Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Question: since earache does it im wondering, do you know where the numbering of the labels catalouge came from? i mean earache has its mosh numbers, factory has its FAC numbers and rise above and mute have their own numbering systems. Ive noticed its mainly indies that do it and not majors. For me its the difference between a label putting value on its back catalouge as opposed to seeing it as a product for sale. From:
Answer: Well, I'm glad you see it like that. I agree, its often a marker of how a TRUE indie label identifies their releases.Indie labels that formed in the 80's/ 90's and were of a punky type of mindset, had a habit of giving their releases a name and a number. The pre-fix of the catalogue number was just a quirk of the founder, and gave the releases a human element. Factory Records in the early days had the most amazing numbering system, they gave everything a FAC number, from the Hacienda Club they ran FAC 51, to the bloody office cat FAC 191- it was probably to thwart and confuse the mad collectors of the label, as well as have a bit of fun. Even founder Anthony H. Wilson's coffin at his funeral in 2009 had the final FAC number attached, FAC 501.
The reason labels did it, is that it was simply easier to remember them that way. This was before computerised lists and databases were widely used.True Indies could never afford computer systems or the salaries of the tech guys to run them, but the Major labels insisted that everything comply to their complicated, computerised numbering system. Back then, you could always tell a fake Indie label that had a hidden affiliation with a major label, because their releases would be called 76547-92 or some such complicated number.It would belie their Indie credentials as bogus, in an instant.
As I started Earache, I was planning in calling my releases ACHE 1, ACHE 2, ACHE 3 etc but a label called Manic Ears in Bristol pipped me to it, and since we went through the same distributor, I had to quickly think of a new identifying mark. I remember I was on the phone announcing ACHE 1 to the distributor, when the guy told me "You can't call it that, its already taken", I had literally 2 seconds to decide another catalog number so I blurted out the word "MOSH" down the phone. "OK, that'll work" was the reply, and so MOSH 1 was born. Luckily the word MOSH is still pretty cool,and we are now close to releasing MOSH 400, so it worked out OK.
Roadrunner records was in the early days an Indie, founded by ex-Polygram (Dutch Major) Industry marketing executive, Cees Wessels.As I recall, The RR numbering system started at 100000 and worked down from that 99999, 99998, 99997 etc. Nowadays Roadrunner is part of Warners, so I can't tell what their numbering system is anymore.
The emergence of iTunes and the other legal download platforms in recent years has transformed the music industry, and forced everyone to adopt computerised numbering, at least internally for royalty purposes. Any labels that could'nt cope with this change fell by the wayside. Apple accounts sales by reference to iTune's own Apple ID tag for each individual track. So, in this digital age, old fashioned, quirky catalogue numbers or even UPC/barcodes are pretty much inappropriate. Barcodes can only identify an album, yet itunes needs to identify each individual song on the album. To give you a sense of the scale of data now flooding into labels- Earache alone receives over a million pieces of sales data per month from the 13 iTunes stores, and this deluge of data can drown the unwary, non-database-savvy label. To cope with this, a lot of true Indies do nowadays come under the digital umbrella of a Major, who have the infrastructure and experience to cope with the sales of millions of catalog items at once.
Monday, March 29, 2010
Question: Im wondering about this as I saw it noted in a coment about one of your questions, What did you think of The holy terror hardcore bands back in the day? I thought they would be your thing because of the japanease punk influence bands like Integrity, Ringworm, VVEGAS, GEHENNA and from manchester Rot In Hell. Im just curious to your opinion of that scene as i thought something influenced by SOB and GISM would be your thing. From:
Answer: There are a lot of bands and scenes around which barely flick onto my radar, and I only had a fleeting interest in bands like Integrity, Ringworm etc. By the way, I don't recall the scene being called 'Holy Terror Hardcore' at the time, even though that is Integrity's own label name.
Looking back, I reckon Integrity and others were'nt metallised enough for my tastes. After a certain point, straight-up hardcore bands, even if they were super speedy and sang about serious pissed-off themes, they just weren't doing it for me as a listener, fan or as a label. They lacked heaviness and power- and that downtuning of guitars and crushing riff-power was what made the grindcore/DM bands so different to anything else around.
By the mid-late 90's, straight-up, straight-edge US Hardcore had veered way off my listening radar and Victory Records was the one label who to their credit, had stuck with it, and that label eventually popularised the earliest form of metal-core with the staggering sales acheivments of the debut Hatebreed album.That album sold over a 100,000 copies which was seriously insane amount of records at the time. Needless to say, the band showed their gratitude to the Indie label by immediately taking measures to wriggle out of their deal, and go sign for big money elsewhere. Happens all the time in this Industry.
I loved Hatebreed from the minute I heard them, also around that time I was pretty much into Snapcase aswell, although both sounded different, both bands brought an extra something to their hardcore. Hatebreed brought the metal and growly vocals, Snapcase the off-kilter,Fugazi elements, later to be identified as "Emo".
You could argue that Victory invented the Metal-core and Emo-core scenes in the mid-late 90s with those bands, and you'd be exactly right.
European labels played their part too- Good Life Records out of Belgium put straight-edge metalcore on the EU map in the late 90s with bands like Congress and Arkangel (who I loved).
I really don't hear much SOB or GISM influence on the bands you mention. And both of those Japanese legends were far from straight edge bands. GISM were notable because they were playing a form of hybrid metallised hardcore punk at least 5 years before it became widely acceptable, and mainman Sakevi is notorious for being an extremely violent character in the Japanese scene.
Bit of trivia for ya- GISM logo is seen on the leather jacket worn by Lady Gaga in the video for Telephone (100 Million views and counting)
Another bit of trivia: Totsuan, singer of SOB, committed suicide in 1995 because he had been caught by Police smoking weed. Unlike in UK/USA where a caution and maybe small fine is the only outcome, any drug use is an immensely serious crime in Japan which has strict laws governing illicit drugs. I believe he was overcome with shame and anxiety because of the impending court case, and was worried about the disrespect it would bring to his family, because the drug-trade in Japan is closely allied to the gangster-infested underworld. He threw himself under a train.
When I met Totsuan during the first Japanese tours of Cathedral and Brutal Truth, he was an incredibly sweet dude, who hardly even drank, never mind do any drugs. Looking back, its obvious he had been influenced by, and perhaps tried too hard to ape his heroes Lee Dorrian and Kevin Sharp, who were both serious pot-heads during that period.
Another bit of trivia: Integrity mainman Dwid had a hardcore electronic side project called Psywarfare in the 90s, which is a fact I find fascinating.
INTEGRITY - Bloodlust
GISM- Endless Blockades for the Pussyfooter (Live)
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Question: Hello from Greece again!
2 short questions:
1:The short lived Necrosis Records managed to release some pivotal and genre defining albums as well. I know cause I have two of them:Dark Recollections from Carnage and Repulsion's only official release. What happened with this label?
Why did it begin and close, and could we have a list of the albums released by this Label?
2: Has Jeff Walker studied design or are the Logos and album covers for Earache just a favorite pass-time for him? (I can only imagine that the Napalm Death and Carcass logos are his as well, given the same design approach that has been used) Am I right?
Cheers from Athens! From: firstname.lastname@example.org
Answer: Back when the grindcore scene was tiny, all the musicians in the bands were fanatical about the scene, everyone involved had an encylopaedic knowledge of the bands and the tapes that were most important in its formative years. Jeff and Bill from CARCASS had more knowledge than most, and also -crucially- had access to some important master tapes from important bygone bands, so I agreed to set up and fund an offshoot of Earache for this purpose. NECROSIS was the sub-label in which they would actively scout and A&R for new bands, but the intention at the outset was to provide a means to release albums by ELECTRO HIPPIES (Jeff's first band) and long defunct proto-grind outfit REPULSION.
In 1986 Flint, Michigan's REPULSION had recorded an album of super uptempo, dirty, violent and deadly thrash but it was shunned by American labels because it appeared at the tail end of the Thrash metal explosion in the USA,and was also a few years ahead of the coming grindcore scene of the late 80s. It was a recording ahead of its time, and out of time. The record was financed by local record store owner Doug Earp (Wyatt Earp Records) and thats where the master tapes lay unwanted and shelved. The band became inactive and folded, seemingly for good.
Meanwhile copies of the album had been widely circulating in UK and Europe, Napalm Death were actively paying homage to the late, great Repulsion in interviews and even played straight-up Repulsion riffs during their live set, and Peel session, most notably as intro to 'Deceiver'. To be fair they did name it 'Repulsion intro' so everyone was clear where it came from.
Because of the explosion in interest in the band here in UK, Jeff/Necrosis went to superhuman lengths to try to acquire the tapes and arrange for a long overdue release.Looking back, the motivation was mostly to pay homage to a forgottten classic of the genre, but knowing Jeff's Machiavellian ways, he probably had the slight intention to discredit Napalm Death as wholesale riffs-stealers aswell.
Books written on the grindcore scene never seem to touch on the fact that the bands were never as unified as it might have appeared to the general fan. It's not good copy to point this out, perhaps. The initial spark of camaraderie and spirit of the 'common cause' in the early days was quickly ditched as rival factions and camps broke out around each band. This was usually manager-driven, and was caused by the stakes around each band getting larger, as lucrative major-label careers unexpectedly came into the offing.My own relationships with the bands I'd signed became tainted at this time too, due to their sudden 'success'. Ironic, that.
Even with the best intentions at that time, it was far from an easy process to acquire the Repulsion tapes, the band did not exist so I think they were bemused why an upstart label from the Uk was contacting them to show interest in a dead band.After protracted discussions, Necrosis/Earache paid to have the tapes remixed and mastered and new artwork was commissioned - the original blue face being deemed too sloppily drawn- and this first edition finally hit the record racks on CD and LP as Necro 2 in 1989.
As well as old tapes, Necrosis did unearth two brand new bands aswell- Sweden's Carnage, featuring Mike Amott who would eventually relocate to Uk to join Carcass, and Norway's Cadaver. Cadaver mainman Anders Odden is a respected musician in the industrial/Darkwave scene nowadays.
The label ran out of steam after a mere 4 titles, as is the way with musician run labels it seems. See my earlier blog posting about that very subject. Carcass began touring the world and making a career so dealing with the minutiae of other bands recordings became less of a concern. The label had no official ending, it just fizzled out.
Jeff did indeed draw the logos for Napalm Death, Carcass and Earache. He was by far the most talented artist in the early scene and was in great demand for artworks, but as soon his band began to take off he restricted his output only to Carcass projects at that point.
Heres REPULSION 'Stench of Burning Death'. This is the riff Napalm Death would use to intro into their song 'Deceiver'. Check out the Peel Sessions album "Grind Madness at the BBC' to hear it.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Is there any chance of seeing one day a DVD of Earache's Gods of Grind Tour of '92, as broadcasted by MTVe's Headbanger's Ball at the time?
I know there exists live DVDs from most of the bands who where on that tour, but I would like to see the whole Headbangers' Ball show dedicated to that tour, with the interviews and all. From: email@example.com
Answer: Obtaining permission from MTV for footage to put on DVD is extremely tough, it is rarely granted, even if the bands and 'Gods of Grind' event was Earache's idea in the first place. The MTV coverage did include more interview and documentary footage which probably made the broadcast more interesting, Earache was mostly concerned about capturing the live shows for posterity, because the bands were arguably at the peak of their creative powers. So here is it- the crowd was over 2000 people, and it took place almost exactly 18 years ago.
Watching the shows back, the main thing I notice is the lighting rig, which was the same circular moveable rig Motorhead famously used on their early 80's "Bomber" tour. I recall we also spent a fortune on a state of the art (for early 90s) computer generated lightshow and its operators.Those lasers, circles and stars which run across the stage, that was the hallmark of a highly radical lightshow for the time.
In the interview clip it's noticable how much Carcass try to distance themselves from the chasing Grindcore pack, citing melodic rock as a new-found influence.This would be demonstrated on the Heartwork album released a year later.
GODS OF GRIND 18 MARCH 1992 London Astoria.
Carcass - Gods Of Grind - Full Live Show on MUZU
Entombed on MUZU
Cathedral on MUZU
Confessor were also filmed but the footage has never been edited.
Heres Mille from Kreator interviewing Carcass from the HBB MTV broadcast:
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Question: Hello from Athens guys!
I am a sick vinyl collector since the tender age of 11 (I used to visit the old metal record stores with my dad back in the day)
The original earache LP's had -most of them as I can remember- the infamous promotional stickers on the cover, which I had the lousy habit back then to peel off as they where spoiling the artwork! Any chance for us old earache-ers to get a pdf file or a posting/scan of these great old stickers? All my original vinyls are in top condition but my buddies hassle me for taking of the stickers... I should have known better. Thanx a lot! From: firstname.lastname@example.org
Answer: Yes, nearly every release on this label in the early days had some promotional sticker on the front.Dude, if you could remove the hype stickers from the old original LPs you were doing well, cos they had such crappy glue that if you tried to peel em off, half the sleeve came with it. (no shrink wrap in those bygone days, bro)
The music on the LP should be the most important thing, but I guess the stickerhas importance because it's the main thing which ebayers and serious OG grinders look for now, as there have been a few reprintings over the years, minus the sticker.
Collectors nowadays know not to mess with any old record too much so most of the OG copies I have seen around -most do still have the sticker attached. If you removed the stickers from them at the time, then I don't blame you, because they could be annoying to read them. Mostly they were designed to entice the casual browser in the store to take the plunge and make the purchase, and sheer bragging was my chosen method to do it.
By the way I don't reckon there is any point in asking for the pdfs or scans of the stickers in order to somehow print them out fresh and stick them to your records to make em appear OG. Sorry dude, that in my opinion is naff and bogus, and true collectors can spot a fake a mile away.
In case you are interested in what you threw away, here's a few from my own collection, I grabbed some vinyls and took snaps quickly. Also heres the never released colour artworks for Scum and FETO picture discs. We had the warped idea that printing original plain black and white art on the picture disc would not represent good value, and so to make the FETO Pic disc stand out, we thought a colour version might be better, and this is the art used on the picture disc release of FETO. Luckily this stupid idea was not used for Scum, and the coloured-in art version of that album has never been used, thankfully.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Question: Hi! Why did you sign Mortiis? I love his music, but I think it was quite unusual at the time because he was still into his "dark dungeon music" period, which means totally out of what one would expect from Earache. If he were playing his current industrial/gothic/rock tunes back then I'd understand you signing him. But the way it was, it made me wonder why you did it! Thanks!
Porto Alegre, Brazil. From: email@example.com
Answer: Yes, I agree, at the time of signing, Mortiis wasn't making the typical Industrial/Gothic Rock which is his trademark nowadays, back then he was making lo-fi, extremely depressive 'dark dungeon music' as he called it.
It's hard to explain why we sign any bands, its a complicated process, mostly based on hunches and our personal tastes at the label, at the time. It goes without saying, we obviously thought his creative talents would sell a lot of records, and for a while, he did.
Earache likes to sign bands who are number one in a field of one, and Mortiis certainly fit the bill in the early days. Our Uk label manager/A&R manager Dan Tobin had struck up a friendship with him in his early DIY days,and we were amazed at the amount of energy he put into creating his own unique fantasy world, not many musicians have such dedication to their craft.We love to work with intense and creative individuals- so it made sense for us to work with him.
Being an ex-founding member of Emperor gave the him instant credibility within the scene. As well as releasing numerous well-received 12inchers and albums on a wholly DIY basis, his attention to detail in creating such an imaginary world for his fans- a mix of the Fantastical and Folklore- was breathtaking. He poured his whole persona into creating the character 'Mortiis', a fact which we loved.
Also relevant was the fact that our PR girl at the time had been in an underground UK gothic band in the 90's so his music and persona was not that alien to us. She now runs PR for Virgin Records.
I'd say Havard is possibly one of the most creative musicians which we have ever worked with at Earache. He also had an ambitious side -as an example, when we signed Mortiis he declared that had wrtten a book and needed a publisher -how many musicians say that? We eventually released his "Secrets of My Kingdom" as a leather bound tome which sold out and is now highly collectable.
Oh- and the outrageous masks of course.
First releases under the deal were re-issues of his past catalog, which marked the end of a previous era. Mortiis refers to his catalog in clearly defined "Eras". For 2001's 'The Smell of Rain' Mortiis upped the ante and created a classic gothic-rock-pop record, which was well received by the German Gothic community, which is by far the largest in Europe, and so sold reasonably well.
Mortiis continued his upward momentum before the next album by charting with a genuine UK hit single for 'The Grudge'.
Ironically as he morphed from a solo musician into a proper gigging live unit playing more of an Industrialised rock he opted to ditch the masks, which marked the end of another Mortiis Era.
By the final album under the deal his record sales were showing decline, so we parted ways. Mortiis appears to have reverted to his DIY roots for new material, and is expected to release his new album "The Great Deceiver' sometime this year.
Heres the clip for Parasite God,which Director Pete Bridgewater filmed in the scorching heat of Death Valley,and also in a disused church in North London:
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Question: Why was Morbid Angel album Abominations of Desolation the third to be released, and runs against the rest of the albums which are in alphabet order? I hear it was the early demos without David Vincent? From: Azagthoth666@gmail.com
Answer: Yes, this album confuses many fans of Morbid Angel, because it came out in 1991, and to the casual fan browsing their discography, it appears to be the third album Earache released by the band, but it was infact their debut album, recorded in 1986 by a different line-up, which was shelved.
It came out 5 years later to satisfy fan curiosity to hear what was probably the most sought-after tape trader demo of that late 80's/early 90's era. Some people call it "the most important Death Metal album ever recorded" which it possibly was, along with fellow Floridians DEATH, of course. The album has a great website dedicated to it with loads of useful info.
Earache signed the band in 1989 mainly because I had always loved the intensity of the demo which had been circulating for years. The demo cover summed up the band's single-minded intent to shock : 3 devils attacking, raping and devouring a woman on a bed. It's still shocking even now, but back then this was way too extreme for any of the mainstream 80's metal labels to comprehend, so the band remained unsigned in Tampa.
Earache in the early days was all about extreme music played by extreme personalities so took the plunge and signed the band. Luckily the first 2 albums - 1989's Altars of Madness and 1991's Blessed Are The Sick became big sellers and Morbid Angel had within the space of 2 years become a formidable leading force in the worldwide Death Metal scene.
The overnight success of the band meant that the bootleggers which plagued the scene back then would quickly move in to steal a slice of the action. The notorious HEADACHE records bootleg operation in Germany would pump out coloured vinyl versions or pic discs of the demos and live shows of nearly every Earache band, they literally shadowed our every move for 2 years, taking the piss all the way.Nowadays collectors tell me that they assume Headache must have been Earache's semi-official 'unauthorised division' so closely did their releases match ours.Truthfully, it was nothing to do with us, and if I ever find out who was behind those boots they are due one almighty "Headache" themselves, courtesy of my fist.
In the office we used to treat it as a sign that a particular band had "made it" when the obligatory Headache boot arrived on sale. It was no laughing matter though, because while the label and bands were expending tons of energy and huge finances creating the scene, these faceless leeches were pumping out vinyl with no permission, no creative intent or artistic merit, just as a pure cash in. The bootleggers understood the power of collectible vinyl way before anyone else did, and undoubtedly made a serious killing off the back of our bands' talents and hard work.
Morbid Angel's un-released demo first album had attained mythical status by 1991, and was the no doubt the number 1 in the bootlegger charts, a situation which irked me and the band, so we hatched a plan to officially release the 'Abominations of Desolation' album so they could beat the bootleggers and finally make some dough themselves instead.
The 1986 album recording had been financed by David Vincent as he was operating his newly formed label Gorque Productions, and he was intending to release Morbid Angels debut as their label boss. The singer at the time of recording was Mike Browning (later Nocturnus mainman) and bassist was Sterling Von Scarborough. Instead of releasing the album David actually replaced them both! David joined the band on bass and vocals,thus the tapes were instantly deemed redundant as the line up was immediately stronger with his addition. Many of the demos songs appeared on the debut and second Morbid Angel albums but some were left unrecorded, so hightening their collectability.
By 1991 I had persuaded them that the time was right to release them, so the band eventually succumbed to my pressure to dust off the tapes, which were in perfect shape and were still sitting in David Vincent's bedroom cupboards. The intention was the album be released with little fanfare so as to distance it's release from the then-current line up - because only guitarist Trey had been a player on it.
The album was deliberately released lo-key, in generic, plain artwork with minimal info. Artwork was created by local Nottingham artist Mark Craven (ex-games workshop) and the shocking original artwork was hidden inside so shops would not complain and refuse to stock it. Everything about it was designed to not confuse their legions of new fans into thinking it was a newly recorded Morbid Angel product. It even came with a warning statement on the sleeve.
The bands career trajectory was firmly on the rise so did not want anything to destabalise this, they feared fans would confuse this primitive recording as the new album, and might shun them. As it happened, it cemented their legendary status with diehard early fans, many of whom preferred the rawer, gnarly version of their classic songs anwyay.
It worked out OK, because within 2 more years they would sign to a major record company Giant/Warners for 1993's Covenant album.
Tuesday, March 09, 2010
Question: I was browsing around the RIAA's website and I was rather alarmed to see that Earache is listed as a member of the RIAA. I'd hate to think that smaller independent record labels are joining them. Are you really an RIAA member? From:
Answer: I've never signed my label up to the RIAA because 1) Earache's main base and HQ is here in the UK and RIAA is a US-based Record Biz organisation, plus more importantly, I don't agree with the RIAA's stance on taking downloaders to court, and sueing ordinary people for millions of dollars. It's a legal farce and when people like Jammie Thomas are sued for $1.92 Million for down/uploading/sharing 24 songs, you can be certain it's not done in my name.
For the record though, I do agree with the concept of © Copyright in general and I have no problem protecting the label's catalogue of rights, for instance against the cheap bootleggers which plague the scene, or large companies which use our music without asking. In short, am I against individuals who download a few songs? No. Companies engaged in wholesale stealing? Absolutely.
I just checked and we're not on the list- See RIAA member shitlist HERE
The list of members is quite alarming, it seems to have grown tenfold since the last time I looked, and even includes many well known smallish Indie labels and even tons of bands so small, you would'nt expect them to even really care either way. Are Dropkick Murphys really that fussed? I doubt it.
I think I know what is happening- The 4 (or maybe 3 by the time you read this) major labels are the ones who founded the Recording Industry Association of America, this was an organisation which, quite naturally, was formed to protect their interests.
It seems to me like they have artifically boosted their membership numbers - presumably to lend weight and credence to their legal arguments in court- by including every sub-label, every partially owned label, every distributed label and maybe even every licensed band or track which has ever come their way, as "members".
Since the 1940's the original physical music industry has always been about 'lists'. Everything from the weekly charts to label catalogues have been dutifully collated and listed,because without such care and attention to detail, the industry would have collapsed long ago.
In recent years the whole industry has been digitised and now exists as millions of music files held in huge data werehouses, all tagged with artist, track name, writer, copyright info etc- this is known as the 'meta-data'. Many labels of a certain size and prominence are affiliated with one of the majors in some ways. Earache's meta-data exists within EMI's computers as they do our distro in USA, but crucially EMI don't own the recordings, or any part of this label, actually.
This new, database-driven Music industry 2.0 means that the major labels and the world's leading music websites, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft,Google, Napster, Spotify etc can and do exchange each others meta-data as a trivial exercise, in order to mine it for analytical purposes.
It's not sinister, its just the modern day version of what the industry has been naturally pre-disposed to, and doing for years. But I reckon its the ease of swapping such lists which means errors and exceptions can accumulate, without an actual human doing any checking of the facts. This explains how tiny bands can end up on an RIAA membership list.
People would be suprised how much of everyday modern life is now in the hands of these digital gatekeepers who control access to the golden databases. Your whole life and purchasing history is undoubtedly contained within one already. But they are not always accurate- that's how you get dead people being still sent voting cards making them eligible to vote or the absurd case of 8 year old Mickey Hicks appearing on the FBI Terrorist watch list.
Monday, March 08, 2010
Question: What does Earache make of the new 'Rock Band Network' as a method of distributing it's music in an interactive form?
Whilst I'm sure that there would be significant effort involved in 'interactive-y-fying' songs from Earache's extensive catalogue, I would have thought the benefits of exposing your bands (past and present) to such a large audience would make it worthwhile. From: firstname.lastname@example.org
Answer: Both of the plastic instrument music rhythm-matching games Rock Band and Guitar Hero have taken the music industry by storm in recent years. Guitar hero was first to launch in 2006 but back then the Music Biz in general were so dismissive of the game, that cover versions of popular rock hits had to be used because major labels wouldn't allow the use of genuine songs in an unproven format.The Games industry being culturally alien to and unconnected to the Music industry meant both sides had to learn to accomodate each other's plans and wishes.
The tide turned from 2007 onwards, as both Rock Band and Guitar Hero went from nothing to billion Dollar turnover companies within 18 frantic months. To say they have transformed how kids listen to and interact with their favourite music is an understatement, it has changed the way bands can find an audience, especially with younger teenagers who aren't old enough to go to concerts, but actively play video games.
Earache was lucky enough to be chosen for a Downloadable content 3 song pack (Thrash Pack) during week 18 of the launch of Rock Band, and the sales of tracks by At The Gates, Haunted and Evile numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Evile's 'Thrasher' song is considered among the hardest to play and perfect in the Rock Band catalogue. Rock Band has been crucial for the label in making fans aware of EVILE who are still a newish band, so we are big fans of the games in general.
Guitar Hero launched exclusive standalone games branded by Aerosmith, Metallica and Van Halen, Rock Band launched the Beatles game in summer 2009 to great fanfare, but somehow the sales of all those plastic guitar games have nosedived in recent months. It seems fans are growing tired of the games, which was totally unexpected by all sides.
Within the music industry top secret plans are afoot to launch in the near future new games which utilise the sounds of real guitars and real instruments instead of plastic peripherals. The plan is to develop sophisticated software which can recognise the pitch and frequency and track the rhythm of the guitar notes being played and give points for accuracy in relation to the original audio. This game, if and when launched will instantly kill the plastic guitar manufacturers stone dead. STOP PRESS- First real 6 string guitar game- POWER GIG - launches soon.
Rock Band reacted to the decline in sales with the idea to open up the platform to all. This is a smart move that might ensure its survival into the future. We are very excited about the Rock Band Network which launched on March 4th 2010.
To date the number of tracks available on the Rock Band platform numbered about 800 I think, both on the discs and as downloadable content (DLC). That number was boosted this week because the launch the Rock Band Network instantly added an extra 100 songs, including 3 inches of Blood, Despised Icon and Skeletonwitch. 300 more are to be added soon.
The Rock Band Network store is up now, and allows anyone to upload their own tracks to the platform. The process is not easy and takes on average over 40 hours of programming time per song for an experienced programmer, plus the costs involved are not cheap. Creators for RBN are required to buy special software -Reaper at $400- and Xbox live gold memberships. The upload process is lengthy and is vetted every step of the way by Rock Band offical programmers to see if the song meets their play-standards. I think 18+ themed lyrics are a big turn off, so adult themed lyrics won't be deemed suitable for the age-range the platform serves. I guess Cannibal Corpse or early Carcass might not make it.
Earache has plans for many songs to be uploaded soon, the first is more EVILE songs taken from Infected Nations album, and eventually the whole of that album. Then bands like Carcass, Morbid Angel will be given the RBN treatment. Look out for them.
Friday, March 05, 2010
Question: You said of Ripping Corpse 'It was the Hardcore look (short hair & baseball cap) of the singer which actually put me off signing them'. So what about Mr. Qualcast Mutilator? Also what did you think of the whole Lawnmower Deth reunion thing? If they ever do anything again, would you work with them again? And what was Petes job at Earache when he worked there? From:
Answer: I was asked in a previous blog how much band image plays a part in getting signed- and I used the Ripping Corpse example to highlight how a cohesive look is just easier on the eye to the fans, than a disjointed image. The band were musically superb, and we ended up working with mainman Erik Rutan a few years later anyway and released countless albums of his work in Morbid Angel and Hate Eternal.So I don't feel too bad about passing on Ripping Corpse now.
I only really mentioned it to show how the mind of an A&R guy works- first impressions matter and the look of a band can influence how fans react to you before they even hear the music. People decide what sort of person you are like by the most fleeting of signals, its simply human nature. Of course, in an ideal world the look of a band should not matter one jot - personally speaking over the years I have had short spikey hair, long hair, really long hair, dreadlocks, buzz cut and now balding/short hair with baseball cap - and I've been the exact same person all that time!
The difference between Ripping Corpse and Lawnmower Deth is that one played deadly serious Death Metal, and the other played madcap, zany Thrash, with bags of crowd participation. Lawnmower Deth could get away with it, plus as you point out, singer Pete Lee (Qualcast Mutilator) was actually working at Earache at the time, doing Press and Promotion.
Pete was responsible for doing the press and promotion during the labels heyday,our Death Metal and grindcore bands rapidly exploded in popularity during the early 90's and Pete was behind a lot of the publicity the bands received. He remains a legend round these parts, and the bulging press-packs of our bands from that era are testament to his powers of persuasion.
As you can see from their Download performance last summer 09 (which this blog predicted a year beforehand) Pete is a commanding frontman, it took a lot of guts and supreme confidence to come out of retirement and play to a packed Download festival crowd, but Pete soon had the crowd eating out of his hand, doing mexican waves, fish dances, the lot. The band's enthusiasm for performing is simply infectious.
This was always Lawnmower Deth's thing- you went to the show knowing that you as the crowd would play a big part in the nights performance. A Nottingham band called Evil Scarecrow are getting popular doing a really similar thing nowadays, its madcap, theatrical black/horror metal with lots of crowd participation.They play theme tunes and silly cover songs aswell- its guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Worth checking out, and if you go, watch the crowd perform 'Robototron' to see what crowd participation means.
Lawnmower Deth- Live at Download festival 2009:
Evil Scarecrow- Final Countdown
Wednesday, March 03, 2010
Question: Im gunna send you a link to this video as i have a question http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zC294D1093g . The question is do you know who the guy is sat next to alex's amp lighting up? I wonder who he is as ive seen him in several live vids of earache bands eg when napalm were on arena. So being as you know alot of people affiliated with earache bands who is he? From:
Answer:This question sounds like it should be on Crimewatch TV show- "Can you name this person caught on camera smoking onstage in 1992?" Sorry, no idea. The person doesn't or didn't work for Earache, I can say that much. His position behind Alex's amp means he is obviously familiar with the band, or the venue. To me, he doesn't seem to be a fan, more like actually working at the club, which wasn't a club but the University of London Union. I'd wager he was the student at ULU's who booked the show. It shows the age of the clip, smoking was actually legal indoors back in the 90s.Also as you say someone fitting his description - and also smoking- is seen at the front of Napalm Death show in London that was filmed by the BBC for Arena. I can't recall if Napalm Death show was ULU or Kilburn National, but probably ULU.
Actually the readers of this blog have amazing memories of the early Earache scene, and I bet someone will recognise him. So- if you know who he is--please leave a comment.
Fudge Tunnel 1992
Tuesday, March 02, 2010
Question: Hi, I have three questions that I would like To ask:
1. What do you think of the Folk Metal Sub-genre of Heavy Metal?
2. Is Having a Unique Sound in Heavy Metal a good thing? For instance there is a band called Neurosis and they have made a unique sound to them and I say they are pretty successful. Are some people just looking for a unique sound?
3. Lately I have been finding lots of Death Metal bands that incorporate Operatic and Classical Elements into their songs but still have the same Brutality expected with Death Metal (Like Angelus Mortis (which has a session Opera Singer) and Fleshgod Apocalypse). What are your views on those type of Death Metal Bands? From: Silva_eternal@earthlink.net
Answer: Thats nothing dude - wait till you hear the absurd Acapella-Metal of Van Canto or the Superhero-Metal of Grail Knights (pictured above).It's fair to say, things are getting out of hand. I mean, come on, 'Superhero metal' - well, its just comical.
Even Folk metal is not really my cup of tea, but it's been interesting to watch its slow rise towards acceptance by the metal throng. Finntroll this week charted in the UK mainstream rock chart so you could say that the leaders of the scene have finally become accepted, and to be fair, its now a pretty successful sub-genre of metal.The band paid their dues and earned their success,so good on them.
I remember simpler times though, when metal in the 80s meant regular, no frills, straight-up Heavy Metal. The nearest to a folk metal song you got was Ritchie Blackmore's folky excursions in Rainbow. His Renaissance-folk-rock band 'Blackmore's Night' (who still exist today,I'd say their 2008 album Secret Voyage is a masterpeice of the genre) pioneered the sound. Ritchie often plays Medieval era instruments in the songs.
The UK were leading the way as usual, Martin Walkyiers Skyclad (pictured) picked up the torch in the 90's, and are the pre-cursor to all the folk-metal that we hear today.Skyclad were big sellers in Germany during that decade, until they broke up.
Newer bands like Eluveitie and Finntroll are of course much more uptempo, more raucous and though they boast pagan and folklore themes, the music is not half as folky as the tag suggests.
Y'know, all the wacky and crazy metal-concoctions which populate the scene today are all the inventions of the German/Austrian and Finnish record labels. You'll find Nuclear, Spinefarm & Napalm records are behind a lot of the wackier mix-n-match metal bands.If you can imagine metal being mixed with something mainstream and commercial, you can bet they have already thought of it and released it.The reason is the runaway success of Apocalyptica and Nightwish.
I distinctly remember seeing Apocalyptica play an early show, doing Metallica covers on cellos. The venue was in Cologne in Germany during an industry showcase,and it was packed with people going nuts. We Brits had to leave instantly and hit the bar across the street where we discussed the ridiculousness of what we had just witnessed. Metallica? On Cellos? How absurd. Turns out we had seen the beginning of the entire Symphonic Metal genre, but it was too wacky for our hard-bitten traditional HM tastes to take seriously. More fool us. They now sell hundreds of thouands of concert tickets and Cds, though who is buying them I have no idea.
Earache often gets accused by journalists of promoting gimmicks or trying to create metal trends, as if Thrash or NWOTHM bands were somehow manufactured in our underground lab. Meanwhile Frankenstein-esque concoctions of mainstream & metal solely crafted for the persuit of Nightwish-style crossover-sales appeal are routinely reviewed without comment. If anything, these grotesque abominations are applauded, for being "original".
STOP PRESS: The eagle-eyed readers of this blog have recently told me about what could be the most ridiculous metal-abomination of all time. HEVISAURUS is a current 'Dinosaur-Metal' band from Finland, supposedly big on kids TV shows and allegedly features members of Sonata Arctica. This one has floored me, it is truly astoundingly bad.
Pick the bones out of this one: