Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hi, I have some questions...

Question: Hi I have some questions for dig. I‚m probably using up my quota.

(1 what do you think of the sub-genre of progressive extreme metal (its pretty obscure, but artists include Xerath, Animals as Leaders, Tesseract, Fellsilent, Cloudkicker, and Vildhjarta)

(2 In recent years Britain has gained two festivals that passionate about extreme music in the shape of Bloodstock Open Air and Damnation. What sort of impact on the UK extreme music scene have these festivals had do you think and have you been to either of them yourself

(3 I heard a rumour that Mistress left Earache on very bad terms, is there any truth to this?

(4 what do you make of the newish Aberdeen retro-death metal band Bonesaw. (They‚ve recently released splits with Abcess and Kam Lee‚s new band Bone Gnawer). I know you don‚t think the retro styled death metal acts are right for Earache as they don‚t match up to Earaches rich legacy in Death Metal, but you also said you signed bands such as Cauldron and White Wizzard as although they weren‚t doing anything new they were capturing the spirit of NWOBHM in a way no one else was doing at the moment. I feel the same is true of Bonesaw as no one else is capturing that Autopsy/Confessor/Necrophagia/Cianide sort of feel at the moment


Answer: Wow, 4 questions for the price of one? We must be having a weekend sale on.To answer your questions: Xerath are alright, I would'nt have signed them myself, but if you are talking proggy-extreme-Metal then OPETH are undoubtedly the kings of it, and rightly so. Tesseract and Cloud Kicker are decent bands, they probably both deserve to be signed, but not by Earache at this present time.

From my perspective, the tag "Progressive" is added by a lot of new bands who sense they are somehow better on their instruments than others, and have a weakness for long, meandering songs which supposedly show off this great talent. Personally speaking, I favour listening to aggressive music which attacks the listener,cos my attention span is miniscule. I simply dont have the patience to properly appreciate 7 minute epics which are designed to impress the listener with their virtuoso playing, or take the listener floating off into space or whatever. When we did the Elitist sub-label many moons ago, we had two proggy-type bands - Wolverine and Frantic Bleep but neither caught on.

UK metal Festivals? Yeah I was there dude when they both opened their doors. Bloodstock 01 was originally an indoor all-dayer fest held at Assembly Rooms, Derby- I've got the T-shirt to prove it. Did you know the name BLOODSTOCK was coined by Martin Walkyier of Sabbat? He was in the pub talking to the promotor (Vince) trying to think up a catchy name- Martin has a creative mind, and is brilliant at word-play. So as a take on the famous US Woodstock festival - he simply blurted out the name "Bloodstock", and it stuck.

You have to remember in 2001, Nu Metal- like Korn/Bizkit- was all the rage at the time but Vince was brave, or stupid, enough to attempt to hold a traditional-metal themed Festival. Saxon, Skyclad, Primal Fear, Blaze, Return To the Sabbat played the main stage and the likes of Occupational Hazard, Freebase, Area 54 played the Darwin suite.The folks behind Wacken in Germany kindly offered Vince guidance and provided him access to funds and contacts with bands. Fair play to him, the festival was an instant success and within a few years moved outdoors and was eventually sold to the Kilimanjaro group, a major concert promotor which is responsible for Sonisphere etc.

Mistress? Well I guess not many bands are happy to be dropped after having just 1 new album released by a label. To be fair, it wasn't all the bands fault, as during the period 2004-5 Earache had licensed too many bands and albums. We had 4 sub-labels on the go and tons of new bands, I remember we had something like 44 albums that year, when usually its more like 15-20. We had bitten off more than we could handle.

I remember the press reaction to, and eventual sales of Mistress' 'In Disgust We Trust' were poor, so we kind of lost interest really. This was compounded by the fact we'd also bought out Mistress' 2 prior albums obtained from their first label Codebreaker, the sales of which were even worse. One of the album masters had an audible glitch which meant the entire pressing was shelved. It appeared the band were cursed with awful bad luck, much like their heroes Iron Monkey before them. Mistress' members also played in Anaal Nathrakh and the various projects revolving around the prolific and talented Mick Kenny,so its fair to say they lacked 100% focus on Mistress themselves.

As for Bonesaw? They're alright I suppose, the band seem to have great connections with the old school DM veterans, sharing a split LP with Kam Lee's Bone Gnawer and commissioning art by Chris Reifert (Autopsy) is no mean feat.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Metal supergroups- Earache doesn't tend to sign them.

Question: Does a band members previous bands affect a label's wanting to sign them? I'll give a make belive example hypothetically if people like say mick harris, bill steer, paul catten and danny from brutal truth were to form a a grindcore supergroup ( giving ludicrus example to make a point) would said super group be more likely to be signed than a band who's members have no track record? From:

Answer: I think the hypothetical band you describe already sorta exists dude- Brujeria, Lock up and Venomous Concept are all bands boasting all-star line ups, usually centered around the undisputed 'project-king', Shane Embury. Earache hasn't signed any of them, mainly because in most cases the members were already signed and recorded great, often classic albums for the label back in the day, and I just don't see how a mere project could top the material that the musicians already did in the past. They seem a bit artificial to me.

The scene is in the midst of a rash of project bands and even worse, short-lived one-night-only, all-star jam-bands. Tickets are already available for the Nuclear Blast All-Stars Winter Spectacular, maybe in the future you can turn up to see the Roadrunner United Globetrotters On Ice.

These abominations are breaking out everywhere, and I am highly dubious about the motivations of some of those bands. I reckon musicians form projects because they simply crave the stage. It's so that when their main outfit is off the touring circuit between albums, they can leverage their fame to entice festival promotors to book them to play festivals every year, instead of say every 3 years.

Shane Embury certainly doesnt deserve any criticism tho, his intentions have always been purely music-motivated, its bands like Them Crooked Vultures and Chickenfoot I object to. Anything that involves Flea is automatically crap.

I fully expect a good portion of the billing of major festivals in the future to be made up of project bands. Promotors can't resist the lure of a once-only experience.It's all the fans' fault really, they lap up the chance to see 4 famous faces onstage for the price of one.

As a record company we try to produce ground-breaking, genre-defining albums, we dont run a festival or have to sell tickets for a 3-day event in a field, so from my perspective projects are uninteresting, we'd rather invest in new bands with a vision and a hunger to succeed.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How to merchandise your band the right way.

Question: Just a few questions about band merchandise:

1. Recently I've noticed a few new T-Shirt designs on the website which correspond to classic albums from the Earache catalogue: Massacre's From Beyond, Morbid Angel's Formulas Fatal to the Flesh and Decapitated's Winds of Creation. I was wondering whether you were planning to release any more classic T-Shirt designs? I was thinking Nocturnus' The Key, early Morbid Angel albums or even a Cadaver shirt.

2. On the Bolt Thrower website it says that Bolt Thrower Merchandise is only sold at gigs. Since they were signed to Earache and are a pretty popular band (for a death metal band at least) I was wondering why you have not had any Bolt Thrower shirts printed like you have for other classic bands?

3. If a label re - releases a band's album (which was originally released on another label) do they automatically gain the rights to the artwork and are therefore allowed to print merchandise with that artwork on it or do they have to acquire the rights to the artowrk separately?

4. What advice would you give to smaller bands or labels who want to get merchandise printed?

5. Most metal merchandise is black. However, in some photos of old school death metal bands band members can be seen wearing white shirts. What do you think of white (and other non-black) shirts and what effects the decision when you decide what colour shirt to get a design printed on? From:

Answer: Nowadays every professional band takes their merchandise very seriously. When fans can download the music for free, and most of them do, then that leaves the merch as the only thing the band can make an actual income from. Bands often finance whole Euro or US tours just on the income made by selling their shirts at the gigs, so its crucial a lot of thought goes into what fans want, and are willing to pay for, because thats how you survive on the road nowadays.

Earache has released over the years a real who's who of some of the most legendary acts in extreme metal, and along the way we acquired a whole range of merchandising rights (its been written into our record contracts since day 1). In the 90's, merch was considered more as a promotional thing by bands, especially if they were'nt gigging much. It was a chore to manufacture, print adverts or flyers to sell them (this was pre-internet, remember) and then pick and pack the goods and ensure safe arrival to the fan. So Earache gladly did this as a service for most of our bands, back in the day. Recently we decided to re-activate a lot of old bands designs, and as you say, Massacre and Decapitated were released this week, and hopefully kids will appreciate them. Earache currently merchandises over 75 band shirts, from all eras of the label.

In Earache's case the reason certain classic, old bands do not have a shirt with us is because at some stage in the 90's , rights for shirts were negotiated back into the hands of the artist, or manager of the band, usually in return for extending their recording deal.

Bolt Thrower have 4 albums out on Earache but the actual merchandising rights to the artwork used on those albums are unobtainable, to say the least. Realm of Chaos original is owned and copyright by Games Workshop, a billion dollar fantasy wargaming company who do not allow any merch rights under any circumstances. 4th crusade is an old classic painting, who's right is owned by a museum, For Victory is a famous photograph of soldiers during the Falklands War of the 80s', owned by the original snapper. Only Warmaster artwork is fully owned by Earache as it was commissioned by us, with local artist Pete Knifton .Pete is a famous ex-games Workshop artist, and he now runs a second-hand retro clothing store, located a stones throw from our office actually. Bolt Thrower themselves run a tight ship with their band affairs, and don't allow outsiders to interfere much, hence they do all their merch themselves. Its a proper DIY mentality which works for them, so more power to them I say.

Best advice to new bands I'd say is- get creative and befriend as many artists as you can and get them to design you eye-catching merch. One shirt is not enough, fans nowadays expect a wide choice so a whole range of merch - if you can afford the set up costs- marks you down as a serious player. Y'know the record for most peices of merch I have ever seen at a show was Misery Signals/ Your Demise/ The Number 12 Looks like You at Rock City.Nottingham 29th September 2009. 36 peices of merch were displayed and onsale by a 3 band bill. This was an exceptional number, I doubt it can ever be beaten.

In the early days bands often forget that the simple white band logo on black shirt looks classic, and often sells the most. The most iconic metal shirts of all time are 1) Misfits Skull 2) Ramones 3) Motorhead Skull- all 3 are simple basic white on black, so remember this and try to design your own "classic" one color job.Entombed did exactly that with their album 'Uprising' and I'm pretty sure it's best seller. Its cheaper to produce and most often, all fans want to wear to show their support of your band is wear a simple but eye-catching band logo T-shirt.

It goes without saying that you must display your merch on a webstore type page with a shopping cart system. Many bands use bigcartel who offer an easy solution for newbies to sell shirts.Sites like take away all the hassle completely - if you upload the design, they will do the printing, packing and sending of the shirt for you,but the price for this service is sky high to the fan.

We find nowadays that fan's sizes are getting larger- between 5% and 10% of our webstore customers now choose the size 3XL. We added the extra-extra-large sizes to our offering as an experiment, and fans responded by buying in large numbers. Its fair to say there are some really huge guys out there,who are into Death Metal. At the other end of the scale, girls shirts are a must also. Most metal bands forget that potentially 50% of the fanbase is female, and they need a shirt too. Girl's sized shirts are so rare for decent metal bands, that if any band takes the trouble to supply one at shows, I guarantee you they will all sell out.

Metal fans hate to be considered fashionable but there are definate fashions and trends in what fans buy. Currently the craze for hats with print under the peak and retro 80's era white shirts with bright coloured prints are all the rage. Our band Municipal Waste have a lot to do with this, they single-handedly invented this current style a few years ago and now sell huge amounts at shows.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Why no Death Metal in Norway- 'cept BLOOD RED THRONE?

Question: Since you've signed one of the bands involved i have to ask you about this. Do you think there is a relitavly untapped group of quality old school death metal bands in norway? Earache obviously has Blood Red Throne but theres also now Obliteration ( who i have to mention have a great thrash side project) and also Ghoul Cult and a few others, im curious as to why you think the death metal scene up there is relitivly brushed under the carpet? when it was actually Blood Red Throne that had me searching for other DM bands from up there! From:

Answer: The short answer is Black Metal took over in Norway, it went from the imagination of Euronymous and a handful of bands, to the biggest, most controversial, most talked about style of underground metal in the world. Death metal by contrast became almost viewed as hackneyed and derivative, especially by Norwegian fans, who were quick to shun it, in favour of the more "evil" BM. This all happened between 1991-3. Even Darkthrone mutated from a quite basic Entombed clone outfit on Soulside Journey to within a year, playing early corpsepainted and spiked black metal on A Blaze in the Northern Sky.

Hey if you want to see how Euronymous plotted and planned the rise of BM, its worth checking out his collected interviews HERE. On a personal note, it was nice of Euronymous to give me hails in early interviews, but this soon descended into outright rivalry after he discovered there was more mileage in actually creating rifts between the big selling Death metal bands and his new breed of teenaged, corpsepainted,"evil" upstarts. Funnily enough I dont recall him ever slagging Morbid Angel, who were always just about evil and dark enough to appeal to the Black Metallers, it was mainly Napalm Death he hated.

Y'know, deep down all Black metal was, was Norwegian metal kids saying "fuck you, we can do better than you" to the Swedish musicians, most notably Entombed who had recently broken through the underground and were causing a sensation over the border. From my perspective back in the UK, it was simply that Norway wantd their slice of the action, written in their own folklore. A few years later it would be Finland which eclipsed them both, and who took the eventual top prize in the 'Scandinavian Metal-Eurovision' contest, with the highly produced slick gothic-rock of HIM and Nightwish selling huge amounts all over the world.

But back to Death Metal- you are right, its probably only BLood Red Throne who have singlehandedly kept the torch of true bludgeoning DM alive in Norway.BRT Mainman Tchort was also in Emperor and Green Carnation and Carpathian Forest, so you could say he's one of those musicians who is not hung up on any one scene.He is a world-class musician who chooses to play all styles of BM and DM, even proggy/stoner-rock. Tchort (pictured in middle of BRT line up) operates regardless of trend or fashion, which is an absolute rarity in the scene.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Who's better- ENTOMBED or AT THE GATES?

Question: This is one for my own personal curiosity since you put both styles of swedish death metal out on the label. Also ive been reading the "swedish death metal" book. Im wondering if personally now do you prefer the stockholm style of sludgy death metal influenced by early florida death, hardcore pun and grindcore for example entombed, unleashed etc. Or are you personally more into the gothenburg style as practiced by at the gates, inflames etc? From:

Answer: Well both were pretty groundbreaking in their own right, and both of them were influential enough to actually change the sound of their peers and even of other bands further afield, at the time. Of the two my fave is AT THE GATES.

Entombed basically put Swedish underground metal on the global map, they alone made all the breakthroughs, and took all the plaudits and sold a crazy amount of records from 1990-93. The band were at the peak of their powers as Wolverine Blues hit the number 3 slot in the Swedish National Chart in 1993. Actually I found it weird to read news reports about 2007's Serpent Saints record, that it was the bands highest charting album ever in Sweden. I guess the impressive chart feat Earache achieved 15 years beforehand was too long ago to remember? Entombed are a forgetful bunch. My memories of Entombed are also clouded by the years of bitter legal wranglings, where they basically walked out of my deal mid-contract to sign with East West, a major label, who promptly dropped the band before releasing anything anyway.

Earache picked up At The Gates in 1995 after they had done 3 albums for Peaceville and that deal was over.The same year we released their Slaughter Of The Soul opus. ATG really did invent something special, having twin guitars and harmonies made the sound more palatable to the average metalhead I think. The band undertook a grueling worldwide touring schedule to support the release, but the stresses of 2 full European tours and 2 full USA tours, back to back, caused the band to fold. Some of the members regrouped as The Haunted. Even after the split, the record got a life of its own, and was regularly cited by most of the US metalcore bands - Shadows Fall, KIllswitch etc- which sprung upand ruled the underground metal world, post 2000. The band were long-defunct, but that record would eventually receive coveted Hall of Fame status (Number 2 slot) in Decibel mag.

As an aside, I was playing DEATH BREATH "Let it stink " the other day,and the song 'Dead But Walking' is a brilliant retro-classic, a dead ringer for Autopsy, Repulsion era early US Death metal. It got me thinking why, at least to some journos and pundits, the new breed of Thrash and NWOTHM bands are considered unoriginal, simply because they happen to play music which they like, which happens to be music which predated Death Metal. Yet somehow copying Autopsy gets you lauded as amazing, and is perfectly OK? Its not like Slayer or Maiden were bad acts, and yet Repulsion were great? Double standards are going on methinks.I actually think it's because Slayer and Maiden are such huge bands the audacity of playing material that sounds a bit like them marks you out as a tad over-ambitious.

Anyway- heres At The Gates- Live at Wacken 2008, taken from the 3 DVD set out which came out today!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

ADDICTED TO NOISE! How I got into Punk/HC/Metal music..

Question: Dig you have said how you started Earache, but the story on how you got into punk rock and underground music in general is lost. I understand you entered it through punk and you were a bit older than the average kids at the time? Which "scene" grabbed you, which clubs and gigs were you going to at the time, was this the late 70s? Was there music in your family etc? A bit of history would shed light and be interesting. From:

Answer: A lot of this is explained in Ian Glasper's excellent book- Trapped In A Scene, but if you want my attempt at a self-penned autobiography, here goes:

I grew up in one of the most notorious working class areas of Nottingham - Clifton Estate is not the most welcoming of places to outsiders, but it's where I spent my childhood and teenage years. Mum was a cleaner, Dad a factory worker, it's a gnarly area, but we didn't live anywhere near poverty or anything like that.The household did not contain any luxuries though, the family had no car for instance, and certainly no record player.

As a kid I was lucky enough to be quite academic, and could absorb facts and concepts pretty easy, so my parents sacrificed, saved and stretched the family budget to breaking point, so I could attend one of Nottingham's leading schools. There the kids were mostly from middle and upper class families, the sons of doctors and local entrepreneurs, but we all seemed to rub along together just fine. I really enjoyed school, especially the sport side of things.My grades were nothing special and I doubt any of the teachers held much hope for me.

Hardly any of my school friends or home-mates were into music, and I had no older brother to guide my musical education. My musical education came direct from the radio, I ignored Top 40 and the daytime stuff, and somehow naturally gravitated to only listening to the late night DJ's. When I discovered the John Peel radio show, I was hooked. His show actually was my musical education- talk about learning from the best!

Having no pre-conceived ideas or prejudices, I would tape every show and more or less become an avid fan of everything he played.This would be the late 70's while still in my teens.I got into everything alternative and underground because Peel was the only DJ who didn't follow the playlist. He had the freedom to play anything- from the new wavey stuff, to occasional HC punk and even obscure Reggae bands, I loved it all. Over time, I became more and more interested in the noisiest and most raucous punk bands he would showcase on sessions- especially Crass, Killing Joke, Lurkers and Cockney Rejects.

One thing Peel did not play though was Heavy Metal, but I reckon he might have sneaked on a Vardis single once, as it was bordering on Punk tempo. I loved Motorhead and Black Sabbath mainly because Discharge would name check them so that made them OK in my book.The NWOBHM era nearly passed me by, but because it was Metal's punk phase I'd pick up a lot of the early 7 inchers. Being a pretty clueless newbie, I didnt know the amazing Tommy Vance Friday Rock show existed, even tho it was on the same place on the radio dial as Peel, but on a different day, Friday. It would be a few years later when I finally got properly into metal, then I had to work hard to catch up with what was happening.

The UK has always had an amazing music press,so as a newbie the weekly purchase of Sounds and NME was a major highlight. Sounds writer Garry Bushell featured all the UK street punk - Exploited , Partisans, Blitz, and a bit of HC punk, I would absorb his writing and seek out many of the bands he raved about, but avoid all the skinhead/Oi! bands because they seemed a bit brainless.

Nottingham also boasted one of the Uk's best Indie record shops- Selectadisc -and the staff would often recommend new Lps to me to buy.One hitch, my parents did not have a turntable, so I had to buy a record player first tho! After Sex Pistols, Stranglers, Stiff Little Fingers, Ruts, Damned and all the early punk classics, I remember salivating over the Discharge early singles- these were the benchmark and my all time fave band. I remember an early Punk compilation called PUNK N DISORDERLY was a fave of mine aswell, Disorder and Chaos UK both appeared, and both of them became my instant faves aswell. Noisier the better, I say.

Anarcho-punk was also rising in the early 80's- bands from the Crass stable who had a political message became a staple of my listening. Like Flux Of Pink Indians, Rudimentary Peni, Sub Humans, and eventually Antisect because they sounded like Discharge.

After school, University beckoned, but I lasted about a year in Uni, supposedly studying Medicine, before I stopped going completely. The lure and appeal of music and the pull of the scene was too strong. To basically escape a humdrum existence, and because a 9-5 proper job never appealed, I decided to dive headlong into the HC/punk scene. The Do It Yourself ethic is strong -so I turned my hand at everything - from promoting gigs, helping out local bands, writing a zine, selling other bands singles for them, basically just "getting involved", rather than being a passive fan.

The punk/HC scene has always been very open and welcoming to newcomers, especially the Anarcho-punk bands, who always fostered a sense of community within the scene.You could contact a band, exchange a few emails (or letters back then) and they might then travel the length of the country to play a show you have hastily arranged, all on trust and without money changing hands. Try doing that with a metal band!

It was only later when fully immersed in the HC scene did I notice it's down-side. Basically trying too hard is not really part of the scene, having personal ambition is seriously frowned upon.Any talk of a 'career' would be met with laughter. One thing I never realised at the time was that a good portion of the Anarcho-punk scensters came from priviledged backgrounds, they were basically dropping out for few years, and were financed by trust-funds of rich parents.Either way, turf-wars, in-fighting and jealousy were rife and the accusation of 'sell out' was the ultimate insult.

I remember promoting a gig in 1983 which boasted a who's who of the UK HC punk scene at the time- DISORDER, CHAOS UK, AMEBIX, SUBHUMANS, ANTISECT - and I invited NAPALM DEATH to open, they were a three piece, 14 years old, and this was their second ever show. The gig drew crowds from all over the UK, including a bunch of HC punkers from Liverpool area who were as fanatical about punk as myself. Me, Granny, Middie and Pek - we soon became good friends and as a gang we'd travel huge distances on public transport or hitchhiking to see bands.Trading bands C90 tape demos became our currency as we went.

Darkthrone has a song "Hiking Metal Punks"- well, if it was renamed "Hitch-hiking Metal Punks" that would describe my life in the 80s. No exaggeration, I spent probably 4 or 5 nights a week for most of that decade holed up in various suburban community centres or upstairs rooms of grimey pubs either putting on the gig, or simply watching and helping out. Being immersed 24/7 in the underground meant the mainstream and popular culture of the 80's passed me by completely. I distinctly remember a movie called Star Wars was a big talking point at the time. I've yet to see it, is it any good?

Trading tapes with other fans was how you checked out new music, and at some point a tape of an American DIY HC radio show called Maximum Rock N Roll arrived. This blew my mind as the bands played were faster and more radical than the UK ones I was used to. Suddenly US hardcore bands like MDC and DRI were soon dominating my tape deck,so to feed the addiction I spread my tape trading tentacles stateside. Trading records with the founders of MRR was amazing, Jeff Bale, Tim Yohannon and Jello Biafra were all kind enough to pass on their knowledge of the US HC scene to me.In return I;d send them UK records, and contribute scene reports to the early issues of the MRR Magazine which grew from the radio show.

Gabba is a legend of HC punk, having played in Chaos UK, his fame goes worldwide, in Japan he's revered. Back then he was, like me, a local Nottingham punk, and Discharge fanatic.I have to thank him for turning me onto thrash metal bands. Gabba lent me three of his new purchases, I think he didn't rate em much, as they werent punky enough for his tastes. But to me they were a total revelation. Its fair to say these records changed my whole outlook on music.It was the Metallica and Slayer debuts, first US pressings. They had the speed of HC punk but also a level of musicianship and powerful productions which blew my mind. Pic is Gabba (right) with Tim of the Skum Dribbluuurz (left).

Crossover and Thrash Metal from the USA was an amazing discovery- it gave me a new thing to obsess over.To me, it seemed a perfectly natural progression when DRI went from a being a hyperspeed HC band to a slicker speed metal outfit.I had no problem with it, it got the thumbs up from me. Within months, I sold off my prized HC records to buy every one of the newly released thrash and crossover albums coming out instead.

I wasted no time contacting the USA thrash musicians for tape trading purposes.My mate Jason Lebor and myself were soon trading with the likes of Kerry King and Chuck Schuldiner, both unknowns at the time.I'd be literally the first or second person to be hearing any newly recorded SLAYER or DEATH material in Europe, which made me the sort of a hub and source of info for the early Thrash/ death scene.

By the mid-80s some of the UK bands I had been helping out with advice and shows began to get record deals and started to forge proper careers.I put Onslaught, Concrete Sox and the Stupids in touch with a trading friend of mine, Tim Bennet in Bristol who had founded record label COR records to cater for the emerging punk and Hardcore scene. There was also Brian "Pushead" in Boise who I would trade with and pass on information.His label Pusmort and COR were probably the very first one after Metal Blade to feature overtly metallised- hardcore bands. Birmingham's Sacrilege was everyones favourite at the time, guitarist Damian being the first to downtune for a heavier sound, plus, he was kind enough to pass on this tip to all the following Brummie bands of which Napalm Death was one.

By this time my contacts in the International scene were pretty vast, I knew the musicians, the journalists, the record label owners, the lot.I'd sold thousands of flexidisc compilations by pooling cash and resources with my mate, Kalv Piper who was later the Heresy bassist. I'd optimistically tell everyone I was gearing up to join the fray with a real record label of my own. It was to be called EARACHE because that was my moniker during that decade, both as a mailorder service and on gig flyers.But the label almost never happened.

My plans were always thwarted by lack of cash, despite having all the credentials and contacts, despite selling thousands of flexi records, I had no funds to be taken seriously as a contender. I simply didn't have anywhere near enough money behind me to fund the recording and pressing of an LP record, never mind the promotion, so none of the distributors would take me on.

By a stroke of luck Tim of COR managed to persaude his distributor Revolver in Bristol that I was worth taking a risk on and to prove it he'd co-release The Accused album with me on board. This became Earache's MOSH 1 but COR's GURT 17. Probably the only record I know of that has two catalog numbers assigned to it.

Revolver liked how it was promoted and sold, so this opened the door for my next releases to gain national distribution, and the start of Earache Records the label, proper.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Where do the 'Bass drops' in Deathcore come from?

Question: Greg of the red chord gave an interview where he said that the reason for certain bass drops in some of the newer deathcore bands is because of the fact that most of the guys in the bands got into metal during the nu metal age. im wondering if you agree with this statement is it possible that because they got into metal during the age of slack bass playing its rubbed off on the new bands? From:

Answer: Well thanks for noticing these bass drops are in the mix, most people listening to the bigger Deathcore bands on ipod buds or in-built laptop speakers probably have no idea what you are talking about. Subwoofers or serious "Skull Candy" headphones are needed to hear these trademark Bass-drops which usually come before the massive breakdowns and add an extra accent to the brutality. I personally love em, they are sick as hell and can be suprisingly effective the first time you hear them.

Bands like Acacia Strain and Job For A Cowboy started it off- both bands have one or two bass drops mixed into songs on their albums from a few years ago, I believe they started out as a little studio trick to emphasise the bottom end of the chug chug parts of the breakdowns. Check out 0.47 seconds into JFAC's 'Entombment of a Machine' or 1.01 in 'Dont Dink and Drance' by Devil Wears Prada to hear early examples. Its a real mongrel-sound with influences from Death Metal, Dillinger/Converge as well as knuckle- dragging straight-up 'chug chug' hardcore- hence tagged as'Deathcore'. Works for me, anyway.

As for influences, I don't think its Korn or Nu Metal, because the sound is not from a bass-guitarist, its an sample played by the drummer on a drum pad. Its a straight up sound derived from Hip Hop, or Techno really. Technically its a Roland 808 bass kick sample maybe lengthened an made deeper, then imported into the pad and played back by hand by the drummer on the required beat.

The main method is using a sample pad like ROLAND SPD S- this pad is what Oceano drummer Daniel Terchin uses, and can be seen in the Oceano video for 'A Mandatory Sacrifice'- see still from clip above.Additionally, many Deathcore bands use 7 string guitars and 5 string basses to get that powerful sludgy bass-driven sound, its what makes them sound 'heavy'.

Its nothing exclusive to modern bands, Morbid Angel adopted 7 stringers during their very sludgey-sounding "Domination" (1994) album period. Korn also used that set up, and became one of the world's biggest selling rock bands during the nu-metal era. Looking back,I reckon Korn were- sonically- one of the most radical rock bands ever, their downtuned, bass-guitar driven sound was so out-there, its truly remarkable they sold millions of records.

I personally love all types of Bass in music, its really under-represented in the Rock and metal scenes generally but its pretty much the cornerstone of the hip hop and Dubstep communities.

Originating from Jamaica in the 70s by the Reggae/Dub musicians, Bass got serious with the advent of early drum machines- a short-lived, raw and gnarly sub-genre of Rap in the 80s called 'Miami Bass' became popular in the USA south. Sonically, it was all about massive TR808 bass drops, and sub-bass lines. 2 Live Crew where probably the biggest band of the style due to their constant use of controversial lyrics.

Modern-day Hip Hop producers thrive on bass. If you hook up the sub-woofers you can hear layers of extreme bass-drops in this Flo Rida track 'Never':

If you want to totally blow out your subs,I recommend you crank up the Skream remix of UK pop artist La Roux.Uk producer Skream is the Don, and remains the last word on bass, currently. Warning: this track will blow a serious gale of air outta your speakers. Neither Earache nor YouTube takes any liability for hearing damage etc.

Here's our own band- Oceano. Hear the bass-drops at 0.17 and 1.06, 2.46.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Old Lady Drivers LP - first time on CD?

Question: Thanks for answering about the first time on vinyl.But what about first time on CD.I need OLD and Intense Degree Earache versions on CD for my early earache collection, any chance of these being released? From:

Answer: I can't believe I'm actually reading this! Seriously, this topic crops up so regularly on this blog, you'd think they were world-beating bands we're talking about.Sadly, neither were. Looking back using the 'search this blog' feature in top left of this page, I see it was first answered back in 2005.Now, five years on, you're still asking. You collectors never give up!

You could say I'm doing Jim Plotkin's career a favour by not releasing his debut, OLD LADY DRIVERS. Earache's 7th release was only ever on vinyl, and showcases Jim Plotkin's early proto- grindcore outfit. Warning- it comes with a level of juvenile humour which is hard to stomach even now.It was only on the later early 90's OLD albums like 'Formula' that Plotkins shimmering guitar playing and sense of atmosphere came to the fore. That one is a forgotten gem of a record, but the debut is nothing amazing.

Apparently Plotkin himself made and sold a bootleg of OLD debut a few years back, which I've never seen. I do realise that a lot of fans want the complete set of the early Earache titles, it looks odd that so few of the early titles made it onto CD, but the format was so expensive to produce back then, thats just how it was. If I searched for a bit I might uncover the masters deep in the vaults- which is basically two store rooms in my house- so could re-issue them no problem. To be honest, its more interesting for me to keep things like the early Earache catalogue in its original haphazard state, because thats how it was made originally, that's how history intended it to be.

A few years ago we did offer a few obscure titles for other labels to license and produce on CD, OLD was on the list, but there were no takers for it. A company in Japan called Disk Union did the Intense Degree album on CD.I guess since the release of the John Peel sessions 3 x CD compilation 'Grind Madness at the BBC', there is a bit of a renewed interest in Intense Degree's only album "War In My Head'. Good luck finding that one!

"Record Collectors are Pretentious Assholes" - that's the title from a Poison Idea release back in the 80s. Early Earache act HERESY had some fun with that idea in a photo shoot (see pic). Nowadays I'm really liking the fact that Earache's early titles are not at all easy for newbies to collect.I consider it as a bonus for any old school fans who are still around from back in the day, who might already have the original Earache pressing on LP. I like the fact that only a single one-time pressing of OLD LP exists, probably only 4,000 were made. Same number with Intense Degree. If you really want it, you'll just have to wait for one to pop up on e-Bay, sorry.

Actually there is one extremely unlikely scenario which might change this. In recent years a ton of 90's era bands from this label have been reforming and reactivating themselves to take advantage of the modern touring and festival opportunties. I dont blame them because back in the early 90s no such festivals existed, the scene was so small its hard for anyone to understand nowadays. I for one, never had a clue that Carcass, Brutal Truth, Sleep and even Godflesh would all decide to give it a go and reform, even after over a decade of inactivity in some cases.

Hell might have to freeze over first, but if Plotkin & Dubin decided to reform OLD its likely they could even receive decent festival offers - maybe even OLD & PITCHSHIFTER for Hellfest 2011?- then we'd be forced to re-issue the Cds to co-incide.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Earache's selected back catalog to be released for first time on Vinyl.

Question: I know you've addressed similar issues before, but I thought I'd ask a slightly more specific question. How long can labels like Dark Symphonies/The Crypt and Night of the Vinyl Dead keep going by releasing LPs of formerly CD only material? Is this a tenable business model given the rabid collector mentality of so many metal fans? I'm curious since you are currently in the process of filling in the vinyl gaps in the Earache catalog. Thanks, Tim From:

Answer: Yes, we succumbed to the vinyl-fan pressure! Earache is currently in the middle of a wholesale vinyl re-issue campaign, which will last throughout 2010.Actually re-issue is the wrong word as these will be first-time-ever editions on the wax format. Specific titles which somehow never made it onto vinyl, are finally coming out on LP. So we cleverly dubbed it- "Earache: First Time On Vinyl Campaign". Snappy huh? The first releases are Cult of Luna's debut and follow up album. Next we have Morbid Angel "Formulas Fatal To The Flesh" and both Iron Monkey albums, and many more great back catalog titles from the Earache vaults which, for one reason or another, were never pressed on vinyl at the time of release.

Interest in vinyl is at an all time high, and I believe its all driven by a renewed interest in the format again.Even myself, a self-professed vinyl hater succumbed. I've actually dusted off and plugged in the trusty old turntable again for the first time in maybe a decade. Mp3 is everywhere and yet so fleeting, ye olde Compaqct disque formate is so mundane and trivial- anyone can burn a disc in a PC in seconds- so fans turn to something more permanent and lasting. To be fair, its also driven by the existance of a thriving collectors market powered by ebay and other internet auction sites.Desperate fans are driving up the value of vinyl to ever more spectacular prices.Its simple supply and demand economics.

A few years back we learned about this because we licenced a few back catalog titles to various small-scale vinyl specialists. Kreation records really blew our minds when they released Sleep and Godflesh under licence in about 2006 or so. They created a frenzy of activity on ebay and collector websites, with prices going sky high for what were revered, but long-defunct acts. I honestly reckon this rabid interest in those vinyl editions help spur both bands to reform within a few years.

As you say, whole new labels now exist to cater to the vinyl fan, specialising in picking up rights for old titles, and issuing them on wax.Even though it costs a lot of upfront costs to press viny, with acetates, stampers, the direct selling to fans more than makes up for the huge outlay involved.I think they hit on a sure-fire way to make a decent profit, as the vinyl-only label has no marketing costs, the band in question is already legendary.Even the detritus from the process - the test pressings and mothers/metallic stampers- can also attract even more bidders. A licence for a classic metal acts vinyl is really a license to print money.

In recent months, Earache has received offers from other labels seeking to license and print on wax up to 50 of our back catalog titles.We declined because we were already planning our own printings, but its obvious that 'Back on Black'(UK) (Plastichead offshoot) and Painkiller (BE) and Relapse records (US) are all agressively entering the vinyl back catalog collectors market.

The labels which originally started the trend, like Night of The Vinyl Dead seem to be reacting to the competition by getting smarter and upping the ante.They put serious care and attention into the re-issues, many are works of art in their own right.On their store I noticed a shaped, fragrance-smelling wax, 500 copies, of Nightwish 'Amaranth'. Obviously designed with the avid collector and completist in mind, -the band sold over half a million Cds on Nuclear Blast in germany alone- its gotta be a must-have purchase.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Do free downloads work building a band?

Question: I noticed @digearache's recent tweet about CD release of Gama Bomb's "Tales From The Grave In Space" ("Early signs are - fanbase doubled." Does this mean you might consider doing more free downloads in the future? (For the record, I downloaded the album and then bought a "real" copy on CD!) From:

Answer: Short answer is- its too early to say with absolute confidence that the idea worked, but it looks like it did increase the bands fanbase, yeah. In November we gave away the complete album legally as a band-and-label-approved download.The files have been downloaded over 50,000 times so far from our file hosting partner Rapidshare, plus undoubtedly many more on the torrent sites.Its an impressive number, but for the time being, the success or otherwise of a band is still judged by the number of physical units sold (Soundscan & OCC chart) not number of files transferred (Big Champagne).The music industry is still hung up on physical sales data and charts, and to be taken seriously by agents and festival promotors, bands need to appear in those charts.

I'd like to thank you for being part of what is to us and the band a pretty interesting idea- I guess it worked out great for you, if you downloaded the files in November, got to spend time with the album, and then liked it enough to actually purchase the CD in January. Thank you! One thing I'm dying to know is- were you already a Gama Bomb fan from before, or was it the free d/l which convinced you to become a fan and spend money? Thats the question....

The reason it is too early to tell is the album has only been out 2 weeks, and the numbers I am quoting are ship out numbers to stores in UK & Europe which have indeed increased over the previous album 'Citizen Brain' by about 75%- almost doubled. But that alone doesnt mean they are selling through to fans, its only the amount dealers have taken- we'll find out for certain in probably 3-6 months. The USA edition is not yet out- its released on March 9th so we'll have more info about stateside action later too.

The uncertainty comes from the fact that traditional record retail chains (HMV, WOM, Best Buy etc) have the right to return any unsold stock to labels for full credit, called "returns", which is the bane of the old style music biz. The promotion of the free download has been great, with Industry mags like Billboard and Music Week covering the story. However, the actual numbers sold are never predictable until all the dealers who took the CD declare they want more copies, and so by implication let you know that they dont have any gathering dust on the shelves, for credit.

Another reason we don't know for sure, is because the band have yet to play a gig after the physical release. That's usually the first sign of progress, when bigger crowds turn up unexpectedly for a show. This has yet to happen.

It's nothing new to release an album on the internet for free. Unsigned bands have done it for years, I personally know a ton of cool up and coming, newish bands who have done it- trouble is, none have become household names in the scene. It needs something more than just "heres our files", anyone can do that. In my experience its more about how bands interact with their fans using social media nowadays- if you have something new and interesting to say, using twitter/Youtube/facebook, and the old warhorse, MySpace, a band can create a powerful and loyal fanbase in record time.Most of the breakthrough artists in the rock scene during the last 4 years have done exactly that, and the labels which saw this free social networking opportunity early, broke through along with them.

Don't get me wrong, we are happy there are signs of progess in raising the Gama Bomb's profile, but I am naturally cautious about declaring it a runaway success. It could be the simple effect of its a better album, or the natural momentum created by the bands 2 earlier albums. Time will tell.

As for doing it again, we probably will, if we find another one of our developing bands in agreement with the idea, yeah why not.

Monday, February 08, 2010

How important is image to a new band?

Question: Dig, you mention that a band picture is something important when checking a new band out, and I remember you saying you didn't sign AngelCorpse because of the looks of the singer.
How important are the looks of a band for you? Have you always had this concern, asked a band member to change style or something? When did it become important to you and why? From:

Answer: This is a tricky subject to talk about, as the image and style of a band is never really overtly spoken about at Earache, we've never sat down and changed the image of a band on the label for instance. But in general we find it is the fans themselves who are extremely quick to judge a band from the looks, style and clothes of the players. Fans do indeed judge a book by its cover, every time.

Yes, as I wrote in a previous blog,one of the main reasons I didn't sign Ripping Corpse (Erik Rutan's first brutal DM band) in 1990 or so, was because the band were long haired, black T-shirt wearing dudes, yet the singer was a Hardcore guy in white vest, short hair and baseball cap. It made the players seem disjointed and not cohesive, so I passed on the band. Death metal and hardcore simply did not mix back in the early 90's beginnings of the DM scene.

In Death Metal and grindcore circles, the band image is considered of secondary importance to the overall quality of the music.It took the mid-90's rise of Black Metal to suddenly force strongly coherent band image right to the top of every fan's agenda. Not many people realise that it was the corpsepainted and spiked armband Black Metal bands who hit the make-up box with such zeal, you could argue that in terms of presentation, they were the direct descendents of the Glam Metal era, or at least Kiss. This fact is rarely discussed.

Try to imagine for a minute a retro Norwegian Black Metal band with 3 corpsepainted and fully spiked-arm members, and a short haired singer in tattoos & Hatebreed shirt.Would you sign such a mixed up band? See what I mean- Its not gonna happen is it?

Fans in general are an unforgiving bunch, they can be as harsh in condemning a band for a fashion faux-pas as any coffee-table women's magazine.

In the underground metal scene of the 90's image was not that important, but when labels like Nuclear Blast and Century media began releasing their hugely successful Gothic metal acts Lacuna Coil or Nightwish, they totally raised the bar for how an underground metal band should be presented. Suddenly, sophisticated and elaborately staged band photoshoots were everywhere you looked, making Earache's mostly jeans 'n' T-shirt brigade appear completely out of touch with the times. In many ways the rise of the internet meant that bands with a strong and instantly recognisable image in a high quality photosession could gain a fanbase faster than ever before.

Many fans- especially ones in the notoriously image-conscious emo & deathcore scenes - can decide they like a band way before they have heard actually heard any music, the style of haircut alone can make the difference between being accepted or not.Bring Me The Horizon would be a great example of strong and consistent image.

Earache has had a few bands who made some strange decisions regarding image. When we signed Akercocke, the band had an extremely strong image as sharp-suited London satanists. We spent thousands of pounds on high quality photoshoots and sets depicting the band as suited and booted country squires, and the band totally stood out from the pack of BM bands. Fans loved the band for this. Yet on the eve of their debut USA tour the band chose to ditch the suits, instead they performed in jeans and T-shirts, and many US fans told us they had doubts that it was actually Akercocke who had just performed before them.Such is the power of strong imagery, fans were perplexed when the band decided to change tack. I wonder if Slipknot would ditch their masks prior to a tour? Somehow I doubt it.

Sometimes bands choose to make a quirky statement about themselves when given the opportunity to do so. Earache has a brilliant new school Death-Metal band called The Boy Will Drown who hail from Norwich, which is in the farming belt to the East of England. To show they are not hung up on image, they ironically dressed up as farmers for their first official shoot. This image spread all over the web, and I'm pretty sure it has alienated their potential fanbase of fellow death metallers, so it was basically ill advised.

Here's another disasterous shoot- this picture look like it contains a dude right out of a cheap knitwear catalogue, and some guy modelling generic sportwear. Little would you know that in fact the guys on the right of the pic are Kam Lee and Rick Rozz, both originators of Florida Death Metal, and this pic was the offical pic to promote 1995's Massacre album 'Promise'- an album which fans shunned. CORRRECTION! Kam Lee himself has pointed out that its not him in the Massacre 1995 pic, its the then brand-new bass player Pete. Oops I guess we forgot Kam had already let the band by that point. Sorry Kam, we are forgetful idiots!

Even legends can have a bad wardrobe day.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

How to submit your bands demo to Earache?

Question: Hi there, my names Ali i am in a death metal band from Scotland called FACEGRINDER. I am wondering if EARACHE Records are accepting demos from unsigned bands at this time. I have been looking at several metal labels websites today and for unsigned bands like my own none are of much use as to where to send my demo or wether it would be listened to if i did send it.

I would appreciate a response greatly.

Cheers Ali From:

Answer: I dunno how other labels do it,some of the major record companies do not allow unsolicited demos at all. But the way to make Earache know about your band is- click on the CONTACT at the top navigation bar of the site Then you'll see the staffers listed. At the top of that page is a flashing SUBMIT YOUR DEMO image- click that and fill in fields with your bands name, genre, myspace URL and playcount, then hit the button to submit.

As if by magic, the info ends up in the A&R dept inbox, and mine give you the scale of the amount of bands who contact us this way- in 2010 so far, over 500 bands have submitted their myspace link.

Most do get played eventually, mostly its bands who have barely even formed, but some decent ones also arrive. If a band shows promise, we might decide to monitor a bands progress, to see how things develop.

3 tips for bands are 1) make sure your BEST song is first in the player. 2) a full band pic of you all together is important. 3) plenty of tour dates listed is always impressive and also means we might show up to check out the band.

Good Luck.