It’s hard to believe that it is ten years since Fad Gadget (real name Frank Tovey) died.
I saw him play in Manchester on his last tour and his gangling frame was throwing all manner of Iggy Pop shapes on the stage to the still futuristic, electronic meltdown of his music. He seemed so full of life that it was hard to believe that it all about to be cut short at 45 from a heart attack.
A musical innovator – he had had been dabbling in electronic music since the mid 70’s, and when he sent a demo to Daniel Miller at the brand new label of Mute RecordsÃÂ he was suddenly thrust onto the frontline of the post punk electronic music scene.
This was a period when everything was possible, and all sorts of new routes were being explored in the musical fallout. His first two singles ‘Back To Nature’ and ‘Rickys Hand’ were underground cult classics – John Peel played them and we were hooked. You would hear them in those dark and slightly dangerous clubs of the time – dank hole in the wall spaces in Blackpool or clubs in Liverpool that we went to and his singles were big on that scene. The real freaks would dance to them and no-one would know who this mysterious figure was or if he was a band or a solo artist – this was pre internet and information was scarce; but somehow this mystique added to the whole affair.
The singles were dark enveloping walls of sound with this great sonorous, disconnected voice on top, they had a great feeling of detachment and darkness that was a perfect mirror of the times.
He continued on Mute, recording albums of further explorations of this sound with added avant noise like the found sound of road drills and, once, a printing press when he was working in Berlin with his then support band Einsturzende Neubauten. He disappeared for 8 years and re-emerged on Mute for a final series of releases before his death, his confrontational live performances were still full on and he had a mini revival.
Fad Gadget was an innovator and ahead of the game, therefore he didn’t get the big hits but his dark shadow hangs over Mute and over Depeche Mode whose latter breakthrough albums- when they moved on from their tinkly bop early records must have been influenced by Fad Gadget. His intermittent release schedule saw a series of albums full of these sonic explorations and his bleak and black humour laced lyrics about building, machinery and strange sex sung in that brilliant, droning, often expressionless voice have their own distinct flavour.
Somehow the mainstream missed him and Fad Gadget remains a footnote but his genius and brilliance means that in our world he is a major force.