I’m always happy to provide an outlet for down to earth label owners. Some of these guys do 18(plus) hour days, deal with whiny emails (mainly guys like me) and work their asses off for an occupation that [might] break even. Regardless, these guys help promote the music we love and I feel it’s time we give a little. Here’s what Eric had to say about his label and what the internet has done to the music industry.
-Hi and thank you for doing this. It means a lot to us for you to take some time off your schedule.
No problem, glad to.
-Tell us a bit about Unspeakable Axe Records, do you guys have a focus when it comes to releases, or do you prefer to stick with music that resonates with your personal tastes?
Both. Our focus is on thrash metal and related styles – death/thrash, crossover, a little bit of crust and even grind. We have released a little pure death metal as well (e.g. TrenchRot, Sabbatory) but even those are examples of an old style of death metal when thrash was still a strong influence on the genre. That whole family of music resonates strongly with my personal tastes – anytime I grab a metal album to listen to, there’s a 50% chance it’ll be “Beneath the Remains” or “Seven Churches” or “Scream Bloody Gore.”
-Are there any releases you guys are excited about, anything new or upcoming that blow the socks off new fans?
I’m excited about everything, but if I had to choose, I’d say Insanity’s upcoming “Visions of Apocalypse” is the realization of a dream for me – working with a band I consider legendary and important to metal. We’ve also just signed a Chilean thrash band called Ripper who I think will stun people. The friend who recommended them said they sounded like early Sepultura with Mille Petrozza on vocals and Steve DiGeorgio on bass, which is pretty close to accurate – they’re sick.
-It’s currently a hot topic on the online community, that the music industry’s relationship with the internet have really changed the way people promote, sell and access. What are your thoughts on today’s internet relations, do you see any flaws with how the industry must move around, develop and change to get word out there?
I like the internet as a consumer. Ease of access and the ability to sample before buying have been major improvements over the old model, and I’ve consumed many times more music in the last 15 years than in the 25 before that. My bank account may have suffered, but not my ears! As a label owner, it’s a mixed bag. Promotion is easy and cheap, and word of mouth is a lot simpler to obtain – we’re no longer relying on tape-trading like cavemen, or having to buy expensive ads (though I do a little of that). On the other hand, the internet really took the bottom out from under the industry in general (which was in part the industry’s own fault, I realize) – so getting into the business of selling physical media now was perhaps a dumb move. But hell with it. I love CDs and vinyl too much to stop this anytime soon.
-What goal would you like Unspeakable Axe Records to achieve, say in 3, 5, or 10 years? Do you think that you’re well on your way to achieving them?
Mostly I just want to make enough money to keep doing this (basically, breaking even or close to it), and build up a little bit of fluid cash that I can use to keep promoting the label and signing cool, obscure bands.
-This is a pretty standard question of mine, but I like to ask label owners and musicians whether they keep up with new music and ask: What albums have highlighted the year so far? Is there anything you would call “album of the year” material?
Yeah, I keep up with as much as I can. Not everything – you have to have significant OCD to do that nowadays. Excluding my own releases, the best stuff I’ve heard this year – metal only – would be Rude’s “Soul Recall,” the new Noneuclid album, and the new Autopsy. I’ll never dislike a new Autopsy record.
-What’s next for Unspeakable Axe Records, new albums, tours, signing some big names? The metal community loves the inside scoop on new releases. Anything you’d like to tell early?
I already mentioned Ripper – that’s a scoop for ya, as I haven’t quite announced that yet. We’re doing their new album and maybe more (details to be worked out). Not sure if I can mention anything else… I’m always talking to people but sometimes it goes somewhere and other times it doesn’t. There’s a few cool reissues that I’d love to do, but guys from bands that have been inactive for 20+ years aren’t always that communicative – they have other lives now, or maybe other bands they’re involved with. I’ve found that getting a much-longed-for reissue going is a lot harder than most people would realize.
-What made you run a label, what draws you towards this particular field?
I love music and I want to help out artists who need it. I used to write and record stuff too (mostly non-metal) and never had any clue how to get the word out. Now I’m older, wiser (??), with far less time to play music of my own, but a better job and more money. I figured this was a good direction to go in – to keep doing something with music, and maybe to help others out with what I’ve managed to learn over the years, and through my friendship with Matt from Dark Descent Records (our parent label) as well. Hopefully I can keep doing it for a long time. As long as I don’t have to re-mortgage my house to keep at it, I will.