Blood Music Interview

It’s no secret here that we are big fans of Blood Music  (read reviews for their Lykathea Aflame and maudlin of The Well releases) and what it is they are doing as a small distributor.  Putting out incredible limited editions of classic albums on vinyl and CD as well as signing some newer bands, Blood Music is making their mark among metal fans.  They were kind enough to answer some questions for us.  Covering their beginnings to how they go about choosing and signing artists, they gave us the juice.  So read on, and enjoy.

Stereo Control:  Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us.

Blood Music:  Thanks for taking an interest!  We’re surprised and impressed that so many people are excited about our releases.

SC:  So let’s start at the beginning, what made you want start a small label?

BM:  Let’s flash-forward to BEFORE the beginning:

This is the odd thing.  I think my first idea for starting a label came strongly about seventeen years ago when I first got into hardcore.  I was approaching all kinds of local bands about making a split 7″, and they all agreed, but I never got the courage.  I even started up my own distro, but I was such a shy kid that I had trouble selling the records. I carried them in a bag to only one show.  At one point, I just opened it on the floor, and people started grabbing them, as there were many rare records, but I never took it out again.

I also had people send me money for a catalog (back in the days when people PAID to get catalogs), but I was too shy to make a catalog, and I always felt like a terrible person for never sending it.

The actual beginning:

I was living in an attic in Tampere, Finland, and I had absolutely nothing to do.  I had pulled out all my old hardcore records and began to sell them (now way out-of-print).  I held onto the twenty or so that were still very important to me.  As a stupid aside, I thought to look up a metal band I was listening to a lot  — Agalloch.  Turns out they had a box set released that had quickly sold out and was worth a mint.  I became obsessed with tracking it down.

I spent months trying to find a good deal on it.  In the process, I wound up becoming a vinyl collector again (for the 3rd time).  But my tastes are so eclectic and particular that I couldn’t find half the things I wanted.  It also turned out when I tracked down pressings of some things that they sounded or looked like absolute shit.

I had a running list of things to consider doing, including building synthesizers from scratch, making some documentaries, and on it was to release a record.  I made a list of the bands I’d want to release and maudlin of the Well was high on the list.  I wound up tracking the rights down to Shawn at Antithetic Records and asked if he wanted a partner on the Bath and Leaving Your Body Map box set he was planning to release.  He said he didn’t have enough money on his own to do it, and it sounded like a good idea.

I asked a ton of advice from friends who run small labels, and they all warned me NOT to do it.  The cost of that set was totally incredible, and it meant a HUGE loss if we couldn’t sell it.  I ignored the warnings anyway because strong will is hard to crush.

I thought this would be a one-time thing.  But the experience was so rewarding when we sold out that I started looking a bit more on my list.

I then repeatedly wrote to Century Media about releasing Gorguts’ material until finally someone responded.  They told me the rights were gone but asked if there was anything else they could help me with.  I wrote back, “Strapping Young Lad.”  They said, “maybe.”

Once we ironed out the kinks in that deal, we knew that our lives lives weren’t going to be the same again.

SC:  Were you worried going into physical media in the age of digital downloads?

BM:  This was not even a thought that had crossed my mind beyond a slight, “Well, maybe this is stupid.”

But stupidity doesn’t matter.  I still don’t know if it’s a stupid idea!

As someone who still collects physical media, I’m sure there will always be 100 others who are interested in collecting the same things as me.  I don’t think of myself as that unique.

SC:  Did your interest in doing this lie in re-releasing classics and giving them a new special treatment or signing new bands, or both?

BM:  In the beginning, we were very convinced that we could do nothing for new bands.  With no distro, no cred, who would ever listen to us?

Now, we have some decent internet presence and a great and growing track record, so I think it’s a good time.

It was another random moment when we signed on Kauan.  I saw a post on their Facebook, stating that they were making their new album.  I asked if they were going to stay signed to the same label, and they said no.  I had been listening to Aava Tuulen Maa very heavily and had just bought it on vinyl.  So things went from there.

We are in discussion with a handful of other bands about new records now.

SC:  Was the metal genre one you were always interested in?

BM:  I’m probably one of the youngest metalheads in history.  I started listening to metal when I was four or five years old.  There was a break in there during my teenage years, but I came straight back to it once I discovered At the Gates, Carcass, and Emperor in my mid to late teens.  It has only grown in strength since then.

SC:  Are a lot of these albums you are putting out by the bigger name artists ones that you were a fan of before venturing into distribution?

BM:  It’s all over the map.  Sigh has been a favorite of mine for many many years, and I was dying to work with them.

Thy Catafalque is now on Season of Mist and pretty well-known within the underground.  But a guy who has sent in some pretty great suggestions recommended the band to me.  I had never heard of them AT ALL. From the first song, it blew me away, and I wrote to Tamás Kátai while listening to the second song to ask what he had available.

Strapping Young Lad was the music of my youth, and I hadn’t been listening to it for almost a decade before revisiting it in the last couple years.

Negură Bunget I got into in the last two years.

So, it differs from band to band.

SC:   Is it cool being able to work with bands you were a fan of initially?

BM:  We’ve now signed on more than twenty bands and some of the relationships bring me that much closer to the music.  Other relationships are no more than strictly a bit of business.  Then again, there other ones that don’t tear me away from the music per se, but our relationship certainly casts a bit more negative light on the artist.

Above all, patience beyond what is reasonable is a necessity with most bands.

But I won’t name any names.

Lykathea Aflame

SC:   How do you determine what albums you want to give the Blood Music treatment to?

BM:  Actually, there are a hundred records we want or have wanted to put out that just went nowhere because of legal bullshit.  So possibility is a huge factor.

There is NO magic formula.  Many of the records were on my original list.  Others are recommendations from people ([this is] more rare, but sometimes). We get hundreds of requests and don’t want people to feel snubbed, but we can only take a fraction of them.  The recommendations have to be special to us as well.

We’ve been written by hundreds of bands but only chose to work with one of those – Aquilus.  If the music is interesting enough, and the rights are available, we will do something with it.

SC:  How do you decide how limited a run is going to be?

BM:  We just guess, based on how many records we think we can sell without distribution.

The cost of our production is through the roof, and doing traditional distribution is way too risky for us.  The large distributors take everything on spec, don’t do much with it, and then you’ve got to pay to earn it back.  Our records cost too much for that.

Rent is very expensive in Helsinki, and we have limited space.  We also pack by hand and walk to the post office on foot with hundreds of records.  This absolutely limits the amount of records we can deal with.

SC:  Do you want to keep your releases small or do you want to do larger printings of albums?

BM:  This is really dependent upon what the release is.  There are one or two bands we’ve been speaking with for upcoming albums that we think should be in huge worldwide release.

But in general, we like keeping things limited.  Once we release our “new albums,” we’ll have a better feel for that.  As far as licensing old records to sell, it’s generally expensive, and there has been very few cases where we’ve even considered printing more than 500.

SC: Does it bother you when you see one of your releases on Ebay for quadruple the price, days after your release?

BM:  It brings a mixture of reactions.  Our first reaction is anger, but our second reaction is pride.  It says a lot about the release if people can manage to make that much off it.  I’m not proud that they’re earning the money, but we’ve all been guilty of this.  The second-hand market is part of the modern world, and this sort of thing cannot be stopped.

But the flip side is that when people buy multiple copies of records for resale, they actually help finance our releases and become our distributors.

SC:  Any upcoming releases you are particularly excited about?

BM:  Besides Strapping Young Lad?

To be honest, it’s the smaller bands, like Thy Catafalque, Aquilus, Kauan, Odium.  It is tons of fun to put out bands that have limited exposure and have lots of eager fans interested in these records.

maudlin of the Well and Lykathea Aflame were absolute pinnacle moments for me.

SC:  If there was one metal masterpiece you could release on your label what would it be?

BM:  We’re totally proud to say that we’ve already done several and definitely have many more to come.

If it would be the ones that we missed out on doing?

Sigh – Imaginary Sonicscape
Acid Bath – When the Kite String Pops
Esoteric – Paragon of Dissonance

There are a TON of other records that are locked up in disinterested labels or heavy legal battles.  It’s really sad, but there are tons of classics that people would vomit tears of joy if they heard of us doing them.  But we’ve been in contact with many of these classic bands for 6-12 months over rights issues that go nowhere and wind up in the hands of a major (sometimes legally, sometimes illegally), who has no clue what they’re doing.

There is one band in particular.  We’ve both been dying to work together for 6 months, but legal troubles are preventing us, so maybe we just have to wait another 6 months to see what happens.

SC: I have to ask because I’m a fanboy.  You’re working with Devin Townsend for the Strapping Young Lad Box Set.  How awesome is he?

BM:  Devin is the most relaxed guy in the universe, you could almost never believe it.

We were lucky to have the pleasure of meeting him when he swung through Helsinki a couple weeks ago.  He was constantly cracking jokes, totally gracious.  We haven’t been denied a single request by him or his people. Even his managers and merch people are absolutely 100% the best we’ve dealt with on that professional of a level.  We didn’t expect such royal treatment at all.

Same with Ihsahn.  We’re shivering in our boots when we deal with these people, but we approach them with what’s necessary and they always respond positively and graciously.  We were warned many times not to contact bands or managers, as they can slow down releases.

Contacting every single band is the smartest decision we’ve made.  When it’s all said and done, copies of these are going into these guys’ personal collections, and they’re so happy to have something special of their own works.

SC:  Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us and give us some history and incite into what it is you do!

BM:  Thank you for all the support!  And definitely thanks to everyone who has ever purchased from us.

Expect some upcoming reviews of more Blood Music releases within the next month or so.  Show them support, and hit them up on Facebook.

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