UnMute / An Exclusive Interview with John Peacey

John Peacey (also known for his music project, Microchip Junky) has been working tirelessly this year on a massive tribute record to Mute Records. Called UnMute, the two volume, 48 song compilation will feature dozens of artists covering their favorite Mute acts. Specifically, the two volume set is focusing on the “golden years” from 1978 to 1988, when the label was literally changing the face of music on a near weekly basis. This hits near and dear to my heart as these were some of the most developmental years of my musical education, with Mute Records playing massive part in the direction of my musical tastes. To say I’m looking forward to the July 1st release date would be a solid understatement. Did I mention that that UnMute is going to be free?

There’s no better way to find out more information about this huge release than the source itself. John has been more than gracious with his time and granted an interview that really details what UnMute is all about, this history of its beginnings, and what we can expect July 1st! Let’s dive right in!

For those who haven’t heard about it yet, what exactly is UnMute?

Unmute started out as a simple desire to cover a few tracks from Mute Records’ back catalogue. I’d been toying with the idea for quite some time; initially as a project just for myself. However, there are a number of songs/bands that I won’t cover because I see them as sacred and I don’t think I could ever do them justice, and so I had the idea of inviting other artists.  I posted on Facebook at the beginning of this year and thought I would maybe get a dozen responses. Within 24 hours I had over 60 artists wanting to be included. Some have since dropped out for various reasons.

So we have 40 bands/artists performing 48 songs, and as that’s a significant track list we have split this into two volumes. The compilation will be released on 1st July 2017, and will be a free download, available from unmute-music.bandcamp.com

The album covers, what I perceive to be, the golden era of Mute Records; 1978 – 1988 (plus one track from 1989).

UnMute has to be a massive undertaking. How exactly did you find yourself helming this project?

Mute Records, and their artists, have clearly played a significant role in influencing a lot of artists. I was overwhelmed by the response that I received when suggesting this project. Collating the album, and artwork, and promoting, has been a big undertaking, but one that I take great joy and pride in. I am looking to continue the project beyond Volumes 1 & 2, with further releases and possible live dates.

Who are some of the Mute Records artists that are going to be covered?

Depeche Mode are by far the most covered band on UnMute, followed closely by Fad Gadget and Yazoo. I was very happy that some more obscure or lesser known bands/songs were covered too; Robert Rental, Duet Emmo, Non, He Said and Robert Gorl. We also have tracks by The Assembly, Erasure, Wire, DAF, Laibach, Barry Adamson, Silicon Teens, Renegade Soundwave, I Start Counting, and of course, The Normal!

What can you tell us about the bands contributing music and how did you find them?

Prior to the project, I knew about 50% of those that got involved. Its been great getting to hear some amazing bands from around the world. The whole project came together solely through Facebook contacts.

Every artist has brought something new and interesting to the covers that they have performed.

I understand Mute Records have given their blessing to the project. What was that conversation like?

I’d contacted Mute at the start of the year, asking their permission for us to go ahead with this project. It wouldn’t have happened without them saying yes. I did hear indirectly that Daniel Miller was intrigued to hear which artists/songs we would be covering.

What made Mute so important to you?

I was introduced to The Normal in early 1979. Instantly fell in love with TVOD and wore several needles out playing that 7”. Next Mute track I heard was Back To Nature by Fad Gadget, and then DAF and Silicon Teens. Everything I heard (and subsequently bought) from Mute was just like nothing else I’d heard. For the first 10 years or so I bought everything that was released through that label; every 7”, 12”, album, cassette and eventually CD.

How are you filtering that into UnMute?

I think Mute was a kind of obsession of mine. During those first 10 years of Mute Records, it felt like they could do no wrong, like every artist signed to Mute was unique and brilliant and different to what was happening in the charts. My love of electronic music was nurtured through every release from the label. Every new Mute record I bought was fresh and exciting. I want that same sense to be felt when listening to the UnMute compilation. No, they’re not new songs, but they are fresh and exciting bands performing them, giving their own unique twist to the classics.

Favorite Mute Records artist?

As much as I love Depeche Mode, and later even more so Nitzer Ebb, the one artist that was constantly on my record player was Fad Gadget, and to this day I regularly play his music. When I first heard him I knew I had to get myself a synthesizer. He’ll always remain my favourite Mute artist. His legacy is profound, and I was glad to see so many artists wanting to cover him on UnMute.

What is your main goal with this compilation?

A couple of years ago I had started my own Mixcloud show, which I’d initially planned on doing once a fortnight. I quickly came to realise that it was too time consuming for me (taking away my time from writing in the studio). The whole idea behind my Mixcloud show was to promote unsigned artists. As that proved too difficult for me to continue I wanted to find a way of doing something similar, but with a compilation.  I put out a couple of compilations a year or two back, called “Virgin Territory” whereby each artist submitted their very first recordings (or re-interpretations of their first). They were very well received, and they’re available here: chipshopstudio.bandcamp.com

So the idea behind UnMute was to do something similar; to bring new listeners to each of the artists involved. The event on Facebook, to celebrate the release, already has 250 ‘going’ or ‘interested’ which is great (far more than previous events I’ve hosted).

(*Editor’s Note: If you want to join in the Facebook event, click HERE)

Aside from promoting the UnMute artists its also a way of saying thanks to the Mute artists who have filled my ears for decades!

Anyone you’d like to thank or shout out?

Obviously every artist that has given their time in recording these wonderful songs, without them UnMute wouldn’t have happened. Thanks to Keith Whitham and Myk Soundmonger for promoting this release on their radio shows, Wired and Fused. Thanks to Henri Sizaret for the design tips, and to Simon at Mute for his invaluable help. And of course, Mr Daniel Miller who started all this all those years back!


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