ZANG TUMMM TUMB ARTICLES “the first draft of history”

Trevor Horn has come a long way since playing bass guitar in the Gary Glitter band, by way of musical director for Tina Charles and then lead singer with the Buggles, before turning his attention to producing such acts as Dollar, Malcolm McLaren, Yes and the phenomenally successful Frankie Goes To Hollywood.

Relax was first of the records produced by Zang Tuum Tumb in their West London studio off the Portobello Road. ZTT was formed by Trevor and his wife Jill Sinclair, very much the business driving force behind both her husband and the company. The third part of the trio is Paul Morley, former rock journalist who has made the unlikely transition to record company executive with surprising ease.

Paul Morley: “I dont think I know one rock critic who actually understands the mechanics of the industry and how difficult it is to retain any sense of intelligence and detachment. You know you can criticise it because it is a shambles. Even as a critic, even though youre not really involved in it, youre on the outside, you can see that its a shambles. But when youre inside youre immediately aware that you belong to something that isnt just commercially orientated, its commercial orientated and very banal. Its not even making money in an intelligent manner as we can see elsewhere is possible. Its run by people have forgotten really why theyre even making money out of it.”

Trevor Horn: “I realised that Paul actually cared about music. And he understood certain things about music. And I though it would be really interesting if someone like him had the power to actually decide how a record was marketed and what kind of video was done for it. I thought it might prove interesting. I thought all kind of crazy things might happen, he might upset all sorts of people and he has.”

Paul Morley: “I invent the label, like the Walt Disney fantasy of what a record label should be. Highly glamorous, slightly distant, slightly mysterious, and Trevor makes the records. Which really is ‘the thing and Jill lubricates the business side of it. Its the perfect balance. We go from left to right.”

Jill Sinclair: “Music to Paul is desperately important. Desperately important! And it really isnt desperately important to me. He truly feels it and, you know, believes in it. Trevor will sometimes say ‘Have you read what the music press has said about… and I said who reads the music press? If everybody who read the music press went out and bought a record it still probably wouldnt be a hit. So who cares?”

Paul Morley: “I kind of look at what Im bring to show business and pop music, in a root sense of those words, almost root sense of what surrealism means which is being comical. I think theres a way to be a little comical within the structure of the record industry. Playful, I think thats all you can be. Playful. And I think if you come through the record industry with a certain sense of detachment and irony, because of the surroundings, the environment is so pitifully unimaginative, then you only have to be slightly different. You appear to be wonderfully glamorous.”

Paul Morley: “I think all the, so called, intellectuals that criticise Relax for its content and saying it was a ‘fuss over nothing missed the point. We werent actually claiming anything radical outside the chart context. We just wanted to play around with the idea of getting to number one, or we thought getting into the top five, with a cheeky record. Everybody else makes the fuss. We were quite cool and calm about it. We just thought it was funny. We had a few giggles.”

Trevor Horn: “The trouble is when you get big record labels like CBS interested in somebody, they never originate anything, all they ever do is, you see they buy things that look pretty solid. Nobody was really interested in Frankie because their demo tape was a bit dodgy and because they were going around wearing leather jockstraps and showing very close up… you know they had a video which was just a close up of a groin pumping up and down and I think that frightened a lot of the record labels off.”

Paul Morley: “With Propaganda, they sent a tape to me when I was a writer of them, two of them, doing a very strange pop version of Throbbing Gristles ‘Dizcipline. And its sense of rhythm and its power, it reminded me that for Germans, for Europeans, pop music is still quite new. You know they havent been diseased by its monstrosity.”

Jill Sinclair: “Well Ill be quite honest, when Paul played, when I heard Propaganda the first time, I thought he had a screw loose. I thought my God were meant to be selling records. And I must say this is one point that Paul and I do agree on totally, and Trevor, this is our on unifying fact, that we all believe that in ZTT there is no point in doing it unless the records are hits.”

Paul Morley: “You have to sell records for this kind of playfulness to make sense. It is the chart context. Thats why sometimes I get disappointed with, say, Factory. What theyre doing doesnt make any sense because no one is really aware of it, except for a very obscure few. We can probably number ourselves in that obscure few.”

Trevor Horn: “What you have to do is pick up the music week and see how many records come out every week. It must be in the region of one hundred and fifty. And you look at them all the only ones that ever mean anything to you are the ones that are the hits. So if you dont have a hit your record didnt exist.”

The feeling at ZTT is very much that of a small and committed family enjoying their early impact on the music industry. But their link with Island Records and the pressure on them to repeat the success of Relax is such that ZTT will surely have to bow to commercial pressure somewhere along the line and relinquish their air of independence.

Trevor Horn: “I really think you only independent when youre selling records out of the back of a van, that when youre really independent and pressing them up yourself in your own pressing plant. We worked in a studio when we were doing the McLaren album out in Tennessee where they had a pressing plant that was hand operated ‘round the back of the studio. So they used to make gospel albums in the studio, theyd take a day to make a gospel album, theyd go ‘round the back and theyd press up a thousand and go out and sell them the day after. Thats being independent.”

Jill Sinclair: “I think that a lot of record companies are big for the wrong reasons. I think if record companies had… If I five act on my label that sold like Supertramp, Foreigner, I would be enormous but I wouldnt be big, if you know what I mean and I think thats what we want to do with ZTT.”

Paul Morley: “I have a great belief in the beauty of the pop single. Not that its important or that its good or bad. Just, there it is, its beautiful. I think maybe thats why the record industry is a little bit lost at the moment. Its forgotten what a beautiful thing a pop single can be, what a strange thing, very odd, all time can be in there, all its done well, all life, its a very beautiful thing!”