When XL started, back in the heady Acid House days of 1989, we specialised in the D.I.Y. hardcore rave sounds that were coming from London's suburbs. XL owner Richard Russell was a teenager, producing and remixing records including Kicks LIke A Mules "The Bouncer", Awesome 3's "Dont Go" and London Posses "Pass The Rizla", and DJ'ing on pirate radio and in clubs. Alongside other independents like Shut Up And Dance and Suburban Bass, XL helped shape a sound that was equally influenced by American urban music, Jamaican dub and reggae, and European electronic sounds. Their noisy, abrasive records were shunned by all media and had a fuck-you aesthetic reminiscent of the two other great D.I.Y music movements- punk and hip hop. The scene was about home recording,white label record releases, pirate radio and illegal raves.
This spirit is neatly encapsulated by The Prodigy's Experience LP, the work of an Essex teenager, Liam Howlett, who recorded at home and borrowed samples from sources as diverse as Max Romeo, Ultramagnetic MC's and childrens TV programmes. His follow-up LP Music For The Jilted Generation, with its more sophisticated production and arrangements, stands up as one of the definitive works of electronic music. In 1997 The Prodigy delivered their world-wide breakthrough LP, The Fat Of The Land; it charted at number one in 26 countries including the U.S.
Whilst continuing his unique partnership with Martin Mills' Beggars Group, Russell re-located from Beggars H.Q in Wandsworth. to XL's own offices off Ladbroke Grove in London, W11.
Basement Jaxx were XL's next platinum artist; and Badly Drawn Boy's Mercury Prize winning debut album The Hour Of Bewilderbeast broadened their musical horizons further.
Next came classic albums by artists including Leila, Peaches, The Avalanches, Gotan Project and Lemon Jelly.
Then came Dizzee Rascal. His perceptive lyrics and groundbreaking production made his Mercury Prize winning album Boy In Da Corner every bit as uncompromising, uncouth and innovative as The Prodigy's early work. Like The Prodigy, Dizzee rose from the street, via pirate radio and raves, to critical acclaim and mainstream success; and with their respective homes of Bow, E3 and Braintree, Essex they grew up only a few miles apart.
XL were sufficiently taken with a Detroit duo called The White Stripes to license their first 3 LPs; when Jack and Megdelivered their fourth LP, the number one multi-platinum 2003 release Elephant, they became perhaps the most original and important new rock group in the world. In 2005 they released their fifth album "Get Behind Me Satan", and with its accompanying hit singles like "My Doorbell" and "Blue Orchid", and the unmatchable live shows and videosthey delivered, they cemented their permanent place in the rock pantheon.
In 2006 XL was chosen by Thom Yorke, one of the most singular and brilliant talents of his generation, as the home for his extraordinary album "The Eraser". On its release XL was able to celebrate their first self-released US number one artist album. In 2006 Russell also co-produced the acclaimed orchestral album "Aluminium", re-working the songs of Jack White.
2007 was a banner year for XL, with new albums from The White Stripes, Devendra Banhart, M.I.A, Dizzee Rascal andJack Penate; and on December 31 2007 XL released "In Rainbows" by Radiohead.
XL's run of hit releases continued through 2008 with the breakthrough indie success-story of the year Vampire Weekend, Adele's multiple Grammy-nominated "19", and the incomparable MIA's "Paper Planes"- the biggest selling single in the companys nearly 20-year history. XL were also chosen as a new home by some of the most brilliant and original talents in music today- Beck with his "Modern Guilt" album, Damon Albarn with his "Monkey: Journey To The West" project, and Sigur Ros with their latest work "Meo Suo/Eyrum Vio Spilum Enderlast".
2009 sees XL continue to stick resolutely to what it does best: working with fresh talent, like Friendly Fires and The Horrors, as well as coming up with some surprises. XL recently announced a stunning new album (scheduled for release in 2010) from the enormously influential Gil Scott-Heron. XL's focus seemingly continues to intensify; to work with the most original and inventive artists possible, regardless of genre, and help them take their music to the widest possible audience- without compromise. Rather than being a passive backer of artists and music, XL is seen as a creative entity in its own right. And whilst XL seems to re-invent itself every few years around its roster, one thing that remains constant is that XL is 100% independent, continuing a great tradition of non-corporate record label culture.