- 07 May 20
As Adele unveils her new slimmed-down look, torching the internet to the ground in the process, Richard Russell tells us about her remarkable rise to fame.
As his new book, Liberation Through Hearing: Rap, Rave and the Rise of XL, hits the shelves, XL Recordings boss Richard Russell spoke to Hot Press's Ed Power about working with Adele.
Russell, who played a role in the ascension to pop immortality of Prodigy, M.I.A. and The White Stripes, is also credited for discovering the English star when she was fresh out of Croydon's BRIT School for performing arts.
His comments arrive just as Adele once again sets Twitter alight – as she unveils a new look and pays tribute to frontline workers in an Instagram post to mark her 32th birthday. The post has since clocked up 8.8 million likes.
“I had completely the wrong idea of the music Adele planned to make once she signed,” he writes. “Because I’d seen her perform solo with guitar, I thought we would be making a stripped-down, folky record…But when she explained that she wanted to work with pop-oriented producers, I had no objections…
“It would have been churlish to suggest she become a bit more left field so [XL] could help her infiltrate the centre. And by aligning herself with us we would in fact be starting from a credible position…Otherwise the music snobs might have missed her quality.”
Speaking to Hot Press, Russell notes that Adele "made it very easy for people to understand what she was doing."
“She was extremely clear about it and her own mind," he continues. "It’s very easy to work with someone like that. It’s the same with Liam [Howlett]. He was very clear about what he wanted to do and, more importantly, what he didn’t want to do.”
"These are the artists, he says, with whom the business has historically had issues. The sort that know their own minds.
“They are the type the music industry has always said are “difficult”. The problem has always [been] with the people calling them difficult rather than with the artist. You’re calling them difficult because you’re making them be something they don’t want to be.”
In the interview, he goes on discuss the sexism which Adele and M.I.A. have suffered – before remarking that there "has definitely been change" in the world of pop.
“Pop music is much more dominated by women now," he says. "There has been a bit of a reckoning, hasn’t there? The world that we grew up in was straightforwardly sexist and homophobic. It just was. Our teachers were [that way] at school. Everything was. There has been positive change…People in positions of authority or power are able to get away with less discrimination than they used to be.”
See the full interview with Richard Russell in the next issue of Hot Press – out later this month.
Liberation Through Hearing: Rap, Rave and the Rise of XL Recordings by Richard Russell is published by White Rabbit.