Frankie Round Table: Inside the Pleasuredome interview: Part 2

Finally… part two of the long SDE interview with the team that put together the Inside The Pleasuredome Frankie Goes To Hollywood box set. If you haven’t read part one, I suggest you visit here first!

The interview took place in Nov 2014 and round the table is Steve Bunyan Marketing Director from Union Square Music whose imprint Salvo have put out many Frankie and ZTT reissues over the last four years; Ian Peel Curator and project manager of said releases; Philip Marshall Designer who has been responsible for the design and re-presentation of the various reissues and Kevin Foakes Designer, DJ and custodian of the artofztt.com website. The efforts of these four men together led to the creation of the 30th anniversary Inside The Pleasuredome box set which was sold and marketed via PledgeMusic.

SuperDeluxeEdition: There is this perception from the hardcore Frankie fans that the band get the raw end of the deal. There isn’t that much band contribution in this box set. There’s none of the band members talking about the ‘good old days’ in the book, for example. How would you respond to that criticism – where is the band’s voice, why aren’t we hearing from the band?

[long pause]

Steve Bunyan: Well, it just can’t really be done. It is public knowledge about the disagreements there’s been between the band and the record label. They seem to have worked out a working relationship that gets lots of really high quality releases out, and enhances the reputation of the band, but no, they’re not involved. It’s a bit of a myth in a way, because often bands aren’t involved in things like this because often they’re bored talking about things they did 30 years ago. Maybe they’re not in the country, they might not be in the business. Even when releases do come out with band approval, they may have done nothing except sign-off on it. That’s much more normal in the industry. I know you get the Led Zeppelin-type reissues where Jimmy Page will be really involved and it’s great when they do that, but they [Frankie Goes To Hollywood band members] are certainly not all ringing me up going ‘can I do something please on this?’. We’re planning ZTT releases all day, every day. If they did, we’d probably talk to them. We’d always rather the band were involved… maybe they don’t want to be.

Ian Peel: It’s probably worth pointing out that every time I’ve done a Frankie release in the Element series I’ve told the band and asked them if they want to contribute in some way, and often they say ‘yes’. Sometimes they say ‘no’.

SDE: Philip, you’ve worked on many ZTT releases. Tell me how you worked on this project and in particular with Kev?

Philip Marshall:  Typically, a brief would come in from Ian and we’d work out where the assets lay and I’d go away and do my thing. For this release I was very clear from early discussions that it was a job bigger than one person, especially considering the commitments I have, aside from what I do with Ian. Kev has his Art of ZTT website and so he had been researching one of the key elements that we’d wanted to include from very early on. He’d been essentially writing the book and in fact we’d had discussions previously over coffee where we’d said ‘why has no one written a book on the artwork of Frankie Goes To Hollywood?’ Therefore an opportunity presented itself and I wanted to involve Kev right from the very beginning. As far as working together was concerned, it was fine, it was great. We’re both strong minded, opinionated people and we both had different visions at times, but in the end it came together beautifully. I’m incredibly proud of what we did.

Kevin Foakes: I’ve been doing interviews with photographers, designers, Paul Morley…. for ten years now. It’s basically been 30 years to do this project. Since the beginning of Frankie.

SB: As a record company we’re often directing designers, we have lots of people at Union Square who’ll often comment on design and it’s more of a collaboration, but in this case right from the beginning I knew that Kev and Philip just knew what they were doing and my only job was to send congratulatory emails when another bit of artwork came through!

KF: My style and Philip’s style is very different, actually. I have a busier style…a lot more detail, whereas Philip is very minimal. I think we met in the middle. I maybe got him to add a few bits and he got me to take away a few bits. There was a nice balance, I think

PM: The process on this one was different in a way… Ian and I had preliminary discussions, then Kev and I had discussions and came up with a workable brief. We then presented that to Steve, I got incredibly busy and Kev went away and created preliminaries of more or less every element….

SDE: [to Philip] You must have the complete ZTT design guidelines in your head by now?

PM: Futura bold! [laughs]

SDE: Kev, the book is primarily about your collection and your passion for the artwork. You’ve obviously got the website but when did you first start collecting clippings and adverts and the like?

KF: I starting collecting back in the eighties. I had something like four scrapbooks full of adverts and things. I gave them to a friend of mine who stuck them in his loft for 25 years and I thought they were lost. So about 10-15 years ago I started re-collecting all the magazines from the eighties and re-buying off of eBay. And that’s just been a passion for the last 15 years. It actually subliminally influenced me to become a graphic designer. And then ten years ago I started tracking down the people responsible for the artwork, starting with Paul [Morley] because nothing was being written about it.

SDE: Am I right in assuming that there is no official archive of all this artwork? It has long since been lost?

IP: All that stuff about there being a fire and all the tapes going is all myth as far as I can tell. There’s a huge amount of stuff still and there’s other areas that are lacking.

SDE: But I’m specifically thinking of the artwork for the adverts. “31 inches of Relax”, etc.

IP: One thing is for certain is that the team that were there at the time – and in fact, this still stands for Trevor – only ever looked forwards. They never even looked sideways.

Kev: When I interviewed David Smart, the designer at XL, he said that a lot of that paste-up stuff got binned.

IP: It had done it’s job. They’d got a hit record, so the adverts were finished with really.

SDE: You’ve got the 5.1 mixes from the Rage Hard SACD on the DVD. But it’s not the whole album. Were there any discussion about completing the whole of the Pleasuredome record in 5.1 for this box?

IP: Oh definitely, but it wouldn’t have been out for another year. It was more of a case of what mixes have we got. In a way that’s a separate project, probably. Frankie in 5.1, and hi-res etc.

SDE: I thought maybe some of the multi-tracks were missing. Is that definitely not the case?

IP: No, there’s lots of multis.

SB: From a record company’s point of view, you start with reissuing something that’s already been made. This idea of re-making things… it’s very, very expensive to re-make things. You want to put Trevor Horn into a studio… I mean you were there at the playback event, they spent three months making Two Tribes. You’d potentially start spending a fortune. But yes, as part of the reissue business more of that might be done.

SDE: In terms of the remastering, the album was reissued a few years ago for the deluxe CD. What was the process for this remaster for the box? Was it a case of giving it another listen and giving it a few tweaks for vinyl?

IP: Well it was, and of course, all of the demo stuff has never been mastered.

SDE: Was Trevor hands-on in terms of listening to this stuff?

SB: He was more like an executive producer, approving everything. It’s a digital master, remastered for vinyl – trying to get it to sound how it sounded in 1984. It’s a complicated process, lots of engineers have different ideas of exactly how to do this including the cutting engineer. Lots of very technical, experienced people work away on it and we listen to it. ZTT listen to masters, I listen and Ian and Kev did as well. Everyone listens to everything to make sure we’re all happy with what we’re going to put out.


SDE: Let’s go round the table then and could each of you tell me the best part of the project, as well as the most challenging

Kev: The best part for me was just designing it. It’s like a dream project. I haven’t had this much fun on a project, ever. As I said before I’ve been building up to this project for 30 years, unknowingly! I was pretending to be XL and Paul Morley at one point, and basically throwing things around, before Ian had all his text in place. It was just fun.

SDE: Ian you’ve worked on loads of ZTT projects. What was special about this one, for you? 

IP: It’s quite hard to say really… I mean working with Philip and Kev and Steve…in a way it was more of a team effort. It made it more fun. One of my favourite bits of doing this box set was sitting down with Trevor to talk about #ZTT30 and how do we take this and #ZTT30 and do a live show, and Trevor suggesting that the Pet Shop Boys should headline and me saying, ‘Trevor, the Pet Shop Boys were never on ZTT…’ [laughs].

PM: The high point was literally was when Steve mailed us a video of the finished product. I mean, I’m 42, I’ve been around a bit, but I wept manly tears. It just made it all worthwhile. It was a unique experience. It was incredibly hard work. If there was a low point it was that it was 16-hour days put in and some crazy deadlines and points where my social life went out the window.

SB: The highlight was just doing it. It was almost as much work as all the other releases put together. It was an enormous amount of work. It was almost an anti-climax because we’d seen bits of it mocked-up and pdfs, but to actually see the thing come in – ‘there you are we’ve done it’. And then the comments, people saying ‘this is the best box set I’ve ever seen’, from people who buy a lot of box sets and know what they’re talking about, that was really, really nice. Especially since this is our first box set like this.

The low point, or the biggest challenge was just how much work it was. Such an ambitious box, with tight deadlines. I can’t rest until they’re all sold. Even then, despite what people think, it’s not a very financially beneficial project. We’re pleased to do it but we’ve also got a big company full of people that expect to get paid every week.


SDE: How did you come up with the £85 price point?

Steve: By talking to PledgeMusic, and spending a long time doing costings. Some people were saying ‘just charge more, charge £100’. But I always wanted it to be really good value. We put out three-CD sets that retail for £3. So when I’m doing something that’s £85, that’s a lot of money so it’s got to be really good. We’ve always been about value for money at Union Square. I want people to be happy, I don’t want people to go ‘you ripped us off’.

SDE: You must have learnt a lot from the process, including how many people are prepared to buy a box set like Inside The Pleasuredome, so does that mean we’re going to get ‘Inside Liverpool’ in a few years’ time?

SB: Possibly. Since the acquisition of Union Square by BMG Rights we’ve now got a massive catalogue to look at. But this box set has taken a year and has been lots of hard work, so it’s not like you can rush around doing one every few months or something. I think there is another Frankie box to be done, without a doubt, but I don’t know whether it would be Liverpool. It just wasn’t big enough. If you sell half as many, you won’t make any money at all. Or you’ve got to make it double the price and would people spend £170 for an ‘Inside Liverpool’ box set – no. But hopefully people will be enjoying this box set for a while. It’s funny, people are saying ‘when are you going to do the next one?’ You only got this set yesterday and you want another one! [laughs].

Thanks to Steve Bunyan, Ian Peel, Philip Marshall and Kevin Foakes who were talking to Paul Sinclair for SDE.

Images courtesy of Kevin Foakes.

The box is sold out but you may have some luck with these links:

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