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Berlin's PET: Player One Ready

Author: Jonty Skrufff
Sunday, April 11, 2004
Listen to PET's debut album Player One Ready and you'll be as likely to think of The Beatles as Daft Punk, Jacques Lu Cont or Cornelius. Or perhaps you'll catch a T Rex theme or a taste of 70s glam rockers The Sweet, colouring PET's familiar though strikingly fresh take on new electronic pop. Classic influences aside though, you'll hear catchy, infectious proper pop music by a serious producer; one whose musical vision is as accessible as it's amenable to repeat listening, delivering slamming energy-packed electronic music that rocks as much as it rolls.

And Berlin based song-writing guru Andre Abshagen is clear about what exactly PET's music is all about.

"I've combined modern electronic methods and sounds with elements of the music I remembered from my childhood in the 70s and 80s, from the days when pop music was about exciting songs with energy," he explains.

"I really miss those kind of songs from today's music scene, I've always been huge fan of real pop music and with Player One Ready I've tried to make a serious pop album."

While Andre's more than happy to toss around the much devalued term pop he's decidedly less keen on musical comparisons, pointing out "I'm a Zoot Woman fan, yes, I appreciate their music because it has good song-writing and production but I didn't really like Daft Punk's last album- they used too many soul singers." He's also less than ecstatic about the other new electronic pop genre also currently scouring the 70s and 80s for ideas and inspiration.

"I don't rate electroclash much, I particularly don't like the hype around it," says Andre.

"Most of the songs I hear in electroclash are usually rubbish. I'm not interested in music that's only about attitude and posing. I really like good songs, they're the key to good pop."

Cutting his song-writing teeth as one half of experimental electro duo Dauerfisch, the 30 something keyboard whizz went on to make commercials for both TV and film before gradually becoming disillusioned with electronic music's increasing reliance on samples.

"In Dauerfisch we worked with samples all the time using them as bases for the songs and with PET I wanted to do something completely different," says Andre.

"I wanted PET to put the energy back into the music and not have the song decided in advance by a loop. I actually started writing all the songs on this album on the guitar."

Starting PET with first single No Yes No, he gradually refined his original vision, adding Moogs and drums to the electric guitars, and later percussion (courtesy of Mouse On Mars' Dodo Nkishi and vocals (by Monika Martin). He kept a few samples in the process ('but not as central components') as well as a tight rein on PET's song-writing including all the lyrics, even though they're delivered in his second language English.

"The English language is the language of pop," he says.

"No Yes No was my first ever song written in English and I must admit I was initially a little scared of writing English lyrics but I tried anyway. I wasn't very efficient doing them seriously, so decided to write some nonsense, which really sounded like pop and seemed to work."

Citing David Bowie and John Lennon as his favourite lyricists ('Lennon shows his technical skills superbly, though I don't analyse pop lyrics-I appreciate them') he's clearly picked up a few tricks along the way, mixing mystery and ambiguity with an unexpectedly raw, almost English, sense of humour. West Coast psy-ballad Picnic, for example, talks of sporting fake moustaches and committing suicide at the inter-continental ping pong games' while, Time To Leave ponders 'Building highways through your mind- the air is stuffy'."

And while PET's music possesses the international dimension common to all great pop, Germany, or rather Andre's adopted hometown of Berlin, shines through, not least as a backdrop to the musical ideas he's developed.

"Berlin's a strange place with a strange history and you find a lo