BRIAN BRANDT – Mode Records

Born in Yonkers, New York in 1957.
The School of Visual Arts, New York, BFA in Design & Illustration, 1976.

When I was very young my parents purchased a portable record player and would buy me the 7” 45-rpm singles of a current hit songs. From this small beginning, my deep appreciation for music grew over time. I found myself, even at an early age, not only enjoying the songs but also being fascinated with the instrumentation and the way things sound. In my teens I was an avid record collector, amassing a collection of over 8,000 LPs of many genres – pop, soul, rock, R&B, jazz, classical, contemporary, sound tracks  and operas. Music got me through my teenage years, and through intensive listening I developed my aural sensibility of how a well recorded and produced record should sound. I also enjoyed the graphic design aspects of LPs covers and liner notes; the beauty of the presentation led me to study graphic design.

While working as a full-time freelance designer, I started my own mail order record company specializing in locating rare imported and audiophile records and LPs. Through this business I developed contacts with independent record distributors in the USA. Deciding on a hiatus from graphics gigs, I took the job of classical buyer for a New York record shop near Herald Square. One of my regular clients at the shop worked for PolyGram Records and suggested that I try for a job there. I became responsible for building their catalog for a newly established import division, PSI. There I had access to the vast international PolyGram catalog and I was able to import small quantities of titles which would otherwise not be released in the USA – everything from all of the Stockhausen on Deutsche Gramophon to Nana Mouskouri. It was a great, valuable and exciting experience for me.

In the 1970s and 1980s I attended many concerts in New York City, and I would often see John Cage at the new music events. One day during a concert, I asked Mr. Cage if there were any new recordings of his music soon to be released. He lamented that there were two musicians playing a recent work of his very beautifully, but no record label was interested in issuing it. At that moment, I suggested that perhaps I could release the record; Cage thought it was a marvelous idea and gave me his phone number.

After several weeks of research, I contacted Cage about the arrangements for the studio recording. The musicians were Frances-Marie Uitti and Michael Pugliese performing Etudes Boreales. Cage supervised the recording session, and with that 2-LP set Mode Records was born in 1984. Cage was delighted with the finished record (for which he also created the cover art).

At that time, I did not have any plan for the label, but I would continue to receive calls from Cage, wanting to introduce many fine musicians who played his compositions well as they passed through New York. These meetings led to new projects to be realized, and more contacts with other appealing composers and performers. John Cage’s friendship, influence, kindness and unique personality had a profound effect on my life. I decided to make it my mission to record all of Cage’s works, a kind of homage to him.

I continued to work as a freelance graphic artist for many years, working on Mode in the evenings and weekends, until 2006 when I decided to devote my attention fully to Mode. I continue to design most of the label’s releases. For 28 years, Mode Records has been one of the leading international independent labels devoted to contemporary new music.

I feel very lucky to have worked with John Cage and countless other wonderful musicians and composers, who have enriched my life and the lives of many listeners.