of Dig (headlabel of EARACHE) taken from
SEAN: First off Dig, Iíve got to ask you, is the level that EARACHE has reached now what you imagined it would grow to be? You initially started the company off of a government sanctioned small business program, correct? How exactly did that system work, and what year was it that you realized that you were at a turning point (or better yet, a TURNAROUND point) financially?
DIG: The label
had no business ambitions when I started..in the bedroom trying
to keep the dole off my back..just to make the money back was the
only ambition I had. The scheme was called "enterprise allowance"
and was basically a scam to reduce the unemployment figures for
the government's public relations...but I did'nt care too much because
they gave you a wage and time (well, one year) in which to "make"
it in your chosen business. I wanted to run a record co to release
extreme music, and my role models at the time were COR records (UK
punk/hc label..out of the disorder/ chaos UK scene).
SEAN: Iím assuming that you were originally a part of the punk community back in the early 801s, having written for MAXIMUM ROCKNROLL and also releasing SEPTIC DEATH and HERESY flexis. The first vinyl output from EARACHE was more or less fast ultrathrash and crossover (ACCUSED, HERESY, etc.). Yes, you had NAPALM DEATH and early CARCASS (who in the process became genre-defining bands) yet those bands still came from a hardcore background. My question is this: why the decision to start releasing metal-oriented bands? True, even your stable bands went in a more "metallic" approach, yet you continued to release ever harder metal bands!
DIG: I originally put out ultrafast punk/HC releases because that was my fave style..heresy are like that..but you gotta remember it wasa the time of much metal-core leanings in the punk scene..I mean slayer just blew me away, and venom...there was a real open-mindedness to the thrashier end of the metal scene among UK punks like myself.This is basically because of Discharge (the absolute genuine never-to-be-surpassed true originators of extreme music, period!!!)-I mean they were influenced by motorhead musically (the power I mean) but Crass lyrically..how cutting edge was that! With napalm death and carcass...they were truly original because of the simple fact that half the line up came from punk/hc background and half from thrash-metal..a true crossover band in the purest sense.The later releases became more & more metallic I suppose beacause that wasa the style which interested me most..it was really more extreme to my ears, because I had really burnt out on generic HC bands for the most part.Earache never said it was a punk or metal label..its an "extreme music" label--the beauty of running your own label is the freedom to release whatever you want--nearly every one of the 260-odd releases now out there are fuckingseriously brutal and/or heavy--and no other label in the world can match the sheer innovation & variety & quality of the sick sounds we have unleashed on the public.
SEAN: Iíd like to dispel some rumors. Legend has it that Mick Harris andShane Embury "brainwashed" you into getting their friendís bands (OLD LADY DRIVERS, MORBID ANGEL, SPAZZTIC BLURR) record deals. Of course, being the "chief executive" at EARACHE, you were the one to have final say in these releases. Were you wagon-hopping at the time, or did you genuinely enjoy the noise these bands made? What is your response to the more "D.I.Y." oriented bands like FILTHY CHRISTIANS and INTENSE DEGREE who bad-mouthed you rather viciously to the public? Was it a matter of those bands being "too punk rock" to handle EARACHEís success?
DIG: Looking back you may be kinda half right there..basically i was trading tapes with mick and shane all the time and some of the later signings were made from their recommendations..morbid angel was definately a tape given to me by i thought bill steer actually...OLD was basicallya new jersey basic thrash joke band" regurgitation" who were inflenced by early napalm and good freinds with Mick harris-he must have given me the tape for sure. Most bands the napalm guys recommended ended up on earache because they had the same taste as me..good original extreme bands were what excited us all. I was lucky to kind of be the official record company for a worldwide scene which was set to break loose anyway-it was inevitable--and I was just the first one who gave these bands backing and a platform. Ha-it was funny to read about Filthy Christians & Intense degree....you gotta realise that their comments are surely either thinly-disguised jealosy(in the case of ID, ) or blatant punk rock naivety (In FC's case) in the wake of Earache's success. Where are they now? I'm still putting out the extremity...they are selling insurance. Exactly..
SEAN: This next one ties in a bit to question 3. Do you remember FEAR OF GOD? They were a Swiss noisecore band who were friends with NAPALM DEATH. I heard that you actually showed interest in giving them a record deal! Is this true?
DIG: Ha aha ha..you mean Erich Megawimp and dave "messiah"...one minute longhairs in sub celtic frost bad metal band in sleepy switzerland..and one advance ND tape and live show later suddenly transformed into dime-a dozen ND clones Fear Of God. Actually I thought they were pretty cool guys..dave let me and ND stay at his home so that was appreciated a lot!! They were pretty much the most intense earlyND fans/friends in europe..they helped spread the message...as for signing them-I don't recall an official offer being made by me but the EP was a fave of mine for a while, so maybe I mentioned it once. Do you know what the guys are doing these days?? (Well, as a matter of fact... --Seanocide)
SEAN: EARACHEís chief signings still tend to be metal bands, yet you've dipped your toes into industrial (SCORN) and ravethrash (DELTA 9). Were these passing fancies, or did you think you could go somewhere with these other musical styles? ANAL CUNT is currently the most extreme band on EARACHE, yet you havenít pursued other noisecore bands in quite a few years. Why? What possessed you to sign ANAL CUNT in the first place? What were your thoughts when you first heard them, and why do they have to have song titles on their albums? Was this a business move (I.E.: trouble with stores selling "concept" bands like ANAL CUNT without song titles)?
DIG: The most extreme original band on earache is THE BERZERKER!!!!!!!!!!!!! In fact it's the most extreme band on the planet!! I'll send you an advance CD to your snail mail for your opinion...It will shock you! (It sucks... --Seanocide). Anal Cunt are extreme sure, but not shocking anymore to me..there is the problem really-to get signed to earache now it's gotta be pretty damn extreme and also not predictable..not many bands can do that...some of the early hardcore techno/gabba was shocking, so we got Involved in that a few years ago-petty scene politics meant we did'nt continue with that unfortunately.I've know AC since the first EP and seth bugged me about getting on earache..ha ha..I finally made his wish true and it was a real blast when they played england recently. No song titles make albums boring. Actually AC got me into a cool band from Japan --327 or something they were called (He means 324... --Seanocide)...just a number-they were the coolest grind/whatever band I've heard in a while.
SEAN: How do you define success with cult music? Certainly EARACHE has been on the receiving end of many a tongue lashing from critics who bemoan the fact that you guys are "sellouts". What are your responses to accusations such as this?
DIG: It's been years since I've heard that one...where's the sell out in being a totally independent self-run operation putting out extreme music? some idiots called me sell out for getting a fax machine!! I'll admit that it was weird getting involved with Sony a few years back (that deal ended in 95)--but the bands were all for it..I guess everybody got caught up in some next-big-thing fever...carcass really thought they were gonna be the next metallica..but the major label promises were just dreams.Earache has had a hard time living that business move down..but we are still here putting out the vibes..if you could geta glimpse of the staff and the operation it's definately not corporate style round here..
SEAN: I read in the EARACHE site bio that you were vegan for a god-awful am ount of years! How old are you now? How old is "too old" to be running a label such as EARACHE?
DIG: I'm 38. was straight edge all my life till 4 years ago.The vegan bit was a typo... I started earache aged 25...I dunno if theres an upper limit for running a label..If I feel like packing it in I'll let ya know OK? I guess it's inevitable though...maybe one day I'll not crave the attention, or wanna inflict my musical tastes on the world anymore.Actually I'm still ambitious for one of our bands to really break big..like one million copies..that would be awesome.
SEAN: Not to get too personal, but I1d like to dispel another rumor: EARACHE certainly turns a profit...I wonít go into figures, but certainly itís enough to keep more than just your rent up! Whatís wrong with making profits on cult music as long as you arenít fucking anybody over to survive. What does it take for a band to submit material to EARACHE? Do you guys still get the classic tape-demos in the mail?
DIG: Sure, earache has made profits in the early days..but those were ploughed back into making more and better albums...but also earache has lost money on a lot of bands also..it's costing so much cash now to launch a band with touring costs etc that it's easy to overstretch. Napalm death for instance received about US$ 150,000 in advances from me for their "Words from the exit wound" album..the album bombed and I losta fortune.Oh well.. that's why ND is no longer on earache..they want too much money now to survive.But I wish em well on their new label "dreamcatcher".
SEAN: What does the future hold with EARACHE? Just how big would you like to see the label get? Do you ever hearken back to the "halcyon years" when the label was just yourself running it out of your flat?
DIG: Frankly, I dunno if earache will really get any bigger...a lot of our bands are just too anti-commercial,which is ok of course...but I secretly would love to put our music into the mainstream consciousness--it would warp a lot of minds, When the label was smaller it was really fun-nowadays my job is more stressful, for sure..we have become a leading mid sized independent label on a global scale, which is a million miles from where the label came from.Go figure.. For all the latest news check out http://www.earache.com