Trevor Horn answered several fan questions regarding projects he has worked on, one of them being about t.A.T.u.
t.A.T.u. – They were nice girls. We got on really well. They both could play the piano quite brilliantly.
You produced two of the best pop singles of the 2000s in t.A.T.u.’s All the Things She Said and Not Gonna Get Us – how did you end up getting involved with the group and how did you find working with Yulia and Lena?
I went to see Jimmy Iovine in America to see if there was anybody that needed a producer. After the meeting, the head of marketing called me into a side room and played me Not Gonna Get Us, the Russian version, and All the Things She Said (the Russian version). He said they wanted to see if they could cross it over. He asked me if I’d remake two tracks for them. I was intrigued by the idea but they obviously tried a couple of people after that, before me. A couple of DJs remixing them, but it didn’t work. I don’t think they had much money. Interestingly enough, I thought when they offered it to me, I thought I was gonna get the multitrack from the Russian version but they wouldn’t give it to me, so I had to completely remake the record. Writing the lyric for that song was one of the most difficult things I ever had to do. It took me a long time to figure it out. I had a translation of the Russian lyric, and it was like, “yes I’m mad! I am on fire for her!” I didn’t have a clue. And I also knew they couldn’t sing English very well. So I tried to write the lyric as if it was a translation of something. “I’m in serious shit, I feel totally lost” – and it worked! Not immediately – we spent two weeks working on their voices on that track. And there was no budget so I had to play all the instruments myself. My late wife said, you had all these bloody guitars, time to put them to use! I ended up quite enjoying it really. Sometimes records come out well, sometimes they don’t, but that one did. There was one point where we gave up for a day – we thought, we’ve blown it. I remember having a day off then going back to the Russian version and thinking, I’ve made a mistake somewhere. I found the way that the Russian version repeated certain words was really clever, so I changed mine the same way – “running through my head, running through my head”. By then, the girls had gone back to Russia. But luckily we got the first access to some software that allowed us to change the pitch of their voices.
Not Gonna Get Us – I had to write the Russian lyrics out phonetically. It’s difficult, man, it really is tricky. I have to be honest, when I finished it, a guy said to me, what do you think? And I said, if you listen past the first chorus, it’s a really good record. I was being my normal doom-laden self. I forgot about it then got a call and said it’s No 1. Then we sold 7, 8m albums really fast.
They were nice girls. We got on really well. They both could play the piano quite brilliantly. It made me think in a lot of ways, the Russians have a lot of culture that we don’t have. The Russian guy was awful, I didn’t like the manager. He said, “I’ve got two girls, trying to get them to sing in English” – that’s not a situation where you’re going to start being rough with people, but he would say to me, “you’re too kind, you’re too gentle”. I was like, if you think you can do better… You’d do an hour, have a break, do another hour – he said, “you need to push!” I said, “go ahead if you want”. He went in, within five minutes, both of them were crying. So I kicked him out. There’s no shortcut, you can’t bully people. So I didn’t like him. But I liked the girls. They were both bumming cigarettes off me. They were 18, the manager didn’t want them to be seen smoking. They were my daughters’ age. Nice girls.
The lesbian thing, they told me, we’re not really “career lesbians”. But it wasn’t of any interest to me. I wrote the lyric of the song, the whole thing about “all the things she said”, the original Russian one, was about two girls that had a crush on each other and didn’t know whether they wanted to act on it. So I wrote it like that. That’s what it was about.
I tell you what was amazing, was when Russia hosted Eurovision – they played an acoustic version of Not Gonna Get Us singing in English lyrics. That was amazing, fuck me. This is their thing and they’re singing my words.