I took notice of the label Brutal Bands a couple of years ago. And since, I've seen it grow to an awesome magnitude. Nowadays I think of it as one of the greatest and most interesting labels out there. So I decided to do a little interview with the man behind it all - Scott.
It was done by e-mail between the 7th and 18th of February.
Hey there Scott!
First off I�d just like to thank you for taking the time to answer this interview, I really appreciate it! To give the interview a little push towards the starting line, could you just present yourself and the label you represent? Are you alone on handling the label?
Hello and thank you for this interview and for supporting brutal death metal! My name is Scott Ellingboe and I own and operate a death metal label from the US called Brutal Bands. This label focuses primarily on brutal death, death metal, black death, and grind. Right now I run this operation entirely on my own.
I first heard of Brutal Bands back when Stabwound got signed, and so I checked out your site and was quite impressed by the professionalism it seemed to represent. And I also had to salute the label that signed one of the best bands at the time! And since, I�ve been amazed by the quality of each and every of your releases. You have a talent for finding the most brutal acts the world can come up with. But before we get on with discussing the latest signings, I wanna talk a bit about Stabwound. It was your second release, two years after your first one. How come it took you two years to get a new release out there? Were you searching for that particular band which could blow the scene away, was it lack of money, what?
Thank you for the compliments about this label. As for signing Stabwound, actually they were signed about 8 months after our first release was put out. Then they recorded Human Boundaries about 6 months later. Artwork and the layout took them a little time, and then course pressing and releasing the CD takes a little time. So that pretty much explains the gap between our first and second release. More like a year and half between the two releases versus two years.
It saddened me when I heard of Stabwound�s break-up. What was your reaction to their breaking of the contract, �cause they still had one album left, right?
Yes, they still were under contract to release one more full length through Brutal Bands. My reaction was not good obviously. A lot of time and money is invested in bands. It's unfortunate to put this sort of commitment into a band, only to have them not fulfill their side of the commitment. But according to them, they basically lost their death metal abilities and allowed themselves to get sucked into a more commercial scene.
Just surfing the internet once, I visited your site on one of those occasions when you�re so damn bored you�re just randomly surfing� And I saw that you had a new release, Emeth�s first album. I had never before heard �em, and so I quickly checked them out� And damn if you hadn�t manage to once again sign a mind-blowing band to your label. Such fucking intense brutal death metal�
A while after that I got a promo of this Maltese band Abysmal Torment in my mailbox. I got pretty curious since it was my first record from Malta. And I just absolutely loved the shit, in my opinion on of the greatest surprises in the death metal scene� And what do you know, Brutal Bands signed them!
Once again I�m impressed! So my question is this, how do you go about searching for new bands? Do you get a lot of demo submissions, are you searching the internet�?
Yes, I am on the internet quite a bit in this line of business. It's the best way to find new talent and communicate with bands from around the world. I surf the web checking out bands web sites, I surf around in MySpace, and I also get on forums and see what people are talking about. I don't really feel like I get a lot of demo submissions. Emeth and Necrotorture are the only bands I've signed based off of material they submitted. Every other band on the label were bands that I found and contacted.
How many demo�s do you receive during, let�s say, a month?
Not too many actually - I'd say maybe around 10 to 15 at the most.
About signing new bands� Do you have a standard contract you offer each act, or does it all depend on the particular bands needs?
I've got some general policies in place that are in all contracts, but other things in regards to money are always negotiated based on what the band needs, what I feel Brutal Bands can offer a particular band, and what is budgeted or available at the time.
Have there ever been any bands that you�ve passed up on signing, and that you�ve regretted later on? Any bands that you just can�t let go of, that you wish you�d signed?
I'd say passing on Psycroptic was a huge mistake. They sent me their debut CD to check out. I thought it was good, but I didn't know if it would be a good fit for this label. Then about 6 months later, Unique Leader signed them.
Well, what would be the ultimate band for you to release, dead or alive?
Oh I don't know. There are a lot of great bands out there right now. I don't think there is any one particular one that is the ultimate. I can tell you right now, what I'd like to sign is an established band with a CD or two that have already been released. I think that would maybe be the next step that I'd really like to see happen.
You recently started a sub-label called Extreme Underground. On your site it says, �This label will allow us to put out additional releases that we normally could not release under Brutal Bands due to a variety of internal business factors�. Now exactly what does that mean? How come EU�s releases can�t go under the banner of Brutal Bands?
Well basically a Brutal Bands deal means your band is signed to the label with full support like any quality label would provide - financial support, merch, promotion, tour support, etc. A deal with Extreme Underground is more like a distribution deal, meaning the CD is released through Extreme Underground and the band will receive royalties for it. And Extreme Underground releases have the same sort of promotional and distribution opportunities as Brutal Bands releases. Having the two separate labels allows us to still put out additional releases through Extreme Underground, without the expenses on my end that come with a Brutal Bands deal.
Have you ever thought about releasing stuff of other genres than the death metal oriented ones? Is that maybe what Extreme Underground will have an opportunity to do?
Both labels will put out nothing but brutal death, death metal, black death, and grindcore. And no, one label will not put out one genre while the other releases CDs from another. The only thing that determines what label will propose an offer to a band, is what sort of deal I want to offer, a Brutal Bands deal, or an Extreme Underground deal.
I�m at the moment listening to the mp3 of Extreme Underground�s first signing, Necrotorture. It sounds brutal as fuck. Their MCD will be released in 2006, but you also have a number of upcoming releases on BB � The Abysmal Torment album, the Element album, the second albums from Emeth and Incinerate� How do you work it out financial wise between the two labels?
Well I'm not going to release the financial aspects of my label for the world to see. But yes, BB/EU are putting out a good number of releases the first half of 2006. It wasn't purposely planned this way. This just happens to be when these bands are ready to release their CDs. Brutal Bands is not like most labels that get the finished product from the band, and then schedule the release date out 3 months, 6 months, or 9 months later to fit our needs. I try to get our new releases out as soon as possible. This is what I believe bands want. They are excited to be putting out a new release. They don't want to then have to wait half a year for their label to press it.
Well, I wasn�t thinking really on the details of your finances, more like if you�re keeping the economy for each label separate, or if both BB and EU are working from the same income. If you have a certain amount of money for example EU, and that�s what the label will have to deal with, or if BB share the same amount, and you just try to distribute it between the two� Know what I mean? Hehe�
There isn't a set amount of money that goes toward each label. Each release costs a certain amount of money. Brutal Bands is still considered the premier side of the label to be on. A release on Brutal Bands will also include promotional CDs, flyers, posters, shirts, etc. Whereas a release on Extreme Underground is simply the CD and promotional CDs. So as you can see, one side of this label does require more money than the other.
Both labels will have the same promotion and sales opportunities, it says on your site. So how much time and effort is put into promoting your releases? And how do you go about sending out promos, is it a specially printed promo-version of the album, or the finished product?
Well promotion is done with ads in magazine and catalogs, email promotion, promotion through MySpace and on forums. Starting with our next release, we are setting a new standard in promotion. In addition we are putting out 500 promo versions which are pressed CDs in a cardboard slipcase - these will be sent out to all media and distributors. We're also printing up 5000 color flyers and 500 color posters. In past sending out promos was a matter of sending out the full retail packaged CD. But now a larger budget is set aside for promotion.
You also print some cool shirts for all your releases, so it seems that you�re really making an effort to go all the way for the fans. You must put a lot of money into each release. How come (as a rather small label) you can afford to release as many albums during such a short amount of time?
Well, I guess the money is managed well here at Brutal Bands. Yes, we try to press CDs, press promos, print shirts, stickers, flyers, and posters.
Just before the end of the year you released your first DVD. Have you worked differently promoting the DVD than you�d usually go about promoting your CD releases? What�s the response for the DVD been like? I still haven�t gotten my hands on it, but I�ll be damned if I miss out on it! The DVD also has both PAL and NTSC versions on it, in region 0. Yet again a proof that you�re really making an effort to have it available for all fans across the globe, something I�ve noticed other doesn�t seem to care about�
Promotion for the Brutal Domination DVD was basically done the same way as a CD. The response to the DVD has been great - everyone has given the most positive feedback imaginable. And yes, a lot of effort was put into this DVD is make it the most compatible DVD ever released in the underground. I'm very proud to have pulled this off with NTSC and PAL formats.
Are you planning on releasing more DVD�s in the future?
There are no plans for a future DVD release, but I'm sure another one will be done some time, now that I have the experience with it.
What can we expect from Brutal Bands / Extreme Underground in the future? Are you currently discussing terms with bands, any new signings you haven�t let the public know about yet?
Well, on February 28, 2006 comes the release of Abysmal Torment's - "Epoch Of Methodic Carnage" CD. And two month later the release of Emeth's - "Reticulated" CD. Then later in the Spring comes Element's - "Aeons Past" CD, and in the Summer a new release from Incinerate. And through Extreme Underground will come it's first release by Nectroture called "Blood Feast". So the BB/EU operation will be busy for a while yet in 2006.
What was the reason for actually starting the label back in the days? And how long did it take you to get things moving, after coming up with the idea? How long did it take until you had Incinerate on board?
Well I actually play guitar in Incinerate. And instead of having to deal with labels, most of which are shitty and don't do anything for their bands, I decided to create Brutal Bands and sign Incinerate with their "Dissecting The Angels" CD. From the time that Incinerate was ready to release their CD to the time Brutal Bands was up and running was probably about 2 months or so.
Well, I�ll be damned. I did not know that. So how do you work everything out time-wise, gigging/rehearsing with Incinerate but still keeping the label alive? Must be a hassle during tours�
Dude, it is damn tough. Running a label and being in a band is very tough. I have a passion for both, and at times the two conflict with my schedule - you know, which one gets my free time today sorta thing. But I try really hard to keep up on everything. If I'm out for more than a week with the band, I usually have to shut down the online store. But I also usually have a good portion on the store with on tour - so I still tons of stuff even out on the road.
Any other bands you�re in that I might have missed?
Nope, one band is enough for me!
Do you have any tips for other trying to start a label of the same calibre?
Well, first of all be very picky. Don't put every release you can get your hands on. Only work with bands that have proven that they are able to put out a release with good production. Invest as much time and money as possible to promote your bands and releases. And a little luck helps from time to time also!
You used to run a website design service earlier, didn�t you? Why�d you stop?
I had to stop it along with web hosting as there isn't much money in it, but it requires a lot of my time. And time is not something I have a lot of, so I had to stop these activities and it just wasn't worth it. I do a little bit of design and hosting, but I don�t advertise these services any more. For instance I designed and host Putrid Pile's web site, and few more less known bands. I will also be designing and hosting Matt Bishop's (ex-Lividity) new band's web site - Human Artifacts.
What�s your view on splits and vinyls � You haven�t released any of �em, planning on it?
To be honest with you I'm not really into either of them. With splits, I don�t think the majority of the fans out there look at them as serious releases. And vinyl is so expensive the manufacture, with so few people that collect it. I doubt that you will ever see either of these released through this label. I mean splits are great for a couple of new bands trying to get known in the underground. But really I'd rather be able to offer the fans a quality full length release along with all kinds of sick merch to go along with that release - you know, offer the whole package deal, not just two bands playing 5 songs on a CD and that's it.
Do you have a job on the side of Brutal Bands, or is your personal income based on the label?
Yes, I work in computers as a System Engineer, mostly supporting Microsoft server operating systems. I also work with VMware quite a bit. And I also am starting up my own VMware consulting company called vmintegrations - my hope is to someday drop the Systems Engineer job and just own my own consulting company to live off of. As for the label, I drop at least 95% of the money I make back into the label and it's releases, so no money there yet, but I hope someday that it will at least be a solid second income. I doubt I will ever achieve the goal of living off this label, as I have rather high standards in living, and I don't think I'd ever bring in say $150,000 a year on this label, but of course you never know.
Are you satisfied with what�s come out of the label? Did you expect it to grow to the extent it has? What do you hope will come out of it in the future?
Yes, so far I am very satisfied with this label and very proud of it and all the bands on this label. I can't say that I expected it to grow this much, but I was sure hoping it would, and I worked hard in an attempt to get things were they currently are. In future, just keep doing what we're doing, get more touring going, more promotion, and hopefully retail distribution!
Have you had any dealings with so-called rip-offs yet?
Oh of course, I think all labels have dealt with some rip-offs. Over time you can sort of tell in emails who might be a rip off, so it's really only happened to me a few times. I know some labels get ripped off quite often. And I always think to myself, damn haven't you guys learned yet to be more careful dealing with people you don't know.
Well I think that�s the last serious question I have. So on to my standard not-so-serious ones.
Latest record you bought?
Carcass - Necroticism Descanting The Insalubrious (my original from back in the day got stolen)
Latest record you listened to?
Hate Eternal - Conquering The Throne (their best CD)
Latest book you read?
Sorry I don�t read! (no time)
Latest show you went to?
Screaming Afterbirth show in Minnesota
Crappiest record you've bought?
Cannibal Corpse - Gallery Of Suicide
And, if you ever decided to kill yourself, how�d you do it?
Well actually I'd like to live forever because there is so much to do in this world and I'd like to do it all, so I can't imagine killing myself. But if I did, I'd drive my truck off a 300 foot cliff - at least it would look cool - hehehe...
That was the last of �em. Thanks a lot for your time, and I wish you all the best with the label and band. All that�s left is the end. Thanks!
Alright, cool interview. I want to thank you for the support! And I'd also like to thank all the bands currently on BB/EU - Abysmal Torment, Element, Emeth, Incinerate, and Necrotorture. It wouldn't be possible without you guys. And most important I want to thank all the fans that support Brutal Bands and shop our online store - your support is absolutely needed to continue releasing these killer CDs. Keep it Sick And Fucking Twisted!
For a closer look at the Brutal Bands discography please click here