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30 Years of Brian Slagel and Metal Blade Part II

By: Mike Sloan

To read the first part of Sloan's interview with Brian Slagel, click here.

Blistering.com: When you hear about bands or read articles where musicians blast the music industry, what goes through your head? You’re certainly aware of the countless bands who feel they’ve been robbed blind by the record labels and some refuse to ever sign to a label ever again. They are obviously bitter for various reasons but many of them seem to blame the labels more than anything. When you hear or read all the negativity from these jilted artists, whether free agents or signed to another label, do you ever try to reach out and sign them in an attempt to prove to them that Metal Blade isn’t like that?

Brian Slagel:
Oh sure, that happens quite often. Unfortunately this sort of thing happens all the time and these bands are taken advantage of. It does make things much more difficult to try and sign these artists because they are skittish about what’s happened to them in the past. But we’re lucky because all of the bands we have on our label are all pretty happy and they like the ways things go. A lot of times when a band is skittish about the industry, they’ll talk to one of our bands and they’ll feel a little better about it. I totally get that [mindset] and I feel really bad that that happens to bands and it probably happens more than we’d like to admit [as an industry]. You know, there are really good labels out there; you just have to find them.

Blistering.com: Is there any band in particular out there right now that you’d love to sign to Metal Blade?

Um, I don’t know. People ask me that all the time. I don’t know [stops to think]. There are some bands that I think would be kind of cool to have on our roster but I don’t know. I look at it from a fan’s point of view, too, and sometimes there are some bands where I’d rather remain just a fan of them rather than work with them [laughs]. I don’t think I can think of one band off the top of my head that I would love to sign that we don’t already have. I don’t know. I think it would be cool to have someone like Rammstein on our label but I know that would never happen [laughs].

Blistering.com: Dana White, the president of the UFC, has always refused to acknowledge the UFC’s competitors by name on the telecasts and in interviews. I understand his motives because he doesn’t want to give press to his rivals. What about you? Are you like him where you’ll refuse to mention labels like Earache, Nuclear Blast, Century Media, Relapse, etc. by name?

Oh no, no, no. Man, I know all those guys and I work with them all the time. All those other labels and us, we are all in this together and we are all in this for one thing: the betterment of the metal scene. We are all fans of metal. I think with boxing and the UFC, it’s so much different and it’s much more of a showman sort of thing. I think in the fights you have to be that way to make it work. But in the metal scene, it’s not like that at all. Someone asked me the other day about the other labels being my competitors. Well, kind of, I guess in a sense, but we work together so much and we all do so many things together and we’re all doing the same thing, really.

Blistering.com: Is there any band(s) that has left Metal Blade and you’ve kicked yourself for letting them slip away?

I don’t know… Over the course of our existence there have been a few things that we’ve done that we could have [done differently]. Going back to the ‘80s when all these bands were signing to these major labels, at the time we understood why they left. But a band like Flotsam & Jetsam or Sacred Reich, two bands who I thought were really, really great that went on to sign with major labels but didn’t have a lot of success; that was a real bummer. Both of them ended up coming back around to us at the end of their careers. If we could’ve been able to have kept them at that time and made it work, I would have loved to have made it work for them.

Looking back, we were just a small, independent label and when these huge labels come around, they just had so much more to offer. It wouldn’t have made any sense for them [to stay with us]. It would have been nice to have been able to keep those bands around and Trouble is another band we would have loved to keep when they went to a major label. It just wasn’t in the cards at the time. I don’t have any real regrets over it. It would have been nice to have done it, but it was such a different time back then.

Blistering.com: What about a young, unknown band that you passed on for various reasons but went somewhere else and became a great, successful band?

Not really. I mean, there have been a few good ones and I think the only band that really went on to do that was Guns ‘N Roses. When they were an unknown band around LA, people used to call me to check them out but I never wanted to go see them. I thought they were just another glam band and I just wasn’t into the whole glam scene at all. But when Appetite for Destruction came out, I was like [laughs] “Oh boy this is going to be incredible!” I probably should have seen them a little earlier maybe [laughs].

Blistering.com: What do you consider to be the biggest mistake/learning experience of your entire career?

I’d have to go all the way back to the beginning when I got into this business as a young, dumb kid who didn’t know anything about this business. I’ve made every mistake possible known to man. Back when I did the first Metal Massacre compilation, I licensed that album to another company. They wound up going bankrupt and I never got paid. It was a big mess and that first mistake, the first thing I learned is that you have to know who you’re dealing with. This way, you don’t go giving away rights to someone when you don’t have to.

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