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  • Digital Evidence - Enjoy The Silence

    Daniel Miller started Mute Records entirely by accident in 1978 when he released his own single "TVOD/Warm Leatherette" under the guise of The Normal. The reverse of the picture sleeve included his home address and people started to send him demo tapes thinking that was the address of a record label. It was only when he discovered Fad Gadget (who started off recording in a cupboard at home) that Daniel released a second single (Fad Gadget's "Back To The Nature") and the label was born. Mute now has offices in London, New York and Berlin with a recording studio in London.

    There is excellent information about Mute's early years and independent status throughout the years in Richard King's superb book "How Soon is Now?: The Madmen and Mavericks who made Independent Music 1975-2005" available from Amazon UK, Amazon USA, the Apple iBook Store and all good book stores.

    Logos

    According to the BBC the original Mute logo was created using Letraset. The original Mute Records logo came from a Letraset sheet of architectural symbols.
    Mute Records label logo 1978 to 1979 Mute Records label logo 1978 to 1989 Mute Records label logo 1990 to 1999 version A Mute Records label logo 1990 to 1999 version B Mute Records label logo 1990 to 1999 version C Mute Records label logo 2000 to 2008 Mute Records label logo 2010 to current
    The primary Mute logo has changed over the years roughly with each decade that has gone by so approximately:

    Trivia

    In the late 1980s Depeche Mode had become so successful that Mute decided to release a four album "box set" compilation of tracks and b-sides. Sets of test pressing LPs and promotional tapes were made but the release was shelved and never went any further. Subsequently this has become the "holy grail" for Depeche Mode collectors.

    Towards the end of the 1980s Daniel invested in a "small dance label" (Rhythm King) - they ended up having several number ones and many huge hits (with Bomb The Bass, S-Express, The Beatmasters, etc). Daniel then continued with this theme in 1992 by launching his own dance orientated label "NovaMute".

    In 1988 Mute started "The Grey Area" with a Throbbing Gristle reissue on CD "CD 1". Independent industrial electronic music had made its way home. In 1991 they promoted the label with the "Tyranny Of The Beat" compilation available on CD and VHS video. It was promoted in conjunction with the "Music From The Empty Quarter" magazine and in true fanzine/underground style they officially released the compilation on a numbered limited edition cassette of which only 50 were made.

    In the late 1980s and early 1990s Mute worked directly with several record labels for foreign territories specifically in France (Virgin), Germany (Intercord), Japan (Alfa) and the USA (Warners including Elektra and Sire). This in itself led to a large variety of different/special releases and promos. The Depeche Mode "Pleasure Little Treasure" 7" promo in France. German Depeche Mode 7" singles were pressed on red vinyl and 12" singles on multi-coloured vinyls. The "Chronicles" box sets in Japan (see next paragraph). And lots of different/additional singles and remixes in the USA especially for Depeche Mode, Erasure and Nitzer Ebb.

    In 1991 Mute worked with their Japanese counterpart label "Alfa Records" to release a Depeche Mode box set. This eventually turned into the "Chronicles" X1 and X2 box sets each with four CDs in them. Each disc had a "theme". Mute's love of numbers and languages was clearly shown with the discs numbered one to eight in different languages.

    When the velvet revolution occurred in Czechoslovakia (1989) Daniel saw the opportunity of getting western music to a wider audience (along with central European distribution) so he setup Mute Czechoslovakia aka Mute CS. It only commercially released six items plus one promo and by the end of the 1990s Mute CS had disappeared. However, most of Mute's biggest artists (Depeche Mode, Recoil, Martin L. Gore, Erasure, Yazoo, Nitzer Ebb, Nick Cave and Laibach) were given specific Mute CS pressings (usually plain white CDs with a black print) with the Mute CS logo printed on the discs and inserts - all of these releases are now very collectable). For some reason, in 2011, the Mute CS logo reappeared on the limited edition Josh T.Pearson "Live" album.

    In 1997 Moby released his re-recording of the James Bond theme to tie in with the James Bond 007 film "Tomorrow Never Dies". It was released on 4 different promotional 12" singles (P/PL/PXL/PXXL), 3 different commercial 12" singles (12/L12/XL12), a one track promotional CD single, a six track commercial CD single, a commercial cassette single and a promotional VHS video! Moby is the only artist to have had a "PXXL" catalogue number.

    In 2002 Daniel sold Mute Records to EMI for £23 million but stayed on as an "advisor". Although there are some big independent labels again now, at the time it was the last big independent to be swallowed by a major label. However, in 2010 Daniel licensed the Mute name back from EMI and rebooted "his" independent label…

    In celebration of being independent again in May of 2011 (13th and 14th) Daniel instigated a whole weekend of celebrations around the Mute label as part of an ongoing festival called "Short Circuit" at the Roundhouse in London. It was a huge success with many unique surprises including but not limited to:

    I personally documented the Mute Short Circuit Festival in pictures and video.

    In 2011 Alan Wilder (of Depeche mode) announced he was having a clear out and would be selling some Depeche Mode memorabilia. Things started to spiral out of control when he realised just what he had and how much of it. It eventually turned into a huge auction with a mini-exhibition preview and even documentary film (available on DVD as "Collected"). There was some very rare stuff up for grabs including many test pressings and even the "holy grail" Depeche Mode box set (see above).

    On the 21st December 2012 BMG acquired the Mute back catalog rights from EMI for approximately £7 million. The Mute catalogue was one of the assets that Universal Music Group agreed to divest in order to get regulatory clearance to buy most of EMI's recorded-music division.

    Unusual Formats

    CD video/laserdisc info icon

    Mute's first and only 5" CD Video single was Ohi Ho Bang Bang's "The Three". However, the United Kingdom, Germany, USA and Japan released various 12" laserdiscs including the incredibly rare Visible Evidence #1 and #2 discs plus Depeche Mode's "Strange" video.

    Digital Compact Cassette (DCC) info icon

    Depeche Mode's Violator and Songs Of Faith And Devotion along with Erasure's Chorus and Pop! The First 20 Hits were released on this obscure, short-lived format.

    MiniDisc info icon

    In the mid 90s Sony's Mini Disc format was gaining momentum so Mute released several major artists on this format including Depeche Mode, Erasure, Moby, Yazoo and Nick Cave.

    Universal Media Disc (UMD) info icon

    Four Depeche Mode videos were released on UMD in 2005.

    Super Audio CD (SACD) info icon

    Depeche Mode's 101 was released on SACD in 2004 although initial copies were recalled due to defects on the discs. When Mute issued the Depeche Mode remastered albums in 2006/2007 the albums also came on 5.1 surround sound SACDs. Most of Can's back catalogue was issued as SACDs.

    Digital Audio

    In the early noughties (00s) Mute officially offered some rare tracks as purchasable digital MP3s via the internet through 7Digital such as the Mantronik remix of Goldfrapp's "Twist". In 2006 Mute celebrated iTunes dominance of digital music distribution with a special digital only box set called The Complete Depeche Mode (no longer available). Interestingly, if you didn't download it as part of the Remixes 81-04 digital offering (ZMUTEL8), it was the only official way to get the "ON-USound Remix" of Shake The Disease digitally. As both digital editions are no longer available this remix is once again unavailable to (legally) obtain digitally.

    Blu-Ray info icon

    Depeche Mode's Tour Of The Universe saw the first hi-definition blu-ray release from the Mute label.

    Catalogue Numbers

    Mute catalogue numbers are usually 4 or 5 letters e.g. MUTE, STUMM, BONG, CABS, DOOD, DUNG, HOUR, IONIC, IRREG, JSBX, KIRK, LEFT, NOMU, SEEDS, PSST, SEXY, SPOON, TONAL, TRAM, TYPE, NEMY with a numeric denomination. The primary Mute label catalogue words are all related to silence: Interestingly BONG (used for Depeche Mode singles) is a slang word for a joint ("having a bong")! Martin Gore chose this word in 1982 for fun - printed in an interview of the B.M.A. (Black Monument Association) - the former Depeche Mode fan club for Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The interview was translated to German and issued in January 1988.
    B.M.A.: What's the meaning of "Bong" on your records?
    Andy Fletcher: That's Australian for smoking a joint. Having a bong, Haha!
    B.M.A.: I'm sure that was Martin's idea!
    Andy Fletcher: Yes, that's right. During the time of Leave In Silence he read an article in a magazine and he simply found it funny.

    Prefixes/Suffixes (UK Releases)

    Not an exhaustive list but…

    L = limited edition (usually used for a second version of something e.g. 12" remix) - interestingly Renegade Soundwave 12" singles were the opposite way round with the standard 12" using the L12 prefix and the limited edition 'remixes' using the normal 12 prefix
    X = additional (item) i.e. more than normal + limited (L), multiple Xs for multiple items e.g. XL, XXL (XXL was first used for Erasure's "Supernature" single not Depeche Mode's "Enjoy The Silence" which was one month later)
    E or EP = EP
    A = advance promo
    BX = box set promo
    D / DANCE = promo but D also used for several limited edition 'double pack' sets e.g. Erasure's "Sometimes" and "It Doesn't Have To Be" limited edition 7" singles
    DJ = DJ promo (usually with club/dance remixes)
    i (lower case) = internet / digital release
    I (upper case) = interview promo
    IPK = interview and electronic press kit (EPK) promo
    P = promo but also used for several limited edition 'packaged' sets e.g. Erasure's "A Little Respect" limited edition 7" single
    R = radio edit promo
    S / SHOP = shop promo
    V = video, usually promos
    BONG = Depeche Mode singles (see meaning above)
    CAVESPEAK = Nick Cave interview promos
    DEPRO = Depeche Mode promos
    ERAS = Erasure releases, usually promos
    ERASSAY = Erasure interview promos
    MUTEL = best of/compilation

    Catalogue Anomalies

    MUTE 188

    This was originally going to be a single by Barry Adamson and Billie Mackenzie titled "Achieved In The Valley Of The Dolls" to be issued in July 1996 on 12" vinyl [12MUTE188 - Achieved In The Valley Of The Dolls(Glass Dolls Mix)/Achieved In The Valley Of The Dolls(Original Version)/Dirty Barry/Farewell My Lovely] and two different CD singles [CDMUTE188 - Achieved In The Valley Of The Dolls(Single Mix)/Dirty Barry/Everybody's Sleeping But Me/Farewell My Lovely + LCDMUTE188 Achieved In The Valley Of The Dolls(Glass Dolls Mix)/Hear The Angels/Trouble Asunder/Achieved In The Valley Of The Dolls(Original Version)]. There is a promo cassette of the two CD singles. Instead the catalogue number was used by Barry Adamson for his "Can't Get Loose" single in May 1998.

    MUTE 223

    This was originally going to be a single by Barry Adamson titled "Jazz Devil" to be issued in October 1998 on 12" vinyl [12MUTE223] and CD single [CDMUTE223]. Instead the catalogue number was used by Barry Adamson for his "Black Amour" single in September 2002.
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