In the world of heavy metal, not everyone knows the name of Brian Slagel, but they know the bands he has helped through Metal Blade Records. Metallica, Slayer, Ratt, Voivod, Cannibal Corpse, Gwar, Amon Amarth, The Black Dahlia Murder, Behemoth and King Diamond are just a few of the household name he has launched the careers of. Speaking to Brian in early 2018, we talked about the label’s history, his current book For the Sake of Heaviness: The History of Metal Blade Records, downloads and what the future holds for Metal Blade.
Jack: Hi Brian, thanks for taking the time out of your day to answer my questions. How are you?
Brian Slagel (Founder and CEO of Metal Blade Records): I am good, Thanks!
Jack: Metal Blade Records is 35 years old. How does it feel to have lasted this long?
Brian: Very old! [Laughs] It is amazing how long it has been. A lot of times I still cannot believe it is so long. It does not feel like it a lot of the time.
Jack: Did you ever think Metal Blade would still be around 35 years later?
Brian: Not really, in the early days I wasn’t sure if we would last each year. I don’t think any of us in the 80s thought all this would get so big and be around for so long.
Jack: What keeps you passionate all these years later?
Brian: I still love the music. Metal has and always will be my favorite type of music. I am just a big fan who is lucky enough to work in the business, that keeps it fresh for me.
Jack: How does it feel to know that you’ve launched the careers of lots of bands who are now household names?
Brian: Pretty crazy for sure! I am just happy the bands have all done so well. It is amazing seeing how this has all happened though, I was just lucky enough to be in the right spot at the right time.
Jack: Were there any bands that never signed to Metal Blade that you regret having the chance to sign or were a deal fell through?
Brian: Yeah I never went to see Guns N Roses when they first started out, I should have done that! Also we passed on Pantera because the money was too much I thought. Oops…
Jack: You released your book For the Sake of Heaviness: The History of Metal Blade Records, what inspired you to write a book about the journey of Metal Blade?
Brian: It was our 35th anniversary and if felt like the right time to document those years.
Jack: What was working with Mark Eglington like on the book?
Brian: He was great! We got along really well and I think he did a great job getting all on paper.
Jack: Was writing the book hard at all or was it a case of once you started writing you couldn’t stop?
Brian: It was long for sure, but a fun process. I think promoting the book was harder actually. So many interviews. [Laughs]
Jack: Did writing it bring back fond memories?
Brian: Yes tons! That was the most fun part really. I remembered a lot of things I forgot about too! Overall it was really cool going back and relieving it through the book.
Jack: The book includes a cassette tape with Metal Blade artists, what do you love about cassette?
Brian: Well I was a fan back when cassettes were big. Best thing was you could play them in your car or at a party with a boombox or even in a walkman! It made music portable.
Jack: In the age of downloads, Metal Blade still champions the physical release. What makes heavy metal and physical releases the perfect marriage?
Brian: I think the artwork and packaging make it really cool. You can hold something in your hands, it has the lyrics and notes etc… I have always been and will be a big fan of physical product.
Jack: Would you say Metal Blade embracing technologies such as downloads and sites like Bandcamp has led to Metal Blade surviving where other labels have fallen?
Brian: I hope so. We were a little late to streaming because we wanted to get paid like the majors were. All of us indie metal labels felt the same way. But now we have great relations with all these sites and it is proving to be a great way for people to listen to music.
Jack: Finally, what does 2018 hold for Metal Blade?
Brian: More of the same! Just putting out cool metal stuff that hopefully people enjoy!
Jack: Thanks for your time!