State of the art
THE ART OF NOISE INTERVIEW WITH ANNE DUDLEY
In the fickle worlds of pop and dance music, where artists appear and disappear with alarming regularity, one name has managed to keep popping up again and again over the last eight years or so. The act in question are The Art Of Noise who with records like ‘Moments in Love’, ‘Beatbox’, ‘Peter Gunn’, and ‘Kiss’, to name but a few, have always managed to keep the public and media’s attention without ever seeming outdated or mainstream. Remaining innovators in the way they use technology and unusual sounds to make both good dance records and interesting albums, they’ve always kept a low profile preferring instead of publicity, a degree of anonymity not normally associated with the rampant egomania found in the music business. Since their beginnings back in ‘82 J.J Jeczalik and Anne Dudley have kept the public interested in them by releasing records at their own leisure and never trying to sound like the dominant musical styles of the day. With recent emergence of the new ‘Ambient House’ thing the Art Of Noise are being hailed, much to their amusement, as being extremely fashionable again. With a new album of remixed Art Of Noise songs out this month MixMag spoke to Anne Dudley about the art of sampling, about dance music and about the strange world of the record industry…
Q: With the arrival of this new album are you making a deliberate attempt to move into the club music scene?
A: Our record company might be, we’re not. The LP is quite a strange combination actually because it’s stuff taken off three of our albums and what’s slightly unsatisfactory to me is that on those albums we always tried to mix the soft, slow tracks with the hard, unpredictable tracks. That was part of the humour of it and part of the balance of what the Art Of Noise was all about. Now that just the slower tracks have been extracted they make a different kind of collection and I’ve not quite got to grips with it yet. But having said that, it’s very interesting to hear how our songs have been done in a new way. I especially like the way Youth has added the Ambient sounds to bring it all together as a continuous piece. The single is made up of different tracks which I would never have thought of putting together but using different samples like that is the way of the world these days.
Q: Speaking of sampling don’t you find it funny that you started off as one of the first acts to use sampling and now your own records are being sampled themselves?
A: It’s very strange because when we started in 1982 we thought The Art Of Noise might be an amusing way of making a few interesting records for about a year, we never dreamt we’d be going this long or that people would be using our melodies or sampling us. To be honest we didn’t see much of a future in it but obviously we’ve been proved wrong on that score.
Q: So The Art Of Noise has been more of a hobby for you rather than a full time serious group in the rock ’n’ roll sense. After all it’s not as if you have a high media profile, there aren’t any Art Of Noise posters in the pop magazines for example.
A: Well exactly, we always saw The Art Of Noise as something adjacent to our careers as professional musicians. I’m first and foremost an arranger and a composer and I spent a lot of time working on other people’s records so it seemed natural to want to make our own records for a change.
Q: You seem to be happy keeping Art Of Noise as a kind of hobby and yet your records keep on striking a chord with what’s going on musically at the time. Do you take much notice of what’s happening in the charts or in the clubs?
A: No, not at all. The funniest thing that ever happened to us was with our first record “Beatbox”. Unknowingly we tapped into the American hip-hop scene and it zoomed to number one in the US dance charts. Well, I’d never even been to America, I didn’t even know they had dance charts or what hip-hop was. We just had no idea. I suppose that was probably quite healthy really, we were being original because we weren’t deliberately picking up on anything else that was going on. It’s the same thing with this ambient music, this is stuff we’ve done for ages, we’ve always had these kind of tracks hanging round on our albums and now apparently it’s very fashionable, very hip and suddenly we’re hip again. I can’t believe it, I mean what’s going to happen next!?
Q: You’ve always been one of those groups that have never actually gone out of fashion. Some groups are really ‘IN’ for a while and then go out of fashion very quickly.
A: I think a lot of that is the fault of the group’s profile and the record companies’ way of operating. I mean they do tend to go for every publicity gimmick available, put posters everywhere, go for every magazine cover, and within six months people are bored with it. I remember a couple of years ago reading, “Is this the new Nick Kamen?” and I thought, hang on a minute, hasn’t Nick Kamen only just arrived? It seems like six months and you’re out, so our decision was not to do the usual publicity shots, but to do something more esoteric and more mysterious. That meant we never got associated with any particular fashion look which was a great help and it’s proved a worthwhile decision.
Q: So do you still do a lot of music away from The Art Of Noise?
A: I do three or four advertising jingles a year but I also do a lot of film and TV stuff. For example, I did the music for the TV series “Jeeves and Wooster” which is very 20’s and very jazzy and not something you’d associate with The Art Of Noise. I suppose I’m lucky because I came from this incredible background where the first job I had was playing with a dance band. They used to play everything from HonkyTonk Blues to Top Ten stuff which was then Gary Glitter etc. I used to transcribe the pieces we played so I learnt about arranging from that. It was great training and because of that I never see these divisions between styles of music which other people seem to think are very important. To me it’s all music and I wished these barriers didn’t exist. I find a lot of music nowadays all sounds the same, it’s all got to have the right beat and use words like “House” in it somewhere. It’s pathetic really, it’s just following fashion for the sake of it.Continue »
Q: So how do you feel about the fact that people are now saying, “Oh yeah, the ‘Art Of Noise’ they do all that ambient stuff don’t they?”
A: To be honest we’ve had nothing to do with this new Ambient album, we didn’t do anything new for it. I’m actually working on a few different things but the Art Of Noise isn’t one of them at the moment. Right now I’m mixing an album that I did with Jazz Coleman who used to be in Killing Joke. His interest on this album is with Arabic music, he played me lots of Arabic pop music he’d collected and he thought it would be a good idea to combine all these wonderful melodies and sounds with a western style dance beat. The album should be out in August or September but we’ve got a couple of really strong dance singles ready to go before that.
Q: Getting back to sampling how do you feel about “Moments In Love” getting sampled so often just recently?
A: It’s a compliment in some respects but in the case of something like “Moments In Love” where they’ve lifted the entire record I think it’s called theft. It’s not original or clever to do that, when we started, for instance, we wanted to take unmusical sounds like cars and doors slamming, and see if we .could get music out of them by sampling them. We always felt that if we wanted traditional musical things we’d go and get the real thing, we’ve used real strings and real brass lots of times on our records, sampling is obviously here to stay because it’s now part and parcel of making records, but it’s how you use it that is important.
Q: It’s now over eight years since you started Art Of Noise, has your outlook on that prospect changed?
A: We started The Art Of Noise as an idea to use sampling more in production. When Trevor Horn bought a Fairlight back in ‘82 we were working on records with ABC and Dollar. We did things like sampling their voices but then sampling was just used as extra colour on what were basically conventional pop records. But the possibilities of using the Fairlight and of using samples as the whole means of production were there but no-one else was doing it so we tried it out. The name came from Paul Morley who got Art Of Noise from an Italian Futurist Manifesto called “The Art Of Noises”. These futurists were Italian artists and composers at the start of the century who had the idea of performing music using factory workers and factory sirens. They also held concerts where they scratched records over loud speakers on stage, they were years ahead of their time. We don’t really see ourselves as a continuation of what they were doing because they were part of the classical Art Music scene and were very serious. What they lacked was what we always had, that is a sense of humour!
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Two days after this interview was conducted Anne Dudley revealed that the Art Of Noise would, in fact, be splitting up after the release of their new LP The Ambient Collection’. She explained:
“We were very radical when we started, doing something nobody had done before but like all new things, it eventually became mainstream and I began to feel limited by the line up. The time has come for fresh adventures.”