Author: Duncan Seaman
31st July 2010
MUSIC INTERVIEW: Gary Langan, Art of Noise

Published Date: 31 July 2010
By Duncan Seaman
As a producer and engineer, Gary Langan has played his part in a fair few landmark recordings in British pop.
Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, John Lydon and Tom Jones have all called upon the now 55-year-old's studio expertise in the last four decades.
So too have ABC, Buggles, Spandau Ballet and Scritti Politti.

In his early days he was the tape operator on Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody ("they were screaming at the edge of the bounds of possibility of technology").

But it's a record he made himself in 1983, with computer programmer JJ Jeczalik and composer/arranger Anne Dudley, that is, in its own way, worthy of musical note.

The track was initially called Cantata for VW Starter. Fans of electronic music might know it better as Beat Box, the first demo by the fledgling Art of Noise.

The song originated from a couple of happy accidents, one of which involves the prog rock group Yes.

"I'd been working on their album 90125 with Trevor (Horn]," explains Gary. "We were on it for about a year, in eight or nine studios. I was thinking, 'God when will this album ever finish?'

"They had recorded a track in Air Studios, in Oxford Street. I thought the drums sounded fantastic...but they couldn't finish this track, it never went anywhere. I thought to myself, 'The drums are so good I'm going to keep the tape'.

"Because I was the curator I had to look after 80 or 90 reels of tape. Nobody knew in the band or Trevor what was on what tape. I was the only one who knew what was where."

One afternoon at Sarm Studios in Aldgate, Gary decided to play around with his acquisition with his friend JJ Jeczalik and a Fairlight sampler. The idea was for JJ to hit a button on the sampler at the start of the musical bar.

"But JJ couldn't count the bars or the beats," remembers Gary. "He hit beat three. We played it back and it went 3-4-1-2. I said 'Genius! It's completely wrong but it's brilliant.'"

Looping the backwards drum part, they added sounds that they had sampled at home in Wimbledon, including the noise of a Volkswagen Golf starting outside.

The pair took the tape to Trevor Horn, who was then on the lookout for new signings for his label ZTT, confessing that they'd "nicked Alan White's drums and done a demo". "He just flipped, he said, 'This is fantastic, Cocky (Gary's nickname]'.

"I knew it was weird and wacky. But having done Malcolm McLaren's album (Duck Rock], it showed me if you were dedicated enough you could get away with it."

Horn passed the demo to Island Records boss Chris Blackwell, who took it with him on a weekend trip to New York clubs. "It got an enormous reaction," says Gary. "He came back the next week and said, 'This is it'."

At Horn's instigation, Anne Dudley was brought in to add 'top lines'. "I was the concept merchant, JJ was the facilitator for my ideas and there was Anne with all her fantastic melodies."

ZTT's co-founder, the journalist Paul Morley, suggested the band's name, borrowing the idea from the Italian composer Luigi Russolo "who made noises out of banging bits of car parts and ploughs – they called it the Art of Noises". He also came up with the intriguing idea that the band should be anonymous. "We were not a Duran or a Spandau Ballet," says Gary. "We did not look like pop stars. It was an interesting angle to follow."

Together they went on to make a string of albums and hit singles, including Close (To the Edit), Paranoimia and Moments in Love.

But in 1987, shortly before the band received a Grammy for their re-working of Peter Gunn with the guitarist Duane Eddy, Gary left after an argument over a proposed US tour.

The band had been offered a string of college dates but Gary had no intention of travelling around, playing to a sit-down audience. He wanted them to set up a show at the Danceteria nightclub in New York which they would record on hand-held cameras and beam the footage around other clubs in the States via video disc-jockeys. "The VJs would then make people in those other dance clubs the stars for the dance track they would play."

The idea would take time and money but artistically it would be worth it, Gary argued. The others disagreed and went off to play the college dates. (Ironically U2 later used a similar idea on their Zoo TV tour. "I said, 'I thought it was a great idea. We could have been the first'," Gary says.)

Gary worked with them again on the cover version of Kiss, that AoN did with Tom Jones and a gig at the Hammersmith Odeon, which was recorded as a live album, then departed to set up his own management company and studio, Metropolis, in a former power station in Chiswick.
He has since gone on to produce the likes of PiL, T'Pau, Billy Idol, the Dream Academy, Scritti Politti and The The. "I've never been one for doing the same thing twice," he explains.

Jeczalik and Dudley meanwhile continued recording sporadically until 1999. Jeczalik now teaches IT at a private school in Oxford; Dudley is Hollywood composer and string arranger for the likes of Robbie Williams.

Gary recently spent three years working with Jeff Wayne, remixing his War of the Worlds album in 5.1 surround sound and then designing the sound for the stage version. It was partnership that began in the late 70s when Gary was a studio engineer working on the jingles that Jeff used to write for radio and television. "One of the ones he did was 'Get the Abbey Habit' (for Abbey National]. It's where I met Jeff," Gary remembers.

If he could only take one of the hundreds of records he'd worked on to a desert island, which one would it be?

"I'm going to have to give you two," he says after some thought. "One Art of Noise track: Moments in Love – it's a great piece of music that was well put together. From my own production: Spandau Ballet, Through the Barricades. I think it's Gary Kemp writing at his best. The band were at the real height of their career. I think I did a great job (producing it]. Tony (Hadley] sings it amazingly. The vocal is just brilliant."

The Art of Noise two-CD compilation Influence is out now.

Website Last Updated: 12:00 BST, Tuesday 9th October 2018 This website © Copyright K.M. Whitehouse 2008 - 2018
"Is it seriously for a pop record?"
This authorised website operates independently from ZTT Records Ltd, Universal Music Group and Warner Music UK.
The content in this website is copyright of the curator, K.M. Whitehouse, all other images, quoted reviews are copyright
of the respective copyright holders.
POWERED BY Ezee Hosting