Thursday, December 17, 2020

Interview with Billy Nocera of Razorback Recordings by Dave Wolff

Interview with Billy Nocera of Razorback Recordings by Dave Wolff

Razorback Recordings started in the late 1990s and remains active to this day. Present some history of the label and explain how it lasted this long.
The label started with Jill Girardi and me in 1998. She was doing Mortal Coil Records and I was doing Be A Freak Records. We just decided to combine both together into one label that was more focused on death metal and grindcore music. Our first release was by the Portland, Oregon band ENGORGED and we also did two compilation CDs that were pretty popular at the time: GORE IS YOUR MASTER and A HOG-WILD TALE OF TERROR. The label has since done 87 different releases, all on CD format. It's a miracle it's still alive today because it's almost impossible to sell music these days with all the digital and streaming web sites basically offering music practically for FREE now. The label was on hiatus since 2016 but I recently released a new CD by my own band HEADLESS EYES through it and here I am today still going with it. My other focus is my horror publication EVILSPEAK MAGAZINE which is currently being worked on for its 7th volume in book format.

Why did you and Jill decide to exclusively support death metal and grindcore? Did many labels support those genres when you founded Razorback?
I wanted a specific type of death metal, not just any one. I was more into AUTOPSY, REPULSION, NIHILIST, early-CARCASS, and especially IMPETIGO. I wanted all the releases to be inspired by horror movies, books, art, comics, etc. That was a must for me. Jill and I both agreed that was the direction and we were very successful with it. It took a while for people to catch on to what we were doing because in those early days of the label the metal scene was more into technical/slam type of death metal. So it took a while to get our concept out there to those that later appreciated it. Lots of hard work in those days with mail, packages, promotion, etc.

Do you remember the bands that appeared on Gore Is Your Master and A Hog-Wild Tale Of Terror after all this time? Are any of those bands and/or Engorged still active today?
It's hard to remember every band, but I actually do think most of those bands are long gone. Engorged was the very first Razorback band but hasn't been active in a long time.

How many mailings did you and Jill do for Razorback per month? How much advertising in zines was done at that time?
Impossible to remember that, honestly. We did a lot in those older days. It was a different scene back then. More about physical media and physical promos. Now it simply costs too much to do that. Lots of fanzine advertising in those days for sure. That's all it was before the internet took over completely. I miss those days! 

Why did Razorback go on hiatus, and what made you decide to restart it? Are you remaining in touch with Jill today?
Jill is one of my best friends ever and we are collaborating today on the label along with Evilspeak Magazine! I brought Razorback back to release the debut HEADLESS EYES album and I have a few other things in the works. I just felt like it was the right moment though it will never be what it used to be. I'm doing it for fun more than anything else.

How has advertising and band promotion changed since you founded the label in 1998? Does the label stream their releases and offer them in digital format? If so, how much does it help keep the label above water?
Back in the old days, it was more about sending physical CDs to actual zines, but those days are long dead now. It's too expensive to ship CD's out to zines all over and zines hardly even exist anymore. I still offer digital but my main thing is physical media always. If I didn't do physical media, then I wouldn't do music at all. Digital sales are not that great as most people download illegally for free anyway.

Aside from ads, promotions and digital streams, how has fandom for underground/extreme metal changed since the late 90s? For example, do you consider aboveground exposure to be better or worse for the genres?
Aboveground exposure hasn't really done much for the underground. It probably ruined it? It's hard to say really. I guess it has benefited some bands but those are usually the sellout shitty ones that always wanted to be "big" so it's not really shocking. What sucks is that some of the bigger labels gave up supporting underground labels by refusing to stock their releases anymore. I guess every label has to do what it needs to survive, but that really helped kill a lot of labels struggling to get their stuff out there. In the end though maybe it's for the better as a lot of stuff is more obscure now ironically and that might add to the charm, who knows.

Black metal seemed to thrive on that obscurity in the 90s and to a point it still does. Also, a greater amount of smaller labels and obscure bands are promoting their own releases independently. Do you think this would attract new would-be listeners?
I guess it works differently for each band/person. Some are successful, some are not. It's really hard to make a name now with a band or music. Most people just don't give a fuck anymore about music or actually buying a copy of a CD or whatever format. For some, just hearing it on Youtube is enough. You have to tour or make a lot of band merchandise to "make it" but even live bands don't really do that great either. It's a shitty time for music now and it doesn't seem like it will get much better.

Did you keep the printed fanzines you collected in the 1990s? Do you know of zines that are still in publication now?
I still have lots of my old fanzines, but mostly the ones from the early '90s. I can't think of a single old fanzine that is still being published today for those days, honestly. That's kind of sad, but just how it goes I guess.

How long has Evilspeak Magazine been in production to date? Who have you interviewed since the first issue was released?
The first issue came out in 2013 and it's still going. It takes a long time to get an issue out because I publish it in a book format and we have a lot of different writers so it just takes a while. I don't like to rush them at all. It's mostly articles about old horror and cult exploitation films, not really interviews though I have done interviews with Chris from Autopsy and David Gregory of Severin Films.

How long does it usually take for an issue of Evilspeak to be completed and published on average?
The past few years it has taken a long time. Much longer than I want but I'm so picky about what goes into an issue now and I always want it to be a book so I want more material in it. I'm always looking for more stuff to put into it so it's hard to settle on when it's ready to come out.

Where do you take completed issues of Evilspeak to be copied when it’s ready for publication? Do you go somewhere to keep costs down, or are you printing it on your own?
The first two issues were printed by two different printers, and now I use Amazon's printing company to get it done.

What did Chris of Autopsy and David of Severin Films have to talk about when you interviewed them? Have you interviewed other bands besides Autopsy or do you mostly interview film companies when you do interviews?
I spoke with Chris about horror movies more than metal. Severin was all about their Blu-ray releases and all the cool stuff they have coming out. That’s been the only band interview but it wasn’t really a traditional band interview. Just with Chris about movies! Great guy!

Why did you decide to publish Evilspeak as a book instead of publishing it as a zine? Was this intended to earn a larger readership or because there is so much material included in every issue?
I feel like it stands out more as a book and you can also display it on your shelf with a spine showing the title and everything. You can also fit a lot more material and I love that. I’m more of a book collector than a magazine collector also so it’s a personal thing as well. 

How many writers do you have on the staff of Evilspeak at present, and what does each staff member do?
I have a lot of freelance writers so the number of is different each issue. Everybody contributes articles and interviews. Lots of variety and fun stuff. No issue is ever alike. 

Who contributed to the current issue of Evilspeak and what are some of the articles appearing in the said issue?
The current issue is volume 6 and you can read what's in it at this link.

What eras of horror cinema are most often covered in Evilspeak? Which of those genres do you most prefer?
Anything from the '60s, 70's, 80's, and some 90's stuff. It's rare to feature anything modern or new. My favorites are Italian horror from the '60s, '70s, and '80s as well as the Hammer horror films, along with Spanish horror such as the films of Paul Naschy and Amando de Ossorio from the '70s.

What movies from the Hammer era would you be most likely to recommend, along with movies from the Italian and Spanish industries?
Billy: Horror of Dracula, Curse of Frankenstein, Brides of Dracula, Vampire Lovers, Lust for a Vampire, Twins of Evil, Countess Dracula, Vampire Circus, Hands of the Ripper, Horror Rises From the Tomb, The Vampires Night Orgy, The People Who Own the Dark, Night of the Werewolf, Werewolf Woman, House By the Edge of the Park, The Gates of Hell, New York Ripper, Suspiria, Night of the Devils, Hunchback of the Morgue, and so many more that I could go on for the rest of my life haha!

Does the magazine cover any movies from the Japanese horror/gore/splatter industry? Many people have heard of Guinea Pig and Flowers of Flesh and Blood; are there others you know of that are worth mentioning?
Billy: I love a lot of those films but so far Evilspeak hasn't really covered that genre yet. Evil Dead Trap is amazing also! I haven't watched those Guinea Pig films in a long time. I remember they are mostly just shocking for the sake of shock basically. I prefer more actual films with stories than just being "gory".

What appeal exists in those indie and foreign horror movies you cited as recommendations that you find missing in today’s horror movies from Hollywood?
Good creepy atmosphere, better set designs, and authentic locations, better acting, old-school hand crafted FX, and no digital or CGI. I like a few newer horror films today but compared to the old stuff it's just not the same anymore and hasn't been for decades now.

Are there any recent mainstream or indie horror movies you saw as worthwhile as the older movies you still appreciate?
I really loved The Witch a lot. That's been my absolute favorite newer horror film in the past few years.

How long has Headless Eyes been active? Discuss the making of your debut CD “Horrorpilations” and how well it has been received to date.
It all started in April 2020 actually. My other bands Surgikill and Vaultwraith both broke up so I wanted to keep doing music. My good friend Willie (from Vaultwraith) and I wanted to keep working on music so we started up Headless Eyes and immediately started on the album. We skipped doing a demo because there's really no need to do demos anymore in 2020. It's all bullshit. Better to just do an album since I was releasing it on my own label anyway! The response has been great so far and we're already working on an EP and then eventually the second album!

When before Headless Eyes was Surgikill and Vaultwraith active? Did those bands release anything that can still be ordered by snail mail or streamed online?
I was involved with those bands for the past five years. There's still some more releases coming out from them that were recorded later. Yeah, you can get VAULTWRAITH stuff from Hells Headbangers. They have t-shirts as well. Most SURGIKILL stuff seems sold out but still floating around various distros, Amazon or eBay.

Is Headless Eyes just you and Wille or are you working with other musicians? How do you go about composing songs?
Yeah just Willie and I. For the album I wrote all the lyrics first and then Willie wrote the music around the words. It worked out great. We're working on a new EP now and this time he's coming up with the music first and then I'll work the lyrics into the music. It's a great collaboration and Willie is a great friend of mine.

List the songs on “Horrorpilations” and describe what they are about. Your song “Long Live The Skincrawling Flesh” was released as a single five months prior to the album; how much interest did it build in that time?
1. LONG LIVE THE SKINCRAWLING FLESH is like our theme song! Just saying we will tear you apart and we don't give a fuck!
2. PHANTOMIZED is about a horny fucking ghost!
3. MURDER HOOK MANSION is inspired by the film Scream Bloody Murder from 1973.
4. COUNTESS LOBOTOMY is inspired by movies like Faceless, Lady Frankenstein, and bands like Venom/Ramones.
5. WASTE CITY is a fun song about where all the characters of Headless Eyes dwell!
6. A BONE TO PICK is inspired by the film Frankenstein 1980.
7. HORRIPILATIONS is an instrumental.
8. WINTERBEAST was inspired by the film with the same name
9. MEAT OF THE MATTER is a total fucking splatter gore metal song!
10. AN OLD FLAME RETURNS is inspired by Hello Mary Lou, Prom Night part 2
11. ENTRAIL CLOAK is inspired by Mardis Gras Massacre from 1978
12. SKULL SPLITTING HEADACHE is inspired by Blue Sunshine from 1977
13. LADY MAUSOLEUM is inspired by the film Mausoleum from 1983. The "single" was just some advance promotion, but it had a good word of mouth for sure. We were really happy with it.

In light of the situations with your previous bands, do you intend for Headless Eyes to be a long term prospect?
Yeah this is the only band I'm doing now. I have no interest in doing anything else musically.

Podcasting has been growing in metal communities the past few years. Is this something you would be interested in doing for your band, label or zine at some point?
I doubt I'll ever do that but you never know! I've thought about it sometimes. 

How soon do you expect to record another Headless Eyes release, interview again for Evilspeak or sign new bands to Razorback? Where can parties interested in being interviewed or signed contact you?
I'm not looking for bands for the label anymore as I basically plan to reissue older stuff. Evilspeak will continue to be mostly articles. We're planning the second Headless Eyes album right now actually! Looking to work on it in 2021 for a 2022 release!

-Dave Wolff

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