, when your solo that’s very easy to do.
IPM: What would you like our readers to know about you, Why do you think that they would enjoy your music / performances
I believe that people will enjoy my constant experimentation between man and machine and the use of minimalism. How far can the sonic limits of sound and composition be expanded?
I use spoken word verses against Industrial beats I paint with sound trying to tell you a story about life and the struggle to stay alive or the beauty of life. If you are someone who enjoys the cutting edge of electronic music with a long legacy then Strange Circuits just might be for you.
If you have an interest in what people from the other side of the ocean are creating and playing then this performance might be just right for you.
IPM: Where can our readers find your music?
You can find me as Strange Circuits or myself, Rodney Bakerr online here:
- Strange Circuits on YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9M4cdl6ERXHYOkcD7Tw7cw
- Strange Circuits on Face Book – https://www.facebook.com/Strange-Circuits-1650828188518632
- Strange circuits web site – www.strangecircuits.com
- Strange Circuits on Wax Trax: https://cherryberry321.wordpress.com/artists-strange-circuits
- Strange Circuits on Discogs: https://www.discogs.com/Strange-Circuits-Industrial-Living/release/1365881
- Rodney baker art- www.rodneybakerart.com
- Fender Guitar Riffstation: https://play.riffstation.com/chords-tabs/rodney-bakerr
- Roland Synthesizer 808, 909 drum machine: https://87bpm.wordpress.com/2009/01/03/rodney-bakker/
- Rodney Bakerr Discogs: https://www.discogs.com/artist/78045-Rodney-Bakerr
Further reading on Strange Circuits and Rodney Bakerr:
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