For the past 30 years, 4AD has kept true to the tradition of releasing mind-blowing fringe music, amassing a unique and diverse roster in the process. Hard to believe this is the same indie label that started with just Â£1000.
Conceived by Ivo Watts Russell and Peter Kent, the British label was originally Axis Records. In 1980 it released 4 singles before issuing the very first single, ‘Dark Entries’, by a relatively unknown goth band called Bauhaus. The single does well and Beggars Banquet boss Martin Mills loans the label enough money to relaunch as 4AD.
4AD became known for signing dark atmospheric bands including Rema Rema and In Camera. As the dust grew thicker, Bauhaus released ‘Bela Legusi’s Dead’ which crept up the charts and sealed the band’s iconic status. Maniacal Aussie Nick Cave and his merry men, Birthday Party, joins the label and the early 80s indie scene is hence dominated by the brooding dark sounds of 4AD.
The Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance and 4AD super-collective, This Mortal Coil added to the label’s flavour and weird haircuts. In 1987, ‘Pump Up The Volume’ – the only single released by proto-techno collaboration MARRS – came out and went to #1 in the UK. It was regarded a milestone in the development of British house music and sampling.
That same year 4AD signed American band Throwing Muses and changed its artistic outlook towards College Rock. A year later, The Pixies came onboard and released Surfer Rosa;Â 4AD now had one of the biggest alternative rock bands of all time. And to add to the joy, the label also managed to sneak into the pop charts with Modern English’s classic 80s single, ‘I Melt With You’.
Due to internal tensions and the horrors of touring, The Pixies disbanded in 1991. Frontman Frank Black returned as a solo artist while bassist Kim Deal returned as part of The Breeders to give us ‘Cannonball’, one of the greatest singles of the 90s. Red House Painters, Belly and 9-piece Iceland dance act Gus Gus capped off 4AD’s steals for the 90s.
After moving HQ to Los Angeles, then sole owner Russell sold 4AD to Beggars Group which then moved it back to London. The 4AD logo has become a guarantee of quality or at least something amazingly different. Although its artist roster has changed remarkably since its birth, 4AD continues to sign groundbreaking acts of today such as Deerhunter, TV On The Radio, The Mountain Goats, Stereolab and The National. Recently, 4AD has acquired the key artists from now defunct fellow Beggars Groups labels Too Pure and Beggars Banquet. J
For 30 years of documented greatness, travel back to 4AD at www.4ad.com.