Trevor Horn started producing records full time in 1980 after his group Buggles had created the song that was the first record played on MTV - 'Video Killed The Radio Star'. The movie wit and sonic glamour of the song would give a large hint of the kind of grand slam pop records Horn would make his name and reputation producing, and another colourful hint of Horn's style and ambition when it came to pop music came with the title of Buggles' second and final album, 'Adventures In Modern Recording'.
During the '80s and '90s his super adventures in modern recording have established Trevor Horn as one of the names in record production, a brand name for a certain type of sound, one of those names that immediately jump to mind when you think of 'record producer'. If in the '60s, Phil Spector created a wall of sound, by the middle of the '80s Horn had already established his sound, a whole room of sound, the walls, floors, ceilings, doors, windows, decorated with absolute flourish. As an architect of sound, Horn was unashamedly an exhibitionist, an utter show off.
Early work with ABC and Malcolm McLaren set out his credentials for mixing experimentation with studio perfection, for mixing the wonderful with the weird, for mixing the grandiose with the subtle, for just great mixing. He even managed to turn Yes into a sleek modern pop group with his unexpectedly zesty, zingy production of 'Owner Of A Lonely Heart'. Horn was at the cutting edge of inventing a whole new way of making modern records, involving the use of the studio as a musical instrument, new developments in computers and samplers, and a general harnessing of the machine that literally rewrote the laws of composing music. All contemporary pop utilising computers and samplers owes something to the innovations of Trevor Horn in the early 80s.
But not only was Horn smartly turning into one of the country's most internationally respected producers, he also did something no other British record producer has successfully pulled off. As some kind of showcase for his emerging production talents, as a kind of brand new exhibition hall, he started a record label - and whereas most producers' attempts at a record label never get beyond a handful of brave records, Horn's label instantly made history. ZTT was formed in 1983, and within a couple of years was notorious. The first release for the label, 'Relax' by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, was number one for six weeks and to this day remains one of the biggest selling singles of all time. Its sheer aural confidence and rhythmic power had Horn stamped over it, as did the way it merged the human and the technological with such riproaring ease. It was truly a Horny record. And whilst Horn was turning Frankie Goes To Hollywood into a modern pop phenomenon, he was also heading Art Of Noise and creating a series of songs that slyly hinted at much of the future landscape of ambient, hip hop, and underground dance. By the end of the '80s, Horn had produced for ZTT a series of iconic pop records by the likes of Frankie, Art Of Noise, Propaganda and Grace Jones - records that helped define the era - as well as producing work outside the label for Godley and Creme, The Pet Shop Boys and Simple Minds.
Horn's ZTT had done enough by the early '90s to prove that it wasn't just a sideline thing for a career producer, but even as Horn was producing Marc Almond, Rod Stewart, David Coverdale and Paul McCartney, he developed an act for ZTT that dragged the label into the '90s. The two albums he produced for Seal helped establish the singer as one of the most successful British acts in America in the '90s, as well as an act of worldwide fame. The albums were sheer class and created sound and glory, cool and warmth, space and travel that only Trevor Horn could imagine. Seal demonstrated both Horn's immense studio magic and his ability to discover and nurture pop acts that have an international impact.
After a couple of years spent producing acts outside ZTT - Tina Turner, Bryan Ferry, Boyzone, Cher, Chrissie Hynde - Horn has now turned his attention back to his label intent on finding another act to continue his record for selling millions of records. He is producing the debut album of young Manchester singer-songwriter Lee Griffiths, and is also heading up a reformed and revitalised Art Of Noise - godfathers to Prodigy and Dr. Dre - whose forthcoming album is part of Horn's ever idealistic, ever enthusiastic, ever futuristic pop plan to kick start ZTT into the 21st century - which is where he began, in a way, making machine music with Buggles and sound effectively predicting that the making of a modern record in the year 2000 would be a strange, sophisticated and exhilarating affair - Horn has proved time and time again that pop is an art form, and that he is the supreme pop artist.