The End Records

 •  Posted in: Kogaionon Interviews

Hi, Andreas! I want you to travel back in time with me... somewhere in 1993, in your college life, the action took place in its tearoom, when, in a certain moment, a guy as long haired as you entered... He wore a t-shirt with ENTOMBED logo, in short time you started to chat and...here you are, after almost ten years, running a label in plain ascendancy. Could we speculate this was in deed the opportunity because of which the label The End Records was given birth, long after you met each other? What memories of that period do you still keep in mind?

   "Yes, that was Sergey who later on became my partner in The End Records. It was actually my first encounter with a real metal fan at the college we both went to. We became friends solely based on the fact we both liked metal. Actually after I graduated and moved to LA we still kept contact and it was two years later (1997) that he came to me and we talked about doing the label. Those early years were interesting times, especially for metal as I left from my country where we had a big circle of metal fans and came to San Diego and couldn't meet anyone into this kind of music. What's interesting is that Motohead was scheduled to play 3 times but cancelled all times due to poor sales tickets. After the 3rd time, a local newspaper ran an article on it saying that metal is a pretty much dead movement... those were rough times I guess..."

 

The label started to function at the beginning of 1998 yet you settled your first contract much earlier, in 1997. I refer to MENTAL HOME, am I right? What were the very reasons that determined you to found this label?

   "Yes, Mental Home is what spawned the whole idea for a label and it all started after Sergey came back from Moscow with an advanced tape of their newly recorded album. He called me up and told me he wanted to find ways to help the band get more exposure outside of Russia. The first reaction was to duplicate some copies of the album and send it to some labels and see if anyone in interested. When he came over though, together with Mental Home he also brought a tape of Nokturnal Mortum and also sounded quite impressive! I then pulled a couple of promos of bands I had, those being Sculptured and Odes Of Ecstasy, and we just spent a few hours listening to them. By the end of the day we just decided to start our own label and see how it goes."

 

You have released, for some time, your first compilation, a very interesting one, while MENTAL HOME was into the first position and received an extraordinary welcome all over the Metal press. Can you get through, in details, the most important stages of your label development?

   "Yes, the first release was January 1998 by Mental Home "Vale". That was 6 months after we decided to start the label thus we had a lot work already in place, had a website going, etc. Very importantly we were in touch with 6 bands by then, that all agreed to release albums with us. We knew that our label and our bands were quite unknown and we had to find a way to spread the news. Thus we did a compilation (the cover was based on the designs of our webiste) and had songs of the albums we wanted to release that year. The next big step was with Nuclear Blast that asked to license Nokturnal Mortum in Europe. Soon after Odes Of Ecstasy also got licensed to Raven Music for Europe. I was also very glad when we managed to get Epoch Of Unlight on tour with Dimmu Borgir and Samael in 1999. Two further developments include the start of our mail-order that really took off which also resulted in adding 2 more people in the company, and the fact that we now have a solid distribution in the USA making our titles available across the country."

 

I find at least odd and peculiar the fact you come from Cyprus and Serghei from Russia. In the meantime, I heard that another guy (Tomer Pink) joined the team and he is from Israel... Could we know for sure which might be the label's origin, since you gathered from all over the world?

   "It is true that we are all from different areas of the world and the same goes with our bands (Greece, Norway, USA, Australia, Russia, Czech, etc...). But 2 things bring us together: love of music and determination to work hard and help the bands grow. I think once we stay focused and keep our integrity we will continue working this out."

 

Why did you choose for "The End" name? Is it, somehow, about a hidden message or a pessimistic connotation?

   "The name came pretty quick. It can mean different things to different people and at different occasions. It gives us the flexibility to use that under numerous circumstances. I remember on our first Ad we said: "Metal? Let It Be The End!" and many people just didn't get it. Also, on the new comp the title is: "At The End Of Infinity" which is a contradictory statement obviously. It just allows to use it at creative as we want."

 

What happened between you and NOKTURNAL MORTUM? There were a few rumors relating to some divergences of convictions and concepts that might have lead to the end of your collaboration...

   "It seems that their ideology kept getting more and more extreme with each release. Sergey was saying it has to do with their situation in Ukraine and it's causing them to turn to that direction. And while I try to keep an open mind it came to the point where it was conflicting with my personal beliefs. We run a music label; not a political institution. We always put the music first but the band wanted to fully promote their ideolofy as well. As we felt we couldn't do it we mutually agreed not to work together anymore."

 

Last year meant for you many great accomplishments as you had license rights for diverse European labels such as Massacre, Avantgarde or Prophecy... Where did such policy come from? Until that time you only had a single understanding with Nuclear Blast...not that I do not wish you for more...

   "Actually, most of our deals are done directly with the bands and not the labels. For example, Green Carnation we got the offer to sign them worldwide but it was too expensive for us and since we don't have a strong presence in Europe we spoke with Prophecy and decided to split the territories and expenses. This allows us to fully concentrate in the US and thus do a much more effective job. At the same time Virgin Black signed with Massacre in Europe and with us in the USA. And with Winds we retain full rights for here as well."

 

Your alliance with Century Media has become quite famous and this fact might be misinterpreted or regarded in certain terms of your commitment with this big label, as far as their Internet site is concerned. For the present, can you declare the nature of your actual partnership?

   "Yes, Century Media is my main job and I handle their website and anything to do with computers, networking, etc. Century Media has offered a lot to the metal scene and I would like to feel that I also helped in that aspect. "

 

Let us draw up your last achievements: Sleepless, Green Carnation, Virgin Black, Scholomance and Winds. Please, present us all the details you can about these bands and their albums.

   "Ok, here we go: Sleepless - This is the first band we sign from Israel. Not only I know one of the main members but also their Israeli label, Raven Music. I had their first demo and I was intrigued and then got the album and it was very refreshing and unique. Without being metal, they were able to still create dark moody atmospheres. Their arrangements were quite complex with clean vocals, and a variety of elements from jazz, gothic, ambient, etc...References can be drawn to Ulver, Tiamat, etc.

 

Green Carnation - I first got an e-mail from Tchort while I was in Cyprus visiting my family. He said he was looking for a label to release his forthcoming album, "Light Of Day, Day Of Darkness". I asked him if he was able to send me some demos of the new songs and he said he already booked the studio and needed an answer asap! Thus we went back and forth and he described the whole concept of the album via e-mails! As I was also familiar with the first release, I felt comfortable enough to work with the band. As you know they have delivered an amazing album and for many one of the tops of the year! This was also our first band from Norway.

 

Virgin Black - I got a copy of their album from a magazine write, Tom Edmoson for Critical Metal. He said it might fit the style of our label and when I listened to it I was very impressed. They play a style of dark symphonic with gothic and metal elements and it sounded very unique. We were about to sign them and then I lost my distribution in the USA so things were put on hold. In the meantime, they got a deal with Massacre for Europe. Then after a few months I got a new distribution in the USA so we resumed our prior activities and thus released the album. The band was also quite enthusiastic and gave us the Trance EP to be added as a bonus as well! This is our first signing from Australia.

 

Scholomance - As you know they have been with us since the early days. We released their debut album in 1998 and the new one just this past January. The band has evolved tremendously (even beyond their debut) and with a strong production they gave us killer album. And although more of a death/progressive metal band they are now described as the replacement of Emperor. Maybe it's due to the complexity of the songs and the extensive keyboards.

 

Winds - Another great band from Norway. This deal was quite interesting as I first got an e-mail from Avantgarde asking if we want to get the rights for Winds in the USA. Then the same week I got an e-mail from Andy (main composer and keyboard player of the band) asking me where in Pasadena I live. It came out he moved from Norway and now he lives 2 blocks from my house! Thus we met and he played me the album and I was very impressed. They play a unique style of dark progressive metal with amazing guitars, and classical music! I thus contacted Avantgarde immediately and bought the rights for the USA!"

 

In the near future you are about to release, under The End mark, the most expected album, the ARCTURUS'. I am so curious how did this happen, where from this connection? Moreover, what can you disclose regarding ARCTURUS' new tracks? I only know it is supposed to be released on April 9...and I am dying to find out as many details as possible.

 

   "ARCTURUS is one of my all time favorite bands. They fit so much into the vision of our label which is to create music that is unique, defies categorization and even re-definine standards of music. "La Masquerade Infernale" was a pure masterpiece and a timeless classic. Thus when I found out they are working on a new album we called their label and told them right away that we want the album for the USA. We already had a relationship with them as we buy their titles for our mail-order so they knew we are reliable and professional. It took 4 months to finish the agreement but it's definitely worth it. I just got a CD-R of the new Acturus and it's truly awesome. Very melodic (especially Garm) but still with the avant-garde approach that ARCTURUS is know for. And the songs are heavy!! Two of them are just pure black metal and on one Ihsahn from Emperor sings on it. Those that followed ARCTURUS through their career would be quite ecstatis when they receive it."

 

 What surprises do you intend to bring forward this year? Did you discover any young new bands that particularly aroused your interest? What should be the criteria do you guide upon when picking up and grading the bands you sign with?

   "We are looking into 1-2 bands but I think we got a lot of great talent to the label already. We are putting all our efforts now into working the new releases we have so we are not actively looking into signing anyone right now. And to sign someone it has to be a band we really like."

 

What can you tell me about your agreement with "III Literature"? What are you interested in finding out when you conceive the questions?

   "I started writing for Ill Literature in 1996. In the last 2 issues I didn't get to contribute much as I am too busy with The End. But I used to review tons of albums and then interview those bands I liked. Before any interview I would do tons of research and find out as much as possible for the band. I would then prepare 25-30 questions and make sure it covers all the aspects of the band. I felt it was a responsibility to deliver a well covered story. In the same way a band works hard to create an album, a journalist should put a good effort in bringing forth a good story."

 

If I am not wrong you are about 30 years old, what is it to be said on the topic of your personality and life? Do you have children? In fact, are you married? What hobbies are fulfilling your life and what musical styles do you select anymore? Are you still listening to Nick Cave, for example?

   "Yes, I just 30 and I can say that my life so far has been anything but dull as from early on I always pre-occupied myself with various activities. But music has been a big part of my life for almost 20 years now. I remember growing up and being around when all the great metal albums were coming out and we all had to wait for the "Masters Of Puppets" to be released or the "South Of Heaven", etc. I know listen to those albums and along with the music there is a sense of nostalgia as tons of memories just flood out as well. I still listen to new metal releases but it has to be really good to grasp my attention, for example, the new My Dying Bride or Entombed. But I listen to Nick Cave, New Model Army, Portishead, Alice In Chains and anything that sounds like quality music to my ears. Pink Floyd is still on the top of my list and I listen to all their albums consistently! Besides music I really like to read. History and obscure fiction are my 2 favorite topics. And yes, I am married. No children but we have 2 cats."

 

I remember that your second compilation booklet enclosed also a detailed history of the label you run. What was its purpose?

   "At the time it seemed that people were still not very familiar with the label. We were getting all kinds of questions on the label and our bands. I also saw the comp as the beginning of the second chapter for the label. The first step was for us to get known and the second step was to get established. Thus I put everything down on the booklet, to clear things up for everybody and be able to move to the next level. It worked well as I got tons of comments on that and people appreciated our honest approach to music."

 

I am obsessed and haunted by one single aspect of your activity: didn't you face rough times in order to make it through in USA since you were a new-comer, an outlander? Serghei had a similar status as well. Didn't you find resistance and plenty of obstacles when you decided to found and make the label functioning? I have in mind, for example, the account and the banking and so on...

   "Let's just say that nothing was ever easy for us. Even when I first came I could barely communicate since my English was quite poor. But going back to the label we had to do everything by ourselves as we had no outside investors or anything like that. We didn't have any industry experience as we were merely fans of the music. I have a degree in international business and Sergey in finance and communications, and now looking back I think that helped set some right structure from early on. We made a bunch of mistakes but our determination kept as going."

 

 It is almost obvious that Metal scene seems to venture away from Black Metal sphere and change sense of direction towards Gothic if not even Progressive ones. Do you think the age of brutality might have come to an end?

   "At this point I don't any particular style being quite dominant. There are so many bands doing so many different things that you can find pretty much whatever you want. What I think the scene lacks is progression as very few bands are trying to do something new these days. And this a constant strive for me as I always like to work with bands that try to be unique and true to themselves as artists."

 

 Tell me, what Metal magazines do you periodically read? What such webzines do you visit and, if we came here, what would be the latest news you pleasantly listen to?

   "I don't buy any metal magazines anymore since I have tons of magazines sent to me for free. I go through most them at least quickly browsing through to see what's new but rarely read full interviews as most have ask the same questions and get the same cliché answers. I think the last issue of your magazine was the one I read a bunch of the interviews as you have a different style of interviewing. In regards to websites I check for new mostly and I like digitalmetal.com, musiquemachine.com, metalcrypt, etc. The latest great news was that Dave Lombardo would tour again as the drummer for Slayer and also that Dream Theater plays the complete "Master Of Puppets" at their shows?!"

 

I am anxious to know, how do you picture European Metal scene from Bill Gates' continent? Do you see any differences between American Metal stage and the rest? Can you point out, perhaps, any peculiar characteristic feature of the American one?

   "Yes, the American scene seems to be still stuck in brutal death metal and also metal-core seems to be getting big. And the Power metal seems to still be growing which makes no sense to me as all that was already done much better before and it already getting old (for the second time) in Europe."

 

If changing the topics, I am not blind not to observe that lately violence left and still does, more often, finger-marks on each corner of the world. How do you feel about that, do you think we are getting close to an imminent end of the world, the Apocalypse? I almost feel the "touch" of a Third War, do you?

 

   "I don't think we are at this point yet. I grew up in Cyprus, where there is always a thread for war so I am kind of used to this feeling. But the terrorist attacks in New York seemed to have a strong impact worldwide, which a lot of aftermath results. It even affected our business as the post-office came to a standstill for a period of time. It is definitely a turning point in history and let's hope the results will turn out to be positive."

 

Did I miss something? Is there anything else you would feel adding? Tell me, what were your expectations, desires that you wanted to satisfy on the promise land before leaving Cyprus, and which should they be right now?

   "I think you covered quite a lot with your extensive questions. As of expectations, those that know me well can tell that I am never satisfied and I always strive for the next development and how to better what we do. When I left Cyprus the plan to study in the US and go back and work there. Things turned out different as my wife got scholarships to further her studies so I had to accommodate as well. The End started mostly as a hobby and an excitement to help some bands we liked. We have now realized that things got serious so our goal is not to help bands but also work with them and help them get more developed in the music scene."

 

I do thank you, my friend, for the time and I wish you for the best to happen in the future. Still..., how do you breathe the air of a continent that was discovered only two centuries ago in spite of the fact you came from a land with thousands years of history? Did you confront huge differences of cultures, civilizations? As a note of farewell, what would you recommend for visiting in USA, what about Cyprus? All good regards...

   "Thank you very much and I gave adequate answers to your extensive questions. Now, living in the USA is something I am quite accustomed too and although it is a new discovered continent its nature is as old as any place. I went to Grand Canyon last year and just being there is quite breathtaking. But again it was amusing when I went to San Francisco and were claiming that the city boasted the oldest building in the state which was built sometime in the 1700s. On a day-to-day basis, I am used to deal with all kinds of people with different backgrounds and customs. Even at my school there were students from 84 countries. In regards to visiting the USA, besides CA I have been to Phoenix, Las Vegas and New York. I still like CA the best as the climate at least is calm and reminds me more of home. About visiting Cyprus you should be able to see pretty much the whole island in 2-3 days as it is quite a small place!"

 

February 2002.