Killing Moon began as a new music blog in 2011 and was founded by Achal Dhillon, formerly of Mercury Records, Columbia Records and Quest Management. Known for being one of the first to break amazing artists such as Alt-J, Foxes, and Royal Blood, Killing Moon has since evolved into a record label, artist management company and concert promotion hub.
We had a chance to interview founder Achal Dhillon and learn more about what it takes to run a respected music blog and record label.
You founded Killing Moon in 2011 – how did it all start?
Killing Moon started as a blog which I launched having just left a job at Almost Gold Recordings/Quest Management. In one respect it isn’t much different from a lot of blogs already out there – I’d spend a lot of time looking at new artists via the various mediums of social networks, working out which one’s I liked with the slightly surreptitious purpose of bigging up those which I thought were objectively good.
In another it is very different from other blogs – each track has to have a degree of emotional significance for me as I am constructing the ostensible soundtrack to my life. The blog now reaches to most if not all of the UK A&R community at large, as well as in Europe and North America and is cited as the blog that helped launched careers for artists such as Royal Blood, The Family Rain, Alt-J, Clean Bandit, and a bunch of others. At some point in the same year I had the idiot idea of putting on live nights, putting out some records and managing some artists despite the fact I could barely afford rent each month (and this is me living with my parents…). It’s now become my livelihood and that of several others, and we’re still doing the same sort of stuff, just on a much larger scale.
Advice for musicians and artists in the digital age?
Make the music you like, as opposed to the music you think people want to hear. Unless of course you don’t write music and simply want to perform, in which case be everything everyone else wants you to be. Digital distribution has never been easier to gain, and we now have this wonderful thing called the internet which means you have a platform to market your stuff to a lot of people for not much money at all. Generally just concentrate on being a musician or an artist; if you’re good, people will find you. When you do have a “team” around you – management, label, publisher, agent, lawyer, whatever – do ask questions, do criticize and critique and learn as much as you can; but if you feel that you know better than your team, you should probably do everything or that specific function yourself.
Also, don’t measure your success or where you are generally as an artist by comparing yourself to others. They’re not you, and ultimately it’ll just leave you wishing for something more all the time rather than just existing as an artist. If stats are that important to you, work in the industry instead.
Favorite artists right now?
Unashamedly the artists that we manage under Killing Moon are my favorites – otherwise I wouldn’t be managing them! We’re looking after the careers of Draper, Rogue, Remi Miles, Washington Irving and Draper’s new live project called CHIMES.
We’ve put our records for artists such as Fickle Friends, Sons & Lovers, John J Presley, Looks, Honours, Racing Glaciers, Duologue, Malpas (who have an album coming up very soon), Dems, Carnival Kids, Verses and a whole bunch more. Our New Moons compilation series (which we curate with our chum and former BBC Radio 1 DJ Ally McCrae) has meant we’ve put out early releases for artists like Laurel, Slaves, Youth Man, Hector Bizerk, One Bit, St. South, Model Aeroplanes, Jack + Eliza, Daniel Wilson, GRRL PAL, Ambassadeurs….far too many to mention really, but I guess I have already.
I’m a huge fan of several artists we have ended up working with in a label capacity (as in we have put out records for them via imprints created under Killing Moon), such as Jack Garratt, Laurel and Racing Glaciers. Fickle Friends are a pleasure to work with and make the kind of pop music I adore. Other than that I am a huge rock/indie fan, which ranges across the spectrum.
On the heavy side I’m into bands like Slipknot, Bring Me The Horizon, Poison The Well; then getting more into UK indie I love bands like We Were Promised Jetpacks, Idlewild, Tall Ships. Alkaline Trio are and always have been my favorite band. On the dance music front, people like Draper, Rogue, Pegboard Nerds and Haywyre are all doing great things. I’m also an avid hip-hop – Jay Z, DMX, Childish Gambino, Action Bronson, Mos Def, that kind of thing. I’m really getting into a new guy from Chicago called Matty Rico who straddles a line between feel-good party hip hop, and a more emotive poetic side.
What’s new and upcoming for yourself and Killing Moon?
We’re expanding our label by quite some way in 2015 – although I’ll be told off by the powers that be if I spill the proverbial beans right now. We’ve got our second Killing Moon tour coming up which will also touch down at a bunch of UK festivals, and a lot of exciting news coming up for our management roster as well. Wonderful stuff.