As time passes by, under the wings of Subterráneo Heavy, we have seen how lots of bands, agencies, other media, labels… expand, and since Wormholedeath contacted us a couple of years ago, we´ve been witnesses of how this Italian company has enormously flourished. We wanted to know more about their secrets, so we are about to subject them with this interview in order to find out more about Wormholedeath .
Subterráneo Heavy: Welcome to Subterraneo Heavy. First of all I would like you to introduce yourself and your company. Who am I talking to, what is Wormholedeath and what does it have to offer?
Worm: Hello, to you your staff and the readers. My name is Worm and I am label manager and A&R for Wormholedeath wich is a sublabel of Aural music Group, one of the most important label groups in Europe, I would say the biggest in Italy for metal and experimental or extreme music. Aural Music Group takes care of our distribution, sales, export, mailorder and marketing worldwide (excluding Japan). Our task is to create the product with the artist. Wormholedeath is a 7 years old label with around 70 releases in catalogue. We have our own Japanese division in Tokyo that is fully managed by our label manager Masahiko Kishimoto. Masa has a very long experience and high level professionality / knowhow. Regarding other partnerships, we work with Warner Chappell Music for publishing of our songs and copyright management plus The Orchard for the whole digital marketing including non-commercial content distrubution like videos and streaming. Legal represetation tasks are with entertainment specialist lawyer Avvocato Mario Palazzi. These are our partners and I guess that not even an earthquake could divide us from them. What we offer is a wide range and high quality music catalogue from artists/bands from all over the planet. Our main intent is to create very interesting contents (no matter wich music style it can be) where our artists not only write, produce and record great music but also dig deeply into their minds to create outstanding communication concepts and visual tools. What is for sure, is that 90% of our releases are complete as we supervise every little detail starting from a wrong song-structure in the demos/pre-productions and ending at the clothes that the band should wear in pictures with everything in beween and after. We are not one of these labels that try to change the artist, we rather prefer to support artist’s ideas with suggestions through a very friendly approach. Another good point in our offer, I believe, is that we release albums from many different music genres so we are not one of these label with a music-based label concept. Our label-concept is based much more on the quality of our releases…. In fact if you look at the labels we follow as examples (and we are fond of) you will find Nuclear Blast for metal and Matador for rock. Furthermore, as long as we are a quality based label, we do not press our cds in China. As a final statement I would like to underline that we strongly support ethical threatment of nature and animals so overstocks go to recycling plants in separarted parts. We do not support animal exploitment, sexism, and even if we have no political involvment we will never sign a fascist or nazi band (we can sign bands that have different religious views from us)
Subterráneo Heavy: To be honest, I only knew about your work as Record Label, but researching for this interview I found out that you are also producing films. What kind of movies are they? How many movies have you produced so far?
Worm: We have produced the last film from eclectic and multi-skilled artist Susi Medusa Gottardi. The film is titled A passage through the purity of pain, lasts about 36 min and develops the neverending war between evil and evil. Susi is worldwide known for her long-term collaborations with Private and Showtime (homes for the highest quality adult entertainment production) but also for her music, paintings, digital art, photography and much more. The movie was created in cooperation with Steve Drakos and Alex Drakos and features music and members from the insane collective THE WAY OF PURITY. That movie was not created for commercial purpouses, it is actually something we wanted to produce to support all these awesome artists and their ideas. Here you have the trailer:
And here a short description:
A passage through the purity of pain: Written and directed by Susi Medusa Gottardi. “Thirty minutes of brutal romantic atmosphere created by Susi Medusa Gottardi. This film relates the story of a true scary event experienced by a band of young extremists of the cross: THE WAY OF PURITY. The four members of this band are musicians united in faith through a blood pact, they have a higher religious mission and are in contrast with their manager: in a moment of very strong emotional tension they are guided, apparently by chance, into a black house inside the dark forests of Bohemia where they find an old tape recorder that contains the harsh, screaming lyrics of a suffering female voice that causes them insane visions of blood and martyrdom. After further research the band finds out that what happened to them has a powerful religious meaning: as this is the voice of a girl’s spiritual purity, recorded while she was taking her own life in the name of God back in 1972. Deeply moved by all this, they decided to compose the album “Crosscore” using the voices found on the recorder as main vocals in the songs. Starring young actress Lena and Steve J. Drakos.“
And if I have to report one of the my favourite comments I would like to write what Spanish Kerrang! wrote about it: “esta película de Susi Medusa Gottardi es una auténtica pieza de culto del cine de terror más underground“.
Subterráneo Heavy: So, how did the idea of making films come up? Did you think about this as something you would occasionally do to support some artists, or are you planning to really start making movies as part of your business? If this was the case, would they all be music related?
Worm: Well, we produce everything we like so it could be an album, a book, an off-topic project, a video or a movie (like we did with the one we talked about). I really hope that someone will offer us more movie production opportunities…If we like it, we’ll do it as long as it meets our budgets.
Subterráneo Heavy: There are a couple of names that are also related to the label, Dreamcell11, which has produced AD INFERNA, VLAD IN TEARS and NIOBETH´s work, among many other bands, and Overdub recordings (BIOSCRAPE, KEVLAR BIKINI, LIKE A PAPERPLANE…). Are they independent companies which you decided to join efforts with, or was it something created to expand WHD´s horizons?
Worm: Dreamcell11 is a label which is even older than Wormholedeath and belongs to Aural Music directly. At some point me and Emiliano wanted to merge the catalogues and websites as they didn’t have a label manager so I proposed myself for that task. Emiliano said yes in the first moment but after he decided to split catalogues again because of the different music genres.
He said that he wanted to keep the labels separated and I had to agree. By the way, whenever I produce a record which is more suitable for Dreamcell11’s label concept, Aural Music can decide to release it on Dreamcell11, other way if I have a band which is more suitable for that label I can released it through DC11’s brand. That’s why I love working with Aural Music, they always listen to me and support my ideas all the time, even when my ideas are wrong , like it was with WHD and DC11 merge.
Overdub recordings is another story. The label was started by one of my best friends and trusted partner. Even if he had a long experience in the music business, at the beginning he needed our help to create the whole project. Starting a label is really hard so I supported Overdub with a full supervision on the idea (manufacturing contacts, contracts, website, communication ecc). After the label launch, as I expected already, Overdub started walking with its own legs (signed a worldwide distribution deal with Code7/PHD) so Wormholedeath kept tasks for promotion of heavier releases and publishing for all their artists. Overdub is not our property they are much more like part of our family.
Subterráneo Heavy: Now that we´ve talked about the wide range of options that WHD and it´s partners have to offer, I would like to focus on WHD´s work. So please tell me, what kind of requirement should a band have to be part of your roster?
Worm: Well the main quality that we search in bands and musicians is humbleness… We don’t work with big heads. Cooperations are already very hard with nice people (4-5 heads together which have to deal with other 3-4 heads which have to deal with a company and numbers), so try to guess how it could be to work with someone that thinks that he has the truth in his pocket. Of course the music and band’s image are also very important but I know that if I have humble people in front of me, then we can fix almost everything, including music and image. We have continuous support from other professionals like producers, graphic artists , photographers ecc that will make the band look and sound PROFESSIONAL. This is what we look for.
Subterráneo Heavy: You are mainly working with underground bands and most of them are extreme metal which I also consider underground. Was this “accidentally” or did you decide to bet and believe on those bands and styles?
Worm: Well developing products and projects it’s our vocation. Supervising projects is what I like in this job…Working closely with my bands is the push that makes me move. The reason why we have chosen this policy is simple: instead of spending the whole annual budget on a bigger band we prefer to invest our money and time on projects that we feel we belong to…getting albums done and ready for the market is not really what I like. When an album is ready and good we sign distribution deals which will leave the artist free to control its own project in full since this is they way they started it. Licensing deals are different since we work together with our bands beginning from the first note of the the first demo song and ending at the promotion taking care of everything is in between. Releasing products for the market is not Wormholedeath’s main purpouse. Our main goal is to release products we like, and if I have to like a product I have to be part of it!! By the way, I don’t see Wormholedeath as an extreme metal label… We are actually focusing on more mainstream metal/rock projects… If you check out most of our bands (like (AGHARTI, RAINOVER, AZYLYA, SLEEPER EFFECT, DYNABYTE, ELEGY OF MADNESS, LIGHTLESS MOOR, ASHES TO ASHES, SHADOWDREAM, ANGERMAN, LEVANIA, UNDERWELL, PURPLE NAIL, INVISIBLE MIRROR) are not extreme at all. Of course we have some very good extreme bands but we do everything possible to make them like sounding great, much more than making them sounding extreme…CRYSALYS’ album is a clear example of how the “extreme” can become very wide… Half milion views on their video is pretty much a good proof…MECHANICAL GOD CREATION and RIGHT TO THE VOID are other good examples with their good results. Then we have the bands that we love even if their albums are less approachable for large crowds… NO DAWN, WORSTENEMY, 2BLACK, ASA-NOIR, NAPALM STORM, RAGING AGE, DUNKELNACHT, CLAYMORDS….Very stylish. The bands we distribute have done excellent products by their own so we didn’t want to leave these bands alone and we are always open to talk to them about future ideas. Lot of new bands are also growing a lot : INFLIKTED, A.O.S, SEAL OF SOLOMON, OTHER EYES WISE, KAL-EL, EOSPHORUS, SIX DAYS OF MAY, ZEPHYRA, IDOGRAM, PASSION FOR SORROW, WILL WARNER & VIVIEN VAIN, FROSTBITTEN KINGDOM y VORTEX OF CLUTTER are some of them.
Subterráneo Heavy: Speaking about your bands, you already have RAINOVER, V.I.L, NAPALM STORM and BARBARIAN PROPHECIES in your roster, 4 Spanish bands (hopefully I´m not missing any other Spanish band), how did this collaboration between both parts begin? Did you listen to them and then decided to contact the band or was it the other way around?
Worm: You have named all the Spanish bands signed to Wormholedeath, yes. All these bands have been signed in different manners. Regarding RAINOVER, I asked Quini (drummer) if I could produce their album (I have worked as producer with them together with Jonathan Mazzeo) since we knew each other already and I liked the band a lot…There was a lot of potential in their last demos. At that time they were still called REMEMBRANCES. I went to Spain and we worked one week on the songs together… After that they came to Italy and we produced the album with the new singer and under the new name. I am really happy with that record and it was absolutely natural to release it on my own label. NAPALM STORM have been introduced to me by their producer. BARBARIAN PROPHECIES were introduced to me by their manager and VIL came alone. They sent the album and I said yes.
Subterráneo Heavy: As you were pointing out earlier, WHD has a Japanese division. Japan´s a very curious country, with quite a different culture, the proof of this is on their anti-piracy law, which could sentence any illegal download with up to 20.000€ (100 million yen) and 2 years in prison. How did this division start? Has it been hard to “accommodate” you to its culture and their music market?
Worm: Japanese people are loyal, honest, calm and they don’t know what being aggressive means. They don’t need laws as they respect each other in a very natural way. That law you are talking about is because they protect arts for real, they care about music for real… That’s why they made it, and I feel safe everytime we release an album in Japan, but mostly because of people’s attitude. I have known my partner Masa since he was working for a big Japanese company (he has a lot of experience) and offerd us a licensing deal for one of our albums (for the Japanese market). We worked so well together that when he left that company, I asked him to start Wormholedeath Japan. After a few weeks of thinking he said yes. We agreed on the whole internal deal and we started. Simple as that. From that moment I cannot think of Wormholedeath without Masa, like it would be without Emiliano (Aural Music), The Orchard or Warner Chappell. They are part of my daily life, I talk to them everyday and they became part of my family.
Subterráneo Heavy: The statistics show that Japan´s music market is almost at part with USA´s at selling albums – even though, Japan has 41% less population than the USA – so I´m guessing it´s quite an option to export music. Does it remark on your sales? Would you be able to tell us which genres do Japanese people like the most?
Worm: Yes, it is true… we sell everything we distribute in shops. I can’t say that we have huge sales in Japan (still, we produce extreme music) but it goes much better than how it goes in EU and US. I am really happy on how things go there and as you can see, as a label, we focus on Japan quite a lot. We have a very good distributor (Space Shower Music) and Masa takes care of every little detail including artworks, presentations, promotion, accounting….
What works well in Japan… It is not really a genre but much more if a band has mainstream appeal or not. With mainstream I don’t necessarely mean “commercial”, I mean the attitude of the band… The image, the pictures, the cover, the sound….. If an album has a mainstream imprint (specially with female singer) it works. What doesn’t work well, in the other hand, is the extreme… Black metal, deathmetal, deathcore, thrash ecc are not the best music genres to be sold in Japan. By the way, I am talking for our label, maybe other labels do well with other music styles… I don’t have the truth in my hands, I am just talking about Wormholedeath.
Subterráneo Heavy: Continuing with the statistics… The digital sales have almost reached the physical format sales (they are on a 45/55) this ending 2014. When Wormholedeath started, all this digital business wasn´t as rooted as it is now, How has the process of adaptation to this new tendencies of the music market been?
Worm: For us, I mean for our label, digital sales go way better than how cd sales go. Even if Aural Music has such a great distribution network this is the reality for our releases. If you do not consider a few releases that sold quite well on hard copy most of our bands do reach their break even point through digital sales and publishing so they get confirmed for further albums. If we had to rely on cd sales we would have been bankrupt already since cds cost a lot due to the pressing, mechanical royalties, shipping, warehouse costs etc. Btw I don’t think that it’s the same with bigger labels…When you have big bands you rely much more on cd sales, special releases and configurations. Also big labels have their own mailorder service so they can afford to sell CDs for a better price and bands have more people at shows so they can sell very well though their merch stand. By the way we have been somehow working a lot with our digital aggregator and digital promnotion since the beginning. We have been so lucky to meet one american girl called Sarah at Popkomm in Berlin… She helped me to get in touch with The Orchard to sign the deal for a digital workstation. Now The Orchard is doing such a great work for us with digital marketing (subscription sites like youtube or spotify) promotion of videos (through VEVO or Muzu and other big channels) and even helping us with banners placed on Spotify, place releases in itune’s homepage…Without them we couldn’t be alive as a label. Let me take the chance to thank Sara, Francesca and Giacomo from the bottom of my heart. They absolutely rule. We got offers from other aggregators but we never changed.
Subterráneo Heavy: Vinyl is still alive, even though it has been almost dead over cassette, CD, and then again with digital format (which seems to be overtaking almost every field). What´s your opinion, as a label, about this fact? Do you work with vinyls too? What about cassettes?
Worm: When vinyl was huge I was a musician and a kid, so I have seen it being devoured by technology and digital devices. I regret these times but honestly I don’t see any difference in buying a vinyl or a cd…If I lile the band, I like the music not the vinyl or the CD… That is just plastic and paper. Allthough I understand that vinyl is very fascinating and fancy. Nowadays, as you know already, the trend is to recoup these formats and get back to analog devices. Wormholedeath cannot afford to release vinyls which are bloody expensive and take so much time to be pressed. We have to hurry, always… Do not forget that we always release in Japan and cds have to be released with Japanese artwork… CDs are the only way to do it.
Cd is fast, easy to be sent to the plant with DDP masters and PDF artwork…This is how I see it, but of course many would disagree with me and somehow I can understand that.
Subterráneo Heavy: Changing the subject a little bit , I would like to state that WHD and specially Naty, the one who has been in contact with us from the beginning, are doing an amazing job reaching every website and promoting the bands and the articles that the media publishes about them. How many countries do you reach out media-wise?
Worm: Thank you for your words… That is really appreciated. Currently our mailout covers almost 2000 media including webzines, magazines, radios, blogs (and every form of media) worldwide which are reached through both digital advance links and CDs. We update our contacts daily and with some journalists we are even friends. I cannot really say the countries that we can cover (as you know I don’t work with press as my main task) but I think that if an album was meant to receive a lot of coverage, then it will get it with us. We always focus on EU mainly but also some media in the US like our releases… The Japanese office does its work in Japan evenif there are not as many underground media as we have here. We also invest a lot of money in shipping of CDs. We know that underground jounalists are not paid so at least we want them to be happy with a real cd which somehow demonstrates that the label cares about them and knows that they take time to do reviews and interviews…. Spare time that they could spend with their kids or families.
Subterráneo Heavy: What kind of media do you work with?
Worm: The promotion of our bands and releases, takes form through magazines, TV broadcast, independent radios (local, regional, national and foreign) and websites. Recently, since we are signing more mainstream bands, we have created a DJ mailout campaign with almost 800 targets to see if they can play our bands in their clubs, dancehalls or aftershows. We also send our albums to festivals, endorsements and ADV companies to see if we can get some kind of deal or cooperation for the band.
Subterráneo Heavy: Is the number of edited copies directly correlated to each band´s agreement? How many copies do you usually edit of each release?
Worm: The number of cds pressed are related to requests from distributors…We usually press 500 for promotion (promos) and retail copies go from 1000 to 3000 according to what distributors ask for. None of our bands has sold more tha 3000 copies yet. so min. is 1500 and max 3500 …
Subterráneo Heavy: Since Subterráneo Heavy started collaborating with Wormholedeath , we´ve seen you expand quite fast. You are becoming a huge label, so I guess you are getting many band´s petitions. Am I wrong? How many bands do you actually have in your roster? I´ve lost count…
Worm: I don’t think that we are becoming huge, I guess that we are becoming stronger actually. More publicity, more attention and more sales and income. If with petitions you mean submissions, yes I think that we get quite a lot… During 2014 we received around 200 demos/links/Inquiries ect. At the moment we have 30 full licensing deals in place + around 10 that we are going to sign or release during 2015. Then we have 10 digital deals (bands released through digital market) and a few distribution and publishing deals as well. Let me say that there’s no difference in how we threat the bands… The difference only stands in the contract as we can’t sign many licensing deals during the year so whan a band is really good and the people are nice we help them anyway … we don’t really care about contracts we threat them all in the same way.
Subterráneo Heavy: So, what if a band would like to know more about Wormholedeath, its rates, etc. How can they contact you?
Worm: Bands can just send their music and hope that we like it… that’s it. In our website there’s a contact form (and submission guidelines) that they can use to send us their music.
Subterráneo Heavy: Well, that´s all, folks. Thanks a lot for your time and answers. Feel free to add whatever you want, please. And keep up the good work!
Worm: Thank you Irene, for the time taken and for the space given. I think that we pretty much said everything. All the best!