cover image Adventures in Modern Recording: From ABC to ZTT

Adventures in Modern Recording: From ABC to ZTT

Trevor Horn. Nine Eight, $17.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-1-78870-606-3

Music producer Horn’s animated debut memoir takes readers behind the mixing desk and through his 45-year career in the music industry. After rocketing to fame as singer and bassist of the British synth-wave band the Buggles (he cowrote 1979’s “Video Killed the Radio Star”) and briefly as the frontman for prog rockers Yes, Horn switched to the producer’s chair in the ’80s, partly on the advice of his wife, who, Horn recalls, told him that “as an artist you’ll always be second division,” whereas “you can become the best producer in the world.” He offers an insider’s view on the making of such hits as Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax” (1983); the formation of ZTT, a small independent record label that produced music by the likes of Seal and Grace Jones; and meeting and working with some of the industry’s biggest names, of whom he’s by and large respectful. (He describes Paul McCartney as a “fundamentally lovely man” and Seal as “my favorite artist to work with,” but wryly suggests that Black Sabbath—whom he did not produce—sounded like “farm labourers.”) Horn’s tone is appealingly good-humored (“I always thought that the artists I was producing were far better than the artist I was myself”), even if his tendency to obliquely refer to events he’d rather not write about—including the “tragic accident” that contributed to his wife’s death—sometimes frustrates. Still, those nostalgic for the ’80s or interested in how hit records get made will want to take a look. (Feb.)