Monday, October 26, 2009

The return of The Ultra-Fast bands? Maybe..

Question: Earache,

in the last few years there seem to have been some bubblings in the deepest depths of the underground. The story goes that every few years previous styles regain popularity and I suppose we can see examples in the resurgence of thrash (or rather the the resurgence of the popularity of thrash), death metal and so forth. It seems that at the moment, particularly in the north, there are a lot of bands playing the faster styles of hardcore, more primitive grind and power-violence. A lot of them seem to be making waves (even tape trading and tape demo's seem to have made a come back). It is due to this that I pose my question;

Do you guys in your infinite wisdom and experience of the music scene think that the return of 'the fast' is something that may make a major impact in the way that thrash and death have, or will it simply fizzle out?

Also, thumbs up on the Grind Madness at the BBC release. Picked it up at Damnation along with Ian Glasper's latest book and both have kept me rather happy today and clearly led me to raise the question I have! From:

Answer: You're right about the demo cassettes- I've seen a few new bands touting tapes, its pretty cool in a retro way but I doubt people will be throwing away their Apple ipods for Sony Walkmans just yet.A original working 80s Walkman sells for decent money on ebay, but for £16 you can get a brand new Sony Walkman today.

As it happens the tape player is still the most successful audio product ever launched, most people don't realise you can play tapes anywhere- because older cars still have tape players, boombox blasters have a deck, and older all-in-one stereo systems come with a tape player.

As for the music, there have been pretty fast bands everywhere you look for the past 2 decades- grindcore and Black Metal acts have been blasting at top speeds, blistering listeners' ears for years, the math-core bands have used blast beats aswell, but I think you mean a different type of stripped down 'fast'HC band.

There are plenty of speed-for-speeds-sake ultra-fast hardcore bands in the North of England, as you say. The sound is stripped down, spazzed-out, not heavy, not metallised, definately not satanic- its just pure speed- and it is quite refreshing to hear actually. We released one of the trailblazers of this type last year- a band called Narcosis.

On this blog I'm often asked if 'such an such' scene is going to be big soon, or wether a certain scene is on the rise.The truth is most scenes are kinda bubbling under most people's radar all off the time, you don't have to dig too far underground to get into anything.Whether the fast-core scene will rise again? I would say its a long-shot because most styles need to be somewhat metallised for the metallic hordes to embrace it.It is pretty much up to you guys- the fans - to decide.

Heres two speedy North of England bands Earache released CDs by, in recent years:

Narcosis- Fuck off Dickhead!

Beecher- Dead for Weeks

Heres 2 North of England bands we didnt do, but both pretty speedy:

Reth- at Obscene Extreme fest

Joe Pesci- live dynamo club

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Is Age a Factor in Getting Signed?

Question: I was just wondering how much youth matters to you at Earache? Are you more likely to sign a band if they are techincally competent but are all teenagers over a similar band aged 5 or ten years older?

I was just wondering your opinion, and how important/how big an advantage you think youth can be in the extreme metal scene of today!

I asked because you have quite a lot of younger bands on your label (Oceano, TBWD, Ignominious Incarceration) who are all amazing, but did their youth sway you towards signing them over someone else? Or is it as simple as because they are younger they have more drive and passion and are generally more likely to succeed and be noticed!

Cheers! From:

Answer:In the battle of Youth vs Experience, youth wins every time. Youthfulness is a prized asset in all the creative arts- be it music, fashion, art, film etc, though I doubt age matters much in say, novel writing -look at JK Rowling for proof.

I should say that Earache has no signing policy based on the ages of the members, we actually don't even ask the ages of any bands we're talking to, that would be rude.Anyway, Earache signs bands strictly on the quality of their music so age doesn't matter- however, since we are usually in the market for very fresh-sounding bands playing what we feel is the most contemporary styles of metal/rock, it tends to be the younger bands who fit the bill. There are plenty of late 30 year olds playing Death Metal, but no late 30 year olds playing Deathcore, for instance.

It definitely appears there is golden age group when bands who's members are of a certain age range seem more likely to succeed, and become popular. Bands that are around ages 18-25 do the best,but even this age range is falling rapidly as many youngsters are getting better at their instruments, way earlier than before.

Maybe its to do with the uptake of guitar based video games and availability of instructional videos.Instructional DVDs where legendary rock musicians pass on their wisdom and experience to fans are massively popular- Derek Roddy's own instructional drum technique DVDs actually outsell his one-time band mates Hate Eternal DVDs by a wide margin.

Mostly the popularity of younger acts is just to do with the sheer exhuberence of youth, and the peer-group connection with kids who actually go to shows and consume most music - these are of the same age group and so can relate better to bands their age.

Younger bands do have some downsides, inexperience obviously being the main one.We've had our share of greenhorns on the label, most young bands are pretty naive about what a music career involves. Many have a simplistic view of the music industry- ie, band writes some songs in the rehearsal room, songs put on the internet or CD, do a few shows, then stardom and fame follows, as easily as night follows day.Wow, I wish it was that simple! That's one of the reasons I write this blog, to try to give some pointers to upcoming bands about what a music career is like- this blog is written from hard-bitten experience.

For many bands on this label success often dropped into their lap so doesn't "seem real" to them. If you read ex-Napalm Death or ex-At The Gates members' retrospective interviews, they usually confide that they were young and stupid when they quit or split from the bands when a highly successful career was imminent. Young bands do the dumbest things, they simply don't have the depths of emotions to deal with seemingly trivial shit which older, wiser heads can shrug off.

Parental pressure to continue at college or get a "real job" is a major concern with our younger bands. Liam the guitarist and leader of UK noiseniks The Boy Will Drown is currently completing a University course.Its no big deal for him, yet it subconsciously affects their touring schedule, the proof is in the fact they have yet to complete a major comprehensive touring stint.

Older bands - with members say past late 20's, early 30's- are wiser, they certainly known how the industry works, but they come with different baggage. Often they have other life choices, a steady paying job or relationship is most common, so getting in the van for 2-3 months playing music on tour in far flung places is not as attractive a proposition as it is to an 18 yr old with no ties.

Then there are the veterans. Earache doesn't tend to sign very many veteran bands - by that I mean those 70s or 80s era metal bands who are still going, and come with a ready-made and loyal fanbase built up over decades of touring with plentiful albums in their back catalogue.

New upcoming bands should take at look at the punishing work ethic of bands like Metallica, and AC/DC who are now aged in their 50s.Already immensely popular and among the worlds biggest selling metal bands, I bet they have played more concerts this year than most other acts half their ages.

Killer guitarists are becoming ever younger- but Tallan Latz is beyond belief.He is maybe the world's best guitar prodigy.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Scorn re-issues? 2 X CD Box is Out November.

Question: Given the recent dubstep explosion is there anychance of scorn's evanesence or silver rain fell getting the reissue treatment? Being as it can be argued thats those two albums are the roots of the genre. Plus id love to see an interview with mick as to how he feels now those albums have had an effect on mainstream music. From:

Answer: I think you must have read our minds because yes, we do have plans to re-issue SCORN Cds. The classic 1994 album Evanescence and the 1995 remixes called Elipsis are to be released as a lo price 2x CD slipcase package. I think November 12th is the release date on our webstores.They have been out of print for probably 15 years.

If you saw our repackaging of Godflesh Cds recently, its like that.

As you noticed- the recent dubstep explosion has caused quite a lot of interest in Scorn.This was obvious to us also, mainly through questions to this blog actually. Ok nowadays the scene of 2009 is not directly anything to do with Scorn but it is remarkable how close they sounded to the blueprints of dubstep back in 1994. They also were close to the sound of Public Image Limited, who are touring again.

SCORN- Days Passed

PIL- Annalisa

Scorn- Time went slow (off Gyral)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What happened to Biomechanical?

Question: Simple question.... What is happening with Biomechanical? Why are there no new posts of them anywhere? Are they done? From:

Answer: Simple answer- Biomechanical is one guy- John K, and he's currently put the band on hiatus,working a regular job, hence no updates. When I say its one guy, I really mean it, the band has always been the brainchild of John K, as the frontman and chief songwriter, the rest of his band were literally hired hands- this never made for a democratic unit, but thats how he operated his band.

The band released The Empires of the Worlds CD on Earache and we loved it because it was prime Classic Heavy Metal,- actually ahead of the curve of re-interest in the genre by the metallic hordes. It went down well, and the band functioned great.The follow up album Cannibalised - which formed the third part of the Biomechanical trilogy- was a harsh super agressive listen which did not go down so well with fans as the more classic HM album which preceded it.I think this poor reaction hit John K hard.

Maybe you read about the split in the ranks of Biomechanical a year or two ago, where his entire original line up quit on him after the recording of Cannibalised, it was pretty much a mutiny. Unphased, John spent a lot of mental energy and a ton of his own money- flights, transport, rehearsals etc- recruiting a new line up which toured the album for while but eventually this line up proved unstable aswell, and the new look Biomechanical kind of ran out of steam, members going their own ways.

Not many know that fellow London metallers Dragonforce were often sharing stages around London with Biomechanical in the early days, in fact, Dragonforce would be the support.Then the sudden surge and rise in popularity of Dragonforce - due to inclusion in Guitar Hero game- weighed heavily on the bands minds.OK its not directly relevant but I'm sure it made John assess his priorities.

John K has always had a steady regular job in London, I believe its as a sound recordist working in a Soho film editing studio, it pays him well, so the band was always a second option for him.He is working hard at the moment, in his regular job.

From our point of view, John is an excellent, talented songwriter, who definatly prefers writing and recording on his own.He can write in many styles, Metal just being one of them- proof is in the orchestral bonus songs of Cannibalised which are stunning, world class epic film score type material.

The official word is that the band is not over, its on hiatus awaiting the time John can dedicate himself to it again.

See what Biomechanical is all about :

Monday, October 19, 2009

Grind Madness at the BBC

Question: Just loving my copy of "Grind Madness at the BBC" - takes me back to being a 17 year old hitting play & record on my old tape deck loaded with a C120 to catch the whole 2 hour show! Ah the nostalgia!

Any chance you may do a "Volume 2" and feature the other much loved (and I suppose hated by some!) sessions from that time such as Stupids, Electro Hippies, Doom, Dr & The Crippens, Deviated Instinct, Prophecy Of Doom and Fudge Tunnel???

Fully appreciate they were not "Earache" bands as such, and realise there may be "technicalities" for the legal boffins to thrash out, but surely it could be done??? After all my recent copies of Carcass Dual CD/DVD re-issues of Heartwork & Swansong were, please correct me if I'm mistaken, not originally released on Earache?
Or am I totally deluded and such an undertaking would be a logistical, legal and financial nightmare???
Here's hoping!


PS - Oh hang on! Let me just double check my dusty copy of "Hate Songs in E Minor" Oh yeah! One of yours after all! Hehe! From:

Answer: Ahhh- John Peel- what can I say about this great man? He is directly responsible for me being here today, writing this blog about my label 20+ years after I started it.As a National Radio DJ he took such a genuine shine to the bands I was releasing, very early on in their careers, that he gave the whole scene a massive boost in exposure, which was totally unexpected. I think out of the first 10 releases Earache made, nearly all of the bands were invited to record a session for the Peel radio show on the BBC.Typical Peel- ever the musical maverick, he undoubtedly could spot a maverick record label when he saw one.

In hindsight I'm pretty sure none of us- myself or the bands- appreciated or had any clue at the time about the importance of these sessions while being recorded and aired.It was just another gig, another doss of a day out.We'd make the afternoon trip in the van to the BBC to blast out some songs in a professional studio, I mostly remember it as a chance to grab some decent food in the extremely cheap/subsidised BBC canteen.Read Mitch Dickinson's account of what happened during a Peel session.

If you don't live in the UK, you can't fully understand how important the BBC is in shaping popular culture. It's a truly wonderful institution, which takes no advertisements, and is instead uniquely funded by every single household in the UK paying an annual TV license fee of £142.This way of funding makes the TV and Radio programs it produces among the very best, because mere commercial factors do not apply, instead the emphasis is on serving the public with entertaining and informative programming.

The idea for our Compilation came from 2 different chance events.The BBC head of music licensing contacted us about the planned BBC Radio download and streaming service, to be launched sometime in the future, which will finally offer up all of the legendary John Peel sessions as Mp3's to the public, and presumably other BBC music archive material aswell.He needed our help to sort out who did what, and when because his paperwork he inherited was sketchy.At the same time Ian Glasper interviewed me for his latest UKHC book, so we got a sense of deja-vu.
We formed the idea to ask the BBC for permission to use the archived Peel sessions from the Earache bands from the time.The BBC's own records of the songs recorded had so many mistakes its unreal, many had the wrong song titles and in many cases just nicknames of the performers were on the paperwork: "Baz" "Johnny" etc.They needed to know what were original compositions and which were covers. Napalm Death recorded Japanese HC band SOB cover songs in one session.

Earache's label manager spend a long time dealing with these matters for the BBC-naturally he didn't mind helping the BBC get its archive in order.It was a real labour of love.

To answer your question- I doubt we'll do Volume 2.
Its not an easy task to obtain clearances and rights from BBC, and then the hassle of getting the songs correctly sorted for official release is damn hard.
So- enjoy the Grind Madness at the BBC 3x CD set because I doubt there will be another CD compilation. The good news is- it looks likely the BBC themselves will offer the public the archive of Peel sessions some time in the future anyway.

Heres where we took the name from- Craig Charles introducing Napalm Death on BBC TV- watch what happens, right after the orchestra;

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Is the Thrash Bubble about to burst?

Question: Now that the thrash bubble is over inflated and on near explosion im wondering what bands do you feel will survive the bubble burst? Personally my money is on two british bands one that earache signed and one that earache nearly signed.

My belief is that the more 80s deritive bands like municipal waste and gamma bomb will struggle after the genre bubble has popped, however i see evile and sylosis as being the bands that survive the drop off in interest. the reason for this is because both bands seem to have taken influence from other genres and already intergrated it into their styles, sylosis for example have a heavy influence of chuck from death and devin townsendand also evile have taken more of a modern metal approach on their last record.
Im curious as to where you think the new wave of thrash will be after the bubble burst? From:

Answer: Dude I think you are a bit premature to write off an entire new scene so soon - the original Thrash bands have been going for 25 years so far,while the new set of thrash bands have only been recording for a mere 2-3 years so far,so I don't think Municipal Waste or Gama Bomb will be hanging up their white hi-tops just yet.

SLAYER just called Municipal Waste to have them as support on their entire European tour during November and December, so its not exactly doom and gloom.I guess the new thrash bubble is just about to get a whole lot bigger.

Sylosis is a great band and we tried to sign them after the first EP on In at The Deep end records.They were a Death Metal band back then, with an exceptionally talented guitarist in their ranks.Its been convenient for their label Nuclear Blast to label them as a thrash band, but they dont play Thrash in my opinion.

I ought to point out that none of the bands we deal with worry too much wether there is a bubble or not, they simply play the music they enjoy, and if fans like it then great, if not, thats fine too.

Its worth noting, this new Thrash scene happened very much without the permission of anyone in the media,( exception being Metal Hammer magazine).

Some bands are making efforts to move on- ie be more original than simply ape-ing and channeling tried and tested 80s vibes- Muni went more hardcore punky on the new one, and Evile developed a heavier, more complex thrash - a "modern metal approach" as you correcly describe it

Thrash is getting bigger mostly because its a refreshing change for fans to hear bands play proper-sounding meaty metal, with solos and vocals.No growls, no symphonic parts, no "core", no "nu", no gothic elements- just solid metal.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A typical day at Earache?

Question: How many hours a week do you spend on Earache related business? Is there such a thing as a 'typical day'? From:

Answer:Working hours? I have no concept what that means because this job is 24/7 dude. In the era of iPhone and BlackBerry you can be in contact with people all of the time, and I'm the type of person who is impatient to know whats going on. So I'm jacked into the net and email pretty much constantly, weekends included. Its not really that big of a deal, as I have a passion for doing this anyway.

I'm lucky that Earache has a dedicated staff who bear most of the heavy workload leaving me to do the bits I enjoy, which is dealing with new bands and planning their albums or my speciality- crazy projects.Most of the staff here are music-lovers, we are a music company after all.

Strictly speaking, I'm self-employed, running my own business means it comes with a certain amount of burden of responsibility aswell. If you were to ask anyone who is self-employed how they spend their time, they would invariably answer- running the business or thinking about it most of the time.Its pretty normal in fact.

Mostly I'd describe my day as listening to new bands for consideration,checking out the mp3s of our own bands direct from the studio, trouble-shooting the daily problems which crop up, and strategising the future of this label, especially the mp3/downloading/streaming future of music, which I take a massive interest in.

Typical day? Here's Monday 12 October 2009:

7am- Roadworks on the road outside my house are being carried out at night, they are noisy and wake me up. Damn.I'm an early riser anyway, but 7am is friggin early.Its barely daylight.

7.01am- Grab laptop and check emails- approx 100 come overnight from USA timezone, including radio reports and USA staff progress reports from the end of last week.I'll surf the net, checking websites, twitter, tumblr, RSS feeds-I have about 25 metal and news sites feeds on the go, and tech sites.Decide I want a Kindle.Maybe start answering an Ask Earache question.

8.20am- Put Sky Sports News on TV and down my first Diet Coca-Cola of the day. I'll drink easily 6 of them before mid-day. I should be sponsored by Coke as I cant operate without caffeine.I dunno why I'm not a coffee drinker - the taste has just never appealed.

Before even leaving to work, I'll check out a few demo bands or new bands myspaces, especially if I have read good reviews about them. Nothing excites me more than hearing new bands. I honestly look forward to being blown away each time I hear a new band for the first time. I always remain optimistic that I could be discovering a brilliant new metal band - but sadly 99% of the time I'm disappointed, so move onto the next one.I play maybe 7 bands this way before breakfast,I never get bored with hearing new bands.

I research our own bands' happenings online too. Its quicker to just read their myspace blogs and tumblr streams than call em up. I hate phones anyway, preferring face-to-face meetings if possible. Today I wanted to see what folks were saying about Insect Warfare, and Cauldron, both on tour in UK. I discovered IW have a few haters back in Houston, which was news to me.Three days ago the band played Nottingham with a stand in singer, and we found em to be mega cool guys.I headed home after the gig, but find out that 2 Earache label guys were hanging and boozing with Dobber and Beau until 7.30am at the promoters house!.Earache staffers know how to party hard!

Our London based PR girl Talita returned from her holiday in Tibet and Nepal, so exchange a few early morning emails with her to explain the events she missed while away.Vice magazine has a TV channel and Talita appears in their latest online TV programme talking about Earache - Heavy Metal Roadshow.

10am Set off for office- by public transport.After a 10 minute walk then its a bus. 30 minutes later I'm in the city centre of Nottingham, settling into my office awaiting the first of daily dramas to unfold.Our start time is 10am ,so the rest of the staff are already in before me.

I'm 'hands-on' at work- office life revolves around a series of ad-hoc meetings with the label management dudes.We'll crowd round the desk and discuss subjects ranging from internet connection troubles to promo strategies to royalty calculations.This time of year its royalty time and many bands are due to receive their statements, which our system sends out by email as .pdfs.Its noticed that for some bands their digital sales out-earn the royalty from CDs. The music industry is changing dramatically, and the evidence is right before our eyes.

The unexpected, tragic news of Mike Alexander's (bassist of Evile) death still dominates our thoughts.It happened a week ago while he was on tour in Sweden, but his body is still in Sweden awaiting bringing back to UK. Its so sad. We arrange to visit Huddersfield and meet up with the Evile guys the next day, to see how they are coping with all this. The absolute deluge of condolence emails from so many big names in the scene gives them a lot of comfort.

Gama Bomb are in the studio halfway through recording of 'Tales From The Grave in Space' but a minor drama develops when they declare they cannot record the album and the extra bonus songs, because they simply won't have enough time.We tell them to work faster and get it done,because its already mega-late.We are expecting it on November 4th and have already announced it will be online as a free dowmload on Nov 5th.We can't miss this deadline.

On lunch break I grab a sandwich, more Coca-cola, and drop into HMV to buy some CDs.Being in the biz its a simple matter to blag a freebie of most music that comes out, but sometimes its easier to just buy it.In the store, I'm mostly just seeing whats new out- I buy Paramore and Hatebreed and a Lady Gaga single.Sometimes I get CDs just to hear the production on them, we are constantly on the look out for hot new producers who can make great-sounding metal albums on an Indie budget.

Spotify is a huge time-sink these days, I'm hooked on finding old albums to listen to to, Spotify has so much choice for free streaming its mindblowing.I'm streaming Rainbow and Van Halen a lot nowadays.One thing Spotify does lack though is NWOBHM.

A Japanese company is negotiating to release the labels music as ringtones in Japan- this is a first time deal for us, so its brand new ground.We sold a few ringtones in the UK before, but they are hot news again because the newly launched iTunes 9 makes ringtones for iPhones easier. I make the last few contract changes and send them off by email - here's hoping the other side will agree and a deal can be done.

A long standing prominent veteran Thrash band is up for a record deal, and Earache is close to securing the rights, but its never a done deal until its signed.We are told other labels are chasing them aswell.So myself and Dan the label manager have a quick discussion to think about it some more- is our offer attractive enough? Time will tell.

After work its quite common a bunch of us will go to local metal and punk gigs, our office is within a few blocks of Nottingham's main metal clubs & pubs. In a typical week at least 2-3 maybe 4 gigs are attended by me and/or staffers, either in Nottingham or London.

No decent gig was on tonight so I'll trek home. To chill out from work I'll catch some TV, mainly news channels or football games or Discovery channel.Movies bore me, I'm more into factual stuff. Later on I'll chill out by reading- not novels, mostly its factual stuff, again. I love reading about science or stuff about space exploration.Currently I'm reading Andrew Marr's excellent A History of Modern Britain.

Naturally some music will be on in the background aswell, probably Scorn.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Does anyone make a living playing grindcore?

Question: This question is based on an interview i read with pig destroyer, in which they said that the main reason why they dont tour much is because of the style of music they play pig destroyer doesnt pay the bills, so therefore they have to have day jobs. Im just curious as to how when one of the bigger bands of the grindcore scene struggles balancing the band and also a personal life. how labels can demand that they spend all their time on the road surely its a catch 22 situation? surely by keeping bands out on the road they are actually encouraging and accelerating that band splitting up being as bandmembers being frustrated with having a lack of money is one of the main reasons for band break ups? From:

Answer: Regular readers of this blog will know I constantly bang on about how only those bands which heavily dedicate their time, energy and money into touring, are the ones who eventually will succeed in making a living from the metal industry. It's not an opinion, its a cast iron fact, but its a statement which is usually met with the "look at Darkthrone or Burzum" retort- I tried to answer that one here, and i'm still waiting for you blogonauts to give me names of any other examples of bands who made it without touring.There are none.

Pig Destroyer are a classic case of a band that has other options in life, and chose them over touring their music- I believe mainman Scott Hull holds down a lucrative job as a computer programmer at the Pentagon, or some government department in Washington, D.C. Playing in a band is secondary to that, which is fair enough,I'm not going to criticise his choice.The end result is I suppose Pig Destroyer could be described as the worlds most well-known grindcore hobby band.I've never seen them play live for instance, which is odd.

It's true that grindcore is not a massive selling genre, I'm fairly sure that the only grindcore band making a living from their music is Napalm Death, they have been lucky enough to be living off the band for at least two decades now and the reason they have done it is by a constant, gruelling touring schedule. Shane Embury once told me that he spent over 250 days in one calendar year on the road, that is considered a normal touring cycle for a top level metal band with a newly released album on sale. In other 'off years' it might be around 100 shows, never less than 60.

I have dealt with quite a few bands whose members simply had no other life-options, you'd be suprised how many of the biggest metal stars grew up in very poor family situations, bordering on poverty. Their skill was their chosen instrument and their motivation to succeed was to simply break out of the poverty trap life dealt them. Getting in the van and criss-crossing Australia was no hardship for AC/DC members because the alternative of staying at home was far worse. Read Ozzy's autobiography if you want further evidence.

Metal bands differ greatly in their earning powers. At the top end of the scale, only 5 metal bands are considered of a huge enough stature and reliable ticket-selling power to build festivals around them: Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Kiss, Metallica, and lately I beleive Iron Maiden joined this illustrious club. Being just a handful of acts means they can command enormous sums to perform, over $500,000 per gig is common, but its not all profit as the bands bring an enormous crew and stage set with them. Lately these stellar names in metal make sure the whole festival is in their control, and it is often arranged around the headliner- examples are Ozzfest or Sonisphere -It's so that the lucrative festival sponsorships, branding, and tie-ins can be profited from by the main act aswell.

Bands from the next level of metal's heirarchy- Slipknot, System of a Down, etc take advantage of the lucrative EU festival circuit to play to as many people as possible in a series of weekends over the summer. Metal festivals in the 90s numbered about 5, most were on and off events, nowadays there are over 40 important metal festivals in EU alone, not to mention more in Australia and Japan. Those promoters are arguably the most important people in the metal industry at present.

Bands which put in the best performances in front of the huge festival crowds can now play maybe 25 EU festivals in one summer over 12 weekends,sometimes bands will play Friday at one festival and Saturday at another. The irony is of course that those 'festival fave' bands only got to be that way due to the constant touring during the early days.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Earache fought in the techno wars 93-96.

Question: How does Earache feel about the Techno releases you did back in the nineties.Now that bands like Pendulum are big, and dub step is played on Radio 1 and is popular in clubs?

Answer:Substitute Pitch Shifter for Pendulum and Scorn for Dub Step and you have pretty much what we were doing in the mid-90s. There is this misunderstanding that Earache in the mid-90s completely turned its back on Metal and Grind, with a wholesale shedding of all the "good" bands, to start releasing exclusively crappy "Dance/techno" records instead.This is a gross exaggeration of what did happen, albeit on a small scale.

People are quick to forget that Earache actually did release tons of quality extreme metal during that era as usual, Morbid Angel, Napalm Death, Anal Cunt, Carcass, Cathedral Iron Monkey and more, but sadly these were overshadowed in the fans eyes by the - probably a dozen,tops - of the extreme techno records that were also released.

It seriously divided opinion among fans of the label, and in hindsight it WAS a serious mistake. A sub-label for techno, not the main label, was the proper place for such wild experimentation. Looking back its remarkable how immune I was to the anger it caused to some die-hard fans.We did have a side label for this stuff, but it was closed down, the last release being early Drum N bass act Fenetik (sleeve pictured above). See that story here.

Someone who definately was angry was Brutal Truth's Kevin Sharp- during the period in 1995 or so, when they had been let go from the label (at their request I might add) he took to mercilessly bashing Earache in interviews, and especially our artist Ultraviolence, which was one of the new hardcore techno projects I'd started working with since 1993.

I guess you had to be here.If you werent living in the UK during the early 90s, you cant understand the impact the techno/rave music scene had. It WAS the underground music scene here, and at least in the early days it was just as radical as the death metal or grindcore scene.Nobody could have predicted that this nascent rave scene would blow up to dominate popular culture for the next decade, of course.

Norway had Helvete, we had Warp.

This was before it became totally mainstream and superclubs like Gatecrasher or Ministry of Sound had even opened their doors.It was a truly Independent, DIY scene which utilised the primitive samplers and early affordable music software to literally invent a new music scene out of nothing. That scene evolved into the mainstream drum n bass and techno which dominated the clubs amd the charts for most of the 90s and much of this decade too.

Back then, I would sit in my flat during the early 90s and hear strangely alien yet alluringly massive bass-heavy sounds pumping out of every house and car where I lived at the time. I discovered it was on the airwaves aswell due to an illegal pirate radio station (Rave FM) operating in my area. It was hellishly underground, radical and free music.

The free parties like Castlemorton made the TV news and newspaper front pages.Being seemingly spearheaded by renegade anarcho-punkers from the 80s, like Spiral Tribe made it even more appealing. The whole scene was even declared illegal - new laws were passed in Parliament to prevent gatherings of ravers - and I became a big fan instantly.

Heres Spiral Tribe explaining what happened:

Won't be long before an NME/ hipster-led Jungle/Rave revival is on the cards surely?
Fine by me, as clubs would have to play ACEN- Trip to the Moon Part 2 (Production House, 1992)

plus Sonic Experience- everybody get crazy!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Bands- are they mates or legal partnerships?

Question: This has come to mind after the whole recent fear factory incident. Are most bands registered as independent companys? Im curious as to why when burton c bell reorginised the band to bring dino back the former members claimed to still be part of fear factory inc? are most bands registered as companies from a legal point of view? From:

Answer: Having worked with hundreds of bands for over 2 decades, I can say they are quite nebulous things, and no two acts are alike.Most bands when starting out are simply a group of mates making music for fun with vague dreams of success and stardom, so having a sit down meeting to declare and sign themselves up as a formal 4 or 5 -way partnership is one of the last things on their minds.

While outwardly appearing a united, democratic unit to the fans, behind the scenes, most bands have one member who is the driving force, the creative leader and very often its not the most visible member, the frontman.In my experience, its more often likely to be the unsung hero, like guitarist, drummer or bassist that actually plans the activities and direction of the band.

Some bands have a leader of almost tyrannical proportions and the rest of the members follow orders or get their marching orders, you can tell them by the revolving door precession of line ups on each album/tour. Most bands try to do the decent thing and when they get the first flush of success, its common for them to state in writing that the band is a partnership with equal shares all round, so that everyone is comfortable with their own positions.Sadly, the actual day to day reality of bands is that they definately do not run along 100% democratic lines,because nothing would ever get done.

As bands get bigger the monetary stakes get higher and what seemed like a decent idea at the outset doesnt seem so fair or reasonable, especially to the one doing all the work.Aswell as a leader who does the writing, liasing with record company, helping run the myspace, planning tours etc, most bands also have the opposite, a lazy member, who doesn't contribute much except playing the songs onstage, sometimes other members can -wrongly- view them as tagging along for the ride.We find the easiest way to split a band up once they have found success is to casually ask them to name in writing their share of incomes.Anything other than fair shares all round can result in deep resentment and open warfare between the less important members which can fester throughout their -too often abruptly curtailed - career.

We have noticed in recent years a lot of high profile legal cases involve ex band members squabbling in the high court with each other over their fair share of past hits and the highly lucrative naming rights for touring and merchandising purposes.
Back in the 90s it was the artists taking the labels to court for unfair recording contracts, now they sue each other instead. Sign of the times?

As for Fear Factory, I always got on great with Dino in the past and from what I am hearing I sense that he and Burton put past differences aside, and got back together to sign a lucrative deal with Candlelight Records.As it happens the new manager of the Dino/Burton FF is a business partner of a Director of Candlelight so it was a clever bit of business for both parties, only trouble is the other ex-members Raymond and Christian were'nt invited to this particular re-union party.

Even the most well run band cannot imagine the plan for the status of ex-members who want to re-form the outfit at a later date, hence the acrimonious nature of this reformation without 2 of the original members of the band.Its none of my business, but hope both parties can settle this quite quickly because no one wins when band members are seen squabbling publicly or in court.

As far as I know, the Dino/Burton FF album is recorded and even on promo right now, I guess a deal must have been done to allow it.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Film Samples on Entombed's Wolverine Blues

Question: Around about 10 years ago, after being impressed with my first listens of Entombed (thanks to Earache's reasonably priced 'Earplugged' compilations) I picked up a copy of the 'Wolverine Blues' album for a tenner from a small independent record shop in Nuneaton ('What' records, for those who are interested. Sadly no longer with us). In the years following it has enjoyed many a spin in my CD player as one of my favourite albums, however I was REALLY shocked to discover recently that MY version of the album with it's selection of movie samples is pretty rare due to your concern at a potential lawsuit coming out of Hollywood. Personally I can't imagine 'Rotten Soil' WITHOUT the the 'Flatliners' sample "Wake up you little shit, you got company!" at the beginning of each chorus.

Anyway, my question is just how many CDs were pressed WITH the vocal samples?

Cheers From:

Answer: To answer your question, I think about 3000 CDs from memory came out like that, in the UK edition, and none came out in the USA Columbia/Earache edition.It was because the album was due for a major-label release that all samples had to be removed.Sony insisted on it, and myself and the band learned a valuable lesson in the copyrights of movie dialogue.

Dealing with our bands wanting to use samples from movies on their albums seemingly takes up a sizable portion of my work time. Latest is Municipal Waste who originally recorded the new album Massive Aggressive with a dialogue sample "You think that when you die you got to heaven.You come to US!!" from Phantasm 2 as the intro to Upside Down Church. We insisted it was removed and doesn't make it into any edition.

The reason they have to be removed is because of copyright laws, the material is not created or recorded by the band and so is basically stealing someone else's work while claiming it as their own on 'their' album. While I do enjoy listening to the songs which have great dialogue samples from movies in them, they can add a certain cool factor to any song,but I don't like the legal consequences, which can be severe and may negatively affect the bands career. In short its just not worth the aggro.

Not all samples are the equal though, dialogue from multi-million-Dollar major motion pictures are impossible to obtain clearance because it involves so many layers of agreement, the producer, the actor, the film studio, the director all have to agree, so its pretty much a non starter.

On the other hand, it can be perfectly fine if its a small independent film, and we have had success clearing stuff if the movie is a small one, often the director of a low budget movie can take a personal interest in a band using a sample, they see it as extra promotion for them.We cleared The sample from the legendary UK 70's movie Scum "we're just treated like scum, but us, were gonna fight back" for SSS's Overload track was cleared this way.Incidentally the original novel on which the SCUM movie was based was written by Roy Minton, who is the father of Pulkas singer Luke Minton,Pulkas were an Earache band of the 90's. Also 80s gore film legends Troma were actually excited for us to be using their Toxic Avenger etc footage in a recent Municpal Waste video clip for Headbanger Face Rip for instance.

Away from the regular music industry there is a thriving sub-industry in 'sample recreation' nowadays.Some companies and studios exist solely to recreate famous dialogue and music, because the originals are impossible to clear. Companies like Scorrcio will replay entire songs for a fee, and out of work voice actors can recreate any dialogue for a fee aswell.

In USA the album had a limited edition Wolverine comic cover which was an official tie-in with Marvel Comics, for extra promotion.Thats why the comic character appears in the video clip, even though the song is about an actual wild animal not the comic character.

Heres Wolverine Blues by Entombed clip:

Friday, October 02, 2009

Carcass' old rumour website circa 1995

Question: Whilst browsing the internet, I found a website which acted as a sort of unofficial fan club for Carcass back in the days of Heartwork/Swansong and was regularly updated with tidbits of information about what was happening in Carcassland as it happened. However, seeing as this was 15 years ago and the internet was not so widespread, the stuff is based mainly on word-of-mouth and small magazine snippets, so it's not the most reliable source ever. However, one thing which struck me was an entry from May '96 which said that Michael Amott had reformed Carnage. Obviously, there is no recorded output form this era, but I just wondered if you knew anything about this short-lived Reunion? Do you know if this is true, and if there was any live shows or even any rehearsals?
Also, can you vouch as to how much of the stuff on this website is true?
The Carcass website can be found here: From:

Answer: I know your question is about Carcass dude, but let me digress a little, because this question is pretty fascinating for me, it gave me deja-vu.You have to remember this website dates from the Jurassic period of the internet.1994-5 makes it, in internet-time, a prehistoric time capsule preserved in amber.I don't know if 'Web Archeaology' exists as a scientific discipline yet but it should do as you can unearth a lot of gems of information from the past by using Waybackmachine or internet archive.

The whole WWW was a brand new thing in 1994-5 and it was a truly wonderous time to be online, but its full life-changing power was certainly not apparent yet, mainly due to the severely slow dial-up speed of the early modems and phone lines, not to mention the outrageous price plans the telcos charged the public for internet access.Plus, when you went online back then it was a barely tolerable experience, there was no web-browser apart from the primitive Mosaic, and the scarcity of websites dealing with metal music meant it was a serious headache to unearth the slightest bit of band info from the web.

Back then, a lot of people were actually 'on the 'net' but nearly all of us non students paid to go through commercial ISPs like AOL or Prodigy, so we were restricted to text based communications - such as email, internet-relay chats (IRC's) and alt.newsgroups (primitive forerunner of message boards).

1995 was the year the web as we know it broke out of being mainly the domain of computer programmers and students on campus at universities which had free and super-fast access to the server hubs .It became a public phenomenon with the release of the first commercial graphical web browser, Netscape Navigator.

I distinctly remember loading up Netscape Navigator 1.0 and viewing my first webpages with- get this- actual images loading within the page.Amazing. After looking up footy scores, obviously, my second look up would be metal.In this early era of the 'net there was no such thing as a search-engine, Alta Vista had yet to come online, and Google could not even be imagined, so you had to navigate via the kindness other sites which would commonly provide a page of relevant links to send you on your way.Our site still has such a links page which dates back from that era.

For a laugh, the designers of Netscape coded their personal web pages into the software as an easter-egg,one of the designers Jamie Zawinski had a webpage which linked to many music/metal related pages, so this became my homepage for many years.And this page was linked a couple of clicks away, so I used to view it all the time myself at the time.

Sorry for the digression and trip down memory lane- I used to have bookmarked this very same page back in the day,it was a serious beacon of info in an otherwise dark internet, I used to refer to it all the time, seeing it again for the first time in a decade was cool.

From my perspective it dates from a time when Carcass were estranged from this label.They had recently signed to Columbia records/Sony after 4 albums on Earache so we were no longer part of their career plans.Earache dealt with the band on a daily basis for like 6 years straight, then all of as sudden we were history and shut out.

Hence, I actually viewed this very same site myself for info about their activities. It certainly was gossip/rumour-based, as all information seemed to be then,but it declares its rumour-mongering sources quite clearly at the top, so you know what you are getting.Most of it is exactly that- rumour- but I do know the comment about The JFK head is wrong- because it was Jeff Walkers idea to use it for the cover of the album made up of leftover songs from the Swansong sessions, not ours.

Googling the name of the kid who ran the page back then- Matt Holliman based out of Illinois, it appears he now works as a software engineer at Google, which is ironic.Moving on with his career, it appears he left the site in the capable hands of his protege and fellow metal-head Ryan Beasley, also based out of Illinois.

I for one am glad it exists and serves as an archealogical fan page of a certain bygone era of one of Death Metal's most significant bands, it remains a useful reference tool as a window into how fan pages looked on the web, in the mid-90s.

How did Carcass pitch-shift the vocals live?

Question: Hey,

Back in the day, how did Carcass pitch shift their vocals in concert? I've wondered for awhile how pitch-shifted bands replicated the sound live and was watching one of the Pathologist's Report DVDs and noticed that both Bill and Jeff have second mics attached to the mic stands. Is the second mic hooked up to a peddle of some sort? I'm not sure if this is the right forum for this kind of question, but I'm curious and figure I might as well ask.


Dayan From:

Answer: Carcass in the very early days used to set up with 2 vocal mics for Jeff, I'm not sure on the exact tech spec but one was regular mic and the other one, about 6 inches away would run into the mixing desk as normal but have pitch-shift effect added at the desk.So many of the songs had this vocal treatment, I personally think it was overused in the studio on the debut, in hindsight. The gutteral effect was alien and sick so it added to the eerie vibe the band was trying to create on record. Consequently the band felt it necessary to replicate it live, during early gigs.

I think the band ditched the 2 vocal mics idea pretty quickly, it looked strange, and it wasn't always possible to set it up right,it just became an extra hassle at gigs.It was easier for Jeff to learn to do it more gutteral live, and as the band did more albums, fewer songs from the debut made it into the Carcass live set anyway.

Heres Carcass Reek of Putrefaction live in 1989, using the 2 vocal mic technique.