Brian Slagel Interview

Brian Slagel

Metal Blade Records

Metal Blade head honcho Brian Slagel just released the book For The Sake Of Heaviness: The History Of Metal Blade Records. It recounts the humble beginning and rise to success of one of metal’s best known record labels. Slagel fills us in on the book, the current state of the music industry and other subjects.

Chad Bowar: Why was this the right time to tell the Metal Blade story?
Brian Slagel: Being it is out 35th anniversary it felt like a good time to do it.

How did you decide to collaborate with Mark Eglinton?
I talked with a few authors and just felt the way he writes would be good for what I wanted.

What was the most difficult part of the process?
Just the time. Doing this while running a buisness was a bit difficult on time.

You mentioned some bands that you didn’t end up signing to Metal Blade because of bidding wars, etc. Was there a band you simply passed on that you later regretted not bringing aboard?
Volbeat. I heard their original demo and thought it was great! The rest of our staff did not agree, so we missed out.

You liked Motley Crue, but didn’t sign any of the subsequent “hair bands.” How come?
I felt that scene became something that I was not that into. I was into the heavier bands so it just did not happen that I signed those types.

What are some the label’s most underrated albums that didn’t hit because of timing or other reasons, but in retrospect are really good?
I think anything by the Galactic Cowboys was amazing, but timing was not right. Another band that is coming back a bit is Princess Pang. They were just ahead of their time.

You talked about how reissues were a big part of your business at one time. Is there still a good market for them today?
Yes for sure. We are doing a lot of vinyl reissues from Roadrunner and other labels.

With the move to consumers renting music (via Spotify, Apple Music) instead of buying (vinyl, CDs, MP3s), does that change the way you approach things?
I think whenever there is a change in formats we try to embrace that as much as we can. So we are working with those companies to maximize our catalogs. I am not sure it is renting other than just paying every time you listen to something, kind of.

About 10 years ago it seemed that “360 deals” would be the next big thing. What business model do you think will allow both labels and artists to succeed in the future?
We never did 360 deals as we did not think that was the right thing to do. Successful bands have a great team around them that consists of labels, managers, agents and lawyers who are all on the same page driving the band forward. That is the best way these days to be successful in all areas.

What’s the biggest mistake you see other metal labels making?
Not sure really anyone is making big mistakes right now. Not that I can see, really.

The promotional cycle has changed dramatically, from releasing maybe one single in advance of an album to now setting things up months in advance with in-studio videos, multiple singles, lyric videos, regular videos, etc. Do you think the current way is more effective?
I think it can be. Depends on how you really work it. With the last Amon Amarth album we did the opposite and kind of kept them dark unitl we announced the album and that worked great!

How relevant are music videos in 2017?
I think if done right they still play a big role in an artist’s life.

There has been a lot of talk that reviews are becoming obsolete. Do you think that’s the case?
I think they still help, always good to see what other people say. Especially if they have similar tastes to you.

You’re putting up “Throwback Thursday” videos on your YouTube channel to celebrate the label’s 35th anniversary. Any other plans to commemorate that particular anniversary?
The book for sure. We are doing some signings and 35 celebrations coming up. Check out metalblade.com for more info!

Are there any bands left on your bucket list to see live?
I think I have seen everyone that is still living!

As the years have gone on and Metal Blade has added more staff, have you become more hands-off and “big picture,” or do you still stay as involved in day to day details?
I am still involved day to day. We have an amazing staff that lets me concentrate on things I feel I am good at like dealing with the bands, etc. But I have an eye on everything still.

What are you most proud of when it comes to Metal Blade?
I think just the fact that we are still around 35 years later with an amazing artist roster and staff.

Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Just thanks to everyone for all the support over all these years. We could not have done this without you!

(interview published September 11, 2017)

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