Founder and owner of XL Recordings and a pioneering record producer in his own right, Richard Russell is an independent tour de force. With over 25 years of visionary work to his name, the AIM Independent Music Awards are honoured to announce him as the very worthy recipient of this year’s Pioneer Award.
A pirate radio DJ and producer of early rave, electronic and hip hop music in his teens, Russell founded the independent record label XL Recordings in 1989 in partnership with Beggars Banquet Records. XL’s first major success was The Prodigy, who became one of the three best-selling UK artists of the nineties. Since then XL has broadened into other musical genres, with Russell working alongside some of the worlds most influential and successful artists including The White Stripes, Adele, Thom Yorke, Radiohead, Dizzee Rascal, M.I.A., The xx, FKA twigs and Vampire Weekend. XL is now regarded as one of the most successful and influential independent record labels worldwide.
Alison Wenham, AIM Chair/CEO said: “I have long admired Richard as an artist whose natural abilities as a music man have extended in many directions and always brought forth music to astonish. He is at home as a composer, musician, producer, collaborator, inspirer…his confidence with music shines. He is our Pioneer for 2016’.
Born in London, Russell has always been a passionate and obsessive music fan. He spent his school holidays stacking shelves in the Island Records warehouse, while weekends were spent working in a record shop and any spare time was devoted to learning to DJ. In his own words, ‘There has never been a time I can remember when I wasn’t involved in music in an intense way’.
As XL’s reputation grew, 1992 saw Russell celebrate his own success as an artist, with UK Top 10 hit ‘The Bouncer’ as one half or rave duo Kicks Like A Mule. The pair would also share production duties on London Posse’s ‘Pass The Rizzla’ as well as remixing countless genre-defining rave anthems.
In recent years, Russell has rediscovered his love of making music. Having persuaded his hero Gil Scott-Heron to record his first new material in years, he felt obligated to put his neck on the line and produce it himself. He followed 2010’s ‘I’m New Here’ by working with Damon Albarn on Bobby Womack’s ‘The Bravest Man in the Universe’ and Albarn’s own acclaimed debut solo album ‘Everyday Robots.’ Most recently, Russell produced Ibeyi’s eponymous 2015 debut album and launched a new artist project, rLr.
Richard Russell is the sixth recipient of the Pioneer Award following previous winners and industry luminaries Digby Pearson (Earache Records), Martin Mills (The Beggars Group), Geoff Travis (Rough Trade), Daniel Miller (Mute) and Laurence Bell (Domino).