Sweden’s poptronica legends, S.P.O.C.K, will make a rare London appearance on Saturday, 1 February 2020. They have been orbit above Scandinavia and Germany for many years, but they will appear right at the moment of Brexit to show that the planets are still united, even if Europe is not.
Actually, it is a party at Slimelight to mark DJ Steve Weeks’ 25th anniversary at the continent’s longest running alternative club night. S.P.O.C.K are an excellent choice, being one the best party bands on the scene.
We have celebrated their songs and style before. In 2013, we wrote:
There aren’t many artists who could stretch an act conceived for a friend’s birthday party into a 25-year career in music. Still fewer could make the transition from a science fiction-themed novelty act into a credible synthpop legend, while dressing like a cosmonaut and writing lyrics based almost entirely upon Gene Rodenberry’s film and television legacy. Alexander Hofman’s success with Star Pilots on Channel K (you can call them S.P.O.C.K and him Android) is unique, but then so are the songs he sings: there aren’t many lyricists who have managed to distill the many protests of Star Trek’s Dr. McCoy (you know: “I’m not a magician, Spock, just an old country doctor.”) into a chorus.
The best-loved S.P.O.C.K songs were written by Eddie Bengtsson (Page, SMPJ, This Fish Needs a Bike), and they are perfect for dancing, drinking and celebrating. Some of his poppiest material went into tracks like “Neutral Zone” and “E.T. Phone Home,” and one doesn’t need to be a Trekkie to enjoy the melodies:
At their roots, S.P.O.C.K are a party band, fuelled by ABV and MIDI in equal quantities. That said, the appeal of their songs goes beyond the energetic beats of Star Pilots on Channel K or dancefloor-friendly melody of Never Trust a Klingon. The reference to popular science fiction provides a recognisable aesthetic, but it is also a vehicle to explore themes of alienation and longing. Songs like Take Me to the Stars (“I want to leave this place, fly across the universe, never see this race.”) or Where Rockets Fly (“You’re not alone.”) are on a frequency also used to great effect by Depeche Mode. The emotive force of their songs is precisely what lifts S.P.O.C.K out of any novelty act pigeon-hole.
We contacted Hofman using an old-school communicator, and he agreed to tell us a little about the band and its mission as they prepare to beam in from the Neutral Zone.
For those who don’t know, what is the S.P.O.C.K ethos?
In one word: fun. We just want to have fun – and what is more fun than having it together? The more, the merrier! Not that it started that way – I actually don’t know what the driving force was back in the days. Creativity, I guess. But the fun parts were always there. We’re a bunch of happy guys and we wanna spread the feeling. Apparently, there’s some stuff going on on your planet, so we offer a lighter attitude – whether it’s to get away from the darker moments, or get a positive vibe, thus handling negativity better. We do that by telling stories from other parts of the galaxies. Fun stories. Mostly. And by doing shows every now and then. Since we’re good at it, we’ll keep on doing it forever and ever! It’s hard work (and used to be much harder) but it’s well worth it – because we’re having fun.
What can fans who have never seen S.P.O.C.K expect from the show in London?
Fun! Without being ridiculous. We’re experienced entertainers. We’re putting on a professional, energy boosting show, comprised of high quality synthpop, skilled musicians, great harmonies, strong vocals, and doing more solos than any other on the scene. Plus a Super Soaker. Because that’s what separates the wheat from the chaff. And it’s fun. And quite appreciated when it gets hot – which it does, when we’re on stage. And we teach an important lesson while using it.
Will there be merch available at the show? What about CDs and shirts?
OK, on that note, we’re not as professional. Or, we’re lazy. Sorry guys, we won’t bring any. We truly appreciate the desire, but circumstances don’t allow for it. I’d say: spend the bucks and have an extra drink with us while we’re on stage – let’s party!
For anyone who wants to learn about S.P.O.C.K, where should they start?
Ouch! That’s a good one! Hmm. Hard to tell, really. Our online presence is quite limited. We haven’t touched our Web site for years (I’m not even sure it’s running!). We are somewhat active on Facebook, and to a lesser extent on Instagram (but only while we’re away for shows).Perhaps in our hotel rooms after the show? I used to think that, in order to really get to know us, one should listen to our music AND see our shows – to get the full picture. But we haven’t released squat for two decades now. Sure, the music is still out there, but I’d like to think that the best way, nowadays, actually, is to get to see us live. That’s truly what defines us today. And if you can’t, there are a bunch of live clips to be found on YouTube. OK, it’s not the best quality, but it’s us, the way are – and always have been.
Will there be any surprise appearances by former members?
It wouldn’t be much of a surprise if I’d tell you now, would it? But, since you’re a good guy, I’d say: don’t hold your breath. It might sound like a good plan while in space, but please don’t. Should you, I’ll be around with the super soaker to revive you.
Did the red bra thrown at you at the electriXmas show ever get claimed by its owner? If not, where is it now?
Dude, that’s a valid question! It did not! I would assume that it’d be awkward to hang around the rest of the festival bra-less. Or a cunning plan to get backstage and… er… get it back. But no. Zip. Nothing. Nada. No call on social media either. And no name tag. Which is good – lace isn’t hot with name tags.
Well, it’s now resting in my collection of underwear that’s been thrown at us throughout time and space. That will have its own section when I, one day, open the S.P.O.C.K Museum (like the Marlinspike Hall). I’ll charge people to see loads of memorabilia and I’ll bug them with fun stories. Well, the ones I remember. Some are lost in a haze. I look forward to it. A lot. If you can’t wait ‘til then: do pop by our first show in London in 17 years.
S.P.O.C.K play Slimelight at Electrowerkz, Torrens Street, London, on Saturday, 1 February 2020. Note that photo ID acceptable to the venue is essential, as admission will be refused without it. No photocopies.