❉ Ange Chan reviews the new EP from Dublin synthpop artist Peter Fitzpatrick alias CIRCUIT3 and chats with him about his work.
Last month (June 2022), Dublin synthpop artist CIRCUIT3 (aka Peter Fitzpatrick) released his new EP entitled Overview Effect via Manchester’s AnalogueTrash label. Bringing retro-futurist synthpop, this track is a taster of the Technology for the Youth album (out July 15 via AnalogueTrash) which was mastered by Richard Dowling, known for his work with big names such as Paul McCartney, Kylie Minogue, Motorhead, David Bowie, Foo Fighters, New Order and Sparks.
Circuit3 debuted onto the scene with the 2018 album silicinechipsuperstar followed by The Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing, the following year. That album received praise from Martyn Ware (The Human League, Heaven17). Peter also recently featured on Rodney Cromwell’s Opus Three EP.
For Fitzpatrick, Technology For The Youth was the album he always hoped he would make, constructed from the ambitions of forward-thinking scientists, along with the remembered hopes, dreams and fascinations of a young boy from Dublin City.
The mix of crisp electronic pop songs and atmospheric instrumentals were created with an array of analogue synthesizers. Focused on the period before digital synthesis, the lyrics are informed by space exploration efforts predating the launch of the first space shuttle. With additional vocals by Alessa Turcato, a radio edit, and dub version are complemented by remixes by KeX/1 (Lloyd Price of The Frixion) and AnalogueTrash label-mates Vieon, and the non-album track Ariane 5.
The lyrics for Overview Effect were inspired by astronauts’ documented experiences viewing Planet Earth from a far. The overview effect brings about profound changes in those who have undergone it. Peter explains: “After observing our planet from space, astronauts feel obliged and responsible for the care of this tiny fragile ball of life, shielded only by a paper-thin atmosphere. The cool rich kids are going to space. It’s all the rage. Maybe we should protect what’s left of this planet before playing space tourists? The universe isn’t going anywhere. The earth certainly is. Our house is on fire. This effect brings about profound changes in those who have undergone it, changes others should take on board.”
The song has a familiarity to it which I can’t quite put my finger on. I can hear elements of Pet Shop Boys, Soft Cell and Erasure. It’s certainly in the same league as the aforementioned bands. Circuit3 has produced a highly accomplished track with excellent composition and professionalism in its delivery. The chorus has a particularly catchy rhythm, and the use of synthesizers is presented in multi-layered perfection. This is a track composed by someone who clearly has an aptitude for musicality resulting in a catchy unforgettable track. The remixes only serve to enhance some of the melodies in the individual styles of the remixers.
Ariane 5 which is only available via the single release and not on the album, has hints of Georgio Moroder; of which I can offer no higher compliment. The space element is apparent throughout the music and brings the Sputnik age into the 21st Century.
Who are your musical influences, both modern and old?
I don’t know if it is reflected in my music, but I like to believe I’m hugely influenced by classic pop songwriters like McCartney, Andy Partridge, Vince Clarke. The whole solo writer-performer-artist package if we can call it that is very influenced by Thomas Dolby, Midge Ure and Howard Jones. Reviewers are usually smarter at picking out my influences such as my approach to Linndrum programming on my earlier material has been compared to Martyn Ware which is flattering. I’ve read reviews referencing OMD and Buggles in some of the songs on the new album Technology For The Youth. More recently I’ve listened to artists like Hannah Peel to try learn and be inspired to push myself into new territory.
Which records did you listen to when you were growing up? How did they influence you to start producing synth music?
Until I was old enough to have a paper-round I had to make do with pirate radio and whatever tapes & LPs my parents bought. My father’s taste in music was pretty shit while my mother was a fan of pop music generally which helped somewhat. I’d lean toward her tapes rather than Perry Como on my father’s side!
The first album I bought with my own money was The Beatles Abbey Road in 1978. I bought it on the basis that I didn’t know any of the songs and wanted ‘new Beatles’. Imagine living in a world where you could get ‘new Beatles’ for a fiver? Once I hit my teenage years, I was lucky to have a pal whose uncle worked in a record shop resulting in access to a lot of cool new music. He made tapes for me of the first Human League and OMD albums and introduced me to Cabaret Voltaire and Freur. Best of all he introduced me to the Mute label.
Mute had everything I loved most of all Yazoo. I was buying records in the golden era of synth pop. My first albums were Yazoo’s Upstairs at Erics and Thomas Dolby’s Golden Age of Wireless. I scoured music magazines for interviews with them and particularly Vince because I wanted to learn how he did it. These mysterious and completely unaffordable machines like the Roland Micro-composer and the Sequential Pro-One held the secrets, didn’t they? Mysterious terms like clock, CV, gate. I knew there was a system and a method… I just needed to get my hands on this stuff and translate my acoustic songs to an electronic medium. Little did I know that’s exactly how Vince Clarke did it.
What is your song writing process?
It varies. Some days I’ll be sitting with a synth and playing chord sequences singing along with nonsense lyrics. I’ll record a bit and then sit with a big legal pad writing page after page of stream of consciousness to see what lyrics come. Sometimes I’ll start with a lyric and go from there. I’ve started to write with sequencers a little more on this new album. The approach there is to create an interesting baseline, riff and maybe a couple of chord parts as the basis for a long. It can take a lot of time though: I often rewrite and try to craft the song into what I think it should be. I’m sometimes needlessly suspicious when a song writes itself in 20 minutes such as Spacewalking off the new LP. I need to let go and trust myself a little more I guess.
Have you been involved with other bands (if so who) or have you always been a solo artist? Have you ever considered joining a band or forming collaborations with other musicians.
I’ve been in bands on-and-off since around 1982. I kept finding a reason not to pursue my desire to be a solo artist which was really just lack of confidence on my part. While studying for a degree in music in the mid-80s I ended up in a group featuring former Thin Lizzy drummer Brian Downey which led to a couple of gigs with other ex-Lizzy members including Gary Moore and one memorable night when I was part of a one-off Lizzy reunion in Dublin.
After moving to New York in 1990 I was in a succession of bands and had the opportunity to work with one of Stevie Wonder’s former synth programmers/techs which was quite the experience. While in New York I worked as a sound designer and composer for the early CD-ROM products that were being developed in the early-90s.
When our kids started to grow up it became possible for me to start writing and recording music again. I attended a weekend of song writing and performance workshops & masterclasses with Tom Robinson. Tom was particularly encouraging to me, and I’ll be forever grateful for his coaching and kindness.
Time is the enemy of collaboration and really at this point I’ve got barely enough time to produce the music I’m already doing without joining a band or collaborating with another musician. Maybe that will change. I’m not entirely opposed to it but rather I’m realistic and pragmatic.
Do you have an established fan base? If so which regions do they come from?
Pre-2020 I’d have said ‘no not really’ but one of the few positives to come out of the pandemic has been the rise in online performance. I started live-streaming shows of my original material while having some fun with selected cover versions and creating quite innovative video content to produce some pretty compelling shows.
Unbeknownst to me I found that I had a global audience: there were people in Australia getting up early in the morning to watch my show over breakfast! If my album sales and streaming data is anything to go by, I’ve got a very strong fan base in Germany, Sweden, USA, Canada and the UK. It’s really rewarding to see this, and it gives me confidence to keep on writing, recording and doing livestream shows.
In my native Ireland it’s a bit of a joke really: there’s so much beige rubbish passed off as ‘great music’ when it’s simply not. In the electronic sphere it’s pretty limited with only a couple of truly electronic acts and a couple of acts trading as electronic but they’re really just second-rate indie bands: when you’re onstage and there’s not a single synth there why bother with the pretence?
Do you prefer playing live or studio work?
They’re such different disciplines that I don’t think it’s possible to answer. When I’m doing live shows either in person or on livestream it’s such a buzz and I love it. The adrenaline is addictive. However, I can easily go into my studio early in the day and have to force myself to leave that evening to go and eat. I get lost in the creative process so easily. It’s a different buzz.
Which is your favourite self-penned song?
Oh that’s a great question. Right now I’m very proud of a couple of the tracks on the new album Technology For The Youth. I think it’s probably Overview Effect or 50 Years Ago. Simply because people having heard them performed in live stream shows last year have described them as ear worms which is a huge compliment.
What is your musical guilty pleasure?
I’m unashamed and don’t believe in guilty pleasures. But if you need an answer, I’ll say maybe it’s Italo Disco. I’m in Italy at the moment while doing this interview and I’ve been reminded of that blend of strict drum machine driving a locked bass synth part and a vocal with silly meaningless lyrics.
How do you see your career progressing? Do you have any plans?
Everything I’ve done as Circuit3 has far exceeded my expectations. I thought maybe I’d get a couple of songs up on Soundcloud and that would be that. Looking back over the last several years I can see progression in song writing, production, synth programming and the live shows. I’m finally doing what I dreamt of doing age 16 when I read about Vince Clarke’s synth setup.
I’m always planning and thinking about ‘what’s next’. I’m in the middle of the album pre-release promo work at the moment so all my focus is on that. I really want to reach a wider audience which with the help of the fine AnalogueTrash record label team, and my PR Agent (Shameless Promotion PR) I think that’s starting to happen.
Next up for me is organising a livestream album launch show. Follow me on social media for information about that. I have tentative plans to release another collection of tracks this year and have already started writing and recording the next album.
Thanks for talking to me Peter and best of luck with your forthcoming releases.
❉ CIRCUIT3 – ‘Overview Effect’ (EP) was released 8 June 2022 and is available from the usual streaming platforms. ‘Technology for the Youth’ is out via AnalogueTrash on 15 July from Bandcamp and will be available in five colours of vinyl.
❉ A lifelong lover of music and prominent contributor to Me and the Starman (now available by Cult Ink on Amazon), Ange Chan is a Freelance Writer, having produced two novels and six volumes of poetry.
Header image: Photo by Paul Maxwell/Shameless Promotion PR.