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Chatting with John von Ahlen of Parralox: ‘Electric Nights’ (Includes interview)

Tell us how Parralox formed and how it has morphed over the years?

“Parralox was formed back in 2008 kind of as a bet, to be honest! My friend Ken Evans (Tycho Brahe) and I had noticed how many female fronted synth band were around at the time, and how much press they were getting that we joked that I should create a band with a female front. Challenge accepted! I was working with Roxy already for many years at Subterrane Recording Studio, hiring her as a session vocalist on my commercial projects. I told Roxy about the idea and she loved it.”

“We were both in other bands at the time, so it was refreshing to do something that you felt absolutely no pressure about. I anonymously leaked the first track “I Fell In Love With A Drum Machine” to all the electro blogs I knew and people went crazy for it! I had to come clean after a few week, as I personally knew quite a few of the writers/blogmasters. Most of them had a sneaking suspicion anyway. So we recorded our debut album “Electricity” in 6 weeks and by the end of the year we performed our debut gig at London, UK to a packed house of fans that sang all the words to the songs. It was pretty amazing.”

“Roxy left after being in the band for 6 months to start a family. I don’t think she anticipated how quickly things would happen. She told be she wanted to leave the same evening we had performed our debut gig in London! So I got back to Australia and found myself another vocalist, Amii who was with the band for about 4 or 5 years. Then we started to use a few guest vocalists like Francine and Ryan Adames.”

“Then, we experimented with myself on lead vocals and we found we had our biggest success with the track Eye In The Sky. But I didn’t want Parralox to be a one-man show, so I spoke with my manager and we realised we had a perfect vocalist for the band, Johanna Gervin, who I first worked with in 2009 when I remixed her then band, Ultrasonics.”

“Then in 2015, I met Louise Love and both she and Johanna have been with the band since. I’ve also started using more guests vocalists since Roxy left, so it really brings something fresh to the band. I also got Ian Burden (The Human League) on board for bass guitar in 2009 and he as contributed to various albums since then, and appears on our current album Subculture. I kind of see it as the musical equivalent of Doctor Who, in that we are constantly regenerating, but staying the same.”

You have a very close tie to your fan-base. Tell us how you do that?

“Having been in bands since the 90’s, you learn your lessons pretty quickly. One of them is about having respect for people, and that means everyone. Burning bridges is not a very cool thing, and doesn’t get you far. So I pretty much respect all our fans, especially the ones that part with their hard earned scratch to buy our music.”

“I make a concerted effort to engage with the fans on social media every single day, as well as engaging meaningfully when we meet them at concerts. I also try and go the extra mile for our hardcore fans – I’ll post/email them exclusive and rare treats as a way to say thanks. It can be pretty full on having to respond to every single message, on all platforms, and I do miss a few. But I try and catch up and answer every one possible.”

Tell us about your new single?

“‘Electric Nights’ was actually written in 2002 by Roxy (the original Parralox vocalist), Johnny X and myself. We submitted it to the Australian Independent Music Awards and it won best Dance song in 2003! I had planned to release this track a year ago, but it got massively delayed due to other work commitments for me in the studio, and the major delay was the actual film clip. We shot the film clip in London in 2016 at Nik Pate’s studio, and for technical reasons I won’t go into, it was impossible to use a green screen on the footage. But I worked around it, and it kind of informed the way the clip ended up looking.”

“I spent the last two months editing the video and only just finished it last week, which is really tight from a marketing perspective. The song itself is a flat out, happy pop song, reminiscent of what you’d hear in the 80’s or 90’s. We had a definite idea for the track, which I think one of our remixers (Vinny Vero) picked up on when he did an amazing mash-up of the track using Corona’s Rhythm Of The Night. ‘Electric Nights’ is basically a feel-good pop track with an Atari-Tron film clip. I can’t wait for people to see it!”

“We’ve got a bunch of amazing remixers for Electric Nights. 7th Heaven, who have remixed nearly all the major pop acts. Pete Hammond who used to mix for Stock/Aitken/Waterman and has done acts like Kylie Minogue, Bananarama, Rick Astley and Dead Or Alive. Also hot new remixers like Tobias Bernstrup, whose done an amazing retro remix. Plus others by Bluepint, People Theatre, Oren Amram and more!”

You have a follow up single for early next year we are told, tell us about that?

“Our follow up single to Electric Nights will be a track called Paradise feat Marcella Detroit, which appears on our latest album Subculture. I had worked with Marcella a few times before. I interviewed her on my radio show Neon Nights on JOY 94.9 and I also remixed her interpretation of the Shakespeare’s Sister track “Stay”. It’s pretty surreal to think that someone who worked with The Beatles, Bob Dylan and appeared on Absolutely Fabulous (BBC TV) is singing on your album!”

“We shot a film clip for the song earlier in the year when Marcy stayed at my place on her visit to Australia and New Zealand, and it’s a fun little clip. We already have a few amazing remixers on board for that track too, so it’s going to be a really strong follow up to Electric Nights.”

Tell us about your writing experience?

“I started writing in the 80s with Johnny X. He would mainly write lyrics and I’d do music and we would create songs that we really enjoyed, but didn’t really go anywhere. Not because they weren’t any good, but because we didn’t have a vehicle for them. That changed when we met Gina G and wrote a few songs for her, which ended up on the Bass Culture album. We got signed to Mushroom Publishing, and the tracks got placed in some Aussie soap operas (Home and Away and Neighbours) and the rest is history.”

“A year later, I was signed to Sony Music Australia with my dance band Nova. Since I started writing songs in the 80s I have worked with many different people and really enjoyed the process. But I didn’t find my feet until Parralox when I found I could actually write a song from scratch, without having to rely on anyone else.”

Is there any departure from your last single to this single to your upcoming single?

“Our previous single Wildlife was sung by me and was more of a melancholic pop track. Electric Nights is a bouncy, 90’s pop track sung by Johanna Gervin so it’s a bit of a different style. Our follow up single Paradise feat Marcella Detroit is a bit more of a soulful, 90’s pop vibe. So they are all a little different in their own way, but all still on the electro pop vibe.”

Will you be coming to the States to tour?

“We have been tentatively booked to perform in Baltimore in November, 2018, so I’m sure we will work out a few more shows while we are there. We’ve performed in NYC twice before and loved it.”

What would you like for your fans and new fans to know about the band that they may not know?

“Quite a lot of the songs are written in my sleep, while I’m dreaming. I can wake myself up and then I record the song into my phone which I always keep by my bed. Sharper Than A Knife is a classic example of a song written in my sleep. If only I could do everything else while I’m sleeping then I’d be set! There’s a lot of detail that goes into Parralox, and that covers both the music, videos as well as the artwork and social media.”

“There’s always some Easter Eggs hidden in the lyrics, and they are revealed via the cover artwork and the dedications. Every single Parralox song gets its own unique cover artwork designed, as well as a dedication to someone who I find inspiring. I live and breathe Parralox and spend 6 days a week on the band, sometimes 7 days a week although we all need to have a life.”

What can people expect from the new year from Parralox?

“We have lots of new releases coming up for 2018. As I mentioned we have the follow up single Paradise feat Marcella Detroit coming out early 2018, and we will also release that as a special Limited Edition CD with Dubculture. Dubculture is a remixed version of our current album Subculture. Every track from Subculture has been remixed, so you get a new breath of life into the tracks.”

“After Paradise, we will release a final single from the Subculture album, although I’m not sure what track that will be. We have narrowed it down to 3 songs. Then mid 2018 we release our next album, Genesis. That’s going to be exciting as we have some guest vocalists on board for that one which people are going to die for! ”

Who inspires the band and who would you like to be on tour with?

“I listen to a lot of different music, both as a casual listener, and also as part of job for my radio show Neon Nights on JOY 94.9, in which I get to hear all the latest club/dance tracks. So it’s great to hear what’s upcoming and hot and use those musical ideas for yourself.”

“As far as old school bands. I love anything 60’s, 70’s and 80’s so The Human League, Depeche Mode, The Carpenters, Heaven 17, Goldfrapp, Thomas Dolby, Grace Jones, Kraftwerk, New Order, ABC, Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Madonna, Pet Shop Boys, Thompson Twins, Jimmy Edgar, deadMau5, Frankie Knuckles and the list goes on. Tour-wise I’d love to support Bjork, Lady Gaga, deadmau5, Goldfrapp and Depeche Mode. Anyone of those would work just fine, thanks!”

To learn more about Parralox, check out their website and on Facebook.

Written By

Markos Papadatos is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for Music News. Papadatos is a Greek-American journalist and educator that has authored over 16,000 original articles over the past 15 years. He has interviewed some of the biggest names in music, entertainment, lifestyle, magic, and sports. He is a five-time consecutive "Best of Long Island" winner, and in the past two years, he was honored as the "Best Long Island Personality" in Arts & Entertainment, an honor that has gone to Billy Joel six times.

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