Producer and engineer John Loder founded the landmark Southern Studios and its accompanying record label and distribution network, all potent forces in the emergence and continued longevity of post-punk. Born April 7, 1946, outside of Plymouth, England, Loder briefly studied electrical engineering at London's City University, but music was his obsession -- in particular experimental and avant-garde recordings -- and in 1970 he began collaborating with the avant outfit Exit. With earnings saved from a short tenure driving a taxi, by 1972 Loder had assembled his own multi-track sound system, and two years later opened a recording studio in the garage of his North London home.
He spent the mid-'70s writing and recording advertising jingles, but in 1977 crossed paths with fellow Exit alum Penny Rimbaud, who in the interim co-founded the punk group Crass. Soon Loder was installed as the band's recording engineer and financial adviser, and with a few additional improvements his garage was officially opened as Southern Studios. With Rimbaud, he also founded Crass Records, and the staunch D.I.Y. ethics of studio and label alike -- no contracts or paperwork, just handshake deals and mutual trust -- earned enormous respect from punk artists and fans.
Over the years to follow, Loder created several additional labels and also Southern Distribution to ensure a home and retail channels for worthy bands that might otherwise go unnoticed. His production and managerial portfolio ultimately swelled to include a who's who of underground acts including Björk, the Jesus and Mary Chain, Fugazi, Shellac, and Slint, and despite the music industry's trend towards consolidation, the Southern empire remained as fiercely independent as its owner. After battling a brain tumor, Loder died August 12, 2005, at the age of 59.