With their first release in 14 years, History of Modern, due to drop on the 20th September, it seemed only right to have a chat with OMD mainstay Paul Humphreys. As a youngster, I was brought up with their early synth-pop stylings, their Best Of selection one of the very first CD’s I ever bought. It almost feels as if they’ve come full circle now – patched up their differences and released an almost “back-to-basics” album. It might not appease all the early fans, but it feels a comfortable place for OMD to be.

Why did you wait 14 years to record History of the Modern? Did your recent back-catalogue tour bring back good memories? How are you finding working together again after all these years?

The reason why it’s taken so long is that we stopped the band. We didn’t think we would do it again. And so it wasn’t like we waited to release this new album, we weren’t meant to make another album. But circumstances conspired to bring us back together again and we got offered in 2005 a TV show in Germany. And having turned down many before we decided to do this one and it was a weekend away in Cologne. And during that weekend we decided that if we were ever going to get the band back together it would be a now or never thing. So we decided maybe it was time to bring back OMD.

How did you approach the writing? Did you have a back log of songs to pick from or was everything written fresh and in the studio?

A few songs that kind of dated back over the years but it was mainly ideas that were shelved. Andy and I have always had this philosophy to never waste an idea and so if the ideas good but doesn’t work now it doesn’t mean in 5 years time or so, or however long, that we don’t get the right spark to make that idea work, because anytime you’re doing writing you’re doing it for a reason and that reason doesn’t change you just didn’t execute that idea correctly at the time, it doesn’t mean it was a bad idea. But I think the majority of the album that we’ve done in the last couple of years.

‘Sister Marie Says’ was written back in ’81, and was discarded then as sounding too similar to ‘Enola Gay’. What made you include it on the new album?

That was mainly Henry’s decision to resurrect it and I always thought it was far too close to ‘Enola Gay’ to begin with but I think when we’ve reworked it we’ve managed to take away the bonds that made it too close.

How did you come to work with Mike Crossey? Were you keen to get a fresh face in to mix the album?

It was quite by accident really because Andy and I wanted to produce the album ourselves, we wanted to find the right guy to mix it and so Mike Crossey did a lot of work in Liverpool at Andy’s studio and him and Andy kind of became friends while working in the same building. And Andy introduced me to Mike and we all got on really well and I think he’s good at what he does. He does largely completely different genre of music to electro and we were excited to see what he would do with an electro album. We gave him a couple of tracks to mix to see what he would do and we liked what he did and so he got the job to do it.

You’ve referred to History of the Modern as your best album since Architecture and Morality. Why do you think that is?

Umm.. well.. I think that’s a quote from Andy. I mean I think we did an album or two after that which was pretty good ‘dazzle ships’ and still stands the test of time. I think OMD after ‘Dazzle ships’ we kind of lost the plot, we got less and less time to write our records because there was a lot of emphasis from the record label and management for trying to break America in the lesser part of the 80’s. and so.. so much time touring America that we had less and less time to record the album and we had this very difficult contact with virgin records whereby we had to virtually make an album a year but if your touring 7, 8, 9 months a year so you’ve got hardly any time of the year to make a record and those were the days where you didn’t have laptops and so it was very difficult to write an electro album on the back of a bus touring round America so I think the song writing suffered towards the end of the 80’s so the albums became more and more patchy. But I think with this album we’ve had a bit more time to think about it to change it to rewrite songs.

How easy was it to get Peter Saville involved again? Was his involvement an important link to the past and heritage of OMD?

Yes it was an important link and it wasn’t too hard to get him to agree to do it. It’s always harder with Peter Saville to actually get him to do the work, cause he’ll agree to do it but getting him to actually physically do the work, you’ve got to give him, like this album for instance, you had to give him a false deadline 3 months before we actually needed the artwork. “You’ve got to deliver it by this date” and of course he was late, but that didn’t matter because the false deadline was so long. I mean in the days of the early 80’s there was so many times when the record company (we would have the album finished) would be screaming at us for the artwork and so we would just take trips down from Liverpool on the train to London where Peter was living and we would just camp put on his doorstep till we got him out of bed and we would just sit there with him and say ‘Listen, you’re going to do this album today’

Is the new album title at hint?

I think the album title we choose because we were, we’d been wondering that ourselves in a way, the band was 32 years old now, and I think the electronic movement of music was the last great modernist movement. Everything now is kind of post modern, it’s not really going forward it’s looking backwards and taking a lot of influences and taking lots of different genres and mashing them up into attempted new things. It’s not really a great movement forward and so we’ve been aware of that and thinking about history and our place in it. You know we were part of a big movement and we had out place in changing popular music in a way, because we were one of the first bands to start doing electronic popular music. Yeah so.. umm I’ve kind of lost the end of the question, what was it?

Where do you think you sit in the history of pop music?

It’s difficult for us to kind of say ourselves it’s for other people to judge where we sit in popular music but I do think we had a place in changing the late popular music in the development of popular music.

Do you mind being associated with the current trend of 80′s comebacks such as Simple Minds, Heaven 17 etc?

I think we’re a very different band to those bands and because we’re from that generation I think they’ll lump us all together, but I think bands are coming back for a variety of different reasons. I think there public demand to see these bands and I think there’s public demand for us to get back out on stage, which we kept side stepping and avoiding, but in the end succumbed to coming back. I think we’ve come back (I can’t speak for other bands) but I think we’ve come back for the right reasons, in a sense that we haven’t come back for the money, cause we’ve sold a lot of records over the year, we’ve come back because we’ve feel that we’ve still got something to say and we feel that we can still deliver a good show on stage.

How do you feel when the likes of James Murphy name checks you as an important influence? Do you feel like elder statesmen of pop / electronica?

I guess by default not by our own choice people think to label us as that. It’s very flattering that a lot of these younger artists are citing OMD as an influence; I think it can only be a flattering thing.

What does the future hold for OMD? Are you back for good or this is a temporary arrangement?

Well we’ve kind of gone back to where we started in a way because, OMD was only ever going to be one gig and then we did a couple more and then there was only going to be one record and then we album after album, so when we sort of dipped our toes in the water and went back out on the road again in 2007, we were only thinking about doing it once, and now we are in 2010 and we’ve done several tours and made a new album, so I don’t really know. Andy and I are planning, because we’ve looked at the record that we’ve made and we think we’ve made a good record, we’ve still got plenty to say past this album and I think this album was Andy and I getting used to writing together again because we haven’t done it for a long time. I think we’ve just, just towards the end of making this record, i think we kind of hit on a good way of working together and it was almost like the traditional way we had of working, we tried to use modern technology on this album, and me be at London and Andy be at Liverpool, but it didn’t quite work out at the beginning of that record, and so we changed it and towards the end of the album, we realised that sitting in a room together was really quite exciting again and we came up with some really good things but we ran out of time again. So we are now kind of looking towards, we’re already discussing a new album, and we want to go to America, cause we’ve not toured America and America was one of our biggest markets in the end so we want to get out on the road there again, we’ll do that next year, and we’re gonna then probably make a new album, so we’ve still got plans for OMD

What are your thoughts on the internet and illegal downloading?

Well it’s had a massive impact on our industry, there’s no doubt about it, and I can’t advocate it at all because it’s really taken so much money out of the industry that it’s forever changed music, i think people have this perception, by freely downloading music that the artists are making money they can afford it, they don’t need my tenner. But it’s not just people like Madonna who’ve got how many millions in the bank, she’s not going to miss that money. But if you take Madonna for instance, there will be people who made that Madonna record, who may have illegally download that will be on a minuscule percentage, and when that money matters to them and it also the money that will go to the record company would keep the industry alive and give the record industry money to invest in new artists, because artists these days are left to their own devices in a way because they can’t afford great producers or fantastic studios to record in with lots of other people, cause they can’t afford to pay them so they are left to their bedrooms to make their music in. And for some artists, that may be good for some artists, but some artists need help, they need steering, and they need money spending on them to market them to the masses, because some bands are making music that deserves to be heard by lots of people, but there isn’t a budget to get them out there and i would hate to try to start OMD in this climate. I don’t think we would make it really, because we had a record company that invested money in us and put us with right producers and help steer us in the right direction and that wouldn’t have happened. And bands like U2 wouldn’t have existed in this climate because they started out needing help, and there isn’t the money now to do that.

How much do you think the music industry has changed since your debut?

Its unrecognisable from when we have started out and I think probably one of the things now that I miss from when the industry was buoyant was the filtering system, you know we had A&R people who filtered out the crap from the good and I would say about 90% of the time they got it right, we had radio stations who were far more forward thinking and also were a filtering system and they played a huge variety of records where now they just play top ten or top twenty and nothing else gets on the airwaves. And I miss that I miss being able to turn on the radio and hearing something interesting instead of the same ten songs over and over again on every station you go to. I’ve missed that for ages, cause you could still find interesting things on the radio, so that filtering system between the record companies and the radio stations and in the press in a way has completely gone and it’s very hard now cause there’s so much music out there, it’s very hard to sift through it all through 20 crap bands to find a good one and that was done for you.