The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Fad Gadget Day *

* (restored)


‘The early 80s saw the emergence of the electronic/dance phenomenon in Europe. At the forefront of this movement were four names: Cabaret Voltaire, The Human League, The Normal, and Fad Gadget (Frank Tovey). Tovey released his first single Back to Nature in 1979 and was the first signing to Daniel Miller’s Mute label. Miller (as The Normal) had previously put out his own composition “T.V.O.D.” c/w “Warm Leatherette” and was thinking of starting a label when he met Tovey. As Fad Gadget Tovey played solo with a drum machine and synthesizer confusing audiences at the time used to the standard rock format. Now, obviously, the scene is radically different with electronic sounds and beat boxes being the norm.

‘Fad Gadget’s music was characterized by a use of synthesizers in conjunction with sounds of found objects, including drills and electric razors. His bleak, sarcastic, and darkly humorous lyrics, often layered in meaning and discussing subjects such as machinery, building construction, human sexuality, and physical violence, were sung in a droning, often expressionless voice.

‘The influence of Tovey’s early experiments in electronic music can be heard in the likes of the Pet Shop Boys, New Order, Depeche Mode, and all the Techno/Dance Bands of the 90s. The main characteristic of Tovey’s work that distinguished him from his contempories and his followers was the quality of his lyrics. Not satisfied with singing pseudo science fiction (a la Gary Numan) or crass love songs, Tovey developed a style more akin to Dylan or Lou Reed, his black humour often confusing the punters at the time more interested in style than content. His songs “spoke of the diseases and fears poorly hidden from view. They spoke for and against the little man, the ubiquitous civilian bewildered by the speed of events threatening to sweep him up or leave him behind. And they spoke in a variety of voices: dead pan, severe, sardonic, satirical and, finally, disarmingly sincere….” — Biba Kopf ’91.

‘Imagewise Tovey never played the pretty pop singer role preferring to be photographed by Anton Corbin covered from head to toe in shaving foam or tarred and feathered. His stage shows were often been mad acrobatic events. Where most performers remain untouchable he would purposely goad an audience, sometimes somersaulting from the stage (before stage diving became an international sport), like a latter-day cockney version of Iggy Pop his audience passing him around above their heads before depositing him back on the stage and screaming for more.

‘In 2001, after a number of years recording and performing under his real name, Tovey resurrected his old Fad Gadget pseudonym to support his former colleagues and Mute label-mates, Depeche Mode, on their Exciter tour. He continued to perform live, and was working on a new album at the time of his death. Tovey suffered from heart problems since his childhood, and died of a heart attack on 3 April 2002 at the age of 45.’ — fad




Interview 1

on German TV


Interview 2

by Edwin Pouncey



Official Fad Gadget/Frank Tovey Website
Frank Tovey Fansite
Fad Gadget Discography
Alex Proyas’ film ‘Frank Gadget by Frank Tovey’
Boxset: ‘Frank Tovey by Fad Gadget’
Fad Gadget @ Mute Records
Fad Gadget @ Trouser Press
Simon Reynolds ‘Cult Heroics: Frank Tovey’
Frank Tovey obituary @ NYT


Tribute (2012)


March 1 – April 8 – EXHIBITION Opening Reception, envoy enterprises (131 Chrystie Street)
March 3 – LIVE PERFORMANCES, Dixon Place (161 Chrystie Street)
March 10 – FILM, Fad Gadget by Frank Tovey, Anthology Film Archives (32 2nd Ave)

envoy enterprises, in collaboration with NP Contemporary Art Center and Mute Records, is pleased to present FG.Ft, a three-part project series in homage to Frank Tovey – founder of the 1970s/1980s British electronic group Fad Gadget, marking the 10 year anniversary of the pioneer’s death. Summoning a diverse group of artists and musicians who have been both directly and indirectly influenced by Tovey, the series will take place from March 1st through to April 8th, 2012 featuring a group exhibition, live music performances, and a film screening. All events are free and open to the public.

Show catalog and flyer will be available for purchase along with CD released by Mute Records of rare archived material from Fad Gadget. To purchase, please contact

All events are free and open to the public on a first come, first serve basis.

Participating Artist Roster: FG.Ft
Olaf Breuning, Nick Cash, Nathan Cash Davidson, Thomas Dozol, Fischerspooner, David Flinn, Erik Hanson, Kelsey Henderson, Tom Kalin, Erika Keck, Brian Kenny, Robert Knoke, Terence Koh, Lovett/Codagnone, Slava Mogutin, Micky Pellerano, Edwin Pouncey, Alex Rose, Desi Santiago, Matthew Sims, Stephanie Snider, Gail Stoicheff, Una Szeemann, Frank Tovey, Conrad Ventur, Martynka Wawrzyniak, Liz Wendelbo, Grant Worth

Live Performances: FG.Ft
March 3, 2012, 10:30pm: Dixon Place
Xeno & Oaklander
Ike Yard

Film Screening: Fad Gadget by Frank Tovey
March 10, 2012, 8pm: Anthology Film Archives
Directed by Morgan Tovey Frost

FG.Ft (Fad Gadget). Tribute to Frank Tovey

FG.Ft (Fad Gadget) – David Flinn Performance

envoy enterprises






‘Swallow It’

‘Love Parasite’

‘Collapsing New People’

‘Ricky’s Hand’

‘Coitus Interruptus’

‘Luddite Joe’

‘Back to Nature’



‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’


Fad Gadget & Boyd Rice live at the ICA, London




p.s. Hey. ** Sypha, Hi. Cool you read and liked the book. Ha ha, we/they aren’t that gloomy, James. Don’t believe the hype. Really digging that story you’re working on already. ** Nick Toti, Hey, Nick. Okay, anticipation re: the percolating projects when the time feels right. Oh, wow! The Megan Boyle ‘Liveblog’ project. That’s very alluring on all kinds of levels, and yeah, how great. Super curious how you do/ frame/ present/ etc. that material. Cool, that is a super interesting project. Yeah, the gallery/looping idea sounds good. Keep me informed whenever it suits you, for sure. Excellent! ** Steve Erickson, Hi. Thank you a lot for talking to Corey. In case you didn’t see his comment, Kyler has advice fo you about seeing the comments. I’ll post his advice here, i.e.: ‘Steve, if you want to read all the comments, here’s how: Go to FB – click on the link of the current post. Then scroll down to the end of the post and you’ll see all of the comments. Don’t click on the number of comments you see there, that doesn’t usually work. I’ve mastered this technique myself and thought you’d like to know!’ Well, based on our experience with PGL vis-a-vis festivals, that really seems to be the case. The other things they have a pre-set beeline towards are genre films. If you’ve made a fiction film that doesn’t fit comfortably and edgily in a known genre (horror, scoff, thriller, etc.), especially if there’s not a ‘name’ actor in the cast, it’s a very tough road. ** JM, Hi, man! You made a couple of excellent purchases there, need I even say. I’m good, busy, but when am I not, but on the busier side of busy du jour. But good. And will be especially after my apartment’s heater finally gets fixed tomorrow morning. Obviously, I hope the learning you’re going through tips positive, less emotional or else giddily so. Urgh. ** Steve Finbow, Hi, Steve! Oh, thank you and Martin and Karolina and Brad. I’m very excited to start reading the book. Congrats, respect, and take care. ** Bill, Hi, B. I hope the memorial wasn’t too emotionally tough. Here it’s super windy at the moment. The windows are escaping their latches and performing a whole Test Dept. concert for me. ** Misanthrope, Hi, G. I only just barely know what a Marie Kondo hell would be like, but I can vibe it. I kind of love cleaning up and throwing away ancient FedEx receipts and stuff. In fact, I’ve been due a heavy cleaning for long enough now that it does feel like hard labor, which of course is adding to my procrastination, all of which I know you understand. I’ve never heard of Zilv Gudel. I seem to be behind on my porn research. Of course I will get that phenomenon under my belt, as it were. Thank you. That’s intense about the worker dropping dead. That is an awful, awful place to go. Oh, man. ** _Black_Acrylic, It won’t surprise you one little bit that I took —  and continue to take —  much delight at Hatari, and, yeah, they really could sweep the fucking thing, right? ** Jeff J, Hi. Still waiting to hear back from G. Should be any hour now. I have to count myself among those who never really got Felt, while always fully aware that that was/is due to some kind of interference on my side. Strange because I do kind of like his current project — I forget its name — which is clearly far less interesting than Felt. Okay, it’s been a while since I launched Felt and concentrated, so I will imminently. I’ll alert you if I’m finally converted. I didn’t see ‘Madeline’s Madeline’, no. But I will try to rectify that ASAP by means to be determined. Thanks a lot, man. ** kyler, I was going to say I did a Louis Malle Day on the blog, but I just checked, and apparently I didn’t. How strange. I’ll make one. I … don’t think I’ve seen ‘The Fire Within’. I might be spacing. I’m intrigued. I think my favorite Malle films are ‘Lacombe Lucien’, ‘Black Moon’, and ‘Elevator to the Gallows’ off the top of my head. I also can’t think of a film by him I haven’t liked. Huh. Yeah, I’ll make a him-centric post. Cool, thanks, K. And for trying to sort out Steve’s blog problem, ** Grant R Maierhofer, Hi, Grant. Thanks about the Bookworm show. Yeah, Michael is, as people often say, the best reader in America. Talking with him is always inspiring, on the air and off. Diogenes the Cynic: … no, I know the name but nothing much about him. I’ll get on that. Thanks a lot. Nonfiction book, very cool! What a totally fantastic press that Inside the Castle is. Hm, book projects by me … Well, I have this to-be-finished novel, but that’ll take a while. My agent keeps saying she’s going to get someone to do a facsimile book including all the issues of Little Caesar, but nothing seems to ever come of that. So I guess no actual book by me in the immediate future. It seems to be films and gif fiction books and theater and TV for me right now. Weird, it has been a while. Take care, bud. ** Okay. I decided to restore an old Fad Gadget-centric post. Not as bad idea, I think? See you tomorrow.


  1. David Ehrenstein

    “The Fire With” (aka. “Le Feu Follet”) is required viewing — especially for you, Dennis. It’s shot in “real time” like “Cleo From 5 to 7” and concerns a guy (played beautifully by Maurice Ronet) who has just been released from a sanitarium for alcoholism and has been so destroyed by the experience that he decides to commit suicide. the film is about everything leading up to his topping himself as he walks around Paris and revisits old friends (Jeanne Moreau, Alexandra Stewart) before finally pulling the trigger. Eric Satie’s piano music is used for the score.

    The Marie Curie of “Audience Diving” is Iggy. I saw him at its birth when The Stooges played the New York State Pavilion on the grounds of the World’s Fair in Flushing.

  2. Sypha

    I still listen to Fad Gadget quite often, even used his song “Jump” for my “Xyschaton” story that appeared in Snuggly Books’ DROWNING IN BEAUTY anthology last year.

    Dennis, I was only half-serious about that gloomy European thing, ha ha. But it’s true that I’ve known many Europeans who have a bizarre fixation on subjects like serial killers, concentration camps, weird genetic deformities, and what have you (and certainly the European musical bands that focus on such subject matter seem to far outnumber the American types).

  3. Steve Erickson

    I followed Kyler’s advice, and right now I don’t see any comments. Am I the first today, or is this another glitch?

    I’ve noticed how even films which are made for $200,000 seem to need to cast an actor from a TV show or Hollywood movie to get attention and distribution. The idea of casting unknown actors or non-professionals only works commercially if you turn it into a gimmick.

    Here’s my review of AN ELEPHANT SITTING STILL:

    Did you get your heat back today?

  4. h

    Hi Dennis! I missed you. How are you? What’s up? Omg I haven’t read so many new posts. You should give me a bad grade for it. I should catch up. Speak with you soon, xx. (We have snowstorm here yesterday & today. Are you jealous?)

  5. Steve Erickson

    After an FB chat session with Kyler, I’ve realized I have to click on your personal FB page – not the FB page for your blog – to find a link that allows me to read the comments here.

    Have you heard the Icelandic band Hatari, who are repping the country at Eurovision? I can’t say their music is great – it’s a NIN/Rammstein/Marilyn Manson version of industrial – but their highly theatrical, pro-BDSM, anti-capitalist image is more fun than the usual poptimist artists who appear at Eurovision.

  6. Kyler

    Yay Steve! Dennis, reserved Black Moon and Elevator to the Gallows at the library. I’ve already seen Lacombe Lucien, but ordered that again too. Glad I mentioned this – almost didn’t, figured you’d have known The Fire Within – but I agree with David = a must-see for you. Much as I don’t want to be too obsessed with it, and that beautiful actor Maurice Ronet, I think I’ll have to see it again. Guess what? Broke my toe! But as the doctor said, if you have to break something, it might as well be your toe. No big deal, just have to wear an exposed sock and it’s supposed to be cold today – I’ll have to wear 2 socks! I’ve picked out a red sock for the outer one. Oh BTW, I love Fad Gadget, didn’t know them before.

  7. Misanthrope

    Dennis, So my new bed comes tomorrow evening. I’m excited. And then I stood on this Dr. Scholl’s thing at Walmart and it analyzed my feet and told me what kind of inserts to buy and $40 later I’m walking on clouds.

    Here’s the thing: 17-year-old me would never in a million years think that he’d ever be exciting about shoe inserts and new beds. What the hell have I done with my life?!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Yeah, it’s sad. I mean, just drop over like that at work. A guy I know there was like, thank God it wasn’t a Friday, they wouldn’t have found him until Monday. For real. It’s a ghost town there on Fridays.

    And now Luke Perry’s dead at 52. What the hell? A stroke? At that age? Fucker is (or was) only 5 years older than I am.

    But I’m being dramatic. I’m a live forever. :p 😮 🙂

    Totally sucks, though, to die that young. I’m totally against it.

  8. Bill

    Somehow I have not been a Fad Gadget fan all this time. Better late than never, I suppose.

    Hope your heat is going full blast by the time you read this, Dennis.


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