TREVOR Horn lives in a house (a very big house) in north London. There are floral paintings in the hall, family photos on the furniture, a double bass in the front room and a recording studio in the basement. The personal and the professional snuggled up alongside each other. It’s been a way of life for Horn for decades.

Horn, 70, has spent the last four decades in recording studios. These days that means not having to leave the house.

But he does. Only the other day, Horn was on his boat on Loch Fyne. Later this month he will be back in Glasgow for, one of a number of dates he’s playing with a 20-strong band, including 10cc’s Lol Creme, Steve Ferrone (“the best rock drummer in the world,” Horn says), former Dire Straits member Alan Clark on Hammond organ and second keyboard and Phil Palmer, “one of the best guitar players ever,” and eight string players. Plus, the odd special guest. All playing live.

“One of my pet peeves is that whenever pop music is presented to people these days, half of it’s coming off a hard drive,” Horn says. That will not be the case here.

“I’ve been in the studio for 40 years now. You just get to the point where you have to go out and play and remind yourself of the real world.”

In the end, perhaps, time is a circle. Go back far enough, back before he worked with Robbie Williams, Rod Stewart, Seal or Pet Shop Boys, back before he set up his own label ZTT and gave the world The Art Of Noise and, of course, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, back before he produced ABC’s Lexicon of Love and those Dollar singles, back even before Video Killed the Radio Star, and Horn, the man who “invented the eighties,” was a jobbing musician.


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This was in the 1970s. Another world, a world where Horn performed around the country in Mecca and Top Rank ballrooms. “In fact,” he recalls, “I worked with a few Scots bandleaders. Ray McVay and his band of the day.”

In between then and now, Horn reinvented pop, met Jill Sinclair (in a recording studio, naturally), got married to her, had a family and then lost her in a tragic accident. His is a pop life in all its joys and agonies.

So how did he go from working with Ray McVay to becoming the record producer of choice less than 10 years later?

“I fell into record production naturally,” he suggests. “When we did sessions for the BBC with Ray McVay, or when we did a party album, I would always go into the control room and listen to the playback because I loved the control room. I thought it was the most brilliant place.”

It took him a while to get there himself. “When I was about 25 I was Tina Charles’ MD and a lot of my friends were songwriters and they really liked the band. It was a really good band, so they started to use me to do their tracks and that’s how I fell into record production.”

By the mid-seventies Horn was trying to have his own hits. He was pushing 30 (and under pressure from his parents to get a real job) when Video Killed the Radio Star, written with Bruce Woolley and his fellow Buggle Geoff Downes, was released. The single changed his life.


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“By the time I got to 29 everyone was saying, ‘What are you doing? You’re driving around in an old banger. You’re living from one week to the next.’ It took me nearly five years to get a hit. But I was lucky when we got the hit – it was massive.”

Well, yes. A number one in 16 countries. The first song played on MTV when the video channel was launched.

Video Killed the Radio Star was also a taster of what pop would sound like in the decade to follow. “All my stuff started to sound weird in the late seventies,” Horn admits. “I was looking for something.

“All the big stars were so good at making records – Elton John records, from the point of view of arrangements and hi-fi, the Queen records. They were daunting. Let’s face it, Queen wrote the book when it came to rock record production. Killer Queen has got every production gag on it that anybody has ever used.”

Horn tried to make records sound like that, but they never did. “And gradually over a period of five years I evolved a kind of style.”


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To do so, he started exploring new technical possibilities. In the early 1980s, he even spent £18,000 on buying a Fairlight synthesizer. A fortune at the time. “You could buy a house,” Horn agrees.

Soon the likes of ABC’s frontman Martin Fry were knocking on his door. He went on to create the Frankie Goes to Hollywood sound and won numerous awards, including three Brit Awards for Best British Producer in 1983, 1985, and 1992.

Trevor Horn plays Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Saturday.