Heart of Steel: Interviews

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Interview With Metal Ages Records
Interview By Keith McDonald

As I surf through the Internet I am starting to see more and more metal labels whether it’s Forever Underground, End Records or this new upstart Metal Ages Records run by Deron Blevins. I guess whoever said metal was dead hasn’t been seeing the same things that I have. As I do these interviews, finding out how the label and usually the sole person working there started, I see how hard it is. Yet, they persevere and keep going. When I stumbled across Metal Ages Records, I saw another hard working metal-head running a metal specific label, putting in long hours for the sake of metal. Good to see metal is not only alive and well, but striving. I had the opportunity to speak with Deron who gave some information about his new venture. You can check out their website at www.metalages.com. 


How did Metal Ages Records start?

MetalAges started in vision probably around 2000. This is when I had the MetalAges e-zine going and had the opportunity to be interviewing bands and such. I was really astounded at all the stories that were persistent in the Metal community with bands getting ripped off left and right. I have always realized that a label is a business, and there are costs to be recouped, etc. but there should be no reason a band never makes something from their hard work. So, an opportunity arose in late 2002 with the band Theocracy and I jumped at the chance to get the label started. Soon after that, I was able to come to an agreement with Power of Omens since their former label has seemed to have gone out of business. So those were the two opportunities that jump-started MetalAges Records.



What is the goal of the label?

Get really big and popular, so that one day I as well can rip artists off too! OK, OK in all seriousness, and this will sound cheesy more than likely, but it's my honest intention and the foundation for MetalAges Records. I want to enable bands to actually make money from their hard work. I would love the label to be able to grow and grow, and along the way be able to do more and more for the bands on the roster. I consider it more as a partnership between myself and the bands than anything. Maybe one day I will be lucky enough to be among the ranks of InsideOut Music or Century Media, etc. That's certainly my goal, so we'll see in a few years where I am with everything.



How did you get involved in the music business, especially metal?

The MetalAges e-zine! It all started from there. I've been a fan of Metal since around 1984-85 and I'm rabid for it. I came into the good old Internet scene around 1996-ish I think. I was overwhelmed at all the Metal I had been missing out on! I was a graphic designer at the time and soon after had started learning web design. I got to the point where I thought I could put together a pretty cool website, so I did. I mainly started out as a way to not only promote these bands to others, but to be able to get some cool promo CDs so I didn't have to spend so much money! Anyway, over time, I was able to build up a lot of contacts and make a lot of friends in and out of the business. This led to me being able to start designing sites for Metal clients such as Symphony X, Evergrey, InsideOut Music, Kamelot, Katagory V, Reading Zero, ProgPower USA, etc. After that I started the online CD store. I am fortunate enough to where I am able to ask advice/questions to a lot of friends in the business out there such as InsideOut, Sensory, DVS, Lion Music, etc. so I have lucked out in a lot of ways with all this.



Who is currently on your roster?

Right now we have Theocracy, Power of Omens, Byfist, Division and Katagory V. I'm working on a sixth band as we speak as well.


MetaAges Records Website - June 2003


What is the theme behind the label?

It's all spelled out in the slogan: "Preserving the Past - Forging the Future”. I am still a HUGE fan of the classic stuff. I dig everything from Crimson Glory, Malice, Sword, Banshee, Leatherwolf all the way to stuff like Ayreon, Symphony X, Opeth, Balance of Power....you name it. So, I want to represent this passion for all eras of Metal through the label. Take Byfist for example, it's classic 80s style Metal, but I hope people just listen to it for what it is, great sounding METAL. I think all the bands on the roster right now really encompass everything I aim to do with the label in terms of the "theme".



What types of metal will you sign?

About the only thing I am not interested in is Doom/Gloom Metal stuff. I also don't dig the party style bands that can only seem to sing about getting laid and partying 24/7. Definitely no satanic stuff either.



How do you find new artists?

You know, I don't know that I have a good answer for this yet. All the bands currently on the label are friends of mine in one way or another. Theocracy I met through a friend and knew about 8 months before anything happened. Power of Omens, I knew David Gallegos through a mutual friend. Byfist, I knew David Lee from receiving his awesome 4 track demo at one point in time with the e-zine. Division, I knew Matt and Mike and plus they are a local band for me here in Virginia. Katagory V, again I knew them through a CD I received at one time for the e-zine. I eventually became good friends with Dustin and everything went from there. The new band I am talking with, I was turned on to them by a friend who downloaded their album from the Internet. He let me check them out and told me they were an indie band. After listening to the first 3 or so tunes I knew this is one band I better get in touch with! So, up to this point everything has just worked out among friends... I know tons of people so I am always getting turned onto new Metal.



Will your bands tour and how important is it for your bands to grow?

This is always a tough subject. Touring in the USA isn't really something you can look towards in general. It's s tough scene unless you can get on with a fairly popular band. Even the bands you would think could tour the USA and make a killing in terms of turnout still doesn't happen. So, with that said, I would love for any of the bands on the roster to be able to get out there and tour, but that's not something I am making a priority or a "must have" in order to sign the band. I'm realistic about it. As far as growth, I think any band would love to grow and grow in fan base and as a band itself. I am confident that the bands on the roster right now will indeed achieve that. If the demand were there, it would be cool to get a lot of them hooked up and do a small MetalAges Records tour! One can dream...



How hard is it to run an independent metal label?

I am still learning something new everyday. It's a tough road, but it's nothing that can't be hurdled. It also depends on the person running the label. Some may be content with selling 1,000 copies and considering that a success. I want to take this as far a sit can go so I have a hard road ahead of me. Keeping the bands happy, keeping up with them all in terms of news/reviews/press/payments. Getting in touch with new vendors/shops/distributors to sell the CD through. Looking into distribution and licensing. There's a ton to do and I think the classic phrase "you get what you put into it" is exactly the thing that will determine how much success can be achieved.



What are your day-to-day events?

Well, right now, I am in catch up mode (still) from being out of action for 2 months or so at the beginning of the year with a health issue. So right now, I wake up, maybe start to check the morning email (I get around 500-800 a day between real/spam emails). I work from home, so I also am a daytime Daddy. I get the kids up (1 year, 3 year) and feed em, get them dressed and all that good stuff. At noon when the wife comes home for lunch I make a run to the post office to deliver CD orders for the store. I have my main work area setup in the living room so I take turns playing with the kids, checking email and working throughout the day. Once the kids go down for naps around 2pm I start concentrating on getting work done, whether it's working on the web sites I design/maintain or making calls for the label to new vendors, etc. The wife gets home around 5:30 p.m. and from there I end up working until 1-4am then try to catch a few hours of sleep! This is pretty much 7 days a week.



How many releases do you plan on having a year? How important is it to create a strong back catalog?

I have no set number of releases for a yearly goal, etc. I'll release as many as I am able without sacrificing the quality of the label. I'll also only release enough to where I can still support the current releases financially when it comes to repressing, promotion, etc. I think it is essential to build/release great releases so that if someone discovers the label at a later date, they can be assured of some good music awaiting them if they start buying older titles.



Who handles your distribution?

Up to now I have been handling one on one relationships with non-exclusive vendors/distributors. We just signed on with Atomic distribution in the USA. It's a new start-up company with some quality people behind it. This should give us access to retail stores like Best Buy, Border's Books, FYE, etc. They work with AEC, as well as go after other retail accounts that AEC don't serve. In Europe, probably my biggest client right now is Just for Kicks Distribution. I am really being careful in this aspect of the label (distribution/licensing). It's not my desire for my artist or myself to get burnt by corrupt distributors/licensing labels. I have heard plenty of stories from others about this, so I'm taking it slow and careful.



How would you describe the metal scene now, especially compared to the 80's when metal was very popular?

Well, this is a question with two answers. In the USA right now, it's struggling, or maybe a better way to put it is, it's not doing as well as it COULD be. There are plenty of outlets/vendors/clubs out there, as well as bands, but the lack of good, solid mass media promotion isn't there. MTV caters to gold/platinum selling artists or whichever label coughs up the most money. There's only a handful of good magazines out there who have nationwide distribution, such as BW&BK magazine. Metal Edge I can barely read any more. Metal Maniacs seems to cater mainly to heavier stuff, which isn't all that bad. In Europe, I think Metal is still alive and kicking. I mean, you can't pull 30,000-50,000 fans to a Metal festival and say that Metal is dead! Here in the States we have the awesome ProgPower USA, but it's nowhere near the fan attendance as Europe. I think there is as much Metal out these days as there were in the 80s, if not more. Now, the downside of that is there is a lot of copycat/sub par releases to wade through when you're looking to buy Metal CDs. I think the MTV’s of the USA would be pleasantly surprised if they gave the Metal scene a chance to build. As we have it now, we have the horrible return of Headbanger's Ball that plays mostly Gold/Platinum selling "safe" Metal like Staind, Mudvayne, etc. The hosts they have one there are a joke, I mean, could Rob Zombie be any more uninterested in what he was doing on there? There are other shows out there like Fuse TVs "Uranium" and Headbanger's Ball junior (i.e. Extreme Rock) on MTV2. The means and ways are there and in place, now we just need these mass media outlets to grow some balls and take a chance.



How important are the 'mom&pop' record stores? It seems there are less and less of them around?

For me, it's very important, and one of my top priorities. My view on having an album out in Best Buy or Tower Records is "so what"? If no one knows that they're there, what's the point? The only way that is going to happen is if you put mega bucks into advertising, and it takes weeks/months on end of promotional advertising to finally get through to people. I mean, think of the way Best Buy is set up, it's not like you can send them a bundle of posters and have them hang them up right? Their CD isles are in the center of the store. Tower Records is a little better in that aspect but I don't think they're going to start ripping down major label posters to put up an indie label's posters. Now, don't get me wrong, I am happy to have the ACCESS to them through someone like Atomic. It takes money to break into a lot of this side of things, so that's going to be another major hurdle MetalAges Records has to tackle. One way to do this, is to build these Mom and Pop relationships. I think there are enough of them still around to make a big impact for a label of MetalAges size.



What's the future for Metal Ages Records?

Growth and quality Metal releases. I look forward to one day becoming one of the "big boys"...then again, what independent label hasn't said that before. So, check back with me in a couple years!

Thanks for the opportunity for this interview! As a thanks, anyone who reads this and stops on over at the CD store can use coupon code "METALRULES" and get 15% off everything in the store!

Label Website: www.metalages.com