Sunday, March 24, 2013

Earache Metalizer Spotify app- how did it come about?

Question: Congrats on the Metalizer  Spotify app, it's genius, and I use it all the time, and tell all my friends as well. So my question is can you explain how did Earache come to make this app, and do you have any more apps coming soon?

From: Matt Cavendish

Answer: Thanks for the question Matt, the launch of our  Earache Metalizer Spotify app was one of the reasons this blog lay kinda dormant for 6 months- it was mostly created in-house and took a ton of our staffers time and energy to build and launch this thing, so it's very reassuring that fans are enjoying it.

On its launch on 22 Jan 2013 it quickly became a Top 10 app on the platform, and something like 200,000 unique playlists were created serving up 10 Million tracks of metal in the first 2 weeks. However, the story of the apps concept and creation began a whole year beforehand in Jan 2012- see early sketch of design up top.

The app was borne out of our frustration at the early spate of 'fixed playlist by a trusted source' type of apps on the platform, and also my annoyance that Metal was under-represented in the early app listings. Our intention from the outset was build a type of "meta-curation" where the user is empowered enough to curate their own playlist(s) - using sliders like a mixing desk at a concert/ studio. Our intention was to help navigate fans through the maze of metal's most common sub-genres, many of which remain mysterious if not even somewhat ludicrous to the general 'Rock fan'.

Initially the bulk of the grunt work was in the sub-genre classification of 10,000+ of Spotify's metal bands, each act was evaluated by the Earache team, and this took months because Spotify's external API used by outside developers doesn't provide any classification other than "Rock". This process of creating our own Database of sub-genre classifications is the backbone of the app, and why its the first of its kind on the platform. Our own knowledge-base is built-in to the app.

To our surprise so many Metal bands have a Rapper or Dance artiste with the same name, which is annoying. Key to the app was weeding out such duplicates, as Spotify simply serves up the songs by the  most popular candidates,  regardless of what type of act you're  actually searching for. Our own act Painkiller (a jazz-grind band)  appears alongside the Psy-Trance act Painkiller on Spotify for instance, its confusing for the unwary. See pic.

If you crave more technical details here's Earache's Ashley Mortimer in-depth take on the process:

"Once we'd brainstormed the concept of a spotify app with "reactive"  settings to generate on-the-fly playlists as opposed to the rather dull "curated" playlist apps we'd been examining, we had to crack the data problems of categorising all the metal music on Spotify and then generating playlists spiced up with elements of randomness to keep them fresh and fun. Since Spotify doesn't have accurate or API-accessible genre metadata we chose to build our own database and admin system to categorise Spotify's catalogue into the sub genres of metal and created intuitive systems to capture and express efficiently the Earache crew's extensive knowledge of metal bands. Each time the metalise button is pressed the app generates calls to these databases and runs scripts to select, collate and return a suggested playlist to Spotify which then makes further decisions about content availability and rights issues etc. The real challenge of the back-end part of the app was the ability to capture human knowledge interactively and utilise it creatively on a broader basis and then implement it by breaking out of  Spotify's design environment (html5 only)  to utilise interactive stuff like php, mysql, JSON etc. Actually one of the hardest parts was to introduce the randomness in such a way that it didn't look contrived, ultimately the longevity of the app rests on its ability to serve up unique playlists with genre choices that are plausible given a user's settings."
 
In September 2012 we hired website/app creators Retro-fuzz in Manchester  who helped design and refine the look and feel  before finally approaching Spotify with a working mock-up of the app. Retrofuzz also helpfully advised our UK label manager Dan Tobin on how to make the official pitch. By a remarkable co-incidence the graphic designer was Mark Lyons who had recorded 2 albums for Earache with his band Beecher. Small world. The first submission was not approved as Spotify wanted to see some changes to the functionality to improve the UX (User Experience) through the UI (User Interface).

We also  took the opportunity to make some tweaks of our own to improve the app in the final months - Earache staffer Richard Vale undertook this task, and also spotted a potential bug which might have prevented sharing. During this period several more  submissions were not approved, as the process of sharing user generated playlists - via twitter/Facebook etc - came under close scrutiny by Spotify and ourselves.

One of the last parts of the process - the actual Earache METALIZER logo - was created by Earache staffer Mark Leary (see pic.)
 


The app won approval status on  January 11th 2013 so Spotify quickly set a release date for Tuesday 22 January 2013 because apparently some other metal oriented apps were due out on that date, and to maximise the impact intended them all released at once.


As it happened the Century Media and Metal Hammer apps were delayed a couple of weeks, leaving the Earache Metalizer as the sole release that date, we were the very first Metal app on Spotify.
Thanks to all the fans who tried it out, we love hearing your feedback. Rest assured the app is a work in progress- we're keeping it up to date adding new and exciting Metal bands -only good ones mind- the minute they hit the platform. We are also tweaking the playlist generator code to keep things fresh and interesting for regular users too. 

Our  aim is simple- to encourage fans to  log onto Spotify, get the Earache METALIZER  and play more metal!! 
 


PS- The commenter below wonders about the economic aspect of the METALIZER app. Being free to use and Earache being known as a financially astute Indie label, whats the story, how can a free app which mostly plays other people's music make any money?  Its a valid point.

The answer is that it was a leap of faith, and we treated it as a branding exercise to promote the Earache label name on Spotify. We kinda hoped it would also increase the playlisting and streaming of our own catalog... and luckily as the sales income came in for the first two months after the app launch- were had a pleasant surprise- our Spotify income went up an incredible 25%!! Result!!
We don't have access to other metal labels incomes but I fairly sure they will have seen increased income too.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Who are the nicest & worst ' Rock Stars' Earache has worked with?


Question: Who has been the nicest person (band wise) youve worked with and who has been the biggest \'rockstar\'? From:

Answer: Blimey-- what kind of a question is that? Is nothing sacred? Over the years I've worked with all types of musicians here- all were signed because they made great music, but that doesn't mean they had the friendliest of personalities. Because we sign brand new bands early on,  many were naive, some were foolish, a few were borderline insane. Do you want me to name the names? Ok read on...

Nearly all bands are nice to their fans,because they won't last long if they don't even grasp that basic fact. If you mean nice to work with as their label boss, well, having worked with musicians on a daily basis for 20+ years, I can tell you they are certainly no angels, that goes for all highly creative people actually.

Many of Earache's artists have been incredibly driven and ambitious people, I guess that's why we signed them in the first place. Many of the early musicians on the label had their upbringing in the 80s DIY hardcore punk scene (as I did) so when the grindcore scene took off, conflicts of opinion would arise on a daily basis, because success was so unexpected and dealing with the stresses caused a lot of headaches all around. Creativity certainly does come with a certain psychological 'darkside' and I've seen my fair share of it.


Nicest would be Tomas Lindberg, Jason Mendonca, Trey Azagthoth, Johannes Persson, Johnny Violent, Gizz Butt and Ol Drake - all are highly intelligent, level headed people, who have the friendliest of personalities. From our label point of view they caused us hardly any headaches or drama.If any problems arose, they would address them in a mature manner and had enough empathy to understand the label's concerns, so we'd work together to resolve any issues to each person's satisfaction, without drama or stress. They were and continue to be, an absolute pleasure to work with.



People might assume Glen Benton would be a handful to work with, he was on this label for 3 albums until recently, he even had a year when he 'retired' from the biz due to a matrimonial dispute, which made it hella tricky to promote their last Earache album. I'd describe him as unconventional in his approach and unpredictable, but also a highly astute fellow who knows what he wants and how to achieve it.He was never openly tryannical towards this label (he might yet be in the future, who knows?). Over the years Glen did burn a lot of bridges with promotors and agents by cancelling tours, but his reasons were always genuine, and luckily for him Deicide fans are a forgiving bunch.

It's probably easier to mention which were the most naive bands we've worked with, rather than "rock star-ish", not many musicians choose Death Metal, Thrash or Grindcore if Rock stardom is their aim, quite frankly. Earache traditionally works with new, up and coming musicians on this label, many of which can be very naive. We mostly sign bands early in their development,and have noticed the level of knowledge about how the 'traditional' music biz actually works has decreased dramatically in recent years, as bands are using gigs, sponsorship, touring and YouTube and Facebook instead of 'Ye tallye of ye olde CDs solde in record shoppes' system, in order to drive their popularity with fans.

When doing our 2007 Thrash compilation we actually had to explain to Decadence's singer Kitty Saric why making Cds and putting them in the record stores was actually important for their career, because it simply wasn't how she saw things. From her viewpoint, it was all about MySpace (this was 2007 -how quaint)  and its free streaming of music, and playing the big summer festivals which mattered, not the traditional CDs in shops, and up to a point she was correct. Its one of the reasons we passed on signing that band, and they are not the only band who think 'local and social', instead of the Traditional Music Biz "big picture".

Another naive act was Clutch- In the 90's we were the first proper label to work with Clutch, who were a quirky Philly Hardcore band back then- we had to actually explain why they needed a producer during the recording process.They did not figure how anyone outside of the group itself could ever contribute anything to benefit the recording or the songs.We persuaded them that an outside voice and opinion at the control desk will boost the performance of the songs, and the overall recording would undoubtedly benefit. It was breaking news to them. It's totally standard to appoint a producer for an important recording, but Clutch didn't get the concept when they were starting out, and stood firmly against it.



Mortiis was mostly a pleasure to work with during his time on Earache, but surely takes the prize as our most naive artist ever. After leaving Emperor he became a solo artist and was one of the most creative guys I've had the pleasure to work with. When he delivered his Smell of Rain album, which he'd worked on solo for many months in his home studio, he instructed us to manufacture the retail CDs only from the master he sent and to not alter the sound in any way. It sounded dull and low in volume to our ears, but we did not argue, and released it as it was.

A year or two later he admitted it was un-mastered as he wasn't aware such a technique existed. Mastering is a standard part of the record-making process, which boosts the sound of the recordings after mixing and prior to going to the plant for replication- its what makes them loud and pleasing to listen to on all systems. He was unaware it was even necessary, and for a few years the album was sold as a dull sounding and low volume disc. Many years later Mortiis did eventually master the CD, once he got the right software, and understood the concept. The new version of 'The Smell Of Rain' had remixes added aswell.

By far the worst people we have dealt with were the highly poisonous band managers which were appointed during the labels heyday. We have had in total 15 bands go on from this label to Major label deals, but during the early 90s Earache had 7 bands tied up in a convoluted label license deal with Sony in America. The heady scent of high finance and big money deals made the formerly cooperative bands declare open warfare on Earache - I guess mainly because it was Earache which did the 'big money' deals on their behalf (as my label owned the recording rights), and not them or their managers.

This fact caused raw, open resentment which in many cases lasts to this day. Totally unexpectedly, 'Extreme metal' got very popular very fast, and within the major music biz the Earache bands were expected to form the next wave of platinum Rock acts. This caused the strangest bunch of folks to literally show up on our doorstep from nowhere, claiming to represent the bands, and duly expecting their piece of the anticipated financial bonanza, even though they'd played zero part in creating the scene up to that point. It's a funny old biz.

Entombed's merch guy at the time was selling their swag on tour one minute, and the next minute became their manager- immediately demanding the label only communicate to the band via him and by lawyers letters, which was a ridiculous state of affairs, and soured the amazing relationship we had going with them. He thought - like they all do- that managing a fast-rising band was the equivalent of a  lottery-win. A bloke who was only fit for standing in a club's dark corner selling T-shirts a month beforehand, demanded $2,000,000 in advances for Entombed's albums going forward. This really happened.

The experience left all parties a little bit crazy and bitter. To this day, we have several vindictive ex-artists who's ire stems from this explosive period in their history.The financial stakes were high and emotions ran deep. The failure to match expectations hit everyone hard - fanbases seemingly evaporated overnight, forcing many high profile acts to retire/break up and have no choice but to sit things out on the sidelines for over a decade, as other forms of more commercial metal took over, dominating the charts. Once extreme metal came back into favour, most of the bands re-activated themselves to take advantage of the thriving festival circuit, topping the billing almost 2 decades after their heyday. Well it seems they didn't have too shabby a career after all.



Thinking about it- yes, we did have one blatant wannabe rock star on this label, the arrogant, bullshitting, ego-on-legs by the name of J.S "Seth" Clayden of Pitch Shifter. That dude takes the honor of being the biggest twat and most ungrateful musician I've ever worked with. His managers- yes he employed two of them, a husband and wife team - became desperate to move the band away from Earache to score a lucrative major label deal instead, stirring trouble on a daily basis to sour the deal. It was actually a blessed relief when the band were told they could leave Earache and inked with Geffen.

Ralph Santolla would fit that description too, the way he was hired and fired from Deicide by Glen but would routinely blame the label for his woes was particularly galling, as we never even hired him, or fired him, in the first place, but received all the backlash.



I've never had a pleasant time dealing with Napalm Death's  Mark "Barney" Greenway. We supported him and his band for over a decade, investing eye-wateringly huge sums of money into his career. It's quite possible he was never even aware of this fact, as his bumbling manager Mark Walmesley dealt with everything for him - including all his financial affairs I suspect- on a daily basis.

The basic problem stems from the fact Barney was not involved with the explosive first 2 albums by Napalm Death so he completely missed out on the feel-good factor which came from a brand new band and label both blasting-off from obscurity. He had no reason for any goodwill towards me or Earache because he walked into an already successful band. Likewise I never actively chose to sign the dude, he was the bands roadie,  he was the Benediction singer, suddenly drafted into the role of singer of a successful band,  and was obligated to sign into an existing contract, not one of his choosing.

Barney did willingly ink deals with Earache twice more in the 90s though. The band's slow gradual loss of fanbase during their groove-grind phase could have proved fatal, but Earache worked tirelessly behind the scenes to prevent Napalm Death splitting, quiting or becoming a totally spent force- for very little gratitude I might add. Even Barney himself jumped ship from Napalm to join ENT at one point. It was not a happy camp during those latter Earache years. His enmity to Earache is legendary and grudges are held, for the most trivial of reasons, for an inordinate length of time.


I never much got on much with Peter Dolving (The Haunted) either- he is just a crazy personality, who speaks his mind first, and thinks later. Again, the reason for the ire is basically because Earache never actively chose to sign the dude, and he never actively chose to sign with us either, in fact he absolutely opposed it. Like Barney, Peter walked into and sort of 'inherited' the ongoing At The Gates contract after their split to form the Haunted, so its fair to say, because we never actively chose to work with each other, I never saw eye-to-eye with the bloke.

During Dolving's first stint in the band, he once urged the crowd at a London Haunted gig I was attending to kick my ass. Luckily for me, they didn't act out his on-stage instructions. When I later directly called the dude out on his threats, instead of an apology he got his manager to report me to the Swedish police for threatening behaviour. The spat even made the Swedish newspapers for a time. It made for a good promotional stunt for a few weeks I suppose.



Over the years our most harrowing nightmare band experiences were all sadly with one individual - namely- "Mad" Mick Harris during his Napalm Death era. He was the driving force of the band without which they would never have succeeded. the bloke is a force of nature on the drums, and a whirlwind-tornado-minefield-detonation-whole-heap-of-trouble off it too.

Not arrogant in any Rock Star way,  he simply went into enormously destructive child-like tantrums  instantly if things didn't go to his liking. Mick smashed up stuff routinely, especially anything technological. If it didn't work, it was ceremoniously smashed to pieces. The UK's M1 Motorway during the 90's was littered with Mick's damaged goods. Sony Walkmans, ampilfiers, and guitars would be flung out of the window at 80 mph on a regular basis.

Mick once famously smashed up our Earache office fax machine, which was a high tech bit of kit back then, we were too poor to afford a replacement for months. It served as a daily reminder of the power of Mick Harris' wrath for years afterwards.

Nowadays recording as Scorn, Mick is actually a pleasure to deal with, he's calmed down a lot, so we can see the funny side of his past behaviour now.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Lowest ever UK Top 40 Chart sales to reach Number 1.

Question: Hi, how do you feel about the news of the Rihanna album being the lowest selling number 1 album of all time? Does this affect metal labels as yourself?
From: Tim Lineingham

Answer: Earache is not really interested in how Pop stars are performing in the charts, but the news of Rihanna selling a paltry 9,000 albums to claim the top spot in the UK chart  last week (the lowest ever since records began) sent a ripple of concern around the Music Biz generally here. Frowns all round.

People were quick to comment that its the traditional mid-summer slump because people are on the beach or out and about on holidays,  so not bothering with buying records, which is true, and sales do dip mid-summer every year anyway, but this was more dramatic than before. Also true is the fact that the UK is currently in recession, and spare money is hard to come by.  Both decent explanations.

The way that fans consume music is also changing - although CD sales and legal iTunes downloads count towards the  Official UK chart,  streaming music services like Spotify do not yet. Legal streams have their own brand new UK streaming chart, but that is not widely circulated outside the biz. Illegal torrents  or audio which is  file-shared of course does not count towards the UK Official Top 40 chart, even though billions of songs are consumed that way daily, because they are not paid for, and not trackable (yet). YouTube views don't count to any chart either.

Prior to 91-1994  the Official  Top 40 charts were compiled the old school way,  by each record store tallying by hand their over the counter sales each week,  and handing the scores over to the chart company. It was a simple task, subject to human whims, so every week the charts were skewed by enthusiastic record store owners passing on false and  inflated sales numbers of their favourite artists, usually white middle-class Indie Rock.

However, in 1991 (US ) and 94 (UK)  the chart system was revolutionised because barcode reading at the checkout came in. This Soundscan era democratised  the charts, finally giving a true-ish reflection of national music tastes, and its safe to say that it totally rocked the Biz. Suddenly and quite unexpectedly,  albums of Rap artists began to dominate the upper echelons of the US Top 40. They were selling beforehand, but just not even counted before under the old -often fraudulent -system.



In the UK  around the same time, a nationwide survey was carried out  to investigate what is the best selling music in this country. The surprising result was that a form of Punjabi Traditional folk/dance music known as Bhangra is the biggest selling music here, selling enormous amounts of Cds via small Indian retail stores around the country. Almost none are sold in the traditional record shops, so the sound rarely dents the UK Top 40.  I'm sure the Artists involved aren't too concerned about it.



Many types of music exist under the radar of the Official chart compilers- rave and grime had been massively popular in the clubs and on the streets here for decades, but only in recent years have major labels drawn upon the large fanbase of artists like Dizzee Rascal to release his records and hence end up topping the charts. His hit ' Bonkers ' was even aired during the London Olympics opening ceremony.

Metal is traditionally a very under-represented genre in the UK Top 40 chart, relying on the sheer numbers of fans who buy on week one  to sporadically chart. Sadly, those albums then promptly drop out of the chart next week, because the genre receives very little or no mainstream Radio or TV to support it.

It's been this way for ever, until last year in Germany where the chart compilers made a subtle change to the rules whereby the overall revenue of an album counts to its chart tally, rather than purely the number of units shifted. This was made to counter the unfair advantage of  Major Labels who could routinely discount Pop albums by huge amounts  (often selling for equivalent of $3) and so gain unfair leverage at stores, and gain sales advantage from that.

Metal fans  in Germany have traditionally bought high value items, special editions and limited box sets  by their favourite bands, often direct from mailorders or direct from the labels. Low in units but high in value- and due to the rule change, the income from those sales now counts towards the chart tally, giving a welcome  boost to the chart prospects of metal bands.


The great benefit was that was that big selling metal acts now tend to place higher in the German charts than ever before. Century Media pulled off a miracle with it's  impeccable marketing campain to secure In Flames "Sounds of a Playground Fading"  the bands (and label's) first ever Number 1 chart placing in German National charts, where previously they had only graced top 10.

As far as Earache is concerned, we are gearing up for Rival Sons Head Down next month and we fully expect it to chart in 5 countries across EU, but personally its the sales of the album over time which interests me most, because I'm too aware that chart positions are a purely artificial and fading concept in the coming era of streams and Youtube view counts. You could even argue that merch sales and concert ticket sales are more important to a bands long term career than a one-shot chart number that only exists for 7 days anyway.





Monday, May 21, 2012

Rise of the Digital Music Database Bootlegger scam & Copyright Troll legal scammers.

Question:  Have you read the news about Nuclear Blast suing 80 illegal down-loaders of All Shall Perish tracks in the courts for $150,000 each, without the band's permission. I know Earache gives away some albums for free, so what is your take on this?
From: Dave Buckingham dbucks666@gmail.com

Answer: Yes this story has been breaking on news sites  for a while and is actually quite shocking to me, something very sinister is going on, because this so-called © owner, the one bringing the case against the 80 fans, is a  company called World Digital Rights, Inc  -based out of Panama of all places. My guess is it's a new breed of opportunistic digital rights troll company operating a shakedown of fans on a grand scale. Nuclear Blast claims to have not given any rights to this company, which I believe, but some of these copyright troll type companies make heavyweight legal claims using the most threadbare of rights. Either way, its shady and murky and stinks.

Quick history lesson. The rise of digital music being consumed as files was popularised around the turn of the millennium by Napster,  - a site which operated without permission from the labels and was closed down for it. It's fair to say the whole paradigm shift  from CD to downloaded files, which Napster pioneered, caught the record labels- both Major and Indie - off guard. Luckily, within a few years some of the world's biggest tech companies had filled the void with legit music services and these do actually pay all parties- artist,  label, © owner etc properly.

Emusic.com was first to offer fans a legitimate download site, it only carries Indie labels catalog, including Earache's, then in 2003 Apple launched the first comprehensive legal music download site iTunes Music Store -this boasted the entire catalog of all the major and Indie labels,  fans flocked to it in their millions driven by the must-have gadget of the era, the ubiquitous iPod. By 2010 iTunes had become the world's biggest grossing record store, it dwarfs any bricks and mortar chain you care to mention. Serious money is now earned by record labels both major and Indie from the sales of such legit files. In the UK digital revenues clocked in at over 50% of label revenue for 2011, overtaking physical sales revenues, all this happened in an 8 year span.

In 2009 Spotify joined the fray with a radical free & premium music streaming model, now  boasting 3 Million paying subscribers, Spotify is also earning labels significant income, but nothing like iTunes yet. Plus, many of the world's biggest tech firms such as Nokia, Google and Microsoft launched legitimate music services with millions of tracks available to buy. In recent months the Google-owned YouTube finally -after years of denial- acknowledged and legitimised the several tens of million music files it was streaming to  fans on a daily basis, monetising them with paid-for pre-roll advertising. This has generated a windfall of  unexpected income for the  Labels  from their catalogs of recordings and video clips, which is long overdue if you ask me!

There is one snag in this scenario - which is the matter of sorting out who gets paid the money earned from all these new audio  streams, views and downloads which are occuring in their billions. Labels claim their catalogue by supplying each platform a meta-data file which is basically a database list confirming it's ownership of tracks as well as relevant information like artist, song name, and info like the ISRC code for each track.
This is separate from the actual music audio files. It simply contains the information about
the music, in our case the meta-data file weighs in at a mere 100k in size. In the digital sales era, this tiny .xml file has become our most prized asset of all, because its how we get paid.
 
Back when physical CD's dominated, payments from distributors would be based on each album's barcode or catalogue number, in Earache's case that's around 450 albums, a large but not un-manageable number of products. With the rise of iTunes, individual tracks can be purchased aswell,  so if you assume 10 tracks per album, and 50-odd  iTunes stores reporting monthly, this results in a possible quarter of a million product lines incoming every month.

When you add in millions of Spotify streams as well as sales from other platforms, even a medium-sized label can be flooded with tens of millions of lines of sales data per month. Database management is a prime concern of labels these days, many Indies don't posses the tech skills to manage this flood of  incoming sales data. Booming digital music sales has created the need for a new type of middleman service, these legit services - like C.I. or Ingrooves carefully store and control database warehouses of music meta-data on behalf of labels, with their permission.

There's also a dark underbelly of shady companies wielding meta-data, either with no rights whatsover, or with threadbare licenses achieved by ill-gotten means. Earache has recently been victim of  companies who we have never even heard of  trying to exploit the loopholes in  YouTube's fact-checking system by falsely scamming and claiming ownership of Earache's own © material.

On the right are examples of Decapitated and Deicide songs being claimed by  'Music Publishing Rights Collection Society' and  'Internet Anti-Piracy APCM Mexico' - both grandiosely named entities, no doubt designed to instill an air of authenticity to the claim. Both are blatantly false digital scammers who quietly withdrew the claims when challenged by us.


Music Publishing Rights Collection Society is a blatant scam operation, it even has a Facebook page (right) where it gleefully states they take pleasure from monetising other people's music videos. Videos they have no business in, in the first place.

This is the new face of rampant piracy in the YouTube era.  Pirates are so audacious nowadays, as well as uoploading, they actually try to claim the income from other people's works aswell. 

Earache does still give away a few selected albums away for free. Fans should  head to earache.com/free for full 320 Mp3 albums by Wormrot (grind) Savage Messiah (modern-day Heavy Metal) and Gama Bomb (thrash).



Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Morbid Angel - various pressings on vinyl explained.

Question from Mark (mericksn@gmail.com) :


Hey!
So, back in 2002, you guys reissued Morbid Angel's Altars of Madness on vinyl. Despite not having a turntable at the time, and being something of a collector at the time, I decided to snag one when I came across it in the store while they were still around.
Fast forward ten years, and I finally got my first record player. I started back on the other collector-type vinyls I had acquired in the intervening period, like Relapse's Atheist collection boxset -- I was blown away at how brilliant they sounded! I eagerly waited for Piece of Time to finish so I could finally unseal my transparent-blue pressing of Altars and finally experience it in its original form... Well, I'm sure you know where this one is going.
Honestly, it sounds like garbage. It's full of scratches and pops and just sounds brittle and harsh. None of that characteristic analog warmth, no phrases popping out that got lost in translation on their journey to digital in the CD pressings, or anything. In fact, it sounds markedly worse than the three or four different CD issues I own.
So, I ask you, my dear Earache representative: What gives? Was the original pressing just truly awful? Did you guys royally screw the re-pressing on this edition? And are the recent vinyl reissues of the other Morbid classics subject to this same treatment?
I'd love to buy them all to support one of my favorite (and, let's be honest: probably one of the single most important bands in death metal history) bands of all time, but that seems a rather tall order after the 2002 edition has left such a foul taste.
Regards,

Mark 

Answer: Well first of all thank you for purchasing the vinyl back in 2002 on blue wax-  but you were mistaken to think you could " hear the album in its original form". Maybe this blog is too truthful for its own good, but the reality is buying a vinyl is not a ticket for time travel back to the 1980s.

We've sold many thousands but you're the first person to complain to us about the quality - sorry to hear it's not to your liking, but it was never advertised as the definitive audiophile  edition or from original analogue tapes. What you have is a USA pressing made by Earache's office/licensee stateside and was part of a series of approx 10 early Earache albums re-issued in 2002,  and the motivation was simply to make them available again on wax, with nice big artwork, nothing more.

Trends in vinyl come and go,  shaped vinyl was all the rage in the 80s, picture discs abounded,  whereas coloured wax  was a rarity- you could have any colour so long as it's black. Nowadays coloured wax,  swirls and splatter are everywhere, but the fastest growing  trend is the audiophile analogue crowd who favour supreme audio quality over gimmicks.  Our recent 2012 Napalm Death FDR  (Full Dynamic Range) editions of Scum and Feto were made from original era analogue tapes and are audiophile editions with all dynamics preserved,  and have been so well received, we'll do more of those soon, and advertise them as such. To be honest the explanation for any unsavoury sound on the 2002 editions was simply because the loudness war was in full swing in that period.

See pics above of the actual  original metalwork (mother/ stamper) used to press the Carcass Mosh 18 2002 Uk edition, and the info for Mosh 21 Entombed UK 2002 edition at the plant- Damont Audio.

On a related subject,  Earache just announced  pre-orders for the two Iron Monkey albums  which will  be pressed for the first time ever on vinyl - incidentally, all proceeds  go to Kidney research charity.  Denizens of the Doom forums immediately began to question the audio quality, since its not advertised as an audiophile edition, rightly assuming its cut from CD, and bemoaning the lack of analogue signal and  'warmth' which will no doubt result.  This is a hilarious notion when you consider the original master is a DAT tape, as in DIGITAL audio tape. As an aside, it was one of the first productions by an up-and-coming fella by the name of Andy Sneap.

The audio signal is basically this: 1101011000100101010010110101101010  ( the  01011101001 bit is my fave part) so to pretend its an  analogue audiophile edition would be misleading.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Roadrunner Records Closed

Question from Stephen Payne (swpayne@blueyonder.co.uk) : Hi Dig I'm reading with dismay what's happening to Roadrunner UK / Worldwide. Can you please give us your take as to what is likely to happen to the bands on the label? I was under the impression that Roadrunner was massive. Will labels like Earache live on? thanks Stephen
from swpayne@blueyonder.co.uk

Answer: Thursday 26th April 2012 will go down as the day the global metal scene went into shock as Roadrunner Records closed its doors  in the UK and EU after being absorbed into its parent company Warner Music Group.

 For over 30 years since Dutch native Cees Wessels (pictured) founded RR as an Indie label in the early 80s, Roadrunner Records led the way and shaped the tastes of every metalhead across the globe (including myself). Behind the scenes, the successful careers of the metal artists  we all know and love was achieved mainly because of the unseen army of staffers (A&R, Marketing,  Distribution, Promotion, Touring, Videos, Accounts etc)  toiling away in various RR offices- many of whom dedicated their working lives to promoting metal - but were sadly let go yesterday as Warners Music Group closed the RR offices across Europe and UK. Dozens of staffers were made instantly redundant, presumably as part of cost cutting/ consolidation measures.

RR ceased to be a true Independent in 2006 as the founder sold the majority of his company to WMG, and by the end of 2010 Warners had completed the buy-out, to assume 100% ownership. Consolidation was inevitable ever since WMG took sole control, because RR simply couldn't decide its own destiny any more. The July 2011  $3.3 Billion purchase of WMG itself by the chemical/media group Access Industries added another top-level hierarchy and no doubt spurred this decision.

I don't think the bands contracts with Roadrunner will be affected, records will still be released, distro'd, and promoted as normal, a few of the very key staffers will probably remain. Though some bands like Slipknot (see Clowns statement above) and Trivium have taken the shake-up  badly and went public to show their support for the staffers who have been left jobless by the office closures.  Its a rare thing for bands to publicly appreciate the workers behind the scenes,  gotta applaud Clown and Matt Heafy for taking such a  stance.

I'd speculate that the decision made by WMG execs to shutter the UK/EU offices and dramatically downsize the USA HQ  has been prompted by concerns over falling profits at the group as a whole in tough trading conditions. Sales-wise, Roadrunner is massive, by far the biggest Metal label in the world -  dwarfing Earache and even the German powerhouses too - but what everyone overlooks is that Metal is almost a niche genre when compared to the gargantuan sales of Pop/ R&B and Electronic music which dominates the airwaves and TV channels.  Metal acts sell concert tickets and pack out summer festivals, but  traditionally sell zero singles for example. Even on albums, Metal lags behind Pop-  Nickelback's "Here And Now" (RR/WMG) has sold 150,000 copies to date in the UK,  which is decent, but pales in comparison with say, Bruno Mars' 1.5 million selling "Doo Wops and Holligans " (Elektra/WMG)- that number is more in the ballpark of what these Major labels are used to dealing with.

 Europe is also a tough  place to do business currently, due to recession and rampant downloading which has decimated profits in the recorded music biz. Compared to USA, Europe has always been a tricky territory to operate in anyway, there are different laws, something like 25 languages and a different culture every 200/400 miles or so in every direction. Pan-European operations come with a hefty price tag.

To answer your question-- cutting back on staffers doesn't necessarily mean a cull of bands will follow. Fans won't have to worry- I guess the majority of bands will  continue to record and be released on the RR imprint label of Warners  -much like Elektra and Atlantic  was absorbed before it in the 1970s. On a day to day basis WMG staffers will  take on the back-office functions,  while most of the marketing & promotion functions will inevitably transfer to WMG staffers instead. The execs will gamble on the fact that Warners do have a history of promoting million-selling radio-friendly Rock acts like Linkin Park and Green Day- but does that mean they can promote the likes of  Dream Theater,  Opeth or Machine Head too?  Time will tell if they are right.

As the old adage says:  "It's the Music Business - 10% Music, 90% Business."

I wish all those affected by the cutbacks the very best of luck.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Is Earache planning more FDR (Full Dynamic Range) re-issues?



Question from Chris (Weezr51574@aol.com) :

I'm VERY pleased to see the re-release of the first two Napalm Death records in FULL DYNAMIC RANGE on CD. I have yet to hear one, but it really sounds like you are going in the right direction with these. Do you plan on releasing any other bands with the FDR mastering...Carcass' "REEK OF PUTREFACTION" Please Please please!! Do you have to have access to the original master tapes to do this kind of mastering?

I really wish ALL of Carcass' "REEK" songs were put on the original COMBAT press of "SYMPHONIES OF SICKNESS". That is by far, to this very day the BEST sounding version of that CD. I own them all too. I HATE the loudness war and I hope you continue to do more of these with your back catalog. I'm not afraid to purchase a second, third or fourth version of any of them to get a good sounding release. Thanks!
from Weezr51574@aol.com

Answer: Glad you're pleased with the new Napalm Death re-issues Chris - actually it was partly because so many fans on this blog requested Earache makes some proper old school audiophile editions, that we decided to issue FDR (Full dynamic range) editions of the bands first 2 albums, from original masters, and leave the audio intact. The resulting CD and vinyl is fully dynamic, just as it was intended. We've been blown away by the response, many of the limited coloured vinyls sold out in record time.

There is a saying which Earache adheres to religiously now- "playback volume should be in the hands of the listener, not the producer". More dynamic also means lower overall volume, so be prepared to select the playback volume which suits your listening environment. The loudness war was more or less a reaction of labels (and the artists themselves let's not forget) because the fashion during 90s and 00s was for Cds to be mastered as LOUD and POWERFUL as possible.

The problem stems from the fact that a louder mix does sound "better" to the untrained ear on first listen than a dynamic mix with lower overall volume. It's our job to educate people that it's not a design fault if they have to reach for the volume control. If you can stomach the technical details, topics such as 'RMS vs Peak' are discussed in depth on studio forums.



As for Carcass, we have no plans for any vinyl re-issues of their catalog at present, but we have access to the master tapes of course (see pic, its a betamax tape with digital audio as PCM- it was a common master format of the era) so we might consider it maybe next year, and maybe other bands.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Scorn on Earache 1992-1996


Question from C (Pitchshifter93@hotmail.com) :

Hello, Dig. This question is in reference to a previous band on your roster,
Scorn. Scorn quickly became a favorite band of mine, unfortunately after the
closing of the band. While glancing at the wikipedia article during my
general exposure to the band, I noticed that it was stated that after the
release of 'Logghi Barroghi' Scorn parted ways with earache. My apologies
for the long intro; my question is as follows: Would it be possible for you
to go into the reasoning behind Scorn leaving Earache? I read this blog
quite regularly and I have yet to find the answer to this intriguing
question. I do realize that as you previously stated in a blog entry that
Earache was moving on from the Electronic scene and focusing your attention
back to Metal and it's various sub-genres. Would this be the basis for the
departing of Scorn? I thank you for your time and consideration.

from Pitchshifter93@hotmail.com

Answer: Scorn mainman Mick Harris finally and officially closed the book on Scorn in November 2011, so if they became your favourites in the last 60 days, that's pretty bad timing dude, because they were around, on and off, for almost exactly 20 years. While on Earache Scorn released 5 albums and 4 EPs during a 4 year period, plus, I released Napalm Death records before that aswell. All in all, I spent around a decade supporting and promoting Mick's musical endeavours across two radically diverse genres. Napalm Death was successful, Scorn less so. It was either a gutsy move, or sheer stupidity, depending on your point of view, to quit the exploding death metal/grind scene he more or less helped create, to explore the abstract/dub/experimental scene as Scorn instead. During the decade he was on the label he invented and popularised two brand new genres of music - grindcore and (proto)dubstep - that's not too shabby is it?

If you are seeking some kind of juicy story to explain the end of Scorn on Earache, you're out of luck. The reality is far more mundane - after a decade of dwindling sales, interest just kind of fizzled out and it became obvious it was time for everyone to move on.

Minimalist, abstract, bass-heavy, dirty electronic music was simply not a thriving scene at that time. Scorn had nothing in common with the commercial dance scene which was booming in UK clubs by the mid-90s, nor did it fit in with the college/hipster crowd who were all into Apex Twin /Warp records. If anything Scorn was nearest to the then underground jungle/drum & bass scene which was mostly promoted on pirate radio and at illegal raves. I mentioned in a previous blog posting how Earache found it difficult to market and promote this music, we are a Rock/Metal label after all.

Here's 'Nut' from Scorn's final CD for the label, 1996's 'Logghi Barogghi'- so named after Mick overheard an American tourist mispronounce the town of Loughborough, which he thought hilarious.



In 1997 Scorn released the follow up album 'Zander' for new label Invisible Records (label of Martin Atkins, ex-Pil & NIN drummer). In my opinion the opening song Twitcher displayed the most vicious bass sound for over a decade, until the likes of modern-day dub-step producers like Skream came along. It was so far ahead of its time, its positively scary. Plug your sub-woofers in and watch your walls crumble to this:



If you fancy more bass-quakers, heres my faves in a Spotify playlist
WARNING: may damage your audio equipment and/or hearing!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Woods of Ypres WOODS 5 is coming on CD and vinyl Feb 13th.


Question from chris Schneck (chrisschnck@gmail.com) :

Hello, just a few questions about woods of ypres products. I'm looking to get all the albums on vinyl but haven't been able to track the older ones down. If you have any leads, please let me know. Also, could you tell me if you're going to sell the vinyl of grey skies and electric light? I definitely need a copy. One last thing, Davids death rocked our circle of friends as we'll as the metal community, if there is anything I can do to help his family in any way, please let me know. Thank you,

Chris

from chrisschnck@gmail.com


Answer: Hello Chris, like yourself, our thoughts go out to all those affected by David Gold's tragic death on Dec 21st 2011- his family, friends, bandmates, and fans have all been devastated by the news, but it has been reassuring to watch the metal community worldwide rally round and show support. To be honest, it still doesn't seem real, feelings are raw.

David was putting the final touches to the magnificent Woods 5 album, checking out the mixes from John Fryer, planning the track sequence, choosing artwork and that kind of stuff, meanwhile we were planning the debut UK showcase gig for Woods Of Ypres to take place in February. Things were looking up for the band after a decade of being a struggling DIY outfit, because a global release and touring was on the cards. Not to mention they'd just put to bed their most evocative, emotional and best album ever.



The first time we noticed something was amiss was when metal journalists reported back to us in mid-December, genuinely worried about David's severely downbeat and world-weary outlook during their phone interview. A few days later David Gold was tragically killed on the highway outside Barrie, Ontario in his homeland of Canada.

Like many, I only got to know David through his music and art in the last couple of years- but I'll always remember him as a highly intelligent and frankly, a creative genius. Woods 4 was my album of the year 2009, and Woods 5 was already a quantum leap above that.



Immediately after his death, I tweeted the download link for the promo version of the Woods 5 album as I felt people should get to check it out right away. Now a month later we have the physical album on vinyl and CD in production for a February 13th UK release date -2 months later in USA stores - this delay is due to longer pressing plant lead times stateside. iTunes and most of the leading digital outlets will carry the album from Feb 13th, we hope. There is also an extra track 'Keeper Of The Ledger' which didn't make it onto the promo version- it was being held back for an iTunes exclusive - and the song sequence is slightly altered to reflect David's final track-listing preference. Fans might consider it weird that there's no picture of David on the sleeve or packaging, this is because David had yet to chose which pics to use prior to his passing, so for the label to add a pic he'd not personally chosen, made us uneasy.

To clear up any misunderstanding, Kiss My Ashes (Goodbye) on the final release is parts 1 and 2 segued together, making an epic 10 minute track. I should stress that the promo album file which was leaked (legally, by me) right after we got news of Davids passing was exactly that- a promotional version of the album- designed solely for journalists, who are notoriously hard to impress. It even had the band name in an 'easy to read' font on the cover instead of the logo. What you downloaded was a work-in-progress, what is being released on CD/ LP/ DL is the final, official Woods 5.



Another subject of heated debate is the future of the band. Within a few days of David's passing, while feelings were still raw, his family and fellow Woods Of Ypres band-mate Joel Violette made a statement. In it, Joel mentioned the vague possibility of carrying on with the band because he and David had so much unfinished material they were planning and working on. Even though his statement was extremely respectful, heartfelt, and included many caveats, it came under criticism from online bloggers for some reason. Such criticism was harsh and unfair in my view. Please read David's final email interview for UK's Terrorizer magazine, where he mentions Joel's contribution to Woods 5 - see pic above. STOP PRESS: At the time of writing, Earache understands there are no plans for Woods Of Ypres to continue.



As for the previous albums- Woods 4 : The Green Album is already available to buy on vinyl, with several special coloured wax options, see pic.

For the early albums Woods 1,2 3, there were vague plans in place for Earache to issue them on CD and vinyl during the rest of 2012, which we will certainly do to honour David Gold's legacy and make his body of work complete for fans to enjoy.

Here's a poignant song from the album - Adora Vivos:



and here's Woods of Ypres on tour in March 2011.



David Gold RIP. #adoravivos

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Was Carcass Necroticism CD part of the 'loudness war' ?


Question from user1138 (robert@komet.nu) :

You wrote on this blog:
"Earache is not into the Loudness War and we master our Cds carefully, not brickwalled to the max." And you sympathize with "turn me up"?

I just bought Carcass Necroticism Descanting the Insalubrious 2008 release Dualdisc. I regret it.

The EQ of the guitars does not sound as good as the original but the worst part: It is bricked! The peaks are cut off. Why compress? What's the point of playing this on my hifi-system? Okey, i have seen worse remasters...

I compared 1991 and 2008 release in an audio editor. Image can be found above, or this link

http://img97.imageshack.us/img97/2061/carcassremaster2008bric.jpg

Why did i bought the 2008 release? My original CD is damaged and i only have a FLAC backup. Now i have to find the original 1991 CD release on discogs or something...

from robert@komet.nu ]

Answer: Well Robert, this is a pretty hot topic on this blog right now- I had no idea so many fans were eager for audiophile-type discussions. To answer your question- I don't believe the audio waveforms of Carcass pictured above give the full story, the truth is, both of them sound OK. 1991 is from the analog era so is immensely dynamic but way too low in volume according to modern -digital era- standards, this may or may not be a fault, it depends if reaching for the volume control spoils your enjoyment, because to many folks, it does. The 2008 on dualdisk (now outdated CD+DVD combo format) is noticeably louder, very acceptable according to modern standards, but it also retains a certain punch and dynamism. You can see the waveforms does retain all of the peaks and troughs, so it is definately not brickwalled.I'm glad you mention you've heard worse, so you accept its OK.

The problem is this: that for the period of late 90s to mid 00s most people were easily impressed/fooled by louder sounds,and powerful sound-manipulation software tools found its way into every artists studio. It's a sad fact that for 99% of the public (and 100% of musicians), a louder CD IS a better CD, or rather it was the converse which mattered to them - I've had fans complain that their quieter CD dating from the early 90s must be faulty somehow. The truth is that there are way more casual fans of music, even metal music, than audiophile fans.

Earache succumbed to the "Loudness war" for a lot of releases in that period, it was mostly the Industrial releases which would be brickwalled to insane levels of +5 dB simply so they'd sound more powerful on cybergoth/industrial dancefloor club systems.

Earache nowadays is quite proud to not take part in this foul practice- for proof, check out our Thrash and HM bands of recent years.Bands like White Wizzard, Cauldron, Evile are perfect examples of magnificently rich, warm, dynamic yet powerful albums, both on wax and disc. In fact Rival Sons album "Pressure and Time' should win awards for the perfect combo of clarity and punchy dynamism of its sound, plus it will blow your face off with it's sheer volume. That's a tricky skill to pull off.

As we enter 2012, the practice is very much old-hat now - the reason is not because of the concerns of audiophiles, but simply because most people consume music digitally either via Youtube, Spotify or iTunes and all these sites include their own built-in audio-limiting software, to make all tracks sound similar volume, this is to enhance the listening experience of the user, because having to reach for the volume control on the PC is more or less considered as a design fault to their users.

The loudness war is over on the Hi-Fi and on the computer- but appears to have moved to the TV set instead. Have you noticed how the adverts sound louder than the actual program/film itself? This is the advertisers using the age-old psycho-acoustic 'louder=better' tactic to make you remember their brand over the others in the ad-break.



Heres a pic of the original 80s era PCM Betamax tape used for the Napalm Death "From Enslavement.." release on cassette.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Why no Trap Them on Earache ?


Question from () :

here's one ive always wondered why is it Trap Them never ended up on earache? surely with Brian being in december wolves who at that time were still signed to earache and their sound a hardcore punk/grindcore mix. They would have been a prime choice for the label?

from

Answer: Yes I agree, it sounds a perfectly logical match-up on paper, but it's all about timing, gut feeling and impression dude, I'll try to outline the various reasons why we didn't get involved in Trap Them after the demise of December Wolves.

Brian's band DECEMBER WOLVES were signed to Wicked World/Earache from 97-2003 or so, releasing 2 albums. Both discs were undoubtedly office faves round here because of their full-on, blasting, twisted and hateful brand of black metal. It was unique at the time, we thought the band were brilliant and success would be a cinch. Unfortunately the band did not tour, so the music failed to catch on with fans, hence did not sell in any meaningful numbers.

At the time we suspected the reason for poor sales was because they were regular T-shirt and jeans guys, and failed to fit into either the corpse-painted, spiked, Kult BM scene and of course were a million miles away from the coming more cerebral ambient-BM scene which was about to hit. No fault of the band, but they just didn't fit in to what the fans wanted.

DECEMBER WOLVES- To Kill Without Emotion.


After two underperforming albums, Earache decided to not continue with December Wolves, and from memory Brian announced at the same time the closure of the band. He also said he was going to pursue other musical projects for a while, and would keep in touch.

A while later we received a demo of Trap Them & Kill Them - I remember it well as you rightly point out, punky/grindy stuff is in our blood, and I did like it a bit. But the key consideration is that Earache had moved on by that point, we were signing acts like Ephel Duath and working with acts like Cult of Luna by that point, and so the punky/grindy mix of TT&KT just wasn't to our liking, so we passed. Its also worth mentioning that because of the failure of December Wolves to sell, Brian's output was slightly tarnished from our viewpoint, sadly.

Our loss was Prosthetic records gain, they were the label (after a couple of 7inchers on Deathwish Inch) who snapped up Trap Them and they've been very successful ever since. We wish them and Brian all the best.


Here's Trap Them:

Thursday, November 03, 2011

NAPALM DEATH-why the big change of style between FETO (1988) & Harmony Corruption (1990) ?


Question from Vicky (viknjon@hotmail.co.uk) :

Hi!
Just wondering if, after the recent Nalpalm Death 3 x cd boxsets you recently issued, there were any plans to do the same to earlier Napalm Death Earache albums/ep's etc???

Also, as a fairly newcomer to the world of Napalm Death what are your feelings and recollections of the fairly vast style change between the 1st two albums and Harmony Corruption???

Also what do you think of their post Earache output???

Vicky

Answer: Yes, I agree it must appear totally weird if you are a fan getting into the band in recent years, looking back, their Earache-era back catalog has 3 distinct phases - the breakthrough Scum/FETO era (now hailed as the classics), then the mid-paced Florida Death Metal-influenced era, and by mid-late 90s the band's ill-fated groove-grind period where the fanbase deserted them in huge numbers.

In the summer of 1989 Napalm Death had a massive and very abrupt change of line-up when guitarist Bill Steer and singer Lee Dorrian unexpectedly quit the group on their return from their first Japanese tour. Remaining members Mick Harris (drummer and driving force of the band) and Shane Embury (Bass) recruited 2 new guitarists from Los Angeles in the shape of Jesse Pintado & Mitch Harris (no relation) plus a local Death Metal singer Mark 'Barney' Greenway (who was previously a fan of the band and occasional ND roadie, as well as fronting Brummie Death metallers Benediction). This new-look line-up subsconciously meant the band had the opportunity to break from the past, with a fresh start and fresh outlook.

The new members had a stronger affinity to and were massive fans of the newly spawned Florida Death Metal scene and this came through in the follow up album, as opposed to the Hardcore/Crust Anarcho punk influences that they'd had previously. The band even decamped to Florida's Morrisound studios to record the Harmony Corruption album with hot producer Scott Burns.


Napalm Death during that era was a fast-moving and highly volatile entity- their rise from playing Birmingham pubs to sitting atop the UK Indie charts at number 1 was pretty meteoric, but this meant nothing to the newcomers, who were starting from scratch, but had pretty much walked into an already successful band and were given complete artistic freedom by Earache.

You should know that by 1989-90 the UK scene was awash with a ton of early Napalm Death sound-alikes, much to the bands annoyance. Since Mick and Shane have always prided themselves on being musically progressive, exploring new sounds and never standing still, pushing forward with new sounds comes as second nature. The fact is that the contemporary Florida death metal scene, led by Death, Morbid Angel, Deicide, Obituary & Massacre was just more exciting then say, crap like Sore Throat's endless joke-grind albums.

It was never actually intended that they piss off and alienate the early grindcore fans who had helped Napalm Death acheive their fame and career, however the album charted at 67 on the UK national Charts- which made it the first extreme metal album to chart- this meant the fans did appreciate it, and very much validated their decision.

As for their post-Earache output, I've not been that bothered to follow the band, but musically at least, either by design or accident, it seems the penny dropped because they immediately 'returned to form' making a succession of albums of intense blasting grind for a variety of new labels, which is all the fans wanted all along. Their longevity has meant they have proven themselves to be not only the originators but also the longest serving stalwarts of the scene they single-handedly created all those years ago.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Why were Machine Head off Roadrunner and unsigned in 2002-3?


Question from bill (bill_8791@hotmail.com) :

Theres always questions about how to get new bands signed but I have two seperate questions I've often wondered about - How does a band like Machine Head (in the past) have a problem finding a record company willing to sign them? They've always been a band that will sell allot of records by metal standards, have a relativly large fan base in Europe and sell out gigs but at one point, after selling a very successful, if not critically acclaimed record, couldn't get a record deal. Its on record that they were rejected by nearly everyone they approached.


My second question relates to this; why would their label get rid of them in the first place? They were dropped after their last album with that label sold 250k copies, which in metal standards is quite allot! Why would a label drop or not renew a contract of a band which obviously can make a label substantial amounts?

from bill_8791@hotmail.com


Answer: First of all I gotta say I'm a massive Machine Head fan, they are certainly one of the best pure unadulterated metal bands of all time, and here's a little tidbit for ya- Earache actually made offers to sign the band for the USA territory during that crazy 2002-3 period when they were label-less.

It seems insane that a band of their stature could be unsigned, but it happened and I'll try to explain why. In a strange way Machine Head were partly victims of their own early success, their 1994 debut album Burn My Eyes had such monster sales right out the box, it's kinda almost overshadowed all their albums since.

A major factor has been the band's own longevity- it meant they lived through a ton of changes in the scene during the late 90s and early 00s. Their label Roadrunner evolved from a respected Indie to a full-blown mini-major because of Nickelback. Machine Head's 'Supercharger' might have sold 250,000 across the globe, which is decent numbers, but label mates Nickelback were doing 5 Million, Slipknot 1.5 million around that time. I mention these bands to put things into perspective. To the hierarchy in RR's New York office they just were not a big deal anymore, their time was deemed to have passed, especially as a high percentage of the sales were overseas anyway.

The fact is Machine head, along with all other decent selling 1980s and mid-90s heavy bands, were dealt a cruel blow by the major-label-led Nu-Metal explosion of the late 1990's and into the new millenium. Bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit brought in a new cross-genre rap-rock style with massive appeal. Limp Bizkit actually sold a staggering 1 Million copies in a week - yes week - in summer 1999.

Every major label formed a stampede to sign radio-friendly alternative metal or Rap/metal acts with a platinum sales ambition. Through no fault of their own, Machine Head's pure unadulterated metal sound became deeply uncool, especially so in America, where compared to the stratospheric sales of the Nu-metal acts all around them, they'd become comparatively poor sellers too.

Some commenters below have pointed out that the band did flirt heavily with Alterna-metal and Nu-metal for a couple of albums around the turn of the millenium when those scenes were in full swing.
Heres examples:




My guess is the band were susceptible to label pressure to conform to the current big selling nu-metal/alterna-metal sound, because it was all over the radio at that time, and if it caught on, it would undoubtedly propel them into the big league. Like a lot of acts, Machine Head has always been a decent selling band, but never a major league top seller. Therein lies the problem - never being huge enough to just do whatever they damn well liked on their own terms, they had to listen to label advice, however misguided. Effectively the band gambled away their core US metal fanbase for a shot at the lucrative American rock radio gravy train, and failed. Watch the documentary below to hear Robbs take on those dark times.

Luckily for Machine Head, the UK and European metal fans did not desert the band, neither did the European arm of Roadrunner, who cleverly retained their services, so even in their darkest hour, the band were thrown a lifeline from the European metal scene. Eventually the USA Roadrunner arm decided to see sense and carry on with the band.

Now in 2011 Machine Head are metal legends and survivors, having seen off the trends which have come and gone in their 17 year career, and outlived those self same Nu Metal acts which nearly derailed to their career a decade ago.



Catch Machine Head on their UK arena tour in December 2011.

Robb Flynn explains with typical honestly this whole dark period of the band in their amazing documentary, its well worth watching:

Machine head documentary part 1


Machine Head documentary part 2

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Napalm Death Live At Salisbury CD box set (1992) confusion.


Question from Omen Jinx (mr.potvin@ntlworld.com) :

Hi, I hope you can help me with this question. I purchased a Napalm Death box set of 4 C.D albums which comes in a nice black box with a white Napalm Death logo on the front. On the back of the box it reads which albums it includes. Scum.1987 and 'From enslavement to obliteration'.1988 (both as 1 CD), 'Harmony Corruption'.1990, Death by manipulation singles comp.1991 and Utopia Banished.1992. Now, in the box-set I brought, it has instead of 'Utopia Banished' a copy of 'Live Corruption' Mosh67CDL. Can you please tell me, was this a printing error on the box and Utopia Banished was never met to be part of the box-set, or was I sold a copy with the wrong C.D included? I brought the box-set maybe back in the late 90s early 2000's? I cant remember. As for where I brought it, I again can't really remember? Thanks, Omen Jinx.

from mr.potvin@ntlworld.com


Answer: The box you describe and its contents are exactly as it was released, with the correct Cds, but the box was made at a very specific time in Napalm Death's career and was released like that for a very specific purpose- to boost sales of the soon to be released Utopia Banished CD. Yes that's right- even though it is listed on the back of the box, its not included in it. The album wasn't even released at the time- the cunning plan was to include a space for the CD so that fans and collectors would later buy it in order to complete their box set. The Live Napalm Death CD was included to fill the space reserved for Utopia Banished and give fans value for money and an extra bonus for shelling out on the first 4 releases by Napalm Death. Actually it is the Live CD which is the rarest item these days, that CD is what gives the box its value to modern day collectors and ebayers. From memory the sticker on the box explains that it includes "space for Utopia Banished" and info about the Live Corruption CD, but if the package is opened, the info will be lost.



Back then compact disc was still new, and fans needed to be urged to adopt it. CD was expensive to master, pricey to press, and generally a tough sell (vinyl LP and cassette still outsold it)- that's the reason Scum and FETO were combined on one CD and were sold together right up till 1995 or so, when they were finally released separately.

Heres a track from the video of the gig Live At Salisbury: