WHEN the film Johnny YesNo emerged in 1983 it marked out an already influential Cabaret Voltaire as masters of visual appreciation as well as soundtracks
Directed by fledgling director Peter Care, with a cast of unknown actors, this classic but largely forgotten episode of Sheffield film noir was originally released on the city band’s video label, Double Vision.
It became an instant cult hit on the independent film circuit, not least because of a hallucinatory soundtrack by the electronic pioneers.
Nearly 30 years on Care and ‘the Cabs’ reunited and refurbished it with a new cast, now in Los Angeles, and applied a new soundtrack remixed by Richard H Kirk.
Mute released the Johnny YesNo Redux box set this week, featuring the 1982 original alongside the re-imagining of the film, plus 140 minutes of bonus material and two CDs that embrace exclusive Cabaret Voltaire tracks and new mixes by Kirk.
It revives a partnership between the studiohead and Care that extended to the video for 1984’s Sensoria, which became the most requested independent music video on MTV.
Care – who in 2005 received a Lifetime Achievement Award for his music videos from the Music Video Production Association – also directed music videos for Clock DVA, Depeche Mode, R.E.M. and Bruce Springsteen, as well as an episode of the brilliant HBO series Six Feet Under.
With fellow synth-innovators Human League back this year with their first album in a decade, the Johnny YesNo revisit is timely.
Alongside Oakey’s people, Throbbing Gristle, Fad Gadget and The Normal, Kirk and co were at the forefront of the UK electronic movement of the late ’70s and remain a frequently quoted influence with their cunning and ahead-of-time blending of techno, dub, dance and house. They marked their territory with albums Mix Up, Voice Of America and Red Mecca.
Ever evolving, however, they economised their sound, removing the random interference, jammed signals and media clutter that defined their earlier ‘industrial’ sound and as the Cabs became more involved with visuals these elements emerged in footage as random clips of riots and TV commercials, porn stars and televangelists that would likely now be cited as art installation. Experimentation with film and video was inevitable.
“Johnny YesNo - Redux goes deep into the structure of Care’s original film and the Cabaret Voltaire tracks used in connection with it,” says Mute.
“What emerges is as much a juxtaposition of times and places as sights and sounds.”