If you’re reading this online publication, the chances are you’ve heard at least a handful of albums released by Massacre Records. Currently based in Abstatt, Germany, the label has brought to light music from a diverse range of bands, from established names such as Anvil, Hatriot and Raven to several debuting bands; from the Gothic Metal of Mandragora Scream and Virgin Black to the Thrash/Death Metal of Legion Of The Damned and Disbelief. And much more.
This year Massacre Records celebrates 25 years of existence and A&R manager Thomas Hertler assessed the label’s past, present and future by answering a few questions I had sent him. Thomas runs the enterprise with label CEO Torsten Hartmann.
This year the label celebrates 25 years of existence. How did the label start out? What were your ambitions back then?
Thomas: Torsten Hartmann has founded the label. We were looking for a label for the first album of my band Baphomet and Torsten has set up the name to haveit ready for release. For sure we did not think about doing this for 25 years at that time.
Have you prepared anything to mark this milestone?
Thomas: Well, there are a lot of campaigns this year to set it up both in the digital as in the physical market together with our special 2-CD history compilation with 3-D cover for special price. In the summer and fall there will be more campaigns following.
Doubtlessly a lot has happened in these last 25. From your point of view, how has the music industry changed since the label started off?
Thomas: Well, the music industry has changed a lot for sure, everybody can see that. It has totally changed the market and the way people consummate music in general. When we started even the CD was a new thing and no internet – almost unbelievable today (smile)
Describe a typical day at the office of Massacre Records…
Thomas: Well – with the risk that this might be disappointing for some – it is not so different from an office job in any sales company – you answer emails, do phone calls and work a lot! Only difference might be that we listen to more music here, hehe.
Today some smaller labels are organising their own festivals…..would this be something of interest to Massacre Records?
Thomas: Well, maybe this could be something to discuss for the future. But we don’t have enough people here to get this organized right now.
How involved do you like to be with the artistic side of the label, such as musical content of albums and album artwork?
Thomas: Usually the bands deliver their albums and artwork ideas and in general we don’t interfere there too much. If something is wrong we jump in for sure to explain the problem and solve it with the artists, but this is not happening very often.
Do you think the sophistication of today’s mobile phones has helped the label? Do you think video-clips have become more popular with such phones?
Thomas: Yes, it definitely raised the importance of video clips a lot and is still a central way of promotion for all bands and music. The standard music video to be shown on MTV etc. has been almost gone but now it has gained another importance.
What were the practical reasons for forming the subdivisions of Massacre Records? (Swanlake, Blue Rose, etc…) Why don’t these sub-labels exist any more?
Thomas: Blue Rose is completely doing his own biz as my colleague Edgar is really into that type of music and has established the label and a big mailorder.
Swanlake only was a sub-label of Massacre for 2 or 3 releases that were musically different from the rest of the catalogue but wasn’t used anymore.
Have you ever signed one of your musical idols?
Thomas: Yes, a couple of them! I have to name King Diamond, Anvil and Exciter here – especially since Exciter are back in the original lineup now!
Talent, market demand and band attitude….for a label executive like you, what is the comparative importance of these factors when signing a band?
Thomas: Well, it is definitely a combination of all of those. One won’t work without the other. In an ideal case a band offers all of this.
The Heretic Order and Weeping silence are 2 of the most recent bands signed by Massacre Records. What drew you to them?
Thomas: The Heretic Order is really special sounding, spooky old school English metal which reminds me of Ghost and old Mercyful Fate a lot. Weeping Silence are great sad melodies for our great fraction of gothic metal bands.
What decisions did you regret having made? Or not having made?
Thomas: You have to learn from false decisions and not doing them twice. But I cannot name a certain case especially which I really regret. Well, maybe sometimes putting too much trust in the people you work with.
What are your proudest accomplishments?
Thomas: To have a respected a steady label still with a great catalog of releases. With Theatre of Tragedy we defined a complete new genre which nowadays is a big part of the metal scene.
Could you describe Massacre’s next releases?
Thomas: Well, our next priority release will be the new Mystic Prophecy album, which turned out very powerful again. A new singing is Jaded Heart, one of the best known German melodic metal bands which will be out in April. Also we have new albums coming up from our long-term fellows The Order, Lonewolf, Illdisposed and a very interesting Debauchery vs. Bloodgod album.
A straightforward question to round off the interview…could you list 5 albums (not necessarily Metal genres) that have had a huge impact on you?
The Sisters Of Mercy – Floodland
Sanctuary – Into the mirror black
Mercyful Fate – Don’t break the oath
Exciter – Heavy Metal Maniac
Saviour Machine – II