Rod Thomas’ third album under the alias Bright Light Bright Light is a far cry from his roots as a London subway busker.
Called Choreography, it finds the Welshman rubbing shoulders with Sir Elton John, Ana Matronic and Jake Shears from the Scissor Sisters and X-Men actor Alan Cumming over a series of life-affirmingly bright, colourful electro-pop songs.
“The album is inspired by my love of dance sequences in films,” he explains. “Films have always been something that has inspired me a lot – much more than literature or music, even.
“When I was growing up in a really sleepy coal mining village it’s the things you see that really help you to dream outside of your immediate surroundings.”
The dance sequences from 80s Hollywood films stuck in his mind because they were primarily for fun. “They didn’t really serve any narrative purpose and I thought that was so cool. They bring such joy and that’s what I wanted to achieve with this record.”
The track Symmetry of Two Hearts was specifically inspired by a scene in Mannequin while Kiss For Kiss references Sigourney Weaver writhing in a sea of aliens in Alien Resurrection.
Thomas says: “They were random things to choose but there was such a sense of fun and playfulness in a lot of those films I really loved that energy and that approach to make it work.”
The singer’s association with Elton John goes back to 2009 when his management company was overseeing his career. Though Thomas eventually decided to go his own way, the pair have remained friends. Having toured together extensively, the superstar sings on two tracks on Choreography. “Having someone like that on your side is incredible,” Thomas enthuses. “He’s just the best.
“He’s really interested in what young artists and new musicians are doing. It’s so wonderful because so few people actually do that.”
All of the Scissor Sisters feature on the album – but separately.
I am one of these people that believes that when you step out of a comfort zone that’s when the magic happens.Rod Thomas
“They all live in different places now and they’re all doing different projects,” says Thomas. “I opened for them on tour back in 2012 and became friends with them all.
“It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of theirs and it’s no secret that I’m friends with them. The whole idea for the record was to make it a big, celebratory pop moment with some of my favourite people on it – and some of them just happened to be super famous. I wanted to work with them all because they’re all very talented and they all have very different personalities when it comes to making music.
“It’s really cool getting to work with them individually because they’re so different, they have such different energy and perspectives. But also because their fans are always saying ‘We wish Scissor Sisters would get back together’ in a cheeky little way I kind of did get them back together for a record, so I was quite pleased with that.”
Thomas met the actor Alan Cumming through a mutual friend in New York. “We just get on really well. We hung out a bit and we kept in touch. He’s so known for his acting roles and he’s so renowned through the theatre scene and Broadway and cabaret that I thought it would be really interesting to put him on a pop record rather than something that was more theatrical. He thought that sounded like fun and he came on board, which was awesome.”
The video concept for the album was choreographed by Tony Award winner Steven Hoggett after they met by chance at a restaurant in London. “He’s done so many different types of choreography for people like Bat For Lashes and Imogen Heap and he’s renowned for Broadway stuff like Curious Incident [of the Dog in the Night Time} and now the Harry Potter musical,” says Thomas. “I find my life bonkers in a way because of all these brilliant people I meet in such strange circumstances. You never really think that you’ll meet so many talented people but sometimes you just do.”
Having never had dance training, Thomas says he found the experience of working with a professional choreographer “amazing”. “It’s so cool to get to so something really outside of your comfort zone. I am one of these people that believes that when you step out of a comfort zone that’s when the magic happens. It’s so easy to do something that you know you can do. I feel that while I’m young and while I’ve got the space in my mind to take on new things I really want to keep trying different stuff. I learned how to work with choreography for the record, I learned how to play the saxophone for the record. I just wanted to do something that was different from the album before and produce something that felt that there was forward motion and let me have an extra level of fun.”
Although the size of venues on his UK tour don’t allow for choreographed dance sequences, Thomas promises: “It is a very energetic show, it’s really lively and fun. The whole point was to make an album that was fun to take on the road and so far it has been and people have had a blast.”
Bright Light Bright Light plays at The Wardrobe in Leeds on October 30. For details visit http://www.brightlightx2.com/
His new EP, Cinematography, a homage to his favourite musical tracks in films, will be released on November 25. It features a cover of the Michael Sembello song Maniac, from the film Flashdance.