Articles
 
 
 
Source:
International Musician and Recording World
 
Noise (Author):
Adrian Deevoy

Art (Photos):
Steve Pyke
 
Publication Date:
May 1985

 
 
 
Title:
NOISE REDUCTION

 
 
 

If The Art Of Noise don't exist how did this interview take place?

So Anne, what's it like being a woman in the male domain that is the music industry? ’
 
“You promised you wouldn't ask that."
 
Well that's blown the Women In Rock angle. What is The Art of Noise?
 
“lt's very difficult to talk about The Art of Noise.”
 
What would you consider your role to be?
 
“l'm the musical element, if you like. Trevor Horn is a kind of floating element. Paul Morley pops his head around the door from time to time. Then there is Gary and JJ.”

Anne Dudley is one facet of the faceless, nebulous, undefined, non-aligned, anything but non descript collective called The Art of Noise. She is right, The Art of Noise are difficult to talk about, they're also difficult to talk to. Hence we split the interview into two parts like a South Bank Show tribute to an unpronounceable, black polo-necked playwright. Anne on Wednesday. Gary and JJ on Friday.
 
ln many ways Trevor Horn is responsible for The Art of Noise. Anne Dudley, a classically trained session keyboard player met him when he was playing bass in a dance band. Gary Langan has engineered for him since he first elevated Dollar's vocal sound into a new dimension and JJ Jeczalik, a computer technician with a philosophical bent, has programmed Horn’s Fairlight since the year dot. The result of these meetings reached its first climax when all four worked on ABC's Lexicon Of Love - a production that sat uncomfortably close to your face and grinned. But the history is irrelevant. If you added the four elements together the result wouldn’t be The Art of Noise. The sum is much greater than the parts.

How would Gary Langan describe The Art of Noise?'
 
“Sound collages relating to events, montages, sound pictures, a sort of sound diary. A meeting place where we all comefrom ourvarious areas to express ourselves."
 
Face facts: Pop's corpse has never smelt so bad. The manufactured music and safely contrived sentiments reek of embalming fluid at their very birth. The Art of Noise are a welcome antidote to this terminal illness. Their intelligent, witty, sound mosaics are veritable Wispa bars in a sea of excrement.
 
So what do The Art of Noise sample with?
 
Gary: "l used to have one of those (pointing to my as yet unsponsored Sony Walkman) and they're just incredible. l lost my Walkman anyway. JJ uses one that's slightly bigger but it doesn't sound quite as good. But we also use ½”, ¼", cassettes, microphones, life. There's no hard or fast rule.”

JJ: "There's no direct route by which we arrive at a sound. He might have something lurking in his brain or Anne might have something under her hat."
 
Anne: "We often tind our best sounds almost accidentally. Recently we were re-mixing Moments In Love and there was an echo tape on the machine in the studio and we just couldn't remember what it was so we played it and it was the track at half speed, so we immediately used that as a basis for the B-side. in a way we often use sounds that you'd throw away - the debris. Like we were recording an organ in a huge studio and spent all day doing it but all we used in the end was the sound of my footsteps on the floor because the sound was so good."
 
Wouldn't that make the aspiring bedroom synth player weep?
 
"Yes, but recording music is a very expensive business and because we've got such clear ideas and because we know what we're doing we never completely waste a session. So many bands do and that's more of a crime. Every day l see thousands of pounds being wasted through incompetence."
 
What are your classic qualifications?

"l did piano and clarinet and a B Mus at the Royal College of Music and then did an M Mus at King's College in London.”
 
Are you talented?

"l think tenacity has been the main hallmark of my career.."

 
Was the advent ofthe synth threatening to you as a classical musician?
 
"No, it was terrifically exciting and although it seems like a strange way to go about it. I'd always wanted to be a session musician anyway. Possibly my most precious purchase was a Vox Continental on top ofwhich I put a Hohner Pianet. Then when synths came along l got a Korg 700 and it was great because the keyboard player in the band could suddenly play the tune. The height of my ambition then was to get a MiniMoog which l got and we still use it in The Art Of Noise."
 
The best advice for hopeful session players is "meet Trevor Horn".
 
"We met in a dance band when he was a bass player with no money."
 
A poor bass player?
 
"No, I was misquoted on that, he was a very good bass player but he didn't have any money. We got lumped together in this Mecca-type dance band where you had to read your way through the whole gig. lt was murder, we used to sweat buckets.”
 
String arrangements seem an absolute impossibility.
 
"Well having a classic background I can look at a page out of a symphony and be able to hear it. So when I write a brass arrangement or a string arrangement I can see what it's going to sound like."
 
What is the best job you've had as a session player?
 
“I used to play piano on PlayschooI."
 
I always thought it was Jonathan Cohen.
 
"There were five or six of us and we did it in a rota system. Big Ted had a bit of an ego problem and Katoo was totally out of control. He used to bite the presenters actually on the show so they'd be trying to hide this bleeding hand and smile while they dripped blood all over the arched window."
 
How much of The Art of Noise is actual playing?
 
“More than you think."
 
By who?
 
"By me."
 
Everything?
 
“All the bits you like best. If you wanted to be accurate then l'm not the player, but talking about it in very basic terms I am. Where do you divide the line between production and playing. There are no obvious borders."
 
You are seen as a studio band.
 
"Are we? A fair bit is played. A lot of the drums are Fairlight sequences but a lot of the musical sequences are played and all the tunes are played."
 
What is Anne's role in The Art of Noise?
 
JJ: "Anne is our sequencer. Surprisingly a lot ofthe sequences are played by her. You should trysequencing some of those parts. You'd be there for the rest of your life. Gary and I sequence the grooves and Anne sequences the tunes. We've often tryed to sequence a tune she's been playing and we've completely blown it. Her first things are often her best."
 
Do either of you actually play?
 
Gary: "I play piano. Anne does a bit ofengineering. I'll occasionally step over to the Fairlight."
 
JJ: "l'll sometimes wander over to the desk and knock something out of place so it ruins the whole song but then we might use the ruined song as a basis for a new one."
 
Why do you stick with the Fairlight?
 
Gary: "lt's more Rock ’n' RoII."
 
Ho ho ho.
 
Gary: “It is. It's more Gretsch. It's a Rock instrument. In our eyes the Synclavier has a very low Rock ’n' Roll factor and The Art Of Noise, oddly enough, see themselves as a Rock ’n' Roll band.The Fairlight isn't perfect. It has an element of rawness and it responds to other people using it whereasthe Synclavier doesn't. With the Synclavier two plus two is always four but with the Fairlight, well...it's in the hands of the Gods."
 
So the Fairlight audibly alters sounds?
 
JJ: "What do you think?"
 
Yes, it does.
 
JJ: "I could sit here and give you a list ofthe sounds italters and howit alters them. It's generally rounder and dirtier and that's the reason it has character. When you put a sound into the Fairlight it will, by the very nature of the beast, impart it's own character to a sound. It becomes a Fairlight sound. You could write a menu of how various sounds are affected by the Fairlight. All the colourandtonal differences."
 
Have you played with an Emulator ll?
 
JJ: "Yes, but l can’t say whether or not I like it. I neither like it nor loathe it. As far as I can tell the sounds come out sounding pretty well the same as when they went in and what's the point of that? Ultimately, sampling is a waste of time, right? Once you've sampled something you've blown it. Digital recorders, Synclaviers, Emulators, Fairlights - they're not reality. Reality is you and I talking here. When you sample something you're onto a loser. Even the Sony digital machine doesn't sound real simply because it isn't and the ear can hear the slicing procedure going on in sampling. So who wants a bland, sterile version of reality?"
 
People who choose to live in Milton Keynes, I suppose.
 
JJ: "l'd much rather go for something that imparts character to the sounds. So rather than saying this is ‘real’ you’re saying this has character and it's a sound in its own right. It's got life."
 
So you'd rather sample on a Walkman than a Synclavier?
 
JJ: "Believe me, the compressors on Walkmans are fantastic. Outrageous.l recorded the loo flushing with one of those and it was just extraordinary."
 
Samples. What was the guitar sound on Beatbox (a surrealist R ‘n’ B number that contained everything but a lysergiced Skakey on vocals)?
 
Gary: "That was a guitar."
 
JJ: "Boogie amp and humbucker pickups on a Gibson Les Paul. We double sampled that with overdrive."
 
Gary: "We were downstairs in Studio 2 at Sarm West and we were deciding what would be the best sounds to put on the track and Anne said it would be good if we could have a guitar. None of us can play the guitar but we got all this Heavy Metal guitar equipment in and picked out a couple of chords and then tried them through Marshall stacks and all sorts and ended up with the Boogie."
 
Was it a joke?
 
JJ: "Yes it was a little comedy shot. It seemed like a good idea."
 
How did you sample the car for Close to the Edit?
 
Gary: “We just opened the studio doors and miked it up. We had to move the desk a bit. The miking was a nightmare but l think we ended up putting the mike in the engine compartment."
 
JJ: “lf the car had actually started then the track would never have happened. lt was convertible and that made a lot of difference because the resonant frequency of a convertible is different to that of a saloon. Something to do with the leather seats."
 
l do like your snare sound.
 
Gary: "Good isn't it? Honestly l would try to explain how we get that but I can't remember. lt’s taken years and years of sampling from all over the world. It's made up of hundreds of composite sounds."
 
JJ: "l think the best way to describe it would be man falling through drum kit on Alpine hill rea|ly."
 
Gary: "lt has gota lot of Alpine ambience. The good thing is that none of the sounds are simply sampled sounds. We all mess about with them untilwe are happy."
 
JJ: "Then we pass them over to God Horn who says, ‘no, I don't like that one, use the other one’,Trevor is like a referee or an editor. Like we had 20 or 30 versions of Close to the Edit and hundreds of versions of Beatbox and we all had our favourites but someone has to decide which one is going to be put out."
 
Why did you decide to have a big snare sound anyway?
 
Gary: "lt was just the idea of getting a huge drumkit into such a negligible bandwidth on the Fairlight. Everybody else seemed to be coming out with such tiny sounds."
 
Anne, what instruments do The Art of Noise use?
 
"We use whichever instruments we use. I'm sorry I'm not trying to be deliberately difficult. I mean I bought a Glockenspiel yesterday so we'll probably use that. We might use a bass trombone, a harp. We use a lot of keyboard instruments. I use the Wave still, that dies on me occasionally but I like it, it's the 2 which is by far the best one.There’s the Memory Moog, the Solina string synth, Trevor is very keen on those. The poor old Solina has lost all its Ds which I suppose is the keyboard equivalent of going senile. We use a Wurlitzer, the acoustic piano..."
 
Do you use other digital equipment other than the Fairlight?
 
"Reverbs and delays."
 
What do you think of sampling?
 
"l think sampling has gone a bit mad really. If it's not sampled it's not there. It's not the be all and end all of music."
 
What is Tack Boom Boom?
 
"That's how The Art Of Noise started I think. It's a drum pattern and sound that JJ and Gary had. lt's the concept of the sound."
 
Onomatopoeia?
 
"Not as such but it's part of a language that we use. We'll probably go on to develop a whole new language that nobody understands."
 
Would you still use a string section in preference to sampled strings?
 
"Definitely. Anytime. I'm quite reactionary in many ways. I don't see what difference digital is going to make. If you're talking about the difference between a Fairlight string sound and a string orchestra there's just no comparison. Because if I write an arrangement for strings I use the whole gamut. I might have pizzicato, I might have the bowing very hard then very soft, I might have them playing pianoforte or staccatto.That would take someone years to programme into a Fairlight. It's so much easier to get 30 string players in to do a session in an afternoon and that way you don't lose that essential ingredient of having musicians playing and more importantly contributing and interpreting ideas."

Would you ask Anne to arrange a string section rather than use sampled strings?
 
Gary: "Of course. I mean she'd be able to do that in an afternoon and you can sit and have a cup of tea and a joke with her. I mean trying to tell a Fairlight a joke is painful."
 
Do you enjoy acoustic instruments?
 
JJ: "Listening to the Brandenburg Concertos in the flesh is still one of the most pleasurable experiences in music."
 
Gary: "We're not trying to destroy anything."
 
Sampling. Why does Anne say, ‘I don't believe it’ on the album? What doesn't she believe?
 
JJ: "Gary had sampled Anne saying ‘It stopped’ and quickly looped it. And while Anne was doing a piano solo we played the loopt hrough her headphones and she said, ‘ah no, l don't believe it’ and I sampled that and it became part ofthat track."
 
Sampling. What's the BBC2 Jazz on Time For Fear?
 
Gary: "We were instructed to write a song aboutwar and just at that time Ronnie decided to invade Grenada. So we borrowed bits of international broadcasts and pierced it together."
 
JJ: "The idea ofthat track was that there's this chap sitting in a fox hole on an a political manoeuver and he has his gun and his radio so he turns on his radio to find out what's going on. So you get the American announcements and then you get the rhythm track which symbolises menace and then there's the quiet bit on the PPG when he thinks about his girlfriend, then he retunes the radio to hear more and comes across a bit of Jazz."
 
Have you ever had trouble with copyright?
 
JJ: "Next question."
 
What desks do you prefer?
 
JJ: "Brown ones..."
 
I'm not playing that game.
 
Gary: "SSLs in my eyes are just the best desk you can use. But we wouldn't travel to a particular studio just to use an SSL desk."
 
JJ: "A lot of the first album was done on the Trident eight-track Flexi-Mix in the cutting room at Sarm East."
 
Gary: "We don't need a 48 input board with full parametric, but if there is one we can use it well. The SSL is the ideal mixing aid simply because you don't have to spend a lot of time hiring in all the necessary outboard gear."
 
The 'Dums' on Close to the Edit sound clipped. What did you do to them?
 
JJ: "That's one of those sounds, as John Cleese once said, that's very big at the front, a bit smaller in the middle and very small at the end. The effect is envelope. So it is actually c|ipped.”
 
Could people do what The Art of Noise do on Walkmans and Portastudios?
 
Gary: "ln the same way that you could paintan impressionist painting with a four inch brush. You could come up with a fair representation but it wouldn't be The Art of Noise purely because we're people who work with hi-tech equipment."
 
JJ: "Fairlights and digital reverbs are our natural environment - we're not being precious, they're our trade."
 
The drum fill on Close to the Edit sounds like it was played by a real drummer.
 
JJ: "That was Anne, she was sitting behind a drum kit trying to work out a pattern and she suddenly said, ‘I'm really fed up with this dabadaboom tish,’ and we sampled it there and then and used it for the fill, just played on a normal Tama drum kit."
 
Have you all got a similar perspective on music?
 
JJ: "He and I have; well, we're more similarto each other than Anne is because she's a girl. But if two of us are working together we have to convince the third party it's good before we even take it to Trevor. We're always in dispute but Trevor stops us from striking."
 
So Anne, what's it like being a woman in the male domain that is the music industry?
 
"l've told you I'm not answering that question."
 
Are you a skiffle group for the eighties?
 
"ln a way, because a lot of our stuff is done live and mixed straight onto ½”. Like on the end of Diversions One there's a piano solo. That was just done on the spur ofthe moment with JJ and Gary clicking their fingers in the background. But thinking about it how can we be a skiffle group when our main piece of equipment cost 30 grand?"
 
People will resent that.
 
"l know and I'm kind of upset that they will resent it because I've felt like that. But all I can say is that things have changed. I resent someone sitting in their bedroom saying ‘If I had a Fairlight I'd sound like The Art of Noise. Why shouldn't I take advantage of technology. If I don't someone else will."
 
Does your classical training inhibit your ability to extemporise?
 
"Not to extemporise, but it does inhibit my ability to listen to records as they should be listened to. l over-analyse things which, of course, is a bad thing to do."
 
Do you like early Elvis records?
 
"Yeah, l love them. Technically, melodically, recording wise they're brilliant. You listen to those rhythm tracks. One take and no facilities for anything else and yet they're perfect."
 
Getting back to what we weren't talking about. Copyright.
 
JJ: “lf people insist on sampling other people's music and resynthesizing sound then we'll end up with no music at all of any worth. There has to be an investment in the future. Everything can't be derivative."
 
Gary: "But if someone steals one of our sounds I wouldn't sue them. I'd take it as a compliment. The sound would be different anyway."
 
You're being very liberal about it.
 
JJ: "You have to be."
 
Not everybody will be. Tears for Fears are already griping that Band Aid stole their tom sound.
 
JJ: "Big fucking deal. Who gives a shit."
 
They do.
 
JJ: "Naaa, bollocks, waste of time lads. Fuck off precious load of bastards."
 
Depeche Mode stealing a Frankie drum sound...
 
JJ: "The Frankie drum sound was a bloody Linn. I know, I did it."
 
Rumours.
 
JJ: "Rumours? Untruths."
 
Gary: "l always thought that people like Depeche Mode used sampled sounds very selfconsciously. They were purely abstract noises whereas we play the tunes on them."
 
Do you ever have syncing problems?
 
JJ: “Oh we sink all the time but we struggle back up again. We often try to sync two impossible things together and come up with the most fantastic amalgam of rhythm. Let me tell you about the bass part on Close to the Edit. Anne was playing a very legato part on the Fairlight and Gary went over and started plopping in notes wherever she didn't have her hands thus making it as busy as it is."
 
Will you ever use guest artists?
 
JJ: "lt's an idea we've been toying with. But they'd have to leave themselves very much in our hands. lt would be a bit like appearing on the Morecambe and Wise Show - there'd be no guarantee of what we'd do to you. But if they were to join us it would be purely on a temporary, sabbatical basis. We've had a lot of offers."
 
Gary: "We wouldn't want to upset the equilateral triangle."

lsocoles, surely.
 
Gary: "The angles change."
 
Why, when you have all the sounds in the cosmos available, do you use the human voice so much?
 
JJ: "Sheer desperation. But the human voice is the most fascinating instrument in existance and when you combine the voice with a mechanical device it's fantastic."
 
Like the new Fairlight doobrie.
 
JJ: “The Voice tracker 5. I've got all the bumf and it looks like being hot-poop. Essentially you put a lead into it and via MIDI play any other instrument. So if you put a bass sound into the Fairlight and plugged a microphone into the Voice tracker 5, MIDI it into the Fairlight and sing budumbumbumdumdum it'll play that out with the bass sound you programmed in and it will show the notes on a piano keyboard and what the duration is and all that kind of thing."
 
But sampling devices are very exclusive price-wise.
 
JJ: “You and l could go to Radio Spares and build a sampling device. All you need is an input lead, an analogue to digital converter and some ROM. You could bung all that together and have a sampler in hours."
 
Have you made one.
 
"Yes, it's an eight year sampler. Completely useless of course, but a sampler nonetheless."
 
So, Anne what's it like being a blah blah blither blither?
 
“No. No Women In Rock questions. Do you think we have a very hi-tech, avant garde, state of the art image?"
Not avant garde but definitely hard-tech.
 
"People are basing that on the hi-tech production on the album. Moments In Love isn't like that at all. We're not going to continue in the same vein but there again...we might. l'm not being terribly helpful am l?
 
Anne on Wednesday. Gary and JJ on Friday. The Art of Noise - don't assume anything.

Adrian Deevoy.
 

 
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