Seymour Stein, a bona fide music industry legend, turns 73 this month. Get him talking about music he loves, though, and he’ll match the passion of any young industry whippersnapper pound for pound.
Stein is still every bit as full as admiration for great bands as he was more than half a century ago, when in 1966 he co-founded Sire Records with his friend Richard Gottier. Through Sire, he played a vital role in bringing the likes of Talking Heads, The Ramones, The Cure, Ice-T and Echo & The Bunnymen to mainstream recognition.
And then there was that signing, when Stein fell head over heels for the music and theatricality of Madonna Louise Ciccone — launching the career, in 1982, of a woman who would go on to define music’s pop culture time and time again.
These days Stein plies his A&R trade within the walls of Warner Music Group, and he remains a hero to the ‘next generation’ of independent music executives—those now running labels and publishers around the world.
[PIAS] founder Kenny Gates shared a coffee and a chat with Seymour at SXSW to delve deep into the career history of one of independent music’s true godfathers.
When you signed Madonna, did you think she’d still be making music 30 years later?
I didn’t think about it. What people usually ask me is, Do you think she’d ever be this big? Of course not! I knew she was special.
And you met her through Mark Kamins?
Yes, I’d always befriended Mark. He was a DJ who played all sorts of weird music but somehow made it work — he was playing Faro music, mixing it with African music and making it all work. I gave him $18,000 and I told him: ‘This should be enough for you, over a period of a year or longer — don’t rush it — to make six demos.’ Madonna was the third demo he brought me. I listened to it, and I loved it.
Everyone knows this story: I heard it in the hospital, and I got so excited, I made her come to see me. No, that’s not true — even then you couldn’t make Madonna do anything unless she wanted to! She came to the hospital and we agreed on a deal right then and there. I asked her to go to her lawyers so we could draw up the papers.
Please read the full interview at Medium.com