Wang Chung tonight and party like it’s 1986

Edmonton Journal - - YOU - TOM MUR­RAY

There are sev­eral mys­ter­ies in rock ’n’ roll.

Who wrote the book of love? Why do fools fall in love? For lis­ten­ers of an­other gen­er­a­tion, the burn­ing mys­tery might be, what ex­actly does it mean to “wang chung tonight”?

You won’t find an­swers to any of those queries here, though Wang Chung bassist and co-leader Nick Feld­man has ad­mit­ted the phrase, thrown hap­haz­ardly into the cho­rus of their 1986 chart top­ping hit sin­gle Ev­ery­body Have Fun Tonight, was sim­ply a goof that pro­ducer Peter Wolf quite smartly re­al­ized could be uti­lized as an in­deli­ble hook. And so it was.

Wang Chung ’s heyday in the mid-’80s was short but im­pact­ful, with Dance Hall Days and Let’s Go join­ing Ev­ery­body Have Fun Tonight as songs that would go on to an ex­tended life­span as clas­sic rock main­stays, as well as cue mu­sic for movies and tele­vi­sion shows set in the era.

The band it­self dis­solved in 1990, but picked up again when Feld­man and fel­low core mem­ber Jack Hues de­cided to take an­other kick at the can in 1997. In be­tween there were career shifts, solo records, and mu­si­cal interludes for both, a nec­es­sary break that al­lowed youth­ful pig­head­ed­ness to dis­solve into mu­tual un­der­stand­ing.

Wang Chung is mostly a tour­ing unit now, though Hues and Feld­man did pop up with the 2012 EP and full length record­ing Tazer Up.

The band also serves as an in­te­grated part of long­time road mates (and fel­low ’80s vet­er­ans) Cut­ting Crew.

We spoke with Feld­man from his home in Wim­ble­don, dis­cussing career shifts, mak­ing movies with Wil­liam Fried­kin, and the Sex Pis­tols.

Q: There was a long pe­riod be­tween re­form­ing with Jack Hues in 1997 where you sim­ply ducked out of per­form­ing. What hap­pened?

A: It was creative fa­tigue, re­ally. I didn’t want to gen­er­ate any­thing my­self, but I did want to be around other creative types, which is why I got into A&R. I worked with dif­fer­ent mu­si­cians and artists at places like Sony and Warner, and that gave me new per­spec­tives. Even­tu­ally the call of the muse, and the need to cre­ate, came back. It was too strong to re­sist, and I’ve loved do­ing it ever since.

Q: It’s al­ways in­ter­est­ing when some­one has seen the in­dus­try from a few dif­fer­ent van­tage points.

A: There’s al­ways been this di­chotomy in my life, right back to the be­gin­ning of my career. It started af­ter I was thrown out of univer­sity and blagged my way into be­ing an agent for live bands. I dis­cov­ered Adam and the Ants, but over­all, the agency I was at had this ter­ri­ble ros­ter of bands. I de­cided then that my true heart lay with per­form­ing.

Q: That puts you right in the midst of the punk ex­plo­sion in Lon­don, which must have been amaz­ing. A: It was in­cred­i­bly ex­cit­ing. I worked on Denmark Street in the mid­dle of Soho, which was the U.K. ver­sion of Tin Pan Al­ley. Just across the road was the room where the Sex Pis­tols re­hearsed, and I’d al­ways see them there. I was go­ing to gigs and see­ing amaz­ing bands who were at the be­gin­ning of their ca­reers, like The Clash. I ac­tu­ally got them a few gigs for hardly any money. The agency I worked for didn’t get punk at all, though. They con­sid­ered it to be non­mu­sic. Very closed-minded. The punk thing was hugely in­spi­ra­tional, though, be­cause it had peo­ple go­ing out and do­ing it them­selves.

Q: Which you did, mov­ing from early groups like The In­tellek­tu­als to Huang Chung, which you changed to Wang Chung at the be­hest of David Gef­fen. You had your bright, burn­ing mo­ment in the pop rock strato­sphere, but closed shop in 1990. Why?

A: Well, the last record we did (1989’s The Warmer Side of Cool) was a bit of a po­lite, mild-mannered pop bat­tle­ground. Both Jack and I wanted to do sep­a­rate things, so there was a power strug­gle. That record wasn’t the most fun to make, and we fell out for about a year. We’ve been good ever since, and as an A&R man, I of­ten called on Jack to pro­duce stuff for the acts I worked with.

Q: I’ve got a bit of a fas­ci­na­tion for the sound­track al­bum you did for Wil­liam Fried­kin’s 1985 thriller, To Live and Die in L.A.

A: That was kind of in­sane. He’s still a friend and ad­vo­cate for the band. I guess he used the song Wake Up, Stop Dream­ing as a song for the rushes, and then de­cided he wanted to use us to score the film. We were bogged down in our next al­bum, with the record com­pany wor­ried about what our next hit would be, so we jumped at the of­fer. He asked us for 45 min­utes of mu­sic, and gave us so much free­dom to work in. It was like the cav­alry com­ing over the hills, a respite from hav­ing to come up with hits, a bril­liant way of sidestep­ping com­mer­cial con­sid­er­a­tions.

Q: Hit records did give you a career, though.

A: Oh, I know it. I love those songs be­cause they changed my life. It’s also hard not to en­joy peo­ple’s en­joy­ment of those songs. Play­ing these con­certs with Cut­ting Crew and Wang Chung, and see­ing how peo­ple con­nect, is amaz­ing. It’s a lovely feel­ing, and I’m very, very blessed.

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