Tag: ZTT (Page 2 of 3)

TOM WATKINS Let’s Make Lots of Money

Secrets of a Rich, Fat, Gay, Lucky Bastard

“I told a TV Crew it was ‘an absolute fallacy that we tell people what to wear and do’. Guess what? I lied. That was exactly what we did.”: TOM WATKINS

TOM WATKINS Let's Make Lots of Money-book‘Let’s Make Lots of Money: Secrets of a Rich, Fat, Gay, Lucky Bastard’ is the frank autobiography of Tom Watkins, the Pop Svengali best known for managing PET SHOP BOYS, BROS and EAST 17.

Co-written with Matthew Lindsay, the title is provocative. But then, Watkins has always been that kind of a personality. Called “A big man with a loud voice” by Neil Tennant, his high profile as a manager came with a bolshy ability to extract favourable deals, whether it was for his various charges or himself; it is rumoured that Watkins took 20% commission on gross income from PET SHOP BOYS and BROS.

With his earlier success founding the design agency XL, it could be argued that Watkins helped shaped an era in modern pop.

Watkins first met the future PET SHOP BOYS vocalist at Marvel Comics, before Tennant moved on to become Deputy Editor of pop rag ‘Smash Hits’ in 1982. In the book, he recalls gleefully about hearing how Tennant got into an argument with then-NME journalist Paul Morley at the launch party of Dave Rimmer’s book ‘Like Punk Never Happened: Culture Club and the New Pop’, and settled the dispute by kicking the belligerent scribe in the shins!

FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD Two Tribes - Annihilation Mix 12Watkins was to cross paths himself with Morley. Having spent his younger years as a design student, later working under Terence Conran and Rodney Fitch, he eventually established XL.

Their artwork adorned the sleeves of KIM WILDE, OMD, NIK KERSHAW, WHAM! and most famously Zang Tuum Tumb (ZTT), the label founded by Paul Morley, Trevor Horn and Jill Sinclair with which THE ART OF NOISE and FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD shot to stardom. XL were later to employ a junior designer named Mark Farrow.

Of his relationship with ZTT, Watkins says Trevor Horn was “an adorable space cadet” while Paul Morley was patronising, rude and miserable. Back in 1983, there was no Google so eager to learn, Watkins asked what Zang Tuum Tumb actually meant; Morley’s sneering answer was “It’s the sound the snare drum makes” before sniggering at him. So when Watkins eventually found out about its origins with the Italian Futurists, he felt humiliated, with the assertion that “Only a real prick ridicules someone for asking a question…” – Watkins had the last laugh though when Sinclair and Horn commissioned him to design the interior of Sarm West Studios.

In hindsight, the two brash characters were unlikely to have ever got on and Watkins concedes now “Maybe Zang Tuum Tumb was supposed to be like the sound of a drum machine as well. Maybe I was just being a big, pretty diva…” – but the strange thing is today, even with Google to hand, there are still music journalists who can’t tell their tape recorders from their drum machines.

pet_shop_boys-west_end_girls_7inch epicIt was under the XL umbrella that Watkins began his professional relationship with PET SHOP BOYS, designing the sleeve of the original Bobby Orlando produced version of ‘West End Girls’ released by Epic Records in 1984. But after it flopped and PET SHOP BOYS were dropped, Tennant asked Watkins to manage them, impressed by his FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD associations. Watkins loved ‘West End Girls’ and in particular, a sweeping piece of grandeur entitled ‘Jealously’ which Tennant had written in response to a friend who had resented the time he was spending with musical partner Chris Lowe.

Watkins happily accepted, safe in the knowledge that WHAM! and JAPAN manager Simon Napier-Bell had already declined to listen to a demo tape Tennant had given him containing ‘Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots Of Money)’, ‘West End Girls’ and ‘It’s A Sin’.

One of Watkins’ best lines in the book is “you can’t make chicken soup out of chicken sh*t” and he was well aware that a unique selling point was vital to an act’s success. Reflecting one of the issues that could be applied to today’s UK electronic music scene, EMI A&R man Dave Ambrose told Watkins of GIGGLES, his previous foray into band management: “There isn’t anything wrong with them. But there’s not a lot right with them either”.

Pet Shop Boys - Opportunities 1st issueDespite having some killer songs, Watkins now had the dilemma of how to sell PET SHOP BOYS visually. The first PSB gigs in 1984 at Brixton Fridge and in Luxembourg saw Tennant trying to do his best Bowie impression, while Lowe gyrated and pelvic thrusted his keyboard; neither were particularly comfortable with their actions.

Meanwhile as the “mean (if hardly lean) bullsh*t machine”, Watkins went back to Dave Ambrose with ‘West End Girls’ as the perfect show reel. The man who had signed SEX PISTOLS, DURAN DURAN and TALK TALK to EMI welcomed PET SHOP BOYS into the empire.

Tennant departed ‘Smash Hits’ and at his leaving party, his colleagues presented him with a mocked-up front cover which read: “HOW I LEFT BRITAIN’S BRIGHTEST MAGAZINE TO FORM MY TRAGIC POP GROUP, WENT DOWN THE DUMPER AND ASKED FOR MY JOB BACK” – little did they know that Tennant would grace their front cover within nine months!

Watkins’ attempts to get PET SHOP BOYS to “sex it up” fell on deaf ears though. Tennant and Lowe wanted to be enigmatic; they exuded a Northern contrariness that was the antithesis of DURAN DURAN, SPANDAU BALLET and WHAM! Still not entirely convinced, Watkins recalls the horror of seeing their first ‘Top Of The Pops’ appearance in late 1985: “They don’t do anything. How are people going to go for this?” – but go for it they did!

Despite realising he had a phenomenon on his hands, Watkins did exert his management veto on a few occasions, notably when the duo had the rather pretentious idea of issuing a manifesto called ‘Two In A Million’ to the UK press in Italian! His defensive response in these situations was to become his catchphrase “What would Edna in Huddersfield think?”; but quite what Edna made of the 1988 art movie turkey that was ‘It Couldn’t Happen Here’ is debatable.

PET SHOP BOYS’ dialectic of “east / west. Posh / rough. Irony / sincerity. Pop / anti-pop” led to what Tennant himself would later call their imperial phase, which included four UK chart topping singles and a US No1 in ‘West End Girls’. But despite their seemingly unstoppable success, Watkins’ assessment is that ‘Domino Dancing’ with its AIDS narrative and sexually ambiguous promo video was what stalled Tennant and Lowe’s Stateside momentum.

Just one listen to the ‘Discography’ singles collection is a timely reminder of what PET SHOP BOYS achieved under Watkins’ stewardship. But his contract was not renewed and while he states in the book he was gutted at the time, Watkins admits that he has missed working with Tennant and Lowe, even though in his words: “Unlike Neil Tennant, I could mould Matt Goss and his brother with complete control”.

And so it was that Watkins continued on, looking after ELECTRIBE 101 whose high point was supporting DEPECHE MODE on the ‘Violator’ tour. Fronted by Billie Ray Martin, they split due to good old-fashioned musical differences, but Watkins found success masterminding the careers of BROS and EAST 17, before eventually both acts imploded too.

Misguided self-delusions of talent plagued the former, particularly as Watkins co-wrote all of the BROS hits with producer Nicky Graham under the pseudonym of The Brothers. Indeed, the episode was amusingly documented by PET SHOP BOYS on ‘How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously?’.

Meanwhile the low brain cell count of Brian Harvey sealed the fate of EAST 17. Some have considered band management to be akin to looking after children and whatever one’s feelings on Watkins, he certainly earned his commission dealing with these Primadonnas.

Undeterred, Watkins persevered with FAITH, HOPE & CHARITY, 2WO THIRD3, NORTH & SOUTH, DEUCE, THE MODERN and even an animated character named KULKARNI who couldn’t answer him back! However, while these acts were not themselves successful, they did spawn TV presenter Dani Behr, songwriter Richard ‘Biff’ Stannard and retro flavoured electro artist KID KASIO, so he must have spotted something…

But the pop world was changing and now occupied by reality TV talent shows (Watkins amusingly describes ‘The X Factor’ as like “a Nuremberg Rally on pink drugs”!), bland indie rock and brainless dance music, Watkins’ loud and proud approach no longer had a home. For him, that was it as far as the music business was concerned.

While not for everyone, ‘Let’s Make Lots of Money: Secrets of a Rich, Fat, Gay, Lucky Bastard’ is an amusing and entertaining account of an excessive, yet innovative period when mavericks were embraced and the bland were shunned. In today’s world, the opposite is true.

The music industry is not what it was and while Watkins is a polarising character whose career path has been seemingly driven by a combination of shouting, artistic nous, lust and low self-esteem, he has certainly achieved much more than most.


‘Let’s Make Lots of Money: Secrets of a Rich, Fat, Gay, Lucky Bastard’ is published on 7th July 2016 in hardback by Virgin Books

https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/1096752/let-s-make-lots-of-money/

http://petshopboys.co.uk/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
2nd July 2016, updated 19th January 2017

A Beginner’s Guide To TREVOR HORN

TREVOR HORNTrevor Horn is a producer who can be said to have shaped modern pop music.

He began his professional music career as a session bassist, most notably for UK disco starlet Tina Charles and her producer Biddu.

Another member of her backing band was keyboard player Geoff Downes; together they would go on to form BUGGLES and score a No1 in 1979 with ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’. But Horn’s pop stardom was to be short-lived. Despite their musical virtuosity, BUGGLES were an unusual looking pair…

So with his best interests at heart, his wife and business partner Jill Sinclair advised that while he wasn’t going to be the greatest frontman in the world, there was a chance he could make it as a top record producer.

In 1981, Horn started a run of producing and co-writing four singles for pop duo DOLLAR; this attracted the attention of NME journalist Paul Morley and they would later establish the ZTT label through Island Records.

Also listening were Sheffield band ABC who asked him to produce their debut album ‘The Lexicon Of Love’. It was during these 1982 sessions that Horn brought together his classic studio team of arranger Anne Dudley, engineer Gary Langan and Fairlight specialist JJ Jeczalik for the first time; the three would later become THE ART OF NOISE.

During this early phase of his production career, Horn favoured the Fairlight CMI as his tool of choice; it had been demonstrated to him electronic music pioneer and Simmons SDS-V co-designer Richard James Burgess, who had worked with him on the first BUGGLES album ‘The Age Of Plastic’.

The Fairlight also allowed for many arrangement possibilities and not just one, but two, three or four different remixes of a single track, a promotional tactic that was employed heavily at ZTT with FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD, THE ART OF NOISE, PROPAGANDA and ACT.

Horn had first become interested in more mechanised musical templates after hearing ‘Warm Leatherette’ by THE NORMAL in 1978. So when the Linn Drum Computer came along, it was like manna from heaven for the forward thinking Horn. He told The Guardian in 2004: “You could tell the Linn what to do, which was unbelievable because before then you had to tell the drummer what to do and he was generally a pain in the a*se”. However, Horn did use accomplished session musicians when needed to compliment his carefully controlled direction.

Horn would go on to win BRIT Awards for ‘Best British Producer’ in 1983, 1985 and 1992. In 2010, he received an Ivor Novello Award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to British Music’.

produced by Trevor HornHis production portfolio is vast, taking in PAUL McCARTNEY, TOM JONES, CHER, ROD STEWART, MALCOLM McLAREN, ROBBIE WILLIAMS, GENESIS, LEANN RIMES, LISA STANSFIELD and CHARLOTTE CHURCH among many, plus lesser known acts such as PHILIP JAP, INTERPLAY and THE MINT JULEPS.

Not necessarily collecting his best known or mainstream work, but certainly listing some of his more interesting adventures in modern recording, here are eighteen works from Trevor Horn that fit closest to the electro ethos of ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK, presented in chronological order…


ABC Poison Arrow (1982)

ABC Poison ArrowABC’s first single ‘Tears Are Not Enough’ produced by Steve Brown was loose, scratchy funk that fitted in with the times, but the Sheffield combo wanted to be a far more polished and approached Horn to hone their sound. The first fruit of labours was ‘Poison Arrow’ was held together with a drum machine backbone and augmented by some dramatic piano passages from Anne Dudley in her first session with Horn. The chemistry of all involved led to a musical masterpiece of the era, ‘The Lexicon Of Love’.

Available on the ABC album ‘The Lexicon Of Love’ via Mercury Records

http://www.abcmartinfry.com/


SPANDAU BALLET Instinction (1982)

SPANDAU BALLET InstinctionHorn reworked Richard James Burgess’ production of ‘Instinction’ and threw in reworked synths from Anne Dudley and extra bombastic percussion; it saved SPANDAU BALLET’s career. However, further sessions were abandoned when, according to songwriter Gary Kemp in his autobiography ‘I Know This Much: From Soho to Spandau’, Horn wanted drummer John Keeble replaced with a drum machine. Kemp stuck by his bandmate and went with IMAGINATION producers Swain and Jolley for the ‘True’ album.

Available on the SPANDAU BALLET album ‘Gold : The Best Of’ via EMI Records

http://thestory.spandauballet.com/


YES Owner Of A Lonely Heart (1983)

Yes-OwnerOfALonelyHeartIn 1981, Horn had partly abandoned work on the second BUGGLES album to join Geoff Downes in YES; the press dubbed the new line-up YUGGLES! But Horn amicably left a few months later to finish what became ‘Adventures In Modern Recording’ and kickstart his production career. With Gary Langan and JJ Jeczalik on board, ‘Owner Of A Lonely Heart’, could be considered as the birth of THE ART OF NOISE; the stabbing samples of a jazz orchestra and tight programmed drums provided a distinctive counterpoint.

Available on the YES album ‘90125’ via Atlantic Records

http://www.jonanderson.com/


THE ART OF NOISE Moments In Love (1983)

ArtOfNoise-MomentsInLoveTHE ART OF NOISE “happened because of a happy accident” said Gary Langan. But Trevor Horn was not their producer – “Well, he wasn’t the producer!!”  Langan clarified,“we were the producers! If I’m being really honest, we were a little naive. Anne, JJ and myself really had no intention of forming a band… so when we signed to ZTT, we needed somebody to do all the artwork and how it was going to portrayed which was really down to Paul and Trevor”. It was an indicator of how powerful Horn’s name had become.

Available on THE ART OF NOISE album ‘Who’s Afraid Of…?’ via Union Square / Salvo

http://www.theartofnoiseonline.com/


PROPAGANDA Dr Mabuse (1984)

PROPAGANDA Dr MabuseDüsseldorf’s PROPAGANDA were the proto-LADYTRON or ABBA in Hell, depending on your point of view! They boasted within their ranks Ralf Dörper and Michael Mertens, plus two mini-Marlenes in Claudia Brücken and Susanne Freytag. The magnificent Fritz Lang film noir of ‘Dr Mabuse’ was their opening salvo. Produced by Horn, the success of FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD however meant the producer’s helm was handed over to his engineer Stephen J Lipson, although Horn was later involved in the final mix.

Available on the PROPAGANDA album ‘A Secret Wish’ via Union Square / Salvo

http://www.propagandamachine.info/


FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD The Power Of Love (1984)

FGTH-Power_of_love_single7A key signing to ZTT, regardless of who was actually playing and what the band would have achieved without Trevor Horn, in their short life FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD were a thrilling adventure that wouldn’t have worked without the songs, which were largely written by Holly Johnson, Peter Gill and Mark O’Toole. ‘Relax’ and ‘Two Tribes’ got the ball rolling, but the classical grandeur of ‘The Power Of Love’ was an outstanding piece of work in anyone’s book.

Available on the album ‘Bang!: The Greatest Hits’ via Warner Music

http://www.frankiesay.com/


GODLEY & CREME Cry (1985)

GODLEY CREME CryAfter they left 10CC, Kevin Godley and Lol Creme’s appetite for experimentation with tracks like ‘Babies’ led them to be called “the older generation’s Depeche Mode” by Smash Hits. They also branched out into directing promo videos for VISAGE and DURAN DURAN. It was while doing videos for FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD that they ended up working with Trevor Horn. Almost sparse by Horn’s standards with a metronomic tension alongside minimal guitar, ‘Cry’ was a terrific pop statement.

Available on the album ‘Cry: The Very Best Of’ via Polydor / Universal Music

http://www.trevorhorn.com/


GRACE JONES Slave To The Rhythm (1985)

GRACE JONES Slave To The RhythmTrevor Horn took his multiple remix approach to its zenith with GRACE JONES’s seventh album; rather than actually do a collection of songs, why not do an album that was effectively multiple remixes and interpretations of one song? While the familiar single version of ‘Slave To The Rhythm’ was wonderful, sun-kissed funky pop, the album’s fifth track take was far more aggressive, with a punchy synth brass riff taking centre stage to make the most out of Miss Jones’ enigmatically frightening demeanour.

Available on the album ‘Slave To The Rhythm’ via Culture Factory

https://www.facebook.com/GraceJonesOfficial/


ACT Chance (1988)

ACT ChanceFollowing her departure from PROPAGANDA, Claudia Brücken teamed up with early electro trailblazer Thomas Leer in ACT. The Trevor Horn produced ‘Chance’ was released as their third single, but withdrawn due to the 12″ mix containing an unauthorised varispeeded sample of ABBA’s ‘Take A Chance On Me’. Far more theatrical and spielerisch than PROPAGANDA, ACT were however, less well received with the eventual Stephen J Lipson produced ‘Laughter, Tears & Rage’ not making quite the impact that was hoped for.

Available on the album ‘Love & Hate’ via Union Square / Salvo

http://www.ztt.com/artists/act/


PET SHOP BOYS Left To My Own Devices (1988)

pet shop boys introspective“Che Guevara and Debussy to a disco beat” was a concept coined by Horn while he was working in the studio with Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe. Taking in the then ubiquitous form of acid house, ‘Left To My Own Devices’ incorporated  a dramatic string arrangement by Richard Niles and the opera stylings of soprano Sally Bradshaw. One of PET SHOP BOYS’ most striking recordings  it had been intended to programme the synthesizers and record the orchestra in one day… six months later, the song was finished.

Available on the album ‘Introspective’ via EMI Records

http://www.petshopboys.co.uk/


SIMPLE MINDS Wall Of Love (1989)

The bombastic tendencies of the now stadium friendly SIMPLE MINDS were well-suited to the Trevor Horn treatment, although paradoxically by the time they got into the studio together in 1988, the Glaswegians were favouring a more restrained follow-up to the rock monster that was ‘Once Upon A Time’. Time has not been kind to ‘Street Fighting Years’ album, which now comes across as self-indulgent and over-politicised. But one track with a vibrant energy despite the soapbox was the more classic sounding ‘Wall Of Love’.

Available on the boxed set ‘Street Fighting Years’ via Virgin Records

http://www.simpleminds.com/


SEAL Crazy (1990)

SEAL CrazySEAL found fame as the voice of ADAMSKI’s ‘Killer’ which reached No1 in 1990. Possessing a soulful voice that suited both dance and rock, Horn couldn’t believe his luck when he discovered hel was a free agent. A deal with ZTT was sealed and their first single together was the mighty techno rock of ‘Crazy’. It was the perfect platform for SEAL’s crossover potential and the Paddington-born singer found fame in America with ‘Kiss From A Rose’, which was also produced by Horn and netted a 1995 Grammy Award.

Available on the album ‘Seal’ via ZTT Records

http://seal.com/


MARC ALMOND Jacky (1991)

MARC ALMOND JackyIf it wasn’t for SOFT CELL, then the path for FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD and PET SHOP BOYS might not have been so smooth. Signing with Warners, this cover of Jacques Brel’s ‘Les Chanson De Jacky’, made famous in an English version by Scott Walker, was a compromise reached by Almond to regain both his pop and artistic high ground. While basically a technologically enhanced remake of Walker’s cover, Horn’s production was mighty and cute, in a stupid arse way 😉

Available on the album ‘Tenement Symphony’ via Warner Music

http://www.marcalmond.co.uk/


MIKE OLDFIELD Sentinel (1992)

MIKE OLDFIELD SentinelVirgin Records had always been pushing MIKE OLDFIELD for a ‘Tubular Bells II’ since the original in 1973. But ironically, when Oldfield departed the label for Warners, he did just that. Horn was a natural choice as producer for this long awaited follow-up. The first ‘Tubular Bells’ featured no synthesizers at all; with the titled inspired by an Arthur C. Clarke short story, not only did ‘Sentinel’ exploit the use of modern studio technology, but beautiful female vocals were also part of this more obviously melodic reprise.

Available on the album ‘Tubular Bells II’ via Warner Music

http://mikeoldfieldofficial.com/


TINA TURNER Whatever You Want (1996)

TINA TURNER Whatever You Want CDSWritten by Arthur Baker, Taylor Dayne and Fred Zarr, ‘Whatever You Want’ for TINA TURNER was an archetypical production from Horn. Using the most up-to-date technology yet retaining a vital musicality, there was always space for the lead vocalist to perform to their maximum. However, it always was a time consuming process. Legend has it that when ROBBIE WILLIAMS handed over his demos for the 2009 album ‘Reality Killed The Video Star’, he apparently said to Horn “I’ll see you in six months!”

Available on the album ‘Wildest Dreams’ via EMI Music

http://www.tinaturnerofficial.com/


TATU Not Gonna Get Us (2002)

TATU Not Gonna Get UsFaux lesbian duo Julia Volkova and Lena Katina caused a stir with the Horn produced No1 single ‘All The Things She Said’ and its accompanying video that broke many broadcast taboos. Much more interesting musically though was another Horn produced track ‘Not Gonna Get Us’. Sounding like THE PRODIGY fronted by fleas on helium, ‘Нас Не Догонят’ (as it was originally titled in Russian) was heavier than usual Europop, with a rebellious teenage angst message.

Available on the album ‘200 km/h In The Wrong Lane’ via Interscope Records

http://www.tatu.ru/


DELAYS Valentine (2006)

DELAYS ValentineIn 2003, Horn worked with Glaswegians BELLE & SEBASTIAN for the first time. And after the hangover of Britpop, indie bands were starting to embrace synths again. Southampton band DELAYS almost went the full hog with the brilliant ‘Valentine’, a Horn-assisted disco number. The pulsing sequences and syncopated rhythm section were pure DURAN DURAN, although Greg Gilbert’s raspy falsetto in the soaring chorus and some choppy guitar ensured the band weren’t totally detached from their roots.

Available on the album ‘You See Colours’ via Rough Trade

https://www.facebook.com/thedelays


PET SHOP BOYS I’m With Stupid (2006)

PET SHOP BOYS I’m With StupidPET SHOP BOYS reunited with Trevor Horn, ‘I’m With Stupid’ was a perfect politically charged jape at the special relationship between George W Bush and Tony Blair. The satirical lyrical content was enhanced further with an amusing promo video featuring ‘Little Britain’ stars Matt Lucas and David Walliams. However, other than the brilliantly hypnotic opener ‘Psychological’, the remainder of the ‘Fundamental’ album was lacklustre, with the dreary Diane Warren penned ballad ‘Numb’ being a low point.

Available on the album ‘Fundamental’ via EMI Music

https://www.facebook.com/petshopboys/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
13th February 2016

STEPHEN J LIPSON Interview

SJLipson B&WcropStephen J Lipson, both individually and in collaboration with Trevor Horn, has been responsible for some of the most iconic sounding electronic-based musical productions over the last 30 years.

Alongside Trevor Horn, he was an integral part of the ZTT Records sound which was the Ying to the pop Yang of Stock, Aitken and Waterman – producing a stellar run of songs that were musical, very often cerebral and in many cases, massive chart hits.

Whereas some band producers of the era were happy just to record the artists and suggest a few overdubs, Lipson and Horn saw the potential in often scrappy sounding demos and had the vision to use the latest available technology, combined with their own musicianship, to totally transform and take them to another place altogether.

The two acts that remain most musically indebted to the ZTT stable were Liverpool’s FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD and Germany’s PROPAGANDA. As well as producing tracks which arguably sounded better than most of the competition, the label’s arch strategist Paul Morley perpetuated a tradition started by Factory Records in aligning the music of their artists with a design aesthetic that although could be seen as being ultra-pretentious, helped give the bands a unique identity.

Stephen J Lipson has also produced for PET SHOP BOYS, SIMPLE MINDS, ANNIE LENNOX, SOPHIE B HAWKINS, PHARRELL WILLIAMS and ULTRAVOX amongst others. He kindly spoke to about elements of his glittering career and also his move into the world of film music production and mixing.

Your early days in the industry seemed to involve a lot of “learning on the job”

I was self-taught and I built my first studio in the mid 70’s with no knowledge or help. Then I started engineering, making it up as I went along – my only previous experience was operating a Revox tape machine in my bedroom. After the studio had been going for a few months, Dave Robinson (Stiff Records) wanted to record an album there and suggested that he got an engineer in for the first day. That was Phil Brown who, in the space of 12 hours, got the project under way and taught me some invaluable lessons.

The art of band album production is often seen as a bit of a “black art”, what is your take on being successful at it?

You need to have personal taste, be able to get on with people and have good teamwork. Not taking up too much space in the room too by doing what has to be done – tea, driving, jokes, playing, writing, emailing, etc etc. Also giving encouragement to all involved and understanding that it’s not too important, at the end of the day it’s just music!

You’re well known for playing on some of the works you produce, are many producers frustrated artists?

I don’t know many producers and the ones I do know seem to be happy without the need for adulation.

Things really clicked into place when you started working with Trevor Horn and the whole ZTT experience, what are you main memories from that period?

My main memory is WORK! We worked so hard that when FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD’s ‘Relax’ went to number one we didn’t celebrate, we just kept at it – it was enjoyable work in a great team though. My other memory is exposure to loads of equipment and having the time to use it.

‘Relax’ took a lot of attempts to perfect, how did the process go from the original (very rough) demo to final product? 

Trevor had done a version with The Blockheads before I started working with him. We then spent ages on a “smart” version which took ages. Then he came in one day and said he wanted to scrap it and start again. That was when the single happened, very quickly, Trevor, JJ Jeczalik, Andy Richards and myself all playing live.

With the exception of Holly Johnson and Paul Rutherford, the rest of FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD didn’t actually play on the final released version of ‘Relax’, how did the public react to that?

As far as I know I don’t think anyone knew at the time!

PROPAGANDA’s ‘A Secret Wish’ is still a stunning sounding piece of work, were the demos you received for the album pretty fully formed?

For the most part the demos weren’t finished at all. They were skeletons, which is one of the reasons the album took so long. Michael Mertens, the musician in the band, lived in Düsseldorf. Trevor was working on other projects, so we were very much left to our own devices. Paul Morley was the main person who helped steer the project. My main memory of the album is of working in a black room for months with Andy Richards and loads of gear.

relax12Apparently there were 14 versions of ‘Relax’ and 10 of ‘Dr.Mabuse’ – why go the extra mile and create so many alternative versions?

No-one knew what they were doing at the time and Paul Morley probably kept asking for more and we just kept going!

Do you feel you and Trevor Horn deserve more recognition for pioneering the art of remixing and the alternative version?

No… people who do what we do are, by definition, backroom people. That is a choice and those who want to know can find out…

I believe you were one of the first producers to work using digital recording, how was that experience?

It was a massive relief. There was no hiss, the difference in sound to our ears was wonderful and less EQ was needed. The Sony machines were also really reliable, we tried a Mitsubishi 32 track first but it didn’t work.

Are you a “snob” when it comes to music/studio equipment?

Absolutely not. Just about every piece of equipment is good nowadays, plus you can’t blame the gear any more. Instruments are different of course…

Do you often wish that vocalist-enhancing tools such as Autotune and Melodyne were available back in the day?

Not really. The limitations were good and I miss that, but we can’t turn the clock back, so onwards…

Do you have a favourite post-ZTT artist that you’ve worked with?

It’s hard to say, I enjoy the process of recording so if I were to pick an artist I would base it on personality which isn’t really relevant.

Ultravox brilliant artworkYou produced the ULTRAVOX comeback album ‘Brilliant’, were you a fan of the band before joining the project?

Yes! Also I thought that any band that could write and make the records that they had over the years would be great to work with.

How was the process of working with the band on the album, was it a challenging experience?

Sort of, but it was very fulfilling. They’re lovely guys, but I was amazed that the album didn’t do all that well, I thought it was very good.

Do you have any ideas as to why the album wasn’t more successful?

Not a clue. Maybe it was a lack of money to promote it? Maybe a lack of interest in the band? It’s hard to say.

Today it is far easier for artists to self-produce and record, do you still think the big studio has a place in the current market?

Yes and no. In order to collaborate it’s ideal to be in the same space and this requires more than a home studio. I miss the collaborative aspect of record making but pragmatism must prevail, plus there are rarely any big budgets for projects now.

Does having the internet mean that there is a less of a necessity to travel for certain projects now?

To a certain extent, but a common space is better. It’s an interesting way of working though. I did an album with MIKE OLDFIELD recently, where I was in LA and London and he was in the Bahamas where he lives. For the most part it worked but we did have some strange moments!

Much of your work now involves mixing/producing film scores including with HANS ZIMMER on ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and ‘Rush’, how does that compare with making band albums?

It was a massive learning experience moving into the film world, but it happened for me at an ideal point. I was getting bored with the predictable song structure and instrumentation of pop music. And I was starting to feel out of touch with the charts. There isn’t much comparison apart from music being the common denominator. Everything in film world is larger – budgets, quantity of music, sounds, personalities, sophistication. But being able to go between the two is amazing as after a while I miss all the things I found boring in pop.

Hans Zimmer StudioIs HANS ZIMMER’s studio as stunning as it looks in photographs?

More so! The pictures don’t show the technical side which is beyond one’s wildest thoughts.

What projects are you currently working on and are they still biased towards the film world?

The film work is definitely biased towards the film world!

Currently I’m working with RONAN KEATING. The 5th album of his I’ve worked on. Also an amazing Japanese artist called HOTEI. In a couple of weeks I’m off to New York to do another movie with Hans.

If you could pick a ‘Desert Island Disc’ track that you are most proud of working on, what would it be?

I have no idea. I’m not truly happy with anything so would probably take something else entirely!


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Stephen J Lipson

http://www.stevelipson.com/Steve_Lipson/Home.html

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/steve-lipson-mn0000040392


Text and interview by Paul Boddy
21st October 2015

THE REST IS NOISE – 19 eighties: the rhythm of a decade

Photo by BBC/Mark Allan

The decade you either love, or love to hate…

The Southbank Centre’s year long ‘The Rest Is Noise’ festival concluded its musical journey through the 20th century with a special event entitled ‘19 eighties: the rhythm of a decade’ which saw classical meet synthpop. Broadcast live by BBC Radio3, the evening was hosted by journalist, cultural commentator and ZTT strategist Paul Morley in the company of the BBC Concert Orchestra.

Featuring the work of contemporary composers such as Andrew Poppy, Sir John Tavener, Steve Martland and Michael Nyman as well as tracks from THE ART OF NOISE and the synthpop era arranged in a special orchestral suite by Anne Dudley, it was billed as “a one-off documentary soundtrack to the decade you either love, or love to hate”.

Journey in 20 Synths-02

It is well documented how ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK feels about that decade, or rather how it has been generalised.

While some of the greatest and most innovative pop music ever produced came from between 1980-1989, the decade also gave rise to some of the worst.

So to have lazy journalists glamourise about how it was one wonderful party for all is not only ignorant, but extremely insensitive to those who suffered in the era.

Music was often an escape for these troubles and for every pioneer who pursued artistic values as a reaction to the system, like today in our X-Factor / Heat magazine driven society, there were corporations and aspiring celebrities prepared to go to the lowest common denominator in order to get rich quick.

But the biggest gripe ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK particularly has is how the synthesizer has been marginalised as a by-product of that era, only be used now as an instrument to reflect nostalgic intent or mock rather than pushing boundaries and encouraging forward thinking. Comments from unenlightened observers who think of Alison Moyet’s ‘the minutes’ album as being “80s sounding”, rather than a songwriter’s experiment in modern electronica, are an example of the imbecilic attitude at large.

So it was apt that to start the evening in the foyer of Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, HEAVEN 17 and BEF’s Martyn Ware gave a talk entitled ‘A Journey In 20 Synths’.

The Nile Rodgers of Synth Britannia was joined by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop’s Peter Howell with the pair leading an informative and lively discussion about the electronic music decade.

Interestingly, most of the chat focussed around equipment from the decade before and started with an instrument that was first launched in 1971, the Stylophone 350s. Ware commented that he thought he was Brian Eno when he got one.

Next up was the EMS Synthi 100, one of those huge telephone exchange beasts that have gone down in legend; Howell recalled it had a knob called ‘Option4’ which wasn’t actually connected to anything and often used by members of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop to trick difficult TV producers into accepting their soundtracks by offering tweaks in their presence… ”Oh! Hang on, it just needs some more Option4”!

Journey in 20 Synths-700s

Ware then gleefully talked about the Korg 700s and Roland System 100, the two synths which effectively helped realise his post-punk musical vision. First manufactured in 1974 and 1975 respectively, these two were the rhythmical powerhouse of THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s first single ‘Being Boiled’ in 1978.

Affection was also bestowed on Roland’s Jupiter 4 from 1978 (described by Ware as his “dream synth”) and the Linn LM1 which Ware said was the “best drum machine ever”.

Asked by a member of the audience whether he liked Oberheim gear, Ware commented that he was not a big fan of American synths as they were designed for musicians, with the filters not being particularly extreme enough for experimentalists. Howell highlighted that one of the beauties of synthesizers was being able to change timbre and tones mid-composition, thus enabling the creation process to be taken into a direction that would not have been possible using acoustic instruments such as guitar or piano.

Journey in 20 Synths-Peter Howell & Matyn Ware

After adding that he had three Roland TB303 Basslines which were all stolen from the studio because they were pocket sized, Ware groaned as the subject headed towards digital synths of the period.

The Roland D50 from 1987 provoked an interesting debate with Howell in favour of its possibilities while Ware bemoaned the fact that he traded in his Jupiter 8 for a Yamaha DX7!!! Howell then admitted that he used the DX7 as a controller keyboard for the recent Radiophonic Workshop live shows

But both agreed that with FM synthesis, everyone fell into the preset trap and started to use the same sounds… the result inevitably being that pop music became much more homogenised in the latter part of the decade.

Following a comment that the Korg M1 was the worst synth ever designed, Ware walked over to fire up the Roland System 100 and Korg 700s he had brought with him to demonstrate to the receptive audience.

Using the original patches from ‘Being Boiled’, the familiar industrialised rhythm poured from the expanded System 100 driven by its 104 sequencer module. After some temporary 103 Mixer glitches, Ware stood behind the Korg 700s for a run through of the song’s distinctive bass riff

TheKorg 700s’ dual oscillators rumbled the plush confines of the Queen Elizabeth Hall. It was an entertaining and accessible presentation with Ware and Howell articulating their thoughts without too much technical talk in a humourous manner.

Photo by BBC/Mark Allan

And so onto the main event; Paul Morley introduced the evening’s proceedings as “using words and music to summon up memories of that decade, to eradicate some others” and “to try and work out what the hell happened there…”

The ‘rhythm of a decade’ concert itself began with ’32 Frames For Orchestra’, a piece conceived by one time ZTT artist Andrew Poppy as “merging Beethoven with The Velvet Underground”.

In an onstage chat with Morley, Poppy reflected a spirit of adventure that shared an affinity with the innovators of Synth Britannia before taking to the piano himself for a rendition of ‘Almost The Same Shame’. There then followed touching tributes to the recently departed composers Sir John Tavener and Steve Martland. The solemn tranquillity of Tavener’s ‘The Lamb’ captured the sadness of the era eloquently while Martland’s powerfully rhythmic ‘Remix’ represented how he felt classical music could be given a broader audience, a stance reflected in his commitment to music education and as a curator of the short lived Factory Classical label.

Celebrating THE ART OF NOISE and ZTT’s 30th Anniversary, an announcement came forth via Morley in his usual, wittily provocative style: “thirty years after our first record ‘Into Battle’ which was neither an album nor a single, which was really a series of musical movements in the abstract, each of which lasted different lengths from the quite short to the fairly long, the time has perhaps come for a reunion… this is our reunion, hidden in the middle of something else altogether!”

Photo by BBC/Mark Allan

The orchestral premiere of THE ART NOISE’s debut 1983 EP ‘Into Battle’ specially arranged by Anne Dudley was a delight, coming over at times like a lost Bond film soundtrack. The EPs two best known tracks ‘Moments In Love’ and ‘Beatbox’ each had their component parts reinterpreted by classical instruments as “memory of a memory”; the distinctive bassline of ‘Beat Box’ was represented by French horns while the iconic vocal samples of ‘Moments In Love’ had their places taken by an ensemble of violins.

After the interlude, classical music’s link to synthpop was emphasised further before the Grand Finale with a recital of Michael Nyman’s ‘Chasing Sheep’. Itself based on Purcell’s ‘Prelude to Act III, Scene 2’ from ‘King Arthur’, it was recently used by PET SHOP BOYS as the basis of their ‘Love Is a Bourgeois Construct’. A duo with links to many involved in THE ART OF NOISE including Anne Dudley, plus of course Trevor Horn and JJ Jeczalik, all were in attendance for this spirited evening. Engineer Gary Langan was in the audience too, making it a full reunion of THE ART OF NOISE in spirit if not performance.

Photo by BBC/Mark Allan

Photo by BBC/Mark Allan

To conclude the concert, Anne Dudley took to the piano for the much anticipated ‘rhythm of a decade’. While Paul Morley narrated his musings on Thatcher’s Britain, he was accompanied by an orchestral soundtrack arranged by Dudley… and what a soundtrack! Beginning with her own familiar intro to ‘Two Tribes’ before segueing into the beautiful pentatonic melodies of ‘Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence’, there then followed a significant number of synth classics transcribed for everyone’s listening pleasure.

From the dystopian shrills of ‘Underpass’ and ‘Fade To Grey’ to the euphoric club tunes of ‘Pump Up The Volume’ and ‘Pacific State’, each had been carefully chosen by Dudley for their distinctive riff laden elements to complement the dynamics of Morley’s monologue.

The biggest surprise came with a blast of SOFT CELL’s ‘Sex Dwarf’ while ‘Mad World’, ‘Situation’, ‘Love Action’, ‘True Faith’ and ‘Blue Monday’ all figured in proceedings alongside more conventional numbers of the period such as ‘Back To Life’, ‘Let’s Dance’, ‘Ghost Town’ and ‘Running Up That Hill’.

It all worked together marvellously for what was slowly emerging effectively as a spoken word art piece accompanied by music.

Overall, Anne Dudley’s orchestral interpretations were a great success, much more so than say OMD’s hit and miss experiment with the Liverpool Philharmonic immortalised on the ironically titled ‘Electricity’ DVD. As for Morley’s narration, for those who have loved his commentary over the years, this was perfect entertainment but for those who have found him an irritant, this would have been an intrusion to the music.

The evening was a triumph that reflected on that decade as not being the cheesefest it has often been portrayed as by the media and the public at large. The fact that these synthesizer tunes (which have often been derided as not being real music) have been able to be orchestrated by one of modern pop’s most successful arrangers is a testament to their value and integrity. Yes, the rhythm to a decade but also a rhythm to many more…


Special thanks to Victoria Taylor and Camilla Dervan at the BBC

http://www.annedudley.co.uk/

http://www.ztt.com/

http://martynwareblog.blogspot.co.uk/

http://peter-howell.blogspot.co.uk/

http://www.theradiophonicworkshop.co.uk/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
2nd December 2013

A Short Conversation with ANNE DUDLEY

Anne DudleySaturday 30th November sees a unique event take place when the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Anne Dudley play a special concert that concludes a musical journey through the 20th century.

Part of Southbank Centre’s ‘The Rest Is Noise’ festival and entitled ‘19 eighties: the rhythm of a decade’, the performance sees classical meet synthpop.

Aiming to reimagine the sounds that were of the product of Fairlight and her sisters back in the day; the concert will see THE ART OF NOISE’s 1983 debut 1983 EP ‘Into Battle’ stripped bare of its sampled elements and shaped into a non-electronic orchestral suite.

THE ART OF NOISE of course were the first signing to ZTT so complete the connection with the label and its 30th anniversary, Andrew Poppy will also perform his ‘32 Frames for Orchestra’ with the orchestra. Meanwhile the label’s strategist Paul Morley will present his own musings on Britain during the Thatcher era in “the decade you either love, or love to hate” as he narrates a brand new documentary over a soundtrack composed by Anne Dudley.

Prior to the concert, there will also be a free pre-concert talk called ‘The Electronic Music Decade’ presented by Martyn Ware. Leading a lively and engaging discussion about the use and development of electronic synthesisers, he will also demonstrate two monophonic synthesisers he owned, the Korg 700s and Roland System 100 which were used on THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s early albums ‘Reproduction’ and ‘Travelogue’ . He will be joined by one of the earliest members of the original BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Peter Howell.

Anne Dudley kindly spoke to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about the ‘19 eighties: the rhythm of a decade’ concert and her work with several of the key acts from the post-Synth Britannia era…

Into_battle_with_theAoNHow did the idea for scoring ‘Into Battle’ for an orchestra come about?

The idea came from Paul Morley. I loved it!

You’re well known for your orchestrations on programmed pop music but what particular challenges did you find in arranging ‘Moments In Love’ and ‘Beat Box’ in a non-electronic fashion?

Some of the sounds are very characteristic – the sampled “aahs” on ‘Moments in Love’ for example. They are very difficult to reproduce so I had to come up with alternative solutions.

Are you using a choir for the vocal samples?

No. I should point out that this is not a literal transcription of ‘Into Battle’. I had to decide on and select the sections which I thought would work best with the orchestra and edit together a new structure.

Does the fact that the original parts are actually samples make it more straightforward in a way to replicate these dynamics with an orchestra?

No, not really! But one of the things an orchestra is very good at is sudden changes of dynamic – extremely loud to barely audible in a beat.

The percussive timbres of ‘Beat Box’ are very distinct. How do you think the musicians will respond to playing in such an urban fashion or will it be second nature?

“An urban fashion”? Who knows – we haven’t rehearsed yet!

AON - dudley morleyFor the documentary soundtrack, what was your creative dynamic with Paul Morley to shape the pieces?

Paul has written the narrative and I have constructed the music – starting with riffs and rhythms of the eighties.

Where did you draw the inspiration for the music from? Was it from the particular topics being narrated or the music from the period itself?

Both… Paul speaks of various characters, events and features of the eighties and I have accompanied him with music that is sometimes deliberately at odds with his narration and sometimes relevant. There is also some original music which is more illustrative of certain of these themes.

You worked with many acts from that time such as ABC, A-HA, SPANDAU BALLET, FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD, MARC ALMOND and PET SHOP BOYS and WHAM! among many. What are your particular favourite songs that you worked on from that era?

In researching this piece with Paul, I have listened to lots of the music of the period and what has struck me is its startling innovative nature. There is a constant striving for new sounds, astonishing electronics, drum sounds that knock you backwards. Pop music has never been so good. It would be impossible to pick a favourite track.

ELECTRONIC’s ‘Getting Away With It’ has a beautiful end section where the music fades away and leaves the orchestra to drift into this lovely movement. Other than the orchestral arrangement, how involved do you get with regards the final mix and editing?

Not at all usually. People do surprising things with string arrangements, not all of which I would agree with!

Although you are primarily known for orchestral arrangements, you worked with a lot of synthesizers too. Did you have any favourite synths, particularly with regards their usability?

The Minimoog is the guvnor.

Is there any electronic based song which you didn’t work on that you would like to arrange for orchestra?

Can’t think of anything offhand…

Are there any further plans to give a live airing to more of your work with THE ART OF NOISE?

Not at the moment.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to ANNE DUDLEY

Special thanks to Victoria Taylor from the BBC Concert Orchestra

19eightiesThe Rest Is Noise – 19 eighties: the rhythm of a decade concert takes place on Saturday 30th November 2013 in London’s South Bank Centre at 7.30pm

Tickets: £12-£15 • Tel: 0844 847 9910 • Online: http://therestisnoise.southbankcentre.co.uk/

The concert will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and available to listen again for seven days after broadcast at http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3

Martyn Ware’s free pre-concert talk will take place in the Queen Elizabeth Hall foyer (also called The Front Room) at 6.15pm

http://www.annedudley.co.uk/

http://www.ztt.com/

http://martynwareblog.blogspot.co.uk/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
15th November 2013

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