Being an addict to grindcore and death metal, Selfmadegod Records has always been one of my go to record labels for quality releases in these genres. Over the past 16 years, this Poland based labels have been signing and releasing records of some of the most promising talents in the underground, some of whom have gone on to become legends in their own right. So we felt it necessary to throw the spotlight on one of the pillars of extreme music today and here we have an interview, followed by some of the notable recent releases under the Selfmadegod banner. ~ Shrivatsan R.
Transcending Obscurity (Kunal Choksi): One of the earliest CDs that I have in possession from your label is the Self Hate one, followed by the Agathocles compilations. It’s evident that you had a penchant for grindcore and it’s great to see that your label has come a long way since then, also covering death metal and other experimental styles. How was the process for your label to become into the respected entity that it is now?
SelfMadeGod (Karol Pieńko): First of all, thanks for sending me the questions. Yes, two first releases were AGATHOCLES – ‘Mince Core History 1989-1993’ CD and SELFHATE – ‘At The Beginning God Created Fear’ CD, it was 15 years ago, back in 2001. Me and my friend Daniel who was helping me with the label at the beginning have been a lot into grindcore at that time and it was our dream to release anything from AGATHOCLES. There were some tape releases before we started putting out CDs and vinyls so it was quite natural to have AGATHOCLES as cat#1 release. We have been befriended with current (back then) SELFHATE drummer and knew the band recorded an album that hadn’t seen the daylight and so it was quite obvious to have it released on our label. Well, I can only say it has been long way to get through all the years and even harder since the beginning of the century music business or underground “business” and vision of how fans should get their music has changed a lot. During this period we haven’t looked back, at least this is what I think. We have been going forward and pushing it to the limit. To get released the best bands around and their awesome albums, meet cool people, watch great bands live etc. This is what has brought us here, 16 years later.
TO: What do you consider before signing on any band? Has there been any deterrent in the past when it came to signing bands, such as say the band’s expected budget or attitude? Do you have a policy that you follow?
SMG: Well, the most important thing for me is music. I have to like it, if I don’t how could I sign any band? This is what pushes me to contact a band or to find out more about their music/activity/attitude as a band. I can’t imagine it any other way. If I dig music I get in touch with a band. We have to understand each other, to talk the same language if you know what I mean. Then we can understand our expectations which is something relevant too. This way we could avoid any problems in the future. I don’t want to work with people who don’t like my label and bands I have been working with. So it works both sides actually.
TO: You’ve put out several LPs and splits. How would you compare their sales with CDs nowadays? With all said and done, does it really make sense for a label to explore these formats, taking into account that it’s incredibly expensive to make vinyls, what with the added exorbitant shipping costs these days?
SMG: So far we have done over 150 releases and 10-15% of them are vinyls. Honestly I prefer CD format from the very first days. I like 7″EPs, split EPs and as well LP versions of the albums but overall I try to stick to CDs. I don’t even collect any vinyls myself. I stopped shortly before this crazy vinyl avalanche has started. As for comparing CD vs vinyls sales nowadays its easy to notice how “cool” is to collect vinyls now. You can feel this fashion everywhere because this is just another fashion. Of course I don’t say everyone is about fashion as we know that some people never go hand in hand with something that’s popular at certain moment. But because of this “pressure” people start buying vinyls now more than before. If you have been collecting CDs for 20 years or so and suddenly start collecting vinyls and say “CDs are not cool” how can I call it if not fashion? People say they are poor and have no money but how can you explain the fact they spend twice more amount + expensive shipping on vinyls? Then making picture of new records and putting it on Facebook, it’s “so fucking cool”, isn’t it? But you can’t blame people for that. Vinyls, clothes, music. This is how such things work in this world. People follow fashions, this time it’s a vinyl fashion. Let’s wait and see if they still collect it in 5-10 years. I am sure some will but not everyone of them. Probably like 10-20% will stay “true”, the rest will give up and start with another fashion. So summing up it’s cool that people buy records/vinyls as long as it’s not just fashion. I just hope my label will keep working the way it’s now and release same amount of CDs in the future.
TO: What do you think of the rampant illegal downloading that is taking place? Do you think they have affected your sales? On the other hand, you see the emergence of digital sales platforms like Bandcamp in particular (others give an insignificant revenue, to be honest) – do you think there is a future for the labels?
SMG: Of course it sucks big time but what can we do about that? Guess it’s same like with copying tapes back in the days, nowadays it took different form but idea is the same: to get as much music as possible without paying for it it or – in other words – getting it for free. I see it this way: people who has never bought anything no matter if it’s tape or CD will never buy it anyway even if its digital. They just want it for free no matter what. Talking about Bandcamp and their increasing sales of digital downloads and at the same time selling physical format and merchandise it’s just fucking great! They definitely support bands and labels. It comes out of heart. On the other hand, the latest news about iTunes going down, for them it’s just another source of profits. They don’t support music (music industry), they just want our money, squeeze it to the limit and abandon us. It’s just numbers. If the numbers don’t match they don’t do it anymore. I am sure many labels will do well or at least good in the future but what shape it’s going to take I have no idea. Maybe we will be releasing CDs, maybe vinyls or maybe USB sticks or just digital downloads. Who knows…
TO: Lastly, what do you think of the increasing importance of promotion in this digital era?
SMG: This is quite the natural thing too. It’s all about humans, how we live, how fast we “consume” information and the need of new information. The same happens with music and thus PR, promotion, press, magazines etc. Back in the days journalists were happy about getting physical promos, now some of them don’t even consider it.Tthey want to get it faster, digital, can make better use of it this way. They share it with their workers, friends-journalists very easily and quickly. I guess it’s easier this way too. I have had “magazine/webzine” episode in my life too and know a bit on how it works. It was 10 years ago, now I think it’d be much easier to work on a webzine if we had digital promos instead of physical. So I think it only helps and making things easier thanks to tools like Haulix, SoundCloud, Bandcamp etc.
TO: Thank you so much for your time and interest. Please feel free to reveal some plans for the label for this year.
Thanks for your support and patience in awaiting for the answers. We have just released first album of NUCLEAR HOLOCAUST – ‘Overkill Commando’ CD (fresh blood, grindcore band from Poland)
DEAD INFECTION – ‘Surgical Disembowelment’ CD (reissue of goregrind legends from Poland)
SUFFERING MIND – ‘Discography 2008-2010’ CD (one of the best grindcore bands coming out of Poland in last few years)
DEAD INFECTION – ‘Brain Corrosion’ LP (3rd album reissue on vinyl after 10 years!).
Currently in the press:
TERRORAZOR – ‘Abysmal Hymns Of Disgust’ CD – German grindcore in the vein of TERRORIZER, REPULSION and the likes. Includes members of NOCTURNAL!
CRUZ – ‘Culto Abismal’ CD – awesome old school death metal band from Barcelona, Spain. This band is gonna be huge!
ANTIGAMA / ANIMA MORTE – split LP – this one is gonna surprise all horror freaks!!!
AGATHOCLES / BEER BELLY – split 7″EP
CALM HATCHERY / LAGO – split 7″EP
AGATHOCLS – Commence To Mince CD/LP
Here are some of the releases that we’ve found noteworthy on the label –
Antigama (Poland) – The Insolent (Grindcore)
Polish grindcore mainstays, Antigama released their seventh full-length album sometime last year, their third on Selfmadegod, and I thought it was severely overlooked. What did you miss? Just the most relentless and focused grindcore album of 2015. The band, over the last decade or so, has consistently produced incredible, challenging grind music. On this one, they collaborate with Władysław “Gudonis” Komendarek, a big name from the Polish electronic music scene and let me just say, it makes for a fulfilling listen. The musicianship is spot-on, coupled with a slick, Relapse-sque production. While the first half is a pretty straight-forward grind affair with great riffs coming one after the other, the second half explores a more brooding, experimental direction, which may be a deal-breaker for some but gets full-marks in my book. This one here, is a modern grindcore classic. ~ Anoop Bhatt
Axis Of Despair (Sweden) – Time And Again – 7″ EP (Grindcore)
Furious new Swedish grindcore act, featuring members from Nasum, Coldworker and more drops their debut on Selfmadegod Records. This 6-song debut doesn’t even pass the 10-minute mark leaving the listener no room for breathing as they assault your ears. Classic, no-bullshit, grindcore with the in-your-face fury of punk and the brutality of death metal perfectly conjoined, just as it ought to be. Look out for their next 7″ ‘Mankind Crawls’ set to be released this spring. ~ Eirik Vandal
Cloud Rat / Drugs of Faith (USA) – Split (Grindcore)
After a punishing debut LP earlier in the year, Michigan-based grind quartet, Cloud Rat very quickly established themselves as one of the most important bands of contemporary grindcore. Their counterparts on this 7″, Drugs of Faith, have been around for a while too and have some excellent releases under their belt, some of them being on Selfmadegod itself, including a split with the aforementioned Antigama. Oh and one last thing, Richard “Grindfather” Johnson is in it (!!!). At just a little over 10 minutes runtime, the EP literally flies by but gives your head a proper beating. Cloud Rat, with these new songs, bring in some glum atmosphere and a lot of personality in their writing while Drugs of Faith on their half do their always-so-enjoyable grind-rock thing (that sounds nothing like ANb, in case you’re wondering). The music is vicious, painful, sometimes beautiful (re: Canary) and for the most part, cathartic. It’s a fantastic release that shows a lot of promise from both these bands. That’s a good thing, right? ~ Anoop Bhatt
Dead Infection (Poland) – Surgical Disembowelment (Goregrind)
While many think of ‘A Chapter of Accidents’ when talking about Polish goregrinders Dead Infection, ‘Surgical Disembowelment’ is the album that introduced many to the grimy works of the band. This seminal goregrind record has been recently reissued by SelfMadeGod and it serves to remind the listener of the early festering sounds that helped shape the genre. The music flows like pus from an infected wound and the atmosphere on the record makes one feel the need for a tetanus shot after listening to it. Classics such as Torsions, Maggots in Your Flesh and Xenomorph give an insight into the down tuned, bass heavy origins of the genre. This reissue of a must have classic is highly recommended for Dead Infection fans and fans of gore in general. ~ Shrivatsan R.
Die Choking (USA) – III (Grindcore)
Selfmadegod have just issued the CD version of this short, violent album. Featuring 14 minutes of tightly-compressed and angry music, Die Choking prove that their previous two highly enjoyable EPs were no flukes. This is modern grindcore with short, aggressive songs that waste no time in getting to the point and then sticking it in right to the hilt. This is grind that’s fast and bloody, just the way we like it. ~ Nigel Holloway
Dystrophy (USA) – Wretched Host (Technical Death Metal)
It seems like Selfmadegod was on a mission last year to bring its fans quite a bit of adventurous technical death metal, and they snuck out a CD issue of Dystrophy’s ‘Wretched Host’ in December. This is the New Jersey group’s second full length overall, and finds them offering the type of dissonant breaks and adventurous riffing that has some clear nods to Gorguts. The difference here is that Dystrophy has kept a good deal of traditional death metal influences rather than spiraling off completely into avant-garde / progressive territory. For all the dissonant blasting and denser riffing, there are some slower, chugging sections and killer solos that recall some of the classic American bands. Being able to strike that fine line between the avant-garde and traditional works in Dystrophy’s favor, and makes them have a bit more crossover appeal than the average technical death metal band. ~ Chris Dahlberg
Nuclear Holocaust (Poland) – Overkill Commando (Grindcore)
You can always count on Selfmadegod to deliver some noteworthy European grind, and Nuclear Holocaust is no exception. What might surprise you as you listen to ‘Overkill Commando’, the Polish band’s full length debut, is that these guys have only been around since last year. The reason that I say this is because how polished and tight the material is throughout the course of the album, as not only are the production values razor sharp but the instrumental work is a lot more precise than is typical for newer grind bands. Coming in at a little under half an hour, Nuclear Holocaust’s debut does its best to pummel you into submission while still switching up the riffing enough to have standout moments. The vocals come in with screaming that feels like it’s going to tear you to pieces, and this plays a big role in allowing ‘Overkill Commando’ to leave destruction in its wake. I can’t wait to see where these guys go from here if they’re already this strong on album #1. ~ Chris Dahlberg
Pyrrhon (USA) – Growth Without End (Experimental Death Metal)
Selfmadegod gave Pyrrhon’s ‘Growth Without End’ EP a CD release back in October, a few months after its original digital release, and man is it an utterly insane slab of death metal. Offering up the type of spastic tempo changes and frantic riffing that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Dillinger Escape Plan or technical death metal record, Pyrrhon carves out a spot for themselves that feels truly different. As the instrumentals twist and turn in complete chaos and darker tonality, vocalist Doug Moore does his best to deliver an abrasive, over the top performance that sounds like a death metal version of Kevin Sharp at times. The first time you listen to this almost fifteen minute EP is sure to be confusing, but that unpredictable and manic feel will keep you wanting to further explore this different take on technical death metal. ~ Chris Dahlberg
Rot (Brazil) – Nowhere (Grindcore)
It has been a few years since long-running Brazilian grind band Rot released any new material, but they’ve returned with a quick blast to the face. Their new EP ‘Nowhere’ packs twelve songs into a run-time of around twelve minutes, and this is old-school grind done right. The riffs and drum beats fly past at manic speeds, the instrumentals have that crunchier feel that’s so damn enticing, and the vocals are guttural and aggressive. For the uninitiated, Agathocles and other long-running grind bands of that nature are good reference points. ‘Nowhere’ features slightly clearer production values and tighter playing that showcases the band’s experience, and it’s great to see them back in action. ~ Chris Dahlberg
Terrorazor (Germany) – Abysmal Hymns of Disgust (Grindcore)
No points for guess where Terrorazor’s influences lie! This German grind band kicks it old school style and deliver a record that you wouldn’t be amiss to think came from Repulsion or Terrorizer. The band captures that period in grindcore where the genre was slowly starting to differentiate itself from death and thrash metal, but still carried some residues. The buzzsaw riffs have that raw organic feel thanks to the mixing by Joel Grind (Toxic Holocaust). This old school grind record packs 19 tracks of riff driven, HM-2 madness with a great sense of groove. If you like your grind to sound primitive, then this is the record for you. ~ Shrivatsan R.