Interview by Kate Williams
Label head Simon Halliday gives us a rundown of the seminal indie label's biggest moments.
Most of our customers have always been able to download whatever music they want from the internet, so tell them about the beginnings of 4AD!
4AD started in 1980 by Ivo Watts-Russell and Peter Kent who were employees of a Beggars Banquet shop in London at the time. Kent soon left but Watts-Russell personally lead the label, picked all of the music, and employed Vaughan Oliver to do all the art and design for the label, which became iconic during the '80s and '90s.
Who were some of the most important/iconic acts signed to 4AD in:
Cocteau Twins, The Mortal Coil, Dead Can Dance, Bauhaus, Pixies, Throwing Muses, MARRS
Pixies, The Breeders, Red House Painters, Belly
TV On The Radio, Blonde Redhead, Scott Walker, Beirut
Ariel Pink, Deerhunter, Atlas Sound, The National, St. Vincent, Grimes, Purity Ring, SpaceGhostPurrp, tUnE-yArDs, Bon Iver
What is your background in the music industry and what made you want to come to 4AD?
I've worked in music for over 20 years. I started as a club promoter but have done many jobs including distribution, radio plugging, and marketing. I was the managing director of Warp USA for several years and I was based in NYC. I moved from Warp to 4AD because I felt that it was a bigger challenge.
What have been the most exciting moments for you personally since you have been at the label?
Just generally developing the roster and seeing so many of the staff and artists flourishing is constantly exciting. I always think that the most exciting moment has yet to happen.
4AD has and has always had such a diverse roster of artists. How do you manage to be home to such differing acts as Spaceghostpurrp, Zomby, Bon Iver and St. Vincent?
Hopefully the artists trust us to have good taste in music and that most people have taste beyond one genre. The staff and I at the label have a diverse taste in music and the roster reflects our personal taste.
Is there a defining 4AD sound?
Not really. Maybe in the first few years there was a definite 4AD sound, but I think the arrival of the Pixies put a stop to that. Though people do sometimes say, "Oh, Purity Ring sounds so 4AD." So maybe there is "sound" that does still resonate with people.
Give us a piece of just general life advice that is culled from your time spent working in the music industry.
Don't do it for the money (which it won't be in the initial 5-10 years). Love what you do, even if you are moaning about day to day set backs.