Sunday, October 31, 2010

Napalm Death in Kobe Bryant Adidas commercial?

Question: Hi Dig!

One of the most unexpected things that happened to Earache has to be "Suffer the Children" in ADIDAS commercial. It seems almost unbelievable today to have that kind music in a sports ware advertisement. Can you shed some light how this cooperation become possible? Was it ADIDAS's idea? Has any other company asked you about using some of Earache's bands music? Also, concerning Napalm Death's suppose anti-corporation message, how come they allowed one of their songs to be in a commercial for one of the biggest clothing corporation in the world? It seems like a huge hypocrisy. Thanks a lot! From:

Answer: Short answer is that Earache did not give permission for the use of Napalm Death 'Suffer the Children' in the Adidas TV commercial, but the band's management did.

Here's the clip, filmed in 1995 when Kobe Bryant was a rookie player but was expected to become a huge star of the NBA. In 2010 as part of the LA Lakers team,he's reputed to earn in excess of $40,000,000 so you could say the prediction came true.

Heres Napalm Death:

Yes you could call it hypocritical if you want (I take it you don't wear Adidas trainers yourself, then?) given Napalm Death's proclamations before and since, but the band at the time of the mid-90's were needing cash urgently as the sales of their albums were declining rapidly. The problem was the band's manager (who looked after their affairs from 1989-1999) had committed to pay the members each a monthly salary and the money was running out.

Out of the blue came a letter from a leading London Advertising agency regarding the use of Suffer The Children for use in an Adidas commercial. This was unexpected but I don't recall myself and the manager ever discussing the 'hypocrisy' of working with Adidas- its hardly McDonalds, just a maker of cool clothes and trainers- and it seemed a nice windfall and bonus to the band and label coffers.

I decided that if Earache was to 'sell out' it should be for a substantial amount of money and we received advice about how much money to ask for the use of Earache's music in a global TV campaign for a leading brand. Over $50,000 is typical so that is the amount we requested, which did not go down too well.

Adidas rejected the request and instead commissioned a music recreation company to re-play the music- these are companies that can hire musicians to re-create any song with the specific purpose of avoiding payment to the original copyright holder. Almost unbeleievably, the version of the song in the advert is not by Napalm Death (!!) but by a bunch of hired musicians and consequently neither Adidas nor the Ad Agency had to pay Earache anything. You can tell the difference if you listen closely.

I was gobsmacked because I'd never even heard of such companies. They are one of the most secretive parts of the music industry and hated by all - but I hear those companies do good business for dance labels who need to remove or recreate samples from hit records.

The publisher of that particular song is Napalm Death themselves so the management on behalf of Napalm Death must have done some kind of deal to allow the song to he used. NOTE- the song ownership (ie the writers) is different from the recording ownership (which is what Earache owns).

Later we found out that the TV advert was destined for airing only on Canadian TV so it turned out our request for such a large payment spooked off Adidas, because we were mistakenly told it was for use in a global TV campaign.

Earache has never been approached about using music in TV adverts ever since, but its definately something we'd welcome, and would consider on a case by case basis.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Occult Doom- the missing link between Doom and NWOTHM ?

Question: Since you've recently signed hour of 13, I have to ask what do you think of the new wave of occult doom metal? Being as HO13 and rise above's Ghost as well as Portrait, It could be argued that Jex Thorth and The Devil's Blood also fit into this category, bands that are doing their own thing independently however when viewed together you can see the attachment bands who have obviously listened to Coven, Merciful Fate and Candlemass as well as your usual nwobhm bands. Do you see this being as a sub thing to the nwothm or possibly becoming its own thing? From:

Answer: This is a great question and I really think you have hit upon an amazing revelation, namely that Doom and NWOTHM are closer bedfellows than anyone might have imagined. They draw from the same source material, after all. I'm into all the bands you mention.

First some history-the originators of the Doom scene as we know it - Saint Vitus, Trouble, Candlemass and Pentagram etc - more or less played a sludgier Black Sabbath style so its no surprise that the soul of Sabbath has always been bubbling under the surface in many of the modern-day Doom bands.

For some time Doom was stuck in a vortex of snail-paced Brontosaurus riffs a la Electric Wizard, but lately the shackles have come off- and a new breed of Doom bands are now revelling in the sounds of the 70s -Psychedelia, Acid Rock, and NWOBHM influences are coming to the fore and fans are loving them for it.

Though these bands you mention are independent of each other, often from different continents, what they have in common is they really seem to enjoy playing with a new-found freedom to experiment within the Doomy framework, and actually to 'rock out' big time. This does make them pretty similar to the NWOTHM bands which have sprung up in the last couple of years.In fact The Devil's Blood is mostly made up of former members of Dutch NWOTHM act Powervice (who appeared on Earache's Heavy Metal Killers compilation) so the connection is totally obvious. There's definately a few parallels with the NWOTHM bands, and even with the Death Metal scene. Ghost is made up of members from Repugnant, and also Adam Zars of Enforcer also plays in Tribulation. As you can see, many of the musicians in these new bands, do have a history in the Swedish Death metal scene.

Doom fans know that record labels like Lee Dorrian's Rise Above, Greg Anderson's Southern Lord and even prime tosspot Rich Militia's Miskatonic have long been the purveyors of quality Doom in all its forms. Rise Above were responsible for the career of Grand Magus, and its that band which I think should take credit for taking the giant step and expanding the Doom palette into more NWOBHM-influenced realms.This started with 2008's Iron Will album.

Over the course of 4 consistently great albums Grand Magus came to define what a heavy metal-oriented Doom band was all about and eventually scored a record deal with Roadrunner into the bargain. You could also bring London's Orange Goblin into the equation too I suppose -again a Rise Above band- even though they were known as more of a Stoner band.

Check em both out:

Grand Magus (Swe)

Orange Goblin (UK)

As for the subject of your question- Hour of 13.Yes they are a new signing for Earache and could best be described as Occult-themed, Doom-laden Heavy Metal - yeah, err that just about covers all bases doesn't it? Ha Ha. Vocalist Phil Swanson previously sang for SEAMOUNT which was a more Traditional Doom project band with plentiful rockin' moments- we had our eye on them for some time but never made an approach.

To many people hearing HOUR OF 13 the first thing they mention is the noticeable 'Blizzard of Ozz' era Ozzy or early Judas Priest vocal style, and its Phil's powerful yet melancholic croon which attracted us to HOUR OF 13.

To get a feel for what I'm talking about- just listen to 'Naked Star' from the forthcoming re-release of 'The Ritualist' due out in January on Earache. Its fair to say the band exist right at the nexus of this Down-tempo/ NWOBHM-influenced scene, if indeed such a scene exists. Time will tell.

Hour of 13 - Naked Star

HOUR OF 13 - Naked Star by digearache

Heres some songs by the leading Occult Doom bands that you mention in the question. All are fast making waves with critics and fans.

Ghost (Swe) :

Hour of 13 (USA)

The Devil's Blood (NL)

Jex Thoth (USA)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Did Earache & ANAL CUNT encounter any censorship issues?

My name is John Saunders and I am writing a project about censorship, and AC particularly.What was it like when Anal Cunt were on the Earache label, and did you encounter any censorship because of their lyrics and name? I appreciate your time and look forward to hearing your answer on the askearache blog.
Thank you in advance.

John From:

Answer: In short, the only censorship the band received was from us, the label. It was a sort of mild 'self-censorship' because we both wanted the band to succeed and sell lots of records and so band and label agreed to tone down the more obnoxious elements of the band to try to acheive this aim. By obnoxious, I mean obnoxious to the general public, because actually the offensive and attcking style of the band was to me, and the rest of their underground fans, its main appeal.

ANAL CUNT recorded 5 albums for Earache in the 90s, from their debut full-length 'Everyone Should Be Killed' in 1994 to their final album for the label, 1999's 'It Just Gets Worse'. Unlike nowadays with the internet, back in the dim dark age of the mid-90s the only way of distributing a bands music and albums in any quantities above a couple of thousand or so (which is about the limit of DIY mail-order or selling at gigs) was by a physical release distributed via the high street retail CD chains. Earache really thought AC could sell a significant amount of records, maybe tens of thousands, as we'd done exactly that with similar grindcore acts a few years beforehand.

The head buyers at the 90s era record store chains held all the power and made all the decisions regarding the type and style of music they would stock in their chain of stores, which was fair enough, since they owned their stores they could decide what to stock in them after all. Because of this- America had probably a couple of dozen, UK about 4, often anonymous "buyers"- one from each chain- who were tasked with deciding which if any new records were going to be made available in the record racks for fans to purchase each week, and if they didn't think your band would sell, you were toast.

It was far from automatic that any new metal punk or indie band would get selected to be racked in the stores, and metal labels like Earache and the like would routinely have to go the extra mile to pitch each new release to the buyers.All they cared about was filling the store with the fast selling Pop mega-sellers of the day and so bizarrely the buyer would often not even be a rock fan, sometimes it would be the classical or country buyer who was roped in for the tricky task of selecting the right metal releases for the chains group of stores in the coming weeks. It was a joke, but one we had to put up with.

If you look at the album sleeves they all refer to the band as A.C. instead of ANAL CUNT and thats an example of the label self-censoring the act in order to appease the buyers at the chains. ANAL CUNT would have been instantly rejected as an inappropriate name for racking in a family-oriented store in the mall or high street.

I'd been in contact with Seth from the very early days of the band from their late 80s inception when I helped distro their classic 88 song debut 7inch EP in the UK. Seth impressed me with his wit and creativity and single-minded pursuit of extremity probably best highlighted by their stunning and record breaking 5643 Song 7 inch EP, which remains a world-record to this day.

I was a big fan of the band and watched them develop from afar while Earache itself exploded. By the time of the early 90s the original grindcore scensters had come to regard AC as a sort of quaint joke, because they hadn't incorporated metal into the grindcore mix like the Earache bands did, and so hadn't become a huge selling band like many of their grindcore contemporaries. Earache did eventually come to its senses and sign the band in 1994 - but only after their demo for us 'Morbid Florist' was picked up and released by Relapse. I signed them mainly because they were one of the only "true grind" originators left, and Earache wanted to support that.

Back then, AC had no lyrics to speak of and no song titles- just calling them "some songs" or "hardcore song" or "more songs" and the such like.After signing with Earache we kinda persuaded them to 'play the game' a little bit by actually adopting song titles. This was so they could appear to fit in with the expectations of the record Biz at the time- we explained to the band how record retailers simply would not take an album seriously without song titles, so the band reluctantly agreed. Hence for the first time in their career actual song titles appeared on the debut album.

In the early days, AC song titles were side-splittingly funny, accurate, and clever observations of the music scene in general like, "MTV is My Source For New Music" or the grindcore scene in particular "Extreme Noise Terror are Afraid Of US" and "I Liked Earache Better When Dig Answered The Phone". Loads of fans- including me- loved the band because of theses witty and mildly confrontational song-titles.

Likewise a ton of people got into the band through their gloriously ramshackle renditions of cover songs like Bee Gees' "Stayin Alive", "Unbelievable" and " Theme From The A-team " etc.

They even took a break from their noisy output to flip the other side of the coin and release the acoustic 'Picnic of Love' 7inch, defying all conventions and taking the piss in a magnificent way.

During the course of 5 albums on Earache the band explored every taboo subject and slowly but surely upped the ante with each release, coming up with titles that were even more obnoxious and confrontational.By the final album we even had to censor titles because of concerns about being sued for libel.Eventually AC hit on the subject that I personally can not stomach and which sets off alarm bells in the record biz, namely Hitler.

The bands proposal for album 6 was all about Hitler (even though I don't believe the band are actually Nazis) which to me was simply beyond the pale so we decided not to work with them anymore.

In reality the bands charm with fans was on the wane aswell and their CD sales were down a lot and so we parted ways and dropped the band. This did not phase them in the slightest, and they promptly reverted back to being a DIY outfit.

About 6 years after parting from Earache I heard reports online that Seth had suffered a drugs overdose and subsequent coma- but luckily he survived and eventually recovered enough to take AC back on the road, still being obnoxious and causing trouble wherever they go, just like the good old days.

Theres even a new album due soon on new label PATAC of Cock Rock ballads called "Fuckin' A".

Friday, October 15, 2010

Should labels drop the price of CD to £1 ?

Question: Hi Dig,

I just read this article on BBC News, where Rob Dickins (ex-Warner Music UK) has been suggesting that hard-copy albums should now be priced at around £1 to beat piracy, suggesting that the major releases would sell something in the region of 200 million units. Here's the link:

I just wondered, from your perspective as the head of a well-known independent label, if that sort of pricing strategy for your CD releases makes sense?

From my own perspective, I used to spend anything from £30 to £70 a month on music, and was never really into illegal downloading of music. But since Spotify have been improving in leaps and bounds, I've been a premium member for nearly a year, and now consume practically all of my music via their client on my laptop when I'm at home (can stream through my Airport Express too), and on my iPhone via their app when I'm out walking or driving. When that's on offer for £10 a month, and I know the artists are hopefully seeing something of that money, it makes sense for me as a consumer and music fan.

I don't think I've bought a CD in nearly a year. Do you think this idea of a £1 price plan is going to change things, or should the labels perhaps be more publicly involved in trying to get people to stream their artists via Spotify, and trying to get more people behind the idea of paid subscription?
Andrew, Glasgow From:

Answer: Hi Andrew, well it seems your recent change in music-buying experience echoes that of a whole load of people, including myself. I agree that Spotify is a brilliant service for music fans, its selection is huge, the connection through 3G networks is almost flawless and I am gladly paying the £10 for the monthly premium membership.

Just today I dragged and dropped about 10 new albums like Dimmu Borgir, Spiritual Beggars, The Sword and more into a playlist, and then synched the list to my iPhone. Voila- in about 5 minutes I had an instant new music collection to take with me on the move.

Word is that Spotify (600,000 premium accounts) will link up with Microsoft and be embedded in the IE9 browser placing it into millions of desktops.This will mount a significant challenge to Apple iTunes (with 160 Million accounts) which is expected to counter by launching its own Cloud based streaming service, having acquired start up LaLa in 2009. Google is expected to get into the act as well and launch its own streaming on demand music service- even tho it does this very well currently with You Tube/Vevo anyway. So pretty soon 3 of the biggest tech companies in the world will battle it out to become the dominant music delivery service, most probably incorporating some social networking element into the mix for good measure, hence Apple's launch of Ping in September 2010.

Major Record companies are not the dumb slouches the tech-blogs make them out to be, and their digital strategies have come a long way since taking a battering from the likes of Napster and the file-sharing sites a few years back -when their only strategy was to sue them into legal oblivion. To show their intent, EMI hired a top level Google exec to helm their digital rollout. Pundits predict that record company revenues from digital sales - especially in the future when music is mostly consumed on mobile phones- will actually dwarf the previous physical format-era sale revenues.

The presumption is that the millions of music fans who are currently using File sharing and Torrents to consume billion of music files per day will instead turn to the legal streaming sites on their phone where most of the entire worlds collection of music will reside in the 'cloud' and can be played for free (with adverts) or, for a small monthly fee minus the ads.

Ye Olde Compacte Diske is showing its age. Those shiny discs are 80's era technology which is coming to the end of its life as a medium for music. Though Music Biz analysts think CDs will not die out completely, and could remain as a mainstream format for decades to come, still selling millions of units per year.

People who use Spotify, like yourself, have made the culturally significant transition from the old download & ownership model to listening to music streaming from the "Cloud". This is an important distinction. Many of my friends still insist on owning something, be it the Vinyl LP, CD or even Mp3 files on a hard drive. If its not firmly in their possession, showed off in their collection, then they don't really feel like a proper music fan. Personally, my Cd & LP collection just collects dust now.

Recently I had a shock because my Spotify premium account ran out after the first year, and the original credit card used on the account had expired, which meant it didn't renew properly so the account was closed. I was horrified by this- even though the music was in the cloud,and plainly not "mine"- it still felt like ownership to me.The idea that my lovingly created playlists might be lost forever made me pretty despondent. Luckily on signing up again they were all preserved just fine, so kudos to Spotify for that failsafe feature.

As for the £1 Cds- I understand what Rob Dickens is saying, and in theory he is right, if you lower the price of something enough then sales should soar as fans lose the inhibition to buy. But the costs involved with the manufacture, wherehousing, transportation and retail distribution of physical formats are so high, and with CD being a petroleum product, plus factoring in the fuel for transport, it seems to me that selling at £1 is simply is too low to make financial sense. Earache experimented this year with several new releases like BONDED BY BLOOD selling for around £4.99 at retail price in the shops, and while they have been good sellers, it wasn't a runaway success either. The Fopp chain always has a selection of CDs at £3 and £5 but its mostly deep, old back catalogue which have already recouped their costs years beforehand, very rarely the new releases from superstar acts.

Thinking about it, I reckon CDs will become more of bespoke format, kind of like Vinyl LPs are now, with lavish packaging and designed with the collector in mind, fetching high prices, not low price. If you want a physical format to show off in your collection, you'll have to pay a lot more for it.