IVO WATTS-RUSSELL continued...
Mouth By Mouth was stitched together into a single His Name Is Alive album by choosing the best of two projects Warren Defever was working on at the time: a new His Name Is Alive album plus an album by The Dirt Eaters. Did you consider releasing a full album by The Dirt Eaters on 4AD?

I'm pretty sure that I, after having been sent tapes of both HNIA and Dirt Eaters, asked if we might be able to, again, cherry pick. I don't think I understood, at the time, that the Dirt Eaters was really supposed to have been a separate band/project.

Were you presented with all the songs at once that would ultimately become the second and third Red House Painters albums in 1993? Did you choose the tracks for each album from the large pool of songs?

Some of the songs (Mother, Funhouse, Evil, Uncle Joe) I'd heard before we released Down Colourful Hill. You could say that the "Bridge" record was primarily out-takes from those sessions. Pretty amazing "leftovers" wouldn't you say? As I said before, I think Mark and I worked easily and successfully choosing what should go where on the first 3 records.

What was The 13 Year Itch 4AD festival at the ICA in London like? It must have unquestionably validated everything you worked for over the years...

It was a huge amount of fun. I'd always wanted to do something like that at the ICA. I guess the time was right. Also, Cliff (Walton?) had recently started at the company and was struggling to find his niche. He got this project dropped in his lap and did a fantastic job of coordinating the week. I can't be credited with doing anything other than suggesting we do it and then, giving it a name. It was like a little holiday for me. The ICA is very small and the tickets for the week sold out before anyone knew exactly what the line up was going to be each night. As most of you will have heard, the Brendan Perry debut was simply amazing.

Who chose the track lists for the compilations sold at The 13 Year Itch festival, both the CD and the video cassette? It definitely is a classic 4AD compilation, one that, like Liliput, also fetches grand sums on eBay...

I think Chris Staley did all that.

During The 13 Year Itch a new v23 poster pack debuted as well. What were your favorite covers designs during the 90s?

Tricky. I love Blow, Inconsiderate Bitch, all 3 Heidi Bs, all 3 RHPs. The whole campaign around the second Gus Gus record.

Was it you or the band that chose the track list for Belly’s Japanese B-side compilation CD Baby Silvertooth?

It wasn't me.

What did you think of these so-called non-canonical 4AD band compilations from Japan? Do you consider them bona fide 4AD releases?

Bona fide Japanese 4AD releases.

What exactly did Duran Duran’s Simon Le Bon have to do with Unrest’s Perfect Teeth album?

Not a damned thing.

Your This Mortal Coil box set 1983-1991 was a welcome addition to the release schedule. The title is misleading though as the early singles were not included and a bonus disc consisted of original versions that This Mortal Coil covered. What would your idea This Mortal Coil box set consist of if you could release another one today?

Japanese paper sleeve's of everything that TMC released. It'll happen, one way or another.

Had you wanted to include all the original versions but couldn’t due to either space limitations or rights issues?

Exactly. I knew we'd never get Van Morrison clearance, for instance, and there's a limited amount that one can fit on a single CD. I like that box set very much, particularly because people can hear the originals, the real versions.

You dedicated 1983-1991 to His Name Is Alive’s Warren Defever – why was this?

I don't know. I guess I just wanted to acknowledge how brilliant I think he is.

Was the success of The 13 Year Itch festival in London what prompted a US version of a 4AD festival in Los Angeles?

It had been a lot of fun and we were all keen to experience that kind of unity again. The fact that Vaughan's exhibition at the Pacific Design Centre could be tied in made it all the more exciting and significant.

What did you learn from The 13 Year Itch that you transferred over to All Virgos Are Mad, the name of your Los Angeles 4AD festival?

Not to smoke spliffs in public. Not to put subliminal messages on t-shirts.

Where did the festival’s name, All Virgos Are Mad, originate from?

Vaughan and I are both Virgos and I was as close to insane as I hope I ever get at that point in time.

The Wolfgang Press ended up playing with Tom Jones at All Virgos Are Mad and also writing several songs for Jones’ 1994 album The Lead And How To Swing It (along with playing on that album as well). Did you ever dream in 1980 that a 4AD band would be playing live and recording with Tom Jones?

Lord no. I can't say that I was remotely impressed but I guess it was worth it just to see the look of bewilderment on Michael's face that night.

Describe how you first heard of Lisa Germano and how she moved from a major label deal at Capitol to find a home at 4AD...

I had really enjoyed the instrumental tracks on her Moon Palace record. I saw her performing in L.A. at the Troubadour, or Whiskey, at some awful song writers round table kind of thing. Luckily she played a few songs too. I met Tim Devine, from Capitol, there and he gave me a tape of what was due to be her first record for Capitol, Happiness. I think the original idea was for us to maybe put it out in the UK (remember the that dog concept of building a buzz?) first. I asked if I could do some remixing and got the OK from Lisa. I guess we got on well and both Lisa and Capitol, ultimately seemed to be happy for us to take the record on in full. I think Capitol didn't really get her. I hope that we did. What a privilege.

What was your and John Fryer’s goal when it came to remixing and resequencing Lisa Germano’s 1994 album Happiness, which had already come out in a different version via Capitol in 1993?

OOPS. Ignore what I said above. You're right. I'd forgotten it actually was put out in that original form at all. I thought the original mixes sounded a bit, well, major label-ish. It was a huge amount of fun doing those mixes but not everything needed to be remixed or would have benefitted from the Fryer/W-R approach. I love what we did, especially Sycophant. I think Lisa, ultimately, chose what she wanted for the 4AD version of Happiness.

Lisa Germano’s first full album for 4AD was 1994’s Geek The Girl. Were you prepared for such a dark, confessional album? What were your thoughts on it when you first heard it?

I'm always ready for dark and confessional! I think the recordings were, maybe, supposed to be demos but both Robin Hurley and I loved them and suggested putting them out as is. Fabulous record.

Although you had already released a live concert by Kristin Hersh as part of a deluxe edition of Red Heaven by Throwing Muses, what did you expect when you first heard her first proper solo album Hips And Makers?

I loved it to bits. Still is my favourite thing she's ever done and in my top 10 4AD records. Much as I love Michael Stipe, I prefer the demo of Your Ghost. Hence its inclusion on 13 Year Itch.

Where did the idea come from to re-record some songs from Kristin Hersh’s Hips And Makers in strings versions? Which versions do you prefer, the originals or the new versions with strings?

I think that might have been something that Kristin's manager/hub Billy O'Connell and Chris Staley came up with. Proved to be the start of a long friendship, association, between KH and Martin McCarrick. I like the originals better, personally.

How did you first discover The Glee Club?

I really enjoyed their interpretation of Voice from The Mountain on the Brittle Days, Nick Drake tribute record. They were called The Swinging Swine at the time. I'm not sure how I contacted them, probably through Keith at Setanta. I loved Joanne's voice, in particular.

The Glee Club were already on UK label Setanta. Was the US release on 4AD, plus the beautiful v23 sleeve art, a way of ensuring Setanta’s Keith Cullen had the best possible showcase for the band’s album Mine in the US?

I'm a bit blurry about all this. I think, frankly, that I was a little disappointed by the way the record turned out but Robin thought it would be a good idea to release it on 4AD in the US. So, Setanta put it out everywhere but the US. I really should listen to it again because I do know those that love it.

Was it more than a simple licensing deal? 4AD actually partly financed the recording of Mine, right?

I think we paid for the recording but gave it to Setanta. I could be mistaken.

With Ian Masters leaving Pale Saints, you were faced with the option of releasing his collaboration with His Name Is Alive’s Warren Defever, the ESP Summer self-titled album – why did you choose ultimately not to release it?

Same thing. I didn't really love it.

Despite one song finding a slot on the All Virgos Are Mad festival compilation CD, you also opted not to release the Warren Defever produced album by Dara called New Grape. Was this and ESP Summer an example of the pressure exerted by your US distribution partner Warner Bros.?

I don't recall hearing New Grape. Maybe I didn't like it either. I remember, at All Virgos.., apologising to Kristin for not having listened to whatever demos she had recently recorded. She told me not to worry, she understood. "Besides", she said, "I can't listen to anything at the moment unless it's perfect." I think I was going through a similar phase. That lasted for years!

Did you feel curtailed in what you could and could not release because of this deal?

I felt pressured to find stuff that would "make sense" being put through that system. We all really did want the WB arrangement to work out and, as I mentioned, the deal was structured to allow us to carry on doing one offs as well as long term, more committed signings. I think I was having difficulty in finding new music, artists, that I could imagine working with for years.

Did you consider UK-only releases for ESP Summer and New Grape at one point?

Even less likely if I wasn't in love with them. It was always the UK that was the "real" 4AD to me, contrary to the beliefs of a few back at Alma Rd. at the time.

Funky Little Demons was the most radio-friendly album yet from The Wolfgang Press. The band seemed primed for greater success, building upon 1991’s Queer album. What were you expecting from the Funky Little Demons album?

Everyone had high hopes. Girl Like You got quite a lot of airplay, especially in Los Angeles, and I think we were all a bit disappointed when WB didn't push it (spend lots of money) to the next level.

Is the song 11 Years by The Wolfgang Press about you and 4AD? How do you feel about its sentiments?

I'm not sure that song is about any one person. I know that Mark Cox took it very personally. It's probably, in part, about me/4AD, and others in Mick's life at the time, and, possibly, about Michael himself. I envy his ability to get the anger out rather than leave it festering and unsung.

1995 was a year that saw 4AD speed forward, releasing such classics as University by Throwing Muses and the second Belly album King. How were you feeling at this point of 4AD’s history?

Mighty confused, sunshine.

I've often likened my role in making TMC records to that of a movie director. Taking that analogy one step further: the first couple of years of 4AD were definitely low budget, hand held affairs.

I think everyone understands, these days, the concept of "independent" when applied to a movie. They also understand some of the pitfalls, in terms of commercial expectations, of then making the move to bigger budgets and Hollywood studios. Some directors are really not cut out for that environment. I was not well suited to that environment either.

Were you living in Los Angeles still at this point? What were your typical responsibilities at 4AD during this period – certainly you had full approval over new signings suggested by your UK and US staff?

I was living full time in Los Angeles. I didn't go into the office much. The short version would be to say that the "black dog", that I've struggled with all of my life, took over for a few years.

I really can't remember when Lewis started doing A&R but Colin Wallace, definitely, was doing what I always called "negative" A&R by this point. Colin had kind of come along as a package deal with Cocteau Twins when they moved down to London from Scotland. He ended up helping out a lot of the bands, driving and so forth on tour. After a while I hired him to work in the warehouse at 4AD. When I first started spending more time in the US, Colin became the person to vet the demos that we received. In a lot of ways he became my assistant. He was also really good at making sure I got copies of whatever good music was coming out in the U.K. Helping me keep in touch. For the longest time I didn't enjoy anything that he was sending over for consideration to be signed to 4AD (hence the "negative A&R " phrase). After a while it became clear, both for the sake of his morale and because we needed to fulfill WB contractual obligations, I really needed to let him sign something (I guess the last music I had signed was Mojave 3). Scheer was that signing.

When did you decide to move to New Mexico?

I got hooked the first time I went there, in 1994 but didn't think about living there until I was in a position to do so, several years later.

How did you go about signing Kendra Smith to 4AD? Was she someone you had been interested in joining the label for some time?

Robin Hurley had worked with her when he was at Rough Trade putting out the wonderful Opal Early Recordings record. By now, Kendra was living, off the grid, in a cabin in Northern California. I'm not sure if she contacted Robin in L.A. or if Robin tracked her down himself. We both had enjoyed her recently issued Guild Of Temporal Adventurers mini album enormously and decided to ask her if she had more material that she might consider recording for 4AD.

I seem to recall plans for a 4AD 10” series which would include various bands like Lisa Germano and Liquorice around the time of 1995/1996. Was Germano’s contribution with Howe Gelb, Joey Burns and John Convertino, which later evolved into the Slush album by OP8 intended for this 10” release?

I think I suggested a bunch of different songs that people, signed to the label, might record for one side of a 10" each. I guess they were supposed to come up with an original song for the other side. Yet again, I didn't really care for the first couple that were recorded. One of them probably was that OP8 version of Round and Round. Maybe that's where Heidi's version of Dagger, produced by Brendan, came from as well. I think Lush and Pale Saints also recorded songs. I'm not sure.

Why didn’t you decide to release Slush by OP8 on 4AD?

Wasn't my cup of tea, really.

What about Liquorice – were they slotted for a 10' then ultimately offered a full album?

I'd got in touch with Jenny Toomey because I really enjoyed her voice on a Tsunami record. I think, gradually, over a period of time we started talking about her making a record. I don't think they were supposed to do a 10".

Whatever became of this 10” series?

Never happened.

Like Gentle Creatures by Tarnation, you paired Jenny Toomey’s Liquorice project in the studio with Warren Defever. Would it be fair to say Robin Guthrie, Martyn Young and Defever were practically like unofficial 4AD “house” producers, alongside John Fryer?

They were all people whose approach to sound was of interest and could be trusted to bring something of value to most projects.

How did you discover Tarnation? Were you a fan of their pre-4AD album I’ll Give You Something To Cry About?

Bev Chin, from the L.A. office, introduced me to them. I liked quite a lot of their own release. Game Of Broken Hearts, a 4 track home demo, simply couldn't be improved upon. I suggested that Warren remix (re-record, in some cases) a lot of what they had recorded to give it a bit of depth or mystery. I don't think Paula much liked his treatments so Gentle Creatures was compiled from old and new recordings.

In 1999 you appended a Gentle Creatures reissue CD with five additional songs from I’ll Give You Something To Cry About as a bonus – were you involved with choosing those extra tracks?


Why was Tarnation’s second album Mirador released by Reprise in the US? How was the band’s arrangement with 4AD set up – so you could establish them with Gentle Creatures in 1995 then allow to Reprise to build upon the success by taking them forward?

I didn't enjoy the direction they were going in very much and hadn't really developed much of a relationship with Paula, so really didn't feel we were the best label for Tarnation. Was it not on 4AD in the US? I'm pretty sure we released it in a few European territories including the UK. I really love her voice and remember playing her a few songs with a view to, maybe, doing some recording, pre The Hope Blister. She didn't seem interested.

Is it true you first heard of the former Slowdive member’s new project Mojave 3 from a demo given to you by Sheri Hood (an early staffer from your New York office)?

Yes, indeed. Sheri, when she left 4AD, had started to manage a few people (Stereolab, UVS, Cranes and Slowdive). If anyone knows where she is, I'd love to get in contact with her.

How much of Mojave 3’s first album Ask Me Tomorrow consisted of those original demos?

I think most of the record, in a remixed form. Such a gorgeous record. I'd had the demos lying around for quite some time without listening to them. As soon as I did I was totally smitten.

At what point and why did Mojave 3 adopt the “3” in their name?

As soon as they found out there was already an American band called Mojave. Like The English Beat, Charlatans UK, Yazz etc. before them.

When Unrest dissolved, you must have been excited over hearing the first recordings by Air Miami. You took an active role with the band.

I think I might have helped them compile the record but that was about it. I love that record. I might have, bizarrely, insisted that their EP be named Fuck You Tiger.

Were you hoping for something like Last Splash when Kim Deal delivered its follow up or were you not surprised that she delivered an intentionally scaled back album in the form of Pacer by her new moniker The Amps?

With Kim's recording methods at the time it was clear that the record wouldn't sound like Last Splash. She deserved to make whatever kind of record she felt like making but I do feel guilty that someone, myself perhaps, didn't recognise that she was struggling and spending an absurd amount of money on a record that sounded like it had been recorded in a week. I really like it, but it cost a small fortune to make.

What were your impressions of Lisa Gerrard’s debut solo album? What do you make of Gerrard’s prolific solo work, including many film soundtrack when compared to the slower, more relaxed pace of Brendan Perry?

I adore The Mirror Pool. It's my favourite of her solo work. It, now seems, inevitable that THAT voice would attract people from the movie business. It gets a bit annoying, these days, when anything (movie, commercial, documentary) with a slight Middle Eastern slant now includes a Lisa Gerrard clone, don't you agree? Brendan has always been a perfectionist.

It’s a testament to you and 4AD that you never rushed bands into the studio until they were ready, affording someone like Perry the opportunity to release his debut solo album Eye Of The Hunter in 1999, when he was ready for it. Do you think other labels would have been as patient?

You have to let people go at their own pace particularly if you're in no fit shape to help yourself. I don't know about other labels.

The end of 1995 marked a special Temporary Release in the form of an EP by Kristin Hersh, The Holy Single. It also marked the beginning of Hersh’s gradual departure from 4AD (The Holy Single was issued in the US by Rykodisc). How did you feel about this change?

She carried on working with 4AD in the UK long after I left.

Was it the success of 1993’s 13 Year Itch and 1994’s All Virgos Are Mad 4AD festivals that inspired the 1996 Shaving The Pavement tour, which combined Lush, Mojave 3 and new signings scheer on a package tour across the US and Canada?

It was a budgetary issue more than anything. I guess all of the bands had records out so they were all keen to tour. Musically a bit of a stretch but the point was the commonality of 4AD which, by now, was also, perhaps a bit of a stretch. I think nearly everyone enjoyed themselves.

What were your thoughts on how that tour went?

It earned the nickname, at the time, of shagging the pavement.

Lush had their biggest breakthrough yet in 1996 with their Lovelife album. Its singles (Single Girl, Ladykillers and 500) – plus the duet with Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker, Ciao!, propelled the band to new heights. How do you feel when you look back at this highpoint when reflecting in the tragedy of the loss of Chris Acland?

It's a good reminder that things aren't always what they appear to be. If it hadn't been for Chris I would never have met my wife. A beautiful man.

What did you think of new signing scheer and their 4AD debut album Infliction?

I remember feeling a bit guilty driving around L.A. listening to it really loud! I hadn't listened to anything that rocky since I was a teenager. I really wanted to give Colin the opportunity to sign something and scheer were what he chose.

Why did 4AD choose not to release the follow up album to Infliction by scheer, the 1998 album …and finally (which eventually saw release when the band licensed it back from 4AD to release on their own label, Schism, in 2000)?

No one, apart from Colin, really liked that record. It would have been silly to put it out, and dishonest. The acoustic version of Say What You Came To Say, on Anakin, was my favourite thing they ever recorded.

How did you come to release a live album by California’s Paladins, which fused rockabilly, blues, swing, R&B and blisteringly brutal rock?

I had been going to their live shows quite a bit with my wife, Brandi, who was a huge fan. They were in a phase of stretching songs out with long jams that I really liked. I liked a certain number of songs, that they had already recorded, enormously, especially in a live, expanded setting. By suggesting they document this period of their "careers" it allowed me to release an album chock full of songs I adored. The almost traditional rockabilly side of what they did would have been (even more) confusing to 4AD fans (and staff!). We wouldn't have been the right label for their next studio record, for instance. Guitarist Dave Gonzales is one of the most likable, authentic individuals, not to mention hard working, that I've ever met. I wish that release had been more helpful to their careers.

What were the reactions of everyone at 4AD to your decision to release this one-off live album by the Paladins?

Anyone at the label who saw them live and met them understood my enthusiasm. It probably disappointed a few people that I wasn't remotely interested in going the Brit Pop route, whatever the hell that was.

How did you first hear of 50s-era doo-wop band The Jive Bombers?

Driving around L.A. with Brandi. So romantic, and what a voice. There are a couple of Jive Bombers' tracks on the Cry Baby soundtrack.

By 1996 The Jive Bombers actually appeared on the 4AD release schedule, a CD called Bad Boy (CAD 6013CD). Why did the release ultimately not happen?

I had no idea it was on the schedule. We were unable to obtain the rights to license it.

What were your first impressions of hearing Iceland’s Gus Gus?

I loved Is Jesus Your Pal? Suggested that it be the single, thought it would really stand out. Unfortunately Emiliana, who sang that one song, was no longer in the group so that idea wasn't very popular. Also, it wasn't the most representative (ie clubby) of what they did. So, a bit like Gathering Dust/16 Days, I decided to have a go at that song, via The Hope Blister.

Was the 1997 Albino Alligator soundtrack by Michael Brook always planned for release on 4AD or were there other labels interested in releasing the Albino Alligator soundtrack?

We didn't compete with anyone. I think the producers were happy to know a soundtrack would get released.

Is it true that due to a clause in R.E.M.’s contract, 4AD couldn’t mention in ads or stickers on the cover that Albino Alligator featured a song with that band’s Michael Stipe?

That seems to ring a bell.

His Name Is Alive’s Universal Frequencies single from 1996 was subtitled as “part 1” and the following year’s Nice Day EP was labeled as “part 2”. Was there ever a third part to this proposed trilogy?

I don't think so.

Look, I'm really sorry I can't remember a lot from this period. It would indicate that my heart wasn't really into the whole thing anymore.

Were you involved in the track selection and sequencing of the Japanese Lush compilations Cookie and Topolino? Also, there was a Canadian version of Topolino with a different track list – why was this done? Also, there is a rumor a second Canadian Topolino exists with yet another, third track list…

I don't think I've ever seen any of them.

One of the most unique of all non-musical 4AD promotional items was the Tarnation custom Mirador tequila and shot glass. How did this come about? I’ve yet to drink my tequila, just as I’ve yet to use any of my Tanya Donelly Lovesongs For Underdogs post-it notes...

It might have been around this time that Robin Hurley and I flew to Mexico City to see the closing dates of DCD's Latin American tour. Whilst the groups own, legitimate, merchandising "got held up in customs" the street vendors outside had a field-day selling t-shirts, cigarette lighters and shot glasses with Brendan and Lisa's likeness on them. Interestingly, these same vendors somehow had copies of the programme and CD that was legitimate. Equally interesting was how much of this bootleg stuff DCD themselves purchased!

Anyways, maybe someone liked the idea of Tarnation shot glasses after seeing these. Or, more likely, it was an attempt to exploit the Morricone/spaghetti western flavour of the record.

There have been a number of best-of compilations from the Pixies over the years but Death To The Pixies is considered by most as the most official of them. One of your key staff members compiled it – how do you compare Death To The Pixies to 2004’s revised best-of Wave Of Mutilation?

Sorry, but I've never listened to them. If I were ever to play any Pixies music, or anything on the label for that matter, I wouldn't choose a, so called, best of. Seriously, would you, when you have everything else they've recorded available to play?

Whose idea was it to include a pair of unlisted bonus demo tracks on the vinyl box set version and the deluxe double CD “golden ticket” version of Death To The Pixies?

Couldn't say. I really had nothing to do with those compilations.

How did the idea for the 4AD book off-shoot come about? Was it 4AD CEO Robin Hurley’s idea?

There are many ideas, I'm sure, that I haven't given Robin or others credit for but the book wasn't one of them.

One day I was looking through a photography book called, simply, Women Photographers when I came across a photo by Tina Modotti called Workers' Parade. Something happened. I was transfixed by this blurry, yet detailed, image of a sea of sombrero clad Mexican men. I had never heard of Tina Modotti and wanted to know more. For some strange reason the name of a Los Angeles photography gallery popped into my head, Fahey/Klein, and I gave them a call. I was put through to David Fahey and he informed me that Modotti prints were extremely rare (she only photographed for 10 years whilst in Mexico City with Edward Curtis). However, he said he actually had a couple of vintage prints and one of them was a copy of Workers' Parade. He also told me how much it was. Even though I knew I wouldn't be making a purchase any time soon, I got in my truck and drove down to the gallery. Whilst waiting for David to be free, to show me the prints, I spent some time looking at the exhibition that was on display in the gallery. It was work by Tom Baril. I didn't buy a Modotti but I did buy the Smokestacks image that is on the front of the Tom Baril book that 4AD published a year or so later. That day was the start of an intense period of educating myself about the world and history of photography.

Also, I really enjoyed the way all of the Baril photos on display were framed. I learned that the framer, Randolph Laub, had recently relocated to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Let me just say that I now own at least 15 photographs that all exist within Laub frames inside a house, outside of Santa Fe, designed by architect Beverley Spears that I was introduced to by Randolph, on a piece of land that was shown me by Randolph's wife, Genevieve. Be careful when falling in love with a photograph. It can have enormous consequences!

FWD >>>