Billboard 28 November 1998
An important part of Mo' Wax history, Mo' Wax's deal with A&M had ended and Mo' Wax was potentially without a home.
U.K.'s Mo' Wax Inks Joint Venture With XL. By: Paoletta, Michael
Respected U.K. electronica/hip-hop independent Mo' Wax Records has inked a deal that makes the U.K.'s XL Recordings its new business partner.
"This couldn't have come at a better time," says Steve Finan, who co-owns Mo' Wax along with James Lavelle. "Our [three-year] deal with PolyGram [U.K.], which we signed through A&M, expired in March. Just as we were discussing a new deal, Seagram purchased PolyGram and closed A&M."
Finan was told that if Mo' Wax continued its relationship with PolyGram, it would go through Island Records. "This was in September," continues Finan. "Fortunately, XL came into the picture at the same time."
Lavelle sees 1998 as a very exciting year for the label. "We had much success with both the U.N.K.L.E. and Money Mark albums, but we also had something traumatic happen: A&M Records closed."
He continues, "Due to circumstances beyond our control, some very difficult decisions had to be made. Having considered all the options, two things occurred to me. One was that going independent is definitely the future for the music we deal with. And two, XL was the company we believed would best represent us."
Mo' Wax's joint venture with XL, which is co-owned by Beggars Banquet, allows the label to retain complete creative autonomy over all musical and visual areas. At the same time, Mo' Wax will gain access to the formidable XL/Beggars international network, a network that enabled Prodigy's album "The Fat Of The Land" to reach No. 1 in 27 countries.
According to Richard Russell, co-owner of XL Recordings, the new deal allows Mo' Wax to utilize XL/Beggars' promotion and marketing functions, as well as its extensive distribution and licensing network. He views the partnership between Mo' Wax, XL, and Beggars Banquet as representing a new phase for all involved. (Questions pertaining to the financial aspects of the deal went unanswered.) "Basically," says Russell, "we'll take care of the noncreative side of things. Since we have approximately 35 deals internationally, we'll definitely help with licensing. And we'll be treating the U.S. differently than the rest of the world in that we will license acts on an artist-by-artist basis--just as we do with XL artists." (Prodigy is signed to Maverick, Stroke to Interscope.)
There does appear to be one major downfall, though. Mo' Wax's acts that are currently signed to PolyGram worldwide will most likely remain with the major, and that includes tastemaking artists like DJ Shadow, Andrea Parker, Money Mark, and U.N.K.L.E. "Are we happy about this?" says Finan. "No, but there's not much else we can do. We were hoping for some kind of settlement, but that seems unlikely. It's all rather frustrating."
That said, Mo' Wax is in negotiations with several artists. Confirmed releases for early next year include albums from San Francisco-based hip-hop act Blackalicious and Jurassic 5 DJ Cut Chemist. The label will also issue "Spectrum," which Finan describes as a compilation of "some of our artists."
Such recent signings please Martin Mills, chairman of Beggars Banquet, whose stable of labels includes--in addition to XL, Beggars Banquet, and Mo' Wax--4AD, Too Pure, Mantra, and Wiiija.
Mills looks forward to working with the artists Mo' Wax will bring in via Beggars' independent relationships around the world. Of course, he also believes that the independent sector is further strengthened by Lavelle and Finan's timely return.
"Having James and Steve bring Mo' Wax into the Beggars Banquet family of labels is very exciting," Mills says. "What's so great about these labels is that they are able to draw on our strong support structure. We work closely together and can help each other out. But at the same time, we have no set formula, which I guess gets back to the independent way of doing things."