Heart of Steel: Interviews

crash music
Mark Narawa of Crash Music
Interview By Keith McDonald

Crash Music Inc. is a new label that gears itself towards developing and distributing great bands of the underground metal scene. Based in Phoenix, the label was formed by Mark Narawa to get quality metal acts into major retail stores. With a roster that includes Brick Bath, Single Bullet Theory, King's Evil, Soulless, Twelfth Gate, and Di'Anno, it seems that Crash is well on their way to completing their goal. Crash also has entered into exclusive distribution deals with Artic Music Group and Unique Leader Records, home to such acts as Hate Plow, Malevolent Creation and Deeds of Flesh. I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Mark who gave me some information about his new venture. You can check out their website at www.crashmusicinc.com to get more on the label.


How did Crash Music start?

I formed Crash Music, Inc. in April of 2001. I needed to get a fresh start after running Pavement Music for ten years. Pavement had some bad luck when two of the companies distributors, INDI and DNA filed for bankruptcy. This left the company in a bad position as Pavement was owed six figures. So I figured let's go with something new and Crash Music was born.



How did your distribution deal with Innovative Distribution Network (IDN) come about?

I was out in New Jersey at the March Metal MeltDown in 2001, and I had heard that Todd Van Gorp, a business partner from the past, was now the president of IDN Distribution, based in New York City. So I called and had a meeting with him at their offices. The next week we signed a three year exclusive distribution agreement.



How important is it for an indie heavy metal label to get quality distribution?

Very important. It builds your company, without it you are very limited on what you can sell. Most of the chains and larger one stops won't buy direct from a label.



Do you find it easier or harder to get your CDs into stores?

It's always a challenge. Most stores only want to buy sure sellers. Crash is dedicated to breaking new bands, which takes a lot of money and work to get them started. We have to buy into a lot of retail programs to get the stores to give us decent coverage.



What role do the 'mom&pop' stores play for your label? Do you find that there are less and less around now?

I will say that since 9/11, I have seen a bunch of cool stores close down. The economy is hurting now with a lot of people out of work which leads people to worrying about how they are going to live from day to day and not really thinking about buying CDs. The mom & pop's that are still around are great supporters and we do deal with a lot of them directly.



How hard is it to run your own indie metal label?

It can be tough. There is a lot of risk involved with manufacturing, recording and advertising. You never really know how well a new artist is going to do. I try to keep things at a very realistic level with recording budgets, etc.



What are your day-to-day events there?

A little of everything. Signing bands, working out licensing deals, dealing with the distributor, accounting, direct sales, shipping, dealing with promoters... Can be very hectic! The day's go by real fast....



How did your deal with Pavement Music Europe come about? How much does this help you?

I own Pavement Music Europe. It helps a great deal as we have established distribution deals with some top companies like Zomba Music in Germany, Plastic Head in the UK and many others.



I see Crash also distributes other labels.

Yes. We have entered into some distribution deals with some great underground labels like Unique Leader, Forever Underground, The Foundry and more. Now these labels are able to get their products into retail stores across the country. I'm looking to get more exposure for the underground and feel these labels' products should be in stores like Tower Records and other national to mid-size chains. So far we have had good success.



Do you find yourself competing with other bigger metal labels like Spitfire and Sanctuary Records?

Somewhat I guess. I don't really pay too much attention to what they are doing; I just try to focus and do what I need to do with Crash. We do have some good relationships with other labels. Brian Slagel of Metal blade has been a friend of mine for many years. We also work with Century Media and Relapse. All very good people.



How did you get involved with the music industry, especially metal?

I started playing drums when I was about 12 years old and played in bands until my early 20's. I knew it would be really hard to make a living playing music, so I decided to get into the other end of it. I got to know a guy who worked for the Chicago branch of Important Record Distributors (Now RED) and I was a fan of heavy music. I started my first label, Red Light Records, out of my small apartment. We signed bands such as Broken Hope, The Dead Youth, Crowbar, Pitch Shifter, At The Gates, Vital Remains and more. Years later I left Red Light because of differences with my partner and formed Pavement Music.



What artists are currently on your label?

Here are some; Brick Bath, Single Bullet Theory, King's Evil, Serberus, Soulless, Twelfth Gate, Unearthly, Eterna and Di'Anno.



Will you be able to provide them with tour support or has it become too expensive?

It all depends on the tour. We have given tour support when it makes sense and will benefit the band and the label. It needs to be a tour that will get the band out in front of at least 200 people a night.



How do you feel about the current heavy metal market? Has it gotten better or worse?

Seems pretty strong now. One problem is that there are too many releases coming out now, the market is getting kind of cluttered. The good thing is that there are some strong new bands coming out of it though. Metal will always be around!



What advice do you have for an unsigned artist?

Work hard promoting yourself and playing shows. Get it to where you are a big draw in your hometown and record and sell your own CD at shows. If you can accomplish this the labels will be coming to you.



Do you want to plug or promote anything?

We have some really cool stuff upcoming. Check out albums from Twelfth Gate (Power Metal), and Soulless (Old School Thrash Metal)



What is the future goal for Crash Music?

To be a strong record label and known as one of the top US labels along side Metal Blade and Century Media.

Label Website: www.crashmusicinc.com