Saul Galpern is head honcho at Nude Music Group, once Nude Records, home of Suede, Black Box Recorder, Geneva et al. Galpern talked to Sean Bw Parker, wherein he expounds that record labels worrying about the charts is as relevant these days as ‘selling clothes in a pub’.
You set up Nude records, home to Suede, Ultrasound and Black Box Recorder, amongst others. What is the difference between that company and Nude Music Group, which you now run?
The label just concentrated in signing acts to record, release and market – to participate in assisting artists with their dreams. That was a special time, right in the beginning and launch of Brit pop we were chasing dreams and chart positions – a music business that operated in a very different climate to the one we now know and one that I only have great memories of.
Hard work but rewarding and it was such a buzz to see an artist evolve and be part of sharing their music with other people.
Currently – the label is dormant – not to say that I wouldn’t or don’t want to release music again but the paradigm finance and timing would have to be right as things are so different now.
The group – basically now encompasses all the various streams – as I have publishing & management interests and objectives. It’s a place to facilitate the variety of platforms for projects that I will work with.
Would you agree with some critics that Suede’s career trajectory was a phenomenal debut album followed by ever-diminishing creative returns?
I’d completely refute that – in fact I think Suede albums got better after the debut in some respect – the debut has some of the best memories as everything was so new and exciting then for sure, the mercury, the Brits etc., I’d accept that Head Music was maybe not as strong as the first three in hindsight but Dog Man Star is an extraordinary, overblown and exceptional album that was completely unique for the time and I am pleased to have had the privilege to see the mechanics of it being put together – its greatness was coupled with massive ambition and a backdrop that was fuelled by incredible tension that I have never witnessed before between two amazingly talented artists – it was maybe out of step with what was happening, an anti-Britpop cry – but some real classic songs are on that record – Brett’s lyrics were some of his best, and mesmerising, clever guitar playing. It was a very challenging and sometimes dark record and considering the position the band were in at the time as the hottest property since the planet began!!! It was an admirable position and direction for them to take and is debatably a masterpiece – probably was more deserving of the Mercury Award than the début in some respects.
Coming Up was post Bernard but a fantastic pop record that took my breath away with its directness and hooks and was exactly the right move to make next for the band. Both Richard and Neil’s influence helped Brett fuel his writing and it culled 5 top 10 singles of it which I am very proud of. Also the biggest selling album that we had – some of the band’s biggest indie dancefloor hits come from that album. And what about Sci-Fi Lullabies – which was a B-sides album – how many bands nowadays could put out a B-sides album as good as that one and then go on and sell 150,000 in the UK alone? That just shows the quality of their songwriting at the time.
Could you give your personal top ten desert island albums that you have been involved with the release of, number one being your favourite?..
I Suede – Suede
2 Suede – Dog Man Star
3 Suede – Coming Up
4 The Fall – Hex Enduction Hour
5 Billy Mackenzie – Beyond The Sun
6 Simply Red – Picture Book.
7 Geneva – Further
8 Au Pairs – Playing with a Different Sex
9 Julian Cope – World Shut Your Mouth .
10 Black Box Recorder – Facts of Life.
With regard to today’s music industry, what advice would you give nascent bands, artists and labels looking to be noticed amidst the noise?
Get all your ducks in line – do not expose yourself too early – make sure you know the direction and vision even if things change – you need to be clear as to what the palette will start with.
Less is more – be an exception to the rule – it’s hard to be unique and distinctive – but you can stand out by sounding refreshingly different in that specific time or climate. Having a combination of interesting references…
The most important word I think of these days is ‘Authenticity ‘ (there is a lack of).
People are looking for something or someone to believe in again.
Who is/was easier to work with, Brett Anderson or Bernard Butler?
Both had their moments of course – Bernard I think was more frustrated at the time and found it harder to deal with the success and understandably considering the circumstances in some respects as a lot of it is so superficial, but I have stayed in touch with Brett and he is a wonderful man – Bernard has mellowed but I have not seen much of him – I am pleased he is doing exactly what he planned and set out to do afterwards – which is become a producer and writer. The band just wasn’t ultimately for him…but what they had at that moment was that rare and extraordinary partnership that was magical and who knows where it could have gone onto had they continued as Suede.
I co managed ‘The Tears’ with Geoff Travis which was the coming together again of Brett & Bernard as a project back in 2005 and I was disappointed that the album didn’t achieve more acceptance than it did as I believe it has some classic Anderson/Butler moments and compositions on it…
You worked with The Fall AND Simply Red. Didn’t you find something odd about this combination?
Not really. Both from Manchester and maybe took very different paths but both socialists to start with but yes very different musically – Hucknall did have bona-fide punk credentials though which people may not be aware of and his know-all of music was phenomenal – he had a genuine passion and amazing knowledge for Jamaican dub and those great Reggae singers which I loved as I too was a fan of a lot of Reggae from the late 70’s period…undeniably he is just a great singer and that début still stands up for me – for the times !
Mark E Smith is The Fall and there is no one quite like them – then and now. I remember around ’94 both Brett & Justine Frischmann (Elastica) telling me that I had to sign him when I was in the middle of Nude’s success – I got him down for a meeting but he told me some story about Mani from the Roses stealing the demos while he was sitting on the train coming down from Manchester. He turned up for the meeting with Gillian from New Order so it was all quite surreal and he only wanted to conduct the meeting in the pub. I’d loved to have put that record out on Nude at the time.
How do you see the future of the music industry, UK and worldwide, corporate and independent?
Don’t really have a crystal ball – I just hope that great talent can still exist and is allowed the space, development and time to make individual, classic pieces of work that is special – music for fans to connect with – that is the most important thing.
I worry about music losing its cultural relevance – we live in times where tech is the new rock n roll. Since the digital revolution took place and the transition was created when Napster launched through peer to peer the industry lost a lot of revenue and a big change in consumer behaviour. The industry is still trying to play catch up with the piracy fight, and although they appear to be winning the battle it’s probably too late for this generation to return to paying music at the level artists and labels think they should be remunerated at. I think the streaming platforms will become stronger and more focused than record sales – which is a dying paradigm – although surely nothing can ever beat a physical artefact indulged in the correct presentation.
There are so many new platforms for delivering music now – not just from a distribution point of view but in terms of the services and the way that they are provided as business models. You will still be able to gain traction with an artist if they are exceptional, but exceptions to the rule are rarer these days – there are less acts now that can resonate across the world with one album. It seems individual songs do though, and radio can still be influential and give a song critical mass although hit songs are now developing through other income streams like syncs, and then become big radio hits.
People’s tastes are changing almost becoming niche with so much choice. The charts just seem so irrelevant to everybody except the labels perhaps. About as relevant as selling clothes in a pub!
In my view fans will continue to engage and share music within social media and I think interactive content will become more embraced but there seem to be a lot of copyright issues with streaming royalties and IPs that need resolving.
Any current listening recommendations for us?
Well I’m looking for something special to get my teeth back into…
But I think the Arctic Monkeys new album is fantastic – a band right on top of their game. Come a long way since I first saw them in front of around 10 people (and no industry) in Sheffield – they were great then. Boards of Canada’s album is also good…
Although we don’t really live in a band culture at the moment – it’s all about EDM and dance music if you’re under 23 it seems.
But I am loving ‘Temples ‘ signed to Jeff @ Heavenly – swirling psychedelia from the 60’s, strong melodies, early Syd Barrett with touches of Bolan who the singer looks identical to, too. Parquet Courts are awesome – saw them live and loved it – US Brooklyn band that have punk references, great lyrics but with Tom Verlaine guitars. Also Childhood, London Grammar, Wolf Alice, and East India Youth are all very promising. There’s a girl called Nadine Shah who has made a really interesting dark soul record…