JJ Jeczalik
Jonathan Edward Stephen Jeczalik was born in Oxfordshire on the 11th May 1955. JJ began his musical career when he came to London during year off after studying for a Geography Degree at Durham University, before doing a Master’s Degree in Birmingham. His first venture was promoting a gig for a pub group called Landscape (who would later go onto have a hit with Einstein A Go-Go), then later roadied for their drummer Richard Burgess before meeting the Buggles (Trevor Horn & Geoff Downes).
Prior to becoming a freelance programmer he started to work for Downes, programming his Fairlight CMI, (the ninth one ever made) as the Buggles keyboard player had problems communicating with the machine. When Horn & Downes joined Yes, JJ went on tour with them for three months in the United States of America until they both left the group. After that he went to work for Horn, programming his Fairlight where he would become a vital part of Horn’s production team. The computer programmer found himself working alongside future Art of Noise members, Gary Langan and Anne Dudley. The production team worked on hits for Dollar, before working on ABC’s Lexicon Of Love and the late Malcolm McLaren’s Duck Rock albums.
As a freelance programmer JJ was in an elite group of musicians around the world that used Fairlight CMI’s to create music, but unlike many of his contemporaries including Thomas Dolby, Jan Hammer, Herbie Hancock, Peter Gabriel and Stevie Wonder, he led the field in sampling, with Yello’s Boris Blank as a very close second. He developed his own creative way of making sounds by taking advantage of the CMI’s poor quality audio output and transformed them into new ones by distorting the samples so that they were unrecognisable from the original sound source. Early examples of his pioneering methods can be found on Kate Bush’s 1982 album The Dreaming.
One Thursday night those techniques would change the way that records were made, after a bored Langan asked him to help out with an idea that had JJ sample a discarded drumbeat by Alan White from a recording session of the Yes album 90125. The result of that became the Art of Noise, a two-man side project that became a quintet with the addition Dudley, Horn and ex-NME journalist Paul Morley.
This avant-garde group were the first act signed to Horn & Morley’s Zang Tuum Tumb label and they launched it with a nine track EP entitled Into Battle With The Art Of Noise that musically broke new ground in September 1983 and led to a succession of follow up hit singles and albums for the group over a seven year period.
JJ was also one of the main elements behind ZTT’s phenomenally successful second signing, Frankie Goes To Hollywood with their two huge number one hit singles, Relax and Two Tribes. He, along with Horn, Andy Richards and Steve Lipson were effectively FGTH on those tracks with only the band’s two singers, Holly Johnson & Paul Rutherford performing on those songs. During his remaining time at the label, JJ was also involved with their debut album Welcome To The Pleasuredome and his own group’s first LP (Who’s Afraid Of?) The Art Of Noise! Along with work for Propaganda and Andrew Poppy.
Besides achieving a Grammy Award, a Billboard Best Black Dance Act Award, and a Brit Award nomination as part of the Art of Noise, he continued freelance work as either a programmer, producer or remixer for a number of artists including Endgames, The Hostages, Scritti Polliti, John Parr, Paul McCartney, Billy Ocean, Visage, Godley & Creme, Billy Idol, Nick Kamen, Jean Paul Gaultier and the late Eatha Kitt. However his most notable work as a producer were the hit singles Kiss Me by Stephen ‘Tintin’ Duffy, Opportunities (Let’s Make Lot’s Of Money) by Pet Shop Boys and a cover of Jezebel by Shankin’ Stevens.
In 1987 he set up his own publishing company, JJJ Music. He told Music Technology magazine’s readers that he was looking for new regular music with good structure and that they could send him their demos that weren’t overdone, then he could take care of the production side. In the same issue of the magazine he mentioned that he was working on demos for a solo album, but that project never saw the light of day. On the 10th December that year BBC2 aired a television documentary entitled The Case Of Sherlock Holmes that JJ composed and performed the music for.
After the Art of Noise had ended in 1990, JJ continued to work on various other projects including a 1992 concept album entitled Columbus by the Biographers that told the story of Christopher Columbus. His duties on this production were, producer, arranger, programmer and on one track a narrator with some of the recording done at his own Monsterrat Studios in Berkshire.
In March 1993 a CD entitled JJ Jeczalik’s Art Of Sampling was released that featured hundreds of samples including a selection created for the Art of Noise. The project came about in 1992 after JJ rang Matthew Wilkinson, the head of the Advanced Media Group to place an order for some CDs. Wilkinson suggested that it would be a good idea if he released one. He agreed, raided his Fairlight archives and transferred the samples onto a DAT before they were mastered onto CD. It was aimed at professional musicians hence the high price of £50. Once purchasing the CD, one also owned the right to use any of the sounds in any production that the they were creating.
The CD remains one of AMG's best selling sample CDs.
Two years later in 1995, JJ launched Art of Silence on his own Axiomattic label with two limited edition 12”s, West 4 and The Giant Remixes. In many ways this was a follow-up to the Art of Noise. It gave the listener an idea of what that group may have sounded like if they had continued to evolve. The name of this new project may or may not have come from an interview in the 16th August 1986 edition of Sounds, after the interviewer said: “People are bound to say The Art Of Noise haven’t been up to scratch since parting with ZTT, just because of the kudos associated with the label. Although that’s taken a bit of a denting of late.” JJ: “Well, there hasn’t been anything. There’ve been statements like ‘Noiseless ZTT.’.” Anne: “And ‘The Art Of Silence’. We liked that, actually.”
In 1996 more versions of West 4 were released along with an album entitled artofsilence.co.uk that featured people he had previously worked with including Bob Kraushaar, Nick Froome, Blue Weaver, Linda Taylor, Dave Bronze and Paul Robinson. It was named after his official website, described by himself as “the worst website possible”. The album was released in three formats, a limited edition CD + diskette entitled Sound Effects that could only be played on a Mac computer, a double vinyl LP and a standard CD.
Music wasn’t JJ's only activity at that time as he had also set up Touch Music Interactive, an interactive production company and label with video director Will Oakley. Work had started on more Art of Silence material in 1997, a 12” entitled Teach Me, was to be his final release, however Axiomattic released a double A-sided 12” called Into The Sun / Out Of The Fire by Lock which he co-produced with Kraushaar, this was the final release for the label.
JJ retired from the music business and traded on the Stock Exchange as the Art of Trading before turning his hand to teaching at two Oxfordshire schools as the head of ICT until his retirement in 2013. According to an updated AMG review for his sample CD the reviewer said “The last time I spoke to him he was talking about retiring from music because he felt he was getting too old for it now and had already 'bought the t-shirt' so to speak.”
When Dudley, Horn and Morley reformed Art of Noise in the late 1990s, he didn’t participate, but did however let them use the group’s name. The now former producer did come out of retirement on one occasion and contributed a new version of Beat Box under the Art of Silence name for the Art of Noise tribute album The Abduction Of The Art Of Noise. He has also taken part in an interview for the Art of Noise box set And What Have You Done With My Body, God? along with appearing in a series of radio interviews with Langan as part of the promotion for the Influence compilation in 2010. In late 2013 he contributed in the making of a television pilot episode with Trevor Horn, Andy Richards and Stephen Lipson about the making of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s infamous number one Relax.
In the 1980’s he modestly called himself a “non-musician” who was just “mucking about” before calling himself in 1992 as “a man of some musical experience” when interviewed in Sound On Sound. Ironically for a man who never considered himself a musician, he has created a musical legacy by sampling and turning music on its head. Over the span of three decades he gained a huge fanbase for his work including the JJ Jeczalik Appreciation Group that is based on Facebook.
JJ had been away from the music industry for almost two decades, many of his fans had given up any hope that he would return. After retiring from teaching he appeared alongside Horn on two Frankie Goes To Hollywood retrospectives,
a documentary about the making of Relax and a live album playback event at the now closed Sarm West Studios in London to celebrate the 30th anniversary box set release of Welcome To The Pleasuredome.
Those events took place after the original five members of Art of Noise got together after a live show entitled 19eighties: The Rhythm Of A Decade at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London on 30th November 2013 where Morley and Dudley appeared with BBC Concert Orchestra.
On Thursday 25th March 2017 Dudley, Jeczalik, Langan will be performing live at Liverpool Waters Clarence Dock rebooting Art of Noise's In Visible Silence, a week after the album's 2017 remastered deluxe edition is released.
© Copyright K.M. Whitehouse 2008, 2013, 2017

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