You hear about bands who have met at work, college, school etc, but not so much ones who met at a distant relatives funeral! That’s how Rick and Jen, distant cousins with musical aspirations, first began the electro powerhouse that would become Oh Baby. Now with the brilliant new album ‘Hey Genius’ out, we caught up with the duo to discuss everything from synths to squirrels…

You’ve mentioned that you set up an outside studio in order so you could both collaborate on the songs for the new album, how did the outside studio songwriting / recording process go? Did you get the odd cheeky pigeon or sparrow who wanted to join in?

Rick: The actual process didn’t really change but the mood of what gets written, especially the sounds you get drawn towards, can definitely be swung by what is outside the window. I needed to see some Northern skies.

The pigeons kept their distance thankfully, but we did discover that squirrels are definitely attracted by the sound of programmed hi-hats. I’d start tapping them in and within minutes the scampering would start on the roof. Then if I started playing anything else, especially guitar parts, they would scarper just as quick. I tried not to take it too personally.

We are of the firm belief that any communication between small woodland creatures and analog drum machines should be actively encouraged.

You’ve stated that you’re inspired by Kraftwerk, Gary Numan, Human league and I can also hear OMD in there and Depeche Mode too. What was it about the synth music of the 80s that you find so inspirational?

Jen: A lot of that music came from bands finding new ways to write, a purely experimental way of creating which worked brilliantly. For me it’s also the way it made people move and dance, there’s a certain robotic nature to it. There’s a pretty unique 80’s way of dancing, directly influenced by the synth and drum sounds, and when something can make a human actually move differently it’s captivating.

R: Our influences aren’t just limited to 80s synth bands but they are definitely in our bloodstream. I think the minimalist nature of some of the monophonic synths at that time means all the sounds and layers exist in their own very important space, and all have a vital reason for being there. Some of the tracks by those bands you mentioned are littered with hooks and unusual subject matter. It seemed like new technology and creativity working beautifully together, and a lot of imagination and ambition in things like clothes and instruments. That goes for a lot of the guitar bands of that time too. We’d hate to be seen as revivalists of any kind, or be part some retro scene, but some of those songs still stand up against anything before or since.

You met at a distant relative’s funeral, which is probably the first time ever we’ve heard of a band meeting at such an occasion. Were you aware of each other’s musical tastes before that, and how did the band idea develop?

R: I’d been aware for a few years that I had a cousin somewhere who sang, but I’d kind of ignored it. It’s a bit like when someone says ‘one of my friends is in a band’, and you know in the back of your mind that the chances of you really liking that band are, in reality, very slim. All very much proved wrong on this occasion. I think both our inner light bulbs first started to flicker when we both agreed on Brian Eno as first choice for church organist should anything untoward happen to either of us. In full Roxy garb obviously.

J: I’d always responded to comments like ‘oh you should get in touch with Rick, he plays guitar’ with a dismissive head nod. But then a black polo neck worn at the funeral changed everything.

The new album seems to have a common thread running through it which involves machines which create emotion. How did you become fascinated by this theme?

R: I think the fascination originally comes seeing machines as having some kind of personality. Maybe the attraction comes from a darker place…there are few things creepier than the idea of a machine developing an awareness, but if sounds can have character then the machines that create them must have too, even in the way they look. We’re not musically trained or that technically minded at all, which makes the idea of a machine knowing something that we don’t even more alluring. If someone starts talking to us in technical terms about synths we just tend to smile and nod in hopefully the right places. We’re still firmly in the ‘how does it know?’ category of musician. We are quite happy there.

J: For me it comes from the unknown and the slightly scary side of the ‘how does it know’ statement. If I don’t completely trust or understand something then I just can’t leave it alone.

Would you ever consider using Artificial Intelligence to create music, and why or why not?

J: I think to a certain extent we already are doing. The independent brain power of a synth or even a computer shouldn’t be underestimated. We think we have control over them, but they know exactly what they are doing and most of the time we don’t. But we have a good relationship…for the time being.

R: Anything would be considered to create music if it sounds right and no one is actually getting injured. Whether it’s banging a coconut shell or programming a fembot, if it sounds good it’s OK. As long as it’s not just using technology, or a coconut shell, for the sake of it. I can’t really understand any other argument to be honest. I still think one of the greatest human inventions ever is the piano, but ‘real music’ brigade really need to get out more.

If you could collaborate with anyone living or dead, who would it be and why?

R: Using the power of resurrection I’d have either Debussy or Erik Satie composing a beautiful minimalist piano piece and then introduce them to an analog drum machine and see what happens. Then get Lux Interior (The Cramps ex- frontman) in the room to fuzz things up a bit and share choruses with Jen, whilst Grace Jones would talk over the verses.

J: I’m not sure about collaborating as I’d probably crap myself and want to just sit and observe if it was someone I hold high, so maybe I’ll go with a band like The Bangles or The Go-Go’s… write an 80s pop hit with the girls.

What’s been the highlight of your musical career so far?

J: Recording in the Californian desert was like nothing I’d ever experienced. The silence out there is indescribable and to record vocals within that silence was magic. Then being able to walk outside, look up at thousands of stars and feel totally insignificant, any pressure you have just evaporates and it’s genuinely freeing.

R: Difficult because as we still feel quite new, any highlights tend to be the last thing we’ve done. Having a piece of vinyl set loose into the World, that’s always going to be a highlight.

How have you coped during the pandemic and has it changed the way you will work / write in the future?

J: It certainly taught me a certain amount of discipline which I’ve taken forward. Sometimes finding the perfect way to say something is a matter of simply putting in the hours and saying it wrong 67 times before the pieces click together.

R: If anything it focused the work flow more than usual. At the start of it all I did have a few sleepless nights worrying about everything, but eventually we just turned off the news and got sensible.

Who’s got more patience when it comes to tackling synth breakdowns, and what’s the best bit of kit you own?

R: Synth breakdowns are about the only thing I do have any patience for. As far as the kit question goes, I’d run into a burning building to save my old Gibson 335 and the old Dr55 drum machine. They are the starting point of pretty much all we write.

J: I let Rick deal with anything synth-wise, he has a way of talking to them. I’m not sure I speak their language quite as well but I will certainly be standing next to him with a hose pipe on the way in to that building.

Are you planning any more live dates, and if so, what can we expect from the upcoming tours?

J: Expect full dance floors, tight shorts on stage if the weather permits, more new tracks and maybe even a cover version thrown in.

R: We’re working on a longer set at the moment. Hopefully as things settle back to some kind of normality we’ll be able to get a good tour T-shirt going, with a long list of cities on the back.

Oh Baby’s album ‘Hey Genius’ is out now (Burning Witch Records)


From the early days of creating handmade zines, in a DIY paper and glue style, interviewing bands around town, then pestering Piccadilly Records to sell them, to writing for various independent mags such as Chimp and Ablaze, writing about the music I love is still a great passion. After testing the music industry waters in London with stints at various labels, being back in my hometown again, writing about this city’s vibrant music scene is as exciting as ever. All time favourite bands include Sonic Youth, Nick Cave, Patti Smith although anything from electro to folk via blues and pysch rock will also do nicely too. A great album, is simply a great album, regardless of whatever musical cage you put it in.