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subject2 promo byMDurant introInterview with

Gary Starky and Sandra Tully from Subject:2

’Love, Betrayal, Deceit’ - A conversation with SUBJECT:2 on their new album! 26 of June not only marked the release of the long-awaited live documentary of DEPECHE MODE’s ’Global Spirit Tour’ and ERASURE’s new remix bundle, but also the release of the second album of SUBJECT:2, which we can also apostrophize as a new hope in the independent sector of Synth Pop. Less than two years after their debut album ’Forward / Return’, the British duo brought forth its follower ’Love, Betrayal, Deceit’ - thanks to the Electro-Shock-Records label! In order to get to know the two people behind the project a bit better, our external editor Janos Janurik asked the participants questions about their present, past and future in an exclusive interview. Please welcome Gary Starky and Sandra Tully aka SUBJECT:2!

Reflections of Darkness [RoD]: Gary, I can remember the day quite well when we met for the first time in Budapest in 2011. Back then, you were there as a guest of an electro festival to present your joint project with Robert Marlow, MARLOW to the Hungarian audience. A ballad, called ’Run Away’, which had its world premiere there, was later released on your debut album ’Forward / Return’. Is MARLOW currently just taking a creative break, or have you finally given up on this project?
Gary: I remember it well! Budapest is such a beautiful city; I had my first taste of UNICUM that day! Where better could there be to premier ’Run Away’. ’Run Away’ was from a collection of songs I had written while working with Rob on Marlow. It wasn’t Rob’s cup of tea, too schmaltzy! As we struggled to find a way to work on ‘The Future’ I eventually suggested that Rob pick some songs that I had written and we would give them a Marlow twang, to round out the album. Between that decision and the album being released, it all went wrong. Our working relationship became increasingly strained and I called it a day. We did not speak for a good couple of years. We have since then got back in touch. We have performed a few gigs under the banner MARLOW & STARKY. We have worked on new material with a view to an album but I am not sure if anything will ever happen.

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RoD: In my opinion your voice predestined a love for the Synth Pop genre. It just fits this music style perfectly. Have you ever listened to such music as a teenager and dreamed of singing in such a band?
Gary: Undoubtedly. When I was younger, I was bombarded by the heroes of 80s electronica thanks to my two older brothers. But I never considered myself cool or confident enough for that sort of thing. I just wanted to croon away in bus stops late at night as my heart bled. ‘Hideaway’ and ‘Home’ by ERASURE are great for that. I think that is where my song writing started. Singing to darkened Essex streets trying to vent my pain. At the end of my teenage years I would definitely have been at home in an ARMY OF LOVERS or DEAD OR ALIVE tribute band!

RoD: What can you tell us about your meeting with the living legend from Basildon, Robert Marlow? How did the musical cooperation between you begin? How was Vince Clarke, Robert’s long-time friend, also involved in this project?
Gary: Sandra and I were on an unofficial hiatus when I first recorded Rob. Sandra was pregnant with Buster. Rob and I met through his ex, Angela. Angela did the cover art for the single ‘Claudette’. We kept meeting at parties and dinners until Rob asked me if I would record him. This took a long time as we were very seldom sober. We worked on the demo and then there was interest in releasing Robs original yet unreleased studio album and live a request for a live appearance in Sweden. Once we had programmed the set, we spent the weekend at Vince’s doing the final tweaks and making use of fix his extensive synth collection! After the release of ‘The Peter pan Effect’ Vince did us a remix of no heart and this encouraged us to return to Vince’s studio for another stint to mix and tweak the ‘My Teenage Dream EP’. There was always a good supply of Becks and good food at Vince’s. When we were working on inside outside, Vince remixed ‘Home’ which we both love, so when we couldn’t make the album’s title track work we asked Vince if he would produce it for us. He did a great job!

RoD: And how did your joint music project with Sandra Tully develop? If I’m not mistaken, that’s an older story, too.
Gary: We first met through friends at college. We both attended the illustrious Southend Technical College. Sandra was a confident striking half-goth with a love for Alison Moyet, I was a Vince-ette with a gift for pinky plonking we joined as SUBJECT TO SCANDAL we played quite a few gigs and had interest from Polydor Records. We were at a lot of fun but lacked guidance and management. Then came the hiatus. We’ve always had too much fun together. Creatively there is something magical. Sandra and I seem to become naughty school children whenever we’re together and it’s even worse when we’re on stage, we just can’t help but have fun! When we started writing together again, it started with ‘These Things’ and actually Sandra’s backing on ‘These Things’ was the first thing we recorded. Sandra now enjoys the title of ‘Head of Getting Shit Done’.

RoD: Your new album includes many potential Synth Pop hits, like ‘The Blue Door’, ‘These Things’, ‘Come Back To Me’ or ‘When I See You Tonight’, where you sing a duet with Sandra. You also made an artful promo clip for the song ‘Nobody’s There’. How are the reviews so far from those who have already heard the album?
Gary: I’ve honestly had no feedback on the new album other than Daniel who mastered the album commenting “it’s better than the first album…” that’s got to be a good indicator hasn’t it? We’ve been paying Blue Door live for quite a quite a while now and it is always commented upon. I think we’ve played this album very close to our chest in terms of seeking feedback or performing. Also, we felt very confident with the second album from the start. Our biggest problems came as lockdown started to be enforced just as we were finishing the album and producing a promo video. As a result, the first mix of the album was a total mess. I don’t really know where my head was. Luckily Sandra coached me off of the edge and I mixed it again from scratch made the odd change. Fortunately, the video was a great success a lot of planning went into that. Unfortunately, it was going to be one of three but the current situation as put that all on hold.

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RoD: Sandra, please tell us something about yourself and your career as a musician. What bands and singers have influenced you to engage in singing?
Sandra: In answer to your question, having a typical 70s childhood which, musically, revolved around my Mum’s obsession with Country and Western music, giving me a love of PATSY CLINE, TAMMY WYNETT and, of course, the one and only DOLLY PARTON. DIANA ROSS, MARVIN GAYE, OTIS READING, DONNA SUMMER, ETTA JAMES and THE JACKSON 5 enhanced my life with a heavy Motown, Atlantic Soul and Disco influence from my older sister plus, of course, the legend that is KAREN CARPENTER. These are the roots of my earliest music experiences but then, in the early 80s, along came YAZOO which began my own personal love of Synth / Electronic music, which has remained with me all my life. Alison Moyet enraptured me with her, deep, melodic, emotional vocals when they made their first appearance on Top Of The Pops in 1982 with ‘Only You’. This is the time I also discovered DEPECHE MODE, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, JAPAN, SOFT CELL and VISAGE amongst new wave of electronic artists but also, in my teenage years, a huge admiration for MICHAEL JACKSON developed, who, asked far as I’m concerned, is one of the most influential music artists of the 20th century. Although I had strengths in dancing and acting, singing was my strongest talent from an early age and felt the most natural to me, a real gift I was given that I’m so thankful for. This then spurred me onto training in musical theatre, appearing in many stage performances which, fortunately, through a mutual friend, lead to me meeting Gary in 1991.

RoD: On the second SUBJECT:2 album you got more and more the role as a singer. You even sing on ‘Nobody’s There’ on the first single release. Was this your will, or was it a joint decision with Gary?
Sandra: Regarding me singing more on the second album, it was just a natural process that developed, it wasn't planned or deliberate, it just sort of evolved with the tracks we’d collaborated on. ‘Nobody’s There’ came from a very painful experience that has happened to me in recent times so it transpired from a rough chorus and a vague first verse with a lyrical direction plus production mood in mind. From then on it was very much a joint collaboration as, what with Gary being a very close friend who had supported me through the situation the song reflected; he could contribute in the sensitive and understanding manner that was needed to portray the true emotional aspect of the song. We both agreed that as this was predominantly about a part of my life, it was only right that I sang the lead, to express, from the heart the real, gritty meaning of the lyrics.

RoD: Please tell us a little bit about the creation process of the new album!
Sandra: Regarding the creative process for the album, it usually all begins with an idea that’ll pop into our heads, a melody, lyrics or even just a title. This is when the recording app on the phone is invaluable as it can be recorded straight away. However, as inspiration can hit at any time, I have been known to be walking down the street, singing into my phone at times, getting some very bizarre looks from those walking passed! I’ll then send it to Gary, who will, depending on his initial reaction, start the production side of it, sometimes working from, say a melody and lyrics I’ve sent for a verse and / or chorus, creating a core of music to collaborate on. An typical example of this is ‘Is It You …?’ which I had in mind sounding a particular way but after Gary received it, it took a completely different direction that I hadn’t even considered and then, with us both developing that sound and feel, incorporating the ethereal backing, surprisingly the oboe samples and the “breathless” effects, it transpired into a track far beyond what I’d ever imagined.

Every track has a personal connection, the one who’s come up with the original concept will normally sing the lead but, as we tend to think along the same lines, we work together exceptionally well, although, I must stress, Gary is far more experienced and knowledgeable than me regarding the whole production process, I really wouldn’t know where to start!! But I have learnt so much from Gary and will continue to develop in this part of the process as time goes on, this helping me understand and collaborate more effectively regarding using a PC to create our tracks.
Any project we embark on has our mutual, unquestionable dedication and a strong bond that never fails to inspire us to produce the best quality tracks, no matter how many re-recordings / lyrical and / or musical arrangement changes it may take. Of course, working so close with someone and both having “artistic temperaments”, there’s the occasional difference of opinion. However, as our friendship spans almost three decades now, we bicker more like an old married couple than anything, (I do call Gary my “work husband”) but this is usually easily resolved with a hug, cup of tea and a cake!

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RoD: At this time of Corona crisis it is hard to plan live gigs, but do you plan to go on tour to promote the two SUBJECT:2 albums? I could imagine you supporting ERASURE on their forthcoming tour as their opening act very well.
Sandra: You asked about us performing again once the restrictions relating to the Covid-19 pandemic have been lifted. We cannot wait until it is safe to do so! We had to cancel performing at an Electroshock Records function in Neubrandenburg at the beginning of April this year, which we both were really looking forward to, especially using this to reach a new audience whilst our established fans from Germany being able to see us perform, hopefully we will be able to rearrange this once we’re able to. As for the ERASURE tour, I agree that we’d be a totally suitable support act, it would be an amazing opportunity for us to get our name out there with an audience that are already there as synth-pop/electro fans, they definitely would love our music and image. Also, as I’ve seen ERASURE live a couple of times, I know that they put on such an entertaining, colourful, outstanding show, it would be wonderful and a real step in the right direction for us to be a part of it. So, fingers crossed, you never know?!

For possible SUBJECT:2 concerts we have to wait a certain time, but the new album ‘Love, Betrayal, Deceit’ is already available on CD. In addition to the ten new songs, it also includes five bonus tracks, namely the remixed versions of ‘Nobody's There’.

Intro picture by M. Durant / other pictures courtsey of subject2music

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