Youth talks us through the making of Blue Pearl’s 1990 floorfiller, ‘Naked In The Rain’
“I learned a lot about production from doing Brilliant between 1982 and 1986. I’d say Killing Joke was my university and Brilliant was my MA. Brilliant was a big collection of different revolving-door musicians – Jimmy Cauty, later of The KLF, Ben Watkins, later of Juno Reactor, and Stephane Holweck of Total Eclipse – all these guys who later became cornerstones of electronic music.
“We just saw it as a big experimental lab. Initially we had two drummers and two bass players, then we whittled it down to a three-piece and were produced by Stock, Aitken & Waterman. That was another epiphany, with this Motown factory thing going on – both me and Jimmy were blown away by how they worked, and it was a lesson in turning things around really quickly. After that, I did Yazz’s first album ‘Wanted’, and co-produced ‘The Only Way Is Up’ with Coldcut. I was becoming an in-demand dance producer. I had a couple of hits and suddenly the phone kept ringing.
“And then I met Durga McBroom at the aftershow of a Pink Floyd concert in Venice in 1989. Durga was one of Pink Floyd’s backing singers and my old school friend Guy Pratt was playing bass for them. I caught one of the best shows I’ve ever seen that night. Then after the show, there was a party at the Lido – on the island where they filmed ‘Death In Venice’.
“Suddenly Durga swans in, and I’m like, ‘Hi, I’m Youth’. I was quite pissed by this point, and I said, ‘Come to London and I’ll make you a star’ [laughs]. Then two months later, or it might have been two weeks later, she rang me up and says, ‘I’m here’. Come on then.
“So I got a backing track together, literally in a few hours. She came over to my house, where I had a little bedroom studio. I think Alex Paterson was my flatmate at the time and I’d been doing some early dance music productions for WAU! Mr Modo, which was mine and Alex’s sort of proto-acid house label.
“I had this software that was a precursor to Logic, and the serial number was 00015, because I was one of only 15 people who bought it. I remember if I had a problem with it, I’d ring a number and tell this guy what was wrong, and then some Cambridge-scientist-boffin-type would come over on his bicycle, recode it all and then leave. He’d literally upgrade it for me in the room and then go away again. I also had access to a Greengate which was a very basic 8-bit sampler.
“I put together a trance track really quickly and then added some big epic pianos and strings, because Durga has this huge voice. She turned up, and we made ‘Naked In The Rain’ in the space of 20 minutes. I had a vocal there and a backing vocal. It took 15 or 20 minutes at mine. Unbelievable.
“When I played it to my label, Big Life, they were like, ‘Great!’. I needed to record it properly, so I ended up doing a deal with Surrey Sound Studios to mix it down. We agreed that they could have a cut of the track because I didn’t have any cash to spend on a studio budget. And then, because it ended up being a huge hit, I had to pay them 25 grand [laughs].
“There were lots of gigs and TV appearances, but I didn’t do any of them. Durga was just on an endless tour doing PAs in clubs. My managers at the time said they thought I should work with Crowded House. They’d just sold 15 million albums with ‘Woodface’. I said, ‘Really? But I’m doing well in the clubs’. In the end, I said yeah, and that was good actually, because I could have become ghettoised as a dance producer. I worked my way out of that through Crowded House and James and eventually The Verve.
“‘Blue Pearl’ struggled to follow up the success of ‘Naked In The Rain’, and we made a second album that didn’t come out. Then we split up and went our own separate ways, so we still have unfinished business. One of the issues when we were making the first album was the fact Durga didn’t really like electronic music. She’d say, ‘I like Joni Mitchell’ [laughs]. She’s totally into prog rock! I’m like, ‘You don’t understand’.
“I did try to accommodate that, but I failed because I didn’t really do what I wanted or what she wanted. If I’d had my way, it would have been very trancey and that sort of ‘Blade Runner’-esque soundtrack-y thing all the way through it. ‘Naked’ was a compromised album in a way, but it really did come together on that one track.
“There’s definitely still that chemistry there. We’ve been working together again on and off for the last 10 years, and we’ve got some great tracks actually. We still have those same problems! She’s based in Italy and sometimes America, so we don’t always get the time to get together, but I’m hoping next year we’ll get that album done.
“One other good thing to come out of it was that Durga asked David Gilmour and Rick Wright to play on the track ‘Alive’, and so that was my introduction to them. Later we invited David to collaborate with The Orb on ‘Metallic Spheres’, and then I ended up producing some of the last Pink Floyd album [‘The Endless River’]. That was a really nice six-degrees-of-separation thing with Durga and Guy and the world of Pink Floyd, as Floyd was a really big part of my growing up. I’ve always seen ‘Naked In The Rain’ as having a bit of a Floyd widescreen dimension to it. My life has been a catalogue of good accidents.”
Youth’s debut solo album, ‘Spinning Wheel’, is out on Youth Sounds/Cadiz Entertainment