Kubernik: Bowie-themed projects by Julian Shah-Tayler

Julian Shah-Tayler is a New-Wave/electro-rock artist originally hailing from Leeds, UK and now based in Los Angeles.

   A prolific and diverse talent, Shah-Tayler (who also records and works under the moniker The Singularity) draws his inspiration from ’80s and ’90s New Wave, Britpop, and electronic rock with his lyrics influenced by literature and a lifetime of professional touring.

   Fans have described his complex synth-driven sound as if “David Bowie and Depeche Mode had a baby."

   The busy lad has also produced the first side of David J’s (Bauhaus/Love N Rockets) upcoming album. 

    He's currently in the  studio working on tracks co-produced with Robert Margouleff (DEVO, Stevie Wonder) and collaborating with mixdown producer David Chatfield who helms Harmony Records. 

    Julian is also deep into production of his new podcast: #bowiephiles, featuring interviews with Mike Score (Flock Of Seagulls), NIck Launay (Nick Cave/Arcade Fire/Kate Bush), Carmine Rojas (Bowie/Rod Stewart) and Michael Aston (Gene Loves Jezebel).

    Julian Shah-Tayler's just released Bowie-themed project Forget That I'm 50 is now out via Harmony Records. He is the Executive Producer of a song by song cover album of Aladdin Sane that alongside a plethora of his musician friends pays tribute to David Bowie. 

   "I was delighted to debut selections from Julian's tribute to David Bowie's Aladdin Sane album," emphasized SiriusXM deejay Rodney Bingenheimer. "The two tracks I programmed ("Jean Genie" and "Cracked Actor") were amazing!”

   During May and June of 2023, HBO-TV is screening director/producer Brett Morgen's documentary on Bowie, Moonage Day Dream.

    On July 3rd, the 50th anniversary of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: The Motion Picture will be celebrated fifty years to the day when the movie returns to the Apollo Hammersmith (formerly the Odeon) on July 3rd for one night only.    

    Cinema tickets for the 50th anniversary Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: The Motion Picture are now available for the UK and Ireland.

   The 50th anniversary event will include live conversation with Bowie associates and fans, streamed from the Apollo. 

     There will also be further screenings available soon across Europe, North America, Australia, Asia and Latin America.   

  All tickets available here on davidbowie.com.

   Julian was born in Leeds, England and educated at Hogwarts(truly!) all the way to a philosophy degree at York University. Julian  moved to London as a singer songwriter with classical training on piano and self taught on guitar. 

   He won a “Golden Trailer” award for his work with Lana Del Ray on Disney's “Maleficent” trailer.  Three songs by Julian were in the music movie Plush directed by Catherine Hardwicke of Twilight fame.  

    Four of his songs cowritten with Siobhan Fahey (Bananarama/Shakespear's Sister) were the main  songs for the Astrid Angel band in the movie Riot On Redchurch St directed by Trip City and  Martin Amis' Money author/director Trevor Miller.  

     His Song “Talking In Your Sleep”  won the ASCAP/Homegrown Hits best song of 2013 earning  sponsorship from Protools and ESP guitars.

   In May of 2023 I conducted an interview with Julian Shah-Tayler about his Bowie-centric ventures and his just issued Forget That I'm 50, on Harmony Records.

Q: Besides your remodeled Bowie's Aladdin Sane endeavor, you've been hosting a Bowie-themed podcast now in production.

    You've done guest interviews with Mike Score (Flock Of Seagulls), Nick Launay (Nick Cave/Arcade Fire/Kate Bush), Carmine Rojas (Bowie/Rod Stewart) and Michael Aston (Gene Loves Jezebel).

A: I’m still working on the formatting on the interviews I’ve already done. Nothing is out yet. 

Q: Tell me about the genesis of the podcast. And how do you enjoy probing others about Bowie? You've gotten some terrific insights from guests.

A: I’ve had the great honour over the recent years of performing and working with Bowie’s band members and notable associates often, and it became clear that each of them in their anecdotes had more of an insight into the “private Bowie” than we’ll ever get from “documentary films” or interviews, as he was keenly adept at curating his public image to fit his very singular narrative in each phase of his artistic development.

    As a mega fan and a musician myself, this seems a privilege I should share with other fans. I’ve always been a collector of esoteric thought, with a heavy emphasis on philosophy and its manifest behaviour. Bowie’s imprint on the world and artistry beyond his own (musical) sphere seems so far to have been an immeasurably positive one. 

Q: Obviously, you are a fan of David Bowie. How were you introduced to his music/recordings?

A: I first heard “Let’s Dance” and was nonplussed. It felt unsophisticated and bluesy, which has never been my favourite context (I’m classically trained) but subsequently a strange friend of mine “Justin” with a seemingly very ambiguous sexuality/gender identification introduced me to Lodger and the song “Yassassin” intrigued me very deeply through its middle eastern feel and strange structure/rhythms. Next it was “Look Back in Anger” and "DJ" and I was sold on his artistry, choosing to explore further into Low, Diamond Dogs and Scary Monsters from whence I was hooked. 

Q: Were you initially struck by the image? The voice? The words? The production?  

A: I didn’t really know what he looked like. The video to "Let’s Dance" made me think of him as a very traditional 80s rockstar with the tan and blonde hair. Both of which were initially a turn off. His voice took me a while to appreciate and the lyrics never really resonated viscerally. I have recently begun to appreciate his vast and brilliant lyricism and verbal artistry, but it wasn’t an initial draw. 

   I think the experimentation with form and sounds overall was the draw. Robert Fripp’s guitar, Mike Garson’s piano, Brian Eno’s rhythm beds. 

    Once that had set the scene for me, I most certainly jumped into the whole Bowie experience wholeheartedly. He had a genius for finding the exact perfect collaborators to drape his musical inventions around and inside. 

Q: Did you see him in concert or ever have some encounters/interactions with him? 

A: I met him at Virgin Records on Oxford street for the signing of the Hours record. I had been tasked with being his liaison/security at another store (Piccadilly) until they realized his presence pulled thousands, and they removed him from my clutches. He had the great grace to have a few words with me as I was obviously horrendously disappointed and he signed a couple of CDs. 

   I only saw him perform live once at the Phoenix Festival in the UK on the earthling tour. It was transcendent. 

Q: Which brings us to Forget That I'm 50. You are the executive producer of this wonderful collection. The epicenter is your Bird of Paradigm studio in South Pasadena.  Where did this idea come from?

A: I’ve always loved the album Aladdin Sane mostly for its strange arrangements personified by Mike Garson’s contributions, and have often approximated his piano parts most imperfectly in live shows, so I decided to strip back the album to its constituent song parts and abandon piano entirely on my versions.

     I produced and/or contributed to the majority of the versions on the album to maintain a structural integrity with the project as a whole. I trusted my excellent friends to perform a stellar job overall on the album 

Q: What is the genesis of this compilation? It's not the usual tribute album. It's a whole different bag. You spent a lot of time selecting the specific recording artists.

A: I wanted to give a platform for my wonderful friends and associates to shine on this project. Like the podcast, it’s a branch to reach out to the brilliant ones  and share their skills and talents with as wide an  audience as we can reach. 

Q: Can you offer some back story and insights about your relationships and requests of participation? Did you offer a track to someone or were there some anecdotes and dialogue that resulted in them coming aboard? 

A: I mostly had to feed them to people who volunteered their services for specific songs until they were taken…. 

     I knew everyone involved except Human Drama, who were introduced to me for the project. I simply wanted the best version by the best person, and I believe I got it! 

    I met Michael Aston (Gene Loves Jezebel) on the 80s Cruise when we were playing together so he felt like a good first step to ask. His “backing band” of guitars/bass just so happened to be “beauty in chaos” with whom I’ve done a great deal of work.

    David Chatfield claimed “Cracked Actor” for his protege band Sumthing Strange and produced a fabulous version with a lot more heft and dancability than the album recorded version. I very much enjoyed contributing predominantly solo guitar to this one 

    Darwin is a great friend and member of the indie supergroup “night crickets” for who I produced an album and a few singles/EPs so I really wanted him on it. 

    Former Teen is one of my longest standing friends. He’s a brilliant musician hiding his light in plain sight on this version. 

    Beck Black is a great friend who credits me with starting her off in music. She is good friends with Rodney Bingenheimer and even has an original song with Ringo on drums. 

    Natalie Wilde is a brilliant singer who works with Nick Cave, and I’ve performed and recorded with her very often. 

   Human Drama are stalwarts of the goth scene in LA whose Lagan lilting lullabies always charmed me. Michael (beauty in chaos) introduced me. 

    Gene Micofsky is a consummate brilliant musician that I have the honour to call my friend and collaborator in some bowie tribute shows that I’ve done. 

    Jawnee Danger is a long-standing friend: a force of nature who consistently brings excellence to every musical context he touches

     Fernando Perdomo is truly a brilliant musician in every sense. This is the first time I’ve had the honour of working with him on a project. We’ll do more! 

    Mark Damian is drum genius #1 who has cropped up on my recordings and shows so often I can barely quantify. 

  Christina Larocca, - I know Christina for a long time. Lovely artist in her own right. 

    Michael and Tish Ciravolo, - “beauty in chaos” for whom I’ve done 6 remixes and one original vocal song  

     And Sumthing Strange and David Chatfield. 

Q: David Chatfield was involved in producing your own contribution, "Cracked Actor." Why did that song/initial Bowie rendition have such an impact on you? Can you address the collaboration aspect of working with David Chatfield?     

A: That one was produced by David featuring Sumthing Strange on vocals and instruments. I contributed Acoustic guitar, bvs and guitar solo only. My principal contribution was “Lady Grinning Soul.” 

   I love working with David. He has a laser focus on “the hook” wherein he leaves the majority of the song intact, but restructures to put the emphasis on the catchiest elements. It’s like digging for gold and finding the diamonds…. 

Q: As the project was coming to fruition, what were some of the initial revelations of what was being brewed?   

A: I distinctly remember a Face Time I had on tour on the east coast where I had to step out of a restaurant in a mall to listen to Johnny percolating his version live on acoustic. It was quite an  honour and very moving! 

Q: You've done some other Bowie-related ventures. Including performing "Star" with the full Bowie backing band including Mike Garson, Gerry Leonard, Carmine Rojas, Kevin Armstrong, Allan Childs at the Rose in Pasadena, California  in 2020. How was that gig? 

A: I couldn’t stay for the gig. I was performing elsewhere on a full show. The one song I did get the chance to play with them backing me was a great thrill which I’ll never forget 

Q: You cut "Lady Grinning Soul" and other Bowie tunes on an Aladdin Sane cover album.   And  Loving the Alien (from the Torment Suite EP). What is the back story on these and any anecdotes on the sessions?  

A: I fully produced "Aladdin Sane," "Panic in Detroit," "Jean Genie," "Lady Grinning Soul"  as well as recording on and/or mixing "Drive in Saturday," "Cracked Actor," "Time," and "The Prettiest Star."

   Most of these recordings were done by sending each other parts from our home studios and compiled in my/their studios. 

    "Loving the Alien" I released in 2020 and both Alain Whyte and Carmine (who played bass on the original Bowie version) both expressed their heartfelt compliments on my version. 

Q: Carmine Rojas (Bowie) and Mike Garson (Bowie) are playing on your next album of new originals album alongside David J (Bauhaus/Love and Rockets) and Alain Whyte (Morrissey). Tell me about this new endeavor and the types of tunes you are now crafting and recording.  

A: It’s an album called Honne/Tatame which is a Japanese term for the two sides of the human presentation: one is the face we show the world, the other is the reality. 

   I’m using the concept as a dichotomy to explore the light and dark sides of my writing and thought. The “Alpha Side” will be mostly optimistic and upbeat, with love songs and traditional arrangements. The “omega Side” is mostly downbeat and pessimistic displaying my “goth” leanings. It’s predominantly electronic."  


Harvey Kubernik is the author of 20 books, including 2009’s Canyon Of Dreams: The Magic And The Music Of Laurel Canyon and 2014’s Turn Up The Radio! Rock, Pop and Roll In Los Angeles 1956-1972.   Sterling/Barnes and Noble in 2018 published Harvey and Kenneth Kubernik’s The Story Of The Band: From Big Pink To The Last Waltz. In2021 they wrote Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Child for Sterling/Barnes and Noble. Otherworld Cottage Industries in 2020 published Harvey’s Docs That Rock, Music That Matters.

Kubernik’s writings are in several book anthologies. Most notably, The Rolling Stone Book Of The Beats and Drinking With Bukowski. Harvey wrote the liner notes to the CD re-releases of Carole King’s Tapestry, The Essential Carole King, Allen Ginsberg’s Kaddish, Elvis Presley The ’68 Comeback Special, The Ramones’ End of the Century and Big Brother & the Holding Company Captured Live at The Monterey International Pop Festival.  

    During 2006 Harvey spoke at the special hearings initiated by The Library of Congress held in Hollywood, California, discussing archiving practices and audiotape preservation.

Photo previously appeared in PASADENA WEEKLY.