Thursday, May 07, 2009

Do we sign Bands or scenes?

Question: Ive wondered when doing A&R for the label is it easier to monitor certain scenes that have developed for example yorkshire being branded the new bay area because of the amount of thrash bands that are from there, or the south west uk being branded the new flordia because of the large amount of death metal bands that come from the bath and bristol area, im wondering how do you decide of which bands of that scene which ones are you going to sign do you take the scene leaders who have been there the longest but are more likely to move on? or do you go for the second wave of band who are still obsessed in the core value of the scene? I based this question on somthing tony wilson once said about how the manchester scene evolved from joy divsion esque bands to happy monday esque bands obviously ive put it in more of a metal context. From:

Answer: Doing A&R for a label is a tricky business. You end up saying "No" about 99% of time to the bands- being so predominately negative, well, lets just say it doesn't particularly endear you to many people.But it comes with the territory so no complaints from me.
The truth is we do monitor scenes, yeah- because we find that hardly any band that is worth a damn develops alone, most bands who create even a small ripple of attention on a local level soon spawn 2-3-4 clones of other bands aping their style. Its miraculous how quickly that happens actually.One prized skill we do possess is instinctively knowing -just by having a keen ear- who are the leaders and who are the followers of any given scene.We find there is a distinct, sharper,more intense depth of focus in the originators, which the next wave of bands, even if they form a mere couple of months later, lack.

The latest UK scenes you mention are still growing, but ones Earache are involved in- be it EVILE leading the stampede of Thrash bands streaming out of Yorkshire, or TRIGGER THE BLOODSHED leading the wave of modern DM bands battering their way outta the South West.We signed IGNOMINIOUS INCARCERATION out of that scene, as we had already missed out on undoubted leaders Trigger.Local label Rising got the bands signatures first.

I would say the two biggest scenes which have had most impact on the UK metal landscape in recent years are the South Wales metal/emo/screamo scene- this stampede was spearheaded by Funeral For A Friend & Lost Prophets, and swiftly followed by Bullet For My Valentine, plus a zillion others from the area, most of these names now dominate the UK metal charts.Also the Watford Hc/Punk scene led by Gallows obviously.Earache missed out on both,to be frank we never saw these coming, or rather we saw the bands were developing a buzz, but did not act on this information, as the music wasn't really 100% to our liking. Other, newer, labels saw what we didn't - and those labels reaped the rewards, meanwhile we umm-ed an arr-ed and lost out.We took it on the chin and moved on.

This question is really astute : "(when) going to sign, do you take the scene leaders who have been there the longest but are more likely to move on? or do you go for the second wave of band who are still obsessed in the core value of the scene?"
No one has ever pointed out the difference to me before, you are seriously bang on with this assessment.My instinctive answer is - whenever possible we sign the leaders, because over the course of time no one remembers the also-rans.

Most of the most iconic and legendary breakthrough metal acts received scathing reviews from critics at first. UK rag Kerrang! famously gave Slayers debut the ultimate thumbs down score- one K. I believe Emperors debut also received this dubious accolade of a lowest possible mark. Thats why journalists don't make it in A&R.

It must be said that the originators and trailblazers of any scene do not pick an easy path, at first all they meet are detractors with at best, puzzled looks, and at worst, open hostility.The casualty rate is high, because it requires unbeleivable mental toughness and unshakable self-belief to make a lasting impact on the music scene. The leaders are the ones who have to fight damn hard for any acceptance, they are the ones taking the flack and suffering the knocks which come with trying to do anything new.Many of them don't survive the ordeal, often losing members or splitting up entirely due to the accumulated pressure associated with the constant battle to be different but also trying to be accepted.

Meanwhile the chasing pack of bands close behind have a much easier ride of it, as the sheep-like majority of metal fans are more accepting of a newish radical style, but only once its broken through and deemed "OK" and "safe" to like.


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