Heart of Steel: Interviews

Industry Profile Incision Records' Jay Branch

Interview by Keith McDonald

Incision Records is another label in the long line of new, energetic labels that seem to be taking advantage of the renewed hard rock and heavy metal scene. The label is starting slowly, releasing albums one band at a time, and giving that much-needed attention that major labels rarely give. The label, co-own by Ben Falgoust (Soilent Green, Goatwhore) and Jay Branch, will be releasing albums by Demise, Soilent Green, and Eyehategod in the very near future. I had the opportunity to speak with Jay who gave me some insight into this new label. You can check out their website at www.incisionrecords.com.


How did you get started in the music business?

I started in music as anyone else - as a fan. As I got more into music, I wanted to know more and be involved in what was going on. My first real venture was to start doing shows, which taught me a lot about the work, it takes to push underground music. Then I had an opportunity to manage Abuse, a local New Orleans band, and eventually booked shows for a lot of local acts. I also did some tour managing for Relapse Records, which gave me an opportunity to see different scenes all over America. I also played in a band (SkinKrawL) for two and a half years.


How did Incision Records come about?

It's something Ben and I had discussed for a long time, how we both wanted to start a label. We had hoped to begin sooner, but the timing was never right. We were both busy with full-time bands and jobs, so it made another venture difficult. Once we were able to find the time, the main thing was to find a band to sign whom we had faith in. That band turned out to be Demise. They're an awesome act whose professionalism and maturity were a must for a label our size. Once we had secured a band to back, everything popped into place and we began to work hard on building our label.


Will you only deal with southern bands or will you expand elsewhere?

I think we will definitely expand elsewhere, but our attention will be on the South for awhile. There are a lot of really good bands in this area who have yet to receive attention, so it's an untapped well of talent with which to work.


Who handles your distribution?

At this point, our distributor is ourselves. We've yet to secure a distribution deal, but you can be guaranteed that we'll push to find a good distributor for the Demise full-length album we have coming out later this summer.


I see that the label will only deal with one band at a time. How much of an advantage does that give to a band?

This helps a band tremendously. It also makes life a lot easier on us! Our bands will know that we've put the time into building things from the ground up, and our attention is not divided over a huge roster. This way, no one gets lost in the shuffle or has to hear "We can't help you guys because we are tied up with these other projects." I think that's the worst thing for a band to hear, because they then become reticent towards the label and don't have faith in their operations, thereby poisoning the entire relationship.


How strong is the New Orleans music scene these days?

Like any scene, it's always up and down, but I've found that the talent level in this area is tremendous. There are many unsigned bands in the city who are awesome acts, a quality lacking in a lot of cities much larger than New Orleans.


Who is on your roster? When do you plan on adding other acts?

At this time, we are home to Demise, Soilent Green, and Eyehategod. Other acts will come after we have pushed our first two releases and feel we have the strength to back another band(s).


What genres of music will you sign?

Everything will be from the underground music scene, but as to particular styles, we don't want to limit ourselves to being a certain type label.


How hard is it to run an indie label?

There are definitely a lot of snags that occur, but it's nothing that hard work doesn't overcome. The main thing is realizing your limitations and working within those. You can't jump into doing tons of projects right away, because the limited financial situation doesn't allow it. Lack of resources also prohibits promoting lots of acts. As I said, the main thing is working within the confines of what you have and then pushing those limits to their maximum.


Do you accept unsolicited demos? Do you receive many demos already?

As of this time, we aren't signing any new bands, but we always want to keep our ears open to new music. If something grabbed us and we felt strongly about it, we'd look into adding that band to our roster.


What advice do you have for an unsigned artist?

Work hard. Learn the business aspects of the industry. Learn to be a professional. Make a group decision as to what you want from this band (are members willing to tour, put money into the band, provide transportation, etc, etc). One of the most important aspects is knowing how to promote yourself. You're presenting a product to the public and prospective labels. Out of thousands and thousands of bands, you have to find your unique qualities and promote them. The more unique the presentation and the stronger the promotion, the more label interest you'll garner. It also helps to have a lot of really good songs...


What direction do you feel the music industry is heading?

The Industry is still learning how to handle the mass media created by the Internet and the accessibility it allows to music. Every band now has an official website and posts tons of information about themselves on the web. It's made everyone more conscious of promotion and evened the game for bands in smaller markets. This has made labels dig deeper and look for bands who are self-made, so that the label doesn't have to spend as much time forming an image for the band but spends time pushing that band to its limit.


What are your thoughts on MP3's and downloading? Do you think it helps or hurts your label?

I think it hurts and helps. It helps if people download a track, like a song, and then purchase the album. It hurts if you have someone sitting at home with 500 CDRs who hasn't bought an album in years because they can download everything off the Internet. People don't realize that a band spends hours upon hours writing, rehearsing, and recording that album. The money they lose from the sale of albums puts a further detriment on equipment, transportation, and everything else it takes to make a band go. The label also loses money, which means they have fewer dollars to spend on promoting the band or putting out more albums.


What's the future for Incision Records?

Right now the future is Demise's Obscure Mold of a World CD we're releasing later this summer, as well as the Eyehategod/Soilent Green split 7". We can't look too far past these projects, as they'll both keep us busy for the duration of the summer.

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