Blog The Formative Years – Mute Records

The Formative Years – Mute Records

Posted May 12, 2021, 8:20 p.m. by T

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The Formative Years

Mute Records


It seems like aeons ago that through my parents’ record collection I was exposed to Grace Jones’ of “Warm leatherette” – a cover version of The Normal.

The Normal was Daniel Miller’s first musical endeavour before he started a record label which was to release a steady stream of genre defining releases. Mute Records’ first release, i.e. Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschafts’ single "Kebab-Träume", was an instant classic and set the tone for what was to come.

Apart from being a home for Miller’s own projects, it was as early as 1980 that the label released the first moves of trailblazing outfits like Fad Gadget and noise pioneers like Boyd Rice’s NON.

While I have yet to come across a Mute Records release that is not at least interesting and curious, Mute Records singlehandedly changed the face of the British electronic music scene with the first release of Depeche Mode. A release that kickstarted Mute Records’ rapid expansion and a relationship that lasts until this very day.

What I have always admired about Mute Records and Daniel Miller is that he never ceased to support and mine for new experimental artists, despite growing to a veritable major label with the release of Alison Moyet and Vince Clark joining forces in 1982 with Yazoo.

A year later saw Depeche Mode release “Everything counts”  and while this release catapulted Mute Records even further towards commercial success, Miller never ceased to support underground music and secured the back catalogues of acts like Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire.

The release of The Birthday Party’s final 12” in 1983 was followed by the debut single of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in the same year that Miller released an album with archive material of  Einstürzende Neubauten – bands that should cross-pollinate across releases and spawn a range of boundary pushing collaborations between bands.

A myriad of releases followed in the 1980s, of which Depeche Mode’s compilation of the band’s singles to commemorate the first five years of Mute Records is only one of many early releases that became instant classics that stand the test of time until this very day.

Mute Records continued its support of underground artists with the signing of acts like Diamanda Galas and Laibach, before Depeche Mode released the so far most successful album of the label with “Music for the Masses”.

The 1990s saw Mute Records continue their journey, cultivating the careers of its main acts while continuing to support and release underground and lesser known acts, branching out into different genres with the establishment of a myriad of sub-labels before it was acquired by EMI in 2003, with Daniel Manner remaining at the helm of the label’s endeavours.

In a bid to reinvigorate the DNA of Mute Records, Daniel Miller negotiated with EMI the re-establishment of Mute Records as an independent label in 2010, backed by EMI’s infrastructure, with the core acts siding with Miller and creating the foundation for what is still going through forty-three years after its inception.

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