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Martin ‘Youth’ Glover: Young at heart

We speak to the musician/producer about his favourite studio gear and the “tragic” decline of the engineer’s art

To paraphrase Mott the Hoople, it’s a mighty long way down rock ‘n’ roll from producing early sessions for deathrock pioneers Alien Sex Fiend to working with Paul McCartney, but it’s the journey that has been taken by one Martin Glover – better known as Youth.

In fact, he believes that the likes of the sublimely-titled 1983 ASF album Who’s Been Sleeping in My Brain set the template for much of what was to follow. “In that combination of dance, alternative rock and dub, there was really the genesis of what I have done since,” he says.

Alongside his continuing role as bassist and producer with apocalyptically-minded art-rock legends Killing Joke, Youth has quietly amassed a formidable client list that includes Primal Scream, Crowded House and Depeche Mode. Most recently, he co-produced the long-awaited new Pink Floyd album, The Endless River, and is currently finishing up the first Culture Club album for 16 years.

Add to these credits his influential role in the propagation of psychedelic trance with Dragonfly Records and his latterday ownership of acclaimed Spanish residential studio complex, the Miloco-managed El Mirador, and it’s clear you are approaching the definition of a modern-day Renaissance man. But it was the dramatic early days of Killing Joke that provided the starting point for Youth’s conversation with PSNEurope

What’s your defining memory of the band at that time?
Probably a gig at the Reading Hexagon in about 1981. At that point I was almost in Syd Barrett territory, taking a lot of LSD and performing on it too. It got to a point where, during the Reading gig, everything went to this hissy silence and looked like it was going in slow-motion. This lasted for some time until everything slowly went back into the present and the noise and chaos of the gig resumed. After the gig, I asked the other members of the band if they had felt it, and they had, and it turned out that the audience had too. It was the first instance of a strange phenomenon we called ‘whiteout’ in which it seemed that we were so close to the roc face of the now that we had almost created a wormhole to somewhere else!

At what point did you start to put together your own home studio?
[In the early ’80s] I began to do some Fairlight programming for one system user in exchange for helping to build his library [of sounds]. That was really useful, but not long after that I got hold of an Atari and an Iconix [MIDI sequencer] and a few other bits and pieces, and was able to start making beats with a sampler and use the Atari programme to trigger them.

It was a real revelation to me because it meant that I could have the freedom to write at home and experiment without having to write on acoustic guitar – which I didn’t like – or needing to book a rehearsal room and musicians. A few massive hits came out of that early period, including The Orb’s Little Fluffy Clouds and Blue Pearl’s Naked in the Rain.

Tell me about your current home studio set-up in the UK…
I work with both Pro Tools and Logic, and often use a 16-channel TL Audio valve console because I like to do dubs and put stems through the mixer… real old school, Adrian Sherwood-style dubbing. I also have some Neve Lunchboxes, SSL and Urei compressors, so it’s a really nice combination of vintage analogue and high-end cutting edge digital contemporary. Monitoring-wise, I am a long-term user of Genelec 1022Bs, but I also have some Mackies along with some [Adam Audio] ANF10s that I like to dig out occasionally.

How do you perceive the role of your Miloco-managed studio in Spain, El Mirador?
In general, we are witnessing the demise of big studios; people don’t use them that much and for my own work, I do most of my recording at home. El Mirador I see as being geared towards bands that don’t have big budgets but want to do a state-of-the-art recording that would not be feasible if they were relying on conventional studios here.

What impact do you think the loss of so many major studios is having on the art of engineering?
It’s really a tragedy. British engineers have led the international field for many years, and part of that was down to studios like Olympic training them up. What’s replaced that are kids going on sound technology courses for a lot of money, being taught by people who have never been in a real studio in order to gain a qualification that is kind of worthless.

It’s part of the reason why I have been training engineers up since I had my studio in Brixton, Butterfly, in the 1990s. It was not something I would particularly have chosen to do, but it was borne out of necessity and it has provided me with some great engineers who have gone on to enjoy successful careers.

How does your average working routine break down these days?
I am not locked into two weeks of one thing then two weeks of another anymore because I’ve gone back to the old approach of doing three sessions per day with different people, as was common in the early 1960s. Technology these days allows you to work very fast and I am able to call on a great team of engineers. I get to work with amazing people who are not a big commercial consideration but are an important artistic one, and then work alongside more high-profile artists, literally from one day to the next. I’m very fortunate.

Main photo: Lucy Williams