Noisespeak 2
Chris Heath

Publication Date:
October 1986



I was born Anne Valentino in Beckenham, Kent – my brother is Bobby Valentino who plays the violin in Hank Wangford’s band and used to be in the Fabulous Poodles. I also have two sisters, Helen and Susan, who are twins.

What do they do?

They bum around, darling. In other words they’re still at college.
As a child I was precocious – I played the piano but I used to play with soldiers not dolls and was really butch and a tomboy. But I had piano lessons and really used to enjoy practising, so I went to the Royal College of Music because I was quite good. But I also had this side of me that was really baaad and I used to play in all these jazz and pop bands in the evening – in fact that’s where I met my husband, Roger. I married him very young actually. I also met Trevor Horn who was playing bass very finely in this band. He didn’t have much money and everything he touched used to go wrong, if he got in a car it would break down. We played in places like Tiffany’s, Wimbledon and the Orchid Ballroom – pretty non-cred, maaan.
I got my first proper gig playing piano on ‘Playschool’ but I couldn’t stand the politics. Then I found myself in Trevor Horn’s ‘A-Team’ and made all these wonderful records (Dollar, ABC, etc.) and met all these, ahem, wonderful people like Malcolm McLaren and tasted stardum. I arranged some brass (“Young Guns”) and played some keyboards (“Careless Whisper”) for Wham! and with ABC I played keyboards, arranged strings and did some tunewriting. Sometimes credited.
How many other names other names do you want me to drop? Lloyd Cole? Blancmange? A-ha? Paul McCartney?
Anyway I got roped into The Art of Noise because I was the only person at ZTT who knew middle C from a boiled egg.

Trevor Horn?
He dosen’t know a boiled egg.
Apart from that I wrote a song called “Hide and Seek” which was on the Five Star album and was also covered by New Edition – it was Five Star’s first flop. I also wrote some songs for the album Helen Terry did last year with Don Was but the record company didn’t release it.
Is that enough? I’ve got to go and do my hair now.
What happened?
I'm not entirely sure
As a six year old I was precocious. A lot of people who could be seen to have ‘madd it’ tend to have been precocious because they tend to be snot bags who are prepared to go and bully people to get what they want. Being quite tall I was a lot taller than I was old and this got me into awful trouble. I used to play with the local lads of about 7 or 8 when I was 5 and once I was on the receiving end of a brick that passed over my head – I had the where withall to duck – and went through a neighbour’s kitchen. I didn’t quite know what to do so I went to my mother and wept.
Did you know I’m a Taurean, like Duane – Taureans have a mutual disregard for other people’s talents.
Then I gave up a promising career as a permanent academic to be a professional chancer. I had a degree in Astrophysics from Durahm University (it should be noted that without in anyway wanting to cast doubt on J.J.’s claim to have studied, or wanting to call him a rotten liar, he was frequently spotted in the geography department doubtless discussing U-shaped valleys and ox-bow lakes) and I studied life forces for three years to do with the relationship to the radar and the nagua of the inner and outer world and psychomatic problems.
I gave all this up quite by chance as it happens. I came to London for a year off before doing a Master’s Degree in Birmingham and I discovered live music, notably a pub group called Landscape – I promoted one of their gigs, then roadied for Richard Burgess, their drummer (now a ‘respected’ producer) for a while.
Then I met The Buggles, started working for Geoff Downes (Trevor Horn’s partner in The Buggles) – and he bought the ninth Fairlight ever made and then when he and Trevor joined Yes I toured with them, which was foul, disgusting, awful three months of American madness. It took me about six months to straighten out my head.
Then The Art of Noise happened, I carried on programming the Fairlight for lots of people and doing some production.
Stephen Duffy?
Yes, I produced his biggest selling record actually (‘Kiss Me’ back when he was Stephen ‘Tin Tin’ Duffy) – and the second fastest selling single of that year after Band Aid. I’ve never met anyone like him – he’s quite talented. Originally they just wanted me to re-mix the song but I had a meeting with his manager and said that in my opinion it was too bad to remix and that they should start over again, so they did.
The Pet Shop Boys?
Yes, I love them dearly. I’m glad they’ve got a number one in America (‘West End Girls’) because they’re now rereleasing the record I produced (‘Opportunities’) which stiffed heavily the first time. I hope it won’t stiff again…

Do I have to start right from the beginning?
I studied piano from the age of 7 – my father’s a musician and used to do radio show programmes like “Music While You Work” so it was like father, like son. I sat through my Royal College piano exams, then when I was about 14 I started following him to sessions and decided I didn’t really like they playing side of things by the actual business of making records looked a right lark. Despite that I still took up trumpet for a while and played in a couple of dodgy jazz bands and a couple of dodgy dance bands playing Glenn Miller sort of stuff. I didn’t really enjoy it.
I finished school at 17 and got a job at Trident Studios where David Bowie and Marc Bolan were recording but then they decided I was too young. I was mortally disappointed. Instead I decided to go to college for a year, got a degree in engineering and was just about to go and work for Radio Luxemboug when my dad met two people who owned Sarm Studios at a reception he was playing at the Dorchester Hotel to celebrate Gary Glitter’s first platinum LP. They gave me a job as a tape op and the first album I worked on was Duane Eddy. Slowly I got more important – the first session I assisted engineered was Lynsey de Paul. I was tape op on Queen’s “A Night At The Opera” and witnessed all of “Bohemian Rhapsody” which was fairly amazing. The whole thing was done in three bits and it wasn’t until it was mixed that anyone heard it in its entirity. It was about 5 o’clock one morning.
Then punk came along – that was something I was never into. The only punk album I ever did was the first Boomtown Rats LP, Bob was just as arrogant and stubborn-mined in those days. He knew he was going to be a star, he had that look about him. But the keyboard player used to turn up in pyjamas.
Then I met Trevor Horn – he came waltzing through the door wanting to add a tambourine to this really tacky project he’d been working on. So I worked with him on the Buggles LP. After that he became the lead singer of Yes so I got involved in that Yes album (‘Drama’) and then came Dollar and ABC and I went freelance as an engineer. Trevor started telling me about this bloke called Malcolm McLaren. I thought he was a charlatan but Trevor would bring back these ethnic records. I’d say “You’re joking, you’re out of your tree, Trevor.” But I still went around the world with them – South Africa, New York, Tennessee.
Then we did the Yes album “90125” and ABC phoned me up and asked me to produce their second LP “Beauty Stab”. The Yes album took ten months before I left it unfinished and by the end I was getting really bored and seeing little green men crawling up the wall – you’d spend days and days trying different string out on a bass guitar and then the bass player would complain about the air conditioning had spoilt it.
One day we got this phenomenal drum sound, the best I’d ever heard, sheer fluke and a week later I heard that they were going to scrap it and thought this is a sacrilege there must be something I can do with it. So I phoned up J.J. and said why don’t you come down to the studio, I’ve got this idea. So he did and no one had ever sampled a whole drum riff on a Fairlight before so we did that and recorded more or less all of “Beatbox2” that night in three or four hours, just about 5 minutes of this drum riff going round and round with a few stupid things on top of it.
A couple of months later I played it to Trevor and he nuts and took it to the head of Island Records, Chris Blackwell, who played it in some New York clubs where they went mad. So Trevor started to produce it as the first single for ZTT, the label he was setting up withIsland, and it went horribly wrong and sounded like some mega production so we went back to my original demo in the end – the released version is pretty similar to that.
Apart from that I’ve been doing lots of remixing (Nik Kershaw, Scritti Politti, etc. etc,) and producing (Hipsway, The Dream Academy, Drum Theatre and the new Spandau Ballet LP).

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