After four decades in the music business, Wire founder Colin Newman has got things figured out. He owns the labels that release his albums, from Wire’s influential 1977 debut “Pink Flag” to its latest, “Silver/Lead.” In 2013, he launched the international Drill Festival, a post punk event happening in Los Angeles this weekend with guests including Bob Mould, Julia Holter and Laetitia Sadier. “What I do works from a label perspective, because there are no employees, no office, just a home studio,” he says. “And the studio — to put it in Marxist terms — is my means of production.”
You’ll be celebrating your 40th anniversary with Wire this April. How does it feel?
It’s weird. It struck me in 2013 that the first of April, 2017, was going to be the 40th anniversary of the first proper Wire gig. And I thought, “Well, should we do something about it or should we not?” But – and this partly comes from fine art, partly from pop culture – there’s this idea of a narrative. People like a story. They like to connect the dots somehow. So we’re doing a concert, but there isn’t any retrospective element to it. We’re not trying to recreate what we were doing 40 years ago, God forbid. So there’s a duality to it: It’s both meaningful and completely meaningless.
And the Beggars Group imprint just reissued your first three solo albums from the 1980s, right?
No, they didn’t — I did. One of my friends there said to me, “Do you know that some artists are being allowed to re-release their vinyl back catalogs?” I wouldn’t say ‘enlightened’ is the right word for that. But you go back to the 1970s, and the music business was like the Wild West — full of big beasts, and people behaving in outrageous ways, not in the way that modern business does. So I think many companies now have a much more ethical approach, So I went to Beggars and said, “Can I get the rights to my CDs, as well, so I can do double discs with extra tracks from my archive?” And they said, “Yeah, sure.”
Is showbiz more gentlemanly in 2017?
Well, our digital distributor actually has someone who did an ethics audit on the company, just to ensure that they were behaving in an ethical way. So I’ve gone from being an artist on a major label to running my own labels, and out of that, I actually make more money than I did back in the day. Even though the sales are smaller. You just have to be smart about it.
IF YOU GO
Where: Slim’s, 333 11th St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. April 3
Contact: (415) 255-0333, www.eventbrite.com