Great British record producers are few and far between, but what we lack in numbers, we more than make up for in talent. These rather mysterious and faceless sonic architects constantly work magic, turning the strange ideas of “out there” musicians into something cohesive and appealing.
Naming the most famous is easy; it has to be Beatles’ producer and innovator George Martin. He is the musical version of Alex Ferguson.
He is flanked by the likes of Tony Visconti (Bowie,T.Rex), Brian Eno (Roxy Music, Talking Heads), Jimmy Miller (Rolling Stones, Primal Scream), Trevor Horn (ABC, Seal, Frankie Goes to Hollywood), Nigel Godrich (Radiohead, Beck, Travis), Chris Thomas (Sex Pistols, Pink Floyd), and one of my particular favourites Martin Glover (aka Youth).
I first became aware of him after hearing A Love like Blood by his group Killing Joke in 1985, and it is still one of the most underrated songs made in this country. The band continues to tour and record, with their last album, Absolute Dissent, being released in 2010.
Youth is one of the country’s most influential and experimental producers, working with the Charlatans, James, Primal Scream, Orb and Futureheads.
His creative zenith came in 1997 when he recorded Urban Hymns with the Verve, which turned out to be one of the greatest British albums of all time.
Even to this day there are few albums that reach its sonic heights.
These days he commands huge respect, and gets to work with likes of Paul McCartney.
So when I see his production credit on a new record I immediately take notice and give it my full attention. Kriziz of Genre by Blast Unit Moscow is his latest project and as his track record would suggest, it is most definitely worth a listen.
Out of the hundreds of prospective bands he chose to work with, he went with a little known five piece out of Russia and once again he proves that he has the Midas touch.
Youth has recorded an album full of cleverly crafted songs, coupled with the energy and edge of the Clash and Ramones, with a touch of disco Blondie and a light dashing of Killing Joke thrown in for good measure. Their new single When the Music is Over is an example of the above.
The Moscow-based band, originally called BLAST, were formed in the late 90s by Georgian singer/songwriter Nash Tavkhelidze, who had previously spent a number of years in America playing and bumming around.
The nearest comparison I can make to Nash is Paul Weller, not musically, but simply because they both have such a positive, solid attitude. They have that loving support of up-and-coming local bands and Nash’s enthusiasm is infectious.
They are currently playing a few gigs in the UK and plan to return to Europe when their new album Kriziz of Genre is released in February 2014.
Along with Misha on lead guitar, Vlado drums, Dima bass and Seva on keyboards, they are a powerful live act.
Having your latest work produced by one of the UK’s best producers is quite something, as lead singer Nash explains “I first heard of Youth through a friend of his and I immediately started listening to their music and was completely blown away.
They were and still are, a unique sounding band who are still very underrated. Getting to know them and to work with them has been a wonderful experience, and whatever Youth does it usually turns to gold, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for our album in the New Year.”
Youth heard something in the music and attitude of the group and set about making a record with them. It was the musical equivalent of winning the national lottery.
So what made him pick an obscure Russian band to work with? “It was ‘this is so wrong, it’s right’ moment,” he explains. “There’s a different perspective in Moscow, so bands are fearless about doing things bands in London wouldn’t do, as it may not be cool.”
This record and group could be the first real breakout success from Russia (excluding pop sensations Tatu) and could possibly spearhead the Moscow music scene. Does Youth think a Moscow music uprising is on the cards?
He explained, “Possibly, there is a vibrant indie music scene in Moscow with lots of bands and DJ’s. They have a lot to shout about with all the repression going on in Russia.”
Nash, along with his drummer Vlado, promote and support the local music scene at a club called Kriziz Genre and there are a number of terrific young bands coming through.
Nash tells me. “There is so much energy among these promising new acts and they really need to be heard outside of Russia. Acts like Tesla Boy, who are influenced by Depeche Mode and 80s electonica, and a young three-piece called the Riots, who sound like the Small Faces crossed with the Jam, are excellent. Also Sadme, who sounds like a cross between PJ Harvey and Siouxsie and the Banshees, so there is a lot to talk about.”
Young Muscovites look at the British music scene with great admiration. The Beatles had the biggest impact on Russia in the 60s when they tore down the Iron Curtain. They still remain the biggest Western act in Russia, inspiring generation after generation.
The music industry is very different in Moscow, compared to the UK and America. The wives and girlfriends of uber-rich oligarchs dominate the Russian charts with their trite pop pap.
To say its music scene is stifled by politics is wrong, and while the Pussy Riot incident and subsequent incarceration certainly caught the attention of the worlds press, it’s not that simple.
Its biggest stumbling block is apathy; the old guard don’t believe the “new music” is worth anything and consequently there is very little self-belief there.
This, coupled by a complete lack of infrastructure, make it near damn impossible to succeed in the music business in Russia unless you marry a multibillionaire oligarch or get into bed with bootleggers and gangs.
For a Russian group to have success in the UK is the ultimate accolade. It is affirmation and approval that they crave. Having success outside of their own country would soon find its way back to Russian audiences.
They like success and more importantly it would prove to their own people that they have something of value. I fully intend to broadcast a live radio show from Moscow soon so you can sample the musical delights.
If it’s good enough for Youth, then it’s good enough for me. Martin Glover himself said, “The album is exciting and has some great songs. It’s not really for me to rate as I’m so involved in it, but I think it’s incredible.” he states.
You can hear Blast Unit Moscow in session with Pete this Saturday at 10pm on Absolute Radio.