Paul "Typhon" Thind is known within the underground scene as the extremist behind America's Necropolis Records. Fans look to the label for radical death and black metal music and have followed the record company's ascendancy from a one-man operation in a garage to a well-known outfit responsible for releases by Demilich to Dissection and Marduk to Mental Horror. Coinciding with a deluge of rumours regarding the label recently and on the imminent occasion of the company's tenth anniversary, Ali "The Metallian" summoned Thind to Metallian Towers for a comprehensive chat to address any and all Necropolis-related issue - 24.04.2002.
Paul, thank you for coming and the opportunity to speak with you. Let's dive into this. Why don't you give us a synopsis of your past, the history of Necropolis Records and bring everybody to the present day.
Thanks for inviting me Ali. Ok, Necropolis Records started as a fanzine. I had moved to California in 1989 and was a big fan of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. I was doing the fanzine and was getting music from everybody and at one point, and I am a stubborn and driven guy I know that about myself, I was getting demos from bands like Sentenced, Convulse and other bands from Sweden and Finland. We did two issues from 1990 to 1992. We were working on a third which never got finished. We did a couple of catalogue/fanzines as well. I was wondering why these bands weren't signed and it was a situation where I was into these bands and calling labels asking them to sign them.
Everything snowballed into my wanting to do more. So I just said 'screw it' I will do it myself. That was at the beginning of the second wave of black metal around 1993. The first band we signed was, and I had properly registered the label in February of 1993, Demilich from Finland which was a death/grind thing. After that we put out a CD by the Finnish black metal band called Arch Goat. We also were lucky in a way. Through the fanzine we had a ton of contacts and talked already to many people. We had these relationships and so we put out a 7" by Beherit which was a very popular black metal band then from Finland and after that I was very good friends with Jon of Dissection and he had a project called The Black which was another black metal band and we released something with them. We would then get recommendations from friends and contacts. I was very good friends with Jensen from Seance and he told me about a band from his town called Dawn and I ended up talking to them. They did albums with us and did very well for us. I convinced Jensen himself to reform this old black metal band called Satanic Slaughter. I told him 'you are a really good riff maker' and eventually things got bigger. I was very much into the underground scene with no compromise. If it was going to be black metal or death metal I wanted it to be very real.
I didn't really care about sales or marketing and all these things you should be thinking about. I asked myself 'what is the most brutal band' and knew I wanted to put that out. So we were releasing albums by bands like Nifelheim and we got really full-on about it. In retrospect many of our bands ended up being very underrated. Bands like Dawn and Nifelheim and even Babylon Whores haven't gotten the recognition they deserve. These are bands that are very good musicians and for some reason the hype wasn't there. I feel that there is too much hype behind records these days. The press is out there raving about products for which the record company is creating all the hype. But when you actually hear the product it's not all that great. There are stuff we put out that, in retrospect, I ask myself 'what was I thinking?'. Yet in some instances I wonder why a band didn't totally take off. But it balances itself out. It's going to be ten years next February and that's quite a long time.
Where does your philosophy stand with ten years behind you?
It hasn't changed. Perhaps five years ago I was a lot more difficult with myself. I was fully into it and I lived the music. I still am into it but my tastes have changed. I still listen to it and am still the biggest fan. If anybody asks me what I am listening to its always the current crop of Necropolis records because I am a big fan of what we release. That is my philosophy. I know what I like - that kind of music. In a way this label is different from so many others because I still make many decisions and am still very involved with it. If we release something it's because I am very into that band in particular. My interests are smattered all over the place. I was heavily involved in the black metal scene back in the nineties and the current crop of bands have resparked my interest. The newer bands coming up are really getting interesting. It was difficult for a while because I don't think the scene knew where it wanted to go. Now it's a lot more fun and seems more like the old days.
Some of the bands now are replicating (the feeling of) the old bands like Entombed, Carcass and Napalm Death and the excitement of those years. It's a refreshing thing because the cycle is repeating itself and bands like Exhumed and Impaled are the Carcass for a new generation. A fifteen-year-old kid now might not know what it was back then that was so interesting, but he might see a band and think it's great and so interesting. He will have within him all the feeling and emotion that I had ten years ago when I picked up a record. We are contributing to that and we are still involved in the scene. We are passing it on and that's interesting.
How old are you?
I am 27.
Let's pick things up from the early years. Who and what was DCA Records?
DCA, that's right. Eric was a guy I had met around 1992 and he was putting out his first death metal band called Abhorrence from San Francisco. He was interested in the genre. I approached him and we did Demilich together. He ended up being more of a manager for bands. I was hell-bent on doing a label. So the Demilich CD was a joint record of sorts. DCA was an acronym for Death Chamber Audio.
Later on you were working with Pavement.
That was actually right then in the DCA period. What happened was Pavement was beginning to distribute CDs through BMG. They had bands like Crowbar and we did a deal with them for the Demilich album. We approached them with our titles like the first Marduk album which we were doing through No Fashion. Then No Fashion got into some problems and got bought out by House Of Kicks which is MNW now. Due to that move our relationship with No Fashion was discontinued. Of course if I had spoken to our lawyer we could have continued our licensing of No Fashion but we let it go.
Anyway at that time whenever we presented something to Pavement they had to present it to BMG which is a major distributor. We were giving them albums like (Marduk's) Dark Endless with an inverted cross on the cover which didn't go over so well at BMG. Same with Priest Of Satan by The Black and so on. They took Demilich but rejected the rest. That, and the fact that I was so into the imagery and the music made it difficult to speak to me back then, ended the relationship with Pavement/BMG.
Let's stay in those years. I remember speaking with Jensen of Seance (now Witchery) around 1994 and he was telling me about his visiting you and a tour you were organizing for Seance. Did that relationship, which continues to today, begin with your fanzine?
I had sent the first issue of my zine to Seance who were a demo band at that stage and Jensen called me for an interview. We became really good friends and when Seance released their Fornever Laid To Rest album on Black Mark Jensen came to visit me and stayed with me. We have met each others' parents! We just had the same tastes and listened to AC/DC, Dark Angel and all those bands. We got along really well. He always told me that it's more difficult to write a simple and memorable song than a technical song and he's style has gotten more simple over the years. Back then I thought it a strange statement but after 10 years of picking up a guitar myself I realize that it is like that. Seance was very fast and technical and then he hung out with Tony, who was now doing the vocals, and things went into a different direction. Yeah, I and Jensen have a relationship which will probably go on forever.
Obviously we have many issues on the business side of things. But if it came to a point where we are at crossroads we will sever the business ties and keep the friendship. We both work very hard. He's worked hard to make a career as a musician and won a Swedish Grammy. I have been with him along the way. At the other end he's been there for me when I have had difficulties. I have this type of relationships with other artists on the label. I have a similar type of a relationship with Sharlee of Witchery. I also have a very very personal and an 'off-hours' relationship with Jim Durkin (formerly of Dark Angel) of Dreams Of Damnation. If I can't get along with them I don't want to do anything with them. This has proven very difficult because there are things you have to make clear to each other. But the friendship makes things much more enjoyable.
Am I correct in guessing that Witchery is your most successful band?
How many albums have they sold?
In the USA we have done up to twelve thousand on their latest. It could be better and I am never satisfied. The Haunted (Patrick Jensen's other band on Earache) has probably done over twenty thousand. Witchery was also licensed for Europe.
While on the topic, Necropolis Records has announced a new Seance album for this year. A new Seance album has been announced repeatedly over the years, yet never materialized. Are we to believe this announcement?
Seance is actually back together and recording an album. We put out the announcement, but things still have to be developed. They have been recording it (on and off) for six months. Looks like Seance will continue with Johan the original vocalist, Tony on guitars, Mike the old drummer who is also in Witchery and Richard replacing Jensen on guitars. This will hopefully happen this year but we don't want to say until we get it!
Yes, but the reason I bring it up is how Black Mark Productions scheduled a Seance album repeatedly without anything happening. It almost became the original 'cry wolf' story. Seems Thind is not immune to cracking a joke of his own.
Yes, but we have another band on our label that is at the same level: Sadistic Intent (laughs).
And they were the subject of my next question. Sadistic Intent to me is one of the greatest bands in America. They've been around long enough but they have had so many problems with this record. I think they will be finished in two or three months - finally. We signed the band in 1997 (laughs) and we have been waiting for this record long enough. When it does appear it will be worth it.
Regarding Seance though, they are still going for the technicality because both Tony and Richard are very technical in their playing. So is Richard on guitars who concentrates on technicality. It's going to be crazy. I have heard an mp3 which actually featured an amazing exchange of vocals between Tony who did the high vocals - as he does in Witchery - and Johan who does the low. It makes it a lot more interesting. The music remains very brutal death metal. I think it will be a very good album.
Going back to Sadistic Intent, they had a song on our five-year compilation. Now we just talked to Rick (Cotez - guitarist) this last week and they are finishing the album. What happened is that their original producer, Mitch Rellas, was like this star-struck producer who had heard Morbid Angel and those types of band but never really taken them in. He wasn't a metal producer and was thinking the Sadistic Intent album will be his masterpiece album. So they did all these experiments in the studio which were quite amazing. They were putting three vocals mikes on the singer and one was strapped to his throat. The range of the vocals was amazing. I went into the studio in L.A. two years ago and things were really looking good.
The process became really dragged on though. We had a budget which they exceeded and we weren't willing to front more so they put some of their own money into it. Our budget was a very respectful and considerable amount but we felt that it was becoming a never-ending project. Then they ended up going through all sorts of problems with this guy who became rather strange and ended up holding the DAT tapes. We got our lawyer involved and it was a big mess. Eventually they got what they could and they are now at a trusted studio and working evenings and such. We hope to receive the final tape in June. I am not putting it on our release schedule until I am holding the finished masters. The layout has been done for two years. There is only some vocals and bass left. They are using Bernie of Agent Steel who did The Omega Conspiracy album for his band which had a successful sound. The title remains The Second Coming Of Darkness of course. That, even for us, is one of the most anticipated albums. They are really dedicated guys whose live show is flawless.
What about the reports claiming Sadistic Intent has moved on to another label?
We have had a couple of staff changes here. Due to the number of bands on our roster we had divided the bands and I dealt with a number of bands and a couple of other guys were responsible for the other bands. The person Sadistic Intent was dealing with at the time was getting very ticked off and he told them that should Necropolis not get the record by a certain date, they can forget it. But I and Rick have been in touch more and I think we are going to wait and see what happens. I think every label has a band like that. Speaking with Century Media I know Orphaned Land is their equivalent.
Still on the topic and clarifying much of the gossip and rumours floating about regarding Necropolis, can you give a definitive statement regarding what happened at the label last year?
Ok, basically around June or July of 2001 I went on vacation for the first time in eight years. To be quite honest, I had a little bit of a... early mid-life crisis. One thing that sets me apart from my peers in the music industry is that I have never given up my schooling as a result of my business. Simultaneous to running the label I was attending school for a marketing degree. It was difficult at times. You are sitting in the class and listening to stuff you are already practicing or wanting to go fill an order for a distributor. That actually hindered the growth of the label in the first five years.
That said, last year I finally took a vacation and went to Europe - even though I did a lot of business talking to Witchery, Dark Funeral and others while there. I left two guys in charge of the label and I thought they can handle it. A week and a half later they jumped ship. It had been coming for a while. But they were just waiting for the right time. Running a label is quite difficult and they just didn't want to tell me to my face that they are quitting. I got resignation letters by email and they didn't take my phone calls asking what the problem was. So I am in Europe and no one is picking up the phone at the office. The two people in charge screwed things up and I came back to shambles. I came back and picked up everything. What made things worse is that during that time we decided not to attend the Milwaukee Metal Fest because we didn't feel that they were giving our artists enough priority and it just wasn't financially worth it. Every single artist was complaining about either not getting paid or about how badly organized that festival was. I guess a couple of labels thought they can just step in and take our bands by talking crap about us. It is unfortunate that they would resort to those tactics. It shows me how scummy the industry is. An analogy is going to Las Vegas and in the high roller area you would see all the movie industry people and if you go to the two-dollar table you will see the music industry people fighting over fifty cents.
That's another reason I had a crisis in my life. Behind the scenes it's not all fun 'n games - especially when you are working with small budgets. I mean many people don't realize the constraints of this industry. The press, the media they perpetuate a cycle of what this metal industry is. When it comes down to it, bands are selling 10 or 15,000 albums. They aren't selling half a million albums. The biggest numbers achieved was Napalm Death who, when they were going through Columbia, were selling 200,000 copies or so albums. Everyone looks back and thinks they can achieve those numbers. But I don't think we are going back and any metal band will achieve those numbers. It's unfortunate to say but look at the reality of the situation.
At the end all that matters to me is that the artists and the distributors are kept happy and things move forward. If there are gossip hounds in chat rooms or there is a 15-year-old in the Midwest talking it doesn't matter to me anymore. In this industry you can't trust too many people and to my detriment I have in the past. We have trusted people and booking agencies who have ripped us off - but that comes with the learning curve. So all in all it was an awkward situation. We are here and releasing records. We are not backing down and we are not going away. The new releases will show that.
Another thing is the deal we have just worked out with Century Media for Europe. Europe is one of the reasons why Necropolis is a little smaller than the other labels. We have always had to deal with America and Europe. The only American company that has done a good job of that is probably Relapse. (Relapse owner) Matt Jacobson is, I am sure, one of the people who spoke some crap about us last year, but I do think he's done a good job. It's a lot easier for Europeans. In Germany, for example, if you do the right things you can ship many records. Your company consequently can grow a lot faster. The way the distributors are set up here with their percentages and liquidations makes things harder. Any label that has made it here is to be commended. Another label that is cool is Victory Records. Tony has worked so hard. Running a record company in the USA is like running Microsoft but on a very very small scale. So going back to the European situation, we were coming in six o'clock in the morning to speak to the European distributors and it was really difficult. We realized we have to be over there. So we will focus on North America and have Century Media take care of Europe for us.
Victory Records is now, partly, controlled by a major label. But before moving on, and just to be clear, you are categorically denying being near-bankrupt last year and going out of business.
Oh yeah yeah. If nobody is here to pick up the phone then people will think we are no longer there physically. I had heard tons of rumours. I had heard that I have taken a bunch of money and run off to Europe and other stupid stuff. We did have a little bit of struggle because I had lost three or four staff members, but I have picked up the pieces and tried to let go of things we can't do like Europe. With our Century Media deal we don't have to deal with individual distributors or labels for every territory. Our bands will probably be able to sell and tour more in Europe because of the (new) distribution base.
You are being distributed by Big Daddy Distribution in the United States. One of the rumours had it that the reason you are signing certain bands and establishing subsidiaries like Fueled Up Records is pressure from the distributor to release a certain number of albums every month from a certain style of music. Paul can also categorically deny this report.
Anybody who knows me knows that I do what I want to do. I also have expanded my tastes. Necropolis Records is an extension of me. I am a big fan of different types of music. I like bands like Monster Magnet. I like bands which play the real dirty rock 'n' roll stuff. I also would like the label to grow. Having said that, we found that marketing the punk and rock stuff on Fueled Up Records to metal people is very difficult. It's just not something in which they are interested - and rightly so - because it's a different scene. So with the difficulty of establishing that label and with the person (John) in charge of Fueled Up leaving we will not continue that.
If I could have a successful punk rock label I would. But that's a personal thing. (For now) we have to stick to what we do best. We are going to focus on bands like Witchery, Rotten Sound, Phobia and Maze Of Torment. We know how to market that. Having said that I am an experimenter - I have to be. We can't release albums just to satisfy market demands. That would make us like any other boring corporation. I have to do what I like. So what I am saying is I will never do something just to satisfy a quota.
Elsewhere, Necropolis Records has made several announcements in the past year about labels you will distribute or license for America. Yet nothing seems to have come of your deals with Scarlet or Black Sun. Your relationship with Baphomet Records quickly turned sour and you are now announcing a similar relationship with Code666. Can you get into the circumstances behind those?
We did release several albums for Baphomet Records. I heard that Relapse Records stopped working with Baphomet because Baphomet Records wasn't doing (Phil Anselmo's) Southern Isolation. I heard that Relapse thought they were getting that and the band ended up signing to a major company. Why we stopped working? Quite honestly they didn't have anything special after a while. They did have a couple of good records. But if the records are boring or if I figure that I can sign these bands directly then why bother? So we decided to focus on our own roster. Some of their bands were just ripping off the early nineties and they are now broken up. With Black Sun again what it came down to is that I would much rather sell 5,000 Rotten Sound albums than work on other labels. Of course you have to experiment, but one would rather work on bringing his own stuff to fruition, you know? As for Scarlet Records, we had an exclusive arrangement with them. But some of their bands...I mean I've wanted to give these bands an outlet here but at the end I would rather work on my own bands. The Code666 deal is still on but that label's proprietor has told us three times that he's being investigated for tax reasons and so everything is on hold. He can't get anything out.
Let us focus on specific Necropolis bands. Is the rumour that Babylon Whores has broken up false?
Nah, that's not true. They just finished recording an album called Death Of The West which is coming out around July or August. We have it slated for this year for sure.
What about Dreams Of Damnation?
They have recruited a new vocalist. She is Loana who does publicity at Century Media. They are working on new material and have twelve songs. They are looking for a producer and considering Bill Metoyer. They will record in the next two months. We haven't heard a demo and are in a situation where we would like to hear how the whole band sounds after a year and a half of being out of the spotlight.
Necropolis also announced several projects by Kam Lee (of Massacre fame) which have now been shelved. They were to also involve Jim Durkin. Those seem to have been shelved as well.
Kam had difficulty getting a line-up together. He had one line-up with a couple of members of Equinox and others but after that it fell apart completely. From now on we will not announce things like that and just focus on the artists for whom we actually have confirmed studio time. Kam Lee should record soon but I can't say for sure. Jim Durkin did write two or three songs for the Kauldron project but that was just a studio line-up. Kam Lee and Jim Durkin are under contract with us for respectively three and two albums.
I would like to take you to task for licensing the (sans-Euronymous) Mayhem album Grand Declaration Of War for America. Not only Euronymous was Mayhem but also the album itself was (perhaps consequently) weak. As I said in my review of that album, Mayhem without Euronymous is like Rolling Stones without Mick Jagger.
Season Of Mist had the album, and I don't want to say anything bad towards anybody, but I am very competitive. There were another couple of companies which wanted that record for America. We wanted it. So we went to the MIDEM (convention) in France and told Season Of Mist that we wanted to do this record. The whole thing with that record was that everybody thought Mayhem would do a very normal black metal recording. But for me it was one of the best records of that year. I know you don't agree with me. I can take that. Perhaps it shouldn't have been called Mayhem - OK. I think the record itself was very well done. The reason we put it out, like I said, is that we are very competitive. When I heard the record I was floored and thought it strange. But after a couple of listens it grew on me.
Did it end up selling well for you?
Yes it did pretty well. It was one of the bigger records of 2000 for us.
Paul, I would like to shift the line of questioning and ask you about fascism and its apparent growth within the scene. More specifically you released the War album which caused some controversy with its, 'stay aside for the superior race...niggers and kikes stay away' line. Is freedom of speech king at Necropolis or do you take a stand of sorts?
My biggest thing is censorship and freedom of speech. I think what happened is we had put out the promos and I didn't have a chance to soak it in. Due to the time constraints it went to the press. With the press, we immediately got the response that it was racist. Apparently that was (singer) All screaming the line and it wasn't planned. All I know is that (producer) Peter Tagtgren called me up immediately and said he didn't want anything to be affiliated with him. And that was fine. Then there were people calling us racist. If that happened today I probably would not release it. Although...I don't know. I am not a big fan of racism. In fact I can't stand it. My parents are northern Indian and they moved to England. They experienced racism and I experienced racism when I was living in England.
That said, I don't believe in that stuff but I take your approach: to each his own. Today I definitely am not going to promote it. According to my personality I like to push the envelope though. For example, with Impaled's Choice Cuts album which had a dead baby on the cover we had a ton of negative response. We had labels and magazines say they won't work with us and reviewers were saying they will never review us again. But this is the death metal genre, this is the black metal genre it is supposed to be extreme. Supposedly (it is) the most evil subject matter. But that said it's all fantasy. So why not push the envelope? But again I will never do like No Colours Records and release a Graveland album. I support the right that everyone has to express themselves. If there is a demonstration coming down the street with Palestinians or Israelis let them do that. But let me have the freedom to walk away.
Paul, thank you for your time. Seeing that I am out of questions why don't you tell the readers about your impending releases and what we can expect from Necropolis Records.
Sure, our next three releases will be firstly the next one from Finnish grind gods Rotten Sound whose new album will have fourteen or fifteen songs. I believe their drummer is one of the best drummers in the scene. We are also releasing the new album of Engorged who have been around since 1996 or so. Their first album was Death Metal Attack 2 on Razorback and the new one is amazing. That's for the real fan of grind with elements of Anthrax and a little bit of comic book thing going on. After that we have Incantation who need no introduction. Blasphemy will be their album title. We also have albums by Impaled and Babylon Whores this summer. There is also an album from Sweden's Murder Corporation and Maze Of Torment. Yeah our release schedule is pretty full.
One last thing I would like to mention is for people to not believe everything they read or hear. Challenge things! You have to challenge to win and to make it. Don't just accept everything and that includes your music. Realize that when a magazine says an album is the best thing ever the label might be paying that guy to say that! You never know.
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