Originally founded by members of anarchist punk band Flux Of Pink Indians, One Little Indian was inspired by the DIY principles and anarchistic ideals of independent labels such as that created by anarcho-punk band Crass.
Since its inception in 1985 the label has prided itself on giving complete control to artists it feels deserve a shot at a wider audience.
Instead of rooting itself in the punk niche , in its first few years the budding label built up an eclectic roster of artists including Iceland’s finest avant-popsters/ pranksters The Sugarcubes (whose ’88 debut Life’s Too Good became the label’s first international release and million seller) shoegaze pioneers A.R. Kane, political tub-thumpers Chumbawumba, and rave-culture trailblazers The Shamen.
The early ‘90s were pivotal years for One Little Indian. In 1992 The Shamen recorded what would become a massive (and massively controversial) Number One hit in Ebenezer Goode pushing its parent album Boss Drum into the Top3. Björk’s Debut followed in ’93; swathed in forward-thinking beats, shimmering strings and spare brass, it became a worldwide hit and an introduction to one of the most innovative, vital and iconic stars we have. 20 years later Bjork remains the cornerstone of the roster, releasing her hugely innovative and universally acclaimed seventh studio album/ educational project combined, Biophillia through the label in 2011 - its formatting as an app another industry first (the label also issued the first DVD single All Is Full Of Love back in 1999). The accompanying world tour ran through to summer 2013 with a climatic show at London’s Alexandra Palace.
By the mid/ late 90s successes were coming thick and fast from rockers Skunk Anansie, country acid house collective Alabama 3 (who would later gain international renown for supplying The Sopranos with the soundtrack to its iconic opening credits sequence), clubby ensemble Sneaker Pimps and 50s flecked rockabilly heroes Rocket From The Crypt.
In the ‘noughties’ One Little Indian’s continuing eclecticism turned it toward folk and Americana, by now it’s heavyweight independent status making it an attractive home for Paul McCartney to place his Fireman project in 2008.
2012 featured two stunning comebacks: above the noise of more sensational issues, Sinead’s O’Connor’s ‘How About I Be Me and You Be You’ was widely hailed as a serious return to form, as was Cody ChesnuTT’s stunning ‘Landing On A Hundred’ - a collection of heartfelt, grandstanding soul anthems – arriving a decade on from ‘The Headphone Masterpiece’. The label has also created a re-issues imprint, the Totem Series which has so far released carefully curated reissues & re-mastered compilations from luminaries Disco Inferno, A.R. Kane, The Woodentops, A.C. Acoustics and A Flux Of Pink Indians over the last couple of years.
This year Kathryn Williamshit her career best with her 10th studio album, ‘Crown Electric’, while keeping up the rock’n’roll end of the deal were The Computers with their ‘Love Triangles Hate Squares’ album – the non-stop touring of which was recognized with an AIM nomination for ‘Hardest Working Band in Music’.
In 2014 the label continues to host a diverse roster and the year opens with two highly anticipated Icelandic releases. First, the worldwide release of Ásgeir’s ‘In The Silence’ - the English-language version of his Icelandic debut ‘Dyrd í dauðathogn’ which broke all records to become Iceland’s fastest and biggest selling debut album ever - outselling even Björk and Sigur Rós’. His first headline shows in London were sell-outs and a landmark show follows at the Union Chapel in April. Another young Icelandic act, Samaris have just finished work on their as yet untitled debut. Setting lyrics adapted from 19th Century Icelandic poems to beats and clarinet, the band have already attracted a huge amount of interest, including a Dazed & Confused feature.
By way of contrast, also releasing a debut album in the New Year are The New Mendicants – the combined melodic chops of Norman Blake, Joe Pernice and Mike Belitsky are given free range on ‘Into The Lime’ - masking a none-more-dark sense of humour.
Currently in the studio are Icelandic chanteuse Ólöf Arnalds, working on the follow up to 2013’s acclaimed ‘Sudden Elevation’ and electronic soul duo Stubborn Heart, working on the follow up to their eponymous debut – a record which picked up up Album Of The Month notices at Rough Trade, Mixmag and an Album Of The Year gong at the Gilles Peterson Awards.
So now as then, there has never been a particular One Little Indian sound, but little has changed in terms of label philosophy “In the future we are just going to carry on in the same way” says label head Derek Birkett “We just want to carry on putting out records and some of them will sell better than others.” If that sounds prosaic, infact it belies a love of music, equanimity,andfierce loyalty to the artists that has now seen the label through 28 years - no mean achievement. (December 2013)