Circuit3 (aka Peter Fitzpatrick) says his music in primarily influenced by the classic era of British synthpop, circa 1978-82. Moody synths and sharp but emotive lyrics perfectly evoke the era’s rewriting of the rules of what popular music was, and could be, without sounding stuck in the past. Add in a bit of sociology, psychology and some personal observations and you get his most recent album Siliconchipsuperstar. Want to find out more? Then read on!
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s the story behind Circuit3 and how would you describe your sound?
Circuit3 is the result of a teenager who fell in love with synthpop and never grew up. Although I’ve listened to and played across multiple music genres, styles and instruments this is where my ‘voice’ is. My sound is unashamed synthpop with the occasional diversion into art. Some days I just want to make noise and others I want to craft a song. Out of that comes the music I release.
I’m a solo artist and like it that way because I have complete control. I played in bands through the 1980s and 1990s until children arrived. I paid my way through college playing a Roland Juno 106 in a rock & blues band with former members of Thin Lizzy (!). I tried the traditional singer-songwriter route and didn’t touch a synth for many years because I thought nobody was listening to synthpop.
Thanks to social media I learned that wasn’t at all the case. I found myself at a gig in Dublin to see a Kraftwerk tribute act and met a whole bunch of new friends who were into all the music I was into. The next day I went into my studio and tried to write some songs using soft synths. For my wallet, it was all downhill from there! I cleared out space and started buying synths and drum machines. I don’t have a synth problem though… I can stop anytime (I think).
What motivates you and inspires your music, aesthetic and vibe?
I think that at heart I’m a show-off. I was discussing this with Thomas Dolby (CLANG! That’s the sound of a name being dropped). Whether we do it because we want the acceptance of our peers or have egos that demand it, we are showing off to a certain extent. And that’s OK.
I want to create (music) and share it with people who like to listen to what I’m doing. My motivation is to keep doing this and write songs I’m proud of while developing my skills in synthesis, audio engineering and record production. At one point my motivation was sheer panic that I could die and never do all of this. I think that comes with middle-age. I can see the finish line (I’m closer to that than ever before) and I would hate to shuffle off this mortal coil without leaving a mark.
The aesthetic is 15-minutes into the future. I’m touching on the science fiction of our youth in both positive and scary ways. Some of the subjects in the songs on my most recent album Siliconchipsuperstar are on the topics of pseudoscience, quackery, the battle between our dreams and the reality of working for a living, the alienation from what we are told is ‘normal society’ and sometimes it’s just simple love songs.
The vibe is fun. I hope I don’t take myself too seriously – sometimes I should probably take myself a little more seriously. In live performance I want to entertain. When recording, I want the listener to want to lift the tonearm back to track one on the LP and listen again and again and again.
Were you into specific bands or musicians when you were growing up? Have they had any influence on the music you make today?
As I approached my teens I wanted to find ‘my’ music. Isn’t that what all kids do? I was lucky to have a schoolfriend with an uncle who supplied him with the latest records. That’s where I first heard Gary Numan, Depeche Mode, OMD, Human League, Fad Gadget. From there I was on my own. Mute Records was the soundtrack to my teen years.
Yazoo is my biggest influence. They have everything: the songs, the arrangements, that voice, the synthesis. It’s the complete package and everything I’ve ever tried to do in music has been an attempt to emulate that perfection. I re-recorded Upstairs At Erics on its 35th anniversary in 2017. Both Vince & Alison had kind words about what was produced and that was so rewarding to hear.
I’m often asked about my influences and struggle to state anything beyond what I’m a fan of. So yes, Yazoo but saying I’m influenced by them is just me hoping I’m doing something as fucking good as that.
In reality, if I try to be objective there are influences that other people have called out: my vocal style is not dissimilar to Midge Ure and someone else said Thomas Dolby. One reviewer compared the drum programming on one of my songs (Hundred Hands – from the Siliconchipsuperstar album) with Martyn Ware’s work.
Which generally comes first when writing a song – music or lyrics?
All of the above. Sometimes it’s me thinking “I want to write a song about this” and I’ll go from there. I’m fascinated by the songwriting process. I can sit with an instrument and a Dictaphone and write something. I might write on guitar and then produce an entirely synth- based track.
Sometimes I have no inspiration and have to graft. I will sit with a big notepad and write stream of consciousness. It lets me lose myself from the process-driven day job and encourage my creative muscle to flex. Out of that I’ll see something on the page and join various phrases thematically. When I get to a point where I think I’ve got a verse or a chorus I’ll start putting music to it.
I can go for hours playing pieces that are in development. I have a strong work ethic in that regard. 50% of my songs are sheer graft. I have co-written and 90% of the time it hasn’t worked out but when it has worked out it has been really successful. Probably the best example of this is Ghost Machine which was a co-write with Brian McCluskey in California. He’s the guy behind the successful Smash Hits blog. Interestingly we have managed to write another as yet unreleased track called Future Radio. That’s a pure pop track and I was listening to a mix of that only yesterday. I want to improve the production as it’s a cool tune and theme. It needs a polished production I think – somewhere between The Buggles and the Pet Shop Boys.
There’s non-commercial feel to some of your tracks, yet they also sound very accessible to the casual listener. Do you find it easy to keep that balance?
Yes. I’m glad you can see there’s a variety there between the accessible (that’s a compliment thanks!) and the other material. I think listeners to an album deserve variety. I’m also purposefully trying to reinvent what I do with each song. I’m tough on myself and have to watch that I’m either not careful enough or being a perfectionist.
Keeping the balance is easy enough. I’ve deliberately held off releasing a follow-up to SIliconchipsuperstar because I want the songs to work together with enough contrast. That has been frustrating as I want to be out there with more material. Fortunately, that’s about to change.
Another angle on this is that I fund and self-release everything. I have to be really careful that what I release sells enough to recoup. So, I deliberately take an executive producer view of what I’m doing because I want people coming back for more. I’ve had fans say to me ‘of course it will sell!’ which is motivating but I never believe anything I make is going to sell until I see those orders coming in and I’m carrying dozens of LPs to the post office.
Would I go with a label for any of my music? Damn right I would! I look with envy at some of my peers who have signed to labels and get the promo and booking support. Yes – in a heartbeat.
What’s up next for Circuit3? Any upcoming gigs, new releases on the horizon, other projects?
Gigs aren’t on the horizon and that’s not for want of trying. I’m incredibly frustrated at the doors being closed when I’ve tried to get support slots or onto multi-artist bills. I can deal with people not liking my music, but I get really pissed off with the nonsense that a 50-something man shouldn’t be on a stage with other younger acts. I will play anywhere. If you’re reading this and organizing a gig/festival/tour, then for fuck sake get in touch. I’d be delighted to play. I keep sending my promo packs to booking agents and promoters, but they disappear into the ether. Then I turn up at an electronic show I pitched to play support at and there’s some fucking 20-year old hipster with a battered guitar playing support with absolutely zero relevance to the audience at the gig.
New releases are definitely on the way. I haven’t discussed too much about these so you’re probably the first folk I’ve shared this with. I’ve got a mini album being mixed at the moment. It’s thematically linked songs that are not dissimilar to the material on Siliconchipsuperstar. It will be a CD release first (no vinyl… yet).
I’ve taken a number of human emotions and realised I’ve written songs about many of them so I’m putting those songs onto that release. I’m hoping to get that finished and released by September or October.
That’s going to be followed in 2019 by an entirely new album which I’ve been working on for about a year. It’s 80% written and recorded. I’m taking a break from it so that I can come back fresh to write one or two more songs. That album, without giving too much away, takes the conspiracy theory of the lost cosmonauts and the story of the first woman in space to produce a bit of science fiction. The songs run through the arc of a story I’ve concocted around those two subjects. It is political though.
As I was writing the songs, all of the shit that’s been going on in the world bubbled up from my subconscious and landed in the lyrics. I’m really looking forward to finishing it and am very proud of the songs. I have an ambition for the live presentation of that album which will use video, storytelling and the songs. I’ll need to find a way to deliver on that ambition though as real-life sucks so much time out of the 24 hours in every day. It takes time and I need a platform to show what I’ve created.
The reality of self-releasing is that financially there’s risk and if I want PR I’m going to have to shell out a lot of money for no guaranteed return. I’m OK with losing a bit of money on a release but I’m not ok with a load of LPs and CDs sitting unheard in a box.
I’ve done some remixes – there’s one on the new Matthias single Any Other Way coming out in Summer 2018 / Autumn 2018. I’ve been asked to do a remix for the upcoming Embrace The Crisis album but I don’t know when that’s coming out.
I’m fucking excited and can’t wait to get my new material out there.