Sound Off: Gary Langan

Sound Off: Gary Langan

Welcome to Sound Off, our new blog feature in which we talk to friends, fans and customers of Flare Audio to find out a bit more about their lives and how our products fit into them.

First up is engineer, producer and musician Gary Langan. He worked with the likes of Queen, ABC and Yes before going on to make his own music as a member of Art of Noise in the 1980s.

The original members of the group - Langan, J. J. Jeczalik and Anne Dudley - are playing together for the first time in 30 years at Liverpool Sound City later this month. Dudley, Jeczalik and Langan rebooting The Art of Noise’s In Visible Silence - the band’s 1986 album - will be on the Pioneers of British Electronic Music stage with Human League.

FA: How did the comeback gig come about? 

GL: 30 years down the line, Warner Brothers wanted to do a re-release of the first album [In Visible Silence] we did on China Records, which they now own. We got talking about this and somehow someone got to hear us talking about it, and suddenly we’d got a gig. 

It’s all very exciting. This is the first time we have played live in this configuration. The three original members never played live together, apart from the odd TV thing, so not many people have seen us. We’re going to throw in a few surprises. We’ve never shadowed anybody and we’ve always been pioneers.

And you’ve remastered In Visible Silence for the re-release?

Yes, it’s a lovely process for someone like myself to go back through everything. It still sounds really good. I’ve just done something similar for Spandau Ballet’s Through the Barricades. I got to go back to the original master mixes - some of which were analogue - and go through everything. It’s like revisiting the 1980s and it brings up some lovely memories.

I did a lot of 12-inch remixes for bands in the 1980s, and they are often included in the package I get when I’m remastering, so I get to listen to lots of things I can’t even remember doing.

How did you get started as an engineer?

My father was a musician and my mum was a hairdresser. Because they were both self-employed, in school holidays I had to hang out with one of them. Going to the salon wasn’t that cool, so I went to work with dad. He worked at the BBC on a live broadcast called Music While You Work, which was played at factories across the country. I got to learn piano while doing that, but I hated it. I loved music, but hated to learn and play. Then I discovered recording studios and that got cemented in my head: I had to get involved in creating records.

I started work in 1975 when I was 17, in a tiny studio called Sarm. I was tea-boy and I literally made tea - it was the only way to start to be an engineer. I now lecture, but there was nothing like that back then. I worked my way up in the studio, where people like Bay City Rollers and The Drifters would be working.  I worked on three Queen albums as an assistant and auxiliary engineer. Then I met Trevor Horn, the guy who was the major creator of a lot of 1980s music, and we clicked. We made albums for The Buggles, ABC, Yes and Malcolm McLaren, and worked together for many years.

Trevor Horn started the ZTT record label and bought a sequencer called the Fairlight. It came from Australia, cost £30,000 and was the size of your dining table. It was an 8-bit processor, which was incredible in 1985; it meant you could sample just about a second. There was no sampling before that - it didn’t exist - and now you could copy and paste audio. I played around with it and did a demo one night when everyone had left the studio, and Art of Noise stemmed from that.

Tell us about your relationship with Flare Audio.

When I met Davies Roberts from Flare Audio it was a game-changer. Sometimes someone comes into your life and you think: ‘That’s different.’ Something just clicked. I knew he was going to do something astonishing, and he has.

As an engineer and a producer, in the days when I made a lot of records, there was a moment when you knew you were hearing a record for the very last time in its intended state. I used to listen to the final mix, elbows on console, listening intently to a pair of near-field speakers very close to me. It was very personal because you knew it was the last time - it would never sound the same again.

That changed when I heard my mixes on Flare equipment. I can go back and mentally sit in the recording studio again. No other speaker I’ve tried has done that. And on the beta version of the earbuds, which are on my head every day, it’s just incredible. I wear them on the train and I can just switch off and don’t hear a thing. The products give me so much joy.

I owned and built Metropolis Studios and if Flare Audio had been born at the time, its kit would have been in every single room.

The ISOLATE® [ear protection] is another fantastic piece of kit. My main day job these days is doing front-of-house. In the summer, I spend a lot of time at festivals and the environment is loud all day long. I can’t wear those horrible yellow sticky things, so I had a smile on my face when I first tried ISOLATE®.

I can hear everything and hear nothing. I hear everything I need to hear, but all the dangerous stuff is blocked out. I’m usually working with the headline act, which used to mean I was tired after listening to music all day long by the time they went on stage. Now, with ISOLATE®, I’m fresh as a daisy.

You can find Gary on Twitter @gazbo2824 and you can see Dudley, Jeczalik and Langan rebooting The Art of Noise’s In Visible Silence at Clarence Dock, Liverpool, on Thursday, May 25.