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Star Apps: Wang Chung

The band that became THE catchphrase of a generation talk favorite apps, how the advent of synthesizers cut bands down to duos, road tripping to Area 51 -- plus, for 80s super fans, an exclusive update on Culture Club's Jon Moss!

When you think of the 1980s, certain catchphrases come to mind: "Where's the beef?" "I'll be back!" and "Everybody have fun tonight/Everybody Wang Chung tonight." Even if you're too young to get the final reference, you've probably heard it on a host of CBS shows like "Two and a Half Men," "How I Met Your Mother," "The Big Bang Theory," and many more programs and films. Wang Chung, whose most memorable singles include "Dance Hall Days," "To Live and Die in L.A.," "Everybody Have Fun Tonight," and "Let's Go!" is undoubtedly a part of pop culture history. With 2012's "Tazer Up" -- their first new album in 23 years -- and a recent tour, they are indoctrinating a new generation of fans.

Have you Wang Chunged today?

(Credit: XYQ Management)

Download.com caught up with founding members Jack Hues and Nick Feldman about the just-wrapped U.S. tour, producing "Tazer Up," how the advent of synths and drum machines shaped the future of bands, road tripping to Area 51, and how Wang Chung became the catchphrase of the 1980s. Plus, we got a surprising update on Culture Club's Jon Moss!

So how did the tour go?
Jack Hues: Really great, actually. It started back on July 20th and the first three weeks were really concentrated, because we were playing gigs with Fixx, and that went really well; and then we flew out to the West Coast and we've been doing gigs for our own shows and they've been great. We've been really impressed with attendance and very enthusiastic crowds and we've been doing a mix of old and new, with songs from the new album, "Tazer Up," and the old classics, as well; and, overall, it's been a success.

How involved were you in the production of "Tazer Up?"
Hues: We have an engineer named Adam Wren, who worked with Leftfield in the 1990s and us in 1997 for "Space Junk," which was one of our greatest hits albums that subsequently got used on "The Walking Dead," and so we've continued working with him. But we're very hands-on with the production. I use Logic and most of the songs started out as a sort of Logic demo in my house and I take them to Nick and he adds some stuff to it and then we take it to Adam and he starts making it sound a bit more professional.

Check out Wang Chung's "Stargazing" video:

Do you two ever just meet up for a spot of tea when you're not working?
Hues: Yeah, Nick lives in London and I live in Canterbury, so 60 miles separate us. We're in touch, but Wang Chung is like a business, really, where it requires daily attention; but for creative stuff, we zero in on particular times to do this.

Nick Feldman: We do other things, too, so the Wang Chung that the world sees -- the big-label blockbusters [laughs] -- is just one part of it. Jack will come up to London and we'll discuss the issues of the day and we get on really well. And we'll just play each other music, like this is some stuff I heard or that kind of thing. We'll probably grab something to eat. We have good dialogs about stuff; we both turn each other onto things that otherwise we wouldn't be aware of.

Hues: It's been interesting, where the last two to three weeks, we've been doing weekend gigs, so we have the weeks free, and we're sharing a little house together in L.A. and it's been the first time that we've spent really protracted amounts of time together since back in the 1980s. But it's cool, because after 35 years, we still get on.

I noticed that there presently isn't a Wang Chung app. Would you guys consider creating one?
Feldman: There have been a few almost apps along the way. We did an app about two years ago, but the idea just petered out, due to inactivity or maybe it wasn't that good, so we didn't pursue it. But I was thinking just the other day that we should reactivate it. It could be very useful.

What would your Wang Chung app do?
It would sell 8 million downloads [laughs]. I think it would probably be another interactive element between the fans and us. It would give information we would like to provide, but maybe also let fans mess around with our music to see if they come up with anything interesting. But Jack doesn't like that.

In the 1980s, with bands like OMD, Tears For Fears, and Pet Shop Boys, etc. there were still so many bands fronted by male duos. Where are the duos today?
Hues: I think it was a consequence of the technology of that time. When we got together in 1978, you needed a band, because drum machines and synthesizers were unreliable and expensive if you needed to get anything that had any kind of variety.

But by 1982 or '83, the Fairlight had come on the scene, so all the drums on our albums after that were programmed, apart from some songs on "Tazer Up." So the technology cut away at the other players of the band, which left Nick and I the lasting core of Wang Chung, and I think you can see that in Tears For Fears and any number of bands.

Feldman: That evolved, in England anyway, into two nerds and a bird, where you had two guys with keyboards and a female singer. That became very prevalent in England in the 1990s.

Hues: Now a person can make music on their laptop and things are more about individuals. I think in the 1980s, it was a transition from having a band and having those support systems in place for being an artist. I think we've tried doing things on our own, as artists, but I think it's great having someone there who can give you an objective viewpoint of what you're doing. And my viewpoint today is that I really like working with a band.

Wang Chung, in their Dance Hall Days.

(Credit: XYQ Management)

Which apps do you use on your iPhones or iPads?
Hues: Well, I'm limited in my approach, but I have a lovely Guitar Tuner and I also use Master Tour, which is a pretty comprehensive app that lists tour dates, and our tour manager can upload stuff that tells us where we need to be and when. So that's a useful app.

Feldman: I could go on for a while, but I'll just read through them. Obviously Shazam is a very useful app if you like to hear something on the radio and want to know what it is. I listen to WunderRadio, where you can stream radio from all over the world and it has 40,000 radio stations on it. The app I use the most is PodCruncher where I can get any podcast I want through that. I'm also a big soccer fan so I listen to a lot of soccer-related podcasts. As a soccer fan, there's another app called 101 Great Goals that's really good for catching up on soccer matches that I've missed that they stream. I've got a Kindle, as well, so when I don't have it with me, I have my Kindle app, so I can catch up on my books.

I love BBC News and Sport. Flashlight is really useful [laughs].

Nick, how come Jack doesn't embrace apps like you do?
Feldman: He's a Luddite [laughs].

Hues: I just don't feel the need to engage with them, particularly. I use Facebook and stuff on my phone. I guess I'm a musician and listen to a lot of music. There is a part of me that's resistant to living online and all the distractions that that entails.

Feldman: I like to be aware of new things.

Hues: And I'm happy having my head in the sand.

Feldman: We complement each other well in that way.

Hues: Yeah, I'm a big conspiracy person and Nick's a lot more skeptical in that way.

Feldman: Yeah, Jack's really educated me on aliens and Roswell. He really knows his stuff. So we have conversations where I basically disagree but I enjoy the conversations [laughs].

Now that the government has finally admitted that Area 51 exists, would you visit?
Hues: Yeah, a few years ago, we rented a car and drove over there and drove up to the perimeters, which was kind of a crazy thing to do. And it's all exactly like you read about it.

If invited, would you go inside?
Hues: Yeah.

What would you see?
Hues: Probably nothing.

Feldman: That's what I say. But I wouldn't want to be arrested and never allowed out and be erased of all records.

Check out Wang Chung's "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" video:

When the "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" video came out in 1986, it was revolutionary for its use of jump cuts. Today entertainment, from action films to Twitter newsfeeds -- is all about short and fast. Did Wang Chung contribute to shortening our attention spans?

Hues: All culture now stems from us [laughs]. But I'd like to think that we actually did the reverse, where if you were a Wang Chung fan, you'd maybe buy "Mosaic," for example, but then get into the more involved track, "The World in Which We Live," which required six minutes of your attention and I think music, especially, and longer-form jazz and proggy kind of stuff, and electronica was good at restoring equilibrium and getting people to focus for more than 10 minutes.

Nick, in the 1990s, you and ex-Culture Club member Jon Moss banded together to form a duo named Promised Land. When you worked with Jon, did he ever talk to you about Boy George?
Feldman: Yes, I think that's probably the understatement of the year. They had a very interesting relationship, and of course the band was based around their love affair; and I think when it broke up -- it was a passionate situation -- so Jon had a lot of feelings about it and would be talking about it a lot.

Jon and I went to school together. We lived down the street from each other since we were teenagers, and we were in a garage band together, so when we split up and went our separate ways, there was a rivalry as to who would make it first. Then Jon found George, and I remember him telling me, and he was raving about this amazing sort of guy who I had heard things about on the scene. I think Jon was fascinated by him, so completely compelled by George, and I think overwhelmed by that special person. Then he fell in love with him and it became a love affair and that was the nucleus of the band; and when the love affair started to go lukewarm, then the band got more dysfunctional and broke up.

Last I heard, Jon was married with three children.
Feldman: Well, he still has three kids, but believe it or not, he goes out with my sister. Before he met George, when we were young teenagers, he was going out with my sister then, and after Culture Club happened and his marriage ended, he eventually got back to my sister. She was pretty cool about it. She's open-minded.

Wang Chung is a perennial part of pop culture:

To this day, "Everybody Wang Chung tonight" remains a popular expression. Why do you think that is?
Hues: That's a good question, but hard to answer. It certainly wasn't planned. When we wrote the line, we didn't think it was going to become a catchphrase. It just worked out that way.

But I think that when we initially worked with it, I liked it because it was very un rock 'n' roll and it creates a space and people can fill that space with whatever they want -- and some are pretty out there. There are some pretty crude things in the Urban Dictionary. But all the mentions we get, we can't take it too seriously. The song captured the imagination back in the early 1980s -- and still does. It elicits a very strong reaction, whether positive or negative, but it certainly nails the decade. To name check yourself in a song was, at the time, considered poor taste, but since then if you look at rap music, for example, it's rare not to. So of course we've influenced rap, as well [laughs].

What does the future hold for Wang Chung? Tell me your fortune.
Hues: More music, another album, because we have stuff left over that didn't fit on "Tazer Up." The tour has been great and we want to keep that going, if not by Christmas, then by spring. We want to get a new album out by next year and keep our presence rising -- and keep enjoying it.

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