Heart of Steel: Interviews

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Interview With Brian Slagel
Interview By JP

We are delighted to have the opportunity to talk with Mr. Brian Slagel, CEO, founder and grand metal wizard of Metal Blade Records! Metal Blade just wrapped up a very busy year celebrating 20 years as a metal label and Mr. Slagel has graciously agreed to talk to us about the events in the past year, and some plans for the next 20 years!

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Greetings! 20 years - that is quite a feat in any business, let alone an industry as supposedly cut-throat as the music business. Did you ever think you would make it this far?

Never! Back then we were just a bunch of fans starting out. I was just trying to get some coverage for metal. I never thought metal would get as big as it did. Nor did I ever think I would be doing this for this long!



In 20 years you must have seen it all. Where do you find your passion to this day?

I am still a big metal fan, so just being able to work with music that I love that still makes it exciting. Plus it is still a thrill to find new bands and help them get their music out. Also, I am lucky enough to work with so many great people and bands.



The reality is that you don't get to where you are without having some good business sense and practices. You must face tough decisions everyday. What were some of the toughest decisions you had to make?

There are so many of those, the toughest day to day are where and how to spend the money. Also which bands to work with. Some of the most difficult decisions are when trying to sign bands, getting the best deal for you and the long term for the band. That is a difficult process.



Along the same lines, Do you ever find that in your heart you want to support a cool band (sign them, give them tour support) but your mind says, "It just won't work." Does it get any easier to turn down bands or drop bands?

Well, for me if I am totally into a band I will go for it. No matter if I think it can sell or not. You never know as I have been lucky enough that stuff I like, others do as well. It is always difficult to both turn down and drop bands. Especially if they are friends. You always want everything to work well, but sometimes things just dont happen the way you want.



A slightly more positive question: Tell us about the creation of the 20th anniversary box-set.

Well it took a lot longer than I ever thought. We started working on it in September of 2001 and it did not come out until December 2002! It was a fun process though, but also a TON of work. I think it came out pretty well, of course I know all the mistakes! Overall though I am pretty happy with it.



About the box-set: How hard was it to decide who made 'the cut ' for inclusion? You have supported many, many bands over the years! Inevitably somebody's favorite will be left off, but as the coach you had to decide who made the team!

Yes that was really hard. At first I had about 15 cds worth of music. So I had to cut it down and that was really hard. A lot of great stuff did not get on, but overall I think the best of what we did is on there.



Tell us abaout an average day (if there is such a thing) in the life of Brian Slagel.

Average?? Ha, Ha. Well I travel a ton as we have bands all over the world. So at least 1/3 of my time is spent on the road seeing bands. Luckily I love to travel! When I am in the office, I usually get in about 10am (I am not a morning person) and answer my emails from our Europe office and will talk to them as well. Then it is dealing with finances, talking to bands, getting releases together, approving things, etc.. I usually will leave the office about 7pm and go see some music or do dinner with friends and music people.



Many bands that were with Metal Blade in the very early days are reforming, like Bitch and Warlord. Do you see these reformations as a legitimate demand by a younger audience craving metal as a backlash against nu-metal, Or, are these reformations fueled by nostalgia by an older crowd who remember the first time around?

A bit of both. In Europe, especially the younger fans have a great knowledge of the history of metal and want to see bands they have heard but have not seen. I think some of that is true in North America as well, but more of the older fans are into it. My attitude is that as long as the bands are making good music for THIS time, then it is cool. Not just to cash in on the resurgence.



What does 2003 hold in store for Metal Blade?

Just continuing to put out good quality metal. We have new albums by King Diamond, Kings X, Cannibal Corpse, and Six Feet Under, plus new stuff from the up and coming bands like Amon Amarth, 40 Grit, God Dethroned, and The Crown. We are really excited by the new young bands we have too, like Cattle Decapitation, Vehemence, Beyond the Embrace and some other new ones to come.



What are listening to right now and are there any bright hopes for the future of metal?

Lots of great new bands all over coming out, I am really excited about a lot of the new yound metal bands here in the US and in Europe. Stuff not on metal blade that i am listening to is Queens of the Stone Age, Porcupine Tree, Rammstein, Manic Street Preachers, Exploited, In Flames, and Shadows Fall.



The floor is yours. Do you have any last comments for our readers worldwide?

I just want to thank everyone for their support of metal and Metal Blade over the past 20 years. If not for you I would not be here doing this. So again, a big thank you to everyone, and keep supporting metal!!


We would like to thank Mr. Slagel for his time and his labels generous contribution of Metal Blade 20th anniversary samplers. You can win one of these samplers by entering our contest today!


Label Website:  www.metalblade.com