Rachel Graham is known to most by her excellent taste in music and her electric blue thick-rimmed glasses. She is a music publisher (Passé Publishing), a photographer, and a freelance project manager for a multitude of music projects - from negotiating remix contracts to managing international touring logistics. Her work spans many experiences - from being a door girl, a booking agent, to general management for Optimo (Glasgow) to creative projects for Franz Ferdinand.
The Manifesto first became aware of Rachel through her affiliation with certain remix projects. After meeting her for a cup of tea, we were impressed by her effortlessly cool attitude to things. For this story - we wanted to learn more about Rachel with a little help from her friends.
Director and Photographer
I met Rachel on a music video set, that someone else was directing, for one of her bands. I was there doing behind the scenes footage. If memory serves me well, I think we bonded over the fact she is from Louisville, and so many bands I grew up on came out of that scene. I’ve always had the impression that Rachel really goes where her heart lies, in terms of the people and art that she chooses to works with. One time Rachel sent me a rip of a Nirvana bootleg she found while cleaning out her room back home, which scores mighty highly in my books.
Publisher and Writer
Various work related things meant our paths crossed in Berlin early last year. My girlfriend and I had rented an apartment for a month and Rachel had various meetings relating to her myriad of projects. Ms Graham is a Coeliac and ever since I’ve known her, has always had issues negotiating suitable dining options from our absurd addiction to the evil wheat. Having caught wind, (or researched extensively knowing Rachel) I remember walking miles across Berlin just to find the best wheat-free food in the town. I don’t even remember what we ate now, but it was commitment to the end.
Rachel is one of the most fastidious people that I’ve ever met. As my friend, I would say that her most defining characteristic is her kindness and warmth. She ended up being the best new friend that I had made, in forever, in London. You know that wonderful thing - when you realise that a relationship has transcended? Something that started in work, has a tipping point, and suddenly the work thing becomes very peripheral and you realise that you’ve become family. She’s like a sister figure to me. I think I’ve described her to you before as a polymap. That’s what she is. In underground music there tend to be a lot of passionates, but not a lot of competent people. She manages to be a very effective combination of the two. There can often be a disconnect between the representation and the actual credo of the artist. She makes the whole thing so seamless. She gets it.
I would like to see her set up an agency for ‘A La Carte’ style management. I think she’d be very well suited to providing services for artists. From bookings to strategy, career advice, tailored for each client. That’s where I think she’ll end up to be honest.
Venue owner and DJ
Rachel is so talented, hardworking and creatively minded. She is a facilitator with impeccable taste in everything.
Stephane Le Sciellour
Business Consultant and Artist Manager
We met 2 years ago, in London. Kateri O Neil, a friend of ours, invited her to a La Femme show, and we realised that night that we had been in contact years ago. We immediately became friends. Rachel is a wonderful listener and she loves to take care of others. We once did some dog-minding together in Paris. Two dogs. A big pug and a tiny chiuwahwah. I remember it was snowing and we had so much fun walking those dogs.
I moved to Glasgow in September of 1999 to study at Strathclyde University. I was on an exchange for a year from Ball State University in the USA, and my major was Genetic Biology. Due to some bureaucratic differences between my professors at Ball State and those at Strathclyde, I took more subjects in liberal arts and language that year. It was the first time that I found myself out of intense academic study, and I had time to follow some other pursuits that I had always enjoyed. I ended up using the time to put together a portfolio for entry to study Fine Art Photography at the Glasgow School of Art. I thought ‘If I get in I will stay in Glasgow, and if I don’t, I will go back to Ball State and change majors. I got in, so I stayed. I decided that I wanted to move to London in January of 2008 and moved by May that same year. I always said that I would probably be ready to move on after 5 years; I have made it to 6, and I am ready for some newness.
My mom once said to me, quoting Tao - ‘expectation and anticipation are the root of all disappointment and anger.’
I believe that we need to remove the perception in the arts that It’s OK to work for free. Everyone deserves to be paid for work on all levels. Time, knowledge, experience, and ideas are valuable. Don’t get me wrong, I believe massively in what I call - career kharma – which means doing things for others who need it, and knowing that this will come back round to you. But that approach should be a conscious decision, and not the expected default.
Most of my annoyance with myself boils down to the fact that I over-invest regularly; whether this be professionally, personally, or emotionally. Someone said to me recently, which is true in my business as well as personal life: You’re not a player - you just crush a lot.
I don’t drink alcohol, so I can’t say that I go for cocktails, and big nights out with a big expense attached. I love fresh juice, very simple clothes, usually black and from COS, and then otherwise I spend on good food and coffee.
My own experience of fine art is through, and very related to, science. In my experience, the principles of science and chemistry are the matrix that allows art to manifest, and on a constructive and developmental level, I find that fascinating.
“Happy” is an elusive term like “fun.” I am not one for massive burning highs, and therefore I have the pleasure of not experiencing very many crashing lows. For me, happiness has never been about a particular time or place, but the experience of a moment of freedom.
When I encounter things I would like to change in the music industry, I think the solutions all boil down to the lack of integrated humanism. This is not just symptomatic of the music industry, but in general business exchange. We are people first, and then what we do as people for work comes second. This viewpoint never hurts, and in my experience always helps get the best from people, but is widely forgotten.
Sometimes I am asked to play music out - a friend said the other day he thought the running theme of my selection was 'quirky cosmic.' Mickey Moonlight, Pollyester, Console, Mathias Aguayo. I do find that I always tend towards the darker side - no one has ever described the music I listen to as happy. That is for sure. I love Suuns, Ivan Smagghe edits, a lot of French nu-wave, and some old gems as far back as the 40s that have modern swing. Lately- thanks to some new friends and influences- I have also gotten into more old school rock and roll and surf rock, which I think might actually be described as 'fun.' Not a word I would use lightly.
I have been visiting Paris a lot over the last year, for various work and non-work things, and I’ve decided to make the move full time. As a birthday present to myself I am going to move in June. I love London, but I want something new – new challenges and an injection of ‘exotic-ism’ back into daily life. London is good for work, but for me, Paris is good for life.
* A special thank you to Rachel's friends for making this feature possible.
Words by Michelle Sullivan
Photography by Damian Weilers
Creative Direction by Beatrice Hurst
Make up by Amy Conley (www.amyconley.co.uk)
Photographed on location at The Haggerston. London. Listening to wonderful tunes from haggerstonradio.com