Tapes, vynil & Cds.
1. Hello! How do you do? Introduce your label to the voracious undergrounders!
Hello. I run Nuclear Winter Records, a label dedicated and focused on Death Metal. However it’s not entirely limited to that, some Black Metal will be released too and I carry almost all extreme genres in my distro list, be it Death, Black, Thrash, Doom or Grind.
2. When did you create your label and what motivated you to run something like this? Did you consciously decide to create a label, or did it occur as a matter of facts? (As you might have been doing a zine and began a distro little by little... as you received more and more stuffs in trade...)
It sort of evolved on it’s own in 1998. I had self-released a MCD for my own band at the time and as you guessed, extensive trading led to having a few items available for distribution. I had already established some contacts with bands, fans and labels so in 2000 I decided to start releasing other band’s material too. When you are really obsessed with music nothing is enough to satisfy your hunger, being in a band and a fan is great but somehow I felt the need to get involved further more by running a label that would release stuff that I personally like and nothing else.
3. What was the first band you released? Did you choose them or was it the contrary? Was it hard to convince them to work with you, as you were a very new label with no release?
As said, my very first release was for my own band. The first release I did for another band was a 7” EP for DEVILRY from Finland. They had the release already planned with Oskorei Recs (Norway) but that was the time when Oskorei had decided to stop the label. So their planned releases had to be cancelled. I don’t really remember how I got to know about this and how I got in contact with Oskorei and Devilry but everything went smoothly, the band simply told me what their requests from the previous label were and we came to an agreement. Artwork/layout etc was already taken care of so basically all I did for this release was pay for it and distribute it. It sold quite fast I might say too but back then I wasn’t really selective when trading.
4. I think it's currently much easier for you to convince a band to work with you! But is it always so easy? Maybe some have too big expectations or something like that... How does it work most of the time? Is there a contract to be signed with the bands, or is it simply a mutual agreement?
It has been easy so far mostly because of the qualities I look for in a band is to be able to communicate well on a personal level. I do this for the love of this music so it’s all about underground friendship/respect to me. If I can’t get along with the band, fuck it, I will not release anything for them even if they are Morbid fucking Angel. As far as expectations go, I am Nuclear Winter, not Nuclear Blast, so people who want to deal with me know what to expect more or less. Yes, it has been rather easy in all aspects I’d say. Regarding contracts, I haven’t done a written one so far, no-one requested such since there has been mutual trust/respect in the label/band relationship but if one requires a written contract to feel more secure I have no problem to do it!
5. How do you choose a band you'll work with? Do you care only about the musical aspect, or are the motivation for promotion and the setting of gigs important?
Much more numerous are the bands who do a lot of promotion online (spamming and blabbing the boards, always building a newer website) but play few gigs and finally do few promotional work (I mean: the real one! Lots of trades, lots of flyers, lots of promotional items sent everywhere!) Would you work with this kind of bands? Would you share my opinion when I say focusing the promotions on a website is quite illusionary as many guys who visit a website are there by hazard and don't give a shit about the music?!
I care about the music, the attitude of the band and the visual side of the release. If I like the music, I start from there. Then if I get along with the band I continue, if they seem like arrogant assholes, fuck them. After we have established a co-operation we both agree on the layout/artwork because this is something really important to me. Of course the band has the final say but if their taste is shit then I might refuse to do the release altogether, I cannot produce something that doesn’t feel ‘correct’ visually. I do not restrict myself in doing only b/w covers or only raw cut/paste layouts or only super-pro CDs. But all this must go hand in hand with the respective music the band has to offer. Each release must have it’s own identity and not look like NWR has a special pattern for it’s layouts.
I don’t care how a band chooses to promote itself because I don’t care about sales. If the band wants to remain unknown or whatever it’s fine by me, I do my part of promotion, which is not too fancy I must say and that’s that. I don’t intend to make money out of this, if it becomes a regular business I’ll simply lose my interest. I don’t feel a special need to show the world that my bands rule either, the label is all about satisfying my personal desires so bands who intend to get in touch with me should not really expect all that much when it comes to promotion. Of course I DO my share of it but nothing extravagant.
6. Do you like merchandising (tshirts, patches...) and the fast or releasing the same album under various formats? (CD, classic Lp, picture Lp). If so, does it take a lot of time and energy to work on all this shit? Do you consider it as a real plus, or simply a little extra?
I have done Tshirts once for Revokation and I’ll do for my band too. Releasing the same material in different formats is something I’ve done too. Everything takes time and a lot of energy of course but it’s something that gives me a kick, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it. I don’t know what you have in mind as a ‘real plus’, if you are referring as means to better sales, I have already cleared out that I don’t give a shit about that. As far as I’m concerned, everything is little extra to satisfy both the band and myself first and if the one who buys the product appreciates ‘this little extra’, then great, everyone’s happy. Haha.
7. If your label has a main line of integrity, valours, and principles, tell us about it! Or maybe you're rather free to do whatever feels right?
Hmm. Of course I’m free to do whatever I want and this is: Release good music (according to my taste), in the appropriate format with the appropriate layout/appearance. I focus on Death Metal but I don’t mind some Black Metal or Doom or extreme Thrash. I have never failed to keep my promises, my word is my bond and I do my best to make sure everything will go as planned so that the band is pleased. I do not give a shit about politics but I am highly anti-christian so Christian bands can keep their distance from my label. Nazis too, thanks.
8. Do you
think too numerous (sometimes illusionary) positive feedbacks and
too long extensive tours might influence a talented band in the
decrease of its musical quality?
That’s really up to the band and how it chooses to seal it’s own fate. I mean, do you write music to get good reviews, or do you do it for yourself? The most important thing is to stay true to yourself and not worry too much about what others think. A good review should be flattering and a bad review inspiring to improve, but one should not pay much attention to all that anyway.
So, I’m not really sure if reviews affect a TALENTED band’s judgment, talent usually finds the way to release itself… But they do affect shitty band’s judgment for sure! It’s quite typical of mediocre bands to get decent reviews so they are under the impression that they’re doing something right! Unfortunately we’ve come to a point that quality releases are far and between and we all should be very harsh towards mediocre bands so that the get the message: Mediocre = SHIT! We don’t need it, please stop playing or go die. Labels must be more selective, reviewers must be harsher and to the point. But there are so many labels and zines now that it’s almost impossible to hold a high standard, it seems like everyone is trying to promote his brother’s or neighbor’s band. Or maybe people simply have no taste anymore?
Tours are a whole new issue. I really don’t see how an extensive tour can affect a band’s compositions, unless the respective band works under a specific time schedule set by their label. So, if a label tells their bands they must release an album in 1 year (for example) and in the mean time have them on the road, it’s their fault for not giving them the time they need to focus on writing good, true material. However I have no personal experience from touring so there might be other factors with which I’m not familiar.
9. On the other hand, musicians with a quite good potential might never compose the really great thing they might be able to in the future... if all the cock-suckers already hailz them to death once they're only playing average music! Some musicians might conveniently stay in their musical averageness and get the benefits from the no-effort-status... Why would they shake their minds to compose something great, emotionally deep or outstanding since they're already considered as gods?? ;-)
I don’t know, as I said above, do bands play to be worshiped by others or do they play to quench their own thirst for creation? Musicians who don’t play to release their own inner demons are not musicians, they are entertainers. And I have no respect toward such.
10. Since a lot of metallers really seem to confuse "talent" and "know-how" (Many bands who have know-how and passion are often considered as "talented" while it's far from being the case! They only like what they do, and they do it well.) give us your definition of these two words, and give few exemples of bands that would fit well for each. Do you think a talented band is necessarily innovative?
Talent is the force within each band or musician that drives him to write exceptional music. It doesn’t have to be innovative but be unique, passionate and honest above all, especially in our days when everything is already pretty much done. A certain level of originality should be held but originality is not the same thing as innovation… A lot of bands have managed to release one good album in their careers so what I would define as talent is the ability to hold a great status for a lot of albums. A few names that come to mind are Morbid Angel (Vincent era), Immolation (‘Harnessing Ruin’ is boring, for the first time they failed to avoid repeating their own patterns), Iron Maiden (until ‘Seventh Son…’), Slayer (until ‘Seasons in the Abyss’), Nevermore, Kreator etc… Bands that have released a lot of good albums during their existence can be considered as talented. Of course there are cases for which you must admit an overload of talent within one and only album, like Funeral Mist’s ‘Salvation’ for example but such compositions are created by something far stronger than talent, it’s like a lethal amount of infernal powers was unleashed upon this world during the creation of such an album.
I’m not sure what you mean by ‘know-how’, if you’re talking about technical abilities, they are not a necessity. Darkthrone are gods and they stand by the definition of primitive compositions/playing. Heh… ‘Know-how’ can also be the ability to find a pattern that works and keep using it for a lot of songs. Like Machine Head for example. But that is so fucking typical in commercial music, are we talking about commercial music? I am bored…
11. What's the best way to find a new band you might work with? Do you listen to all the demos you receive? Do you search on the web? Do you prefer to see some new bands live? Do you think the labels who exclusively listen to (a part) of the CDs they receive in trade with other labels might find THE killer band? I mean: most of the albums released are from bands that are quite known in the scene, or it's always the same bands that release something... but the bash of fresh putrid air comes from the underground and totally unknown bands! Right? So these labels who don't search much might always release the same rehashed stuffs...
I find them by accident. I either buy their demo and happen to like enough to move with an offer, or see a new act playing live or whatever. I don’t wish to receive demos, I simply don’t have the time to listen to them all, nor to book a lot of releases per year. My wish is to release new bands mostly so I can’t speak for those who chose to re-release old albums or sign old, ‘big’ bands.
12. Is the current situation of labels so hard and painful? Many owners of these full-time job of a label complain a lot about the bad sales of CDs and the fact it's not good to download mp3s... But on the other hand some of these who like to complain never answer when you ask them their list of wholesale prices, some happen to have higher wholesale-prices than consumer-prices (Incredible...but true! And it's a label from my suburb...), some labels don't stress that much their bands when they do not answer interviews, and some even don't hesitate to close the office and go on vacations for 1 month! (If the situation was so hard, there would be no room for vacations! For sure that would be: Work hard and keep it alive!!). I have doubts about all the situation, especially since the sales in my “rotten tapes and CDr” distro are OK, so give us your opinion!
My label is pretty small, or as big as I want it to be. It’s still hard and painful to run it since I do everything on my own but it’s to the point that it’s still enjoyable and doesn’t feel like a job. If it comes to the point of feeling like something I MUST do, I’ll kill it.
13. What did you have to do to adapt your label to the current metal situation? Did you have to focus on given styles of metal? To be more selective with traders? To work much more on the web?
Adapt to the current Metal situation? That’s the least thing I want to do with NWR. When I was releasing bands like Nominon, Revokation, Delve, Verminous, nobody was doing something similar. And all of a sudden it became THE trend! All underground bands and labels wanted to be ‘old school’ and ‘fuck melody’ etc. Now think I’ll stay away from ‘new wave of Swedish Death Metal’ bands for a while, I always wanted my releases to sound different from each other. I don’t work much on the web, I just make sure that my website is updated whenever there’s something new or some title is deleted/out of stock, nothing more than that. And yes, I am more selective with traders because there is so much shit released nowadays and I don’t want to contribute by distributing shitty stuff.
14. Do you or did you play in a band? Do you think it's helpful when you run a label? In a way it could help you to see easily when a band uses void-filling riffs or isn't as serious and motivated as they claim... How many copies of your own releases do you sell each month? Do you sell or trade most of it? How many distro-items do you sell each month, and how many orders do you receive each month?
Yes, I play
in DEAD CONGREGATION. I try to separate the band from the label
so I let another label release our MCD, entitled ‘Purifying Consecrated
Ground’. I did the tape version of it for furthermore promotion,
yet the basic versions (MCD and 10” vinyl) are done by others. Uninteresting
bands can be sensed even if you have no technical knowledge in music
I guess, as long as you’re clever enough to distinguish what’s really
good and what’s not.
15. What would be the perfect band you secretly dream to release something of? Did you ever release something you had been dreaming of the intense way? So what was it?
When I received Kaamos’ ‘Curse Of Aeons’ demo, before they even released it on tape, I wanted to have something to do with it’s release. At the time I didn’t have enough money to give them a proper offer but eventually it worked out for me. There are also some old albums that have never been released on LP and I’d like to be the one who releases them but I’m not giving any names, somebody might steal my ideas, haha.
16. What's your opinion about tapes releases? Apart from the fact it takes time to copy all of this... do you like it, or do you think it's over and from the past? What's your opinion about "labels" who release only tapes and/ or CDr?
I love tapes, I have released quite a few and I will surely do more in the future. It doesn’t take time to copy them, I order them from a factory and they come professionally dubbed.
Labels that release home dubbed tapes and CD-R are OK as far as they earn nothing from it, or very little. They do help in spreading the name of the band but as a fan I don’t want to pay 4-5 euros for a home dubbed tape when I can get a pro-dubbed for the same price? It doesn’t feel fair. So as long as the prices are low it’s ok, if not it’s ridiculous and infuriating.
17. Is there a kind of metal labels you hate? Maybe you're able to give us few names?
There are labels that don’t interest me, I wouldn’t go as far as saying I hate them. In fact the labels I respect can be counted in the fingers of one of my hands. NOEVDIA is the best there is out there, in the sense that I can buy whatever they release without even knowing the name of the band, it’s quality guaranteed. Like Earache was in it’s early days, you knew that everything you got from Earache was THE SHIT! Just think of it, Early Carcass, Napalm Death, Terrorizer, Morbid Angel, Entombed, they had it all…
18. Since the Internet is becoming always bigger and bigger, I think some strange kind of cybernetic "labels" will take more importance: some websites offering musical downloads (sometimes for free) of stuffs you won't find another way (no CDs, no Lps...)... What are your feelings about it? Do you think this currently microscopic phenomenon will take much more importance in the future?
I don’t know, do you like spending your life in front of a computer? Are there people who really care about music and refuse to buy a real album? And miss the great feeling of running back home to place it on the CD/vinyl player, sink into the lyric sheet and read every insignificant detail there is on the cover and booklet? The only reason I download songs is to take a taste and if I like what I hear I buy the real stuff. Maybe I’m too old and retro to even imagine such a possibility, if this cybershit becomes big then all hope for mankind is lost.
19. Few years ago, when the Internet was even not a dream in the heads of most metallers, many labels of all kinds and sizes used to send promos everywhere to many fanzines... But what about now? Do you send a lot of promotional items to receive reviews? Do you focus on some websites? (maybe the biggest or the most regularly updated?) Do you still happen to send CDs to paper zines?
I don’t send many promos in general. I try to send to everyone who asks for one as long as it seems they know how to do their job. I can only afford to send CD-Rs of my releases since the actual products are always printed in limited quantities and sending original copies is out of the question. Of course I do support printed, paper zines!
20. What's a good review in your opinion? Does it need to be totally objective, subjective, or a mix of both? Do you think the reviewer has to bring some personal opinions or deliriums? Do you make a difference when you're the metaller reading reviews of the label-boss reading reviews? The difference of opinion could be very different. ;-)
is entitled to write whatever he pleases, you can never be totally
objective when it comes to music. Of course when some one reviews
an Entombed CD and says it sounds like Morbid Angel you know that
he hasn’t got a clue… What I enjoy in reviews is a good dose of
humor and of course I need to sense that the reviewer really took
his time to listen to the material. I don’t like reviews like “this
CD is for fans of blah blah blah”, I mean, think of something more
interesting and intelligent to say! If you’re too bored to do it
then quit being a reviewer! One review I read recently and particularly
21. What's your opinion about paper zines? Do you still happen to read some, and maybe you have some for sale in your distro? Are there some good current paper zines you could advice us?
Paper zines are the best. I don’t have any in my distro because the ones that I really like are not exactly printed in huge quantities. Hellish Massacre, Dauthus, Isten, Slayer... Well, the last two might be easy to get but I haven’t bothered ordering them wholesale…
22. How do you detect in few minutes if a zine would please or not your needs for alcoholic metal, objectivity and opinions? Do you rather have a look at the bands they interviewed, the notes given to the albums? ....Or the guestbook? Lol
I don’t visit webzines so guestbooks are out of the question. Some of them are good, like Voices From The Darkside but even that was way better back in the day it was printed on paper… What I enjoy more is intelligent writing again, humor (Isten, Dauthus), and of course good layout/artwork etc… The band interviewed might be shit but if the author is smart he can make a fine piece with the interview, get them to answer interesting stuff, even if they’re not totally related to their albums or whatever.
23. Do you think somekind of competition between labels is something good? To which extant do you think that should remain? Did you already have problems with other labels who were too greedy or "visionary"? (If so what were the stronger menaces?lol).
There’s no real competition between labels in the UG level. Most of them are shit and the good ones just mind their own business without trying to get in other’s feet. Or maybe I’m too naïve? Shit man, I can only talk about myself and personally I see no competitors out there, just fellow labels doing their thing like I do mine…
24. Did you already read my webzine? If so tell us honestly what's your opinion about it (positive and negative points) as well as what I should change or not to please your tastes!
I like most of the bands you get to review/interview! It seems very honest, I think people can tell you do this from your heart.
25. What were the last 10 albums you listened to?
you’re in for a surprise… I’m having a weird week, after I tried
to re-arrange my record collection I exhumed some old stuff which
lead me to some strange listenings. But if you want me to be 100%
honest about my 10 last albums:
26. What are the last very good or killer bands you discovered? What will be your next releases? This interview is over, you can conclude and say whatever needed to convince more metallers to support you! Thanx for the answers. Greetz!
The last good
bands I discovered all ended up with a deal so we have CORPUS MORTALE
from Denmark (they are really old but I wasn’t aware of them), classic,
honest Death Metal with absolutely Killer vocals and Iniquity ex-members.
PLAGUE BEARER from the USA, which is a Drawn & Quartered side
project and it sounds very similar to D&Q so we’re talking about
Dark and Sinister Death Metal and last a Black Metal band from Athens,
ACRIMONIOUS. They play orthodox Black Metal so it’ll be my first
non-Death Metal release. All of these three bands will release a
7” through Nuclear Winter Records pretty soon.