Title: Who or what is The Art Of Noise?
Author: Peter Martin
Source: Smash Hits
Publish date: 25 October 1984
They’re a group but they don’t have any members.
They share the same label as Frankie Goes To Hollywood.
Frankie’s producer Trevor Horn, and "spokesperson" Paul Morley, seem to know an awful lot about them.
And so does Peter Martin.
Preposterous as it may seem, the Art Of Noise don’t exist. True, in the past they have made such fab ‘noises’ as the 12", "Into Battle With…", the first release on Zang Tuum Tumb’s Incidental Series, and "beatbox (diversions one and two)". There’s even an LP, "Who’s Afraid Of The Art Of Noise". None the less there exists no photograph of the men and women behind the Art Of Noise. There’s photos of spanners, flags, masks — yes. What we do have, though, are names (along with occupations and interesting personal details). Five of them appear on the sleeve: Gary Langan ("keyboards", ABC producer, "often visits Australia"), Anne Dudley ("keyboards, string arranger on "The Lexicon Of Love", "Duck Rock" and the next Frankie single, "interested in the clarinet"), J. J. Jeczalik ("keyboards", weird name, "keen cricketer"), Trevor Horn ("keyboards", resident ZTT producer, "goes boating in Bournemouth") and Paul Morley ("paper", resident ZTT bigmouth, copyright owner on all Frankie Say t-shirts — i.e. making lots of money — reads a lot). Around this nucleus revolves the mighty ZTT empire. All of them lend a hand or stick a nose into every ZTT record, remix, or what have you.
So as you would expect, an interview with the Art Of Noise couldn’t possibly be a straightforward affair. On entering the speckeldy-blue ZTT complex, "somewhere in the Capital", it occurs to me that I’ve never spoken to a mask before. Or, if it comes to that, a spanner.
After waiting a few moments I was introduced, somewhat disappointingly, to Paul Morley. I’d got quite used to the prospect of the spanner. Morley’s closely followed by Trevor Horn with news of — wait for it — the latest remix of "Relax".
After a few moments I’m ushered upstairs to meet the group proper. Was I excited! Directed into a large room packed with video equipment, zillions of Incidental and Action Series remixes and huge "Welcome To The Pleasure Dome" posters, I couldn’t help noticing a distinct lack of people.
"They’re over there," points Paul. I’m faced with four masks. "Pop music’s supposed to be a world of adventure but we seem to have offended people. I mean what’s the difference between having a mask or a spanner on your cover and having a picture of Tracey Ullman? Only a spanner’s got better legs."
That was Paul speaking, incidentally, not the masks.
"At least the Art Of Noise are a bit inventive and a little bit mad. Things are pretty straight-laced at the moment. We have a sense of irony and distance and just throw sounds together. And a lot of bands have tapped into that." He cites Depeche Mode, Scritti Politti and Hall & Oates as examples. "We just parody the absurdity of pop stars. Savage Progress, Talk Talk, Tears For Fears — they all pretend to be really arty. And intense — take John Waite, he looked so intense on Top Of The Pops but if you looked into his eyes you could tell he didn’t have a thought in his head. That’s the sort of thing we hate."
He adds that "90% of people in the music business have no intelligence — they’re just nice to everyone. In this context I have a bigger vocabulary than everyone else and I love babbling away that’s why I decided to be the spokesperson".
So where does he see the Art Of Noise in terms of the ZTT empire? "Frankie are the teenybop phenomenon, Propaganda are a kind of European intelligence and the Art Of Noise are saying there’s this — you either love it or you don’t. The Art Of Noise are serious but completely playful. We’re just seeing how far we can push things — re-defining what a pop group is."
At this stage of development — previously he described the group as "German Industrialist", then "hip hop" — he sees them as "God’s backing band. Inside the album sleeve is a picture of Mr and Mrs God. That’s where we’re at now."
Your guess is as good as mine on that one.
And in the future? Their next single is a version of Buggles’ (Trevor Horn’s old group) "Video Killed The Radio Star". Then there’s the next LP, "Raiding The 20th Century", which will "act like a radio aerial, picking up information from throughout the century". And then there’s the film, The Living End, screenplay by Morley, soundtrack by the Art Of Noise and directed by Godley & Creme. And to cap it off they’re doing the music for a ballet.
"The possibilities now for a pop record are phenomenal," he concludes. "The Art Of Noise just use the power of imagination. It’s all about delight, private moments, ‘cos they’re the kind that bring on moments of enlightenment. Which is what we’re all about."