Monday, November 30, 2009

Earache & Nile??

Question: I couldnt help but noticing in your bands you nearly signed question you had a file marked "Nile". As a massive Nile fan with the ink to prove it im wondering what era of nile this was. would have it have been after their first label Anubis Records went out of business or would it have been after they departed relapse records? From:

Answer: Earache became aware of Nile quite early, the band were serious fans of, and protégés of Morbid Angel, and as Earache had released all Morbid Angel's output up to that point, we thought they would be a great band to work with. Plus, we liked their take on Death Metal with the Egyptian themes to the fore and considered them a leading upcoming DM band.

Additionally, the highly experienced management of Morbid Angel were involved in helping out Niles career aswell, so we had a connection that way.Earache thought it would be a simple matter to pick up the band. We were wrong.

Our offer to Nile was made in 1998, and the band chose to sign officially to Relapse who had, from memory, already released the bands debut on a one-off basis, I think?

Looking back, our monetary offer (advance) was low - our thinking was that the band would jump at the chance to be on the same label as Morbid Angel.Unknown to us, it was also the management policy to spread their bands around all the bigger metal labels, as having all their eggs in one basket is not an ideal scenario if anything goes wrong.Ironically, this 1998 era was when journalists and some fans were accusing Earache of turning its back on the Death Metal scene, so signing Nile would have made a nonsense of that arguement.

Seems Nile made a good choice anyway, as the band had an amazing run of success on Relapse.However,that deal ran its course and the newest album For Whom The Gods Detest was released last week on Nuclear Blast.

Earache is well used to not getting to work with the bands we want, our list of bands who we had shown interest in, but didn't sign, would extend to hundreds over the years.

Bands, or those who control the bands affairs (managers/agents) are in the ascendancy these days, they call the shots about the length and type of record deal they are willing to commit to.Most bands also weigh up the option of going it alone on their own label- using the internet as distributor- these days too.

Many weigh up the pros and cons and still decide to sign traditional record deals, which nowadays include Publishing and Merchandising options, and even live income options- these are known as 360 deals in biz-speak, and came about because of the declining (some say terminal) CD sales.

Labels now spread the risk of the heavy financial investment in a band, by negotiating some slice of the income from other, more lucrative areas,ones that cant be file-shared (yet), like song publishing and merch, which once were considered off limits.

Even highly ambitious bands can be scared off the DIY route by the practicalities of financing their recording, and all the expensive marketing that is required to promote the record it seems.

That's why labels still exist- because banks have a habit of saying "no".

It takes an eye-watering amount of money to release a physical CD or LP release into the global record marketplace, and for it not to dissappear without trace.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Ask Earache is 12 years old

Heres a funny thing you blogonauts might find interesting- this ASK EARACHE page has existed as a feature on since at least 1997.Back then the word blog did not exist, there was no, but I dutifully tried to answer a variety of fan questions on the labels page.

Due to the wonder of internet archive I found a snapshot of the page from Feb 1998, wth working links.It dates from a weird time in the labels history,so the questions are mostly about the dropping or splits in the ranks of our biggest bands of the day.Carcass had formed Blackstar and Morbid Angel had just lost original singer Dave Vincent- in depth explanations are given as usual.

See the Ask Earache Archive

Sunday, November 15, 2009

What happened to MASSACRE?


Answer: We did release the follow-up, 1994's album was entitled 'Promise' (see pic). Massacre was indeed one of the top USA death metal bands.When Florida Death metal was at the early demo tape stage, MASSACRE's demo was as popular as DEATH and MORBID ANGEL demo's, but they suffered from line-up problems,and bad luck, as DEATH would later get signed and recruit 3/4 of their members for their second album.

Kam Lee and Rick Rozz were 2/3rds of the original and groundbreaking DEATH, led by Chuck Schuldiner. Kam was on drums and sang, he even drew the famous Death logo- the original with the spiders web etc I mean. Massacre formed after Chuck threw Kam and Rick out of Death, but by an ironic twist Massacre folded a few years later as 3/4 of the band- Rick Rozz, Bill Andrews and Terry Butler- were re-recruited in 1988 by Chuck Schuldiner to play with him on the DEATH album Leprosy.You have to realise that all the local Florida bands had fluid line ups, nothing seemed solid because only DEATH had a record deal at that 87-88 point in time, the eyes of the global death metal hordes were not yet on Florida so musicans would rotate regularly, nothing much was a stake.

Ex- growler Kam Lee spent a few years in the wilderness as the Death Metal scene he helped create blew up almost overnight.It must have bugged him that he was ignored while his ex-band mates and even ex-fans (who had gone on to form bands like Obituary, Deicide) were touring and playing Death metal and getting signed. Kam became the forgotten man of early DM.

Earache is the reason that Massacre even got together to record, it was only through my perseverance and persistance that 'From Beyond' even got recorded and released. When I approached them to sign them up to record the album of the demo tape faves that history compelled them to make -and if there was any justice, really should have been recorded years beforehand -I soon found out the reason why it had never been done up til then.

The ex- members of Massacre were pretty dysfunctional to be honest.They had become estranged from each other, and to make matters worse,mainman and singer Kam had moved far away from Tampa, living a sort of nomadic life in the north of the state.

Even though he was only about 100 miles away from Tampa, still residing in Florida, this was before email or cellphones existed, so he was effectively out of the DM loop.Kam drifted in and out of the scene for many years,I think he had other options in life -jobs, relationships- so he himself chose when and how to resume his DM scene activities.He still does this - every few years Kam will announce he is coming back into the scene with a new band, whenever it suits him, which is his prerogative of course.He is a legend so he can do what he likes. Kam is the one who invented the death-growl, Napalm Death's Barney Greenway simply copied Kam's vocal style.

In 1990 Earache provided the means for Massacre to record their debut- producer Colin Richardson flew to Tampa to record them in Morrisound studios,and after a lot of headaches, the album From Beyond finally saw the light of day in July 1991, about 3 years after it should have been released.It was not an easy recording session as the band was in total disarray, I even resorted to bribery and all sorts of tactics to persuade Rick and Kam to get in and do it.On the flipside Bill and Terry acted like seasoned professionals and were a dream to work with.

On its release it sold OK but nothing like the other DM Florida bands who had stolen Massacre's thunder in the intervening years. To be frank, From Beyond was seen as a historical artefact even on release- zillions of other bands all over the world had already taken the Death metal prototype and many were well on the way to forging lucrative careers by 1991.Massacre folded again soon after a UK/EU tour to promote From Beyond,proving it was a seriously fragile band once again.

After a few more years in the wilderness,in 1994 Massacre recorded the follow up album - entitled Promise. Promise was pretty shocking as the band decided to ditch the DM style and embrace a more Pantera-esque heavy groove metal style but with a horror-ghoul theme as this was the metal style that was getting popular at the time.Its not a bad album,but its not what the Massacre fans were expecting, so they shunned it completely.

Massacre folded once again after that,Kam sang on Promise but soon bolted from the scene again. Rick recuited a replacement singer and tried to carry on but the band was in terminal decline and they soon split up once more- seemingly for the final time.

It just occurred to me that Massacre's story is totally similar to Repulsions history.Repulsion (as Genocide) were playing speedy death metal up in Flint, Michigan making a demo which subsequently became popular with the grindcore freaks, but at the the time garnered little interest outside their local area.Death mainman Chuck Schuldiner saw their potential for his band though, and after kicking out Kam and Rick, promptly invited Genocide's Scott Carlson and Matt Olivo to Florida to join him in DEATH.This line up did not last long,and never recorded, so Scott and Matt returned to Michigan, re-naming their band REPULSION.The similarity is that both bands were pretty much derailed for a year or two, by Chuck recruiting their key members.

The further similarity is that Earache resurrected and finally released (via Bill and Jeff Carcass' short lived NECROSIS imprint) REPULSION's debut album about 3 years after it was recorded and due for release by local label Wyatt Earp records.This was I believe the bands own label, financed by a local friend, but the album had been shelved due to lack of finances.

The resulting album - 1989's Horrified was, much like Massacre, received as an historical artefact by fans, and got a lukewarm reception.Old(er) bands are seen as being different to active, current, gigging bands, shops deemed it to be back catalogue, on its release.

Horrified cemented the bands place in the grindcore/death metal history books which would hit the bookshelves about 2 decades later, and that was pretty much our sole aim in releasing it.Relapse later picked up the re-united band for a 7inch, and redid the Horrified album aswell with demos added.

Looking back through the prism of history, its obvious that both Massacre and Repulsion's widely circulated demo tapes were instrumental in influencing the style of the coming grindcore/death metal wave of bands which flooded the global scene a few years later.Earache as a label owes them a great debt of gratitude-so, cheers to them!

Heres Massacre in 1991 during UK tour playing song: Biohazard

Heres the rather unfortunate look they adopted to promote 1994's Promise- Rick is to the right of pic.It seems even Death Metal legends can have a bad wardrobe day.

Bringing us up to date, heres Rick Rozz's new band M INC with song Bonedust (2009)

BoneDust by digearache

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hesper Payne

Question: how often, if at all, do you have to pass up on a band you love musically but are just not financially viable, even if they are something that would fit on the earache roster. Any notable examples.

I'm just listening to the latest Gama Bomb, i read somewhere they are on a 360 deal (correct me if im misinformed) given that the label would be taking revenue from additional streams how would/do earache work with those areas e.g. tour/gig booking merch ect

A bit of a personal one. Some feedback from an independtant person with your experience in the area would be much appreciated. Ive been trying to get my band going for years now but cannot find any musicians interested in joining so its been me, the bassit and a session drummer (he's commited to a large, well known touring band and lives 200 miles away so not really a viable full timer) It wouldnt be so infuriating if people told us we sucked, but we get the opposite. Everybody and their gran seems to think we are great. Not just the usual friends and familly but complete strangers, even people who dont normally like metal, ive lost count of the number of EP's ive sent out on request and downloads and often find posetive reviews from 'zines the world over ive had no contact with. Despite this we cannot get a full live line up together and its driving me mental, ive tried everything i can think of, even moving to a major city to find people. I live to play live and want to push the band as far as i can but after six years have gotten as far as most bands in do in 6 weeks. Is there something we are missing? Do we really suck but everybody is being super nice about it? Is there some secret heavy metal jedi trick you can teach us to force the right people to join, or should we just give up (ive already tried this, it doesnt work the music is inside and wont leave me be untill its heard)

any advice, suggestions, constructive critisism would welcome.

cheers! From:

Answer: Here's a funny thing- when I was a little kid we had a neighbourhood friend called Ester Payne -bizarrely, I was drawn to your question and clicked the link because your band name sounds similar.There is a Utah based USA band called Clifton who I followed the progress of aswell, just because it was the name of the neighbourhood where grew up. A stupid reason really I suppose- Clifton even signed to Century Media offshoot label, but nothing much happened.

Anyway- Regarding bands I'd love to sign but they aren't financially viable- wow there's literally hundreds of them. My label started as a DIY hobby label but luckily it grew large with some successful bands, and in doing so, became the main place of employment for a lot of people- the label staffers and quite a few bands make their main income from our activities.

We simply dont have the financial power/freedom to just do whatever we like.That's the reason we can't support poor selling, non-profit making acts for very long, because it drains our ability to promote the bands who are selling, and going places. By the same token, we very often pass on established bands who make unrealistic financial demands in order to be signed.Manowar made such unrealistic demands from Nuclear Blast after their German chart-topping album "Warriors of the World", that the label took the unprecedented step of letting the band go while mid-contract, so rival German label SPV stepped in and signed Manowar up for huge advances.Now SPV are bankrupt -the SPV bankruptcy proceedings even quote "paying too much for bands" as the reason - while Nuclear Blast is still going strong and enjoying massive success.

Its probably not the coolest answer, but its the truth. By the way, this hard-nosed 'profit motive' is not an exclusive trait of Earache's - it actually drives the entire western world we live in.

As for 360 deals- its not exactly true. We'd refer to 270 degree deal as being the more accurate description. If you take a pie chart and divide into quarters, roughly speaking, musicians can make money from 4 sources- the recordings, song publishing, merchandising and gig fees/touring. Mostly we have negotiated a slice of the income from 3 out of the 4 sources- touring is 100% controlled by the band and Earache does not share in this at all ( even tho we pay out for bands to go on the road in the early years).Hence 270 degrees.

Your band Hesper Payne is actually pretty darn good in places, but also has its bad parts too, which turn me off instantly.It's nothing too dire, but you ought to know that the opinions of a label A&R dudes like myself, are uneven.Average riffs are passable, but I hate a bad riff 10 times more than I appreciate a good riff, if that makes sense. One bad riff can ruin an entire song, an entire album even.Quickest way to improve a song is simply by weeding out that bad riff.

Out of all the songs I only like Horcums Slumber- but I REALLY love the opening 40 seconds of Horcums Slumber, that is truly world class,the vocals are great too, but by the later ambient passage around 3 minutes, I'm bored. I would recommend ditch the ambient parts, as you don't seem to be able to capture them well enough. They are what mark you out as progressive and probably what the whole essence of the band is about, but personally they don't do it for me.Being a straight up doom band is better suited.

Its weird you dont have an actual band photograph anywhere on the myspace- I guess it marks you down as one of the many one man bands, or non-band, as you truthfully point out in your question.

Wish you the best of luck with Hesper's anyway- if a few breaks go your way, Profound Lore could be calling in a few months, hopefully.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Breaking out of Ireland?

Question: As you know the Irish metal scene has never been the strongest. But when you listen to bands like Gama Bomb and Primordial and see how they're getting on you always have to believe that there is hope. So I guess my question is simple, if the band is good and the music is tight and you're gigging regularly how do you get noticed by a label such as Earache, or any label for that matter!? Is it that Ireland is ignored because of the small scene? or is the that we are isolated from the UK and America? Sometimes sending your demo to everybody you know and gigging in every venue you can think of isn't enough so what do you do if you want to make music your life? From:

Answer: I suppose the short, extremely glib answer is - move, dude. Get down the Dublin ferry terminal and hit the waves to Holyhead- a car is only Euro 79 and takes 90 minutes. I wouldn't say Gama Bomb have exactly 'made it' out of Ireland just yet, to us they are still a relatively new band, even if top fashion models can now be seen moshing at Gama Bomb gigs.They travel bloody everywhere- in fact, they are on UK and European tour right now, supporting the new studio album- grab the free download from by the way.I'm meeting them in a bit, as they play my hometown Nottingham tonight. I told you they get everywhere.

The thing about Gama Bomb is- they are seasoned travellers.Also being the friendliest of characters and having an encyclopedic knowledge of thrash gains them fans and friends everywhere they go.Even before they were signed to this label, the band were such regulars on that Dublin-Holyhead ferry, they might as well have named it after them.It impressed us no end that they were endlessly visible in the UK scene, playing Thrash Assault in Huddersfield and various small-scale, even tiny, gigs back in 2006-7 when the new wave of Thrash was still way under the radar of most of the metallic hordes.

Even after they were signed, Gama Bomb undertook their first proper-ish Uk tour by- get this- public transport. I kid you not.In all my career, I've never known any other signed band do this.For some reason they could'nt suss a van or driver so after every show they would stay at friends houses, then get up early to walk to the bus station or train station for the next gig.While carrying all their gear.

Endlessly playing your home town to the same faces is not how you build a buzz around your band.I've said it many times on this blog- you simply have to hit the road.Doing mini-tour swaps of like 4-5-6 gigs with local bands from far away is a good tactic, but to organise this stuff you have to network and communicate with like-minded bands from say UK or even EU.Further tips are explained in Martin Atkin's essential book for bands new to the touring circuit- Tour:Smart, its crammed with tips, written by the drummer of Public Image, Minstry & Nine Inch Nails.

If you need further proof heres a quote taken from the Pink Floyd Wikipedia: "Pink Floyd (the definite article was dropped at some point in 1967)[36] replaced their ageing Bedford van with a Ford Transit,[37] and used it to travel to over two hundred gigs in 1967 (a ten-fold increase on the previous year)".

Pink Floyd performed 200 gigs during 1967.Pink Floyd are the biggest selling rock band of all time.I guess it worked for them.

Psykosis-Toxic Fugitive

Monday, November 09, 2009

Who did Terrorizer art?

Question: Hello I wanted to know who created the album cover collage for Terrorizer's first LP "World Downfall"? Cheers From:

Answer: It was Earache's earliest staffer- dude called Martin Nesbitt, who worked with me from 87-90, this was when Earache still operated out of my apartment.We wanted a typical scum/feto political type b/w collage, but instead of hiring an outside artist, it seemed easier - and cheaper- if Earache made it inhouse.Martin was handy with scissors, ye olde Pritt stick and Letraset(if you're under 20,look it up) plus he had an eye for design, so he cut and pasted by hand old newspapers and various newsworthy pictures of the time, to create the sleeve.The cover has become quite iconic itself over time.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Something Thrash/NWOTHM is stirring in Sweden

Question: Hi, so my simple question is something like this; Sweden is worldfamous for metal and mostly Melodeath, Death and Black Metal. But how up to date are you about what happens in the Swedish scenes that isn't "classical Swedish"? As an example there is a young striving thrashscene with great bands such as Raging Steel, Entrenched and Lethal. One thing that is blowing to be huge is the New Wave of Swedish Traditional Heavy Metal with bands like In Solitude, Helvetets Port, Ram and FourEver. Does Earache keep a close eye on these scenes too or is it the typical Swedish stuff you are most intrested in? From:

Answer: Sweden always spews up great new bands, Earache takes a lot of interest in the Swedish scene, in the past some of that country's greatest bands recorded for us, early Entombed,Carnage, At The Gates/The Haunted and Cult of Luna currently spring to mind.

Short answer is- thanks for the tip off dude, we know all about the upcoming Thrash and NWOTHM scenes, in fact we already released material by some of the bands you mention.

Earache made a new wave of THRASH compilation in January 2008 called Thrashing Like A Maniac, if you have Spotify, get it here.February 2009 we made a NWOTHM compilation called Heavy Metal Killers, again its free to stream on Spotify here.

Helvetes Port: Lightning Rod Avenger

Friday, November 06, 2009

OK, I'm signed- now what ?

Question: When you first sign a band what are the first things you do for them, say in the first 6 months or a year? Do you make a special attempt for them to get noticed or just let time take its course so to speak, and what do you find most effective in bands furthering their fanbase and 'getting their name out'

Cheers From:

Answer: It's hard to fully explain what happens when you sign to a label like Earache- and its not much different at the other main metal labels. The main change once the deal is inked is the surge in the level of expectation of the band, by the label.You are expected to become a major breakthrough artist within 2 albums.To say its a competitive environment is a gross understatement.Momentum is the key thing, fast rising bands gain everyone's attention, and are accorded the most praise.Most people's attention span is miniscule, so the way to get noticed is to be constantly visible and in people's faces.Any new band is a major undertaking for a label.

Some labels we know will immediately assess the skill of the players in the band, firing the weakest, least committed member(s) and demanding replacments. Its not unknown for labels to insist the band even change their name, especially if another previous band has the same or similar moniker or has already got the URL.If someone else comes up as the first result in a Google search, its not good.

My label Earache wouldn't go this far, but I'm basically pointing out that your casual question about "allowing the band the time to take its course" is pretty naive. From the moment you are signed, it gets very very serious. Its simply a change in attitude, thats all- unsigned bands have it easy, gigs can be good or bad, its not a big deal, but once signed there is the expectation from the label, and indeed everyone within the industry that you'll be a success.

History is full of talented, great bands who never made it, its often because they simply lacked enough drive or ambition. Labels are not used to promoting failure- at Earache you'd be given sort of regular pep-talks in the form of - here's your stab at a chance to forge a music industry career,but only if you follow the relatively simple career advice. In short - its write great songs, and go tour them, tour them some more, don't split up in the process, cos its gruelling and hard work.Then repeat.

Unsigned bands have no clue about the amount of money spent by labels- medium sized Indie Metal labels can routinely spend a minimum of £100,000 and often more on each new band over the course of the debut and the follow up.The major labels like Universal/Sony/warners/EMI often splash out £1,000,000 per band, but these labels mostly stick to indie, commercial rock, RnB, dance or pop acts.

It is possible nowadays to raise money from your own fans, or future fans- sites like help you raise the money, and lets you keep all your rights, though they take undoubtedly take a cut out of the proceeds received for their work. Promising bands can raise serious money, which is not a bad thing,you could even say - who needs a label? What is missing is the expertise, knowledge and career guidance which labels like Earache offer.Sure, newbie bands now have the means to raise capital, but the industry is infested with well-meaning-wannabees, complete fantasists and a few outright con-artists, who can easily drain all the money the fans gave you away with false promises and exaggerated claims, and no results. Its tough knowing who to trust.

As for spending the money, the actual recording the album is often the cheapest cost, most of the money labels pay out goes on touring the band, because in the early days of a career the gig fees paid to openers are tiny, often zero, but the costs involved in travelling around say EU or USA are extremely expensive.Touring USA for the first time for a new UK band can cost $25,000 easily, but the way to soften the financial blow is to get skilled at making and selling great merch. This is the secret to constant touring on a global basis - its paid for by merch.

Going up touring ladder circuit and rising up the bills of tours or getting festival slots takes great skill and involves the services of a major gig agency.I reckon its harder to get the bigger touring agents involved in new bands than score a record deal, the agents are too busy selling tickets with their main top draw acts to be using valuable time helping out new bands get started on the ladder.

What could be seen as Old-school type promotion activities cost a lot but do gain massive visbility.Money is spent on gaining radio play or videos on TV channels and press features in the main magazines - this is expensive but gains the band credibility, fast. Most of the money spent by labels is with the major bricks n mortar record chains.Unknown to most outside the industry,they charge outrageous fees to the label for the 'privilege' of a debut album to receive some paltry racking space in their retail outlets across the USA and EU.Even going into the A-Z section costs a packet. They maintain their floor space is valuable real-estate and it costs money to devote it to an unknown band.Bricks n mortar chains are struggling so charging labels is how they survive.Even internet retailers have cottoned on to the scam, and now charge labels for extra visibility and special placements on their sites, even tho hosting a few extra pixels on a webpage is almost free.

Digital and the internet is changing everything, very fast though.We advise bands to communicate with their fans more, much more. In this age of facebook, twitter, youtube and other free social networks, it makes interacting with fans a cinch. Some bands we know tweet, blog or bulletin on literally an hourly basis. Jamey Jasta from Hatebreed sends 25 tweets per day for instance. Doing a monthly newsletter, which was the the 90s equivalent,marks you as quite outdated. We also expect bands to also make and post video interviews on youtube regularly explaining to fans whats happening in their camp.A web enabled cameraphone and some basic video editing skills are important.

The pay off of course, is the prospect of a lucrative music career.By lucrative I mean the members can live OK off of their music.If you want the champagne lifestyle, you are reading the wrong blog dude- you'll need to be playing RnB or Pop for that.

It's true that lucky breaks do play a large part in breaking a new band through- but as they say in this industry, you make your own luck. New bands do come through the ranks into metal stardom on an annual basis,but its only maybe an handful each year.Recent examples might be Bring Me The Horizon or Gojira.Both were newbies even a few years ago, but by their sheer hard work and the talents of their respective labels (and managers) they are now packing out venues and both should enjoy long and fruitful careers.

I wish you well with your band dude, hope this gives some pointers how we do it, and doesn't scare you off.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Death Metal vs Deathcore

Question: Earache,

I was surprised based on the history of your releases, and also the tastes that you guys express throughout this blog, to also find that you have such high regard for deathcore.

When considering deathcore, I always find myself coming back to one issue - in striving to be "brutal" (yeah, I hate using that word)it seems to me that a lot of these bands have forgotten the most important element, feeling.

The Red Shore for example, who you have mentioned in a positive light previously, and who are certainly a solid live band, seem to suffer from a very common symptom of deathcore: ridiculously over triggered drums, and just generally compressed production, to the point where their recordings have absolutely no dynamics, and no feeling.

I think that's where a lot of the appeal comes from in early grind. You listen to bands like Carcass, and it's incredibly heavy, but also organic which lends it a certain sort of mojo. It possesses a certain level of honesty and real-ness that I feel is missing in deathcore.

What do you think about that? It seems to encompass a lot of issues including digital vs analogue recording and the like, but I suppose the main question is, at what point do triggered blast beats become so robotic that they lose their relevance, and in striving for "brutality" have a lot of these bands missed the point?

I mean no disrespect to these bands or people who love their music. And I love the blog, cheers! From:

Answer: I've signed a fair few Death metal bands over the years, and yes, I don't see what all the fuss is about Deathcore- to me, its just the new generation of kids' take on DM, they are adding a whole bunch of Hardcore influences, I don't have a problem with it at all. To be honest most of the debate is just the older DM crowd bashing and ragging on the much younger, teenage deathcore guys.The arguements rage across the internet, occasionally it might get as silly as you can't play Dm with a fringe or bald head- only DM played by long hairs is real DM. That's absurd of course (unless its Ripping Corpse ha ha)

To be honest, Deathcore does actually sounds fresh to my ears,its like an injection of new ideas and innovations- I did Morbid Angel and Carcass etc 20 years ago but I'm not a nostalgic person, they were the originators and lay down the blueprints for what is heavy and deathy in metal, but it doesn't mean DM always has to sound like that forever.

But time moves on, and I'm pretty sure it is old school DM band Suffocation which somehow became the major influence and blueprint for Deathcore- who knew? Suffocation exhuded sheer brutality, they were the first to play DM styled breakdowns (taken from the HC scene, like Hatebreed) galore, and had arguably, the most brutal vokills in the scene.

As for the productions on the albums, I take your point- all of the early 90s bands recorded analogue, there was no digital recording programs on laptops back then. Technology also moves on, and recording digitally makes common sense for all newer bands, its probably a quarter of the cost of analogue studios, if you can find any left.

I think part of the problem is Deathcore is a catch all term for say the likes of Annotations of an Autopsy, Acacia Strain, Oceano but also includes bands like Bring Me The Horizon and Red Shore.There is a world of difference between those bands, to my ears the first 3 are pure brutal Deathcore, while the last 2 bands have other influences besides pure Death Metal- ie Swedish Gothenburg DM and plenty of HC are in the mix on their albums.Still heavy and relenting but slightly less brutal.

Oceano just played in London and destroyed the place, the power coming off stage was simply incredible, its one of the heaviest gigs I've ever seen.We had a few beers with the guys after the show- Pictured L--R is Jeremy & Adam of Oceano with myself (Dig) & Dan, the Earache label manager.

If you want to know who Earache considers the kings of brutality right now- its Oceano, see A Mandatory Sacrifice clip :

Deep Wound an influence on grindcore?

Question: I was reading in choosing death about how Deep Wound was one of the backbones of grindcore, im curious as to whether you agree with this or not? im curious as J Mascis acutally plays down Deep wound as a childish hardcore band from when they were kids ( im guessing dino jr has part reason for this), im just wondering should they really rank as highly as choosing death rate them being as you were there? From:

Answer: There was nothing that sounded like grindcore until it arrived, but all it really was, was speedy hardcore punk, down tuned, metallised and put through an accelerator.

So yeah I agree, at first listen Deep Wound aren't anything connected to grindcore, they predated grind by a few years, and were simply a teenage hardcore punk band.I personally used to love their first 7inch because I was always seeking out the fastest, rawest, gnarliest of new bands.The 7inch was a rare gem which had pride of place in my record collection, so I used to like showing it off, so used to copy it for everyone.

The opening track 'In my Room' boasted hella speedy chaotic drumming, courtesy as you say, of a 15 yr old J. Mascis.

They deserve their brief mention in Choosing Death, but I would'nt say they were the backbone of the scene, far from it. They did show the upcoming generation of what drum speeds were possible. Hardcore punk boasted a lot of ultra fast bands, and i used to love them all- faster the better.Faves were the DRI first EP 1982, and even the Dead Kennedys In God we Trust Inc record from 1981 was incredibly intense and speedy for its time.

Dead Kennedys Religious Vomit 1981

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Artist Mark Sikora & Defecation band.

Question: Mark Sikora & Defecation.

Whatever happened to Mark Sikora? (The artist behind F.E.T.O.'s stunning cover). I believe he did flyer work as well (I know of one gig Ripcord played that had his artwork on it). Oliver/Cluster Bomb Unit told me he "thought" he was writing for a German music mag...but this was nearly 10 years ago. What were the dimensions for the origial artwork for F.E.T.O, as well as Skinny's art for Mentally Murdered. Why did Skinny take over the art reigns? What were each artist payed, and do they see royalties still...especially F.E.T.O. since it's never really gone out of press.

And speaking of Sikora again...he did the Defecation LP cover. Why didn't Earache release Defecation? And don't talk shit like you usually do Dig, saying it was "2nd tier" etc...give us a concrete answer! From:

Answer: Mark Sikora-wow, that's a name from the distant past, I guess he has a certain level of fame from drawing the Napalm Death FETO cover- but he did the Unseen Terror album cover for Earache before that one.From memory, he was just a German dude who used to send us art drawings and sketches, he must have done some flyers for the early grind bands I guess, so he got on our radar, and got to make 2 album covers for Earache.

I think he worked on early Nuclear Blast album covers too- like the Japanese HC comp Farewell to Arms (pictured).We liked him because he was conscientious, and was professional enough so that he could work to a delivery deadline, which was unheard of at that time for illustrators/artists, this was the punk/HC scene remember!

His style was a wholesale rip-off of Jeff Walkers now-legendary, highly detailed, political pen & ink 'dots style' which he used for Napalms debut album "Scum" and some Carcass shirts and flyers. To be honest, that was Mark's main appeal-sure, he could do regular colour paintings as he did for Unseen terror - but he was mainly hired because Jeff Walker wouldn't or couldn't do another Napalm Death Lp cover, I assume because he was saving his art skills for Carcass' benefit, not Napalms. The level of competition and rivalry between Carcass and the rest of the UK grindcore/ death-metal bands is rarely if ever mentioned in the retrospective books on the subject, but was definately real, and unspoken.

Mark was paid probably a few hundred pounds on a flat fee basis for the ownership of the art.Actual royalties for cover artists are rare, lets not forget that no big thing was expected for FETO at the time of its release, its only in hindsight that it achieved any sort of legendary status.The size of Mark's FETO art was 12inches square exactly, Jeff Walkers original for Scum was probably twice or three times that size, hence much more detailed.I think Jeff has pics of himself with the original Scum drawing online somewhere, he still owns the original of that.

Mark Sikora was quite opinionated about music, I recall he came to visit our office in Nottingham - this was a year or two after we stopped using him, and we pretty much had a stand up argument about the Death Metal direction of Earache's bands, he was totally opposed to this DM trend and tried to persuade me to stick to his beloved political HC punk output, which was his favourite style. I guess he failed on that one.

Heres a rare pic from back in the day - 2 famous grind/death metal artists in the Earache offices.L-->R Mark Sikora, Dan Seagrave, Johnny Violent (Ultraviolence), Peter Lee (Earache)

Hence it was really no suprise to me that he moved into music journalism, he wrote for Zap mag and then Spex- which is a huge selling German music mag, covering arty indie music and leftfield/ambient dance, it could be likened to NME. Mark was young, always highly artistic, maybe you could say even slightly eccentric. When he visited Earache, he certainly did not dress like a metal or punk dude- I vividly recall he had a long colourful knitted scarf and some kinda knitted beanie hat-nothing wrong with that, I only mention it to show how much of an non-metal or punk character he was.There is a pic of him somewhere, with me in Earache's office, I'll post it here when I find it.

In later years Mark worked for the VIVA2 music Tv channel in Germany, akin to MTV2, and has made a few video clips for bands as a video director (see below).I know he is really into films, it would not surprise me if he directed a feature film anytime soon.

After Jeff and after Mark- the hunt was on for a new Napalm Death artist. The band needed a suitable artist who could draw in that now trademark Napalm style, originated by Jeff (who in turn took it from G Vaucher of Crass)-namely, political b/w dotty/illustration style.Skinny was the artist for the Mentally Murdered EP- I think he was a contact of Mick's, I think from Birmingham area, the actual original art for Mentally Murdered is in full colour for the 12inch and CD but was released on 7inch in black n white.We never used him again as Napalm eventually settled on Mid from Deviated instinct for art on later releases.

The follow up Napalm Death album -Harmony Corruption and Suffer the Children EP were both designed by a local Nottingham artist- his name escapes me right now- he also laid out the back and inside of Entombed's Left Hand Path debut for us-its his hand print on the inner bag. We needed someone reliable as Earache was making serious plans for its releases by that stage, trying to chart them in the charts meant we had to up our game considerably and big money was at stake. Flakey artists who did not deliver on time were the biggest pain. We found this guy simply by visiting the local Nottingham art group and hiring the youngest guy, but he was not a metal or punk fan. At least he could deliver art on a semi-professional timely basis so it saved us a lot of headaches.Looking back his art is not the most recognisable of all the Napalm eras.

As for DEFECATION- the truth is, it was a half-serious/ half-scam 'project' designed to get money from Markus Staiger of Nuclear Blast who was in the early days of setting up his label back then.Nowadays of course his label is a global powerhouse of metal on a massive scale, but back then Earache was the one making the sales breakthrough with the grindcore scene exploding everywhere.Nuclear were quickly in the market for grindcore bands, signing Righteous Pigs and Benediction- both tips from Mick Harris, Earache had already passed on both acts.We also passed on Master who Nuclear signed later on also, because of the success of Defecation.

The early pioneering grindcore scenesters were very few in number, it was maybe 25 people, tops- Mick Harris was the undoubted prime mover of both Napalm Death and arguably of the global scene aswell.He was in contact with nearly everyone else interested in the scene, including Mitch Harris in Las Vegas of Righteous Pigs.If you look closely at the Grindcrusher tour footage of Napalm Death Rock City 1989, you'll see Mitch at the side of the amps, watching. He would eventually join Napalm on second guitar a year or so later to beef up the sound.

Mick told me that he had the idea of specifically making a project band for Nuclear Blast,because Nuclear would pay him a lot of money for it, and it would involve Mitch who was then based in Las Vegas -and it would be a Master-sounding clone band.We had already passed on Master as I just didn't rate them, too mid-paced, too boring for my tastes, I was into hyper speed grind, so this project didn't appeal to me on a lot of levels.Napalm death was the number one priority so it was strictly a non active band, and I figured that if another label was to give Mick a whole load of money for equipment etc, that was OK by me, as it saved me doing it!

It turns out that Mick turned the screws on Nuclear,asking for more and more money, which to their credit, they did not flinch, I assume because they were desperate to gain a recording with Mick Harris on it, at any cost.Mick asked for and got whole new sets of equipment, flights to record the album in Vegas, a session which was shelved.Then a whole new second recording session with Mitch flying to UK was set up, and Mick eventually recorded at Birdsong, and delivered Purity Dilution.Undoubtedly it was a lot of hassle for Nuclear, but the LP became the biggest selling title during Nuclear's early years.

I recall Mick giving me an advance listen and i was shocked at the power of it, and was immediately gutted because it could so easily have been an Earache release, maybe it should have been, but Earache had limited funds so had to them invest wisely, and whims and projects were not really top of my agenda, as I had genuine, touring career-minded bands queuing up to go in the studio.

Looking back it is susprising that none of the Napalm death dudes ever made a Swans style project back in the day, I guess they could'nt get a label suckered into that one.

Midnight Black Earth- by Mark Sikora