Code 666

 •  Posted in: Kogaionon Interviews

Emiliano Lanzoni was one of the first contacts I had since 1995! We talked about his activities in the first issue of "Kogaionon" magazine, after the release of the great Italian NIHILI LOCUS' debut MCD, at Emi's label, Boundless Records. Now, we can bring into discussion Code666, a label with an exceptionally intense activity in Metal underground.

Hi Emi. Let's start this interview in the same manner as the 99,9% of interviews we actually are used to read today. So, it seems A.C. Milan is the best team after three rounds in Champions League. When could we see on the Rivaldo's shirt a banner with Code666, he, he? Probably when Shevchenko will be Rakoth' fan and Nesta an Aghora's one... Good start for your favourite football team, am I right?

    "You're damn right, ! I've been in Munich's 'Olympiastadion' last Tuesday to attend the match as usual, and I was delighted by the performance! We are now leading our sub-league; hopefully we'll go ahead! It's nice to see again AC Milan among the very best in Europe; we've waited 10 years since the mighty Van-Basten-Gullit-Rijkaard trio... This year we have Rivaldo, Shevchenko, Rui Costa, Maldini, Seedorf, Nesta, Redondo, Leonardo and Inzaghi... Not bad either...but still, clubs like Real Madrid and Arsenal are a lot stronger than us... I hope we'll cover the gap a.s.a.p.... The main goal now in AC Milan is to play a good football instead of looking just for the final result, strange, but it's almost the same with code666: my aim is to produce quality bands, not necessarily to sell a shitloads of records... I would be happy to sell millions, but it's not my primary objective, same goes for AC Milan..."

How does the autumn look like in Italy, in Milan? Do you agree with me that this period represents the winter's prelude?

    "I don't live in Milan, but I love Autumn, it's really cool to live in the countryside like I do in this period, even if my favourite season is Spring, girls starts to undress, people starts to go outside and have fun, and principally there are the most important football match of the season..."

Miskatonic University is an unknown name for me (just as its history, if I recall the days of '95) but for you represents more then a simple band. What can you tell me about Emi's actual voice? Is it possible to see the Code666' boss as a singer in a band, maybe? How can you describe today the history/saga of your band?

    "Hehehe... Miskatonic University (nickname Miska) was my band since 1992, it was just before learning that I prefer to be have a label and do A&R instead of touring all over Europe in a shitty van sleeping in shitty places and eating shit... But I loved my band and I loved that life-style... Now I'm older and the 'sex-drugs and rock' n' roll' is not for me anymore... I've been asked several times to sing in other bands (including code666 bands) but I've always refused, I'm not such a great singer, and it would be embarrassing for me to perform in a code666-album... Also, Miska was a hardcore band, much more punk-related than metal, so would be really too far from what I'm doing now with code666. Those 10 years are a great source of information for my actual job: being an underground frustrated musician for so long taught me how to deal with underground frustrated bands, and taught me to understand better their problems, their needs and their requests, in fact I think that the best quality of my label is the excellent relationship we have with all our bands."

Could you share with me a few fragments from your musical activity connotation, started as a tape-trader in 1985? But what about Boundless Records...? What happened between our first interview we made and nowadays? Hybris, Nihili Locus... You had 5 bands under your banner...

    "Well, I've started like everybody I think: loving metal music during the eighties was not very easy, especially in a small town in Italy, with no metal shop, no metal magazines, no metal bands or radio, so I've started trading (bad) dubbed tapes with my pen pals around the world, using the old-school way: handwritten letters, Xeroxed flyers and unbounded passion... In 1992 I started my band (Miska) and we decided to self produce us in order to keep control on our music... That's how Boundless Records was born, without knowing a shit about the music business, it was like a school for me learning everything, practising every day and becoming the label-manager I am now... After a while we decided to start producing also other bands besides Miska, so I signed Nihili Locus and Hybris, and my partner signed Brain Boozers and Out of Order... It was hard because we had no money, no experience and no idea of how manage a label, but again, it was an extremely useful period for me... Now with code666 I've learnt from my old mistakes and at least I'm avoiding to do them again."

Money, money, money... is the drug without which we cannot survive in this materialistic life. Is Emi a satisfied businessperson? Is it hard to keep alive a label in Italy? Is it different as in other country, maybe?

    "It's damn hard. And I'm not a satisfied businessperson at all... In fact I can't live with code666... Maybe it's strange to believe from the outside, because we have now quite a good reputation as a quality-label, we've done 12-13 albums and we managed to sell more than 40.000 copies of the entire catalogue, but still I'm forced to do side-jobs to survive: as soon as I have spare time, I call a temporary jobcentre and I do a couple of days in a factory, in a office or wherever... It's good that it's so easy and quick to find those jobs nowadays, otherwise I would be forced to use some of the code666 money to pay my personal bills and I don't want this: I prefer to reinvest 100% of the earning in code666, we still need to grow a lot and it's ok for me to do some sacrifice now for a better tomorrow."

Code666 (subtitle: underground culture for undeads) is a strange name. You started as a Xeroxed'zine in 1999 and now you have a respectable label. Why did you choose for this name? You are an atheist but the label's designation seems to be a Satanist one, am I wrong?

    "Yes, I'm atheist, and no, code666 is not a satanic label (and zine before). Code666 is the title of my favourite movie, a very rare independent Mexican movie (shot in 1978) that I adore, imagine a mix of 'Lost Highway', 'The Holy Mountain' and Frank Miller's 'Sin City'... This movie represents me at 100% so it's a perfect name for my label. I decided to start a Xeroxed zine after leaving Boundless Records just to put some shit out of me (it was a damn bad period for me personally), the zine turned out quite good and got a great success, so I decided to transform it in a record-label and re-start my old passion, and that's it."

RAKOTH was a real success for your label: 7500 copies sold-out and now the Russian guys are under Earache banner. AGHORA is another quality band and actually represents the best-sold album of your label. It seems you "smell" the bands with impact at listeners, am I right?

    "Well, I do my best to find original band, and usually if you produce something new and diverse, you get the attention from fans and media... Of course there are several times when the reactions are bad, because people don't understand what the band wants to express, but there are already big labels like Nuclear Blast or Century Media who can release Xeroxed first-class glossy-bands and sell millions, I can't and I don't want to play that league: so I focus myself on weird, strange, special musicians, trying to give them what they need to get out and produce their music in the best way, arranging customized promotion and a customized marketing plan, giving, advises to help them improving..."

Ephel Duath is another quality band and after their "Opera" demo the deal with you was practically a logical reasonable step. "Phormula" has received lots of enthusiastic appraisals, but the result in sales was rather disappointing. Paradox, false image... do you have a coherent explanation for such? You are, in fact their Manager after Giuliano's leaving...

    "No explanation, really... 'Phormula' has been our biggest critics success and our worst selling album ever, and it's hard to understand why: it's a groundbreaking album, a lot ahead and really innovative, it has been released 2 years ago and still no one was able to improve it. We get a lot of email from new bands stating Ephel Duath as their major influence, but it seems that the album was appreciated a lot among the musician or the journalists, but not by normal people, maybe it's too ahead, maybe it's just not made to please everyone, maybe it's a shitty album and I'm so dumb that I can't understand it... Now they signed with Earache and I'm their manager, they are right now in studio to record the new album, it will be absolutely supreme, but I fear the same reactions: it's again too avantgarde and too ahead for the market... I mean, if people think that an average band like ...And Oceans is the best 'Avantgarde extreme-metal' band of the scene, then there's no space (and no place) for Ephel Duath."

I would like to find out more details about the bands you have a contract with for the moment.

    "Sure: starting in chronological order, my first band has been Rakoth from Russia: I signed them after hearing their shitty-dubbed demo recorded in their garage, they have released 2 excellent albums on code666 ('Planeshift' and 'Jabber' works) before signing with Earache (who re-released on license 'Planeshift'), now they are in studio to finish the 'Tiny Death' new album, can't wait to hear it... Then came Ephel Duath with 'Phormula', and the third band was Aghora. I was lucky enough to find 3 amazing bands to start my label with, both different from each other but still fitting the concept of code666. After the big Aghora success, I've signed 2 Swedish bands: Diabolicum and Bloodshed: both released 2 CDs on code666 until now, and especially Diabolicum has been quite a big success: a lot of bands are inspired now by their 'Dark blood rising' album. Then came Abortus from Australia: I decided to pick them because they are the opposite of the typical 'code666 band', usually 'Avantgarde-sophisticate-weird'... I don't like to sound obvious, and I hate when people think to know my next move. I love to shake the audience and make unexpected choices, Abortus is a raw, old-school grooving brutal thrash band, perfect to shock all the people thinking that code666 is just another cliché'label finding the profitable music-style and try to capitalize it without experimenting... Strange to say, but Abortus (our most 'classic heavy metal band') is our biggest experiment until now... In 2002 we released at the same time 2 great album by Enid from Germany and Void of Silence from Italy, again 2 different bands, and again a good feedback especially from the media: Void of Silence has been hailed as the first 'crossover' band between the ambient-folk-industrial scene and the extreme-doom-black one, while Enid recorded an emotional piece of dream-work. Our last albums, the new Bloodshed and their Maldoror Kollective, followed our aim to play with the opposites: a classic Swedish-death metal opus by Bloodshed and a cyber-ritual post-metal outfit like Thee Kollective. Now we are ready to launch Negura Bunget, an amazing band still unknown in most parts of Europe (you know them very well I think-Negura how? I don't know, please scroll these pages and who knows, maybe you'll find enclosed an interview with this Romanian band, he, he-ed!) , new Nordvargr, our first code666 compilation, the new Aborym, the new Manes, new Atrox, Aghora, Diabolicum, Unmoored, Handful Of Hate, etc... "

Unholy and Breach are two bands you are interested in.

    "Both are among my favourite bands, and both are the only ones not completely out of my range, both sadly split up recently, so I'm trying every day to convince them to reform and restart with code666... I'm also looking for a band that does not exist, or better a band which is still only in my head and I'm looking for: if someone out there is playing a twisted form of black-hardcore with a massive dose of noise-break beats, inhuman vocals and tribal-apocalyptic atmospheres, drop me an email, because, you got a contract with code666!"

Code666 represents four persons and Peppe (web-designer) as guest member. What kind of skills should have an employer of your label? Do you see any possibility I work for you, he, he?

    "If you want to work for code666, then you are in! Really! We are desperately trying to find new employers, but nobody seems to be interested or nobody seems to fit the label needs... The main problem is money: no one is paid in code666 (including me)... It's not easy to work just for the glory, but who knows? Maybe someone is as mad as us..."

Code7 is a Management Company. Tell me more details about it.

    "Code7 started to organize gigs and do some booking in Italy, but also as a management company to help bands getting a good deal and follow their careers. I'm doing this with Ephel Duath, and I enjoy it a lot, more info at www.code7.it "

Emi, you have the same age as me, 31 old years. Do you have a family, children? How looks a normal day for you?

    "Unfortunately I don't have children (I would like to have many, but my girlfriend don't think the same...) So, I have 2 dogs and 2 cats while waiting for her damn 'yes'... My normal day is: Wake up at 11 am, breakfast for me and the animals, then start working on code666 while listening to the mountain of promo we receive every day (usually 99,9999% of them are quite bad, so it's not very enjoyable), then my girlfriend came home for the lunch, I cook for both again and during the afternoon I work again for the label until 19, when my lovely one came back for dinner. I cook again for everybody (cats and dogs included, they pretend to eat what we eat...) And I start working again for code666 until very late, or if I need money to pay my rent or food, I call my job-office and they tell me the address of the factory to work in during the whole night until 8-9 am, and I start again. The exception are the days where there is a football match involving Milan: in that case I leave home very soon to go to San Siro stadium in Milan or I watch the match on TV if it's too far... Quite boring from the outside uh...? (oh, yes, Emi... I understand you... go back to work!-ed). But I love it!"

What can you tell me about the Italian Metal labels? In our first interview you told me that Italian Metal scene not exist yet... But, what about the entire Metal activity...?

    "For many years, Avantgarde has been the only metal label in Italy, and they are still the number one in my eyes, with amazing bands and a great attitude. Then came Scarlet, which is a very fast growing label mainly focused on power-metal or death-thrash. There are also other labels quite interesting like Beyond Productions, Eibon Records and Inch Productions, but still too underground to be noticed outside Italy. The entire metal activity is damn lazy and damn small here, but there are many great Italian bands, too bad that labels are not at the same level."

 I saw on your site a division focused only to promote bands, a kind of webzine. It's a challenge for me, really! What do you think is important to find out in an interview? Official questions, official answers, limited subjects...this is the scenario mostly advanced in Metal activity. Are you satisfied with this kind of
promotion/commerce?

    "Not at all. I think that 90% of the metal press sucks, the interviews are far from being interesting, with pre-made questions and pre-made answers, good reviews are traded with advertising spot and there's not space for true journalism, it's so pathetic and useless... There are some exceptions, and 'Kogaionon' is one of those: your interviews for example are among the best ones, really (Thank you! I appreciate your correct attitude, he, he-ed). When I read an interview I'm not interested in all the usual shit, it's boring to start with the bio, continuing with the new album, asking for the favourite bands and ending with the future plans, always in the same order, always in the same manner, the same questions to cannibal corpse or to a Bulgarian demo-band... Why? I like to know things about the personal life of the bands, about the rehearsal, the studio, about the groupies, the business side (labels, distribution, budgets...) Or about their thoughts on off-topics (like your football question for example, I would die to know the favourite Emperor's football club instead of having the damn boring 'track by track' for the 10000 time). It's hard for me to understand why someone prefer to buy that shitty magazines instead of great ones like yours 'Kogaionon', or Ledo Tadas 'Ad Arma' (Tadas, it seems we are the Twin Peaks, ohhh-ed)..."

Emi, I guess it should be enough. Thanks for the interview and good luck in the future. A final question: do you see some important changes in Metal Scene in the last ten years? Which are your believes?

    "Yes, it's obvious: Internet. 10 years ago everything was different, now the net changed a lot of things and will continue to change: I think that in another 10 years the metal scene will be something completely different from now: no more labels (hopefully), the bands will sell their music directly online with no pressing-production costs, 90% of the bands will record their songs in their home-studios and the 'battle' will be in the promotion-side of everything: the best you'll promote you, the more you'll sell music, that's why I think that all the labels will be transformed in promo-agencies or something like that... Of course, maybe the major labels will continue to print some CDs (or DVD or whatever new format), but I see no future for a classic underground record-label like code666, at least not in the same shape as now... I don't fear this future at all: I'm not a guy who sits down and watches the world changing: I like to improve, to change, and to grow... The more things change, the more doing my job is a great thing. Btw, I'd like to mention that we completely restyled our website at www.code666.net , so take a look and enjoy our new web-highway."

October, 2002.