Perhaps slightly less heralded in these fashionably labelled times, One Little Indian is a record label with a fine history and a degree of longevity rarely seen anywhere in independent circles.
Formed from the ashes of anarcho-punk label Spider Leg, OLI is most noted for its work with Björk and The Sugarcubes, the label has a fine fettled history with the likes of Rocket From The Crypt, Hot Snakes and, most recently, Asobi Seksu. It's a label that's short of any annoying trend-grabbing releases or obvious market cash-ins. Therefore, it's worthy of a stylish salute through the next in our ongoing series of label profiles.
Gareth Dobson poses the searching questions to label founder Derek Birkett.
What led you - alongside Sue Birkett and Tim Kelly - to set up OLI? It's been quite an interesting leap from anarcho-punk - your band Flux Of Pink Indians - to a well-run 'proper' label…?
That (Spider Leg, which released records by The Epileptics, Subhumans and Flux Of Pink Indians) was a very political label. When that finished I decided to start another label one that was all about sharing our anarchistic vision with people including musicians we enjoyed or admired
Who runs the show now?
The bands. It’s relatively easy for us. We sign bands and they have complete artistic control. If you give bands control, they are the ones that are the arbiters.
When you look at people that are successful, once you have enough money to buy food and pay rent you realise that being able to do what you want is more important than anything else.
Outwardly, people may perceive OLI as a label founded on and subsequently successful due to The Sugarcubes and Björk – what else are you particularly proud of?
I owe a lot to The Sugarcubes and Björk. Without both The Sugarcubes’ and Björk’s continued support One Little Indian would be a very different label. I have worked with Björk for over 20 years and during that time she has given me emotional support and, on occasion, financial support. She has been an angel guarding my back.
There is no direct correlation between commercial success, creative success, or how proud I am of an artist or release - I am proud to be associated with all our artists and their releases from the early signings such as AR Kane to our latest, Asobi Seksu.
Two of DiS's favourite bands in your back catalogue are Rocket From The Crypt and Twilight Singers. What is it about rather threatening-looking American men that makes their music so grand?
It is entirely to do with the artists’ passion and honesty rather than their gender or race.
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Following on from RFTC, we still mourn the demise of Hot Snakes… do you occasionally wake up and night weeping also?
Yes, Although we do continue to work with John Reis (from RFTC/Hot Snakes) and with the artist Dan Sartain, who we signed via John’s label Swami.
History will judge us all. As a result, anything OLI would retrospectively like to hide from the annals?
What's your favourite all-time OLI release?
It changes depending on my mood and the weather. Today it is sunny!
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You work with a lot of overseas acts – especially from the States and Scandinavia. Is finding UK talent harder? Or are the financial implications greater?
There is no difference when you work with artists for the world: everyone lives at home and has to travel to other countries to do promotion and touring.
Has OLI had to adjust itself in the light of these strange and tough times for record labels? How does a reputed and historically important indie like yourself survive the choppy waters?
Great bands make great labels. It has always been like this - once the labels think it is more about them than the artists, labels fall apart and have to rebuild. We constantly have to adapt to stay ahead of the game in order to keep our heads above water.
Is there any comradery with other labels? Like, for example 4AD? Or do you plough your own furrow..?
We admire any independent label that is working and supporting artists – 4AD, Beggars, Rough Trade and Mute have been inspirations to us. When we started out it was all very easy to learn. We had come out of the punk era and there were established labels that were very supportive and helped us out. There was like a resource of information. You would say what you wanted to do and they would put you in contact with the right people. Such community spirit still exists to this day. People come to us for advice and we go to people asking for advice,
What do you want to the OLI epitaph to be?
Hopefully we will not be needing one.
Free One Little Indian Sampler For DiS Readers!
OLI has pressed up some great samplers to showcase the latest and best artists that the label has to offer. All you have to do is click on the link below for full details of how to get hold of one.
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