Australian electro pop band, Parralox is fronted by out singer John von Ahlen, but that is definitely not a position that came easily him. While they continue to champion synthesized wave pop sounds made famous by Depeche Mode, The Human League, Erasure, New Order, Pet Shop Boys, Parralox has dropped their ninth studio album, Genesis. Produced by von Ahlen, he caught up with me to talk about stepping in to the frontman spot of Parralox, his greatest musical muses, and what this unique and electro-wonderful band have coming up in 2020.
Michael Cook: So Parralox has new music and it’s the ninth album; how does it feel?
John von Ahlen: You know, I am kind of amazed that we have made it this far (laughs). When you think about being in a band and making music, you see bands come and go so much. When you can look back and see that it has been ten years and realize you have made it this far, it’s pretty amazing. To actually try and keep the caliber of the music up to a level that makes you and the fans happy, that is another kettle of fish all together. It’s pretty good I have to say.
MC: How would you describe your sound for those that have not heard it?
JvA: It really does depend on who I am talking to. I tell them that it is electronic dance/pop music, but you could categorize it by saying it is EDM with heavy pop leaning maybe? I would sum it up as electronic pop music with a bit of an edge, definitely.
MC: I have heard that originally, you did not want to enter into the music industry?
JvA: I definitely did not intend on being a lead singer, although I had played in the music industry for quite a while. I always wanted to make music, but I never wanted to be a front person. I grew up as a tech geeky kind of kid; my mom and I would go window shopping, but my dad and I bonded on a technical level. He introduced me to computers and technology. I was listening to my mother’s music and those two worlds just collided. I would always dream of synthesizers when I was younger, but I really loved making the music.
Following that road, I started doing beats and writing songs. I ended up in a production sort of role after that. I worked with songwriters and lyricists and I was very comfortable being the guy behind the scenes, the guy behind the curtain twiddling the knobs, doing my thing and not having to be in the front.
MC: Did front people for a band always have to have a certain “look” from your perspective?
JvA: There are other people who look fabulous-not that I don’t look fabulous (laughs)-there are others though that are superstars and happy to be up front. We had Roxy (Martin) as our first vocalist, who was amazing and then Amy who came after Roxy. After three or four years after Amy leaving the band, I found myself in a position saying “here we go again, I need to find another singer”. We did an album of cover versions called “Recovery” it was our first sort of covers album. I sang a few songs on there. One of them was a cover of The Alan Parsons Project “Eye In the Sky” and my manager at the time thought that it should be a single; it ended up being our most popular single at the time!
We ended up shooting a proper video for it and it ended up becoming very successful. A lot of blogs picked up on it, and somehow I fell into being in the lead role. I am sort of stepping up in terms of being a front person now; I did not look for it, but here we are!
MC: On “Choose Your Faith”, you have actress and 80’s icon Jane Badler on vocals. How did that partnership come about?
JvA: That is so interesting, because I idolized her during the 80’s from watching V; she’s incredible, who doesn’t remember her with that rat (laughs)? I am a major science fiction geek and here in Melbourne, as well as globally, she has established herself as an amazing jazz singer. I have seen quite a few of her shows in Melbourne over the decade admiring her from afar. A record label in England that I had done some remix and production work reached out to me and mentioned that they had a singer that wanted to do some pop music and that they thought I would be great to produce her. When they said it was Jane Badler and asked I I would like to do it, it was like “I know her and fuck yes”! The idea was to do a pop sort of album, I think she was supposed to do the majority of the songs with someone else. The guys at the label thought we could do one of two songs. We met, I showed her songs that I had written and she loved a lot of them. We narrowed it down to four songs and she loved them all, and she did a great job.
She messaged me at the end of 2019 and mentioned that a few things had happened, but was definitely still interested in the music. I was in the production and demo process for “Genesis”, and then it occurred to me; three of the songs that we had recorded were Parralox songs anyway, and that’s how Jane Badler ended up on the album. We are planning on shooting an album on the song she recorded and if we can get that as a video, that would be incredible.
MC: Your sound is very broad and has a very electronic 80’s style. Who do you cite as influences of your own?
JvA: Depeche Mode, Kate Bush, Grace Jones, Nile Rodgers, Abba Queen, Madonna. In terms of the bands that I love personally, it’s Human League, The Alan Parsons Project and even The Carpenters. It’s a blend of the bands that I knew as a youngster and the music my parents listened to as well. I grew up on Patti Page, Julio Igelasias and the old timers. Subconsciously, you get a music education in terms of song structure. As a teenager, you find your bands that are cool that your parents don’t like. I like a blend of the old and the new and that’s what sums up Parralox as well.
MC: Rocketman just was in theaters, and Rami Malek was an Oscar for playing Freddie Mercury. Who would you want to see start as you in a biopic?
JvA: I guess I am reaching for the stars, but Henry Cavill? (laughs).
MC: What do you see as something you truly want to accomplish in 2020?
JvA: Well, we already have our calendars filling up. In March, we are headlining a festival in Manchester at Factory Records, so we have that. We are going to do another festival in June or July. We are going to release the first single from Genesis as well. Other than that, we are working on a tribute album for the Human League which his expected in March. Next year, I plan on releasing three singles from the Genesis album, I have not figured out which ones just yet. I designed the album to have as many songs to release as singles as possible. With Parralox, I am always thinking ahead. We aways have a holiday album called Holiday19. Basically, some cover versions of songs that the fans request. I have stated work on those already and have already started work on the next album. You must keep going or you lose that momentum. As a side, I also will have a radio show called Neon Nights on Australia’s largest LGBTI radio station. I do that sow every Saturday and we interview amazing artists as well like Roisin Murphy and Danni Miogue this year. Sometimes we end up forming a connection and working with them, so it ends up working quite nicely for Parralox as well.
Parralox’s new album, Genesis, and its first single, “Tears of Faith feat. Jane Badler”, are available on Apple Music, Amazon, Spotify, and all digital platforms now.
For All Things Parralox, visit https://parralox.com/
All Art Courtesy of Parralox (Facebook)