Apr 14, 2012

Endangered Species: A Interview Special With Some of Doom Metal's Leading Pushers Of The Mighty Riff ...

In this day and age where labels are falling by the wayside in favor of illegal downloads and downloads in general and with CD sales at a all-time low, it is now time to show your support for the people who bring all this great music to you, the listener. Of course we have to thank the bands first but the labels are also important. Many people question if we even need labels anymore seeing as any band can release an album on their own if they choose but there is still nothing like having a quality label by your side to help with promotion and sales. Aleks Evdokimov has gotten in touch with some of the best doom labels in the world for this monster interview special....Ed Barnard

"Independent labels take nothing and make something out of it. Major labels buy that something, and try to make more out of it." - Tom Silverman

We've prepared only 6 questions for few labels which specialization is doom or psychedelic  music - more or less.
1. First question is about label's foundation and motives which drived these honoured gentlemen to waste their money onto production of glittering CDs (and even vynils! and even audio tapes!) with records of heavy melodies. What were aims of these men as everyone know that such kind of music isn't mainstream? Let us see.
2. Question number two is about difficulties which modern undeground independed labels meet.
3. Next one is about principles and scales of label's work. How wide do these labels distribute their releases? How do they work with press?
4. Oh, it seems obvious but i asked them about other members of their crew. And answers are mostly predictable.
5. Yes, yes... This question has one simple answer, but why not? What are most significant records did your label release?
6. And the last question was about labels' plans and forthcoming releases.

Altshpere Production (France)
1. The label is born 8 years ago. The first idea was to release my own bands and side-projects in any genre. I always have a real Do It Yourself ethic and I've always thought waiting for people who dares to release your stuff is a waste of time. I'm a doer and I always look ahead. I released lots of cdr demo and tapes. Through the years I put a bigger investment of time and money into Altsphere. The label co-released some vinyls, and the cdr productions came out with pro-printed covers and booklets. As I've done lots of trade with others DIY, independant and underground labels, I fastly built a mailorder/distrolist. It's only in 2010 that I've decided to improve the structure and to become an individual company and to be more professional and to focus only on some subgenres. One of my first goal was to live from the label but I know it's close to be impossible nowadays.
CD has become the first format but vinyl is clearly in the firing for the day I will have the ways and means. This is my favorite stuff. I'm proud of what I've built as I do it alone and in the way I want, but, for sure, more feedbacks, more buyers, more support will be the best rewards. And it's actually really difficult to survive.
2.  There are many difficulties for indie labels. For example, in my personal case, in France, shipping fees are fuckin' expensive. But the first difficulty is to give the envy to people to listen then to buy indie unknown bands. Less and less people buy CDs, vinyls, tapes or demos. I don't say people buy digital music, they just download or share for free. They don't want to buy 10 bucks a CD they like but they often have no problem to eat at Mc Donald's or to give money to whatever big firm. And the rules is easy. If you don't sell, you cannot put money into new releases so you go into the wall. And when this is going too far, you even lose the faith in your work. It happened to me several time through the past. I remember when I was a teenager I read the pages of mailorder catalog and bought lots of tapes and demos only cause the genre was sludge, doom or thrash metal without having even heard one time the name of the band. Nowadays people who does that can be count on my hands. Another hard thing is to interest printed magazine or big radio/media as it often works along with the ad you buy. If you don't take ad, it's hard to get an interview in a printed mag. But, this is the deal, I don't teach you anything, this is the business game. But as the previous point, if you don't have enough money, you cannot work as well ans you want and offer the a bigger exposition to bands you defend.
3. I released about 75 tapes and cdr demos, 3 vinyls and 7 CDs I guess. The recent releases are I actually work with 2 official exclusive distributors which are Code7 Music through Plastic Head and Twilight Vertrieb. But I guess I gonna change around autumn as Twilight seems to be bankrupt soon. So I distribute my releases worldwide and I also still do trades and wholesales for some countries.
4. Me one.
5. The main recent days releases are ROTE MARE Serpents of the Church, SURTR, World of Doom, WIZARD'S BEARD Four tired undertakers, (DRAMA) Zastor Tisine and WOODEN STAKE / DRUID LORD split-7"EP. In the past and in other genres than doom metal, I was really proud to release or co-release THE DEAD MUSICIAN / ZARACH BAAL THARAGH Split-LP (black metal), STRONG AS TEN self-titled LP (thrash-hardcore/crossover), or EMMOS vol1 & vol2 Cdr (sludge thrash black punkish metal) for example.
6. Times are actually hard as money rules this shitty planet and game, so for the moment I've only planned to release SURTR Second album early 2013 and BRIGANTIA album when it will be ready. For now, I put all my time, money and forces to push doom/death metalheads(DRAMA) debut album and British sludge/doomsters WIZARD'S BEARD second album in the best way I can. Nothing else planned for the moment as time and money are missing a bit. Thanks for the interview, go to Altsphere.Com  to listen to samples, watchs videos, read some news about our bands and releases and, if you want to support this project, you know what you have to do.
Cheers & Be doomed!

ARX Productions (Ukraine)
Aleksey Bagaev
1. There were not special motives. I love music which I publish now. From rather early age I was the great admirer of heavy music. At one time I played in metal band also, and those times remained a bright spot in my life and left pleasant memories. The purpose which I took initially was promotion of heavy underground music, and the second one – to haven't losses for myself (concerning financial side), i.e. to have a zero at least. Both of purposes are reached now, the label is alive, and there are new releases. I think expectations are justified. You see that. Result is my releases.

2. The main problem is to sell the published CDs, because present time is the time of digital formats, physical items became the privilege of collectors only. Those who wants just to listen, they download music on the Internet. You must understand, if there is no refund – there are no new releases. Continuation of taking money from a pocket and storing tons of disks - it is very silly. It should be sold! Besides, sometimes I have some problems with factory.

3. One person only – I am. Well, my family passively supports me. It is very important also.

4. Principles are simple. To publish, to trade, to sell. And the new cycle begins... The new circle. The press in an underground – it is told too loudly. Yep, I send CDs to people who want to write the review. I mediate, if someone wants to interview my groups. I don't refuse with interview and in information to persons interested in.

5. All releases are important! First release - because it was first (Ancient Skeen - "Nobis Quoque Peccatoribus..."). Second (DOOM-ART.RU Compilation) has involved interest of more people to Arx. Third release (Ego Depths - "Equilibrium Sickness") – because it is band of my friend. Hexenmeister – very interesting post-black metal project of my good friend. It was first release, when really lots of people from different corners of Earth wanted to buy it or showed some other interest. Insaniae and A Dream of Poe are very interesting Portuguese bands, and I really can’t understand till now why any other major labels didn’t release them before me. They have given opportunity to Arx to grow up to next step of evolution. All other bands was signed in 2011 – 2012 are perfect bands with perfect albums. After releasing of Smohalla, Frailty, Harmony in Grotesque, From the Vastland, Landforge I have lost any complexes. A lot of positive reviews on last releases you can find at my website also.

6. I don’t know my future. Everything can happen. So I don’t plan a lot. But I can tell you that you will know about all my new releases if you will be interested in it first of all. Now I carry on negotiations with italian Bretus, ukrainian Mozergush and about upcoming 3-d album of Insaniae.

Arx Productions
Arx Prod @ Myspace

Endless Winter (Russia)
1. The idea to create the label arose, when I found out that many foreign authors are absolutely inaccessible on the local market, and there was a wish somehow to receive their albums. By then, I have already been familiar with some of those guys, mostly through MySpace, communicating via email, I have gotten some encouragement from them and voilà! And so all the things had began.

It is too early to speak about any accomplished result and I have released only ten albums so far. That aim, which I have mentioned above, is partially reached - some of authors previously little-known here became closer to Russian audience.  It is impossible to call the enclosed efforts excessive, the big role is played by financial side - the production is expensive and the feedback is weak thus far.

2. The main difficulty is the search for the listener and, respectively, the customer. Lots of listeners like what I am doing, but not that much to pay for it. It is very sad. Generally, the expenses during circulations are not covered now, so the main problem is financial side.

3. I am the only one on the label, but there are my non-staff assistants. Particularly, I have something like an art-council consisted from my fellow musicians, whom I trust.

4. My main  principle is behind the selection of interesting material followed by the set of stylistics. "Doom Metal" after all is very diverse, but I manage to stay within the style. However there are incomparably far from each other albums in my catalogue. And still it is doom, though, in different forms, from drone to gothic, other styles won't be. Work methods... well, everything is quite trivial, I have no something particular to tell.

5. Of course, all my works are valuable to me, but if it is necessary to particulate something, perhaps, I would mention two mysterious men whom I have found and suggested to be published. It is Jaime (Lethargy of Death) and Egregoir (Krief de Soli). Absolutely nobody were aware of them before I have found them and given a start. And I am very much proud of them, as they compose ingenious music, without any exaggeration. As funeral is my permanent and sole love. The second good luck which have dropped out to me, was acquaintance with the Chilean guys - comrade V, Juan Escobar and others, there is a big company of friends, very talented guys. Their creativity is well presented in my catalogue, and I hope, this tendency will remain constant during the future time. Although, there is no any evidence of heavy styles present, but all their songs are pleasant first of all to me.

6. What are the plans? I plan to continue in the same direction, nothing to add here. The work on several albums has been initiated and is in progress right now. All of them were announced in due time and (I hope) will be released soon.

Endless Winter @ Myspace

Eyes Like Snow (Germany)
1. Metal has been an important part of my life since i started listening to it about 20 years ago. I have a broad musical taste but the kinds of music i release through my three labels (Eyes Like Snow, Northern Silence & Beneath Grey Skies) are the ones I like best. I enjoy releasing great albums, supporting bands i love by releasing and spreading their music and bringing new promising acts to people’s attention. My goal has always been to be independent in every way, also with regard to my job, and since i hate doing things I don’t like it was a natural development to turn one of my main hobbies (trading, selling and later releasing records) into a full-time job.
The aims were personal independence as well as producing high quality releases and offering honest and reliable service to mail order customers, bands and the labels and mail orders I deal with. It has been and is a lot of work but I enjoy it and it has definitely been worth the effort.

2. The biggest problems are illegal downloads and the total overkill of new releases. There’s an absolute oversupply and many average and below average releases floating around because it’s become so easy to (self-)record and (self-)release music. People don’t know what to buy first, most fans don’t have a lot of money to buy everything they’d like to get so the sales have been dropping constantly and considerably since many years. On the one hand the internet has made the job of labels a lot easier but by the same token it has helped to create the oversupply of releases and has created the biggest problem of the music industry – illegal downloading.

3. The basic principle is service to others, to make sure that bands and customers are satisfied with the work i do and that i make a positive difference by performing this job. The releases are distributed worldwide, mainly through official distributors and labels i trade with. Due to lack of time the trading had to be decreased during the last few years but I still work with reliable partners in many countries.
As for press work, promotion is nowadays done via downloads and ads or cd tracks in selected paper mags. Shipping physical promos has become much too time consuming and expensive so in the light of decreasing sales and increasing work in order to sell the same amount of copies I decided that it isn’t feasible anymore. On the other hand, since it’s quite easy to provide downloads all online and paper zines who are interested in reviewing my releases can contact me and will be added to the mailing list, which insures a broad spread in terms of reviews (and by extension interviews with bands).

4. I work alone for the most part since i’m not a very good team player. I want to do things my way and I cherish solitude so I only accept temporary help when there’s so much to do that I can’t do everything myself. That’s been the plan all along so while it would be not much of a problem to increase the output of the labels and mailorder by employing more people that would be against one of my basic rules and so northern silence and its sublabels will always remain rather small and underground.

5. Referring to the doom division Eyes Like Snow, the most significant in terms of sales or “commercial success” were the Solitude Aeturnus vinyl releases, The Hour of 13 album, the Lord Vicar split and the two releases of the Wandering Midget. Three bands that also get increasing attention from fans and press these days are the Flight of Sleipnir and Rituals of the Oak as well as the fantastic newcomers Vinum Sabbatum. However, I think that for me personally all releases are significant because all of them helped to form the label and brought recognition to both bands and label. Therefore, I can say that no effort has been wasted even though some releases may have been less successful than others.

6. The next Eyes Like Snow releases are three LPs in april - the “Downfall” LP of Solitude Aeturnus which closes the last gap in their vinyl discography, and the vinyl editions of the new Rituals of the Oak album and the Flight of Sleipnir’s debut “Algiz + Berkanan”, all of them fantastic albums that definitely deserve proper vinyl treatment. Later this year I have plans to release the next album of my finnish faves the Wandering Midget, the reissue of the Hour of 13 debut, the first full length of Vinum Sabbatum and a vinyl edition of their “Songs From the Convent” release, a collection of rare demo and EP tracks of the Flight of Sleipnir, the Flight of Sleipnir’s new studio album and hopefully new albums of Apostle of Solitude and Wheel.
Seeing that these are just the plans for Eyes Like Snow and that there are at least as many releases planned for Northern Silence it may become clear why I pretty much stopped signing new bands a few years ago. Nobody knows for sure what the future will bring but I’m of the opinion that it’s pointless to make long-term plans several years ahead as many other labels do. We’re living in the “doom year” 2012, after all, and I’m convinced that things will be getting a lot more exciting in terms of real “doom” very soon. Before eventually the Aquarian Age can begin in earnest humanity will have to face its shadow self and there’s still so much in store for us that many people may soon be occupied with basic survival instead of buying music. It’s all part of our comedy here on earth, part of the divine plan, so enjoy it people and be sure to get your supply of doom stocked up before the shit hits the fan! On this doomy note I close my ramblings. Thanks for your continuing support and for allowing me to introduce Eyes Like Snow to your readers!

Eyes Like Snow

Hypnotic Dirge (Canada)
1. I decided to begin Hypnotic Dirge Records in late 2008 mainly because of two reasons. I wanted to release my own project's music on my own record label so I could have full control of promotion and distribution instead of having someone else look after that, and because I also had some online musician friends who had some great music, but were without a label. It just seemed like a good idea to try my hand at starting a record label at the time. Of course, when I started the label things were a little bit slow, and the results probably did not meet my expectations but I was also completely new at most aspects of work that come with having a label and a little bit naive as well with my expectations. Things have really come a long ways since the beginning of Hypnotic Dirge, and the label has become a lot of more professional now, especially since it is my main focus right now which I dedicate most of my time towards.

2. I would say one of the biggest difficulties is the promotional side of things and getting your releases proper attention. It's hard to separate your releases from the pack considering that there are so many labels, distributors, and especially bands and music projects these days. Really, anyone with an instrument, time, and a computer can record and release an album these days and it does kind of crowd the scenes with an infinite number of releases. However, the ease of recording music is also a benefit because I believe that if people search deep enough, there are more quality bands and musicians with material out than maybe ever before.
Asides from that, it's maybe harder to sell physical CD's than ever before, but that is the reality of the era we live in, and honestly I believe record labels, musicians, distributors, etc. have to grow with the times and the state of technology rather than to hault progress for the sake of profit. This isn't so much a problem with most underground labels and musicians, who I believe do understand, and 'get' this sort of thinking, but mostly with the establishment major labels, and mainstream "musicians." My philosophy is that the albums that I release and distribute are available for people to buy, and I encourage them to do so because it is the only thing which allows me to keep releasing new music, but I will never get mad at a person for seeking out an album in another way.

3. All of the HDR releases are distributed by a good number of other underground labels around the world, so if people want to find HDR releases from a label in their country, they will most likely be able to find one or at least somewhere close. HDR does ship orders anywhere in the world as well, so of course the releases are available no matter where you live. As far as the press, that's also a priority!

4. Right now, it is mostly just myself taking care of all of the aspects of running Hypnotic Dirge, but I do get a bit of help from some friends doing various things. I take care of everything dealing with the bands/projects, distribution, promotion, band signings, website updates, and shipping out orders, but I have a friend who also is helping out with the promotional side of things recently, as well as another friend who takes care of a lot of the artwork for flyers, promotional cards, shirt designs, and other similar things.

5. Perhaps the releases which have gotten the most attention from listeners and the press so far are Netra's 'Mélancolie Urbaine' album, and Ekove Efrits' 'Conceptual Horizon' album. These are also probably pretty close to my own personal favourite releases on HDR, but I'd also add Stroszek's 'sound graveyard bound' album to that list. The Netra album in particular is a really interesting album which mixes depressive black metal with trip-hop while also incorporating a lot of blues-inspired riffs, clean vocals, and movie samples. A lot of people have compared it to Ulver's "Perdition City| which I guess is an alright comparison, also I'd say there are many more aspects to it than that. The Ekove Efrits album is some really solid atmospheric black metal project from Tehran, Iran and also utilizes a lot of experimental aspects, and the stroszek release, in case anyone is unfamiliar is an acoustic folk (rock) band led by claudio alcara, the guitar player from the Italian black metal band 'Frostmoon Eclipse.' Anyway, stroszek is definitely another favourite of mine. It's got a really melancholic relaxing sound which I appreciate.

6. Coming up next on Hypnotic Dirge will be the third full-length album (and first on HDR) from a Russian three piece band called 'Epitimia' as well as another project from the musician behind Ekove Efrits (the project from Iran) called 'Silent Path' this time playing more of a depressive black metal style. After those two releases, I'll be releasing the new netra album called Sørbyen which is absolutely amazing by the way. I really enjoyed Mélancolie Urbaine, but I believe this album is even better. It's just a really well made album and honestly maybe one of my favourite releases of all time. I always find myself going back to listen to it anyway. Alongside, that netra album, I'll also be releasing an album from Subterranean Disposition, a one man doom metal project from Terry Vainoras, from Cryptal Darkness, Insomnius Dei, and The Eternal. These four releases will all be released in the summer of 2012 so that is going to be the main focus for the next few months to get these prepared, released, and distributed.
I encourage anyone who might be interested in keep updated on these upcoming releases to check out the HDR website - Hypnotic Dirge Records
We're also around on Facebook, Youtube, Soundcloud, and Bandcamp if anyone wants to find us.

Hypnotic Dirge Records
HDR @ YouTube
HDR @ Facebook
HDR @ Soundcloud

PsycheDOOMelic (Austria)
1. It was the obvious continuation of the hard copy Psychedelic Fanzine, the holy bible of doom within the doom community in the world without internet. I edited and published the Fanzine for several years, the last copy (Double Issue of Doom) has been sold 1000 times throughout the world.

From this project a distribution and a straight doom label resulted. Those became later available on the internet in form of PsycheDoomelic(distro) and PsycheDOOMedelic(label).
I´m happy about what I´ve achieved with the bands and label, although the recent years showed a big stagnation due to illegal downloads and the decrease of CD sales.

2. Well, I wouldn´t call psycheDOOMelic records a "modern" label, we´re old school and dedicated to the old roots of doom. Difficulties would be to appear with releases in chain stores, big distribution companies ignoring doom etc.

3. I aim to give the best to the bands on the label, for some besides the usual structures we organize shows and tours, but lately it became rare due to other efforts. Distribution is open to every possible country and we have a huge list of magazines that we send digital promos to for coverage in reviews and interviews.

4. I´ve started psycheDOOMelic on my own in late 2003 and since then no one joined the "crew". However I´ve several helping hands and comrades throughout the world who are huge doom supporters and they lend some hand in helping the keep the doom flag high!

5. Every release is significant, I don´t care much about CD sales in means of success for a band. Each release means a milestone in the psycheDOOMelic history and is a key part of releases I admire a lot. We cover doom exclusively, opting for traditional doom as my favourite and sludge as the other main genre on my roster.

6. Obviously to keep helping new bands to get to the next level and support the doom underground as much as possible!

Official Website

R.A.I.G. (Russia)
1. We're Only in It for the Money (c) Frank Zappa .... .... Definitely.
2. Temptations of getting dependant.
3. Full house of secretary girls, errand boys, and personal drivers.
4. We love 'em all.
5. "5 Cycles of Sonic Pollution Resistance Force" T-Shirt.
6. The future was wide open (c) Tom Petty
Official Website
RAIG @ Facebook

Solitude Productions (Russia)
1. The idea was born in early 2005. We found out that there are many great doom metal band who can't find a good label to spread their albums. For this moment we became known doom metal label worldwide and in common we satisfied with the results we have.

2. I think today problem number 1 for all big and small labels is illegal mp3 downloads. It decreases sales and many labels already thinking to go out from this business.

3. We have 5 people, each one makes different work. Overall management, artwork design, promo work, warehouse and packaging, shipping all this handles by different people.

4. Solitude Productions distribute releases worldwide and have no territory limitations. Nowadays we make trades with many partners worldwide and this makes our CDs available in many countries. Also we send 10% off pressed CDs to different media and promo partners worldwide and this give us good results.

5. It's hard to tell about that. We proud of many releases we have because many of them was produced by label and they exists only because we exists too... I think the main Russian bands we have is - Ea, Abstract Spirit, Revelations Of Rain, The Morningside, Amber Tears. Also we have many great foreign bands like (EchO), Shattered Hope, When Nothing Remains, Evadne, Ophis etc...
Personally for me last favorite is Evadne "The Shortest Way"

6. We are full scheduled for 2012 so expect very interesting releases from us! We just signed Inborn Suffering for the new album and reissue of the first one. Also waiting for new albums from Revelations Of Rain, Abstract Spirit, Abske Fides, The Howling Void, Raventale, Wedding In Hades and many more.

Official Website
Solitude Productions Store
Solitude Prod @ Google Groups

Interviews By Aleks Evdokimov

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