A merry room stuffed with independent music leaders fell silent last night as XL Recordings founder Richard Russell collected the Pioneer Award at the AIM Awards in London. It was an apt trophy for a man whose label has consistently proven itself as a trailblazer for the independent sector – both creatively and in the mainstream arena.
From Dizzee Rascal to Adele, The White Stripes, Basement Jaxx, The Prodigy, Jack White, Badly Drawn Boy, Vampire Weekend, Radiohead, MIA, The xx and many more besides, XL has changed the cultural landscape of the music world time and time again. As a sideline to his A&R work at the label, Richard has become a renowned producer and musician, recently working with some of his heroes – including Gil Scott-Heron and Bobby Womack – on acclaimed XL albums. Richard collaborated on Bobby Womack’s The Bravest Man In The Universe (2012) with Damon Albarn, who introduced his friend on stage at London’s The Brewery yesterday evening.
Richard then took to the stage, using the opportunity to pay tribute to many of those who have inspired him throughout his career.
But the best bit when Richard spoke about some very wise advice from Albarn.
I loved every minute of it, it was amazing – playing with Damon and Bobby, we had a great time. Then we went to play Later… with Jools. We got there and looked around and there were lots of heads of major record companies, who were there to watch their artists performing. Damon could tell something was a bit off. He said “Are you alright?” And I said: “I’m feeling a bit self-conscious about the performance.” And Damon said: “You’re thinking about what other people think of you – I can solve that for you. Those people you’re worrying about, they all think you’re a c*nt. After this performance, they’ll either think you’re a bit less of a c*nt, or a bit more of a c*nt. But I can guarantee you, not nearly as many people think you’re a c*nt as think I’m a c*nt.”