Richard Russell

Liberation Through Hearing

This book is an autobiography of the owner of XL Recordings, Richard Russell and the story of how XL came to be the label it is today.

I’ve always been fascinated by XL because of its ability to sit in this middle ground of cultivating global artists and being a platform for the underground without tainting its reputation. It’s solidified its reputation as a label that does both and thus enables it to retain such a wide and diverse roster which I can imagine so many labels seek.

Richard Russell’s genuine love for music is the main thing that stands out throughout the book from constantly being involved in the music community, working in record shops, DJing and producing. The stories about some of the XL heavyweights such as the Prodigy are so insightful from his perspective and allow you to see how these artists helped to shape the label into what it is today. It’s also interesting to see what he’s learnt from all these years running the label and regrets about certain artists. Other notable stories are signing Adele, M.I.A., Dizzee Rascal and producing Gil Scott-Heron’s last record before he passed.

I enjoyed this book a lot it’s such a fascinating music journey working with so many artists and I believe XL’s roots in cultivating innovative sounds was probably a key factor in making it the heavyweight it is today. It was interesting to learn how expansive the roster of XL actually is and Richard’s recent projects under the name ‘Everything Is Recorded’ just go to show he has no plans of slowing down which is very exciting.

I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the history of British music or just music in general. It has playlists to accompany each part of the book which allow for immersion into the sounds of his life. Also, you should have a listen to his most recent record FRIDAY FOREVER which is so good.