Devil Doll Records
Interview by Keith McDonald
There seems to be more and more, albeit smaller, outlets for hard music. Whether it?s Forever Underground, Eclipse or Now or Never Records, unknown talented metal and hard rock acts are finding homes to release their material. The majors are either too busy or not interested in finding and developing these types of acts – but Devil Doll Records is.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with the Long Beach, CA based label President John Geldback who gave me a little information about his label venture. You can check out their website at www.devildollrecords.com to get more info.
How did the label start?
Devil Doll began because I felt at the time I could do a better job than a lot of the other labels out there. Purely arrogant on my part.
What caused the demise of Lethal Records?
That’s a long, boring story… All I can say is that the owner was an incompetent buffoon and ran the company into the ground. Too bad too because there were a lot of kick-ass bands on that label. A few of them ended up on Devil Doll.
What artists are currently on your label?
Well, we have two active labels. The first is Devil Doll and the other is This Dark Reign. Devil Doll currently houses Rickshaw, Trigger and The Chuck Norris Experiment. This Dark Reign is currently working with Ramesses, Beaten Back To Pure, Recourse, Totimoshi, Thulsa Doom and Asguard. We just signed Negative Reaction and Ultralord and we have three new EP’s coming from Sourvein.
Do you sign hard rock and metal bands or all genres?
Whatever pricks up our ears. It doesn’t matter what genre it is because I feel diversity is key in this industry. So many labels pigeonhole themselves and find that they have a hell of a time trying to break out of that mold. Then they look like fools by jumping on the “what’s hot at the moment” bandwagon. You want names? Hahahahaha…
What are your day-to-day events?
I wish I could tell you that I have this down to a science, but I’d be lying. It changes day to day. That’s probably why we aren’t as big as I would like us to be. There is a lot of email answering, phone calls, begging, pleading, whoring, palm greasing and whining.
How do you find new bands?
Mostly from word of mouth. We have a pretty good rapport with most of our bands and they speak highly of us to other bands and it just snowballs from there. Most of the demos we receive are total shit. It amazes me some times the balls on these bands and solo artists that send us their material. 99.9% of it is total shit. It’s a real drag, but it’s the business we chose.
The hard music scene seems to be doing well with all of its loyal fans. Why do you think that is?
I don’t know. If I did, I might be a rich man and I’m not. If I had to guess it might have to do with the genre(s) being more of a “lifestyle” than just kids listening to music. Extreme music has always been on the fringe and because people generally have frowned upon it, those involved felt kindred with other like-minded swine. I’m gonna have to assume that it’s safety in numbers. Coming together with other rejects and keeping that social unit together or else it may mean the alternative, whatever that may be. Did I guess right? Hahahaha
Do you have worldwide releases or just the US?
Worldwide. We have a couple of North American licenses, but we try to make sure everything we do is for the world. Our agreements go so far as to say “The Universe…” Got to think of that future.
Who distributes your music?
Lumberjack / Mordam, Sonic Rendezvous, Sound Pollution, PHD, Green Hell, and some others. We also sell direct because we also run a distribution company called D3. We do trades with a handful of labels out there. It can be a lot better though. We can use more help in a lot of other countries and areas. Interested parties, contact us.
How extensive is your catalog? What do you do to increase it?
If you’re talking just our titles alone, I think we’re close to sixty releases now between the two labels. However, if you’re talking about all the titles we carry, including merchandise, et cetera, than it would have to be in the thousands and growing. We try to look for the more obscure releases and not the ones carried by all the labels and mail order companies out there. It gets tough.
I see you’re looking to distribute other labels. How has that gone so far?
It’s gone pretty well. Some labels do better than others, especially those where we have an exclusive. Some labels don’t do well at all and we have to walk away with our tail tucked between our legs. Personally I hate that end of it. It sucks having to return stock to a label and tell them that it didn’t sell a single unit. Even though you feel the material is great… no one else did.
How important are mom&pop stores for your label? There seem to be so few left.
They are the most important to us. End of story. We have and always will support the mom and pop retailers because they have always been the ones taking all the chances and have always been the ones who support independent music. Since when has Tower or Best Buy ever gone out on a limb for indies? Mom and pop’ are our lifeblood. It’s a shame what’s happening to mom and pop retailers and not just record retailers. I’m talking across the board.
How important is it for your bands to tour?
Touring is the beginning and the end. Nothing and I mean nothing helps a band more than to tour and tour non-stop. If I could contractually lock bands into touring 11 months out of the year, I would. I can’t though. So many bands have the wrong idea and are flat out lazy fucks that shouldn’t be in a band in the first place. I recently posted something on the Lumberjack forum asking like-minded labels to contact me if they were interested in doing tour co-ops with us. You know, putting our bands out on the road together, sharing in the expenses and cutting costs. All the while getting our bands out on the road. Amazingly only one other label (Cyclop Media) contacted us back about it. Like all the other Lumberjack labels are on the Ozzfest or something…
Can you afford much tour support for your bands or are they self-serving?
We don’t normally give bands money to tour because we don’t have a lot of it, but we do make sure they have plenty of product to sell on the road. Our bands will never go without. And, we have never left a band stranded while on tour and never will. All of our bands know that if the shit hits the fan, we’ve got their back. I would love to be able to afford to pay bands a paycheck to keep them on the road, but I just can’t afford it. Maybe in the future cause I’m all for it.
How much has the music scene changed over the years?
It?s changed a lot. Sales are down and it seems like most kids have to get approval from ten of their friends before they can pick up a copy of some new band (or older band at that). When I was a kid, my friends and I were at the record stores two or three times a week. We scoured the bins looking for new music and if we couldn’t find anything, we attacked the guy working behind the counter and asked. Most kids these days go into a store and if they can’t find something with the band name on the bin card, turn around and leave. Either that or they burn it from a friend instead. Of course their friends have to approve of it first. Very few of them think for themselves… but then again when did we ever.
With all the downsizing at the majors, do you think that opens up smaller labels like DDR?
Nope. It just makes it tougher. It’s not like independents ever really competed with the majors. How could we? How many indies do you know with bankrolls as big as Warner Brothers or Sony? Indies have always been the beacons for great music and the majors would simply come in a steal it from us. That’s not going to change and downsizing just means the executives aren’t willing to give up their stock options or take a cut in pay. Unless you’re a band like U2 or the ilk, majors are the kiss of death. And I’ll be honest, indies aren’t too far behind. It isn?t all wine and roses on the indie front.
What’s the future for DDR?
Well, what I intend to envision is usually a lot different from what actually comes true. I’ve always wanted to turn Devil Doll into an entertainment company and not just a record label. That’s why I started This Dark Reign and the distribution side of the business. We also dabble in merchandise and other mediums like designer toys and artwork. We have other interests other than punk rock and metal. We’re working on a series of toy collaborations right now with some manufacturers over in Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore right now. I’m pretty excited about that. We’re also working on some film and video productions and we do a lot of graphic sub-contracting. So, the future for Devil Doll and This Dark Reign is whatever I find interesting. There goes my arrogance again… Thank You!