As we’ve always understood it, there are differences between cover bands and tribute bands.  A cover band plays someone else’s music, while a tribute band actually tries to re-create the full magic of the artist in terms of how they sing and play the songs, how they move on stage and even how they look and dress. We’re not quite sure why E!’s new music competition Clash of the Cover Bands doesn’t have “tribute” in the title, save for alliteration, but either way it’s a lot more fun than most reality bouts of this type on TV. The show, produced by The Tonight Show‘s Jimmy Fallon, has been on since late October, and it’s nearly as glitzy as The Masked Singer, from its judges (who doesn’t love Adam Lambert?) to its fashion, a refreshing change from the now-formulaic set-ups on Idol and The Voice.
One of the liveliest contests so far occurred several weeks ago, when L.A.’s own Strangelove- A Depeche Mode Experience went head to head against a Poison-themed group called Shot of Poison. Ultimately the local new wavers came out victorious. We weren’t surprised as one of Strangelove’s members is more than familiar with superstar recreation: Julian Shah-Tayler, who channels David Bowie in our favorite local tribute, The Band That Fell to Earth. We caught up with the musician to chat about his TV experience and much more.

Ester Dean, Adam Lambert, Meghan Trainor and Stephen “tWitch” Boss on ‘Clash of the Cover Bands.’ (Courtesy E!)

LA WEEKLY: How did you become a contestant on Clash of the Cover Bands and what was it like?

JULIAN SHAH-TAYLER: The production had researched the (allegedly) very best tribute acts throughout the country and our name had come up as the highest grossing and most true to life iteration of Depeche Mode, so they called to see if we were keen. We were, and the rest is history.

Shooting was fascinating. I have done a lot of TV and movie shoots, but because of the COVID protocols, this shoot was peppered with restrictions and rules that I have never encountered before, such as the members of the group (who were in a dressing room together all day) being split up into two factions to use the elevators. Very strange.

The production team were incredibly lovely and helpful, the set was fantastic and the vocal coach/interviewers/judges could not have been nicer. The interviews were definitely cut to serve a particular narrative and true to format used mostly the most family-friendly moments.

You won against a Poison cover band! What were your thoughts on the competition?

We all thought the matchup was a little strange. Poison and Depeche seem like a very odd coupling. I described it in the interview as ‘the blue collar peacocks vs the European Ravens.’

We got on very well with the guys in the Poison band and the other competing bands, but we had to maintain an aloofness for the cameras as we were ready to “battle” obviously. It was a genuine surprise when we won, and we could not have been more thrilled.

What do you think about TV music contests in general? Why is this one cooler than most?

I am not really a fan of pitting artists against each other in any context as art is subjective and especially going up against such a different type of group. This show particularly however, was very lighthearted and as such made us feel happy to be part of it. The prize money will come in handy also.

Explain the format– each show features similar types of bands right? Some shows feature popstar cover singers. Will it ever cross-genres? Will your band be back?

Each week is a competition supposedly like for like. We were “80s icons” and there are also rock bands, divas, etc. I feel it will not do any cross genre stuff. We are not expecting to come back, as it is not a “heats based” context.

Strangelove (E!/Casey Durkin)

How did you get involved with Strangelove and why is Depeche Mode still so beloved after all these years? 

I performed onstage as Bowie opening for Strangelove and hit it off very well with Brent [Meyer, who performs as Martin Gore]. They parted ways with their keyboard player, so he asked me whether I would be interested in joining as the “Alan Wilder” character in the band. Luckily I am a classically trained piano player and a synth enthusiast, so I thought it was a fun proposal.

Depeche Mode, to me represent the very best combination of musicality with Bowie-esque songwriting, fascinating and unusual electronic rock arrangements and very intellectual but sexy lyrics. It’s the perfect storm. Smart songs you can dance to (vertically as well as horizontally)!

Is Strangelove going on The Tonight Show with The  Jimmy Fallon? The show touts one act will get to do so.

They will select one of the acts (not necessarily winners of the heat) to come on Jimmy Fallon. Maybe it will be us!

Shah-Tayler on our cover in 2017 (LA Weekly)

You graced LA Weekly’s cover as David Bowie in The Band That Fell to Earth (for a tribute band story) back in 2017.  How has it been doing that for quite a few years now?

It’s been going for around 6 years, I believe. Bowie is the artist I feel most close to, and it is a great honor that people feel I serve his legacy adequately. You certainly couldn’t find a more avid fan than I of his music and art.

What’s next for you and all your other musical projects?

I’m very excited to be working with some true legends on my new solo album under my name ‘Julian Shah-Tayler aka The Singularity Music.’

I am truly honored to have Alain Whyte who wrote with Morrissey, Carmine Rojas who played bass with Bowie, David J of Bauhaus and Love and Rockets), plus MGT, Marc Slutsky, Chris Olivas and Robert Margouleff on the self-produced record. It will take the format of an immersive album as well as a normal iteration. All the wonderful contributors have been very generous with their time.

I am also working flat out doing remixes for various artists such as Ne-Yo with Daisy O’Dell, Wayne Hussey  of Mission UK and Beauty in Chaos, David J, Adams Traktor, Cinthya Hussey, Tish Ciravolo, Weird Wolves feat Ava Gore and Raphael Colantonio, the award winning Winachi Tribe remix, and engineering and producing classical piano artist Wayne Bethanis.

Strangelove perform live at the Bourbon Room, 6356 Hollywood Blvd. Hollywood; Sat., Dec. 18, 8 p.m. Tickets and info here.

Clash of the Cover Bands‘ finale airs Wed. Dec. 22 at 9:30 p.m. on E!. Winning act to appear on The Tonight Show will be announced on the show.

Learn more about Strangelove here and The Band That Fell To Earth here. 

Julian Shah-Tayler’s own music is on Soundcloud, Facebook and YouTube.

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