Always Read the Label: One Little Indian

Spawned in the depression of Thatcherism, One Little Indian has become one of the UK’s finest Indies. Twenty-four years on from the label’s conception, Billy Hamilton finds Digital Manager Tony McColl talking up its continued evolution...

Feature by Billy Hamilton | 15 Dec 2008
  • One Little Indian

Contrary to popular belief, 1985 was a great year for British music. Amidst a spew of poodle-permed rockers and gak-snorting pop philanthropists (say hello, Band Aid), the remarkable One Little Indian (OLI) was conceived. Founded by various sects of London’s dissipated underground scene – including members of renowned post-punk outfit Flux Of Pink Indians – it quickly established itself as a label focused on providing artists with three special Cs: complete creative control.

“One Little Indian was inspired by the DIY principles and anarchistic ideals of independent labels such as that of anarcho-punk band Crass,” explains the stable’s Digital Manager Toby McColl. “They became so frustrated with the restrictive nature of the music industry that merging the creative aspect with the distributive side of things became the only viable option.”

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Twenty-three years on and the London-based label has evolved from its bohemian roots, becoming an influential player on the music industry’s mean streets. Despite this rapid proliferation McColl believes OLI’s remained true to its stoic mission statement: “We don’t look for specific styles or trends with music, we sign bands that we love. So a One Little Indian band has to be a band that we believe in. They could be a metal band or folk, it makes no difference to us. That is why our roster is so diverse.”

And diverse it certainly is. A creative sanctuary for the likes of Bjork, The Shamen and Skunk Anansie during the 90s, OLI currently plays host to Rose Kemp, Minus and the majestic Asobi Seksu. “We have great relationships with all of our artists,” says McColl when discussing the label’s allure. “They are free to do what they want but we put their interests first all the time, and because of that it's really a mutually beneficial relationship... One Little Indian has had a long history; we are very flexible, we are passionate about the music we sign and we stand by our bands.”

With such purist intentions OLI should be tender prey in an unforgiving industry but underneath its innocent exterior lurks the insatiable desire to evolve. Having already welcomed Clean Up, Partisan, Elemental and Fat Cat Records under its expanding umbrella, McColl believes the future lies in self-created opportunity.

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“We have some great young people at the label who are very in touch with the latest trends and styles,” he enthuses. “There are infinite new possibilities and companies out there at the moment and it’s our job to find out which of these is going to work best for us and for our fans. We've started our own digital distribution arm, Second Wind Digital, that aggregates digital music, and have begun reissuing a lot of old releases on heavyweight DMM Vinyl. By presenting the music in new, unique formats, we feel our customers are listening.”

Armed with a scroll of effervescent artists, OLI’s quest for innovation ensures the label stands head and shoulders above its rivals. But with the credit crunch gnawing away at record company profits, McColl feels the time is ripe for indies to step up to the play.

“Bear in the mind, the music business has been in its own recession for over five years,” he declares. “One good thing about being at an indie is that we are in a better state to deal with issues than the bigger institutions that take longer to adapt and change...It seems the majors are finding it hard to flex their muscles quite as much in these financially tougher times. [Indie labels] have always been up against it; we are used to smaller budgets and using our heads rather than our wallets all the time.”

One Little Indian have launched a quarterly channel featuring the cream of their recent output via www.tentracks.co.uk.

http://www.indian.co.uk