What made you start a record label?
Hmm, it’s a complicated story. For several years I worked in a music store, which exposed me to a lot of music (both good and bad music, we had CDs by Nuclear Blast in stock as well) and people. During that time we worked with several labels as a distributor and I was eventually offered to take part in a record label, which I am not going to mention right now. One of my friends (and loyal customers) offered to help us with signings, as he was in touch with several bands. Soon after, three releases were secured. Among them was Pest’s “Blasphemy Is My Throne”. Soon after I was forced to leave the label and quit my job. Next month, after a period of total mayhem, I got together with my friend for a drinking session, during which Daemon Worship was born. Initially, to fulfill our agreement with Pest, but as we see it went way beyond that! After 1.5 years of blood, torment and hatred “Blasphemy Is My Throne” was finally released and so it all began…. Eventually we split paths with the other co-founder and I was forced to continue alone. The label evolves, just as we all evolve, but to this day I think the name perfectly represents what the label stands for, it’s pretty much self-explanatory.
So, Daemon Worship was birthed from the urge to fulfill a promise to Pest.
Strange as it is, that’s how it started. I would go as far as to say I played a secondary role in the label’s creation. However, when my colleague decided to leave, the label continued to evolve according to my vision.
I’m assuming your contact with the bands you released came about during your time working in a record store? Can you elaborate on this?
Some of them, yes, but not all. Most of the contacts early on were handled by the other guy, as I didn’t really have any time to socialize back then!
How did you get into black metal?
I suppose I should credit Mayhem and Euronymous for that. His interviews were the flint that initially produced the spark and Darkthrone’s “Transilvanian Hunger” provided the fuel for the flame to ignite. Damn cold fuel as well! Abigor and Dodheimsgard followed shortly after and then I just have to stop with this question, as there are just too many bands after that to list. Of course it was way before I had internet, so I bought CDs rather blindly for some time, based on my friends’ recommendations and intuition. Then, when I secured a job in a store, it became much easier for me to discover new bands.
What was it specifically about the interviews that produced the spark?
The whole idea. Anybody, who ever read them, would immediately understand. The level of conviction and the ideas he voiced deeply resonated with me at the time…. And they still do! He revolutionized the way Black / Death Metal was perceived.
Why Transilvanian Hunger in particular? (I’m personally interested since I prefer both A Blaze… and Under a… over Transil…).
It was the first album by them that I bought and its sound was really something. Of course nowadays there are many bands copying that particular style, but imagine my first exposure to black metal with an album like that? Raw, cold and dark beyond anything I listened to by that point. Of course I enjoy the other ones as well, they have a lot of magic in them, even though it took years for me to get into “Under A Funeral Moon”.
The overall theme is extreme metal executed with a satanic or ‘blackened’ ideology. Is this exclusively what you seek to release? Why this particularly ideology and what is it you hope to achieve through your work?
To put it short – the message is very important to our concept. If you want to have a simplified definition of what we represent – DWP is a servant to the Adversary. We are not an “anti-christian” label; our vision is much wider than that. I would rather prefer to call it “ritual invocative art”, as some of our bands don’t use “blackened” imagery at all (i.e. Serpent Noir for example).
Musically I seek to release whatever I like and see fitting our aesthetics. Be it complex atmospheric dissonance of Bestia Arcana, occult metal/rock like Snakeskin Angels or straightforward old-school Scandinavian Black Metal of Likblek. These bands have something in common – they are genuine and driven by genuine passion. The form doesn’t matter (it does to some degree, but I am sure you get what I mean) – the substance does. For these people it is the way of life. Not something, that could be put up on a shelf, but something they live every day.
The explanation above is my summary of what our ideology and the motivation behind our label stands for. The goals are pretty much esoteric. And of course I am glad to be able to spread our artists’ music and message and to release what I myself enjoy and support.
Aside from a few anomalies, your roster is comprised of unknown relics. How do you go about finding, contacting and promoting bands?
It’s different in each case…. Nowadays I don’t really search for anything, seeing as I know most of the people and bands we release for many years already. In several cases, such as Paragon Impure, Pest, SauroN and Dodsengel, we did re-releases of the already released stuff, because the albums in question provided such a strong impact on me, that I just had to do it. I don’t care how big a name is or how “sellable” it is (I did receive promos from some well-known bands with secured fans, which I rejected), it needs to resonate with me first and foremost, and it needs to be honest. I don’t hunt for big names either. Again, it’s much more interesting for me to release bands, with whose ideology I agree and whose message I support.
So, after the initial Pest release, how did the label develop? Was there a certain band you wanted to release or did numerous ideas come to be at the same time?
I decided to continue with the label a few months after the Pest CD was released. The first several releases (as well as the recent The Ascendant EP might I add) were confirmed when the label was still a two-man army. The other guy contacted Sadistic Grimness with an offer as he enjoyed their earlier releases, while I contacted Paragon Impure.
Have you ever encountered any difficulties with bands or releases?
I would say so, yes. Every release is a challenge if you try to make it the way it has to be. Not that I complain. The biggest complication was with the SauroN and Funeral Goat LPs. The label was based in Russia back then and nobody does vinyl releases there. Yet, I decided to give it a try. And everything went more or less well, until the pressing plant found out, that their shipping company doesn’t ship to Russia anymore. In fact, none of the other shipping options they had worked for Russia! It gave me a lot of headache, but we resolved it in the end. And the result is frankly brilliant!
Tell me about your favorite release.
I don’t think I can name any. Neither my own, nor anybody else’s. If we speak about the releases that I’ve been listening to lately (that were not released by DWP), then recent albums of Sektemtum, Black Witchery, Blood Revolt, The Devil’s Blood, In Solitude, Portrait, Ram, Wolfbrigade, Midnight, Griftegard, Charon, Obscure Anachronism, Abigor and Dodsengel come to mind. The upcoming album of Flagellant (tbr by W.T.C.) is going to slay! Otherwise, I’ve been spinning the 90’s albums of Bruce Dickinson for quite a while now. And the last Unanimated (“In The Light Of Darkness”) is something absolutely phenomenal.
Daemon Worship focuses on releasing CDs. Why this particular medium?
I wouldn’t say we focus only on CDs. We do vinyl records as well and I am not against tapes either, as long as it fits the concept. There are no hard rules. I suppose we would release music on papyrus scrolls too, if both I and the band to be released that way see it as a fitting medium and provided there is an actual possibility to do so. The reason why CDs are the “main” format for us is simply because it’s the most common medium, the most practical and the most asked for by the bands we work with. I applaud exclusive vinyl releases personally. But I don’t like the “die hard” circus.
What is wrong with the ‘die hard’ circus mentality?
A lot of stuff. The fact that people buy several versions of the same album with different extras or colours and then proceed to measure their dicks on internet forums. On top of that, a lot of those end up on eBay for ridiculous prices. It shouldn’t be like that. In this case, music becomes something secondary to the hype surrounding it and loses importance. People buy that hype, not the music.
Do you think the physical medium is essential to the music? What is your opinion on digital MP3 sales?
I myself prefer to have actual CDs and LPs of the albums I like. I didn’t even listen to MP3s until 2007! Since then everything changed a bit and now I listen to MP3s as well (let us be honest, when a collection reaches several thousand records and CDs it becomes very hard to find some albums when you suddenly really need them, even if you try to keep everything in order; I also wouldn’t take real CDs to my car, so as not to damage them), but I strongly believe, that having a physical medium is important. Some people might (and do) call it fetishism – I really don’t fucking care if it is, I just think it’s the right thing to do.
Can you elaborate on why it is the right thing to do though? Why will the physical release always trump the digital release? A lot of mp3 albums come with digital art now, digital covers and booklets. The only discernible difference is the physicality of the thing…
Yes, but can you really compare a digital image with an actual booklet? Maybe even printed on special paper or decorated in a special way. It’s a ritual, which we choose to perform. The process of releasing, making music public and spreading it…. The fact of possession – it’s also very important to us (i.e. the listeners). One could argue it’s all just feeding one’s ego, which is of course true, but there are many different sides to it.
On the topic of MP3s, do you think piracy and the multitude of ‘sharing’ blogs is helping or harming independent record labels? What’s your stance?
I suppose it might be helpful in spreading hype to a certain extent. Personally I am indifferent to that, so people can spread our MP3s if they wish. I care more about the content of our releases and not about how much money we lose from “illegal” downloading. And if it helps to spread the disease even further, perhaps igniting several souls to check our releases deeper – then why not.
What does the future hold?
For DWP or for the world? We have a lot of plans and we’re definitely not going to stop any time soon. So, keep your eyes open! For the world it holds a bleak fate of slow deterioration of old beliefs and dogmas, which some naïve people pathetically try to stop. But why should we try to save something that is doomed and flawed from the very beginning? You can’t build a cathedral on rotten foundations. Only through a complete demolition of the old carcass can we achieve a new era.
Now a few general questions on black/extreme metal…
What do you think of the current state of metal?
It’s a bit complex. There is a lot of bullshit and trend hoppers around. Technically, the underground became something people didn’t want it to be – showbiz. But as long as there are worthy acts around, as long as there are individuals, who actually believe in what they are doing – it’s worth supporting. I truly believe there are many great entities around us, so all is not lost. If you mean the bigger picture, I myself appreciate a lot of acts from the pre-90’s metal scene, that are still active and whom I’ve been following since my childhood. And there are still quite a few gems among those. Also, I am not among those, who instantly stops supporting a band, once it becomes popular – for me Watain never lost its energy and devotion to the cause. Popular doesn’t mean “false”. But Watain are among the very few, who actually managed to enter the big scene without compromising their ideals.So, in other words, the current state of metal – it’s not better, it’s not worse, but it’s definitely evolving.
Are there any underground labels you respect or bands you are eager to work with?
There are of course several labels, whose work I respect a lot. Among those: Osmose Productions, Terratur Possessions, Total Holocaust Records, Norma Evangelivm Diaboli, End All Life, Sepulchral Voice, The Ajna Offensive, Carnal Records,Sadolust Records, Duplicate, Battlesk’rs / Necrocosm…. W.T.C. and B&E, while I only like some of their releases, do their job in supporting the underground very remarkably! As for the bands that I am eager to work with… Can I just say that I am very eager to continue working with the bands that we work with already? And we’ll see what the future brings.
Does this music have to be ‘in HIS name’?
If short: yes. If long….There is a lot of hipster bullshit floating around already, that has nothing to do with Black Metal. I believe that Black Metal and REAL Death Metal MUST have the message, as it’s an integral part, which drives the artist. One could say that it’s the message that defines Black Metal, not music. The moment you strip Black Metal of its message it becomes aimless and stops being Black Metal, the missile loses its warhead. Black Metal should challenge. For only through challenge can the progress be achieved.
So how does the metaphysical Satanism of deathspell omega fit with you? The message is undeniably ‘black metal’ but the music has evolved so far beyond the typical idea of ‘black metal’.
I am not really familiar with recent Deathspell Omega releases, so I can’t say anything about them. But if we talk about 2005’s “Diabolus Absconditus” and “Kenose”, as well as the preceding epic “SMRC”, those are of course monumental in many respects. SMRC era DSO opened a completely different side to the style and reintroduced Black Metal to wider audiences. Let me put it this way…. In the 90’s, when the well-known Norwegian bands decided to go mainstream, most of them stayed true to their sound, yet threw away the ideological side, losing the aura and the atmosphere conveyed in their early releases to the point of becoming just “extreme metal” bands. I.e. they kept their form, yet replaced the essence. Nowadays we see a different picture. The new “wave” of Black Metal changes its form in most amazing ways, yet maintains the message and the idea within. Think of The Devil’s Blood and In Solitude for example. They are thousand times more Black Metal, than satyricon, burzum or immortal. And I am sure many would agree with me. In a way, such wonders were made possible by Deathspell Omega.