Heart of Steel: Interviews

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Interview With Forever Underground Records
Interview By Keith McDonald

Every time I do an interview with some new, up and coming metal label I always like to know how they got started doing what they’re doing and why. It never surprises me that they were, and of course still are, metal fans that started slowly and developed their own label that caters towards their love of metal. And with Forever Underground Records, it’s no different. Started about 3 years ago by Bill Smith and Brad Murphy as a distribution outlet for metal CDs, Forever Underground is now a bonafied metal label pumping out extreme metal in the likes of Ezurate, Veneficum and Paganizer to name a few. Bill Smith, now running the label alone, continues to churn out brutal metal bands as he readies new releases for the coming year. I had the opportunity to speak with Bill who gave me the lowdown on FU Records. You can check out their website at www.foreverunderground.com. 

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

I was always a big fan of music. I started off with the usual bands… Slayer, Atheist, Kreator, Cancer, and all the good thrash bands of the 80’s. Then I got more into the brutal death metal bands of the early 90’s like Cannibal Corpse, Deicide, Obituary and Morbid Angel. I always liked the extreme metal bands because of the adrenaline rush. The next natural step for me was the underground. The more brutal and heavy the music was the more I got into it. I used to go to all the local shows in the Chicago area and saw all the vendors set up at the shows. I must have spent thousands at these shows on CDs alone. So my friend Brad and me decided to give the distro thing a shot. The plan was to get 5 or 6 of each release and keep one of each for ourselves and sell off the rest to pay for the ones we kept. We never really intended to do this full time. Eventually the distro got bigger and bigger and we decided to put a lot of effort into making the distro bigger. That’s how it all began.



How did Forever Underground Records get started?

Forever Underground started off as a distro almost 5 years ago. We started off with a mere 30 titles. We constantly bought more and more and eventually got up to 600 - 700 different titles in stock. Sales were constantly improving and we began setting up at Milwaukee Metalfest and all the local shows and that’s when the distro really took off. The next logical step was to sign some bands and become a record label. In Feb 2001 FU Records was born. I started off with just Chicago area bands to get my name out there and now two years later I have bands from all over the U.S., Sweden, Italy and even Indonesia.



How is the market these days for metal? Is it growing or declining?

Metal is a very up and down market. Always has been and always will be. There has never been a consistent figure or amount of sales from month to month. Metal also goes through many changes… for example one-year black metal was huge. All you saw was quality black metal that whole year. The next year death metal was back in a big way and black metal was dead. Then thrash was in the following year. I believe that metal is growing more and more. Bands are playing bigger venues and getting larger crowds than they used to. This is a good sign but the underground needs a little more fan support than it has now. The low draws at these shows can be attributed to bad promotion. That’s the single worst problem in the scene right now (my opinion of course).



Who is currently on your roster?

Right now on the roster is Reprobation (IL), Ezurate(IL), Veneficum(IL), Paganizer (Sweden), Bloodthrone (NJ), Leukorrhea (MA), Invasion (IN), Fleshtized (AL), Beheaded (Malta), Putrilage (TX), Prophecy (TX), Mind Snare (Italy), Corpsefucking Art (Italy), Jasad (Indonesia), Convergence From Within (AL) and Mortality (TX). More bands will be added in the coming months.



How do you get your records into stores? Is it difficult?

Right now I do mostly trading with bigger labels and distros to get my titles out to the fans. I sent a lot of promo material off to all the labels and fanzines and I got contacted by many of the labels to carry my stuff. Being kinda new it really all fell into place pretty quickly. I put an awful lot of time to promote the label and it paid off faster than I ever thought it would. As far as retail stores go I have been talking with Crash Music and it looks like they will be picking up my titles to get them into the stores. This is a huge break for the label so hopefully it goes through. I have talked with a few overseas distributors about possible licensing deals but so far the only deal that went through was Prophecy’s “Our Domain”. That is available through Shindy in Europe.



Do your artists tour? How expensive is it these days?

As far as a full-blown national tour I have had only three go on the road. Beheaded, Leukorrhea and Putrilage. Overall the tour was a success but they are all pretty much underground bands so turnouts were low at some shows. Most of my bands just hit venues in their state or the surrounding states. Mind Snare will be doing a European tour very soon though. The expenses are definitely a little high for most bands. The gas and the rental of the transportation are the biggest. I think I spent about $2,500 in just gas for the Beheaded tour. I bought a 15-passenger van and a trailer that ran me $13,500 so it can be pricey for sure.



It seems you sign extreme metal bands. Is this true or do you sign all types of metal bands?

My taste is definitely in extreme metal. The more brutal and heavy it is the better. I started the label with the intention to be a diverse label and I do have a good mix of bands on the label right now but I definitely have more death metal than any other genre. If I got a great thrash demo in the mail and I liked it I would definitely pursue the band. I don’t want to limit myself to any specific genre. I love metal in all its forms (well almost all its forms).



What do you think about the 'nu' metal (ed. note: MALLCORE) bands of today that gets much of the exposure for metal?

Well… I myself hate “nu” metal! I can’t stand it. But, in the defense of a lot of the newer “nu” metal bands coming out I have seen them wearing Morbid Angel shirts and various death metal bands shirts. Hell I was channel surfing the other day and the host of one of these MTV shows was wearing a Cephalic Carnage shirt. This is a good thing. If it takes a “nu”metal band to wear a shirt of a good underground band to get them more fans then I can live with that. But as far as the music goes I can’t listen to it.



What are your day-to-day events in running the label?

I am the label in all its forms. My friend Brad that I started the distro off with had to stop doing it for personal reasons so I was left by myself to carry it on. I have been doing it ever since. Almost four years now. I do everything. I design my own ads, do the CD layouts, update the website (with a little help from Nate from www.bludgawd.com), wrap and ship the packages, sign the bands, do all trades, keep inventory, and anything else associated with the label. Sometimes it’s overwhelming but I love what I do!



Do you find it difficult to run a label by yourself?

It gets to be a lot sometimes. The biggest time consuming thing is getting ready for major fests. That can take up to a month of planning and then of course you fall behind on everything else so you play catch-up. I’d say about 6 months of the year are crazy and hard to keep up but the other 6 months are easy. Whether it’s tough going or easy going I don’t care! I wouldn’t want to do anything else!



How do you find new artists? Do you accept unsolicited material?

In various ways. I have a mountain of demos over here from bands all over the world. I found a few this way but the best way is to see a band live. I travel all over the place so I get to see a lot of these bands first hand. Most of the bands were signed in this manner. I signed Leukorrhea and Paganizer from a sampler CD. If there is a band out there reading this and they want to send over a demo… send em in. I listen to everything. Of course I can’t sign everyone but I definitely want to hear as many bands as possible.



Do you find yourself in competition with bigger metal likes Sanctuary, Metal Blade and Century Media?

Not at all. For me to try to even compete would be crazy! These guys could buy me out ten times over. I do a little different thing than they do. They take well-known artists and develop them and promote the hell out of em. Their sales are on whole different level. The thing I tell my bands is this: “Think of me as a stepping stone. I will get your releases out there for people and labels to hear. If a bigger label picks you up then I wish you the best of luck”. I try to take good bands that deserve to be heard by the masses whereas these bigger labels have bigger bands and get them straight to the masses. Do I gain from these bands I sign? Of course. But the overall goal is to further the band's popularity and to support the bands as good as possible so that they may get a major deal. I am more about support than anything. I am not about competing against any label.



Do you license your artists overseas, especially Europe? It seems to be a great market for metal over there.

So far only Prophecy has been licensed to Europe. I have been trying to get licensing deals through European labels but so far there has been just a little interest. Most labels already have their own thing going and don’t have enough to do licensing deals. Recently though I have been contacted concerning licensing deals but nothing solid yet. Europe is definitely the place to get metal to. They have a great market over there. Hopefully the states will get to this point but because of the politically correct horseshit over here it will be difficult.



What's the future plan for Forever Underground?

For now I just want to keep signing bands and get the distro as big as possible. Future plans include getting major distribution, opening a store in Chicago, opening my own recording studio and hopefully buying a bar so that I can have bands playing all week long. But time will tell.


Forever Underground Records
1111 W 4th Pl Hobart, IN
46342 USA



Forever Underground Artist Pages:

Reprobation - www.geocities.com/reprobation  

Ezurate - www.angelfire.com/band/ezurate/  

Veneficum - www.veneficum.com  

Paganizer - www.listen.to/paganizer  

Bloodthrone - www.geocities.com/bloodthrone666  

Leukorrhea - www.leukorrhea.com  

Beheaded - www.beheaded.net  

Invasion - www.saturationbombing.com  

Fleshtized -  http://home.hiwaay.net/~eformatt/fleshtized

Putrilage - www.putrilage.com  

Prophecy - www.prophecysdomain.com  

Corpsefucking Art - www.corpsefuckingart.com  

Jasad -  www.jasad.cjb.net

Mindsnare - www.mindsnare.too.it  

Mutilated - www.bludgawd.com/mutilated  

Mortality -  www.mortality.8m.com

Convergence From Within - coming soon!



FU001 Reprobation "The Colour of Gore" MCD
FU002 Ezurate "Infernal Dominatio" CD
FU003 Veneficum "Dysphoria" MCD
FU004 Paganizer "Promoting Total Death" CD
FU005 Bloodthrone "Storms of Apocalypse" CD
FU006 Leukorrhea "Hatefucked And Tortured" CD
FU007 Invasion "Berserk Artillery Barrage" CD
FU008 Beheaded "Resurgence of Oblivion" MCD
FU009 Fleshtized "Here Among Thorns" CD
FU010 Putrilage "Devouring The Gutted" CD
FU011 Beheaded "Recounts of Disembodiment" CD
FU012 Prophecy "Our Domain" CD
FU013 Paganizer "Dead Unburied" CD
FU014 Reprobation "Undoing Cretaion" CD
FU015 Mind Snare “The Noble Ancestry” CD
FU016 Corpsefucking Art “Splatter Deluxe” CD (Jan 2003)
FU017 Jasad “Witness Of Perfect Torture” CD (Jan 2003)
FU018 Mutilated "Devirginated Genital Pulp” CD (Feb 2003)
FU019 Mortality “Decay” CD (March 2003)
FU020 Convergence From Within “TBA” (April 2003)
FU021 Veneficum “TBA” (April 2003)
FU022 Leukorrhea “TBA” (May 2003)


Label Website: www.foreverunderground.com