Holly Johnson has premiered a Frankie Knuckles remix of new single ‘Follow Your Heart’, taken from his first new album in fifteen years. ‘Europa’ will be released on September 29 via his Pleasuredome label, during which the Frankie Goes to Hollywood front-man will also embark on his first solo tour – the last being with FGTH in 1987 – featuring a London show at Indigo2 on October 28. The tracklisting for ‘Europa’ has also been announced today, whilst Frankie Knuckles was celebrated in a DJ set from Dave Morales at this weekend’s Glastonbury Festival.
‘Europa’ is a collection of joyful and optimistic songs from one of the most unique personalities in pop: it’s a celebration of love and enjoying life in the moment, while you can. The album arrives exactly thirty years since Frankie Goes To Hollywood released their debut record ‘Welcome To The Pleasuredome’, featuring the iconic, millions-selling ‘Relax’ (famously banned by the BBC), ‘Two Tribes’ (which spent nine weeks at number 1) and ‘The Power of Love’ (a cover of which reached number 1 again just last year).
In 1999, after releasing his third solo album, ‘Soulstream’, and needing a break from the music industry, Holly did what he’d intended to do before Frankie took off: he enrolled in art school. This completed a circle which began in 1983, when he had to turn down a place at Liverpool Art College because of ‘Relax’ becoming a hit. Sixteen years later, Holly was invited to attend The Royal College of Art, where he painted and exhibited for four years and had his work repeatedly shown at the likes of the Royal Academy Summer Show and Tate Liverpool. He was lured back to music part-time in 2009, when Universal released a Frankie Goes to Hollywood Greatest Hits, though his distinctive voice was last heard on the 2012 Christmas number 1, The Justice Collective’s ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’. At the occasional live dates in-between, Johnson realised “that I’d forgotten how much physical pleasure I got from singing my own sings. This is my teenage dream come true. I started to think, why did I ever stop?” Then, in 2012, Holly met the producer Mark Ralph whilst recording with Raf from The 2 Bears, who had worked with the likes of Hot Chip, Franz Ferdinand, and recently completed the Clean Bandit album. The pair hit it off, and set about finessing the songs that would form Johnson’s new album. “I’d pile my vintage synths into the back of the car, head over to Mark’s place, and we’d be up half the night making this record.’
The result, ‘Europa’, is a euphoric, often-electronic-led return, celebrating love, dance…and chronicling exactly what Holly Johnson has been up to these last fifteen years. The title track began life with Vangelis in Paris over a decade ago, where Johnson – a ‘Blade Runner’ obsessive – teamed up with the legendary composer in an underground studio; a converted concrete bunker on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne, which had been originally designed for Hitler’s occupation. Some twenty four years later, Holly and Vangelis, together with long-time collaborator Mark Ralph, finally finished it off. Elsewhere, the record features contributions from Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera, Vini Reilly of Durutti Column, and the late, great Frankie Knuckles, remixing first single ‘Follow Your Heart’ alongside house legend Eric Kupper (Knuckles also remixed Holly’s first ever solo single, 1989’s ‘Love Train’). ‘Follow Your Heart’ is about that need to give yourself a push, on an album full of positivity – much to the surprise of its writer. “I really am the archetypal miseryguts,” says Holly. “The songs are full of encouragement because really I’m singing to myself, to get rid of that black dog and get me out my shell.”
And so here he is – with a new album, tour, and a passion for the music that first transported him from 1960s, working-class Liverpool to one of the pop stars of his generation. Holly Johnson describes ‘Europa’ as “a kind of retrospective of me as a songwriter. It’s the product of a life in pop music. And one thing you learn is that, every time you make a record, it might be the last one. So you’d better make it good, you’d better make it positive, and you’d better enjoy it.”
August 15 Henley-On-Thames Rewind South
August 31 Cheshire Rewind North
October 18 Bristol O2 Academy
October 19 Birmingham Birmingham Institute
October 21 Glasgow O2 ABC Glasgow
October 22 Newcastle O2 Academy Newcastle
October 24 Liverpool Liverpool EchoTwo
October 25 Manchester Manchester Academy 2
October 28 London Indigo2
‘Europa’ tracklisting, pre-order: http://smarturl.it/HOLLYSTORE
1. Follow Your Heart
2. In And Out Of Love
3. Heaven’s Eyes
4. So Much it Hurts
5. Dancing With No Fear
8. Hold On Tight
9. Lonesome Town
10. You’re In my Dreams Tonight
11. The Sun Will Shine Again.