Youth interview: Producer Martin Glover on his MPG lifetime achievement award, Killing Joke, and new music from The Jesus and Mary Chain

Looking back over a career spanning three decades

Roisin O'Connor
Monday 21 December 2015 10:27 GMT
Martin Glover
Martin Glover (Press image)

Over the past few weeks, Youth (Martin Glover), has been looking back over his catalogue of work. Something of a mammoth task: Just one of his recent projects was the co-production of Pink Floyd's final album The Endless River, which sold over 2.5 million copies in its first year.

Then there's his work with Crowded House, U2, Kate Bush, Guns and Roses, Killing Joke, Howie Day, Beth Orton, The Verve, Paul McCartney, Pink Floyd...

One of the UK's most influential producers; it was recently announced that Youth would be honoured with an Outstanding Contribution Award by the Music Producers Guild.

"I wasn’t expecting it,” he says over a cup of tea at his home in south-west London. "I’m very humbled… It’s a great honour, probably the biggest honour I’ve been given, and that it comes from my peers… that was doubly mind-blowing. Because I know how tough they are," he adds, chuckling.

"It’s taken me a long time… I’ve always aspired to make great records and I never thought I would. I never felt like I was born a gifted musician, like so many of the artists I work with. I had to work extra hard to be a bass player."

"I’m very proud of the longevity of work on Killing Joke and The Orb, how those recordings still sound fresh… and what I’ve done with The Verve and Richard Ashcroft, and Paul McCartney (The Fireman) and Pink Floyd. It’s only really working with those guys, with my insecurities, that I felt as though I could go, ‘yeah, I am a producer'."

This moment of reflection is a rare moment that Youth is trying to make the most of; a chance to look back over a career that spans more than 30 years.

"Artists tend not to look back, they’re on this fast moving train that takes a long time to get going,” he says, “and occasionally they’ll look out the window and see the rubble that they leave behind!”

Youth is certainly not one that likes to stay still. He has a studio out in the garden, which he describes as a "granny flat", as well as a small room at the top of the house where he plays me some early mixes: crammed with keyboards stacked one on top of the other, dozens of guitars, and a table spattered with paint where he works on canvas. Above a small desk looking out over the garden is the platinum disc for Endless River.

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The whole home has a communal feel – fellow artists Youth works with pop in and out – and the living room overflows with the art he collects so avidly: books on famous painters, philosophy by Freud and Colin Wilson, encyclopedias, slim volumes of poetry… CDs and vinyl are crammed into shelves that stretch to the ceiling, while another platinum disc (for The Verve’s Urban Hymns) hangs across from a stuffed crow.

"It’s funny, most artists like to be solo," Youth says of this community vibe.

"There’s this feeling of loss when you join a group, a bit like a family, and all families are psychotic. And you have to surrender a bit of yourself for the greater good of the group, and manage to work out all your differences, to find something you can all share… that’s what it’s all about."

One of his latest projects is the first record put out by The Jesus and Mary Chain since 98's Munki. It’s a huge deal – the band had never worked with a producer on a full album until now – but Youth has welcomed the challenge.

"That’s been a great joy for me," he says. "What they do with their music, to be allowed in and to produce it is what gets me excited, and what they do as artists is what it’s all about. We managed to find common ground. And I work very fast, so it came together very quickly.”

He took the band out to his studio in Andalucía, Spain, which he built "just at the beginning of the demise of the big studios" - around 15 years ago.

"It’s a great experimental lab, quite isolated," he says. "Big views, big glass windows. It’s my reward for 20 years of dark studios. Lots of light. And actually… the guys had a really good personal reconnection."

The weight of expectation for this album is intense, he acknowledges, as it was for the final Pink Floyd album. But he adds that his "university" was Killing Joke after he left school, and it “doesn’t really get more intense than that”.

"There’s always going to be a dynamic in the group," he continues. “There’ll be resentment that you’re there at all. You’re an outsider. Even if you’re doing it great the artist you’re working with can be like, why aren’t I doing it?

"But the more confident the artist is, the more they value you as a producer, and what you’re doing to do to their art. Coming from a musician’s perspective I understand that. You’re the grit that they can bounce off. That side of it is what fascinates me. I had a theory that the music just ends up reflecting those dynamics.”

Youth’s varied repertoire attracted some early sceptics who felt that he would hop between genres, but he feels this is now veering back in the other direction, to a greater awareness of music that arrived with the internet, and at the “demise of the tribes” in the 90s.

"People can really calibrate their preferences acutely,” Youth says. “I think we still have a fairly Victorian idea of… 'Jack of all trades, master of none', you know? I’ve always been a bit genre blind, I’ve been accused of that many times, but I think it’s a good thing. It’s all good music."

Youth as been named as winner of the Music Producers Guild Award for Outstanding Contribution to UK Music. The Music Producers Guild Awards take place on 3 February 2016 in London

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