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Clive Stevens and Brainchild - Mystery Man Interview

Midnight Drive are cruising with a reissue of Clive Stevens & Brainchild’s cosmic classic Mystery Man, including a classy new extension from Velvet Season & The Hearts of Gold cut from the original tapes that’s well worth the wax (yes, really). Listen to the remix exclusively (well for a few days at least) courtesy of TP below and read on for a little interview with Clive himself.

I’m going to try and avoid ‘the legend of cosmic’ thing here, it’s been written better and with more authority elsewhere. If you’re curious and want to read a really nice interview with one of the period’s innovators about the northern Italian scenes that brought Cosmic Club to this world, then check out the enjoyable interview with DJ Daniele Baldelli in Electronic Beats from 2016.

The thing that strikes me, looking through the tracklists that cosmic heads have lovingly assembled beneath the small but significant portion of Youtube devoted to tapes of Baldelli and TBC, is the web of connections that radiate out of those sets. How the music forms associations and spawns obsessions with new listeners over the passing years. It seems that the ‘cosmic sound’ is less of a music policy or common musical thread, and more a process of equalising, of smashing tracks together (often in pretty brazen style) and making cosmic with the results. Killing Joke and Sylvester? cosmic. Klaus Schulze and Mike Oldfield? cosmic. PIL and Peter Gabriel? cosmic. Bee Gees at the wrong speed? err cosmic. Chrome? You get the picture. Still, certain tracks do seem to have the ‘cosmic sound’ – like the extended mix of Clive Stevens & Brainchild’s Mystery Man, a heavy discoid throbber that stands firm against the smudge and churn of those sets. Now, nearly 35 years after initial release, Midnight Drive are doing the decent thing by putting out a quality reissue.

First though, for a bit of context. Bristol-born Clive took up Saxophone at an early age and studied music composition, first at Berkeley and later the San Francisco Conservatory of music. As a player, he has some serious chops and looking at his bio / discogs entry is intense: Manfred Mann, Gilberto Gil, Billy Chobham gives you a flavour, but it seems like he’s worked with major session players in almost every city he’s visited. The track Mystery Man was originally the A3 from long player Semjase, a jazz / disco / fusion set released via Brazilian label Vôo Livre in ’84. Somehow it worked its way into the sets of Baldelli and co. and on to us today. Catch the track in this Baldelli mix from ’84 at around the 25 minute mark.

Clive is a warm and open guy and a genuine citizen of the world, taking in spells in Brazil, Europe, south East Asia and the US (where he now resides in Miami). More recent years have seen him on a spiritual quest, writing two volumes of ‘Stardust Transmissions’ and working on a new recording project called Deep Apocalypse ‘about the liberation and freedom of the planet Gaia and her people’. Coming soon will be a third volume of Stardust Transmissions, and when asked what else occupies his time, he replies ‘Other than that… urban nature poems, profiles, prayers, mantras, meditations, holistic healing modalities, diet & health, crystals and stones & lyrics for the 21st century.’ Keep up with Clive on his official site here.

Brian at Midnight Drive put me in touch with the Mystery Man himself to talk about the release, so read on for a few words.

Clive Stevens, Mystery Man, Baldelli, Cosmic, Beppe Loda, Midnight Drive,

Who were Brainchild ?

I was living in San Francisco in the latter half of the 70’s and split up with my girlfriend and moved back to New York City. In May 1981, my brother Martin, who was my manager at the time and I recorded the vinyl EP Brainchild / Clive Stevens. I kept the name and went into Skyline Studios in Manhattan in May 1982 to record the vinyl LP Semjase. I had fallen in love with a beautiful Brazilian woman called Cristina and after the basic tracks were recorded I flew to Rio de Janeiro to join her for a couple of months. I ended up signing a recording contract with Voo Livre/EMI for the territory of Brazil and the region.

Who was involved in Mystery Man?

During my time writing music in New York, I was fortunate to have relationships with world class musicians like drummer Steve Ferrone (Average White Band/Eric Clapton/Tom Petty), Steve Gaboury (Blue Nile/Night Flyte/Cindi Lauper) on synthesizers/keyboards/arrangement, bassist Lincoln Goines (Gato Barbieri/Mike Stern), Ronnie Drayton on guitar (Nona Hendryx/Defunkt) and Sammy Figueroa on Percussion (Miles Davis/Chic & David Bowie). They all helped me create the magic in the studio.

Clive Stevens, Mystery Man, Baldelli, Cosmic, Beppe Loda, Midnight Drive,

Tell me a little bit about the album Semjase, how did Mystery Man fit in?

Mystery Man itself blended perfectly with my music of that moment in time. The lyrics and music came together in the studio one day – the ‘Mystery Man’ could be me, or any of my friends worldwide. He’s the lone wolf who prefers his own company to the crowd. Actually that record (Semjase) is a landmark recording in that the first track on side two Spaced out in Paradise, which was conceived in Puerto Rico, used a Roland 808 drum machine along with a real drummer (Steve Ferrone) for the first time.

How about the video for Mystery Man?

A friend of my girlfriend Cristina shot the footage in Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro and then I returned to New York To work with my editor, Chris Andrews, where we shot on a rooftop in Times Square.

Did you know that DJs in Europe played the track in their sets at the time?

No, because otherwise I would have attempted to go and do some touring! I know the track became an integral part of the Afro Cosmic movement in northern Italy (Rimini/Bologna/Lake Como & Milan) with DJ’s Daniele Baldelli and Beppe Loda.

Why do you think it was time to reissue it now?

Because it is a timeless piece of music with a story line and hypnotic bass riff, and it can be listened to or danced to. It was recorded with world class musicians in a 24 track analog studio and not in a bedroom has something to do with it too!

Cheers Clive! Mystery Man is reissued this Friday 4 May via Midnight Drive.

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