Welcome!

Login

Subscribe

Laurence Bell hails 'inspirational music freak' Daniel Miller

Tim Ingham
Laurence Bell hails 'inspirational music freak' Daniel Miller

Domino founder Laurence Bell has spoken at length of his respect for Mute Records founder Daniel Miller, calling his "music freak" friend an inspiration to the independent sector.

Bell gave a heartfelt speech at the AIM Awards in London on Monday night, where he handed Miller the Pioneer Award for 2012.

"Not that many people he will know of the sacrifices that Mute Records made though the years to ensure the well being of that independent eco-system," the Domino man told the crowd.

"Despite losing millions in the collapse of Rough Trade Distribution in the early 90s, Daniel and Mute resisted the financial pressures and comfort of having their debts wiped out by taking up the offers of the major labels, who were keen to exploit the situation and lure the cream of the independent sector into the major distribution system at the time."

Bell won the Pioneer gong himself at the inaugural AIM Awards last year. You can read his speech from Monday in full below:

Thirty four years ago Daniel Miller walked into the old Rough Trade shop on Kensington Park Road with a 7 inch single that he'd made himself, looking for a way to get it distributed around the country. A music freak especially inspired by the progressive and emerging electronic sounds coming out of Germany and other spots around the world, and empowered by the DIY spirit of punk rock and the first wave of post punk independent releases, his first release as The Normal, TVOD/Warm Leatherette, still reverberates today as a seminal work of pop art. The keyboard as a punk rock weapon to rival and even eclipse the guitar. What about that?

Daniel was an artist first and a producer too: useful skills to have as you start a label. Not essential by any means, but very handy. In 1980 he discovered a little band called Depeche Mode in an East London pub back when East London wasn’t somewhere anyone in their right mind would choose to live.

He helped produce their records as well as guiding them to unprecedented success, both at home and abroad. His fiercely international outlook and pro European stance helped them become one of the great success stories of the independent world as well as one of the most influential bands of modern times. More amazing  records followed in the slipstream of Depeche , both commercially successful and groundbreakingly brilliant, from the likes of Yazoo and Erasure. Mute Records was modern and forward thinking, but it wasn't scared to be pop too.

Mute also nurtured the career of a young Nick Cave when his band The Birthday Party broke up, Nick Cave has gone on to make 15-odd consistently fascinating audacious and brilliant albums under Daniel's guidance, another quintessential and extraordinary independent career.  Simultaneously he invested in and loyally supported the careers of many noted artists of distinction, despite their lack of obvious success, and no doubt a lack of commercial return.  Artists such as Fad Gadget, DAF, Einsturzende Neubauten, Crime and The City Solution benefited from having Daniel as a loyal patron. That’s a sure sign of the independent spirit, ladies and gentlemen.

Mute also invested in and gave a big leg up to some other Groundbreaking labels. They embraced the UK dance revolution in the late eighties with Rhythm King records, enjoying great success with Bomb The Bass and S’Express amongst others.  They in turn helped the early works of another electronic pioneer Warp Records find their way into the business at the beginning Another great venture was the heroic Blast First label, which first brought the likes of Sonic Youth Big Black and Dinosaur Junior and many others to the attention of British kids who were hungry for new sounds from the guitar. Not to mention their own Nova Mute label, delivering some all time classic techno to the people.

It's hard now but it's certainly never been easy to be independent. Daniel and Mute's belief in the importance of Britain having an independent distribution infrastructure has always been central to the company’s thinking. That great outsider music can only flourish if it can find a way in and so that it can be heard. Independent distribution networks that supported and continue to support small labels making original new music are essential to the ongoing health of our culture. Great new music needs an outlet so it can reach the people, and it needed it very badly in the years before the internet.

Not that many people he will know of the sacrifices that Mute Records made though the years to ensure the well being of that independent eco system. Despite losing millions in the collapse of Rough Trade Distribution in the early 90s, Daniel and Mute resisted the financial pressures and comfort of having their debts wiped out by taking up the offers of the major labels, who were keen to exploit the situation and lure the cream of the independent sector into the major distribution system at the time. Mute together with Beggars Banquet, and the KLF, said ‘NO!’, and they formed a new distribution company called RTM, who would be there to distribute the next generation of oddbods and music nuts who needed someone to sell their seven and twelve inch singles. RTM morphed into Vital which morphed into PIAS, who still do that stuff so well, together with the other fantastic indie distributors. That's what I call a commitment to the cause!

Mute went on to sign and develop an ostensibly weird young artist called Moby for a few years of commercial indifference before he came up with one of the biggest selling records of it's time. That is what I call inspirational!

I don’t think anyone in this town could begrudge him when he chose to sell Mute to EMI twelve years ago. Since that deal went down Mute has enjoyed more commercial and artistic success in the mainstream with the likes of Goldfrapp and Richard Hawley, as well as building new distribution avenues that Allow him to continue to release more progressive music on his own terms. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he bought the whole thing back one day, such is his love of doing things his own way, the independent way. Mute has always been hugely ambitious and fiercely experimental, which is an awesome combination for a label.

I am proud to call Daniel a pal of mine these days. He is a real gentleman, down to earth and modest and with a great sense of humour. He cares a lot, about his artists and the continuing evolution and health of the independent music sector. We share an office in Berlin, where he is something of a folk hero on the electronic music scene there. He still DJs, both in cutting edge clubs and on the radio out there, still hungry for the newest moves and shapes in electronic music. On a good day I like to think I'm a bit cutting edge but frankly, he makes me feel like a retro fool!

Advertisement

Tags: Daniel Miller, Mute, Domino, Laurence Bell, Mute Records

Not a subscriber?

 Sign up today, registration is easy!