Interview: Les Moir

May 05 2011

Having started the record label that signed Matt Redman, Yfriday and Tim Hughes, Les Moir has been an influential figure in Christian music for the last 20 years. With the recent release of 'Survivor: Celebrating 15 years', Sam Hailes caught up with Les for LTTM to talk about the history of Survivor Records.

How did Survivor start?

There was an incredible thing happening with the youth in the UK in the late 1980s. I was playing bass at the NewWine Conference, as part of the worship team with Bryn Haworth. One night we went down to NewWine Youth, which was held in a cowshed in Shepton Mallet. Matt Redman was down there and he was 16 or 17 years old. It was amazing, God was doing so much. So after our worship sessions in the main venue I would run down to NewWine Youth to see what was happening. At the same time Martin Smith was engineering the albums I was producing, and we would talk for hours.

The next year, Soul Survivor started and I went to John Pac [head of Kingsway] and said I feel there's about to be an explosion with the youth. The Cutting Edge events had also just started. I suggested we start a label to facilitate that, which was different from Kingsway. I said the youth needed their own label for this time, and Kingsway allowed me to run with that. The first album was 1996 Soul Survivor Live, then the Paul Oakley album 'Because of You', then close to that came [Matt Redman's] 'The Friendship and the Fear'.

What is it about Soul Survivor you love?

I think out of all the festivals I've been to, Soul Survivor has my favourite combination of everything. There's wonderful worship, powerful ministry, great teaching, gigs, skate park, cinema. The youth own it - it's their festival. They are confident to bring their non-Christian friends so now over 2,000 people each year are getting saved. To see it grow from 1500 people to 30,000 has been an amazing journey. I'm thrilled to see what has happened and I want to support Mike. He's a great guy that has bought through all these young worship leaders and I want to help him see his dream fulfilled.

Did you have any idea that the songs you would release through Survivor would go all around the world and become so well known?

Kevin Prosch prophesied to me in 1994 "the British invasion is going to happen again and you've got 3 years to prepare for it." So I knew then that there was going to be a time when the songs would leave the island. What happened was other people picked up songs. [Tim Hughes's] 'Here I Am To Worship' was recorded by Darlene Zschech, Chris Tomlin, Israel Houghton and Michael W Smith. So that song just went around the globe.

I was at Hillsong Sydney and Tim would lead 'Here I Am To Worship' and all 19,000 people in the room would start singing it Brian Houston came over to me and said: "Supernatural song, supernatural song!", he understood that there's like a God song which goes around the world. It's astounding. The other one was 'Blessed Be Your Name' which Tree63 recorded and was number one in America. So that was another encouraging situation.

In my position, one of the things I've been most privileged to be a part of is that of hearing the original idea for a song. For instance, Matt would say "I've got an idea" and would play you the beginning of 'Blessed Be Your Name'. Then later, seeing what happens with it... truly amazing.

Even with 'Everlasting God' there was a choice of a couple of choruses, and we settled on one and that's the one the church sings. These are some of the special moments.

What have been some of your favourite memories from the last 15 years of Survivor Records?

Delirious? - Farewell ShowHearing and seeing the songs travel so far. ['Champion Of The World' at] Wembley in 1997 was very significant. I was working with Noel Richards to see Wembley filled with worship. Four guys from EMICMG came to that event to sign Delirious? which they obviously did. But they basically walked into this situation of 50,000 people worshipping in Wembley Stadium, they hadn't seen anything like it since the Jesus Movement and said, "America needs this". That day was the door opener.

Trafalgar square and Soul In The City [2004] was a delight. It was a beautiful day, the square was filled with people worshipping, seeing a generation expressing their worship to God. The Delirious? Farewell show at Hammersmith Apollo was unforgettable as well as the recording and filming of Matt Redman's Facedown project. What we're seeing with Worship Central now is totally encouraging. I love taking secular venues and seeing them filled with worship, in the last couple of years we've done Hammersmith Apollo, Shepherds Bush and HMV Forum. This summer we're going to be at the O2 arena with the Pentecost event. Situations like that are happening which I'm really happy about.

In recent years there's been a move to incorporate more styles of music into worship- particularly rap and hip hop. How did that happen?

Soul In The City in London became a catalyst for it. In London, there are more people that go to non-white churches than white churches, so the expression is different. I think Soul Survivor got a little bit of a shock in a good way and realised they needed to incorporate the black majority church more. Survivor's slogan was always "worship for a new generation". I think the 29th Chapter guys particularly have done really well with it. The Shackles rap is one of my favourite recorded moments.

Survivor Books has also been incredible successful. At what point did you decide to publish books?

My impression was that the youth didn't read books. But I encouraged Matt Redman to write because everyone was asking him to come and do seminars and he wasn't keen to travel. So we discussed it and he wrote 'Unquenchable Worshipper'. It's a small book and we put it out. Then this book sells 120,000 in America! It was a mad situation. So we started to release Survivor books and work with the movement leaders Andy Hawthorne (The Message), and Pete Greig (24-7 Prayer). That's been a total blessing and a positive part of the journey. It's also been encouraging to see worship teams using the Survivor Songbooks.

We've seen Delirious?, YFriday and onehundredhours all call it a day in recent years. Do you think the UK needs more bands to step up?

Yes, I do think there needs to be more bands. The Yfriday guys were very special, especially for the North of England. I think the Rend Collective Experiment guys are carrying something very fresh and are going to surprise us. There's huge potential there.

The interesting thing now is with iTunes and digital sales, the world is flat. So for instance, Tim Hughes' album ['Love Shine Through'] was in the 40s in the iTunes chart. Apart from extra promotion, there's nothing stopping Christian songs. The 'History Makers' [by Delirious?], download got to number seven. There's nothing to stop that now. So if there was a great worship song at Soul Survivor this year and we released it two weeks after the festival before the album comes out, it could be huge.

What are you working on at the moment?

I now head up A&R at Kingsway. We've just finished Stuart Townend's new album ['The Journey'] and are working on the new Worship Central Live album. I am working closely with A&R manager Adrian Thompson on preparation for Ben Cantelon's new studio album and Rend's new album.

How's your book going?

Very well thank you. I've just finished writing the second chapter with Craig Borlase. It's called: 'The Missing Jewel. The story of the UK worship movement 1961-2011' and is due for release next spring.

What is happening to Survivor now?

After Kingsway acquired Fierce! [the label formerly owned by Delirious?] we decided to restructure. We looked very intently at the labels. There was Kingsway, Survivor, One Voice and Fierce! and we decided that we wanted to go for one label. But instead of there being a youth label, we decided that Kingsway itself should become more multi-generational and more multicutlural. Everyone has been happy about that. Kingsway will always have a heart to release the next generation because Survivor is in our DNA.

How would you like Survivor to be remembered?

I would like to hope that Survivor became a voice for the youth movements and it also became a part of the soundtrack to what the Holy Spirit has been doing in this generation.

Survivor - Celebrating 15 YearsWith thanks to Sam Hailes, Les Moir and Kingsway

Find out more about Kingsway at www.kingsway.co.uk

Survivor - Celebrating 15 Years is available now priced at just £4.99

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