In 2017, Metal Blade Records is celebrating thirty five years as undoubtedly the greatest metal label there has ever been. Metal Blade has consistently been at the forefront of the metal scene, from releasing the earliest material from Metallica and Slayer on the classic Metal Massacre compilations through to seminal releases from Slayer, Cannibal Corpse, GWAR, Black Dahlia Murder, Amon Amarth and many, many more. The label continues to go from strength to strength with quality albums released constantly. To coincide with this anniversary, Metal Blade founder Brian Slagel has released a book chronicling the history of the legendary label. Entitled For The Sake Of Heaviness: The History Of Metal Blade Records, the book is a must read for any fan of metal so don’t hesitate and go and get it now. We had the chance to chat with Brian about the book and the history of Metal Blade and was a pleasure to do so.
Its been thirty five years since you started the label. Did you want to bring out this book to coincide with this anniversary?
Yes that was the idea that we had. The timing seemed right.
Metallicas Lars Ulrich wrote the introduction for the book. How far do you and Lars go back?
I have known Lars since December of 1980. We started as friends both into the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal.
Going back through the history of the label must have brought back some memories. What are your best memories of the early days of Metal Blade?
So many of them, it is impossible to pick just one. I guess just being able to make a record, Metal Massacre, and put it out was pretty amazing.
The book is amazing and a must read for any fan of metal, so entertaining and informative for a metal fan and packed full of so many great stories and anecdotes. Was it a challenge remembering them all or was it easy as they are so memorable?
It was hard! I had to look at our release schedule for each year and that helped bring back some of the memories.
You put out the first recordings by Slayer and Metallica as well as so many other bands who have done great things in the music world. It must make you proud to see what bands have gone on to that you had a hand in at the ground floor?
Yeah it is pretty amazing to see how far they have all come. I am just happy to play whatever small role I did to get them started.
Aside from all the classic metal bands and albums you put out, you also released seminal recordings from the likes of Corrosion Of Conformity, D.R.I and Cryptic Slaughter on a side label. Were the fans of metal and punk/hardcore as opposed to each other as has been made out over the years and was that why they weren’t released on Metal Blade?
Yes, back in the day a punk band could not be on a Metal label. So we wanted to work with them and they with us. The best solution was just to start another label without any ties to Metal.
You must have been listening to and keeping an ear out for the punk and hardcore scenes as well then?
Yes I was a punk rock fan when I was a kid. I love Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, The Germs.
Is that music you still check for?
Sure, we always look for cool stuff in a variety of heavy genres. We just put out Bloodclot featuring members of Cro Mags and Murphy’s Law.
It seems like the roster of Metal Blade has always read like a who’s who of metal royalty. From Cannibal Corpse to Amon Amarth and beyond, Has it always felt that way with all the bands you have signed over the years, that vibe of having a great bill of artists?
I was and am just trying to put out good music. Luckily enough what I like others seem to as well. We run the label like a big family so we are honored to have so many great artists!
Was it strange when bands like Metallica and then more extreme bands like Cannibal Corpse started getting major label and media exposure?
At first we were excited by this. Some bands it worked out for and some it did not. But certainly nothing we would ever thought could happen having the majors interested.
How do you feel about the rise and rise of social media in relation to the music industry?
I think it is great! It is an amazing way to connect directly with the fans. I love it and am on it every day as well!
You’ve had a few problems over the years with censorship involving bands like Cannibal Corpse and GWAR. Do you think with the advent of the internet, that censorship isn’t as much of an issue these days or is the threat of censorship still around?
It still exists for sure. I think that it never worked to try and censor artists so you do not see it as much these days.
What music are you listening to at the moment?
Well I was listening a lot of the new Cannibal Corpse and Black Dahlia Murder albums to get them finished. Now I have gone back the Iron Maiden Book Of Souls album.
What new bands would you recommend for us to check out?
Igorrr, If These Trees Could Talk, Tombs, Cripper, Portrait, Visigoth. SO many!
Metal Blade have always had a quality roster and underground respect without bowing down to any trends. Is that why the label has been so successful, by sticking to your guns and only putting out the music that you know will suit Metal Blade?
I think so, we never ever gave up on metal and have always kept that as our core.
Who would you say are the most underrated bands that have signed to Metal Blade?
So hard to say, so many over the years.
Metal has always been a diverse genre with so many sub-genres within it with the most die hard fans you can get, do you think that is why the music is still and will always be popular?
I hope so, there is certainly something for everyone!!
Do you still get the same thrill today when you discover a new band as you did the early days?
Yes for sure, I have the same passion now as I did when I first started. So many great new bands keeps me excited.
Can you still tell if a special band has what it takes with just a few listens, if that?
It usually hits me right away, so yes.
You mention in The book that Megadeth are the band you were most disappointed about missing out on. We’re there any others who unfortunately didn’t sign to the label that you wanted?
We were offered Panteras Cowboys From Hell, but could not get enough money to make it happen.
Are you still in contact with bands who are not on the label any more?
Yes, I am still friends with pretty much all the bands. Metallica, Slayer. I’m good friends as with most bands.
You had a fanzine when you were first starting out. As a music journalist myself, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing many bands from your label which has been an honour. Who were some of your favourite people that you interviewed?
Iron Maiden, Raven, Venom, Saxon so many they were all great!
You must have witnessed countless metal shows but what have been some of the best you have ever seen?
Again hard to pick a few, Iron Maiden, Rammstein Metallica, Slayer, Cannibal Corpse, Amon Amarth, Behemoth, so many!!!!!
And what was the first show you ever attended?
Kiss in 1976
Have Metal Blade ever thought about putting on their own festival at all?
We have , but it is really hard to do!
If you did it, which bands would you like to have on the bill?
What are your all time favourite metal albums of all time?
Iron Maiden – Number Of the Beast, Rainbow – Rising, Thin Lizzy – Johnny the Fox, Black Sabbath – Sabotage, AC/DC – Powerade.
Will there be a new Metal Massacre album in the near future?
Not sure, but always possible.
Which is your favourite Metal Massacre compilation?
Metal Massacre 5
What have been some of your proudest moments with Metal Blade?
For sure putting out Armored Saint’s, Symbol Of Salvation album, getting them back together after Dave Pritchard passed away and the first Metal Massacre album, to name just two.
What does the future hold for Metal Blade Records?
Hopefully more of the same that we have done for the past 35 years, METAL!
Have you got any final words for all the Metal Blade fans in the UK?
Just thanks so much to everyone for support Metal Blade and Metal for all these years. We can’t do it without all of you!