Friday, May 28, 2010

BLOG POST: Lightning Bolt and other bass-guitar-driven bands.

Question: do you think its possible the guitar is an over used instrument in rock music? by that i mean its now become the convention. do you see it as a possibility that band that use the bass as the main instrument eg lightning bolt, death from above 1979(when they were around), exit international and palehorse are actually reshaping rock music because they are using a different instrument as the lead or is it possible thease bands are being seen as gimmick bands. im curious as to your opinion on this its just 90 percent of bands seem to have the guitar/bass/drums line up and im wondering is there is room for going from that whilst still being taken seriously? From:

Answer: When it comes to bass-lines versus riffs, riffs win every time for me dude.But I agree it pretty cool to listen to bands with a different slant from time to time.This group of bands you mention, well I've never really seen them as connected or as being part of a common scene, just because they choose to have bass-guitar as lead instrument, but I take your point about how it breaks the convention of the traditional drums/bass/guitar/vocals set up.The reason the conventional set up is so successful is because it offers the full palette of sonic frequencies, in my opinion, it just "works".

From the 70's onwards,the dub and reggae scenes have had bass-lines taking the lead and some of the biggest post-punk rock bands at that time also built their songs around bass-lines - undoubtedly by taking major influence from the dub scene- the guitar was somehow relegated to the role of providing flourishes or fragments of noise instead of riffs. Bands like Talking Heads, Killing Joke spring to mind. Public Image Limited might well have been the first to spearhead this singleminded fixation on basslines, because at the time John Lydon often proclaimed Dub was his main influence, after Sex Pistols folded.

Nowadays of course the bands you mention have ditched the guitar all together.For me personally its an interesting diversion to listen to them for a while, so cheers for the cool question!

Here's Lightning Bolt- 2morro Morro land. Watch the amazing drummer - he's just killing it on the kit.Awesome display.

Public Image Limited- Careering

I remember London's Palehorse well, because we had a connection to their label. I saw them many times as they were constantly supporting every band in the UK between 2002-5 or so. With two bassists going at it, they were pretty heavy, but it was more a dirge than anything memorable. In 2003 they had an album out "Gee That Ain't Swell" on UK indie Dry Run Recordings which was the label run by Earache's former sales manager Raffi Ouzounian. Raffi was the biggest Godflesh fan around, and compiled their best-of set "In All Languages' for Earache. His label also released the first post-Godflesh material from Justin Broadrick, Jesu's 'Heartache'.

Palehorse Live in London:

BLOG POST: How to clear movie samples used in Music/Video

Question: Since its argubly the most iconic video earache ever made, how easy was getting the footage and audio samples of the 1968 occult horror classic witchfinder general for the cathedral song/video? was it quite hard being as ive read before of how you've asked bands to remove samples of records before eg entombed because of trouble clearing them. From:

Answer: Cathedral got lucky because the UK film industry is more or less a cottage industry when compared to the behemoth that is Hollywood, so dealing with UK companies for clearance and permissions can often be relatively simple.By contrast, dealing with the Hollywood blockbuster movie studios is a nightmare to clear anything. Even seemingly obscure B-movies are a legal minefield of copyrights, and actors rights, directors rights, its simply too costly and troublesome to obtain permissions.

Most of the time, the only way major movie action appears in bands' video clips is when they happen to be signed to a major record company which also has affiliation to a major Movie studio. Sony records and Sony pictures, or Universal records and Universal Studios for instance. It's common for a movie studio to use material from an album by the affiliate label to promote each others projects.This synergy explains how Hatebreed's music ended up with Punisher War Zone movie

The distinctive voice dialogue of actor Vincent Price which Cathedral used in the song was lifted from the Hammer Horror (CORRECTION: Tigon Film's) flick 'Witchfinder General' from 1968. It was left up to the label to make the calls and obtain clearance, and rather suprisingly to us, the copyrights were at the time still in hands of mid-sized British entrepreneurs, who were happy to co-operate with the label on the Cathedral album and video, for a small fee. They were kind enough to supply a pristine copy of the movie for the director to incoporate into the clip. I guess its down to the fact that even recognised giants of UK cinema- actors and films which are household names here - haven't actually been huge money-spinners around the globbe and so are not repped by teams of highly paid and dubious lawyers.Polite requests to UK film companies are treated pretty favourably.

We had similar luck with dialogue samples from the legendary 70's UK movie "Scum" which was used on the debut SSS album.On payment of a small fee, it was cleared.

Heres Cathedral- Hopkins - The Witchfinder General (1993) clip, Directed by Nigel Wingrove of UK horror specialist Redemption Films, and featuring vampire/horror cult actress Eileen Daly. Budget approx £25,000.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Blog Post: LOST SOUL, when good bands go great...

Question: Have you ever let a band go from the label and then thought "oh shit maybe that was a bad idea"? Main example I can give as it was the last record i bought was lost soul. For me an amazing polish band superior to decapitated in some ways, I was listening to their newest album and for some reason I had the nagging feeling in my head "why the fuck doesnt this have a mosh number attached to it!". From:

Answer: Luckily for us, it doesn't happen too often. There aren't too many bands we have let go from Earache, only to see them thrive and succeed on another label, so mostly we are confident in our decisions. Dub War spring to mind- we let them go after 2 albums,then three quarters of the members regrouped 3-4 years later as Skindred, and instantly scored a high profile management deal, then a major record deal, got on US radio, then promptly sold 200,000 records on their debut, playing a similar style. We didn't feel like egg was on our face, we actually were chuffed for them.

Yes, Lost Soul are amazing, they seem to have evolved from being a straight-up Morbid Angel type of band to some kind of cosmic hyperspeed Death Metal band. We signed them to Wicked World/Earache for 2005's Chaostream album, and had high hopes they could follow in Decapitated's footsteps, as the band were undoubtedly very talented, and on the live shows we saw, they were just outstanding, on a par with many bigger bands, but even though they had everything going for them, and even toured Europe a little bit, for some reason nothing much happened for them sales wise. The music industry at the highest level still rates bands in a pecking order based on how many albums they have sold, so Lost Soul's poor sales meant it was inevitable they'd be dropped from the sub-label.

Bands can go from average to devastating in as little as 3 months, and this magical creative boost can strike at anytime, and for any reason. For Lost Soul it just took 5 years.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Enmity between Napalm Death & Fudge Tunnel back in the day?

Question: Dig, Your probably could have guessed this was coming since the latest issue of terrorizer went to press. Alex Newport said and due to the controversial nature of the quote i will write it in full " We were never really part of that grindcore scene, I remember Napalm Death asking earache to drop us, saying that if the didnt they'd leave, they were offended because we werent a "true metal" band, We're like yeah we arnt a metal band at all you brummie dipshits!" Im curious is this true? as they are quite serious accusations im wondering if you could clear the story up a bit of what went on. From:

Answer: Yeah I read that feature on Fudge Tunnel's 'Creep Diets' album and the most suprising thing to me is that Terrorizer featured Fudge Tunnel at all, because the band's music has not really aged that well, the only mentions I get are from readers of this blog, we never get asked for their CDs from retailers for instance.

Terrorizer, as per usual, went digging for dirt by asking their standard leading question which all our old bands get asked: "How horrible was it for you, being on Earache back in the day?" or some such nonsense, so it was pretty refreshing to read Alex Newport actually give an honest, even-handed, you could call it mature, appraisal for once. Alex speaks frankly about the bands woes, and blames the bands own shortcomings as the reason for their split.

Back to the question- one thing the feature does highlight is that not all the Earache bands back in the day were one big happy grindcore/death metal family. Far from it, there were rivalries and factions, outbreaks of double dealing and clashes going on all over the place, which for the most part have remained unreported, despite the couple of books and numerous magazine articles written about the early extreme music scene,the real cloak-and-dagger stuff remains untold.

I could tell you stuff that would make your hair curl - examples of hypocrisy, dirty tricks, and underhand dealings which would shatter most fans' long held beliefs about some of the leading grindcore bands. Stuff they've done which quite simply mocks their own lyrics and contradicts their pronouncements to the press, and undermines the lofty banner under which some of the bands ply their trade.

It's not in my interest to expose any band because most of their back catalogue remains on Earache, and to do so would be pretty dumb of me. Anyway its mostly just examples of human frailty, or ego-driven ambition - common stuff which can and does affect anyone,really.

Earache became involved with Fudge Tunnel because of a few lucky events. Earache's in-house art guy Johnny Barry became Label Manager, and his personal tastes were far from the Death Metal/Grindcore the label was known for. Johnny had been in a local Hardcore band called Filler, and so his network of contacts were definately more on the hardcore side than metal. Johnny was - and still is I think- Fugazi's UK booking agent.

Johnny steered Earache in a more HC direction for a while. His best buddies in the local Nottingham scene were an up and coming trio called Fudge Tunnel who were making serious waves whenever they played in London with the then-very-hip Sub-Pop/ Amp-Rep scenesters. The band had a 7inch out on the Pigboy label, which was operated from above the legendary Portobello Road record shop 'Vinyl Solution' which back then was home to the UK's leading HC band, The Stupids.Nowadays its the location of the platinum-selling Visible Noise label.

By early 90's I'd become keen for the label to branch out a bit from the Grindcore/Death metal scene, Helmet's "Strap It On" album was a fave of mine at that time, so it seemed logical to snap up the buzzworthy locals Fudge Tunnel to the label.

The signing did cause some friction- from memory, it was Fudge Tunnel who were more antagonistic to Napalm Death than vice-versa - Alex, Dave and Adrian just weren't impressed with Repulsion or chuffed with Napalm Death's music. In truth they were typical Indie-Rockers, influenced by bands which were deemed cool by their peers- Big Black, Helmet and Nirvana.Its fair to say, Fudge Tunnel pretty much looked down on the underground extreme metal scene which Earache was spearheading, and for some of those bands in that scene, the hostility was mutual.

Fudge Tunnel were the ones who insisted that Earache give them a different label identity so they weren't lumped in with the DM bands. It was a sensible request, given the narrow minded tastes of most grind/Death Metallers,and come to think of it, most Indie-Rockers are equally as narrow-minded, so Earache changed its own logo into a slicker 50s era style to appease them.

The irony of course is that Alex Newport's first proper European tour for Fudge Tunnel was with Brazilian metallers Sepultura, this was where he met and ended up marrying one of Gloria Cavalera's daughters. Being part of the Cavalera family spurred his relocation to the USA and being part of the successful Nailbomb project for Roadrunner.It was undoubtedly a metal band, but I assume the more punky aspects of the group was mostly Alex's input.

Alex nowadays is a successful producer- his claim to fame is the recording of System Of A Down's first demo which led to their signing to Rick Rubin's American Recordings.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Decapitated's decision to carry on is perfectly understandable.

Question: I was wondering what you think about Vogg's decision to carry on with Decapitated after the death of his brother Vitek, recruiting an entirely new lineup in the process.
Are the band still contracted to Earache? If a new album is in the works, will you be releasing it? Prior to the accident, the band were undoubtedly a leading force in death metal in recent years. Do you think the quality and spirit of Decapitated can be upheld with just one remaining original member? From:

Answer: Personally, I think it is perfectly reasonable for Vogg to recruit new members and carry on with his band in 2009, after the tragic death of his brother/drummer Vitek and the fact that singer Covan is still slowly recovering from major head trauma sustained in Decapitated's horrific tour bus crash while on tour in November 2007.

Your question almost presumes that the band lost all the members through normal circumstances, be it musical differences or whatever, when in fact Decapitated suffered a tragic accident which decimated the band.The circumstances behind the new line up are not trivial. Undoubtedly, Vogg's motivation is 100% pure and contains an element of "carrying on" in the face of adversity. The new line up of Decapitated is also a way to pay tribute to the fallen Vitek, and recovering Covan.

Decapitated lost a member before -in 2005 original vocalist Sauron chose to quit Decapitated to persue other musical interests -he formed a punky/jokey/goregrind band. Covan was quickly recruited as Sauron's replacement and the band carried on.

A quick history lesson: Earache/Wicked World signed the band in 1999 and recorded 4 albums by Decapitated from 1999-2006, during which time we are proud to say the band went from teenage Polish newbies to one of the world leaders of the technical Death metal scene.By summer 2007 the band had reached the end of their contract with us, and despite our best efforts to re-sign the band, they and the management chose to ink instead with European powerhouse Nuclear Blast.

So from the summer of 2007 onwards, the signing of the bands lucrative new deal with Nuclear Blast meant we became quite estranged from Decapitated, through no fault of our own, and we certainly weren't involved in any of their career plans from that point on. One consequence of the Nuclear Blast signing was that original bassist Martin suddenly quit the group and relocated to a new life in California. Martin was not present on the tour bus during the accident.

When the tragedy struck, it was deep into Eastern Europe in Belarus near the small town of Gomel, the tour bus was taking the band to that nights concert when it crashed head on at speed into a lorry heavily laden with lumber. The bus was completely destroyed, members of support band Crionics also suffered many broken bones, yet by sheer fate Decapitated guitarist Vogg escaped with pretty minor injuries. News took a few days to filter back to us, so we held an ebay auction to donate money to the emergency Vitek fund. Vitek passed away a couple of days after the crash and Covan was for a long while in a coma.

In the couple of years since the accident, Vogg helped out on the road with fellow Poles Vader and was also, we hear, offered the rhythm guitarist job in Morbid Angel, which he turned down.

If Vogg/Decapitated does decide to record any new material it will be for Nuclear Blast, and even if its brand new line up, I for one would applaud such a move, as it would prove that the band's spirit can triumph over tragic circumstances.

Here's Decapitated live show in Nottingham, December 2004 with Sauron:

Decapitated - Live @ Rescue Rooms 2004 - Full Live Show on

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Record labels don't decide where bands tour, Tour Agents do.

Question: I have two questions really, not very related, but relevant none the less. First, I've noticed that on every tour I've been to, the bands playing are rarely all on the same label. Just recently this struck a chord, who decides what bands go on a tour, and do labels ever have any say whether or not their band goes out or is it the band's decision?

Secondly, I'm in a death metal band called Hadean Reign and we write an ABUNDANCE of songs. I've read lots of interviews with bands getting ready for an album and they'll say things like, "we already have 34 songs written," and stuff like that. My question is, when signing a band what are labels looking for in terms of album writing frequency? Do you want a band to be able to write 30 songs and put an album out every year or two, or do you prefer them to sit and gain momentum on tour and take time with material? From:

Answer: Record labels traditionally sign bands up to a 'Recording Agreement' which governs the releasing of material to the public on recorded formats- CD, LP, Digital etc- and collecting the money from record shops, legal download sites etc. Very often the live performances of the act is not covered in such a deal because performing live is a seperate type of business, which has specialist types of companies called Touring Agents who deal with it.

For some reason the whole Touring Agent side of the business is less well known to the general public, mainly because the Touring Agencies do not spend as much time promoting themselves as the record labels do, The agencies tend to stay in the background quietly planning the live appearances and tours of the bands they represent.

Much like labels have a roster of acts, most of the bigger Touring Agencies boast a roster of performers too. Some of the biggest examples are CAA who boast AC/DC, Green Day and Radiohead on their books, William Morris Agency with Lady Gaga, Slash and Prince. Their are agencies who specialise in Rock and Metal like The Agency who rep Muse, Paramore and Trivium.

Agencies are typically the ones who negotiate the live performance fees for a show by the acts they rep, and in recent years the live touring circuit has assumed a huge level of importance for bands- just as the importance of record labels has declined due to less people actually buying music, and rampant illegal downloading. Agents negotiate the fee with the concert promotor who is the one putting on the gig, selling the tickets and taking the gamble.

In many ways, its now arguable that a knowledgable, dedicated touring agent who works hard for a band is more key than having a record label on board, but it must be noted that rarely do agents actually finance and fund the touring, they just supply a list of clubs and dates they booked for you, then its up to the band to finance the tour, so its not ideal for new unknown bands. To provide the finance to meet the huge costs of touring, you'll need an old-fashioned record company, as Agencies - like typical middlemen- rarely take risks with their own money. So bizarrely, Record labels aren't dead yet as we have had to reinvented ourselves as financiers of tours.

Touring packages most often include bands from the same Agency, its common for a headline act to take out newbie bands who recently signed to the same agent, as a stepping stone to a live career, and record labels hardly ever have a say in this process. This is why bands on the same label don't tour together much.

The last 10 years or so has seen an even bigger change in the touring landscape though. The rise of the super-promotors like Live Nation which have grown to become massive companies involved in the touring business.Live Nation has a financial turnover which dwarfs even the biggest Agency.

Live Nation grew out of a chain of US radio stations and its advertising business to eventually controlling numerous live venues and stadiums in the USA.Used to taking gsmbles and coming out on top, Live Nation turned the traditional record business on its head by signing Madonna for a reported $100 Million advance to cover her touring and recording for a number of years. Live Nation run the successful Download metal festival in the UK and numerous high profile events.

On the subject of number of songs recorded for an album, its a proven fact that the more songs a band has written and ready, the better the resulting album with be. Like most jobs, but especially in the creative songwriting process, the more you practise it, the better you get. You'd be surprised how many famous bands struggle to write material, many trivial things can disturb the writing process, but pressure to produce a follow-up after a big selling debut album often results in the dreaded "second album syndrome".

I think I read recently about ex-Earache band The Haunted had something like 40 new songs written and ready for a new album, which is remarkable as when they recorded for us, like most bands, it was more like 9 or 10 maximum. 40 potential new songs means the new album will be amazing.

Being prolific in the songwriting dept is brilliant and is exactly what labels are looking for.Prolific bands who can write under pressure are like gold-dust.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Why do labels release split-LP, split-7 inch etc

Question: In my few years of experience with Grindcore, I have noticed that many releases by bands are often split releases, after a quick bit of research, to my knowledge earache has only released 5 splits. Is there any particular reason why split releases are infrequent under Earache?
Alex Layzell From:

Answer: My second release as a label was a split LP- HERESY/ CONCRETE SOX, and you are right, a lot of grindcore bands early output on other labels was often released as a split. The reason is mostly financial, and the fact that most grindcore bands songs are short, so when times are tight, as it always is with upstart labels, it would seem almost like a shameful wasteful use of resources to release say 8 songs by Heresy, total time 15 minutes, on a long player vinyl which can hold 45 minutes of music. The clever idea would be to look around for a compatible band to share the available space with. This would require bands to be community minded and not competitive. Luckily Heresy and the Sox were good buddies at that time, so it was easy to put together.

During the era of grindcore's first wave, costs of recording were astronomical, because it was the analog tape era, brand new Ampex multitrack tapes cost £200 each, which allowed a maximum of 15 minutes of recording time. Many bands were restricted to this time limit for that reason. Recording an album of say the standard 45 minutes required £600 in tape costs alone, which was far beyond the reach of most new bands budget.

Earache's early releases sold a lot of copies which meant budgets were'nt so tight, meaning the later bands on the label were afforded the relative luxury of enough budget in order to create their own full length albums.

In later years bands would often team up for a split release if they were keen to be connected together due to a friendship or for the purpose of highlighting a fave band. The Napalm Death/ Coalesce split came about because Earache was gearing up to sign newcomers Coalesce (after a well received 7inch on our 'New Chapter' series sub-label) so we persuaded the always open-minded Napalm Death guys to help showcase this new Hardcore band for us by doing a split release with them.It was a massive boost to the newcomer band to be associated with, and get the seal of approval from the undisputed grindcore kings. As it worked out we declined to sign Coalesce because mainman Sean's successful painting and decorating business, which he owned and operated, meant he was unable to tour the band.

Earache's sublabel Necrosis followed the same idea with two newcomer Death metal bands on CD- Carnage and Cadaver were first released together on one CD disc, to save money and resources. As both their debut albums were relatively short, about 30 mins each, it seemed sensible to place them on one CD, which can hold 78 mins of music.

Outside of my label, in recent years I'm seeing the 4-way split LP getting more common as 4 bands team up and pool resources to create a long player vinyl. Nowadays its not the cost of recording which stumps bands, software now allows unlimited recording time for virtually zero costs, its the costs of making vinyl which is the stumbling block for many bands individually. A 1000 copies of even basic 12 inch wax can cost £2000 easily because it is a super-medieval process, wasteful in the extreme, and vinyl is in fact a big lump of a non-renewable petroleum product, and the price of oil is at an all-time high.