To mark the launch of 360°’s newest regular night, Retrospect, this week, the organisers are flying in British producing genius Martin Rushent. Since starting out in the ’70s, Martin has been credited with helping The Human League, The Stranglers and Shirley Bassey produce their biggest hits, and he’s still making music with some the industry’s brightest young minds and up-and-coming UK artists. We caught up with him to discover a few little-known facts.
The Human League’s hit ‘Don’t You Want Me’ was recorded in a toilet cubicle.
‘We had reached a point where we had to do the lead vocals of ‘Don’t You Want Me’, and we were looking for a certain sound that I had in my head, and couldn’t seem to get it. I wanted it to have a very sharp echo feel to it, with a bit of boxy ambience. I tried various effects units, but I couldn’t get it out of anything. So we ended up recording Philip in a toilet cubicle in the studios. It gave the sound I wanted.’
He thinks TV talent shows such as The X Factor signal the demise of major record labels.
‘You see these horrible shows where they wheel on all these people like cattle, but this is the industry’s last-gasp attempt. The listenership for Radio 1 in the UK now is minute, because people are listening to what they want to listen to, be it on their iPod or internet radio stations. MTV viewership is falling because you can watch anything you want on YouTube… the whole game is changing. As the major operations struggle to stay in business, it may appear on the outside that they’re still in control – but believe you me, they’re not, and they’re losing control day by day, hour by hour.’
His son, James, is following in his footsteps as an artist and producer.
‘He’s doing very well, because not only is he the lead singer of [British electro band] Does It Offend You, Yeah? but he also remixes for The Prodigy and some other people. I wouldn’t try and talk anyone out of working in the industry. If he told me he was going to be a banker in the city, I’d be more concerned. At least he retains some moral values as an artist.’
He once had to be rescued from a stationery shop.
‘Back in the early ’80s, we all took the day off and went shopping in Oxford – I think ‘Love Action’ by The Human League was a hit at the time. This huge mob started to recognise us, and it got bigger and more out of control, and we had to hide in a nearby stationery shop. The police came down with a van to rescue us. We were all freaked out because we were unaware of the scale of success that was developing, because we were locked away in the studio most of the time.’
Next year will be dedicated to his multimedia autobiography.
‘I’m taking the year off to write and produce my autobiography, which is not going to be printed – you buy it on Blu-ray and it comes with multimedia content. I’m reading it and there’ll be loads of interviews with people who’ve worked with me, who’ll all be telling you the inside track on what an a****** I am. I’ve spent all my life making records for other people, and I’ve always wanted to make my own record, so I’m going to incorporate it into the autobiography.’
He’s looking forward to some crowd adulation during his Dubai set.
‘It’s the closest I get to being on stage. All my life I’ve stood at the side of the stage and watched my bands do their thing. But when I DJ I get a bit of the crowd adulation for a change. It’s not that I’ve got a big ego or anything, but it’s nice to drop a tune that I’ve produced and see people go crazy. Normally as a producer you don’t get that feedback from the fans.’
Martin Rushent plays 360˚ on November 11