Diabolical Conquest Records Interview interview (10/2010)
|Conducted by:||Lucas (e-mail)|
Instead of the usual 'what are your influences'-band interviews, I thought I'd try to give you all some insight in the backstage world of metal. After interviewing the organisers of the Dutch Doom Days (a looong time ago, I'm a lazy bastard), a new opportunity took a while to present itself. Or, it took me a while to find it. Whichever. Instead of interviewing labels that are busy celebrating their twenty-fifth anniversary and are drunkenly reminiscing the influence and touch-for-talent they had back in the day.
This time, we're interviewing a label that is at the very beginning of its career - none other than Diabolical Conquest Records. Only two releases up to now (The Dead's Ritual Executions and Preludium's Impending Hostility), but hey, who knows, maybe in twenty-five years we'll be looking back on these releases as the ones it all began with...
- So, Kunal, thanks for taking the time to participate in this e-mail interview. Let's begin with the beginning - when did you decide to start your own label? Was it a long, festering idea or a sudden coming together of factors?
Hey Lucas! Thanks for taking the time to conduct this interview! Many apologies for the late reply - one thing led to another and I have signed four bands and released two albums already! Needless to say, I have been extremely busy and I haven't neglected any of my responsibilities in the process (I hope!).
You might be surprised knowing that it was indeed a sudden coming together of factors as you put it. Coming from a country like India where it was a struggle for me all along to become a metalhead (mind you, I got into metal during the old tape trading days), the thought of starting a label never even crossed my mind, for it seemed far too impractical if not outright preposterous. A friend however planted the idea of starting a distro/label in my head and I kept dwelling upon it and started gathering more information about it initially just to satisfy my curiosity. I had a few worthy unsigned bands in my mind and I knew that my country needed a distro stocking international extreme metal titles at affordable prices, which were two very important factors that drove me towards the realisation of the idea. Along the way, I realised that I was actually in an ideal position to do so, what with my webzine having earned a fairly good readership and credibility over its five years of existence and so I had a better chance than most to venture into something like this and make it work.
Kunal - the man behind Diabolical Conquest Records
- 'Diabolical Conquest Records' is connected to the Diabolical Conquest webzine & forum. Why do they all share the same name and why did you name them all after a certain Incantation album?
'Diabolical Conquest' by Incantation, besides being an excellent album by one of my favourite bands, also happened to be the first CD that I ordered from outside the country. Using my mom's credit card, I tried ordering that album from Relapse Records along with Disembowelment. The latter was out of stock but I received 'Diabolical Conquest' which was sent to me through Fedex or some special courier service because I guess I was Relapse's first Indian customer and they probably thought I was special. This had opened the door to possibilities that could only be dreamt of in those days. It spelled an end to my shitty quality home-recorded tapes and endless begging for music from metalheads who had a bigger collection. So 'Diabolical Conquest' held much significance for me, and when I got around to starting a free extreme metal forum I decided to name it after the Incantation album as a tribute to it (and it also sounded cool). A couple of years later when I managed to start a webzine all by myself, it made sense to just use the same name and also because I couldn't think of anything better! And when I formed a record label five years later, I used the same name because I wanted to use its goodwill instead of starting afresh.
- What's the general theme of the label? Are you focussing on (a) specific genre(s), or perhaps a specific vibe, attitude or religious conviction? Or do you just want to release everything you think is cool?
Quality and originality would be the general theme of the label. Even though Diabolical Conquest started off as a death metal webzine and is probably best known as that, I am fairly open-minded and don't mind signing bands playing other genres of music as long as their music appeals to me. I am not a part of any trend or cult nor am I hopelessly stuck in the past. All I look for is good music which hopefully stands out from the rest or if it doesn't happen to be too original then it should be superior than most. Mediocity is something that I hope people won't associate my label with. I have done quite okay so far signing four bands that sound entirely different from each other unlike some labels that have an image for releasing stuff in the same style which is likely to get redundant and tiresome after a point.
I aim for Diabolical Conquest Records to be a big underground label, one having underground values and integrity and at the same time being big enough to offer its bands good deals and better promotion that generally only big labels can afford. Many labels these days are going for very limited pressings and are only too happy if something they have released gets sold out. That is good and easy for the label because it costs less and takes them less time and effort to sell, but what about the band? In most cases, a band would want their music to be made available to as many people around the world as possible. By releasing music in limited numbers they are limiting the potential of the band. I am trying hard to promote my little known bands as much as I can so that I can move enough copies and do justice to them.
I get put off by bands having over-the-top gory or blasphemous imagery. If your music is genuinely good, you don't need all that gimmicky stuff.
- In twenty years from now, where does Diabolical Conquest Records stand, if everything goes exactly as you plan/wish?
Whoa, that is a long time! Not many extreme metal labels would last that long! I haven't planned so far ahead but if Diabolical Conquest Records is still around 20 years down the line, I would wish it to be a very strong label having global presence, one that is known to release high quality and if possible original music, one that it honest in its dealings, uncompromising in its integrity and genuinely cares for its bands. If my label is around for that long, I would hope we are able to provide shows and tours for our bands too.
- What bands would you sign if every band would be label-free and desperately looking for one? Morbid Angel, Immolation, Lady Gaga for the $$$ maybe?
Now let us see, the last Morbid Angel album I really liked was 'Formulas Fatal to the Flesh' and surely I won't be signing Lady Gaga because I value my conscience and integrity more than money, so I guess I would have to go with Immolation. I would however encourage them to write their darkest and most twisted material till date and not give a shit about commercial accessibility.
- It's no secret that the internet and downloading cause plummeting record sales everywhere. Heavy metal as a genre doesn't seem to get hurt as much as the bigger, mainstream genres, but you still see many labels struggling. How do you plan to combat this? Or do you think it won't matter in our particular niche of Extreme metal?
I wouldn't say extreme metal genre is unaffected. In an ideal world probably, but too many, especially those born after the '80s, are technologically conscious and would rather get stuff for free than pay for it. They don't understand much about the scene because they have had it too easy. But then there are the die-hard fans as well. I don't think digital medium will render all other formats obsolete especially where it comes to metal because essentially metalheads are collectionists. What sustains the hobby is the fact that rock/metal as a form of music is timeless.
Also, the fans feel that being a metalhead is special and that is something they are proud of and would usually like to advertise or brag about it. That is probably the reason the t-shirt culture is so big in metal and no so much where it comes to other genres of music. Metalheads in particular are likely to will look for something tangible and because of that there is hope for physical formats. Tapes and vinyls have made a comeback, particularly the latter, and I believe it will only grow because it is the ultimate collector's item. Personally speaking, if I am paying for something and there is not much of a difference in price, I would much rather get a tangible object and savour the artwork and derive whatever feel the band wishes to exude through its packaging than get a faceless digital version of it despite some of its conveniences.
With that said, indeed there are times when I get worried about the future and I hope there is a solution to this which will sustain the survival of many excellent labels and bands. Not sure whether it will ever happen, but I sometimes fancy a stricter downloading policy in the future which will combat piracy to a considerable degree, which, if successfully implemented, will make fans buy music but in a choice of their desired format - digital, vinyl, tape, CD, DVD, etc. - that is if they like the album after listening to it or most of it streaming. That way, people would know what they are buying and will be happy to pay for it since they like it. And then regardless of their preference of format, the music industry will get something from it to remain alive and carry on.
I will be making my releases available for purchase in digital format and have plans to release a few of them in other physical formats such as vinyl. I will be printing a few tees as well.
- In an earlier conversation, you mentioned you view India and China as the next big markets? What makes you say this?
I say this because of the most obvious fact that India and China are the two rapidly developing nations having the highest human population. With the inevitable rise of English education, people will become more aware of rock/metal music and internet will play a crucial role in that. Already both countries have witnessed a huge growth in the number of local bands and fans, and many known international metal bands are performing in these countries. In only a few years, they will not be viewed but treated as big markets.
- Ok, let's end the interview with a couple of questions about your new releases this year: The Dead's Ritual Executions and Preludium's Impending Hostility. Who are these bands? What can we expect from these releases?
The Dead from Australia essentially play raw death metal with doom influences. They are more of a death metal band actually but on 'Ritual Executions' their style is almost half-death, half-doom. It has elements of sludge, stoner doom and even a bit of black metal. It may not appeal to listeners right away, especially those who are not into the doom genre, but it is a real grower. Quite a few who dismissed the album initially have later confessed on enjoying the album and some have been addicted to its hypnotic quality. I am not the only one to say that I have lost count of the number of times I have heard the blissed-out epic 10 minute last track "Death Metal Suicide". Since only 100 numbers of the original version of 'Ritual Executions' was released, I asked the band for a re-release of that album and they readily agreed. Aphotic Mote of Portal fame remixed and remastered that album for our 2010 version and it was given a new artwork and layout. Both the band and I were very surprised (and pleased) with the overwhelming response it received, most notably from press around the world.
Preludium from Poland play blackened death metal and have been around for over a decade. What I like about them is that they their style of death metal isn't shamelessly old school or of the dumb brutal kind, which is almost always the case these days. It is relatively pure, crushingly heavy, aggressive, epic and spiked with black metal venom; even though their music is not too original it is not a mere copy of a bigger band and these qualities make their music highly enjoyable, at least to my death metal-friendly ears. Furthermore, the album has an excellent war theme which goes very well with their kind of raging music (think pulsating machineguns and trudging tanks!). It has an 8-panel booklet with beautiful post-war artworks on both sides. Fyi, the title 'Impending Hostility' was given by DC staff writer Ewan Gibb.
The Dead... raaaaaaaaaaaawr
Drug Honkey are no strangers to Metal Storm (see here). How did you get into contact with them? Wait, let me rephrase that: so far, what have your experiences been with signing bands? What's the process like? I mean, how do you get introduced to each other, what do you discuss, how long does such a process take, what are the deals you make? No need to go into specific numbers or details, but you can be as elaborate as you like.
In my case I already knew the bands I was signing. It was not like I heard a random demo and was blown away. After first making sure that they were unsigned, I contacted The Dead myself and also Preludium, though with the latter band I had a clue that they were on the lookout for a label. I am sure both of the bands, while appreciative of my webzine, must be apprehensive of getting signed to my label because I had just started a label and my base is in India. Bear in mind that both of them have been signed to local labels before, The Dead to Obsidian Records and Preludium to Redrum 666 Records. So naturally many questions were asked by the bands and I spent a good amount of time trying to explain to them my way of working and the schedule! I must thank them for trusting me and getting signed to our label. I didn't have an issue with any of my bands when it came to discussing the money/royalty part of it. I guess that is because I am offering them fairly good deals. But yes, generally it takes about a month or two to discuss all the matters and get the contracts signed by both parties.
With Drug Honkey, who seem to be very popular on your webzine, their vocalist Paul Gillis contacted me whether I was interested in signing his death/grind band Morgue Supplier which I had reviewed not too long back. He was the first one actually to get in touch with me - I think he did it on the same day of the label announcement haha! I told him I would like to hear some of their new material before making the decision and that was that. Then one day, a couple or so months later, I suddenly thought of him when I was looking around for more bands. I knew that he was into creating original music (big advantage!) and played in quite a few interesting bands. So I got in touch with him asking him to send me CDs of his other bands. I checked out Drug Honkey and simply loved what I heard. It was the kind of music that I wish existed - something like Godflesh (who you know have mellowed down of late) but heavier, varied and with more atmosphere (!). Who just came? Things have worked out well. Paul is a very enthusiastic and supportive fellow and Drug Honkey are working hard on their new album titled 'Ghost in the Fire' which is scheduled for an early-mid 2011 release through my label.
To continue on the previous question, Drug Honkey are from Chicago, USA. Am I right in assuming you never met them? Does that not make 'doing business' quite difficult? How do you go about this? (Food for thought for future label owners here, haha.)
Yes, you are right. I have never met them or any of my band members for that matter. Thanks to the internet, communication is possible, though I agree delicate issues such as terms are best negotiated with in person. It is also important when it comes to trusting the other person, but due to my webzine's positive reputation and longevity I don't think my bands were too worried about me and my label. But very often I have had to email them on a regular basis to give them assurance and keep them updated about my label's activities. The last thing they would want is someone halfway around the world not answering their emails especially when their band careers and reputation are at stake.
- And what's next for Diabolical Conquest Records?
We are currently in the process of (frantically) stocking good DC Staff pre-approved titles in our two distros - one in US and the other in India. It gives me much pleasure to make quality music (some of it is criminally overlooked/underrated!) available to people around the world at affordable rates ($10 / €8 euros postage paid worldwide!).
We won't be putting out any more releases this year but in 2011 things are going to get scary again: The Dead, Drug Honkey and our mysterious fourth band will be releasing full length albums. Expect some good-looking tees as well that will get you laid.
Preludium's Impending Hostility
- Alright, that concludes this interviews. The last words are traditionally for the interviewee. The floor is yours...
Yes, all mine! Without being dramatic, thanks a ton for this interview and your interest in my activities! I hope it gives exposure to my little known bands and I am able to do well for them. Thanks to everyone who supported us over the years and put up with our shit. There is more to come.
For more information, see:
Diabolical Conquest Records
Diabolical Conquest Store
Thanks to Kunal for taking the time to conduct this interview.
||Posted on 23.10.2010 by If you're interested in extreme, often emotional and underground music, check out my reviews. I retired from reviewing, but I really used to be into that stuff.|
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