Alexandra Hutton is an industry native, turned performer, turned businesswoman. ‘Turned’ perhaps being the wrong terminology there, as Alex in many situations gracefully wears all of those hats simultaneously - styling them laudably when she does. In many ways too, and perhaps why there is such a fluid nature between those hats, is that she brings those big experiences we occasionally face; those seminal learning moments, right through to whatever journey she chooses next, creating this seamless continuity in the story of ‘Alexandra Hutton’ that is as much enthralling as it is packed with wisdom, and a sense that being around it leaves you somehow better off.
And at the same time, the sense you get with Alex as a person is that through her and whatever her undertakings may be, there’s a want to do the right thing and often do the right thing particularly by others too. In today’s context, where Alex continues to build an artist career whilst also head up Pax Records, there’s this anti-current which comes to life. An anti-current that catalyses a recognition that in her story and the birth of the company lies a motif of going against the grain and seeking out what is right, even if (and, sometimes, most especially when) not doing so would've been the easier option.
It’s this story of a fierce but considered independence that turned - and continues to turn - into a forcefield that ushers into the industries she aligns herself to something inexplicably positive. The Alex Hutton ‘good for good’s sake’ characteristic is shaping itself out to be one of the central ones that define the path of Alex as an artist, and Pax as a label.
Alexandra Hutton’s career in music started in her days at University, trying her first hand at management, foreshadowing what was later to become formality under Pax Records. She started her own company, Busk Management, and describes how what guided her was a mere sense of “winging it”, led by her musical intuition and passion for the craft. In those early parts of her career she would spend summers in L.A., and recalls being guided by who she considered to be her first mentor in music: the late Jerome Spencer. Jerome, of Peer Music, “was the first one to describe me as a Hustler”, and in so doing inspired much of her approach throughout her later years. She recalls fondly, and wistfully, how “the last conversation we had together, he said ‘you know, we are going to work together’... his influence was seminal on me and though I wish we got to fulfil his last words, his legacy lives on in me and through what I do”
In the middle of the 2010’s she took this to London in a move familiar to many as the one to take musical pursuits to their next levels. She says it was here that the opportunities to work with industry veterans and experts, generally experience “incredible opportunities'', and gather more mentor-like figures in her journey, really came to life. With the good comes the less-good, however, and it was during this time that Alex first started to encounter the sordid and - pre-Me Too movement - often shadowed parts of the industry. Things like purposefully using the androgynous sounding ‘Alex’ in emails and rebutting the presumptuously forward practices of those in positions of power became commonplace.
After this, maybe not unsurprisingly, Alex tells us that she “stepped away from music”, dabbling in the world of tech.
Then 2020 comes, and then the world changes.
With that, so too did the choice that Alex made throughout her career to “hide away”, she says, the artist in her that was forever itching to get out and that informed the choice to pursue a parallel career in the industry. In November of that year, with the wakeup call of the pandemic behind her, Alex Kate was born as the artist that always was. It was at this time too that Pax Records came to life - at this stage purely as a way to self-release her own music.
In early 2021, whilst still defining the character of the artist that had been in her for so long, she was offered a deal attached to a monetary figure not insignificant to anyone, at any level. What was also attached to this, though, was a requirement of change, control and that of being placed into something more akin to a “piece of meat” than a living, breathing musician; the low-key caveats we’ve collectively become all too aware of in this side of the industry. At the time, she spoke to friend and folk singer-songwriter Roo Panes.“He asked me outright: ‘do they see you or do they see a product?’ - this was what I needed to hear to walk away”
In perhaps the biggest show of that fierce independence present throughout her story, Alex chose the preservation of her artistic integrity over the preservation of financial advances. She talks today - passionately - about how friends and contemporaries in the industry are being actively taken advantage of through things they signed, no doubt with this moment at the front of her mind when she does.
And it’s this sense of freedom (or in some cases rebellion) that is Alex’s seemingly number one ethic when it comes to creative pursuit - so clearly derived, in part, from the relative lack of freedom she was exposed to early in such crucial parts of her journey. She looks back on things and says “I’ve always had the mantra of ‘okay, let me prove you wrong’”, indicating that there was no other option for her but to funnel this adversity into a platform for good.
What stems from this is a strategy for Pax; a direction informed by clear principles, that translates into policies for her artists that span from contracts with comparatively few commitments, to business interactions with comparatively wild levels of honesty.
A year after turning down the deal, Pax signed its first one of those artists and progressed into a bona fide label, then signing a distribution agreement with Horus Music.
At breakneck speed, this is Alex Kate - largely a one-woman-army - providing what the industry calls 360° artist services. In practice this is being the singular point from which the services of Pax are emitted from; the incandescent helios through which the solar system of the Pax roster draws its energy. Whether its line-by-line budgeting for her artists born from the prudence she learnt growing up or the professional and personal matchmaking she utilises in business that comes from this natural, Cupid-esque inclination of bringing the right people together, you get the sense the services of Pax and the services of Alex are in many ways synonymous, and the synergy in that provides strong foundations for what the label has to offer.
The 360° in that refers to services that span label, management and sync, but what it means in every case is the faculty Alex has developed in covering the more subtle bases that you might find yourself wanting in representation - in a very personal way. On this, she says that “this is why I say to my artists: ‘don’t worry, you just need somewhere to grow from’”, always keeping it very human.
Growth, specifically in those very first, most arduous stages, isn’t linear. Most of us will be familiar with the twists and turns - sometimes violent - that make up the process of becoming something bigger and better. And that’s why ‘360’ happens to be the perfect descriptor of the Pax/Alex Kate modus operandi, transcending the traditional artist services, but not forgetting them also. Perhaps this is where the Pax motto, ‘by musicians, for musicians’, really comes from.
This viscous and lean pyroclastic juice that Pax injects into the small but growing number of spaces in the ecosystem the label occupies works its way up to the feeling you sometimes get in different parts of this musical world we live in when coming across something that just feels needed; at its core something that could really be a force for good.
In all that Alex talks about when she talks Pax, it’s clear that she knows this. It’s this very social-good mission that drives her, and makes up so much of the lifeblood of the label. She asks, with every syllable perfectly placed as if this was the question that she decided summed up Pax’s guiding principle: “Is there a way to make the artists the victors, not the victims?”. It rolls off the tongue and straight into the hearts and minds of those who are posed the question.
This too relates to her thoughts on the industry’s climate, of which she is a part. “Without pointing out the obvious, with the recession and all the unknowns that brings, we’re living in an ‘attention recession' too. Creators of music are fighting for the airwaves”. But even through this, it’s still that want to do better, whatever, that persists. “Maybe I’m being foolhardy”, she says, “but I can’t imagine doing anything else”.
It could be, for some, hard to maintain this in the face of all that went on, goes on, and is going to go on for her. But there’s a sense that this determined will to maintain rests on the foundation of those that came before her, and all that she knows she doesn’t know. “I still know that there’s a lot to learn”, and through the humility in that and surrounding herself with the people that she knows she can draw advice on, she sums it up neatly: “where there’s a will, there’s often a way”
When talking about the whereabouts of events and what they might be if Pax went further in that space, Alex spoke about places like Bath and Norwich (where she is organising her first Pax night on 28th February) as highlights of this phenomenon where not much goes on, but wealths of talent lay dormant. It was shortly after this that she announced a Pax Festival in Suffolk, scheduled to take place in the summer - scheduled to be ‘magical, intimate gig in the woods’. There’s a clear parallel of principle there in her approaches to artists, with a willingness to take a punt, try to tap into the yet untapped, and give people the chance that she saw was out there but not quite given to her in the earlier days of her career.
And so, even still in its early days, you have a platform in Pax that has launched the career of Alex as an artist, nurtures the progression of five artists and collectives with the “expressive, forward and creative” drive that she tells us she has held dear from the start, and has taken her from Europe to South Africa and so many places in between without letting go of the uprightness and ethic that took do-gooding via a label from an idea to the real thing.
The maverick style journey that rejects the supremacy of classic industry domination is starting to pay dividends, too. Alex reflects that she “can start to notice the shift in my career”, citing being at the receiving end of the zeitgeist phrase of today in ‘I’ve seen you on TikTok’, and DJs remixing some of the deep cuts of her discography. She talks about these still in slight bewilderment, laughing quietly in some sort of disbelief.
With these small but steady steps in the right direction, what’s next for the both of them on the path of positive rebellion? On this question, Alex is unusually bashful. She spends little time openly looking forward and prefers to let the journey speak for itself. In classic Alex Kate fashion she focuses more on those around her, reflecting on an ideal next chapter being the artists in her space flourishing, musing that it “would be incredible” if that in some way, somehow, that would be done in part because of her.
“I don’t care about streams, I care about fans” is where the answer ends up, hinting not-so-subtly that the fullness of time will probably continue to give precedent to something other than the relentless effort of getting in the good books of algorithms.
And in a way that could sum up some of the best of Alex, she’s - as she put it - “doggedly going for it”.