Working towards a fairer music industry

In Conversation With : Stephen Bass

Moshi Moshi Records
was set up in 1998 by three friends Stephen Bass, Michael McClatchey and Adrian Pike, who having already established their own careers in the music industry, decided to bite the bullet to work with the bands they love. This year, they celebrate their 20th birthday and have grown from niche alt-label to an independent stalwart that has released some of the biggest and most influential names in UK music. We spoke to Stephen Bass about how it feels to be releasing their compilation LP “20 Years Of Moshi Moshi” that celebrates two decades of brilliant releases...

Record Label

First of all, congratulations on 20 years of Moshi Moshi! What have been some of your personal favourite releases throughout those years?

The Wave Pictures albums as they are the great overlooked underdogs of the modern British songwriting era and via their own anachronistic work ethic they are pretty well punk rock these days. Hot Chip obviously who remain one of my favourite bands. My heroes Girl Ray. Certain songs that no-one seems to know like the Caribou remix of Silver Columns and Fimber Bravo’s Life After Doomsday. Lykke Li’s little bit - a slice of perfect pop.

Moshi Moshi have released early records from artists that went on to be some of the biggest in their game - including Bloc Party, Florence And The Machine, Friendly Fires and Hot Chip - yet you’ve managed to stay true to your independent roots. What is Moshi Moshi’s ethos and how have you managed to stick by it for 20 years?

I think you just have to make sure you are releasing things for the right reasons and be aware of what the reason is and make sure you treat it accordingly. We release things we are proud of and try to set a realistic level of success for those releases. We work with the artists always rather than against them. Our deals are structured such that it’s a partnership so everyone has the same aim pretty much. Having said that I always think things should be doing better than they are, but then to me all these artists are making great music that everyone should love - which really anyone running a label should be thinking after all, no matter how deluded that might be.

You’re now a well established and highly regarded label… what has changed from the early days in terms of how it’s run? When did it go from a hobby to a career?

In many ways not a lot has changed - obviously the way things are released has changed and the world has changed but it’s still an independently owned company. We now have a staff of 3 or 4 as opposed to just two of us. It’s been a career for at least one of us for maybe 15 years now and both of us for maybe 8.

Have you ever been close to packing it in?

Well the last couple of years up to our 20th anniversary were getting a bit joyless at times and the thought of using the 20th anniversary as a point to draw a line under it all had crossed my mind on occasion. However ultimately the pleasure of working with some of the more recent artists has prevailed and perhaps yet another slight shift in viewpoint and approach to things seems to have put a new lease of life into things this year.

You’ve always had a close relationship with the live music sector, from holding regular showcases at Servant Jazz Quarters, Hoxton Bar & Kitchen and more recently at Paper Dress Vintage, to hosting stages at festivals, and now your own festival in Margate.

Do you always see an artist live before you agree to work with them and do you think an artist’s live ability is integral to their success?

Well we always try to see an act live and in the past when we haven’t there have been a couple of unpleasant shocks. It’s definitely one of the most important elements of an artist’s career these days and increasingly so as the power of press slides and there is so much recorded music available to consume. The live experience is something that still can’t be recreated in the comfort of your own home

What advice would you give to people starting a record label now?

Don’t listen to any advice from anyone. Enjoy yourself.

Buy Twenty Years Of Moshi Moshi here.