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Century Media Records    
Century Media

One person alone can only do so much for metal, right? Well, if Marco Barbieri sets the standard, it appears that the sky is truly the limit. Marco's lifelong devotion to metal began when he first heard Kiss in the second grade, and since then he has essentially "done it all" within the metal universe. Today, in addition to various other endeavors such as producing Ill Literature magazine, Marco oversees the North American operations for the Century Media group of labels, which includes Nuclear Blast, Olympic and (of course) Century Media. Practically speaking, this means that the North American fate of bands such as In Flames, Iced Earth, Nevermore, Blind Guardian, Krisiun, Meshuggah, Shadows Fall, Skinlab and countless others lie - at least in part - in Marco's hands. As part of our continuing look "behind the screams" at the inner workings of the heavy metal industry, Metal Update caught up with Marco for an extensive chat.

METAL UPDATE: What's your title?

MARCO BARBIERI: Vice President and General Manager.

MU: Of Century Media?

MB: Right.

MU: What does that job entail?

MB: I oversee the daily operations of Century Media and Nuclear Blast in North America, dealing with marketing, advertising and coordinating with the European main offices of those different labels.

MU: You basically run the U.S. operation for Century Media and Nuclear Blast?

MB: Yeah, actually North America, because we deal with Canada and Mexico as well.

MU: To whom do you answer?

MB: Generally, I answer to Oliver Withoeft and Robert Kampf, who are the owners of Century Media. I also report to the owner and general manager of Nuclear Blast in Germany. I wouldn't say that they are per-se my boss, I just report to them and answer their questions so they are in the loop. Obviously I want to accommodate them so they feel their label is being presented how they see fit in the U.S.

MU: Century Media and Nuclear Blast are fierce competitors in Europe. Is this an issue for you?

MB: True, it's a friendly competition between those two, but the people have known each other for years and they are all friends. But yeah, they are competing labels overseas. Obviously we don't feel that fierce competition over here, now that it's all under one roof. But sometimes there is competition in-house because different people work the different labels, for the most part.

MU: So it's a fun, kinda friendly competition here in the U.S.?

MB: Definitely.

MU: Which is the "biggest" label out of those here in the U.S.?

MB: Century Media.

MU: How are you measuring that?

MB: I am talking about total sales. Century Media does about a third more volume than Nuclear Blast does.

MU: What's the all-time, best selling title on Century Media records?

MB: Of all time? Stuck Mojo's 'Rising' was it for a while. In North America, that has done about sixty thousand copies. We're hoping that Iced Earth's 'Horror Show', which is closing in on like fifty-five thousand copies, will break the record.

marco barbieri

MU: In the U.S.?

MB: Yes.

MU: Soundscan?

MB: No not Soundscan, total shipment.

MU: Is 'Horror Show' Iced Earth's last record for Century Media?

MB: Actually it is not. They did a covers album 'A Tribute To The Gods' that we'll be putting out this summer, as well as the remixed and remastered first three albums, which we will be re-issuing with new artwork. After that it's a big question mark.

MU: What are the other "big" bands on the Century Media roster right now?

MB: The last Skinlab album, 'Disembody: The New Flesh', did very well. It sold like five times as many copies as their debut, so we're really excited. That record did about fifty thousand. We were hoping we could double those numbers on their new record (which will be a big priority for us) called 'reVoltingRoom'. Of course, Candiria does very well and Nevermore does very well. Shadows Fall is definitely growing . . . as is God Forbid.

MU: How about Nuclear Blast?

MB: Meshuggah has done very well, as well as Dimmu Borgir, In Flames and Savatage.

MU: Did you have anything to do with getting them to open those dates on the Tool tour?

MB: No, actually that was one of the neatest things. Basically, Tool just liked the band and invited them to do two weeks of dates with them.

MU: Do you think that has had any kind of impact on sales?

MB: We're hoping, but as of right now, honestly we haven't seen too much of an effect. Granted the tour came together quickly, and it was only for a couple of weeks. It was just in the Midwest, and of course it was around the time of the whole 9/11 crisis. We were just releasing this 'Rare Trax' record, which isn't a new studio album, so I think there were a lot of things against us. But, you know, we definitely had some more records ship, but the SoundScans for this and the last couple of records have all basically just stayed consistent. We still think that, especially in the long run, they exposed themselves to a whole new audience. I mean, those shows were drawing between 10-20,000 people per night.

MU: That's gotta be fun for the band.

MB: Yeah, it was great.

MU: I mean, playing in front of 10-20,000 per night - it's gotta count for something!

MB: They got a good reaction. I mean, there were kids at the shows and we sold a lot of merch. But honestly, we haven't seen, you know, huge numbers being bought. We believe it will help in setting up their new album, though.

MU: How important is it for an indie label to get the major tour support type of opportunities?

MB: I think it's very important. I think that we all strive to get those coveted spots. Some of it's a prestige thing. Some of it's an artist development thing. I think that if done properly, of course, you can sell a lot of records. But the pairing needs to make sense. You need to have enough time to promote. The fact that your band is on that larger tour, you need to make sure that you've got stuff going on, whether in press, or radio, in the market. You know, you've got to make sure that you've got records in the market, so that if people like it, they can find it and buy it. And you also need to be able to follow up. Meshuggah had all those things against them. It was still great fun, and it was totally cool and we wouldn't trade that for anything, but I think tours like Iced Earth with Megadeth make more sense.

MU: How did the Iced Earth / Megadeth tour come about?

MB: Again, thankfully, Dave Mustaine appears to be a fan. They actually invited them to do the first leg of the tour, which Endo was on. Iced Earth had to turn it down because they had already committed to the Judas Priest dates, which unfortunately fell through, or were postponed. But, when Mustaine found out that the band was available, he offered them the second leg.

MU: So, back to Nuclear Blast. You were telling me their biggest titles. And you jumped to Meshuggah. What else?

MB: The last Death album did very well for them. In Flames has been big.

MU: What kind of North American numbers are we talking about for these albums, generally speaking?

MB: 25,000 - 35,000.

MU: For Meshuggah and stuff like that?

MB: Yeah.


MB: And S.O.D. did very well.

MU: Right.

MB: That album is actually much bigger than the others.

MU: Until recently, Century Media was also working with Noise Records. What are some of the bigger titles there?

MB: Gamma Ray is currently their biggest artist. Kamelot does well. In the past, Pissing Razors was a big band for them, but of course, they are on Spitfire now. Those are kinda the big ones right now. Obviously, Noise doesn't have a lot of releases. I think they only did like seven last year.

MU: What kinda numbers in the US are we talking for Gamma Ray and stuff like that?

MB: It does about 7,000.

MU: Is this the same Noise Records who put out classic albums by Celtic Frost and Kreator? Is there continuity there?

MB: What do you mean "continuity"?

MU: I don't know. Is it the same people? Aesthetically and artistically, can you trace it back?

MB: Yeah. It is the same company.

MU: Did you read Tom G. Warrior's book 'Are You Morbid?'?

MB: Yes.

MU: He doesn't have a lot of nice things to say about Noise Records. Can we be thinking that when we are reading that book that this is the same company and the same philosophy here today?

MB: It's the same company. But, you know, things definitely change.

MU: Right.

MB: The original owner of the company, Karl Walterbach, actually sold it a couple of years ago to Sanctuary so he's no longer involved. But like many companies. . . I mean, the same thing could be said about Century Media. A lot of bands talked shit about Century Media in the early to mid '90s. No one that works here now is responsible for any of that then, and people learn and grow and develop and so forth. You can't really hold things against people.

MU: Let's talk about your background. Where did you grow up?

MB: Las Vegas.

MU: When did you get into Metal?

MB: Second grade. A classmate of mine turned me onto Kiss, which was basically probably an extension of comic books and so forth. The first album that I had my mom buy me was Kiss 'Alive 2'. It was 1977 and I was hooked. And I've been listening to stuff like that ever since. I mean, from Kiss I moved on to Ted Nugent, Aerosmith, AC/DC and on-and-on, you know.

MU: What do you think of Kiss today? Do you still have a respect for the band?

MB: Definitely!

MU: You do?

MB: Yeah!

MU: Even though they're selling Kiss caskets, and having their 87th "Farewell Tour" and all of that?

MB: Yeah. You know, there are a lot of negatives that can be said, and there are a lot of things that I wish were different, but at the end of the day Kiss is still number one to me. And it's still the first band, my favorite band. It means a lot to me from growing up and being inspired by them and so forth.

MU: Great.

MB: Yeah, I always try to think of them in a positive way.

MU: When and how did you transition from being involved by just being a fan to getting involved with the business?

MB: Probably when I was a freshman or sophomore in high school. I just started listening and getting into heavier and heavier stuff on independent labels and just trying to find out more and more. I was just picking up any metal magazines and that just accelerated. I moved from Circus and Hit Parader to Metal Forces, World Metal Report and Sledgehammer Press, and other 'zines like that from the time, and buying records, tape-trading. Just getting into the whole damn underground. And from there I started helping some bands out. I actually helped Flotsam and Jetsam. . . and Poison.

MU: What did you do for Flotsam? When did you do it?

MB: Right around when 'Doomsday. . ' came out. I thought that was an incredible record so I got in contact with the band. At that point I was in high school, and I was writing to virtually any and every band I could in the heavy metal underground. I just loved it. I would come home from school. Do my homework. Then write to bands. Listen to music and so forth. I wanted to help people out, and some people took me up on it. Flotsam and Jetsam and Poison both, you know, appreciated the assistance.

MU: So, you wrote a letter to Flotsam and Jetsam and said what can I do? Can I put up fliers? Can I. . . right?

MB: Jason Newsted wrote back and we became friends, and. . . Poison was the same way. I would put up displays in Las Vegas. I'd track stores. I mean, it was kind of a street team thing. I'd do what ever I could. I would request their songs on the radio, tell other people about it. Simple stuff. That was the. . . the humble beginnings.

MU: Let's talk about a couple of particular bands very quickly. Flotsam. Eric A.K. has supposedly retired from the business. What a long trip that must have been for him from when you were helping the band out until today.

MB: Right.

MU: Are you still a fan?

MB: Yeah, I'm still a fan. I still, you know, usually see them live about once a year. I still get their records. I can't say that I am as enthusiastic about the band as I was on the first, or second record. But, I've followed their career. I've tried to support them. It really is about the first and second record for me.

MU: What about Jason now leaving Metallica. Do you have any thoughts on that?

MB: I'm sad to see that happen. I remember having phone conversations with him at the time when he was trying out. When he was learning stuff, before he went up there and got the gig. I remember how important it was to him and how hard he worked for that, and how much it meant to him when he was in. So, in some ways, it's kinda sad to see it come full circle, and him leave that situation. But he's done what he's done and he's had a great and successful time with it, and I suppose he feels the need to move on. I am curious to see what's going to happen with the projects that he is doing whether it's Echobrain or Voivod. Or producing Speedealer.

MU: What does that say about the metal scene that Jason Newsted is willing to play on the new Voivod record?

MB: I think that's exciting and totally cool. I think that it shows that Jason still has his heart and mind in the same place. All three of those bands are very diverse, and I've always supported people that have been open-minded, and supportive of the scene in general. So, I think it's cool. But, I'm curious like everyone else to see what Metallica is going to do, and how it will affect them as a live band.

MU: Are you still a Metallica fan?

MB: Yeah. They have had their ups-and-downs, and we can all debate that, but there is no denying what they contributed to the metal scene. I think even what they continue to contribute. I think they are still a great live band.

MU: So, ok. Poison. You said you worked with them. Were you a fan, and did you remain a fan?

MB: Yeah.

MU: And are you willing to sit here on and defend Poison?

MB: Well, again I think the first record is the best record, and every record from that point was less exciting. But, yeah, sometimes I like a lot of the real like simple, poppy stuff. I think that it comes from a foundation of Kiss and the Beatles. Growing up I could always listen to stuff like Venom and Poison and whatever back to back. Some people may think that's sacrilegious, but I've always been open-minded, and that remains today. I can listen to death metal, black metal, nu-metal, gothic metal, whatever. I like it all.

MU: Very cool.

MB: I just love the whole genre.

MU: Well, how did you move from being involved with Poison and Flotsam and Jetsam to the next step in your career?

MB: I knew I wanted to work in the music business, so I began seeking out colleges that had courses in the music business. I was good at school and I wanted to help people that were talented and patient enough to develop their skills. I wanted to support and help those people to let them be on stage and perform. That part personally never really interested me.

MU: Are you a musician?

MB: No. Not really. I've tinkered around on guitar and piano, but I never really had the passion to play or perform. I always was fascinated by biographies and movies about bands and the backgrounds of bands and the business behind it.

MU: What's the best movie or book about the backgrounds of bands?

MB: I love Danny Sugarman's book about The Doors ['No One Gets Out Of Here Alive'] which was something that I read when I was probably in junior high. I read it in like two days. 'Kisstory' of course was a great book, Maiden's 'Run To The Hills'. Those are three that come to mind.

MU: Anything about the metal business that you ever read that jumped out at you?

MB: Not really. As far as I know there is not one about the metal business in general. There are obviously books about the music business. Like 'Hitmen ', 'Everything You Want to Know About The Music Business' and things like that. I just love and read all of that stuff. When I can get my hands on that stuff, I do. And I watch all of those "Behind the Musics" even so I can hear about Willie Nelson.

MU: Did you see the Megadeth episode?

MB: Of course.

MU: And Metallica?

MB: Yep.

MU: Judas Priest?

MB: Yep.

MU: Who else? What other heavy metal bands do you think deserve a Behind the Music? Let me rephrase: what other metal episodes do you think it is reasonable to expect an episode might some day be made?

MB: Hmmm. You put me on the spot.

MU: Iron Maiden?

MB: Iron Maiden, yeah, definitely. Dio?

MU: Maybe someday there'll be an Iced Earth episode. (laughs)

MB: That would be cool.

MU: What band on Century Media right now has a shot at someday at having a Behind the Music special?

MB: Iced Earth. They are doing well, and they've got quite a story to tell.

MU: Did you ever see the movie 'Almost Famous'?

MB: Yeah.

MU: Did you like that movie?

MB: Yeah. There's also 'Rock Star'.

MU: What do you think of 'Rock Star'?

MB: I loved it. I thought it was. . . it was fun. It was fairly realistic. And it was a good time.

MU: Not the Judas Priest story?

MB: No, it's not. But, I don't think they ever really claimed that it was. I think it was just inspired by it.

MU: Right.

MB: There were definitely similarities that. . . parallels that can be taught. But no, it is not the Judas Priest story.

MU: Well, ultimately, you chose a college right? Where did you go?

MB: I went to the University of Pacific in Stockton, California. Which is kind of just outside the Bay Area, and. . .

MU: And they had a course in the music business.

MB: They had a music business major.

MU: Do the people at UOP know who you are? Are they aware of the fact that you're now running a label? Are you in touch?

MB: No. Actually, I am not. I heard just about a year or two ago that they did away with that major, and I was kind of bummed to hear that.

MU: They could have had you come back and teach a class.

MB: Yeah. I always kind of wanted. . . not to teach a class, but I mean. . . we had guest speakers here and there and I always thought, 'Wow, that would be cool'. You know, 'That could be me'.

MU: Right on.

MB: But, no. I didn't really keep in touch.

MU: Anybody else you go to school with actually end up living the dream?

MB: Yeah, a lot of people obviously moved to LA and got involved. Many of them are involved on the publishing end and some are working for major labels or management companies.

MU: Cool.

MB: Some are working with theaters and some are performing actually, like side-men with jazz bands and so forth.

MU: Did you do anything else in school related to the business besides just attend class?

MB: In my second semester I started managing bands and I started a 'zine.

MU: Who were some of the bands that you managed?

MB: I managed The Horde of Torment.


MB: It was a band from Vegas, that were originally called Pestilence. We had to change the name due to the Dutch band getting signed to Roadrunner. About a year after I managed them, I was up in the Bay Area, they were still in Vegas so they moved up to the Bay Area, and got involved in that scene. Of course, at that time the Bay Area scene was thriving, and nothing was really going on in Vegas. I told them, you gotta come up here when bands like Forbidden and Violence and so forth were breaking out. They did very well in that scene, but unfortunately a record deal eluded them even though there was some interest. And really the only character that has gone on and done anything of note is Ahrue Luster who is now the guitarist in Machine Head.

MU: You went to the Thrash of the Titans benefit, right?

MB: Right.

MU: What did you think of that show?

MB: I loved it. It was kind of like a high school reunion or something. I haven't been up there in awhile and I haven't kept in contact with some of the people, but it was tons of familiar faces. It was just really cool to be back in that environment, and it was a really, really supportive day / event. And some of the bands like Death Angel I thought were amazing. Others were more fun than amazing.

MU: What do you mean?

MB: Some were kind of just a glimmer of their former selves, but it was still really cool to see bands like Heathen and Forbidden Evil. And Legacy and so forth.

MU: What did you think of Vio-lence?

MB: Vio-lence is actually one of my favorite bands from that scene. It meant a lot to actually see and hang out with those guys and watch them perform. I have to be honest and say that I think in their demo days when I would go see them they were obviously more pissed and energetic.

MU: Right.

MB: They had a lot more conviction. But it was still a lot of fun to see them and be able to talk to Phil and Sean and those guys.

MU: Somebody ought to re-release the old Vio-lence records, eh?

MB: I agree. The thought's crossed my mind.

MU: What's stopping you?

MB: I don't know. I guess I haven't moved forward with that. I know they didn't sell that well back in the day, but I know there's pockets of fame, and they definitely have a cult following.

MU: Cool.

MB: They should have been big.

MU: So, after. . . besides Horde of Torment. What else?

MB: There was a band called Epidemic from the Bay Area. They actually got signed to Metal Blade.

MU: Were you shopping these bands yourself?

MB: I was shopping them when I was in school.

MU: And what did that entail? Did you just call up label heads?

MB: Yeah. Putting together press kits. I was handling a lot of the publicity for the bands at the time. I was booking them shows.

MU: Back in those days, when you put together a press kit and sent it to Metal Blade Records, did you know the guy who was getting it? Did you call him first?

MB: Yeah. I would make the calls. I was coming down to the Foundations Forums at the time.

MU: Were the people there cool to you, even though you were just a kid in school?

MB: Yeah. Some people were totally cool and would take your call and talk to you. Other people wouldn't return your calls. Had attitude. Couldn't care less. You gotta do what you gotta do to try to make an impact, and I felt like those bands had built up a story and were getting a lot of the shows and there wasn't any denying that they had a lot of press internationally in the underground.

MU: So, it wasn't you having to do the work. The music was already doing the talking, or at least. . .

MB: Yeah. I obviously thought that both bands had something to offer. I thought. . . you know, good players, good guys and great bands. We worked together, and I, of course, learned a lot and met a lot of people from working with those bands.

MU: When people call and try to get in touch with you today in similar situations, where the tables are turned, are you taking those calls from college students who want to tell you about the hot new band in their town? Is it a different business today?

MB: I always try and remember what it was like when I was a manager doing the 'zine and how intimidating it can be sometimes and how important it is get your call returned and to talk to someone on a label. So, I really do try and make the effort to return all my calls. And, of course, sometimes you don't want to. But, like I said, I remember what it was like, and I remember how much it means to be that person on the other end and I don't ever want to forget that.

MU: It's not exactly a lucrative business to be a heavy metal manager. Right?

MB: No. I've never done this really for the money. I've done it because it was fun, and I want to contribute to scene. I enjoy it. You know, it brings me satisfaction and makes the bands happy, and ultimately makes the fans happy. And that's why I do it. Fortunately, I have been successful and I've been able to make a living doing this.

MU: Great. Now. OK. So, where did you go after college? You are shopping bands, you are talking to Metal Blade. What happened next?

MB: I also started up a 'zine at that time that was called No Glam Fags. That was my sophomore year in college. Basically I did that because I was sending around demos to other 'zines and talking to these people and I thought, "I could do this. What makes these people that much different from me?" There weren't any 'zines in the Bay Area so my roommate and I just pulled some stuff together from our collections. We interviewed some bands that we were friends with, and we just built it up.

MU: Right.

MB: We starting communicating with the labels, and you know, getting promos, and getting advertising and distributors, and it's just kind of grown and grown to where it is today, which you know as Ill Literature.

MU: When did a transition the name to Ill Literature?

MB: I changed the name maybe around '94 or so with issue number 7. It started as a joke. "No Glam Fags". It was very fitting at the time, in the late '80s. Those guys were everywhere, of course. And every supermarket had magazines that catered to that scene. I just felt that - while I personally didn't have a distaste for it - those bands had enough support and I thought the name was something that was funny, and attention grabbing, and I wasn't featuring any of those artists who had enough coverage elsewhere. But as the years went on, I think as the glam scene died, and faded away, it wasn't funny, it wasn't shocking anymore. Some people had a problem with the "Fags" part of it and it probably didn't help that I was in San Francisco. So I shortened it to NGF, which didn't mean anything. Ultimately, I wanted to take it to the next level with a color cover and more professional look and started dealing with some national distributors, etc.

MU: Well, let's pause. First, you say that some people had a problem with the "Fags" part of the name. What do you think of the "Fags" part? Do you think a lot of Metal people throw the word "gay" around? Does that bother you? Or is it "gay" to worry about it? (laughing)

MB: It doesn't bother me. I understand what people mean when they say that. It's just a term.

MU: And what about Satanism in metal? Is that something that is important?

MB: I am not really someone that gets too uptight about anything.

MU: About any lyrics? What about. . .

MB: I am pretty liberal.

MU: Would you sign a racist . . . like a KKK type band to Century Media if the music was awesome?

MB: Probably not. I mean we haven't encountered anything like that. But, a racist band that's awesome, I guess.

MU: (laughs)

MB: But I do understand that at a business level, there are other things that need to be considered.

MU: That's a good answer. So, it doesn't matter. You personally could certainly be pretty laissez faire about something, but it still may not be the right thing for the company to do, right?

MB: Right.

MU: So when Ill Literature was called No Glam Fags, there was a whole idea not to include certain bands because they were getting too much mainstream coverage already. But I've noticed that in Ill Literature, there are recent issues sort of embrace the idea of bringing in some more popular acts. You know what I'm talking about?

MB: Yeah. Originally, it was a fanzine so that was it's original intent. Of course by doing it for the thirteen years now, things change, and it represents different scenes at different times. I've gone through the whole thrash, grunge, glam, death, black. I mean, that magazine has been there through it all, and it's never been about one scene, and I think that's another reason why it's survived and existed for so long. But, yeah in recent issues I feel like the nu-metal stuff is a part of the scene and should be covered. While some of those bands are getting coverage elsewhere, it's either because I like them or I think that it may open the door to someone else that may like them, and I am trying to attract younger readers. I am trying to get them interested in different things and make them recognize that a lot of this stuff is gateway metal.

MU: Exactly.

MB: And if you like Slipknot or you like someone else, you may like, you know, In Flames, or whatever.

MU: What do you think of this latest Slipknot record?

MB: I think it's good but on a whole, I think that that band is overrated.

MU: Right.

MB: Of course, you know, growing up with Kiss and Alice Cooper and so forth, I love some of the theatrical rock stuff. So, their image and their gimmickry and their live show is entertaining. I thought it was good and it was interesting, but I was surprised that the debut sold 1.3 million copies. But, at the same time, it's a good thing for the metal scene for any band whether it's Pantera, Slipknot, or whoever, to be selling a lot of records, and having heavy music out there, getting coverage in like Rolling Stone, and a lot of it, like I said, is a gateway. You know, many of us who got into heavier stuff, were initially exposed to Iron Maiden or Motley Crue or something like that.

MU: Right.

MB: To some people it's a flavor-of-the-week and they are into it because it's cool. Other people that you know are going to want heavier stuff and stuff that's more personal and stuff that relates to them, that they can call their own. And, of course, working on the independent trip, I feel that the underground is rich with talent, and there is a lot of things that kids that listen to this stuff - their ears are open now to heavy music - that there are a lot of other things that they could get turned on to.

MU: What do you think of the direction Roadrunner Records has taken?

MB: That's fine. I mean, they've had success with their artists. The only problem that sometimes I have with Roadrunner is sometimes they are fickle, and they'll develop a scene, you know, like death metal and then they'll turn their back on it once they think it's done. And for whatever reason they do that, business or personal taste or whatever, leading Century Media I haven't tried to take that as an example. We still have Unleashed and Grave on the label, and we're putting out new records in 2002 from both of those, but we still believe in Iced Earth, traditional stuff, even though we are trying to sell more and more records and become more diverse by signing bands like Shadows Fall, Haste, God Forbid and Candiria. At the same time, though, it's okay to put out Royal Hunt and Sonata Arctica. . .

MU: Right.

MB: . . . And Krisiun, Cryptopsy, and stuff like that. So, that's really the only way that I think we differ, but there's no denying Roadrunner's had a lot of success even with commercial stuff like Nickelback.

MU: What do you think of the fact that Slayer is still on a major label?

MB: I think that's great. And wish that they would sell more records. I can't believe that they are an inspiration to so many bands, so many fans, and you know their new record sells substantially less than P.O.D. or System of a Down or something. They might sell 10x what Slayer does, but we all know that in reality Slayer is maybe 10x the band.

MU: Right on.

MB: There's always injustice.

MU: (laughs) So getting back to - you put out the 'zine. Then what did you do? How did you move into working for a label?

MB: I think it happened between the combination of my education at the time, building up connections at the other 'zines, and trying to work with bands, clubs and so forth. Even though at the time, my school thought that I shouldn't be all over the place, as I was. They thought that I should be focusing on my studies. As my professor at the time said, I guess, I got the ball and I ran with it. But, yeah, I had one more semester of school to go, and I was at Foundations Forum, and I heard about an opportunity where Metal Blade needed an assistant publicist. And, of course, growing up with Metal Blade records I felt like I knew a lot about the company, and I was totally interested in working there. I could do that job. And I wanted that job. That was my foot in the door. I went for it! And thankfully I got it. It was a great experience. Of course, it was a little compromising because I had one semester of school left, but I knew there is no way they are going to wait for me. So, I petitioned my school and I was allowed to move to LA and I went to Cal State Northridge and I transferred my credits and I took classes at night after work and on the weekends so that I could graduate with my class the following May.

MU: Now, a couple of things. First of all, how important was Foundations Forum to the scene back then? And is there any equivalent now?

MB: I think it was very important at the time. I can understand why in the early '90s it got sparse, but at the time it was a great opportunity to expose new bands, as well as established artists. And more so, probably to have the chance to meet people whether they were people that really wanted an opportunity like other 'zine editors, people who wanted to break into the business or new, unsigned bands. Or whether it was people who had been working in the business for years - being able to stand side-by-side with these people was very cool, and having panels, the kind that gave you an insight on what the music business was about.

MU: Where does somebody go for an experience like that today? What's the closest to thing to that that exists now?

MB: I guess there are things that are similar, but not really metal related like the CMJ Convention or South by Southwest give people an opportunity to interact with the music business. Unfortunately, they are not specializing in metal. At this point, I am assuming the best bet would be Milwaukee Metalfest, New England, Powermad, ProgPower and other fests like that where labels go out, set up booths, and represent bands and so forth - where we have the opportunity talk to fans and vice versa.

MU: What is the metal contingent like at something like CMJ or South by Southwest?

MB: It's a small quotient. It's always there. I think metal will always be there, but it's just a small percentage of the people. And you know, they usually throw us a bone, and they will give you a couple of showcases or a couple of random bands, but as a whole it definitely is not a metal event.

MU: Let's talk about Metal Blade for a second. Brian Slagel. Right now, just looking at the company as a whole, where it is today, where has it come from, and what's Brian been able to contribute to the scene. What are your thoughts on all of that?

MB: Definitely kudos go to Brian. He had a 'zine, The New Heavy Metal Revue, that kicked things off, and he worked at a store. He was just a fan that supported the stuff. You know the 'Metal Massacres' are great and he's got a lot of great records in his catalog. He's discovered a lot of great bands. I don't think he ever really set out to be doing a metal label 20 years into it. He was just a fan that took the opportunity to promote something he genuinely loved and he's been successful at it. Of course, being able to work for someone like that was incredible, and it was quite the learning experience, whether from him or the others that I worked with there, and having the opportunity to work with a lot of the bands that I did, like Armored Saint, Fates Warning, Gwar, the Goo Goo Dolls, and so on. It was wonderful, and a lot of those bands were bands that I was a fan of already. I was given a lot of opportunities while I was there, just shy of five years, and I grew within that company. As someone who just started there to go through magazines and cut out press and put press kits together, to actually running the entire publicity department and doing entire campaigns and getting entirely involved in marketing and the presentation of things, as well as doing A&R, and signing bands.

MU: So who did you sign to Metal Blade?

MB: Skrew. Broken Hope. Desultory. Crisis.

MU: What's going on with Crisis right now, besides the fact they recently changed their name to Skullsick Nation?

MB: They are out here in LA. They've been playing around. They've been here maybe a year-and-a-half. They had a little bit of a setback because Tony Costanza, their drummer, went to Crowbar, but they just got a new guy. They' ve played a few gigs since and it seems more theatrical / art rock-ish. They've done a couple of demos since they've been here and they are still looking for a deal.

MU: And Karyn's on the Six Feet Under record.

MB: Yeah.

MU: Why did you leave Metal Blade?

MB: After about five years' time I felt like I had done pretty much all the growing that I could do in that environment. I sort of recognized that there wasn't really any other chance for more growth, and to continue moving up. Also, you know, I had worked a number of Gwar, Cannibal Corpse, etc. records, and I felt like I really couldn't give those records a new spin.

MU: Right.

MB: I just kind of thought my time had come and the opportunity presented itself here at Century Media, so I took it. Even though at the time a lot of people warned me not to, because Century Media was a smaller company than Metal Blade, and some people thought it was a step backwards, but to me it was an exciting challenge and I went for it. Thankfully, it's worked out better than I ever imagined.

MU: Overall Metal Blade is a bigger label in North America. True?

MB: I disagree.

MU: What? Some of their biggest records though. Like Goo Goo Dolls and stuff. Right, they are like. . .

MB: Well, are we talking about the legacy or are we talking about currently?

MU: Both.

MB: As a legacy, they have been around twice as long and they have discovered some great bands, such as Metallica, Slayer, Goo Goo Dolls and so forth. There is no competing against that. But, I like to think that nowadays this is a bigger, better label. We are developing cutting edge bands. We are getting more tours. We are growing monumentally. One of the things that sort of bothered me about Metal Blade was they weren't growing. What they did, they did it well, but what's exciting about this label is this company grows exponentially every year.

MU: Will Century Media always support true metal?

MB: Of course.

MU: OK. Simple as that. Right?

MB: Yeah.

MU: You will always be left of center.

MB: As long as I'm here we will always cater to every subgenre of heavy metal. I love all of that stuff and while Century Media does not wholly represent just my taste and my interests, but I will never, ever forget our roots - you know, with Grave and Unleashed, etc. So, we will always cater to death metal, black metal, traditional metal, whatever. I want to work the entire spectrum, and we've done that the past six years that I've been here, and I want to continue doing that.

MU: Let's look at this scene now and look toward the future. First of all, generally, what do you think of other 'zines - are there some you especially like or some you think are doing an especially good job? What I'm going to do is take you through a couple of segments of the current scene and get you to say who you think is doing it right. First, 'zines. Are there any particular 'zines that you enjoy reading?

MB: Yeah. I love Brave Words and Bloody Knuckles, Unrestrained and Snakepit. Those are probably my favorites. I don't know, maybe some of those are more like magazines, but I'm very giddy and excited when we get new issues of those.

MU: What's the most important metal publication right now?

MB: Hmmm. . .

MU: The Rolling Stone of metal.

MB: I guess I'd like to say Brave Words. I mean, I can't believe that Tim's popping that thing out monthly. It looks great. It's very, very informative. There is a ton of information. The only other major catering to metal in North America is 'Metal Maniacs'.

MU: And how do you think they are doing in 2001?

MB: I think it's good. I think they have been consistent. And they are definitely, you know, they give metal a great outlet. They definitely support Century Media and we appreciate that, but sometimes I just wish that there was more in there. Or that it would come out more often. Or that the format and the layout was nicer and more professional.

MU: What about television? Is there anything on TV? Any kind of outlet for metal right now worth talking about?

MB: Unfortunately, outside of a few regional video shows, there is nothing that is wholly dedicated to it. I mean there are things like "Rock Show" on VH1.

MU: What do you think of that?

MB: It's better than nothing, but like a lot of specialty radio shows and video shows, it seems more mainstream. It's either about the '80s and Quiet Riot and AC/DC and so forth or if it's something current, it's about Staind and Linkin Park or something like that. It kind of annoys me when the underground is so rich and there are so many independent records or videos that are good and that are exciting and that if something is happening to Priest or AC/DC or whatever, you could still like, you know, some of the bands that exist now but the mainstream will remain oblivious to them. If the mainstream exposure was through the magazines like 'Rolling Stone' or 'Spin' or MTV, VH1 and commercial radio stations they will never know. It's amazing the conversations that I have had with people that I have met that aren't involved in heavy metal and they think that only those bands exist. Only bands like, you know, Pantera, Megadeth. They don't recognize that heavy metal has changed and has evolved and that there are hundreds of bands and tons of labels that cater to this genre and that have great and incredible stuff.

MU: And what about the Internet?

MB: This has become an unbelievable resource for this stuff. Getting news out there is amazing. And being able to communicate via e-mail, and chatrooms has been amazing. Of course, sites like yours and with news, interviews, reviews, it's great! And unfortunately, I feel like it's taken the traditional print publications and kind of put them on the back seat. As a rabid fan, I want to know people's opinions of an album or the news as soon as possible . So, I think it's kind of hurt the traditional medium, although magazines will never die, because people are not going to take their computers into the bathroom with them.

MU: (laughs) Right. What about the Century Media site? And the Ill Literature web site? Are you involved?

MB: The Ill Literature web site is an embarrassment at this point, because unfortunately, I have been so busy, I haven't been able to keep up with it. And you know, it's very difficult to compete with sites that are updated daily at this point, when I just a year-and-a-half ago thought that doing it once a month was good enough.

MU: Right.

MB: It shows how fast things have been progressing. So, I think I am going to bow out graciously on that fairly soon because I can't compete and I will rather allow the people that do it best to do it. The Century Media web site, of course, is an important corner of the company. We get a lot of hits and there is a lot of information there whether news or the shopping element. Or the video downloads. So, I think it's an important piece where people can go and find out more about the company, about the bands, or are able to get stuff or to check stuff out. It's something that we are constantly working on a daily basis to try and improve and to try and make better.

MU: Right on. Two more questions. First: Tours. What do you think the Ozzfest and stuff like that? And that's not as obvious as a question for you as it might seem because you do say you like some new metal and stuff like that.

MB: Touring, I think, is very important for heavy metal in general. I think especially at this level. Records sell because of touring and because of press and word of mouth. Of course, on a larger level, we know that people sell a lot of records and they sell them more to the mainstream when you know there's commercial radio play, and commercial video play, but at this level, it's all about the tours and the press, and the underground buzz that's developed.

MU: So, what do you think of the Ozzfest?

MB: I think it's a great idea. Personally, I don't think it's been carried out to the greatest effect. It's very, very political. It's very, very expensive to be a part of it. The side stages are basically the favor stages. I was kind of excited at first last year when I found out they were adding more bands, and they were hopefully going to add some underground or independent bands, but apparently that. . .

MU: If you have one band you could put on 2002, who would it be?

MB: That's pretty tough - to narrow it down to one. Of course, I'd love to see Skinlab, Iced Earth, Shadows Fall, God Forbid, from Century Media on there. They all kinda represent different things.

MU: Cool. What about Milwaukee Metalfest?

MB: I think that again is a great outlet. It may not be as good as some of the European festivals I've attended, or as well organized, but still it gives people a good opportunity to meet people, witness some bands that they may not normally see. And it's a good coming together. I wish that we could develop those festivals to be something like a Wacken or Dynamo. But, you know, maybe in time.

MU: All right. Quick. Are you surprised by Cradle of Filth's signing to Sony Music?

MB: Yes and no. I'm not really surprised. I guess it was just a matter of time before it happened. Really, the thing is now seeing what they are going to do with it. Is it going to be a foreign priority? Are they going to become like a Marilyn Manson? Or they may not know what to do with them. And then they will, you know, they will flop. It will be interesting to see if they have them opening up for big bands, or if they are going to just have them, you know, headline and play to their cult following.

MU: Supposedly, Cradle turned down the fall Ozzy tour.

MB: Yeah, which doesn't make any sense to me. I think that was a mistake. I mean they wanted to work on their next record, but you know, a tour like that could have exposed them to a whole new audience.

MU: OK. All right. What about Morbid Angel opening up for Pantera?

MB: I think that was great. I think that they are one of the best examples of a large band. I think they've done it right, where they usually take out a middle act that means something, that sells records, and that uses the labels or the management, and they utilize that opening slot and give it to a Neurosis, Crowbar, Eyehategod, or Morbid Angel which is great for the scene. I think that's wonderful. I wish more bands would do that. I think that's really what it's all about.

MU: What about Mike Patton singing on a Dillinger Escape Plan album?

MB: That's cool. We know that Mike Patton has liked Dillinger for a while. He has taken them out on tour. So, I think it's interesting. I look forward to checking it out.

MU: Right on. So, I guess to wrap up, do you see any trends coming for the future?

MB: I don't know. I think the underground is thriving. Bands are developing - like In Flames. I love the melodic, aggressive styles coming from Europe so I hope that develops more. At the same time, Century Media has grown as I mentioned exponentially and there are continued challenges here. We continue to grow year by year, and we are just trying to do the bands and the fans right. I hope the people appreciate the records and the tours that we put together. We put a lot of heart and creativity and imagination into the things that we do. But at the end of the day we are just a group of fans that are trying to give something back, and to make people happy in the process.











Interview: Eric German [ ]
Editor: Brant Wintersteen [ ]
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