Transcript of a phone interview with JJ Jeczalik on 5th June 2017 by Christopher Mathieu
Christopher Mathieu

Publication Date:
29th June 2017



Where do you think your interest for experimenting originally came from? Were you familiar with the work of avant-garde composers from the 60's & 70's such as Pierre Henry, Delia Derbyshire and such before you started?

No! No, not at all. The only person I was aware of was Steve Reich. I wouldn't call, well, he's experimental, but, you know, not necessarily, but he was the only one I was really aware of.

Do you listen to the more recent experimental composers now?


So how was the collaborative process in the Art of Noise? Were you all improvising together and contributing ideas or were you all working separately at the time?
Generally speaking?


Right from the word go, I basically would be collecting sounds and putting them on disc, in a kind of big dustbin of things that sounded interesting. And I was doing that for months and months and months. And so, what would happen is, Gary and I would sit down with the Fairlight and maybe a bit of a reverb unit or a delay or something and we would, I would just throw these sounds around and say to Gary "I've got this. What do you think ?" And we'd start messing about ! And if we found something where we went: "Wooh ! That's interesting !", we would then start building a track until we kind of felt that we had a fallback that we could work with. And, basically, do a kind of simple arrangement. And then we'd get Anne in and she'd come, we'd put some tunes on as well and she would come in and add her bit of magic.

And which songs did you personally write the melody for?

"Moments In Love"… thas was one of mine. What happened there was that Anne gave me a cassette. That was the orchestral sample that she'd found. And I worked over the weekend. And we got together on a Monday, got everything set up and she said "How was that sample ?" And I loaded the sample and I had three notes that I'd found sounded amazing and that was "dum-dum dum-dum !" And she went: "Brilliant !" And off we went ! And that was one of the occasions where all three of us were in the studio together at the same time and Gary was on the mixing console doing all the reverbs and all that sort of business, but that was my tune ! It fell out the end of my fingers!

Great! Are there others that you did?

There were several… I think "A Time For Fear" was one of mine… quite often, it would just be little eight-bar bits here and there, and, to be honest with you, I don't really remember.

That's fine! What synthesizers did you use aside from the Fairlight? I'm talking about the whole period up until "Below The Waste".

Well, for me, I've come across things like a Prophet-5 and other things like that, but I was focusing particularly on the Fairlight. I didn't use anything else at all.

It sounds like you had some Juno sounds on E.F.L. or such songs…

Oh yeah… No, Anne had sort of banks of synthesizers but I was always working with the Fairlight first and foremost.

What was your favourite aspect of the Fairlight interface?

The light pen and, I think, the fact that you had a graphical user interface that was fairly straightforward. There were still command lines, you still had to issue typewritten commands but you could communicate fairly well with the light pen actually.

Are there things that you found better in the series IIX rather than the III for instance?

My favourite machine would be the IIX! I think, for example, in the IIX, as I remember it, you used to be able to choose the start point of a sample and then assign it to a fader. I think in later versions they dropped that. And I really miss that because it was a brilliant thing. And I haven't found it in other keyboard samplers either actually. It was really brilliant because what I used to do was put an eight-note sequence in and start running the sequence and then just push the fader backwards and forwards and choose where the sample were starting, which was fantastic. Hard to describe, but you know, I loved doing that!

But did you ever try the Synclavier?

Yes! Didn't understand it. Too complicated. It sounded too pure for me. I love the way the Fairlight messed everything up.

Are there any other pieces of gear or production techniques that you used at the time that would sound surprising by today's standards?

Well, really, Gary was the master of the compression and the audio landscape. I mean, he saved the Fairlight from a pretty early demise, from my point of view, because he knew how to combine things and what we used to do once we got an arrangement agreed on, we would then record the Fairlight and then overdub everything live on top, so you have a combination of a really strong mechanical computer groove and the Fairlight had its own sort of flavour, if you like, and everything else went on top. It was then played by Anne or percussionists or guitarists or whoever we wanted to use. So, it was an interesting combo.

So, you are one of the founding members, and the last time you were a member of the Art of Noise, you were a duo with Anne in 1989. And the two of you disbanded and you went on to create Art of Silence. Why didn't you carry on with the Art of Noise at the time?

"Why did we not carry on with the Art of Noise at the time?"... I think we probably felt it had run its course. And it's nice to go back and revisit it all these years later actually. And I think it would be fair to say that it got progressively less interesting for me the fewer there were others involved in it. I don't mean that in a negative sense. It's just that when you're working with three people, it's a lot more fun than working on your own for example.

But still, you created the Art of Silence and you were on your own…

Well, yea, and I kind of sort of enjoyed that but I missed… I tried to put the kind of band situation together with Anne and half the people I worked with, but it was never really the same, to be honest. I prefer that bouncing things around with two and then three in a kind of creative way. You need more than one I think. You can go around in circles on your own and you need someone to go "Whoa whoa whoa, hang on a second! It was really good five minutes ago! Why have you ruined it?"

But did you want to pursue a solo career at the time under that new moniker?

Yeah! It would appear to seem like a possibility. Then again, I wasn't entirely convinced by that either, to be honest. I wasn't sure. Indecisive!

Then the Art of Noise resurfaced in 1999 with "The Seduction of Claude Debussy" but surprisingly, you're not part of the reformation, so what happened?

Well, Gary and I decided that we didn't want to be part of that, and the direction that was taken wasn't really in line with what our feelings were about what it was all about! It was much more focused on… It didn't have quite enough madness in it for me as a project. You know, I like using samplers and I like using weird wonderful sounds, so, yeah, things had changed a bit by then.

Since then, and for over 15 years, ZTT offered an impressive slew of lost recordings and all kinds of alternate takes by the Art of Noise. Did you have your say in these releases?

Some of them ! And some not… Some were a surprise, some we were individually or jointly consulted on.

Why did China Records wait so long to re-release "In Visible Silence" with bonus tracks?

Basically that was down to Warner Bros., they own the catalogue now. And they got in touch with us individually and said they wanted to do the 30th anniversary but were a bit slow off the mark so it was the "30th anniversary... and a bit"! Which amused me, you know, 30 and a bit years is fine, you know what I mean, that's good, it's kind of in line with Art Of Noise craziness.

But does it mean that we can expect a deluxe version of "In-No-Sense ? Nonsense !" as well?

I think there's more stuff in the pipeline, yea!

Good! Do you have an idea of when it would be due?

No! No, I wouldn't like to say actually, because these things have a life of their own ! And although we are definitely involved in sort of remastering and the artwork and all that sort of business… they basically essentially will appear when they appear ! It's hard to tell. There's lots of things going on that we have no control over, which basically get in the way occasionally and have to be sorted out. And there's lots of, you know, *things* to be dealt with, which involve people sending e-mails and people answering and, you know… stuff!

So now, you're back on stage with Anne Dudley and even Gary Langan, can we expect a proper Art of Noise tour?

No! I couldn't say, but I think we may be going to Japan in September. That's in the pipeline, I think. It has been mentioned. So, other than that, we're taking it one day at a time.

Actually, you've changed a lot the line-up since the Hammersmith Odeon one.


You don't have a drummer anymore, you don't have the backing vocals…


Why did you change all that?

Well, that will change show by show as we'll have to change totally [depending] on how much stage space we've got, how much time we've got… it's a very flexible line-up.

So, you make me want to ask you "So What Happens Now?"

(sniggers) Well…

Can we expect a new album from the three of you?

It's possible! But, again, I wouldn't like to hex that. Yeah, there's some varied mutterings… there are mutterings, Christopher… there might be some mutterings…

If it was to happen, do you think it would be along the same lines of unrestrained explorations you used to do or do you think you would take another direction, more "traditional"?

It's impossible to tell, you know, I mean, at the moment, I'm building a new sound library, so I'm editing and recording and doing things. I was working on the train the other day on my Mac, and it was very funny because I thought it was a bit quiet, I had my headphones on - and I was editing some samples of "Camilla" going "bum", you know, "bum bum bum", like this… and the guy opposite me on the train eventually pointed to my phone and what happened was I was editing on the Mac but I had my headphones plugged into my phone, so the whole carriage could hear me editing the sound, you know, "bum bum bum-bum-bum-bum" and they all sat there and I went "oh! God, I'm so sorry". They were very forgiving.

They were getting a free show!

Yea, well, exactly. It was my phone. So I'm still hoovering things up, collecting things, sticking them in the dustbin. The difference now is of course that we've got so much more memory space and everything that it's quite hard to apply a ruthless methodology to bin all the stuff...

Do you keep using your older gear or do you mix the old with the new?

Mix the old with the new.

So what in today's gear do you wish was around when you were doing music at the time?

Gear, nothing really, just it would be nice to have had more memory and more reliability, Chris… You know, we were stuck with floppy disks that had no memory at all to speak of, so… But that, in many respects, was quite good because you had to make a choice whether you keep it or not. You couldn't go "Well, I'll keep it, I'll look at it later". I think that part of the great digital world we're in now is that everybody's got thousands and millions of photographs they don't look at. Hundreds of thousands of sounds that you'll never use because you can, basically !… Whereas in the past, you couldn't so you had to keep up on top of everything, you kept the best stuff.

You've had many surprising collaborations. Are there any other artists you would like to collaborate with?

Oh! Everybody! Seriously, I think there's any number of people out there that would be great to work with. Yea! All the great singers.

Could you say a little more about the Godley & Creme "History Mix" because you did that in the past and it seemed to be work an insane work to go through the whole library of what they had done and assemble everything. It's an album that has been very little talked about. Do you have stories about that?

Quite ! Well, we basically spent a month in the studio with Kevin & Lol. We gathered most tracks out, just sat there sampling it all and going a bit mad, really. And throwing stuff around, and if they liked something, we put it in a new track and… off it ran ! So it was very, very, very experimental and a bit odd in my opinion, I might add, it's not my favourite album by them.

I'm done with all my questions, so I don't know if there's anything else you'd like to add… that I wouldn't have covered…

No! Well, other than it's a complete joy to work with Anne and Gary again, I've got to say, it's great!

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