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 all good book stores and:
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.
The primary Mute logo has changed over the years roughly with each decade that has gone by so approximately:
- 1978 to 1979 - original Letraset logo with overhead man
- 1980 to 1989 - overhead man circling the globe
- 1990 to 1999 version A - iconised man/legs with big capital M
- 1990 to 1999 version B - version A with green wreath
- 1990 to 1999 version C - version A with green wreath and acorns
- 2000 to 2009 - 3D cube
- 2010 to current - flat three square logo (various colours / shades of grey) [designed by Adrian Shaughnessy]
Daniel Miller never planned to launch a record label. He had put his home contact address on the rear of the sleeve of his The Normal single - people
sent him demo tapes. One of those was Frank Tovey (as Fad Gadget) - when Daniel visited him there appeared to be no musical instruments in the house. Frank led him
to a "studio cupboard" where his synthesisers and recording equipment was setup. Daniel signed him and Mute Records as a label was born.
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 "The King Is Dead" 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:
- Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti (of Throbbing Gristle fame and famous musicians in their own right) with Nik Void from Factory Floor played a live set as Carter Tutti Void which was later released.
- Producers Flood and Gareth Jones gave talks
- Andy Fletcher and Martin Gore (of Depeche Mode) played DJ sets
- Vince Clarke performed live with Andy Bell (as Erasure), Alison Moyet (as Yazoo) and even with Feargal Sharkey (as The Assembly)! - the "Erasure" performance was later released as part of The Violet Flame deluxe/box set editions.
- Laibach played a live cover version of Daniel's "Warm Leatherette" in English. Subsequent gigs have seen them only play a German version of it ("Warme Lederhaut").
I personally documented the Mute Short Circuit Festival in pictures
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
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.
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)
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.
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)
Four Depeche Mode videos were released on UMD in 2005.
Super Audio CD (SACD)
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.
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.
Depeche Mode's Tour Of The Universe saw the first hi-definition blu-ray release from the Mute label.
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:
- MUTE = (of a person) lacking the faculty of speech, characterised by an absence of sound
- STUMM = "to keep shtum", Shtum: from yiddish: silent
- NEMY = Němý: from Czech/Slovak: (of a person) lacking the faculty of speech - specifically from German occupation where German people were called "Němec" because they did not speak the local language (Německo is used for the country of German)
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
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.
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.