Martin Glover’s take on flamenco leads to the ecstasy of Sufi-like trance

Martin Glover, also known as Youth with  Karen Ruimy. Picture: Ki Price
Martin Glover, also known as Youth with Karen Ruimy. Picture: Ki Price
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THE Fringe is no stranger to the percussive power and Latin passion of flamenco but if you’ve been waiting for that flamenco/rave crossover production featuring the trancey club sounds of Groove Armada and Mr Scruff as played by the bassist of punk diehards Killing Joke, then roll right up for ZIK’R.

Martin Glover, better known as ace bassist and esteemed music producer Youth, has collaborated with Moroccan born dancer and singer Karen Ruimy on the show, which uses Mediterranean and eastern instrumentation combined with electronics to explore flamenco’s roots in Sufi mysticism and trace its evolution and journey from India through the middle east and North Africa to Spain.

“What I love about Sufi music is it’s trance music,” says Glover. “It’s much more organic but the effect is basically the same – you want to get people into a state of ecstasy through the music and dancing as quickly as possible and into an altered mind.”

In that respect, ZIK’R nestles comfortably in the Youth timeline. Glover has been making great musicians sound even better since the mid-80s, playing with or producing the diverse likes of Guns N’ Roses, Primal Scream, Erasure, Vanessa Mae and Paul McCartney, with whom he has released three albums of electronica-tinged rock as The Fireman. But one consistent thread in his renaissance man career has been a love of psychedelic trance music and the transporting effect of a hypnotic groove.

Glover, nicknamed Youth because of his love of reggae MC Big Youth, started out as the teenage bassist of ultimate hippy punk band Killing Joke. He lasted three years in this most thrilling and volatile of groups before singer Jaz Coleman decamped to Iceland and summoned the other band members to join him. Glover was left behind, having an acid meltdown.

“I ended up on the King’s Road tripping off my nut in a kimono and swimming trunks burning money,” he recalls. “I was very lucky that I was able to come back and tell the story today. But that was also my initiation into the shamanic world in a way. Before that I was arrogant and snotty; after that I started becoming serious about music and my journey – and more cautious working with psychedelics!”

These days, Glover prefers the monitored experience of the ayahuasca ceremony, a shamanic ritual intended to purge and enlighten the participant, but gives the impression of being open to a range of cultural and spiritual experiences.

However, back in 1982, he closed the door on Killing Joke, instead forming dub pop outfit Brilliant with KLF man Jimmy Cauty and singer June Montana and, later, house duo Blue Pearl with vocalist Durga McBroom. Both groups were essentially studio acts, reflecting Youth’s burgeoning interest in production. By the mid-80s, he was already in demand for his studio skills, whether producing or remixing for other artists, and now he oversees a team of engineers across two studios in London and Andalucia.

“Technology has got so good now I can work almost as fast as I can think,” he says. “I like to keep a creative momentum going in my practice. It’s all stop-start, plug in, tune up, do it again – this is one of the reasons I’m constantly drawing and painting when I’m working as well, to keep my imagination flowing while we tune up a guitar or something.

“You have to have a bit of confidence to go that quickly and that directly to where you wanna go and that comes with experience. In a way, it doesn’t really matter what it sounds like.” He laughs, appreciating how that must sound coming from a production guru. “If you’re in that flow with that energy, it’s always going to sound great.”

In 2012, he was one of the recipients of The Man with the Golden Ear Award, presented to producers of distinction by the annual Soundedit festival in Poland. Over the years, those golden ears have benefited the illustrious likes of The Verve on their breakthrough album Urban Hymns and Pink Floyd, who one might argue need little assistance in finessing their already pristine sound.

Glover describes producing their most recent album The Endless River as “one of the peak experiences of my 40 years in music. They were such a big formative influence on me. They epitomize the high-end quality of production like no one else, so it’s an amazing honour to be included in that work.”

Youth has also been working with a lot of his punk and post-punk contemporaries of late, producing new music for Culture Club, Echo & the Bunnymen, Bauhaus frontman Pete Murphy and his fellow geezer hippy bassist Jah Wobble, as well as forming the New Banalists Orchestra with Crass frontman Penny Rimbaud, Mark Stewart of The Pop Group and Mark Manning, aka Zodiac Mindwarp.

“The idea is to put together some seditious, dissenting, firecracker artists on a classical stage,” he says. “It’s a controversial idea and I’ve had some responses saying ‘that’s the antithesis of punk’. To me, it’s totally punk. These people are the most outspoken, articulate minds of our generation. It’s about doing what you want to do and not having any limits or restrictions.”

He has also returned to his musical origins, rejoining Killing Joke in 2008 following the premature death of Paul Raven. He has been recording and touring with them ever since – new album Pylon will be released this autumn.

“They’re family and some of the most inspired cats I’ve ever worked with, and the most opinionated,” he says. “A whole band of really opinionated cats is something to behold. The psychodynamics of groups like that don’t change from the first days you met. When we’re in that room together, we’re still 17, fierce and honest and brutally unreserved, and if you’ve got the strength of character to be able to deal with that, the rewards are incredible.”

l ZIK’R is at Assembly George Square Gardens, 21-30 August, at 5:40pm.