J (Blood Music) Interview
The discovery of the mp3 format has changed the way music fans buy over the past decade. The sale of CDs has decreased and as a result had a huge impact on the music industry. Record labels are still struggling to adapt to the buying habits of music fans.I have noticed a rise in independent music labels for metal music. Some of them are Blastasfuk, Memento Mori who I have featured in the past. These one man labels keep the fire burning in the underground.
The label I am featuring this time is Blood Music. Based in Helsinki, Finland the label has put out some awesome releases this year like Irreversible Mechanism who I featured in May, GosT among others. I spoke to label owner J about how he started the label, his most memorable releases so far and also what is next from the label.
Hi, you have been running Blood Music for 4 years now. How does it feel looking back?
J:It’s a feeling that can’t truly be put to words – the emotions condense to an infinitely dense marble that fits into the palm of your hand but contains all the energy of the known universe. It has all of these emotions wrapped up, many of which have never been able to be realized. The label’s very first release did well, and it has been a constant, exponential growth without a single moment of slowing down. It’s beyond surreal, as I know how rare it is to experience a project that encounters very little resistance, it’s almost unheard of! It’s not my first project by a long shot, and I’ve never come anywhere close to this before. It becomes eerie, like – why this / why now / why does everyone suddenly care?
Because of the high output of the label in such short time and high outpouring of support, each project effortlessly folds into the next as a kind of infinite map. I don’t have the time to feel all the emotions that go along with this because as soon as I take a short break to celebrate, 1000 more e-mails come in, more material goes out of print, and more bands are ready to go with new material. I have a duty to keep up with the thousands of people who are expecting things, and I want to be able to meet as many of those expectations as possible, so long as they’re humble and realistic.
Instead of expanding, I intend to forcibly start slowing down the signings and the output of the label, as I would like to soon take time to sit back and reflect on each project, savor the taste of the full release cycle and not just fit the emotions in when it’s convenient.
In short, it’s completely overwhelming, and I’m still not sure how it all feels. I only have time to taste short glimpses of it.
How and when did you decide to start a label?
J:The seed started in early 2011, only a few months before it actually came to fruition. Although the idea to run a label has been in the back of my mind for twenty years.
In the late 2000s, I had been phased out of the freelance work I was doing, and all my savings was disappearing as I tried to get work going – but no one was hiring.
In 2009, I decided to hitchhike around the world indefinitely and ended up in all kinds of random places with small jobs off the coast of Africa and in islands throughout the Atlantic. After only a year, I ended up back in an attic in Tampere (a couple hours north of Helsinki) and was bored out of my mind with no job prospects and nothing going for me. I was really only interested in collecting records, and I walked down to the record shop once a week, spending the rest of my savings on vinyl. I eventually got frustrated that so many albums I wished for were not released, were long out of print, or were pressed in atrociously poor quality editions. So, I made a list of projects I’d like to see on wax, and the bands that came to the top of the list were maudlin of the Well, Lykathea Aflame, and Sigh. So, I contacted them all.
Your first release was Maudlin of the Well 4xLP + 7″ Box Set. How did that happen?
J:I received replies from all three bands I initially wrote. The reply from maudlin of the Well was that the vinyl rights to “Bath” and “Leaving Your Body Map” (their companion albums which gained cult popularity after the band’s demise) already rested with another label. I checked the other label (Antithetic Records)’s social media, and it sounded like they were short on cash. So, I wrote them and offered to go 50/50 on the box set with financing, work duties, and rewards split down the middle. They thought it was a perfect opportunity, and we went forward – simple as that.
I learned a ton from that experience, and it was definitely valuable to work with a partner who’d already done a few releases, in order to make less mistakes than the average first-timer would. Nevertheless, it was a slow process for both of us with a huge learning curve. In the end, we sold it out quickly. We broke even. Everyone was thrilled. Then the box started selling for $400 on eBay a few months later.
I wound up working with Lykathea Aflame and Sigh shortly after.
What have been the most memorable releases so far?
J:I get asked this a lot, and it’s getting harder to answer. The easier question would be “what have been the least memorable releases” because there are very few of those. I am proud of every single release I’ve done and very enthusiastic about the work put into all of them.
The motW Box was originally a source of immense pride for me, soon replaced by the Strapping Young Lad 7xLP Box, soon replaced by the Moonsorrow 14xLP Box, soon replaced by Perturbator “Dangerous Days” (the label’s first break-out album).
But I have to look at artists themselves as whole projects because I’ve achieved a ton with a good number of artists already, and so many projects stick in my mind – such as the Cloudkicker releases, which were done as the first “professional open source music releases” in history. SERDCE “Timelessness” is just a phenomenal album that I’m happy to have been a part of – and bringing perhaps the first Belarusian band into a very small piece of the international spotlight. Aquilus had a mere 900 fans on Facebook, and with one vinyl release with Blood Music, they became an extremely well-known and respected player in the atmospheric black metal scene with nearly 7000 fans! Nightbringer, Ne Obliviscaris, and Beyond Creation all exploded immediately after I worked with them. GosT went from near obscurity into a major player in the retro-electro scene, and Dan Terminus as well. Irreversible Mechanism and Corpo-Mente had smash debut albums.
It’s so hard not to dwell on all the projects, they all mean a lot to me, even the ones that aren’t as successful. I choose them because I admire the art endlessly.
What is the biggest problem that you faced so far?
J:Finding the time to rest and finding the time to sleep. Also, the label is overloaded with contacts – too many e-mails to answer. And some people can get really aggressive.
I also unlocked the rights to a band who had their catalog frozen for ten years, and instead of signing to Blood Music, they signed to a major label. That was near the beginning, but I’ll never forget that!
Do you do any marketing? If yes, what kind?
J:I tend to limit most of my marketing to social media and a few forums. I’ve always been very bad at coordinating with blogs and magazines, although I try. I think blogs and magazines get frustrated with me too. I’ve only very recently started hiring publicists because I just don’t have what it takes to forward the albums to people to review. It’s better if someone who is more skilled does that. I do love to see coverage on my bands’ albums, even negative coverage can be fun and sometimes hilarious.
I would say the marketing has been very much based on word-of-mouth. I think that has been one of the reasons that people are excited about the label is that most of them found it in a very organic way which hasn’t been very pushy. I’ve also been quite an adamant supporter of: if you don’t like what the label is doing, you can leave now. Some people take great offense to that, but those that stick around can respect that this is such a personal project.
Most of your releases are available through Bandcamp at Name Your Own Price. What is the reason behind it?
J:There are a few reasons to this, the most major one relating to a book I read about the the modern world of media. The book is not very well-known but is very well-researched on the ins and outs of records in the modern world – and it states that freely available media is helping to financially kill the media industry but it also has produced many positive results. I thought it sounded like a counterintuitive concept but one worth trying. I also had worked with Cloudkicker and Perturbator who have all their material at Name Your Own Price, and it works for them. I also have fielded a lot of complaints over the higher-than-average pricing of my vinyl releases [which I do believe are justified, considering the care and money invested into them]. I thought, well … the physical versions will have to remain costlier than average, and the digital will be freely available for those that can’t afford the physical.
It probably backfires on some bands, but overall I enjoy the impact that it makes. I like to see the music spread around, and I think Blood Music releases bands that people want to check out – strong takes on old classics or something very new. It gives a good platform for people to try and see if they like it. If they do, they can choose to donate. I believe people are more trusting when you offer more trust to them. Not all but many, and I like the way these concepts interplay.
How do you manage to run the label all by yourself? Do you have a day job?
J:I often surprise myself, but it does take 12-18 hour working days to get everything done. There is no time for a day job. I have to prioritize things as much as possible to accomplish everything in the correct order. My to do list is unreadable now, I just keep the things I have to finish at the forefront of my mind and write them on the to do list multiple times as I think of them, and they all get completed based on pending deadlines. It makes some things go slower – and some packages take some time to ship, but they all do ship. The 1-2 month time it takes for some packages to send really freaks some people out who are not used to it. But I believe many people need more patience in their lives, so I think I’m doing them a small service.
You have released music from different genres on your label, ranging from death metal (Irreversible Mechanism) to black metal (Ifing) and even electronic (Perturbator). What do you look for in a band before you sign them to your label?
J:I am a huge fan of many genres and have been for many years.
I want to find bands that personally speak to me in a very strong way, regardless of genre. I want to organize a musical palette that has a throughline but is not limited by style. There are intense boundaries set up to segregate one crowd from another, and some metal heads like to attack non-metal heads at metal shows, and that’s plain stupid. The best way to enrich the entire cultural palette of the world is to cross reference and build upon each other’s work. Most things get stale when sticking within a certain regimen of how people expect you to behave. I think many of my artists have become inspired to add loads of new influences to their music they wouldn’t have just by being on a more open-minded label. I encourage them to warp their sound, collaborate, go harder or softer (depending). It can only mean good things.
Have you been in a band before? What instrument do you play?
J:Yes, but nothing worth mentioning at all. I’ve played in several kinds of rock and electro bands that went nowhere. I also used to compose a lot with analog synths in the late 90s/early 00s, a short time before the actual ‘retro synth’ movement began. I’ve always wanted to write a solo metal album, but it’s never come out. Lots of ideas but no results.
I can actually shred on guitar. I can play bass and synthesizers as well. Perturbator asked me to shred on his next album, but he got tired of waiting for me to have free time, so it never happened. But it was nice of him to think of me. Maybe another album or another time. For now, it’s more important that I help these guys in other ways.
Any advice that you have for anyone planning to start a metal music record label?
J:It is one of the most difficult and rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. Make sure you have enough money saved for three times your first release, in case that release goes badly. You can then decide if you want to try again or quit. Also, work only with projects you love. It costs a LOT of time, energy, and money. If you want to do it right, you have to be ready to show a lot of respect to artists and fans and yourself too – finding that balance can be hard.
What are the upcoming releases from your label?
J:The most sought after ones are surely the Emperor box set, the next Perturbator album, and the next GosT album.
But there is a lot of great stuff on the horizon, such as the Grey Aura debut double album, Star One (Ayreon side project) on vinyl for the first time, the Thy Catafalque early works pressed for the first time professionally, Gire (incredible, obscure Hungarian death metal) rereleased, Rïcïnn (Corpo-Mente singer)’s debut album, the Perturbator early EPs, ambient legends Carbon Based Lifeforms hitting physical publications, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum on vinyl, and ultimately some great new albums being developed by Irreversible Mechanism, Xanthochroid, Ifing, etc.
Thank you very much for inquiring and being interested in the label!
Here are some the recent releases from Blood Music that you should check out: