Thursday, April 29, 2010

Will the New Wave of True Heavy Metal (NWOTHM) bands have to modernise their style to succeed?

Question: Do you think the nwothm bands at some point will have to adapt with the times to get anywhere i mean as much as i love cauldron, white wizard and enforcer im sure at some point the market is going to dry up as people will tire of that sound and do you feel that the bands may have to take a more modern metal approach sort of like what evile have done with thrash or biomechanical or even the other extreme like aussies electrik dynamite have done eg keeping the traditional metal elements but sprinkeling a touch of modern aspects? From:

Answer: I think you are missing the point dude, the new young NWOTHM bands on the Earache label like Enforcer, Cauldron and White Wizzard all play HEAVY METAL precisely because they aren't into what passes for metal in the current climate. If you talk to them, they just don't have an appreciation for or even relate to the likes of Pantera, Lamb of God, Mastodon, and certainly not Killswitch Engage/Bullet For My Valentine or whatever is deemed 'metal' by 99.9% of the metallic population.

To these bands, downtuned guitars, sludgy riffs and extreme growly vocals are seriously unhip. In the 90's and 00's some geniuses thought that Metal was better when mixed and matched with hip hop and hardcore, then symphony orchestras and even opera divas got in on the act too, and almost unbelievably, these abominations somehow became the acceptable face of modern metal to most people.

Luckily not everyone agreed- to the NWOTHM musicians all that modern stuff is just laughable. Instead they crave a return to a sort of 'authenticity' in metal, and from where I'm standing, that's what this New Breed of HM bands signify more than anything. That's what the "True" stands for in NWOTHM. If you meet the guys, they are pretty snobby about this being the only way Heavy Metal should be in the 10's. I guess time will tell if they are right.

Olof from Enforcer can explain his vision better way than me: " I think it's because we take things all the way, making heavy metal something spectacular again, both musically and aesthetically and I think that frightens people in the 21st century. If you look back at almost all bands since the early 90's and forward the bands forgot about taking it all the way. Somewhere in the musical progression bands forgot about attitude and looks. What's so fun with that? If I go and see a band I don't want to see some lazy old dudes playing around, laughing about what they do, dressed in their regular clothes. I want to see something spectacular, a show, see some enthusiasm and get infected by the energy on stage or even get scared. Nowadays what Heavy Metal has turned out to be is so damn mediocre."

So there you have it--it's about the singer, songs, and showmanship, stupid. Though way too young to remember it, Olof's definition of metal is based around the spectacular sight of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Scorpions and Dio etc in their pomp, not the monochromatic vision of say, Morbid Angel, Dimmu Borgir or Cradle of Filth and their ilk. Yes I agree the roots are unashamedly retro, and the sentiments pretty naive, but at 21 years old Olof Wikstrand still has plenty of time to develop a more unique character, and I believe given enough time and enough budget to achieve his aims, Enforcer will in the future put on the some of most spectacular live shows his generation will have ever seen.

The NWOTHM scene is currently dividing the opinion of fans and journalists like no other. Newcomers Steelwing (average age 19) on Nuclear Blast received a thorough bashing and a paltry 4/10 review from extreme metal specialist mag Terrorizer. Steelwing were bashed for basically being unoriginal,because they choose to play an outdated, 30 year old Heavy Metal style.The same mag praises the likes of Landmine Marathon for successfully recording a straight-up copy of the Earache circa 1990 sound. While I'm happy to see our 90's era back catalog being so influential with new bands, I fail to see the logic in bashing a band for playing 1980's metal while praising one which worships 1990's metal. Its a matter of taste, I guess being retro is only cool if you copy the right decade?

There is a precedence for this- it has been pretty hip in metal circles to appreciate Black Sabbath type retro riffs for years, the entire genre of Doom Metal is pure unadulterated Black Sabbath worship, so you could argue that retro metal in some guise has always been around in the underground.

If you like no frills, heads down Heavy Metal make sure to catch ENFORCER & CAULDRON on European and UK tour in May, this is what you can expect:

Heres Cauldron and Enforcer causing chaos backstage aswell, on current May 2010 tour. UK better watch out!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Why doesn't FUGAZI have a MySpace page?

Question: You sort of answered this before but in this interview with ian mackaye he mentions how when he tried to book a show for the evens he was told that "if your band doesnt have a myspace page you really cant be serious about this". Im curious how long do you think myspace as a site is going to last in regard to being the norm for bands? i mean both dischord records in dc and also tragedy in portland oregon have both made stands against the site. Im wondering as well do you think theres a danger that one site is going to control peoples access to music? From:

Answer: Actually I checked and it seems FUGAZI is indeed on Myspace, and its actually operated off and on, by Ian Mackaye himself, so that's that theory blown. Dischord is on it too but its a fan site, unofficial. The Evens do have one, again unofficially run, but Ian Mackaye approved nontheless.

Dude, there are plenty of bands who are anti-everything and shun all publicity, if you dig deep enough underground, you can find them. I remember a militant 80s anarchist/DIY band that refused to send their tapes in the post to me, because the postal system is "owned by the Government, and we are against Government".Fair play to them for adhering to their strict beliefs- they advised I pick up a cassette in person at a gig, which was usually free and in a squatted venue. I admired their stance, the militancy and steadfastness of their worldview was very appealing at the time. One question nagged me though- how did the band expect the fans to travel to those gigs? By the Government-owned road, subway and rail networks no doubt. The band meant well- but this apparent paradox was lost on them. They were just caught up in this "I'm more punk than you" attitude that was prevalent then.

Myspace is just a free way to have a webpage, the server space alone and ability to stream tracks and interact with 200 million music fans would have cost a band $2000 a month prior to Myspace's launch in 2004.Believe me, running a band website prior to 2004 was a pain in the ass, I know because I ran plenty in the 90s and early 00s. So, millions of bands and fans flocked to the service, because it was easy to set up, and also a ridiculously cheap bargain. MySpace has been so successful that I've argued in previous posts that in many ways it is the face of the entire Music Industry nowadays. Its still the first place I turn to, to listen to a new band I've heard about.MySpace has actually helped launched the careers of dozens of bands in the last 6 years- Emo and Deathcore in particular would'nt have happened without the fan-interactivity and sheer networking power which the site offers.

Even so, many bands exist out there which are anti-anything that is wildly popular. Outsider art is not meant for consumption by the mainstream, pop culture.

Some of the most 'Troo Kvult' Black Metal bands now shun MySpace completely and only release material on cassette, limited to 100 hand-dubbed copies with hand-drawn art. Imagine that in 2010- no Mp3's! You could be forgiven for imagining that these type of bands are the last of the true renegades, living outside the confines of Society's sheep like hordes.The reality is often more mundane- often its a couple of Bro's living at home in Mom's apartment in Michigan, working a factory job daydreaming that they were in Norway instead, then corpsepainted up on the weekend for the cover photo snap.

My hometown is Nottingham, UK near Sherwood Forest, so I grew up with the folklore of the original outlaw and renegade Robin Hood, its the default attitude round here. Talking out outsiders, when we first signed Mortiis, he actually did live in a shack in the middle of the woods, with no electricty, and no water. we were quite impressed by his tales of having to trek for an hour into the nearest town to use internet and communicate. True story, that.

Heres the Ian Mackaye interview, its worth listening to, he is a fantastic speaker on the subject of Punk and the DIY attitude, with a great story about Wino (The Obsessed):

Friday, April 23, 2010

Earache vinyl run-out groove inscriptions

Question: Hi Dig!

Recently, I bought some old Earache's vinyl records. After I took a close look at them I noticed that some of they have inscriptions near matrices. For example:

Scorn's Evanescence has 'Le sange et sur la lit' and 'It's's a...'
Entombed's Clandestine has 'Is it a bird, is it a flute?'
Napalm Death's Haromny Corruption has 'How chuffed' and 'What a bloody doss'
Napalm Death's Mass Appeal Madness has 'Swinging Thumb Jump Side' and 'Screaming Gai Side'.

Do you remember anything about those (and others) inscriptions like that? Could you provide some more information about them?

Thanks! From:

Answer: Yes I remember them well, these inscriptions were a fun part of the process in the mastering/cutting of Earache's vinyl records. The process of making a vinyl record is a lengthy and costly one, but would always start with me making a visit to a mastering/cutting studio in London. During the 90's about a dozen mastering houses existed, my only time at the famous Abbey Road studio was to cut the Napalm Death debut 'Scum'.I also visited Utopia, and The Exchange for a few of early masterings but eventually settled on one place.

Over a hundred of Earache's 90's vinyls were cut at one location - Transfermation studios (based in the Stock-Aiken-Waterman studio complex at Lant St, near Tower Bridge) and by one man- Noel Summerville (pictured above). He is the NS inscribed in the wax. Luckily, Noel had worked on many 1980's UK heavy metal records like Motorhead, so the extremely heavy fast music Earache was creating wasn't that alien to him. Besides that, Noel was also a very likeable fella, he turned what easily could have been a stressful experience, into a pleasant afternoon. Also I must mention the affable Irishman Richard Dowling who mastered the majority of early Earache CDs aswell. Note - this was in the era before the CD 'loudness war' broke out which affected the whole mastering scene.

The cutting session would usually last all afternoon, at least 3-4 hours, and is a laborious process involving the mastering engineer physically cutting the music via a specialist acoustic lathe into a soft acetate 13inch disc. Getting the depth and width of the groove correct (deep grooves make it bassier, wider groove means louder) would require an expert eye and ear, and this was the talent of the mastering engineer. Many of the Earache recording sessions were extremely low budget but the expertise of Noel somehow made them sonically comparable to major-label-budget releases. Two acetates would be cut, also called laquers, for A and B sides - then would be sent off to be processed (involving dipping them in vats of molten silver oxide to make an inverse copy of the grooves) which would eventually produce the solid, hard metal plates to physically print the final vinyl which goes on sale.

The final part of the session after the A & B sides were cut would be the fun part for me. After the inscription into the run out groove of the catalog number - using a special diamond tipped pen - the engineer would ask for any other identifying marks or relevant info. It was common back then for bands to leave cryptic messages for fans on these run out grooves. Mostly these inscriptions were thought up on the spot by me, and are nothing profound. It's often just the stupid sayings which people in the band were chatting about around the time, captured on wax.

Noel is still available for mastering audio, via digital files - hire him at

Monday, April 19, 2010

New trend of bands licensing their records to labels.

Question: Here's an interesting one- do you think when it comes to larger bands labels are actually losing power? by this i mean tom g warrior famously set up his own label and licesned the last celtic frost and the new trypticon records to century media, and from what ive read and seen with interviews with the owner of seasons of mist the only item they have the right to sell is MA's albums. Do you think that thease privaliges are only really open to the bigger band as im sure if a newer band came to a label saying "we dont want to sign to you but we will lisense the record to you" the label would tell them where to go. I'm curious about your thoughts on this? From:

Answer: Well, I take your point, and its definately happening more and more these days. The tables are slowly turning as labels perform a service for the artist, rather than the artist work for the label.To be able to license, the artist takes all the upfront risk in recording the album, and might turn in a stinker maybe. Bands can still come unstuck this way- imagine if Celtic Frost had self-recorded and then sought a licence back in the day for their 1988 Glam-Rock album 'Cold Lake', do you think there would have been any takers? What about Apollyon Sun? I highly doubt there would have been any takers for that either. Financial ruination of the artist would be the inevitable outcome. Bands only take extreme musical risks when it's someone else- a label, usually- picking up the tab. Allowing bands the financial freedom -so they can be as creative as they like on the recording- is an often overlooked function that a label provides.

Also- have you noticed that some of the biggest bands in the world, the ones who own their own copyrights, are also some of the most restrictive regarding online usage of their catalogue? Ever tried to buy The Beatles, Metallica, AC/DC or Led Zeppelin on iTunes or Spotify? They aren't there. Huge bands can play by their own rules and if they don't want their music for sale online, then that's their choice.

Its all about risk versus reward. Underground Punk bands know all about this, many have been recording, manufacturing and selling their own records on a DIY basis for decades. Achieving any level of lasting global 'success' using the DIY method requires hard work and sweat on a continuing basis, so the most successful true punk bands- Fugazi, NoFX - fully deserve their rewards, having spent decades building up rock solid relationships with their fanbases.

The internet and social networking sites are changing the whole dynamic of the relationship between bands and their fans, and the common consensus of the blog-terati is that record labels are dinosaurs who serve no purpose 'cept to be a useless middleman coming between the fan and band -usually fleecing the artist along the way for good measure.

The impression that popular blogs like Mashable and Techdirt give about labels is so one-sided, its unreal.They urge bands to stay away from the music industry, and to use 'FREE' as their promotional tool, and 'TH' INTERNETZ' as their distributor, then, they advise, fame and fortune shall surely be theirs. Wow, if only it was that easy! I speak from experience because I tried it myself last year with our Irish thrash band Gama Bomb.

Speaking as an Indie record label owner myself - I maintain we do have a unique role to play in the signing and development of new bands. There are some bloggers who understand the time, money and energy that labels, and Indie labels in particular, expend to break artists out of obscurity into a career. It has always been a pet peeve of mine that artist-owned labels - even ones set up by iconic, multi-platinum names- have rarely unearthed and cultivated any long-term artists or bands. Seems smart artists set up clothing lines nowadays, not invest in new acts. The reason record labels can do a better job than artists on their own, is primarily because we spread the risk.

The Indie band OK GO had a hit viral video,sparking 50 Million views, and so became 'internet famous', but were dropped soon after, and now record for their own label.Somewhat unusually, the band were gracious enough to admit that the investment and financial backing they received from prior label EMI is what got the band off the launch pad in the first place.

Even legendary bands can come unstuck trying to do it DIY. Public Enemy are one of the greatest Hip Hop artists of all time, trailblazing the scene in the 80's and 90's. You'd think they could find a license taker for their forthcoming album, especially as this year is the 20 year anniversary of the game-changing 'Fear Of A Black Planet'.

To raise the capital to fund the album, Public Enemy turned to, which enables thousands of fans to join up together to fund -in $25 chunks- new albums or projects by bands. It seemed the ultimate way for bands to connect with fans, and be funded by them, finally removing the need for traditional record company involvement. Last months closure of the site meant that thousands of fans lost interest, and even after a last minute takeover of the site, Public Enemy seem no nearer having an album coming out. The downfall of the much-lauded received fewer column inches than its formation, but hey, why let the truth get in the way of a great story eh?

I'm all for trying new things,but ultimately I reckon it comes down to whether artists trust music-type people, or trust the tech-type folks more. We are two very different cultures.Also in a sea of mediocre bands, who do fans trust to present and promote the best new music, some faceless tech guys who developed a snappy algorithm, or a label which knows about career development?

Here's the Celtic Frost interview which sparked the question- I should point out that my label Earache has never had any dealings with Tom, in the 80's he was signed to German label Noise, then in later years Sanctuary- both now folded. Since the comeback, Tom has paid for and owned his own recordings, and licensed them to Century Media.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Easiest way to get into the Music Biz? Help a new band out.

Question: So i was watching the great documentry that came with the blessed are the sick reissue, I noticed the guy being interviewed with suit who once roadied for morbid angel who had gone on to high paying white collar employment, and it got me wondering where do most road crews for bands come from is it Students who want extra cash? friends of the band? agency guys? guys from other bands between their tours or all or none of the above? quite interested as he seemed to be an example of a person who successfully left the road behind them. From:

Answer: People often ask me "Dig, how can I make a million dollars in the Music Industry?", "Well," I glibly reply, "start with two million". The Record Biz, at the top end of the scale, is like a frenzied, unregulated poker table -the players make eye-wateringly huge bets on bands, not even because they actually like the music - but simply to eliminate the other players seated at the table. Its a tough business which is best avoided by the unwary or the non-committed. Competing for the attentions of artists or generally just feeding the wasteful, out-dated machinery of the Biz will suck all your time, energy and money.

The easiest, most painless way to break into the Biz is by helping a new band out, nearly every new band I know could use some help- even simple stuff like hiring a van and driving to the gigs stumps many. Actually I meet a lot of people these days who tell me they work at the summer festivals, not in the booking of the bands, or anything cool like that.I mean the more mundane, behind the scenes logistics of running the festival- building stages, running the electric cables, setting up the backstage areas etc. Thousands of people make a living doing this every summer now.

The summer festival scene has seen a huge growth recently, there must be over 100 metal/rock festivals taking place across Europe this summer 2010, Earache itself aims to attend at least 12 festivals in 13 weeks from May-August. About two decades ago, there were just 4 or 5 festivals for metal across Europe, nowadays there aren't enough free summer weekends to book fests in outdoor fields any more, so promotors have expanded their reach by booking a metal fest on an off-season cruise-liner -see January 2011's 70,000 Tons of Metal. Its a big gamble but I sure hope its a success for them, as more festivals means more live opportunities for our stable of bands.

You can drop into the biz from anywhere, no qualifications needed cept a willingness to work long hours for little reward. Industry folks come from all walks of life- Entombed once famously had a manager that was ex-Wall St, he would be trading stocks one minute and then selling swag on the road the next.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Why no new material on Earache's CD & DVD re-issues?

Question: Hi Dig!

In recent years Earache reissued lots records by its most famous bands such as Napalm Death, Carcass, Cathedral, Morbid Angel, Scorn, Godflesh or Entombed.

However, there was almost no new music material on those reissues (I'm not counting interviews - they were obviously new and awesome). Sure, some of the stuff was out of print or hard to find, but for the most of time it wasn't exactly new.

Does it mean the Earache vaults are almost empty? No unreleased songs, alternative takes, previously unreleased live recordings? Or maybe you just don't have rights to issue that kind of stuff (since most of the band moved to different labels)?

thanks From:

Answer: Well there is new material, but it's mostly in the form of the DVD documentary/ interview footage.I'm glad you like em. Personally, I find these retrospectives very interesting, because when our bands talk on camera on the subject of their careers and their past albums, many great stories come to light. Often its priceless stuff which never even got reported at the time. See the At The Gates documentary disk on their 3 DVD set for one of the best examples.Produced by Anders Bjorler of ATG himself, it is the surely one of the most detailed accounts of a band's career, ever. It should win awards in my opinion.

However, yes, you are right, as far as unreleased audio goes the back catalog vaults are indeed almost empty. Recording sessions back in the early 90s took place on analogue tape and were very time consuming and costly. Today's set ups are almost trivial - you can even record an album on an iPhone app if you want.

Because of the huge costs involved, almost everything our acts recorded back in the day ended up being used at the time. Tracks which didn't make the cut were used as bonuses for limited edition vinyls or B sides, or as extras on CD or for compilations. Nothing was wasted.

On very rare occasions, an entire recording would be shelved because it was simply not up to sonic listening standard. Y'know, the bar is not exactly set too high for grindcore anyway, but almost unbelievably, bands did sometimes fail to make the grade.

Two great examples are- the first mixdown of Carcass' Reek of Putrefaction was so bad, it had to be shelved, and marked for all time as "DO NOT RELEASE". The eventual released version sounds terrible so just imagine for a second what the unreleased version must sound like- it's pure sonic garbage. Also the first version of Vader's debut was deemed unreleasable, the playing is sloppy and haphazard. It was their first time in a professional studio - they flew to Tomas Skogsberg place in Stockholm looking for that Sunlight sound- but things did not work out too well.

Mistakes can still happen in the digital era too though.The tapes of the Bonded By Blood first album -2008's 'Feed The Beast' were shelved. They recorded with well known veteran producer Michael Rosen (Testament etc) but being young and new to the game, they weren't able to perform to his satisfaction.The chemistry was'nt right, so an argument broke out.The recording suffered, sounding very flat, and you could tell it was recorded under a cloud. It was shelved, but 2 songs did make the cut and were issued as bonuses on a seperate disc. The version actually released at retail as Feed The Beast was self-produced by the band quickly and inexpensively at LoveJuice labs in LA. This was a more familiar recording environment for the band as they'd done their demos there in the past.

Recording in a pro studio quickly exposes any flaws in a band, if the timing is out or playing is sloppy, you are immediately exposed.Nowadays of course the producer would simply edit out the bad bits in protools and create digital perfection.You could'nt do that using analogue tapes, it required numerous 'takes' or as a last resort actual scissors and sellotope to cut up and 'edit' the tapes.

It might have been a primitive, almost medieval process, but to many listeners, the old analog recordings often sound better than modern day efforts.The reason is because the mistakes, wayward tempos, and small flaws are baked in, and this quirk gave every album recorded before say 1994, a unique sonic character.They sound human.

Nowadays every metal album you buy sounds freakishly similar to every other one, because they are all pro-tooled to digital perfection, often the exact same presets and software plug ins are used. Any dynamics and wrinkles are ironed out simply so the CD sounds loud in the player. This means that sadly, any individual character the band originally had, is all too often squeezed out in the quest to sound just like everybody else.

Luckily some producers are bucking this 'Loudness War' trend. Ralph Patlan has created this year for Earache two amazing productions- White Wizzard's 'Over The Top' and the upcoming new Bonded By Blood 'Exiled to Earth'. Both are top notch, lively, dynamic productions, oozing with character and could mark the beginning of a possible return to the traditional art of recording metal - which is capturing the uniqueness of the band in a live(ish) setting, not replicating the sound of the software program.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Intense Degree album- now on iTunes

Question: okay so along with loads of other people, I ask...Intense Degree, why not just dig up the old masters and make them available to download? I've had a look on the Japan site for Disk union, and I'd buy it if I was able to read japanese. war in my head was the best album that earache ever released and it's a shame you won't listen to the fans.I used to have a huge collection of albums from the "golden age" of earache,so please just give the fans what they want. if there isn't a demand for the old albums like intense degree and filthy christians then obviously there's no point manufacturing cd's at great expense, but downloads are a cheap alternative. I think it's the right time to do something for the fans that were there at the beginning of earache and who made your label what it is today From:

Answer: OK dude you can rest easy because Intense Degree is now available to download from iTunes. See HERE. The one time CD reissue (first time on CD actually) was available from Disk Union in Japan, and is still available I think. Original vinyl is long gone though I'm afraid. You are talking about a record released in 1988 which had very few sales and the band soon disbanded, so ebay prices are hefty.But the download is available right now on iTunes.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Napalm Death 'tributes' to Swans and Repulsion.

Question: You mentioned in a recent post how Napalm Death used the Repulsion intro of "Stench of Burning Death" in their own "Deceiver" in one of the Peel Sessions. Also, I noticed how the Peel Sessions version of Multinational Corporations is built on top of the riff for Swans' Half Life. I know Shane has mentioned that he was very into Swans' Cop album during this time, so my question is: What other hidden gems among the early Napalm Death catalog are there that play like mini-tributes to other bands/influences? Thanks, Dig! From:

Answer: Yes well spotted dude! The band did indeed play a few seconds of SWANS 'Half Life' as an intro to their song 'Multinational Corporations' for the recording of a John Peel session. As well as 'Repulsion' intro to 'Deceiver'.

At early Napalm Death shows you could often hear drummer Mick Harris directing the set list to the other members in front of him- he'd be yelling "Lets do Repulsion intro " or "Lets do it with the Swans intro, how chuffed" etc . It was a bit of a trademark, and was to pay homage to bands which influenced them and the intention was to make those bands more widely known to their fanbase. Those two intros had become a standard part of the Napalm Death live set by the time they recorded the Peel sessions. Shane Embury was I think the member who was most into SWANS- he'd wear the T-shirt in photo-shoots to emphasise the point. Per Thunell, singer of early swedish Earache act Filthy Christians wore a Swans shirt on the back of their album aswell.

Napalm Death members were fanatical fans and followers of all music which was extreme and 'out there'- listening to Swans nowadays might not seem like anything much, but in late 80's seeing Swans live was a punishing experience, they always had a super loud on stage set up.Live it was just a constant pummeling with churning, gruelling low- bass tones and stomach-churning sampled passages, plus the tortured moans of vocalist Michael Gira. It was extremely heavy and radical music, thats why Napalm Death members - mostly Mick and Shane- loved it.

The nearest Napalm Death came to doing a full-on slow, churning Swans type effort of their own, was a song called The Curse which appeared on a free 7inch with FETO album. This was a slow Swans-type churning number with heavy samples, i think it was the first time the band had access to a sampler in the studio. A better example is probably 'Internal Animosity' which featured Lee Dorrian on vocals, and might have been one of his last contributions- this song remained unreleased for a long time. The title of the song hints at the troubles within the band- Lee and Bill quit in summer 1989 after a Japanese tour with SOB. The track eventually appeared on a comp CD called Rareache, which -unsuprisingly- is a collection of many of the rare tracks from Earache's vaults.

Napalm Death didn't really do any more blatant covers or tributes in their songs but avid riff-watchers can hear elements of Discharge, Repulsion, Massacre and SOB in much of the Napalm Death material. Little known by fans is just how much of an influence the Japanese sloppy-77-style punkers The Swankys had, especially on drummer Mick Harris. Their cock-sure, stomping punk style was his fave for a quite a while. Swankys members also played in more speedy chaotic HC punk band Gai.

In recent years Napalm Death decided to pay homage to their heroes by recording albums of cover songs which have influenced the band. These have been called "Leaders not Followers" and packed with covers of Seige, Larm, Anti-Cimex etc.

Heres GAI:

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Various Artists - HELLSPAWN (1998). Extreme Metal met Extreme Techno for the first time.

Question: Hi Dig,
I was checking out some old posts on your blog (a very good read - as always) about Pitchshifter, Godflesh and the whole late '90s punk/metal/techno/dnb crossover thing and it reminded me of the Hellspawn CD that you guys put out in '98. It was awesome! The Brutal Truth vs Freak track is just incredible.
How did the whole project come about? Did you regard it as a commercial and creative success? Can you remember what the bands thought of the results? How do you feel it compares to the Spawn soundtrack?
Cheers! From:

Answer: Looking back 12 years, the compilation Earache did in 1998 - where our extreme metal bands were remixed by extreme techno producers, well, it certainly seemed to me to be like a cutting edge project for the label to be involved in, but turns out it threw a sonic curveball which perplexed the majority of the label's diehard fans.

The name itself was a play on the 'Spawn' soundtrack, which saw mainstream rock and techno artists collaborate as a one-off for a major motion picture the year before. I tried to evoke a more "hellish" Spawn, as the remixes were way more extreme and uptempo. The artwork of our Hellspawn was created by Mark Craven (artist of Morbid Angel's Abominations of Desolation CD which contains the Hellspawn track).The brief was do a mash-up, ie combine elements of the techno style - Computer generated, 3D renderings- with metal imagery. Hence skeletons appear to be 'rave dancing' and the main image is a winged skull.If you look closely the skull is yellowy and has a bit of the iconic rave 'Smiley face' in it too.

To be honest, I don't think our compilation was anything other than a complete disaster, neither the metal fans or techno fans embraced it, in fact the purists on both sides actively shunned it. Like a two-headed baby preserved in a jar, nowadays it simply serves as a mid-to-late 90's curio, a relic of a moment in time when the very notion that metal and techno could mix seemed a possibility.

Away from the grind/death metal my label was famous for, from 1991 onwards some of the first techno records had started to enter my collection.I found them fascinating and because they were 100% digital productions, they just seemed much louder and more powerful than the tinny analogue rock CDs of the time.

I recall visiting the Warp records shop in Sheffield, I made the trip to see for myself what the scene was all about. I stood transfixed as the sound of LFO was being played on the shop stereo, the booming bass-lines were so extreme, LFO's debut single was an instant purchase.I remember playing LFO's 'Track 4' to the Earache staffers urging em to "check the heavy bass out on this" to be met with quizzical looks. Another fave early techno release of mine was Germany's Hardfloor. Their 'Acperience' EP (1992) is still the definition of "banging" even today.

Techno quickly became a major cultural force, and it affected everything. By 1992, raves had become the new underground and many of the 80's-era anarcho-punkers had swapped dreadlocks and politics for buzz-cuts and Technics. Colin Jerwood of Conflict spent most of the nineties organising techno events. The death metal scene had some members go AWOL too - Karl Willets, singer of Bolt Thrower - quit the group and spent almost a decade immersed in DJ/Drum n Bass culture instead, before his eventual return to the Brummie grind fold.

It wasn't just happening in the UK either- after daytime meetings in NYC, myself and Jim Welch, who was Earache's first USA label manager, would always go check out bands of an evening. One night we went to see Disassociate at some lower east side club- about 10 kids showed up, which was pretty piss-poor, given they were a decent grind/punk band. Then afterwards, the only place to hang out would be the semi-legal raves which often took place under the radar in a midtown werehouse somewhere. On arrival I'd see that hundreds of kids would be going nuts to banging techno and jungle. It was obvious that this was where the energy was, it was a youthful and vibrant scene.However, being straight edge at the time, and never a partaker in drugs, I had no clue that the "energy' was infact, all drug-fueled.

Rick Rubin was also hanging out at the same NYC raves - Rick soon formed a sub label of American Recordings called Wht Lbl (White Label) to release some of the new-fangled techno acts like UK's Messiah. It was not a great success.

During the 90's Techno and Jungle did strike a chord with the Earache's more open-minded metal artists though- bands like Godflesh and Pitchshifter would embrace the remix and DJ culture on their mid-late 90's albums, and found a certain level of fame from doing so.

A few years later in the USA a producer called Dieselboy would DJ drum n bass and would often add Metal riffs or vocals into his mixes, they became his trademark.

In 2006 US grinders Agoraphobic Nosebleed resurrected the idea and released a disc of weird and technoise remixes on Hydrahead Records called PCP Tornado/AnBRX which was hailed as innovative and groundbreaking.

Fast forward to the present day, and Deiselboy is keeping the Metal meets Techno dream alive in 2010, with his MONSTERS OF JUNGLE tour across the USA expected to pull in huge crowds.


For me personally, nowadays the Techno scene holds no interest.I find it culturally redundant, and creatively it is lagging way behind the most innovative rock music. The same technological breakthroughs (sampling, sequencing software) which spawned the genre 20 years ago have now become it's main limiting factor, in my view.