Tik + Tok: The Rise, Decline and Return of the Robots

(July 2006)

When robotic act Plastic Joe and mime and music outfit Shock got together in 1980 the seeds of Tik + Tok were sown. Shock played at legendary venues at their height like the Hacienda, The Blitz and The Warehouse, became a key part of the New Romantic movement and recorded with Rusty Egan (Visage) and Richard Burgess (Landscape). When Shock split soon after, Tik + Tok appeared everywhere from the Covent Garden Piazza to the 1983 Royal Variety Show, on countless TV shows and had key roles in 80s sci-fi creepfest Xtro. A young band called Depeche Mode supported them live, they released a series of cracking electronic singles on the Survival label and one album, Intolerance, shortly before disappearing from the music scene in 1984. After 21 years away from the live circuit, Tik + Tok have reformed and re-emerged earlier this year at the annual Elektrofest festival whipping up a storm. Back to finish what they started, the time was perfect to communicate with the legendary Robots. Tok not being very talkative, Rob Dyer entered into a data exchange with Tik. This is the output...

[The Robots (courtesy of tikandtoik.com)]Which came first - the music or the mime?

Tik: Mime was where we started. It was our chicken or was it our egg? We never wanted to be human! Then bit by bit we bought some music equipment so we could start to make our own little soundtracks for Mime ideas we had. We've always seen ourselves as being abstract visual artists who just happen to make music as well.

How did Shock come together?

Way back in 1979 Barbie Wilde and I had our own Mime show that had got a bit boring to be honest. Shows here and there but not very glam or exciting until one day we met Robert Pereno and L.A. Richards when we were all doing a shop window display in the Kings Road, Chelsea. We were Mime and they were Dance. It seemed like a good idea to join forces and create something new, different and exciting. So we did! It just kind of escalated from there. Then in 1980 we met a few useful people in 'The Biz' and 'The Blitz' and it took off at exactly the right time.

For me 'Dynamo Beat' remains a seminal piece of 80s robo-disco. Can you still relate to it?

I never could relate to it to be honest. I wrote the words and envisaged some kind of sexy Human League / DAF kind of backing track, but it didn't pan out like that at all. I never felt that the track represented us properly. But we gave it our best shot in terms of promotion. Robo Disco? It's not really is it!

Shock was short-lived. What caused the end of Shock and gave rise to Tik & Tok?

We'd become Tik & Tok in 1980 in a moment of wild creativity in a break in Shock activities. Then we incorporated ourselves into Shock's act. We got a lot of attention for that! But when Robert and L.A. left in June '81 just at the moment that Shock could have really broken through, the rest of us felt amputated and knew that the end was in sight. Tik & Tok had already planned their next moves to be honest.

The Tik & Tok style was clearly influenced by a diverse range of musical styles but resulted in a unique sound. What did you want to reflect and express in your own writing?

A mix of everything that we liked musically at the time. Movies like Blade Runner too. Plus needing tracks that we could create a Mime piece to. Oh, and sex and Sci Fi too of course! We'd already got Vile Bodies so we kind of built side 2 of Intolerance around that. Side 1 of the album was geared towards a more 'Poppy' kind of stance, but deep down we were still wanting to be unearthly and quite weird musically. The pop stuff was fun to tart around to but I think that both of us now feel that we're quite glad that we didn't have a hit single. No 'Buzzcocks' or revival tours for us!

You released a series of great singles between 1982 and 1984. Which were you most pleased with?

For me it was always the B sides. No pressure, just having fun and doing what we do best. As soon as you start to contrive towards a 'Hit Single' it's all over creatively. If it doesn't come naturally, don't force it. We had some wonderful musicians helping us out but for me it was always 'Silk purse out of a sow's ear time'.

[Tik+Tok 2006 (courtesy of tikandtoik.com)]I understand recording your only album 'Intolerance' was something of a rush job?

Ha ha! Understatement of the '80s! 2 weeks for a whole album? Most bands took that long to get the bass drum sound right! We had some tracks already which were given a tweak and a twiddle, but all the new stuff was recorded all night, every night for about a week then we had a few days with a partially deaf engineer to mix it all. We became nocturnal creatures with an addiction to pistachio nuts amongst other things. Fun in an intense kind of way though.

Those '80s years seemed like heady days. Touring with Gary Numan at his height and writing and recording with some key names like Numan, Richard Burgess and Rrussell Bell. What was it like?

It was very heady! We were high and excited by all of it and enjoyed pretty much every moment. We met and worked with some lovely, talented people. We were the kids in the sweetshop. But I think we always had our feet on the ground too. It's a long story really and too much to go into here. But my book Falling Upwards by Tim Dry covers it all in much greater detail. It's a shameless plug! Sorry Tokky!

How come it all ended so abruptly? And what have you been up to for 20 years to pay the bills (or shouldn't I ask!)?

It didn't seem that abrupt to us at the time. We knew already that our show at The Hippodrome in October '84 would be our last. We'd just had enough of all the Record Company bullshit etc. so thought we'd quit while we were ahead. It was an entirely mutual decision and made so that we could both preserve some dignity and as a result get on with being real people. And no, you shouldn't really ask what we've been doing for 20 years to pay the bills! OK, I personally appeared in over 90 TV Commercials. But that's not really a secret. The rest is private.

[Tik+Tok live: Elektrofest 2006]Tik & Tok always seemed like an unfinished project. Is the return after more than 20 years to finish what you started?

Yes! Most definitely. Musically and visually.

The Japanese always seemed to have a special affinity for your work. What was the cult of Tik & Tok like in Japan and does it still thrive today?

They are smaller than us on the whole but three times more excitable. We're just waiting for our very own arcade game. Tokyo Girls is a track on our new album. I think they're gonna love it!

Your (all too) brief appearance at this year's Elektrofest was your first UK live appearance in 21 years. How did you feel taking to the stage after so long away?

Confident, nervous, excited and itching to strut! Very pleased with the music we made with the help of Alien 6 too. Just a wonderful feeling to have the old tart to stand next to on stage again.

Last year you self-released an EP of (great!) new material. How long did it take to pull that together? Had you always been writing in the intervening years or just thinking about it?

Personally I'd given up making music for quite a long time since the '80s. I'd done some music with Georg Kajanus from 'Sailor' in the '90s under the name 'Noir', and that was very pleasing. I'd also done some ambient and dancey stuff for myself but it was only when Tokky came back onboard that I felt I had a vehicle. It didn't take that long to pull together and I must say that Geoff and Pete (Alien 6) made it real for us. Lots more to come!

Does this return have longevity (from your perspective) or are you just having a quick fling?

I think we both gave up quick flings in the '80s. How long is a piece of string? We're having a great time at the moment and for us that's all that matters.

What would you like to achieve this time around that you didn't before?

A hit record! That's the one thing we never really got before. We've already got the joy of being together again.


See also:

Music Reviews: Tik + Tok

Gig Reviews: Tik + Tok

Downloads: Tik + Tok

Official Tik + Tok website: http://www.tikandtok.com

Top two photographs courtesy (and copyright) of tikandtok.com