October 3, 2017:Producer Youth talks tech: ‘The best AI you can have is your imagination’

Producer Youth talks tech: ‘The best AI you can have is your imagination’

Finding success initially with Killing Joke in the 1970s, Youth (or, as per his passport, Martin Glover) has produced a dizzying array of acts over the years.

Notable clients include The Verve and Take That, with his remix CV including The Sugarcubes, U2 and Siouxsie & The Banshees. He also formed The Fireman, an experimental project with Paul McCartney, that has run to three albums so far.

His latest project is launching a new label called Suriya Recordings, at a time when arguably it’s tougher than ever to get this kind of venture off the ground without the safety net of a back catalogue. Although Youth is positive.

“The market is constantly changing and it’s shifting sands, but the new models that are emerging are quite exciting,” he tells Music Ally.

It’s not just music; there’s a cultural shift in consumer society as well where things are now just available and out there. We are all still trying to find our feet as to how that could work and monetise the art.”

Youth thinks that the ease with which music can be created and distributed is less of a haystack to get lost in, and more of an opportunity.

“We can record so much more material now and so much easier,” he says. “That’s what it is all about, really – it’s content for streaming and the newly emerging model.”

Does this even-handed attitude extend to the way that, in the age of tools like Ableton Live and GarageBand, a producer may be seen as a luxury by emerging artists rather than a necessity?

“The rise of the home recording has been phenomenal, but the cost of that has been the demise of the professional recording studio,” he says.

“Most of the great recording studios have gone now and that is very sad. But it’s amazing that with a minimal amount of gear you can do a very professional recording.”

Youth doesn’t think that producers are going to be pushed into early retirement. Instead, he thinks that the producer could become the catalyst for the next stage in a self-starting musician’s artistic development.

“It’s never been easier to get a great sound with all of this technology, but what you do with it makes it what it is: be that a set of decks or GarageBand,” he says.

“Eventually, however, you’re going to want up the bar artistically, so you can get in those people who can give you that perspective and objectivity to make your work really sound incredible.”

“That’s when you bring in great producers and great engineers and have a team around you. The best people always had great teams around them and that won’t change.”

youth

Another topic for producers to mull is the status of the album in 2017 and beyond. Over the past two decades, Napster, then iTunes and now Spotify and YouTube have steadily eroded the album’s status as the music industry’s centre of gravity.

2017 feels more like the singles-centric 1950s industry, and individual tracks and playlists are arguably now more important for many listeners than albums. What does that mean for producers, who’ve historically played key roles in the architecture of the album as an artistic statement?

People will still want to hear a body of work framed in that way in the future. Nevertheless, its significance isn’t nearly as important as it was in the 1970s or 1980s. You can just put a track out now and blow it up,” says Youth.

“It’s more about individual tracks for a lot of artists. But there comes a point where it’s important for an artist to release an album. That is going to help them tour and it’s going to help them get bigger gigs. That’s not for all artists; but it is for certain gigging artists.”

Youth is also not fazed by the application of technologies like artificial intelligence to the music-creation process, with Taryn Southern’s current ‘I Am AI’ album project being composed by algorithms rather than humans – albeit with humans playing a role in patching together the output of the AI.

Youth thinks AI is interesting for fans. “You will be able to interact with the art in ways that you weren’t able to before. You’re already seeing that in gaming,” he says. But he’s not preaching woe for human songwriters and producers as a result.

“The best AI you can have is your imagination,” he suggests. “All that technology is really just about unleashing your imagination – what you can do it with a sound and a vibe. It doesn’t require a spaceship’s worth of technology to get you out into space.”

Youth’s new festival, Space Mountain: International Cosmic Arts Lab, takes place this week in Spain (6th to 8th October) and he has just set up his new label, Suriya Recordings.

Pic credits: Glen Burrows

Eamonn Forde
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