Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Which bands did Earache try to sign, and miss out on?

Question: Hi Dig. Over the years have there been any notable bands that you have tried to sign that got snapped up by another label or any bands that you turned down that with hindsight you now wish you had signed?
Many thanks for answering my Domination Slime Pack question, can't believe it's worth $1200. Amazing.
David. From: dave666hume@hotmail.com

Answer: Interesting question Dave- Earache has signed our fair share of the more interesting extreme metal bands over the years, as you can see from the A-Z drop down menu/list of Earache bands past and present on our website.

As for bands we tried to sign, and failed to get, for whatever reason, below is a list off the top of my head. Actually I can do better than that, because recently I found the folders/files I'd kept of the "bands we never got"- see the screen grab right off my computer (right).It made my eyes water seeing how close we were to signing some of the most influential metal bands of recent times. Oh well.

On many occasions these bands were virtual unknowns at the time of our interest, and we would have had various stages of face-to-face talks or in some cases actual contracts were issued. Most common reason we didn't get to work with the band in question would be because they preferred to choose another label with a more attractive offer instead. Which is fair enough. We genuinely didn't lose any sleep over them, because none were recognised big selling names or had released more than a well-received debut at the time of our interest. It's quite fun to reminisce and look back at our past failures.

One band on this list who I forgot about is Alligator Gun.This short lived early 90s Mid-West US band made the most incredible poppy-punk songs, and were at least as good as the mid 90s Californian pop-punkers like Green Day or Blink 182, but they predated the coming huge selling pop punk scene by a decade, so the breaks never went their way, sadly.

To be honest, many other labels could boast similar lists, probably waaaay more extensive than mine, because its quite usual for all the labels big and small to pick up on and approach any buzzworthy bands.

We know of some of hottest new bands nowadays can take their pick of up to 12 different label offers, so most labels do lose out on bands, most of the time.

See blue link for deeper story of Earaches involvement with each band.

Nirvana story here.
System Of A Down
Cradle of Filth
In Flames
Job For A Cowboy
Suicide Silence
Between The Buried and Me
The Red Chord
Career Suicide
Panic Cell
Alligator Gun

Monday, September 28, 2009

Why no Bill Steer in Carcass' 'Incarnated..' clip?

Question: Hi!, why does Bill Steer doesnt appears in the Incarnated Solvent Abuse video?
Thanks From: gael515@hotmail.com

Answer: I had'nt watched this clip in years so checked it out on Youtube.Which reminds me, I gotta have words with that fucking Smitty from Krank/Blank TV again, he uploaded tons of our clips to YT and claims them as his own to receive advertising revenue from Google.Naughty boy.

Anyway, this clip was made in 1991 and it is Carcass' first ever promo clip.The Earache grindcore bands were not known for exploring the visual medium, they more or less existed just to make extreme noise on record and on stage, anything else was deemed unimportant as MTV were certainly not going to be airing any grindcore bands clips anytime soon, or so they thought. I had to more or less hassle them into making videos, and appearing in front of cameras in general, I saw promo clips as a good promotional tool.Back then there were no digital metal TV channels or YouTube, so clips were made for VHS retail compilations and occasional plays from VHS on TVs in the corner of metal stores.

Carcass themselves came up with the concept and did the filming and editing i think. I recall being amazed at how impressive the clip looked with basically a rubber sheet for a prop. The lack of Bill Steer did not phase anyone at the time, but looking back it is odd how he doesn't appear, except I think he is just visible for a second during the 2nd solo.I hazard a guess that he didnt want to take his T-shirt off, yeah the explanation could be as mundane as that, he didnt want to be filmed bare-chested.

For various reasons this clip was controversial to those that saw it at the time, a Grindcore band playing bare chested wasn't really deemed cool.Also an inexplicable "Hitler Salute' somehow appears in the clip at 2:20, the band are certainly not racists, quite the opposite in fact, but the super-imposition of effects makes looks like Jeff is giving a Nazi salute in this clip. It caused an outrage at the time.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bolt Thrower- why new Realm of Chaos art?

Question: Hi,
How come Bolt Thrower's Realm of Chaos has a new cover? Did GW drop the rights to use it or what? John Sibbick's a killer artist, but I have to say I do prefer the original cover. Do you still have the original in stock? I noticed it in the store but I've contacted one of your guys before and he said he hadn't seen the original artwork version at all in years. Any info you can provide will be greatly appreciated.
G From: roadkill_demon@hotmail.com

Answer: This question is a cause of much consternation between Earache and Bolt Thrower.In short, you are exactly right- the original sleeve art was the property of Games Workshop, not Earache or Bolt Thrower and when the lease on its use ran out in around 2002 or so, we approached the famous Fantasy Wargaming company for a renewal which was flatly refused to us.This refusal knocked us for six.

So we faced a harsh decision to either discontinue the album, or commission new art by the same artist in a similar style and theme, but being careful to not fall foul of copyright laws. Bolt Thrower themselves were pretty unhelpful by insisting that the orginal be used in further pressings, but this was impossible as it wasn't ours or their art to use, it was Games Workshops artwork and copyrights.Luckily we had seperately commissioned the actual Bolt Thrower logo, drawn by Mark Craven, so could still use that at least!

John Sibbick drew the original artwork under commission by Games Worshop. Back in the 80s the original edition of the company's biggest fantasy wargame 'Warhammer 40,000' had this artwork adorning the box cover.Everything about it is copyrighted to the hilt, right up to the design of the weapons, and even the logos on the clothing of the Space Marines fighting in the picture.We obtained the rights to use it after an exceedingly friendly meeting with the managing Director Bryan Ansell of Games Workshop, and Andy Jones the general manager. The company was small but growing fast at the time, and being based in Nottingham's Lace Market area, it was a short walk from our office.The guys saw the sense in reaching out to the Rock/metal market which Earache and Bol Thrower offered by using their art on an actual release- and a deal was struck.It was a one page contract/bit of paper saying we had rights to use it lasting 13 years.

By the time of 2002 or so the Gsmes workshop company had become a global billion dollar corporate behemoth.When we asked for a renewal of the artwork rights, it suddenly dawned on us that this wasn't the same local company I met with 13 years beforehand.We were hit with a barrage of legal letters, cease and desist and copyright infringment claims.It was as if the company in its new corporate form had never heard of us, accusing us of theft of their highly prized copyrighted art in the first place.We avoided all contact with GW after that.

So the only solution was to try to track down the artist John Sibbick who had long since left the Wargaming art scene, his new career was as a highly respected artist drawing dinosaurs for scientific papers and research. Luckily when he heard of our dilemma he agreed to kindly redraw similar themed artwork but without any GW copyrighted elements. This is the art used on the new edition from 2004 onwards.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Rob Trujillo & Benji Webbe = Mass Mental

Question: you'll prob be able to answer this, I wonder if you can confirm or deny this scene rumour? Was Robert Trujillo now of course of metallica, really brought into dub war by benji webb as an attempt to save the band after the departure of some of the original members? From:

Answer: Yeah its true, but not quite for the reasons you stated.Benji - current vocalist of Skindred- had his first band Dub War which was on Earache for 2 albums in the mid-90s, and they did Ok, given the ragga-metal they pioneered wasn't even a genre back then. To many listeners the Newport crew's music was pretty alien, being a cross between dancehall ragga with occasional soulful sung vocals with heavy-ish rock riffs, this of course is pretty much why I signed them.

Meanwhile California's Rob Trujillo was playing in Suicidal Tendencies/Infectious Grooves and I think the two bands must have met when playing a Euro festival. Benji and Rob became good friends and made plans to do a project at some point together.

Earache released Dub War from the contract because the sales had dropped off significantly between the debut and the second album. For a short while Benji was contracted to do a solo album for Earache, but our interest faded to zero when he unveiled his desire to persue a pure Hip Hop direction instead of rock.

So Benji was without a record deal for about 2 years, during whch time he flew to LA to add vocals to the project Rob was working on. They named the band Mass Mental and the album is mostly bass-driven, funky rock with Benjis trademark ragga chatter in full effect.Its kinda like a Dub War meets Infectious Grooves album. Strangely the resulting album "How to Write Love Songs" was only released in Japan, I am guessing that Robs contractual commitments meant it couldn't be released in USA or UK, because it weird that I've never seen a copy.

From memory, the album disppeared without trace on release.

Back in Newport, Benji regrouped with his core musicians to form Skindred- ironically the band contained mostly ex-Dub war guys.Skindred signed with the Beiler brothers label, which is part of Atlantic records.

Rob meanwhile auditioned for Metallica for the vacant bass player position, and joined Metallica in 2004.

See Robs audition for Metallica here:

See Dub War Strike It clip ($10,000)

Notts Rockers X-Rays & Garage Punk scene

Question: Hello Dig, I was just wondering what you thought about the heavier end of the garage punk scene? Old bands like the Dirtys, the Revelators and the Motards, while in no way metal, were pretty fast and extreme for garage music. Do you like this sort of stuff? Also, I was wondering if you ever saw the X-Rays, they were a garage punk band for Nottingham in the 90s.Finally, any thoughts on Billy Childish? That geezers been around even longer than you have! From:

Answer: No dude, for some reason the Garage Rock scene has completely passed me by. I just checked out The Dirtys and did actually quite like em. Generally the music just sounds too retro for me. The nearest I've gotten to garage might have been The Hardons, New Bomb Turks or Hellacopters all of these bands had an Earache connection for a while.Entombed made a 7 inch single split with NBT on Earache, and Entombed's Nicke Anderson formed Hellacopters, who became very successful in the 90s.

The X-rays (pictured) come from my home town, Nottingham, so I do know them a bit.Even tho they split up ages ago, the ex-members can still be seen at various drinking holes around this city.Bassman Coop is a local hero, and frontman Gaz could be found behind the counter in local legendary record shop Selectadisc for most of the nineties. Drummer steve was in an Earache band called Heresy before X-Rays so we have a slight connection there.

As for Billy Childish, bizarrely I had no clue who he was until this question popped up on the blog.I had no pre-conceived idea of the bloke. After a bit of research, he seems a thoroughly decent, knowlegable and highly astute fella, and I quite like what he says in this Audio Interview

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Why no signings of bands from obscure countries?

Question: Do you think its important for labels to look outside the usual countries in which bands are normally found ie uk, usa and australia? I mean look at the now defunct japanease deathcore band Infected Malignity obviously they came from the dying fetus/misery index school of deathcore however i feel that with a larger label pushing them they could have gone further because their sound rivaled some of the western deathcore bands. However ive heard before that there can be problems signing bands from thease non usual metal teritories as occasionally they can not be accustomed to playing live due to a lack of a scene, is this true? From:

Answer: The appeal of metal music - in all its sub-genres- is truly global and if you look closely enough at any country on this planet you can find metal or hardcore punk bands existing, and in most cases thriving, often under the most dangerous of circumstances. Maybe you have seen the story of the Iraqi metal band -Acrassicauda who were 'discovered' playing metal in Bahgdad and feature in the Vice film "Heavy Metal in Bahgdad'.They moved to Istanbul, for relative safety.

Its quite the hipster pastime to discover ever more obscure bands. There is a very great Bad Brains style rock/metal act called Orange Sky from Trinidad and Tobago, and from Botswana comes a decent Death metal band Crackdust.See Crackdust pictured right. Death metal also exists in India with Demonic Resurrection.

The reason the bigger Metal labels don't sign any bands from far flung places is pretty much because of the hassle dealing with bands who are not located in the major metal hotspots of the globe which are USA, EU and Brasil, Japan & Australia. Touring is the main problem, not just the cost of flights, its the red-tape involved in bringing musicians into the major selling markets to tour.As tourists you can travel most places but musicians are classed as temporary workers and come under a lot of laws restricting movements.

The govermments of the world restrict the movements of people and workers more than you can imagine, its not like US or EU where people can live and freely migrate to anywhere they like within its borders.

Earache found out the hard way when we signed Polands Vader about a decade before the EU included Poland, read that story here.Even in recent years Hungarian band Without Face were signed on sub-label Elitist and had a lot of restrictions, they could not enter USA for instance.The dude singer of that band now lives in Nottingham, UK. These are bands from countries now part of EU and they still have travel restrictions.

The cost of a visas for a UK band to tour USA is around $3000 which is a pretty big hurdle, its what prevents a lot of acts from outside USA from touring there.The US immigration authority also needs to see evidence of record sales and press clippings (at least 30, in English) before they will grant a foreign act a visa for a USA tour. Its tough.

On the flipside US bands can tour EU without any visa requirements or at the most it costs a mere $300 visa for entry into the UK, and is usually a formality.

These are the main reasons the bigger metal labels don't take more chances on bands from far flung countries.

Heres Trindad's Orange Sky:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Memories of Planet X club, Liverpool

Question: Hi Digg. In the 90's my friends and I used to go to a club in Liverpool called Planet X. From memory the club was about the size of a terraced house with the bands playing on the floor in what was essentially someones front room. We saw lots of earache bands there back in the day, Carcass, Entombed (on their first UK tour), Bolt Thrower, Pitchshifter, Cathedral (what I believe was their first gig - in front of about 15 people! Supporting S.O.B) and many other bands. This was a classic venue and I can find nothing on the interweb about it at all! I wondered if you ever visisted there and if you had any memories of the place as a lot of your acts played there. There was also a video about the Liverpool scene with Carcass playing there shown on Granada TV, again nothing on the net!
On a related note one of the local bands to come out of that scene was Anathema. They played there many times and back then when they where coming up there was a real hype around them and they looked set to be massive. After I dropped out of the DM scene I was shocked to find out that they turned into some massive Pink Floyd sound alike rock band! I wondered if you ever thought of signing them before they signed to Peaceville, if you rated them back then and what you think of their subsequent transformation.
Anyway great blog, great label.

Ste From: Suttuon808303@gmail.com

Answer: Cheers Ste, thanks for reminding me what great gigs took place at Planet X in Liverpool, it hosted nearly all the early UK hardcore and grindcore bands' early shows. I don't know you, but I guess we were at many of the same gigs together because I loved travelling up to Liverpool, I'd stay at friends houses like early Liverpool punk/HC scenesters Middie, Pek, Granny and also Carcass' Bill Steers parents place out in Heswall.I remember a local HC act Jailcell Recipes would open many of the shows.

The buzz around the HC/grindcore bands was special in Liverpool which made the gigs more exciting, even if it was only 15 people, they were diehards! I dunno why, Scousers are just more down to earth, and seem more intense about their music, and life in general it seems.I loved visiting the city for that reason.

The reason you can't find it on the web is because you are forgetting it was actually first and foremost a Goth club.Maybe you did'nt know that? The main clientele was the massive gothic/alernative scene of the mid-late 80s.Hundreds of em would pack the club to the rafters every weekend, grooving to the likes of Sisters Of Mercy or The Cult.The club runners had a 25th anniversary reunion night a year ago.Spot anyone you know? The club even has a Myspace and is planning more reunion nights.

Back in the late 80s, no clubs would book grindcore, it was unlistenable noise to most ears, and it had no fan-base to speak of, outside of the couple of dozen dudes who played in the bands.Planet X was the place everyone played simply because the club owners were open-minded and kind enough to allow hiring out of the the club to outsiders,so people like local HC stalwart Pete C would promote and arrange many of the early grindcore gigs there himself.

I think I even stayed for the club night once, being in no hurry to go home after the gig. I remember the club transformed itself at dusk, the stacks of TV sets at the top of the stairs would come to life and start playing horror movies, and in no time at all the club would he heaving as hundreds of goths would descend.

Pictured right is HC scenester and down for lifer, Pek at the 25 yr reunion club.

Try searching Planet X Goth and you get tons of results.

Regarding Anathema, for some reason they were never on my radar.Seemingly out of nowhere they were snapped up by Peaceville early on, and along with Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride became the big 3 bands on that label, forging this brand new sound of doom-laden Gothic rock, to much acclaim, and deservedly so.

For me personally, they just weren't grindcore enough for my tastes, and I have never much followed what they were up as far as releases go. I think I've only barely met the Kavanaghs once or twice, we were in the same early 90s "death/doom/grind" scene, but moved in different circles.

Actually Earache's label manager Dan Tobin was working at Peaceville in the early 90s and he's told me about Anathema's early years, he travelled with them on their first tours abroad.That band endured a level of hardship in the early days which lesser bands surely could not stomach.A lot of bands I work with are stony broke when they are starting out but the level of poverty within that band was shocking, they had literally nothing 'cept some instruments and their own self-belief.Anathema deserves respect for breaking out of Liverpool onto the world stage through sheer hard work, and talent.

Nowadays as you say they have mutated into a biggish selling progressive rock outfit, they have a dual fanbase because they can play to huge metal festival audiences as well as to folky-art gatherings when they go acoustic.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Who was most important Metal band of 90s?

Question: Heres a general metal one for you, who do you think the most important metal band of the 90s was? Personally i thought it was TOOL simply because of the fact that their influence has been felt through death metal bands through to Alt rock bands. I personally remember talking to martin from decapitated about the contrast in their two bass players paul d'mour and justin chancellor and how tool's use of polyrhythms was an influence on decapitated. Also im sure cult of luna would sound very different if tool didnt exist, and also candiria. From:

Answer: Depends if you mean important as in musically influential or important as in biggest-selling and popular? NIRVANA popularised grunge and changed the course of music in the process, but I doubt they can be called Metal.I agree with the choice of TOOL - a great pick, but were they most important? I dunno. Now we have the benefit of hindsight, almost a decade has passed since the 90s-and my choice is KORN. I reckon KORN were the most infuential and also biggest selling of the 90s metal acts,so they score on both counts.

Korn are certainly not cited as an influence by any of the Earache label acts, I dont even count myself as a major fan either, but their achievments in popularising heavy music can't be overlooked. Within the Industry, their sales acheivements are staggering for a heavy-ish band, and they deserve a certain amount of respect for not deviating too far from the Nu-Metal formula they pretty much singlehandedly created.

It could even be argued that their sound was highly avant-garde and experimental for the time, mixing Hip Hop and angsty, raw to the nerve rock to a bass-heavy chugging riff was unheard of before Korn.The Nu Metal scene was so strange as heavy-ish music was for the first time ever marketed by all the major labels like Pop music.

Talking of Nu Metal, I was rummaging through an old box of demo cassettes the other day and found this- Limp Bizkit's original 3 song demo, on Florida Indie label Flip records.Its still sealed so I guess I never even played it!

Heres KORN with Twisted Transistor

Friday, September 18, 2009

Earache - why no Ripping Corpse in the 90s?

Question: Another rumour.... is it true that you wanted to sign Ripping Corpse but David Vincent advised against it? Im guessing its bullshit but wondering if you could put any light on it as to how it may of started, etc... From:

Answer: Short answer is - I was really into Ripping Corpse, musically they played prime Death Metal in the Morbid Angel vein, and contracts were ready to be signed when I suddenly backed out of the deal.It was the Hardcore look (short hair & baseball cap) of the singer which actually put me off signing them.

The early 90s were a golden period for Death Metal as the scene exploded. Earache was one of the leading labels signing these types of bands, and I was the one responsible for the signings, but would always listen to feedback from our already signed acts. Mick Harris, Bill Steer and David Vincent would often recommend bands to me, reporting back on bands they had just played with on the road or demos they'd picked up.We were all just rabid fans of the emerging DM scene.

Back then the label was swamped with recently formed Death Metal bands demos, arriving mainly on cassette, choosing which bands to sign and which to pass on was a huge gamble. A&R is a thankless task, because in the space of 10 minutes and during the course of 2 or 3 songs you have to try to decipher and work out the career-worthiness of a band for possible future investment.Back then, snap decisions were made on a daily basis about all the new death metal bands, the only tools available to decide the bands fate were the music itself, and if you were lucky, a photo.

From a label point of view, the A&R process involves trusting your gut instincts about a band and making the best objective judgement call you can make.Don't forget this was all happening in the pre-MySpace/YouTube/Blogger era. Nowadays A&R is so easy, literally anyone can do it, as all the info needed including playcounts and viewcounts and sales statistics are a click away.

The band photograph itself is an incredibly useful A&R tool, I don't mean for the obvious judgment call on the overall look/clothes of the band, but on a deeper level the experienced eye can tell the cohesiveness or otherwise of a band just from the members' body language.Tell-tale warning signs are a member standing in their own personal space a foot away from the rest of the group.It means he's leaving anytime soon. Likewise a frontman who is not pictured at the front of a group shot can show an underlying lack of confidence.

Subtle clues belie the true picture of the internal workings of any band.Bands that send me a press pack consisting of photographs of individual members and their individual bios are immediately ignored, you would be suprised how many 'bands' are not actually a functioning group at all.

When I heard Ripping Corpse's demo coming from New Jersey, they went straight to the top of the pile of bands to check out. Morbid Angel's manager even took me to a rehearsal in deepest Jersey where I met Erik Rutan for the first time.The band truly shredded through a few blistering songs, and i was impressed by the music, but for some reason the look of the singer bugged me, I thought it odd he was so Hardcore looking, and so i did'nt like the whole package of the band. Its quite possible David Vincent gave me his opinon, but either way i decided to pass on the band.As it happened Erik Rutan joined Morbid Angel a few years later and his band Hate Eternal recorded for Wicked World (Earache sub-label) after he left Morbid Angel.

Nowadays of course its totally normal to have DM and HC guys in bands,back then it was unknown.The massive metalcore scene is proof that HC and DM can mix, maybe Ripping Corpse were just too ahead of their time for me.

Heres Ripping Corpse in their prime:

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Earache- some rumours put to rest.

Question: While looking through my dad's "Great Rock Discography" book I was surprised to read that it said that Napalm Death started Earache to put out their own records. This lead to wonder what the best/ worst rumour you have heard concerning Earache records is?
The book also mentions that Mick Harris did some time for robbing a jewellery shop or something to that effect, can you spill the beans on this?
Thanks a lot for all the great music. From: vanrawk@hotmail.com

Answer: Rumours are wonderous, ethereal things, seemingly travelling by word of mouse across the web at lightning speed, only to fade away just as quickly.It's only the most outrageous ones which don't die, with the most virulent seemingly sticking around for decades, becoming essentially folklore, and to many, the truth.

Earache has its fair share, and I thought I'd heard all the rumours in my time, but funnily enough thats the first I've heard of these two.To clear em up- both are 100% false, but I'll hazard a guess as to how they came about. If this book you mention is meant to be a reference guide to the bands in it, then its pretty poorly researched if you ask me, it seems written mostly on gossip.Not good.

Napalm Death was by far the best known band on the Earache label during an explosive couple of years- to the casual observer it probably looked like it was their own label- Earache's vibe mirrored the band's vibe quite closely, and it could have been mistaken for Napalm's own 'DIY label', if you were unaware that other bands were also released on it.

As for Mick Harris going to prison for robbery- that is truly scandalous, and untrue. I think it might refer to an infamous nightclub glassing incident involving fellow ex-Napalmer Nik Bullen (pictured above on right) .In 1995 or so, Mick Harris was doing a promotional DJ set at a scruffy Nottingham late-night bar, I think it was called 'Bellamys'back then. The bar was tiny, holding maybe 30 people max, mostly made up of Earache staffers, a few local Scorn fans and a few non-music-type strangers who I assumed were the regular drinkers in the bar.

Nik had come over from Birmingham to hang out, he was not performing that night so could indulge in as many beers and shots at the bar as he wanted.It was just a regular friendly booze up like many before it, and since. I do recall that Nik was deep in conversation with a stranger at the bar for a long time. Then seemingly for no apparent reason, Nik violently struck out at the guy, glassing him with his shot glass at close range and then fled the scene. No one else was involved and the victim was lucky not to be blinded in the attack. To this day I don't know what triggered him to do it, but it was totally out of character for him, something just snapped. Nik was arrested the next day back in Birmingham and was sentenced to prison for one year. The story is also mentioned at the AllMusic site.

Mick Harris was Djing at the time, and had nothing to do with the attack whatsoever, except his name was on the poster outside. The Scorn duo effectively broke up that night, Mick going solo from then on.

If you have any other rumours you want confirming or dispelling, feel free to bring em to this ask earache blog!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Black Sabbath- Master of Reality. The Book.

Question: Nothing Earache specific here, but more just a general metal appreciation question. Has anyone around the Earache offices read John Darnielle's Master OF Reality from the 33 1/3 series of books? I just picked it up and read it in a matter of about 2 hours (I'm a slow reader) and it might be one of the greatest books I've ever read (right behind Catcher In The Rye). Seriously. That's all. Plain and simple. If no one has heard about it, please take a strangers recommendation and pick up a copy to pass around. It's soooo good and could apply to anyone's favourite record or just a heavy music lovers appreciation for what heavy music can offer a person as a way of life and form of therapy. From: mufuka@yahoo.com

Answer: Thanks for letting me know about this.Personally, I had no idea such a series of books existed, it seems a great idea to cover an individual album and write about it from the listeners perspective. From searching the web I see Continuum have maybe 60-odd books in their catalog in this 33 1/3 series, most are too Indie for my tastes but for £6.99 you cant go wrong with the Sabbath or Slayer or the Nine Inch Nails books I reckon.

Heres a cool interview with author John Darnielle from Popmatters.com he certainly knows his stuff.

Last year I was fortunate enough to meet Jim Simpson who was the original manager of Black Sabbath- he was speaking at the first 'Home Of Metal' event in Wolverhampton.Back in the late 60s he was running a jazz & blues club, which Earth played at, after seeing their potential he got working with them as manager.Jim was the one who scored the band their record deal.You can read a great early band bio here.

What was remarkable to me was how he described the work ethic of the band.They had extensive rehearsals most days, as well as shows at night, sometimes two shows in a day, and - get this- weekly planning meetings.No one can deny that the band worked incredibly hard for their success from the get-go.Plenty of well-known bands today think one rehearsal a week is pushing the boat out.

Sadly after helping the band make two break-out albums Jim was ousted as manager.The predatory US mega-manager Don Arden whisked the band away from him, with promises of riches.Nowadays Jim is still involved in music, running a Blues/Jazz label and promoting an annual Jazz Festival in Birmingham.

Cheers for the question- it gives me an excuse to add my fave Black Sabbath track- Symptom of the Universe 1975. Sabbath undoubtedly created the Heavy Metal and Doom metal genres, but you could also argue this song hinted at the start of the coming speed metal or thrash scenes aswell.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Is Gama Bomb getting a physical CD/LP release?

Question: Interesting news about the new Gama Bomb album being released as a free download - I'm not sure if it worked for Radiohead with 'In Rainbows' but fair play to the guys for giving it a shot. My question is however - will there actually be a physical version available at any point? As much as the world seems to love music for free, I am an old school collector and would love to have a 'proper' version for my shelf.
Cheers! From: larsonchristiansen@hotmail.com

Answer:The whole idea for the new Gama Bomb album to be given away free came from this blog actually. In a guest blog for MTV's Headbangers Blog, singer Philly Byrne admitted quite truthfully that he obtains most of his music collection from torrents and illegal download sites. Some time later - with tongue firmly in cheek- I mentioned in this askearache blog that it would be hypocritical for him not to do likewise on his own new album. I guess I dared him to do it, and he in turn dared me to do it!

So we both agreed it was a cool thing to do this.Its a genuine gesture by both label and band to give it away free, main motivation by the band is to not 'criminalise' anyone who downloads this album.Downloading is not illegal if the band wants to release it free. Neither of us know where this thing is headed, except both sides have a vague hope it'll increase the band's overall popularity.The band head into the studio to record the album in 3 days time, and it will be placed online within a week of it being finished, on November 5th. Its available on that date from earache's website as 320kbps Mp3s fully tagged and no DRM whatsoever, and digital artwork, and we assume it should be all over the rest of the web after that within hours.

News that it will be given away free has gone down fairly well with fans and non-fans alike, but we realise some collector-type folks prefer a physical release.Metal Hammer mag in the UK will release a cover-mounted version of this album in December, so a CD can be obtained if you purchase the magazine.

Sometime in 2010, when all the hullabaloo has died down we do have plans to release it on CD and LP, and a very lavish deluxe collectors edition to boot.It should also appear on Spotify as a free stream, and on iTunes as a low price download, if you prefer your music that way for ease of synching to iPod or whatever.So yes, if you simply must pay for it, in time there will be indeed a physical version of the album, but for at least a few months its download only, I'm afraid.

Heres Gama Bomb singer Philly Byrne explaining why his band are giving away their entire new album for free on the interweb:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Carcass- why so many versions of 'Necroticism'?

Question: Dear Earache,
I have been collecting Carcass since 1991 and recently acquired a USA pressing of 'Necroticism' from 2004. The back cover is different to all other versions of that album (I own 6 copies on CD now) with alternate mortuary pictures and a yellow Carcass logo as opposed to the usual purple one. Also, on this pressing the actual disc has been accidentally screen printed with the 'Swansong' disc art and cat no. MOSH1601CD!

Can you possibly explain why the rear artwork is different for this version?

Sincerely, Daniel. From: maxperv@hotmail.com

Answer:You own 6 copies of the same album? Blimey, I take my hat off to you Sir! Thanks for supporting the band and the label, its appreciated I tell ya. Hey, can I suggest you take a snapshot of the back of all the Cds together and include the link to the pic as a comment here- I for one would love to see all the versions we made, its hard to remember them all actually.

Your question is interesting because fans don't realise how much work behind the scenes it takes to keep anything in print pretty much continuously for 18 years- its impossible to manufacture the exact identical same thing for 2 decades straight.Look at cans of Heinz beans or Coca Cola from 1991 and they don't look anything like todays products.

The manufacture of the record has had to keep up with the changes with printing technology which have occurred over the past 2 decades, the change from analog printing to digital being the main one.Plus, the label has moved pressing plants maybe 10 times in that period, as many went bust in the 90s recession, moving the printing process to each new plant brought its own subtle variations to the CD.

On top of those changes, Earache itself has made maybe 6 major overhauls to the audio on the CD and cosmetic surgery to its artwork to signify a special edition, remastered version or most recently the deluxe, lavish digipacks with documentary DVD which came out last year.This was done to keep the record fresh in the minds of the high street record retailers, and reflects the ups and downs of the bands popularity.

The original art was literally made with scissors and prit-stick, cut and pasted by hand by Jeff Walker and Martin Nesbitt (Carcass Manager and early Earache employee).This was photographed on camera and turned into a set of CMYK printers films.This original edition was reprinted for a few years unchanged,print-wise these are undoutedly the best quality versions of the album. It has been Earache art dept staffers who have created all the versions since.

In late 90s printers went digital and the laborious process of digitising and scanning in the artwork began. Scanners back then were terrible and the quality of resolution was poor so the printings from that era suffered. In America the production manager even took artistic license to 're-create' the back of the sleeve, presumably because the scan didn't work properly on the day, trouble is he didn't pay any attention to the original, hence the yellow logo. Luckily this was rectified in later runs, and as scanning resolutions got higher the quality of the CD printing became better.Even $100 desktop scanners are amazing nowadays.

The catalog number change you mention is to do with our distribution by EMI in US, who require labels to use an 8 digit indentification code of each product for werehousing purposes.This is annoying because an added 1 is placed in each MOSH number but is done to fit their computer system.

Morbid Angel- The famous 'slime pack' fiasco

Question: Hi Dig
Many years ago you released a slime pack CD edition of Morbid Angel's Domination album. At the time the story was that they burst open in transit and were never released in shops. The only place you could get them was direct from Earache.
I bought a copy from Earache and would like to know what the full story was and how many of these slime packs exist.
David. From: dave666hume@hotmail.com

Answer: Well if you have one, hold onto it, because they sell for a small fortune now. This special edition CD was withdrawn from sale before it was even released in 1995,I guess a mere handful might have been sold to die hard fans or pre-order buyers at the time, the rest were safely destroyed.In May 2009 a copy sold on eBay for $1200. Its the rarest Morbid Angel release by far.

What happened was that by the time of this their 4th album mainman Trey Azagthoth was in his 'Slime/Swamp' phase - the album had deliberately heavy/ sludgy production, also boasting songs like 'Where the Slime Live', also the cover sported a fetching slime green logo. Morbid Angel logos have only ever been red or green and lately blue to complement Trey's then-current 'Lava phase'.

Earache does try to do weird and special limited editions for collectors and I got the idea to release a special slime pack, similar to the Slayer Seasons in The Abyss Blood pack from a few years previously.

Basically it seemed a cool idea to make the CD in a plastic pouch wallet with green type slime inside, but making it was harder than we thought. We scoured the globe to find a plant which could do this, it was really hard to find a place which could undertake it, but eventually a US chemicals supplier was commissioned.We assumed the supplier in the US would use harmless kids type toy-slime stuff and we ordered from memory 1000 packs to be delivered to our UK werehouse.

The first we heard of any problem was when an anxious werehouse manager called us up to complain that some of the boxes had been damaged in transit and the green slime oozing out had burned a hole in a workers clothing.It also stained the floor bright green, and could'nt be washed off.Then when they discovered the packing slip which accompanied the CD, they immediately locked it away and refused to handle the shipment any more.

This packing slip was about 10 pages long, the first 2 of which gave the chemical composition of all the ingredients of the slime, the rest of the pages contained dire warnings about it.Do not inhale, Do not touch, seek immediate medical attention if on skin, may cause burns, may cause neurological damage and so on. It was scary and unreal.

We frankly couldn't believe this was what we had been sent. We had a few intact boxes sent to the office for us to check.We handled them here and luckily we didn't die, so we assumed it was a case of typical American excessive legal warnings, in case of being sued.The remainder were disposed of by a specialist toxic waste company.No way could they be on sale to the public.

It turned out that the chemical composition of all the harmless green slimes are legally patented by kids toys manufacturers so they had to concoct their own slime formula.They thought it was for some industrial type use, they didn't know the eventual use was in CD pouches on sale to the public.

Over 10 years later the slime has all evaporated just leaving dangerous-looking green and blue crystals in the pouch.All I can say is- if you see one, give it a wide berth, and don't eat it.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Earache & Rough Trade

Question: I watched the recent documentry on bbc4 about rough trade and from what ive read before earache was distroed at one point during the early days by rough trade, im wondering did you as a label encounter the problems with them as a distrobuter as labels like mute etc listed eg non payment for records shifted due to the rough trade label feuding with the distro company? From:

Answer: The Story of Rough Trade documentary can be viewed on the BBC iPlayer, it charts the ups and downs of the fiercely independent late-70's London record shop, which became the first and ground-breaking UK indie label and also had a growing sideline as a UK distribution network for other Indie labels, this is what ultimately became the millstone that brought it down, leading to its demise in the early 90s.

The Rough Trade shop, label and distro completely revolutionised how music was created and consumed in the UK.It meant that bands did not have to be aligned or signed to one of the Major record co's to benefit from being able to deliver records into kids hands via the growing chain of Indie record shops which sprang up after the punk/New wave explosion, up and down the country.

Behind the scenes, its quite a task to store, wherehouse, pick, pack and deliver thousands of physical records to shops around the country on a weekly basis.Labels cannot do this on their own, and and its fair to say that Earache wouldn't have survived and thrived as a label in its early years without the distribution network- called The Cartel- and accompanying indie label 'logistical support system' that Rough trade had created.

Earache was actually distro'd by a provincial offshoot of The Cartel called Revolver based out of Bristol, as the head office bods at Rough Trade themselves had turned the label down, I assume because they were seeking more chart-friendlier labels than mine. The typical Indie label at the time was pedalling jangly, twee indie rock with a succession of Smiths clones.One label- Some Bizzare - was trying to push the envelope for the heavier end of the 80s indie spectrum with bands like Swans or Foetus, but despite that, Earache's output must have sounded like it was coming from another planet to them, it had literally zero commercial appeal to anybody in the wider Industry, so I was pretty grateful when Revolver took me on.

After Rough trade collapsed Revolver continued unaffected, luckily for me. Some of the ex-Rough trade management team who appear in the documentary formed their own marketing company called Real Time, which specialised in offering Indie labels a freelance marketing service.We worked with them for many years. Their stint at the helm of Rough Trade Distribution meant Earache benefited enormously from their expertise in the 'dark art' of marketing successful records. They taught me a more professional approach to marketing, plus they understood how to get records racked in vast quantities in the record chains, which was news to me.

The high street record shops in the 90s were still pretty much controlled and dominated by the Majors, and still are, but Real Time's experience meant Earache could compete with them by copying their strategy of offering retailer inducements, discount deals, utilising pluggers and the such like.With Real Times help, Earache had a run of chart successes, which saw Napalm Death and Carcass in the UK charts and Entombed enter in the Swedish top 5.

Monday, September 07, 2009

New Trad HM -its all about the lycra singer now, not the riffs

Question: Do you think that this view of yours that the nwothm bands have to have a two octave singer is a little shallow? For me bands like venom, tank, warfare, hell and deliverance(uk) were just as an important were just as important for the nwobhm as their more melodic counterparts, with deliverance having more influence later on just ask darkthrone. From:

Answer: I stand by what I said in a previous blog posting, but I do know where you are coming from, and sort of agree with you.Of course the original NWOBHM was a very broad church, as long as it was genuine metal and played from the heart, it was deemed NWOBHM, and it stretched from the ultimate trailblazers and leaders like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, both of which boasted world-class powerful 3 octave range vocalists, to the other end of the scale of the gruff growlers like Motorhead and Venom and Tank.Actually one of my all-time faves from the old school is the severely under-rated Atomkraft who are like the Venom no one remembers.

I'm not so sure about the Deliverance reference.From memory that started as a kinda in-joke HM band from the late 80's, wasn't it something to do with members of VIRUS?

Fenriz does his band of the week on the Darkthrone blog and he unearths some real gems in his column like the brilliant Salute.But his tastes veer towards the basic mid-tempo monochrome crusty punk/metal and thats a style I'm pretty much bored with, with a few exceptions.

Any NWOTHM fans in USA reading this should check out ENFORCER & CAULDRON on the road now.Heres a great review of ENFORCER & CAULDRON show, I think the reviewer really captures what the bands are all about in the review.

If you have Spotify you can hear what all the fuss is about on theHeavy Metal Killers comp. Latest dudes to get the NWOTHM bug are Ryan and Phil from Municipal Waste who have formed a decent NWOBHM band called VOLT-URE.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Haunted- First New Wave of Thrash band?

Question: is it possible earache actually predicted the new wave of thrash? by that i mean before municipal waste made it trendy. If i remember in an interview whilst on tour with the haunted kerry king said about how kids should play attention to what the haunted are doing and take notes. this was back in 02-03 during the marco era. if this is true surely that means that line up of the haunted are the daddies of the scene? From:

Answer: This is an interesting one- yes, there is more than a grain of truth in what you say, but its not the complete story. Basically Prime-era SLAYER is the definative THRASH style, hence, any band which is heavily influenced by SLAYER becomes by default a de-facto Thrash band.Back in 2000-2003 The Haunted were just one of several bands(Carnal Forge, Dimension Zero were vaguely similar) taking a major influence from Slayer, but they also happened to the best band in the world at doing it.Even Kerry King noticed and did name-check The Haunted for big things.

The Haunted formed in the late 90's out of the ashes of the legendary At The Gates and by 2000's second album The Haunted Made Me Do It (open in Spotify) the band were pretty unique in playing mid-paced Slayer-ish Thrashy Metal with the cruelly under-rated vocalist Marco Aro on vocals. I think we even referred to the band as Thrashy-Death-metal in press releases at the time, but pure Thrash as a style was, beleive it or not, seriously uncool and out of fashion back then.

At the turn of the millenium, 80s Thrash as we knew it was a faded force, a distant memory.Most thrash bands has split or quit. Even the big 4 were in the doldrums, searching for that elusive radio hit.In 2000 Metallica were peddling symphonic metal with S&M, and the band were deep in psycho-therapy sessions,so all-out thrashing was not on their agenda.Slayer were'nt as terrible, but Diabolica in Musica was seen as treading water by many fans, including me. Megadeth were playing mainstream rock with 'Risk' and would imminently be dropped from their long-term major label Capitol.

Listening back to The HMMDI album now, it is stunning, and catchy- especially the Bury Your Dead, The World Burns and Victim Iced songs - these are remarkable and amazing in their Thrashy-ness.All the remarkable given the mainstream metal world at the time was marching to the Limp Bizkit-led Rap metal/nu Metal tune.

As an aside, younger blog-readers might not realise just how utterly dominating Limp Bizkit were in the rock/metal sales charts a decade back.Today a band like Lamb of God is hailed as the metal-scene's saviours by selling 60,000 copies first week in USA, but Limp Bizkit sold over 1,000,000 copies of their Chocolate Starfish album first week in October 2000.Thats not big, its simply gargantuan.

So, yes the HMMDI album did indeed pre-date the coming Thrash hordes by a good half a decade, so its good you bring it up, but Thrash was just one of the influences in the Haunted's Gothenborg melting pot of more death-metally influences.

The coming 2006 wave of Thrash bands (forming the current NWO Thrash Metal) would be playing only pure thrash or HC/Crossover thrash, no death metal influence and certainly no growls.

As far as I can tell, during the dark days of 99-2003 only in Germany was 'pure thrash' still fighting for its survival- it had gone seriously underground and off the radar, but amazingly, I think it was Tankard (pic above) with their unique brand of beer-fueled pure-Thrash who were the crucial missing link between the old timers and the new breed.

Just ask Gama Bomb for proof.