Lex Records is one of our favourite independent London labels whose wildly creative output spans over a decade of landmark releases that have changed the music industry no end. From underground rap heroes (DOOM) to harbouring super producers with a perchant for cult collaborations (the myriad of Danger Mouse projects with the once incarcerated rapper Jemini and the transcendental meditating David Lynch) to lush, cinematic electronics and pop (Boom Bip and Neon Neon) and even deluxe audio books (legendary comic book writer and Watchmen creator Alan Moore).
This year, Lex’s latest label compilation opus is entitled Complex and is a taster of the label in 2012 with Thom Yorke and DOOM, a Dave Sitek remix of the DOOM and Jneiro Jarel and even some vintage Danger Mouse & Jemini.
The label was started by Tom Brown in 2001, whilst he was at Warp in Sheffield (then London), running their legendary Nesh nights that saw Aphex Twin, Autechre and Boards of Canada sweat down and geek out at Islington’s awesomely grimy Electrowerkz. Gaining a reputation for iconic, elaborate and luxury label art by the artist EHQuestionmark? who he met at Nesh, Lex has gone on to trail blaze a way of being relevant and inspiring in 2012.
To celebrate 10 years of Lex we spoke to Brown about the story of Danger Mouse, whilst he gives us his top five Lex video moments and a selection of imagery from the vaults.
Tom Brown on the Grammy-winning super producer Danger Mouse...
We put out our first Danger Mouse record in 2003 - Ghetto Pop Life. When he first dropped off the demos he was living in New Cross and working at a pub in London Bridge and we’d meet up a lot as this was new to both of us. The Danger Mouse record always felt like it was going to be big and it was a really fun project to work on. And the following year when The Grey Album dropped, that was the biggest music news story of that year. Almost a landmark moment in digital music, he went on to be the GQ Man of the Year alongside Kanye West. The Grey Album was inspired by the Nastradoomus mixtape that was doing the rounds online at the time - Nas verses over DOOM beats. HipHopsite.com sent danger mouse the acapellas and Danger Mouse went on to become an unsuspecting figurehead for the copyright freedom movement.
One day, a guy called Remi who works with Damon Albarn was in the office talking about Prefuse 73 and other producers to do beats for the new Gorillaz record. At that point the idea was to have a different producer on each track. I gave him The Grey Album and Remi and Damon loved it.
It was in the mega bucks days of the music industry and as there were on Parlophone, they flew him out first class to do a demo. He ended up producing the whole record with Damon, whilst living above Rough Trade in Notting Hill. And that became the number one record of the year across entire world.
It was a huge time for Danger Mouse too. It’s different to put out a really well received indie hip hop record that’s going to sell 50,000 copies but it’s another thing to sell something like 11 million copies of the Gorillaz record. That’s when he also first played me the Gnarls Barkley demos. That obviously went on to be huge. Record breaking bonkers.
Lex Records Through The Years in Video:
The Grey Video - Encore (2004)
The Grey Album (Jay-Z / Beatles mash up) by Danger Mouse. It changed everything for Danger Mouse and opened up a lot of opportunities for Lex.
Neon Neon - I Told Her On Alderaan / Trick For Treat (2008)
Neon Neon was one of the coolest projects to work on. There were layers and layers of ideas, in the music and the backstory. This starts off like The Cars and turns into some weird Timbaland-esque hip hop.
Heartbreak - We're Back (Vitalic Remix) (2009)
Heartbreak were managed by Cocadisco guy Piers Martin. He also hooked up this amazing remix. So pleased to have a scrape of Vitalic on my Lex.
Rome (Danger Mouse, Daniele Luppi, Jack White, Nora Jones) - Two Against One (2011)
Danger Mouse exploring mid-century Italian pop music with original players from the Nino Rota and Ennio Morricone scores.
JJ DOOM - BANISHED (2012)
Jneiro Jarel and DOOM have been meaning to make an album for years. It'll be out in a few weeks. Is it the first rap to name check My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding?
Lex Records will be at the Independent Label Market, Spitalfields, London on Saturday 19th May alongside the likes of Warp, Moshi Moshi, Domino, XL, R&S and more.