Saturday, October 20, 2012

Who are the nicest & worst ' Rock Stars' Earache has worked with?

Question: Who has been the nicest person (band wise) youve worked with and who has been the biggest \'rockstar\'? From:

Answer: Blimey-- what kind of a question is that? Is nothing sacred? Over the years I've worked with all types of musicians here- all were signed because they made great music, but that doesn't mean they had the friendliest of personalities. Because we sign brand new bands early on,  many were naive, some were foolish, a few were borderline insane. Do you want me to name the names? Ok read on...

Nearly all bands are nice to their fans,because they won't last long if they don't even grasp that basic fact. If you mean nice to work with as their label boss, well, having worked with musicians on a daily basis for 20+ years, I can tell you they are certainly no angels, that goes for all highly creative people actually.

Many of Earache's artists have been incredibly driven and ambitious people, I guess that's why we signed them in the first place. Many of the early musicians on the label had their upbringing in the 80s DIY hardcore punk scene (as I did) so when the grindcore scene took off, conflicts of opinion would arise on a daily basis, because success was so unexpected and dealing with the stresses caused a lot of headaches all around. Creativity certainly does come with a certain psychological 'darkside' and I've seen my fair share of it.

Nicest would be Tomas Lindberg, Jason Mendonca, Trey Azagthoth, Johannes Persson, Johnny Violent, Gizz Butt and Ol Drake - all are highly intelligent, level headed people, who have the friendliest of personalities. From our label point of view they caused us hardly any headaches or drama.If any problems arose, they would address them in a mature manner and had enough empathy to understand the label's concerns, so we'd work together to resolve any issues to each person's satisfaction, without drama or stress. They were and continue to be, an absolute pleasure to work with.

People might assume Glen Benton would be a handful to work with, he was on this label for 3 albums until recently, he even had a year when he 'retired' from the biz due to a matrimonial dispute, which made it hella tricky to promote their last Earache album. I'd describe him as unconventional in his approach and unpredictable, but also a highly astute fellow who knows what he wants and how to achieve it.He was never openly tryannical towards this label (he might yet be in the future, who knows?). Over the years Glen did burn a lot of bridges with promotors and agents by cancelling tours, but his reasons were always genuine, and luckily for him Deicide fans are a forgiving bunch.

It's probably easier to mention which were the most naive bands we've worked with, rather than "rock star-ish", not many musicians choose Death Metal, Thrash or Grindcore if Rock stardom is their aim, quite frankly. Earache traditionally works with new, up and coming musicians on this label, many of which can be very naive. We mostly sign bands early in their development,and have noticed the level of knowledge about how the 'traditional' music biz actually works has decreased dramatically in recent years, as bands are using gigs, sponsorship, touring and YouTube and Facebook instead of 'Ye tallye of ye olde CDs solde in record shoppes' system, in order to drive their popularity with fans.

When doing our 2007 Thrash compilation we actually had to explain to Decadence's singer Kitty Saric why making Cds and putting them in the record stores was actually important for their career, because it simply wasn't how she saw things. From her viewpoint, it was all about MySpace (this was 2007 -how quaint)  and its free streaming of music, and playing the big summer festivals which mattered, not the traditional CDs in shops, and up to a point she was correct. Its one of the reasons we passed on signing that band, and they are not the only band who think 'local and social', instead of the Traditional Music Biz "big picture".

Another naive act was Clutch- In the 90's we were the first proper label to work with Clutch, who were a quirky Philly Hardcore band back then- we had to actually explain why they needed a producer during the recording process.They did not figure how anyone outside of the group itself could ever contribute anything to benefit the recording or the songs.We persuaded them that an outside voice and opinion at the control desk will boost the performance of the songs, and the overall recording would undoubtedly benefit. It was breaking news to them. It's totally standard to appoint a producer for an important recording, but Clutch didn't get the concept when they were starting out, and stood firmly against it.

Mortiis was mostly a pleasure to work with during his time on Earache, but surely takes the prize as our most naive artist ever. After leaving Emperor he became a solo artist and was one of the most creative guys I've had the pleasure to work with. When he delivered his Smell of Rain album, which he'd worked on solo for many months in his home studio, he instructed us to manufacture the retail CDs only from the master he sent and to not alter the sound in any way. It sounded dull and low in volume to our ears, but we did not argue, and released it as it was.

A year or two later he admitted it was un-mastered as he wasn't aware such a technique existed. Mastering is a standard part of the record-making process, which boosts the sound of the recordings after mixing and prior to going to the plant for replication- its what makes them loud and pleasing to listen to on all systems. He was unaware it was even necessary, and for a few years the album was sold as a dull sounding and low volume disc. Many years later Mortiis did eventually master the CD, once he got the right software, and understood the concept. The new version of 'The Smell Of Rain' had remixes added aswell.

By far the worst people we have dealt with were the highly poisonous band managers which were appointed during the labels heyday. We have had in total 15 bands go on from this label to Major label deals, but during the early 90s Earache had 7 bands tied up in a convoluted label license deal with Sony in America. The heady scent of high finance and big money deals made the formerly cooperative bands declare open warfare on Earache - I guess mainly because it was Earache which did the 'big money' deals on their behalf (as my label owned the recording rights), and not them or their managers.

This fact caused raw, open resentment which in many cases lasts to this day. Totally unexpectedly, 'Extreme metal' got very popular very fast, and within the major music biz the Earache bands were expected to form the next wave of platinum Rock acts. This caused the strangest bunch of folks to literally show up on our doorstep from nowhere, claiming to represent the bands, and duly expecting their piece of the anticipated financial bonanza, even though they'd played zero part in creating the scene up to that point. It's a funny old biz.

Entombed's merch guy at the time was selling their swag on tour one minute, and the next minute became their manager- immediately demanding the label only communicate to the band via him and by lawyers letters, which was a ridiculous state of affairs, and soured the amazing relationship we had going with them. He thought - like they all do- that managing a fast-rising band was the equivalent of a  lottery-win. A bloke who was only fit for standing in a club's dark corner selling T-shirts a month beforehand, demanded $2,000,000 in advances for Entombed's albums going forward. This really happened.

The experience left all parties a little bit crazy and bitter. To this day, we have several vindictive ex-artists who's ire stems from this explosive period in their history.The financial stakes were high and emotions ran deep. The failure to match expectations hit everyone hard - fanbases seemingly evaporated overnight, forcing many high profile acts to retire/break up and have no choice but to sit things out on the sidelines for over a decade, as other forms of more commercial metal took over, dominating the charts. Once extreme metal came back into favour, most of the bands re-activated themselves to take advantage of the thriving festival circuit, topping the billing almost 2 decades after their heyday. Well it seems they didn't have too shabby a career after all.

Thinking about it- yes, we did have one blatant wannabe rock star on this label, the arrogant, bullshitting, ego-on-legs by the name of J.S "Seth" Clayden of Pitch Shifter. That dude takes the honor of being the biggest twat and most ungrateful musician I've ever worked with. His managers- yes he employed two of them, a husband and wife team - became desperate to move the band away from Earache to score a lucrative major label deal instead, stirring trouble on a daily basis to sour the deal. It was actually a blessed relief when the band were told they could leave Earache and inked with Geffen.

Ralph Santolla would fit that description too, the way he was hired and fired from Deicide by Glen but would routinely blame the label for his woes was particularly galling, as we never even hired him, or fired him, in the first place, but received all the backlash.

I've never had a pleasant time dealing with Napalm Death's  Mark "Barney" Greenway. We supported him and his band for over a decade, investing eye-wateringly huge sums of money into his career. It's quite possible he was never even aware of this fact, as his bumbling manager Mark Walmesley dealt with everything for him - including all his financial affairs I suspect- on a daily basis.

The basic problem stems from the fact Barney was not involved with the explosive first 2 albums by Napalm Death so he completely missed out on the feel-good factor which came from a brand new band and label both blasting-off from obscurity. He had no reason for any goodwill towards me or Earache because he walked into an already successful band. Likewise I never actively chose to sign the dude, he was the bands roadie,  he was the Benediction singer, suddenly drafted into the role of singer of a successful band,  and was obligated to sign into an existing contract, not one of his choosing.

Barney did willingly ink deals with Earache twice more in the 90s though. The band's slow gradual loss of fanbase during their groove-grind phase could have proved fatal, but Earache worked tirelessly behind the scenes to prevent Napalm Death splitting, quiting or becoming a totally spent force- for very little gratitude I might add. Even Barney himself jumped ship from Napalm to join ENT at one point. It was not a happy camp during those latter Earache years. His enmity to Earache is legendary and grudges are held, for the most trivial of reasons, for an inordinate length of time.

I never much got on much with Peter Dolving (The Haunted) either- he is just a crazy personality, who speaks his mind first, and thinks later. Again, the reason for the ire is basically because Earache never actively chose to sign the dude, and he never actively chose to sign with us either, in fact he absolutely opposed it. Like Barney, Peter walked into and sort of 'inherited' the ongoing At The Gates contract after their split to form the Haunted, so its fair to say, because we never actively chose to work with each other, I never saw eye-to-eye with the bloke.

During Dolving's first stint in the band, he once urged the crowd at a London Haunted gig I was attending to kick my ass. Luckily for me, they didn't act out his on-stage instructions. When I later directly called the dude out on his threats, instead of an apology he got his manager to report me to the Swedish police for threatening behaviour. The spat even made the Swedish newspapers for a time. It made for a good promotional stunt for a few weeks I suppose.

Over the years our most harrowing nightmare band experiences were all sadly with one individual - namely- "Mad" Mick Harris during his Napalm Death era. He was the driving force of the band without which they would never have succeeded. the bloke is a force of nature on the drums, and a whirlwind-tornado-minefield-detonation-whole-heap-of-trouble off it too.

Not arrogant in any Rock Star way,  he simply went into enormously destructive child-like tantrums  instantly if things didn't go to his liking. Mick smashed up stuff routinely, especially anything technological. If it didn't work, it was ceremoniously smashed to pieces. The UK's M1 Motorway during the 90's was littered with Mick's damaged goods. Sony Walkmans, ampilfiers, and guitars would be flung out of the window at 80 mph on a regular basis.

Mick once famously smashed up our Earache office fax machine, which was a high tech bit of kit back then, we were too poor to afford a replacement for months. It served as a daily reminder of the power of Mick Harris' wrath for years afterwards.

Nowadays recording as Scorn, Mick is actually a pleasure to deal with, he's calmed down a lot, so we can see the funny side of his past behaviour now.