Published on June 20th, 1999 | by Gerry Galipault


The Art of Noise Paints Futuristic Picture of the Past

Who’s afraid of The Art of Noise? No one, really. What’s to be scared of? In a faceless guise, the group harmlessly blazed trails on the techno-pop scene in the 1980s.

Formed in 1982 by producer Trevor Horn, formerly of the Buggles and Yes, the studio project included keyboardist Anne Dudley and music scribe Paul Morley, members of the creative team behind the hits of Frankie Goes To Hollywood, ABC and Malcolm McLaren. Signed to the Horn-Morley label ZTT, The Art of Noise offered an outlet for their instrumental-based collages, always quirky, often blanketed with beautiful melodies.

Their collaboration yielded several groundbreaking hits, such as “Beat Box,” “Close to the Edit” and “Moments in Love,” the latter of which was played as Madonna walked down the aisle with Sean Penn in 1985.

The group rarely was seen, often hiding behind masks during live shows and the few music videos it did.

“Not having a visual image wasn’t a problem for us,” Dudley said recently. “That was a deliberate plot. We first started making records in the early 1980s when music was dominated by powerful haircuts like Culture Club. Looking back on those times, wasn’t it a good idea you didn’t see what we looked like, because wouldn’t we look stupid? It was an anti-hype situation. Nowadays, it’s quite normal for groups to shun it, but we had a lot of difficulty in those days. People didn’t like the idea that we didn’t want to be in the spotlight.”

Morley recounts how they reluctantly agreed to appear in the “Close to the Edit” video, which featured an agitated young girl going wild alongside band members. (The video got a lot of mileage in the mid-1990s after a thumbs-up rating in an episode of “Beavis & Butt-head.”)

“The male members of the band were slightly disturbed that they were made to come off as Huey Lewis & The News,” he said, “so one of the reasons we tend to hide behind masks or not appear at all is because it opens up more possibilities how The Art of Noise can be presented. Sometimes you had video art directors get excited about how they were going to present The Art of Noise, and in that particular case, he interpreted it as a strange young girl with Huey Lewis & The News. Half of it was fun and half of it was slightly sad.”

“I thought it was a fun video,” Dudley said, “but some people thought it was unnecessarily violent. It was banned in New Zealand as encouraging violence towards children. Nothing could have been further from our minds.”


Horn and Morley ended their Art of Noise involvement in late 1985, nearly a year before the release of the group’s second album, “In Visible Silence.” Dudley forged ahead with original members J.J. Jeczalik (keyboards, programmer) and Gary Langan (engineer) on China Records. The band thrived, teaming with twang-guitar legend Duane Eddy on a cover of “Peter Gunn” (a Grammy Award winner for best rock instrumental) and making an odd but irresistible liaison with Welsh crooner Tom Jones on a reworking of Prince’s “Kiss.”

By mid-1990, The Art of Noise had run its course and disbanded.

Dudley kept plenty busy as a producer, writer, arranger and musician, working with Paul McCartney, Rush, the Moody Blues, k.d. lang, a-ha and Boy George, to name a few. She also won an Academy Award for scoring the film “The Full Monty.” Horn and Morley, meanwhile, had their hands full running ZTT, the first home for Seal.

Then their collective muse struck again two years ago. Inspired by the works of French composer Claude Debussy (1862-1918), the three set forth on bridging the gap between the past and modern-day pop music.

They have hit the mark with the June 15 release of “The Seduction of Claude Debussy” (ZTT/Universal), the first Art of Noise studio album in 12 years. Dudley, Morley and Horn are joined by former 10cc guitarist and video vanguard Lol Creme. Among the guest performers are Donna Lewis, rapper Rakim and actor John Hurt.

“We had a very powerful idea and feeling we wanted to do something that was a reflection of us as individuals and as a group,” Dudley said. “The four of us, between us, have had a lot of experience and lots of interesting musical things have happened to all of us, and I think getting together with such people can be thrilling. The combination of all these elements can make for something interesting and new. We’re all very proud of the album, and it’s very difficult to classify. It’s absolutely an essential Art of Noise album. It feels like The Art of Noise, although in many respects it has very little in common with the older albums.”

“We don’t sound like the other Art of Noise,” Morley said glibly, “but we’re influenced by them.”

In a whirlwind of drum ‘n’ bass beats, hip-hop and electronic rhythms, The Art of Noise effortlessly fuses Debussy’s melodies in a contemporary setting.

“Surprisingly, it wasn’t difficult to do,” Dudley said. “We found in Claude Debussy a true modernist. We found in his harmonic structures, his melodies, such wonderful beauty of music that it just transcended the years. Whatever we did to it still was there and seemed to retain its integrity. A lot of 20th century musicians from Gil Evans, Miles Davis to Duke Ellington acknowledge the influence of Claude Debussy on their music. His music is quite surprisingly jazzy and surprisingly modern. The rhythms sort of give it an extra kick up the ass, really.”

With today’s youth enamored with Ricky Martin, Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears, the message in The Art of Noise’s music may get lost, but Dudley and Morley say it won’t be for a lack of trying.

“We won’t go on tour,” Morley said, tongue in cheek, “we’ll deliver a series of lectures on music history ….”

”… and there’ll be a test afterwards and you won’t be allowed out until you pass,” Dudley said. “The last thing on our minds is to be didactic in any way, but it depresses me the limited view of music history that so many people have. When you go to a record store, there’s millions of records there from every era, every country, and yet people go to the section of the stuff they like and only buy the stuff they like. I’ve been listening to music more years than I’ve been alive, practically, and I still hear things sometimes that excite me and I have to go out and get them. And it might be an unaccompanied Bulgarian choir or music from Hungary. Everybody should be like that.”

THE FIRST RECORD I EVER BOUGHT: Dudley – “It was ’25 or 6 to 4′ by Chicago.”Morley – “Mine was a bit less embarrassing; it was ‘Ride a White Swan’ by T. Rex. It was genius stuff.”

THE FIRST CONCERT I EVER WENT TO: Dudley – “I have a very vivid memory of seeing Earth, Wind & Fire opening for Santana at the Hammersmith Odeon. I remember Earth, Wind & Fire’s drum kit was levitated and spun around, and Maurice White appeared in a puff of smoke.” Morley – “T. Rex in 1971. Sutherland Brothers and Quiver opened for them. It was an odd pairing. I actually saw Queen support Mott the Hoople; that shows how old I am, but don’t tell anyone.”

BWF (before we forget): Get an earful of The Art of Noise on the Web … The Art of Noise album discography – “(Who’s Afraid of) The Art of Noise” (ZTT, 1985); “In Visible Silence” (1986); “Daft” (1987, compilation of early material); “In-No-Sense? Nonsense!” (1987); “The Best of The Art of Noise” (1989); “The Ambient Collection” (China, 1990); “Fon Mixes” (1991); “The Drum & Bass Collection” (China/Discovery, 1996, early tracks interpreted by underground mixers); “The Seduction of Claude Debussy” (ZTT/Universal, 1999).

Tags: ,

About the Author

Gerry Galipault debuted Pause & Play online in October 1997. Since then, it has become the definitive place for CD-release dates — with a worldwide audience.

Comments are closed.

Back to Top ↑


    Entertainment Weekly names Pause & Play one of “the 100 greatest Web sites”

  • Album Release Dates

    * Release dates are subject to change due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

    Aug. 5, 2022 » Calvin Harris, Bad Bunny, “NOW That’s What I Call Music! 83,” YoungBoy Never Broke Again, Dylan Scott, The Flatliners, The Interrupters, Lauv, Eminem, Paul McCartney, Amon Amarth, etc.

    Aug. 12, 2022 » Erasure, Goo Goo Dolls, Danny Elfman, Wade Bown, Collective Soul, Danger Mouse & Black Thought, Arch Enemy, Kiwi Jr., Hudson Mohawke, Sylvan Esso, Girlpool, etc.

    Aug. 19, 2022 » Panic! At the Disco, Demi Lovato, Eric Church, Five Finger Death Punch, TobyMac, Hot Chip, Shemekia Copeland, The Mountain Goats, Cass McCombs, Early James, David Paich, Silversun Pickups, Pat Travers, Walter Trout, etc.

    More New Releases » Aug. 26 and Beyond: Muse, Marcus King, Alanis Morissette, Ingrid Andress, Ezra Furman, YUNGBLUD, Rina Sawayama, Ozzy Osbourne, Built to Spill, Flogging Molly, Robbie Williams, Death Cab for Cutie, LeAnn Rimes, The London Suede, 5 Seconds of Summer, Beth Orton, Dr. John, Nikki Lane, Denzel Curry, Pixies, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Lamb of God, Ava Max, Lightning Seeds, Simple Minds, Meghan Trainor, Tegan and Sara, Sloan, Babyface, Daniel Avery, Larkin Poe, Michael Jackson, Leftfield, and many more.

    More Upcoming Releases » Albums coming in 2022 and beyond but have yet to be scheduled

    Elton John loves Pauseandplay.comDeals of the DayBest SellersSennheiser MOMENTUM 2 Wireless Over-Ear HeadphonesIE 400 Pro In-Ear Monitors

  • New Merch at Hot TopicSave on Tablets at Walmart.comBand T-ShirtsTurntables & AccessoriesHome Audio SystemsAmazon Tap $40 OffSave up to 90% on Textbooks

    NOTE: is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites. We also participate in other affiliate programs.

  • Love We do, too … Help us keep it going. (Every little bit helps.) We ♥ u.

    Via PayPal:

    – or –

  • Recent Posts

  • Connect on Facebook

  • On Twitter