Neil Blanket is the Head of Marketing at Mute, an independent label founded in 1978 by Daniel Miller.

Mute’s guiding spirit has always been one of artistic freedom and creative adventure, working with and nurturing a diverse roster inc New Order, Goldfrapp, Erasure, Yann Tiersen, Desire Marea, HAAi, Liars and Can. Neil has been working in the music industry for 20+ years at a mixture of major labels, distributor/artist services and independent labels. This year will be his 10 year anniversary at Mute. He lives in London with his fiancé Dan and their rescue dog Lenny.

Our recent chat with Neil discusses his favourite campaigns and talks about the overlaps between visual creativity and music.

I’m currently working on a hundred different things! We have new music from Yann Tiersen, Liars and Chris Liebing amongst others, plus we’re now working with the South African musician Desire Marea. Desire self released their debut solo album (they also record as part of the band Faka) last year, and we’re putting it out physically for the first time this August along with new mixes of some of the key tracks, and a fantastic new video by Allison Swank before new music in the future. A true talent to watch. Also excited about new music soon from Haai.

I'M LOVING

Creatively at the moment, I’m loving the ascension of Drag as an art form that is not only recognised but celebrated in the mainstream. From TV shows through to major ad campaigns, Drag is such a fun and creative joy to experience, and the queens themselves are true artists

FAVOURITE VIDEO

My all-time favourite music video is Madonna Rain directed by Mark Romanek.

You can say this for most of Mark’s work (k.d. lang, En Vogue, Eels, Fiona Apple etc), but freeze the video at any point and it’s just a stunning piece of work. Madonna, for so many years at the forefront of the pop video, went for a completely different, even somewhat unrecognisable look, and is just stunning. The inclusion of Ryuichi Sakamoto as the video director was a fantastic touch.

BEST ARTWORK

I’ve always loved the album art for Barbra Streisand’s Butterfly. I’d love to have been in the planning meeting for that one. 

Well, the album is called Butterfly, so we could incorporate that beautiful, fantastic creature, or our instantly recognisable iconic artist, or….. In addition (and probably a little less tongue in cheek), the Grace Jones trilogy of albums she made with Tom Moulton: Portfolio, Fame and Muse. Designed by Richard Bernstein, who is best known for his work at Interview Magazine. Not only are the albums sonic bliss, the cover art is striking and framing worthy!

RECENT CAMPAIGN

The most recent campaign I’ve enjoyed working on has been Erasure’s The Neon.

Getting to work with Vince Clarke and Andy Bell over the past few years has been an absolute thrill. They are individually and collectively responsible for the soundtrack to much of my life, so being able to work with them both, and have their complete trust in me and the team at the label is amazing. Releasing an album during a global pandemic was never going to be an easy challenge, but we had started planning the release before lockdown and felt that as they had delivered such an upbeat and positive record, it was really important to share it with the world.

We had to make a few changes to the campaign and the timeline, but it all worked out for the best and gave the band their highest charting album in 26 years. We’re a year into the campaign now and about to release The Neon Remixed, a collection of brand new remixes that I A&Rd with the band which will be followed by (finally) the album tour and a few other surprises.

BRAND COLLAB

The most recent brand collab that caught my eye was Honey Dijon and Arca’s collaboration with Calvin Klein for Pride.  

We worked with Arca on her first 2 albums, Xen and Mutant and watching how she has exploded over the past few years has been amazing. This whole campaign was a celebration of queerness and to have the trans community at the forefront of such a massive ad campaign was amazing.

VIDEO OF THE YEAR

For me the most creative and original music video of the past year is - I’m going to have to go with one of my own - Erasure’s Nerves of Steel  is just a powerhouse of talent.

Heading into lockdown we knew that filming a new music video was going to be tough, but watching how Drag Queens were pulling out all the stops for at home performances, I wondered if it would be possible to bring that aesthetic to an Erasure video. Drag was not exactly a stranger to the band (see their video for Take a Chance on Me) and the band's music certainly wasn’t going to be new to many queens. After a bit of research, I reached out to Brad Hammer who had directed a number of videos for Queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race and we got to work.

The reaction from the drag community was fantastic and we soon had over 20 queens involved. The videos quickly rolled in which was a fantastic way to spend a working day going through the rushes! With Brad and editor Tyler Stone, I feel we created something magical and one of the strongest ‘at home’ videos during the pandemic.

GO FOLLOW

The one artist you should follow on Instagram is Fab Ciraolo. One of my favourite artists.

I just love how he takes iconic figures and subverts their image through his illustrations. Plus a special mention to Love of Huns who make social media worth investing time in.

ICONIC

The most iconic music photograph is the series of images of Tina Turner taken by Jack Robinson (New York Times/Vogue) in 1969.

Long before she became the icon she is today, these images show her power, beauty and energy. Knowing what was going on behind the scenes with her and Ike, you can imagine her wanting to express her true self in this solo shoot. Raw talent.