Interview: Richard Russell of XL Recordings shares details on making new ‘Everything Is Recorded’ album

2 April 2020

XL Recordings head Richard Russell, who is also a musician and producer, is the driving force behind the collaborative artist project 'Everything Is Recorded'. The highly anticipated second album, 'FRIDAY FOREVER', is set for release on April 3rd. 

Fans can expect an instinctively curated set of collaborators of all ages and backgrounds including South London's FLOHIO and James Massiah, Manchester rapper Aitch, Trinidad-born Berwyn, Ireland's Maria Somerville and Kean Kavanagh, as well as Staten Island rap god Ghostface Killah of The Wu-Tang Clan. Interestingly and true to the literal title of the album, they tell a story to explore the universality of the Friday night experience, one that starts at 9:46PM on a Friday night and finishes at 11:59AM the next morning.  

We had a quick chat with Richard to discuss his experience working with an extensive group of artists, what to expect from the new album and his personal insights into the music industry.

MTV Asia: First of all, for those who have not heard it before, how did you come up with the project title 'Everything Is Recorded' and how did you end up titling the album FRIDAY FOREVER? (We all wish every day was Friday!)

The artist name Everything Is Recorded has many meanings. One of them refers to the review of life associated to near-death experiences. Also to how the music is captured, and how I have worked with artists, always keeping the microphone on. 

The title "Friday Forever" is intended to evoke special memories of Friday nights, particularly the anticipation. 

It's very interesting to see all the tracks are titled with specific timings. What is it that those timings symbolise or represent?

We wrote the songs based around times of the night when events might occur. You can write songs based on anything – a painting, a flower, a feeling – so this was an unusual approach. 

Like the previous album in 2018, there's a stellar lineup of collaborators this time too. How do you choose your collaborators when it comes to putting together the album? And any particularly interesting story you can share from working with them? 

I use my instincts and my feelings, rather than thinking or analysing, and find people who I feel a strong personal connection with. 

Penny Rimbaud from Crass is a very inspirational figure to me. I contacted him towards the end of making the album and he asked to hear all the music I had made and to read all the lyrics, and he liked what we were doing, so he came to my studio and participated. I was thrilled. 

The album cover looks also very interesting with numerous hands and the time code that cannot really be read. Any story behind it?

The fine artist Toby Ziegler went round a famous museum in Paris with his headphones on listening to the album, and took photos that evoked feelings that connected to the music! So the cover is a sample! Then he added the timecode.

What are the key messages you hope fans can take away from the FRIDAY FOREVER album and your music in general?

This album is about anticipation and aftermath. The peak moment is fleeting.

Can you tell us how it all began for you stepping into the music industry, and being one of the important pioneers shaping the music industry for decades?

Well, I have written a book called "Liberation Through Hearing" and I tell the whole story! I hope aspiring musicians and record industry people might find something useful in there.

When it comes to helming XL Recordings and seeing its success as a record label today, what's one story or experience that stood out for you throughout all these years? 

To work with both Gil Scott-Heron and Bobby Womack on what turned out to be their final albums is tinged with sadness, but these were still great experiences of my lifetime, and I am very grateful to them both for the things I learned.

This will be a tough one, but if you had to name just one person as your ultimate musical inspiration / icon / legend, who would it be and why?

There are so many! Lee "Scratch" Perry is a very special person. As a producer his daring, experimental approach to studio work is still so inspirational, also his humour, and his otherness. 

How do you envision the music entertainment industry in the next 5–10 years? 

I don't think like that. I try and be in the moment and facilitate creativity. There will be great work made, just like there always has been, always will. 

Finally, with the current COVID-19 situation affecting the music industry, many artists are coping by using online platforms and livestreams to stay connected with their fans. As an industry expert, what advice do you have for these musicians – especially small indie artists who are striving to remain close to their fans while keeping their income during this difficult time? 

It's a very challenging moment, everyone needs to work hard to maintain their positive outlook, and to do everything possible to help another person out. Creativity and resourcefulness is key. The rebuilding work will be long and arduous. Hopefully we will be able to contribute positively.

'FRIDAY FOREVER' by Everything Is Recorded releases Friday, April 3rd on XL Recordings. Check out the latest single 11:55AM /THIS WORLD:


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