Sunday, January 4, 2015

Label Interview: BLUNTFACE RECORDS

Interview with Otto Kinzel of Bluntface Records

Your label’s bio states you are a ten-year veteran of your local underground scene. In that time you must have made many contacts to help support through your label. Recall some local shows you have attended?
Some of the shows I've attended that featured either local bands, or bands on Bluntface Records, have rivaled some of the "bigger" shows I've been to in both intensity and fun. Seeing Virus Cycle open for KMFDM at The Webster (Hartford, Connecticut) on Halloween Night a couple years ago; The Chemical Distance CD release show in 2009 which was during half-time of the local roller derby team's season opening game (the Live Free or Die All-Stars, in Manchester New Hampshire); playing at the Boston area venues like The Middle East and The Church-Boston... all of these shows had special moments that I'll remember forever. At the KMFDM show I got to hang out with Sascha before the show. We talked about what life was like on tour, being parents (we both have young daughters), how drum triggers can misfire on stage (laughs). Stuff like that is just awesome. It's almost better than playing the show itself. A few years ago I was in a band that played a show with Ego Likeness, a touring industrial act from Metropolis Records. This was another show were I was able to hang out with Steve and Donna (from Ego Likeness) before the show and talk about life stuff, in addition to what gear they use live. Same thing with Ben from Ludovico Technique. He was cool and easy to talk to. Getting to see his live rig and how it all works was really cool. These are the type of things that make any particular show memorable for me, regardless of how the bands' sets are. It's the camaraderie between the various bands you play with and associate with, regardless of where they may be in their careers and how it differentiates from you. At the end of the day we're all a part of this little club just trying to survive and share our art.

So you would say you have learned more about the industry from meeting members of other bands and sharing information with them than just going to shows? In what ways has this helped you promote your label?
Oh without question I’ve learned the most from talking to other musicians. When you get to talk to other artists who are doing it for a living, in respects to touring, releasing albums, publishing, being on a label etc, you get to learn the inner working of how it all works. They're usually open about their experiences and you get to learn the real ugly truth behind how the industry works.

Do you remember the first bands you listened to upon getting into underground music? What about them appealed to you in a way that mainstream bands didn’t or couldn’t? Are you grateful that you discovered the bands you did and feel you came across them at just the right time?
Sam Black Church was one of the very first groups I saw live. They played in Burlington, Vermont, and I was in the seventh grade. It was pretty awesome. The way the crowd reacted, the energy in the room... it was just incredible. That’s what first got me interested in finding music that was less well known, that you needed to search out. I had a friend that was really into metal (the same friend who convinced me to go to the SBC show) who introduced me to Ministry, it was soon after they had released Psalm 69. I had never heard anything like it. It was intoxicating. What really appealed to me was that this was music not everyone liked, or even was aware of. I'd go to middle school and mention Ministry and no one knew what I was talking about. They were all listening to whatever was "hip" at the time, like C&C Music Factory, EMF, various hair metal bands. All that overly commercialized bullshit. I loved that I was listening to music that was in its own little world, like I had discovered something (laughs). It made me feel a closer connection to the art. From Ministry I discovered other industrial bands like Skinny Puppy, Front 242, Nitzer Ebb, KMFDM obviously...and from there I discovered metal bands like Sepultura, Exodus and Slayer. It just went on and on and brought me further down the rabbit's hole. It shaped my musical tastes and helped me develop my own musical identity, which carried over into my own music once I started playing guitar and writing my own stuff. It’s part of who I am.

It’s surprising that KMFDM is still around after all this time. How were they at the Webster on Halloween night? Do they still draw large crowds when they perform? Are you and Sascha remaining in touch since you met him?
Yeah they still actively tour and release albums. Still very much alive. They were amazing on Halloween night, one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. The energy was just incredible. The Webster is a medium sized venue and it was packed, so I would co spider it a large crowd, relatively speaking. Sascha and I are still in touch. He's very open and easy to communicate with. He's an excellent source of advice. I've found that to be the same from lots of famous musicians who are still considered "underground". Dirk from Soilwork and Mike Smith from Suffocation are another couple of famous guys who took time to personally answer me when I contacted them about everything from their recording setups to their touring riders to negotiating with a label. The guys who really care about the underground (regardless of the actual genre of music the play) still have that fire to help out up and coming artists. Just sharing advice and expertise is the best way to do that.

What band were you a member of at the time you met Steve and Donna of Ego Likeness? Was this band actively performing around that time? Are there any performance clips or official releases to speak of?
I was in Chemical Distance at the time. The show was at The Cantab Lounge in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which is part of Boston. There are some videos of me in Chemical Distance you can see here: vimeo.com/m/29690854. The Chemical Distance discography is here: bluntfacerecords.com/chemical-distance-albums.

How active was Chemical Distance at the time they were an active band, and for what reasons did they call it a day?
We did a lot of touring regionally throughout the Northeast, and released one full-length album and one EP. We did a ton of shows, a ton of press and radio and generally any-and-all forms of publicity we could get. We had a sort of quasi-industrial setup in the we used a lot of electronic and digital beats/loops for backing tracks and incorporated elements of rock, hip-hop, gabba, drum & bass and digital hardcore in our music. It was fun ride and we had a blast doing it but the project sort of ran its course. I think after we released the EP the overall energy within the band just wasn't there anymore. But I'm still great friends with the other members. There was no messy breakup or anything; no drama. We just decided to can it. The average person probably doesn't realize how exhausting the routine of nonstop promotion and touring can be. It really demands 100% focus from an individual, and after doing it for a few years we just didn't have the fire for Chemical Distance anymore. I think we just didn't have the inspiration for the writing/recording anymore. But like I said it was a lot of fun and I'm still close with the other guys.

What were you and Ben of Ludovico Technique discussing when you met him? At what venue did you run into him; was it a show his band was playing? Do you still remain in touch with him since your meeting?
Actually Ben and I were discussing pro wrestling (laughs). Just bullshitting about wrestlers from the 80's and stuff. It was a show in Somerville, Massachusetts that I was promoting, although I was not performing. Virus Cycle was however and it was a fun show. God Module was also on the bill. It was cool to hang out and "talk shop" so to speak with bands that regularly tour the U.S. and Europe and hear war stories. I'm not really in touch with Ben. After the show I did send him a couple of emails just to say "thank you" and whatnot but we didn't really stay in touch. But he's a cool guy and easy to talk to.

Did the advice you were offered by Dirk from Soilwork and Mike Smith from Suffocation prove helpful when it came to subject matter?
Dirk and Mike were very helpful. Specifically in terms of how they record their drum tracks and how I should be engineering drum recording. Anytime you can pick the brain of an expert you'll always get gold for information in return.

What did you discover about the industry from taking to those you’ve made contact with? Was the information you received helpful in the sense that you learned how to avoid pitfalls when it comes to promoting and whatnot?
The ugliest truth I learned was about how big labels screw bands out of money every chance they get. Pitfalls like how a band gets a big advance to record an album but of course that money isn't free, you have to pay it back. That's a pretty obvious one as any person with some business knowledge would understand that. But the seedier stuff is how labels try to take a cut of a bands merchandise, how the trademark a band’s name and logo without their knowledge so that the label owns the rights; how labels will "replace" band members simply because that individual doesn't have the right "look,” regardless of talent (more common in mainstream music); how a label that a band isn't even signed to try to acquire an artist’s publishing without them even knowing, stuff like that. In the end it’s not necessary and more ugly than a cutthroat business environment. Commercial building sales, for example, can be just as vicious. But a lot of aspiring artists and bands don't think about these things. They're naive and think "it’s all about the art", which unfortunately it isn't. It’s a business first and foremost, and if you can't be profitable to a label than you're valueless. Things have changed for the better since file sharing and Napster exploded several years ago and put the traditional music business economy in the toilet. A lot of creative and financial freedom has been put back in the artists hands. When I started Bluntface it was my goal to make sure we NEVER pulled any of the bullshit a typical label or management company pulls on the major label level. For me it really is about the art first and creative an environment that cultivates talent.
The biggest pitfall to avoid is signing a long term contract, something that's got you locked into a deal, ironclad, with no way out. You always want to leave yourself an out. A one or two album deal (if possible), and if its longer than make sure you have a couple of options for getting out of your deal. Hopefully based around label performance or promotion. But so many bands think that "hey I got this contract, and it might be the only one I ever get" so they sign and hope for the best. That's a stupid thing to do. No responsible business owner would do that, and as an artist you need to think of your band as a business. And your music...your product...as your goods. If a label really wants you they'll negotiate. Just remember that it’s a joint relationship, not a one way street. So you need to be willing to give in to certain concessions. BOTH sides need to be successful and ultimately the label is typically fronting one hundred percent of the finances and resources to break a band. You need to respect that and understand it. You need to understand exactly when/where/how the label is spending the money that's allocated for your band (since you're responsible for helping them recoup it). Make them accountable for any irresponsible spending. Just remember that you need to hold yourself to the same standards. Don't blow your touring budget on booze and strippers while on the road, or your recording budget on drugs. The label is advancing you this money to use on your business (your band). It’s no different than a local small business owner getting a line of credit from the bank. You use it to grow your company but it’s certainly not free. Ideally it should be a partnership between the two groups.

The internet was always the center of debate within the music industry. What do you consider the pros and cons of making music available online (file sharing, social networks, internet radio etc)?
Overall I think the explosion of file sharing, internet radio and whatnot has been a godsend for the average, everyday musician. It has allowed unsigned artists the opportunity to have a voice and get some skin in the game without having to deal with all the bullshit of soliciting their music to a label, trying to get signed, compromising their music in order to "make it". The downside is that now everyone and their brother is recording in their bedroom and putting stuff out, so there isn't really a gatekeeper for quality like there was in the past; but having said that even when there WAS some type of quality control from labels and A&R departments there was still a lot of terrible shit being released. I hate many aspects of the traditional music "industry" so I'm more than happy to do my part to help throw more dirt on its grave.

List the clubs that are currently active in New Hampshire and the other locations you have visited, and indicate how supportive they are of independent bands. What locations in the US and abroad would you want to visit scene-wise?
It’s hard to list all the clubs that are active because there are a ton of non-traditional venues, like VFW Halls, Elks Lodge halls and such, that local promoters are using to put on all ages shows all the time. But in regards to traditional, booze serving venues in New Hampshire that actively book metal; there are a number of them here in Manchester. There's Mad Bob's, Milly's Tavern, The Shaskeen... then there's an all ages venue in Plaistow called The Sad Cafe (although they don't serve beer haha), the Stone Church in Newmarket, Uncle Eddie's in Salisbury (which is actually Massachusetts but right on the New Hampshire border, on the Seacoast)... there's a ton that I'm forgetting now because I'm being asked on the spot (laughs). For other scenes I'd love to see what things out West are like. In Nevada, California, Arizona, and down South in Florida. Hopefully one day I'll make it out to these places for an extended stay and be able to check out a bunch of shows. As far as abroad I keep hearing that India has a huge metal scene, so that'd be really cool to check out. And of course Australia and mainland Europe. That'd be awesome to go over there.

I’ve noticed that internet radio in has helped many unsigned and otherwise obscure bands get their names around (shows like Brutalism from the Netherlands and Deviants Underground Radio and Raven Eggs And Kegs Radio from the US). Do you see any way such shows could be taken to the next level? Any internet radio programs you know of worth mentioning?
Haha in terms of taking it to the "next level" I'm not sure I can add anything of value. Aside from increasing their own specific audience via advertising and whatnot. Maybe a subscription based service that ties into Satellite radio? I don't know; I'm really just throwing ideas out. I would say like anything is comes down to raising the exposure of your station and increasing your listenership. Which is all about good old fashioned promotion. There are several stations that do an amazing job, like 365 Radio Network (365radionetwork.com), Metal Devastation Radio (metaldevastationradio.com), Blackened Horde Radio (blackenedhorderadio.com), Metal World Radio (metalworldradio.com) and Core of Destruction Radio (coreofdestructionradio.com)... these are stations that feature Operation: Underground and work their ass off to promote the underground.

How actively have 365 Radio Network, Metal Devastation Radio, Blackened Horde Radio, Metal World Radio, Core of Destruction Radio helped promote Operation: Underground? In which countries are these programs based?
Each station dedicated a feature program to showcase the compilation, playing the entire thing (all 27 tracks) and in some cases, as with Metal Devastation Radio and Core Of Destruction, interviewing some of the bands that appeared on it. The response they've had towards supporting Operation: Underground has been really rewarding for me. I'm actually not sure where any of them are based out of. I believe 365 is based in Europe, the rest I believe are here in the States. I know Ringmaster is in the U.K. and Metal Gallows is in India.

Do you know which bands were interviewed on Core Of Destruction and if those interviews helped their careers?
I believe it was Solium Fatalis and Goreality. I don't know how much it furthered their careers but any extra promotion is never a bad thing. I don't have any sort of specific numbers or feedback but from what I've seen from my own website traffic it looks like the Core Of Destruction special generated a lot of buzz, so I would think having an interview featured within that special only helped to expand those bands' audiences.

Were you in contact with musicians from your area before founding Bluntface Records? How many bands are active in Manchester, New Hampshire and the other locations you mentioned earlier? What made you want to found a label?
I played in bands my whole life, so my first contact with other bands in the Manchester area came simply from playing shows, and becoming friends with similar artists. I wanted to start a label primarily to have a collective group for pro voting and sharing resources. Bluntface has always been more of a collective or a team, rather than a traditional "label". It's always been my goal to build an organization where everyone involved (the bands, promoters, affiliated media) pushed 100% in promoting each other and sharing resources. At the end of the day we're not in competition with each other; but rather we're in support of each other. Or at least that's the idea behind Bluntface. That's where the camaraderie comes in. We all try to support each other in our projects. It can be as simple as retweeting something on Twitter or sharing a Facebook post. Just easy quick ways to help spread the word. Our bands do that for each other and it only benefits everyone involved.

How important is it to have camaraderie among underground bands as opposed to competition?
Operation: Underground is proof of how productive the promotional efforts for an independent release can be when everyone involved helps to do their part. So many bands on it were supportive of the entire album and helped to promote it. It was a wonderful example of cross promotion and each band exposing their own fanbase to bands from all over the world.

How many other bands had you worked in besides the band we discussed earlier? Anything memorable from your experiences with these bands, in addition to the tales you have already shared?
One of the biggest highlights was releasing a solo album at the end of 2011 (bluntfacerecords.com/otto-kinzel-albums). It made several year’s end best of lists and I'm proud of it. I got to work with Russell Rocheleau from Rock Water Pictures in making a video for the first single, and it's a relationship that's still active today. Russell has become a great friend as well as a great source for collaboration and inspiration. So that was amazing. You can see the video here (Otto Kinzel: "I Want To Report A Murder"): http://youtu.be/hlEZXJZ_hrI. Fiends Of A New Republic is the band I'm primary focused on right now. We play industrial-rock, sort of in the spirit of KMFDM, or Kidney Thieves. We have our debut full-length album finished and are working on a release date. You can check us out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/fiendsofanewrepublic.

What’s the storyline of your video I Want To Report A Murder? Are the actors appearing in this video people you or Russell know personally? Describe the process of filming and producing this video.
The story is based on the real life case of the Zodiac Killer, who terrorized the Bay Area of California in the late 1960's/early 70's. The entire album is a concept based around the murders committed and the general fear the entire Bay Area had at the time. I wanted to focus on how one man could hold an entire region of a state in terror. So the video focuses on the murder that was committed at the Blue Rock Springs park in Vallejo, in which he shot Darlene Ferrin (who died) and Michael Mageau (who did survive). And then the subsequent phone call the Zodiac made to the local police, in which he said "I want to report a murder" and informed them of the crime. All of the actors who appeared in the video are friends; none of them are professionals. Everyone volunteered their time to do this. It was a lot of fun and a really cool experience. Russell runs a tight ship and made sure we got all of the shots completed. But that we also had fun.

How much research on your part went into the tale of the Zodiac Killer before filming began on I Want To Report A Murder?
A LOT! I did a ton of research for the album. I am very proud that artistically the music and the album are very historically accurate. So we wanted to make sure that the events depicted in the video were true to real life, and accurate according to the police reports.

How much mutual work have you and Russell Rocheleau done since making the video? Has there been any feedback for it following its release?
Russell and I have done a lot of work together. In addition to doing the video for my solo stuff he also shot a video for Virus Cycle, and for The Wood Heads, an electronic act from Denmark on Bluntface Records. And he's made a variety of promo shots as well as live shots for me from a variety of shows. We're collaborating on a project right now that'll incorporate film and visuals into the music for a really intense live presentation. It’s been fun working with him. Influence wise we're similar and we both have the same outlook on how we want to present an artistic piece to the public. Russell's You Tube page is www.youtube.com/rockwater77.

Any light you want to shed on the new project you and Russell are working on? Explain how you share similar influences and the same outlook about public presentation?
Well it’s still very much in its infancy so I don't want to say too much. I don't want to set false expectations because where we end up, artistically, could be different from where we've started due to the natural evolution of how projects go. But influence-wise we're both into artists that would be considered avant-garde and/or noir. Directors like David Lynch, bands like Fantomas or Ween etc. Stuff that's no easy for "regular people" to digest. It'll involve film, photography and of course music. A project that is as much visually stimulation as it is audio.

How long has Fiends Of A New Republic worked together and how active is the band at present?
Fiends has been around for about two years now. We were active and did a lot of shows and travel for the first year to 18 months. We released a free, four song promotional EP that people can either get at our shows or download from the Bluntface Records online store. Then we focused on recording our debut full-length. The album is done but we hit a few minor delays in our personal lives. Our front woman Pixy is getting married at the end of October, and my wife and I are expecting our second child at almost the same time as Pixy's wedding. So once we get past these events we'll be back on track. I think we're looking at second quarter release for 2015.

List some of the venues where Fiends have appeared and provide information about the four song promo you released?
Lots of Boston, Massachusetts venues as well as New Hampshire. Too many to list offhand but some of the places we love playing are Middle East in Cambridge, The Raven in Worcester, The Blue Shamrock in Lowell, Sammy's Patio in Revere, Mad Bob's in Manchester, New Hampshire, Milly's Tavern (also in Manchester) and I could go on and on (laughs). We released the four song promo EP as a way to help promote the band. It’s available as a free give away CD at our shows and a free download at bluntfacerecords.com/fiends-of-a-new-republic-albums. It’s basically a teaser for what is upcoming in our full-length debut.

List the songs that appear on your promo EP and explain how they represent where the band is at presently? How many reviews has it gotten from the underground press since it began circulating?
The songs of the promotional EP are: Queen Wicked, I'm Watching You, Snap and Hiding In Every Nightmare. The promo EP shows us at our earlier stages, a young group writing songs and developing their style. Whereas the full-length album was produced after almost a full year of touring and writing new music, so it naturally has a more developed, mature type of sound when compared to the promo EP. We didn't really do any sort of PR push with the EP because the focus of it was to gain exposure among music goers and potential fans. But people seem to like what we do, so that's cool.

Describe how Fiends improved musically and lyrically by the time their full length was released.
It's a natural evolution. When a band first starts out generally you're playing songs that are primarily written by one or two people. And it tends to be in the "voice" of those individuals. But over the course of time, from constantly playing live together and writing together, the style develops and that "voice" within the writing evolves from those individuals to more of a group conscience. The sound becomes more mature.

Were any songs that appeared on the EP recorded for the full length? Name the new songs the band worked on for the album and what inspired each of them.
All of the songs that appeared on the EP were totally re-recorded for the album, because all of them had evolved and changed slightly from their original versions. Just from playing them live for over a year we naturally changed some parts and did some self-editing. The album will have a total of eleven songs; the four from the EP plus seven brand new songs that were written over the course of the last year. We actually had fourteen songs total but we ended up leaving three songs off because they didn't really fit into the overall flow of the album. We might put those out as a separate EP later on. As far as inspiration I was listening to a lot of KMFDM, Atari Teenage Riot, and Kidney Thieves. So using a lot of Gabba, Digital Hardcore and Drum & Bass programming for the songs was the common theme for inspiration.

After you started Operation: Underground, how soon did you come into contact with like-minded supporters of underground music who shared your vision one way or the other and wanted to help you reach more people?
The whole thing with Operation: Underground happened very quickly. Haniel from Markradonn (markradonn.com) was a terrific help. From his own base of networking he suggested a lot of bands whose mind set and work ethic fit in perfectly with what i wanted to do with this comp. In fact, Haniel was on board one hundred percent from day one. The entire inspiration for Operation: Underground grew out of a reaction to the "big" DM bands like Nile, who seem to look at unsigned and independent bands with disgust, and clearly don't care about the underground  (even though it’s the same underground that supports them and has essentially put them where they are as an international touring outfit). Dante from Killer Robot (facebook.com/killerrobotpromotions), a booking and promotional company here in Boston, was also a great help. He was able to suggest a number of bands that he's worked with who would also be a great fit for the comp. The big thing for me was that I didn’t want to just openly accept solicitations; rather I wanted to be the one soliciting artists. I wanted to hunt down and discover bands from all over the globe that inspired me, and those were the ones I wanted on the album. With guys like Haniel and Dante I was able to lean on people who really had their fingers on the pulse of underground metal and turned me onto some fucking awesome bands. I can say in confidence that I became a fan of every band on Operation: Underground. It really inspired me to get back into writing and recording my own extreme metal stuff.

Did you meet Haniel and Dante before founding Operation: Underground, or when you were looking for bands to support?
It sort of just happened. Haniel was involved from the start so he already had done the leg work of contacting some bands he knew and liked to be on it. Dante I simply just emailed. He books a lot of shows in the Boston area and I had an opportunity to speak to him shortly during a show Fiends Of A New Republic was playing.

What bands were among the first to contact you seeking record deals when you founded the label?
When Bluntface was first launched I actually ended up soliciting artists on my own, other than the other way around. There were bands that I was already friends with and respected, and I wanted to work with them. That's how Virus Cycle came to be on the label. I had done a remix for them and we ended up collaborating on some stuff, and the relationship grew from there. Typically the way we get new artists is from the bands already on Bluntface. They'll send me a link or give me a heads up on some awesome new band they have played a show with or whatnot. It’s like they're also A&R people, in addition to bands on the label.

How many bands are on your label at present, and how much effort do they put into supporting one another? I know Markradonn is one of the bands on your roster; have they recommended any new bands to you?
Right now we have Virus Cycle, Varicella, Krebs, Markradonn, Fiends of a New Republic, Dark Vision, and FL Tunes (The Wood Heads). And yes Haniel from Markradonn has suggested a few new acts for Bluntface. I'm not at liberty to comment right now but I can assure you that a couple of the bands that appeared on Operation: Underground will hopefully be joining Bluntface in the very near future.

How often does Dante book shows in Boston, and how many clubs is he working with at present? Are you discussing his booking any Bluntface bands for performances over there? Or if not, would this be a future possibility?
Dante books a lot of shows, at several different venues in the Boston area. I've spoken to him a little about some show bookings for Fiends and maybe there's the potential for doing other Bluntface acts when they come up to the New England area but we haven't had any serious discussions. That's something I'd absolutely love to do and work with him on.

Are these bands all included on the compilation release you are currently promoting? This compilation is available on the net as well as on CD. How much distribution and reviewer feedback has it received since it came out?
The only Bluntface band that appears on Operation: Underground is Markradonn, because the compilation is focused on the extreme metal genre. Fiends, Krebs, Virus Cycle and Varicella are all in the industrial genre so they didn't fit with the theme of the album. Operation: Underground is actually only available on the internet, and specifically at www.bluntfacerecords.com. To make it a physical CD it'd have to be a double disc (its 27 tracks, almost two hours in total music), and giving it away for free would make it a very expensive affair. Just not realistic financially. So we put it out as a free download and put the resources into the promotion and marketing of it. The Ringmaster Review and Metal Gallows both released some nice reviews of it, and Metal Cage and Wicked Spins are also putting up our reviews. We post them on our website as soon as they come out so if people are interested they can go to www.bluntfacerecords.com. I will say that in terms of listener/customer feedback it’s been overwhelmingly positive. My goal In assembling this comp was to put together a list of songs that a metal fan would want to listen to from beginning to end. Every song had to be awesome; I didn't want people skipping tracks and avoiding what they perceived as "filler." From all the emails, tweets and FB messages I’ve gotten from people who have downloaded it I think it’s safe to say that Operation: Underground has NO "filler" material. It’s all killer.

Can you quote a handful of the reviews Operation: Underground has received since its release, along with some of the personal messages you have read recently? Is the feedback giving you the impression that you’re achieving what you set out to do?
Both Ringmaster and Metal Gallows praised it for the quality of artists and the overall presentation. This is an album that is hard hitting from start-to-finish and engages the listener to listen to every song. Both of these reviews are posted on the front page of the Bluntface website. I received emails from fans thanking me for exposing them to new artists they hadn't previously known, and from the bands who were genuinely thrilled to be involved. I woke up the morning after it had been released and literally had a hundred plus new messages in my inbox on Facebook from random people who had downloaded Operation: Underground and thought of it almost as a "call to arms" for metalheads. It was a little overwhelming. I feel very proud to be doing something that has helped bring exposure to the underground metal scene and hopefully helped every band involved gain some new fans.

What can you tell the readers of Ringmaster and Metal Gallows. Are these print magazines or webzines? Has anyone contacted you after reading the reviews in those publications?
Both of those 'zines are internet based, I believe. But because they're based out of the UK and India respectively I don't know for sure if they have a physical distribution or not. I read them online, it’s just easier and quicker for me. It’s funny because after the reviews of Operation: Underground were printed in those issues we saw a bunch of traffic on the Bluntface site. I can see where people are coming in from and what links they clicked to get to the Bluntface site and we had a lot of activity from those respective areas (the UK and India). I have no doubt that it was due to the support Ringmaster and Metal Gallows gave us.

Did releasing Operation: Underground as a free download make it easier to reach more listeners? From what countries has the compilation received the largest response? Do you have any personal favorites from Operation: Underground? Or do you like all the tracks equally?
Yes I think it was a huge help. It really gives people no excuse not to check it out. It also takes away any ideas or accusations that we're doing this "for the money" (laughs). This is all about supporting a genre of music that means a lot to me personally, and hopefully the people who have downloaded it are getting turned onto the various bands on it. I think my personal favorites are Echaton, Solium Fatalis, Markradonn, Critical Dismemberment, Legion Of Wolves, Syphor, Carnivora, Wrathsputin, Goreality... actually probably the entire album haha. I'm a fan of metal first and foremost so I put this compilation together from a fan's point of view.

Do you think that compiling Operation: Underground from a fan’s perspective is the reason people relate to it?
Oh god I hope so! I wanted Operation: Underground to be something that the average metal fan could and would get really excited about. That's the "target group", so to speak, I had in mind when I put it together, and that's who I really wanted to connect with. Radio and print coverage is great and I'm appreciative that so many stations and media outlets gave it strong support, but my ultimate fulfillment and sense of if this whole thing was a success or not is based on the feedback from metal FANS first and foremost.

Do you think there ought to be more grassroots efforts similar to Operation: Underground that consider what the fans appreciate first? Would this help to strengthen the worldwide network of underground music?
Well naturally I think that would work, but I'm not sure it’s as simple as that. Releasing compilations certainly helps, and having passionate fans anticipating these releasing is huge. But just tossing out a comp and hoping people discover it doesn't really do anything. You need to promote the hell out of it, and the artists that are participating need to promote the hell out of it. It’s all about quality over quantity. Strength in the underground comes from people who actually CARE and are willing to put in the work to expose their friends and colleagues to this type of music. But if organizations and labels are lazy and just throw out a random compilation of mismatched bands then that doesn't help anyone.

Are you in contact with enough bands that you would consider releasing a second volume of Operation: Underground? Would you like to see Operation: Underground become an ongoing series?
Interesting question. In regards to the first part, yes. I have bands beating down my door about doing a volume 2. And it’s something I'm very interested in doing. As far as becoming an o going thing, I don't know. It takes a lot of work to make these things happen. A LOT of work and coordination went into the first Operation: Underground, and I think it’s been a great success because of that. I would want to make sure that every subsequent release that carried on this theme had the same level of work, commitment and dedication. It wouldn't be fair to the artists involved or the fans if it was anything less than 100% effort from all parties involved. I am interested in doing a second volume but if we were going to make this a semi-regular series of releases I'd only want to put out a couple of volumes a year. I would never want to cheapen what Operation: Underground is about.

So sticking to your vision will help preserve the reasons you started Operation: Underground to begin with?
I want to always keep the integrity and passion for why we originally started Operation: Underground always at the forefront.


-Dave Wolff