Do you ever think about the fact that Adele is part of the roster at XL Recordings? It’s kind of fascinating! Here, we have this massively successful down-the-middle diva balladeer who might well be the single most commercially successful recording artist of this century. And her label is a small cool-hunter imprint that got its start as a dance label. It’s like if Céline Dion, at her late-’90s peak, had been on Astralwerks.
The whole history of XL Recordings is pretty fascinating, and it’s a testament to the taste and zeitgeist-y instincts of its founder Richard Russell. XL started off in the early-’90s rave era, and its first big early act was the Prodigy. As XL grew, so did its scope. Later on, the label put out big, important records from Dizzee Rascal, the Streets, M.I.A., Radiohead, Dizzee Rascal, Jack White, and Tyler, The Creator. Richard Russell has been making music this whole time, too. He started off as part of the rave group Kicks Like A Mule, went on to producer late-in-life albums from Gil Scott-Heron and Bobby Womack, and now makes music under the name Everything Is Recorded.
Russell is going to tell the story of all of this in his new memoir. It’s called Liberation Through Hearing, and it’s being published this spring, 4/2, though the new Faber imprint White Rabbit. In a press release, Russell says, “Writing this book was an opportunity for me to reflect on the last few decades. I hope people will get something from it. I’ve tried not to compromise in anything I’ve done, and that includes writing Liberation Through Hearing.”