To those familiar with the underground scene US label Razorback Records should ring a bell, if not then your probably not underground enough. The label have been around for more than five years and released albums with such bands like Engorged, The County Medical Examiners, Impaled, Machetazo only to name a few. I've stumbled across the label on several occasions and heard many good things about them from various people. I decided in the light of the reviews I recently did that it would interesting to learn more about this small and yet very active underground label so I got hold of founder Billy Nocera to talk about the past, present and future of Razorback Records.
What motivated you to start Razorback Records back in the day?
Well, I come from the old early 90's days of death metal, and I was really getting sick of what the genre had become, with 50000 Suffocation clone bands and all these shitty metalcore and At The Gates clone bands, and basically anything pretending to be grind but was really just boring generic death metal crap. My favorite bands were always Grave, Massacre, Bolt Thrower, Carcass, Impetigo, Autopsy, Repulsion, Gut, Entombed, Terrorizer, Kreator, Slayer, early-Metallica, Cryptic Slaughter, Suicidal Tendencies, and tons more classic bands. I was also always a huge horror film and comic book fan and I always wanted to do a label that had that kind of concept about it. Mixing horror with my favorite style of extreme metal was what really got me to do this label, and we're still going non-stop for the past 6 years!
Could you say a little about what kinda music that is your main priority?
I guess I just answered that before [laughs]. I just love the classic style of playing. I love bands that know how to play extreme, but also catchy with songs that you can remember. I hate mindless, boring brutal death metal crap with some fat fuck trying to grunt like a pig over some shitty technical riffs or "slam" riffs that basically sound like Pantera or Biohazard or nu-metal shit. I love the bands that helped create this music, and I try to work with new bands that were inspired by those bands but who also want to do their own thing at the same time and to also have fun. It has to be old school sounding for me to even listen to a band today. If some bands sends me a demo saying they're into Deeds of Flesh or Dying Fetus, then it goes straight in the trash! I hate that shit. Give me Asphyx, Massacre, Bolt Thrower, Carnage, Autopsy, Impetigo and early-Death over any of this new stuff today.
You celebrated your fifth anniversary back in November 2004. What has been the highlight for Razorback Records so far?
Just getting to continue to do the label and get the next release out! We're very lucky considering how much the metal scene has changed over the years. Sometimes I can't believe there's even still bands playing old school style stuff. It's a testament to the fact that this style is not about trends but about integrity and playing what you love because you love it...not because some magazine decides that it's not "cool" anymore or some shit like that. I'm just happy we can still do this label and get to work with bands who really love and understand what we're all about. It's never been about becoming a "big" label or anything like that.
How many releases have you put out to date?
We have done a total of 31 releases with #32 coming out next month [March 2005]!
Being a small independent label it must have its advantages but also it's disadvantages. Is it something that almost equals up?
The advantage is that we let our bands do what they like. We give them freedom and let them have fun. This isn't some stupid "business" bullshit. We try to only work with bands who are on the same page as us, and also bands that are our friends. The disadvantage is that the distributors ignore us a lot and sometimes refuse to stock/buy our stuff wholesale which really hurts us in the end. Our stuff is really underground and today's business-oriented distribution doesn't give a shit about the underground anymore. They only want the "hottest" stuff that will make them money.
How many are involved in running the label and is it a fulltime job?
It's just me and Jill doing everything. Razorback doesn't pay the bills; I still have to work a part-time job to keep everything going with my regular life. Being an underground gore/death/grind label, it's almost impossible to earn a living. If we released trendy or popular [i.e.: wimpy] styles then we'd probably be able to make a living...but I can't even stomach the thought of releasing something I'm not personally into.
Looking at your band rooster I'd say it's pretty damn impressive. You've released stuff with some fairly known bands like General Surgery, Engorged, The County Medical Examiners, Impaled, Haemorrhage etc. how did you hook up with all those?
Well, Engorged was our first band ever, and I'm proud to say they're still with us! Things are better than ever with them also, so it's our pleasure to keep supporting those lunatic thrash-mongers! Impaled and Haemorrhage have been big supporters of Razorback from the start and we're really glad to have worked with them! Haemorrhage is working on another kick ass album right now and Impaled has their new one out next month!
Is there anything particular you lay weight on when signing a new band?
It has to be something we personally listen to, like something we'd actually buy in a store ourselves. Also it has to have the right kind of sound that we like and the right kind of concept. We worship horror/splatter themes/imagery...but only from a comic book/horror movie point of view. I'm not a big fan of real-life gore stuff that's usually taken from internet sites and slapped on cover layouts with bad quality. I love real, drawn artwork with an actual theme/idea/concept. That's very important to Razorback. Also, I fucking hate digital looking stuff. I crave hand-drawn art more than ever, since most labels these days do everything on the computer. Bring back real artwork!
How's the distribution of your releases? [I don't recall seeing them anywhere in Europe]
Our stuff is definitely in Europe, just not in too many of the record stores. Most record stores only stock the normal stuff from the bigger metal labels. Razorback stuff is underground, so you'll have to look for the right kind of labels/distros that would stock our kind of stuff. Our best distribution is in Japan. There's great support and appreciation for real underground stuff over there, something I admire very much.
You have your own webshop. Is that the best way to get your releases out to the masses? [I assume you won't find any Razorback releases at the local Wal-mart!]
[Laughs] Wal-Mart would get sued for stocking our stuff, especially the new Lord Gore album! Yeah usually mailorder is the best way to go. We try to make our web site as easy to shop from as possible, with the lowest prices. Jill works really hard on that aspect of the label. Check it out!
Could you say a little about what upcoming Razorback releases are in store?
Sure...we have the 3rd Machetazo CD coming out next month. It's pure 100% dark sounding death/grind. A total concept album about the Blind Dead films from the 1970's, which are some of my personal favorite European horror films ever. Also we have new albums coming from Coffins [doom/death from Japan], Ghoul, Frightmare, Funerot, Fondlecorpse, and a bunch more in 2006 and hopefully beyond!
Anything you wish to add to conclude this interview?
Thanks for getting in touch with us for this. I hope you like what Razorback has to offer. Sorry if anything I said offended anybody...I'm just speaking how I feel. Actually...I don't apologize [laughs]! Thanks for the interview and keep your eyes out for new blood-splattered metal coming soon!