ZTT - the label. Last changed: June 27 1998.
ZTT was started in January 1983 by Trevor Horn, together with his wife Jill Sinclair, Paul Morley and Gary Langan. Trevor got married to Jill Sinclair in 1980. He had met her through her brother John Sinclair - who had played on the first Buggles album 'The Age of Plastic'. (He also appears in the background of the music video for 'Video Killed the Radio Star'.) Furthermore, John Sinclair was the owner of the Sarm (East) studios. Later, Island Records founder Chris Blackwell sold to them the "Basing Street Studios" and they were soon renamed in Sarm (West) studios.
Paul Morley worked as the main ZTT-centered artist. He designed the cover sleeves of their records and helped to give their bands a certain bizarre-hyped-up in short: The typical ZTT image. Jill Sinclair was mainly responsible for the management and is said to be the one to blame for the tough and infamous contracts with the artists, which, according to Holly Jonson's auto-biography, gave ZTT about seventy to eighty percent of the money made with the records.
ZTT stands for Zang Tuum Tumb, a term found in a poem and in "The Art of Noises", a book of the Futurist-movement in Italy at the beginning of the 20th century. Besides many other things the futurists imagined to create a new kind of music by using daily noises instead of classical instruments. "Zang Tuum Tumb" is said to be the onomatopoetic description of the firing-sound of the big railway cannons which the Russians used in the Crimean War.
First Bands, First Hits
In November 1983 "Relax" by Frankie Goes To Hollywood became the first ZTT record, followed by "Into Battle" from the Art Of Noise, ZTT's in-house band. The Art Of Noise consisted of the engineer Gray Langan, the keyboard player Anne Dudley, the computer technician Jonathan J. Jeczalik and Trevor Horn. Langan, Dudley and Jeczalik worked with Horn on his last pre-ZTT project, the production of Malcolm McLaren's album "Duck Rock". McLaren had the idea to rob the world's music of certain elements and put it together in a new way. With this vague idea Horn and fellows traveled through the world (of) music and so created Art of Noise almost by accident.
The third ZTT group was Propaganda from Duesseldorf, Germany, according to Paul Morley ZTT's answer to the "Thompson Twins". They had two major hits, "Dr. Mabuse" and "Duel".
Paul Morley, The ZTT Hype an the Remix-Mania
It was Paul Morley who established the unique image of ZTT, "inspired by inspiration itself", as he later put it. Morley said, ZTT's main aim was to reestablish the glory of pop-records as one of the fanciest and most fascinating ways of communication in the twentieth century and to make ZTT the most interesting, provocative, crazy and unpredictable record label of the eighties.
Apart from the clever use of sexual ambiguities and 'the smell of scandal' with Frankie Goes To Hollywood, successfully provoking 'Aunt BBC' into a 'boycott' of Relax, which actually boosted its sales even more, Morley tried to establish a unique ZTT image by other means: About fourteen remixes of the first ZTT single, "Relax" were released. The distribution of all the different "Relax" releases became a mystery for outsiders. This collector-annoying practice of record releases and distribution stays typical for ZTT until this day: From one year to another the same cd or record may be re-released with different versions of some songs, as it has happened, f.e. with Propaganda's "A Secret Wish" or Frankie's "Welcome To The Pleasuredome".
However, this remix-mania was started rather by accident than on purpose, according to the master himself. "On the first 12 inch release of Relax was a sixteen minute track called 'The Sex Mix', which you couldn't really call a song. There was only a wailing Holly and a whole bunch of samples from me: the band jumping into a swimming-pool, me throwing lots of stuff in water-filled buckets and even more other noise. Many people, especially gay-rights-advocates complained about the track being too offensive. So we removed the passages until the track had only eight minutes. But then many people complained that the track couldn't be found on the Relax 12 inch..." Trevor Horn says, he didn't understand the fuss about the 12 inches until he went to New York to work with Foreigner. "It was the first time since years that I went inside a club. Immediately after entering, I understood the true purpose of a 12 inch. Although I had made several 12 inch mixes before, I had never heard them inside a club. So I went right back into the studio and remixed Relax from scratch. That was a great idea, because the new 'New York Mix' sold over a million copies!" Does he have a certain 12 inch-secret? "No, I just try to make it as awesome as possible. Regardless ot it's length the track mustn't sound boring at any second."
During 1984 the Morley-created ZTT hype reached its climax: the covers of ZTT records were crowded with secret messages and symbols (bombs, hearts, crosses, sperm-cells...). ZTT also sold a lot of merchandising products. Claudia Bruecken, singer of Propaganda and later Morley's wife worked as a model for the ZTT wear.
ZTT headed off to become one of the most successful labels of the eighties and nineties. After constantly expanding and acquiring new studios in the U.K. and the United States, finally the once small label ZTT grew up to be immersed into Trevor's highly professional big, bad-ass production company SARM.
Copyright © 1995-2005 Christoph Roeckerath, Germany.