The early eighties saw the emergence of the electronic/dance phenomenon in Europe. At the forefront of this movement were four names: Cabaret Voltaire, The Human League, The Normal, and Fad Gadget (Frank Tovey). Tovey released his first single Back to Nature in 1979 and was the first signing to Daniel Millers Mute label. Miller (as The Normal) had previously put out his own composition T.V.O.D. c/w Warm Leatherette and was thinking of starting a label when he met Tovey. As Fad Gadget Tovey played solo with a drum machine and synthesizer confusing audiences at the time used to the standard rock format. Now, obviously, the scene is radically different with electronic sounds and beat boxes being the norm.
His name is quoted by Depeche Mode and Erasures Vince Clark as a major inspiration and the influence of Tovey's early experiments in electronic music can be heard in the likes of the Pet Shop Boys, New Order and all the Techno/Dance Bands of the 90s. The main characteristic of Tovey's work that distinguished him from his contempories and his followers was the quality of his lyrics. Not satisfied with singing pseudo science fiction (a la Gary Numan) or crass love songs, Tovey developed a style more akin to Dylan or Lou Reed, his black humour often confusing the punters at the time more interested in style than content.
His songs 'spoke of the diseases and fears poorly hidden from view. They spoke for and against the little man, the ubiquitous civilian bewildered by the speed of events threatening to sweep him up or leave him behind. And they spoke in a variety of voices: dead pan, severe, sardonic, satirical and, finally, disarmingly sincere....' -Biba Kopf '91.
Imagewise Tovey never played the pretty pop singer role preferring to be photographed by Anton Corbin covered from head to toe in shaving foam or tarred and feathered. His stage shows have often been mad acrobatic events. Where most performers remain untouchable he would purposely goad an audience, sometimes somersaulting from the stage (before stage diving became an international sport), like a latter-day cockney version of Iggy Pop his audience passing him around above their heads before depositing him back on the stage and screaming for more.
After four critically acclaimed albums Tovey dropped the Fad Gadget tag and continued to make albums for Mute under his own name. Throughout his career he has influenced and been influenced by many styles, mixing electronics with rock, punk, folk, and dance music. This has inevitably made it hard to pin him down. His last two albums, for instance, featured an electric banjo which he had custom built for Paul Rodden a member of his previous touring band The Pyros. Tovey has continually toured Europe and has over the years built up strong fan base who flock to see his shows never knowing what to expect this time but always leaving stunned by his performance.
The mark of a talented artist is there for all to hear in the ten albums he has created. All challenging musically, all intriguing in their lyrical content. Fad Gadget has recently come out of semi-retirement and done his first performance in six years for Elektrofest 2001 at the Mean Fiddler, London. The eagerly awaited show has left people wanting more. 'It's about time electronic music comes back to something more organic, soulful and powerful, but at the same time meaningful and songorientated.' - aquaplaning, Festival de Musique Electroniques 2001Latest news is that Fad Gadget will be realising a Best of album and will support Depeche Mode on their Exiter Tour in Europe beginning September 2001.