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20 October 2021

Producing The Goods

Going head-to-head with music royalty Clive Langer.

On a rainy day in East London, we opened the doors of Mutt’s store in the smoke to record producer, songwriter, composer and musician Clive Langer, one of the most infamous names in the business. It’s not every day you get to hang out with the guy that co-wrote Shipbuilding with Elvis Costello, played the guitar in Deaf School and Big In Japan, composed the music for the films Still Crazy and Brothers of the Head and produced albums for Madness, Morrissey, The Teardrop Explodes, Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Aztec Camera...the list goes on! 

In short, Clive is music royalty and exudes the energy of a man who has been there, done it and chucked the t-shirt out the window. Fortunately for us, his other passion in life is being a massive motorhead and has a long, detailed history of being out on the road on two wheels. In fact, when we first set up Mutt, Clive was an early customer of ours. He visited Benny in our workshop (version 1.0) in Birmingham and Mr Langer’s first custom Mutt was born. It’s fair to say we’ve been gagging to get him over to our Bethnal Green store, near to his home by Victoria Park for a friendly grilling.

How long have you been riding motorcycles for and what got you first interested in them?

I've been riding motorcycles since I was 16 - that was the year of our lord 1970. I only rode for a year though. I was desperate to pass my test and break away from the L plates and the (then) 250cc limit, but it was not to be.

At that time I owned a ‘58 Triumph Tiger Cub with a maroon and grey tank. The problem was I failed my test twice, the first time for driving too close to parked cars and the second for arriving at the test centre without my provisional license. I was gutted. I was just turning 17 so I traded my bike for a Ford Anglia van that I bought from a window cleaner for £25 and passed my car test the first time!

Until I was 60, 43 years later, whenever I saw or heard a motorbike I was reminded of what I didn’t have. So at the tender age of 60, I set my mind to getting my license. I took my test on the Isle of Wight and passed!

I have been interested in motorcycles for as long as I can remember, the noise, the look, the smell, the roar, and with films like The Wild One and, later, Easy Rider. I was hooked.

What have been some of your best motorcycle experiences?
The most memorable and quite recent experience I had was riding on my own, in the summer of ’19, from London to a hamlet in the mountains of the Auvergne called Boisseuge not far from Clermont. I had a map and jumped on the overnight ferry to St. Malo, I stopped wherever took my fancy (I had a credit card). Two great lunches, a dinner and a room for the night in Tours. The roads were great. Empty A and B roads and the last 20 miles on mountain winding single-lane tracks.

What do you like most about Mutt Motorcycles?
What I like most about Mutts are their look, feel and sound, they sound like ‘proper’ bikes! Similar to the memories I have of classic bikes from my past - ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s Triumphs and BSAs.

There are a few motorcycle references throughout your album Practice which you released as part of the band ‘The Clang Group’? 
Well, there’s a track on The Clang Group album, Practice, called ‘Knock Me Off’ (My motorbike, haha). It’s about being knocked from my bike after being hit, side-on, by a car. It was based on an experience I had whilst riding my Mutt CL Cub near Whitestone Pond in Hampstead, luckily I braked, swerved and it made no contact but I was fantasising about how it would feel. The thoughts going through my head whilst flying through the air, not knowing what to expect!!

How did you first get into music production? 
I first got into production when I started working with Madness, I went on to co-produce them and still do to this day. They came to see my band Deaf School playing at The Roundhouse in North London where I saw these interestingly dressed, stylish young men, gang-like in appearance, standing by the side of the stage. I knew Mike's older brother (Ben Barson) so I recognised them and agreed to meet them after the show. We had a chat and I agreed to come to one of their rehearsals. That’s where I first heard ‘My Girl’ and I was smitten. We agreed that I would produce a demo. We did! When Suggs played the demo to Jerry Dammers (The Specials) he wanted The Prince to come out on his 2Tone label. It did. It was a hit and I was a producer!!

How would you describe your sound, and how has it developed over time?
Well, I went on to produce the first Madness album (One Step Beyond) with Alan Winstanley - we worked together for the next 30 years and more. He always engineered so I suppose our ‘sound’ came from him. I never could really describe it so I leave that to others. 

What would you say was the highlight of your career so far?
Well, working with David Bowie and producing Absolute Beginners was quite a high point, I felt like ‘Blimey, we've made it!’ Being a fan of his work, especially the ‘Low’ period, I couldn’t believe I was producing him, I mean, he was one of my favourite producers and I’m producing him!

Tell us about the large country studio you used to own? Must have been some great rides around there? 
Yes, it was Hook End Manor, Alan and I acquired the property from Dave Gilmour (Pink Floyd). We went on to create the best residential studio in Europe (I think). I wasn’t riding motorcycles yet at that time in my life but I had some great runs in the woods while recording Kill Uncle with Morrissey!

What are you working on music/production-wise at the moment?
The last bit of proper work I did was the track ‘Feet’ by Fat White Family. A good experience!

What new music are you listening to at the moment? 
I heard an interesting track on Radio 6 the other day by Do Nothing called ‘Uber Alles’. And at home this week I listened to Phoebe Bridgers and the amazing Charlie Mingus album Oh Yea. 

Photography by Gavin Watson - read our feature on Gavin while you’re here too. 

Motorcycle featured: Mastiff 250cc Matt Black/Silver

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