@ Music Week

Publication: Music Week
Publication Date: 08 May 2004

Quickfire: with the launch of Mania through BMG next month, pop producer Brian Higgins is reinventing his Xenomania production house as a fully-fledged imprint.

Xenomania has been in existence since 1996, so what is the motivation behind its development into a label?

We have spent the past two years working on certain pop acts and other projects such as St Etienne, so we have been very lucky to spread ourselves widely. But I think we felt that a label was a natural progression.

When you are brought in to work as a producer on projects, you work on something for five or six days, and you can get very, very good at doing that, but I find it starts to limit you creatively, because you are only involved at the end of the creative process. You don't have the time to experiment the way you want to.

It is harder when you are working with an established pop act or where the record label is laying down the parameters for you.

That has been very good for us, but I am dead keen to break new artists and become more involved throughout the creative process from the beginning to the end. The idea of being able to have a blank sheet of paper and, at the end of three months, you have filled it, that is exhilarating.

So, who are Xenomania?

Xenomania basically centres around me, my creative partner Miranda Cooper and business director Sarah Stennett. Currently we have six musicians, including myself, and three writers, including myself, and two A&R consultants.

We have two acts signed to BMG. Mania are two writers who worked out of here and started demoing together. Their voices are fantastic.

The other artist Eve is more of an MOR-type project. I think it sounds somewhere between Suzanne Vega and Scott Walker.

We have some other development acts, too: an urban act, an MC, with a fantastic singing voice called Justin; another solo female who reminds me more of John Lydon than anything else; and we are working on our own male and female groups. It is absolutely across the board.

Mania and Eve were signed to BMG after I met [head of A&R] David Field, who was fantastic and was dead keen to work with us. We don't really work with too many companies; we work with BMG and Universal because the people in those companies really like what we do, but we don't really sell ourselves. If people like us, I like the idea that they will search us out.

But you won't stop with other acts will you?

No. We are working with Girls Aloud and Texas at the moment. We have done six new tracks with Texas, which all sound fantastic. And with Girls Aloud, we are making the whole album, and that's just been fantastic fun. Plus, we are going to work with New Order as well and with St Etienne on their new album.

Your current hot streak, after the past 12 months with Girls Aloud and Sugababes, is not your first taste of success, is it? What have you learned over the years from the ebbs and flows of fashion?

I'm pleased that I know how to reinvent myself. I was only the songwriter of Believe, not the producer, and I didn't get a lot of work out of it. In the years between that and Round Round, I spent a lot of time learning how to do what I'm doing now.

The response to the music we are delivering this year is as enthusiastic as it was last year. But the bottom line is what the radio and the public think. The important thing is making sure you don't lose that connection.

This is my second or third stint at being a success. Maybe one day I will suss out how to keep it going. It never gets easy.

Mania's Looking for A Place single is scheduled for release through BMG on June 28, with their album due in the autumn.

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