Heart of Steel: Interviews

Underground Heavy Metal Industry Report

An Interview With Hartmuth of Barbarian Wrath
& Cheryl of Witches Brew / MetalGospel

Interviewed By EvilG

For the past few years I've been in contact with both Hartmuth (AKA Opyros or Blackgoat) of Barbarian Wrath and Cheryl (AKA Skyklad) of the website MetalGospel and new label Witches Brew. Both are the real deal! The type that are "metal for life." Although we may not all see eye to eye with our fellow metal brothers and sisters, there is a bond of respect between us. So it is with how I feel about what these two people have done and continue to do for metal.

Hartmuth (the Goat)


The interview begins with some general metal questions posed to both BlackGoat and Cheryl.


Since there will be some of our readers who have no clue about either of you let's start back at the beginning when you first heard heavy metal and what attracted you to the sounds of steel.

[BG] Thatīs really a long story... For me everything started in Autumn 1979 when I was over at a friends place to play video games. He had an older relative who was into Metal and had just gotten hooked himself and he kept playing AC/DC and MOTÖRHEAD that afternoon. It was a weird experience to kill aliens to the sounds of "Overkill" and "If You Want Blood" and it hooked me. I asked him to tape me some stuff and he did. I didnīt even have my own tape player at that time, I had to use my Dadīs who quickly got me my own to get me and my newly found "noise" out of his living room, hehehe. I canīt really say what attracts me to Metal, it just feels right. Iīve tried a lot of other stuff over the years to widen my horizon but with very few exceptions all bands that ever move me are clearly Metal.

[Cheryl] My Metal journey started back in 1984 and as usual back then I "suffered" from insomnia. Sleepless nights happened so often I developed a habit of listening to the radio when I couldnīt sleep, constantly searching around the stations to find something interesting. Up to that point I listened mainly to Top 40 and thanks to my Dad a lot of Classic Rock. He had a HUGE LP collection and I remember many times sitting in his room staring at the covers (especially the ones for KISS and QUEEN albums). Anyway, this particular night while turning the dial I ran across a song that completely blew me away. It was intense, heavy and unlike anything I had heard before. I was shocked that music could be this powerful and evoke such strong emotions ! Top 40 hadnīt done it. Classic Rock hadnīt done it. Metal did. When the song was finished the DJ announced it was a new song by a band called METALLICA entitled: "Ride The Lightning". From that moment on I knew there was something special about this music called Metal and that I was forever going to be hooked to it (much to the dismay of my catholic parents… hehe). For years after that I tuned into that same radio show to hear all kinds of Metal bands.



Do you find that the metal bands that you "grew up with" are still special to you, or do you find yourself continually moving on to new things?

[BG] Yes, I still feel attached. The time between 1979 and 1985 is what Iīd call my "awakening" or my formative years. Each and every band I came across was new and wild and special and of course that made a huge impact on me. I do check out new things constantly but I couldnīt say anything caught on. Iīm stuck in the Metal sound of the early and mid 80s, for good or ill. :-)

[Cheryl] It depends on which band and their progression throughout the years. There are some bands I grew up with that have changed for the worse and no longer have a special place in my heart. METALLICA for example. (Bet you knew that was coming…)They got me into Metal as I previously mentioned but about the only "special" place I can file them in is the "used to be good but turned to shit" drawer. It actually pains me to hear their old albums so I rarely listen to them anymore. There definitely are still bands (like OMEN, NUCLEAR ASSAULT, OVERKILL, HEATHEN, TESTAMENT... etc.) that whenever I hear them I am transported back to earlier times and it is a great feeling. They still have a very special place and always will. However, I also have no problem discovering and moving on to new bands either. My top ten bands of all time has changed several times over the years. Well, ok, except for SKYCLAD and OVERKILL. Those two have been my top faves since the early nineties.



Do you only listen to metal, or at least hard rock music? If so, why? If not, what types of non-metal stuff do you like and why?

[BG] I would say I listen to Metal and Hard Rock most of my time. I occasionally listen to Classical Music, old school Goth Rock and Tekkno. I wouldnīt call myself an expert on either of these last 3 as I donīt have enough time to get deeper into these genres ("Metal Rules Supreme") but there is stuff in each of these that I like.

[Cheryl] No, I donīt like to limit myself to only Metal although it will always be above and beyond every other form of music for me. Itīs my "first love"... errrr... I mean "second love" since Hartmuth comes first. ;) I listen to all styles of music though. My collection consists of Classic Rock, Hard Rock, Classical, Techno / Dance, Pop, Alternative and even Country and Oldies. Some music forms (Jazz, for example) I do not actively collect myself but enjoy if they are on when I am at someoneīs house or something like that. About the only types of music I despise with unholy passion are Rap, R&B and Hip Hop of which I think all three are complete crap. I also have no tolerance for anything that combines any of those aforementioned styles along with it (like a lot of the stuff that they mistakingly call Metal today). Itīs horrible. I think listening to other stuff besides Metal is important for me because it allows for further appreciation of the greatness of Metal.



Do you like the way metal music has progressed over the past few decades?

[BG] No.

[Cheryl] Now thatīs a tough question and for me is like a double edged sword. There are some things I like about the progression of Metal and others I donīt like. So I guess I take the good with the bad. I like the new ideas that have come forth like combining folk or medieval influences and at the same time I despise the abomination of adding rap into Metal. I didnīt like it when ANTHRAX did it and I still donīt like it.



Do you mind when metal bands bring in non-metal sounds / influences / instruments etc into the mix? What bands do you think have successfully combined things into the metal style that were not previously a part of the genre?

[BG] Just as you cannot improve gold by mixing it with lesser metals you cannot improve Metal by mixing it with lesser music forms. Once defiled it stops being Metal and becomes something else.

[Cheryl] Again this is a case where it depends... I can pretty much deal with bands adding new stuff into the mix as long as itīs not Rap, Hip Hop or R&B related. I just canīt get into that stuff. Iīm a huge fan of Folk / Medieval inspired Metal. SKYCLAD is my favourite band in that genre. They are, afterall, the originators of it ! Other bands that have successfully taken non-Metal elements into their music are: FINNTROLL, IN EXTREMO, SUBWAY TO SALLY, TUATHA DE DANANN (these guys are fast becoming one of my faves as I have been listening to them a lot lately), AGATUS...



What is the best thing about the metal scene (bands/styles/fans) and what is the worst?

[BG] The best thing is the Underground. The fact that there are still new bands forming every day who are real Metal. The worst thing is the progressive commercialization of that Underground. When I see what became out of Century Media (who started as a Punk label to release the first DESPAIR LP because they didnīt trust any of the existing labels...) or of Metal Blade I feel sick....

[Cheryl] The best thing for me concerning the "Metal scene" is the constant discovery of new bands, Metal fans to converse with and going to concerts. Another thing I really like about this particular scene (the thing that sets it apart from many of the other music scenes which I have taken part in) is how easily "accessible" the musicians are. Most of them are more than happy to stand around, have a few beers, make autographs and talk about their music after a performance. This is something that doesnīt happen in the other scenes although I will admit I have never experienced any of them as in depth as I have the Metal scene. Perhaps the "underground" of other music styles is the same. Even in mainstream Metal you can have the possibility to meet up and hang out with the artists. To meet someone in the mainstream of other music forms like country singer Garth Brooks or pop musicians Backstreet Boys is nearly impossible unless you win a contest or bribe the security people. Thereīs so many things wrong with this scene today that I would be taking up a lot of space so Iīll just leave that one alone. :-)



Do you find online metal fans to be more ignorant or arrogant then those in the real world?

[BG] No. The only difference is that people on the net in general are much more rude because they know they can get away with it. Hidden behind a screenname itīs easy to be an ass...

[Cheryl] Interesting question. My first impulse is to resonate a huge "Hell Yeah !" in response but the reality is the ignorance factor among people is pretty much equal in the online world AND the real world. It only seems like there is an increased number online. People are more likely to spout a bunch of crap because they can get away with it. The internet provides a great place for insecure kids to be something "big" and feel important and say what they wouldnīt dare say in real life for fear of getting kicked in the teeth. Thatīs just part of the anonimity of the Net. After you have been around a place for awhile and talked to people you begin to see who is the "real deal" and whoīs not.



Do you prefer bands that are underground and if so why?

[BG] Yes, for the simple reason that those bands usually play music for their vision of art, not to achieve commercial success. I enjoy art for artīs sake. Once you only do it to eat regularly art becomes craft which can be enjoyable as well at times but lacks purity of vision.

[Cheryl] I have no personal preference. If I can feel through a bandīs music that they are into doing it for the sake of making the music and nothing more then Iīm satisfied. Interestingly enough there are a greater majority of underground bands that I enjoy and feel have that Metal spirit flowing through their music than mainstream bands. So many of the larger bands, sure they make great music, but it often loses itīs feeling and emotion after having been filtered through a computer to get that "perfect" sound to suit the palat of the more mainstream Metal fans.



What does the term "underground" mean to you anyway?

[BG] Underground is where art triumphs over craft.

[Cheryl] Integrity and perseverance... underground bands usually have a job on the side, arenīt featured in every glossy Metal mag in the world and donīt give a shit if they are ever. They make the music because itīs in their heart and not a necessity (in regards to their personal finance).



Many metal bands begin as an underground phenomenon and later achieve more mainstream success. Many fans turn their backs on bands once they are well known…some for good reason because the band's style/sound has also changed in a bid for commercial success…however, it's not always the case. Sometimes people just don't like to share "their" band(s) with the "sheep" How do you view this?

[BG] I think many bands develop along a certain line. They come out, play music undefiled by commercial ideas and are successful. They tour, are worshipped and get used to it. Of course itīs only human that they try to keep this status. But most forget that they were successful BECAUSE they just followed their heart and in most cases the 2nd (or 3rd, depending on how many songs they wrote as a demo band) album is a terrible disaster. In order to maintain their status they water down the essence and become accessible to the mainstream people while at the same time they loose their roots. Once the mainstream people wander away as they inevitably will the band is doomed. The process is usually passed off as "musical development" and "growing as an artist" and comparable bollox like that. People whoīve been in Metal for a while know to approach a new album with caution once a band starts throwing around these key phrases in interviews.

[Cheryl] I donīt have any problem with bands that once started in the underground breaking above and achieving more mainstream success. If they can do that and keep their integrity in tact then all the more power to them. Itīs unfortunate though because a lot of bands canīt seem to handle the mainstream popularity and it isnīt long before they bend to what the flavour of the month is in order to keep that popularity going. THAT is when I turn my back and rather spend my energy supporting bands who arenīt so easily led by temptation of "hitting it big". As far as sharing bands with "sheep"... theyīll soon move onto something else so they donīt bother me. Theyīll be gone with the next trend wave.



On a much lighter note, and to conclude this first part of the interview, how do you feel about the Wacken folks charging .5 Euro for the toilets backstage? If you could put off your own mini-Wacken would you charge people who already paid to be there to take a shit or what? Hahah!

[BG] I wasnīt really overly affected by it since I can just piss everywhere. I still think itīs disgusting. They also charged us 10 $ for backstage parking that turned into a mud bog after 4 hours. Iīm glad I got my car out of there in time and parked on safe ground the other 2 days. Well, fuck them. I donīt think I will bother to go next year.

[Cheryl] Hehe… Yeah, I thought that was unusual although to be honest I did not have to pay to be back there in the first place so I suppose I have no right to complain. I do know that I would not have been able to buy much Metal merchandise after having to piss out Beer after Beer for three days ! I think it would have been better if they had charged one flat rate of 10 Euro for the entire weekend, that would have still covered the employee that was cleaning the toilets all day and been a reasonable amount to pay. It would seem too that when people have to pay for something they put a bit more care into itīs use so itīd probably benefit the Wacken people to implement a flat payment rate for not only the backstage area but also for the main festival areas.




You've been involved in the label business for a long time ! Please tell us a bit of the previous history that lead you to BARBARIAN WRATH !!

[BG] To understand where BARBARIAN WRATH comes from one must know that BARBARIAN WRATH is not my first label. Iīve been doing NAZGULīS EYRIE PRODUCTIONS from 1994 to 1999 and BARBARIAN WRATH is very much influenced by my experience back then. With NEP I released 16 CDs and ultimately fell on my face really hard due to some crucial business mistakes out of inexperience. But thatīs the past. Who wishes to know more about those old days can read a quite detailed story on my website HERE. Seen from an artistic level BARBARIAN WRATH really is NEP 2.0. I still follow the same path while I learned a lot about the business side of things and I shall not fall on my face again.



You've been doing the label thing before the Internet became a major vehicle for doing business and reaching like minds. Tell me how the net has affected how you do things and reach new bands or listeners.

[BG] It made things a lot easier, faster and cheaper. Frankly, without the Internet I would not have started over again after NEP went down. Through the internet Iīm finally independent of distributors. Iīve had a long history of bad and worse experience with all kinds of distributors and the internet allows me to bypass all this and reach people (= potential buyers) directly. I still work with distros of course, in many ways thatīs more convenient as long as you do not depend on them. By marketing directly Iīm also in a position to offer CDs rather cheap to the customer and still make enough to keep the business going :-)



Do you ever miss the old days when it was much harder to track down the bands or albums, when you really had to be a determined die hard metal bastard to hunt down these bands that were never mentioned in the mainstream press but now are a mere mouse click away?

[BG] Do you miss the times when 5 people had to hold you down at the dentist and the only sedative was brandy? Do you miss the time when traveling to the next town took you two days by horse instead of 15 minutes on the motorway? Itīs true, the net makes a lot of underground stuff easily accessible to people who otherwise would never hear of such bands. Some underground gurus lament that fact especially in the NSBM scene, but I see it as a good thing. If I wanted my releases to be unavailable to the general public I would make 15 CDRs instead of a CD print. On the contrary, I think the bands on BARBARIAN WRATH deserve to be heard and enjoyed by a wide public. I mean (referring to NSBM people now), thatīs like if Hitler wouldīve written "Mein Kampf" and then released it as 15 handwritten copies...



Why did you start BARBARIAN WRATH and where did the name come from?

[BG] I started BARBARIAN WRATH in early 2000. It just felt right to get active again I guess. I had to clean up quite a mess left over from NEP and in 2000 the dust started to clear. First thing I released was the "Death To Norsecore And Fag Gothic" shirt. The guys of COUNTESS always referred to me as the "Bavarian Barbarian". "Wrath" came from a business associate whoīs name I shall not utter for personal reasons. What I always wanted to avoid was the popular "Records" or "Productions" addition. Itīs just BARBARIAN WRATH, nothing else.



What are your goals for the label? Would you like to see things get bigger? Would you like to be able to earn a living from doing this?

[BG] My goals have always been the same really, I am releasing the CDs Iīd like to be able to buy myself. But since nobody bothers to release them for me I have to go the hard way and do it myself. Iīm quite content with the way things are right now. If things went any bigger I donīt think I could handle it anymore and allowing others to take part in your vision always obscures it. It wouldnīt be 666 % me anymore and I think Iīd like to avoid that.

I probably could make a living off BARBARIAN WRATH right now but thatīd be the wrong way. I have a fairly well paid "civil" job that allows me a lot of freedom (like answering this during work time :P) and Iīd be an idiot to give that up. Trying to live off BARBARIAN WRATH would mean that Iīd have to release CDs I think I can sell instead of those I think are brilliant. And once people turn away from Metal again (mark my words, itīll happen) Iīd be forced to sign RapīnīRoll? No thanks... Iīd rather maintain my integrity and go working to fill my fridge.



I get the impression that BARBARIAN WRATH is not just a "label" looking to sell CD's, but represents your philosophy on metal (perhaps life, because metal is life right? hehe) in general. Is there a way you can explain this philosophy in layman terms?

[BG] Your impression is true I guess. Thanks to my financial independence CD sales are not really a relevant factor to me. I appreciate success of course but I will not compromise for it. Having backbone and showing it is important for me and the bands I sign see things the same way. We interpret Metal as an artform and a way of life.



Do you continually look for new bands to sign or do they look for you because of your reputation in the underground? How should bands reading this contact you if they think they play what you'd be interested in signing to BARBARIAN WRATH?

[BG] I look. My usual way is to follow a band silently for a while so see how they really are. Once I have some certainty about their musical integrity I might approach them. Since I pick bands very carefully I have a good name and I rarely get turned down. Sometimes I cannot fulfill a bands expectations and we part ways. Usually before word ever leaks out. Iīm not willing to gamble the financal future of BARBARIAN WRATH on a particular act so I had to tell bands who wanted to be on BARBARIAN WRATH to seek their fortune elsewhere. I wonīt tell any names of course... I also receive a great deal of promos and most of them are junk. Sending me promos is not really a good way to grab my attention. Itīs smarter to just meet me on the net and convince me that you are a person of musical integrity. Then I might actually ask for a promo and then Iīll listen to it as well. You have no idea how many promos I receive and I never get to listen to them. Iīm aware there might be a gem hidden in that pile but I simply have not enough time. Luckily Cheryl has more time and by now she has a very good feeling how a potential BARBARIAN WRATH band sounds so sheīs doing a lot of preselecting for me. :-)



What are the criteria you look at before signing a band?

[BG] Musical integrity and of course they must play killer Metal. If it doesnīt make me headbang and go 20 over the speed limit itīs not BARBARIAN WRATH, hehehe.


To date, where have you found most of the bands for BARBARIAN WRATH?

[BG] I couldnīt really say. Some bands I meet on the net, others I read about or someone sends me an mp3 saying "Hey, I think youīd like that". Thereīs a story behind every band and telling them all would make a nice book I guess. One of my bands I actually found on "Disgruntled Metalheads"... I was bored out of my skull at work so I was browsing old messages. On page 29 I found a message from "Arioch" asking if anyone here knew of ARMOURED ANGEL. Well, AA have been one of my favourite Aussie bands since the early 90s so I replied... Arioch turned out to be Yuri Ward, one of the long lost band members and now we have a re-release of their first album upcoming and a reunion of the band as well. Satan works mysterious ways sometimes. :-)



What are you current top selling bands and if you don't mind me asking - what kinds of numbers do they sell ?

[BG] Well... since all the World knows that my releases are limited to 666 hand numbered CDs you can imagine that my sales are not that monumental. Some titles have been reprinted in a slightly changed unlimited version already so those would be my top sellers. MORRIGAN "Enter The Sea Of Flames" sold the limited version out in one week so thatīs my biggest success so far.



Again, if you don't mind me asking… Do you break even or even make a profit with this label ?

[BG] I make profit. Not immensely much but enough to slowly expand and sign more bands. Since I started releasing CDs again in August 2000 I put out 17 titles, thatīs an average of a new release every 6 weeks. This last weekend I assigned catalogue numbers again and my release plan goes up to WRATH666-o33 now. The fact that all money thatīs made through BARBARIAN WRATH goes right back in helps a lot of course.



What do you offer to bands you sign? Does the label pay for professional CD production, touring, and studio time - or are you more of a promoter and a distributor of their music?

[BG] I offer whatīs necessary. I pay the print of course and take care of all distribution. Most of my bands record on their own equipment so my contribution is usually helping out with purchasing additional recording equipment, organising layout etc. I pay studio time when necessary but most of the time it isnīt. Which is good. I think recording studios are a waste of 50 US$ an hour...



Are you ever able to show up in the studio and act as producer for any of the bands?

[BG] Since hardly any BARBARIAN WRATH bands use a studio, nope. I was in studio twice with COUNTESS in the NEP days and I donīt really care to repeat the experience. Having to listen to song parts for 666 times over and over again grated on my nerves immensely. I think my intense dislike for recording studios originates back then and from my fights with bored and incompetent sound engineers. My advice to every band is, record at home. It might take a bit longer at first to acquire the right equipment but itīs much more satisfying in the long run as you can experiment until youīre happy with the result, not until the money runs out. Makes a big difference...



What other labels or distros carry your titles AND why do you carry CDs from other labels?

[BG] We opened an office for North America (www.BarbarianWrath-Vinland.org) in early Summer 2002 so thatīd be the most important address. There are alot of other labels around the World who carry my stuff. Iīm trying to keep my link section updated in that aspect. Still if someone needs a contact for a local distro carrying my releases, mail me. Iīm distributing releases of others because offering a bigger selection of stuff in The Basar (www.TheBasar.org) makes people more likely to order from me. I only carry Cds of bands I respect and support so donīt expect to find mainstream stuff. Another reason is that in order to get my releases out there you need to be able to trade with other labels. You just need to be careful what youīre getting back in, hehe.



Are the bands you sign to BW exclusively signed to your label?

[BG] Most of them are. We did one offīs with GRAND BELIALīS KEY and NUNSLAUGHTER who are technically signed to other labels. With NUNSLAUGHTER we will repeat that by releasing a second part of "Radio Damnation".



Why do you manufacture only 666 copies of each CD on BW and can you extend the run if the band sells extremely well?

[BG] In the beginning I thought to limit CDs to an overseeable number. 666 copies are just too nice a number for a Black Metal label to not do it. But as time went by some bands went beyond that and necessity made me adjust. Now every new release will still be limited to 666 hand numbered CDs but when sales demand it and the band is fine with the idea we will change the layout slightly and make another run. It just wouldnīt be fair to a band to let a CD go out of print when they donīt want that. Iīm working with my musicians not against them.



Have you ever been offered a "job" at a less underground metal label or would you even consider it?

[BG] I havenīt so far and I doubt I ever will as Iīm very forward with my very low opinion on everything thatīs "Music Business". I wouldnīt trade my current financial security for the countless changes the music industry undergoes every year. So, unless you can surgically remove my spine and my brain the answer would always be "no. No. NO!!!!"



Do you ever pay for advertising for your label or bands in the fanzines?

[BG] No. Never did, never will.



Did you coin the terms "Norsecore" and "Fag-Gothic"? What do they mean, what bands fall into these categories and why do you hate them so much?

[BG] Norsecore is a musical genre. Itīs basically the missing link between Grindcore and Black Metal. While the imagery of BM is there the musical structures are more "Core" than "Metal". Similar, FagGothic is the offspring of the unclean mating of BM with Goth Rock.

The blueprint for Norsecore is DARKTHRONEs "Transylvanian Hunger" CD. Notice the unaccentuated guitar droning underlaid by breakless drum chaos. Many "elitist" people like to describe that sound as "cold, atmospheric, depressive, whatever" and think everything in that vein is KVLT. People who know their Metal also know that recordings of that kind are well.... Not Metal. If you like or dislike the sound is entirely another thing of course. I donīt and the term was meant derogatory when I invented it but since it has become a valid description and there are people who happily buy everything I call Norsecore and like it... To each his own I guess. As long as a Norsecore band donīt claim to be BM I donīt really care. Itīs the intentional mislabeling for the sake of $$ that irritates me so much, not the existence of such genre per se. Much the same can be said about FagGothic. As a side note, almost all so-called "NSBM" is Norsecore as well...



Some people have called you an "elitist" when it comes to metal. Do you think you fit the description ?

[BG] Depends on what you mean by "Elitist". When you use it to describe someone who likes real 666% Metal of all genres and whoīs aware of the Music Industryīs attempts to mate different kinds of styles for the sake of $$ and opposes that violently, then yes, Iīm an elitist and proud of it.



From what I've heard, most of the bands you've represented have been black metal or very raw thrash metal…why? Can a non-black/thrash metal band be as "true" and as worthy of your time ?

[BG] Contrary to what most people seem to believe I actually like a lot of other Metal. Our collection has great diversity and so has my taste. Traditional Death / Thrash / Black Metal just happens to be my favourite kind of music I guess. But there are enough labels who release good Power Metal for instance. There are very few who concentrate on my corner of music so this is where Iīm needed most.



Speaking of time….how much time do you pour into this in the run of an average week?

[BG] Too much and not enough. Without Cheryl Iīd be doomed. Sheīs taking over a lot of chores that I couldnīt handle anymore for time reasons. Iīm very glad to have such a helpful and understanding wife. :-) Without her full cooperation and understanding BARBARIAN WRATH would not exist anymore or would be reduced to 4 or 5 releases a year at max.



How did you get the nickname Opyros and the more recent BlackGoat? Which do you prefer?

[BG] I took both myself. "Opyros" is a character out of a novel by Karl Edward Wagner. Itīs a mad poet seeking to raise Hell by chanting his works. I like that guy alot and at the time I was starting to write lyrics for COUNTESS and BARATHRUM and I thought it was very fitting. Opyrosī masterpiece that finally gains him entrance to Hell (along with all his listeners) was called "Nightwind". Fragments of that are quoted in the book and the interested listener will notice a song with the same title on the last COUNTESS album that I wrote the lyric for.

BlackGoat is a name I took on IRC. It doesnīt really have any deeper meaning other than the fact that itīs a BARATHRUM song I like very much. Of the two I think I prefer "Opyros" more because it has more meaning.



Are you down with the dude downtown? Seriously though, do you take the satanic thing as deadly serious, or are you non-religious, preferring to not bow to any man made creation?

[BG] Orlok says that true evil shows in the small things in life. I couldnīt agree more. Itīs not the waving of a big black banner saying SATANIST that makes you one, itīs how you transport the ideology into every day life. Itīs not something I consciously do, it comes to me naturally. I was a Satanist years before I encountered the term. Those who know the least bit about it also know that Satanism is not just reverse xtianity, itīs something completely different. Mocking the slaves of light is hardly an important (yet somewhat entertaining) part of it and itīs easy to spot the many fakes who reduce it to ritualistic nonsense. All those book Satanists who follow rituals they read about instead of creating their own are no better than a herd of xtians at prayer... So yes, Iīm dead serious about it but in a much different way than you probably meant.



Are all the bands on BW satanic or occult in nature and if so why?

[BG] Yes, they are and itīs not that Iīm consciously searching them by that parameter. It just happens. Common interest binds us.



Having strong opinions on things has obviously made some people misunderstand you or where you are coming from. Have any of these types ever confronted you in the "real" world?

[BG] Hahahaha, neat one. :-) While Iīm easy to spot at shows (big guy, long hair, accompanied by gorgeous female) Iīve never had any problems ever. I guess even those who donīt like me or the label still respect me because I practice what I preach.



To date, what has been the biggest reward or moment where you really thought, "this is why I do this."

[BG] I have that kind of rush every time I get a new CD in. I think the biggest reward is positive feedback from the artist.



To close… If you could wipe one "metal" band off the face of the earth who would it be and why AND if you could have one of your underground bands "make it" and be known by the masses who would or COULD it be and why?

[BG] The only thing Iīd like to wipe off the face of the Earth are idiots. We live in a World of over pampering. Remove all warning stickers. People SHOULD die for being stupid. Itīs called natural selection. Every band on BARBARIAN WRATH or WITCHES BREW deserves success. Not that I see it happen, yet... who can say what the future beholds ?





Let's start with MetalGospel.com, your first "child" so to speak! Tell me how it began and what possessed you to step into the realm of online metal promotion!?!

[Cheryl] Well, to start I never really knew a lot of people into Metal as deeply and fanatical as I was and it was literally bursting from within. I had such a desire to talk about it, spread the word about my favourite bands, share whatever knowledge I had and learn more myself but couldnīt find a suitable way to do so. Most of the Metal mags were focusing on Grunge bands still so they werenīt such a great resource anymore and even then I needed a way I could make a contribution to Metal myself. The Net offered the perfect platform for this. I had been online sporadically since around 94. I had no computer of my own and relied mainly on school computers and a friendīs computer for access to it. It was like that for many years until 98 when I relocated to another state and got a job at a technology developing company. With that job it became necessary for me to have my own computer at home to work on projects and such. At that point I had plenty of time to surf the Net and it just struck me that I would like to try learning HTML and put up a little website dedicated to Metal. Thus I started a free website that same year on Geocities called "Skykladīs Heavy Metal And Other Oddities". That eventually turned into what you see today.



Some may already know this, but tell me about how you came up with the name MetalGospel and about some of the lovely mail you've received from some FREAKS who are not happy about the combination of these two words (METAL and GOSPEL)!

[Cheryl] Hehehe… Yeah. Some of the emails are rather funny I wished I had saved them now. I think it mainly stems from the fact that people donīt investigate the page further. They just sort of find their way there and think itīs going to be a lot of preaching about christianity and god using Metal as a medium. Thatīs certainly not the case as anybody with half a brain would be able to tell upon going into a few of the sections. Of course who am I kidding ? We live in a "fast food" society and use of oneīs brain has become optional. I have a simple response to people now who write complaining about my usage of religious terminology on the website: As Udo Dirkschneider of ACCEPT fame says: "Metal IS our religion". Some people get MetalGospel and others donīt… their loss. The name actually originated from a discussion on the "Inside The Web" days of my forum when it was called Merciless Metal Screaming. (You remember those Inside The Web days too, donīt you ?) I honestly donīt even remember what band we were talking about but I made a reply to someone about "spreading the Metal Gospel" and it just sort of sprouted from there. The name I was previously using for the site was way too long and I was already beginning to remove parts of the "Other Oddities" section.



What would you say is the most important parts of your site or the most read?

[Cheryl] Personally I think every section of the website is just as important as the rest but as far as most visited parts are concerned the Hymnals (MP3s www.metalgospel.com/hymnals.html) and Crusade Reports (Concert Reports www.metalgospel.com/concert.html) are usually at the top. Coming in third are the interviews, depending on what band or person is being interviewed followed by reviews. For the past few months the individual band sections have had increased visitation as well.



What sections of your site are you the most proud of ? What sections do you consider scrapping - if any?

[Cheryl] I would have to say I am rather happy with the whole website. My favourite part and the most fun to work on are concert reports. I really enjoy recounting an evening of live Metal! I also like making the individual band sections because a lot of times I end up learning more about bands than I knew previous so it helps me and I can provide a resource for others to learn from as well. I started a new thing about 6 months or more ago where I feature a certain band every few weeks. Sort of helps put the spotlight on a particular band for awhile. A recent development Iīm very happy with concerns the reviews and thatīs what we call "The MetalGospel Inquisiton" (www.metalgospel.com/reviews.htm). We pick a bunch of important releases every month that get reviewed by all staff members to give the reader a more varied opinion of them besides a lot of regular reviews of course. :-) Right now I donīt plan on scrapping any of the sections as Iīve already gone through that phase awhile ago. In fact, I may even add a FAQ section like I had before to cut down on some emails I get that are the same thing over and over.



Do you find you have to waste a lot of time dealing with kids posting trash on the site's forum? Or do people respect you and your site enough to know where to draw the line?

[Cheryl] Not really. I have had periods of time when the forum was in different formats, of troublemakers arriving and trying to stir things up but they donīt stay long. The people who post on the forum donīt "feed the trolls" so nothing ever really grows out of someone attempting to start shit. The forum style isnīt very popular too so the number of posters remains small.



What has been the most rewarding thing about running MetalGospel in the past few years and what has been the most trying?

[Cheryl] There are several things that have been very rewarding in running the website with the first and foremost being that it allowed for me to meet my soulmate: Hartmuth. It has also helped me discover and learn about new bands as well as have contact with some of my favourites. Nothing beats talking with bands you have admired for years and getting to know them on a more personal level. As far as the most trying: finding the time to fit everything in as well as finding dedicated people who want to help our crusade for the sake of Metal, nothing else.



For a VERY brief period you took down the site and had a message there stating something about being tired of the BS? (If I remember correctly ?) What really happened then, and what happened that made you revive the site so quickly and with a kick ass new design?

[Cheryl] There were a great deal of things going on in my personal life at the time and I just felt that I couldnīt handle those AND the website at the same time. The reviving came so quickly because after taking it down I had received a lot of very supportive and concerned emails in addition to feeling an empty spot inside. Itīs like giving away your child so I started again because it is my destiny.



What does the future hold for MetalGospel.com?

[Cheryl] Complete and utter Metal conversion of the entire known universe ! (Laughs evilly) Seriously I hope to just keep doing what Iīm doing and provide a place for people to gain Metal knowledge if they want it while also preventing personal explosion by always having this platform to pour into.



Most people who know anything about you know you are from the USA and now have moved to Germany. You therefore have the unique perspective of being able to compare the scenes from two countries from a greater depth than most. So in 666 words or less…haha…no I won't make you write an essay…but perhaps you can enlighten us about what you see are the major differences (or similarities) between the two scenes!!

[Cheryl] Well, moving to Germany has been a unique experience of which I am very thankful for. Not only have I gotten to experience two different Metal "scenes" but also different cultures and perspectives on world happenings. I can easily say "the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence". One of the main differences I have noticed has been the enthusiasm level of Metal fans. Here it almost seems at times that people are bored and harder to please because of over saturation. There are shows every night of the week, in fact you sometimes have 2 or 3 to pick from. Another thing is that in the US I could always tell who was REALLY a Metalhead and who was just sort of passing through to try it out for a bit then move on to the next trend. In Germany you canīt really tell whoīs really into it or not because itīs so easy to acquire all the outside signs and symbols. You see people who look theyīve been into Metal for fifteen years but when you talk to them itīs like talking to a brick wall. They have no clue. Metal here is like Rap is in the US. There are tons of people who wear the shirts, buy the albums and go to the shows simply because it is the "in thing" to do, not because they genuinely give a shit about it. As a result of this you canīt really talk to "supposed" Metalheads in Europe because chances are they havenīt got a clue and are just in because all their buddies are while in the US when you see a person with ripped jeans, patches all over and hair down to his/her ass you know theyīre the real deal. You wouldnīt believe how many long haired people are running around over here who donīt even know how to SPELL Metal.




First of all let me tell you I love the label name "WITCHES BREW" !!! How'd you concoct this one?

[Cheryl] Cool. Glad you like it. When the idea of starting the label first cropped up I was trying to think of a suitable name for it. I had actually considered just calling it Metal Gospel Records or something like that and sort of tying it in with the zine but then Hartmuth came up with the great name of WITCHES BREW after the MANILLA ROAD song. Being a huge fan of MANILLA ROAD I was in immediate agreement that this was going to be the name for my new label and thus it was born.



Why did you start WITCHES BREW when you already have a great webzine and also work with the Goat for BARBARIAN WRATH?

[Cheryl] The main reason I started it was because occasionally Iīd get really cool stuff in for review at MetalGospel and every time Iīd hear one of these unsigned bands that kicked major ass I was thinking: "damn, I would sign these guys if I had my own label." The fact that I was doing work for BARBARIAN WRATH had allowed me to see what went into running a label and my interest in doing the same thing but suited to MY individual taste and not relying on what Hartmuth signed started to increase. I also simply wanted to do MORE for Metal than what I was doing already.



What is the idea behind WITCHES BREW? If I understand it correctly it's mainly Thrash Metal? Is that the case? If so, what style of Thrash do you look to sign??

[Cheryl] Basically the idea behind WITCHES BREW is to sign any band, no matter what style, that hits home for me and has that "something special". The band doesnīt necessarily HAVE to be Thrash as I would sign anything that blew me away when hearing it. It just happens that Thrash is one of my favourite Metal genres so that style is usually a prime candidate. The first band I actually signed was a Death Metal band from Germany called SCYTHE. I had recieved a CDR for review at MetalGospel and loved them.



Are you only interested in just Thrash bands or is any good Heavy Metal band fair game?

[Cheryl] As I mentioned in the previous answer there is no sole interest in only Thrash. Any good Heavy Metal is fair game to come on board with WITCHES BREW. As long as a band has something about them that gives me that feeling I got in 84 where I am completely blown away and impressed then I am interested.



Isn't SKYCLAD your favorite band? I thought they were, therefore I was expecting your label to have lots of folk metal on it ?

[Cheryl] (Laughs) Yeah. SKYCLAD are my favourite band and if I would hear any good bands that had Folk influence in them I would definitely consider signing them.



How did you discover SKYCLAD and when did they become your favorite band?

[Cheryl] I had been a fan of SABBAT previous to SKYCLAD so naturally being a devout follower of Martin Walkyier and his ingenious way with words I was keen on keeping up with whatever projects, if any, he moved onto after leaving SABBAT. I still remember the first time I heard "Wayward Sons Of Mother Earth" and how it gave me that same exact feeling as I felt when I heard "Ride The Lightning" years back. It was a wonderful feeling and instantly SKYCLAD flew up to my number one favourite band spot and has remained there ever since. Even with Martin out of the band they still manage to have that "something special" for me.



I am assuming you got involved in the label business after you had learned some of the ropes from Mr. BlackGoat??

[Cheryl] Oh yes. Hartmuth was, and continues to be, a huge inspiration for me as far as WITCHES BREW is concerned. He is a fine teacher in the art of running a label and whenever I have something that I could use a little help in he is right there to assist me. I owe a lot to him.



Do you both run WITCHES BREW or is this 100% you?

[Cheryl] WITCHES BREW is one hundred percent my responsibility. However, I do ask Hartmuth for advice when I need it but as far as choosing bands and stuff thatīs my domain.



What is different about WITCHES BREW from say BARBARIAN WRATH? Basically, I just wonder why these bands couldn't just be signed to BARBARIAN WRATH and be your responsibility?

[Cheryl] Well, just as BARBARIAN WRATH is an extension of Hartmuthīs taste in Metal, WITCHES BREW is representative of my taste in Metal. I wanted to have my own thing, separate from what heīs doing with BARBARIAN WRATH to let my own personality and ideas flow into it. WITCHES BREW is my way of stepping from the consumer side of things to the supplier and of course preventing the ever-present spontaneous human combustion... :-)



What are your goals for the label ? Would you like to be able to earn a living from doing this?

[Cheryl] My goals are to continue releasing music that I like and getīs my Metal heart pumping faster. To be able to be one hundred percent behind my bands and feel that Metal spirit when I listen to any of them. If it somehow came to pass that I earned a living doing the label I would not complain but I certainly donīt look at that as one of my goals. I want it to remain something fun and most times when people need to earn a living from doing something it then becomes just a job. This is more of a hobby for me and I want it to remain enjoyable.



Are you on the look out for new bands to sign ? How should bands reading this contact you if they think they play what you'd be interested in signing to WITCHES BREW?

[Cheryl] Iīm always looking for new stuff thatīs lurking in the Metal world somewhere. If a band wants to send something they can send to:

PO Box 100 710
93007 Regensburg

Or email me at witchesbrew@witches-brew.org



What are the criteria you look at before signing a band?

[Cheryl] Integrity. Love for the music. When I hear a bandīs material it has to move me and have that "special something" that makes me want to get up and headbang. Letīs put it this way: if a band can get me to put down my beer and start headbanging then theyīve matched the criteria I look for. :-)



To date, where have you found most of the bands for WITCHES BREW?

[Cheryl] Most of them I have discovered because I received something for review. In fact all of them have some ties to MetalGospel in that I either reviewed a demo / album, reported on a live performance or heard about them because of the website.



What are your current top selling bands and if you don't mind me asking - what kinds of numbers do they sell?

[Cheryl] Right now I donīt have any answers for these questions as WITCHES BREW is still a very young label. I only started about four months ago and have since released two albums. Not many numbers accumulate in a short time such as that. Ask me again in a few years... :)



Again, if you don't mind me asking… Do you break even or make a profit with this label?

[Cheryl] Again it is too early to tell these sorts of things. Whenever a person starts something like this it is always a big investment in the beginning so right now we are in that stage of not seeing much happening in the profit area. Running a label requires patience.



What do you offer to bands you sign? Does the label pay for professional CD production, touring, and studio time - or are you more of a promoter and a distributor of their music?

[Cheryl] This is the part of the label stuff where I follow Hartmuthīs lead. The main thing is paying for the print of the CD and taking care of worldwide distribution. Most of my bands also record on their own equipment so sometimes I contribute to getting new equipment if they need it. We also take care of the booklet layout.



Are you ever able to show up in the studio and act as producer for any of the bands?

[Cheryl] No, I donīt because quite honestly I know nothing about producing and stuff like that. Thatīs the musicians job.. hehe… Iīm just a huge Metal freak who wants to see awesome, unsigned bands get an opportunity for a professionally printed and released CD as well as decent promotion.



What other labels or distros carry your titles AND why do you carry other labels CDs?

[Cheryl] We have worldwide distribution. Quite recently we opened up a North American branch of BARBARIAN WRATH that carries all WITCHES BREW titles. You can visit them at www.barbarianwrath-vinland.org.



In the distro section of your label's site you have releases there beyond those released by WITCHES BREW…are these all the same as found in BARBARIAN WRATH or do you plan to distro (or sign ?) bands that BlackGoat wouldn't touch with a 666ft pole (hehe)?!?!?

[Cheryl] Hehe… All the titles in the distro are the same and will remain that way in order to keep things simple here at home. Two rooms full of CDs (counting our private collection) is quite plenty for me to keep track of, I wouldnīt want to have to expand all these to yet another room.



Are the bands you sign to WITCHES BREW exclusively signed to your label?

[Cheryl] Yes, their souls are MINE… (evil laughter follows)



How much time do you pour into this as a whole (MetalGospel AND WITCHES BREW) in the run of an average week?

[Cheryl] Heh. How many hours are in a week? Because however many there are is how many I pour into both these projects. I pretty much spend most of my waking hours while Hartmuth is at work doing something for either WITCHES BREW, MetalGospel or BARBARIAN WRATH. To say the least this stuff keeps me extremely busy and out of trouble…



To date, what has been the biggest reward or moment related to either WITCHES BREW or MetalGospel where you really thought, "this is why I do this."

[Cheryl] For WITCHES BREW the biggest reward is when I get a new release in, open up the box and put the CD in the player for the first time. Hearing positive feedback from my bands is also very rewarding and knowing they are satisfied with the work Iīve done makes me feel damn proud. For MetalGospel the biggest rewards are getting to know bands, talking to people I respect as musicians / metalheads and the constant discovery of cool bands. To know that possibly through my website some other Metallers out there discover new bands that become their favourites is also a great thing. Itīs rewarding to get emails from readers who discovered a new band through the site.



You have a small but growing line-up of bands on the label. Prior to reading about them, the one I've heard and actually have some music by is THE CHASM from Mexico! Tell me, how'd you sign them and get into contact with them? I had figured that they would be signed to a larger label by now?

[Cheryl] Well, I knew of THE CHASM for a long time as I have seen them in concert a few times. They have always been an amazing but seemingly under appreciated band and I actually have Hartmuth to thank for hooking them. Heīs been in contact with Daniel for awhile now and they were looking for a label to support their crusade for REAL Death Metal. Unfortunately they never seemed to find a place to call home so we opened our doors, offered cold beer and a deal.



What's next for WITCHES BREW?

[Cheryl] World Domination ? Hehe… Next on the agenda is to continue releasing kick ass Metal I love and for others who hunger for something that will make them headbang. Weīve got several releases coming up in the next few months as well as some shows in late 2002 and early 2003. For anyone who wants more info on WITCHES BREW just head to the website located at www.witches-brew.org. Once there they can sign up for our newsletter, hear MP3s of all our bands and keep up with the latest news.

All rights reserved and contents Đ2004 Metal-Rules.com
Keeping the Metal Faith Since 1995!