Gareth Jones is best known for his work with Depeche Mode, having manned the studio for their so-called Berlin trilogy – Construction Time Again, Some Great Reward and Black Celebration. As the first DM records involving Alan Wilder, making use of emerging digital technology and using the legendary Hansa studios for mixing or recording, they are key to the evolution of the group’s sound, and Jones had a central role in their production. He dispatched the group into the side streets of London with a Sony Professional Walkman to record found sounds, turned Hansa into a multi-level experimental sound room, and ran tracks through tiny speakers to maximise their effectiveness for radio. Commercially and artistically, there was no looking back.
Jones’ connection with Mute Records began with a nudge from John Foxx. As an engineer working at London’s Pathway studios, Jones had been tapped by Foxx to work on his first solo album, Metamatic. The icy, stoic electronics of Metamatic were an English re-imagining of the technology-driven music then coming from Germany, informed by the dystopian fiction of J.G. Ballard. Himself a Ballard and Kraftwerk fan, Mute’s Daniel Miller had begun to make his own music as The Normal and Silicon Teens, as well as developing the Fad Gadget sound and encouraging other electronic artists. His discovery of a young group of musicians from Essex, who named themselves after a French fashion magazine that they weren’t entirely sure how to pronounce, had given Mute a chart-baiting hit band, but by the time of their third album he was looking for a way to raise their game. Foxx’s East London studio, The Garden, was an attractive proposition, and Jones was then working as a freelance engineer. Foxx suggested that Jones have a chat with the Mute team, and a short meeting led to a relationship that started with sampling trips to abandoned building sites and has held strong over three decades.
Jones has worked closely with a number of Mute artists, from Fad Gadget to Erasure and Nick Cave, but he also has a solid track record away from the Hammersmith-based label: Tuxedomoon, Indochine, Efterklang, Ideal and Madness have all had the benefit of his studio magic in the course of a career that began at the BBC in the 1970s.
In 2008, Jones had a near-miss with cancer, which he blogged about and used to inspire occasional “field recording” compositions, including “A Visit to the Oncologist”:
Jones continues to produce and mix, but is also found outside of the studio, providing time to encourage young artists and engineers, including through the Red Bull Academy lecture series. He is working on a book on “Spiritual Friendship” with his friend, Nick Hook. Below, we’ve collected some of the highlights from his career so far.
10. Nitzer Ebb – Let Your Body Learn
Nitzer Ebb showed up on the scene as obvious descendents of DAF and Portion Control, but it was when they were taken on by Mute that their sound acquired real finesse. While Phil Harding of PWL produced and mixed most of the record, Jones and Miller teamed up to remix “Let Your Body Learn” for NE’s first album, That Total Age.
9. Wire – Ahead
Paleontologists will look back at Wire’s time on Mute as a discrete period in their path from art-punk outsiders to indie rock godfathers. They made five albums for the label (six, if you include Wir), and Jones produced the first two, The Ideal Copy and A Bell Is a Cup…Until It Is Struck. This track, the first single to be lifted from The Ideal Copy, is an enduring classic.
8. Tuxedomoon – Music #2
Tuxedomoon is another band that called on Jones through connections with John Foxx. After a European tour, towards the end of 1980, the band was ready to record the Desire album in England. They found a studio in Surrey and Foxx pointed them in Jones’ direction as engineer and co-producer. They returned in 1982 to record a 12″ single, “Time to Lose,” which was backed with this simple, elegant track featuring Steven Brown on piano and Blaine L. Reininger on violin.
7. Fehlmann’s Ready Made – Ready Made
Thomas Fehlmann’s Ready Made project arrived at just the right time to make use of sampling technology. The former Palais Schaumburg performer went into the studio with Jones to make this track, which incorporated contributions from Art of Noise’s JJ Jeczalik and Neubauten’s FM Einheit, among others.
6. The House of Love – Safe
The choice of Miller and Jones to produce “Safe” wasn’t made by the suits at The House of Love’s record label. Having left Creation Records, the band was on the cusp of shoegaze greatness, and Fontana weren’t entirely pleased at the idea of Depeche Mode’s production team having a look-in. The track was used as the B-side of “Never,” but the band felt that the results deserved more appreciation – and they were right.
5. Erasure – Fill Us with Fire (Fired Up Mix)
Jones has carved out a niche for himself as a remix artist, taking assignments from acts like Erasure. This mix, prepared for a track from their 2011 album, Tomorrow’s World, is a high-energy example of his talents.
4. Einstürzende Neubauten – Yü-Gung (Fütter mein Ego)
Jones provided the technical link between the metal-bashing rhythms of Einstürzende Neubauten and emerging sampling technology, which led through design or inspiration to EN’s “Yü-Gung (Fütter mein Ego),” Depeche Mode’s “People Are People,” and Fad Gadget’s biggest commercial success, “Collapsing New People.”
3. Sunroof! – Various
The Sunroof! project is a studio collaboration between Jones and Daniel Miller, which has mainly produced covers of classic Krautrock tracks for tribute albums and remixes. Jones uploaded many of them to his Mixcloud account, so they can be enjoyed on demand.
2. Depeche Mode – But Not Tonight
The story plausibly goes that “But Not Tonight” was recorded quickly by Depeche Mode as the B-side to “Stripped.” Their US label, Sire, liked it better, and it found its way onto the soundtrack for the film, Modern Girls – a pure commercial play that annoyed the band and ensured Martin Gore’s abiding antipathy. It is, nevertheless, great 80s pop, and Gore recently performed the song to an ecstatic US audience.
1. John Foxx – A New Kind of Man
When he left Ulravox!, John Foxx had some ideas about how he wanted his first solo album to sound. The difficulty was that nothing had ever sounded like it before. Another was that the technology didn’t yet exist to create it. So, Foxx and Jones set out to craft the sound of Metamatic by hand, keying in the basslines in the space between delays and pushing an Elka string machine to the limit. Although “Underpass” seems to be the track that always makes it onto the retro compilations or is picked up for remixing, every song on the album was beamed from the future.