BUG XL Recordings Special

28 Jul 2014 15:48 - posted by Phil Tidy

Welcome to a very special BUG, a show dedicated to the audio-visual output of one of the UK’s greatest independent record labels: XL Recordings.


Remarkably it’s now 25 years since Richard Russell, Tim Palmer and Nick Halkes founded XL. Over the past quarter century, mostly under the sole helmsmanship of Russell, it has become home to an increasingly diverse roster of artists. From The Prodigy and SL2, to Basement Jaxx and Badly Drawn Boy, The White Stripes, Radiohead and Vampire Weekend, Dizzee Rascal and M.I.A., Adele and The xx, Gil Scott-Heron and Bobby Womack, XL has become home to some great artists – and also commissioned some of the most memorable and significant music videos of the past 25 years.

For this special edition of BUG we will tell the story of XL Recordings through their music videos, and we are very pleased to have Adam Buxton back as our host for tonight’s show. Furthermore, we are delighted to welcome a special guest tonight too – and funnily enough, another Buxton. It’s Felix Buxton, one half of dance-pop champs Basement Jaxx, who enjoyed huge success and made some great videos while signed to XL.


 BUG XL Recordings Special programme notes.pdf



The Prodigy – Everybody In The Place

Back in the early 90s, the infectious rave-techno created by Liam Hewlett would make The Prodigy XL’s most important band. The video for Everybody In The Place from 1992 is a time capsule of the period, with director Russell Curtis capturing the band on the streets of New York, and in performance, and adding some charmingly basic FX.

Vampire Weekend – A-Punk

Well over a decade later, XL had signed an indie rock outfit from New York called Vampire Weekend, and the first video they made was for their modern surf-rock classic A-Punk. The video is directed by longstanding friend of BUG, Garth Jennings, who employs a fairly simple technique, shooting at half-speed (or lower) to create a sped-up effect, but also speeding up the track, so the band’s performance remaining totally in-sync.

The White Stripes - Dead Leaves & The Dirty Ground

Jack White’s association with the label began with The White Stripes, and their breakthrough third album. Outstanding videos ensued, perhaps none greater than the first collaboration between the Stripes and directing legend Michel Gondry.

White Stripes – Fell In Love With A Girl

Fell In Love With A Girl is the video that inspired a thousand Lego-animated short films and videos – and now a movie. Michel Gondry shot the live action, transferred it to paper, pixellated the results to represent bricks and handed them to his animators. It took a couple of months to complete – and it was shot on 16mm, to give it the feel of a 70s kids TV show.

Atoms For Peace – Before Your Very Eyes

A more recent example of brilliant visual effects comes in the form of the video for Atoms For Peace’s Before Your Very Eyes by the young American director Andrew Thomas Huang, which came out last year. Huang creates his extraordinary visions by combining in-camera and computer effects, and for the Thom Yorke-led indie supergroup he achieves nothing less than the rise and fall of civilization amid shifting digital sands, with Yorke transformed into an ancient statue, crumbling to pieces before our eyes.

The Prodigy – Firestarter

Then we return to The Prodigy, and the video that changed everything for the outfit. Walter Stern took over directing duties on their videos in 1994 for Voodoo People and No Good (Start The Dance) and took them to a new more cinematic level. Then came Firestarter. Shot in a disused Aldwych Underground tunnel, Stern created the iconic video in a matter of hours reputedly after a first video for the track had been binned. Once shocking, it is still mesmerizing and, of course, very funny.

Tyler, The Creator – Yonkers

One hugely arresting black and white video is duly followed by another, in the form in the form of Tyler, The Creator’s video for Yonkers, directed by Wolf Haley – aka Tyler himself. The co-founder of the Odd Future collective and controversy-magnet had a one-album deal with XL that launched Tyler in the UK, and the Yonkers video was the first exposure for many to his fearsome wit. The video is trained on Tyler throughout as he does something ill-advised with a cockroach, and then goes even further.

Electric Six – Gay Bar

Back in the early Noughties Tom Kuntz and Mike Maguire were a couple of ad creatives turned directing partnership who masterminded some of XL’s most creative, funny and controversial videos. They made two extraordinary videos for Electric Six. Firstly, Danger! High Voltage featured singer Tyler Spencer snogging a 70 year old woman wearing dominatrix gear. But the follow-up was even more shockingly transgressive: Tyler as Abraham Lincoln in skimpy leather shorts, and then even less, and transforming a very convincing White House into his personal gym and all-round pleasuredome.

The Avalanches – Frontier Psychiatrist

Back in the early Noughties Tom Kuntz and Mike Maguire were a couple of ad creatives turned directing partnership who masterminded some of XL’s most creative, funny and controversial videos. Their first ever video was for Australian electronic combo The Avalanches’ Frontier Psychiatrist, which the pair visualized as a big band-cum-orchestra comprised of kazoo-playing cowboys, cross-dressing granny drummer, a choir of ghosts, and much more.

Basement Jaxx – Where’s Your Head At?

At this point, Felix Buxton joined Adam on stage to talk about his and partner Simon Ratcliffe’s contribution to the XL story as Basement Jaxx. Having started 20 years ago as a Brixton club night, Basement Jaxx released their first album Remedy – featuring Red Alert and Rendez-Vu – in 1999. They became transatlantic club chart-toppers, BRIT and Grammy Award winners, with Remedy and further albums Rooty, Kish Kash and Crazy Itch Radio.

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