The video stream for this lecture can be watched here.
Trevor Horn started small and became huge. His early career was spent as a session musician, playing bass on cheap and nasty albums of hits covers, before producing mostly forgotten sides by John Howard and girlfriend Tina Charles. But his massive success as one-hit wonder Buggles, "Video Killed The Radio Star", gave him entry to the big league and before long he was producing landmark records with ABC and Malcolm McLaren. Renowned as an early champion of then-new electronic technology, he traces his story to the brink of his superstardom with ZTT in this first part of a two-part lecture.
RBMA: Let me have the pleasure of introducing a man who… it almost feels like a weird arms race this week. We’ve had a lot of big records, and we’re still going to have a couple more, but no one has made them sound bigger than the man I’d like you to join me in welcoming right now. Mr Trevor Horn, please.
(applause / bows)
Trevor Horn: Hello.
RBMA: In preparing this thing I tried to concentrate on the most important bits. The essential playlist features only 52 tracks now. So bathroom breaks, no. It’s going to be painful and long.
Trevor Horn: You’re not going to play all 52 of them, are you?
RBMA: I already tried to exemplify a little bit, and I think we can concentrate on a few of them. But there’s actually one track in there that is not by you and I’d like, while we start playing it, afterwards elaborate on why we should care about a song like that.
(music: Dionne Warwick – Walk On By)
So if you were a radio DJ what would you say right after this song?
Trevor Horn: I’d say: “That was Dionne Warwick singing "Walk On By", written by Bacharach and David, first released in 1963/64,” I don’t know the exact date. It was the first record apart from The Beatles that really got to me. I loved that record, It’s such a beautiful song and I’ve always loved the way she sings, very straight like a saxophone. She doesn’t mess around and jump all over the place. A few little jumps, but it’s an amazing voice. I always think her voice is like the tip of an iceberg – there’s a whole load underneath it, but you hear the top and it’s beautiful.
RBMA: So it’s pretty much the contrast to what you’d see in a TV casting show these days.
Trevor Horn: (laughs) Oh God, yeah, it would be the opposite. I think it’s called melisma or something. Some people like to do that. She still sings, she’s an amazing singer. In fact, I got to speak to her on the phone. I did some music for a film Ali, where Will Smith plays Ali. I did the first 12 minutes of the music and it was a Sam Cooke concert and the only person we could find to sing it was her son, funnily enough. We only found him the day before he was due to join the LA police force, which was a rather odd thing. He said: “If you hadn’t got me this gig I’d have been in the police.” I said: “Does that mean we can’t smoke this?” “Nah, nah, you’re alright.”
RBMA: It’s legal in LA anyway these days, so.
Trevor Horn: Sam Cooke sang so high. If you listen to something like "Bring It On Home To Me", he’s actually singing in the key of C, he’s singing top Cs in full voice, which takes some doing.
RBMA: Normally, vocalists would have to go to falsetto straight away.
Trevor Horn: Yeah, after A probably guys normally have to sing in falsetto.
RBMA: Any other Sam Cooke recommendations on that note?
Trevor Horn: If you’re into Sam Cooke, the best thing to listen to of his is a live show he did in Miami. It’s the one that we copied for that film, it’s quite amazing. A lot of those singers were good because they grew up singing in church, like Dionne Warwick grew up singing in church. So they really learned how to sing.
RBMA: And how to take care of their voice, so excuse me for the lozenge break. Where were you around the time when heard that record?
Trevor Horn: I was playing with the youth orchestra, playing double bass. Similar to this, when you were in the orchestra when you were young, they used to take you away for the weekend. We used to stay in a castle, rehearse a piece of music and then give a concert on the Sunday afternoon. I heard that record, I was listening to that all the time ‘cause I liked it so much, and thinking, ‘That’s the kind of music I want to do. Not this – this is too hard’. We were doing Tchaikovsky’s First Symphony and it has a hell of a bass part in it.
RBMA: So how did your bass-playing career evolve from Tchaikovsky?
Trevor Horn: My dad was a bass player part time, he used to play five nights a week to earn extra money. When I was a kid I learned to play the recorder – is it called the same? You know, the little flute thing. I really had no idea that I was particularly musical because the way they taught us music at school was so boring I wasn’t interested. But when I got the recorder I was so into it. They used to have me playing every day for the hymns that we sang every day in school. From playing the recorder I suppose I learned how to read for the bass ‘cause my father showed me how to play "Way Down Upon The Swanee River" and I worked it out from there. I used to dep for him when I was 12. Sometimes, if he couldn’t make the first set with his dance band, I’d go and play his first set. Then, when I was about 13 he got a bass guitar and a bass guitar is so different to the double bass. My father was thrilled with it. He said: “What’s great about the bass guitar, all those guys who used to be bluffing on the double bass ‘cause you couldn’t really hear them, now they better play the right notes.” I was 16, 17 and I was the only guy around who could read for the bass guitar. Lots of people could play rock ‘n’ roll on it, but I could read so I could work in dance bands and things like that. That’s how I started, playing all of that old Frank Sinatra stuff.
RBMA: I was going to ask, when you say dance bands, what era are you talking and what were the first tunes you learned to play?
Trevor Horn: (sings) “I’ve got you under my skin.” Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, all of that stuff from the ‘50s and the ‘40s. There was some great dance band music. My father’s favourite band was Tommy Dorsey, songs like "When The Quail Came Back To San Quentin" and "Summer Ridge Drive", those sorts of things.
RBMA: And what would a dance look like when you played?
Trevor Horn: Lots of old people doing this sort of thing (holds arm out, sways). I used to get very bored with it. I used to practise letting my nose run and seeing how far it would go. I used to get into trouble ‘cause a couple of times I got very drunk and was rude to the drummer. I remember my father telling me off for that, I was only 15. But I used to get paid for it. What I really wanted to do was to be Bob Dylan. I was a completely unashamed Bob Dylan imitator, I had the harmonica. I could sing any Bob Dylan song up to about 1964, ’65, ’66, before he did John Wesley Harding.
RBMA: So do we need to get a guitar in here and you give us your Bob Dylan renditions?
Trevor Horn: I don’t think so, you don’t really want to hear it. I used to think it would be a great idea to get Bob Dylan to do something like Bob Dylan Sings The Songs Of Diane Warren, something like that (sings "Love Lifts Us Up Where We Belong" in Dylan voice), some corny old tunes. But anyway.
RBMA: Let’s jump ahead a little bit and hear something we found in the depths of the internet and maybe you can elaborate on it a little bit.
(music: Big A – Juke Joint Bop)
Trevor Horn: I think I played on that, did I? I haven’t heard that for a long time.
RBMA: There’s a T. Horn and a C. Horn credited on that. Do you have a sibling?
Trevor Horn: Nobody who plays. That’s called "Juke Joint Bop", isn’t it? I think it was something I played on when I was a session guy and a friend of mine, Rod, used to write those kind of songs. God, I haven’t heard that in a long time.
RBMA: How did you get to be a session guy?
Trevor Horn: Well, there’s all different kinds of session guys. I used to do a lot of sessions ‘cause I could read. I did a lot those awful albums you see in the shops, where it’s 30 pop hits. They used to be 30 pop hits for about two bucks.
RBMA: You mean the ones that really annoyed you as a kid where you spend your pocket money and: “That’s not what I wanted”?
Trevor Horn: Absolutely, yeah. But they used to pay very good money. You did them very quickly, you did 12 songs in an afternoon. I played bass on them but for a brief period of time, I did Bryan Ferry songs as well. They used to say: “You’re the only guy we can find who sings out of tune.” ‘Cause Bryan Ferry, god bless him, he sings out of tune. So I used to do the Bryan Ferry songs and the funny thing was we’d do them all in one take. You’d wait outside, go in and then (sings "Let’s Stick Together") and then it was done. I remember being in a restaurant one time and the music was playing and thinking, ‘Jesus, that’s awful. What the hell is that?’, and it was me singing "Tokyo Joe" (laughter). But I did some other sessions, I used to sing on radio jingles. Even after I had my first hit as a producer, I would still hear jingles that I’d played the bass on that were still going years later. But you’d only get one payment.
RBMA: Here’s another from those radio session days.
(music: Tina Charles - Making All The Right Moves)
Trevor Horn: That’s Tina Charles, isn’t it? I think it’s a B-side, isn’t it?
RBMA: You’d know a lot better than I do.
Trevor Horn: I lived with Tina Charles, I was her boyfriend for a while, which, believe me, was a dangerous occupation.
RBMA: In what respect?
Trevor Horn: Tina could drink more than most men that I know. And when she’d had a few drinks, she could cause more trouble than anybody I ever knew. But she was a good singer.
RBMA: Are you still bruised?
Trevor Horn: Part of me is, yes. Funnily enough, I met her again a few years ago, she came and sang with us. She hadn’t changed. I still like her but she was kind of crazy. And that was a B-side ‘cause her producer was a guy called Biddu, an Indian guy. He was a good producer, he produced "Kung-Fu Fighting" (sings) and "I Love To Love". She did "I Love To Love" while I was still living with her.
RBMA: How did that make you feel?
Trevor Horn: I didn’t play on it. I thought it was great, when Biddu played me the song. Back then I was just Tina Charles’ boyfriend, I wasn’t a producer or anything, and so I was always behind her or in the corner of the room. "I Love To Love", when Biddu played it I told her: “That’s a really good song.” But what was more important, she came home with the backing track. That was the first time in my life I’d heard a backing track. That sounds funny, but I was trying to produce records and wasn’t doing very well with it. I didn’t find it easy at first, I couldn’t quite get the backing track right. Listening to the backing track for I Love To Love was a really educative thing for me, I learned so much from it. It was so simple, it was cold, it was clear. Nobody played anything that they shouldn’t play. I studied it and learned a lot from it. But I never played on her records, I think that was the first one I ever played on and Biddu just let us do it as a B-side to keep her happy.
(music: John Howard – Baby Go Now)
That’s a guy called John Howard, right?
RBMA: It is, yes.
Trevor Horn: Did I produce that?
RBMA: I’m just double-checking ‘cause it’s the first time you’re credited as a producer.
Trevor Horn: Yeah, I think I did produce it. Biddu had produced John Howard before; he was a good dance producer but he wasn’t very good with artists. Producing dance records and producing artists is an entirely different thing. I did three or four tracks with him. It turned out pretty well, but I don’t think they sold. He was a lovely guy, very gay, very over-the-top camp. He’s still going. In fact, he wrote to me last week to invite me to something. So we still stay in touch. I haven’t heard that one for a long time, though.
RBMA: It’s interesting looking back. We might not have the right notion of where it stands in that point of time, but it definitely draws from Steely Dan and the west coast things.
Trevor Horn: Oh yeah, we loved Steely Dan. Those records, if you’re a musician they’re so good because they’re pop, but they’re great pop.
RBMA: What made them great pop?
Trevor Horn: The arrangements, the way people played, the chord structures, the intelligence of the lyrics. An album like Pretzel Logic, it sounded so good, too, they really made an effort to make the record sound good. There were a few people around like that, 10CC as well sounded great back then. It’s funny you’re playing these, I haven’t heard them in ages.
RBMA: Now the next one, probably we’ll play it here and then move to your computer. This one, if you were a three or four-year-old boy at the end of the ‘70s, strapped in your mum’s car on the back seat, this was your tune.
(music: The Buggles – Video Killed The Radio Star / applause)
Not only the biggest tune in Thalfang’s Volkswagen’s, but also the first tune to be played on MTV, I believe.
Trevor Horn: Well, it was perfect for them, it was their manifesto. I had no idea what it would turn into when we did it. I wrote the song originally with a guy called Bruce Woolley. I started writing songs, I was working as a producer, but I didn’t write songs. I used to fix people’s songs up. I discovered early on that if someone has a song and it’s not right, if you rewrite it for them, especially if they’re amateurs, as long as you don’t claim any of the credit they’re really happy, they don’t mind. They kind of start pretending it’s theirs. I was astonished but it can be a way of solving a problem if you’ve got a problem with the song. I was fixing people’s songs and I thought, ‘This is stupid, I should start writing songs again’. Bruce and I had that lyric – “I heard you on the wireless back in ’52” – but couldn’t figure out where to go with it, it’s a funny line. We were reading a lot of science fiction. I don’t know if you’ve heard of a guy called J.G. Ballard, we were reading J.G. Ballard a lot and also listening to Kraftwerk. Man-Machine was a huge influence, we played it all the time because it was so different. At the end of the ‘70s it was either rock – you know, Led Zeppelin, Elton John and all that crew – or it was punk. I hated punk because it was so unmusical. I once went to a show and found myself throwing stuff at the band ‘cause I was so angry at how awful it was.
RBMA: What band was that, for the record?
Trevor Horn: The Unwanted, I think they were called. And it was a song called "Buried Underground". “(sings) Ten feet underground, decomposing.” Get the fuck out of it, dreadful. So I hated punk, didn’t like rock, because the rock guys were all gods and maestros and I didn’t feel like a maestro. But Kraftwerk, it was like you could see the future when you heard Kraftwerk, something new is coming, something different. Different rhythm section, different mentality. So we had all of that, myself and Bruce, and we wrote this song probably six months before we recorded it. We were walking in the park one day. When you’re writing lyrics, sometimes you can spend days looking for a line and then it just goes ‘Bang! There it is’. “Lying awake intent in tuning in on you / If I was young it didn't stop you coming through.” Then the bit about taking the credit for your second symphony. “Rewritten by machine and new technology / And now I understand the problems you can see.” That’s what I could feel was coming, how technology was going to change the way music sounded. But the problem for me and Geoffrey was we had no access to any technology. We tried renting an Oberheim sequencer once and I remember it cost me £15, which was £15 I didn’t really have. I couldn’t get the damn thing to work, I couldn’t get a note out of it. It came with a manual that was German, or part in German. It was really hard to operate. So we figured out ways of faking it by playing it like a sequencer and putting echoes on things. If you had an echo you could make something sound like a sequencer. Even though "Video Killed The Radio Star" was recorded in 1979 it was all played, there were no computers anywhere around the place. Which is kinda funny because it sounds like it was sequenced. The other problem we had back then is I didn’t know how to edit two-inch multitracks. In fact, nobody told me you could do such a thing. I actually learned a lot about editing two-inch multitracks with Yes, when I did 90125. They would edit multitracks to correct the drums, they’d take a quarter of an inch out. I’d never seen that done before. So this meant the 16-track machine, or the 24-track machine we did it on was very primitive, which meant you couldn’t drop in. You had to play the thing from one end to the other without making a mistake. By the time we got the backing track for this, we’d been playing it for nearly 12 hours, which is a really long time. The drummer was really angry and we had to put him on triple rate to stay. He kept saying: “You’re fucking mad, I’m going. I’m not playing this any more, my hands are hurting.” And we were: “Please, just have one more go.” And Hans Zimmer was in the control room. He wasn’t playing on it but he was in the control room. It was me, Geoffrey Downes and a drummer called Paul Robinson. I brought the multitrack with me ‘cause I thought it might be interesting for you to hear what went down first. Or a bit of it, I don’t know if you want to hear the whole thing. Is that OK? Tim’s been my engineer on and off for 20 years. I hope this isn’t too boring for him. This is what went down. The piano was recorded with the effect on it.
(music: The Buggles – Video Killed The Radio Star (instrumental demo))
You get the idea. That tape effect wasn’t there, that’s just rewinding a tape machine.
RBMA: It might be worth putting that multitrack on the desk in the other room later on, then you could give it a little rerub.
Trevor Horn: Sure, as long as nobody nicks it, I’m fine with it. I just don’t really want it on the internet. But yeah, it’s just piano, bass and drums.
RBMA: You were mentioning a certain young man from Frankfurt there who still claims his participation in this track to up his street credit these days..
Trevor Horn: Well, he did participate in it. He was there, he was part of the band at the time. But the thing was Geoffrey was such a great keyboard player there wasn’t any room for Hans to play the keyboards. But Hans is one of the most charming, nice people I’ve ever met, so he was great to have around. But after we did that take, he said: “(affects German accent) I don’t think this is the one.” Geoffrey and I said: “It’s the one.”
RBMA: How did he get into the group or into the room in the first place?
Trevor Horn: Hans had a Prophet 5 (laughter), and we only had a Polymoog up to that point and it was a little unstable, and it was a bit unlimited – it wouldn’t remember sounds. The Prophet 5 was the first synth I saw that would remember a sound. You spend ages programming a sound, it would keep it in a bag. The thing that Hans was always great at was he always got great sounds, he was a great programmer. There was a track on the first Buggles album, he persuaded us that if we played to a click that he laid down, then he would be able to overdub keyboards and then lock the keyboards to the tape. I was: “(bemused look) What? You mean have the keyboards play afterwards in time?” “Yes.” “How? I don’t understand how that’s possible.” There was a track called "Johnny On The Monorail" on the first album. We spent ages recording it to this click of his, then Hans went off to the side, we didn’t see him for a week. Then he came back. He’d done all these overdubs with this big rack of synths that he has in his place, they were all banging away and playing with "Johnny On The Monorail" relatively in time. Not perfectly in time, but almost. Problem was we didn’t like any of the overdubs so we didn’t use it. We’d already more or less finished it by playing by hand. It took me a long time to get into the idea, I still don’t like Midi very much, I find it a bit inaccurate and sloppy.
RBMA: Unlike the Hollywood people?
Trevor Horn: Yeah, yeah. We were talking about this last night. Hans was into programming, that’s what he was very good at and when he first went to LA that’s what he did that was so different to everyone else. He could do a piece of a score and it was all in Midi. If you’ve ever worked in film, it’s a crazy business and they’re constantly changing everything, cutting bits out of the scene. If you’re an old-style composer where you have the orchestration, it’s hell getting the cues to fit. Hans was the first guy who had a Midi rig that could change cues and fake an orchestra in a convincing way. Of course, they loved it out there. He’s a franchise now, he has 20 guys working for him. If you ever get the chance to go and work for him, I strongly recommend that you do. He’s a lovely man, has helped a lot of people out. People like Harry Gregson-Williams started working for Hans. He’s not a selfish egotistical arsehole, he’s a good guy. Some of those guys can be like that, but not Hans. And if you ever get the chance, just do it.
RBMA: And there’s a good chance there’s a Grammy involved in it too.
Trevor Horn: For me?
RBMA: No, not you. You got yours later. I meant an Oscar.
Trevor Horn: It depends if you can take the pressure. I’ve done a couple of films and they’re not easy and the people can drive you mad. It’s the most exhausted I’ve ever been. I did a film called Coyote Ugly, I did the music for that years ago, and I think that was one of the hardest things I ever had to do in terms of hours. I saw Hans the other week, actually. We did a Buggles gig. I said: “That film thing’s not going anywhere, mate. You should come and join the band, forget it.” He was doing Sherlock Holmes, the new Sherlock Holmes film.
RBMA: I do feel like we’re rushing a little bit, but we’re only on five out of 50. But, like I said, this is just the essence.
(music: Malcolm McLaren & World Famous Supreme Team – Double Dutch / applause)
Trevor Horn: That’s Malcolm McLaren and "Double Dutch". That was 1982 and I’d just done ABC, Lexicon Of Love, and everyone wanted me to do another record like that. Malcolm wanted to do a solo album. My wife, who was my manager at the time, said: “You can do Spandau Ballet and you know it’ll be very successful, they’re a very good band. If you do the Malcolm McLaren thing, God knows what’s going to happen ‘cause he’s a weird guy.”
RBMA: Can you fill us in quickly on the things he did before?
Trevor Horn: Malcolm was the Sex Pistol’s manager. He was the guy who got them to swear on TV and designed all their clothes. He was an amazing guy to be with. He was so mad in a way, but funny, with great ideas. I had him over. My wife Jill had been a maths teacher and wanted to tell him off for punk rock, basically, to have a go at him. But when we met him we were so taken with him because had one of those buffalo gals hats, and he had a pair of trousers that hung down at the back that looked as though he’d pooed in them. He looked very strange, but he was so funny and he played me some music that I’d never heard before at the time. And he told me some stuff that took my breath away. He said all the black kids in New York were listening to Depeche Mode. I was like: “What?” “And they do this thing with records, they scratch records.” And he played me the start of the tape that you heard there, the World’s Famous Supreme Team, who were two New York guys who basically worked a con on Broadway. They used to do the eggcups with the coin underneath it. The money they got from that they used to spend doing this radio show at 3am, which was all designed to get girls. I’d never heard anything like it, never heard scratching records. Just the idea that people from New York were into Depeche Mode was mind-blowing to me at the time anyway. Then he played me the South African township records and said: “I wanna make a record of all this stuff.” “Great, let’s go.” I think the first thing we did was we went to South Africa, we were there two years before Paul Simon, ‘cause Paul Simon mined the same musical scene with Graceland but he was two or three years behind us. We were there first and we didn’t take any psychiatrists with us. I know he had two psychiatrists with him when he went. But we went South Africa, and South Africa was a weird place.
RBMA: Obviously, that was during apartheid.
Trevor Horn: Yes, big-time apartheid. Malcolm had been there before me. He collected all the musicians, and they were the musicians the record labels didn’t like. Malcolm had found them because probably they had a bit of spirit, who knows. So I walked into a studio and there’s 15 Zulus and Xhosas sitting and I was: “Hi!” And I was the big producer from England. Malcolm had told them I was the big producer from England – “You’ve got to do everything he says.” And we could only work at nights, we were in there for 16 nights in a row. And we had the most fun time. They couldn’t go out at night, ‘cause if you were black in Johannesburg you couldn’t go out at night. You had to be bussed out back to Soweto. I went to Soweto with Malcolm and one of the best songs for me was "Living On The Road In Soweto". If you’d have seen Soweto in 1982, it was like the dark satanic mills. There was no electricity and a great big pall of coal smoke above it.
RBMA: They already had that massive kraftwerk thing right in the middle of Soweto, right? There’s like a big coal kraftwerk kind of thing.
Trevor Horn: I just remember seeing it in the distance and seeing the coal smoke above it. Things were different. When we were starting I was sitting behind the desk, everyone was sitting at the back. This tall white guy came in and said: “Is everything alright? Do you like the studio?” I said: “The studio’s not great, but it’ll be fine.” He said: “Anything else?” I said: “I’d like a cup of coffee.” And without thinking I said to everyone else: “Anyone else want a cup of coffee?” The guy looked at me like that (mouth agape). I said: “Nobody else wants a cup of coffee.” He went and got me a cup of coffee. It was a weird vibe. But after I’d been there for a day or so I said: “Can you get me some pot? What’s it like getting pot ‘round here?” He said: “Oh, I can get you come pot.” So I gave him $20 and the next day he came back with a carrier bag full of pot. I said: “My God! Hide that, quick! That's too much. We’ll go to prison for that. Hide it. Would you like some? Here, have some.” And I rolled a joint and they were fascinated. “What are you doing?” “I’m rolling a joint.” They roll it with newspaper. So we became really good friends. Malcolm was creating all the time, trying things out. But God bless him, he couldn’t sing particularly, I mean he really couldn’t sing. I remember the first time he ever sang for me was in South Africa and the song he was going to sing was "Jive My Baby". I think it was on the album. He won’t mind me doing an impersonation of him, I did love him, wherever he is now, he’s passed over. I said: “Malcolm, I’ve got to hear you sing.” He said: “Oh, that’s no problem, I’ll sing "Jive My Baby".” It was about 11 at night and all the musicians were sleeping in the back. He went into the studio, wearing this cowboy hat and I said: “You have to put some headphones on.” So he put the headphones on and he was standing there. I said: “Malcolm.” “(looks startled) What, what?” “I’m here in the headphones.” “Oh, right.” “The music will play through the headphones and you sing along with it. You’re in after eight bars.” “A bar? What’s a bar? What do you mean?” “Eight bars. Eight times four beats.” “Oh no, that’s too technical. Just you give me a cue, you go like that (points) when it’s time for me to sing.” And the track started up (sings) and I think, ‘I better give him the cue a bit early so maybe he’ll come in on time’. He’s standing there looking at me and I gave him the cue. He went (sings badly) and we went (stares horrified) and everyone who was sleeping at the back woke up because it was such an awful noise. My old engineer Gary Langan has a tape of the session where I say: “My God, he sounds like Jimmy Clitheroe...” – who was an English comedian – “...on acid.” And this little Zulu woman, who was quite a piece of work, said: “Trevor, Malcolm can’t sing.” I said: “Don’t get involved, it’s my problem.” After he’d sung it, I went out there and said: “Malcolm, you’re not singing the tune, really. The tune goes… (sings).” He said: “Do you want me to sing it like that?” “Not exactly like that, but that’s the tune.” “I can’t sing it like that. If you’re looking for me to sing this in time and in tune, it’s not gonna happen. I’m a wacky kind of guy and that’s all you’re gonna get, so you better figure out what you’re gonna do with it.” Which is what I did (laughs). But in the end we made a whole record together and we had a good time. When I left it was really sad. We paid the musicians – we didn’t pay them proper money, we just didn’t – but we paid them £1,500 each, which was incredible for them, ‘cause most of them lived in Soweto and had very little money. I remember saying to the guitar player: “What are you doing when you get the big cheque?” “I’m buying a wife.” “How much is a wife?” “£600.” “But you’ve got a girlfriend.” “But I want a wife.” And we were staying in the only multi-racial hotel in Johannesburg and I got a call from the reception saying: “You’d better come down. There’s a guy here says he knows you.” It was the guitar player. He had this crate of, like, Special Brew that he was holding and this terrified little woman who looked like she was about 18. And he was checking into the hotel. And that was fine, that was his honeymoon money. Anyway, I can talk about Malcolm for hours. You probably want to move me along.
RBMA: There was one moment in there earlier where you said Malcolm told them: “Here’s the big-cheese record producer from England and you better do what he does.” How did that make you feel, coming from England, which is a lot more multiracial, and then coming into this environment where you’re obviously white and probably part of a system that you’re not really supporting?
Trevor Horn: Well, not at all. You know, I didn’t have a single problem. I was into thumb-slapping the bass at the time and everyone wanted to learn, so I was having thumb-slapping classes. We got on well. Musicians are musicians, it doesn’t matter where you are. I’m dictatorial, a megalomaniac, all those things, but I like to think I’m not unpleasant. So it was a good atmosphere. I knew it was going to change, you can’t keep something like that going, it was dreadful. And it changed in a few years, thank God to Nelson Mandela. But I didn’t feel funny at all, I enjoyed it. After that we did "Buffalo Gals". You’re going to play that one?
(music: Malcolm McLaren – Buffalo Gals / applause)
It’s difficult to know how crazy that record sounded back in 1982. People, when they heard it, their jaws would drop ‘cause it was so unlike anything they’d ever heard. Funnily enough, I got a phone call on Friday last week, a guy called Richard Russell rang me up. Richard Russell runs XL Records, who have the White Stripes and so on, and he wanted to come ‘round and see me. He’d been with Damon Albarn from Blur and Gorillaz and they’d been playing this track, they’d been on the internet and they said: “Do you know that’s the first British rap record?” I said: “Yes, I did know.” It’s not something that many people are interested in. It was a trip, those guys, we flew them over. It was one of those daft ideas. Malcolm wanted a single from Duck Rock to be "Buffalo Gals". He played me the Peyote Pete recording of it from the 1948 Folkways album, which is basically (sings), an old hoedown country-dancing sort of thing. He wanted it to be the single, I had a real problem with that. I couldn’t see it, I didn’t know what to do with it. We tried recording it like the Peyote Pete version of it, down in Tennessee. That was an experience in itself ’cause… it just was, but we don’t have hours.
RBMA: The three-minute Cliff’s Notes version of that, please.
Trevor Horn: Well, Malcolm said: “We’re gonna do "Buffalo Gals". I’ve got a group called The Hilltoppers, they’re gonna come and play.” We’re in this studio called Tri-State Studios and The Hilltoppers showed up and they were in a purple VW van that had carpet on the inside, purple carpet. There was a very old Hilltopper who had a hat on saying “The oldest Hilltopper” – he was about 92. And then there were a few children who looked like they might have had interesting parents ‘cause they were boss-eyed and a bit strange looking. And they started to play. We set up some mics around the studio and they started to play and they were awful. Malcolm came up to me and said: “This is awful. You’re the producer, get rid of them.” So I had to go over and say: “Guys, that was great, that’ll do for what we need. Thanks very much, here’s $50.” And they were happy enough and off they went in their purple VW. And I said to the guy who owned the studio: “Do you think you can get us any musicians?” In the southern states of America they’re very laidback. “Yeah, yeah, should be able to. Utility pickers.” “Utility pickers, great.” “Gimme some time, I’ll get on the phone.” So a bunch of guys showed up and they all had that slightly tough hard-bitten American look until they smiled. They set up and they could obviously play really well. They were crazy guys, I remember going to the toilet and there’s about five of them doing great big lines of blow off the sink in the toilet. Pretty quickly I had to put Malcolm into a soundproof area and take him out of the headphones. He had his buffalo hat and he’d just lose his place and throw everyone totally out of sync. They were looking at me like: “What are you gonna do with this?” “I’m gonna do something with it, don’t worry.” And I remember Malcolm saying: “We’ve got the single, great.” And I’m thinking, ‘We’ve got the single? No way’. One of those moments at dinner, he said: “I wanna do a scratching record now, rapping, scratching called "ET Come Home" about ET.” I said: “Why don’t we a rapping scratching version of "Buffalo Gals"?” He said: “Yeah!” Thank God, we might be able to have a chance now. So he flew those two guys over from New York to England, the Supreme Team. They didn’t know what was going on, they thought Malcolm was some weird guy from God knows where, and they didn’t even bring their decks with them. So we had to get onto the record label in New York and so there was three days where we couldn’t do anything while they went to a shop, bought the decks with the Stanton cartridges and they were flown over. Someone from Charisma Records brought them on a plane over to England. It was one of those things where I didn’t know where to start with them. I said: “The thing you do, scratching the records, is really amazing. I’ve got this thing here called the Fairlight and it does the same thing with digital audio. Let me show you, the possibilities are endless.” They looked at the Fairlight and were: “No man, that’s wack.” I was: “What does wack mean?” I hadn’t heard all that opposite language at that time. I said to them: “We’re gonna make this rap record so what you need to do is show me what your favourite beat is.” So they showed me their favourite beat, which was (sings beat). I had this Oberheim rig, which was a DMX, a DSX and a keyboard. It took me hours ‘cause I kept going: “No no, no no” - to get the swing of it right. After about four hours I had this thing that went (sings beat) and I threw in this bass that went (sings bass), just to give it some bass, and they really liked it. I said: “Now we’ve got to rap this over it.” I showed them the lyrics to "Buffalo Gals" and they went: “Nah, we can’t do that – that’s Ku Klux Klan shit. That’s what the Ku Klux Klan dance to.” I said: “We’re gonna modernise it.” “Nah, we can’t rap that.” “Look, I’ll show you, we can rap it. Gary, I’ll go and do it.” So I went into the studio (raps "Buffalo Gals") and I looked into the control room and I couldn’t see them. I thought, ‘Oh, they’ve gone. They’re so pissed off they’ve gone’. So I stopped and I went into the control room. They were both on the floor crying with laughter, they were laughing so hard. They put their arms around me and said: “Trevor man, don’t be a rapper. Man, you’re shit.” I said: “Is that shit good or shit bad?” “Bad.” (laughter) “Is bad good?” (laughter) But anyway, it broke the ice a little bit, which helped, ‘cause up till then they hadn’t been sure. When Malcolm rapped "Buffalo Gals" I had to stand there and punch him in the chest in time with the track, because he’d just go... (sings very fast). “No, Malcolm it’s (thumps chest and sings in time).” “Right, I get it.” So I’m standing there doing this, after about four takes I start to get tired. I stop doing it and off he went. He’s: “You’ve gotta keep hitting me. Come on, what’s your problem?” “I’m exhausted, Malcolm.” So that’s how we got the vocal. The record itself, the track, took ages to do ‘cause he was trying something much more ambitious. I had Anne Dudley, keyboard player and arranger, she was doing the music and J.J. in the Art Of Noise was doing the Fairlight. We spent days, probably two weeks, trying to get something out of Malcolm and the World’s Famous Supreme Team, Anne Dudley and JJ, that would be good. There are some hilarious outtakes I’ve got somewhere of Supreme Team saying: “Man, Malcolm, you’re a vibe killer. You kill the vibe like nobody.” In the end I just said: “Malcolm, give me one day, just one day of me and the guys and I think I can crack this track.” And we did it. Anne Dudley and myself, Gary Langan and the World’s Famous Supreme Team did it in a day. Malcolm did the vocal. I always remember when World’s Famous Supreme Team were leaving England to go back to New York they phoned me up and said: “Trevor, we’ve gotta record that song again.” “Why?” “Because the scratching’s wack.” “Does that mean it’s bad? I don’t get you.” “It’s wack.” “Don’t worry about that, it’s fine. It’s a punk record.” They said: “Oh, OK, then can we have the drummachine?” I said: “No, it cost me £2,000, I can’t just give you that.” They said: “OK, bye.” They were gone and I never heard from them again. Is that enough about that?
RBMA: It’s kind of amazing that all that effort went into something that sounds like someone coming back from New York with a tape recording and a cassette and chucking it into some sort of device.
Trevor Horn: Yeah, but you couldn’t chuck it into anything back then, there was nothing to chuck it into (laughter).
RBMA: Didn’t you just say there was a massive Fairlight?
Trevor Horn: I had a Fairlight but there was only eight seconds of sampling time and you could only put in bits that were half a second long. There’s a certain structure to it. But it was actually a hit, they played it on the radio and it was a hit. I was always a bit nervous ‘cause at the end I had the girls saying “too much of that snow white” and I thought, ‘Should I have left that on? I could get in trouble for that’. It was a reference to cocaine, obviously. One day I got a message saying the controller of the BBC wants to talk to you, and my heart starts going like this (beats heart). And I thought, ‘Jesus, they’ve sussed out the fucking snow white thing’. So I picked up the phone and he said: “We’re going to give you a special DJs award.” I thought, ‘Thank God for that’. It caused quite a stir. One thing I did do that was interesting, a lot of the stuff I’d recorded in South Africa, ‘cause I was aware of copyright even then, I cut onto vinyl. All that (sings) “Looking like a hobo,” is the Zulu people from South Africa. That little noise at the front, that (sings), that’s the Zulu woman who said Malcolm couldn’t sing. That’s the Zulu war cry that Zulu women make when they’re killing somebody. That’s what she told me anyway.
RBMA: Earlier on, you mentioned this. A mildly happier note.
(music: ABC – Look Of Love / applause)
”Yippee aye-ay, yippee aye-ay.”
Trevor Horn: It’s funny listening to that. There’s one part where Martin goes (sings) and I remember how we made that up from a few bits of vocal ‘cause we didn’t have samplers then. We needed something for that bit and I remember flying it off onto a bit of half-inch tape, editing it on half-inch tape, then flying it back onto the track, that line (sings). David Bowie came in while we were working on that album in Tony Visconti’s studio. We were working on the end, ‘cause if you listen to the end where it’s: "(sings) Be lucky in love,” that’s me singing. We were trying to figure out how to finish the songs off. I said: “Martin, we need to do something at the end, maybe you need to talk or something.” Tony Visconti comes in and says: “Do you mind if David sits at the back for a minute?” No. I’m a huge David Bowie fan, so no problem at all. It was the only time I ever saw Anne Dudley put make-up on. She ran off to the toilet and came back in with make-up on. “You look different, Anne.” “Well, David Bowie’s coming in.” I remember I was impressed with the fact his eyes were two different colours. We were talking about what to do with the end and he said: “Why don’t you have a message from an answering machine?” Answering machines were relatively novel at that point. Hmm, we weren’t too sure about that. Martin said: “No, I’m gonna write something.” Then David Bowie went and then suddenly he came back again and said: “Has anybody seen my bag?” “No, sorry David.” Then he went again and his assistant came in. “Has anyone seen David’s bag?” One of the guys from ABC came running in and he was so pleased with himself. He was saying: “I’ve freaked David Bowie out, I’ve freaked David Bowie out. I’ve hidden his bag, he can’t find it, he’s looking everywhere for it.” He was so chuffed with himself. But they were brilliant, ABC. You listen to that, the lyrics are so clever. They were all bright guys and they were listening to American records. Most of that – that was the second single – they had it all worked out, we had a way of working. The first record I did with them was "Poison Arrow". We spent the day in the studio and they played "Poison Arrow". They were OK. The drummer was a guy called David Palmer who plays with Rod Stewart now, so he was a career drummer. I thought he was pretty good, but nobody else was that good. So when we recorded it I said to them: “Is this what you’ve got in mind? Is this what you want?” “Why?” “Well, do you wanna work harder, do you want it to sound better than this?” “How good can we get it to sound?” “You can get it better than this, but you’ll have to go through a process.” At the time I was probably one of the first producers who had a rig and my rig consisted of an 808 with a set of triggers on the side of it and a Minimoog and a sequencer, it was a Roland sequencer that you just put notes into. Everything worked from the 808, I used to use the audio as triggers for the sequencer. I used Dave Simmons’ synth drums that he’d made for me and he’d modified my TR-808 so I could drive these synth drums. In essence, the sequencer worked with CV and gate – that’s controlled voltage and gate – which is why I’ve never liked Midi ‘cause that used to be absolutely locked spot-on. So I said: “If you want to make it better, the first thing I have to do is programme everything your drummer’s played into the 808. Then I’ll programme our bass player’s part, put the two in the sequencer into the audio, then we’ll record that. Then start again, you play the drums over the TR-808 and try and get everything as close as possible so it’s in perfect time, as perfect as you can. They were bemused by it, but they were very ambitious. Of course, that’s exactly what we did. It must have taken me eight or ten hours. I don’t know if anyone’s ever programmed an 808, especially if you have to put a song in it, it’s very fiddly. Of course, we weren’t singing it to tapes, so when it was done you just press the ‘go’ button and off it went. So the bass player played on top of it and we got a much tighter track, and that opened their eyes a little bit and by the time we came to "Look Of Love" they had it all worked out. They wanted me to put the bass part into the sequencer and we started it exactly the same way. That’s the only thing you could do back then, it was the early days of locking stuff to tape.
RBMA: On the content level, you’ve got almost a four-hour soul/disco/opera in this track in the way the drama builds, the arrangement. Then you’ve got these tiny little asides with the voice countering – the “who’s got the look?”, things like that. Who came up with that concept?
Trevor Horn: Oh, them. They were very bright guys. You give them one thing and they run with it. They wrote the song. I think my one contribution was “(sings) Be lucky in love” - at the end and suggesting that he talk, aside from mixing it, and Anne Dudley did the strings. That was the first time we did strings on a record and it was Anne Dudley’s first ever string arrangement. It was the first time I’d used strings for a long time as well. Before I had a hit I had a very bad experience with a string section. In the middle of a take they walked out as the clock struck one. They put down their instruments and walked out in the middle of a take. I was so upset because it cost money, I remember I threw the cheque on the floor in front of the fixer and put my foot on it then walked off. I said: “I’m never using real strings again. Never working with those kind of musicians ever.” We all say those kinds of things. When it came to this, it was Anne’s first arrangement and it was a big thing for her. I was lucky on that record. I had a great keyboard player, great engineer. The engineering on that was really good, so… what was the question? I’ve forgotten. Oh, was it their idea? The whole record was their idea. When they were at university they used to go to clubs and dance. They loved American records and they wanted to make their own version of an American soul record that had more content to it. So I facilitated it.
RBMA: Was Paul Morley involved in any way at that stage already?
Trevor Horn: No, Paul Morley was a journalist for the NME. He interviewed me when I was a Buggle, I was doing lots of interviews and I was pretty inexperienced. I thought people who interviewed you were your friend. I had a pretty rude awakening. For a while I was saying if I ever saw that Paul Morley again I was gonna deck him. I was pretty angry with him ‘cause he wrote something pretty nasty about me. Which was kinda true in retrospect.
RBMA: Which was?
Trevor Horn: “Dirty old men with modern mannerisms.” That’s what he called The Buggles. But we were dirty old men, I was 30, I wasn’t 17. And we did have modern mannerisms ‘cause I’d been listening to Kraftwerk. But then I produced this group called Dollar. "Give Me Back My Heart", "Mirror Mirror", "Hand Held In Black And White". They were all big hits in England, don’t think it did anything over here. Suddenly, the NME was writing nice things about me. I was astonished ‘cause I didn’t think they’d like Dollar, ‘cause they were a little pop act, although compared to some modern acts they were like Pavarotti because there was no Auto-tune then, you really had to be able to sing. And Dollar got me ABC, ‘cause ABC were very trendy, and Paul Morley loved ABC, wrote even more nice things about me. So the next time I met him I didn’t punch him. But I got him to start ZTT for me, ‘cause Island Records wanted me to start a record label.
RBMA: Before we get to that, there was another track in between that might be worth talking about.
(music: Yes – Owner Of A Lonely Heart / applause)
The crazy thing when you listen to this now, especially when you grew up with that stuff on pop radio, is the amount of things that don’t really connect. You’ve got an incredibly manly guitar riff, a disco-ish beat, a couple of tape samples, I presume.
Trevor Horn: No, by that point we had a Synclavier.
RBMA: Which year was this?
Trevor Horn: Which year was it? I know exactly when – we started the album late 1982 and finished it autumn of ’83. We had this track for a long time but it had a different song over it. The song, as it originally was, was so awful – well, the verses were so awful – that I was convinced if we didn’t put loads of whiz-bangs and gags all over the verse, no one would ever listen to it. I always thought it was a hit chorus. To give you some perspective, Trevor Rabin, who was a South African pop star had joined Yes. He was a brilliant guitar player and keyboard player, but as a songwriter he tended towards American rock. When they wanted me to produce them, I’d been in the band as a singer, I replaced Jon Anderson for one year in 1980, which was an incredible experience never to be repeated because Jon Anderson sings so high. I can sing high but I can’t sing as high as Jon Anderson and not for as long. So I knew the band really well. In 1983 I’d just done Malcolm McLaren, I was really hot as a producer and my wife was furious at me for me wanting to do Yes. “Yes are finished, they’re old farts. Who’s interested in Yes?” But I loved the bass playing. Chris Squire, to me, is the only bass player who got away with playing melodic parts on loads of songs. I don’t think anyone has even come close to him. So I wanted to do it, but I wasn’t sure about the songs. So I went to Trevor Rabin’s to hear the songs for the album. And he played me three or four and they were all the same kind of thing. I remember one of them (sings), that kind of lurrrve kinda thing. And I’ve always been allergic to lurrrve, it’s just not my thing. And I was getting a bit (looks deflated), ‘God this is gonna be a bit of a drag. What am I gonna do about this? What are Yes gonna sound like doing that?’ And Trevor Rabin went to the loo and left the tape player running and this song came on. And the demo had that intro, a very powerful intro, and did that sort of snap jump-cut with the (sings) drums right up in your face. I think the intro didn’t have drums on, just had guitar. And I thought, ‘Oh that’s a good gag, I like that gag. And I like the riff, good tempo, like the riff.’ And then the song came in – the song was (sings), that kind of thing. I hated the verse. Then it went (sings the chorus), and I thought, ‘Oh that’s good’. Then when he came out of the toilet I said: “This is a hit song, that’s a hit chorus”. He was: “This song’s not for Yes, I wrote it for someone else”. I said: “Yes could do this song.” “Oh, I don’t know about that.” Anyway, 90125, we recorded all of the tracks except this one and they didn’t want to do it. I had to beg them. When you’ve been the singer in the band you can kind of be funny with them. I was literally in the town house crawling around, pulling at people’s trousers saying: “Please, please, have a go at this song. We need a single. I’m a hot producer at the moment, if we don’t get a single I’ll be fucked. Please!” Chris was: “(reluctantly) Alright then, we’ll give it a go.” And we spent days with them trying to play it. The intro was fine, but once the track started they kept wanting to change the riff (sings). “Can’t we just play it straight and simple. We’ve got to programme it, we’ve got to programme it.” They were very against it ‘cause they’d never programmed anything in their whole careers and the drummer was really anti it. I prevailed, and myself and Chris Squire programmed the drummachine for the initial track. Trevor Rabin’s big friend was a guy called Mutt Lange. If you don’t know Mutt Lange, he’s probably the biggest record producer there’s ever been. He’s the guy who produced Def Leppard, Shania Twain, The Cars, Boomtown Rats, AC/DC. He’s a rock producer and he’s what some people would imagine I’m like, he’s draconian, he’ll have a fist fight with the band if he can’t get his own way. He’s a tough guy. Trevor had this idea that the drums should be really big, like an American thing, a big snare drum. He kept trying to interfere with the engineering side of it and make the drums sound like that, driving me and Gary nuts. Trevor, I hope you don’t watch this. So when it came to do the drums, I said to Gary: “All this shit with the snare drums, it sounds crap, dreadful. It doesn’t suit Alan.” I’d just been listening to Synchronicity. Stewart Copeland, that’s the sound. “Let’s tune Alan to a high A.” So we tuned Alan’s snare drum to a high A, that sound, and I loved it. But I was working in a tiny control room and in order to get to the toilet you had to go through the reception. As I was walking through the reception, the whole Yes crew was there. I heard the chief roadie say: “Fucking drums, sounds like a pea on a barrel. I don’t know what Trevor Horn’s up to.” And then he saw me and was: “Sorry, Trev”. I said: “Fuck off, Noonoo, they’re staying like that.” Ahmet Ertegun, the guy who ran Atlantic, heard the backing track, ‘cause all of those little doodles were originally on the demo but they were played on the Minimoog. I had a Fairlight and I had that Malcolm McLaren tape and I took that in and said: “Can’t we use some of this? Instead of playing those things on a Minimoog let’s play them on crazy sounds.” It worked really well, worked incredibly. It took me from, I think, from January of 1983 to July to persuade Trevor to rewrite the song. In the end, he and I stayed up all night rewriting it. At about 3am I turned into Jon Anderson and said: “I’m Jon Anderson and I’m not singing that and I want to sing something different.” I started to sing (sings), that bit, for which I got 15% of the song. I wrote the verses. Jon Anderson didn’t like it at all. I said: “It’s an improvement on the other tune.” He said: “Well, it’s not exactly "Send In The Clowns" anyway.” He was a bit rude about it and he said he wouldn’t sing my lyrics on the second verse ‘cause he didn’t like them. So he rewrote it and did the white eagle in the sky. So me and Gary decided we would shoot it – so if you listen there’s a gun blast. That’s us shooting the white eagle in the sky. But Ahmet Ertegun loved the song. Trevor Rabin kept trying to remix it with a big snare drum. Ahmet Ertegun stopped them and put out our mix of it.
RBMA: Would this be a good example to tell people about negotiating techniques to get points on a record?
Trevor Horn: Points on a record… well, points on a record my manager would’ve sorted out beforehand. But writing, yeah. I’ve always tried to be very fair with writing. I did four Seal albums and you wouldn’t see my name credited on any of the songs as a writer, even though I contributed a lot to some of the songs, mainly arrangement. If I actually write something – and I wrote verse, lyrics and tune for that – then I want something for that. But if you’re working with decent people it shouldn’t be a problem. I’m always straight up about it. What can be awful –and I’ve felt it once or twice in my life – is when someone doesn’t want you to write something because they don’t want to share the publishing. The couple of times when I’ve found myself in that position I’ve generally left because I don’t want to be caught like that, I don’t want to feel uncomfortable. I tear people’s songs apart and rebuild them and people are fine with it, just so long as you don’t try to get some of the writing. But if you do write some of it, you really do write something, not just suggest a word. I came up with two words for a Robbie Williams track last year and I said: “You can have the words,” just two words in one bit of it. It’s better to be upfront about those kinds of things. I remember Dave Gilmour, the guitar player in Pink Floyd, telling me about how edgy he got with his producer, ‘cause he kept thinking he was trying to get some publishing and he was pushing it away all the time. So negotiating for points…
RBMA: How would it work? Would your manager negotiate a certain rate before you went in for the record, say: “I get a set fee or I get five points on this record”?
Trevor Horn: Back then I would probably have got four points on that Yes record. That was my going rate and I was always much more interested in the points than the advance. If you’re in the film business, make sure you get a big advance because there’s not much on the back end of it. But in records there used to be a lot on the back end. But I wouldn’t necessarily negotiate that; my wife would negotiate it. But to give you an idea of how that would go sometimes, in about 1986/’87 I got a call from Sting, he invited me to his house up in Highgate. I went to see him for lunch and he said: “We want to do a greatest hits album with The Police, we want to re-record all our greatest hits. The only person we can agree on to do them is you.” I said: “I’m really flattered, but do you really want to re-record "Roxanne"?” My favorite Police song was "Don’t Stand So Close To Me". I thought Nigel Gray’s production was brilliant, he was one of the unsung hero producers. I never heard anyone get a better guitar sound than Nigel Gray. And Sting said: “No, we definitely wanna re-record them ‘cause I can sing so much better now.” I said: “Right, OK.” It was a bit of a big one to turn down. He said: “Have you got a good manager, ‘cause mine’s an animal?” Those were his exact words. I said: “I’m married to my manager, she can be an animal sometimes (laughs). Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine.” Sting’s manager at the time was Miles Copeland. The negotiation between him and my wife lasted about 32 seconds. It went: “Hi.” “Hi.” Miles Copeland said: “We never pay royalties.” My wife said: “We never work without getting royalties.” “Well, we never pay them.” So Jill said: “OK, give me a million pounds.” He said no. That was it, clonk, gone. But I said to her: “Look, I really don’t wanna do this, I think it’s one of those stupid ideas that’ll end up nowhere. Once they start playing it they’ll realise, playing it again, so what, who cares?” Who wants to hear a re-recording of "Roxanne"? I don’t. So, that’s negotiating points.
RBMA: Using that song as another example, when you listen to it, it’s almost like you have an old-school hip hop DJ. Once the riff has come in it’s (blows raspberry), it’s over to the rhythm track. How would you picture this in the studio at the time? How many people would be operating the board?
Trevor Horn: There was a 40-channel SSL and what we did, I used to call those whiz-bangs, the things that would go across it. We had a very crude backing track, and for instance, we did the guitars at the front, then we would cut the tape, the two-inch, lever it up on both sides so everything stopped dead on the downbeat. If you pull up the multitrack on that song, you’ll find it’s pretty like the record. I learned early on leaving things to the mix is a bad thing. In the mix you never know where your head’s gonna be at, you’re worn out with the track. It’s much better to have every effect. This is pre-computer, although I think we had the computer by the time we mixed that one, but I never lost the habit of having every effect already recorded. So if you put the multitrack up you’d get that record. You wouldn’t have to do anything with it, you’d just have to balance it up. I could talk all afternoon about what you had to do to record in analogue, it was a completely different thing. With analogue it was noise. Nowadays, you can record the vocal and if you’re not a very good engineer you can record the vocal so that when you see it in Pro Tools it’s like this (draws straight line). Then because it’s not recorded properly you can jack it up 20 dBs. If you jack up something you’ve done on tape 20 dBs it would sound dreadful, the hiss would be as loud as the vocal. That’s why Gary Langan, who engineered that, is so important; he’s a brilliant engineer, his hand would never be off the fader. If someone was singing, he’d be following, he’d have a lyric sheet. When he was singing quietly he’d be cranking it up, pushing it back, all the time. Everything he recorded was like that. There were all sorts of tricks that you did. If you wanted to fly something in you had to put it on a half-inch tape with chalk marks and press ‘start’. It would take you five or 10 minutes and eventually you would start it at the right point. You’d fly things in like that. There was all kinds of stuff that we did. Does that help at all?
RBMA: I guess it will be a little more haptical if we head over to the studio later.
Trevor Horn: You haven’t got an analogue machine, have you?
RBMA: The things we can find in time.
Part two continued here.